The Arcane tradition covers classes like the Magus, the Summoner, and the Wizard, as well as several subclasses of the Sorcerer and the Witch. Arcane spells include many of the best offensive options, but entirely omit healing and restorative options.

THIS ARTICLE CURRENTLY ONLY COVERS THE CORE RULEBOOK. I do this as a hobby, there are a ton of spells, and I’m trying to get through all four spell lists. If you want to see this article completed, please consider supporting RPGBOT on Patreon.

Players familiar with Pathfinder 1e should note that spell save DCs have changed since previous editions. Where in 1e your save DC included the level of the spell, in Pathfinder 2e your Spell Save DC is the same for any spell that you cast (though it gets complicated if you can cast spells from multiple traditions). If you cast a 1st-level spell one turn, then a 9th-level spell the next, they will have the same save DC. Because of this change, low-level spells can remain fantastically useful at high levels.


RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

Table of Contents


Cantrips are a go-to, perpetual source of magical options. Cantrips are always heightened to half your level rounded up, so they’ll match the level of the highest-level spells that you can cast. This scaling keeps Cantrips a reliable source of damage output at any level, though most spellcasters still want to rely on ranked spells when they suit the situation rather than counting on Cantrips as your only source of damage output. Because your number of Cantrips is limited, many spellcaster should try to split their options between damage and utility. A spellcaster whose only capability is damage is basically an archer with extra steps.

  • Acid SplashCRB: Against single targets, Produce Flame will always deal more damage (provided that resistances/immunity aren’t a problem). Against multiple enemies where splash damage would matter, Electric Arc will deal considerably more damage.
  • Chill TouchCRB: No more damage than than any other cantrip, and it’s only touch range.
  • Dancing LightsCRB: Great for lighting your way in dark dungeons, but as soon as combat breaks out you need to have other light sources. You don’t want to waste actions sustaining this in the middle of a fight.
  • DazeCRB: Poor damage and bad scaling. You’re gambling for critical failures to stun the target. Against single enemies that’s a bad gamble, and doing more damage to quickly eliminate the target is a better choice. Against larger numbers of low-level enemies, use area damage.
  • Detect MagicCRB: An essential for adventurers. Someone in every party needs to know this.
  • Electric ArcCRB: If you can hit two targets, this will easy outdo the damage of any other cantrip.
  • Ghost SoundCRB: A good way to create a distraction.
  • LightCRB: A staple utility. Often essential if no one has a free hand for a torch.
  • Mage HandCRB: Useful, but extremely limited since the text of the spell only allows it to carry and move unattended objects. RAW you can’t poke things, pull levers, knock objects over, etc.
  • MessageCRB: Only situationally useful.
  • PrestidigitationCRB: Neat, but not especially impactful. A great RP tool, but you can’t solve any serious mechanical challenges with it that couldn’t be solved my mundane means.
  • Produce FlameCRB: Good single-target damage and persistent damage on a crit. You can also use it as a melee attack, which is appealing for casters who occasionally step into melee because you can use one cantrip both in melee and at range, but if you’re worried about provoking Reactions you can use a spell that calls for a saving throw instead of one that requires an attack.
  • Ray of FrostCRB: Fine damage with excellent range. If you want a speed penalty, use Tanglefoot instead of gambling for a critical success.
  • Read AuraCRB: You can usually solve this with Detect Magic, which is more broadly useful.
  • ShieldCRB: One action for +1 AC and the potentialliy to block some damage as a Reaction. This is a great use for a spare 3rd action, and since it doesn’t care about your spellcasting stat it’s a great innate spell.
  • SigilCRB: Only situationally useful. The best use I’ve found for this is to identify imposters or to track objects that may have changed hands. Cast the mark invisibly on your allies and refresh it when it fades, then if there’s ever a question you can touch the mark to reveal it. If it’s there, you might be okay. If not, roll for initiative, because you’ve found an imposter.
  • TanglefootCRB: At 1st level, the speed penalty and the 1-round duration are not worth the Actions to cast the spell in the vast majority of cases. The duration improves over time, but I wouldn’t consider this a go-to spell until you get the 1-minute duration when you’re casting 4th-level spells.
  • Telekinetic ProjectileCRB: Good single-target damage with good scaling and you can choose from any of the physical damage types. Resistance to physical damage is common, so be sure to have another damage cantrip option.

1st-Level Spells

  • Burning HandsCRB: Compare 1d6 damage in a 15-foot cone to 1d4+mod damage to any two creatures within 30 ft. of you. With the expected +4 ability modifier, Electric Loop deals 1d4+4 (avg. 6.5) damage to two creatures. You can reasonably expect to hit two creatures with a 15-foot cone, and Burning Hands cast at 1st level deals 2d6 damage (avg. 7). The damage gap is negligible and the range gap is massive. The fact that you can even compare this to a cantrip should tell you why this spell is bad.
  • CharmCRB: Against a solitary target, this is close to a save-or-suck, and unless the target critically succeeds on the save you may be able to cast Charm again if the first attempt fails. There is no limitation on creature type as there was in Pathfinder 1e, so this spell can be useful almost constantly. Consider expanding your language options so that you can talk to your new friends, and consider investing in Diplomacy so that you can permanently improve the target’s attitude toward you.
  • Color SprayCRB: Useful early in a fight, but if you can’t get the Dazzled/Blinded effects into play early you’re not benefiting much from the spell.
  • CommandCRB: A simple crowd-control spell with a few options. Commanding creatures to run away or drop what they’re holding is often the best option because it can force an enemy to disarm themselves or to run out of melee (potentially provoking Reactions), and the creature must then spend Actions to address how you’ve inconvenienced them. However, it’s a single-target spell with a 2-Action casting time, and you can generally expect to cause 2 Actions worth of inconvenience if the target fails their save, which may not be a good enough trade.
  • FearCRB: For half the Action cost you can Demoralize a target. Demoralize will only make them Frightened 1, but that leaves you with two Actions to cast a different spell.
  • Feather FallCRB: Any experienced player has seen a long list of situations which involved falling in a dangerous fashion. I was once in a party that leapt from low orbit to avoid a rematch with an angry dragon, and Feather Fall turned certain death into a fast elevator ride. Every party needs this spell available.
  • GreaseCRB: A good low-level area control spell, and you can also target things like enemy weapons to potentially cause them to drop their weapon. Even if they manage to hold onto their weapon, they still suffer a -2 penalty with it for the 1-minute duration of the spell.
  • Grim TendrilsCRB: At low levels this is a decent AOE damage spell. With a 30-foot line you can easily hit two or three targets. 2d4 damage seems low, but negative damage is rarely resisted, and the persistent bleed damage can quickly become a problem for low-level creatures. Compared to Burning Hands, it will be easier to hit more than two targets and with just two rounds of persistent Bleed damage you’ll roughly match the single-target damage of Burning Hands. Of course, you still need to compare this to Electric Arc, which can target two targets and will deal better initial damage without the difficulty of positioning yourself to have two or more targets in a line from your space.
  • Gust of WindCRB: If you just want to knock targets prone, use Grease. Gust of Wind is situationally useful when enemies rely on smoke or fog, and when you’re facing flying foes. Knocking a flying foe prone causes them to fall, potentially dealing a huge amount of damage in addition to the 2d6 from the Critical Failure effect. As you gain levels and flying enemies become more common, this becomes more and more important. Despite not scaling with spell level, this should be a go-to option for handling flying enemies, especially if not everyone in your party can fly. At low levels you can probably forgo this because flying enemies are uncommon.
  • Hydraulic PushCRB: Despite the relatively high damage compared to other 1st-level spells, this isn’t a great offensive option. 3d6 is still not much more than you’ll get from a cantrip at low levels. The appeal is pushing enemies away from you, potentially allowing you to run away without provoking Reactions, and allowing you to escape grapples. Generally you should try to avoid those situations rather than investing in a way to escape them, but it’s good to know that there’s an option when things go wrong.
  • Illusory DisguiseCRB: You can typically handle disguises with the Deception skill, but if you’re not proficient in Deception, it may be more convenient to learn a single spell, and since you add your level to the Deception check with this you effectively match having Expert proficiency if you’re not already proficient. If you’re already proficient, this is effectively a +4 status bonus to Deception, which is hard to beat.
  • Illusory ObjectCRB: In many cases, an illusory object is as good as a real one. Hiding being an illusory wall is often just as good as hiding behind a real one, especially if an enemy doesn’t know to Seek nearby, and even then the rules for disbelieving illusions require creatures to make a Perception check to Disbelieve the spell before they can see through it even partially.

