Continuing our series of reviews for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, I cover the new spells introduced in the supplement. There various winners and losers regarding spell variety, some spells seem underwhelming in the face of others across other classes or within their own spellcasting lists. Even certain schools of magic seemed to have acquired more support than previously published materials. All of the spells featured in Princes of the Apocalypse are reprinted here, again, most likely part of the +1 source clause for Adventurer’s League.
- Druids, Rangers, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards won out of this deal. These classes received the most substantial amount of new spells, including the content from Princes of the Apocalypse.
- Sorcerers and Warlocks received the most relative power boost with the increased spell pool.
- Sorcerers gained more elemental damage spells.
- Any caster that received new 9th level spell options.
- Paladin won out by being granted the holy weapon spell.
- Wizards received a new necromancy cantrip that deals damage.
- Demonic summoning is now part of a Wizard’s & Warlock’s spell repertoire
- A new Power Word spell
- More necromancy spells
- Every other spellcasting class: Bards, Clerics, and Paladins
- A lot of reprinted spells from Princes of the Apocalypse
- Spells that feel too situational
Spell Breakdown – When asking a Mage the merits of a spell
**** = Amazing, why didn’t you prepare this spell?
*** = Very good, worth considering
** = Not great, but decently useful in the right conditions
* = There can be such things as bad spells, or very situational spells
Abi-Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting (**) – an 8th-level necromancy spell that essentially makes blight into an area of effect that continues the concept of hurting plants. Great for blighters and a great high-level AoE for necromancer wizards. But honestly, you get more damage mileage with spells like sunburst and incendiary cloud serves as battlefield control tactics. You will have to very narrow focused to sacrifice a spell slot to cast this since you only get one of them.
Absorb Elements (***) – a reaction spell that grants resistance to the triggering attack (which is a good thing) until your next turn. Great against a dragon’s breath weapon. The extra damage to melee attacks is really not worth consideration, especially if you’re using it against a creature that will most likely be either resistant or immune to the elemental damage. But saving you from taking a bucket of fire damage? Totally worth it. Still a little situation, but if you’re fighting a lot of elemental sources or expect them, then it’s worth considering.
Aganazar’s Scorcher (*) – dealing damage in a 30-foot line isn’t the most fabulous area of coverage, but it’s one of the earlier AoE effects an Evoker Wizard would have access to besides burning hands. But the damage output is by far weak compared to the potential overwhelming potential of spells like scorching ray.
Beast Bond (*) – I would instead use animal friendship or speak with animals and plants than this spell. Sure the concepts are more accessible to comprehend between beast and the character, but the only real advantage with this spell comes with the combat advantage through this telepathic link which is great for animal companions but sadly requiring the beast to be 5-foot of the caster really sets this spell down a tier.
Bones of the Earth (***) – I love the versatility of this spell. Six stone pillars eject from the earth upward, this can create physical barriers that when destroyed becomes difficult terrain or if it’s used under a creature, it can generate elevation for allies or be a death sentence for enemies. Also great for druids who are more range combat oriented or to help companions who are ranged combat users.
Catapult (**) – What I really love about this spell is the ability to toss an object in a 90-foot straight line, which is additionally fun when combined with minor magic items like a vial of alchemist’s fire or tangleweb root. The spell doesn’t stipulate that the item tossed had to be magical or non-magical which can lead to a slew of imaginative uses.
Catnap (*) – A short rest is defined as an hour-long period of light downtime activity, if you are playing in a game where time is monitored considerably, this may be a spell worth picking up for you. But most of the time, tracking the passage of time is something very few DMs will nickel and dime. The short rest is beneficial for martial characters and those who need to regain hit points through their hit dice. Keeping that in mind, sleeping for 10 minutes uninterrupted gains the benefits of a short rest which is excellent for Warlocks (which thankfully they do not have access to learning) and Wizards with their Arcane Recovery feature. Bards and Sorcerers have pretty much little to no real gain out of this spell and waste a valuable slot for spells known.
Cause Fear (***) – Frightened conditions are potent in the early tiers of play, it can make or break a combat encounter moment. As you reach higher levels, you will meet more creatures with resistance or immunity to fear effects.
