Last Updated: April 19, 2022
Druids have a unique spell list with a lot of exclusive options. While they still have healing options and support options, many of their spells focus on area control and shaping the battlefield.
Table of Contents
- Druid Spells
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.
- : 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.
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 are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Optional spells are marked below with (Optional) following the spell’s name. These spells are considered optional rules, as described in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Consult your DM before deciding to use these spells.
- EEPC / XGtE: Notably omitted from the function of Control Flames is the ability to create or extinguish them. Druidcraft and Prestidigitation both grant the ability to light or snuff out small flames. Control Flames will let you spread flames, extinguish them, change their color, etc., but if you want to light a torch you need to use flint and tinder like a commoner. You can use this to dramatically improve the effectiveness of torches, or to snuff out enemy light sources at a distance, but those are situational uses that you can address with better light sources like the Daylight spell or by using water. Neither function is frequent or useful enough to justify a cantrip with so little functionality.
- EEPC / XGtE: This spell is fantastic for the Druid. It matches the damage of Produce
Flame, it can do ongoing damage if enemies stay in place or move into the
square, and the Druid has very few spells which require Concentration at low
levels so the Concentration requirement isn’t a significant hurdle like it
is for other spellcasters like the Cleric. If you position yourself well,
you may be able to use this with Thorn Whip to repeatedly pull enemies into
the square for additional damage. This is a great introduction to area
control spells, which is fantastic because the Druid’s options for area
control are some of their best spells.
However, Create Bonfire’s reliance on Concentration can become a problem as you gain levels because Concentration is such a precious resource, and many of the best spells require Concentration. If your game doesn’t include an option to retrain cantrips, I would skip Create Bonfire entirely. If you have a way to retrain cantrips, consider taking Create Bonfire at low levels, but be prepared to replace it if you find that you’re not using it consistently.
- PHB: This spell is profoundly disappointing. It does almost nothing, and the things it does are nearly useless.
- EEPC / XGtE: Low damage for a cantrip (d6-based), but the big appeal is Disadvantage on the target’s next weapon attack. Unfortunately, it works on Constitution saving throws, and those tend to be relatively high compared to other saving throws.
- PHB: As long as you’re not concentrating 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.
- EEPC / XGtE: If this scaled somehow I would be interested. If it had more options, I would be interested. If had better range, I would be interested. But as it stands this spell is almost totally useless.
- XGtE: Constitution saves tend to be high, which is this spell’s biggest problem. The damage is low but fine, and the forced movement is enough to make it useful by forcing enemies to move around in dangerous places or move out of a grapple despite your lack of control over the direction.
- EEPC / XGtE: At low levels, a spell attack dealing 1d6+Wisdom will be more damage than any of your other cantrips. But every other damage cantrip will match it at level 5, and without Extra Attack to let you throw more stones you’ll never get more than 1d6+5 damage. On top of that, casting Magic Stone consumes your Bonus Action, so it’s difficult to use in conjunction with other options. Your best bet is to get three NPCs to stand behind you, pull rocks out of your hand, and throw them at enemies while you use your action to do literally anything else.
- PHB: Too situational. Short of Rust Monsters, nearly nothing in 5e deals damage to your equipment.
- EEPC / XGtE: You know what else can do this? A shovel. Sure, shoveling will take a long time, but you get at most 3 cantrips (5 with Circle of the Land), and if you can replace a cantrip with a mundane item it’s probably a bad cantrip. The only important function is to create difficult terrain, but you’re limited to two ongoing effects, which means you only get two 5-foot squares. And, again, you could do that with a shovel. You’re about as likely to use this in combat as you are to use a shovel, too.
- PHB: This highest damage die for cantrips, at least until Toll the Dead came along. Poison spray has serious problems: 10 ft. range, and it works on a Constitution saving throw, so enemies will frequently resist it.
- XGtE: More damage than you can get out of any other Druid cantrip except Poison Spray, but no function beyond damage. If you’re building for melee without Wild Shape, you need to consider this against options like Shillelagh, Thunderclap, and any ranged cantrip that works on a saving throw rather than an attack roll. Primal Savagery will beat out Shillelagh at level 5 unless you’re getting a second attack from something like Polearm Master. A Circle of Spores Druid with Polearm Master and Shillelagh will deal more damage than Primal Savagery, but only until 17th level and only while running Symbiotic Entity.
- PHB: The Druid’s go-to damage cantrip, it notably also allows you to hold the flame and carry it around as a light source. You should be able to light fires with it even though that function isn’t specified in the spell’s text. You are holding a flame large enough to cast twice as much light as a candle, after all.
- PHB: 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.
- EEPC / XGtE: This is as abusable and versatile as Prestidigitation. Freeze a solid 5 foot cube of water and drop it on someone. Pour water into a lock, freeze it, and allow the ice expansion to break the lock. Put a dome of ice over something you’re protecting. Build a small bridge in 5-foot segments. Block a hallway. Freeze a door in place. The uses are numerous and fantastic. If you have a barrel of water and this cantrip, you have a solution to most problems. Honestly the fact that this spell is so much better than its other elemental equivalents (Control Flames, Gust, and Mold Earth) is a good indication of just how awful those spells are. See my Practical Guide to Shape Water for more on how great Shape Water is.
- PHB: Stuck in melee? Out of Wild Shape uses? Don’t use your dumped Strength score: use a magic stick! Shillelagh is a neat spell, and it’s a popular option for clerics (via multiclassing or Magic Initiate) so that they don’t need to devote ability score increases to Strength or Dexterity. However, it’s not a great option for most druids. Druids never get Extra Attack, so the most damage you can ever get from melee attacks is 1d8+5 (avg. 9.5), which will be matched by Produce Flame at 5th level (2d8, avg. 9). As much as I love the idea of a druid standing in melee with a magic staff and a shield, it’s just not a practical option. However, the Circle of Spores Druid may be an exception. Symbiotic Entity provides a boost to weapon attack damage which may keep Shillelagh viable as far as 11th level, at which point you should consider Thunderclap for your melee needs.
- PHB: The damage is fine, but the real appeal is the pull effect. 10 feet may not seem like much, but its enough to pull enemies off of ledges, to pull low-flying enemies into melee, to pull enemies into an area control effect like Create Bonfire or Wall of Fire, to pull enemies out of a grapple, or in a pinch you can pull an ally out of a dangerous location (albeit at the price of some friendly fire).
