First-level spells are more than just speed bumps on the road to greatness. See why these spells are great tools at any level.
First-level spells might well be regarded as the “socks and underwear for Christmas” of spells–nice to have, sure, but exciting? Maybe not. But every now and then, you get a pair that’s comfortable, stylish, and sturdy enough that you’ll keep using it, even against a lich. A humble suite of spell slots, that, by the time you have 4 of the often get relegated to Shield and/or Absorb Elements. But the best first level spells will keep on giving well past the point you’ve got fireball. The best first level spells add extra excitement and shenanigans to your arsenal–or are Magic Missile. Read on for a few that any Wizard would be happy to find under their Treantmas Golem come the Holidays.
Look there’s a reason that people joke that your 1st level spell slots are for Shield and Absorb Elements (and really most of the time it’s for Shield), and that’s because it is one of the most powerful spells in the game. And not even just for its level–this one lets you cancel an attack, effectively. Wizards has outright said this spell is a little unbalanced, and sure there comes a time when having +4 to your AC doesn’t make that much difference, but this is one spell you’ll never regret preparing/knowing.
“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 works both offensively and defensively, so it’s really two buffs in one. Which makes it one of the better concentration spells out there, especially at 1st level.
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.
No I said silent *image.* You know what, never mind.
Did someone say shenanigans? More so 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.
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, but that’s not the real reason you cast it. This spell makes you immune to being charmed, frightened, or possessed by the creatures the spell wards against (which are more like outsiders who happen to be good/evil)–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.
Look this one is a classic for a reason. Magic Missile is an iconic spell that just works (unless your target has prepped shield). Especially in 5th, where it’s been ruled that Magic Missile triggers one different concentration check per missile, and plays incredibly well with an Evocation Wizard’s ability to add their intelligence modifier to the damage roll of one spell (it counts as one instance of damage that just happens to be repeated). It never stops being good or useful, and so rounds out our list.
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!