With the release of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the arcane tradition of Bladesinging was reprinted with two changes from its original version in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The first of these was a change to the recharge of the Bladesong feature: it used to be twice per short rest. It is now a number of times equal to your Proficiency bonus per long rest. This means you can do it a little less in the early game than you used to.
The other (and much more important) change came to the Extra Attack feature gained at 6th level. Previously, this was worded identically to other features of the same name. Now, however, an additional element was added, stating that “moreover, you can cast one of your cantrips in place of one of those attacks”.
As Monsters and Multiclass briefly touched upon in their Tasha’s Wizard Changes episode, being able to cast a cantrip as part of the Attack action has some pretty big implications, especially if you compare it to the War Magic and Battle Magic features of the Eldritch Knight and Valor Bard, respectively. In those cases, you can make one attack as a bonus action after casting a cantrip (at level 18 after casting any spell) in the case of the Eldritch Knight, or after casting a bard spell in the case of the College of Valor.
First of all, this means that you do not take the Attack action, with all that it entails. Secondly, this extra attack ties up your bonus action, which is often used to great effect, both for spellcasting and class features, as well as after the Attack action with features like two-weapon fighting, Shield Master, or Polearm Master.
However, with the Bladesinging Extra Attack, you instead have the option of replacing one of the attacks of your Attack action with a cantrip, freeing you up to do things with your bonus action - including the myriad of things triggered by the Attack action. And because it allows you to cast “one of your cantrips” (as opposed to “one of your wizard cantrips”), it is fertile ground for multiclassing. So that’s what I’m going to do here: explore some of the great new things that other classes can do with six levels of Tasha’s Bladesinger.
Which classes will this cover?
With the obvious exception of a raging barbarian, any character who plans on taking the Attack action can benefit from having one of those attacks replaced by a cantrip, but I would like to focus on the combinations that become more than the sum of their parts. These generally fall into two categories: classes that can add a lot of damage to a single attack per turn, and classes that can do something special when they take the Attack action.
This means that no, you will not see a soul-singing sorcerer or a techno-bass-dropping artificer either. They simply have nothing really impactful to add to their weapon attacks to make much of a difference. On another note, despite the power of its smites, the paladin will be too MAD (multi-attribute dependent) on top of the sacrifices of your high-level paladin features to make sense in this combination. Finally, the druid will get an honorable mention towards the end thanks to the Circle of Spores. Today we will specifically cover Bards and Cleric.
What is this MADness?
This is likely to be a very MAD multiclass. If you want to get something out of Bladesinging, you’ll need to have a high enough Dexterity to make do with light armor or mage armor. Fortunately, this will also help your weapon attacks if you use ranged or finesse weapons. Having at least 13 Intelligence is a prerequisite for even multiclassing into or out of wizard, and the more you plan on relying on your wizard spells and AC bonus from Bladesinging, the higher you should go there.
Still, the blade cantrips booming blade and green-flame blade rely on your weapon attack bonus, so even without a high Intelligence, you will be able to use those wizard cantrips in place of your weapon attacks to full effect. Most of the multiclassing combinations below assume that at least one of these cantrips is on your list, and some classes have cantrips of their own to add to the mix.
In addition to Dexterity and Intelligence, Constitution is useful for someone expecting to be in melee, especially since you have at least six puny d6 wizard hit dice. Your other class is also likely to have other ability score requirements, both for multiclassing and for making them viable in their own right. I will tackle the particular MADness issues of each combination as I go over them.
Extra Attack redundancy
Going into a class with another Extra Attack feature can feel redundant, since the two features don’t mix. For example, you will not be able to replace one of an 11th-level fighter’s three attacks with a cantrip. In that case, you’ll be choosing between making one attack and casting a cantrip, or making three attacks.
However, with the exception of the fighter’s feature, the Bladesinger’s Extra Attack feature is objectively better than any of the ones gained by other classes, so it should feel less like a redundancy and more like an upgrade. For that reason, I’d generally recommend starting with six levels of wizard to get to that feature as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you’ll be choosing between cantrips and Extra Attack from your base class for six very long wizard levels.
