D&D: Five First-level Spells You’ll Never Stop Using

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First-level spells are more than just speed bumps on the road to greatness.  See why these five spells are great tools at any level.

First-level spells are the fantasy equivalent of getting dress socks for Christmas. They’re a fact of life you have to deal with before you can get to the big box waiting under the tree that you’re pretty sure is a bike (or, y’know, Fireball). But since you have to deal with them anyway, here are five spells that keep on giving well after you’ve worn a hole in the toe. (I get a lot of socks this time of year.)



The key to getting the most out your spell slots is figuring out how best to use them. And the best way to use first level spells is for shenanigans. Oh sure, you can take something like magic missile or burning hands, and you’ll enjoy the odd d4 or d6 of damage here and there, OR you could dictate the flow of the battle with even the most paltry of your arcane powers. Use it to create instant difficult terrain that forces opponents to slow down. Or better yet, fall prone. Especially if you’re playing 3rd edition–creatures trying to move had to make a balance check just to try and move, with failure meaning they couldn’t, or that they’d fall. You might be thinking, “oh big deal, it’s a DC 10 check,” but when was the last time you put ranks into balance?

Even if they succeed, drop this spell in a chokepoint and you’ll buy your party at least a round to do whatever you want. For an added bonus, fire up Yakkety Sax when casting.



“Thanks, but why’d you have to put on the Groucho glasses to cast the spell?” “It’s a blessing in disguise…”

Sometimes, though, you just need something that works for any situation. Maybe you’re fighting flying foes, or squaring off against oozes. Again. When you need a good workhorse spell that appeals to everyone in the party, look no further than bless. With one first level spell slot, you get a buff spell that only hits your allies, lasts most of the fight, and ups the combat capabilities of everyone who matters in the fight. Fifth edition has the added benefit of not requiring concentration.

Silent Image


No I said silent *image.* You know what, never mind.

Did someone say shenanigans? Moreso than Grease, Silent Image is the king of shenanigans at low-levels. This spell lets you create any image you can think of. It’s an instant wall your allies can shoot through, it’s a hiding place you can custom tailor to the surrounding terrain. Worried your enemies have access to invisibility purge? Fret no more because with Silent Image you can take cover behind anything. Better yet, enhance your bluffs. Silent image can create the illusion of a force or phenomenon of your choice. Get yourself a halfway decent bluff, and you too will be able to convince your enemies that you can open a portal to some kind of hell dimension or create a localized black hole.

Of course, it’s only an illusion, so there’s a limit to its usefulness, but with the right kind of thinking, you can get just about anything you need from this spell.

Protection from Evil/Good/Law/Chaos/Stuff


This one is just incredible. It’s not very sexy to cast, but you get so much with one simple spell. It makes you harder to hit (whether by giving you a bonus to AC or by giving your foes disadvantage when they attack you), but that’s not the real reason you cast it. This spell makes you immune to mind control, possession, charm, etc.–or it grants an additional saving throw (with a bonus) to an ally already affected by one of those conditions. Powerful stuff for so humble a spell.



With one spell, you can ward a single ally from all attack. Granted, they’re not able to attack themselves (without ending the spell), but there are plenty of other actions you can take that are helpful. For instance, casting any of the spells on this list (unless you drop grease on an enemy), doesn’t break the sanctuary effect. Nor does casting other, more powerful defensive spells or illusions. And in a pinch you can use it to increase the odds that the one party member you really need to stay alive makes it to the next round at least.

Bonus: Absorb Elements

The only reason this one doesn’t make the regular list is that it doesn’t have a 3.x edition equivalent. So not everyone gets a chance to bask in its glory–but, if you’re playing fifth, this is another spell (along with shield) that will continually be good. It gives you resistance to a certain kind of damage from one attack–so you only take half the damage you’d normally take. This is a great way to turn that incoming 40 damage fireball into a much less deadly 10 points (assuming you succeed on your saving throw, but that’s why I always stand next to a Paladin). And as an added bonus, you get to throw an extra 1d6 worth of elemental damage with your next attack.

Did we leave any first-level spells out of the list? Got a better use for one of the ones we listed here? Let us know in the comments below!

  • Rafał Pytlak

    Don’t forget magic missle to forever cast into darkness and Mage Hand to twist an ogre cojones on 1st level.

  • Hamish

    How was Magic Missile not every entry on this list?

  • LordGrise

    From 2nd Edition: Liquid Orb. Endless uses.

  • Old zogwort

    Protection from evil is that good that it is usually on the banned list by our group.

    • Red_Five_Standing_By


  • David Clift

    Mage armour- shield-unseen servant are pretty good.

  • Wampasaurus

    Other spells overlooked by this article.overlooked by this article. For Wizards/Sorcerers 1)Shield: +4 AC and negates that pesky Magic Missile spell some comments have suggested. 2) Hold Portal: Keeps those pesky enemies from ruining your favorite robes with your blood. 3) Comprehend Languages: For those times when those pesky enemies are just misunderstood 4) Detect Secret Doors: For any time the Rogue fails to notice where the GM is hiding the GOOD loot…5) Charm Person: Great because low level NPC saves never get any better…”Now tell me WHERE exactly is the entrance to the castle at?”

    Clerics 1) Divine Favor: Keeps getting better as you level and caps out at +5 to Hit and Damage? Yes please. 2) Hide from Undead: When you are 15th level and don’t want to fight 100 Skeletons 3) Remove Fear: When the Fighter inevitably fails his Saving Throw

    Honorable Mention- Paladin 1st Level spell Bless Weapon: The MOST powerful 1st level spell out there. HANDS.DOWN. Don’t believe me? go re-read that spell

  • Shawn

    You forgot Magic Missile and Mirror Image

  • 301stFeinminsterArmoured

    Faves from 5th are definitely Floating Disk, Hideous Laughter, and Unseen Servant, solely because you can do really beardy tricks with them if you think a bit.

  • Kmeares

    Cantrip. Not the new 0 level spell version the old 2nd ed version. There’s tons of uses (Dragon even did an article on them) if you’re remotely creative.