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Arcane Spell Guide by tno_77

Updated: 12/12/13


By tno77 (Daniel Palmer) 

As a D&D video game veteran, I have always had a fondness for playing as 
an arcane caster. The tactical flexibility offered by a mage or sorcerer 
is second to none. Mages can buff allies, disable opponents, nuke groups 
of enemies, or flat out annihilate them with save or die spells. 
Compared with Baldur's Gate and Icewind Dale, arcane casters appear to 
get the short end of the stick in Neverwinter Nights 2. A lot of enemies 
are immune to instant death effects and mind-affecting spells, which 
were two strengths of mages. Paralyze has been nerfed, and many spells 
that incapacitate the enemy (eg. stun, sleep, paralyse) don't result in 
automatic hits. The number of effective damage spells has dwindled. You 
don't have access to game-breakers such as Time Stop, Mislead, Project 
Image, or Spell Trap. 

Yes, arcane casters aren't quite as good as they were in Baldur's Gate 
II, but they will outclass fighters, rogues, and even clerics, *if* you 
make prudent spell selections. And this is where the problem arises. 
Determining which spells are useful, and which aren't, requires a lot of 
trial and error. You need foreknowledge of game mechanics, what enemies 
you will be facing in the game, any errors with the in-game 
documentation, and what works well in practice vs. theory. This is why I 
compiled a list of arcane spells in Neverwinter Nights 2 and assessed 
each one's value. 

This guide assumes you are playing the Original Campaign. However, the 
advice should hold true for Storms of Zehir and Mask of the Betrayer. 




- Mind-affecting spells include some of the most powerful status effects 
in the game (stun, sleep, daze, charm, paralysis and confusion). Enemies 
affected by these spells are rendered inert (except in the case of 
confusion, where they may attack the nearest creature). Unfortunately, 
every man and his dog has immunity to these effects in NWN2, 
particularly your most deadly enemies, which include constructs, undead, 
and some boss monsters. Also, unlike previous D&D games, enemies 
affected by these spells are not automatically hit if an attack is made. 

- Hold person spells work differently from previous D&D games. Each 
round the enemy gets a new chance to save against the paralyse effect. 
If they succeed, the spell is cancelled. This greatly reduces the value 
of Hold Person type spells. 

- Blindness, slow and knockdown are powerful disabling spells. 
Furthermore, they are not considered mind-affecting, meaning that very 
few of your enemies will be immune to them. 

- There are several spells in this game that belong to the Bigby's Hand 
set. Most of these spells don't use a saving throw, but a grapple check. 
The grapple check is heavily biased in favour of the caster, and only 
large enemies with a very high strength have a decent chance of 

- The paralysis inflicted by Bigby's Grasping Hand/Bigby's Clenched Fist is 
different from regular paralysis. It lasts for the entire duration of 
the spell if the enemy fails a grapple check. Unlike normal paralysis 
spells, it is not considered mind affecting and will therefore affect 
undead/constructs. It will prevent the enemy from moving, but not from 
attacking. Therefore it is very useful against melee enemies, but not so 
much against archers/wizards. 

- Save or die spells are quite powerful. Unfortunately, like 
mind-affecting spells, quite a few enemies are immune to death effects, 
including constructs and undead. The exception to this are petrification 
spells (Flesh to Stone and Power Word: Petrify) which are not considered 
death effects. Petrification will not effect enemies who have scripted 
events or magic immunity. 

- There are a number of useful spells that require the caster to make a 
successful ranged touch attack against the opponent. To simplify, you 
want your PC to have a high dexterity modifier and attack rating, and 
for your enemy to have a low dexterity modifier/dodge factor/deflection 
rating. Enemies who rely on dodge/dexterity to be hit (eg. rogues and 
shadows) are less likely to be hit by ranged touch attacks than enemies 
who rely on body armour (eg. fighters, golems) 

- Try to tailor your disabling spells to work against the enemy's 
weakest saving throw. For example, wizards have low fortitude saves, 
making Finger of Death or Flesh to Stone an obvious choice. Warriors are 
a little more tricky. While they often have low will saving throws, 
making mind affecting spells seem an obvious choice, many also have 
immunity to mind effects. In this cause, you should employ spells that 
use a grapple check or ignore saves all together, such as enervation, or 
spells that roll against reflex saves, such as Web and Sunburst. You 
could also choose to soften up the enemy with spells that lower 
fortitude saves. These include the aforemention enervation, the bard's 
Curse Song, and the cleric's Prayer, Doom and Battletide Spells. 

As a rule of thumb: 
- Warriors have low will saves and high fortitude saves.
- Wizards have low fortitude saves and high will saves.
- Clerics have high will saves and low reflex saves.
- Thieves have high reflex saves and low will saves. 
- Everyone except thieves have low reflex saves. There is one all or 
nothing disabling spell in the game that works against reflex saves, and 
therefore is also one of the best (ie. Sunburst). 

- Summoning spells are under-rated. Yes, summoning spells at lower 
levels become redundant quickly, but higher level summons provide better 
damage output than most damage spells, benefit from party buffs, and act 
to draw fire from your caster.

- Many enemies in this game have significant resistance to a form of 
elemental damage. Fire is by far the most common, followed closely by 
cold. Acid, magical and electrical resistance aren't common, but you 
will encounter them against some more irritating enemies. Immunity to 
sonic damage is very rare. 

- There are two types of spells that 'sound good in theory, but suck in 
practice'. The first type are 'damage over time' spell. Certain spells 
can deal more cumulative damage over time than instant effect damage 
spells (eg. Incendiary Cloud vs. Ice Storm). However, in practice you 
want enemies dead as quickly as possibly. The AI also has a nasty 
tendency to move out cloud spells. The second type of spell is the melee 
touch spell/cone spell. No matter how good a spell sounds on paper, it's 
usually a real bad idea to get within touching range of an enemy. The AI 
already loves to focus fire on your spell casters, so there's no reason 
to encourage it further. 



Following is a list of all available wizard spells, along with an 
analysis and ranking. The ranking ranges from highly recommended to 
recommended, marginally useful, situational, and avoid. 