    You can easily use this in combat to block line of sight, to create places to hide, and possibly to isolate enemies for several rounds. But fair warning: you and your allies are not immune to your illusions. Even if you know that an effect is an illusion, you still need to Disbelieve it to see through it.

    The duration is long enough to let you do all sorts of useful stuff, and if you prepare it at higher levels the spell can be permanent.

  • Item FacadeCRB: Very situational, but I just know that there are players out there who are going to cast this on looted items to try to get more gold when they sell it. As a GM, remember that when creatures interact with the affected item they can attempt to Disbelieve the effect, and if word gets out that the players are trying to swindle people with this spell the players might have trouble trading with people who know their reputation.
  • JumpCRB: Situational, but it still makes both the Quick Jump feat and the Powerful Leap feat largely obsolete unless you’re building to jump almost every round. For spellcasters, this stops being interesting as soon as magical flight becomes convenient.
  • LongstriderCRB: A good bonus with a good duration, and upcasting it to 2nd level gets you 8 hours, which is easily enough to get through a full adventuring day. The speed bonus is very helpful for melee-only characters, so put this on your party’s front line and on characters like mounts who need to move around the battlefield a lot to be effective.
  • Mage ArmorCRB: If you fight unarmored, Mage Armor will replace the benefits of a well-enhanced Explorer’s Outfit at the cost of a single spell slot. Sure, spell slots are valuable, but the amount of gold you save will be considerable. You need to cast higher-level versions of the spell to get the increasing benefits, so I recommend using your second-highest level spell slot.
  • Magic MissileCRB: Reliable and flexible, Magic Missile has several great things going for it. First, it never misses, so it’s a great option when facing foes with high defenses. Magic Missile deals Force damage, which very few creatures are resistant to. 120 ft. range is plenty to keep you well out of harm’s way. And finally, you can choose to cast it with 1, 2, or 3 Actions to increase the effects at the expense of your time. Spending more Actions will get more effect out of the spell, so it’s a more efficient use of your spell slots, but if you need to move or cast another spell in the same turn you can still get some damage out of Magic Missile.
  • Magic Weapon: This won’t remain useful beyond low levels, but at levels 1 through 4, this is the best weapon you can get. It only lasts one minute, but if you cast this on the biggest weapon in the party (ideally something like a greataxe), you can get a ton of extra damage output for the spell’s duration. If you can, cast this before you jump into combat.
  • Mending: Tempting if you like to use shields, but the Repair activity is more effective, doesn’t require a spell slot, and doesn’t have a Bulk limitation. You could save this for days when you’re not adventuring, but even then proficiency in Craft is easy to get and just as good.
  • Pest FormCRB: Only useful for scouting and similar non-combat activities. Be sure that you’re proficient in Stealth, because if you’re caught in this form and attacked you’re likely to die almost immedioately.
  • Ray of EnfeeblementCRB: You must make a successful attack roll and the target gets a saving throw. This is too unreliable, though making a target Enfeebled for a full minute can be a serious debuff.
  • Shocking GraspCRB: High damage for a single-target 1st-level spell, especially with the persistent damage, but unless the target is wearing metal armor or is made of metal it’s not worth the spell slot. Touch range is also frequently a problem for spellcasters like the Wizard who typically have poor defenses and may have trouble delivering offensive touch spells safely.
  • SleepCRB: Despite being heavily weakened compared to Pathfinder 1e, Sleep is still a good spell, but you need to reconsider how you use it. Its effects no longer depend on the targets’ hit points, and work on a normal saving throw more like other spells. The area of effect is small, so rather than clearing whole encounters by putting them to sleep you may need to target a few creatures that are clustered together, then either sneak past them or eliminate them without drawing the attention of other nearby creatures.
  • Spider StingCRB: This spell is not written in a way that’s easy to understand, so I’ll walk you through how it works. First, it’s Touch range so you typically need to get into melee range to deliver it. Second, you need to hit with a melee spell attack to deliver the spell. On a hit, the target takes 1d4 piercing damage, then makes a Fortitude save. Even on a success the target still takes 1d4 poison damage, but if they fail they become afflicted with Spider Venom (the effects are detailed at the bottom of the spell’s description). Be sure to read the Affliction rules on pages 457 and 458 of the core rulebook, especially the Affliction Example sidebar on page 458. With that in mind, the maximum duration of Spider Venom is just 4 rounds, so if you’re very lucky (or if your target isn’t), they might take as much as 4d4 poison damage and be Enfeebled for the duration of the effect. All told, Spider Venom is a great introduction to Pathfinder 2e’s Affliction mechanics, but it’s unreliable because the target has so many opportunities to resist or remove the effects.
  • Summon AnimalCRB: 3 Actions is a big Action cost, and with just a 1-minute duration you typically want to cast this at the beginning of combat to maximize the benefits.

    Your summon options run most of the level range, but as you get into high levels you’ll run short on animal options, so plan to switch to other summon spells.

    Summoning spells are worthy of their own article because the options are too numerous to detail in any other format, but generally you’ll summon a creature to fight alongside your allies in melee, both drawing attention from your enemies and hopefully dealing a bit of damage.

  • Summon ConstructCRB: Mostly the same as Summon Animal, but constructs offer different options.
  • True StrikeCRB: While it won’t be especially helpful at low levels when your spell slots are extremely limited, this is a great option at higher levels. The 1-Action casting time allows you to cast this before casting another spell, dramatically improving the reliability of higher-level spells which require attack rolls like Disintegrate.
  • Unseen ServantCRB: The servant can perform Interact Actions, so it may be able to do things like triggering traps, activating magic items, administering potions to allies, etc., but the spell is Sustained so you’re still committing an Action every round to get an extra set of hands. Unfortunately, unlike Pathfinder 1e you can’t simply issue commands to your servant and take a nap while they mop your floors or something.
  • Ventriloquism: Situational, and anyone who hears the effect automatically gets a save to notice the illusion. Rely on Ghost Sound as much as you possibly can before resorting to this.

