5E Arcane Trickster Class Guide

Have you ever thought how, in certain situations, a little mischievous magic would be so handy in the rouge class? Well, that’s where the Arcane Tricksters take the spotlight. With its unique blend of stealth and magical abilities, this subclass offers a whole new way to approach your adventures, and at our table many of our players swear it’s the absolute best of all rogue sub-classes, especially since the 5E Telekinetic Feat was introduced with Tasha’s.

But first, let’s take a sneak peek at the Arcane Trickster in 5th Edition D&D.

The Arcane Trickster is a Rogue subclass that grants access to the Wizard spell list, focusing on enchantment and illusion spells. It is one of two 1/3 level casters in D&D 5e, receiving spell slots up to level 4, and has a maximum of 11 spell slots at the 20th level.

Rogue players who like a little magic in their game will love the Arcane Trickster subclass. Imagine casting illusions to distract or trick your enemies or using your magic to create hidden pockets of safety during a heist.

Exciting, eh? From playing styles and abilities to roleplaying tips and creative build ideas, this guide has everything you need to know about this dynamic blend of stealth and sorcery.

Arcane Trickster Rogue
Definitely how an Arcane Trickster Rogue might appear, even if that wasn’t the artist’s original intentions 🙂 Original picture from here.

Sneak, Steal, And Spellcast: A 5E Arcane Trickster Handbook

In almost any 5th Edition campaign, the Arcane Trickster could offer a unique blend of rogue skills and spellcasting that can help players excel in both combat and non-combat scenarios. With illusion and enchantment spells at their disposal, the Arcane Trickster can deceive, charm, and distract enemies, while enhancing their own stealth and thievery abilities.

If you foresee a campaign that you are playing involving political intrigue or espionage, the Arcane Trickster’s skills can be invaluable.

However, spellcasting for the Arcane Trickster has restrictions that players must navigate. That said, let’s explore the abilities and features of this unique subclass, as well as how to optimize your character build and playstyles to become the ultimate Arcane Trickster

Deception And Mischief: Exploring Abilities And Features

As an Arcane Trickster in D&D 5e, one of the most notable abilities is Spellcasting, which focuses on Enchantment and Illusion spells. These spells are excellent for the class and work well for the Trickster’s skills.

  • Tip: It’s important to note that Sneak Attack requires Dexterity-based weapon attacks, so it can’t be applied to spell attacks. Instead, you’ll rely on spells like Booming Blade and Shadow Blade, which can increase your damage output.

Feature: Spellcasting – 3rd Level

At 3rd level, when you choose the Arcane Trickster subclass, you can cast spells as a rogue using the wizard spell list and providing excellent opportunities to double down on your illusion and enchantment abilities and amplify your stealth and sneakiness using spells.

  • However, the spellcasting ability of the Arcane Trickster is highly restrictive; learning spells up to the fourth level for the most part, and you are limited to choosing illusion and enchantment spells from the wizard spell list.

You will occasionally have the chance to select a spell of any spell school from the wizard spell list instead. Your spellcasting is based on your intelligence score, meaning that you’ll need to balance your ability scores between Dexterity and Intelligence, and potentially Charisma, if you want to use social skills to support your spellcasting abilities.

Although limited, spellcasting is not the primary focus of the subclass. The goal is to amplify the already impressive rogue abilities using the additional spellcasting options provided by the subclass, such as your:

  • Sneak attacks
  • Cunning action

Arcane Tricksters will get to choose a few cantrips, including mage hand (discussed below), which is essential for the class. Other cantrips are not limited to illusion and enchantment spells, so you have some flexibility in your choices.

Pro Tip: Excellent choices on some key spells can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and some great cantrips in Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.

Remember, by combining the core spells from the 5e Player’s Handbook with additional spells and cantrips from Xanathar’s Guide and Sword Coast, you can create a versatile and effective Arcane Trickster that can easily navigate social situations and combat.

