D&D 5e: Chronurgy Magic Wizard Guide
Role in the Party
The Chronurgy Wizard is a controversial subclass introduced in Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount, a book based on a continent from Critical Role and partly written by Matt Mercer. This subclass centers around time magic and gives you unusual and powerful abilities that can radically strengthen your wizard; it’s on par with the most powerful wizard subclasses out there and might surpass them at high levels.
Although the Chronurgy Wizard is a popular subclass among all types of players, it has some problematic mechanics I’ll get into later. This is one of the very few subclasses in the game that requires you to self-police to keep the campaign intact, or else your table will police you for you.
Chronurgy Magic Wizard Features
Note on Dunamancy Magic: There are several Dunamancy spells in Wildemount such as Sapping Sting and Gift of Alacrity that are ambiguously exclusive to the two wizard subclasses introduced in that book. The availability of these spells to other subclasses or even classes is completely dependent on your dungeon master since their exclusivity isn’t entirely clear. I won’t factor this into the power level of the Chronurgy wizard.
At 2nd level, you can magically exert limited control over the flow of time around a creature. As a reaction, after you or a creature you can see within 30 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, you can force the creature to reroll. You make this decision after you see whether the roll succeeds or fails. The target must use the result of the second roll.
You can use this ability twice, and you regain any expended uses when you finish a long rest.
This is very similar to the Divination Wizard’s Portent feature, except it’s used after the roll succeeds or fails instead of before rolling, and you can’t guarantee a particular result since it’s just a reroll and not a specific d20 result. I would say this is slightly worse than Portent, but not by much, and “slightly worse than Portent” is still Epic.
Starting at 2nd level, you can add your Intelligence modifier to your initiative rolls.
A second beefy feature wasn’t necessary, but we have another one anyway. This is probably anywhere from a +3 to +5 initiative bonus depending on your level, and a high initiative is great for a wizard who has spells they want to unleash before enemies can do anything.
When you reach 6th level, as an action, you can magically force a Large or smaller creature you can see within 60 feet of you to make a Constitution saving throw against your spell save DC. Unless the saving throw is a success, the creature is encased in a field of magical energy until the end of your next turn or until the creature takes any damage. While encased in this way, the creature is incapacitated and has a speed of 0.
You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier (a minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
This limited use action has a decently powerful effect, but it’s a constitution saving throw, limited to large or smaller creatures, and it costs an action to use. Still, this doesn’t require concentration, and it’s not a spell, so you can either use this on the same round as a bonus action spell or use it while you’re concentrating on something else. Solid feature.
At 10th level, when you cast a spell using a spell slot of 4th level or lower, you can condense the spell’s magic into a mote. The spell is frozen in time at the moment of casting and held within a gray bead for 1 hour. This bead is a Tiny object with AC 15 and 1 hit point, and it is immune to poison and psychic damage. When the duration ends, or if the bead is destroyed, it vanishes in a flash of light, and the spell is lost.
A creature holding the bead can use its action to release the spell within, whereupon the bead disappears. The spell uses your spell attack bonus and save DC, and the spell treats the creature who released it as the caster for all other purposes.
Once you create a bead with this feature, you can’t do so again until you finish a short or long rest.
This is the problematic feature of this subclass, and it’s simultaneously immensely powerful and an enormous problem that you need to deal with. Being able to offload concentration onto someone else is absolutely bonkers; it’s like the immensely powerful Spell Storing Ring. You can cast Wall of Force… and then have your familiar cast Wall of Force. This feature is most dramatic in adventuring days with a single big fight that you can see coming ahead of time.
You can also use this to give familiars to the whole party, or even more bizarrely, to give your own familiar a familiar. This is kind of ridiculous and likely won’t fly at most tables.
But wait! It gets worse! You can unleash any spell of 4th level or lower as an action regardless of the original casting time. There’s no ambiguity here: you can unleash Leomund’s Tiny Hut as an action, creating an impenetrable forcefield for your whole party that you can pass through but the enemies can’t. You can shoot the enemy, the enemy cannot hurt you, and you win after a few rounds without taking damage. A few enemies can counter this strategy, but they’re extremely rare.
Imagine how your dungeon master and fellow players would feel if you leveled up before an epic battle with an Ancient Red Dragon that had been established as a powerful and important villain with a deep personal connection to several party members and then just… deployed a dome of invincibility that auto-won the fight. You could even block the exit with it so the dragon couldn’t even run away. Unless you’re in a crazy campaign where nonsense like this is encouraged, your dungeon master will use their DM screen as a weapon and disembowel you.
I’m not sure how this made it through playtesting, and even worse, was never the subject of any errata; is anyone at Wizards of the Coast aware of this interaction, or are they aware and don’t think it’s a problem?
What do you do when one of your features is so strong that using it in an obvious way destroys the balance of your game? You have to come to an agreement with your table about how to fix the feature to make it functional, which is why this is both an Epic and Bad feature simultaneously. This is immensely powerful, but it can ruin the fun if you don’t talk to your group first.