Ceremony (*) – A spell featured in a Spells Unearthed Arcana article that featured new cantrips and 1st-level spells. This spell is more for flavor than for actual functionality, though creating only water as a ritual is somewhat useful especially against fiends and undead enemies. Plus the Funeral Rites options is an excellent deterrent for the undead to spawn again. Honestly, it’s better for the Cleric to cast since they acquire the ability to cast ritual spells and not expend spell slots if they spend 10 minutes to perform the spell.
Chaos Bolt (**) – This is a very oddly designed but fun spell to play. When you cast the spell and roll the damage, you roll 2d8 plus 1d6 on a hit from a spell attack roll. You choose one of the d8s, and the damage of the spell will be the type based on a chart for the spell. If both d8s are the same number, the spell leaps to another target within 30 feet of the original and will deal damage if another spell attack roll hits. The new attack rolls their damage die and can potentially leap again. This is high variance spell that is not reliable but honestly fun to cast when given the opportunity. A Wild Magic Sorcerer can definitely have some fun abusing their features with this spell.
Charm Monster (**) – A charmed effect spell that targets all manner of creatures, not just humanoids. Useful in the right situations, very useful even at higher levels mainly against polymorphed creatures or shapechangers that shift types around.
Control Flames (*) – Situationally useful but great for conveying signals since the spell only has somatic components which are great for subterfuge.
Control Winds (*) – controlling the winds is situationally useful in a marine/oceanic situation or similar environment. The one saving grace about this spell is that the caster can change the modes of the spell and not waste casting it again which adds to its utility.
Create Bonfire (*) – A concentration on a cantrip where the effect takes up a 5-foot cube, I would instead use flaming sphere than this spell. Yes, it’s a cantrip and doesn’t cause any additional slots, and I can merely recast it again if the target moves still serve as a mute point.
Create Homunculus (*) – A 6th-level spell slot to get a worse version of a familiar? Pass. Find familiar is still the better option, even for Wizards who don’t lose spell slots casting rituals from their spellbooks.
Crown of Stars (***) – A spell that’s a callback to Mystra, the goddess of Magic in the Forgotten Realms. Unlike the animate objects spell, wherein the objects created can attack simultaneously, this spell creates seven motes of light, and the caster uses a bonus action to fling one of them at an enemy. The motes produce bright light, and if enough are expended, the light radius diminishes. Think of it as a tactical dancing lights spell. While it has the potential to deal a significant portion of damage (if all seven stars hit, that’s 28d12 points of damage), it doesn’t necessarily guarantee the damage as efficiently as other spells in this spell level. But one feature that has it worthwhile compared to some other spells is the lack of concentration and a flat 1-hour duration. So you can cast this spell, cast another spell and even concentrate on another. Lots so of options to go around.
Danse Macabre (***) – Unlike other spells that create or animate the undead, this spell is what I call “the quick and dirty” undead minion spawning spell. It’s a few spell levels above animate dead, but for the cost of an action, corpses can instantly rise to be undead minions and be given general commands, which is handy when a second wave of enemies emerges in a combat scenario. The only downside to the spell is that the undead created are not permanent and will become inanimate at the end of the spell’s duration (unless they’re destroyed).
Dawn (**) – Compared to the destructive flame strike or the various elemental sphere spells, this spell does not do a whole lot of damage but makes up for it with making creatures blind on failed saving throws. Additionally, the light produced by this spell is considered daylight, another anti-vampire or anti-Underdark denizen spell. Great against hordes of drow or vampire spawns. I might be willing to have a Light domain Cleric have this as a domain spell if your DM is willing. The spell doesn’t force additional saving throws after the initial burst, but it allows the caster to move the cylinder of light, which again is excellent against creatures that have sensitivity to daylight.
Dragons Breath (****) – Repeat after me: “Cast this on your familiars.” This increases your potential damage output of your familiar while it might be worth higher spell slots, in those earlier tiers of play, it is an invaluable resource.
Druid’s Grove (***) – A druid’s version of forbiddance and it summons four awakened tree guardians, which honestly is much better. It’s much more fortified than forbiddance though instead of a structure, it’s a piece of nature instead. While it thematic feels more for a woodland environment, I’m kinda disappointed that it couldn’t cover other types of terrain too.
