Magic initiate is a powerful and extremely versatile feat that can do some pretty cool things, but many relatively new players make some basic beginner mistakes when it comes to what this feat does and does not allow. From a flavor standpoint and a story-telling standpoint, this can be a really interesting feat (and one of my favorites to “gift” PCs during certain long-term side quests) but is it really the extremely powerful feat that many claim it is, or is the fanboying for Magic Initiate disguising how weak/strong this 5E feat actually is?
The Magic Initiate feat is one of the most popular feats in 5E. This is a very versatile feat that has the potential to also be very powerful, depending on the cantrips chosen by the player. The Magic Initiate feat is one of the best thematic/ropleplaying feats as it can be woven in to a story campaign easily, and with multiple interesting plot hooks.
Why is the 5E magic initiate feat so popular? Let’s break it down further and find out!
Breaking Down the Magic Initiate Feat
The only way to start understanding a feat is to break down the exact wording, and then jumping into the individual benefits and taking a deep dive into each.
Let’s get started!
Directly from the Player’s Handbook:
Choose a class: bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard. You learn two cantrips of your choice from that class’s spell list.
In addition, choose one 1st-level spell to learn from that same list. Using this feat, you can cast the spell once at its lowest level, and you must finish a long rest before you can cast it in this way again.
Your sepllcasting ability for these spells depends on the class you chose: Charisma for bard, sorcerer, or warlock; Wisdom for cleric or druid; or Intelligence for wizard.
PHB, p. 168
While this is the definition of the magic initiate feat from the Player’s Handbook, let’s take a closer look at what all these pieces have to offer, and what they don’t.
Benefit #1: Learn two cantrips from the bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard class. Both cantrips must be from the same class.
The versatility here is what really makes the feat a winner. You get two cantrips from one of six different casting classes, which really opens up the options when it comes to further building out your caster, or adding skill, magic, and flavor to a less traditionally magic class.
Cantrips themselves are also versatile because they are the one type of spell that level up with character level as opposed to casting level. So at level 20 a monk who took eldritch blast as a magic initiate has the fully maxed out cantrip of eldritch blast. Toll the dead gets up 4d8 (or 4d12) at its maxed level.
Supportive party members can add guidance to their wheel house of ways to assist the party in an all-out brawl.
Cantrips like shape water, mold earth, mending, message, and other classic cantrips retain their usefulness deep into the game. The versatility to take two damage cantrips, two support, or to mix and match as you see fit makes 5E’s magic initiate feat much more powerful than it looks at first glance.
Benefit #2: Learn one 1st-level spell from the same class as the cantrips you chose. You can cast that spell at its lowest level once per long rest.
Important note: the first level spell can only be cast as a first level spell. If a DM allows you to cast this spell at a higher level that’s a 5E homebrew rule because the feat is very clear: this 1st level spell doesn’t just join the repertoire of other spells your character can use as they see fit.
So having a first level spell is great. It can only be cast once, but there are plenty of interesting first level spells out there that can do decent work at low levels.
This is a really good benefit, especially because of its versatility for an early feat, though the cantrips are the stronger part of it.
Important Clarifications/Advice for Magic Initiate Feat:
- The first-level spell you learn don’t scale, they can only be cast at that first-level slot
- The spell is cast with the ability score used by that class, not your natural casting ability score so make sure you don’t take a spell from a class that uses your dump stat
- Cantrips level up by character level, not spell level, so YES, cantrips can level up powerfully – keep this in mind as you make your picks
Creative Ways the Magic Initiate Feat Can Be Used
There are many ways that the magic initiate feat can be a great choice due to story and how you want to roleplay your character as opposed to just doing it
- A monk finds himself strangely reflective of the days of his training, when he would sneak from his Order’s training grounds, drawn by his future lover’s voice as she trained at the Bard’s College. He remembers sweet words she practiced, and is stunned as the old feelings of love and longing fuel the memory of spells she used in training before starting her own path in another city, and he can now cast the spells he watched her master.
- The wizard‘s eyes flood with purple clouds as the chanting takes on a much less enunciated, more guttural tone. Though the arts were strictly forbidden by the Kingdom’s Schools of Magic, the wizard’s accidental Eldritch discovery was a piece of knowledge too tempting to let go, and a powerful Eldritch Blast from the caster’s fingers shows the gift of those forbidden studies.
- A fighter finishes her prayers in silence away from the camp when attacking brigands emerge to charge her in the clearing. The prayers of a long held faith still ringing in her ears she surprises the attacking brigands with a display of fire and heat from spells well known among the clerics serving the god her family long worshipped, before drawing her sword to finish the job.
In addition to this think of the traveler who has wandered through the Fey lands and now has some Druid-like traits, or the ability to give further spellcasting abilities to the Eldritch Fighter or Arcane Trickster Rogue sub-classes.
This feat can also be used by traditional spellcasters to simply more fully supplement their spell list, as well. Since cantrips level up by character level, this can be used to create some pretty powerful options to make spellcasters even better – or in a low magic item campaign give martial fighters an ability to deal with creatures that can minimize non-magical attacks.
The combination of utility and roleplaying creates a combined versatility that makes the Magic Initiate feat really stick out as an interesting, useful, and versatile option.