Ability: Mage Hand Legerdemain – 3rd Level

Also, at the third level, you gain the “handy” ability to use Mage Hand Legerdemain. It’s a powerful ability that allows you to summon an invisible Mage Hand capable of performing many actions that a regular Mage Hand cannot.

  • With the Mage Hand Legerdemain, you can insert and extract items into and from containers carried by other creatures. You can even pick locks and disarm traps from a safe distance. It’s basically Mage Hand on steroids specifically designed for Rogues.

Players can move the Mage Hand using a bonus action, thanks to the Cunning Action feature. So, in combat or exploring, Arcane Tricksters can use their Mage Hand to create distractions, move objects, or flip switches while focusing on their primary objectives.

Tip: The Mage Hand Legerdemain can provide priceless support during combat and exploration and be used for creative and entertaining roleplaying scenarios. For example, you can use Mage Hand to pull pranks, play tricks on unsuspecting NPCs, or secretly pass notes or items to other party members.

Ability: Magical Ambush – 9th Level

Magical Ambush is an ability that Arcane Tricksters get at the 9th level and can be a game-changer in combat.

  • When hidden from a target and casting a spell that requires a saving throw, the target has a disadvantage on that saving throw.

This can be incredibly useful for a rogue who likes to sneak around and hit targets who didn’t know they were there in the first place. It also makes it especially effective when combined with potent enchantment and illusion spells that can help control the battlefield at the outset of a combat encounter.

But, to make the most of this ability, a good Intelligence score is recommended to bolster up the saving throw DC.

Tip: Having an Intelligence score of 15 or 16 is ideal, as it provides a decent spell saving throw DC, and the disadvantage really helps you land those key spells.

However, how much you get out of this ability ultimately depends on whether you’ve chosen spells that require saving throws and whether you’ve bolstered your Intelligence score to ensure that you have a saving throw DC that is hard to make.

While your spell DC might not be as impregnable as other spellcasters, Magical Ambush can improve the reliability of your spells. Having a disadvantage equals about a -3 penalty, so spells cast by wizards with Intelligence 15 or higher can be roughly as reliable as those cast by wizards with Intelligence 20 or higher.

  • Note: Magical Ambush can be considered a situational ability that depends on the scenario and spell selection. So, be strategic with your spellcasting, and you’ll find that Magical Ambush can be a powerful tool in your arsenal.
Magical Rogue
This is why you don’t let a dagger lull you into overconfidence.

Ability: Versatile Trickster – 13th Level

At the 13th level, the Arcane Trickster gains the Versatile Trickster ability, enhancing their Mage Hand’s use.

  • Versatile Trickster allows the players to use Mage Hand as a bonus action to choose a creature within five feet of your spectral hand and grant the Arcane Trickster advantage on any attack rolls against that enemy unit until the end of their turn.

Did you catch that? Min-Maxers who love rogues are drooling right now, but that mechanic is extremely important when it comes to making the rogue as effective as possible because when a rogue has advantage on attack rolls, they can use sneak attack. In many battles rogues get one shot to use Sneak Attack and that’s it unless they have a workaround.

Since the Arcane Trickster can use this Mage Hand to generate advantage on attack rolls, this means that the Arcane Trickster can consistently land sneak attacks round after round.

However, the Versatile Trickster ability has some limitations due to the constraints of the Mage Hand spell.

  1. Mage Hand takes action to cast, and with a 1-minute duration, the Arcane Trickster needs to cast the spell before engaging in combat or at a safe distance before rushing into battle.
  • The Arcane Trickster needs to keep the Mage Hand in range of their target to use the ability, which can monopolize their Bonus Action by having the hand chase enemies around. More importantly, the Mage Hand disappears if it is more than 30 feet away from the Arcane Trickster.

Still, this ability is redundant with the Steady Aim class feature, which most rogues have, providing similar benefits. The Versatile Trickster ability is also more helpful when the Arcane Trickster can’t be invisible or hidden for some reason, allowing them to gain an advantage before attacking.

Using this ability with spell attacks like Scorching Ray is not recommended, as striking with Sneak Attack is less costly and deals similar damage.

