How To Build An Arcane Trickster In DnD

If you can’t decide if you want to be a rogue or caster in Dungeons & Dragons, being an arcane trickster rogue will sort of give you the best of both worlds. It’s a rogue subclass that will allow you to take spells off the wizard spell list. Most of the abilities you’ll have access to come from the illusion and enchantment schools of magic.


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Spells such as mage hand will allow you to expand on the other abilities you get as a rogue. That being said, you can’t build an arcane trickster the same way you would a wizard. Check out this guide to learn more.


Best Species For Arcane Trickster

Dungeons And Dragons Party Wizard Rogue Fighter Ranger Drawing
Artwork via Wizards of the Coast

Elves make excellent arcane tricksters because they get proficiency in perception and darkvision. All of these are skills that any rogue can take advantage of. As far as the type of elf, high elves can choose a cantrip from the wizard spell list for free. If you want to be a sneaky rogue with blades, go with wood elf.

Gnomes have darkvision and resistance to magic. Forest gnomes get the Minor Illusion cantrip for free, and halflings get the Lucky feat. All of these are fantastic boons for an arcane trickster.

Arcane Trickster Features Overview

treasure chest by Dan Scott three adventurers, a rogue, fighter, and cleric, open a treasure chest in a dungeon
Treasure Chest by Dan Scott

Arcane Tricksters get plenty of interesting features in their toolbox that will suit any play style.

Feature

Description

Spellcasting

Spellcasting is the feature that well, allows you to cast spells as an arcane trickster. Since a rogue’s main ability score is Dexterity, most of the spells you choose should be utility-based. If you want to deal damage outside your sneak attack ability, choose spells like Booming Blade.

Mage Hand Legerdemain

Mage Hand Legerdemain will give you an invisible hand that you can use to pick locks and steal while you focus on more important things such as attacking. You can also use it to disarm traps while you remain at a safe distance.

Magical Ambush

Creatures that can’t see you will get a disadvantage on saving throws on spells you cast at them. While this makes up for the arcane trickster’s bad spell DC, you should still probably invest in utility spells rather than damage ones.

Versatile Trickster

Versatile Trickster will allow you to distract enemies using your Mage Hand. This will give you an advantage on attack rolls made against them. Note that it’s important to cast your Mage Hand before combat if you want to make use of this feature because it takes a bonus action. Using it in battle means you have to miss out on using a Cunning Action on one of your turns.

Spell Thief

At 17th level, you’ll gain the ability to take spells from your opponents and use them against them. Not only will you be able to cast a useful and possibly devastating spell, but stealing it means your opponent can no longer use it against your party.

A Dark Elf Rogue Wielding Daggers
The Rogue Class via The Player’s Handbook by Aaron J. Riley

In the case of building any rogue, Strength is your dump stat. You should pour most of your ability points into Dexterity. Intelligence will be your next most important stat because it’s what powers all your spells. After Intelligence, you should put some resources into Constitution. Two of the arcane trickster’s best spells require them to get in close. If you don’t have the Consitution to tank a few hits, enemies will rip through your character like paper mache.

At 15th level, you’ll have access to Slippery Mind, which will give you proficiency in Wisdom. That means, for now, you can dump it and focus your resources on Dexterity, Intelligence, and Constitution. You can also dump Charisma.

Best Spells For Arcane Tricksters

Assassin rogue about to kill an unsuspecting NPC
Deadly Visit by Scott Murphy

Now it’s time to pick your spells! Cantrips are spells that your arcane trickster can use without using up any of their spell slots. That means you can cast them as often as you need. Again, you can take a few damage cantrips, but you really want to pick utility spells that will let you distract enemies or do a little crowd control.

Spell

Description

Booming Blade

On a hit, an opponent will suffer the damage of a regular weapon attack. Until the start of your next turn, if the creature willingly moves 5 feet or more, they’ll take 1d8 thunder damage. Using this cantrip, you can hit an enemy, use your cunning action to disengage as a bonus action, and move away from your opponent. If they choose to pursue you, they’ll take the extra damage.

Minor Illusion

Minor Illusion will allow you to create a sound or object that will last for up to a minute. You can use this ability to gain the attention of a group of enemies while you pick open the shiny chest they’re guarding.

Prestidigitation

Prestidigitation will essentially let you perform magician tricks. You can use it to snuff out a candle, create an odor, or make a non-magical object. This works in the same vein as Minor Illusion. You can use it to create a distraction.

Green-Flame Blade

Make a melee attack against an enemy that’s within 5 feet of you. On a successful attack, they take normal weapon damage, and you can make a green fire that jumps to a creature near them. This enemy will take fire damage equal to your spell-casting modifier.

Message

Message is a helpful utility spell that will allow you to keep in touch with a party member while you scout ahead of the group. Keep in mind that it only has a range of 120 feet.

As you reach higher levels, you’ll have access to more spells. For now, you’ll need to pick your level-one spells. Like with your cantrips, think about utility and crowd control. Here are a few good options.

Spell

Description

Find Familiar

Find familiar will allow you to summon an animal friend. The owl comes recommended because it can swoop down and perform help actions without invoking attacks of opportunity.

Charm Person

Charm Person can get you out of a sticky situation in the event you’re caught during infiltration. The target of your spell must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed throw, it will be charmed by you and won’t be able to perform actions against you. You will need a decent Intelligence score to use this ability to its fullest.

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

Your target must succeed a Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails, it will fall prone and burst into a fit of laughter. This will make the creature vulnerable to sneak attacks if you’re in range to perform one.

Silent Image

Silent Image will let you create an image of an object. This image is just that. An image. It won’t have any sound or smell attached to it. However, you can use this spell to create something you can hide behind.

Sleep

Sleep puts creatures into a magical slumber. This is a good spell at low levels, but since it goes off of how many hit points the target has, it doesn’t scale well.

You can also take other utility spells such as Grease to turn the ground into difficult terrain. Opponents will have to make a Dexterity saving throw to pass through. If they fail, they’ll fall prone. You may also be able to set the Grease aflame with a fire spell, but that’s something you’ll have to discuss with your DM.

If your DM won’t allow you to cause a grease fire, you can still knock enemies prone with Tasha’s or Sleep. Once the enemy is prone, you can hit them with a long-range sneak attack while you remain in the shadows or stab them with your knife and make a roll to go back into stealth.

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