The dreaded multiclassing FOMO
Going six levels into wizard is a big investment, and it will lock you out of the higher-level features of other classes. You could, of course, take most of your levels in wizard to get its high-level features, and instead dip out to 1-3 levels of something else that benefits from taking the Attack action (hello Sneak Attack, Planar Warrior, Colossus Slayer, Combat Superiority, Martial Arts, and two-weapon fighting), but the focus of this particular run-down is to explore what you get out of strapping specifically the 6th level Bladesinging feature - and the spellcasting you get on your way to it - onto another class’s core chassis.
As I covered a while ago, charting out a fun multiclassing concept also means knowing when the core synergy you are looking for will come into play. As mentioned, I generally assume that you begin as a wizard, or at least bee-line for wizard level 6 as quickly as you can if you have features or starting proficiencies you need from the other class. Thus, whenever I mention a level split in one of the combinations (like 6/14), the first level is always the wizard level. For each combination, I will give my thoughts on when the synergy starts to show. I will also try to put into perspective what your new "capstone" ability is going to be, so you can gauge what that will feel like leveling up alongside a party of single-classed characters.
This time around, I’ll tackle the two full-caster combinations: the bard and the cleric.
College of Stolen Valor
If you want to play a bard who pairs their spellcasting with weapon attacks, there are options in the colleges of Swords and Valor, and both of these can benefit to some extent from the option of casting a cantrip in place of one of their attacks.
However, with Bladesinging you now have the option of realizing the martial bard concept alongside another Bardic College. Want to play a slicing-and-dicing College of Whispers assassin? Or a rapier-wit master fencer from the College of Eloquence? Perhaps you have stumbled upon the secret of Bladesinging in your work for the College of Lore, or practiced swordplay with your animated rapier at the College of Creation. You may even use your bladesong to enhance your dazzling performances at the College of Glamour.
If you start as a wizard, you can also play a bladesinger whose talents got them recruited by a bardic college. In any case, the artistic flavour of Bladesinging is a perfect roleplaying fit for any bard, so let’s take a look at how this might work.
This concept relies on Charisma in addition to the Intelligence and high Dexterity of a full Bladesinger. However, you can rely less on Intelligence by picking up mostly utility and buff spells from your wizard and still get the full experience of casting powerful spells as a bard. Unless you expect to invest in high mobility to stay out of harm’s way, Constitution is also good to get to at least 12 or 14.
Proficiencies and overlap
If you start as a bard, you get all the weapon proficiencies you need from there. Starting as a wizard, you need to pick the right one-handed melee weapon at level 2 to last you for the rest of the game, unless you plan on going Swords or Valor, which add scimitars and martial weapons, respectively. You can also pick an origin that gives weapon proficiencies like dwarf, elf or hobgoblin.
You should be good with light armor and letting the bladesong make up the difference, but a College of Valor bard has the additional option of strapping on a shield if they’re out of bladesong uses. However, little else about the College of Valor adds to a Bladesinger’s arsenal compared to what the other colleges have to offer, and both Valor and Swords have the redundant Extra Attack feature at 6th level.
As a Bladesinger, Training in War and Song gives you proficiency in Performance, which is often a staple of bards, but holding off on taking it if you start as a bard might feel odd. This is another good argument for starting as a wizard, letting you pick up something else as your extra skill when you multiclass into bard. In addition, getting to pick up expertise in Arcana as a wizard just feels great. There’s nothing worse than being out-nerded by a rogue.
Most of your bard spells can also be found on the wizard spell list, but given the limited number of bard spells known and the limited level of wizard spells you can learn, the two can complement each other very well. Relying on your wizard spells for the low-level slots will allow you more versatility in choosing your mid-to-high level bard spells.
There is no overlap in saving throw proficiencies, meaning you will need to decide which you want the most: Dexterity and Charisma, or Wisdom and Intelligence. With most of these combinations, you can be strategic about it and plan on using Resilient as a half-feat in a crucial ability score you didn't get saving throw proficiency in at 1st level.
