Arcane Trickster Rogues are the only Rogue subclass that gets access to spellcasting, and they’re widely considered a top-tier subclass thanks to this feature alone. They can learn Wizard cantrips and Wizard spells of the Illusion or Enchantment schools of magic. Arcane Tricksters can also learn to cast any Wizard spell at certain levels, opening up many, many options.

But, on the downside, Arcane Tricksters can only learn a few spells altogether, and their spell slots are extremely limited — more than any other half-caster (except Eldritch Knight Fighters).

Another thing to keep in mind is that Arcane Trickster Rogues are still, well, Rogues, and therefore need to invest in Dexterity as their primary ability score to be effective. That means that, as a general rule, any spell that requires a spell attack roll or forces an enemy saving throw is worse on an Arcane Trickster than it is on a full caster.

Even with Intelligence as your secondary ability, you’ll never hit as often with these spells as normal spellcasters, especially at higher levels. Therefore, utility spells that aid you or your allies without requiring attack rolls or saving throws are superior spells for an Arcane Trickster Rogue.

Also, note that I’m only looking at Arcane Trickster spells from the Player’s Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything for this Arcane Trickster spell list.

But if you’re building an AT Rogue and you’re looking for the best spells to pick up, here are my picks for the best Arcane Trickster spells by level.

Best Arcane Trickster Cantrips

There are the best cantrips for an Arcane Trickster Rogue. Note that Mage Hand is not on this list, because you automatically have it as an Arcane Trickster (and it’s very good!).

  1. Booming Blade. Booming Blade starts as a normal melee attack, which is great for a Rogue who needs to make finesse weapon attacks to get Sneak Attack damage — their most important feature, even for an Arcane Trickster.

    Booming Blade’s rider effect causes the target to take 1d8 thunder damage if they move before the start of your next turn. This is excellent for Rogues, who rely on Cunning Action to Disengage for a bonus action to put distance between themselves and their target without taking opportunity attacks. Now, the enemy has to decide between giving chase (and taking Booming Blade damage) or staying still (and doing nothing with their turn). Truly a rock and a hard place for any melee foe you face.

  2. Minor Illusion. A great utility spell in its own right, Minor Illusion becomes extra powerful in the hands of a Rogue. With it, you can create fake cover for yourself, allowing you to be an unseen attacker and get attack advantage from it.

    The only caveat is that if you’re a medium-sized character (5+ feet tell to be specific), you’ll need to go prone in order to hide behind the cover…which gives you disadvantage and cancels out the advantage of being an unseen attacker. A great trick for Halfling and Gnome Rogues, though! And even on bigger Rogues, Minor Illusion can be used to great effect as a distraction, diversion, or bait to allow you to do all your other Rogueish stuff more easily (stealth, steal, etc.).

  3. Message. Rogues are often scouts, which means they often go ahead of the party with their superior sneaking abilities. This can be a dangerous job, though. Message allows you to communicate with your allies from a distance when you find yourself in a sticky situation. While it’s a relatively short 120-foot range, it goes around corners and through some surfaces.

  4. Green-Flame Blade. Like Booming Blade, Green-Flame Blade is a normal melee spell attack (so you’re using Dexterity instead of Intelligence). The rider on this one is that, if your attack lands, you get to cause bonus fire damage to a creature within 5 feet of your target. This damage is equal to your spellcasting modifier, which isn’t that great at low levels (maybe 2 damage).

    But at 5th+ level, it starts dealing 1d8 + spellcasting modifier (so likely 6.5 average) to the second target. Great for clearing out packs of minions, and adds some area-of-effect damage capability to a Rogue kit that otherwise lacks it.

  5. Mind Sliver. Now, normally, I’d advise against picking up spells that require a saving throw or spell attack as an Arcane Trickster. Your spellcasting modifier isn’t great, and these spells will land less often than they will for a full caster.

    However, Mind Sliver forces an Intelligence saving throw, which is the worst average ability score of monsters in 5e’s main sourcebooks. That somewhat balances out for your bad spellcasting modifier, meaning it’ll land more often.

    The 1d6 psychic damage it deals is definitely less than your normal attacks. But the -1d4 to the creature’s next saving throw it makes before the end of your next turn is quite strong. If you have another spellcaster in your group with powerful save-or-suck spells like Hold Person, using your turn to set them up with Mind Sliver is a very good way to use your turn. Or you can set yourself up for a saving throw spell on your next turn — the -1d4 on their save makes it much more likely that the spell will land.

Here are the other Arcane Trickster cantrips and my X/5 rating for each:

Best 1st-level Arcane Trickster Spells

  1. Sleep. An excellent control spell at early levels, Sleep knocks out enemies with a total of 5d8 (22.5 average) worth of hit points. That’s several goblins or kobolds incapacitated, without a saving throw. Free attack advantage (and therefore Sneak Attack damage) upon attacking the prone sleeping targets is also a nice perk when it comes time to clean up the enemies who you put to sleep.