5E Classes That Should Take the Magic Initiate Feat
This is a feat that has a lot of utility, but it is one of those odd ones where while it can fit well with every single class, it’s not designed in such a way that makes it a mandatory pickup for any mechanical or non-story, non-flavor build reasons.
Because of that there really is no class that “should” take the magic initiate feat. If you have a great story hook or love the idea of adding another set of tools to your character’s abilities, go for it.
Otherwise if you don’t really care decide if there are some spells that make sense mechanically and grab them. If not, move on.
5th Ed Classes that should always take the Magic Initiate Feat:
5E Classes That Should Consider Taking the Magic Initiate Feat
The magic initiate feat is rare because it’s a feat that is not a “must take” for a single class, but it’s also not a “don’t take” for a single class. In other words, it’s open to everyone and because of just how versatile giving spells from other spellcasting lists to casters can be, or giving non-casting characters a couple of cantrips that scale can be.
This is a really extraordinary feat and arguably the most versatile feat in all of 5E D&D among the current core books.
Below are just some short lists of some of the most interesting cantrips that become available from taking the magic initiate feat.
Good Damage Cantrips Worth Considering with Magic Initiate Feat
- Vicious Mockery (Bard)
- Sacred Flame (Cleric)
- Poison Spray (Druid)
- Thorn Whip (Druid)
- Fire Bolt (Sorcerer/Wizard)
- Ray of Frost (Sorcerer/Wizard)
- Chill Touch (Sorcerer/Wizard)
- Shocking Grasp (Sorcerer/Wizard)
- Eldritch Blast (Warlock)
- Toll the Dead (Warlock)
Interesting Non-Damage Cantrips Worth Considering with Magic Initiate Feat
- Mage Hand
5th Ed Classes that should consider taking the Magic Initiate Feat
- All of them – this is a feat that has flavor, utility, and plenty of versatility whether min/maxing or looking for additional flexibility from the character build.
5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Magic Initiate Feat
I’m marking the Magic Initiate feat as N/A for Not Applicable because this is a strange feat. While mechanically or from a Min-Max standpoint you could argue that it doesn’t make sense for classes like Monk that really need three strong ability scores or for barbarians who need to max out that Strength, Constitution, and take feats for extra damage.
But there isn’t anything that is completely prohibitive about this feat. Also, some of these cantrips give magic long range attack options that really can get things done.
Because of this I’m going to put that there is no class where you shouldn’t take the feat just because of the class. This can work with any of the 13 major classes whether they start out as spellcasters or not and it’s a feat that’s always worth giving a look.
5th Ed classes that should never take the Magic Initiate Feat:
Final Feat Grade for 5E Magic Initiate
Magic Initiate Feat Grade: A
Is the 5E Magic Initiate Feat Worth It?
Yes, the Magic Initiate Feat is good. Is it a true A grade in the way some of the other feats are in this game? Maybe not. But here’s the thing: versatility is something that shouldn’t be looked down on. Highly leveled cantrips can be very powerful, especially in classes that don’t have magic or as many distance options.
The combination of three spells (two cantrips) from one of the six full caster classes makes this a great feat that gives huge power and/or functionality at low levels and scales up well at higher levels.
This is a feat that also does some incredible work on the flavor/story side of things and can really add layers of stories, plot hooks for the DM, and just really allow players to create characters that differentiate themselves from other builds in the class.
Magic Initiate Feat FAQ
Why take the Magic Initiate feat instead of multi-classing one level?
One of the obvious answers is to avoid messing up your leveling up schedule. If you multi-class then your ability score improvements get bumped another level further down the line.
There are also DMs who simply don’t allow for multi-classing, and this feat is a way to still give players the ability to dip their toes into something magical when those more restrictive optional 5E rules are in place.
How do I get the magic initiate feat in 5th Edition D&D?
Pick it as a feat instead of an ability score improvement during one of the levels where your character levels up their ability score. If you are playing a starting character using the “variant human” in the PHB or the “variant build” in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, you can choose this as your starting feat.
Can you take magic initiate twice in 5E?
No. As of this writing only the Elemental Adept feat can be taken more than once. The Player’s Handbook is explicit that unless specifically stated, a feat can only be taken once, and the magic initiate feat hasn’t been given that change in any updates.
Can you change the spell from magic initiate?
No. The idea behind this feat is that a small number of secrets from the field magic become known to the PC. These cannot be traded out later.
Can a fighter take the magic initiate feat?
Fighters can take the magic initiate feat, and that is any fighter, not just the Eldritch Knight sub-class.
Can a monk take the magic initiate feat?
Monks can take the magic initiate feat and are a class that can often make very good work of this feat, and in a bevy of creative, versatile ways.
Can a barbarian take the magic initiate feat?
Yes. Barbarians can take the magic initiate feat. Classes are not required to have magic casting ability to take the magic initiate feat – the feat grants them this ability.
Do you need a focus for magic initiate or not?
No. While not many DMs bother with the components pouch vs arcane focus discussion, if they do the explanations from Jeremy Crawford and others from WOTC is that a component pouch is all these characters need to cast the spell/cantrips.
Other DnD Articles You Might Enjoy
- Eldritch Adept 5E
- Mage Slayer 5E
- 5E Healer Feat
- Elemental Adept 5E
- 5E Artificer Initiate
- Inspiring Leader Feat 5E
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.