Arcane Trickster 5e Guide | arcane eye (2023)

Published October 11, 2020, last modified February 20, 2023

In this post, we look at the features of the Arcane Trickster Villain class and how you can tweak your Arcane Trickster Villain by choosing his race, background, ability scores, talents, and spells.

Arcane Trickster 5e Guide | arcane eye (1)

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Arcane Trickster 5e guide ranking scheme

This guide aims to provide an in-depth look at the Arcane Trickster Rogue subclass. For a full review of the Rogue class, check out our5e villains guide.

For our complete lesson guides, we use the following color grading scheme:

  • Rotwill not contribute anything to the effectiveness of your character building
  • OrangeGood situationally, but otherwise a sub-par option
  • Verdeit's a good option
  • Blauis a great option, you should definitely consider this option for your character
  • Blue skyit's an amazing option. If you don't choose this option, your character will not be optimized.

For our subclass guides, we focus primarily on theBlauEBlue skyThe options, like the other options, are discussed in the parent manual or other subclass manuals. We also discussed options that would normally be fine for a typical build, but perform poorly when used in a subclass.

Did you know?

D&D Beyondcan help you create your characters by making choices step by step. Full customization and control of your character, no more scrolling through hundreds of pages referencing obscure rules.

What is an Arcane Trickster?

Arcane tricksters are rogues who gain access to spells from the caster's spell list. The spells the Arcane Trickster learns come primarily from the School of Magic and Illusion. They are considered half-casters, only gain spell slots up to level 4, and have a maximum of 11 spell slots at level 20.

In addition to the ability to cast spells, Arcane Tricksters gain blunt abilities to use with their spells. These include an invisible mage hand, the ability to penalize spellcasting rolls when hidden, and the ability to steal the knowledge of other mages' spells.


Arcane tricksters are insanely useful. The incredible skills and knowledge that the Rogue class offers, in addition to their spells, make them useful in any situation.

Like Eldritch Knights, Arcane Tricksters fuse a linear martial class with the options offered by spellcasters. This can result in more varied gameplay and more unique combat scenarios.


Rogues are an extremely strong base class to start with. Her ability to be great in every skill, dealing massive damage and avoiding damage, makes her a force to be reckoned with even at base level, so Arcane Tricksters don't have many downsides.

However, compared to other rogue archetypes, Arcane Tricksters will lag behind in terms of raw damage output. Furthermore, the nature of spellcasting is quite restrictive, leaving better options for sneaky spellcasters like bards and druids.

before you start


check out ourGuide to DnD racesfor non-standard races. Remember that most races and subraces are limited by the setting and source material chosen by the GM. Below are some of the best Arcane Tricksters picks from standard races.

Elf: A +2 to DEX, darkvision, and mastery of the Perception skill. Everything here is great for mystery cheaters

  • HochelfQuest: Longbow mastery and a free cantrip from the Mage spell list are beneficial here. The INT bonus can be useful depending on whether you're playing an Arcane Trickster. The cantrip can be Lesser Illusion, Hand of Mage, or Sleight of Hand, all of which are awesome for rogues, even if you're not an arcane trickster.
  • Waldelfe: Wood Elves are your stereotypical choice for rogues. Everything here is useful: bonus WIS (to Perception), longbow proficiency, above-average walking speed, and the ability to hide in the wild. This is Skyrim's stealth archer brought to life.

Gnome: Darkvision and a +2 bonus to INT are great for Arcane Tricksters.

  • Deep: +1 DEX, darkvision out to 120 feet, and advantage on stealth checks in rocky terrain are perfect.
  • Wald: +1 DEX bonus, and the free Minor Illusion Cantrip is a solid foundation to build an Arcane Trickster

Halfling: The +2 DEX and Lucky bonus make this an amazing choice for Arcane Tricksters.

  • light foot: +1 CHA helps with facial skills and the ability to hide behind larger party members can give you an advantage and deal damage from sneak attacks more often.
  • black beer: The +1 boost to CON score is solid and the poison resistance is useful. This subrace is fueled primarily by the Halfling's base stats.

human variant: +1 DEX and +1 INT is a decent base for Arcane Tricksters. The free power and skill is another huge benefit of opting for the Human Variant.


