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DnD 5e - Cleric Spell List Breakdown

Last Updated: November 16th, 2020

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RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials or released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.


Clerics are the iconic divine spellcaster, and the uncontested maste rof healing and support spellcasting. While other classes have many excellent options for restoring hit points, no other class can match the Cleric's ability to remove problematic status conditions.

But don't let those strengths fool you. There are no "heal bots" in DnD 5e. While the cleric is a spectacular healer, they also have many of the best divination options, as well as plenty of unique and powerful offensive options, including most of the best options for dealing both necrotic and radiant damage.

Cleric Spells

This is not a comprehensive guide to every available spell, as that would be an exercise in madness. The following is a brief compilation of the most notable spells available to the class. Spells available via Magic Initiate are also excluded; for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" section, above.


  • GuidancePHB: As long as you're not conentrating on something with a long duration between fights, you should be constantly throwing this on your allies. Your Rogue should have Guidance for every skill check they make while searching, sneaking, handling traps, etc.
  • LightPHB: Disposable magic light is fantastic, but if you don't have room for the cantrip you'll do fine with torches.
  • MendingPHB: Too situational. Short of Rust Monsters, nearly nothing in 5e deals damage to your equipment.
  • ResistancePHB: Considerably more difficult to use than Guidance. Your best bet is to throw this on an ally before going into combat, but if you have that luxury you should be casting a better Concentration spell.
  • Sacred FlamePHB: Probably the best source of radiant damage in the game. It's a reliable way to kill zombies, and since it requires a saving throw rather than an attack you can use it against adjacent enemies without issue. As the damage scales, it will easily outpace your damage with a weapon, so by 11th level there is usually no reason to keep a weapon in your hand.
  • Spare the DyingPHB: Tempting, but once you're got a reasonable number of spell slots, you can just use Healing Word.
  • Thaumaturgy: Thematically fun, but not especially useful. See my Practical Guide to Prestidigitation and Similar Cantrips for more.
  • Toll the DeadXGtE: 60 ft. range, the damage is measured in d12's, and since it's necrotic damage almost nothing will resist it.
  • Word of RadianceXGtE: A great way to handle crowds of multiple enemies. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.

1st-Level Spells

  • Bane: Effectively the opposite of Bless, but since it allows a saving throw to resist the effects it's less reliable. I would only use this in encounters where you're vastly outnumbered, and even then it's typically better to use area damage or control spell spells to eliminate enemies rather than debuffing them.
  • BlessPHB: At low levels Bless can decide if you win or lose a fight, but even at very high levels adding 1d4 to attack rolls can dramatically improve your party's damage output. This gets better as your party gains the ability to make more numerous attacks, so if you have fighters, warlocks, or characters who use two-weapon fighting, Crossbow Expert, or Polearm Master, this will get a ton of mileage. If you're not concentrating on anything else, Bless is a great go-to option in nearly any case.
  • CeremonyXGtE: This is a weird spell. The fact that it exists implies that clerics perform burial rites, wedding ceremonies, and rites of passage magically at a cost of 25gp each, placing a heavy financial burden on poor commoners, and removing the possibility of non-magical clergy performing these functions. It certainly feels cool for a cleric to have a decicated mechanic for performing these functions, but I don't know why this isn't just a Religion check or something.

    Regardless of all of that, the spell provides weird incentives to do things like getting married before a dungeon crawl or a boss fight. As a DM I would discourage players from abusing these options.

  • CommandPHB: Enough effects to be useful in some situations, but it's a single-target spell so at low levels you can't afford to spend a spell slot on this.
  • Create or Destroy WaterEEPC / XGtE: The ability to magically create water has many uses. Few of them are combat-related, but this neatly solves a major component of any survival scenario.
  • Cure WoundsPHB: Crucial for healing, and a great way to spend your remaining spell slots at the end of the day, but rarely a good option in combat. If you use this in combat, you'll frequently find that you're spending spell slots to heal less damage than enemies are dealing by waving their claws about.
  • Detect Evil and GoodPHB: Situationally useful, and you can use it to find invisible enemies or detect enemies through thin walls. Cast it as a ritual if you can.
  • Detect MagicPHB: Someone needs to have it in every party. Cast it as a ritual if you can.
  • Detect Poison and DiseasePHB: Very situational, and unless you can also cast Protection From Poison there's little you can do about it anyway. Fortunately, you can cast this as a ritual.
  • Guiding Bolt: The best damage of any single-target 1st-level spell, and even though the Advantage only applies for one attack it's easy to have an ally follow your Guiding Bolt with another spell or with a high-powered attack like a Sneak Attack.
  • Healing WordPHB: Because death is so gentle in 5e, Healing Word is extremely powerful. You can save it for when your allies drop to 0, get them back on their feet, then wait to heal them again until they get dropped back to 0. Since this is a bonus action, you can still use your action to hit something with a mace or cast a cantrip.
  • Inflict WoundsPHB: Inflict Wounds is the highest single-target damage of any 1st-level spell (excluding Magic Missile once you account for the possibility of issing). If you can get Advantage to make the attack more reliable, it's easily one of the best offensive options around at 1st level. The average of 16.5 damage will one-shot most monsters of CR 1/2 and below. Granted, the only thing that Inflict Wounds does is damage, so you may get more out of other spells like Guiding Bolt which provide secondary effects which may lead to more damage in total.
  • Protection from Evil and GoodPHB: A great defensive option at any level, but Sanctuary will be more effective in melee and Sanctuary doesn't care about creature type.
  • Purify Food and DrinkPHB: Cast this as a ritual and you'll never need to worry about spoiled food again. One of many reasons that Dungeons and Dragons makes a terrible wildernesss survival game.
  • SanctuaryPHB: Potentially forcing enemies to give up an attack is great, and this doesn't prevent you from attacking. Sanctuary also has a Bonus Action casting time, so you can attack or cast a cantrip in the same turn. However, since Sanctuary allows the attack to retarget their attack, Sanctuary isn't as effective against ranged attacks.
  • Shield of FaithPHB: +2 AC is a signficant boost, and the Bonus Action casting time means that you can easily wait to cast this until you get into combat. The spell lasts 10 minutes and it's only 1st level, so Shield of Faith remains an excellent buff on any cleric at any level.