- EEPC / XGtE: Damaging every creature within 5 feet of you is great if you’re in melee facing numerous enemies. Even with Extra Attack you will deal more damage with this against three or more foes than you could with a weapon. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.
- EEPC / XGtE: A fantastic defensive option at any level, this will save your life when you encounter an unpredictable source of elemental damage like as a trap or a spell. The bonus damage on your next attack is largely useless, but it still feels cool when you use it.
- PHB: Arguably easier than proficiency in Animal Handling, but it will become obsolete once beasts disappear around CR 10.
- EEPC / XGtE: Interesting, but druids don’t have something like a beast companion which would signfiicantly benefit from this. You could cast Conjure animals and combine it with this, but I don’t know if that’s worth the spell slots.
- PHB: If you can cast this on a target outside of combat without them noticing, this can be a great way to defuse a potentially hostile situation. However, the spell has some complications. Charm Person has no visual effect like a ball of fire, so there’s no visual indication that the spell succeeded or failed. The target doesn’t know that they’ve been targeted by the spell if they succeed on the saving throw, but you don’t know if they succeeded or failed unless your DM decides to tell you (and they are under no obligation to do so). So generally your best bet is to cast this once or twice and hope for the best before presenting yourself to your target.
- EEPC / XGtE: The ability to magically create water has many uses. Few of them are combat-related, but combined with Goodberry and an appropriate plant, this allows you to be fully self-sufficient.
- PHB: More healing than Healing Word, but the action economy is considerably worse. Save this for when you need hit points and you’re either out of hit dice or don’t have time to rest.
- PHB: Someone needs to have it in every party.
- PHB: Very situational, and unless you can also cast Protection From Poison there’s little you can do about it anyway.
- EEPC / XGtE: Not nearly enough damage, and being prone isn’t enough of a problem in 5e. The difficult terrain effect is the real draw. It only works on “loose earth or stone”, but that covers nearly anything you’ll stand on except wood, so it’s an easy way to create difficult terrain. Unfortunately, it also effects you so be careful not to trap yourself among enemies.
- PHB: A great are control spell at any level. Strength saving throws tend to be low for any creature that isn’t a gigantic Strength-based brute, so it’s easy to restrain even high-level enemies. However, it requires Concentration so you can’t easily combine it with things like Create Bonfire.
- PHB: The lowest-level option to deal with invisible creatures, and Advantage on attacks against creatures which fail their save means that this remains a powerful support option well into high levels, especially against bug bulky enemies with high AC but poor Dexterity saves. Hopefully you won’t run into any invisible creatures at 1st level, but but it’s important to have some way to deal with invisibility just in case.
- PHB: An excellent way to cover your escape, but you can’t see through the fog any better than anyone else, so don’t expect to fight in this without some other advantage most of the time. Fog Cloud can be a way to negate Advantage if your enemies have the upper hand, so if you’re facing enemies who are invisible, hidden, or have some other source of Advantage, Fog Cloud can take that away, effectively leveling the playing field so that no one can see each other. Such situations are rare, but it’s nice to know that there’s a countermeasure when those situations do arise.
- PHB: Not useful in combat, but more healing per spell slot than Cure Wounds. Players: Dump all of your spell slots at the end of the day into Goodberry so you have a giant bag of healing to use between combats the next day. DMs: Limit your players to 10 active berries at a time specifically to prevent them from doing what I just suggested.
- PHB: More important than Cure Wounds, especially at low levels. As a bonus action you can heal an unconscious ally enough to get them back into the fight, and you still have your action for a cantrip.
- EEPC / XGtE: Not enough damage, and you not only make an attack for the primary damage, but the targets also get saving throws to totally avoid the splash damage.
- PHB: Too situational.
- PHB: A helpful buff for highly-mobile characters, and with an hour-long duration it can be a great use of low-level spell slots once your 1st-level spells start lagging in combat.
- PHB (Optional): An absolutely fantastic defensive option, but it’s technically situational.
- PHB: 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.
- XGtE: Good for setting a trap, or if you’re resting somewhere dangerous with a convenient choke point like a narrow halway. Targets are restrained for at least one round, which is hopefully enough for you to fight your way out of your bedroll and grab a weapon.
- PHB: Its function is obvious enough that it probably doesn’t need exploration, but Speak with Animals is probably the most druid-y spell a druid can cast. Just be warned: animals aren’t very smart, so their ability to convey useful information may be hampered despite removing the speech barrier.
- PHB: With the exception of Gust, this is one of your very few options for pushing enemies away from you. It’s especially appealing if you can push an enemy into an area control effect, but otherwise it’s not a good go-to option for damage output in combat.
- PHB: Situational and less reliable than similar spells like Sending, but it’s also a spell leve lower than Sending and it’s a ritual. If you know that your recipient is going to be wherever you send your message, this works fine. Unfortunately, the recipient doesn’t get to respond.
- PHB (Optional): 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.
- PHB: 16 AC will exceed the AC of almost every worthwhile Wild Shape form, even with 20 Wisdom and the Monk’s Unarmored Defense. As long as you can commit your Concentration to Barkskin, it’s a fantastic option for AC. However, since it’s a Concentration spell you’ll run the risk of the spell ending any time something hits you, and 16 AC isn’t high enough to keep you safe if you’re drawing a lot of fire. If you’re not fighting while in Wild Shape, skip Barkskin. 14 Dexterity, Hide armor, and a shield get you 16 AC, and Barkskin provides a minimum value for an AC and doesn’t interact with any bonuses of any kind, including shields and magic items, so it’s totally redundant for the vast majority of druids..
- PHB: The intent is that you will use this to scout an area using an animal. Maybe you cast Speak With Animals on it, then send it to explore somewhere and use Beast Sense to get a first-hand account. If you’re desperate, you might also use this on an animal and carry it around to help address issues like blindness, deafness, or your own lack of darkvision. Your DM might reasonably impose Disadvantage on things like attack rolls when doing this due to the uncomfortable shift in perspective, but if you’re truly desperate it might be enough.
- PHB (Optional): 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.
- PHB: Darkvision is a significant tactical advantage, and with an 8-hour duration this is a fantastic way to get it.
- EEPC / XGtE: The one-minute duration means that you can spend a lot of time pushing enemies around. The damage is puny, so you’ll need to combine this with other area control effects to do any meaningful damage. Unfortunately, Dust Devil requires Concentration so it’s hard to combine with other effects like Create Bonfire.
- EEPC / XGtE: Technically situational, but at high levels flight becomes a defining tactical option. If you can fly and your enemy can’t, you often win the fight be default.