Highly recommended spells are 'must have' spells that work against a 
wide range of enemies and have significant negative effects (if a 
disabling or damage spell), or have a long duration and grant 
significant beneficial effects (if a buffing spell). Recommended spells 
are ones which you won't be using often, but are nice to have on hand. 
Marginally useful spells have decent effects, but are inferior to spells 
on the same level, or lower levels. Situational spells are those that 
aren't worth spending a spell slot on in normal gameplay, but may be 
useful in certain rare encounters. Spells that should be avoided are 
those that don't any real use. 

Level 1 

Blades of Fire: With a duration of 2 rounds, this spell is a complete 
joke, particularly when compared with the druid spell - Avoid 

Burning Hands: Due to the reflex save that allows for half damage, the 
damage output from this spell is inferior to that of magic missile. And 
that's bad. It might be useful as a troll killer, but that's about it - 

Charm Person: A disappointing spell since it has been toned down. 
No longer will a charmed creature attack allies of the caster. 
Furthermore, the duration is ridiculously short - Avoid

Color Spray: The duration is poor, targeting the spell is awkward, and 
lots of enemies resist stun. Still, at least its effects aren't limited 
by hit dice - Marginally useful 

Cause Fear: Like Sleep, this becomes redundant early on due to the hit 
dice limit - Avoid 

Detect Undead: Avoid 

Endure Elements: A once off 20 point reduction in elemental damage is 
trivial - Avoid 

Enlarge Person: A fantastic spell for *all* party members. Contrary to 
the spell description, you have +3 magical damage added to melee *and* 
ranged attacks, independent of the strength bonus, in exchange for a -1 
attack and armour penalty. Considering that Power Attack shackles you 
with a -6 attack penalty, I'd say this is a bargain - Highly 

Expeditious retreat: Increases movement rate (not attack rate) for a 
short duration of time - Avoid 

Grease: An *amazing* spell for this level. Enemies who fail their reflex 
save can't move. Those who succeed have their movement rate drastically 
reduced. It bypasses magic resistance and Freedom of Movement. Plaster 
the battlefield with grease, and then pick off oncoming melee enemies 
with missile weapons at your leisure - Highly Recommended 

Identify: High lore, a merchant, or certain magical items can identify 
your items - Avoid 

Low-light vision: Cast a light cantrip if you find things a little too 
dark - Avoid. 

Mage Armor: A +4 to AC bonus is always useful, even late in the game 
when you can craft your own equipment. Better yet, the duration is 
fantastic, and unlike previous games, it can be targeted on anyone - 
Highly recommended 

Magic Missile: The staple spell of a mage in any D&D game, and highly 
over-rated. When the damage a spell deals is outclassed by a slingstone, 
look elsewhere. - Avoid 

Magic Weapon: Is made redundant by Greater Magic Weapon on Level 3 - Avoid 

Minor Elemental Orbs: A decent damage spell for Level 1 that offers no 
save, ignores magic resistance, and can critical hit. Note that the 
sound orb does less damage (1d6 vs 1d8), and that fire and cold are the 
most commonly resisted elements - Recommended 

Protection From Alignment: A +2 bonus to deflection is trivial 
considering all the gear that offers deflection bonuses, but a +2 to all 
saves, and immunity to mind effecting spells against good or evil isn't 
bad for a level 1 defensive spell - Recommended 

Ray of Enfeeblement: When empowered, this spell will significantly 
reduce an enemy's attack rating and damage output, *without* offering a 
save against the effects. Very useful against hard hitting enemies - 
Highly recommended. 

Reduce Person: At best, you gain +2 bonus to AC and attack. Enlarge 
person is better - Avoid 

Shield: A +4 shield bonus is a better bonus than most shields provide. 
It's a shame it can only be targeted on the caster - Recommended 

Shocking Grasp: A touch attack that does as much damage as a melee 
weapon, but can be countered by spell resistance, and doesn't gain any 
bonus from strength modifiers - Avoid 

Sleep: Becomes redundant early on due to all enemies exceeding the 
hit-dice limit - Avoid 

Summon Creature I: The summoned critters are far too weak to make this 
worthwhile - Avoid 

True Strike: Seems useless due to its short duration of 1 round 
(actually 9 seconds). However, some of the best spells in the game are 
ranged touch attacks, so this guarantees that these spells will hit. Use 
this before you bust out those enervations, elemental orbs, polar rays 
and avasculates - Highly recommended 

Highly recommended: 

- Grease: Spell Focus Conjuration
- Mage armour (craft wand)
- Ray of Enfeeblement
- True strike
- Enlarge Person 


- Protection from Alignment (craft wand) 
- Minor elemental orb (excluding sonic and fire) 
- Shield (craft wand)


Level 1 offers a fantastic selection of spells, some of which are more 
useful than Level 9 spells! In the original campaign, it would be wise 
to create wands of mage armour, shield and protection from alignment. 
This makes sorcerer spell selection *much* easier. Grease, Ray of 
Enfeeblement, True Strike, Enlarge Person and a Minor Elemental Orb 
Spell (preferably electricity or acid) will all act as a good foundation 
for the budding sorcerer. 

If you're not playing the original campaign, things become much 
trickier. I'd drop the Minor Elemental Orb spell, as you're going to 
have an abundance of better damage spells at later levels, and replace 
it with Mage Armour, which is pretty much irreplaceable. 

Level 2 

Animalistic Power: Provides three minor stat bonuses that are 
overshadowed by Bull's Strength/Bear's Endurance/Cat's Grace - Avoid 

Balagarn's Iron Horn: A duration of 1 round just isn't enough - Avoid 

Bladeweave: The DC of the enchantment is always 16, meaning that this 
spell becomes redundant quickly - Avoid 

Blindness/Deafness: I initially thought this was inferior to Cloud of 
Bewilderment in every shape and form, as it only affects a single 
target, and does not stun. However, it can affect anything immune to 
poison, except undead (due to a bug). Furthermore, enemies move out 
of a Cloud of Bewilderment spell. In big battles with lots going on, you 
don't want a party-unfriendly spell with inconvenient targeting, so 
stick with this spell instead. - Highly recommended 

Blindsight: There are are abundance of items in the game which allow you 
to cast See Invisibility or Truesight - Avoid

Bull's Strength: Translates to +2 to hit and damage. The effect is minor, but
the duration is fantastic. However, clerics can memorise this - Recommended 

Cat's Grace: Translates to a maximum of +2 to AC, reflex saves and to 
hit with missiles. Dexterity is the most useful secondary statistic for 
everyone, as it offers a bonus to AC and ranged attacks - Highly 