We cover the best backgrounds for rogues in ourvillain leader 5e, the only changes would be:

  • hermit: Your increased INT score can make both INT skills (Medicine and Religion) more viable. If your party is suffering after a cleric, this could be a solid option.
  • Edel: History is a decent INT skill and persuasion is always useful.
  • wise:Your increased INT score can make both INT skills (Arcana and History) more viable. If your group is suffering after a caster, this can be a solid option.

skill scores

Ability Score (ASI) increases at 4th, 8th, 10th, 12th, 16th, and 20th level.

Rogues are considered a SAD (Single Ability Dependent) class. This means that most rogues can do very well by increasing their DEX and distributing the rest of their skill points as they see fit.

Since Arcane Trickster's spell modifier is INT, pouring INT will limit the effectiveness of your spells, so we recommend pumping DEX, INT, and CON in that order.

FOR: Leave the heavy lifting to your friends.

OF THE: Villains love DEX! You want to bring this to 20.

SWINDLER: More hit points and better CON saves make the rogue less muddy.

INT: This is your spell modifier. A solid INT score will help your precious spell slots land more often.

SAB: Can help with WIS and Perception saves.

CAR: Rogues can be a good character for CHA skill tests if needed by your party.

rogue class progression

1st level

health points: See thevillain leader 5e

to save money: See thevillain leader 5e

expertise: See thevillain leader 5e

capabilities:Legerdemain uses the arcane trickster's mage handsleight of hand, which makes it even more important to Arcane Tricksters.

It's also worth noting that due to Arcane Trickster's high INT score, INT spells (Arcana, History, Religion, Investigation, Nature) become more important. If you can gain access to any of the INT abilities through race or background, it would be worth it.

expertise: See thevillain leader 5e

surprise attack: See thevillain leader 5e

Thief's Song: See thevillain leader 5e

2nd level

smart action: See thevillain leader 5e

3rd level

Villain Archetype: Arcane Trickster

Those ones:player manual

Magic: With magic spells you can …. cast spells! You choose from the list of illusion spells and spells. Your options are mostly functional rather than damage-oriented, but that's the point. At 3rd level you can choose one of your three spells from each school of magic, and at 8th, 14th and 20th level all spells can be chosen from each school, so choose wisely!

Our Arcane Trickster spell recommendations are at the end of the article.

Cantrips: Cantrips add even more utility, especially if you don't have another dedicated spellcaster in your party.

Mage Hand Legerdemain: Being invisible makes your Mage Hand much better, especially considering it can't do anything good in combat (as a bonus action).

5th level

Left Esquiva: See thevillain leader 5e

7th level

to escape: See thevillain leader 5e

9th level

Magic AmbushQuest: Pairs nicely with your love of stealth and your new talent for casting spells. Since you're not strictly an INT-based character, you'll need all the help you can get to make sure your enemies fail their saves.

11th level

reliable talent: See thevillain leader 5e

13th level

versatile cheater: Advantage on attack rolls means more critical hits, more sneak attacks, and therefore more damage.

14th level

the blind: See thevillain leader 5e

15th level

slippery ghost: See thevillain leader 5e

17th level

magic thief: This is a bit of a clunky ability, especially since the spell can only be cast from 1st to 4th level and its INT limits its usefulness in terms of casting DC. When it hits, it's a great way to not only temporarily know how to cast a useful spell, but also to prevent your opponent from casting it again.

18th level

misleading: See thevillain leader 5e

20th stage

lucky Strike: See thevillain leader 5e


We cover the best exploits for rogues in ourvillain leader 5e, the only changes would be:

  • elven precision: A half power that can increase DEX or INT seems pretty good to start with. The talent effect of granting "Mega Advantage" will be amazing as it will never be lost when approaching invisibly or using his Versatile Trickster class feature. The fact that this is limited to the elven race isn't a huge issue due to the elves' synergies with this build.
  • Feliz: Luck is rarely unhelpful and is especially awesome in rogues.
  • Magical Initiate: Selecting the Warlock spell list grants access to Eldritch Blast as a cheat and Hex as a 1st-level spell. Eldritch Blast won't do you much favors because you can't Sneak Attack with it, but Hex is a great way to increase damage.
  • Resistant (CON): Providing +1 CON can help boost your HP due to your lackluster hit dice. Mastering KO's saving throws helps you stay focused on your spells.
  • Warcaster: Most rogues will dual wield to take advantage of the improvised attack bonus action, which can get unconventional with their somatic spells, so Warcaster is a great choice. Warcaster also lets you cast Green Flame Blade or Booming Blade as an opportunity attack and gain advantage on concentration checks.