2nd-Level Spells

  • AidPHB: With an 8-hour duration and three targets, this is a staple buff that's worth casting literally every day. Keep in mind that this actually increases the targets' hit point maximum, so temporary hit points can be added, too.
  • AuguryPHB: This is my absolute favorite divination spell because it allows players to politely ask their DM for hints. Castable as a ritual with a reusable material component, if you have time you can cast this repeatedly to questions all sorts of decisions.
  • Blindness/DeafnessPHB: Blinding a target can make them much less dangerous, but Constitution saves tend to be high, and the target gets a save every round so you can't count on this for long and it works best on enemies with low Constitution saves like spellcasters who can usually resort to are effect spells when they can't see to target their spells.
  • Calm EmotionsPHB: Two situational but frequently useful effects. First, you can use this to temporarily suppress effects which charm or frighten your allies. Both effects are common, and many enemies can apply them to your whole party. Charm effects often include mind control effects, and suppressing them for a minute on a willing ally can easily buy you enough time to deal with whatever is trying to mind control your friends. Fear effects are often area effects, such as a dragon's Frightful Presence, so suppressing them for a minute can bring whichever portions of your party failed their saves back into the fray.

    Second, you can use this to make enemies not be hostile toward you and your allies for one minute. That will at least pause most encounters for the spell's duration, which is enough time to either heal and buff the party or escape. I wouldn't try to negotiate a truce in one minute, especially since the targets can go right back to hostile the moment that the spell ends. Note that this effect intentionally uses the "Hostile/Indifferent/Friendly" scale referenced in the Social Interaction rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

  • Continual FlamePHB: Having reliable, constant light is really nice. Cast this on a shield, a necklace, a weapon, or maybe a whole bunch of different things to guarantee that you always have adequate light without casting light or lighting a torch.
  • Enhance AbilityPGB: Fantastic and versatile. Eagle's Splendor on your party's Face make social interactions much easier, and Bull's Strength provides a huge edge while grappling. Enhance your spellcasting ability (or that of an ally) to get Advantage on the ability checks to counter spells and to dispel magic.
  • Find Traps: Too expensive and too imprecise. Invest in Investigation.
  • Gentle ReposePHB: Very situational, but it solves some interesting problems. Normally you can cremate a body to prevent it from becoming undead, but cremating a body takes an alarmingly large amount of fuel which you probably don't have laying about. You can multilate the body, but that's gross and in many campaign settings the gods vew that sort of thing as evil. So if you need to maintain a body until you can give it a real burial, this is your best bet. Fortunately, you can cast it as a ritual and you can typically wait until the next day so that you can prepare this as needed.

    Gentle Repose also pauses the timer on effects which raise the dead. While this is specifically called out as working with Raise Dead, it works with anything that raises creatures from the dead. That includes Revivify. So if you keep this prepared, you can haul your allies around until you can cast 3rd-level spells and until you can scrape together enough diamond dust to raise them.

    Remember that while spells don't stack, their durations can overlap so if you cast Gentle Repose early to avoid gaps in spell duration you can keep bodies preserved indefinitely.

  • Hold PersonPHB: On off button for humanoids. Things that you'll obviously think of as humanoids (goblins, humans, etc.) stop being common threats at low levels, but giants are also humanoids and they'll be a CR-appropriate threat for a long time. But even with that in mind, humanoids are a tiny portion of the monster manual, so this spell is situational by design.

    In encounters with multiple foes, you can up-cast Hold Person to paralyze multiple targets, so when AOE damage spells aren't a good idea for whatever reason this can still handle groups of enemies. Paralysis is a serious status condition, granting Advantage on attacks against the targets and guaranteeing Critical Hits for attacks made within 5 feet of the target. Send anyone with a weapon into melee to finish off the targets before they manage to succeed on a save.

    However, remember that targets get an additional save at the end of each round, so you can't predict how long this will stay in effect. If you up-cast this to affect multiple targets, you may reach a point where so few of them are still paralyzed that maintain Concentration may not be worthwhile.

