5E What is the most powerful spell?

Stalker0

Adventurer
So thinking about vampiric touch and flame blade some more...now embracing that its a wizard or EK casting these spells...I think they should be ranked even lower. As an EK, I would much rather cast bless on myself as my concentration spell and hit a person twice than have this one on.

Flame Blade as a 1st level spell. It might do a little bit more damage than my weapons but just a little. And I gain access to fire damage, which has its uses. But considering I am using concentration and a spell slot for it, that seems balanced. In that measure, VT might be an excellent level 1 or probably a weak level 2. I could cast heroism at level 1 and get automatic "healing" with temp hp every round instead of risking it with the VT.

Looking over the list some more:

Barkskin: This one might need to go into the excellent level 1 category. Comparing it to Mage Armor and Shield of Faith, its middle of the road in terms of duration (although mage armor's lack of concentration is a BIG selling point). It might be the strongest AC buff in certain situations, or the weakest depending. But there is nothing so good about that warrants the 2nd level slot.

Glyph of Warding: Funny enough, this is actually one of the strongest spells in the entire game. Its standard use as a trap is already quite good, but what really makes it heinous is the fact that a concentration spell cast through it does not require concentration anymore. So for example, your wizard could have a book that he keeps on a shelf. He activates a series of glyph of wardings that cast buffs on him (or someone else that touches the glyph). These buffs no longer require concentration so they can be stacked up. Then you go teleport out and kill and the bad guy.

As a setup spell, it fundamentally breaks the balance concentration adds to the game...its actually quite broken.

Bless: It might be time to bump this spell up. Bless is one of the best overall buff spells in the game, effectively ~+2 attack, ~+2 saving throws. My players at 20th level are still using this spell. There are several spells I keep wanting to drop lower, because I'm comparing them to bless. Crusader's mantle for example....I would rather have bless on 3 people (or 5 people at 3rd which is likely to cover your party).

Counterspell: Shift to Excellent level 3. The thing is this spell gets better and better the higher levels you go. The ability to burn your reaction to cancel the action of an enemy spellcaster is so good...and efficiency wise killing your low level spells to counter theirs is gold.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
Counterspell goes to Excellent.

I moved ‘up’ Vampiric Touch and Flame Blade. Flame Blade seemed to end up an Excellent Eldrich 1st-level spell, comparable to Magic Weapon with its reliable attack bonus to a weapon. It was difficult to move Vampiric Touch to 1st-level. It seemed better than Hunters Mark and Hex, which are already borderline powerful for the 1st slot. It seems to end up as a Not Bad Eldrich 2nd-slot, probably more desirable than the situational Branding Smite, but less desirable than the area damage of Conjure Barrage.

Barkskin moves up to 1st-slot Mage Armor. Mage Armor is probably slightly better. A Wizard with Dex 16 is plausible, even at level 1, and will equal it. Any higher, and Mage Armor is strictly better. In any case, they seem neck-and-neck, together.

Glyph Of Warding − Not yet sure how to handle this spell. The possibility of obviating concentration while in the lair, then casting Teleport out, seems a concern. For now, I colored it gold and added a note. I notice the spell description seems to require the glyph to ‘harm other creatures’, taken to mean the stored spell must be offense. So, it couldnt store a spell to heal or boost AC, for example. But perhaps it could store a spell that boosts damage output, with Magic Weapon, or so on.

I agree about Bless seeming too powerful for its level − heh, and this spell does have the ‘buzz’ of players that tends to happen around a broken spell. For now, it is simply gets colored gold, in its current place. We can think more carefully where it probably belongs relative to other buff spells. Being useful at higher levels is ok. The concern is, how does it compare to other spells at the same level, when the spell becomes available. If Bless seems ok at its low level, it could mean the higher level buff spells are the problem and need rethinking.

Possibly both Bless and Shield merit 2nd-level?

Bless is better than Magic Weapon that only grants a +1 attack. Both require concentration. Magic Weapon can only grant a +2 attack if using a 4th slot. This suggests that Bless granting a +2½, namely a +1d4, is appropriate for a 5th level spell, being still better than a 4th-slot Magic Weapon.
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
Heh, because of the design of bounded accuracy, if I had my way, the bonuses for the Magic Weapon spell (and magic weapons generally) would be.

