Last Updated: June 13, 2021
Sorcerers and Wizards have the best spell list in the game. They can solve any problem, defeat any foe, and answer any question with a single spell. The chief philosophy of this document is to solve every problem with a single spell. A spellcaster carrying a few selections from this list should be prepared to handle nearly any problem which the world might present. This document catalogs some of the best spells available to Sorcerers and Wizards. It is in no way comprehensive, and generally does not exclude spells which can be added to the Sorcerer/Wizard spell list by abnormal means like classes or class features.
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which tend to be more consistent than 3.5 handbooks. Because so little of 3.5 is available on the SRD, I will attempt to tag items with a superscript indicating their book of origin. For help identifying sourcebook abbreviations, see my Sourcebook Abbreviations Guide.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
It’s important to note that I generally omit campaign-setting specific content. I am of the opinion that those options are intended to be limited to campaigns run in those settings, and as such they don’t really apply to a generic campaign. Those options also tend to be wildly unbalanced and rarely receive errata. I also omit the use of “Flaws” since they allow a massive increase in power with essentially no cost to the character.
Why do you list so many spells when some are clearly better?
First: Because they exist. I want you to understand that I considered other spells instead of stopping at the first spell I saw. I want you to understand that Mass Hold Person is bad, I want you understand why it’s bad, and I want you to understand what other options are available that make it bad. Second: Specialists wizards. If you’re a specialist wizard, not every spell on this list is available to you. Presenting as many options as possible means that you have options which should work no matter what school you chose to specialize in. Some schools are still better than other (evocation is still weak, conjuration is still amazing), but don’t let that stop you from specializing in your favorite school.
- PHB: Often overlooked, Daze has a small but useful niche at low levels. 4 hit dice covers most low-CR creatures, including things like Ogres (CR 3; 4 hit dice). Dazing a creature robs it of its turn, so in single-monster encounters this buys your entire party a free round. It does only work against humanoids, but humanoids are abundantly common enemies at low levels. Goblins, orcs, anything in the Players Handbook. I can’t count how many adventures I’ve played that have had frequent humanoid enemies for the first several character levels.
- PHB: This will become gradually less effective as you gain levels, but the 60-foot cone and the effects are amazing.
- CM: A weaker version of Glitterdust. If you just need to blind stuff, this works fine.
- PHB: This spell was a mistake. A 1st-level spell which requires a Balance check to move. Balance. How many times have you put ranks into Balance? Anything that isn’t flying is susceptible to this. Most animals? Check. Golems? Check. Giants? Check. Throw it under the tarrasque and watch if fall over.
- PHB: Only affects 4 HD of creatures, but with long range minutes/level duration you can bring down whole encounters before they know you’re there. Walk up and coup de grace the victims.
- PHB: Glitterdust is generally my go-to blinding effectm but Blindness/Deafness is permanent and works on a Fortitude save. This makes it an excellent counter to enemy spellcasters who will have trouble targeting ranged spells when they can’t see.
- SC: Mediocre damage and the targets need to fail two saves to be stunned.
- BoVD/Dr: Entice an enemy to give you their weapon. You’ll be standing advacent to them, but at least they won’t have a weapon in hand.
- SC: Essentially force cage for ethereal foes. Very effective, but very situational. A scroll should be sufficient.
- PHB: Touch range is hard for most Sorcerers and Wizards, but if you have a familiar which can deliver touch spells you’re golden. Cast this before going into a fight, and have your familiar smack something. The duration is short, so be sure to send an ally to finish off the target.
- PHB: A spell that should remain your arsenal well into high levels, Glitterdust grants the ability to reveal invisibile foes and blind things in an area on one spell. Notably, this is one of the only things in the game that requires a will save but isn’t mind-affecting. That means that it works on undead, which generally have poor will saves.
- PHB: Only affects one humanoid, and they get saves ever round. Go for Ghoul Touch instead.