- PHB: 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 to get Advantage on the ability checks to dispel magic.
- PHB (Optional): A great
option both as a buff for melee allies and as a utility option, though I
would rarely try using this to shrink enemies. You can use this on a small
ally to make them small enough to smuggle in a pocket, or you can use this
on and ally to give them an edge against enemies that rely on grappling. The
bonus damage for being enlarged is nice, but not really worth the spell slot
unless the target is making a huge number of weapon attacks like a
This works while using Wild Shape, but maybe not how you would expect. The spell enlarges or reduces the target’s weapons, but natural weapons like claws and teeth aren’t “weapons” much in the same way that unarmed strikes aren’t weapons. RAW enlarging/reducing yourself won’t impact Wild Shape beyond your size, but Jeremy Crawford has stated that RAI he would allow it to apply to unarmed strikes, so your DM might allow it to work with natural weapons, too. Either way, discuss it with your DM before you prepare this so that you’re not having a messy rules discussion in the middle of a fight.
- : Too expensive and too imprecise. Invest in Investigation.
- PHB: This spell is awful. If it worked like Shadow Blade it would at least be usable, but as it’s written it’s immediately worse then Produce Flame or any other attack cantrip. 3d6 damage (avg. 10.5) barely exceeds 2d8 (avg. 9), and cantrips will scale without costing higher-level spell slots.
- PHB: An interesting but sometimes difficult option, Flaming Sphere combines area control and regular damage output, but monopolizes both your bonus action and your Concentration for the 1-minute duration. In small areas where enemies can’t easily get away from the sphere, it can be a reliable source of ongoing damage while also helping control a small area. However, the sphere only applies damage when it rams a creature or when a creature ends its turn; in the intervening time creatures can run past or even directly through the sphere unharmed.
- PHB: Potentially a great way to shove enemies around, but at 15 ft. per round enemies will frequently be able to walk back the distance they were pushed without issue. Your best bet is to push enemies into area control effects, but since Gust of Wind requires your Concentration you may have trouble creating effects to use.
- XGtE: This spell was massively weakened by errata issued in 2020. The cap of 1+mod uses means that most you can expect at most 6 uses of the spell, which totals just 6d6 healing when cast at 2nd level. That’s still incredibly effective for a 2nd-level spell slot and it’s definitely better than Cure Wounds, but it’s likely not good enough to replace healing from a short rest when your party is in rough shape. The healing goes up by 1d6 per spell slot past 2nd, so you can double the healing by using a 3rd-level slot. Generally you don’t want to use this during a fight because the healing isn’t fast enough and it requires Concentration.
- PHB: Situational by design, but against nearly any humanoid in metal armor, this spell is a death sentence. The damage will be slow, but disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks makes martial characters (the ones typically in metal armor) basically useless. Upcasting the spell is suprisingly efficient since the additional damage applies every round, so if you’re fortunate enough to encounter a suitable enemy, use this to its fullest.
- PHB: On/off button for humanoids. Things that you’ll obviously think of as
humanoids (goblins, humans, etc.) stop being common threats at low levels,
and at high levels generally the only humanoid threads will be powerful
NPCs. 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.
- PHB: You won’t need it all the time, but everyone needs it eventually.
- PHB: Very situational. Situations where you need to find some specific type of plant are usually a major story point rather than some routine task. If you need this, you can likely wait a day to prepare it and cast it as a ritual.
- PHB: Too situational, and too easy to counter. Anyone with any knowledge of magic that’s trying to hide something will wrap it in lead.
- PHB: It’s easiest to compare Moonbeam to Flaming Sphere. In a practical sense, they’re both an ongoing spell which will deal damage to one creature once per turn and the creature gets a save to reduce the damage (or avoid it for Flaming Sphere). Moonbeam does more damage and targets save for half, but since Constitution saves tend to be so high creatures will frequently resist it. Moonbeam also deals radiant damage, which is a rarity for the Druid. All told, it’s a very efficient use of a spell slot, so at low levels before cantrip damage improves and while you have very few spell slots to throw around, this is an excellent combat option.
- PHB: A +10 bonus in a game where most characters max out at +11 is huge. The bonus is enough to offset problems like a fighter in full plate armor. But remember: this is not invisibility. You can’t cast this and crouch down in plain view and magically disappear. I hear that mistake being made constantly on podcasts. A +10 bonus doesn’t negate line of sight rules. You still need cover or something.
- PHB: 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.
- EEPC: Only useful as a novelty. Still, it’s hard to resist the ability to insult someone by writing nasty things about them in the sky for everyone to see for miles around.
- PHB: 2d4 damage every 5 feet, and it’s every time the creature “travels”, not every time the creature moves. So if you push or pull the creature, they take damage. A 20-foot radius sprea is a fairly large area, too, so you can easily affect whole rooms or long stretches of hallway.
- TCoE (Optional): The
lowest-level Summon spell introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of everything,
Summon Beast is an excellent spell. With a 1-hour duration you can get a ton
of mileage out of a low-level spell slot, and the beasts are very effective
in combat. If you have other melee allies, throwing one of the beasts with
Pack Tactics alongside them can yield a lot of consistent, reliable damage.
The Air beast has Flyby, which is appealing if you need a more durable
version of the owl familiar’s hit-and-run Help trick, but won’t be as
effective offensively as the Land and Water options.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- EEPC / XGtE: A decent buff for melee druids, including both Circle of the Moon and Circle of Spores. Making the area around you difficult terrain makes it hard for enemies to move toward or away from you, and disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks keeps enemies with ranged weapons from picking you off from afar while you’re closing the distance.
- SCoC: Poor damage on a con save and you can have an ally spend a hit die. If you want damage, you have plenty of other options. If you want healing, you have plenty of other, less-expensive options.
- PHB (Optional): Never use this in combat, but 20d6 healing for a 3rd-level spell is very efficient. Even Healing Spirit can’t match this amount of healing at the same spell level (with the 2020 errata and a +5 spellcasting mod, 6 uses, 2d6 healing when cast at 3rd level, total 12d6 healing).
- PHB: Definitely situational and hard to use effectively. I’ve updated my
assessment of this spell numerous times because it really is hard to pin
down. With a 10-minute duration, you can produce a total of 100 bolts of
lightning, each dealing 3d10 (or more) damage in an AOE. This is a very
efficient use of a spell slot, but the single-round damage is poor compared
to spells of the same level, so if you’re just trying to kill whatever’s in
a room and move on, you should look elsewhere.
