DnD 5e - Fighter Spell List Breakdown
Last Updated: March 31st, 2021
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.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
- : Good options.
- : 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 are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
This section applies almost exclusively to Eldritch Knights. Other fighters who take Magic Initiate may also find this section beneficial. Because Eldritch Knights are mostly limited to abjuration and evocation spells, I'll focus on those spells here, but I will address some notable options for the total of 4 spells which you can learn that go beyond the school limitation.
It may be helpful to see my Wizard Spell List Breakdown for advice on spells which go beyond this limitation. Also remember that your cantrips are not limited to Abjuration/Evocation.
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.
- PHB: Once you get War Magic, this will probably supplant Dodge when you need to minimize the damage you take between turns. Cast Blade Ward, then swing a weapon as a bonus action.
- SCAG / TCoE (Optional): If you can use War Magic with either Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade and trigger the bonus damage, you will consistently deal more damage than attacking normally. Booming Blade has the added benefit of providing extra reasons for enemies to not move away from you, which is sorely needed in 5e because opportunity attacks are usually not a serious deterrent. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.
Note that Tasha's Cauldron of Everything published an updated version of Booming Blade.
- XGtE: The damage won't match Booming Blade, but combining War Magic, Eldritch Strike, and Frostbite creates a sustainable offensive combo. Hit the target with Frostbite to impose disadvantage on its first weapon attack the following round, then hit it with a weapon attack as a bonus action so it gets Disadvantage on its save against the first spell you cast on it next turn. Repeat. Of course, Blade Ward will have a similar effect, and doesn't have nearly so many points of failure.
- SCAG / TCoE (Optional): Booming Blade is more useful for the Eldritch Knight's role as a front-line tank, and you only get a total of 3 cantrips over your entire career, so it's hard to justify taking both. The ability to damage two enemies with one attack is really enticing, but if you need that functionality you can either attack twice or use War Magic and hit the second target as a Bonus Action.
Note that Tasha's Cauldron of Everything published an updated version of Green-Flame Blade.
- SCAG / TCoE (Optional): Despite the 15-foot range, this can be a great option for melee Eldritch Knights. Against enemies with poor Strength (like many enemy spellcasters), you can use this to drag them into melee with you and force them to teleport or Disengage in order to get away from you unharmed. If you're flying, you may even be able to pull enemies into the air to cause a small amount of falling damage. Since it only has Verbal components, you can easily use this without juggling your weapon. The save is Strength, so unfortunately with your relatively poor save DC you'll only be successful with this against physically weak foes.
- SCAG / TCoE (Optional): Eldritch Knights are typically in melee, and Sword Burst is 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.
- XGtE: 60 ft. range, the damage is measured in d12's, and since it's necrotic damage almost nothing will resist it. Unfortunately, you'll still deal more average damage with a weapon in most cases, especially since your Intelligence won't match your Strength or Dexterity.
- XGtE: You get spellcasting later and slower than anyone else, so you have very few options for protecting yourself from non-weapon damage. This will handle that issue, but it will eat your spell slots quickly so be sure to eliminate the source of the elemental damage as quickly as possible so that you don't run through your spell slots too quickly.
- PHB: A great way to handle crowds of enemies, and the damage is good for a 1st-level spell if you can for multiple foes in the AOE.
- 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: If you're Dexterity-based, this is the only way to match the base AC provided by plate armor. The 8-hour duration is especially nice since you get so few spell slots to throw around.
- PHB: A great option at long range, and reliable damage, but at high levels the damage won't be good enough to justify over using a weapon, so you may want to trade it for something else.
- PHB: Eldritch Knights get just one 1st-level spell outside of their normal school limitation, and Find Familiar is a great candidate. Get an owl and have it use Flyby and Help to give you Advantage before you try to hit an enemy with Booming Blade.
- PHB: A great defensive buff with a reasonably long duration. A great use of your extremely limited spell slots.
- PHB: A fantastic boost to your defenses. Nearly all the effect of the Defensive Duelist feat, and all it costs is a spell slot.
- 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.
- TCoE (Optional): A great spell, but your save DC likely isn't good enough to make it work.