- BoVD: No save, and strikes unerringly. Hold off on using this until you can shoot 4 or 5 darts, at which point you do enough Dexterity damage to reliably incapacitate most of the monster manual. The Strength damage can be a problem for especially weak wizards, and the loss of a useful hand is annoying, so make sure you have a Cleric handy to cast Lesser Restoration to get a few fingers back.
- SC: Daze a creature for a round. Great in single-enemy encounters. The extra effect on enemy spellcasters is neat, buf if you can get past their Will saves you should be doing something more than forcing them to make Concentration checks.
- PHB2: A great way to keep enemies from killing you between turns.
- PHB2: Force enemies to reroll when they save against your spells, or let your allies reroll when they failes saves against something lethal. The XP cost can become a problem, so be sure not to rely on this except in emergencies.
- SC: Immobilize the targety on a failed save or entangle them on a success.
- PHB: A bigger version of Sleep. Still very effective, but this will become useless as you level.
- PHB: Essentially paralysis for three undead, and unintelligent undead don’t get a save. Attacking the targets unparalyzes them, so use the time to destroy other creatures in the encounter or to prepare to quickly dispatch the affected undead.
- PHB2: Hesitate is generally better..
- PHB2: Similarly effective to Hold Monster, but two levels lower and you can cast it as an immediate action. The target still gets to move and they get extra saves, but the saves eat their swift action and without a Standard action they can’t do anything else interesting on their turns.
- FB: 3d6 Dexterity damage can incapacitate many enemies. No save, but requires a touch attack.
- PHB: In theory a fantastic debuff. It works on Will saves, and most strongly affects creatures which tend to have poor Will saves. However, if you can reliably defear those same creatures with a single Will save, why would you bother debuffing them? I’ve brought this into a few games and I never seem to find time to use it.
- PHB: Difficult to use in confined spaces, but the ongoing saves make this extremely reliable. Nauseated limits creatures to a single move action, so they can try to walk away but likely won’t outrun your party. If your targets escape the cloud, the 1d4+1 lingeing duration should be enough to clean up the encounter.
- SC: If you can get past the target’s will save you should have already incapacitated them.
- BoVD/CD/SC: Single target, but the target is helpless and blind for rounds per level.
- PHB: Robbing a creature of 50% of its turns is pretty great, but you should be able to totally eliminate a creature with the same save.
- PHB: Among the best area control spells in the game. Many creatures, especially small ones and ones that rely on magic in combat, are extremely susceptible to grappling. Black tentacles allows no save and no spell resistance, so the only way to resist it is to escape the grapple by some means.
- PHB2: If you can end a fight with one more spell, use Celerity and hope you don’t mess up.
- PHB: More comical than effective, I don’t like Confusion because it’s unreliable. If you can affect a single creature with a Will save at the same DC it should be functionally dead, not running around like a babbling fool who might kill you in a few rounds.
- PH: For the same save I would opt for Finger of Agony instead. Allowing the creature to save again each round means that you can only count on a 1 round duration, while Finger of Agony’s 3 round duration should be enough to kill the target.
- CM: Nauseated prevents the target from doing anything potentially harmful, and the three round duration is great.
- CM: Nauseated is a great debuff, but the targets get to repeat the save as a move action, potentially allowing them to take a standard action the turn immediately after you cast this.
- PHB2: Cast as an immediate action, and it gives you up to a 8/9 miss chance once you get enough images.
- PHB: One the best and most confusing spells in the game. Polymorph’s arbitrary Hit-Dice limitation allows you to adopt all sorts of insane forms. Hydra is one of my favorites, and I’ve had party members turn an impending TPK into a resounding victory based solely on this spell. With minutes/level duration, you may be able to walk through several encounters on a single casting.
- PHB: One of the earliest true save-or-die spells, but it allows 2 saves and since it’s both a Fear effect and Mind-Affecting lots of things will get bonuses on the saves or will be immune to it.
- PHB: A poor man’s force cage. The target can still “breath normally”, so you’ll need to come up with some other shenanigans to kill the target.