  • Locate ObjectPHB: Too situational, and too easy to counter. Anyone with any knowledge of magic that's trying to hide something will wrap it in lead.
  • Lesser RestorationPHB: Helpful, but most of the affected conditions resolve after a few rounds.
  • Prayer of Healing: Essentially a Short Rest worth of hit points in 10 minutes. Fine, but not especially useful since Hit Dice exist, and the whole spell feels really underwhelming compared to the Druid's Spirit of Healing.
  • Protection From PoisonPHB: Situational, but poison is common across the full CR range, so this is a fantastic defensive option at any level. The 1-hour duration means that you can get a lot of mileage out of a single spell slot even if you cast it ahead of time.
  • SilencePHB: Most spells have Verbal components, so this is a massive problem for spellcasters. Cast this, grapple the enemy spellcaster, and beat them with a mace while they try to squirm away.
  • Spiritual WeaponPHB: A significant improvement to your damage output, Spiritual Weapon is a go-to combat option for clerics. Because the damage can be applied every round, it's a great option for casting at a higher level, and the scaling keeps the damage relevant at any level. Spiritual Weapon doesn't even require Concentration, allowing you to easily combine it with other ongoing effects. However, it takes a Bonus Action to re-target the weapon, so if you're facing multiple foes you don't want to flood the encounter with these for risk of not having enough time to keep them all busy.
  • Warding BondPHB: A dangerous, but interesting way to protect an ally. Generally you'll find preventing them from taking damage with spells like Sanctuary will be more effective.
  • Zone of TruthPHB: Situational and much less reliable than you would hope. Creatures are aware that they're under the effect, and they can choose to "be evasive", which means that they could give you true but useless answers or simply not answer. Creatures other than the caster also don't know who passed or failed the save, so unless they already trust you other creatures might not believe you when you tell them that a creature is telling the truth.

    If a creature is willing to talk, they can prove that they are saying what they believe to be true, and you can know whether or not they believe it to be true. But if the creature is incorrect, if you're lying to other creatures (which they might believe that you are), or if any other number of other things go wrong, this spell simply fails to meet its intended purpose.

    In short, this helps honest creatures prove to you that they are being honest. Nothing else. If you want to get answers from an unwilling or unhelpful subject, cast Detect Thoughts.

3rd-Level Spells

  • Animate DeadPHB: Undead are excellent replacements for living creatures in many ways. An undead guard never gets tired keeping watch. An undead horse never tires of marching. An undead porter won't complain about their back hurting from hauling your treasure. Sure, desecrating the bodies of the dead is "icky" or "evil" depending on who you ask, but you can't pay peasants to work 24/7 in highly dangerous conditions far from home, so sometimes you need to compromise ethics in favor of effectiveness.

    You could technically use this to animate the bodies of big enemies like giants and dragons to make powerful undead warriors to serve you, but try not to do that too much or you're going to bog down the game with your army of undead. Leave that to NPCs, or let the zombie army exist off-screen. Also, don't forget that if you want to keep your undead pets you'll need to refresh the spell every 24 hours or they'll revert to their natural behavior, which will often involve trying to kill you for the crime of being both nearby and alive.

