D&D 5eReviews

Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything Breakdown, Part Seven

Folks, I have good news about this series: in this, the seventh article, we’re finishing the first chapter. It’s a truly momentous occasion, as I scramble to get this series somewhat closer to its conclusion before Van Richten and Esmerelda show up and require one or more breakdown articles. Anyway, today is Wizarday (I’ve finally invented the eighth day of the week; my technique is right there in the name), as we celebrate the moveable feats.

Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Part Five | Part Six | Part Seven


Two new features for wizards, and if you’ve been paying attention through the rest of the classes, it should be obvious what they are.

Additional Wizard Spells adds five cantrips and eighteen new spells to the wizard spell list. Many of the new spells are from this book, but wizards also pick up augury, enhance ability, speak with dead, and divination. Speaking as someone who has played a Diviner wizard – those extra spells on the list are desperately needed. “Diviners should be able to cast divination” seems like a pretty uncontroversial position to me.

Cantrip Formulas at 3rd level lets you cycle out cantrips as part of a long rest. It shows up earlier and is much easier to use than other classes’ cantrip respending features. That seems about right for wizards to me, all things considered.

Bladesinging Tradition

As you probably know, the Bladesinging tradition first appeared in Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. It appears here with two key updates. If you’re unfamiliar, Bladesinging is supposed to be an elven fighting tradition for spellcasters; as far as I know it got its start in the 2e Complete Book of Elves, where it’s pointing back to the Elf class of OD&D that could both fight and cast spells ably.

  • Training in War and Song (unchanged) grants proficiency in light armor (which is funny, because your nominal goal in life is elven chain, which requires no proficiency), a one-handed melee weapon (you’re “supposed” to pick rapier or longsword, in customary elven aesthetics), and the Performance skill.
    • I will very possibly never understand why there isn’t a change to d8 or even d10 hit dice here. (That’s a lie, I have a guess or two.)
  • Bladesong (minor change, see below) is your core “stance” that improves your stats to the point of being an effective melee combatant, d6 Hit Die notwithstanding. This stance requires no medium or heavy armor, no shield, a one-handed weapon, and a bonus action to activate. You can use it proficiency bonus times per long rest, changed from twice per short rest.
    • +Int bonus to AC. With studded leather or mage armor, a good Dex, and a great Int, you can push your AC to stratospheric heights, making up for your missing hit points.
    • +10 ft speed
    • Advantage on Acrobatics checks.
    • More immediately useful – you can add your Int bonus to Con saves to maintain concentration. It’s addressing one of the core problems of any melee spellcaster – you’ll soak up more attacks and more damage, so you have to preserve your concentration more often.
    • The change from 2/short rest to PB/long rest is emblematic of the whole trend toward timing around days rather than short rests. Adventuring days are reliable because the majority of classes rely on long rest resets, but “hardening” that trend does some odd things to the outlier short-rest classes (warlocks, monks, Battle Master fighters, Channel Divinities).
  • Extra Attack at 6th level has the most substantial change: in addition to two attacks instead of one, it also lets you substitute a cantrip for one of those attacks. That sews up your target at-will damage output, because you’ve got the damage scaling that is fundamental to cantrips + one attack.
  • Song of Defense at 10th level (unchanged) lets you burn spell slots as a reaction to negate incoming damage, 5 points per spell level. It’s a substantial solution to hit point problems, now that you have lots of spell slots and monster damage is picking up still further.
  • Song of Victory at 14th level adds your Int bonus to your weapon damage, which (delightfully) also applies to booming blade and green-flame blade
    • Doesn’t help with lightning lure or sword burst, though.

I haven’t played a Bladesinger wizard (yet), though I hear from one of my friends that it’s a good time. I think I’m surprised that there’s still nothing making your melee weapon a spellcasting focus, notwithstanding the fact that you have a “spare” hand that you’ll presumably fill with a rod, staff, or wand. It’s a shame that two-handed melee weapons were an option for Bladesingers – maybe it’s about honoring Colin McComb’s elf lore from 2e?