Starting at 14th level, you can peer through possible futures and magically pull one of them into events around you, ensuring a particular outcome. When you or a creature you can see within 60 feet of you makes an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw, you can use your reaction to ignore the die roll and decide whether the number rolled is the minimum needed to succeed or one less than that number (your choice).
When you use this feature, you gain one level of exhaustion. Only by finishing a long rest can you remove a level of exhaustion gained in this way.
Another portent-like ability that’s a bit weaker than portent, but still excellent. In practice, this is a 1/day feature that could become a 2/day or 3/day feature in dire emergencies, but exhaustion starts to add up after a while, and this exhaustion is especially hard to get rid of. Still, Epic because you can give someone an automatic success against the most dangerous saving throw effects in the game.
Your high initiative makes you a better wizard than many wizards since you can unleash powerful spells sooner, and your various abilities let you shut down enemies and protect allies in addition to whatever spells you’re already casting. And at 10th level, it’s hard to predict how you’ll become more powerful, but regardless of what happens, you will almost certainly be the strongest wizard subclass in the game.
All your features have limited uses, making you weaker in extra long adventuring days, and you need to multiclass if you want to mitigate your weak defense. You and your DM will also get a headache while trying to figure out how to fix Arcane Abeyance.
Best Race Options
If you want to multiclass for heavy armor proficiency and want more hit points, Mountain Dwarf will let you ignore the speed penalties for wearing plate mail without the necessary strength, and your Dwarven Toughness feature will give you more health.
The Harengon race will let you improve your already fantastic initiative by adding your proficiency bonus. You will almost always go before your enemies.
Warforged is excellent if you want to be a robot wizard from the future. Do your best Arnold Schwarzenegger impression and become the Terminator (but probably with a lower strength score). If you’re into a different time travel-based franchise, Changling is an ideal pick for replicating the face-changing nature of the Doctor from Doctor Who.
Choosing the Right Skills
You’ll be relied upon for Arcana, but every self-respecting time wizard needs History proficiency; it just makes sense. Nature, Investigation, and Religion are good choices too.
Perception is vital for any character; your high initiative means very little if you spend your first turn being hit with the Surprised condition. Avoid being surprised and go first.
Deception proficiency is useful if you’re going to get a chance to do time travel in a campaign. Go full Doctor Who and make very bold lies; pair it with Athletics proficiency to be good at all the stuff the Doctor is good at, like running and jumping and sports.
Keen Mind is a weaker feat, but it’s unusually appropriate for a super-genius time wizard detective since it lets you be very good at telling what time it is and knowing what direction you’re going. Accurately recalling anything from the last month is also a lot of fun. Besides, it’s a half feat, so you can boost intelligence.
Metamagic Adept lets you take Subtle Spell, and possibly also Extend Spell, which makes sense for a time wizard.
Lucky will give you yet another way to alter d20 results, and it will protect your concentration saves like War Caster and Resilient (Constitution) can.
Far Traveler is perfect if you want your Chronurgy Wizard to be from another time. Make sure your roleplaying reflects how the world has changed over time, and work with your dungeon master.
Sage is a solid choice for any wizard. Make sure you’re proficient in both Arcana and History, and maybe a few more knowledge skills if you want, or else people will wonder what you’ve been reading about instead.
You’re a Wildemount subclass, so why not be a character from Wildemount? The Grinner background lets you be part of a faction of optimistic and upbeat spies, and your dungeon master might extend the faction’s influence to your current campaign setting. This background is especially solid for a wizard with at least an okay charisma.
You’re one of the strongest possible characters even without multiclassing, but you can cover some weaknesses by multiclassing to become even more powerful:
One level of Peace Domain Cleric will turn you into a legendarily powerful support character with an amazing armor class. Hand out d4s to everyone, win initiative, and cast insanely powerful spells while rarely being hit. The proficiency bonus scaling of Emboldening Bond will make you even more powerful at very high levels.
One level of Artificer does a similar thing to boost your defense, but starting as Artificer gives you proficiency in constitution saving throws. Remember that artificer multiclassing is different than usual half caster multiclassing, so one level of artificer lets you maintain full caster spell slot progression, just like multiclassing with a full caster.
One level of Wild Magic Sorcerer could be useful just for Tides of Chaos, which lets you pull out advantage on anything—possibly initiative or an important saving throw—whenever you need it
Would I recommend playing a Chronurgy Wizard?
I only recommend playing a Chronurgy Wizard if your table is willing to do something about the problematic level 10 feature; then it works fine, and you can be a powerful wizard without being broken. You can have some solid time-based features and be a vital contributor to any party.
If your dungeon master is fine with the level 10 feature as-is after you explained it to them, make sure to ask the other players if they’re fine with the all-powerful forcefield, since their opinions matter too.