dnd 5e wild magic barbarian

Path of Wild Magic Barbarian: D&D 5e Subclass Review

D&D 5e Path of Wild Magic Barbarian featured image is a combination of Wizards of the Coast’s Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and Alice Petit’s photography at Unsplash.
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Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything introduced the Path of Wild Magic Barbarian. It adds unpredictability and a soupcon of magic to your Barbarian.

This review will peruse the Wild Magic features and assess how they mesh with the Barbarian class features. I’ll look at feats, races, and multiclass options and finally combine these into some build concepts.

As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about Wild Magic, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!

Wild Magic – Intro

Disclaimer – I don’t like Wild Magic’s unpredictability; I don’t find it fun or amusing. I rate the Wild Magic Sorcerer as the worst subclass in the game.

So my expectations for the Wild Magic Barbarian are pretty low.

Magic Awareness – 3rd Level Wild Magic Barbarian

You get a new action that lasts until the end of your next turn. The feature allows you to sense the location (and school of magic) of any spell or magic item within 60ft that isn’t behind total cover. You can use this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus per long rest.

I like this ability, although it’s very similar to the Detect Magic spell (a first-level ritual) available to most spellcasters.

Wild Surge – 3rd Level Wild Magic Barbarian

Produce a random magic effect when you enter your Rage. DC is (at least) based on con mod.

Roll a d8 and get a subclass feature. None of these abilities scale with you. The names are mine, not from the source material.

  1. Stealth Octopus. All creatures of choice within 30ft take 1d12 necrotic damage with con save for none, from shadowy tendrils. You gain 1d12 temp HP as well.
    • Not a great save to target, nice at lower levels but will become less and less impactful at higher levels of play. Temp HP is basically worth double on a Barbarian.
  2. Five. Teleport up to 30ft, need line of sight. New bonus action to teleport 30ft during Rage.
    • Teleportation is great, a free disengage if you need it, lots of mobility. However if you need to tank or hold the line in a fight you might not use it at all. You become Five from The Umbrella Academy.
  3. Flumph Bomb. A cute creature of your choice appears 5ft from a target within 30ft and explodes, all creatures within 5ft take 1d6 force damage, dex range for none. Becomes a bonus action during Rage. 
    • Minor AOE, slightly better save to target. I would probably reskin it to an adorable little furry kitten bomb.
  4. Lightsaber. One weapon you are holding becomes a lightsaber, damage type becomes force, gains light and thrown properties (20ft/60ft range), if it leaves your hand it will return at the end of your turn.
    • You become a Jedi. Or a Sith, if that’s your bag. Magic damage is great, shame you can’t rely on getting it. If you already have a magic weapon this is not massively impactful.
  5. Rebuke. Creatures who hit you take 1d6 force damage.
    • No save, no cost to your action economy. Nice. Barbarians get hit a lot.
  6. Fairy Lights. You are surrounded by multicolored lights. Allies within 10ft get +1 to AC, including you.
    • You become a Christmas tree. Strange but effective, nice buff for the party.
  7. Flower Garden. Flowers and vines grow around you, giving difficult terrain enemies within 15ft.
    • Stop enemies from running away so fast, slow down groups of enemies on the front line. Works with the Barbarian play style but not hugely impactful.
  8. Tekken. Shoot a bolt of light from your chest. No, seriously. One creature within 30ft takes 1d6 radiant damage and is blinded until the start of your next turn, con save for no effect. Becomes a bonus action during Rage.
    • Not a great save to target, will be largely ineffectual at higher levels of play. Blinding your target removes the downside of Reckless Attack, makes the upside redundant, and can help your allies.

Tasha’s Cauldron of Feature Bloat strikes back.

Some of these give you bonus action options; some don’t. You probably want to add a reliable bonus action option using a feat or multiclass, so you have something to do with your bonus action just in case.

None of these features are detrimental or overpowered. This feature is better than the Wild Magic Sorcerer, but that’s not saying much.