Cloud of Bewilderment: An excellent area disabling spell. Not only is it 
a long lasting area of effect cloud spell, it *stuns* and *blinds*, two 
of the most dangerous disabling effects in D&D. Even if the enemy is 
immune to stun, they will still be blinded. Unfortunately anything 
immune to poison is immune to this spell, although you can use this 
to your advantage by equipping an amulet of health. The bigger problem 
is that is a cloud spell. It's hard to aim this so it doesn't hit any of 
your party members, and the AI will move out of the area of effect when 
it gets the chance - Recommended 

Combust: A mediocre damage spell whose power increases slightly with 
level. Scorching ray (which isn't in itself that great) outshines this 
by far - Avoid 

Curse of impending blades: A -2 penalty to AC is insignificant - Avoid 

Darkness: Grants a 20% concealment bonus to anyone in the area of 
darkness (equates to a 20% damage reduction) that is also given to 
enemies. Too inconvenient to target to be practical in battle - Avoid 

Death Armor: Minimal damage, targets only the caster, and you must be 
hit for it to trigger. I'd rather avoid getting hit - Avoid. 

Eagle's Splendor: Translates into a maximum of +2 to beat the enemy's 
saves if the targeted ally is a sorcerer or bard. Generally these 
classes will have items equipped which provide larger boosts to that 
statistic - Marginally useful

False life: The bonus to hit points is minimal. Cast Bear's endurance if 
you want a hefty hit point bonus, and the added benefit of a fortitude 
save bonus. Avoid. 

Fireburst: A poor damage spell - Avoid 

Gedlee's Electric Loop: A mediocre damage spell with a short duration 
disabling effect that is easily saved against - Avoid 

Ghoul Touch: Not only must you make contact with the enemy, the paralyze 
effect can be resisted every round - Avoid 

Gust of Wind: The Knockdown effect is useful, but the duration is too 
short - Avoid 

Ghostly visage: A decent defense spell early on. 5 damage reduction 
without any limit on total damage is useful, and immunity to level 1 
spells can help early in the game. However, it can be bypassed by magic 
weaponry. What makes this spell interesting is the the 20% concealment. 
While Displacement and Improved Invisibility will grant you 50% 
concealment, they tend to run out quickly. Another perk is that it makes 
you immune to the Entangle effect - Recommended 

Invisibility: Invisibility is *the* emergency spell. If one of your 
characters is taking a pounding or being pursued by a horde of enemies, 
use this spell - Recommended 

Knock: A useful spell which makes a thief redundant. However, you should 
be able to get this from items - Marginally useful 

Lesser Dispel magic: Very rarely will you need to debuff enemies, and 
even then, this spell won't be powerful enough to be of value - Avoid 

Melf's Acid Arrow: A mediocre damage spell whose power increases 
slightly with level. However, the damage is dealt over an extended 
period of time, which is inconvenient if you need the enemy dead quickly 
- Marginally useful

Mirror Image: Over-rated. Any decent fighter will tear through this in a 
couple of rounds, and you're still likely to get hit while the buff is 
in effect - Marginally useful 

Protection from Arrows: A decent protection spell in the beginning. 
However, higher level archers with normal arrows will tear this down 
pretty quick, and magic arrows will bypass it entirely - Avoid 

Resist energy: Doesn't provide enough damage reduction to be of use - 

Scare: Becomes redundant early in the game due to the hit dice limit - 

Scorching Ray: A useful damage spell that offers no saves. The area of 
effect option will barely scratch opponents, but concentrating all three 
rays on a single target will rack up decent damage - Recommended 

See Invisibility: There are are abundance of items in the game which 
allow you to cast See Invisibility or Truesight - Avoid 

Snake's Swiftness: The duration is one round. Enough said - Avoid 

Summon Creature II: Becomes redundant too quickly - Avoid 

Tasha's Hideous Laughter: Only disables one enemy, has a short duration, 
enemies gain a bonus +4 to save if they are of a different race, and 
does not work against enemies immune to mind effects - Avoid

Touch of Idiocy: Unique as it ignores saves and resistances. However, it's 
still not worth it. Spellcasters aren't that common nor threatening. 
Furthermore, there are far better spells in your arsenal that will not 
only incapacitate spell casters, but pretty much every enemy. It doesn't 
help that you need to get within touching distance - Marginally useful 

Web: Not quite as good as grease, as it allows for spell resistance, and 
does not stop an enemy from attacking. It is still a fantastic spell, given 
that few monsters are immune to Web, and most have a lousy reflex save 
- Highly Recommended 

Highly recommended: 

- Web - Spell Focus Conjuration 
- Blindness/Deafness - Spell Focus Illusion 


- Cloud of bewilderment - Spell Focus Evocation 
- Invisibility 
- Bear's Endurance - Craft Wand 
- Cat's Grace 
- Scorching Ray 


Level 2 is remarkable in the numerous and very diverse number of spells 
available. Unfortunately, a number of them have a very short duration, 
making them easy to cut from the selection. Of all the disabling spells, 
Web stands far and above the rest. Nothing in the game is immune to web, 
and even if the enemy makes their save, they are still slowed. 

Blindness/Deafness is a great disabling spell, as only undead are 
immune. Use it liberally against enemies with low fortitude saves, but 
remember that their duration is lousy. Cloud of Bewilderment can be 
good, but is usually avoided by the AI moving out of the area of effect. 

Invisibility is always handy to have memorised. Scorching ray isn't 
anything special when cast as a normal spell, but shines when it is 
empowered, so it may be worth selecting as a sorcerer. 

Bear's Endurance can be made into a wand for only 1000 gold. Cat's Grace 
and Bull's strength are more pricey, but can be cast by cleric's and 
druids, who don't have anything better available at that level anyway. 
Personally, as my fifth sorcerer selection, I'd go with Cat's Grace, as 
a higher AC, reflex save and attack bonus to missiles is useful for everyone. 