The cloud itself is immobile, and lightning bolts must target a location “under the cloud”, meaning anywhere directly beneath the 60-foot radius cloud. That’s a big area, but it’s still immobile, so unless you’re in a long fight or multiple fights within one area you’re likely going to allow this to expire before you get the full effect.
You can activate the lightning bolt effect while in wild shape, which means that you can turn into something sneaky like a rat or a small bird and go unnoticed while raining lightning on your foes, but the other problems remain, and your enemies are likely to seek cover (a ceiling would provide full cover) or move out of the area of the inexplicable storm cloud which is at most 120 feet above you.
- PHB: The lowest-level “Conjure Creature” spell, Conjure animals can be a
powerful tool. At low levels, a single CR 2 creature is a significant
increase to your party’s combat capabilities. However, like other Conjure
Creature spells, the DM decides what animals you summon (you get to select
the CR, just not the specific animal), which means that you need to trust
your DM to give you something helpful.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: Every party needs someone who can cast Dispel Magic. It’s simply too important to forgo.
- PHB (Optional): If your party
doesn’t have magic weapons, this is a great way to get them. Druids can’t
cast Magic Weapon, either, so this is basically your only option.
This is especially appealing for the Circle of Spores druid. It synergizes well with Polearm Master, and with a 1-hour duration you can afford to upcast the spell and drag one casting through multiple encounters (assuming that you can maintain Concentration, which may be difficult).
- EEPC / XGtE: This is probably the closest the Druid gets to fireball. But it deals 2/3 as much damage and has a quarter the surface area, so it’s clearly for a different purpose: You’re using this spell for the difficult terrain. The damage is enough that you won’t regret casting it instead of a cantrip, and even at higher levels it’s a great way to place some difficult terrain. The difficult terrain effect is nearly permanent, so if you have time you can use this to set up ambushes and choke points which can define encounters against anything that can’t fly.
- PHB: Very situational.
- EEPC / XGtE: This is a waste of a spell slot. It amounts to at most 12d6 damage, which is a tragic waste of a 3rd-level spell slot. If you somehow manage to hit one target with all 12 arrows, you’ll do more damage than Fireball. But you have to somehow hit with a bunch of arrows or pass them off to someone who will, and following the typical attack vs. AC progression means that a player will hit something like 65% of the time, which means you’re getting 65% of the maximum damage, so something like 7d6. At that point, Erupting Earth is better.
- PHB: Very situational.
- PHB: Situational. Outside of normal adventuring activities, the ability to
enrich land to double crop yields is very useful. But DnD is a game
primarily about adventuring, and the option to make an area of plants
overgrown is the more important option for most adventurers. In most cases,
Entangle will work fine if you just need to slow your enemies down, but
Plant Growth doesn’t expire, so those plants remain difficult to walk
through until someone clears the plants (which may requires hours of
chopping and/or burning). The spell also doesn’t specify that the plants
grow along the ground or surfaces, so RAW it can create a sphere of plants,
creating super-difficult terrain extending 100 feet into the air,
potentially engulfing flying enemies.
The math on Plant Growth’s speed reduction is impressive. Since most creatures have a speed of around 30 feet, moving at 1/4 speed means that they can move one 5-foot square and be left with 10 feet of movement that won’t get them anywhere (unless they dash or something). Jeremy Crawford has clarified that Plant Growth doesn’t create difficult terrain, so it’s possible that difficult terrain would stack with Plant Growth, but I personally think that’s not how it’s intended to work. Plant Growth specifies that “a creature moving through the area must spend 4 feet of movement for every 1 foot” while the difficult terrain rule specifies that “moving 1 foot in difficult terrain costs 2 feet of speed”, and since those two statements conflict I think you’re intended to use whichever effect is greater rather than stacking them or multiplying them or something.
While it’s not discussed in the text of the spell, it seems likely that Plant Growth would also impede vision. If you turn a nicely-tended hedge into a 100-foot-radius hemisphere of super-difficult terrain, there’s clearly enough stuff in the way that seeing through it is difficult. This would necessarily mean that creatures inside the area would likely be concealed to some degree, so don’t expect to drop Plant Growth on and enemy and then spend the next several turns spraying them with cantrips until they fall down.
Plant Growth’s problematic limitation is that it requires plants to be in the area. However, there doesn’t seem to be any restriction on how many or how large these plants must be (just that they must be “normal”, whatever that means), and where there’s lack of clarity there’s room for shenanigans. For example: you might carry around a potted plant and throw it into the area to provide the necessary plant life to support the spell. Plants like mint or clover can fit into a small pot, and when you make them grow you get a pretty and pleasant-smelling field of super-difficult terrain. If your DM scoffs at the idea of 100-foot-tall clover patches, consider carrying a bonsai tree or some other plant which would normally be very tall (though a bonsai might not qualify as “normal” since we don’t know what that word means here).
- PHB: An excellent defensive option, but you may be doing alright with Absorb Elements.
- PHB (Optional): Everyone who is capable of casting this should keep it handy. It’s simply too good to forgo.
- PHB: This spells is challenging. The area of effect is excellent, and
combining difficult terrain, possibly falling Prone, and making the area
heavily obscured make it difficult for creatures to act effectively while in
the area and if they’re near the center it’s difficult for them to escape.
On top of that, spellcasters will have trouble maintain Concentration while
making repeated checks against high DC every turn.
However, beyond inconveniencing creatures within the area, this doesn’t get you much. You can’t see into the area to target creatures within the are with others spells since spells typically require line of sight, and Heavily Obscured blocks line of sight (though some spells, like fireball, don’t require you to be able to see), so unless you have an ally who dropped an ongoing damage effect within the area the best you can do is wait or run away. At that point, Fog Cloud may be just as effective.
- PHB: Situational.
- TCoE (Optional): The summon
options do little to improve upon Summon Beast.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- EEPC / XGtE: Being knocked prone typically isn’t a problem in 5e because standing costs so little. However, being knocked prone while flying causes you to fall, potentially taking a bunch of damage. This spell notably doesn’t require that it be cast on the ground or on top of a body of water. You could cast this in mid-air, or even wholly underwater. Using it mid-air seems like a good way to counter multiple flying enemies. However, hitting more than two enemies with a line effect (even one that’s wide like Tidal Wave) can be very difficult, so it’s rare that you’ll hit more than two targets with this.
- EEPC / XGtE: Warding Wind also causes Disadvantage for ranged attacks and it’s both a level lower and it follows you.