  • Beacon of HopePHB: Thematically, this is a really cool spell. Mechanically, it's very hard to use. The best way to use this would be when a fight is going poorly so you throw up Beacon of Hope and start casting Mass Cure Wounds or Mass Healing Word to get your party back into the fight. But In those cases you typically just want your party above 0 hit points, and the difference of a few hit points on average won't matter much. Also, you can't cast two leveled spells in the same turn anyway, so that ideal scenario is explicitly against the rules. Instead, use the time you would spend casting this to cast literally anything else so you can end the fight faster instead of burning precious resources trying to feed hit points into an insatiable blender.
  • Bestow CursePHB: The effects are versatile enough that you can easily bring this into play in a variety of situations, and the scaling mechanism works well enough that this remains a viable option for higher-level spell slots. Use the third option against big tanky enemies with poor Wisdom, or use the first option against enemies that like to grapple. If you're ever uncertain, use the third option. Robbing a creature of their turn on a failed saving throw is debilitating, and can take creatures almost completely out of a fight.
  • Clairvoyance/ClairaudiencePHB: The focus is expensive, especially if you want the option to both see and hear, but it's well worth the price. If you have the time to cast this repeatedly, you can use initial castings to scout a location, then re-cast the spell and place a new sensor somewhere else to continue scouting. The spells 1 mile range allows you to cover huge areas at a safe distance. Unless enemies can see the invisible sensor, you can scout totally unnoticed and walk into dungeons, castles, etc. with thorough knowledge of the layout and the inhabitants. Even if they see the sensor, it just looks like a "luminous orb" so they may have no idea what you're up to. You percieve through the sensor as you percieve normally, so Darkvision is a must, and try to get other effects which improve your senses like See Invisibility, Enhance Ability (Owl's Wisdom) to improve your Perception checks, or anything else that might make you better at seeing or hearing.
  • Create Food and WaterPHB: Rations are cheap, but it's good that you can prepare this if you somehow find yourself somewhere without food for extended periods. This also lets you create 30 gallons of water, which is enough for a nice bath but not enough to fill a 5-foot cube.
  • DaylightPHB: A Continual Flame, Light, or even a torch is typically sufficient, but sometimes you need to light up larger areas like dark battlefiends or massive caverns. This also dispels magical darkness of 3rd level or lower, which is great if you're fighting enemies like drow which can produce magical darkness. Tragically, you can't cast Daylight at a higher level to dispel magical darkness of higher levels.
  • Dispel MagicPHB: Essential. Someone in every party should always have this handy. Dispelling spells of a higher level than Dispel Magic requires an ability check, so you can cast Dispel Magic at a higher spell level if you absoutely need to end a spell effect, but you can also use Enhance Ability to boost your spellcasting ability to make the ability check more reliable.
  • Fast FriendsAI: A fantastic non-lethal option for handling single targets, but it has some limitations. The target needs to be able to understand you, so you likely need to share a language. The spell requires Concentration, so you don't want to maintain this during combat if you can avoid it. And of course, you don't want to try using this in combat. Still, if you can isolate a single enemy outside of combat you may be able to ply them for information or send them on errands which will save you trouble later. Tragically, the spell only lasts an hour so just as you're getting really attached to your new best friend the effects end. Fortunately, the spell doesn't specify that the target knows that they've been charmed (unlike the Friends cantrip, for example), so you may be able to cast this repeatedly or you may be able to negotiate the situation peacefully even after the spell ends.
  • Feign DeathPHB: Very situational.
  • Glyph of WardingPHB: I'm really glad WotC was smart enough to add a 200gp consumable material component to this spell. If they hadn't, I would solve far too many problems by delivering scrolls with a Glyph of Warding to hostile NPCs.
  • Incite GreedAI: This is a gamble. If targets fail their saves you can draw them into melee range with you and keep them there for up to a minute. You then need to find a way to capitalize on their position. You could walk your full speed away (affected targets can do nothing but move toward you, so they can't take Reactions to perform an Opportunity Attack), drop Concentration, then hit them with a big AOE.
  • Life TransferenceXGtE: Unless you have regeneration or something, this is generally a terrible idea.
  • Magic CirclePHB: With a 1-minute casting time, you can't use this in combat unless you have time to prepare and your enemies are coming to you. Even then, using this in combat isn't reliable protection because it doesn't mitigate the effects of spells and abilities which don't require attack rolls like breath weapons or fireballs. The best use case is generally to invert the effects and use a spell to summon a creature so that you can bargain with it without risk of the creature escaping. Even then, the 1-hour duration may not be enough to guarantee your safety. If you want similar effects in combat, Protection From Evil and Good will do the trick.
  • Mass Healing WordPHB: You never want to need this. It heals exactly as much as standard Healing Word at a much higher cost, but the ability to heal mutliple targets means that you can bring mutiple allies back into the fight and you still have your Action that turn.
  • Meld into StonePHB: Very situational.
  • Motivational SpeechAI: This makes the Inspiring Leader somewhat obsolete. Inspiring Leader will provide considerably more temporary hit points, but this doesn't require a feat and takes one tenth the time.
  • Protection From EnergyPHB: An important, staple defensive option, but it's single-target and requires Concentration so you can't afford to keep it running constantly.
  • Remove CursePHB: Situational, but irreplaceable. Fortunately, you can usually wait a day to prepare this.
  • RevivifyPHB: The "Cleric Tax". This spell is just too good to not prepare every day. Raise Dead costs considerably more, and with a full minute to use this after your ally dies, Revivify is extremely easy to use even if you wait to finish the fight before casting it.
  • SendingPHB: Not especially glamorous, but messaging over massive distances has a number of uses. Also, due to the wording of the spell, you can use it on creatures that don't understand your speech and they'll still understand your meaning, allowing you to use Sending in place of Tongues if you only need to convey brief messages.
  • Speak with DeadPHB: This is a spell of last resort. It is extremely limited, and if the dead creature didn't like you while it's alive it's unlikely to be helpful after you've killed it. Your best bet is to use this on an ally with information that you can't get otherwise. Cast Gentle Repose on the corse to keep it intact so that you can hit it with Speak with Dead again 10 days later.
  • Spirit GuardiansPHB: In an enclosed space, this makes you the center of an extremely dangerous sphere. With a 15-foot radius, a medium character can cover a sphere 35 ft. in diameter, easily filling many rooms, and even in larger area this is still a big area to control. Reducing enemies' speeds by half further complicates things for them, and if you can create difficult terrain in the area they're basically out of luck. Even if you do nothing but cast this spell, walk around, and Dodge on your turn you can often dominate encounters. The 10-minute duration is long enough that you could easily carry this through multiple fights, and you still get to use your full turn to do more stuff.
  • TonguesPHB: The second this spell becomes available to your party, all of their language proficiencies feel silly. The 1-hour duration is long enough to get through all but the lengthiest social situations, and if you're in a situation where you need to re-cast Tongues you're not likely to need your spell slots for much else (except Enhanced Ability (Eagle's Splendor)).
  • Water WalkPHB: Usually flight is a better option than walking across a liquid. The spell notably doesn't allow a saving throw, so you can use this on hostile creatures underwater to force them to surface.