Level 3 

Clairaudience/Clairvoyance: Virtually useless in the campaigns - Avoid
Deep Slumber: As with prior sleep spells, this becomes redundant too 
quickly - Marginally useful 

Dispel Magic: Unnecessary - Avoid 

Displacement: An amazing spell that essentially halves all damage taken 
by enemies. The only reason to skip over this is because Improved 
invisibility is available on Level 4, which offers 50% concealment and 
immunity to single target effects - Recommended

Fireball: Starts out great for crowd control, but gradually wanes as you 
encounter tougher and tougher enemies, many of whom have fire resistance 
- Marginally useful 

Flame Arrow: One of your better damage spells, as it continues to scale 
with your level beyond that of Fireball and Lightning Strike. If you 
must choose a damage spell from level 3, this is it - Recommended 

Haste: An over-powered spell. An extra attack per round can 
easily translate into your party dealing an extra 100+ damage per round. 
All of the other bonuses are just gravy - Highly recommended 

Heroism: Has a nice long duration and provides decent bonuses, but Level 
3 hosts even better buffing spells - Marginally useful 

Hold Person: The paralyze effect is easily shaken off, and even worse, 
it only affects humanoids - Avoid 

Improved Mage Armor: A massive bonus to AC, but only +2 more than Mage 
Armour on Level 1 - Recommended 

Invisibility Sphere: While it's useful to have a group invisibility 
spell, improved invisibility is available at level 4, and invisibility 
is available at level 2 - Marginally useful 

Keen Edge: At lower levels, when you are dealing damage in the range of 
10-40 points, this spell doesn't increase your average damage all that 
much. At higher levels, you will possess weapons with the keen property, 
or invest in improved critical feats - Marginally useful 

Lightning Bolt: Enemies aren't going to stand in a nice straight line 
for you - Marginally useful 

Magic Circle against Alignment - A great duration, and a decent bonus to 
saves for all party members. However, your cleric can cast this, and 
better buffing spells exist on this level - Marginally useful 

Magic Weapon - Another excellent buff. This saves you from wasting a 
crafting enchantment on an object, *and* allows you to add a damage 
enhancement to backup weapons used against exceptional foes - Highly 

Mass Curse of Impending Blades: -2 to AC is not significant enough to 
justify a level 3 slot - Marginally useful 

Mass Snake's Swiftness - Has a duration of one round. Enough said - 

Mestil's Acid Breath: Your third group damage spell on this level, 
notable only for the fact that it does acid damage, which is rarely 
resisted - Marginally useful 

Power Word Maladroit: Short duration, minimal effect - Avoid 

Power Word Weaken: Short duration, minimal effect - Avoid 

Protection from Energy: 40 points in elemental damage reduction just 
isn't noteworthy - Avoid 

Rage: Contrary to the in-game description, this spell is only half as 
potent as the barbarian's rage. A +2 bonus to strength and constitution 
and +1 to will saving throws is not significant at level 3. And you are 
penalised with -2 dodge AC - Avoid 

Scintillating Sphere: Same as fireball, except enemies are less likely 
to have electrical resistance - Marginally useful 

Slow: Arguable the best group disabling spell in the game. As discussed 
earlier, losing/gaining attacks per round is game changing. Even better, 
it will affect enemies who are immune to mental effects. *And* it is 
party friendly. This makes boss battles a cakewalk - Highly recommended 

Spiderskin - A decent buffing spell that is worth considering if you 
don't have barkskin, as these two spells don't stack - Recommended 

Stinking Cloud: This would be a fantastic group disabling spell if so 
many monsters weren't immune to daze and poison - Marginally useful 

Summon Creature III: Becomes redundant too quickly - Avoid 

Vampiric Touch: Temporary bonuses to hitpoints are not that useful, and 
the damage meted out pales in comparison to fire arrow. Furthermore, it 
is a touch spell - Marginally useful 

Weapon of Impact: See the comments for Keen Edge - Marginally useful 

Highly recommended 

- Slow (Transmutation) 
- Haste 
- Greater Magic Weapon 


- Displacement 
- Flame Arrow - Conjuration 
- Spiderskin 
- Improved Mage Armour 


This level spoils us with a number of excellent buffing and disabling 
spells. Haste and Slow are must-haves, as only sorcerers/wizards/bards 
can cast them. Greater Magic Weapon is worth memorising if you don't 
have a cleric who can cast it. Flame Arrow continues to grow in power as 
you advance past level 20. This leaves you choosing between Improved 
Mage Armour and Spiderskin. Improved Mage Armour has a +2 bonus over 
that of Mage Armour, which I don't consider to be significant. You could 
craft a wand, but that's expensive. Spiderskin allows you to have a high 
natural armour class bonus without keeping a druid in the party. As a 
sorcerer, I'd select Haste, Slow, Greater Magic Weapon, Spiderskin, and 
Flame Arrow. Flame Arrow would be my last pick, as it only starts to 
exceed the damage of scorching ray at around level 16. 

Level 4 

Animate Dead: The allies summoned are weak - Avoid 

Assay Resistance: Only works vs. one enemy, and only provides the 
increased chance of spell penetration to the caster - Marginally useful 

Bestow Curse: Bestows a trivial ability score reduction on a single 
target, while also allowing a saving throw - Avoid 

Charm Monster: Takes one enemy out of the battle, but you can't attack 
them - Avoid 

Confusion: An amazing disabling spell with a long range and large area, 
that can neutralize entire groups of enemies. Unfortunately, it is not 
party friendly, and many bosses and races (undead, constructs and demons) are 
immune - Recommended 

Contagion: Hits a single target with a minor status reduction that they 
can save against. And the DC of the spell is always 13 - Avoid 

Crushing Despair: It has a will save, an awkward casting range/area, 
won't affect anything with mind-immunity (unlike Prayer), and doesn't 
actually lower skill checks (bugged) - Marginally useful

Elemental Shield: The damage inflicted relies on being hit, and most 
casters will not want to get hit. Also, the duration is far too short - 

Enervation: The ultimate debuffing spell that does not allow for a save. 
This comes into its own when it is maximised. A reduction in four levels 
may not sound like much when NPCs can go past 20 levels, but this will 
wreak havoc on their saving throws and attack bonus. Note that hit 
points are *not* reduced, nor is damage - Highly recommended 

Evard's Black Tentacles: Starts out as an overpowered spell that can 
paralyse entire groups of enemies while dealing tremendous amounts of 
damage. However, once your enemies acquire an armour class over 25, this 
spell will not hit them at all - Situational 

Fear: Inferior to Confusion, which has a larger area of effect, and a 
more useful disabling effect - Marginally Useful 