Dust Devil (**) – This battlefield control spell has some excellent utility in the early levels, creating possible choke points, especially in a large open area for instance. But even better in areas where the spell can send targets into the range of your martial characters to take them down a few sizes. While not incredibly potent, the early game utility is still something to consider, but at later levels, the area of effect doesn’t provide as much of an advantage.
Earth Tremor (*) – Just no. The 10-foot area of effect suggests a panic button scenario wherein the caster is surrounded. Hopefully, you found some cover in those early levels. At higher levels, you have plenty of ways to escape danger. Even if you were to use this spell as a set-up for your rogues or melee characters, it’s a bit too much of a risk though an Evoker Wizard has more utility with this spell than other spellcasters.
Elemental Bane (***) – Note that this does not get rid of immunities, so against adult tier dragons and elementals, this spell is ineffective. Against other creatures though, it can prove useful, as it removes the resistance and deals extra damage based on the element chosen. Using higher spell slots increases the number of targets, so it has some use for a handful of creatures, but once you start going past 6th level, you’re losing more devastating effects in place of debuffs that require a set up before you can capitalize on it.
Enemies Abound (**) – Not as great as crown of madness or dominate person, but it’s another option that works similar to confusion. Charm spells are situational at best, but this can be a great evil villain spell. Villain casts this on a ruler while meeting with the party, the villain remains out of sight and casts the spell on the ruler causing them to view the party as enemies. This spell does require some creativity in its use, but if done well, it can be a fun addition.
Enervation (***) – It’s a better witch bolt that can heal the caster from a 60-foot range. This spell becomes terrific on a Sorcerer with the Twinned Metamagic option. This spell works excellent for Sorcerers with their metamagic options, especially if it’s twinned and then the Sorcerer can spend their bonus actions using the Quickened Metamagic to cast more spells. It’s a little costly up front, but the yield is quite promising. Definitely a **** for Sorcerers and Warlocks.
Erupting Earth (**) – It’s a mini-bones of the earth spell. Not as high in verticality, injures the target (so not useful for elevating party members) but does create difficult terrain in a 20-foot cube. Damage is lackluster, but it has its uses, especially if you don’t get access to bones of the earth.
Far Step (***) – Continuous misty step but up to 60 feet instead? Sign me up! If you remain out of range from the enemy, you have a wider area of mobility that has you casting spells from various angles. Very useful in a large, open setting.
Find Greater Steed (***) – You get to summon a pegasus mount. Flight and verticality are incredibly potent in mid to later tiers of play. Definitely worth it if you’re into mounted combat. Still worth it even for traveling purposes.
Flame Arrows (**) – If this spell didn’t require concentration, I would have bumped it a rank up. For a 3rd-level spell slot, the potential damage output can yield 12d8 arrow damage (from a longbow) and 12d6 fire damage (assuming all attacks hit). While this possible damage is stretched out, the more likely damage output comes somewhere close to 6d8 and 6d6, considering only half of the arrows hit their target. But honestly, if you want extra damage, you’re better off using hunter’s mark instead of this spell.
Frostbite (***) – A vicious mockery cantrip that deals cold damage instead. While psychic damage is far better in the long term since cold damage in the early game is quite useful as there are more fire spells in the earlier tiers which lead to more creatures (in the Monster Manual) having more fire resistance over time.
Guardian of Nature (***) – a pseudo transformation spell that fits a variety of play styles though Wildshape is still the better option for druids. Though this is a great side option in spell selection in case the druid expends all of their uses of Wildshape or wishes to conserve them for later.
Gust (*) – I was not a fan of many of the elemental cantrips from Princes of the Apocalypse, this is one of them. The 5-foot push effect is useful if martial enemies got too close to the caster. Honestly, you’re better off using shocking grasp in such situations as the lack of reactions is a much better turnaround.
Healing Spirit (***) – Wow! While the healing is minor, it’s practically a walking healing word moving around. It takes a bonus action to cast, and a bonus action to move it. The only reason I have to keep this at 3-stars is due to the clause: “whenever you or a creature you can see” which includes enemies as well. So be mindful where you decided to drop this spirit, though it can be moved later you also don’t want to undo your party’s hard work.