4th-Level Spells

  • BanishmentPHB: Among the most powerful save-or-suck spells in the game for several reasons. First, it's a Charisma saving throw and very few creatures are good at those. Second, many powerful enemies like fiends are exptraplanar, so you can easily remove them with a single spell (though many of them can cast Plane Shift to come right back, so watch out for that). Finally, casting the spell at a higher level allows you to target additional creatures so you can remove big parts of an encounter for up to a minute, deal with anything that passes the initial round of banishment, then prep yourself for everything else to drop back in while your party stands around with readied actions.
  • Death WardPHB: With an 8-hour duration, this is a great insurance policy. It's great to throw this on death-prone characters like your party's Defender, but if you expect to face a high-level spellcast you should also consider putting this on your less-durable allies like wizards to protect them from things like Power Word Kill.
  • DivinationPHB: Much more precise than Augury, and it works much further into the future. The 25gp component cost won't hurt much at this level, but it's enough to deter you from using this every time you have a question.
  • Freedom of MovementPHB: Situational, but a great way to handle being grapled if you have poor Strength and if you're not proficient in either Athletics or Acrobatics.
  • Guardian of FaithPHB: Only useful because of the 8-hour duration. The cap of 60 damage means that it's going to make 3 to 6 attacks (more if enemies have Evasion or Damage Resistance), which isn't enough to justify this in combat. Instead, throw it up to protect yourself while your party is resting or as a trap that you're going to drive your enemies into.
  • Locate CreaturePHB: More effective than mundane tracking, but the 1,000-foot range can be a problem if the target is actively fleeing from you. If you're going to use this, be sure that you're moving faster than your target.
  • Stone ShapePHB: Stone is an incredibly common material in dungeons, castles, and other structures, so the ability to reshape it is immensely powerful. Using this to pass through walls or seal doors are obvious options, but a clever player can do a lot of damage by sabotaging structures or altering natural stone terrain. Typically you can't use this in combat, but you could shape a 5 ft. cube directly above an enemy so that it falls on them. Tragically, the 5e rules don't specify how much damage is dealt by falling objects or a DC to avoid them, so your DM will need to do some improvising.

5th-Level Spells

  • CommunePHB: A yes-or-no answer is enough to get a great deal of information if you ask your questions well. But you need to ask all three questions before the spell's 1-minute duration expires, so your DM could (and probably should) set a real-world timer. If the DM needs time to think of the answers, pause the timer. Unlike Divination, this doesn't consume the material component so if you can spare the prepared spell, you should consider casting this once every evening before you rest to see what you can learn.
  • ContagionPHB: Sage Advice made significant changes to how this spell works, so if you have a physical copy of the Player's Handbook make sure you go download the latest version of the Sage Advice and Errata documents.

    If you hit the target with a melee spell attack, they're poisoned for a minimum of 3 turns. Poisoned is an extremely effective debuff, though many creatures are resistant or immune to it. Even so, the Poisoned effect may be more significant than the disease. The target must fail a total of three saving throw to apply your chosen disease, and considering a typical combat lasts 3-5 round many enemies won't live long enough for that to happen. Consider the Poisoned effect the primary effect of the spell, and think of the disease as a neat novelty which might come up if you don't manage to kill the target fast enough.

  • DawnPHB: This is a mediocre area denial option. You can spend a Bonus Action to move it, which is really nice, but Constitution saves tend to be high, and the damage isn't spectacular. Compare this to casting Spirit Guardians as a 5th-level spell: 5d8 damage (avg. 22.5) compared to 4d10 (avg. 18), and Spirit Guardians won't hurt you or your allies, and if you need to move the effects you can walk and spend your Bonus Action doing something like casting Spiritual Weapon. Dawn's single saving grace is that is specifically says "this light is sunlight", which means that it hurts vampires very badly. If you can grapple a vampire to hold it in the radius of Dawn you can kill them pretty easily.
  • DismissalPHB: If you leave the spell running or use the Break Enchantment option, it's a worse version of Protection From Evil and Good. If you try to banish a creature, it's a worse version of Banishment (although it can send fey and undead to the Feywild and the Shadowfell even if they're not natives of those planes). I don't know why this spell exists.
  • Dispel Evil and GoodPHB: In most cases, Protection from Evil and Good will do the trick, but Dispel Evil and Good has two additional effects. You can prematurely end the spell to end a charm/frighten/possession effect, or to attempt to banish creatures from other planes. They do still get a saving throw, and if the creatures are native to the plane they're on, nothing happens.

    It's very important to note that the banishment effect isn't limited by the spell's duration: creatures banished this way are sent to another plane and must return by normal means. However, since the banishment effect doesn't effect creatures on their home plane, the banishment may not be as appealing as spells like Banishment which can affect creatures native to your current plane.

  • Flame StrikePHB: This is a bad spell. It's only as much damage as Fireball, which is two spell levels lower. The big appeal is that there are two damage types, so creatures which are immune or resistant to one generally won't be resistant or immune to both. But if you're casting a 5th-level spell intending to only get partial damage, you're wasting a 5th-level spell slot. If you want radiant damage, 5th-level Spirit guardians will deal 5d8 radiant damage (avg. 22.5) compared to 8d6 (avg. 28) from Flame Strike, and Spirit Guardians last 10 minutes and you can walk around with it. If you want fire damage most clerics are out of luck, but if you just need a ranged AOE Dawn or Insect Plague will be more effective in almost every case.
  • GeasPHB: This spell is situational by design. It has a 1-minute casting time and Verbal components, so you're not going to break this out in combat or while sneaking around in a dungeon. You're going to restrain the subject, and stand around chanting for a full minute and hope that they fail the save. Once that's done, you need to give them a suitable command (read the spell description). Generally you'll want it to be something that benefits you, but will also take the target most of the duration to keep them from becoming a problem for you. Also remember that the base effect of the Charmed condition makes it easier for you to talk the creature into doing things with Charisma checks, so a Geased creature may be a useful ally for the duration of the effect even if the original order isn't directly related to what you want them to do.