  • Note: At the 17th level, the Arcane Trickster gains Spell Thief, which allows them to use their reaction to attempt to undo the spell and steal the powers from the wizard casting it. However, this ability is challenging to pull off because it uses the spellcasting ability modifier of the spellcaster using the spell versus the Arcane Trickster’s spell save DC.

This ability is incredible, but it is narrow enough that it will be a fantastic moment in the campaign the one time it actually changes the scope of the battle, but that’s probably about the only time it’s ever going to happen. The capstone ability is not that disappointing because the Arcane Trickster already has so many extraordinary powers by this level.

Building An Arcane Trickster: Ideas And Considerations

Building an Arcane Trickster is a unique challenge in D&D, as it combines the abilities of both a rogue and a spellcaster. This hybrid class requires a careful balance of abilities, equipment, and feats to ensure that you can excel both in combat and out of it.

This section explores some creative ideas for building this subclass, including recommended ability scores, starting equipment, weapon and armor choices, and feats that complement the class’s unique abilities.

Unique Build Ideas For Arcane Tricksters

As an Arcane Trickster, your versatility with both magic and thievery allows for a wide range of creative character builds. Whether you want to focus on using illusions to deceive enemies, charming them with enchantments, dealing devastating ranged attacks, or teleporting around the battlefield, there are plenty of ways to build an Arcane Trickster that fits your playstyle and preferred role in the party.

Here Are Some Unique Build Ideas to Consider:

Combat spells like Phantasmal Killer and Phantasmal Force can cause enemies to believe they are being attacked by something that isn’t actually there, offering some epic advantages.

With this build, you’ll need to be very careful not to overuse your powers and risk drawing attention to yourself or your group.

This build requires careful planning and good situational awareness to be effective.

Each of these unique builds can provide a different playstyle for Arcane Trickster players, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Players should consider their preferred playstyle and the needs of their party when choosing which build to pursue.

Ability Score And Starting Equipment

When creating a character in a tabletop RPG like Dungeons & Dragons, ability scores determine a character’s strengths and weaknesses. The six ability scores are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.

For the Arcane Trickster, a character class that blends rogue abilities with arcane spellcasting, two ability scores are critical: Dexterity and Intelligence.

  • Dexterity helps with several rogue abilities, such as Stealth, Sleight of Hand, and Thieves’ Tools. Additionally, dexterity is used to calculate the character’s Armor Class (AC), which determines how difficult it is for enemies to hit them in combat.
  • Intelligence is essential for the Arcane Trickster because it determines the number of spells they can cast and the difficulty class (DC) of their spells. Intelligence is also used for particular rogue abilities, such as Investigation and Arcana.

It is crucial for players creating an Arcane Trickster character to focus on these two ability scores to maximize their effectiveness in combat and skill checks. For example, your stats would like:

 Standard Base StatsIncreased Example

Regarding weapons and armor, the standard rogue choices remain the norm.

  • You’ll want to focus on light armor and finesse weapons like daggers and rapiers when it boils down to close combat starting equipment. If you aim to excel as a ranged rogue, consider choosing a short bow or crossbow as your ranged weapon, as it can be beneficial for stealthy combat.

Furthermore, your focus as an Arcane Trickster should be on finesse weapons and light armor. This will allow you to stay nimble and avoid attacks while still dealing significant damage with your sneak attacks.

Consider investing in magical weapons and armor as you level up, as these can give you powerful bonuses and advantages in combat. A “Dancing Sword” or a “Cloak of Elvenkind” are just a few examples of magical items that can significantly benefit an Arcane Trickster.

It’s worth noting that while rogues are often associated with melee combat, an Arcane Trickster can also excel at ranged combat. Spells like “Mage Hand” and “Misty Step” can help you get out of sticky situations, while spells like “Fire Bolt” and “Ray of Frost” can deal significant damage from a distance.

