Best Bard Cantrips

  1. Vicious Mockery. The bread-and-butter damaging cantrip for Bards. 1d4 psychic damage on a failed Wisdom save is small, but it’s a rare resistance/immunity. And the rider effect — disadvantage on the next attack roll the creature makes — is incredibly useful from 1st-level right up until the end game.

  2. Prestidigitation. Six potential minor magic tricks, all of them useful in their way. The true Swiss-army knife of utility cantrips, and, in my opinion, better than its cousins, Thaumaturgy and Minor Illusion.

  3. Mage Hand. Another utility cantrip that allows for short-range faux-telekinesis, this is a spell that has tons of creative uses. It also fills a more active niche than the magic trick type cantrips mentioned above.

  4. Message. Sort of short range (120 feet), but still great as a walkie talkie that works through/around surfaces.

  5. Thunderclap. An AoE damage cantrip that affects creatures around you and makes a loud sound. While most Bards shouldn’t really get into melee range as a rule, this is a great spell for clearing out hordes of low-health baddies like goblins and kobolds.

Here are the other Bard cantrips and my X/5 rating for each:

Best 1st-level Bard Spells

  1. Faerie Fire. An AoE glitter bomb that lights up enemies who fail a Dex save, giving you and your allies attack advantage against them. Lasts for a full minute with no further saving throws if you can maintain concentration, which translates into a huge, consistent damage boost for your whole party.

  2. Dissonant Whispers. A decent-damage single-target spell that forces a creature to run away — which can expose them to multiple opportunity attacks from your allies. When used correctly, this offers so much more than the 3d6 psyhcic damage it does on its own.

  3. Healing Word. A bonus action ranged heal that’s the perfect thing in combat. While it heals less tha Cure Wounds, most of the time, you’ll only be using this to pick up a 0 hit point ally rather than to pad their hit point pool.

  4. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. A single target incapacitate, prone, and movement-deleting effect on a failed Wisdom save, which the target can repeat at the end of its turns. Incredible against boss monsters and the like.

  5. Thunderwave. An AoE thunder damage and push back effect that’s also audible at a 300-foot distance. I’m a sucker for forced movement effects and their ability to pair so well with persisent damage/control effects like Flaming Sphere and Web, so I rate this spell higher than many others might.

Here are the other 1st-level Bard spells and my X/5 rating for each:

Best 2nd-level Bard Spells

  1. Detect Thoughts. This ability can really frustrate DMs, but if you use it responsibly and respect a bit of “plot armor” around the spell’s possible effects, it’s great for moving a story forward. More than that, it can find invisible or hidden creatures and stealthily pick up on surface thoughts, which can be manipulated with good questions/skill checks.

  2. Invisibility. Great for stealth/scouting missions, and can be a decent pre-combat spell as well. Upcasting to cover your whole party is what keeps this spell relevant in the later tiers, as an hour-long duration is usually enough to explore a good chunk of an environment unnoticed.

  3. Hold Person. When this spell lands and sticks for multiple rounds, it has an incredible impact — paralyzed and totally open to attack advantage and automatic critical hits from allies in melee range. The only downside is that threatening humanoids become rare at higher tiers of play, but the upcast potential for affecting multiple targets still keeps it somewhat relevant.

  4. Aid. All-day, no-concentration increase to maximum hit points for three allies. A really incredible and efficient buff that can also be used as a faux-Mass Healing Word for an in-combat heal.

  5. Shatter. Small area of effect and a Constitution save, but pretty good damage. In my opinion, the best ranged AoE damage option Bards get at this tier.

Here are the other 2nd-level Bard spells and my X/5 rating for each:

Best 3rd-level Bard Spells

  1. Hypnotic Pattern. Great big area of effect, great big effect in incapacitating affected creatures until an ally of theirs wastes an action to recover them — no saves after the first (that’s huge). There’s nothing to not like about Hypnotic Patter, a reliable crowd control effect that stays relevant into the late game.

  2. Fear. While a the area of effect and the effect itself are lesser than Hypnotic Pattern, affected creatures can’t be saved by one of their allies shaking them out of it. The power of this multiplies if there isn’t any cover around for affected targets to hide behind and (potentially) break the effect.

  3. Dispel Magic. Every party needs at least one caster wtih this spell, and having two with it isn’t a waste either. Dispelling powerful magic effects from enemy spellcasters or removing a magical ward are essential tools that are required in every DnD campaign.

  4. Leomund’s Tiny Hut. There’s a lot of cheesy stuff you can technically pull off with this spell, but even without bending its applications to push your DM’s patience, it’s a great way to pull off safer long rests in environments that are far from safe.

  5. Tongues. You don’t need to learn every language in the game as long as you have this spell prepared. And since you’re likely the party’s “face” anyway, you’re going to be the one communicating most often. While utility spells are all technically situational the situation of “idk what this guy is saying” comes up more often than most in DnD.

