Arcane Tricksters are the spellcaster Rogues and they have plenty of fascinating features that make the subclass immensely popular among players.
They use Intelligence for their spellcasting and mostly rely on spells from the Illusion and Enchantment schools of magic. They may not get very many spells or spell slots, but their features let them make the most of what they have and synergize well with the Rogue’s core abilities.
Let’s jump into some of the coolest parts about being a Rogue who can also cast some tricksy spells.
Arcane Trickster Features
When you start out at level 1, that’s a whopping +4 to whichever two skills you choose. By the time you’re level 20, you’ll be adding +12 to your expert skills.
Whenever you have advantage on a weapon attack using a ranged or finesse weapon, or you have an ally within 5 feet of your target, you can apply Sneak Attack.
At 1st level, your Sneak Attack is only 1d6 extra damage, but as you level up, it increases to up to 10d6. Sneak Attack increases on odd levels by 1d6.
Thieves’ Cant is a code that Rogues use to communicate secret messages, either in writing or speech. It’s not exactly a language, and it may not come up often in your game, but you might use it to secretly pass critical information to other members of your criminal organization or get new updates from your contact.
This feature lets you use your bonus action in new and unexpected ways. Now, you can Dash to move up to your movement speed, Disengage to get out of melee combat without provoking an attack of opportunity, or Hide by making a Dexterity (Stealth) check.
This is what most people choose Arcane Trickster for. You start with two cantrips and two 1st level spells chosen from the Illusion or Enchantment spell lists. You also get a third 1st level spell that can come from any school of magic as long as it is on the Wizard spell list.
As you level up, you gain additional spells up to 4th level. Most of them will be Illusion or Enchantment, but you get a few more that are from any school of magic as long as they’re on the Wizard spell list.
You’ll need to remember that Intelligence is your spellcasting stat for all of these. We talk more about Ability Scores further down.
Mage Hand Legerdemain
Mage Hand is a critical spell for Arcane Tricksters. Beyond being a great spell, this feature specifically modifies it to work better.
You can now control it with your bonus action, use it to disarm traps and pick locks from a distance or pick a pocket or two without the target noticing (hopefully). Your Mage Hand is now invisible, which makes it great for some friendly hijinks.
This is one of the Rogue’s best core features: using your reaction to halve the damage from a single attack targeting you. If you’re worried about damage from area effects, though, don’t worry! Check out ur guide to Uncanny Dodge 5e.
Now we address those pesky area effects! Anything that requires a Dexterity saving throw is applicable. When you succeed on your Dex saving throw, you take no damage. If you fail, you only take half the damage instead of the full amount. Remember, this doesn’t impact other effects, just damage.
Arcane Trickster Rogues tend to favor hiding and attacking, so this feature adds to that strategy. When you’re hidden and target a creature with a spell that requires a saving throw, they have disadvantage on their saving throw.
Since you’re splitting your ASIs between Dexterity and Intelligence, this increases your chances of success even though your save DC won’t be as high as full casters.
This is a fantastic addition to the Rogue’s role as a skill monkey in a party. If you roll a skill check and the die is 9 or lower, you can automatically turn it into a straight 10.
Considering the number of skill proficiencies and expertise you have by now, you should definitely be confident about many essential skills. This feature counts for checks made with your thieves’ tools too.
This feature is an improvement for the Mage Hand Legerdemain 3rd level feature.
Now, you can use your Mage Hand to distract your foes as a bonus action, giving you advantage on your attack rolls against them. That means you get to use your Sneak Attack, and you have more chances to land critical hits. All you have to do is get your Mage Hand within 5 feet of the target.
Blindsense helps you overcome illusions and invisibility when creatures are within 10 feet of you. This also can get you through magical darkness.
Normally, when you are blinded to a foe, they have advantage on attacks against you, and you have disadvantage on attacks against them. This negates that.
In addition to proficiency in Intelligence and Dexterity saving throws, you now gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws. Most Rogues don’t have very good Wisdom scores, so this can make a big difference when it comes to charm effects and spells.
This is a complex feature to utilize with any real success because you don’t gain it until level 17, and you can only steal spells that are 4th level or lower. Unless you’re facing quarter casters or spellcasters who are upcasting, you will mostly be facing people who are wielding much higher-level spells.
If you get lucky, when you’re targeted by a spell, you can force the caster to make a saving throw. If they fail, not only does the spell not affect you, but you also can now use it yourself.
One of the main rules for Sneak Attack is that you can’t have disadvantage on the attack roll, so this feature goes a long way toward ensuring you don’t. Now, you never have disadvantage on attack rolls unless you’re incapacitated.
Stroke of Luck
Once per day, you can take a missed attack and automatically turn it into a success. You don’t have to stick to attack rolls, though; this applies to any failed ability check too.
Best Stat Arrays
If you want to be an amazing Arcane Trickster Rogue, here’s what we recommend for assigning and improving your Ability Scores.
You’re a Rogue; you don’t need Strength.
This should be your primary stat. Concentrate on pumping Dexterity to 20 before you do anything else.
Everyone needs a bit of Constitution.
This is your spellcasting stat so once Dexterity is taken care of, focus on improving your Intelligence.
Some Wisdom is nice for Perception checks, but you don’t need to worry too much.
Other Rogues may need Charisma, but not you.