- PHB: Perhaps an abnormal recommendation, Solid Fog is a fantastic component of any area control combination. Need to pin down fast-moving enemies? Solid Fog. Need to wear down a tough enemy who you’re having trouble affecting? Solid Fog and Blade Barrier or Wall of Fire. If you have blindsense or something similar you can still get a lot done despite the visibility limitations.
- CM: A weaker version of Reaving Dispel. See Reaving Dispel under 9th-level spells, below.
- PHB: A lot of adventuring takes place in places with stone, so this will almost always work. There are obvious uses like making cover or obstacles, but there’s nothing stopping you from encasing your enemies in a nice thick wooden box with no breathing holes.
- PHB: Enemy is now a small harmless animal. They have a ridiculous number of hit points, but they’re no longer a problem. Turn them into a clam if you’re underwater, a flying squirrel if you’re in the air, or a turtle if you’re on the ground. Basically anything that’s vulnerable, but technically not “lethal” so they don’t get the +4 bonus on the save.
- PHB: Outsiders become increasingly common at high levels, even if you’re not on their home plane. Send them home. Keep in mind that many high-CR outsiders have Plane Shift and can return to the plane you’re on, but Plane Shift doesn’t provide precise enough transport that they can return to face you again immediately.
- PHB: AOE Constitution damage. Combine this with Solid Fog or other effects which prevent enemies from moving out of the way.
- PHB: Only works on humanoids, but when it works it works really well.
- PHB: Cripples other sorcerers and wizards, and they get -4 on the save.
- FB: Essentially Flesh to Stone on spell level early, but it’s a little harder to thaw the subject again later if you choose to do so. Don’t use this on anyone holding loot, but on everything else this works fine.
- SS: Essentially the same as Flesh to Ice.
- PHB: The target gets another save every round, but even if they only lose one round that could be enough to win the fight for you.
- RotD: If the target is already below 50 hit points you can probably kill them.
- CM: Permanent paralysis is like death, but you can take the creature home for questioning and such.
- PHB: Combined with Transmute Mud to Rock you can turn an entire room into a Reflex save or die. Trap your enemies in chest-deep stone and leave them there.
- BoVD: Save or die, essentially. The drug component costs 10gp and you need to consume it, so be sure to check the drug rules to prevent it from becoming a problem.
- EoE: Disgusting and crazy, but you can kill people with the same save.
- PHB: Fantastic if you can keep enemies within the area long enough to kill them, but at only 2d6 damage per round that’s unlikely without another spell. If you’re going to combine two spells, there are better combinations.
- PHB: It’s hard to argue with outright killing everything in the room. The 500gp material component can become a problem if you rely on this too heavily, so try to rely on other options where possible.
- PHB: Single-target save-or-suck. Unfortunately, if you use it on a creature with gear you’ll need to use Stone to Flesh to unpetrify it. Nothing a bit of chiselling or some manacles won’t fix. Fantastic, but Flesh to Ice/Salt are a level lower and just as effective.
- : As your caster level improves, so does this spell. At high levels many enemies stop scaling based on hit dice, so you may still be guaranteed the free 1 round of stun. After that, this is still a great save-or-suck spell. Nauseated for 1d4+2 rounds means that the target loses all of the important parts of their turn for at least 3 turns, and on top of that they take a nice pile of damage.
- FB: Freeze on target in place per round. Basically hold monster every round for rounds per level.
- PHB: For hours per level you can convince enemies to do something that isn’t causing you trouble, like going and taking a nap.
- SS: Save-or-die on one creature as a touch attack.
- SC: Effectively dominate monster for oozes. Oozes have terrible saving throws, so the DC shouldn’t be a problem. It’s hard to justify a spell which only works on such an uncommon creature type, but a scroll wouldn’t hurt. With day/slevel duration, you can get a lot of mileage out of your pet ooze before you eventually need to kill it or renew the spell.
- PHB2: Flesh to Stone is a much simpler way to incapacitate a foe semi-lethaly.
- RotD: No save, and Nauseated limits targets to a (largely useless) move action.