    However, Sleep becomes MUCH less impactful as enemy hit point pools grow to the point where it can’t even reliably incapacitate one enemy. At that point, you can switch Sleep out for a different spell.

  2. Color Spray. Color Spray works a lot like Sleep, only it’s a cone and affects up to 6d10 (33 average) worth of enemy hit points. And instead of putting enemies to sleep, it blinds them until the end of your next turn.

    Blinded creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls, and attacks against them have advantage. That means you’re getting Sneak Attack damage and a better chance of a critical hit. And you’re simultaneously helping your allies offensively while protecting them from incoming damage. Most importantly, you accomplish all this without the enemy making a saving throw.

    Like Sleep, Color Spray falls off at higher levels, when enemy hit point pools outscale its ability to be effective.

  3. Disguise Self. Not all Arcane Tricksters need Disguise Self, but if you’re playing as an infiltrator-type Rogue, it’s a handy spell to have. If a stealth mission goes haywire, you won’t look like your actual self when you’re caught, which can buy you time to figure out a story or for the rest of your party to come help.

    And if you’re using a spell like Friends or the spell that’s next on this list, they won’t know that it was you who charmed them — they’ll blame whoever you disguised yourself to be.

  4. Charm Person. Great if you have proficiency and/or expertise in persuasion or deception already, Charm Person gives you advantage on social checks if the target fails their Wisdom save. While the creature knows it was charmed by you after the fact, they don’t automatically become hostile.

    Good with disguises and for finding out information that you couldn’t find otherwise, but definitely skippable if your party already has a reliable “face” character with high Charisma.

  5. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. A Wisdom saving throw spell, and if the target fails, they fall prone and incapacitated, and are unable to get up until the spell ends. It can repeat this save at the end of its turns or whenever it takes damage (advantage if the save is triggered by damage).

    This is great for setting yourself up for an advantaged attack on your next turn — or setting up your allies, if you’re feeling generous. It can also be a longer-term single-target shutdown spell, which is especially effective against big dumb boss monsters with low Wisdom scores, like trolls.

Here are the other 1st-level Arcane Trickster spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Silent Image – 3

  • Illusory Script – 2

Best Wizard Spells to Get at 3rd-level of Arcane Trickster

At 3rd level, when you choose Arcane Trickster as your Rogue subclass, two of the first three 1st-level spells you select must be Enchantment or Illusion spells from the Wizard spell list. However, one spell can be ANY Wizard spell, from any school of magic. Here are the best options for an Arcane Trickster to pick for this spell:

  1. Find Familiar. Easily the #1 choice, Find Familiar is just so darn useful for Arcane Tricksters. The Owl familiar in particular is useful for its flyby trait, allowing it to get in and out without taking opportunity attacks…and fly, of course, putting itself out of reach of melee enemies.

    Why is this good for a Rogue? Well, with a familiar, you can guarantee Sneak Attack damage every round of combat, since you’ll always have an ally within 5 feet of your target.

  2. Shield. One of the best defensive 1st-level spells in DnD 5e, Shield gives you +5 AC until the start of your next turn, used as a reaction to taking damage (the bonus applies to the triggering attack as well). It also prevents Magic Missile from hitting.

    Basically, this turns an enemy hit on you into a miss, and protects you against other attacks for a short while as well. However, once you have Uncanny Dodge as a reaction, Shield becomes somewhat redundant. Shield is still better than Uncanny Dodge, which halves damage, but it also eats up one of your very few spell slots, whereas Uncanny Dodge is a resource-less Rogue feature you can use repeatedly.

  3. Fog Cloud. Creating a 20-foot radius of fog that heavily obscures the area is obviously beneficial for a Rogue (and the rest of your party). It’s especially good for hit-and-run tactics with ranged attacks, getting into/out of a place unseen, removing opportunity attacks (can’t make these if you can’t see your target!), and limiting enemy spellcasters, who require sight of their target for many important spells.

  4. Absorb Elements. Resistance to a triggering damage type (acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder) until the start of your next turn, used as a reaction. You also deal +1d6 damage (of whatever type you absorbed) on your next melee attack.

    Very, very good for stopping big elemental damage spells from one-shotting you. Evasion (7th-level Rogue feature) will already cut damage from failed Dexterity saves in half, but you can quarter it with Absorb Elements, and many other elemental effects aren’t Dex saves.

Best 2nd-level Arcane Trickster Spells

  1. Mirror Image. Creates three duplicates of yourself, each with an AC of 10 + your Dexterity modifier. When you’re targeted, there’s a chance that one of your mirrors will be targeted instead of you. This lasts for one minute, no concentration required.

    A great spell for any melee combatant, and can even make you into a short-term tank for your group.

