D&D Divination Wizard Portent Overrated featured image is credited to Wizards of the Coast’s D&D 5e Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount.
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I keep hearing people say that the Divination Wizard is great because it gets the Portent ability. While it’s a good subclass feature, I believe it’s extremely overrated. It’s not worth the S-tier that people tend to give the subclass. Portent has several severe limitations, and the rest of the Divination Wizard’s subclass features are not very useful.
Since I don’t believe Portent can carry the Divination Wizard on its own, I believe it’s overrated. I’ll spend this article explaining why! I want to make it clear that I am not saying Portent is bad (just overrated). This is a commentary on the community’s perception of it, and nothing more.
Tell me if you have counterpoints or if you agree with me in the comments. The Divination Wizard subclass is found in D&D 5e’s Player’s Handbook.
Divination Wizard Portent: What It Does
Portent allows the Wizard to rolls 2d20 when completing a long rest. The results of those rolls are kept for use at a later time. It’s as if the Wizard foresaw the result of two rolls to come.
The d20s rolled for Portent can substitute for a saving throw, ability check, or attack roll that the Wizard can see. Diviners have until their next long rest to use the Portent rolls before they disappear.
Portent is great for guaranteeing yourself a high Initiative roll or lowering the roll of an enemy (since Initiative is a skill check). Ones and twenties rolled by Portent can allow you and your allies to critically hit an attack or force an enemy to automatically miss an attack. Low rolls can be used to make enemies fail a saving throw without rolling. Your low-level Counterspell roll for success against a high-level spell may surely succeed if Portent makes it so.
What Are Portent’s Limitations?
I’ll describe the limitations of Portent to strengthen my argument that it is overrated.
Portent Is Once Per Turn
Though it doesn’t require a reaction (that’s good), it’s still limited to being used once per turn. This is a minor limitation if you’re using Portent to falter a creature’s saving throw against your spell save DC. Using Portent effectively will mean this limitation doesn’t get in the way of your goal.
Portent Requires Line of Sight
A moderate limitation is the line of sight. If your Diviner cannot see the creature that is about to make a roll, a Portent d20 cannot be substituted. This means spells like Fog Cloud can potentially disable Portent. Fog Cloud can block the Diviner from seeing a creature!
Your vision can also be impeded by darkness if you lack darkvision. Even if you have darkvision, most creatures can only see up to sixty feet in the dark.
Invisible creatures are unseen to the Diviner (until perhaps at later levels with other divination abilities and spells). An unseen creature can’t have its rolls substituted by Portent.
Portent Is Used Before a Roll as a Gamble
The Diviner must decide before a roll is made if they want to substitute a Portent d20. This is a heavy limitation! Many abilities and spells allow you to know if a creature succeeds or fails at a roll before you expend your resource to react in some way.
The Shield spell is a perfect example of a resource that is used in response to a successful roll. Casting Shield requires a reaction in response to being hit with an attack, not merely being attacked. It wouldn’t be as reliable if you had to declare that you were casting Shield when you’re attacked but before the roll is made. After all, if the attack would’ve missed you, Shield might be used wastefully.
I believe this is the biggest downside to using Portent. If you don’t know whether a creature rolled well or poorly, you don’t know if you’ll be using Portent to guarantee a result that might’ve happened anyway. It’s like Schrodinger’s Cat; until you know if a roll will succeed or not, you can assume it’s both a success and a failure. Until you open the box (the DM declares success or failure), you don’t know the result.
Divination Wizard Portent Relies too Much on Predicting Modifiers
You might roll a one or a twenty on your Portent, in which case you will be excited to use those Portent dice. Guaranteeing a critical hit can be huge for one of your party members, especially smite-happy Paladins. Most other rolls, however, are less exciting. Why is that? Let’s say you roll a five or a fifteen. You can probably guarantee a successful attack or saving throw with a fifteen. A five will likely thwart an enemy attack or saving throw. This sounds good, but you might actually be doing nothing. The roll that would’ve happened without Portent’s interference might have gotten the same result that Portent caused.
Substituting the roll of five doesn’t matter if the enemy would’ve rolled a four anyway. You will never know what would’ve been! I admit many DMs likely allow Divination Wizards to retroactively use Portent dice after rolls are made. I’ve talked to people who thought that was how Portent worked, so I know DMs allow it (or at least are ignorant to it). At a table where the DM allows post-roll Portent interference, Portent is much stronger.
Conclusion on Portent
Due to its number manipulation’s dependence on assuming what a creature would’ve rolled, you almost need to be a proficient metagamer and mathematician in order to weigh whether you should use Portent or not. If you know an enemy’s attack modifier, for example, you’ll know if you can thwart an attack with the Portent die that you rolled when you long rested. Knowing whether a monster is proficient in Charisma saving throws is crucial if you need to know how likely it is to resist your Banishment spell. You’ll also need to see the creature you’re thwarting or helping, and you can’t manipulate the rolls more than once per turn.
Portent might be one of the best level-two Wizard subclass features, but it’s not insane like people believe it to be. If you’re really good at gambling and predicting monster modifiers, you can covertly use Portent to great efficacy. It’s still a good feature that players enjoy using, but it’s not crazy enough to make me want to play a Divination Wizard with its higher-level subclass features disappointing me.
With these limitations, do you think I’m still wrong to think Portent is overrated? Is it still insanely powerful in your eyes? I’m happy to discuss this in the comments. After all, it’s just a game, so let’s talk about it!
I also recommend reading my article about all the Wizard subclasses as I review and rank them. We have many other Wizard articles, too. Have a great adventure this weekend.