- CM: Carry your party around in bottles, then release them like pokeballs. The 100gp material cost is annoying, but the ability to non-lethally capture enemies can be very useful. There are other ways to do this, but generally they require you to carry around a body of some sort.
- PHB: Circle of Death for the undead. See Circle of Death, above.
- BoED: Turn whole encounters against their allies. Even if some enemies pass the save, the few who fail will do enough damage to tip the fight in your favor. No somatic components, so you can use this safely in a grapple.
- Dr/SC: I really want this spell to be amazing, but it just isn’t. It’s a will save that essentially disables spellcasters, but you can just use Finger of Death instead with the same save. Kiss of Draconic Defiance is arguably better at preventing enemy spellcasting since it affects multiple targets.
- PHB: AOE Dismissal, and you can boost your caster level to overcome spell resistance and the DC by presenting some objects. Facing demons? Open up your trench-coat full of holy water and holy symbols of good deities. Facing celestials? Show off some unholy water (yes it’s a thing) and symbols of evil deities. Fire elementals? Pour out your waterskin. Air elementals? Um… rocks, I guess?
- BoED: No save and no spell resistance. At medium range you can cast this from over 200 feet away and spend over a minute doing whatever you like while the target struggles pointlessly to escape. The nonlethal damage really just adds insult to injury. You take 1d2 points of Strength drain to cast this, but who cares? You’re a sorcerer/wizard! What are you going to do with Strength? Carry loot? That’s the fighter’s job.
- PHB: Similar to Undeath to Death, and affects a similar number of hit dice. With minutes per level duration you can probably drag one encounter into the next encounter and make the two kill each other. Absent that option, command the undead to destroy themselves. The spell doesn’t allow additional saves, so you can make them do whatever you want totally unimpeded.
- SC: For rounds per level you can stare at one creature and save-or-suck paralyze it for 1d8 rounds. The fact that Clerics get this too and can use Divine Metamagic / Persist Spell to use this all day is just cruel. If you’ve got that combination running you can basically take the day off from spellcasting and just glare at people while your party kills them.
- SC: Single-target save or die. If they manage to not die, they’re still dazed so they still ost an entire turn.
- PHB: Straight to the point. Kills stuff dead on a Fortitude save.
- PHB: An astounding 2 hours per level duration gives you lots of options. If you need to kill the target, use the barred version and fill the cube with Cloudkill or Blade Barrier or something else unpleasant. The 1500gp component is going to get expensive, so don’t make this your go-to for every fight.
- LM/SC: Incorporeal creatures, especially undead like shadows and wraiths, are a huge pain. They like to do things like hide inside of walls and reach out to attack you. Turning them corporeal while they’re inside walls should be sufficiently lethal that they’re no longer a problem. Since this is an area and you’re not targeting anything, you don’t need line of effect like you do with other options like Control Undead.
- SC: If you want to turn an enemy into something breakable, use flesh to ice. If you want to melt a hole in a wall, use Disintegrate.
- Dr/SC: Not nearly as useful as Hide from Undead, but at this high level dragons are a serious threat. A scroll of this can save your party’s life, but I wouldn’t bother learning this unless you’re in a dragon-heavy campaign.
- SC: Multi-target save-or-suck with no spell resistance. This is better than Mass Hold Monster, which is a 9th-level spell in all ways but one: Hiss of sleep’s area of effect is measure from you instead of from a point at range. Of course, even short range is pretty impressive by this level. At minimum, you’re looking at a 60-foot radius from where you’re standing, which is easily enough to encompass most encounters.
- Dr: Make every spellcaster in the area have a ton of problems casting spells. Your save DC probably scales a lot faster than most spellcaster’s Fortitude saves, so this will probably stop several spells.
- PHB: Useful both as an escape mechanism and as an offensive option. Send enemies to a plane where they’ll die, like your demiplane full of highly lethal traps and golems and stuff. Or take your buddies on a cool vacation, like to your demiplane full of highly lethal traps and golems and stuff. Make sure to carry a bunch of tuning forks for various planes.