2nd-Level Spells

  • Acid ArrowCRB: Decent initial damage with some persistent damage. It doesn’t require you to Sustain the spell like Flaming Sphere, but it will likely deal less damage in total for the same spell slot.
  • BlurCRB: Effective at any level, this gives the target a 20% chance for any attack directed at them to miss. Against foes with high attack bonuses, this is a helpful defensive option even for characters with high AC because it provides an additional layer of defense. For characters with low AC you may want to look for more reliable options.
  • Comprehend Languages: Technically situational, but meeting a creature with which you don’t share a language is common. The wording of the spell is specific enough that you can cast this on your party’s Face while they’re actively hearing a language which they don’t know, and they’ll gain the ability to understand that language. Unfortunately you can’t grant the ability to also speak the language unless you cast this at 3rd level, but if the speaker isn’t hostile you can always cast this twice so that your Face and the other creature can understand each other despite not speaking the same language
  • Continual FlameCRB: A permanent magical light source for 6gp and whatever it costs you to learn the spell. If you use a Spell Repertoire, don’t bother learning this. If you can, find an NPC spellcaster to cast this for you or buy an Everburning Torch for 15gp. You have the option to cast Continual Flame at higher spell levels, but the spell itself doesn’t offer any specific benefits for doing so. As far as I can tell, the only benefit is for the light to remain in effect in an area of magical darkness.
  • DarknessCRB: This is the most clearly-written version of this spell that I’ve seen across several editions of DnD and both editions of Pathfinder, but it is still very nuanced. The base version of the spell allows Darkvision to continue functioning, which means that if your party has Darkvision and your enemies do not, casting this will provide your party with a significant tactical advantage. The 4th-level heightened version of the spell also inhibits Darkvision, but weirdly that’s only appealing compared to the base 2nd-level version if your enemies have Darkvision and you do not because it inhibits everyone equally. However, the Darkness spell is by no means an unassailable way to darken the battlefield at your convenience: Darkness suppresses magical light of Darkness’s level or lower, but due to cantrips being automatically heightened, even the Light cantrip can easily override Darkness unless Darkness is heightened. This allows players to easily counter magical Darkness, but remember that your enemies can do the same.
  • DarkvisionCRB: If you or one of your allies don’t have Darkvision, this can be an important option. Sources of magical light are typically less costly, but they also give away your position which can be a problem when you’re trying to sneak around unnoticed. You can purchase a pair of Goggles of Night for 150 gp, but that might be a prohibitively high cost for several levels after the Darkvision spell becomes an option.
  • DeafenedCRB: Situational, and nearly never useful in combat.
  • Dispel MagicCRB: An absolutely essential option. While it’s not spelled out in the spell’s description, the Counteract rules make the level at which you cast this very important. On a Critical Success you can dispel effects up to three levels higher than the level at which you cast Dispel Magic and on a Success up to one level higher. On a failure you can still dispel effects of a lower level, so upcasting Dispel Magic can be a powerful way to strip enemies of problematic buffs or to disarm them of magic items like weapons which might dramatically boost their damage output.
  • EnlargeCRB: Improved reach, a little bit of extra damage, and a nice 5-minute duration so it’s sure to last through all but the most absurdly-long fights. The fact that the spell raises a creature directly to Large size also means that you can cast it on small creatures like halflings and they still get the full benefits in combat, but it also means that you can cast it on tiny creatures like a familiar and potentially ride them. While the effects of the spell improve with spell level, the 2nd-level version of the spell is still a significant advantage for your melee allies, especially if they have Reaction options like Attack of Opportunity, so you can count on a 2nd-level spell to provide a significant tactical advantage even at high levels.
  • False LifeCRB: With an 8-hour duration you can make this a staple buff which you cast every day. The additional temporary Hit Points are roughly as much as you would get from an additional level, especially if your spellcasting ability modifier is good. If you’re generous, you might cast this on one or more of your allies, especially front-line allies who are likely to draw a lot of attacks. Unfortunately, the scaling on the spell isn’t great, so I recommend only casting False Life as a 2nd-level spell where your spellcasting ability modifier is the largest portion of the total number of temporary Hit Points.
  • Flaming SphereCRB: At low levels this is a great way to get a lot of damage out of a single spell slot. Cast this early in a fight, Sustain it through the fight, and between Flaming Sphere and cantrips you can do plenty of damage with very little expense. Unfortunately, the fact that the sphere is stuck on the ground severely limits its usefulness as flight becomes more common, and the 30-foot range requires you to stay close enough that most foes will be able to walk into melee with you using a single Stride.
  • GlitterdustCRB: A good low-level option for countering invisibility, even on a successful save targets still have their invisibility negated for 2 rounds. Unfortunately, negating invisibility in this way still leaves the target Concealed, which provides a 20% miss chance on attacks against that creature (DC 5 flat check). You can more easily target the creature with AOE effects or effects which require you to see the target, but try to avoid attacking the target if you can.
  • Hideous LaughterCRB: In a fight against single enemies this is a great option for a low-level spell. Making the target Slowed 1 robs them of a single Action per turn. If you outnumber the target, that puts them at a massive disadvantage in the action economy, allowing your party to more easily overcome them by sheer numbers, and since Hideous Laughter doesn’t have the Incapacitation trait it remains effective against difficult enemies. Denying the target Reactions also means that if you’re stuck in melee with them you can cast this then safely run away without suffering an Attack of Opportunity from creatures which can have the ability to make that Reaction. Even at high levels, this is a fine option because Slowed never stops being effective, and if you gain an ability which allows you to Sustain a spell without spending an Action you can tip the scales of the action economy further in your favor.
  • Humanoid FormCRB: This provides very few benefits, the biggest of which is a bonus to Deception checks to disguise yourself. If you need magical assistance with a disguise, Illusory-Disguise will be more effective and it’s a spell level lower.
  • Illusory CreatureCRB: The closest thing you’ll get to summoning a creature with an illusion, Illusory Creature is a complicated spell. The spell’s description is nearly an entire column in the Core Rulebook, so there is a lot of text to digest. Generally this isn’t a go-to combat option because the damage is poor and the damage dealt will be halved if the illusion is disbelieved, but there is a common and important case where this can be helpful offensively: if your enemy has a damage weakness, you can alter the form of your illusory creature to deal that damage type, dramatically boosting the amount of damage which your illusion can deal. The illusion’s stats are decent, and with two Actions per round it can hopefully make a few strikes before something gets through the illusion’s AC. Tragically, the illusion is dispelled if it’s hit even once or fails a single save the spell ends immediately, potentially ending before you get to Sustain the spell even once.
  • InvisibilityCRB: Absolutely essential, invisibility can solve a lot of problems. The spell ends if you perform a “hostile action”, and while that’s not explicitly defined it likely includes anything which requires an attack roll or which affects another creature in a harmful way even if it doesn’t require an attack roll or saving throw. It’s unclear what happens if you do something like cast Wall of Fire while invisible, so check with your GM. Generally you can get away with being invisible in combat while doing things like casting buff spells and area control spells, but I don’t know if commanding pets or summoned creatures to attack counts as a “hostile action”. The 4th-level version of the spell reduces the duration but allows you to make hostile actions without breaking the spell, so you can spend a minute invisibly blaster your enemies.
  • KnockCRB: Don’t have anyone in the party with Thievery? Cast this to open locks. The total bonus matches Expert proficiency.
  • Mirror ImageCRB: A decent defensive buff that works at any level, but the fact that even a failed attack can still destroy one of the images means that the images will disappear almost immediately if even a small number of weak foes focus their attacks on you for a round or two.
  • MisdirectionCRB: Situational. You want the secondary creature to have the aura you want. If you’re an evil character and you want to pass unnoticed despite someone casting Detect Alignment, choose something like an animal with a neutral alignment.
  • Obscuring MistCRB: Concealed offers a miss chance on attacks, so this can be a passable way to defend yourself from enemies if you’re being targeted by a lot of attacks or something along those lines. Weirdly, the spell doesn’t inhibit line of sight in any way unless the target and/or the attacker are within the area. You can’t use this to obscure objects, or to keep enemies from seeing down a long hallway. Honestly, it feels like the spell is missing half of its effects.
  • Phantom SteedCRB: With an 8-hour duration, this is a great option for overland travel. However, until you can cast it as at 4th level or higher there’s little reason to cast this instead of buying a horse. Be cautious about bringing the mount into combat: it’s frail and will die if an enemy makes any effort to kill it, and its defensive stats never improve beyond 20 AC and 10 hit points.
  • Resist EnergyCRB: A staple defensive option. 10 minutes is long enough to get you through a fight or two, and as you gain levels and additional spell slots you can afford to cast this on multiple allies or to give more than one type of damage resistance.
  • See InvisibilityCRB: A staple option for handling invisibility. At high levels casting the spell at 5th level will be a common daily occurrence so that you’re always ready to face invisible enemies. The creatures and objects are still Concealed, but that won’t protect them from Fireball.
  • ShrinkCRB: Situational. The target needs to be willing, so realistically you’re only going to use this when you need to hide an ally or carry them around or something. You could shrink the target to allow them to fit into small spaces or to spy on other creatures, but those situations are rare and can be handled by other spells most of the time.
  • Spectral HandCRB: Measuring the opportunity cost here is difficult. You have three go-to options for extending the range of touch spells: Familiars, Reach Spell, and this. Familiars and Reach Spell both cost a feat (expensive) and an Action to use them. You’re also going to get less range from either than you would from Spectral Hand. However, Spectral Hand costs two Actions up front that you may not be able to afford early in a fight when they matter most, and the hand can only reach creatures by crawling on the ground (no climbing, jumping, etc.) and it’s very easy to destroy.

    I think if you’re taking this and you’re not built to fight in melee, you’re over-using touch spells. That may be the character you want to play, in which case this is a great feat. But for most arcane spellcasters, you need to have options that work from a safe distance.

  • Spider ClimbCRB: The next best thing to flight. It also notably doesn’t require an Action to sustain, so in combat it may be more effective than flight because it doesn’t cut into the target’s action economy.
  • Summon ElementalCRB: 3 Actions is a big Action cost, and with just a 1-minute duration you typically want to cast this at the beginning of combat to maximize the benefits.

    Your summon options run most of the level range, and elementals are versatile, unique, and often very powerful. With 2nd-level slots you’ll mostly summon mephits, but things get weird as you increase the spell level and can summon things like living tornadoes and tsunami elementals.

    Summoning spells are worthy of their own article because the options are too numerous to detail in any other format, but generally you’ll summon a creature to fight alongside your allies in melee, both drawing attention from your enemies and hopefully dealing a bit of damage.

  • Telekinetic ManeuverCRB: If you need to Shove, Kinetic Ram will do the job better for lower cost. Disarm is only occasionally useful. That just leaves Trip, and you’re spending 2 Actions and a 2nd-level spell slot to cost the target 1 Action. Unless making them Prone is going to be hugely impactful, this isn’t worth the slot.
  • Touch of IdiocyCRB: Situational by design. Stupefied in any amount is a powerful debuff against spellcasters, but the Touch range is a problem for many spellcasters, and walking into melee to deliver this is generally a poor choice for sorcerers and wizards.
  • Water BreathingCRB: Only situationally useful, but when you need it there’s really no substitute. Heightening the spell increases the duration significantly, so if you need to spend a lot of time in and around water, expect to heighten this.
  • Water WalkCRB: Too situational.
  • WebCRB: The area is too small, it’s too easy to clear the webs, and the effects are too weak. You’re depending almost entirely on critical failures.

3rd-Level Spells

  • Bind UndeadCRB: 1-day duration with no save. You need to do some metagaming to match the level of this spell to the level of the undead in question, which feels weird, but if you have ambitions of a skeletal entourage, you don’t have much choice.
  • BlindnessCRB: Excellent against single targets, especially enemy spellcasters who often have relatively poor Fortitude saves and need to be able to see to target many spells (spells which simply select a number of targets, such as the spell Blindness, require you to be able to see the target). Unfortunately, Blindness has the Incapacitation trait so you can’t use it effectively on small numbers of powerful creatures that are most likely to justify magically blinding them.
  • ClairaudienceCRB: A helpful scouting tool, but very expensive for what it does.
  • Dream MessageCRB: Only situationally useful. I don’t recommend this for casters with a Spell Repertoire because it’s just not useful often enough to justify the space. It’s more likely that a friendly NPC will use this to communicate to the players.
  • EarthbindCRB: As a general solution for flying creatures, Gust of Wind is better. On a failure, Gust of Wind will knock a flying creature prone, inflict 2d6 damage up front, and cause them to fall. Falling drops a creature up to 500 feet and potentially deals more damage based on how far the creature fell. Earthbind’s only advantage is that the target loses the ability to leave the ground for a minute on a failure. That’s certainly a good advantage, but is it worth the difference in spell level?
  • EnthrallCRB: This can be a very effective option to handle crowds both in and out of combat (though the GM might grant enemies a problematically high circumstance bonus if you’re already in combat). In combat, you can leave the rest of your party to engage with any enemies which didn’t fail their save, then work through the crowd one at a time while you talk about uncontroversial things like how nice food is, or how sometimes the sky gets cloudy.

    Unfortunately, Enthrall also affects your allies. Your allies may be able to stack the odds in their favor by having major philosophical differences with you, but so can your enemies, so singing is generally the best choice. If some (but not all) of your allies are affected, whoever didn’t fail their save can take a hostile action to break the effect on your allies. An unarmed attack is usually sufficient.

  • Feet to FinsCRB: Situational by design, but for how infrequently you need this and how short the duration is, this is simply too expensive to justify in the vast majority of cases.
  • FireballCRB: Good range, a big AOE, and good damage. In a game full of nails, this is a popular hammer. The scaling is good, too, making Fireball a good baseline for measuring the effectiveness of other spells.
  • Ghostly WeaponCRB: Situational by design, so only bring this if you expect to encounter incorporeal foes like ghosts. If you expect to use this often, get Ghost Touch runes for your party’s weapons. If you don’t expect to encounter ghosts, but still want to be prepared, buy a scroll.
  • Glyph of WardingCRB: Situational by design, but a great option for prepared casters who won’t be saddled with this near-permanently.
  • HasteCRB: A very powerful buff for martial allies who can deal a lot of damage with a single Strike. Remember that while the additional Action is limited, the target’s other Actions are not, so they should spend the Action to Strike/Stride before spending other Actions whenever possible.
  • Hypnotic PatternCRB: Decent, but complicated. The automatic Dazzled condition is great because it imposes a 20% miss chance, and Hypnotic Pattern applies that without a save as long as creatures are in the area of effect. But the Fascinated condition is the big payoff here. If you can make enemy spellcaster Fascinated, they can’t cast spells with the Concentrate trait on anything except the hypnotic pattern’s effect, which is all spells with Verbal components, which is most spells. The Fascinated effect appears to last until the spell ends, so once enemies are affected they’re affected even if they leave. This makes Hypnotic Pattern a good way to seriously debuff enemy spellcasters.
  • Invisibility SphereCRB: An excellent way to explore safely, but it’s often easier to just cast Invisibility on your party’s Scout and have them work alone so that you don’t give away your position by stomping around with your armor-clad fighter.
  • LevitateCRB: This is almost never better than Spider Climb, and Spider Climb is a spell level lower.
  • Lightning BoltCRB: Fireball is outright better in almost every situation. It’s difficult to catch more than two enemies in a line, and a larger number of small dice always has a higher average than a small number of large dice.
  • LocateCRB: Not useful enough to know permanently in a spell repertoire, but for prepared casters this is a great solution when you need to find plot items or named antagonists.
  • Meld into StoneCRB: Only situationally useful, and you can probably solve the same problem with Invisibility.
  • Mind ReadingCRB: Only situationally useful, and situations where you will need it can usually wait until you can rest to prepare this.
  • NondetectionCRB: Only situationally useful. This is great for powerful NPCs with powerful enemies (like the players), but players will only benefit when facing enemies with divination options available. This does notably block things like See Invisibility, so players that like to rely on Invisibility might benefit from this. Note that this does still require a Counteract check, so it’s not foolproof.
  • ParalyzeCRB: The best use case for Paralyze is against big singular foes, but with the Incapacitation trait that’s not viable. The 7th-level version of the spell turns this into an excellent crowd control option, but the 3rd-level version is at best frustrating. If you want to rob enemies of actions, Slow is the same level, doesn’t allow additional saves, and doesn’t have the Incapacitation trait.
  • Secret PageCRB: This is a toy for paranoid NPC wizards.
  • Shrink ItemCRB: An excellent way to transport large items like wagons full of treasure. The spell continues if there isn’t enough room for the item to return to normal size, so putting your now coin-sized item into a small box can make the spell effectively permanent. The spell doesn’t try to end itself until your next daily preparations, so I’m not certain what happens if you die while you have items shrunk.
  • SlowCRB: An excellent debuff for large single targets at any level. This doesn’t require you to Sustain the Spell, and with a 1-minute duration you’re getting a lot of mileage out of this. Starting every boss fight with Slow is an extremely good idea. The 6th-level version turns this into crowd control, and considering that numerous enemies are scary because of their action economy advantage, robbing enemies of that advantage is extremely effective.
  • Stinking CloudCRB: Good area control, this both stalls and sickens enemies in the area.
  • Vampiric TouchCRB: Decent damage of a good damage type, and the temporary hit points will help keep you alive after you run into melee to deliver this. This is a great option for gish characters like the Magus, but wizards should be very careful about using this without Reach Spell.
  • Wall of WindCRB: Too situational. The best use case for this is to block low-flying creatures, and there are better counters for flying enemies.