Holy Weapon (****) – While not as potent as previous editions of this spell, the fact that it creates a pseudo-Holy Avenger is enough to consider this spell. I find the ability to expend the spell and causes a quick sunbeam-like effect that increases this spell’s functionality.
Ice Knife (**) – It’s a great spell in early tiers of play but loses it’s luster once you get into higher levels likes its predecessor from 3.5e.
Illusory Dragon (****) – It’s hard to find useful illusion spells at higher spell levels. You literally create a dragon that breaths elemental energy and can cause fear. Even if the enemy realizes it’s only an illusion, they just gain advantage on their saving throws which often only reduces to damage to half. Combined with the Illusory Reality feature for Illusionist Wizards, the dragon can be real for some aspects which can be handy against that pesky Intelligence (Investigation) checks to discern its true nature.
Immolation (**) – Want a fiery form of disintegrate or finger of death? Well, here you are. Fire damage is the most common element type, and there are plenty of creatures that are resistant to it. But still a good evocation spell, better with sorcerers since they can use their Heightened Spell metamagic feature to impose disadvantage on saving throws. I would much prefer disintegrate or finger of death as there are better utility spells at the 5th-level spell slot range.
Infernal Calling (*) – So this spell was a series of demonic spells presented in another Unearthed Arcana regarding Abyssal Tieflings, and new Warlock & Wizard spells to summon quick demon allies. This sort of spell is more for NPCs than player characters. The devil is from the Nine Hells, it has a disposition against you (the caster) and your allies. If you command it with actions that befit the devil’s nature, it’ll perform its tasks. Otherwise, it’ll require opposed Charisma checks against Wisdom (Insight). If you lose concentration, the devil remains but is no longer under your control. If you want to have fun with this double-edged sword, it’ll be great roleplaying, but your party members might not appreciate it as much.
Infestation (**) – I’m always pleased to see more poison damage cantrips. The damage is minor, but the random forced movement is quite entertaining. Not a great cantrip but nice that you have another cantrip that targets a saving throw very few classes start with proficiency.
Investiture of [Insert Element] (***) – I have a love-hate relationship with these spells. I honestly would have preferred if the four elemental versions were one single spell instead. Granted the text would be long and tediously challenging to read. The damage immunity or resistances are quite useful, some allow alternative actions that represent their respective elements. For a druid, since they do not waste valuable resources such as a spellbook to “learn” these spells, they have the better advantage of utilizing these spells than other casters. Plus druids benefit with the extra action options while in their Wildshapes while other spellcasters would instead continue casting more spells if possible.
Invulnerability (*) – So you’re immune to damage for 10 minutes. What’s that? Oh, you cast dispel magic?! Oh no!
Life Transference (*) – I just honestly do not see the point of taking damage to heal an ally. I would instead cast an actual healing spell at that point, even if the healed hit points are less than what this spell could generate. A Life Domain Cleric with the Blessed Healer feature might be able to mitigate some of this spell’s drawback. At 4d8, an average of 18 points of damage taken for a possible 36 points of healing of a single target within 30 feet. Healing Word as double the range and while its healing capabilities are less than half (assuming a 3rd-level healing word casting) than this spell, I would instead use that resource more so than the potential damage taken.
Maddening Darkness (***) – I love evocation spells that don’t deal normal damage types. Ordinarily psychic is seen in many enchantment, illusion, and necromancy spells. 60 feet worth of darkness is nothing to snuff at, but I would’ve appreciated if the spell had a speed reducing element for failed saving throws. But perhaps it was deemed too powerful, but we are talking about 8th level spells after. If you want to cast one, it has to be extremely worthwhile to consider burning such a limited resource slot plus the commitment to prepare it.
Maelstrom (***) – A great battlefield tactical spell, the damage is marginally useful, but it’s the size and scope of the difficult terrain that drags creatures toward its center.
Magic Stone (****) – What I love about this cantrip is that the stones can be given to an ally, say a fighter or ranger with extra attacks. A druid can cast this spell as a bonus action, drop the pebbles near the ranged combatant, cast another spell using an Action and move around a bit. Why is this relevant? More damage types for the ranged character since some enemies have resistances to the physical damage types. Also great when said ranged character is out of ammunition.