- PHB: Situational, but crucial when you need it.
- PHB: Usually flight is a better option than walking across a liquid.
- PHB: Extremely situational.
- PHB: Not enough damage for a spell slot this level, and Constitution saves tend to be high.
- XGtE: A great nonlethal way to deal with enemies. It doesn’t require that the target be able to understand you, but otherwise has the same complications which Charm Person does: the target is only friendly toward you, and when the spell ends they know that they were charmed.
- PHB: I’ve hated Confusion since 3rd edition. It’s unpredictable, unreliable, and makes combat take twice as long as it would normally. It’s great that it’s an AOE, and you might be able to make creatures attack their allies, but there are too many points of failure for it to be a reliable option.
- PHB: The same CR range as Conjure Animals, but a spell level higher. You could
argue that elementals might be more useful than animals since elementals can
often do things like move through solid stone or light things on fire, but
you’re still totally beholden to the DM’s whims. You might need an earth
elemental and get a magmin or something. The spell isn’t limited to vanilla
elementals; any creature of the Elemental creature type qualifies.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- PHB: The same CR range as Conjure Animals, but a spell level higher. Fey are
interesting creatures with a wide range of capabilities, so your DM is free
to give you any number of options which may be either perfectly suited to
the situation or totally useless.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- PHB: All of the effects are situational, and there are some weird edge cases like using the Flood option on a puddle or a full bucket where it’s unclear what happens when the water overflows its container.
- PHB (Optional): 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.
- PHB: Beasts tend to have poor Wisdom saves, and there is rarely a better way to handle a potentially hostile creature than by dominating it. This spell can trivialize an entire creature type, which is impressive for a spell at this level, and the scaling is good enough that using a higher-level spell slot is appealing if you encounter a sufficiently powerful beast that you could reasonably drag it through a few encounters. Even if the spell ends prematurely, beasts aren’t especially smart and they might view the creatures which you were forcing them to fight as enemies and continue fighting them, or they might simply flee if they are injured. Beasts rarely fight to their last hit point unless they’re defending their young or something. They’re animals, not zealots.
- EEPC / XGtE: Druids depend heavily on damage types covered by Elemental Bane, especially fire damage, but devoting your Concentration to this means that you can’t concentrate on many of the Druid’s best spells. Note that the extra damage is per turn, so if your allies can deal the same type of damage you can pile up a lot of damage very quickly. Unfortunately, the save is Constitution-based and Constitution saves tend to be high.
- PHB (Optional): An excellent defensive option for Circle of Spores and Circle of the Moon, Fire Shield has a 10-minute duration but doesn’t require Concentration, so enemies will think twice about taking advantage of your terrible AC.
- PHB: Nice, but situational.
- PHB: This spell is really good, but I still hate it because the best way to
use the spell is to keep a bunch of bugs in jars to use with the spell so
that you’re not dependent on whatever bugs happen to be within 30 ft. of
you, and I just can’t bring myself to write “I have jars full of bugs” on a
character sheet. But if you’re not me, and you don’t mind the mere concept
of willingly interacting with bugs, this spell is good. In practice it’s
very simiilar to Conjure Animals, but you can choose the creature you want
by targeting an appropriate bug.
Spiders are good for crowd control, scorpions have blindsight, wasps are good for flying enemies, and centipedes are numerous enough to block big sections of a battlefield, and their damage is as good as the giant wasps’ so if you don’t need flight they’re a great way to bog down enemies with no AOE options. Also: Spiders aren’t instects. They could have called this spell “Vermin Growth” or “Giant Vermin”, but I think 5e is trying to get away from the word “Vermin”, which was a creature type in previous editions.
- PHB: This is not nearly good enough for such a high-level spell, and requiring Concentration and monopolizing your bonus action makes it nearly useless. Your best bet is to combine it with something that produces difficult terrain like Erupting Earth to keep a creature stuck inside a 30-foot radius, but there are simply too many failure points to make this even remotely reliable. Without the ability to produce useful combos, this is a weak and unreliable crowd control effect. If this was a 1st-level spell, I think I would still prefer Entangle. Granted, Entangle is really good, but the fact that Grasping Vine is 4th-level and worse than Entangle really highlights just how weak it is. If you’re desperate to use this, try attaching it to a ceiling and pulling creatures off the ground and then dropping them.
- XGtE: This is a challenging spell. The benefits are great, but the duration is
short and the spell’s effectiveness depends heavily on how you’re built.
Primal Beast is clearly intended to be the scary offensive form, but a druid
making Strength-based melee attacks is either a poorly built druid or
they’re using Wild Shape.
Great Tree is usually the better option: advantage on Dexterity- and Wisdom-based attacks covers important options like daggers, but also covers anything you can use with Shillelagh. The temporary hit points will help compensate for your poor AC, and the area of difficult terrain will help you keep enemies in convenient melee range.
Circle of the Moon druids can get some use out of Primal Beast, but it has a Bonus Action casting time and a 1-minute duration, so until you get Beast Spells at 18th level it’s hard to get both effects going at the same time and you have at most 9 rounds to actually use the effects. Circle of the Moon can choose to Wild Shape as either an Action or a Bonus Action so you can start both effects in the turn, but you won’t be able to do much else in that turn. During the remaining 9 rounds you’ll be very effective, but it’s still only 9 rounds.
- PHB: Situational.
- PHB: This spell is terrible. Two types of dice for no readily apparent reason. Two types of damage, which makes sense but is still annoying. Compare thisis to Erupting Earth: ice Storm’s AOE is much bigger (20 ft. cube vs. 20 ft. radius cylindar), but it does an average of just 3 more damage, and the difficult terrain only lasts until the end of your next turn so it’s nearly pointless. This simply isn’t good enough to justify being a spell level higher than Erupting Earth.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: Fantastic and versatile, but also very complicated. See my Practical Guide to Polymorph for detailed advice on how to get the most out of Polymorph.
- PHB: Where Transmute Rock is a gigantic sledge hammer, Stone Shape is a scalpel. You’re able to finely shape relatively small quantities of stone nearly however you choose, and a 5-ft. cube of stone is enough to get quite a lot done. However, the wording is itentionally limiting: Everything you do with a specific casting must occur within a 5-ft. cube; you don’t just get a 5-ft. cube worth of stone with which to perform shenanigans.
- PHB: Expensive, but really good. Barkskin is Stoneskin’s only competition, and resistance to weapon damage types will be more effective than 16 AC.