- PHB: Hiss of Sleep is objectively better; it affects more things, it doesn’t allow additional saves, it doesn’t allow spell resistance, and it affects a larger AOE. Even if you specifcally need to paralyze humanoids, Transix is considerably better.
- SS: Save or suck in an AOE.
- PHB: I dislike this for the same reason I dislike Confusion.
- PHB: 1d4+1 isn’t long enough to justify for healthy opponents, and if the target is weak enough for the other categories you can just disintegrate them.
- SC: Long range AOE that dazes creatures on a failed save and does a bit of damage. 1d6 rounds of Daze is pretty good, but if you want to disable enemies on a will save you can do better with Hiss of Sleep.
- PHB: Trap land-bound foes in mid-air and let your allies throw rocks at them until they die.
- SC: Single-target save or suck with rounds/level duration. Hiss of Sleep is better, but this is great for illusionists.
- SC: Guaranteed stun, even if the the target passes the save. Arguably better than Power Word Stun.
- SC: Hours per level duration and the targets only get extra saves if they’re attacked. Mass Hold Person doesn’t hold a candle to this, and they’re the same spell level and affect the same targets. Weirdly, this doesn’t affect humanoids larger than medium, so creatures can get around this with Enlarge Person. I don’t know why.
- SC: Nauseates the target, and does Constitution damage. This won’t win the fight immediately, but it has the ability to spread to other creatures. So long as your allies aren’t affected accidently (or on purpose; you could turn a summoned monster into a blackfire vehicle), this could end an entire encounter with one spell. Still, I generally prefer spells which work a bit faster than this.
- SC: Technically not a win condition, but if you’re facing groups of buffed enemies this can make a big different. Targeted dispel magic on multiple targets with a +25 caster level bonus cap.
- BoVD/CD: More effective than Bestow Curse, but has the same issue. Just kill them.
- PHB: Guaranteed deafness for a few rounds, which provides a small handicap to spellcasters. The damage is poor, but an AOE stun can be fairly useful. Unfortunately, Greater Shout has somatic and focus components, and depending solely on a verbal component is one of Shout’s only redeeming qualities.
- BoVD: Finger of death is a bit more direct, but this works on a different save. If it works, you also get some temporary hit points. If it doesn’t work, 10d6 damage is a nice consolation prize.
- PHB: 1d4+1 rounds of lowered AC, considerably lowered reflex saves, and free attacks of opportunity for all of your melee allies.
- BoED: This only affects humanoids, monstrous humanoids, and giants so it’s really situational at such a high level. However, if you can find someone to use it on it’s very effective. Targets that pass the save still take 3d6 Wisdom damage, which is enough to incapacitate many enemies and cripple Clerics and other Wisdom-based spellcasters. No somatic component, so you can use it in a grapple.
- PHB: No save! Remove a creature from a fight for up to 10 minutes. If it has less than 10 Intelligence you’re guaranteed the full 10 minutes. If you use this on a single foe, use the time it’s gone to fill the area with unpleasant things like caltrops and bonfires and blade barriers.
- PHB: The only redeeming quality of Power Word Stun is that it doesn’t allow a save. You can affect creatures with up to 50 more hit points than Power Word Petrify, but the 1d4 round duration means that you can only gurantee a single round of stun. You can probably do just as well with Fleshshiver, which is two levels lower.
- RotD: Better than Power Word Kill since it’s a spell level lower but incapacitates enemies just as well. Be careful about smashing petrified foes who are carrying loot.
- PHB: Permanent blindness. Undead take a ton of bonus damage, and if they’re vulnerable to bright light (natural sunlight, etc.) they’re instantly destroyed. At this level there are many undead which fall into this category (vampires, etc.) so this is a fantastic option.
- SC: Single-target save or die. If they pass, they save again and are dazed for one round on a failure, then take a penalty to will saves for rounds per level so you can try again the next round with a better chance of succeeding. Reliable, effective, and awesome.
- SC: Very cool, but straight damage (even at 2d6 per caster level) is rarely the way a supremacy caster gets things done. Potentially useful in encounters with a huge number of enemies, but even then you have plenty of AOE save-or-suck options.
