Introduction

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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. 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.

Disclaimer

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

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 leveled spells when they suit the situation rather than counting on cantrips as your only source of damage output. Because your number of cantrips are limited, try to split your options between damage and other options. A spellcaster whose only capability damage is basically an archer with extra steps.

1st-Level Spells

  • Burning Hands: 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 abiltiy 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.
  • Charm: 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 to ward you.
  • Color Spray: 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.
  • Command: 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.
  • Fear: 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 Fall: Any experience 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.
  • Grease: 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-minut eudration of the spell.
  • Grim Tendrils: 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 Wind: 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 Push: 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 Disguise: 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.
  • Illusory Object: 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 Diseblieve 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 immnune to your illusions. Even if you know that an effect is an illusion, you still need to Disbelieve it to see through it.
  • Item Facade: 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.
  • Jump: 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.
  • Mage Armor: 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 Missile: 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 Form: 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 immeidately.
  • Ray of Enfeeblement: 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 Grasp: 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 spellcastings like the Wizard who typically have poor defenses and may have trouble delivering offensive touch spells safely.
  • Sleep: Despite being heavily weakened comapred 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 Sting: 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 Animal: 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 of damage.

  • Summon Construct: Mostly the same as Summon Animal, but constructs offer different options.
  • True Strike: 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 Servant: 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 comitting 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 Arrow: 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.
  • Blur: 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 Flame: 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.
  • Darkness: 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 lowel, 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.
  • Darkvision: 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 levesl after the Darkvision spell becomes an option.
  • Deafened: Situational, and nearly never useful in combat.
  • Dispel Magic: 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 enemeies of problematic buffs or to disarm them of magic items like weapons which might dramatically boost their damage output.
  • Enlarge: 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 Life: 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 Sphere: 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 requies you to stay close enough that most foes will be able to walk into melee with you using a single Stride.
  • Glitterdust: 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 targe 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 Laughter: 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, allowed 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 Form: This provides very few benefits, the biggest of which is a bonus to Deception checks to disguise yourself. If you need magical assistence with a disguise, Illusory-Disguise will be more effective and it’s a spell level lower.
  • Illusory Creature: 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 hopefull 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.
  • Invisibility: 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 inivisible 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.
  • Knock: Don’t have anyone in the party with Thievery? Cast this to open locks. The total bonus matches Expert proficiency.
  • Mirror Image: 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 if weak foes focus their attacks on you for a round or two.
  • Misdirection: 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 Mist: 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 Steed: 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 Energy: 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 Invisibility: A staple option for handling invisibility. At high levels casting the spell at 5th level will be a common daily occurance 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.
  • Shrink: 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 Hand: Measuring the opportunity cost here is difficult. You have three go-to options for extending the range of touchs 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 build to fight in melee, you’re over-using in 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 Climb: 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 Elemental: 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 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 tornados 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 of damage.

  • Telekinetic Maneuver: If you need to Shove, Kinetic Ram will do the job better for lower cost. Disarm is only occasionally useful, and you can do it with Amped Mage Hand. 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 Idiocy: 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 Breathing: 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 Walk: Too situational.
  • Web: 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 Undead: 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.
  • Blindness: 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).
  • Clairaudience: A helpful scouting tool, but very expensive for what it does.
  • Dream Message: 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.
  • Earthbind: 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?
  • Enthrall: This can be a very effective option to handle crowds both in and out of 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 on at a time.

    The drawback of the spell is that it 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 hostil action to break the effect on your allies. An unarmed attack is usually sufficient.