  2. Blur. Creatures have attack disadvantage against you for one minute, concentration permitting. Once your AC is 17+, Blur is better than Mirror Image from a purely numerical perspective. But it comes at the risk of having your concentration broken, and if a creature already has attack disadvantage against you, Blur becomes redundant.

  3. Shadow Blade. A 2d8 + attack modifier psychic finesse weapon (20/60-foot range when thrown) that lasts for one minute, concentration permitting. This is much better damage than any normal finesse weapon your Rogue has access to, and you even get advantage on attack rolls in dim light or darkness (more crits, more Sneak Attack damage, etc.).

    While RAW Booming Blade requires a weapon with a monetary value, 5e’s lead game designer said he’d allow for Shadow Blade to work with Booming Blade regardless.

  4. Invisibility. Up to one hour of invisibility for you or an ally (or multiple allies at higher levels). Unfortunately, it ends if you attack or cast a spell, so you’ll only get attack advantage from being an unseen attacker in the opening round of combat. But it can help you get into the perfect position beforehand.

    More importantly, this makes Rogue stealth missions much safer. Sure, you still have to be quiet, but you’re much less likely to be caught while you’re scouting if you’re invisible.

  5. Hold Person. Paralyzes a humanoid target for 1 minute on a failed Wisdom saving throw. Now, I normally rate Hold Person much higher, but since Arcane Tricksters don’t get access to it at 7th level, when threatening humanoids start getting phased out in most campaigns, I rate it a little less highly.

    But if you can land Hold Person in a big spot, it affords you incredible bonuses — attack advantage AND automatic critical hits against the paralyzed target. And it doesn’t even break on damage, so your melee allies can get in on the fun too.

Here are the other 2nd-level Arcane Trickster spells and my X/5 rating for each:

Best Wizard Spells to Get at 8th-level of Arcane Trickster

At 8th-level, Arcane Tricksters can choose one Wizard spell from any school of magic. Here are the best options for an Arcane Trickster to pick for this spell:

  1. Misty Step. A 30-foot teleport as a bonus action, Misty Step is fantastic for Arcane Tricksters. More mobility, easier escapes, and access to vertical transportation are all welcome additions to the Rogue’s basic kit of features.

  2. Detect Thoughts. Being able to detect thinking creatures at a range of 30 feet is useful for scouting/stealthing, and reading the surface thoughts of a creature you’re interrogating is incredibly useful. It’s also a straight Intelligence check contest to probe deeper into the target’s mind, and you’re likely to have a higher Intelligence than most creatures you’ll meet.

  3. Spider Climb. A 1-hour concentration spell, Spider Climb lets you (or an ally) move across vertical surfaces and on ceilings at your normal walking speed, while keeping your hands free. If you’re making ranged attacks and you’re in a place with walls/ceilings to climb, this is basically as good as Fly, a 3rd-level spell with only a 10-minute duration.

    Even if you’re making melee attacks, being able to disengage and run up a wall after attacking will put you out of reach for any melee foes you’re up against.

  4. Alter Self. Another 1-hour concentration spell, Alter Self allows you to be an aquatic creature with swim speed and underwater breathing, to change your appearance to look like whatever creature you like of similar size/body shape, or to grow natural weapons that deal more damage than your regular unarmed strikes.

    All three of these can come in handy, but the major thing is being able to change your appearance. When you go on stealth/scouting missions as a Rogue, it’s great to make yourself look like whatever creatures you’re infiltrating — much less deadly if you get caught that way. Alternatively, you can try to infiltrate an enemy encampment, although you’ll need good Charisma abilities (or at least proficiency in Deception) and the Actor feat to pull this off reliably.

  5. Enhance Ability. Advantage on ability checks in an ability of your choice for 1 hour, concentration permitting. It doesn’t work with attack rolls or saving throws, but giving yourself advantage on Dex checks can still be useful in some scenarios, and you’ll also take less fall damage with it active. And if you ever find yourself alone and in need of help with skill checks you naturally are terrible at, you can give yourself advantage on those checks with Enhance Ability.

arcane trickster rogue vs. owlbear minis d&d 5e

Best 3rd-level Arcane Trickster Spells

  1. Hypnotic Pattern. One of the best control spells in the game, Hypnotic Pattern charms and incapacitates any creature in a 30-foot cube who fails a Wisdom saving throw. While you don’t get access until 13th level, this spell remains excellent all the way into DnD 5e’s late game.

  2. Major Image. Creates a 20-foot cube worth of illusionary images that can move and seem real, with sensory effects (heat, smell, etc.) and everything. If a creature tries to figure out it’s an illusion, it’s an Investigation check against your spell save DC, and most creatures don’t have a good Investigation modifier. Either way, this can help you create a convincing ruse that your party can take advantage of in any number of ways; very fitting for a Rogue character.