- BoED: In a 100 foot per caster level radius, all evil creatures are blinded. No save. No spell resistance. Hours per level duration. Considering how important sight is, this shuts down many encounters. Good luck hiding, but when everything that wants to kill you is blind I suppose hiding doesn’t really matter. There appears to be an error that never got errata; the spell lists the area as “centered on you”, but the spell has a listed range. I would assume that the range is a typo, but an extremely permissive DM might let you throw this on another creature or an item.
- PHB2: If you’re going for a save-or-die spell, Wail of the Banshee is better. The secondary explosion is neat, but not very effective.
- PHB: The king of Enchantment spells. Days per level duration, and near-total control over the target. They still get a save if you give them orders contrary to their nature (such as attacking their allies), but a clever player can get away with a lot without allowing extra saves.
- : AOE Flesh to Ice, and 1d6 per caster level cold damage if targets survive the save.
- PHB: A fantastic spell to use on your campaign’s BBEG. If you don’t know their name and a little bit about them by this level, you probably missed a lot of clues that the DM worked very hard to create.
- PHB: Hiss of Sleep is better, affects a larger area, and is 2 spell levels lower.
- BoVD: Depends heavily on how permissive your DM is if you want to do anything other than single-target permanent insanity.
- PHB: Power Word Petrify is just as effective, and one level lower.
- SC: A nice size AOE, especially thanks to the secondary area. Sending enemies to another plane generally means that they’re no longer a problem. At least, until they find a way to catch up to you later. Don’t use this around loot, or you’ll end up sending treasure to a random plane.
- CAr: Technically not a win condition, but deserves an honorable mention. Walk into a fight with an enemy spellcaster and steal all of their buffs. Note that the caster level cap is only +20, so Chaining Dispel can be a better option if you’ve invested in caster level boosts. Chaining Dispel also affects multiple enemies, which can be a huge advantage in many fights.
- PHB: Good for a whole mountain of reasons. You can turn yourself into all sorts of crazy things, and at this high level many enemies stop scaling with hit dice. Some extremely powerful creatures have no more than 20 hit dice. Even some monsters from the epic level handbook are options for Shapechange’s 25 HD cap. You get to change forms every round for free, and since the spell is based on Polymorph you heal every time you do so.
- SC: Black Blade of Disaster is better for killing stuff. This is mostly a utility spell for burrowing through walls.
- PHB: 1d4+1 rounds of doing whatever you want. Cast buffs, set up area control, summon stuff, enclose enemies in stone/force/ice/whatever. Generally go nuts as long as you don’t directly target an enemy with something, but that’s hardly a limitation with 10 levels of spells to draw from.
- BoVD/LoM: Not nearly as effective as Blinding Glory thanks to the Ebon Eyes spell.
- PHB: AOE save or die. No hit dice limit, it doesn’t affect you, and it only has a verbal component so you can use it while grappled.
- PHB: Weird is a strange spell. It’s primary goal is to kill stuff in an AOE. However, since the spell is an illusion, a Fear effect, and it’s Mind-affecting, many creatures will be immune or resistant to it. For those creatures which aren’t immune, two saves means that this spell is likely to be resisted. But if a target manages to succeed on both saves, they’re still stunned for a round. They take a little bit of damage and some Strength damage, but the stun is the real winner here. One round of guaranteed stun in an AOE is fantastic, and gives you plenty of time to set up all sorts of other shenanigans.
- PHB: The most powerful spell in the game. The xp cost is brutal, bot for a very good reason. If you don’t know what to bring into a fight, bring Wish. If you go beyond the items in the bulleted list of effects, be very cautious. DMs frequently interpret wishes “monkey’s paw” style, so they often have dire consequences. Keep the wording of your wishes literal, precise, and brief so that there is as little room for interpretation as possible. “I wish that (the enemy’s name) was in the place in the multiverse most likely to result in his or her immediate and irrevocable destruction excluding any location within one mile of my present location”.