Complimentary Feats For Arcane Tricksters

Depending on your preferred playstyle, several feats can significantly benefit an Arcane Trickster. Here are four excellent examples to consider:

  1. Lucky Feat – This feat allows you to reroll specific dice rolls, giving you a better chance to land your attacks and spells. It is the most banned feat so make sure that your DM is allowing it at the table before choosing to go with this feat.
  2. Mobile Feat – (Renamed Speedster Feat in One DnD) often seen as one of the best feats for Monks, Rogues are another class that can really take advantage of that extra movement speed. This also allows them (in 5E) to move away from enemies without provoking an attack of opportunity.
  3. Magic Initiate Feat (and to a lesser extent, Ritual Caster Feat) – Both of these feats are excellent options for adding useful spells to the limited spell list of the Arcane Trickster. There are many useful Ritual Spells or Cantrips and 1st-Level spells so each of these are a great feat to help the Arcane Trickster Rogue really power up their build and fill out those magical options.
  4. Sharpshooter Feat and/or Crossbow Expert Feat – A ranged build can do some serious damage, and anyone who has played a Ranger/Rogue Multiclass knows how great that combination can be. Adding extra damage, range, the ability to ignore cover, and to fire in melee opens up the possibilities of what a rogue can do and since they get an extra Ability Score Improvement/feat, this can be an intriguing direction to take the build.
  5. Elven Accuracy Feat – If you’re building an Elven Rogue, it’s time to take a look at some of the more intriguing 5E Racial Feats found in Xanathar’s to boost their build. Elven Arcane Tricksters will love what this feats bring to the table, increasing the chances of a critical hit as well as being an early Half Feat that allows them to boost either Dexterity, Charisma, or Wisdom Ability Score by +1.

These are just a few of the more popular feats that are naturally going to fold into almost any Arcane Trickster Rogue build very well.

Remember, these are just a few suggestions for general builds based on things we have seen, but ultimately, the feats you choose should depend on your playstyle and the type of campaign you’re playing in.

Multiclassing With The Arcane Trickster

Multiclassing can be a fun and powerful way to customize your Arcane Trickster, but it’s essential to consider the tradeoffs and requirements. The Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting and sneak attack features make it a solid single-class option, so multiclassing should be done with intention.

  1. One option to consider is multiclassing into a spellcasting class such as Wizard, Sorcerer, or Warlock. Depending on the class, this can provide more spell slots, more spell variety, and other benefits.

However, it can also delay or reduce the Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting progression and sneak attack damage. This is a balancing trick that can be hard to pick up and the rules for how spells and spell slots work when multi-classing with a partial caster can be convoluted at even the best of times.

  • It’s generally recommended to wait until after reaching at least the 7th level in Arcane Trickster before multiclassing to ensure you have access to the critical 4th-level spells and the “Magical Ambush” feature.
  • Another option is multiclassing into a martial class such as Fighter, Ranger, or Rogue. Depending on the class, this can provide more weapon and armor proficiency, more attacks, and other benefits. However, it can also delay or reduce the Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting progression and reduce their access to high-level spells.
  • Here, it would be recommended to wait until after reaching at least the 9th level in Arcane Trickster before multiclassing to ensure you have access to the powerful 5th-level spells and the “Versatile Trickster” feature.

Overall, multiclassing can be a fun and effective way to customize your Arcane Trickster. Still, carefully weigh the benefits and drawbacks and choose a complementary class that aligns with your character concept and playstyle.

Roleplaying An Arcane Trickster

When it comes to ideas for character backgrounds and personalities, there are many directions that you could go in. If you’re looking for some great ideas to use as a medium to develop your own, here are a few creative examples:

Mystical “Street Thief”

You were a former street thief who discovered they had a natural talent for magic (aside from thievery) and decided to combine the two skill sets to become an arcane trickster, selling your newly honed and progressively enhancing tricks to whoever paid the highest price.

And well, occasionally finding new was con and tricking people since your innate street thievery-opportunistic mindset never really left you.