Also, quick note: the four big melee cantrips of SCAG got reconfigured and reprinted in TCOE, and the changes do matter, but not to Bladesingers or Eldritch Knights, the characters for whom they are “most” intended.

Order of Scribes Tradition

It’s a little thing, but this is the one that made me realize how all over the map wizard subclass naming format is – from School of ___ to Bladesinging to ___ Magic to Order of___. I don’t think most classes have that much variation in format. It doesn’t matter – it’s just unusual.

Anyway, the Order of Scribes is all about investing more power in their spellbook and making that a central prop in their combat and exploration play. At the risk of getting argumentative in my breakdown here, I’ll be addressing a few points from a now-long-ago Twitter conversation about this subclass as well.

  • Wizardly Quill lets you use a bonus action to create a magic quill. (How dare you try to curtail my pen-buying habit!) The quill provides its own ink, it drastically speeds up spell transcription, and you can erase what you write with that ink as long as the text is within reach. This is a ribbon, for sure, but it’s also a nice bit of stage business.
  • Awakened Spellbook is the central feature of the early game. Your book has its own sentience (Alexa Siri Janet) and it does cool stuff while you’re holding it.
    • Spellcasting focus. Sure. (FWIW, there are some very cool magical books in Tasha’s magic item shoppe chapter.)
    • Damage type substitution: you can trade up damage flavors between spells, within a specific set of parameters. While you’re casting Spell A (which you obviously have prepared) that uses a spell slot (so no cantrips), you can have it use the damage type of Spell B, which must be in your spellbook and of the same spell level as Spell A (and in turn means Spell B has to exist, which turns out to be a major constraint across all spell levels).
    • Once per long rest, you can cast a ritual with its normal casting time rather than its extended ritual time. To state that another way, you can cast one spell with the ritual tag for free per long rest, assuming it’s in your spellbook.
    • The feature ends with the standard “replace my subclass widget” rules. The important detail here is that you can turn a magic book that you’re attuned to into your Awakened Spellbook.
    • Anyway, this feature is nice to have, but that second bullet point works really well in the earliest levels of play, and only indifferently thereafter, because so many energy types are simply absent from official-release spells at so many levels. Even if there were spells of every energy type at every level, we’re still talking about a ton of spell acquisition work and money expenditure to inscribe the spells to take advantage of that, at which point it mostly just becomes freedom to reshape your spells’ effective areas or durations. Some damage types have an edge over others, but it’s just not that dominating when the Elemental Adept feat also exists.
  • Manifest Mind at 6th level lets you call Janet make your sentient book manifest outside of its pages. It also might be Clippy, the Microsoft Office “Assistant.” It’s intangible, glowing, has darkvision, and can telepathically route its perceptions to you. (I assume there’s a fractional lag time, just to give you the full VR-motion-sickness experience.) You can use it as the origin point for your spells, and use its senses for targeting purposes (it’s a great wall of force workaround, and for that matter you might not even go into the dragon’s lair), proficiency bonus times per long rest. There’s some other basic housekeeping rules as well.
    • As I’ve suggested above, this is a very flexible scouting, sensory, and targeting feature, and optimal use can probably make some really weird stuff happen. I’m looking forward to thinking with telepresence in Colin’s game, once we pick up four more levels.
  • Master Scrivener at 10th level lets you inscribe one scroll of a 1st– or 2nd-level spell as part of a long rest, which takes effect as if you upcast it by one spell level. No one else can use that scroll, and it expires the next time you take a long rest. You also craft spell scrolls as a downtime activity in half the time and with half the gold cost of the standard.
    • Cool, if very tame in throughput. A free 2nd– or 3rd-level slot ain’t bad by any means. In the right kind of campaign, the improved crafting cost and time is a buried lede here.
  • One with the Word at 14th level gives your tome still more powers to affect you directly.
    • It grants advantage on your Arcana checks.
    • It can prevent damage to you, at the cost of temporarily erasing spells from your spellbook, as a reaction once per long rest. No matter how much damage you’re negating with it, it costs 3d6 levels of spells, and you can’t cast those spells through any means (other than a staff or wand, maybe? I don’t know) for 1d6 long rests. To put that another way, there’s a huge incentive here to add as many junk spells as possible to your spellbook so that you can lose some safely. Once those 1d6 long rests pass, the spells return.
    • Quick note to DMs: please resist that temptation to give your high-level wizards a book with “every spell in the game” in it. It removes one of the most interesting parts of playing a wizard. Gathering up high-level spells beyond those you gain from leveling can and should be hard (but fun) work.