Greater Invisibility: As good as Displacement on Level 3, but it also 
prevents single target spells or items from being targeted against the 
individual. Note that the duration is short - Highly recommended 

Greater Resistance: +3 to saving throws is nice, but easily replicated 
by other spells - Marginally useful 

Ice Storm: The damage is a little on the low side. However, it can't be 
saved/evaded, and offers two types of damage (bludgeoning and ice) - 

Isaac's Lesser Missile Storm: The damage is just too low to justify a 
slot, particularly when Ice Storm and the Elemental Orb spells are on 
the same level - Marginally useful 

Lesser Globe of Invulnerability: Immunity to 3rd-level and lower spell 
effects is not much use at this point - Avoid 

Lesser Spell Breach: You will rarely need to remove spell protections. 
Even if you did, there are better spells available for that purpose - 

Least Spell Mantle: Grants you the ability to absorb up to two middle 
level spells, which isn't that useful - Avoid 

Mass Reduce Person: Shrink person isn't a useful effect - Avoid 

Orb of Acid/Cold/Electricity/Fire/Sound: A fantastic damage spell that 
will take down dragons, golems, and elder elementals. Elemental Orbs 
offer no save, ignores magic resistance, and can critical hit. Note 
that the sound orb does less damage (1d6 vs 1d8), and that fire and cold 
are the most commonly resisted elements - Highly recommended 

Phantasmal Killer: Your first save or die spell. Unfortunately it checks 
against fortitude *and* will saves. As a rule of thumb, if an enemy has 
a low will save, they will have a high fortitude save, and vice versa - 
Marginally useful 

Polymorph Self: The forms that this spell offers aren't worth a spell 
slot - Avoid 

Remove Curse: I've never been cursed in the game - Avoid 

Shadow Conjuration: None of the spells granted by this one are worth a 
level 4 spell slot - Avoid 

Stoneskin: A damage reduction spell that can be cast on anyone. Nothing 
spectacular, but damage reduction never hurts - Recommended 

Shout: For the PC, being deafened is a minor inconvenience. For NPCs, it 
is even less of a concern - Avoid 

Summon Creature IV: The creature isn't strong enough to justify a slot - 

Wall of Fire: Theoretically this can rack up an enormous amount of 
damage if an enemy keeps moving in and out of the wall of flame. 
However, in practice this requires way too much micromanagement - 
Marginally useful 

Highly recommended: 

- Improved invisibility 
- Orb of Acid 
- Enervation 


- Stoneskin
- Ice Storm 


- Evard's - Useful until enemies AC exceeds 25 (mid chapter 2) 
- Confusion - Spell Focus Enchantment - Swap out once you starting 
encountering enemies who are immune to mental effects 


A level which has a poorer selection of spells than levels 1-3. However, 
several spells stand above the others on this tier, and even those at 
higher levels. Enervation is a must-have, as it will strip away a strong 
enemy's attack capabilities, and their saving throws. However, remember 
that some enemies are immune to attribute damage (ie. Undead and 
Constructs). Improved Invisibility grants 50% damage reduction. The Orb 
spells ignore saves and magic resistance, and deal enormous amounts of 
damage with maximised. 

Everything else is icing. Stoneskin is a decent protection spell, but 
enemies can easily clock up 100 damage in a short time period. 
Phantasmal Killer is your first save or die spell, and has its uses, but 
unfortunately offers two separate saving throws and won't work against 
enemies with death immunities. Ice Storm isn't bad for a level 4 damage 
spell, however you'll encounter a fair number of enemies who are 
resistant to ice or bludgeoning damage. Evard's is fantastic early on, 
but you'll need to switch it out when enemies exceed 25 AC (chapter 2). 
Confusion is great for cracking groups of enemies who aren't resistant 
to mind-affecting spells. Personally, I'd select ice storm and Stoneskin 
as my fourth and fifth spell picks as a sorcerer. 

Level Five 

Arc of Lightning: This spell is unpredictable in whom it targets, is not 
party friendly, and does only a moderate amount of damage - Marginally 

Bigby's Interposing Hand: A -10 attack penalty against one enemy is 
*huge*. Better yet, the enemy can't save against it - Highly recommended 

Cacophonic Burst: It's not party friendly, and only does a moderate 
amount of damage. Nevertheless, since sonic damage is almost never 
resisted, I'd argue that this is actually a decent AoE damage spell - 

Cloudkill: A cloud spell that reduces a group of enemies constitution 
over time, even if they pass a fortitude save. This is useful if you 
want to lower fortitude saves. Unfortunately you need to have them stand 
in the cloud for quite some time before this spell takes effect, and 
many enemies are immune to poison effects - Marginally useful 

Cone of Cold: A moderate area of effect damage spell that isn't party 
friendly - Marginally useful 

Dismissal: Familiars, summons and elementals are not that common - 
Marginally useful. 

Dominate Person: While it's fun to turns an enemy to your side and peek 
at all of their stats, this spell has several weaknesses. First, it only 
targets one enemy. Secondly, it only affects humanoids. Given that mind 
affecting spells don't work against a large proportion of enemies (eg. 
undead, constructs, certain boss characters), it is unacceptable that is 
further limited to races that constitute a minority of the enemies in 
the game. Third, if you accidently damage your 'ally', they will turn 
hostile. And finally, the duration is pathetic - Avoid 

Feeblemind: Touch of idiocy (level 2) stomps all over this spell, and it 
isn't that good to begin with - Avoid 

Firebrand: The only AoE damage spell on this level that is party 
friendly. I still prefer Cacophonic Burst, simply because fire damage is 
often resisted - Marginally useful 

Glass Doppelganger: An interesting spell in theory, but lousy in 
practice. The creatures you can summon with other spells are far to 
superior to the weak clones you create with this spell. And you need to 
get within touching range of the enemy, which is always a risky prospect 
- Marginally useful 

Greater Fireburst: More damaging than other area of effect spells on 
this level, but not party friendly - Marginally useful 

Greater Reduce Person: Shrink person just isn't that great - Avoid 

Hold Monster: As with all single target paralyze spells, this isn't that 
useful - Avoid 

Lesser Mind Blank: You will commonly be the target of mind-effecting 
spells (eg. sleep, stun, fear, dominate, charm, daze, confusion). 
Therefore this spell is a must-have - Highly recommended 