- PHB: Your saving throws won't (and shouldn't) keep pace with a full caster, and pushing enemies away from you is rarely a good idea when your job is to get into melee and make them stay there.
- : The ongoing damage should be much less than what you can do with a weapon.
- XGtE: I've never been a fan of lines. It's too difficult to line up more than two creatures at a time, so you'll probably never hit more than two creatures unless you have a long hallway handy.
- PHB: One of the absolute best buffs you can put on a fighter, and you can cast it yourself. Advantage on Strength checks makes it easy for your to Shove and Grapple enemies, allowing you to keep them in place easily. Unfortunately the 1 Action casting time is annoying in combat, and with a 1 minute duration it's difficult to cast ahead of time. It's also outside of the school limitations.
- PHB: Having access to magic weapons is crucial, but this is a really hard way for you to get one. If anyone else in the party can cast Magic Weapon, don't learn it. The scaling is rough for the Eldritch Knight, and it's outside of the school limitations.
- EEPC: Keeping enemies in place so that you can beat them up is hard in 5e, and the Eldritch Knight doesn't have a lot of options to do it. Earthen Grasp is a great way to address the issue, and since it calls for a Strength saving throw it works really well on small nimble enemies and weak spellcasters, both of which are likely to look for ways to run away from you. Unfortunately this isn't within the Eldritch Knight's school limitations so you'll need to spend some of your very limited spells known that ignore the school limitations.
- PHB: A great spell all around. Eventually you'll want to trade it out once you get Arcane Charge, but that's not until 15th level.
- PHB: Without an on-hit damage bonus of some kind this is obsolete by the time you can cast it. If you need ranged damage, pull out a bow or throw a javelin.
- PHB: Outside your school limitation, but you don't have another way to handle invisible creatures.
- XGtE: Compared to a rapier, the Shadow Blade adds 1d8 damage per attack, it changes to psychic damage (which is resisted by very few creatures), it adds the Thrown property for some reason, and since it gives you Advantage to attack creatures in dim light or darkness it will offset Disadvantage for attacking creatures when it's too dark for you to see. Unfortunately it's an Illusion spell so learning it consumes one of your limited spells known that ignore the school limitations.
It's not clear yet if the Shadow Blade qualifies to use with Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade, but Jeremery Crawford has indicated that he would allow Shadow Blade to work with Booming Blade. That's not technically a rules answer, but it may be the closest that we get.
- PHB: Decent damage with a good AOE and thunder damage. Aside from your relatively poor save DC, this is a solid offensive option.
- XGtE: Shatter but with less damage and worse damage type.
- XGtE: A moving sphere of difficult terrain centered on you. This makes it easy for you to keep enemies close, and the 10-minute duration can get you through multiple fights.
- PHB: Counterspell is incredibly powerful, but it's a really hard choice for the Eldritch Knight. You need to focus on your physical ability scores over Intelligence, and you don't have the high-level spell slots to guarantee that you can successfully counter spells. You can still try it and hope to roll well on your Intelligence check, but I would never count on this as a reliable option so it's likely not worth one of your limited spells known.
- PHB: If your party doesn't someone else who can cast Dispel Magic by the time it's an option for you, you're probably all dead.
- PHB: At 8d6 damage, Fireball will likely exceed the amount of damage you can do to a single creature until you get four attacks at 20th level. Sure, your save DC will be relatively low, and enemies are likely to pass the save, but if you hit two or more creatures it's almost always going to do more damage than weapon attacks, and the more creatures you can hit in the sizable AOE, the more damage you'll do.
- XGtE: Tempting for a fighter to boost your damage output, but it's not good enough to consume one of your few spells known that go beyond your school limitations.
- PHB: Flight is a defining tactical advantage over creatures who can't fly, especially if those creatures don't have effective ranged options. Even though this is beyond the Eldritch Knight's school limitations it's a must-have option. If you don't have easy access to flight by other means (an allied spellcaster, an item, a flying mount, etc.), you need this.
- PHB: An excellent buff at any level, but it's outside your school limitations and it's available to many other spellcasters so you may be able to get it from an ally when you really need it.