1st spell slot (character level 1, Student tier): +1 weapon
5th spell slot (character level 9, Master tier): +2 weapon
9th spell slot (character level 17, Legend tier): +3 weapon



But, as the game is, the defacto is more like:

2nd spell slot (character level 3, Student tier): +1 weapon
4th spell slot (character level 7, Adventurer tier): +2 weapon
6th spell slot (character level 11, Master tier): +3 weapon
8th spell slot (character level 15, Leader tier): ... very tempting to add a +4 weapon here
unavailable 10th spell slot (character level 19, Legend tier): ... even a +5 weapon here



In any case, the Bless spell by adding a +1d4 bonus, ranges from a +1 Magic Weapon at a 2nd slot to a hypothetical +4 Magic Weapon at the 8th slot. Meanwhile Bless averages at +2.5 to merit a 5th spell slot!

And more than that, the Bless spell can stack with a permanent magic weapon that most DMs eventually let their players find!

Fortunately, Bless requires concentration. But still.



Bless interferes with basic assumptions of the game. On the one hand, bounded accuracy scarcifies attack bonuses, making Bless precious and powerful. On the other hand, its actual value can be calculated relative to the damage variable, which is powerful as damage totals escalate − but still stops short of breaking the game.

If Magic Weapon moved to the 2nd slot, and Bless moved to the 5th slot, I can live with that. But I am unsure how other DMs and players would deal with that.

The 1st slot already has ways to gain advantage on attacks. I consider advantage equivalent to about +2.5 (because it becomes less helpful versus high ACs when you really need it, so advantage is better than a flat +2 but less good than a +3). In my eyes, advantage is already plenty of attack bonus for a 1st level spell. These flat bonuses that add on top of totals, like Bless and Magic Weapon, I am happy if they move to higher levels.
 
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Stalker0

Adventurer
Heh, because of the design of bounded accuracy, if I had my way, the bonuses for the Magic Weapon spell (and magic weapons generally) would be.
I could see magic weapon as a cantrip if it had a concentration effect.

Touch a weapon, it becomes a +1 magic weapon. At 5th level, the weapon becomes +2. At 9th level, it becomes +3.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
It took me some time to respond to this thread. I wanted to post a ranking of the conjure spells. But it seems necessary to rank each possible creature separately. It is such a slog. I know some players love conjure spells, because they are a vehicle to customization and optimization, for both combat and utility. But, heh, I am less a fan of look-stuff-up-in-an-other-book spells. Anyway, I will eventually post those conjure spells, eventually, maybe.


[MENTION=5889]Stalker0[/MENTION], Magic Weapon as a cantrip. That sounds like it could work. Since it requires concentration, it might be balanced even at highest levels when it becomes +3. A concern is, it might be overpowered if no other magic items are available in the campaign, or oppositely, redundant if one already found a bonuses weapon. On the other hand, using the cantrip to drop concentration then pick it up gain seems like a good mechanic.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I am moving Bless to the 4th-Level Eldritch Knight category, where it probably belongs. Plus, it seems Cleric players get bored casting it routinely, and the less frequency of the 4th slot might make it feel more special. If the Cleric is going to cast Bless at level 1, then it probably should be a class feature, and probably should get some rethinking to make it feel more tactically interesting − so players can apply the bonus in a more flavorful or thoughtful way. I know it hurts to move Bless so far ‘down’. Post concerns, if any.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
I am moving Bless to the 4th-Level Eldritch Knight category, where it probably belongs. Plus, it seems Cleric players get bored casting it routinely, and the less frequency of the 4th slot might make it feel more special. If the Cleric is going to cast Bless at level 1, then it probably should be a class feature, and probably should get some rethinking to make it feel more tactically interesting − so players can apply the bonus in a more flavorful or thoughtful way. I know it hurts to move Bless so far ‘down’. Post concerns, if any.
Taking a good look at the list, I could see Bless as either 3rd or 4th level.

I don't think there is any 2nd level buff that ranks with bless.