4th-Level Spells

  • Aerial FormCRB: The first shapechanging spell on the Arcane spell list. It’s decent if you need to fight in the air, but otherwise it won’t keep pace with other shapechanging spells of the same level. See our Practical Guide to Wild Shape for more details and comparison to comparable spells.
  • BlinkCRB: The damage resistance is nice, but the unpredictable movement is a massive problem. The spell notably doesn’t specify that you must end in an unoccupied space or that the random direction must be horizontal or anything else helpful, so your GM is free to determine that randomly appear 10 feet into the air and take falling damage, or worse, you reappear 10 feet underground.
  • ClairvoyanceCRB: A great way to scout potentially dangerous locations, but upgrade to Prying Eye as soon as possible since Clairvoyance is immobile.
  • ConfusionCRB: Pick the biggest enemy in a multi-enemy fight and make them everyone’s problem. Confusion is intentionally unpredictable, which always makes me nervous, but of every edition of DnD and Pathfinder I’ve played, this is the only one that I didn’t think was absolutely worthless.
  • CreationCRB: A great utility, but you need to be able to think on your feet to make it actually useful. Limited only by your creativity and the limitations on material. Easy uses include creating temporary tools (ladders, poles, etc.), equipment (shields), and obstacles. If you run out of ideas, a 5-foot cube of solid wood can hold a door shut or you can drop it on a creature.
  • Detect ScryingCRB: A tool for paranoid NPC wizards.
  • Dimension DoorCRB: A great way to get out of danger. The heightened version can get you all the way out of a dungeon.
  • Dimensional AnchorCRB: A great counter counter to enemy spellcasters who might teleport to safety. The target does get a save, but even on a Success the spell still works for a full minute. There is still a Counteract check involved, so this isn’t foolproof.
  • Discern LiesCRB: Massively helpful in social situations, but not useful often enough to justify learning it permanently in Spell Repertoire unless your campaign is heavily focused on intrigue and social situations.
  • Fire ShieldCRB: A decent buff for gish characters, but the duration is short, so it’s hard to cast before walking into combat, and the damage is poor and slow compared to casting a damage spell with the same spell slot unless you’re taking a large number of small hits.
  • FlyCRB: Flight of some kind is a tactical essential, and this spell is among the most consistently accessible options.
  • Freedom of MovementCRB: Only situationally useful. The duration is long enough that you could pre-cast it before going into an encounter, but you would need to know that you’re facing something that likes to immobilize/grapple/restrain you ahead of time.
  • Gaseous FormCRB: Maybe a good way to sneak in or out of somewhere, but the 5-minute duration is painfully short, and you’re still visible. I think you still keep your base speed, which is great because the 10-foot fly speed won’t get you anywhere in a hurry.
  • Globe of InvulnerabilityCRB: At a glance, this is a great defense against enemy spellcasters, allowing you to safely cast spells outward while being protected from spells targeting anyone inside the sphere (you, for the most part). But it’s not portable, so it’s really only useful if you’re comfortable standing still for the rest of the encounter.

    The fact that the globe is a 10-foot burst (so it’s a sphere 20 feet across) and can’t be broken by things like walls or floors is a surprisingly major problem. It’s nearly impossible to use in close quarters like a dungeon, and if you’re on the ground, only a 10×10 group of squares is close enough to the ground to be considered inside the sphere. The rest of the sphere floats uselessly above you.

  • Hallucinatory TerrainCRB: Very situational.
  • NightmareCRB: A great way to mildly inconvenience the BBEG once you know their name. Keep them tired and annoyed, and then go attack them while they’re debuffed.
  • Outcast’s CurseCRB: Only situationally useful, but if you want to ruin someone’s life without ending it, I can’t think of a better option.
  • Phantasmal KillerCRB: The damage isn’t great (a 4th-level Fireball does the same amount of damage), and while Frightened is a great debuff I don’t think it’s enough to make up the difference. You’re really gambling on the Critical Failure (which has the Incapacitation trait, which is a profoundly weird way to format the spell) on the initial Will save, and means that the exciting part of the spell literally isn’t applicable against targets worth casting this upon.
  • Private SanctumCRB: I think this is intended to provide a safe place to rest without being spied upon, but a sphere 200 feet across that looks like black fog is hardly subtle, and nothing prevents creatures from walking right in. Cast Rope Trick instead.
  • Resilient SphereCRB: At this level, the pool of hit points won’t last long. Robbing enemies of actions with spells like Slow will be much more effective.
  • Rope TrickCRB: Your first magical resting place, Rope Trick gives you a nondescript extradimensional space in which to safely rest for the night. Unfortunately, the rope can’t be removed or hidden, which dramatically reduces the spell’s effectiveness. Plan to use enough rope to get well off the ground, then haul the rope up and knot it so that it can’t be easily reached from the ground.
  • Shape StoneCRB: A fantastic utility. A whole lot of things are made of stone, and this makes them as pliable as soft clay. This notably doesn’t specify that the stone must be natural or unworked, so you’re free to absolutely wreck stone structures, make yourself a nice hallway, ruin sculptures, and commit other acts of fantastic vandalism. I suppose you could also create rough structures, tools, etc. out of stone, but that’s way less fun than mischief.
  • Solid FogCRB: Passable, but not good enough for the spell level. Use Stinking Cloud instead.
  • Spell ImmunityCRB: Affects exactly one spell and still has a chance to fail because it involves a Counteract check. The 24-hour duration is generous, but it’s nearly impossible to guess a single spell which you’ll need to resist this way.
  • StoneskinCRB: Use a stone body mutagen (Treasure Vault) instead. Stoneskin isn’t awful, it’s just obsolete.
  • SuggestionCRB: A decent way to nonviolently remove problematic creatures, but you need to be creative and your GM needs to be willing to play along. The 1-minute duration for a Failure doesn’t leave you a lot of room to work, but it may be enough to convince an enemy to walk out of a room, for a guard to let you pass, or something along those lines.
  • TelepathyCRB: Neat, but with only a 10-minute duration, 30-foot range, and requiring shared language, this isn’t especially helpful unless your whole party is sneaking around and trying to avoid notice. The 6th-level version is nice for social situations, but Tongues is 5th-level and solves the same problem.
  • VeilCRB: Only situationally useful, but if you can make it work, it can be hilarious. Imagine disguising your party as enemy soldiers and marching through enemy lines. With the 7th-level version, you can disguise your party as enemy officers and cause all sorts of mayhem. Those things are unlikely to come up, but it’s good that there’s an option.
  • Wall of FireCRB: Decent area control, but the damage isn’t enough to scare anything at this level if it’s only going to be affected once. But if you have an ally that likes to grapple, this can be very effective. The Concealed condition will deter creatures from attacking through it, though area of effect spells won’t be affected, so beware of enemy spellcasters.
  • Weapon StormCRB: This basically only exists for the Magus, which is weird because it’s in the Core Rulebook. You want to use a d12 weapon if possible, which is hard for most magi, so in general this is just a frustrating and low-damage spell. Cast Fireball instead.