And that’s the Scribe wizard. There’s a ton of story potential for talking to the tutelary spirit, J.A.R.V.I.S., or however else you want to characterize it inside your book. The power comes from thinking creatively about how to use some unusual tools for survivability, scouting, and targeting – some of which are already available with find familiar, and some of which get even more interesting when combined with it.

Which – hard as this is to believe! – brings us to the end of the subclasses in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything!


Buuut not the end of Chapter 1: Character Options.

Artificer Initiate grants an artificer cantrip and 1st-level spell, one free casting per day of that 1st-level spell, the ability to cast it with your other spell slots, and finally proficiency with one type of artisan’s tools and the right to use them as a spellcasting focus for any spell that uses Int as its spellcasting ability. So it’s an interesting way for wizards to use artisan’s tools as a spellcasting focus, if they want. The feat is Magic Initiate with a few extra bits and bobs, and I’d be happy to see some of those pieces filter back into a Wizard Initiate feat that is distinct from Magic Initiate.

Chef grants +1 Con or Wis, proficiency with cook’s utensils, and two special meals you can cook. The first is for short rests, letting you feed 4+PB of your pals, healing them for +1d8 if they spend Hit Dice to regain hit points. The second is a number of Scooby Snacks equal to your proficiency bonus; within the next 8 hours someone can eat one as a bonus action to gain temporary hit points equal to your proficiency bonus. So not a ton of prevented damage in the course of a day, but once you’ve bought the feat it’s going to start adding up really nicely, since it takes functionally nothing of your time or cash to do it every adventuring day.

Crusher (all hail Gates McFadden) grants +1 Str or Con. Once per turn you can move a target 5 feet when you hit it with a bludgeoning weapon (with an upper size limit), and when you crit, everyone has advantage against that creature until the start of your next turn. I worry that the crit effect is too much, but… I mean, it’s real close to a knockdown effect that they don’t have to (and can’t) stand up from, I guess.

Eldritch Adept lets you pick up one Eldritch Invocation. You have to be a warlock to pick up anything with a prerequisite – Devil’s Sight and Mask of Many Faces are surely some of the most powerful options non-warlocks could go for. Beguiling Influence is a good way to get two skills for a feat.

Fey Touched gives you +1 Int, Wis, or Cha. You gain misty step and one 1st-level divination or enchantment spell, which you can cast once per long rest each for free, and again with your spell slots, if any. It’s another take on “Magic Initiate, but better,” and it’s a great purchase for just about any spellcaster that hasn’t maxed out their casting stat. Good fore characters that need some bonus mobility, too.

Fighting Initiate grants one Fighting Style from the fighter list. I’m delighted for barbarians, rogues, Bladelocks, and so on to have a direct way to pick up a fighting style. I think I’m generally persuaded that this feels a little disappointing without a +1 Str or Dex addition, since it has to compete with not only existing feats but also the baseline ASI.

Gunner grants +1 Dex, firearm proficiency, and (much like Crossbow Expert) you can ignore Loading and you don’t have disadvantage on your ranged attacks if an enemy is within 5 feet. It’s a straightforward feat that lets you use guns without the disappointment of Crossbow Expert’s non-applicable pieces.