- TCoE (Optional): Summon Beast
is better offensively both in and out of the water. The best use case for
Summon Elemental is to summon an earth elemental if you need a Defender that
can withstand melee attacks.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- PHB: An absolutely fantastic area control option.
- EEPC / XGtE: If you just want to restrain creatures, cast Entangle. The primary appeal here is the ability to restrain the target, then drag them around for the spell’s duration.
- PHB: Helpful against melee enemies with short reach, which includes a large portion of the Monster Manual even at high levels.
- PHB: Neat, but extremely situational.
- PHB: 3 miles isn’t an especially large range, but since this a ritual you can cast this repeatedly as you travel. You might get some useful information, but your DM (and your party) might get sick of sitting around waiting for you to perform the ritual every time you travel 6 miles. You might be able to get away with performing this from the back of a wagon or something, which would let you cast it repeatedly without slowing things down.
- PHB (Optional): Solid instantaneous damage with a big cone.
- PHB: While you get to choose the type of elemental summoned, you don’t get to
pick the CR, so your DM is totally allowed to screw you and make you summon
a single steam mephit or something else incredibly low-CR. Don’t use this
unless you sincerely believe that your DM will give you something worth the
spell slot. Also, be very careful to maintain Concentration for the duration
of the spell. Losing control of your summoned elemental could be a serious
problem if things are already going badly for you.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- PHB: 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.
- EEPC / XGtE: A downdraft is a great way to deal with groups of flying enemies since falling prone while flying causes the target to fall. But there are other options like Earthbind which can also handle flying enemies with a much lower-level spell slot, though admittedly Earthbind only affects one target and they won’t take falling damage.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: A crucial healing option; someone needs to have this in every party.
- PHB: Combining both ongoing damage and difficult terrain, Insect Plague is a good area control option, further improved because you can place it in the air or underwater, rather than on the ground. However, the radius isn’t big enough to prevent a creature from escaping if its willing to spend its Action to Dash, so look for other ways to force the creature to stay inside the sphere like shoving, tripping, or casting Wall of Stone.
- EEPC / XGtE: A great area control effect. The damage isn’t much, but it covers a 30-foot radius circle in difficult terrain, so creatures at the center of the square with 30-foot speed need to Dash just to reach the edge of the effect. If you can force creatures to stay in the area somehow (knock them prone, push/pull them, restrain them, etc.), you can get a lot of damage out of one spell slot.
- PHB: You never want this to be a good option. It’s your best bet when you need to revive a dying ally that you can’t reach, but even then Healing Word is typically sufficient.
- PHB: Situational and very difficult to use. Druids can’t cast Magic Circle, so
you need to ask a friend for help or stumble across one in the wild. You
also don’t get high-level summoning options like Gate, so the best things
you can bind are Fey and Elementals summoned via Conjure Elemental and
Conjure Fey. Plus, there’s the 1,000gp consumable material component.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- PHB: Back in 3.0, the Reincarnate list was much weirded. You could reincarnate people as badgers. 5e’s version is exclusively options from the PHB, which is much more useful but way less fun. This is a good option if your party can’t get Raise Dead for some reason, but keep in mind that changing races will probably wreck the target’s build.
- PHB: In previous editions druids could use any still pool of water for Scrying, and as much as I miss that bit of flavor it was a bit unfair. Scrying is a spectacularly powerful option, and if you know enough about major chracters you can use to repeatedly spy on them to learn things which you might otherwise be totally unable to learn.
- FToD: A sturdy, flying summon with several damage resistances, the draconic spirit can find invisible foes, serve as a flying mount (though it’s intelligent, so don’t go riding it into melee), and its attacks are good enough to do quite a bit of damage. Overall, it’s a solid, versatile summoning option, though it might not be as lethal as similar spells.
- EEPC / XGtE: In previous editions, this was two spells, and if you were quick you could transmute mud to rock, then back into rock once enemies had sunken into it. Now that combination is specifically prohibited, but transmuting rock to mud is still a decent combiantion. Adventuring frequently takes you to places with stone flopors and ceilings like caves and castles, and even if you don’t use this to restrain enemies, you can use it for things like walking through walls, collapsing structures, or generally just ruining anything made of stone. It affects a 40-foot cube, which is enough to do a horrifuingly large amount of structural damage.
- PHB: In a forest this can be a helpful way to quickly travel short distances, but It’s not nearly as effective for short distances as Misty Step, it’s not good for long distances (you can go about a mile total if all the trees line up perfectly and you run a little bit during your turns), and you’re totally limited by the position and species of trees.
- PHB: Wall of Stone useful defensively for creating instant cover, and you can use it to segment off portions of a fight to isolate enemies from their allies, or to put a barrier between your allies and problematic enemies. The ability to make the effect permanent also means that with repeated castings you’re able to build structures with it, provided that you can meet the “merge with and be solidly supported by existing stone” requirement.
- XGtE: This would be a great spell if you could guarantee that you were in an area with trees, grass, and loose stones every time you fought something. But you can’t do that, and forests are a relatively small portion of most worlds’ environments.
- EEPC / XGtE: If you’re inside somewhere with a low enough ceiling that you can pin enemies against the ceiling, this is great. Otherwise it’s borderline useless.
- PHB: Fey are powerful creatures with a wide variety of abilities, but remember
that the DM selects which creature you summon, so you can’t guarantee that
you will summon something useful. You don’t even get to pick the CR, so your
DM is totally allowed to screw you and make you summon a single frog. Don’t
use this unless you sincerely believe that your DM will give you something
worth the spell slot. Also, be very careful to maintain Concentration for
the duration of the spell. Losing control of your summoned fey could be a
serious problem if things are already going badly for you.
For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.
- XGtE: Not the sort of spell you cast often while adventuring, but the fact that you can make it permanent makes it a really cool spell to cast when you retire from adventuring.
- PHB: Situational, and often difficult to use, but still very interesting. The hardest part of using the spell is finding an object from the place you want to go. Once you’ve solved that problem, Find the Path merely gives you directions. It doesn’t avoid hazards and it doesn’t point out traps, so be wary of traps and ambushes along the way.
- PHB (Optional): Single-target save-or suck, but they get multiple saves and Constitution saves tend to be high so you can’t count on this to work reliably. Even if the target does succumb to the spell, it takes at least three rounds.
- PHB: One of the best healing options in the game, especially during combat.