Arcane Trickster Spells

As mentioned above, arcane tricksters are restricted to the caster's enchantment and illusion spell lists except at 3rd, 8th, 14th, and 20th level. To more easily know which spells to pick up at higher levels,Spells that are not enchantments or illusions are marked with an asterisk (*).

Arcane tricksters peak at 4th-level spells when the character reaches 19th level. Still, there are some great options here that can make the game a lot of fun. As a general rule, arcane tricksters benefit most from spells that aid combat in ways other than dealing direct damage.

Like always,We thought it would be more beneficial to just talk about our favorite spells at each level and which ones to avoid..


  • acid splash: The first of many available cheats that deal damage. This one is always bad, but Arcane Trickster really doesn't want to take any of them. These include Chill Touch, Fire Bolt, Ray of Frost, you get the point.
  • Growing Blade: This trick is really good because the villains can break apart as a bonus action. You can attack and flee, forcing your opponent to take damage if he wants to chase you.
  • Green Flame Blade: Hitting two enemies at once is great, but as far as blades go, Booming Blade is a better choice.
  • magic hand: You get this trick automatically, but luckily it's great in many situations the Arcane Trickster might find themselves in.
  • News: Villains often sneak around so they can't communicate with the party, especially if your playgroup is disciplined to avoid the metagame.
  • little illusion: allows you to get creative with your sneaky nonsense. You can hide behind the illusion if you are small enough.
  • summon up: Same as Lesser Illusion. There's so much utility here for whatever your character is trying to do.
  • real hit: You gain a free benefit on your next attack, but it costs an action. It's usually not worth it.

1st level spell

  • charming person: Another tool in the rogue's arsenal of deceptive tactics.
  • find familiar*: If you choose an owl familiar, this spell may be the most broken spell available to arcane bandits. Command the owl to fly, perform a helping action (for example, distracting your enemy), then use its Flyby ability to fly away without provoking an attack of opportunity. Support moves give you an edge on your next attack, so you guessed it... free sneak attacks! It's a little cheesy, but hey, it works. If your enemies can use ranged attacks, expect your GM to spoil your fun quickly.
  • terrible laugh: A good way to incapacitate an opponent who is giving you trouble.
  • Wizard Armor*A: You will no longer be able to cast many spells with this rogue build, and the mage armor isn't where you'd like it to be. The AC bonus is negligible.
  • Signal*: AC won't help much here either, and his reaction is best used in Uncanny Dodge.
  • still photo: A great spell that allows you to create something in your environment to hide behind or in, allowing for sneak attacks. It takes concentration, but if your concentration falters, you're not hiding anyway.
  • Sleep: Sleep is pretty good at low levels, but struggles to scale with enemy HP. Once past level 5, dealing non-lethal melee damage is a much more reliable way to take down enemies.

2nd level spell

  • Blur: Villains are a bit confusing. Use this spell if you get hurt often.
  • darkvision*: If your race doesn't come with Darkvision and your allies can't give it to you in some form, you should take this spell. Fighting in the shadows allows for your sneak attacks, but how do you do that when you can't see?
  • hold person: Takes an enemy out of combat, but taking Hideous Laugh makes it redundant.
  • invisibility: Do we need to tell you why a rogue might want to be invisible?
  • misty step*: Any class that can get their hands on the Misty Step should definitely consider purchasing it. Use it to line up your stealth attacks on the battlefield or to escape a sticky situation.
  • dark blade: Extra damage from a rare damage type. It also automatically becomes advantageous in low light, making it a solid way to pull off sneak attacks.
  • reflection: Makes you harder to hit.