    Increasing the spell level extends the duration, but weirdly the damage doesn't increase. 5d10 is a nice pile of damage, but it doesn't scale with spell level and at some point the target will get smart enough to wake up, trigger the 5d10 damage, take a short rest, then go about their business. If the damage scaled this would be less of a problem, but damage is so easily repaired in 5e outside of combat that without further penalties Geas is more a tax on hit dice than the magical shackles it's intended to be. If you want a homebrew fix, add a level of fatigue each day that the target is out of compliance, or make the damage impossible to heal until they go a day without taking it. Neither of those is a perfect solution, but they're miles better than an average of 27.5 damage.

  • Greater RestorationPHB: You won't need this every day, but you probably need this readied every day. This covers a broad ranged of effects that can totally incapacitate or even kill your party which you might not be prepared to handle otherwise.
  • HallowPHB: Situational by design. This isn't a spell that you just carry around. With a 24-hour casting time, this is a spell that you plan out well in advance, get comfortable for, and probably eat a hefty meal beforehand becuase you don't to stop for food or water until it's done. The effects are powerful and versatile, and since they're permanent until dispelled this spell can easily outlive you. Unfortunately, the spell is still susceptible to Dispel Magic, and watching some jerk repeatedly cast Dispel Magic as a 3rd-level spell until they pass the DC 19 ability check for your 9th-level Hallow feels really bad after you spent so much time and money to cast it.
  • Holy WeaponXGtE: 1-hour duration and cast as a bonus action. The intent is that you'll cast this and attack in the same turn, but clerics never get Extra Attack (War clerics get an extra attack as a bonus action a few times per day, but that isn't enough to keep you busy for an hour) so that's a horrible use of this spell. Put this on someone making a whole bunch of attacks with one weapon. A fighter is ideal, but someone using Polearm Master or Crossbow Expert will suffice. You want as many attacks as you can get as quickly as you can get them to maximize the total damage dealt. When the duration runs short, or when you need to concentrate on something else, end the spell early and blind every enemy in the radius.
  • Insect PlaguePHB: An improvement over Dawn in some ways, but some of the same challenges. Creatures can still move out of the area to avoid the ongoing damage, but with a 20-foot radius of difficult terrain that's slightly harder to accomplish than in the area of Dawn, but not by enough that Insect Plague is actually better.
  • Legend LorePHB: Extremely situational. The fact that the subject needs to be "of legendary importance" severely limits the spells usefulness, and you might not benefit from this more than once or twice in an entire campaign. In previous editions this was a great way to ask the DM for background information which they often had available but with no excuse to share, which is both informative for the players and rewarding for the DM who has spent hours crafting fun lore with no in-game reason to share it. You can still use it for major places, items, and characters, but "legendary importance" is highly subjective so your DM can make this totally useless if they don't feel like sharing.
  • Mass Cure WoundsPHB: Rarely worth the spell slot unless your party is enormous. If you're going to spend a spell on this, be sure to cast Beacon of Hope beforehand to get as much as you can out of the spell slot.
  • Planar BindingPHB: At the level you get this, 1,000gp is a steep price to pay for a spell that lasts 24 hours. Save this for higher levels when you can cast something like Gate to summon a powerful creature and bind it to your service for a long time. If you can somehow get two 9th-level spells, you could summon a Balor or something equally powerful for a year and a day, then command it to conquer a continent for you or something. Most creatures won't be happy about this form of servitude, of course, so be sure to plan for their sudden yet inevitable betrayal.
  • Raise DeadPHB: Don't bother preparing this unless someone is already dead. If your ally dies, they'll still be dead the next day when you prepare Raise Dead.
  • ScryingPHB: Spy on the campaign's antagonists at every opportunity. The material component is expensive, but it's reusable so you can buy a fancy mirror once then spend the rest of your character's career spying on people from afar. The target gets a saving throw to resist, but doesn't know that they're being targeted by the spell. The sensor works the same way that Clairvoyance does (uses your normal senses, invisible luminous orb, etc.), so generally creatures will never know that they're being spied on unless they can see through invisibility. While the text of the spell isn't clear, I believe that the Connections use whichever has the biggest effect rather than stacking, so you can't use your macaroni art of the target and a lock of their hair from your closet shrine to them to give them a -12. In case it wasn't clear already: using this spell is super creepy, and you shouldn't go around using it for recreational purposes.