At 3rd its competing with Haste. Haste is really good...but bless's ability to hit 3 targets out of the gate is also really nice. You've also got protection from energy which is a decent defensive buff.

At 4th you have Greater Invisibility, which again is single target...but if the creature can't see you give you tremendous offensive and defensive advantages.


Damn its tough. I'd probably say 3rd, but I still think its a spell you would see commonly used at 3rd. The problem is the 3 targets. The bonus itself is nice don't get me wrong, but what sells bless is you basically can buff the majority of the party with a single spell. If it was a single target 1st level would be just fine...great effect, but one person. But with 3 it competes so well with other spells....even a great buff like haste...you have the 1 great buff vs 3 solid buffs.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
The Magic Weapon spell:
• 1st spell level slot (class level 1): +1
• 4th spell level slot (class level 7): +2
• 6th spell level slot (class level 11): +3

With Bless at +2½, it seems like it might work better as a 5th spell level slot (class level 9), between +2 and +3.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
Well keep in mind magic weapon and bless aren't exactly the same.

Mw is attack and damage. Bless is attack and saving Throws. Mw main issue is thst most people will have magic weapons, which stacks with bless. In a very low magic item game, mw probably looks a lot more attractive.

Again when I compare bless to greater invis, I could see it as comparable but not superior. I think 5th level is reaching at thst point
 
Conjure Woodland Beings is REALLY OP. Consider pixies. You can summon eight of them, and they can each cast polymorph, dispel magic, fly, and several other useful spells. Sure the save DC is low, but there are EIGHT of them, and you only used one 4th level spell. Even if all you have them do is polymorph your whole party, that's still a whole lot of spells and a whole lot of concentration for the price of one. Then just have them hide somewhere safe. If your GM lets you use the Tome of Beasts, the Azza Gremlin and the Rum Gremlin are solid options as well. If you're fighting a single target, eight azza gremlins will keep it paralyzed most of the time, and eight rum gremlins can poison any number of opponents in short order.
 
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I would say that conjure woodland beings can be way op. Pixies can cast a crap-ton of useful spells (confusion, sleep, POLYMORPH, etc.) once per day. Abuse could look a bit like this.

1) conjure 8 pixies (CR 1/4)
2) tell half of them to cast polymorph on your whole party (if a party of 4)
3) tell the other half to cast fly on your whole party
4) make sure they then go hide as you and your friends become FLYING T-REXES!

Mind you. This is a 4th level spell.
 

Gladius Legis

Explorer
I would say that conjure woodland beings can be way op. Pixies can cast a crap-ton of useful spells (confusion, sleep, POLYMORPH, etc.) once per day. Abuse could look a bit like this.

1) conjure 8 pixies (CR 1/4)
2) tell half of them to cast polymorph on your whole party (if a party of 4)
3) tell the other half to cast fly on your whole party
4) make sure they then go hide as you and your friends become FLYING T-REXES!

Mind you. This is a 4th level spell.
The DM picks the creatures that show up with this spell, per Sage Advice. So this abuse is no longer possible.
 

Iry

Explorer
CWB can be insanely powerful, yes. But getting eight pixies is pretty unreliable.

I would say the most powerful spell is just Raise Dead. Just the hope that someone might bring you back keeps people adventuring instead of farming.
 
I strongly, -strongly- contest the fact that true polymorph is behind prismatic wall. In my view the only spell that competes with true poly is wish. This isn't from reading the spells, this is from having both in play for a considerable amount of time.

Everyone knows wish is awesome and does awesome stuff, don't need to sell people on that, but some people treat true polymorph like shapechange, but not as good. It's far from that. Imagine you have a simulacrum (you can have built it, no need to use wish to get it), and true polymorph. You can true polymorph your simulacrum into an ancient dragon, or Bael, or an Amnizu, or... there's a long list of overpowered options that do crazy things. You basically get a big boss monster as a pet.
 
turn a rock int a death slaad corpse, turn into a grey slaad. Eat the corpse, become a death slaad. Subdue the vampire lord your party encounters. Turn into a vampire spawn. Drink the vampire lord's blood. Become a vampire. Turn into a death knight, record the secret ritual in your ritual book that creates a death knight. become yourself again. Turn yourself into a death knight. Become the kindly wizard that your party did a quest for. Use his spells to do all kinds of crazy #!@$. I could go on but you get the idea.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I strongly, -strongly- contest the fact that true polymorph is behind prismatic wall. In my view the only spell that competes with true poly is wish. This isn't from reading the spells, this is from having both in play for a considerable amount of time.