5th-Level Spells

  • BanishmentCRB: Save-or-suck for anything from a different plane of existence. Simple, effective, and if you’re prepared for the specific creature(s) you can impose a penalty on the save. Unfortunately Banishment has the Incapacitation Trait, so it’s hard to use against powerful foes, and if the target rolls a Critical Success you’ll be Stunned 1 so you only want to use this when you can be reasonably certain that the target will fail their saving throw.
  • Black TentaclesCRB: Great area control with a duration long enough to get through a fight, and you don’t need to Sustain it. The damage isn’t significant, but Grabbed causes all sorts of problems for the targets. For enemies who can’t fight at range, this can easily remove them from the fight for several turns. Unfortunately it doesn’t work in mid-air, and after the initial casting targets need to end their turn in the effect to be affected, so it’s very difficult to hit additional targets. If they do manage to escape, you and your allies can always Shove them back in.
  • Chromatic WallCRB: You only get one color and you don’t get to pick which one it is. Too unpredictable, the effects are too weak, and the colors are all counteracted by extremely common spells. Casting this at 7th level adds effects that are actually worthwhile, but you still only have a 50% chance to actually get a worthwhile effect.
  • Cloak of ColorsCRB: A fantastic defense in melee at any level, but it immediately triggers the Tank Fallacy, and the The blinded/stunned effect has the Incapacitation trait so it’s not as good against high-level enemies, unfortunately.
  • CloudkillCRB: The damage is decent, but the fact that the cloud moves makes this difficult to use in a typical combat situation. The spell also doesn’t address what happens if the spell encounters obstacles, which raises frustrating questions like “can this roll through walls?” and “can I point this into the sky?”
  • Cone of ColdCRB: More damage than a fireball of the same level, but you sacrifice distance for that 2d6 extra damage. A 60-foot cone is a decent AOE, but it’s still not as safe as a 20-foot radius burst cast from several hundred feet away.
  • Control WaterCRB: Too situational.
  • Crushing DespairCRB: Similar to casting Slow at 6th level, but less reliable because targets can save each turn to not spend an Action sobbing. Even on a success, targets can’t make Reactions for one turn, allowing you to cast this and safely Stride out of melee.
  • Drop DeadCRB: A great way to get out of a bad situation. If someone in your party is in rough shape, it may be best to turn them invisible and have them retreat to safety rather than letting them fall to 0 and play hit point ping pong for the rest of the encounter.
  • Elemental FormCRB: Only really useful as a combat form, and even then only two of the forms are good in combat.

    See our Practical Guide to Wild Shape for more details and comparison to comparable spells.

  • False VisionCRB: A toy for paranoid NPC wizards.
  • HallucinationCRB: Surprisingly powerful since you may still be able to put this to great effect even if the target rolls a Success on their save, but simultaneously difficult to use because there’s a ton of room for GM interpretation. For example: you could target an enemy (multiple enemies with higher-level spell slots) to make them unable to perceive your party. They could roll a Success and would know what the illusion was, but they still couldn’t see you and your party. The creature can Disbelieve the illusion to remove the effect, but that at least buys you some time as they attempt to Seek, potentially multiple times if they fail to disbelieve. There is a lot of room for more clever uses than that, but making yourself invisibwole to the target(s) is a great example of how to use Hallucination.
  • Illusory SceneCRB: Only situationally useful, but a clever player can put this to great effect given time to make it work.
  • Mariner’s CurseCRB: In the vast majority of games, the effect is to make the target permanently Sickened 1 (even on a Critical Success, the target can spend an Action to reduce it to Sickened 1). Sickened is a good debuff, but probably not good enough in a combat situation to justify such a high-level spell slot. This doesn’t have the Incapacitation trait, which makes it appealing against high-level foes, but unless you’re anticipating a very long fight this isn’t worth the spell slot.
  • Mind Probe (Uncommon): Only situationally useful, but it’s hard to think of a better, more direct way to interrogate a creature. I wouldn’t take this in a spell repertoire, but it’s occasionally useful for prepared spellcasters.
  • Passwall (Uncommon): Most stone walls in structures aren’t ten feet thick, so this is an easy way to get in and out of somewhere without worrying about things like traps and guards.
  • Prying EyeCRB: An exceptionally powerful scouting option, Prying Eye allows you to scout dangerous areas from a safe distance, and the eye’s small size can often slip it through obstacles by sneaking under doors or through cracked windows. The duration doesn’t expire until you fail to Sustain the spell, so given enough time you can send the eye great distances and scout huge areas. The biggest limitation is that the eye uses your normal senses, so be sure that you have Low-Light Vision and/or Darkvision so that you can send the eye into dark places and still see.
  • SendingCRB: Only situationally useful, and extremely expensive for how limited the function is. Teleport is one spell level higher and you can go have a full conversation.
  • Shadow SiphonCRB: A bit like Counterspell, but it doesn’t require you to know the spell that you’re countering. This could be useful once you’ve added a few levels and can use this to Counteract higher-level damage spells to mitigate their effects.
  • Shadow WalkCRB: An excellent solution for long-distance travel, you effectively move 20 times your normal travel speed. Combined with decent mounts (ideally flying ones) your party can cover huge distances very quickly without resorting to higher-level (and potentially more dangerous) options like Teleport. The spell does specify that you may encounter denizens of the shadow plane, so be prepared to have your party members end the spell early (which might be hard for party members like animal companions or mundane mounts) if things get scary.
  • Subconscious SuggestionCRB: Potentially very powerful, but it requires you to really think about how to apply it in any given situation.
  • Summon DragonCRB: Powerful, versatile, and good scaling because there are summon options all the way up to the 9th-level spells. A good choice for a Signature Spell.
  • Telekinetic HaulCRB: This only works on objects, so it’s only situationally useful. You might use this to drop heavy objects on your enemies, but more likely you’re only going to use it to move heavy obstacles outside of combat.
  • Telepathic Bond (Uncommon): Consistently useful in any situation where the party needs to separate or where subtlety is required.
  • TonguesCRB: A staple option for overcoming language barriers, but at such high level this is an expensive way to solve the problem. Of course, it’s likely less expensive than spending several feats on Multilingual.
  • Wall of IceCRB: Mostly just a worse version of Wall of Stone, Wall of Ice has lower hardness, less hit points, and can’t be shaped as freely. Wall of Ice’s unique selling point is that it can form a hemisphere, enclosing one or more creatures inside it with no save. You could use this to isolate an enemy, or to protect the party while you heal and buff yourselves.
  • Wall of StoneCRB: Good area control. Split an encounter neatly in half and eliminate a few foes before the rest can rejoin the fight. 50 hit points with 14 Hardness is extremely durable even at this level. Be sure to place the wall slightly out of reach to maximize how many actions enemies need to waste to reach it and carve their way through. The wall is also permanent and shapeable, allowing you to sculpt it around squares and do things like creating stairs, so Wall of Stone serves double duty as a utility spell.

6th-Level Spells

  • Baleful PolymorphCRB: The effect is fine, but on a Failure the target can re-attempt their saving throw every turn, and with the Incapacitation trait this is borderline useless against powerful foes.
  • Chain LightningCRB: An excellent direct damage option, Chain Lighting easily exceeds the damage of a Fireball of the same level, conveniently doesn’t have to worry about friendly fire, and has a theoretically infinite number of targets. However, the chain ends if one target critically succeeds on their save, which means that each target must roll their save before you pick the next target, which is going to make casting this spell take a horrifically long amount of real-world time to resolve.
  • Collective TransportationCRB: An excellent control option, and definitely worth making a Signature Spell. You can use this to get yourself and your allies out of grapples, to put melee allies within reach of enemies so that they don’t need to spend Actions to Step or Stride, and to reposition enemies into dangerous places like ongoing area effects, traps, or next to melee allies. The spell doesn’t specify that the spaces need to be safe or hospitable, so you may be able to place enemies in mid-air or underwater, causing them additional inconvenience beyond simply putting them somewhere that they don’t want to be.
  • DisintegrateCRB: Good single-target damage with good scaling, but it has two points of failure, so even if you hit your target may still only take partial damage. Of course, it’s a Basic Save so it’s equally likely that you’ll score a regular hit and still deal double normal damage. This also doubles as a utility option, allowing you to disintegrate problematic objects like walls or structurally-important columns.
  • Dominate (Uncommon): Extremely powerful, but possibly very short duration. If you can, debuff the target’s saves before you hit them with this using status conditions (frightened, sickened, stupefied) and try really hard to force the Critical Failure.

    Upcasting this to 10th level makes the duration indefinite, which is a terrifying implication. So long as you never command the creature to act contrary to its nature, it might spend the rest of its life dominated.