  • Tips for a Mystical Street Thief backstory: Races that grant bonuses to Dexterity and Intelligence would be a good fit for this type of character.
    • For example, the High Elf’s +2 Dexterity and +1 Intelligence bonuses would be helpful for both the thievery and magical abilities of an Arcane Trickster. The Elf’s “Keen Senses” and “Fey Ancestry” traits could also be handy for stealthy and mischievous play styles.
  • Gnomes receive a +2 Intelligence bonus and a +1 Dexterity bonus, which would benefit both their magical abilities and thievery skills. The Gnome’s “Natural Illusionist” trait, which allows them to cast the “Minor Illusion” cantrip, also fits well with the Arcane Trickster’s spellcasting focus.
  • Players could also consider taking the Skilled Feat to gain proficiency in three additional skills, representing their character’s street smarts and proficiency in thievery. The Alert Feat would also be a good choice for this character (or any Rogue, for that matter), providing bonuses to initiative and perception checks.

Disillusioned Espionage Agent

I really LOVE the idea of this type of character background story. It makes sense how you became a rogue, brings up multiple ways or reasons to find magical talents and develop them, and how to be effective with how you point your build.

Once a soldier, you were fighting for what you believed was right. However, after a fierce battle, you became disillusioned with the military and the cause you were fighting for. Seeking a new purpose, you turned to a life of espionage, using your magical abilities to gather information and complete missions with more finesse.

As an arcane trickster, you’ve become an expert at slipping in and out of secure locations undetected, and your former comrades would never suspect that you now work for the other side.

  • Tips for the Disillusioned Espionage Agent backstory: Races such as Half-Elves, Tieflings, and Huamns could prove great choices.
    • Half-Elf: With a bonus to Charisma and two extra skill proficiencies, the Half-Elf can be a good choice for a character who needs to blend in and gather information. The “Fey Ancestry” trait can also come in handy if the character needs to deal with enchantment spells.
  • Tiefling: Tieflings also get a bonus to Charisma, along with a bonus to Intelligence, which could be helpful for an arcane trickster. The “Hellish Resistance” trait can also be beneficial if the character ends up in combat situations.
  • Human: Humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice to be flexible for any character. The “Variant Human” option is also popular among players because it allows them to choose a feat at the first level. It could be used to customize the character further to fit the espionage agent concept.

Mischievous Fairy

Being a mischievous fairy, you delight in using your magical abilities to play pranks on mortals. However, you quickly discovered that your fairy tricks could be even more elaborate and effective when combined with your natural aptitude for thievery.

You now use your skills as an arcane trickster to pull off the most daring pranks and heists, always staying one step ahead of those trying to catch you.

  • Tips for the Mischievous Fairy backstory: The fairy race is an excellent choice for this background due to its innate magical abilities and small size, which can lend itself well to stealth and deception.
    • Consider taking the “Lucky” feat to enhance your trickster abilities further and give you an edge in combat and skill checks.
  • You may have a lower Strength score as a fairy, so consider focusing on ranged attacks and avoiding direct combat.
  • The fairy race’s Charm ability can also come in handy in social situations, allowing you to manipulate others to get what you want.

Tips For Playing Subterfuge And Stealthy

The Arcane Trickster’s abilities lend themselves very well to stealthy gameplay. Some tips for playing a sneaky rogue in combat and social situations might include:

  • Always try to find cover and stay out of sight, using your spells to create distractions and disorient your opponents.
  • Take advantage of your Expertise in Stealth to sneak up on enemies and strike from behind.
  • Use your Cunning Action to Disengage and Dash away from danger or to Hide and make it harder for enemies to target you.
  • Use your Deception and Persuasion skills to get information and manipulate others to your advantage in social situations.

Spellcasting Strategies

Choosing and using spells effectively is key to being a successful Arcane Trickster. Some recommended spells for different levels and situations might include:


  • Mage Hand
  • Booming Blade
  • Minor Illusion
  • Green Flame Blade

Examples of a good selection of spells:

1st level: Disguise Self, Fog Cloud, Silent Image, Sleep

Great series of spells that allow you to disguise your appearance in case a Stealth Check fails…or if you need to go public. Fog Cloud is a surprisingly useful utility spell that can boost the entire party, sleep is great for dealing with low level groups of enemies, while silent image can be used in very creative ways.