- TCoE: Technically situational, but an absolutely spectacular defense against enemies which rely on spells or common effects like charm and fear effects. Unlike racial traits like the Gnome's Cunning or the Satyr and Yuan-Ti Pureblood's Magic Resistance, this applies to all Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws, providing broad and effective protection against many of the most dangeorus save-or-suck effects in the game. You also get resistance to psychic damage, which is nice if you're fighting mind flayers, aboleths, or bards who enjoy Vicious Mockery. With a 1-hour duration, the Concentration requirement can be problematic, but it also means that you can carry this through multiple encounters at low cost, so in situations where you need this it's not going to eat all of your spell slots.
- PHB: Perhaps an odd choice for the Eldritch Knight, but Tiny Hut is a great place to rest, and if you have time to set it up it's a great defensive position.
- PHB: As much damage as fireball, but it's much harder to hit multiple creatures with a line.
- PHB: Excellent, but too situational to consume one your very few spells known.
- EEPC / XGtE: I love that you can use this to turn your bonus action into damage output, but with your poor save DC this deals too little damage to waste a 3rd-level spell slot.
- PHB: An excellent defensive option, but you may be doing alright with Absorb Elements.
- TCoE: Outside your school limitations. A 1-minute combat buff which adds 1d8 damage and a 10 ft. speed reduction to each of your numerous attacks. Tempting on a Defender build, but Haste may be more impactful.
- XGtE: You can get most of the same function from Arcane Charge, which you get one level after you get your unrestricted spell known.
- EEPC / XGtE: Decent area control, and since it restricts movement you may be able to use to to keep enemies from fleeing.
- EEPC / XGtE: This makes it hard for you to to engage enemies. Wall of Sand is more useful.
- PHB: This is a fantastic spell, but your save DC probably isn't good enough for it to be reliable.
- PHB: One of the Fighter's primary roles is Defender. Your job is to stand in the front and get attacked by scary monsters. Throw up Fire Shield and enjoy a bunch of extra damage output for being in the right place and doing your job.
- PHB: Invisibility is an absolutely spectacular buff, but part of the Fighter's primary role in the party is to draw attention away from less durable allies. If you're invisible, you can't do that.
- 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: You get one 4th-level spell slot every day. Do you really want to spend it on a place to sleep?
- PHB: Single-target save-or-suck. Great, but your spell save DC is probably too low for it to reliable.
- PHB: With an hour-long duration, this is a great use of your single 4th-level spell slot. See my Practical Guide to Polymorph for more information.
- PHB: A decent buff, but at this level magic attacks are common.
- EEPC / XGtE: Decent area control, but your spell attack bonus probably isn't good enough to make the spell attacks reliable.
- PHB: Even if you save DC is poor, Wall of Fire is still a great area control option.
- EEPC / XGtE: Fireball will deal roughly the same initial damage, but the secondary damage might be enough to be appealing.
- EEPC / XGtE: Without a maxed out spell save DC this spell isn't reliable enough to waste your only 4th-level spell slot.
- XGtE: This spell is very easy to overlook. The effects are complicated, and the 4d10 damage looks underwhelming, but don't let that deter you. This is a great spell to cast into a room then shut the door, but even if that's not an option it's a fantastic way to handle crowds. With a 30-foot radius you can hit a huge number of targets, and with a 10-minute duration you can easily kill anything stuck in the area for an extended period. The 4d10 damage is fine, and negating invisibility is great, but the real appeal is the levels of Exhaustion. One level makes targets less able to resist grappling or other crowd control spells like Maximilian's Earthen Grasp or Web which your allies could cast to keep enemies in the area. Two levels halves targets' speed, making it harder for them to move out of the area. Three levels imposes Disadvantage on saves so their condition will deteriorate even faster. If targets somehow survive until 5 levels of exhaustion (they'll have taken 20d10 radiant damage by now, which is a lot), their speed drops to 0 so you no longer need to do anything to prevent escape. Just wait for them to hit 6 levels of Exhaustion, which results in death if a total of 24d10 radiant damage somehow hasn't killed them. Just be warned: this spell affects allies, too, and if the spell ends the levels of Exhaustion are removed instantly.