6th-Level Spells

  • Blade BarrierPHB: The AOE is good and the damage is good. The wall also provides 3/4 cover, which is great since clerics almost never use spells that require ranged attacks. Casting a spell that targets creatures on the other side of the wall doesn't care about cover unless the center of the AOE is on the wrong side for some reason. Unfortunately, there's no spell level scaling and aside from being difficult terrain there's very little preventing enemies from running through the wall, suffering the damage, and going right back to fighting as though you had just hit them with a 6d10 fireball or something. Generally you want to use this when you're being swarmed by weak enemies, when need cover, or when you can force enemies to be in the wall for multiple rounds somehow.
  • Create UndeadPHB: If you just need something to ride around on or a minion to carry your treasure, use Animate Dead. If you want to have an intelligent thrall to handle complex tasks or to act as a bodyguard, use Create Undead. But remember: undead are evil and will murder you at the first opportunity, and generally DMs don't like players dragging an undead army around behind them.
  • Find the PathPHB: This is barely useful as it is, but the next spell level brings Plane Shift which will immediately solve long-distance travel challenges.
  • ForbiddancePHB: This is a strange spell. It's intended to create areas where you can keep creatures of a specific type out of the area, so important holy sites could keep out undead or fiends. But as the spell is written you don't need to move through the area and the are can be occupied while you cast the spell. So if you come upon a dungeon which you know if full of fiends or undead, you can sit down, spend the 1,000gp of components and 20 minutes to cast this as a ritual, and turn 40,000 square feet of dungeon into a 30-foor high area of ongoing damage for 24 hours with no save. That's enough to eliminiate anything that can't get get out of the AOE, which is astoundingly hard since the damage seems to come from absolutely nowhere if you're a lich just hanging around in your lair minding your own business.

    Like similar spells, most players won't realistically use this unless they have a permanent base. The 1,000gp component cost makes it extremely expensive to make this permanent, especially since it can be dispelled. Save this for high levels when that's less of a problem. The 30-foot height limit is also frustrating because it discourages creating cool stuff like cathedrals or tall towers. But it'll keep your short, boxy 200 ft. by 200 ft. building free of zombies or whatever.

  • HarmPHB: 14d6 averages to 49 damage, which is pretty good. But it's a single-target spell with a Constitution saving throw, and Constitution saves tend to be high. By comparison, a 7th-level Spirit Guardians will deal 7d8 damage (average 31.5) to every enemy within 15 ft. of you on a save that's usually lower than Constitution saves. If you deal damage even twice, that's a better option than Harm, and Spirit Guardians lasts for 10 minutes. Harm's biggest appeal is potentially reducing the target's hit point maximum, which is good against enemies with regeneration or which can heal themselves magically.
  • HealPHB: Among the best in-combat healing in the game, Heal restores a reliable, consistent 70 points of hp. That won't bring a player from 0 to full hit points (except maybe wizards), but it's enough to keep them in the fight for a while in most cases. It also removes some annoying status conditions, but not enough that it can replace Restoration.
  • Heroes' FeastPHB: Once you have two 6th-level spell slots, one of them should go to Heroes' Feast every day. The bonuses are simply too good to forgo, and they last a full 24 hours. The fact that it feeds you in honestly the least interesting part of spell. Remember that the raised hit point maximum is not temporary hit points, so you can still add temporary hit points on top to protect your allies further.
  • Planar AllyPHB: Casting this spell is expensive, difficult, and confusing, and the creature that you summon counts as a member of the party and gets a share of the experience points that your party earns. Use this as an absolute last resort, or if you know a specific extraplanar creature which might be willing to help you for free.
  • True SeeingPHB: Extremely powerful, with a 1-hour duration. The material component costs 25 gold, but at this level that's a pittance.
  • Word of RecallPHB: A great way to escape to somewhere safe if adventuring is going badly for you and your party. The cap on 5 other creatures may be hard if you have a large party or if members of your party have pets.

7th-Level Spells

  • Conjure CelestialPHB: Summon spells are always nice. A CR 4 creature will likely feel underwhelming in combat, so try to find other ways for the summon to be useful. Your DM chooses what gets summoned, unfortunately, so you can't use this to pick from a list.
  • Divine WordPHB: Primarily this is a written as a way to handle crowds of weak enemies, and while the spell does that well it's actually more effective as a way to banish high-CR explanar enemies. Affected creatures are banished similar to Banisment, but there's no numerical limit on the number of affected creatures and they can't return for 24 hours without serious magic like Wish, so enemies can't Plane Shift right back into the fight to express how little they enjoyed that time that you banished them.
  • EtherealnessPHB: A profoundly effective scouting/escape option. Unless you're fighting ethereal enemies, you're untouchable. You can see and hear into the material plane (albeit at limited distance), allowing you to spy on other creatures in person without their knowledge. The only problem is that the spell lasts 8 hours and you can't dismiss it, so you may need to cast Dispel Magic on yourself to end the effect.
  • Fire StormPHB: Imagine a fireball that you got to cut up and shape in 10-foot cubes. That's essentially what Fire Storm is. It's a decent blast spell, but it doesn't do nearly enough damage for a spell of this level.
  • Plane ShiftPHB: Simultaneously a fantastic long-distance travel spell and a single-target save-or-suck. If you want to travel within the same plane you may need to cast this twice, so make sure that your lay-over is somewhere pleasant like Celestia or Elysium. If you use this to get rid of someone, send them somewhere really unpleasant like sending a demon to Celestia or a humanoid to the plane of fire. Unfortunately, you do need a specific tuning fork for each plane that you want to visit, so start a collection as soon as possible.
  • RegeneratePHB: Limb removal is exceptionally rare in DnD 5e, typically the subject of specific traps or house rules written by players who enjoy the thought of their characters losing limbs every time a sword comes out. Still, any amount of regeneration means that a character never stays Dying, and with a 1-hour duration this heals an impressive 600 hit points on top of the initial hit point restoration.
  • ResurrectionPHB: Situational by design, and intentionally very expensive. You don't want to need this spell, but sometimes things don't work out as planned.
  • SymbolPHB: While many of the effects are wonderful, the inability to move the symbol and the high casting cost are prohibitive.
  • Temple of the GodsPHB: Very situational. The 1-hour casting time makes this rarely useful except for specific story points (celebrate a holy day, conduct a ceremony like a wedding, provide sanctuary against an attack that you know is coming), so you should be able to prepare and cast this well ahead of time. You can't make this permanent, but you could technically recast the spell every day to keep it in existence if you were planning to retire and didn't need a 7th-level spell slot every day.

