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In the Dungeons & Dragons universe, the concept of the “most powerful mage,” the masters of arcana, can be a bit subjective, depending on which lore or edition you’re referring to, as well as personal opinions among players and fans. That being said, a few figures are frequently cited for their immense magical prowess:
- Elminster Aumar: Often considered the most powerful mage in the Forgotten Realms setting, Elminster is a Chosen of Mystra, the goddess of magic. Over his long lifespan, he has accumulated vast knowledge and power, and he’s been a central character in numerous novels by Ed Greenwood.
- Mordenkainen: A powerful archmage from the Greyhawk setting, Mordenkainen is known for his spells and magical items, some of which have made their way into the core D&D rules, such as “Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion” and “Mordenkainen’s Sword.”
- Raistlin Majere: From the Dragonlance setting, Raistlin is a complex character who has, at various points, ascended to godhood and threatened the pantheon itself. His rise to power and the moral decisions he faces make him one of the most iconic mages in D&D literature.
- Halaster Blackcloak: Known as the Mad Mage, Halaster is the primary antagonist of the mega-dungeon “Undermountain” located beneath Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms setting. He’s ancient, mysterious, and extraordinarily powerful.
- Iggwilv: Also from the Greyhawk setting, Iggwilv, sometimes known as Tasha or Natasha (and the namesake for “Tasha’s Hideous Laughter” spell), is a powerful witch and has been an adversary of many notable figures in the D&D lore.
- Szass Tam: The most powerful of the Red Wizards of Thay, Szass Tam is a lich who is a significant figure in the Forgotten Realms setting, especially when it comes to necromancy.
While these mages are all immensely powerful, the “most powerful” title is somewhat fluid, depending on specific stories, times, or the specific criteria you’re considering. Moreover, the D&D universe spans multiple worlds and settings, so there are likely other powerful mages in less-explored realms or not discovered by your Dungeon Master…yet.
Masters of Magic
The mages listed from the Dungeons & Dragons universe are legendary figures, and many of them are known to have vast repertoires of spells. Rather than listing every spell they might know (which would be a nearly impossible task given the breadth of D&D lore and the different editions of the game), here are the highlights of some spells or types of magic they are particularly known for or associated with:
As a Chosen of Mystra, Elminster has access to a vast array of spells. His knowledge spans various schools of magic, so he isn’t limited to just a few types.
He’s particularly adept at using Mystra’s Silver Fire, a powerful magical force given to the Chosen.
Mordenkainen is known for several spells that bear his name, which are found in various editions of D&D. Some of these include:
Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion – Creates an extradimensional dwelling.
Mordenkainen’s Sword – Summons a magic sword to fight for the caster.
Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound – Summons a phantom watchdog.
Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum – Makes an area impervious to scrying and magical intrusion.
He is also known for his balance philosophy, so he might have spells or abilities related to maintaining neutrality or equilibrium.
Raistlin’s Hourglass Eyes allow him to see time as it affects all things.
He mastered many spells during his test in the Tower of High Sorcery. His power grew as he sought godhood, so his spell repertoire is vast.
In his prime, he could use spells like Time Stop and even challenge deities.
As the Mad Mage of Undermountain, Halaster is known for his extensive knowledge of various spells, many of which are unique or experimental.
The dungeon itself is a testament to his power, with numerous magical traps, wards, and constructs.
She’s credited with the creation of various spells such as Tasha’s Hideous Laughter – a spell that incapacitates a target with uncontrollable laughter.
Iggwilv’s expertise is not limited to one kind of magic. As a legendary witch, she has a vast array of arcane knowledge.
Being a lich and the leader of the Red Wizards of Thay, Szass Tam specializes in necromancy.
He would know most, if not all, necromantic spells and likely has created many of his own.
While these mages are associated with specific spells or types of magic due to their stories or the items and spells named after them, it’s essential to understand that as archmages, they would likely have access to an extensive list of spells from the D&D universe and perhaps even unique spells of their own creation.
To get an idea of how many spells are “official” in the D&D universe, without reverting back to other editions, here is a list of 500+ spells.