Lesser Spell Mantle: Blocks two high level spells. Not worth the spell 
slot - Avoid 

Mind Fog: A -10 to will saves is one of the biggest debuffing effects in 
the game, and is great for softening enemies (particularly those already 
with low will saves) up for mind-affecting spells. Unfortunately, most 
mind-affecting spells don't remain useful for the entire game - 
Marginally useful 

Lesser Planar Binding - The creatures summoned by this spell are weak - Avoid 

Power Word Disable: You can take multiple targets from 50 to 1 hit point 
with a well placed Cacophonic Burst - Avoid 

Shroud of Flame: Causes a pathetic amount of damage to one enemy over 
time, but only if they fail their reflex save - Avoid 

Summon Creature V: Summons a reasonably strong ally, but the duration is 
a little too short - Marginally useful 

Vitriolic Sphere: A single target spell that does mild to moderate 
damage in a small area of effect, and allows for a save - Marginally 

Wall of Dispel Magic: Dispel magic is already unnecessary, but having it 
in an awkward to use wall form makes it less so - Avoid 

Highly recommended: 

- Lesser Mind Blank 
- Bigby's interposing hand 


- Cacophonic Burst - Spell Focus Evocation 

Level 5 is the nadir for arcane spellcasters, possessing only three 
decent spells. Bigby's Interposing Hand will reduce an enemy's attack 
rating by 10 without allowing for a save. Immunity to mind-affecting 
spells is also necessary, so Lesser Mind Blank is an obvious pick. This 
leaves you with Cacophonic Burst, which is easy to target, quick to 
cast, and is rarely subject to damage reduction. Some players rave about 
the benefits of Cloudkill, but I find it causes more grief for my PCs 
than the enemy, who often have immunity to poison. 

Level 6 

Acid Fog: This spell does negligible damage over time. It also slows the 
enemy's movement, but does not reduce their number of attacks per round. 
Slowing movement rate is useful, but Grease, Web and Slow already do 
this, while also either immobilising or debuffing the enemy - Marginally 

Bigby's Forceful Hand: Like most of the Bigby's Hand spells, this 
doesn't use a saving throw, but a grapple check, which is done versus 
the target's strength and size modifier. Without getting into the 
technicals, I'll say that the grapple check is heavily biased in favour 
of the caster. Only very large enemies with a high strength will have a 
good chance of beating a grapple check. Better yet, while most enemies 
are immune to daze, very few are immune to knockdown - Highly 

Chain Lightning: Sounds more impressive than it actually is. The damage 
is halved for all secondary targets, and will be halved again if they 
succeed their reflex save, meaning that you may only deal 20 damage with 
this spell. An empowered Lesser Elemental Orb does more damage that 
that! - Marginally useful 

Circle of Death: You'll be fighting enemies who exceed 9 Hit Dice very 
early in the campaigns, meaning that this spell becomes redundant as 
soon as you get it - Avoid 

Create Undead: The summons produced by this spell are weak - Avoid 

Disintegrate: This spell can causes huge amounts of damage, particularly 
if maximised. However, it is inferior to Flesh to Stone. Both use a 
fortitude save, but Flesh to Stone will always kill the enemy if 
successful. Marginally useful 

Ethereal Visage: Contrary to the in-game description, this spell offers 
20 damage reduction/adamantium, not 20 damage reduction/magic. That's 
quite powerful. Unfortunately the duration is quite short - Recommended 

Extract Water Elemental: Does damage that is inferior to disintegrate, 
and produces a very weak summon if you're lucky enough to kill your 
enemy - Avoid 

Flesh to Stone: A save vs die spell that can affect undead and 
constructs, making it far more useful than Finger of Death (a Level 7 
spell) - Highly recommended. 

Greater Dispel Magic: You'll rarely need to dispel any effects in the 
game - Marginally useful 

Greater Heroism: An excellent buffing spell with a long duration. The 
bonus to skill checks is hard to replicate, even with clerics. The bonus 
to saves stacks with other save boosting spells, as it is considered a 
morale bonus, rather than a magical one - Highly recommended 

Globe of Invulnerability: Immunity to level 4 spells just isn't that 
useful, and can be emulated by various other protection spells - 
Marginally useful 

Greater Spell Breach: You'll rarely need to strip away magical defense - 
Marginally useful Greater Stoneskin: A fantastic protection spell, 
although strong enemy fighters will tear through this quickly - 

Isaac's Greater Missile Storm: The damage isn't bad, but you can simply 
empower or maximise a level 3 or 4 damage spell to obtain a similar 
effect - Marginally useful 

Legend Lore: It's easy to identify your items without this spell - Avoid 

Mass Contagion: Has a DC of 12. Need I say more? - Avoid 

Mass Bear's Endurance/Bull's Strength/Cat's Grace/Eagle's Splendor/Fox's 
Cunning/Owl's Wisdom: Use multiple castings of the equivalent Level 2 
spell instead - Marginally useful Planar Binding: The allies summoned 
are weak at this point in the game - Avoid 

Stone Body: This offers a decent number of protections. 10 damage 
reduction for *hours*, and immunity to poison, stun, blindness, critical 
hits, electricity, deafness, disease, and electricity. Half damage from 
acid and fire isn't bad either. The arcane failure can be circumvented 
with Still Spell - Recommended 

Stone to Flesh: I've never had to de-petrify someone - Avoid 

Summon Creature VI: The creature summoned is relatively strong, but will 
become redundant when you access level 7 and 8 spells - Marginally 
useful Superior Resistance: Provides a massive bonus to all 3 saves, 
with a fantastic duration - Recommended 

Tenser's Transformation: The attack bonus provided by this spell is 
significant. However, all of the other bonuses are replicated by other 
spells. And even if you want to go toe to toe with the enemy, you're 
better off being able to cast spells, which you can't do in this 
polymorph form - Avoid 

True Seeing: Very rarely necessary, and even when it is, it is 
outperformed by blind sight (a level 2 spell) - Marginally useful 

Undeath to Death: Completely devastating against undead, if they fail a 
will save - Recommended 

Highly recommended: 

- Flesh to Stone: Spell Focus Transmutation
- Bigby's Forceful hand 


- Undeath to Death: Spell Focus Necromancy
- Greater Heroism 
- Stone Body
- Greater Stoneskin 
- Ethereal Visage 


Level 6 hosts a slew of inferior spells. However, two stand above the 
rest: Flesh to Stone, a save or die spell that will work against 
practically everything, and Bigby's Forceful Hand, which knocks enemies 
with high fortitude saves on their ass. Greater Heroism is a fantastic 
buffing spell, making this my third pick as a sorcerer. 