Everyone knows wish is awesome and does awesome stuff, don't need to sell people on that, but some people treat true polymorph like shapechange, but not as good.
It has been over year since the creation of this thread. It is probably a good time to carefully reassess the ranking of spells in light of recent experiences.

Prismatic Wall/Sphere is an objectively good spell. It seems to even be one of the spells that the 5e design intentionally made extra powerful for plot protection, similar to Fireball at spellslot 3. Still, it has one purpose: wall.

Polymorph and Shapechange have more versatility, and if there are others who feel these need to rerank, that seems reasonable to me.

Some of the reassessment of Polymorph seems to rely on spell combos, such as combining with Simulacrum. It is important to note ways to abuse a spell, but the ranking depends on the each spell on its own, as-is. Even so, the versatility of Polymorph and Shapeshange might rank it higher.

I am contemplating moving Prismatic Wall down, under Polymorph.

I am also contemplating creating a hypothetical ‘spellslot level 10’, to put Wish in it. Wish really is that good. This would leave spellslot level 9 easier to rank relative to each other, without Wish dwarfing them.

Anyway, review the spell list in Post 2. Doublecheck that each spell is more desirable than the one before it.
 

Stalker0

Adventurer
I made notes on specific spells below:


Less Useful
Message 0 --Message is pretty solid, its a great utility cantrip.

Excellent
Guidance 0 --I think Guidance deserves its own tier. If you play a campaign with any decently heavy skill use, this spell is so good.

1st-Level Spells
−less useful
Passwall 5 – I think it’s a 2nd or 3rd level spell. It’s not as useful in general as fly at 3rd, but does give the party ways to bypass key obstacles, which is definitely stronger than 1st.

Eldritch Knight − Very Close Range, Weapon Attacks
−less useful
Divine Favor 1 – I would say at least not bad. Its still +2.5 damage

Not Bad
Protection From Evil And Good 1 – Upgrade to Good. While more situational than other protection spells, when you know your finding a dungeon of undead the protection is exceptionally strong…better than shield of faith or barkskin certainty.
Absorb Elements 1xg – This should be excellent. It is incredibly good and scales very well at higher levels.

2nd-Level Spells
−good
Instant Summons 6 –Considering the incredible material cost, I think this should be dumped into the bottom of the barrel.

−excellent
Prayer Of Healing 2

Not Bad
Enhance Ability 2 – Having seen this one in play, I would upgrade it to good. Again, for skill heavy games its very useful.

Good
Pass Without Trace 2 –Should be excellent, maybe even higher level. No other spell breaks bounded accuracy quite so much. It makes the druid the stealthy member of the party.

4th-Level Spells

Not Bad
Banishment – This spell to me is equal footing with polymorph because of its charisma save, which is an Achilles hill of the vast majority of monsters. It’s a completely gamechanger.

7th-Level Spells

−not bad
Demiplane 8 – This isn’t really any better than Magnificent Mansion, in some ways its worse. I would put it at the same level as that.

8th-Level Spells
Less Useful
Horrid Wilting 8xg –8th is too high for this. I think 7th is reasonable.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I made notes on specific spells below:


Less Useful
Message 0 --Message is pretty solid, its a great utility cantrip.

Excellent
Guidance 0 --I think Guidance deserves its own tier. If you play a campaign with any decently heavy skill use, this spell is so good.

1st-Level Spells
−less useful
Passwall 5 – I think it’s a 2nd or 3rd level spell. It’s not as useful in general as fly at 3rd, but does give the party ways to bypass key obstacles, which is definitely stronger than 1st.