  3. Fear. A 30-foot cone effect that causes affected creatures to become frightened, use their actions to Dash, and run as far from you as possible on a failed Wisdom saving throw. Slightly worse battlefield control than Hypnotic Pattern in most cases, but still a great utility spell to have.

  4. Enemies Abound. A single-target Intelligence save (most likely to hit) that causes a creature to regard all creatures as hostile, attacking at random and making an opportunity attack against any creature that triggers one. Perfect for causing a diversion or getting a powerful (albeit chaotic) short-term “ally” for the duration of a fight.

  5. Phantom Steed. A 1-hour riding horse who’s extra-fast. It goes away if it takes any damage, so it’s not much of a combat-ready ally, and your party likely has better ways to travel long distances by this point in the game. Not worth your limited spells known, in my opinion.

Here are the other 3rd-level Arcane Trickster spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Catnap – 2

Best Wizard Spells to Get at 14th-level of Arcane Trickster

At 14th level, Arcane Tricksters can choose one Wizard spell from any school of magic. Here are the best options for an Arcane Trickster to pick for this spell:

  1. Haste. A godlike spell on any martial character, Haste is extra good on Rogues. You get +2 AC, double movement speed, advantage on Dex saves, and +1 additional action each turn. That means more attacks, more critical hits, and more big Sneak Attack damage, all while staying completely safe from melee enemies (Disengage and run 30+ feet away).

  2. Fly. Not as offensively strong as Haste, but more utility outside of combat as well. And defensively, the ability to fly keeps you 100% safe from melee-only foes.

  3. Summon Fey//Shadowspawn/Undead. Every summon spell is quite strong, as an extra ally in combat is both offensively and defensively useful (it eats attacks for you). Plus, these last up to an hour, so you get that utility for multiple fights. Along with your Find Familiar, this gives you a lot to do with your turn.

  4. Counterspell. The ability to prevent an enemy spell is incredibly strong, and having it as one of your Arcane Trickster spells means you’re very good at countering spellcasters, especially when you get Spell Thief at 17th level (which does, in fairness, make Counterspell a bit redundant).

Best 4th-level Arcane Trickster Spells

The best 4th-level Arcane Trickster spells from the Wizard’s Enchantment and Illusion spell lists are Greater Invisibility, Charm Monster, and Hallucinatory Terrain. These are acquirable at 18th level.

The best 4th-level Arcane Trickster spells from among all Wizard spells are Dimension Door, Polymorph, Stoneskin, Wall of Fire, and any of the 4th-level summon spells available to Wizards (except Summon Greater Demon). One of these is acquirable at 20th level.

Arcane Trickster Spells FAQ

  1. What spells can an arcane trickster get? According to the Player’s Handbook, pg. 98, an arcane trickster gets two Wizard cantrips and an empowered Mage Hand cantrip at 3rd level. They also get three 1st-level Wizard spells, two of which must be enchantment or illusion spells at 3rd level.

    Arcane tricksters get one new spell known at 4th-level, 7th-level, 8th-level, 10th-level, 11th-level, 13th-level, 14th-level, 16th-level, 19th-level, and 20th-level, for a total of 13 spells known at max level. Arcane tricksters get one new cantrip at 10th level. The cantrip and spells at 8th-, 14th-, and 20th-level can be from any spell on the Wizards spell list; all other spells must be enchantment or illusion Wizard spells only.

  2. How many spells can an arcane trickster have? An arcane trickster can have between 6 and 17 spells, depending on their level. Arcane tricksters have 3 cantrips and 3 1st-level spells at 3rd-level when they first get access to spells. This ramps up to 2nd-level spells at 7th level, 3rd-level spells at 13th level, and 4th-level spells at 19th level.

  3. What spells can an arcane trickster learn at level 3? An arcane trickster can learn three Wizard cantrips and three 1st-level Wizard spells, two of which must be enchantment or illusion spells at level 3.

  4. Can an arcane trickster change cantrips? No, an arcane trickster cannot change cantrips, rules as written. However, some DMs will allow an arcane trickster to change cantrips whenever they hit a level when they gain an ability score improvement; the same is it works for many full spellcasters in DnD 5e.

  5. Can an arcane trickster change spells? Yes, an arcane trickster can change one spell whenever they level up. This replacement spell must be an enchantment or illusion spell, unless you’re replacing the spell gained at 3rd, 8th, 14th, or 20th level.

  6. Can arcane tricksters learn spells from scrolls? No, arcane tricksters cannot learn spells from scrolls or from spellbooks. That feature is exclusively limited to wizards in DnD 5e.

  7. Can arcane tricksters ritual cast? No, arcane tricksters cannot ritual cast spells. Only artificers, bards, clerics, druids, and wizards can cast rituals as part of their class features in DnD 5e. However, any character can ritual cast if they pick up the Ritual Caster feat.