  • Dragon FormCRB: One of the best polymorph spells, Dragon Form has good unarmed attacks, good fly speed, and a breath weapon. If you have the hit points to stand up in combat (magus yes, wizard probably no), this is a great option in combat.

    See our Practical Guide to Wild Shape for more details and comparison to comparable spells.

  • FeeblemindCRB: Save-or-suck for spellcasters. This is situational by design, but spellcasters are common enough and powerful enough that this might still see some use. The effects are excellent, and despite having the Incapacitation trait, hoping for a standard Failure is enough to massively inhibit powerful enemy spellcasters. Against non-spellcasters, the critical failure effect is still a significant debuff, but it’s hard to gamble on a critical failure.
  • Flesh to StoneCRB: Single-target save-or-suck with the Incapacitation trait, which makes it extremely hard to use against strong single targets, but in encounters with a small number of enemies close to your level this is a decent option.
  • MisleadCRB: A great tactical option, but it can be difficult to use effectively. You want your actions and the actions of your duplicate to be plausible so that enemies won’t immediately figure out what’s going on, and keeping things plausible may require you to limit your spells to those which don’t have a visually obvious origin point (Charm yes, Lightning Bolt no). If you move your duplicate into close quarters with enemies, it might draw attention (and ideally attacks) away from you and your allies, allowing this spell to be doubly effective as a defensive option.
  • Phantasmal CalamityCRB: Very slightly less damage than a Fireball of the same level, but of a better damage type. The secondary effect is excellent, but only applies on a critical failure against the initial Will save, so you can’t expect it to be reliable. Still, you can use this in the same situations as Fireball and I would consider this a direct upgrade.
  • Purple Worm StingCRB: Certainly not a fast way to kill an enemy, but Enfeebled 2 is a huge debuff for Strength-based enemies, so against big single foes this can put your party at a huge advantage.
  • RepulsionCRB: A great way to keep enemies away from you and your other squishy allies, especially since many creatures are wholly unable to fight at range.
  • Scrying (Uncommon): Only situationally useful, but if you can put it into use it can be a great way to spy on important antagonists.
  • SpellwrackCRB: If you can get this set up on a powerful enemy early in a fight, the damage can add up quite a bit. But it takes 4 instances of the persistent damage to match the damage of casting Chain Lightning, so the fight needs to be long for this to beare useful in combat. The best-case scenario is to get this on an enemy outside of combat and leave it in place for later, but at that point why not just kill them and be done with it?
  • Teleport (Uncommon): A staple option for long-distance travel.
  • True SeeingCRB: Only situationally useful, and the fact that you could fail the secret Counteract check means that creatures could still make themselves invisible and go undetected even while you’re running True Seeing.
  • Vampiric ExsanguinationCRB: Good damage of a good type in a reasonably large area of effect, plus you get temporary hit points, but the range on the cone is short so frail characters like sorcerers and wizards should be cautious unless you’re also using Reach Spell.
  • Vibrant PatternCRB: Repeatedly blind creatures in a small AOE. Have allies Shove enemies into the area or grab them to keep them there.
  • Wall of ForceCRB: Excellent area control. Wall off part of an encounter with multiple foes, and suddenly the encounter gets a lot easier. The wall is big enough that enemies can’t quickly go around it (though they could go over it if they can fly), and with 30 hardness most creatures will struggle to break through it.

7th-Level Spells

  • ContingencyCRB: Learn this and cast it at the highest level you can on any day where you’re not adventuring. Having a contingency spell ready to go can absolutely save your life.
  • Dimensional LockCRB: Only situationally useful. You can use this offensively to try to keep enemies from teleporting to escape and/or you can use this to prevent enemies from teleporting into whatever space you’re resting in.
  • Duplicate FoeCRB: Powerful, but frustrating in many ways. You can’t use this on an ally (the spell’s Target entry specifies “enemy”), but honestly that would be too powerful so I understand the limitation. Since the duplicate can only Stride and Strike, you want to target enemies that rely on Strikes, but those creatures also tend to have high Fortitude saves, which may make this unreliable.

    If the spell does work, the level cap is generously high so you can target the vast majority of creatures that you face in combat. The duplicate’s stats are good enough that it’s a serious threat in combat, and since it’s not limited to attacking the target of the spell, you can command it to attack the target’s allies if the target of Duplicate Foe wanders away.

    Ideally you want the duplicate to both deal a bunch of damage and to draw a bunch of attacks which would otherwise be directed at you and your allies, so your best bet is to cast this early in a fight so that it has as much time as possible to work. Even if the target of Duplicate Foe succeeds on its saving throw, you still get the duplicate for two rounds, which may be enough to cause a lot of trouble for your enemies despite the duplicate dealing half damage with its strikes.

  • Eclipse BurstCRB: Good range, massive AOE, good damage, and on a critical failure creatures are permanently blinded.
  • Energy AegisCRB: 5 points of resistance to 8 damage types, including options like Force Damage which are difficult to resist, and a 24-hour duration. It’s hard to spend such a high-level spell slot on something like this, but with a 24-hour duration you can cast it before going to sleep, get a full night’s sleep, then wake up with 16 hours left on the spell’s duration. If you don’t need to adventure on back-to-back days, you should strongly consider this as part of your daily routine.
  • Fiery BodyCRB: It’s tempting to cast this and spend the rest of the encounter doing nothing but casting Produce Flame, but that’s a trap. With the reduced casting time and boosted damage, you could cast Produce Flame 3 times per turn and the Multiple Attack Penalty would become a problem. Instead, cast a 2-Action spell like Fireball which requires a save and spend your third Action to cast produce Flame.
  • Magnificent MansionCRB: A fine place to retire to or for a night’s rest. Unless enemies know about the demiplane ahead of time or somehow discover it while you’re resting, you’re basically unreachable. However, this is a very expensive solution to the issue of resting. Typically something like Rope Trick will suffice unless you’re specifically trying to show off or feed a small horde of people.
  • Mask of TerrorCRB: Similar in concept to Sanctuary, but less fragile. The penalty for failing saves is a nice touch since Frightened is such a good debuff, and the ability to upcast this to 8th-level to get 5 targets means that you can often cast it on your whole party.
  • Plane Shift (Uncommon): A staple travel option at high levels.
  • Power Word Blind (Uncommon): This requires some metagaming to use effectively, which can be hard. But it’s also a single action to blind the target with no save, which can be very powerful.
  • Prismatic SprayCRB: Unpredictable, and only half of the effects are good enough to justify the spell slot.
  • Project ImageCRB: Only situationally useful, expensive, and fragile.
  • Reverse GravityCRB: Despite the small area, this is an easy win condition against enemies that can’t fight at range and can’t fly.
  • Spell Turning (Uncommon): Only situationally useful. If you know that you’re going to fight an enemy spellcaster this could be very effective, but it can be hard to get that information ahead of time.
  • True TargetCRB: Only situationally useful. Your party would need to make a series of high-value attacks which were good enough to offset the cost of you casting this both in terms of spell slot cost and action cost.
  • Warp MindCRB: I already don’t trust the Confused condition, and this is the Confusion spell but 3 levels higher and with the option of a permanent duration and it has the Incapacitation trait, so against major enemies which you would actually care about making permanently confused it’s actually less effective than Confusion.