It sucks not being able to choose your subclass feature. None of these features scale well into higher tiers of play. 

Bolstering Shield – 6th Level Wild Magic Barbarian

A new action to bolster yourself or a companion, usable proficiency bonus times per long rest. Two effects to choose from:

  • For 10 mins get a d3 (?!) bonus to ability check or attack roll.
    • Weird die. Probably best to use this before a combat starts, or if you can’t reach an enemy in the first turn. The ability score boost can help you grapple, or be used outside combat like guidance. 10 min duration is nice.
    • The d3 can also be used to help offset the -5 to hit you get if using the Great Weapon Master Feat
  • Gain a level 1, 2 or 3 spell slot back, based on the roll of 1d3. Usable once per long rest per creature.
    • A little magic top-up for your spellcasters. An extra Revivify could be game changing. Unusual and flavorful ability.

Given that you’d be unwise to do this with Rage up (you can lose Rage if you don’t attack), this is essentially a first-turn-of-combat or an out-of-combat ability.

Unstable Backlash – 10th Level Wild Magic Barbarian

(This subclass goes on forever. I can feel my will to live draining away)

New reaction, triggered if you take damage or fail a save (as long as that save wasn’t against disintegration or petrification): 

  • Roll on the Wild Magic table, instantly produce the effect and swap to the new effect.
    • More unpredictability! Whoop!

Controlled Surge – 14th Level Wild Magic Barbarian

When rolling for your subclass feature, get two dice and choose one of them. If you roll the same number twice, you can choose what you want.

  • Standard Wild Magic fare: ‘we know having unpredictable subclass features is irritating nonsense so here’s your reward for putting up with it for 13 levels already – a minor decrease in the unpredictability’.
  • The worst 14th level feature of all the Barbarians.

Wild Magic Barbarian Subclass Summary

It is not my thing at all; I’m not too fond of it. It is unique among the Barbarians. At least it won’t self-inflict a total party kill like its Sorcerer cousin, but that’s not much of a floor. 

Feat Options

Polearm Master provides a bonus action attack with the butt end of your polearm for 1d4 damage plus the usual modifiers. Wild Magic Barbarians have no control over their bonus action options, so having this in your back pocket is great. You also get another reaction – you can now perform an opportunity attack as a reaction when another creature enters your reach. If you’re using a polearm with 10ft, reach this synergizes amazingly with Sentinel to stop an enemy in its tracks before it reaches you. For the Barbarian, the synergy with Reckless Attack is also notable – you can avoid the downside of granting advantage to enemies by denying them the chance to attack.

Great Weapon Master is great if you want to do more damage; it also provides a bonus action option, although it’s more situational than Polearm Master.

Race Options

If you’re going for a polearm, you’ll want to be a medium race.

Custom Lineage or Variant Human races are excellent options with the free feat.

Shifters, Tabaxi, Leonin, Minotaurs, Dwarves, Half-Orcs, Goliaths, Bugbears all make great Barbarians. Tieflings, Aasimar, and Genasi all have a slightly more magical feeling about them that might fit thematically. Satyr might be fun.

The Longtooth Shifter gets a bonus action attack while shifted, so if you don’t fancy Polearm Master, that would at least give you an alternative.


Add a level of Wild Magic Sorcerer. You might as well. 

A few levels of Fighter for a Fighting Style, Second Wind, and (most importantly) Action Surge are always excellent options for Barbarians.

Build Ideas

My preferred option is a different Barbarian subclass. If you must, then pick Polearm Master with Custom Lineage and add either Sentinel or Great Weapon Master depending on taste, and you’ll do just fine.


That wraps up my review of the Path of the Wild Magic! In summary, although there’s flavor here, it’s not to my taste. I wouldn’t ever play one.

Please cast Message in the comments either here or on YouTube if you have any questions or suggestions!

Check out more Barbarian content here.

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