- PHB: The duration is instantaneous, but the effects of eating the feast last 24 hours, and that’s definitely not confusing. Jokes aside, you should cast this spell every day. Poison and fear are common nuisances, and advantage on all Wisdom saving throws is spectacular. On top of those already amazing benefits, 2d10 extra hit points is a small but still helpful boost to your party’s durability (and it stacks with Aid!). Note that these extra hit points aren’t temporary hit points, so you can still add temporary hit points on top of your boosted hit point maximum. The only drawback is the 1,000gp cost to cast the spell.
- EEPC / XGtE: A solid offensive option, the damage for being adjacent to you is easy to apply if you’re grappling (easily accomplished by many Wild Shape forms) or to use to encourage enemies to run away and potentially draw opportunity attakcs, and using Wild Shape doesn’t end the effect so you’re free to turn yourself into a flaming owl, fly into position to use the line of fire effect, then fly to safety.
- EEPC / XGtE: Largely similar to Investiture of Flame, but you trade ongoing fire damage for an area of difficult terrain around you. You also trade Investiture of Fire’s line for a cone of the same length, but in exchange for the broader AOE you lose a little bit of damage.
- EEPC / XGtE: The earthquake effect is mostly useless, but the other effects are fantastic. Resistance to weapon damage types is fantastic for a class with notoriously low AC and only d8 hit points. Circle of the Moon druids will find it especially useful since the effect continues while in Wild Shape, allowing you to remain in Wild Shape longer before running out of hit points. The difficult terrain point may not seem especially useful, but until this level the majority of the Druid’s spells which create difficult terrain do so by scattering rubble which this spell conveniently allows you to ignore.
- EEPC / XGtE: A 60 foot fly speed is considerable, and disadvantage on ranged weapon attacks against you means that the only easy way to hit you is with spells or something. Of the investiture spells, this is easily the best option for Circle of the Land Druids who generally can’t risk being close enough to use Investiture of Flame/Ice offensively (except possibly while flying around as a fire/ice breathing owl), and who need to avoid being attacked too much to use Investiture of Stone.
- PHB: Extremely situational, but by this level you might have a permanent base of some sort, and the ability to reform the terrain in an area that you frequent can be very helpful. Flatten arable land for farms, roads, and buildings. Dig trenches for irrigation as a moat. Redirect the flow of rivers, or reshape lakes and ponds. Create safe harbors by lowering land adjacent to water enough that ships can sail in. Combined with Stone Shape, Wall of Stone, and some naturally occurring local stone you have everything you need to build yourself a castle.
- EEPC / XGtE: In most cases, Protection from Energy is sufficient because most creatures can only dish out one type of non-weapon damage. However, if you’re facing a spellcaster or something horrifying like Tiamat, you’ll want to cover all the bases. This spell notably omits resistance to Necrotic, Psychic, and Radiant damage, which is a crucial vulnerability to understand before depending on Primordial ward, and it’s also a great data point when explaining how useful it is to be able to deal those damage types.
- PHB: An efficient use of a spell slot, giving you the equivalent of Lightning Bolt every turn. The blinding effect is great, too, but Constitution saves tend to be high, so think of it more like an added bonus on top of the damage rather than as a core component of the spell.
- PHB: The duration is only one round, but “any creature” means that you can queue up a small horde of creatures and charge them through into the entrance plant by having them all run into the center then run away from the exit in the space of a single round. The spell doesn’t specify that creatures must exit into an unoccupied space, which opens up further room for abuse. You can feed as many creatures through the plant as you can physically squeeze through, so it’s basically a magical clown car tree gate thing. Oh, and it goes to any sufficiently large plant on the same plane of existence, so you can transport between planets (provided that there are suitable destinations in your setting) or to less far-off places like the Underdark, provided that you’ve been there once before and have seen/touched a suitable destination plant.
- PHB: Casting Wall of Fire at a 6th-level spell will do almost as much damage, and Wall of Fire affect creatures within 10 ft. of the wall so it’s much easier to apply the damage. However, fire damage is commonly resisted and aside from the damage there is little preventing enemies from moving through a Wall of Fire. Wall of Thorns’ damage will be less commonly resisted, it blocks line of sight, and moving through it costs 4 times as much movement as normal. If you add difficult terrain with something like Erupting Earth, it’s profoundly difficult to get out of or through the wall, and if you can push or pull enemies into the wall somehow they’ll have a lot of trouble getting out of it.
- PHB: Transport Via Plants is your go-to travel option, but if you’re scouting an area from the air or if there are no suitable plants, a 300 ft. fly speed is a great way to do it. That’s 10 times as fast as most players can walk, so you can cover huge distances in the spell’s 8-hour duration.
- FToD: Blindsight, flight, and a breath weapon that you get to use both immediately and as a Bonus Action on following turns. The breath weapon’s damage is as good as Fireball, so you’re getting as much damage as a 3rd-level fireball as a Bonus Action every turn. The only problem is that you want to use this early in a fight where an area control spell or crowd control spell would be more immediately impactful. Your best bet is to cast this right before combat starts or on a turn when you were already going to cast a cantrip.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: This is a difficult spell. The affectable area is huge, the distance is Sight (go climb a mountain on a clear day), and the effects of the illusion are tangible enough that you can physically interact with them, including picking up sticks or stones. But it’s unclear how far that goes: Can you burn the illusory wood to keep yourself warm? Can you smooth over difficult terrain in the same way that you can make smooth terrain difficult? Could you place stairs in the side of a clear cliff face? How far up and down does the effect stretch? The closest we have is these two tweets which indicate that you have a lot of leeway, and that the effects are real enough that a creature could drown in illusory water, brun in illusory lava, and climb illusory trees. Your DM will be the abiter of exactly what you can get away with, but the spell itself is a wildly versatile toolbox.
- PHB: Combination travel/banishment in one spell. You can easily replicate teleportation by casting Plane Shift twice to get where you want to be on the same plane. You can also banish a creature to a plane where they’ll be really unhappy, like a living creature banished to the plane of fire, or a demon banished to Celestia. The spell requires a Charisma save to resist, and many monsters have terrible Charisma saves because they’re horrifying monstrosities.
- PHB: Too situational to select as a spellcaster with a limited number of spells known. DnD doesn’t have injury rules which lead to limb removal except in very specific circumstances, so it’s not like characters are losing fingers and toes despite spending potentially years being sliced and diced by all manny of oponents.
- PHB: If used under the right circumstances, this spell is a death sentence for many creatures. If affected creatures can’t grab onto something, they don’t get a save. If they can’t fly and can’t fight at range, they’re floating targets for up to a minute. If you’re facing creatures of larger size than your party members, you can place the cylindar slightly off the ground, dragging tall enemies into the air while your allies duck below the bottom of the cylindar.
