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Glass Cannons: A Complete Beginners Guide to Fast and Exciting D&D Combat

The combat in D&D can be intimidating for brand new players. A D&D character sheet has approximately 12,345,678 pieces of information and this avalanche of options can cause paralysis as you flip back and forth over your character sheet.

But say it with me: you aren’t dumb; you’re just panicked. I’m here to help. What follows are some simple thoughts on movement followed by 2-3 always good options for the glass cannon classes of D&D.

A D&D player, even if they are brand new to the game, can have an index card with 2-3 actions that will work well 75% of the time. Combined with the basics of movement, these 2-3 actions will allow new players to have a good action ready to go when their turn comes up in initiative order.

So, let’s learn about these good “typical” decisions for each D&D class, shall we? With this article specifically, we’ll be talking about the Wizard and Sorcerer classes.

But, first, that movement tip. Remember, every turn you get a movement and an attack action. While some classes like a Barbarian is considered a “tank” that gets close to enemies, other classes like archers are “snipers” that stand far away from the center of the action.

Wizards and Sorcerers are snipers in this regard. So how far away should they be from the action? You should use your movement to position a sniper character about 35 feet away from the nearest opponent.

The reason? A typical bad guy’s movement is about 30 feet, so a little over that gets you out of their range but keeps you close enough that your spells can still land. And your party’s Fighter is protecting you, but should an enemy break through that line, make sure you use your movement to draw enemies away from you and back toward your helpers.

Now, some actions!

Wizard: What spells have I learned?

A Wizard is a class that is often referred to as a “glass cannon.” They are fragile, but their huge array of spells makes them more and more formidable as the level. They will enter combat thinking: “What spells have I learned?

Movement: Again, a Wizard should use their movement to position themselves 35 feet away from the nearest opponent. Your actions should then be choosing a cantrip or using a spell slot. I’ll explain:

  1. I cast Ray of Frost.” While other cantrips (spells that can be used each action without penalty) like Shocking Grasp are great choices, let’s go with Ray of Frost. Have someone help you determine your ranged spell attack number. Then cast Ray of Frost over and over again. Not only will you do 1d8 of cold damage each hit, but you reduce the enemy’s speed, which helps “control the battlefield.”
  2. I use Burning Hands.” Occasionally, a wizard should let loose. When you have multiple enemies clustered together (like a gaggle of goblins or a huddle of zombies) use your movement to position yourself to unleash Burning Hands. This is A) fun, and B) will help you learn about Dexterity saving throws, a number you’ll need to learn as you level.

A Wizard is not a beginner class, even at level one. They’ll have a large list of spells to choose from and they get more and more varied and creative as the wizard’s level increases. But a beginning D&D player can have a lot of fun with the two simple spells above, saying nothing of how repetition with those will help you learn the numbers involved.

Write the details of those two spells on a cheat-sheet index card or highlight them on the your character sheet.

Sorcerer: What gets my blood flowing?

Whereas wizards learn magic, a Sorcerer is like a mutant born with a gift. Enter combat with the mindset: “What gets my blood flowing?”  

Movement: See Wizard above.

Sorcerers have a Font of Magic, a pool they can tap into to give their spell actions a little more juice. The stinky thing is the class doesn’t tap into this core feature until level 2! So, let’s take the opportunity to focus on a couple of spells. Let’s also assume your Sorcerer has a Draconic Bloodline, because who wouldn’t take advantage of have a dragon daddy at level 1? Here then are your typical level 1 Sorcerer actions:

  1. See Wizard above. Ray of Frost is a good beginner options for a Sorcerer as well.
  2. I use my dragon breath!” Again, let’s assume you like fun and are going with the Dragonborn. Rarely does ancestry play such an integral role in a class, but a Draconic Bloodline is a flavorful option that allows a breath weapon. Choose your dragon color from page 34 of the Player’s Handbook.

Alas, Wizards and Sorcerers aren’t the easiest classes to jump into. But rather than become paralyzed over spell options, use level 1 as an opportunity to learn important things like your spell attack number by focusing on just a few offensive spells.

This repetition serves to help you learn the basics of the game and your character’s combat style. That’s a whole lot more than nothing. But the best thing? Casting spells is a lot of fun!


D&D is wonderful, but it can be intimidating. So let’s knock down any barriers that might prevent someone from loving their first few times playing. Share this with any brand new D&D players you know, regardless of what class they are considering:

Movement Tips: Think 35+ | 10 feet Between | Break it Up | Use that cover! | Only Fools Rush In | Get in the Face

You can buy the D&D Players Handbook here.