This leaves Undeath to Death, although undead you want to kill with this 
often have high will saves. I find Flesh to stone or Bigby's Forceful 
Hand to be more effective against undead. Stone Body offers a bunch of 
useful protections. However, the need to use Still Spell means you can't 
Empower or Maximise your other spells. Ethereal Visage is a decent damage 
reduction spell, but it's limited to the caster and has a very short 
duration. Greater Stoneskin is a decent damage reduction spell that can 
be cast on party members, but seems sort of redundant if you choose to 
memorise Stoneskin on Level 4. Still, I choose Greater Stoneskin as my 
fourth sorcerer spell pick. 

Level 7 

Avasculate: Halves one opponent's hitpoints *without offering a save*. 
The only thing that will protect them is immunity to death magic, which 
unfortunately a lot of boss characters have. Still, this spell is on the 
edge of being overpowered. Note that as this spell halves your enemy's 
hitpoints, it can also be used to deduce how many hitpoints they have 
remaining (ie. whatever damage is inflicted with the ray is also how 
much health they have remaining) - Highly recommended 

Banishment: At this point, summoned creatures aren't such a big deal - 
Marginally useful 

Bigby's Grasping Hand: This spell offers no save, but uses the grapple 
check, which most enemies will fail. Enemies are held in place, but 
still allowed to attack. The paralyze effect works against everything, 
including undead, bosses and constructs. Hold melee enemies in place 
with this spell, then pelt them from afar with missiles and spells - 

Control Undead: Dominates one undead enemy for a long duration. While 
there are a lot of undead enemies in this game, most of them have very 
high will saves - Marginally useful 

Delayed Blast Fireball: The damage isn't bad, but it's no better than 
Greater Fireburst, and is outclassed by many other Level 7 spells - 
Marginally useful 

Energy Immunity: Complete immunity to one element is nice, although it's 
hard to predict exactly what type of elemental attack will be thrown at 
you. The duration is nice and long - Recommended 

Ethereal Jaunt: Essentially the level 2 spell invisibility, except it 
can't be targeted on allies - Avoid 

Finger of Death: A useful save or die spell - Recommended 

Greater Shadow Conjuration: Allows you to cast a bunch of barely useful 
lower level spells with a +5 to DC - Avoid 

Hiss of Sleep: The benefits: It has a colossal area of effect, is party 
friendly, and ignores spell resistance. The drawbacks: Most enemies are 
immune to sleep - Marginally useful 

Mass Hold Person: As with all of the paralyze spells, many enemies are 
immune, and it's very easy to shake off - Marginally useful 

Mordenkainen's Sword: A moderately powerful summon with a short duration 
- Marginally useful 

Prismatic Spray: Even if the enemy fails their save, over half of the 
effects this spell deals aren't that great. 20 acid damage? 40 fire 
damage? Poison ? Paralyze? Pathetic for a Level 7 spell - Avoid

Shadow Shield: The bonus to natural AC is easily replicated with barkskin or 
spiderskin. However, 10 damage reduction excluding adamantite (NOT magic 
weapons, as stated in game) for such a long duration is already 
overpowered. Immunity to death effects, necromancy spells and negative 
energy damage is the icing on the cake - Recommended 

Solipsism: At this point, you have a variety of spells that disable an 
opponent, which don't even require a will save - Marginally useful 

Spell Mantle: Blocks 3 high level spells - Marginally useful 

Summon Creature VII: The creature summoned is quite powerful - 
Recommended Highly recommended: 

- Avasculate
- Bigby's Grasping Hand 


- Shadow shield 
- Finger of Death - Spell Focus Necromancy
- Energy Immunity 
- Summon Creature VII 


Level 7 has a lot of junk spells, but also a handful of overpowered 
ones. Avasculate will completely ruin your enemy's day. It has no save 
and actually improves as your enemies increase in strength. Bigby's 
Grasping Hand is a godsend against high fortitude melee warriors, 
holding them in place while you bombard them with arrows and spells. 

Shadow Shield is quite nice, with its long duration, damage reduction 
and death immunity. However, the damage reduction is similar to greater 
stoneskin, and negative energy/level drain protection can be granted by 
death ward. Energy Immunity sounds amazing, but I rarely get very little 
use out of it, as enemies that hit with high elemental damage are few 
and far between. Finger of death is outdone by Flesh to Stone (a Level 6 
spell that actually works against Undead and Constructs), although it 
never hurts to have more save or die spells. Personally, I'd say that it 
might be worth memorising a couple of Shadow Shield's and Finger of 
Death's, but Avasculate and Bigby's should dominate your spell slots. 

Level 8 

Bigby's Clenched Fist: The damage is OK, but at this point, the enemies 
you'd like to stun are immune to that effect - Marginally useful 

Blackstaff: Enchant weapon (a level 3 spell) will grant any weapon a +5 
enchantment, and a dispel magic effect on a weapon is useless - Avoid 

Create Greater Undead: The vampires summoned by this spell are eaten 
alive by the elementals you can summon with Summon Create VIII - 
Marginally useful 

Greater Shout: 60 damage is lousy, and the stun can be saved against and 
has a short duration - Useless 

Greater Planar Binding: The creature summoned is not as useful as the 
elemental summoned by Summon Creature VIII - Marginally useful 

Horrid Wilting: At this point, 120 damage that can be saved against 
isn't that impressive. Worse, the spell isn't party friendly, and the 
negative damage won't affect undead - Marginally useful 

Incendiary Cloud: At this point, an average of 14 fire damage per round 
(which can be saved against for half damage) is lousy. A maximised ice 
storm trumps this spell any day - Avoid 

Iron Body: Outclassed by stone body - Marginally useful 

Mass Blindness/Deafness: A decent disabling spell that is outclassed by 
sunburst - Useful 

Mind Blank: Like lesser mind blank, except it effects all of your party 
members at once. It's more economical to cast Lesser Mind Blank multiple 
times, since most Level 5 spells suck anyway - Useful 

Mass charm monster: A poor disabling spell that is outclassed by 
sunburst - Marginally useful 