Mass Polymorph (****) – There are a lot of uses with this spell since it targets 10 creatures. Can you imagine having an army of tyrannosaurus rex stampeding into the combat zone? Or suddenly turn the enemy squad into frogs. Polymorph is already a potent spell, making it target 10 creatures is just the cherry on top.
Maximillian’s Earthen Grasp (***) – Finding good tactical transmutation spells can be a challenge sometimes, but this spell has improved vastly from its original predecessor in 3.5e. The fact that hand can be moved makes it worthwhile and useful. If it didn’t have that clause, this spell would be a 1-star rating.
Melf’s Minute Meteors (***) – Similar to Crown of Stars, we have another spell that creates objects to be hurled at our foes. You can throw one to two meteors at a time, once you use them up, the spell ends. So for a bonus action, you can efficiently deal 4d6 cold damage to a single point, which is not a wrong way to go to keep up with DPR (damage per round) since it allows the caster to continue tossing spells through their normal Action. Plus the caster can immediately launch a few of these cold space rocks the turn it’s cast.
Mental Prison (****) – For an Illusionist Wizard, this spell is golden. Should a creature fail this saving throw, they are tormented by ghostly visions and are restrained. Any damage dealt to the target can be “interpreted” as part of the illusion if you have a sinister Dungeon Master (like me). Once the target interacts with the spell, it ends and explodes into 10d10 psychic damage, talk about having your mind blown.
Mighty Fortress (***) – Like the Druid’s Grove spell, you create a protected place and if cast enough times throughout a year, it becomes permanent. Just like mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, this spell has a lot of utility outside of combat this fortification can also serve to defend an area as well. This spell is more story/narrative-centric, but it’s nifty nonetheless.
Mind Spike (***) – One of the few divination spells that actually does damage. For non-Rangers, this is a pseudo-hunter’s mark remake. On a failed save, the caster has knowledge of the target’s location so long as they’re on the same plane, they cannot become hidden from you (such as through a magic item), and they do not gain the benefits of invisibility. Definitely useful and a solid choice for Diviner Wizards.
Mold Earth (**) – This cantrip is almost worth picking up if only to add or remove difficult terrain. It’s more of a set-up cantrip but helps when you’re planning to lay down a trap of some kind.
Negative Energy Flood (**) – You kill a living target, it returns as a zombie next turn (but not as an ally? That’s weird). But this is one of the few spells that heals undead so you can expect this in your next evil necromancer NPC.
Power Word: Pain (**) – Enchanter Wizards gain the ability to split this spell between two targets for free. Very useful, you can target enemy casters and maybe a few of their strikers. Sorcerers have the added benefit of using their Heightened metamagic feature to give disadvantage on the saving throws. While the spell does provide already disadvantage, it doesn’t extend to Constitution saving throws so that will be something to consider. Most enemies are stuck or unable to be effective, which makes it easier for your allies to pick them off one by one.
Primal Savagery (**) – One of the few acid cantrips for the Druid at last. Damage is good but requires being in melee range. I’m better off keeping thornwhip or shelleigh available instead.
Primordial Ward (****) – Resistance to five elements? Heck yeah! An excellent spell for Druids, especially while in their Wildshape forms. The druid can choose to end gain immunity to the triggered elemental damage dealt and then lose the resistances, and the spell ends at the next turn. If you realize that the damage is going to probably make you lose this spell, expend it and gain the immunity so you can prolong your wildshape. It’s worth consideration for sure.
Psychic Scream (***) – The enchantment school really needed a 9th-level spell. The damage alone is potent, 14d6 psychic damage with a chance of being stunned is nothing to snuff at, and anyone killed by this spell has their head explode.
Pyrotechnics (**) – This is a situationally useful spell, it’s great when you need a quick distraction, it’s a worthwhile tactical spell but requiring a nonmagical flame to be available limits this spell quite a bit.