Eldritch Knight − Very Close Range, Weapon Attacks
−less useful
Divine Favor 1 – I would say at least not bad. Its still +2.5 damage

Not Bad
Protection From Evil And Good 1 – Upgrade to Good. While more situational than other protection spells, when you know your finding a dungeon of undead the protection is exceptionally strong…better than shield of faith or barkskin certainty.
Absorb Elements 1xg – This should be excellent. It is incredibly good and scales very well at higher levels.

2nd-Level Spells
−good
Instant Summons 6 –Considering the incredible material cost, I think this should be dumped into the bottom of the barrel.

−excellent
Prayer Of Healing 2

Not Bad
Enhance Ability 2 – Having seen this one in play, I would upgrade it to good. Again, for skill heavy games its very useful.

Good
Pass Without Trace 2 –Should be excellent, maybe even higher level. No other spell breaks bounded accuracy quite so much. It makes the druid the stealthy member of the party.

4th-Level Spells

Not Bad
Banishment – This spell to me is equal footing with polymorph because of its charisma save, which is an Achilles hill of the vast majority of monsters. It’s a completely gamechanger.

7th-Level Spells

−not bad
Demiplane 8 – This isn’t really any better than Magnificent Mansion, in some ways its worse. I would put it at the same level as that.

8th-Level Spells
Less Useful
Horrid Wilting 8xg –8th is too high for this. I think 7th is reasonable.
[MENTION=5889]Stalker0[/MENTION], your comments, and your format are helpful.

In the second post of this thread, I tentatively made the following updates.

Message 0. Its rank moves down (improves) to the Not Bad section. It is particular good for situations where the party splits up. One doesnt want to split up too often, but it can be lifesaving when the party does. The truth is, metagaming where the players consult each other tends to obsolete the value of Message. In games where players are strict about only saying what the characters say, and only if the characters are in earshot of each other, Message can be useful. And in any case, Message 0 can be useful in stealth situations.

Guidance 0 is already in the Excellent section. I agree, the cantrip is highly useful in a campaign where players do whatever they want, and the ability (skill) checks are a normal way for the DM to adjudicate their various stunts. In Post 2, I nudged it down a bit in the Excellent section.

Divine Favor 1 was on the cusp, and it now nudges down into Not Bad.

Protection From Evil And Good 1. Ok, so your argument is, this spell is situational, but most of the time, it is obvious if characters are going to be in this situation (fighting undead, or fey, or so on), and these situations are common enough. Fair enough. It moves down into Good, past Barkskin.

Absorb Elements 1xg. Cool, this is a spell from Xanathars Guide / Elemental Evil. I moved it down into the Excellent section. Note, Hideous Laughter 1, Irresistible Dance 6, and Entangle 1 are a kind of set of comparable effects that are on the cusp of Excellent. So Absorb Elements 1xg moves past these.

‘Instant Summons 6 –Considering the incredible material cost, I think this should be dumped into the bottom of the barrel.’ Done. Note, my own game ignores the costly material component of spells and disallows spamming them. But yeah, rules as written, the usefulness of the spell is Minor.

Prayer Of Healing 2. Note, this spell is already Excellent. It is in the special Setup section, in the sense that characters cannot cast this on fly. In this case, they have to cast it during a rest. The Setup section has its own rankings of Not Bad, Good, and Excellent, considered separately from the other spells. Similarly, the Eldritch Knight is its own subsection, which most non-melee Wizards need to avoid, but is considered separately for those mages that are competent in melee.

‘Enhance Ability 2 – Having seen this one in play, I would upgrade it to good. Again, for skill heavy games its very useful.’ Done.

Pass Without Trace 2. Now Excellent. Others have also praised this spell in play. It is one of the few ways to ensure the entire party is stealthy.

‘Banishment – This spell to me is equal footing with polymorph because of its charisma save, which is an Achilles hill of the vast majority of monsters. It’s a completely gamechanger.’ Cool. Thinking about it, I moved Banishment to the Excellent section of the Setup spells. Banishment has a ‘significant prerequisite’ in the sense that the opponent must be extraplanar.

‘Demiplane 8 – This isn’t really any better than Magnificent Mansion, in some ways its worse.’ Done. In other editions of D&D, this was such a powerful spell, often broken. 5e hit it with the nerf hammer a bit too hard.
 

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