I don’t normally do this sort of ‘optimizer’ guide, but this one was fun to do and is as useful to DMs as it is to players. By the time you get to 20th level, you will probably have at least one magic item of each rarity (legendary, very rare, rare, and uncommon). This guide offers suggestions for the best four items per class.
Full disclosure: I made great use of RPG Bot’s excellent guides when putting together this post, although I also used my own judgement and various YouTube videos, too. Nerd Immersion and Dungeon Dudes were particularly great. All images Wizards of the Coast.
Feel free to skip past this and get to the lists below.
- This article is only looking at permanent magic items. Consumables like potions and spell scrolls are also very powerful, but they are, by definition, not permanent, so you will go through far more of them over the course of your adventuring career.
- I’m also not including the ring of three wishes in these lists. It’s great, obviously, but it’s also only three charges, so it’s more like a consumable than a normal magic item (albeit an incredibly fun and broken consumable).
- I’m also not looking at artifacts because these are so dependent on the DM and the campaign.
- I have tried not to break attunement rules or the rules that prohibit you from wearing multiple magic items in the same ‘slot’ (eg, wearing two capes at once). Let me know in the comments if I have accidentally broken these rules.
- Some subclasses play very differently from each other. For example, a circle of the moon druid is essentially a front-liner, while a circle of the land druid is more of a regular spellslinger. Where this significantly affects magic item choices, I have tried to say so.
- The most common action you are going to take in combat is ‘attack’ or ‘cast a spell’ depending on your class, so anything that makes you better at those is fantastic. For many classes this is a +1 weapon (or +2, or +3), but it might be a rod of the pact maker, wand of the war mage, amulet of the devout (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything), and so on. It might be boring, but you will constantly feel the benefit of it.
- Boosts to AC and saving throws are useful, too, for all characters. Thanks to 5th edition’s bounded accuracy, a +1 bonus is surprisingly meaningful, even at high levels. Note that +1 armour is rarer than a +1 shield, and so on for +2 armour and +3 armour.
- In previous editions of D&D, items that increased ability scores like periapts of wisdom and gloves of dexterity were almost essential for a well-optimized character. However, this isn’t so much the case in 5th edition as it is relatively easy to boost your key ability scores to 20, and only a few exceptional situations let you permanently boost your ability scores higher than this. (Of course, if you encounter one of these means, take advantage of it! An ability score of 22 or higher is always attractive.)
- Ultimately, these are suggestions only. You may disagree – please do!
Magic items by class
- Legendary: cloak of invisibility. I was tempted by a staff of the magi, but it overlaps a bit with a multi-purpose tool below. Note that a cloak of invisibility is considerably better than the invisibility spell as you don’t lose invisibility when attacking or casting spells. Front-line battle smith might prefer a holy avenger. From 14th level, artificers can ignore class restrictions on magic items!
- Very rare: +3 all-purpose tool. This is an amazing bit of kit for an artificer: +3 on all spell attacks and saving throw DCs and a free cantrip you can change once a day. On top of that, it can turn into an artisan’s tool of your choice! Neat.
- Rare: ring of spell storing. You only get five levels of spells, so you’re best off with low-level, versatile spells like absorb elements, misty step, shield, maybe feather fall. You might think counterspell is a good choice for this, but it’s not as powerful as people think.
- Uncommon: stone of good luck. OK, it’s a bit boring, but this makes you a little bit better at almost everything you do.
- Legendary: belt of storm giant’s strength. Strength 29? Seriously? OK. Not sure anything else competes with this. The only drawback is, you’ve probably already spent at least one ability score increase pumping your Strength up to 20.
- Very rare: +3 greataxe. Assuming you’re using a greataxe, of course – and if you’re not, what kind of barbarian are you?
- Rare: bracers of defence. +2 AC if you’re not wearing armour or wield a shield – and if you are, what kind of barbarian are you? A cloak of displacement is tempting, but the chances of a barbarian taking damage are so high that it starts to become less attractive compared to a flat +2 AC.
- Uncommon: winged boots. You might be tempted by boots of striding and springing – a tall barbarian with Strength 29 could jump 40 feet up in the air without a run-up! – but these boots don’t let you jump farther than your remaining movement would allow, and on top of that, you would take falling damage. A fly speed of 40 feet is plenty.
- Legendary: cloak of invisibility. A lot of guides recommend the instruments of the bards, but honestly, they’re not actually that good.
- Very rare: rhythm-maker’s drum +3. This is to bards what the rod of the pact maker is to warlocks. You can also use it to regain one of your uses of bardic inspiration. Technically you could combine this with the reveller’s concertina from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything – you could hold one in each hand – but this feels very cheesy to me, and I wouldn’t allow it for one moment.
- Rare: elven chain. Not the most exciting option, but, crucially, it doesn’t require attunement, and my other three choices do.
- Uncommon: stone of good luck. +1 to everything is fun.
- Legendary: rod of resurrection, although, this doesn’t excite me for a legendary magic item. An elf or half-elf might prefer a moonblade, although I’m wary of clerics spending too much time on the front lines.I was sorely tempted by the amulet of ultimate good, but you can’t attune to two amulets at once, so, given the choice, I went with the amulet below instead.
- Very rare: amulet of the devout +3. You’re probably noticing a bit of a pattern here . . . I did something similar for the artificer and the bard. The thing is, these magic items are just so good.
- Rare: mantle of spell resistance. The mace of disruption was tempting, but again, most clerics should probably steer clear of the front lines.
- Uncommon: sentinel shield. One of my favourite uncommon magic items, and valuable right up until the end of a campaign. Advantage on initiative and Wisdom (Perception) checks is fantastic, and no attunement required.
As mentioned in the notes above, different druids play very differently from one another. I have tried to account for this with my choices.
- Legendary: I’m loath to say cloak of invisibility again, but honestly, I’m not sure there’s a better option for most druids. A scarab of protection, perhaps? A circle of the moon druid might prefer a belt of storm giant’s strength.
- Very rare: dragon scale mail. Probably the best armour a druid can get, plus you get resistance to one type of elemental damage. A druid in melee might like the scimitar of speed since you get to attack with it every turn as a bonus action.
- Rare: staff of the woodlands. This is lovely: +2 to spell attacks, 10 charges to spend on seven different spells, free pass without trace at will, and you can turn into a tree!
- Uncommon: sentinel shield. Yep, same as the cleric. A wildshaping druid might prefer the insignia of claws in Hoard of the Dragon Queen – not least because it doesn’t require attunement!
- Legendary: vorpal sword. Fighters get four attack rolls at 20th level, so that’s four chances to crit every turn.
- Very rare: belt of fire giant strength. You might think it’s better to get a (very rare) +3 weapon and a (legendary) belt of storm giant’s strength, but the extra crit damage from a vorpal sword outweighs the +2 Strength bump.
- Rare: mantle of spell resistance. Fighters don’t always have the best saves, and this cloak even defends against area of effect spells.
- Uncommon: adamantine plate. Not the snazziest item, perhaps, but crucially, this one doesn’t require attunement.
For a Dex-based melee fighter, I would suggest a few swaps. +3 armour instead of the vorpal sword, a scimitar of speed instead of the belt, and boots of flying instead of the plate. For an archer, take a cloak of invisibility, a +3 longbow, a ring of spell storing, and a stone of good luck. For the ring, I would recommend misty step, shield, and absorb elements.
- Legendary: ioun stone, mastery. I considered yet again the cloak of invisibility, but there’s something fitting for me about a monk having this item. With flurry of blows, martial arts, and extra attack, monks make more attack rolls than most other classes in the game, and on top of that they have proficiency in all saving throws by 14th level.
- Very rare: +3 longsword. Thanks to the new ‘dedicated weapon’ feature in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, monks have more options for their martial arts. Wielded in two hands, a longsword deals 1d10 damage, and with a +3 bonus, it’s more effective than unarmed strikes. I like to reflavour this as a katana.
- Rare: amulet of health. Monks are MAD (multi ability score dependant), so a boost to Constitution is super helpful.
- Uncommon: winged boots. You could always move fast: now you can move fast aerially. Fun.
- Legendary: holy avenger. Really, did you expect anything else? You are the most paladiny paladin that every paladined. Enjoy.
- Very rare: belt of fire giant’s strength. Paladins are designed to be in melee, and this will make you hit even harder.
- Rare: amulet of the devout +2. As well as boosting your spells, this gives you one extra use of your Channel Divinity feature.
- Uncommon: adamantine plate. I was torn between this and winged boots – paladins don’t do well with ranged combat – but we can’t attune to more than three items, and the other items above are too good to pass up.
- Legendary: cloak of invisibility. Yes, yes, it’s boring, but honestly, whether you are a skirmisher or an archer, this is extraordinary.
- Very rare: +3 longbow. A skirmisher type would probably prefer a scimitar of speed.
- Rare: amulet of health. If you are already attuned to three items, though, +1 studded leather might be better.
- Uncommon: bracers of archery. A skirmisher might prefer a stone of good luck.
- Legendary: cloak of invisibility. Look, it’s good, OK?
- Very rare: +3 weapon. Rogues never want to miss with sneak attack, and thanks to this bad boy, you won’t.
- Rare: ring of spell storing. Rogues are generally quite good at avoiding attacks, but misty step and shield can still save their bacon.
- Uncommon: stone of good luck, although some races might consider the goggles of darkvision.
- Legendary: robe of the archmagi. Man, such a fun item for sorcerers: it’s like +3 studded leather, a mantle of spell resistance, and a +2 wand of the war mage combined!
- Very rare: staff of power. A 20th-level sorcerer only knows 15 spells. Anything that provides extra flexibility is a godsend.
- Rare: +2 bloodwell vial. A new item from Tasha’s, this gives you a few more sorcery points and boosts your spell attacks and saving throws.
- Uncommon: wand of magic detection. It’s not sexy, but we’re out of attunement slots, and sorcerers don’t want to be burning spell slots for this (admittedly useful) utility spell.
- Legendary: robe of the archmagi. As good for warlocks as it is for sorcerers.
- Very rare: +3 wand of the war mage. You might prefer the rod of the pact maker, but the ability to avoid cover is possibly more useful to you than the bonus to spell DCs. (If you’ve ever played a warlock, you know how often you say the words ‘I cast eldritch blast’.)
- Rare: amulet of health. Hit points are nice.
- Uncommon: broom of flying. We’ve burned through our attunement slots, so this is all we have left.
- Legendary: staff of the magi. Advantage on saving throws against spells, 50 charges to spend on 13 different spells, six spells to be cast without charges, and +2 to spell attacks. On top of that, it’s a +2 quarterstaff you can break over your knee for a retributive strike!
- Very rare: +3 arcane grimoire. Another new item from Tasha’s, this is essentially the best spellbook you can get.
- Rare: elven chain. Never cast mage armour again!
- Uncommon: cloak of protection. A little more AC doesn’t hurt.
Disagree with any of these choices? Let me know in the comments below.
If you like what I do, please subscribe by clicking here. You can unsubscribe any time. You can find me on Facebook at scrollforinitiative, Twitter @scrollforinit, and Instagram @scrollforinitiative. And if you want to make my day, you can support me on Patreon or buy me a coffee here.