Here are the other 3rd-level Bard spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Clairvoyance – 4

  • Enemies Abound – 4

  • Sending – 4

  • Slow – 4

  • Intellect Fortress – 3

  • Major Image – 3

  • Stinking Cloud – 3

  • Bestow Curse – 2

  • Catnap – 2

  • Glyph of Warding – 2

  • Mass Healing Word – 2

  • Plant Growth – 2

  • Speak with Dead – 2

  • Speak with Plants – 2

  • Feign Death – 1

  • Nondetection – 1

Best 4th-level Bard Spells

  1. Polymorph. A huge pool of extra hit points and extra hit points for a friendly target, or basically an instant-kill on an enemy target in the right conditions (a cliff nearby or Power Word: Kill queued up). This spell is never not good.

  2. Greater Invisibility. Speaking of spells that are never not good, Greater Invisibility is the best friend of your party’s martial members (especially Rogues and Paladins). Invisible creautres are attacked with disadvantage and make attacks with advantage, and this spelll lasts for a full minute through multiple attacks, unlike the lower-tier Invisibility spell that breaks after one attack.

  3. Dimension Door. Excellent short-range teleport for yourself and up to one ally.

  4. Freedom of Movement. A 1-hour, no-concentration spell that makes an ally immune to the paralyzed and restraiend conditions, as well as slow effects, the effects of difficult terrain, and no movement or attack penalties while swimming. This is very, very good on allies who require movement to fight effectively (e.g., Rogues, Monks) in fights where they’ll be hindered somehow.

  5. Phantasmal Killer. Single-target damage-over-time and frightened effect that can work wonders for removing an imporant enemy for a fight and only allow them to return once they’ve been weakened a bit.

Here are the other 4th-level Bard spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Charm Monster – 4

  • Confusion – 4

  • Compulsion – 2

  • Hallucinatory Terrain – 2

  • Locate Creature – 2

Best 5th-level Bard Spells

  1. Animate Objects. Finally, a mass summon effect. And it’s not even as much of a pain to use as the Druid’s Conjure Animals spell, since you can command all your object minions at once. Big, big damage and a helluva thing for enemies to deal with if they don’t have AoE attack options.

  2. Synaptic Static. An intelligence save-based area of effect spell that deals very good damage and debuffs enemy’s attacks, ability, and concentration checks for up to a minute — no concentration required. Overall a great spell.

  3. Raise Dead. Yay, you can bring the dead back to life – not sure why Bards have this, but if you’ve got a 500 gold diamond, you don’t have to worry about death ever again — as long as your target keeps all their limbs, organs, and head.

  4. Greater Restoration. For less serious situations than death. This spell is absolutely necessary for one party member to have ready at all times, especially once you reach the tier of play where it becomes available.

  5. Hold Monster. Remember how I said earlier that Hold Person’s power falls off because dangerous humanoids become rare in late game? Well, that’s the exact niche this spell is designed to fill — a powerful shut down effect that also allows for big offensive advantages on a single (unfortunate) target.

Here are the other 5th-level Bard spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Rary’s Telepathic Bond – 5

  • Seeming – 5

  • Dominate Person – 4

  • Scrying – 4

  • Mislead – 3

  • Modify Memory – 3

  • Geas – 2

  • Mass Cure Wounds – 2

  • Planar Binding – 2

  • Skill Empowerment – 2

  • Teleportation Circle – 2

  • Awaken – 1

  • Dream – 1

  • Legend Lore – 1

Bards get a lot of good 5th-level spells 🙂

6th- to 9th-level Bard Spells

Past 5th-level spells, it becomes difficult to judge the “best” spells available to Bards, as context matters too much to give a meaningful opinion. So I won’t rank a top 5 for higher level Bard spells, but I will give an X/5 rating. This rating is mostly based on how often a spell will be useful.

6th-level Bard Spells

  • Eyebite – 5

  • Mass Suggestion – 4

  • Otto’s Irresistible Dance – 3

  • Find the Path – 2

  • Guards And Wards – 2

  • Programmed Illusion – 2

  • True Seeing – 2

  • Heroes’ Feast – 1 (great spell; not worth a spell known on a Bard unless you’re rich)

7th-level Bard Spells

  • Teleport – 5

  • Forcecage – 4

  • Etherealness – 3

  • Prismatic Spray – 3

  • Resurrection – 3 (you don’t need this if you have Raise Dead)

  • Mirage Arcane – 2

  • Project Image – 2

  • Regenerate – 2

  • Symbol – 2

  • Dream of the Blue Veil – 1

  • Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion – 1

  • Mordenkainen’s Sword – 1

8th-level Bard Spells

  • Dominate Monster – 5

  • Feeblemind – 5

  • Power Word: Stun – 4

  • Glibness – 3

  • Antipathy/Sympathy – 2

  • Mind Blank – 2

9th-level Bard Spells

  • Foresight – 5

  • Power Word: Heal – 5

  • Power Word: Kill – 5

  • Prismatic Wall – 4

  • Psychic Scream – 5

  • True Polymorph – 5

  • Mass Polymorph – 4