Metamagic Adept teaches you two sorcerer Metamagic options and gives you 2 spell points. I love this, and as I said when the UA came out – if two Metamagic options and 2 spell points honestly intrudes on the sorcerer’s thing, the sorcerer doesn’t actually have a thing and that’s your real problem. This is fine, maybe at its most impressive for actual sorcerers. For everyone else, it’s a trick up your sleeve once or twice a day.

Piercer (not the creature) grants +1 Str or Dex. You can reroll one damage die with a piercing weapon once per turn, and on a crit you roll one extra damage die (so if you don’t have other dice adds going on, you have x3 crits rather than x2 crits). Seems fine to me; it strikes me that it’ll be a very strong purchase in Under the Seas of Vodari.

Poisoner (oh hey I tried to write a feat kinda like this in uhhh 2014 or so – didn’t do as good a job as this, though) lets you ignore poison resistance with your poison damage, apply poison to a weapon as a bonus action, and grants proficiency with a poisoner’s kit. It also lets you make a pretty strong blade poison (+2d8 poison damage on your first hit within 1 minute, and the target is poisoned until the end of your next turn) for a reasonable fee – 50 gp and an hour’s work to make your proficiency bonus in doses. Kicking out 4d8 damage per day at 4th level, up to 12d8 damage per day in the late game, is pretty respectable, though full poison immunity is something to watch out for.

Shadow Touched is the Shadowfell version of Fey Touched: +1 Int, Wis, or Cha. You learn invisibility and pick up a 1st-level spell from illusion or necromancy, and can cast both once per long rest, or more with your spell slots. It’s a great option for a lot of characters, most of all because you still get an ability score point. By all means, map this type of feat across the rest of the planes. [Jeremy_Renner_chinhands.gif]

Skill Expert grants +1 to an ability score of your choice, proficiency in one skill of your choice, and expertise in one skill you don’t already have expertise in. Since they’re not holding the line on only bards and rogues ever getting Expertise-like features, I’m glad wizards can “keep up” on Arcana, druids with Nature, and so on. Thank you, Canny, for being there for rangers with one of Stealth, Perception, or Survival.

Slasher would be a great name for many AO3 contributors grants +1 Str or Dex. It reduces the speed of one creature per turn that you hit with a slashing attack, and on a crit, you impose disadvantage on all of the target’s attacks until the start of your next turn. As with Crusher and Piercer, my only concern is that players will receive cool random treasure that is less appealing because they’re feat-locked to a different damage type.

Telekinetic grants +1 Int, Wis, or Cha. It gives you mage hand, which you cast without components, or it extends your existing mage hand range by 30 feet. Also, as a bonus action, you can shove a nearby creature 5 feet; unwilling creatures can resist with a Strength save. This isn’t quite as much of a Magic Initiate, but it’s a solid choice for anyone who doesn’t have their bonus action spoken for in their playstyle.

Telepathic also grants +1 Int, Wis, or Cha. Just about every kind of PC-accessible telepathy is a little different; in this case it’s 60-ft range, language-dependent, and the target can’t respond telepathically. Also you can cast detect thoughts without components once per long rest, or more with your own spell slots. Detect thoughts is incidentally one of the best spells you’re probably sleeping on.

Please join me in congratulating me for finishing Chapter 1 of this book in a mere what do you mean it’s f*cking April? If this series is anything like my XGTE breakdown series, the rest of the book should go by comparatively quickly. In the course of this chapter, I’ve had harsh words for a tiny portion of the subclasses, while I’ve found a lot to like about most of them.

Four of the five characters in a new game I started up a couple of weekends ago are using the artificer, or a subclass from this book (Battle Smith artificer, Beast barbarian, Soulknife rogue, Scribe wizard), so it’s rapidly reshaping the metagame with its new options. There’s power creep here, but most of it is the power creep of WotC getting genuinely better at designing playstyles in 5e.