- PHB: While many of the effects are wonderful, the inability to move the symbol and the high casting cost are prohibitive.
- EEPC / XGtE: Casting this spell is a commitment: enemies won’t just walk into the whirlwind, so you’ll need to spend your Action every turn to move it. Hopefully you’re in close enough quarters that you’ll be able to hit multiple enemies each turn, but they’ll probably figure out that a 30-foot tall tornado isn’t something which they want to stand by. Once you have a creature in the whirlwind, the victim is making ability checks to get out rather than a saving throw or a skill check, so even creatures with high Strength or Dexterity may need several attempts to escape. And even when they do escape, they’re hurled between 30 and 180 feet in a random direction. Unfortunately it looks like hitting objects won’t hurt them (though they may take some falling damage), but you can always go pick them up again on your own turn if they’re close enough.
- PHB: Essentially a worse version of Mass Polymorph, the size, creature type,
and CR limitations gives you few good options. The current published
highest-CR beast (excluding creatures published in adventures, which generally aren’t available outside of those adventures) of Large or smaller size is the Giant Scorpion at CR 3,
which isn’t a great option for combat at this level. You could use this for
scouting by turning into something like rats or spiders, but if you just
want to fly around quickly Wind Walk is better.
If you do choose to take Animal Shapes into combat, remember that you can spend an Action to change the forms of the targets, and every time targets assume a new form they start at full hp for that form. By changing forms every turn, you can keep your allies’ hit points high and weather huge amounts of damage at little cost. This won’t make attacks in a low-CR form effective, but if you can turn a bunch of weak allies (trained animals, NPCs, familiars, etc.) into beasts, you can turn them into a powerful defensive from line while your other allies do the real fighting.
- PHB: Difficult to use because it targets a single type of creature, but if you’re facing a homogenous group of enemies you can greatly hinder them with either option. Even against single creatures, using Sympathy to force an enemy to approach one of your party members (sympathy on a paladin to attract a lich) can force enemies into a situation which will end in their death.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: Unless you’re specificlally trying to destroy buildings, this spell is too subject to the DM’s whims to be reliable. The fissues are the only part of the spell which can reliably harm enemies who aren’t inside a collapsing building, and you have no control over where they appear.
- PHB: Wisdom-based and Charisma-based casters are extremely vulnerable to
Feeblemind. Even creatures who cast spells as a supplement to their other
abilities can be seriously inhibited by suddenly being less intelligent than
Beyond limited spellcasting, I’ve always found this spell difficult to manage for other enemies. 1 Intelligence and 1 Charisma is obviously very poor, but what is the victim capable of? If they’re a cleric, can they still cast spells? What are they smart enough to do in combat? There’s a lot of room for the DM to interpret how this works and which abilities creatures can still use. While that could be fun and very effective, it also makes the spell’s effect totally dependent on the DM and their interpretation of what an affected creature is mentally capable of doing.
- PHB (Optional): Basically Cloudkill with a bunch of improvements. The damage is fully doubled, the damage type is improved (though fire is still one of the most commonly resisted damage types), and Dexterity saves are more effective than Consitution saves. The damage roughly matches a Fireball cast at the same level (avg. 45 vs. avg. 45.5 for Fireball), and the damage applies every round for the full 1-minute duration. However, it still retains some of Cloudkills biggest issues. First, the damage applies when the spell is cast but only re-applies to creatures inside the effect when they end their turn inside the cloud. With a 20-foot radius, most creatures can easily walk out of the cloud. The spell is also forced to move 10 feet every round, and the text explaining how that works is absolutely nonsensical. RAW you get to choose the direction, but you only get to choose that it moves directly away from you. Fortunately, Jeremy Crawford clarified that you choose its heading, so you’re free to make the cloud slowly roll back and forth in the same small area if you choose to do so.
- PHB: Imagine fireball with three times the radius and it blinds the targets. The targets get a Constitution save every turn to remove the blindness so you can’t expect it to stay in effect for long, but the save is at the end of their turns so they’ll spend at least one turn blinded if they fail the initial save, and that may be enough to determine the outcome of the encounter.
- PHB: Push everything you’re fighting away from you at 50 ft. per round, and prevent them from escaping unless they make Strength (Athletics) checks. The creatures aren’t restrained or anything so they can still use ranged weapons and cast spells, but then again you’re also free to shoot at them as they’re carried off, and you’re not holding your breath. If you have allies who can throw up area control effects like Wall of Fire or Blade Barrier, you can use this to force enemies through those effects.
- PHB: This is, without a doubt, the best buff in the game. With an 8-hour duration you can throw it on the lucky recipient and watch them laugh their way through nearly any challenge for a full day worth of adventuring.
- PHB: The best polymorph spell for targeting yourself. The ability to change
forms while still under the effects of a single casting makes you
fantastically versatile, allowing you to change forms to suit the situation
at a moment’s notice. However, it takes an action to change forms so you
want to avoid doing so in combat. Generally you should have a few go-to
combat forms, but avoid any creature that has spellcasting in its stat
block, as losing the creature’s spellcasting will typically reduce the
creature’s CR considerably. If you’re ever unsure what to pick, pick a
dragon. It’s hard to go wrong with a high-CR dragon.
For more, see our Practical Guide to True Polymorph and Shapechange.
- PHB: For a 9th-level spell with a cool name and an exciting description, this spell is terrible. The effects replace each other every round rather than adding on top of each other, so you need to consider each effect individually. The only meaningful damage is the lightning bolts in round 3, and notably that’s also the only damage which affects objects. I can’t guess why hailstones large enough to deal as much damage as a greatsword somehow can’t affect objects, but I suppose 2d6 damage to a castle for one round isn’t going to do more than annoy some masons. The wind and cold damage from rounds 5 through 10 are the bulk of the spell’s effect, but the damage is pitiful and you can get the wind effect from other spells. The only case I can think of where this spell is useful is if you want to murder a small community of peasants in ramshackle houses at incredible distance.
- PHB: The Druid’s first and only conventional way to raise the dead. Previously your best option was Reincarnate, which was fine but unpredictable. Ideally you want to rely on the lowest-level available option for raising the dead because the material components are so expensive, but the Druid doesn’t get much choice. If you don’t want your friend coming back as a different race, you’ll need to drop 25,000gp to do it or find a cleric.