  • Feet to Fins: 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.
  • Fireball: Good range, a big AOE, and good damage. In a game full of nails, this is a popular hammer. The scaling is good, too, makng Fireball a good baseline for measuring the effectiveness of other spells.
  • Ghostly Weapon: The fact that you need to cast this on a non-magical weapon means that it’s immediately useless.
  • Glyph of Warding: Situational by design, but a great option for prepared casters who won’t be saddled with this near-permanently.
  • Haste: 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 Pattern: 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 Sphere: 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 figher.
  • Levitate: This is almost never better than Spider Climb, and Spider Climb is a spell level lower.
  • Lightning Bolt: 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.
  • Locate: 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 Stone: Only situationally useful, and you can probably solve the same problem with Invisibility.
  • Mind Reading: Only situationally useful, and situations where you will need it can usually wait until you can rest to prepare this.
  • Nondetection: 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.
  • Paralyze: 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 Page: This is a toy for paranoid NPC wizards.
  • Shrink Item: 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.
  • Slow: 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 Cloud: Good area control, this both stalls and sickens enemies in the area.
  • Vampiric Touch: 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 Wind: 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 Form: 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.
  • Blink: The damage resistance is nice, but the unpredictable movement is a massive problem. The spell notable 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.
  • Clairvoyance: A great way to scout potentially dangerous locations, but upgrade to Prying Eye as soon as possible since Clairvoyance is immobile.
  • Confusion: 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.
  • Creation: A great utility, but you need to be able to think on your feet to make it actually useful.
  • Detect Scrying: A tool for paranoid NPC wizards.
  • Dimension Door: A great way to get out of danger. The heightened version can get you all the way out of a dungeon.
  • Discern Lies: 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 intrigure and social situations.
  • Fire Shield: 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.
  • Fly: Flight of some kind is a tactical essential, and this spell is among the most consistently accessible options.
  • Freedom of Movement: 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 Form: 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 becaue the 10-foot fly speed won’t get you anywhere in a hurry.
  • Globe of Invulnerability: 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 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 surpisingly 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 Terrain: Very situational.
  • Nightmare: A great way to mildly inconvenience the BBEG once you know their name.
  • Outcast’s Curse: Only situationally useful, but if you want to ruin someone’s life without ending it, I can’t think of a better option.
  • Phantasmal Killer: The damage and Frightened are passable, but you’re really gamblng on the Critical Failure on the initial Will save.
  • Private Sanctum: 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 Sphere: 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 Trick: 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 Stone: 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 sepcify 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 Fog: Passable, but not good enough for the spell level. Use Stinking Cloud instead.
  • Spell Immunity: Affects exactly one spell and still has a chance to fail because it involves a Counteract check.
  • Stoneskin: Use a stone body mutagen instead.
  • Suggestion: A decent way to nonviolently remove problematic creatures.
  • Telepathy: 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.
  • Veil: 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 Fire: 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.
  • Weapon Storm: This basically only exists for the Magus, which is weird because it’s in the Core Rulebook. You want to use a d12 weapon is 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

  • Banishment:
  • Black Tentacles:
  • Chromatic Wall:
  • Cloak of Colors:
  • Cloudkill:
  • Cone of Cold:
  • Control Water:
  • Crushing Despair:
  • Drop Dead:
  • Elemental Form:
  • False Vision:
  • Hallucination:
  • Illusory Scene:
  • Mariner’s Curse:
  • Mind Probe:
  • Passwall:
  • Prying Eye:
  • Sending:
  • Shadow Siphon:
  • Shadow Walk:
  • Subcobscious Suggestion:
  • Summon Dragon:
  • Telekinetic Haul:
  • Telepathic Bond:
  • Tongues:
  • Wall of Ice:
  • Wall of Stone:

6th-Level Spells

  • Baleful Polymorph:
  • Chain Lightning:
  • Collective Transportation:
  • Disintegrate:
  • Dominate:
  • Dragon Form:
  • Feeblemind:
  • Flesh to Stone:
  • Mislead:
  • Phantasmal Calamity:
  • Purple Worm Sting:
  • Repulsion:
  • Scrying:
  • Spellwrack:
  • Teleport:
  • True Seeing:
  • Vampiric Exsanguination:
  • Vibrant Pattern:
  • Wall of Force:

7th-Level Spells

  • Contingency:
  • Dimensional Lock:
  • Duplicate Foe:
  • Eclipse Burst:
  • Energy Aegis:
  • Fiery Body:
  • Magnificent Mansion:
  • Mask of Terror:
  • Plane Shift:
  • Power Word Blind:
  • Prismatic Spray:
  • Project Image:
  • Reverse Gravity:
  • Spell Turning:
  • True Target:
  • Warp Mind:

8th-Level Spells

  • Antimagic Field:
  • Disappearance:
  • Discern Location:
  • Dream Council:
  • Earthquake:
  • Horrid Wilting:
  • Maze:
  • Mind Blank:
  • Monstrosity Form:
  • Polar Ray:
  • Power Word Stun:
  • Prismatic Wall:
  • Scintillating Pattern:
  • Uncontrollable Dance:
  • Unreleting Observation:

9th-Level Spells

  • Disjunction:
  • Foresight:
  • Implosion:
  • Massacre:
  • Meteor Swarm:
  • Power Word Kill:
  • Prismatic Sphere:
  • Resplendant Mansion:
  • Shapechange:
  • Telepathic Demand:
  • Weird:

10th-Level Spells

  • Cataclysm:
  • Gate:
  • Remake:
  • Time Stop:
  • Wish: