Shane is an avid TTRPG player and DM for 7+ years, on top of being a writer. I love all things D&D and am always up to try a new system!
Underrated and Overlooked Spells in 5E DnD
These nine spells deserve a lot more love than they get. Based on my years of experience as both a 5th Edition player and DM, here are the most underestimated spells and why they need more respect.
- Plant Growth
- Sleet Storm
- Misty Step
- Arcane Eye
- Modify Memory
1. Plant Growth
Plant growth is the bane of many DMs and one of the top utility spells for Druids, Bards, Rangers or nature Clerics who understand what this spell actually does. Why would a spell that does no damage be so high on the list?
Because it absolutely wrecks most enemy encounters and allows your party to build an entire team around this spell as a main part of combat. Plant growth instantaneously grows all plants in a 100 foot radius from center thick and overgrown, reducing speed by 75%. They must use 4 feet of movement for every 1 foot actually moved.
This has a range of 150 feet, and the caster can choose areas that are unaffected in that circle.
So you can basically make it virtually impossible for ground units to move at all while your party stands in a small oasis of non-difficult terrain. This can surround you, or be thrown at a distance.
And it's not a magical effect meaning dispel does nothing.
That is battlefield control on a scale that ruins anything that can't fly or teleport - and if you have a party of sharpshooters, good f'ing luck to those enemies.
Also amazing for creating an escape.
You can get the full text on this spell here.
Bane is finally starting to get some attention, but it truly is an underrated bard spell that does way more work in-game than you would expect from a spell that involves d4 dice, but when you break down what it does and which characters are most likely to use it, it is a very potent combination.
At level one bane targets three enemies for a charisma saving throw (which is a weakness of a lot of non-humanoid enemies especially early game). If they fail, that's a d4 they have to roll every time making an attack or save, and then subtract that number from what's rolled.
Many, many times this is enough to switch a save to a fail or a hit to a miss. The fact it's a low level spell that affects multiple characters makes it even more powerful.
If a DM needs to roll a 14 or higher to hit anyhow, a -4 from a bane can make hitting a target insanely difficult.
Try it out. It's a spell that looks just okay on paper, and then in-game just does serious work.
3. Sleet Storm
Most players read this spell description, see it does no damage, and then immediately move on. While this is understandable since with a name that includes "storm" most of us expect damage, but dismissing sleet storm off-hand would be a mistake.
This spell has an incredible number of effects on an area and can be a living nightmare in the right situations. Or an absolute boon for a party who uses it right.
Sleet storm doesn't cause damage, but it does do a lot of other things. Found on page 276 of the Player's Handbook, Sleet Storm can be cast from a stunning 150 feet away and is a concentration spell that for up to one minute creates a 20 foot tall cylinder with a 40 foot radius of freezing rain and sleet.
- Doses all exposed flames in the area
- Heavily obscures the area
- Makes all the area the storm covers difficult terrain (and 40 foot radius means 40 feet in every direction of where you drop that center point)
- A creature must make a Dexterity save every single time it enters the space or starts their turn in the space (which because of difficult terrain and obscured view is likely two turns, possibly more)
- Any creature casting a concentration spell must make a Constitution saving throw against your DC or lose concentration
That is an insane amount of effects that all happen in one area. This also can absolutely break some common DM favorites like, oh I dunno, a cult of humans chanting in a torch lit room while several casters are concentrating on the ceremonial spells?
Throwing a sleet storm in that room would cause utter chaos, and that's even before considerations like "Well with no torches none of them can see, right?" Good luck on knowing where the attackers are at, much less doing anything about it.
This also doesn't require pre-existing conditions like existing plant life for plant growth for it to work.
And toss this on an enemy party in snowy northern terrain and survival checks and Constitution saves could be a real thing as they attempt to not freeze to death.
This is one of my absolute favorite underrated spells.
As an experienced spellcaster can tell you, never underestimate the power of adding a Z-axis into the mix. Great for getting line of sight, moving away from the biggest threats, and moving freely whether it's away from danger or in position to wreak havoc on your enemies.
Fly is a spell that comes at a level where many good spells become available, making it one that tends to fly under the radar (No...I couldn't help myself and yes, I am ashamed), but fly is incredibly useful.
You can communicate to others, pinpoint your magic attacks, and avoid all melee attacks from the ground. Even if the DM sends your party up against a well-balanced enemy, the enemy's ranged attackers or magic users must deal with the flying character or you do your thing unimpeded.