3rd level spell

  • cat day: Nap is never one of the best spells, but rogues really don't want to take on the role of a support class.
  • To fly*: Lots of utility in and out of combat. Rogues often find creative ways to make Fly powerful.
  • Other*: Haste is universally loved by players and can be great for rogues since they don't have extra attacks. However, it's devastating to use his move to strengthen himself only to immediately undermine his focus. If you're the brave type, go for it.
  • group of hypnotists: Crowd control is a desirable feature to add to any party.
  • main photo: An even better way to create an illusion than Minor Illusion or Silent Image. There is so much you can do with this spell.
  • Phantomross: Situational and not worth the spell slot it entered.

4th level spell

  • confusion: Decent crowd control if you find your party lacking.
  • door dimension*: May be better than Misty Step depending on the situation.
  • Increased invisibility: The best buff a rogue could ask for. Attacking will not break its invisibility, unlike its weaker counterpart. This is a must have item for all Arcane Trickster builds.
  • Evard's Black Tentacles*: Crowd control that grants the restrained state, allowing you to attack with advantage for a sneak attack.
  • hallucinatory terrain: This spell's usefulness is really limited, and other spells you or your party members can cast will likely achieve a similar result.
  • killer dream: Coupled with the Frightened state, there's potential for a lot of damage here, but until you can cast 4th level spells, you'll probably want to spend your turn doing something else.

Arcane Trickster build example

1st level:

  • Local: Hochelf
    • Skills: Perception
    • Trick: Shocking Fist
  • Background: charlatan
    • Skills: Subterfuge, Intimidate
  • Ability Ratings: STR 8, DEX 17, CON 13, INT 16, WIS 10, CHA 10
  • Skills: Investigation, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, Stealth,
  • Equipment: Short sword, short bow, thieves' pack, leather armor, two daggers, and thieves' tools
  • Specialization: Stealth, Perception
  • surprise attack
  • song of thieves

2nd level:

  • smart action

3rd level:

  • Villain Archetype: Arcane Trickster
  • Cantrips: Hand of Mage, Minor Illusion, Exploding Blade
  • Add Spells: Find Familiar, Disgusting Laugh, Disguise

4th level:

  • ASI: +2 GE (GE 19)
  • Add Spell: Charm person

5th level:

  • Left Esquiva

6th level:

  • Specialty: Persuasion, Deception

7th level:

  • to escape
  • Add Spells: Invisibility, Blur
  • Cast Spell: Hex Person

8th level:

  • Add Spell: Misty Step
  • Talento: Elf Accuracy (+1 DEX, DEX 20)

9th level:

  • Magic Ambush

10th level:

  • achievement: happiness
  • Add Spell: Charm person
  • Add trick: cool touch

11th level:

  • reliable talent
  • Add Spell: Suggestion

12th level:

  • Talento: Warcaster

13th level:

  • versatile cheater
  • Add Spell: Hypnotic Pattern

14th level:

  • the blind
  • Add Spell: Fly

15th level:

  • slippery ghost

16th level:

  • Add Spell: Fear
  • ASI: +2 INT (INT 18)

17th level:

  • magic thief

18th level:

  • misleading

19th level:

  • Add Spell: Greater Invisibility
  • ASI: +2 INT (INT 20)

20th level:

  • Add Spell: Evard's Black Tentacles
  • lucky Strike

Fonts used in this guide

  • EN: ground rules
  • SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
  • ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
  • EEPC: Elemental Evil Player's Companion
  • EGtW: Explorer's Guide to Wildemount
  • FToD: Fizban's Dragon's Treasure
  • GGtR: Guildmaster's Guide to Ravnica
  • MotM: Monster des Multiversums
  • MToF: Mordenkainen's Tome of Enemies
  • Moot: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
  • PHB: Player's Handbook
  • SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
  • SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
  • SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
  • TCoE: Tasha's Melting Pot of Everything
  • TTP: Das Tortle-Package
  • WBtW: The Desert Beyond Witchlight
  • VRGtR: Guia de Van Richten para Ravenloft
  • VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
  • XGtE: Everything Xanathar Guide

Other Dishonest Leaders

  • Overview of Rogue 5e
  • swordsman

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Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a bestselling mithral author ofStrixhaven: A Curriculum in Magicin the DMs Guild and is a contributing author forD&D Beyond.Keep following MikeTwitter.

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