8th-Level Spells

  • Antimagic Field (rare): Difficult to use to great effect with any frequency. If you’re expecting to fight a lot of enemy spellcasters this might be useful.
  • DisappearanceCRB: Extremely durable invisibility with a 10-minute duration. This is excellent on frail spellcasters who want to avoid attention, and for characters like rogues who depend on foes being Flat-Footed it’s a massive tactical advantage.
  • Discern Location (uncommon): Only situationally useful.
  • Dream CouncilCRB: Very situational. This is really cool, but it feels more like a plot point than a spell.
  • EarthquakeCRB: A good crowd control option, but not always a good go-to. The fissures are deep enough that creatures will take a considerable amount of time to climb out despite the fairly low DC, giving you time to handle any foes which don’t fall into fissures, but anything that can fly or which has high speed will climb right back out and get right back to fighting. The effects other than fissures (collapsed buildings, difficult terrain, etc.) are unpredictable, which makes this hard to recommend.
  • Horrid WiltingCRB: This is an excellent instantaneous damage option. You can target any number of creatures within the 500-foot range of the spell. The damage is good, and resistance to negative damage is rare.
  • MazeCRB: The target doesn’t get a save against being put in the maze. You need to spend an Action every turn to Sustain the Spell, but one Action to remove the target from combat for several rounds is frequently worth both the spell slot and the action cost. Maze the biggest thing in the encounter, kill everything else, then drop a bunch of problems into the space that the creature will re-emerge into before it escapes or before you willingly end the spell.
  • Mind Blank (uncommon): The primary effects of the spell are only situationally useful because very few creatures can perform any sort of divinations, but a +4 status bonus to saves against mental effects is huge. Most Will saves are against mental effects.
  • Monstrosity FormCRB: Not significantly better than Dragon Form unless you upcast it at level 9, but it is still good.

    See our Practical Guide to Wild Shape for more details and comparison to comparable spells.

  • Polar RayCRB: A bunch of damage and Drained 2, which is effectively another big pile of damage. In some ways this is a linear upgrade from Disintegrate, dealing similar damage to a Disintegrate of the same level, but it relies entirely on the attack roll instead of also allowing a save, and you can dramatically improve the attack roll by casting True Strike the same turn.
  • Power Word Stun (uncommon): Requires metagaming to maximize the benefits. Spending one action to rob a creature of a turn is good, but for such an expensive spell slot it’s hard to justify against enemies of lower level than you. Use Paralyze instead.
  • Prismatic WallCRB: Very effective area control. Anything that knows what Prismatic Wall does isn’t going to walk through it, and anything that doesn’t know is going to be so mangled by the wall’s effects that it will be much less threatening if it isn’t turned into a statue. The Dazzled/Blinded effect is great, too, so you can drop this right next to yourself to blind nearby enemies before walking through the wall to safety (remember that you can choose to ignore the Wall’s effects).
  • Scintillating PatternCRB: Casting Confusion at the same spell level will nearly always be more effective.
  • Uncontrollable DanceCRB: Forcing the target to spend several of their Actions to “dance” means that they’re not spending those Actions hurting you, and spending 2 Actions to cost your target 3 or more is a decent trade. The target also loses the ability to Step, which may be as impactful as the Actions which they must spend dancing. Where this spell struggles is finding a suitable target on which to use it. This is single-target with the Incapacitation trait, which makes it hard to find targets who are both powerful enough to justify the spell slot and who are going to fail the save often enough to risk this.
  • Unrelenting ObservationCRB: Only situationally useful. You could use this in combat to counter invisibility and other means of hiding, but there are lower-level solutions to those problems. More likely you’ll use this to spy on important NPCs, and that doesn’t happen often in a way that requires a solution like this.

9th-Level Spells

  • DisjunctionCRB: Very situational. Generally you don’t want to risk permanently disenchanting loot.
  • ForesightCRB: An excellent defensive buff with a great duration so you can cast it well ahead of time.
  • ImplosionCRB: Good damage and a very efficient way to spend Actions. The single Action to Sustain the spell each turn is another 75 damage, and if you took the Effortless Concentration feat this is free damage every turn for a full minute or until you run out of targets. Not on the Divine spell list.
  • MassacreCRB: This is a gamble. The expected outcome is 100 negative damage, which is a big pile of damage. Lines are a difficult AOE so expect to hit no more than two creatures, and you generally want to kill something with the initial damage rather than suffering 30 damage if you don’t, but maybe you’ll get lucky and the 30 damage will kill an enemy or two, in which case I would happily take the 30 damage rather than letting those creatures get another turn. The possibility that you can outright kill creatures on a Critical Failure is very tempting, but unless you’re hitting a bunch of creatures somehow I don’t recommend making that gamble.

    Because the level cap is so high, you can safely use this even with your allies in the line. However, if you fail to kill something, you and your allies are still going to take the flat 30 negative damage.

  • Meteor SwarmCRB: Creatures hit by both AOE’s take 82 damage on average, which isn’t going to one-shot high-level creatures on its own, but in multi-enemy encounters that’s still a massive amount of damage to throw around, especially with four meteors which you can target independently.
  • Power Word Kill (uncommon): A good way to quickly eliminate a foe in multi-enemy encounters, but you need to metagame to know that the spell will work, and spending a 9th-level spell to kill an enemy 5 or more levels below you feels wasteful.
  • Prismatic SphereCRB: Conceptually great, but very difficult to place. Creatures on the ground will break the surface of the wall and negate the spell, so you can only place this in the air. Your best option is to entrap flying creatures inside the sphere. If you need to protect yourself, you can cast this around yourself to buy yourself some time to buff yourself, to teleport to safety, or to do whatever else you might need.
  • Resplendent MansionCRB: This sounds fancy and it seems like a great way to produce a safe place to rest, but the building is no more resilient than a regular house and the Alarm effects are the only defenses beyond mundane locks or bars on windows or whatever else. The spell doesn’t mention how it handles climate (presumably fireplaces and the like all function, though it’s unclear if the house provides fuel). On top of all of that, there doesn’t appear to be a way to make it permanent, so retiring spellcasters need to look elsewhere to build their permanent magical dream home. While you’re actively adventuring, the thought of spending a 9th-level spell slot on this is a comically bad decision, and even learning it permanently for a class with a Spell Repertoire is a terrible choice.
  • ShapechangeCRB: Your best option with Shapechange is to pick a form from 8th-level Dragon Form or 8th-level Monstrosity Form, and with only a 1-minute duration you are unlikely to change forms after doing so. At that point, why not just cast Dragon Form or Monstrosity Form at 9th level? It’s a combination of the versatility of changing forms and likely the ability to refresh your temporary hit points.

    It’s not explicit how this works with temporary hit points granted by polymorph spells, but I think that you get fresh temporary hit points every time you spend an Action to change forms. That’s not clarified anywhere, but temporary hit points are part of the statistics that you gain, so it seems likely to me. But it’s also 20 temporary hp at most at the cost of an Action, and many enemies can do that much damage with a single Strike at this level so you’re mostly just stalling. That may still be useful, of course: if you can spend one Action to waste an enemy’s Action in an encounter where your party outnumbers your enemies, that’s a good trade to make.

    The text of Shapechange says “You choose the type of creature as you Cast the Spell rather than when you prepare it.” This appears to be an error because all of the applicable spells specify that you choose a form “when you first cast the spell”.

  • Telepathic DemandCRB: Very difficult to use with any frequency. It’s rare to have an enemy with which you’ve connected telepathically before that you haven’t already killed.
  • WeirdCRB: Similar in many ways to Phantasmal Killer, but much less frustrating. With 120-foot range and any number of targets this can easily hit everything in an encounter. The Critical Failure effect’s secondary save won’t result in dead creatures frequently, but in big encounters with numerous foes it’s likely enough that you might one-shot several enemies and leave many others hurt, Frightened, and potentially Fleeing.

10th-Level Spells

  • CataclysmCRB: 21d10 (avg. 115.5) damage of several types in a 60-foot burst. Normally spells which deal multiple types of damage suffer from multiple resistances, but this also ignores 10 points of each resistance, which helps quite a bit. It’s quite a bit more damage than Meteor Swarm upcast at 10th level (avg. 94.5), but in some cases Meteor Swarm’s 4 independent AOEs may still be preferable because it can hit more targets. Cataclysm really shines against enemies with multiple vulnerabilities, but that’s rare.
  • Gate (uncommon): Only situationally useful. Usually Plane Shift is sufficient, especially if you can follow it with Teleport to get closer to your intended destination.
  • Remake (uncommon): Only situationally useful. This feels like it should be a ritual.
  • Time StopCRB: Stop time, spend three turns casting buffs, area control spells (Wall of Stone, Force Cage, etc.), or summon spells, then go into combat with a huge advantage.
  • WishCRB: Stunningly versatile. The better you know the spell lists, the more powerful this is.