Polar Ray: A decent single target damage spell that is over-rated. A 
maximised Elemental Orb spell will outclass this any day - Marginally 

Power Word Petrify: A save or die spell that offers no save and ignores 
death immunity. This works well with Avasculate. If your 
Avasculate does less than 101 damage, then you know a casting of this 
spell will succeed - Recommended 

Power Word Stun: At this point, everything is immune to stun. And even 
then, the stun effect doesn't last that long - Marginally useful 

Premonition: The grand-daddy of damage reduction spells. 30 damage 
reduction is the highest offered by any spell. Sadly it can only be 
targeted on the caster, and by this point you have access to numerous 
other damage reduction spells (Shadow Shield, Stoneskin, Greater 
Stoneskin) - Recommended 

Protection from Spells: Spellcasters aren't that much of a threat, and 
you can gain bonuses to all saves via other means - Marginally useful 

Summon Creature VIII: Summons a powerful elemental that really turns the 
battle in your favour - Recommended 

Sunburst: The ultimate disabling spell. From reading the spell 
description, you'd think that it would only be useful against undead. 
However, Sunburst is fantastic against virtually any enemy, as it 
functions as a mass blind spell that rolls against reflex saves, meaning 
it is almost guaranteed to disable all of your enemies. Better yet, it's 
party friendly - Highly recommended 

Wall of Greater Dispel Magic: Becomes redundant quickly as your enemy's 
level exceeds the roll you require to strip away their buffs - 
Marginally useful. 

Highly recommended: 

- Sunburst - Spell Focus Evocation 


- Power Word: Petrify
- Summon Creature VIII 
- Premonition


Level 8 is the level of redundancy, with *three* summon spells and 
4 disabling spells. For me, the spell choice is easy. Sunburst is by far 
the best disabling spell, trumping mass charm/blindness deafness/power 
word stun. It rolls against reflex saves, which almost every enemy will 
fail against, does massive damage against undead, and is party friendly! 
Better yet, few creatures are immune to blindness. Bigby's Clenched Fist 
sounds useful, until you realise that lots of enemies are immune to 
stun. Furthermore, why try to stun one enemy when you can blind multiple 

Summon Creature VIII would be my second pick. My third selection is 
Power Word: Petrify. Use it as an opener against low hp enemies (mages 
and rogues), or as a follow up after bombarding them with missiles or 

Premonition is useful, but you can cast this using the Level 9 spell 'Shades'.

Level 9 

Bigby's Crushing Hand: Look, it's Bigby's Grappling Hand! The only 
differences are that it deals moderate blunt damage each round, and is 
slightly harder to resist due to a bonus to grapple check. Yes, it's a 
little redundant to select this when you have Grappling Hand at Level 7, 
but you don't have much better to pick from - Recommended 

Burst of Glacial Wrath: I honestly can't think of anything worse than a 
damage spell that checks against a fortitude save. The fact that cold 
resistance is common, and it has inconvenient targeting, makes this a 
lousy spell for Level 9 - Marginally useful 

Dominate Monster: As discussed earlier, Dominate just isn't that good, 
particularly when a significant proportion of your enemies are immune - 

Energy Drain: Contrary to the spell description, this spell doesn't 
allow for a save. Even then, you're better off relying on maximised 
enervations, which will guarantee a drain of 4 levels - Marginally 
useful Etherealness: Etherealness is slightly better than being 
invisible, but enough to justify a level 9 slot? I doubt it - Marginally 

Gate: This summon is inferior to the elemental summons of earlier levels 
- Marginally useful 

Greater Spell Mantle - It will absorb a few high level spells. This is 
unnecessary, as there are better ways to gain complete immunity to 
magical effects - Avoid 

Mass Hold Monster: As with all once off paralyze spells, it just isn't 
that useful - Marginally useful 

Meteor Swarm: Meteor Swarm is, and always has been, an over-rated amped 
up fireball spell that does more damage to your own party members than 
the enemy - Marginally useful 

Mordenkainen's Disjunction: Unrivaled in ripping away spell resistance 
and protections, it's also very rarely, if ever, needed - Marginally 

Power Word Kill: Might be worth considering if death immunity wasn't so 
common, and Power Word: Petrify didn't do the exact same thing, while 
also bypassing death immunity - Marginally useful 

Shades - A very handy spell. By allowing you to cast Premonition and 
Summon Creature VIII, it frees up Level 8 spell slots for sunburst, and 
spell picks for Sorcerers. Having access to delayed burst fireball 
doesn't hurt, either - Recommended

Shadow Simulacrum - A spell that sounds interesting in theory, but isn't 
that useful in practice. It doesn't work on the monsters you'd like to 
copy, and you need to get close enough to make a touch attack, which is 
near suicidal for most arcane casters - Marginally useful 

Shapechange - None of the forms provided are any better than having 
access to a spellcaster - Avoid 

Summon Creature IX - The elder elemental summoned is powerful, but not 
that much more than the elemental summoned by the Level 8 spell - 
Marginally useful 

Wail of the Banshee - A save or die area of effect spell that gets 
better as you gain levels. There's only one problem: By the end of the 
original campaign, almost everything is immune to death effects. If you 
intend to continue on to SoZ or HoU, this spell is very useful - Recommended

Weird - It needs to beat two saves, and is rendered ineffective by death 
immunity, mind-affecting immunity, and phantasm/fear immunity - Avoid 


- Bigby's Crushing Hand 
- Wail of the Banshee (Spell Focus Necromancy) 
- Shades


Level 9 really is a bit of a let-down. I remember when Baldur's Gate II 
offered Level 9 spells such as Time Stop, Imprisonment, and Spell Trap. 
Luckily Wail of the Banshee is still present, and would be great, if 
only you weren't fighting all those undead when you reach level 17 in 
the Original Campaign. Bigby's Crushing Hand is useful for its 
paralyse-everything effect, but a significant number of enemies have 
damage reduction against bludgeoning damage. Shades allows you to save 
on Level 8 spell slots/picks. If you're playing the Original Campaign, 
I'd pick Shades, then Wail of the Banshee. On any other 
campaign, I'd selection WoTB, then Shades. Bigby's would be my final 

This document is copyrighted to Daniel Palmer 2013. 

Feel free to send any comments or questions to: tno_77@outlook.com 

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