Scatter (****) – One of the strong points about the conjuration school is teleportation. This spell is terrific for battlefield control as it allows repositioning for allies and foes alike. Granted your enemies will need to make Wisdom saving throws and all targets are teleported to a place with a ground or floor. You can still teleport them onto a ledge and then have someone push them off. Still useful either way.
Shadow Blade (***) – While the fire blade was a nice and cute spell for druids, it did not possess as much potential as this upgrade. This spell makes your iconic Bladelock builds have options since this spell works for melee and ranged combat as a thrown weapon. The spell slot increases are staggered to avoid making this spell too appealing. A warlock can cast this spell as a bonus action and attack with their new shadow blade on the same turn. Unfortunately, this spell does not gain any benefits from an Illusionist Wizard, but it’s a great spell for them to possess a more personal touch. Surprisingly, this spell is somewhat useful for Bladesingers, as they gain Extra Attacks and therefore can utilize this shadow weapon more effectively. Also, a good spell for Eldritch Knights to pick up as well.
Shadow of Moil (**) – I’m not really a big fan of this spell. Armor of Agathys is a much better spell for a similar concept, and it doesn’t require concentration, unlike this spell. Resistance to radiant damage is excellent once and a while, the darkness effect is useful for warlocks with the right invocations, the damage after being hit is somewhat subpar.
Shape Water (**) – Congratulations, you can create water bubbles that float and change colors. Creating a block of ice is quite useful though. We are talking about a 5-foot cube, which is actually a substantial amount of water that can be transported as ice. The Elemental cantrips weren’t especially useful and were more thematic than anything else. But keep in mind the ideas you can have with at 5-foot cube worth of ice.
Sickening Radiance (**) – You would have given this a lot more stars if the levels of exhaustion it produced remained after the spell ended but alas it does not. It’s still quite potent, but you’ll need a way to keep your enemies trapped in this sickening light to produce the optimal levels of exhaustion (which is 6 levels for death).
Skill Empowerment (**) – Okay, I’ve gone over this spell on Twitter with different people at different angles of thought. In all honesty, from an efficiency standpoint, the enhance ability spell works better as it covers all skills under an ability score which each casting being distributed to more than one character. Advantage has a higher propensity for chance while Skill Empowerment is supposed to mitigate chance with a higher modifier. Whether or not it’s worth the 5th-level spell slot is another issue entirely. Honestly, a wizard has better spell choices than this one and can leave the ability enhancements to the druid or cleric.
Skywrite (**) – Great for a warfront sort of scenario wherein the wizard can use the clouds to signal the cavalry or something like that. It’s a ritual which works great for anyone with the ritual casting feature but especially the wizard. For wizards, this is a great ritual to have depending on your campaign and narrative, but wizards do not suffer any loss of resources other than pages in their spellbooks.
Snare (*) – It’s a fun little spell to go along with alarm, but very limited in the range of what it can affect. If this were a ritual (like the alarm spell), then I would bump this up in rating, but alas it is not. I do love the idea of an enemy stalking the party and then getting caught over the night dangling upside down from the magical rope.
Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm (**) – A thematically fun winter season spell. 3d6 cold damage at 2nd-level at one target isn’t really that spectacular.
Soul Cage (***) – If you’re a necromancer, you will want this spell. Granted, this spell only affects humanoids, but if you’re dealing with a lot of enemies like cultists, guards, or other foes, you can exploit the soul of a recently deceased individual. Has to be a fresh kill, but you get several options to use them before the soul is released. I say released, but honestly, given the dark intent of this spell, most souls are consumed or destroyed. Just saying. While warlocks only get the pleasure of using this spell once per extended rest, a fully empowered Necromancer Wizard can use this spell multiple times. This spell heals the caster, can give answers it knew in life similar to speak with dead, gain advantage on rolls if needed, and gain a pseudo scrying spell effect.
Steel Wind Stance (**) – A versatile spell for Bladesinger Wizards due to their ability to have higher AC and deflect damage compared to other arcane traditions. Dealing 6d10 of force damage to five targets is nothing to snuff at. Plus the free moment that comes with the spell is also handy as well. Other wizards might not get as much advantage and often should remain out of melee range of their foes.