Either way, this spell might not have the pizazz of fireball or others coming available around that time, it's one that should still be seriously considered.
5. Misty Step
Misty Step is one of those spells that is a literal life saver. A very popular spell for warlocks, and a major feature of the Fey Touched feat, the Misty Step spell allows a player to use a bonus action to teleport up to 30 feet to any unoccupied space that they can see.
This is a quick way to remove yourself from a bad situation, like when melee closes in on the spellcasters. The ability to use a bonus action to teleport before using a main action is an additional bonus.
This is a spell that can be used to set up a devastating kill shot, get out of range of danger, or in special circumstances cause all types of chaos. Just think Fey Touched fighter or monk and how jumping around the battlefield can make them doubly dangerous in the right situation.
"I don't suppose you know any level one wizard spells that scale for damage worth a (swear)?" one of my players, the one most known for knowing the books inside and out, asked.
"Catapult, Xanathar's," I replied.
He flipped to the page incredulously, read out the entire spell in disbelief, and then filled out his last spell slot. Catapult was the perfect fit for what he was looking for.
This spell is a straight up banger for a level one spell and I'm all for it. With catapult you pick an object up to 5 lbs within 60 feet of you. Using an action to cast, that object then is flung in a direction of the caster's choosing and will travel up to 90 feet or until it hits a target, whichever is first (and yes, that mains you can potentially hit a target 150 feet away).
The target must make a dexterity saving throw against the spell caster's DC. If they succeed they dodge and take no damage. However, if they fail they take 3d8 bludgeoning damage.
Each level above the first lets the object be 5 lbs heavier, and adds another d8 to the pool of damage, meaning this is a low level spell that can do some serious damage.
Great way to fill out a low level spell slot with a versatile and damaging spell with some legs to it.
7. Arcane Eye
Wouldn't be great if you had a map of the dungeon before pursuing dead ends and taking a beating from another blue collar dungeon crawl? Let me introduce you to Arcane Eye, a spell that very old school 3.5 players will remember but one that has escaped the attention of many new 5E players.
There's some confusion with this spell since it lists a range of 30 feet, but that's only the range of where the Arcane Eye can start. Based on the description of the spell this invisible magical eye with dark vision can then move as far away from you as you want in this plane of existence and scout out the area ahead.
So you can use it to scout out dungeons, buildings, locations for a heist, roads ahead, etc. Your group can even take a short break as you move the eye about to map out the dungeon - and your warlocks will thank you for that!
A very underrated spell that can do some serious work in the right hands.
Silence is a spell that can be stunningly effective in a variety of ways and it just doesn't get the love it deserves. I think this is often because of how many DMs run 5th Ed games where they don't really mention verbal or somatic components for spells but just allow the casting to take place.
Silence is a great counter to enemy spellcasters, creating a 20 foot sphere of silence. This can stop enemy spellcasters in their tracks, be put on a group to give them advantage on stealth checks, or to otherwise creatively kill sound to help the party.
An important detail most casters ignore: silence has an impressively long range of 120 feet meaning you can toss this spell from quite a distance.
9. Modify Memory
Oh man, this is a spell that can cause absolute havoc and an experienced creative player (or DM) can do freaking wonders with this. Modify memory requires a wisdom save which, if failed, charms a person and allows you to completely erase, change, or alter the memories of an event that happened the last 24 hours.
You can put people there who weren't, erase memories of you being there at all, or change details however you see fit to sow confusion or remove yourself from a sticky situation.
This is a 5th level spell, which is understandable because it can be stunningly powerful in its application. Keep in mind that this memory remains even if under a Zone of Truth spell, because the person affected by modified memory tells the truth as they know it.
In an intrigue heavy game whether a player or DM, this can be a powerful and fun tool for shaping machinations in your favor...or messing with an adventuring party who go through a huge battle only to get yelled at later for not dealing with the rogue spellcaster who refuses to pay taxes on his estates.
The battle was the modified memory - and putting them in position to figure this out would be fantastic.
Creativity Rules the Day With Magic
No matter what class of spellcaster you are, it never hurts to take a page out of the wizard's books and always be prepared. Some of the best uses of spells came from the smart use of a spell in a really specific situation (my favorite at our table being the infamous "animate object" on the petrified barbarian since he was now a statue to make the statue choke the enemy mage).
But thinking of how these spells can be used in different ways, different circumstances, and creative applications, it becomes clear how some of these underrated spells have far more potential than even many veteran D&D players may realize.
© 2022 Shane Dayton