8th-Level Spells

  • Antimagic FieldPHB: Situational by design, but incredibly powerful. Even with such a small radius, removing magic from the game totall shifts the balance of the game. The biggest problem is that you are primarily a spellcaster, so you are turning off your biggest set of tool to use this. The best-case scenario is to use this when you are outmatched magically, but your allies can still fight without magic and defeat whatever you're facing.
  • Control WeatherPHB: Very situational, and kind of a pain for the DM. Go to your setting's arctic equivalent, and raise the remperature to "Unbearable Heat" for 8 hours. That certainly won't cause horrifying and potentially irreperable ecological damage that the DM will need to either totally disregard or track in some unpleasant fashion for the duration of the campaign.
  • EarthquakePHB: A powerful area control spell, but you don't want to be within the 100 ft. radius, and because you don't get the control the appearance of fissures you also can't risk placing it with enemies near the edges. You also can't don't want to risk using it inside or in an area where a nearby structure will fall on your. So you need to center the effect on your targets as much as possible, you need to be at a safe distance from the center point, and you may need some extra space to avoid falling structures. If you can manage those parameters and still manage to put the spell where you want (consider flying), this can level a city with an Action. Concentrating on the spell doesn't do anything except maintain the difficult terrain, which means that you get almost all of the spell's effects in one turn, so feel free to drop Concentration and siwtch to something else.
  • Holy AuraPHB: The ultimate defensive buff. For one minute your party is incredibly difficult to harm. Undead can be blinded, but that's such a minor part of the effect that it doesn't matter much.

9th-Level Spells

  • Astral ProjectionPHB: A relatively safe way to explore the Astral Plane, but it has some complications. Avoid Githyanki at all cost; their silver swords can cut your astral cord and kill you outright. If things ever look bad for you, spend the Action to return everyone to their bodies. If any of your allies drop to 0 they'll go back to their body unharmed, but if you don't see it happen you may not know about it so you need to have a way for your party to contact your astral projection from wherever you hid your bodies. If you ever get forcible returned to your body and don't have a chance to end the spell intentionally and bring your allies back too, they can always get home by punching themselves down to 0 hit points.

    While you have this spell running, make sure that your party's bodies are hidden and protected somewhere that your enemies (or curious but hungry mosnters) can't get to you, but that won't be immediately dangerous if you return to your body with no spell slots. A comfortable, but totally sealed underground hideout is a great option that you could feasibly create using Stone Shape and some patience.

    Your bodies don't need food or air while you're under the spells effects, but the spell doesn't mention water. I assume that this is an oversight, but check with your DM; you may need to solve the issue of keeping your bodies hydrated. Since you don't need to breath, maybe submerge everyone in a shallow pool of water fed by a Decanter of Endless Water? Or maybe get a dedicated sect of monks to tend your bodies. Since your bodies don't age, this makes you effectively immortal while you're exploring the Astral Plane, so this can be a good way to keep your character alive between world-threatening problems so that you can return to the world to smite the latest lich without worrying about gray hair or whatever.

  • GatePHB: There are several ways to use this spell, two of which were intended when the spell was designed.
    • Travel to another plane: The simplest option, you open a door and you walk through to another plane, leaving the gate open for up to a minute for whoever else to walk through in either direction.
    • Summon a creature: If you know the name of a creature on another plane, you can drag them (potentially against their will and without a save) to your location. This is easy to abuse by going to plane where you know they aren't (pocket dimensions work great for this, but there are so many planes that it's hard to accidently be on the same one), then forcibly summon them. You could summon your biggest antagonist after spending a bunch of time setting up traps, buffs, and readied actions, then have your party stomp them into the dirt. If you're extra clever, you can use Astral Projection to fight whatever you're summoning whiel projected so if something goes wrong you won't actually die and you could try again later. I think the intent of this function was to summon an ally to help you in a fight, but I think my idea is more useful.
    • One-way cover: You can only enter the portal from the front, but it's unclear what the back looks like or how it functions. It's not described as solid, so it's entirely possibly that you can fire projectiles through it from the rear, while projectiles from the front pass into the portal. I can't imagine that you can see through the portal, so this may be hard to do, but it may be possible. Check with your DM.
    • Magical drain: About to drown? About to hit by a flow of magma or falling rocks? Open a gate to literally anywhere else and let the offending substance enjoy eternity floating in limbo or anywhere else that isn't a problem for you. The multiverse is your dumping ground.
  • Mass HealPHB: 700 hit points is enough to fully heal most parties of 20th-level characters. Dropping this mid-combat is a great way to turn a fight around.
  • True ResurrectionPHB: Try to use cheaper methods if possible. The 25,000gp material component is expensive, even at this level.