Storm Sphere (**) – It’s flaming sphere but deals lightning damage and can’t move. The sphere does, however, sport an impressive 60-foot range from its center to deal lightning damage to a foe. The disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) rolls is excellent for your ally rogue to sneak in for some quick backstabs. This is a superb spell for Storm Sorcerers with their feature that lets to fly and move around the battlefield and the addition of flight.
Summon Greater Demon (**) – This is honestly better for evil NPC cultists than regular player characters as the demon is hostile to everything not in the magic circle that conveniently only occupies your space. Yes, the demon is under verbal commands so long as it continues to fail its Charisma saving throws but this spell lasts for 1 hour, so eventually, it will break free of your control. But if you’re a Conjurer Wizard, this is an interesting spell to pick up once you get the Durable Summons feature.
Summon Lesser Demons (**) – Read above. This spell summons many weaker demons, it’s practically a horde!
Synpatic Static (****) – First of all, it’s an enchantment school spell that mostly is a psychic fireball. On a failed save, the affected creatures have a bane-like effect placed upon them. Expect this used against hordes of warriors with probably average or low intelligence. I wouldn’t advise using this against Mind Flayers or Liches. Just my advice.
Temple of the Gods (**) – Lots of fortification creating spells are in this supplement. This temple can oppose a type from entering it, and even if they manage to break through, they suffer a host of disadvantages. No divination sensors can enter the temple, creatures inside regain more hit points from healing spells, and cannot be dispelled by dispel magic, antimagic field, but a disintegrate destroys this temple instantly. It’s a handy thing to have but sadly it’s casting time is ridiculously long and it’s not a ritual, which makes casting this spell very resource heavy (regarding time to cast not material components).
Tenser’s Transformation (**) – An iconic spell from previous editions, this was the wizard Tenser’s way to join the fray of combat and become a deadly engine of destruction. For most Wizard builds, this is not a preferred spell to use as your low hit points make you vulnerable even with the extra 50 temporary hit points. But for Bladesinger Wizards, this spell holds a lot more promise since the Bladesinger can switch from a spellcasting focus to melee training. Sure the Bladesinger can’t cast spells while Tenser’s Transformation is active, but it’s wise to cast any buffs that do not require concentration ahead of time.
Thunderclap (**) – If you’re a caster getting into melee range often, you might want to reconsider your strategy or pick up this cantrip to at least punish enemies willing to get close to you. Sadly the enemies aren’t pushed away, and this makes it feel very underwhelming.
Thunderstep (**) – This is a unique and fun spell. Say you and an ally (maybe the healer) are getting surrounded, you cast this spell as a makeshift dimension door spell and teleport both of you somewhere 90 feet away. Plus all the foes that were stacking up on you are dealt some damage as an added bonus. The spell only uses a verbal component too which is great for when your caster is restrained physically and might be able to perform those complicated somatic gestures.
Tidal Wave (***) – A fun little 3rd-level spell can seriously push back some groups of foes, or since there is no size restriction, any creature can be knocked prone through this spell. Think about that for a moment.
Tiny Servant (**) – Congratulations, you have a small robot army. Also, you can recreate that scene with Mickey Mouse from Fantasia if you feel compelled to do so. It’s a handy little spell that involves some creativity but otherwise perform minor tasks like fetching a key, stack some books, and maybe sew that dress in time for the ball?
Toll the Dead (***) – Well, Clerics finally get a necromancy cantrip that deals damage. Great for Death Domain clerics, not sure if we needed more damage cantrips for the Warlock. But the Wizard also now has a workable necromancy cantrip as well. This spell does more work if the target already took damage. Against most fighters and possible strikers, this spell will do some hefty work since most of those archetypes often have average Wisdom. This spell does not mesh with the Necromancer Wizard’s Grim Harvest feature sadly.
Transmute Rock (***) – Another iconic spell from previous editions that makes a triumphant return in 5th Edition. This spell as a wide range of utility, from creating difficult terrain to restraining creatures in loose mud or quicksand. A favorite tactic is transmuting rock that’s on say a castle’s ceiling into mud and cause any creatures undead to fall into a terrible demise. I would recommend amending the fall damage calculations, as the 4d8 assumes 40 feet worth of falling when you can do this to an 80-foot tall tower instead. That will hurt a lot more and require some adjustments.