Level split - pros and cons
The bardic college capstone features come in at 14th level, which meshes perfectly with 6 levels of wizard. This also gives you two out of the three Magical Secrets features of the base bard (plus one more if you go into the College of Lore). This costs you 8th and 9th level spells and the extremely powerful 18th level Magical Secrets, but as a full caster you still get the slots to upcast your other spells, so make sure you get at least a few spells that benefit from that.
This combination gives you some of the goodness of playing a martial bard, while also getting the benefits of another bardic college. You can combine this martial prowess with powerful 3rd-level wizard utility spells such as haste, fly and counterspell that you would normally have to get from Magical Secrets. These magical secrets can then be used to pick up the wizard spells that you’re missing out on at higher levels. Bladesinging signature spells like steel wind strike can be obtained in this way.
Similarly, 1st-3rd level defensive wizard spells like absorb elements, shield, protection from evil and good, blur, mirror image, and protection from energy enhance your survivability as a martial bard. One 1st-level bard spell you will want to hold on to is healing word. Because you are only casting a cantrip as part of your Attack action, you can still cast a leveled spell with your bonus action, and healing is just about the one thing wizards don’t do very well.
To really get something out of your weapon attacks, the College of Swords still brings something to the table with Blade Flourishes despite the redundant 6th-level feature, and the powerful psychic blades from the College of Whispers now also have one more chance to hit each turn, dealing 5d6 psychic damage at level 10.
Bard cantrips are not the best in combat, but vicious mockery as a debuff spell scales better when paired with a weapon attack or two, and even blade ward has its uses against weapon damage now that you’re not sacrificing a full action to cast it.
At range, replacing one of your attacks with a cantrip will allow you to use crossbows more effectively without having to pick up Crossbow Expert to ignore the Loading property. The feat will still be good for the bonus action attack and point-blank shot, though, if you get hand crossbow proficiency from your origin or from starting as a bard. Having a one-handed ranged weapon will also allow you to shoot while Bladesinging.
What will this feel like leveling up?
You may start as a bard, perhaps with two levels to get Jack of All Trades and Song of Rest. This means not reaching Extra Attack until level 7 or 8, but it will give you the experience of leveling as a very versatile support wizard until then.
Another milestone is your Bardic College at character level 9 (if you didn't go there from the start). At this point you have the signature features of two classes, while still keeping up with the other full-casters in the party on spell slots.
Another big leap forward occurs at levels 11 and 12, where your bard spells catch up, you get Font of Inspiration and eventually your second subclass feature. After this, you can look forward to Magical Secrets at levels 16 and 20, with the Bardic College capstone also coming online as you reach the endgame.
Clerics and wizards make strange bedfellows, and there is not much in the Bladesinging tradition or the basic wizard kit that lends itself to divine service. Nevertheless, going with the base assumption of taking your first six levels in wizard before changing, you can make the multiclassing represent a conscious choice on the part of your character to serve a higher power. Which god wouldn’t want a bladesinger on their side, anyway?
The Extra Attack feature is not going to help all clerics equally. While those who get Potent Spellcasting at 8th level can get something out of following their boosted cantrips up with a weapon attack, it is the clerics with Divine Strike that benefit the most. Picking up booming blade or green-flame blade through feats or multiclassing has always been an option for weapon-swinging clerics to get a little extra oomph on their weapon attacks, but casting a cantrip as one of two attacks in the Attack action makes Divine Strike a much more reliable feature in combat. (Editors note, booming blade is also likely to make your DM very upset and whiney.) Let’s take a look at who gets the most out of it.
As a cleric, you need Wisdom for your spellcasting and other features. If you decide to forgo the benefits of your bladesong, your armor and shield proficiencies will allow you to reduce or even dump Dexterity, but you will then need to make up for it with Strength for better melee attacks unless you find a way to get shillelagh.
The upside of not relying on Bladesinging is that your Intelligence score can be kept at 13 (or 14 if you really need that extra spell prep slot), letting you stick with utility and buff spells from the wizard while relying on your cleric spells to do the blasting.
Alternatively, you can go the route of light armor, prioritizing Dexterity and Wisdom, with Intelligence giving a small boost to AC while Bladesinging. This also lends itself well to a ranged build, letting you stay at range and perhaps relying less on a high AC and Constitution than a melee cleric would.