This is a great combination of spells that plays right into what a rogue would want from magic to further enhance their abilities not just for supporting themselves, but the rest of the party.

2nd level: Mirror Image, Invisibility, Suggestion, Misty Step

Great combination of spells that lets you escape a bad situation, makes you harder to hit, lets you disappear altogether as you stealth away to make an escape, and even plant a suggestion to a potential new ally to help out when the timing is crucial.

3rd level: Counterspell, Fly, Haste, Major Image

Level 3 spells are great for a huge array of spell types. Being able to stop a Wizard from launching a major fireball, hit that Z axis with flying, both are incredibly strong. Haste should never be underestimated and illusion spells really tend to hit their legs around this time. This takes spells from just being minor support to spreading out with the ability for spells to be powerful in and of themselves, giving these Rogues abilities or utility assistance above and beyond what you would expect from the class.

4th level: Greater Invisibility, Polymorph, Dimension Door, Shadow of Moil

These are outstanding spells. Be able to take actions while invisible and stay invisible, turn into an Eagle or a Mouse, and skulk around as you see fit, or do the same for an ally. Dimension Door is the classic standby for getting out of a very bad situation and Shadow of Moil is one of the most underrated spells out of Xanathar’s.

At this point a player could go for widely loved spells of this level that are classic choices or they can choose to really build a certain way to make your Arcane Rogue specialize in a particular direction or playing style.

Tip: It’s essential to think about how your spells can work together and complement your other abilities. For example, using Misty Step to teleport behind an enemy and then using Booming Blade to attack them can be a deadly combo.

Arcane Trickster Vs. Other Rogue Subclasses

When comparing the Arcane Trickster with other rogue subclasses, it’s essential to consider what each one brings to the table.

  • For example, a Swashbuckler might be better suited for melee combat and social interactions, while an Assassin excels at dealing massive damage in surprise attacks.

The Arcane Trickster, on the other hand, combines rogue skills with spellcasting to create a unique blend of versatility and trickery. It’s a good choice for players who want to add a magical flair to their rogue gameplay.

Arcane Trickster Vs. Other 1/3 Caster Classes

The Arcane Trickster is not the only 1/3 caster class in D&D. The Eldritch Knight, for example, is another 1/3 caster class that offers different abilities and spells.

  • Compared to the Eldritch Knight, the Arcane Trickster is better suited for players who want to play a rogue with some magical abilities, while the Eldritch Knight is more of a fighter with some magical abilities.

The Eldritch Knight has access to a broader range of spells, including powerful damage-dealing spells and defensive spells like Shield, which can give them an edge in combat. On the other hand, the Arcane Trickster’s spells are mostly utility-focused, allowing them to use magic to enhance their stealth and subterfuge abilities.

One advantage of the Arcane Trickster over the Eldritch Knight is their Mage Hand Legerdemain ability, which allows them to use their Mage Hand to pick locks and disarm traps, making them excellent at infiltration and heists. The Arcane Trickster also has a broader range of skills than the Eldritch Knight, making them more versatile outside combat.

Overall, the Arcane Trickster is the perfect choice if you want to play a rogue with some magical abilities that can help them in stealth and deception. However, the Eldritch Knight might be the better option if you’re looking for a fighter with some magical abilities.

green ethereal mage hand
Mage Hand…it always comes back to a stronger Mage Hand 🙂

Is The Arcane Trickster A Good Fit For You?

With its unique abilities and playstyle, the Arcane Trickster offers plenty of opportunities for creative roleplaying and strategy in both combat and social situations. Whether a seasoned player or a beginner, the Arcane Trickster is a fantastic option that brings magic and mischief to your D&D adventures.

It remains a favorite style of Rogue around our gaming table, and after your players give it a shot, it will likely keep showing up in future games at your gaming table, as well.

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