Vitriolic Sphere (***) – It’s melf’s acid arrow in fireball form! If you’re a fan of acid arrow, this is bigger and better than the original. Plus if you’re a Draconic Sorcerer that’s either Copper or Black dragon lineage, you finally have some acid spells worth using finally.
Wall of Light (***) – I may have found a new favorite wall spell. You get a nice 60-foot long, 10-foot wide wall of absolute misery for your opponents. Creatures in the wall’s area initially must make a Constitution save or take radiant damage and be blinded. Creatures that end their turn in the wall’s area take automatic radiant damage, great for choke points. Even better, the caster can spend an action to reduce the size of the wall and fling a bolt of light at enemies if needed.
Wall of Sand (**) – You quite a bit for a 3rd-level spell here. You get a 30-foot wide, 10-foot deep wall of swirling sand that costs 3 feet of movement for every 1 feet through the way. In other words, most creatures will spend their entire movement just to get past it. Great when you need a buffer against a large group of enemies.
Wall of Water (**) – If you’re a water Elementalist, this is fun spell choice that protects the party against ranged attacks. The wall area is difficult terrain which means it costs only 20 feet of movement to get through this wall, not as stellar as the Wall of Sand. But ranged weapon attacks have disadvantage on attack rolls on targets beyond the wall of water, so that’s nice. Freezing part of the wall and destroying it will not cause it to replenish, which makes sense for most of these wall spells. Imagine an enemy wizard casting cone of cold, the spell still penetrates the wall and targets all the occupants, and the wall will turn into solid ice immediately.
Warding Ward (**) – Great for Storm Sorcerers that deal with a lot of ranged weapon attacks or even normal casters that suffer the same plight. It also gets rid of fog and gases which is terrific against fog cloud or cloudkill effects. The part where you’re deafened isn’t a great feature, but it makes sense given the “nature” of the spell. Be prepared to be backstabbed.
Watery Sphere (**) – So this is an interesting battlefield control spell, as it creates a sphere of water that can capture creatures into it and ideally force such creatures to hold their breaths and run the risk of drowning. It can move up to 30 feet and can support a limited amount of creatures and up to certain sizes. Useful for taking creatures out of combat if they’re weak, like enemy spellcasters for example.
Whirlwind (***) – You summon a sizable tornado that’s 30 feet tall. Creatures take substantial amounts of damage on a failed save and can be lifted up by the moving whirlwind. Granted it takes an action to move the whirlwind so you will lose some functionality unless you’re casting spells that only use a bonus action. Druids get a lot of benefits with this spell, one being able to wildshape and assume a creature form that possibly can fly above the whirlwind and direct it accordingly.
Wrath of Nature (*) – Please note the spell is written in a way that denotes all the effects trigger based on the area of effect. So if you want to utilize this spell to its fullest, make sure to cast it in an area where the enemies will be affected by more than one effect if possible. The best combination would be Roots & Vines and Trees, along with Rocks if they’re handy. The difficult terrain is nice but not a priority. Roots & Vines triggers at the end of your turns while Tree triggers at the start of your turns. Rocks use a bonus action from the caster to the hurled. I cannot give this spell a higher rating because it’s very environmental niched and therefore cannot be used except in a woodland area. But in such a setting, this spell is a 4-star rating for sure, it’s that good.
Zephyr Strike (***) – Moving without provoking an attack of opportunity is sweet in a spell form. This spell costs a bonus to cast too. The extra damage is really not critical, it’s the ability to move freely without AoO that really makes this spell shine.
While I wasn’t overly thrilled about the reprinted spells from Princes of the Apocalypse, I understand that it was a necessary evil for the benefit of Adventure League with the additional supplement book rules. Some of the new spells also stemmed from previous Unearthed Arcana materials and some of them were surprisingly well done and received little changes since. Many of the spells in this supplement are situationally specific, but some useful general all-around spells can be used in any story/setting/narrative and be handy for multiple uses. A spell’s particular purpose is great when you need it, but general utility is preferred in long-term games such as campaigns as opposed to one-shots. I definitely found some new favorite spells to use against my players and even use whenever I should play a character.
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