Proficiencies and overlap
Clerics bring a lot of armor to the table, and certain domains also give martial weapon proficiencies. As a bladesinger, you can generally get the proficiency you need with a single one-handed melee weapon, but the versatility of busting out two-handed martial weapons both in melee and at range should not be discounted. They interfere with Bladesinging, but that is already a price you might choose to pay by wearing medium or heavy armor.
The overlap in spells is mostly in the realm of divination and abjuration spells like the detect and protection spells, most of which do not require saving throws or attack rolls. Having your wizard have those at hand, especially the ritual spells that can just sit in your spell book without needing to be prepared, frees up your cleric preparation for more versatility. Wizards have great combat cantrips, but clerics also bring something to the table. Both classes can learn toll the dead, so picking that up with your cleric will let you use your superior Wisdom modifier for your ranged combat cantrips, freeing up your wizard cantrips for utility and the odd blade spell.
Saving throw proficiencies are a question of Intelligence vs. Charisma, and whether you want your proficiency to boost a save where your modifier is low (Charisma) or to solidify one where it's higher (Intelligence).
Level split - pros and cons
As with the bard split, we are going to stay at wizard level 6 and go to level 14 as a cleric to get a second die of Divine Strike to land on those weapon attack rolls. This also gets your Destroy Undead feature to CR 3. Missing out on high-level cleric spells hurts a lot, but you still get to 7th level, and you get your high-level slots to upcast spells like heal or summon celestial. You also miss out on your Divine Domain capstone ability, but if that one is important to you, multiclassing into Bladesinger is not the way to go anyway.
Of the domains that get Divine Strike, none benefit from getting to cast a cantrip in addition to a weapon attack as much as the Death Domain. Their 1st level feature, Reaper, allows them to twin a necromancy cantrip if two enemies are within 5 feet of each other, and picking up chill touch or sapping sting as cleric cantrips alongside toll the dead allows you to cast two cantrips and make one weapon attack, which gets an additional 2d8 necrotic damage on a hit, as part of the same action. In the situation where you cannot benefit from Reaper, using one of the blade cantrips allows you a second chance to land your attack for Divine Strike damage just like the other domains. The War Domain even gets to benefit from its War Priest feature more often, since taking the Attack action is now much more viable.
The strong ranged cantrips available to clerics, paired with the fact that Divine Strike also triggers off ranged weapon attacks, means that you have the option of taking a domain with great mobility like Trickery or Twilight and staying out of harm’s way while you rain down arrows and sacred flames. Two-handed ranged weapons interfere with Bladesinging, but hand crossbows are still an option for the domains with martial weapon proficiencies (or those who can get it from their origin). For that you might not even need Crossbow Expert, since clerics have such a reliable use for their bonus action with spiritual weapon.
As with the bard, you can pick up haste or fly, but with so many good cleric spells requiring concentration, you might not use them as much. Still, getting a hasted Attack action to trigger Divine Strike on the same turn that you cast a leveled spell is very good.
What will this feel like leveling up?
The cleric is so front-loaded that even if you start there to get the first domain feature and channel divinity, you get to your Extra Attack at level 7 or 8. Until then, you benefit from an incredibly diverse spell list and a large selection of reliable cantrips that can keep up with the others.
Once you solidify your wizard levels, you can look forward to levels 11 and 12, where your cantrips increase, your cleric spell levels catch up and you get your second domain feature. At level 14, Divine Strike kicks in to boost your weapon attacks, and at level 16 you get Divine Intervention. From level 17, you can enjoy max-leveled cantrips and 9th-level spell slots on your way towards your 7th-level cleric spells and second Divine Strike die at levels 19 and 20.
All in all, these are two combinations with a powerful spell progression to combine with the Extra Attack feature. Only two bard subclasses have redundancies, and enough clerics get Divine Strike that there should be something for every flavor of Bladesinging. Check back next time, when we do our best not to feel bad when the bladesinger takes the lunch money from our other Extra Attack features with the fighter and monk.
If you want to see more from Chris check out his series on Fiction-First Munchkining