D&D: Best Bard Spells for Every Level

best d&D bard spells
For every performer, each new city has an audience to captivate.

What Are The Best Bard Spells in Dungeons and Dragons?

The best bards don’t just sing or dance, they perform! And what better way to perform than a magnificent, magical display?

A bard’s spell choices are limited and precious. But never fear! I’m going to make choosing those spells known a bit easier. The following recommendations are based on combat usefulness (because almost every D&D game is gonna have you fighting) while some will have really good out-of-combat use, too. You may find different picks that are extremely good for a specific situation, and those are fine to use, too! We’re going for a generalist’s picks here, though. 

Without further ado, here’s a list of D&D 5e spells from the bard spell list that will make you THE star of the party:

**DISCLAIMER: I’ll be focusing on the bard spell list, so no Magical Secrets picks here. Also, these spells may net your bard the scornful hate of your enemies and, in equal parts, the admiration and love of your friends. You have been warned. 

Best Level 1 Bard Spells 

Best Level 1 Bard Spell: Healing Word

From a limerick to a tune, a bard can pull anyone back from the jaws of death. Imagine being knocked down during a fight, and you’re pulled back from unconscious with the sweet, sweet crooning of Frank Sinatra (or whoever your favorite singer is).

Healing word lets a bard restore health points very quickly to another creature. What makes this spell so excellent is that it only costs a bonus action rather than a character’s action! This means that our superstar bard can heal an ally and, in the same turn, cast a cantrip, use an item, or even play a song to taunt their enemies. 

Best used when:

  • An ally has been reduced to 0 hit points. Remember, there are no negative hitpoints in 5e, so any amount of healing will bring a creature at 0 hit points back into the fray!
  • You’ve spent your action (including casting a cantrip). Healing word is one of the few bonus action spells in 5e, so you can cast it even if you’ve spent most of your turn doing something else. EXCEPTION: A rule in 5e limits what spells you can cast in a turn. If you’ve already cast a spell that’s not a cantrip (as in you had to spend a spell slot) using your action, you can’t cast healing word during that turn anymore!
  • Someone just really needs healing. Most characters cannot heal for massive numbers in 5e, but sometimes, you just need an ally to stay up during this round.

Second Best Level 1 Bard Spell: Faerie Fire 

A burst of color explodes over the enemy The bard laughs as a ten-foot tall troll now stands covered in purple, luminescent light. It would be terrifying if it wasn’t so silly. Her party can now predict the troll’s every movement, making it easier to land their blows.

Faerie fire is a spell limited almost exclusively to the bard’s spell list. All attack rolls made against an affected creature have advantage, meaning you roll the dice twice and take the better result. This drastically increases the chance that each attack will hit and guarantees your targets a swift death!

Best used when:

  • Fighting slow enemies. Faerie fire requires a Dexterity saving throw, so it is more likely to affect enemies that are very slow (since they will usually have less Dexterity!).
  • You have martial characters in your party. This spell makes attack rolls easier to hit, which every weapon-wielding character makes. Martial characters will love your bard for helping them do their jobs.
  • You’re fighting an invisible enemy. Invisible enemies are awful! You can’t see them, and they are extremely difficult to land a blow on. Well, faerie fire completely negates their invisibility and makes them as vulnerable as visible enemies.

Best Level 2 Bard Spells

Best Level 2 Bard Spell: Invisibility

The bard is surrounded by guards. That joke about the lord’s shapely figure didn’t go well at all. With an incantation, he disappears without a trace! 

Remember what I said about invisible enemies? Now, you can do it, too! Invisibility allows a bard to turn one creature, well, invisible for an hour. This effect means that nothing can see the invisible creature, though they can still be heard. The invisibility lasts as long as you don’t attack anything or cast a spell, so this can lead to a load of shenanigans in a mischievous player’s hands.

Best used when:

  • You need a quick getaway or to not get targeted. Most enemies have no way to really deal with an invisible enemy (unless they have faerie fire!). Disappearing from their line of sight most often means a clean escape or that they’ll turn their attention to someone (or something) else.
  • Infiltrating. Does someone need to get into a place they shouldn’t get into? Think bedlam jobs, jailbreaks, etc. Well, you can’t get caught if they can’t see you (usually)! Also, a bard can target their self OR another creature, so it’s useful for shoring up an armored character’s often poor sneaking skills.

Second Best Level 2 Bard Spell: Suggestion

As the bard questions the captured bandit, she weaves magic into her words. It would be in the bandit’s best interest to betray his boss’s location. For a moment, her words are too enticing, and without further thought, he gives her just the info she wants. 

Suggestion is a spell that can be used in a fight or out of it. The key is to make a request that is reasonable for the creature to follow and won’t cause it direct harm. The spell has some controversial history and can rely on your Dungeon Master’s flexibility. Still, it gives a creative bard a low-level Swiss Army knife charm.

Best used when:

  • You want to non-violently get someone to do what you want. Failing a check to get that discount or information isn’t great, but suggestion can let you try again. This time, they just have to do what you say (within reason).
  • You want to make a creature a non-factor in combat. Sometimes, you just want to make someone quit fighting. You can do this with a suggestion for a creature to just turn the other way, or die. Their choice (or not). An important note is that the creature must still believe not fighting you is a more reasonable alternative, so mileage may vary.
  • You have a very nice Dungeon Master. I won’t always say this because it’s not fair to presume so much of your DMs. But, suggestion relies on how strictly your DM interprets the wording and how “reasonable” the suggested course of action is.

Best Level 3 Bard Spells

Best Level 3 Bard Spell: Hypnotic Pattern

A twisting pattern of colors flashes before their enemies. For a moment, they cannot avert their gazes. Even as the colors fade, they continue to stare ahead, dumbfounded.

Hypnotic pattern is a charm spell that renders enemies in a 30-foot cube incapacitated and turns their speed to zero! As long our bard keeps up concentration (usually by avoiding being damaged), affected creatures don’t take actions. This makes the spell absolutely fantastic in combat! The limitation here is that the moment an affected creature takes damage, it snaps out of its hypnosis. Smarter enemies might also wake up their affected friends. 

Best used when:

  • Fighting many enemies in tight quarters. A 30-foot cube is a pretty big area of effect. Against a lot of enemies (think like 5 or 6 or more), a bard will likely affect at least one or two. A pro-tip about combat is that sometimes you just want to reduce the number of enemies hurting you, even if you don’t kill them. Just be careful about hitting your friends, though.
  • Setting up an ambush. Hypnotic pattern can completely disable a creature. Opening up an ambush with this spell can completely nullify an enemy’s ability to react.
  • Escaping! I know our superstar bard might have invisibility, but what if your entire party needs to get out of the evil overlord’s fortress? Quickly tossing out hypnotic pattern in your pursuers’ path can make them stop dead in their tracks.

Second Best Level 3 Bard Spell: Enemies Abound (XtGE)

Another charm for our bard’s arsenal, this time from the Xanathar’s Guide to Everything 5e sourcebook. Our bard targets a single creature and removes its ability to distinguish its allies from its enemies. So long as the bard keeps up concentration, the creature randomly chooses who to affect whenever it acts. Plus, it must take attacks of opportunity against anything that moves out of its melee range! 

Imagine a 5-versus-5 fight. This spell can make that a 6-versus-4 in favor of the bard’s side! Again, this reduces the number of enemies you have to deal with. But, this time, it’s making your enemies do it for you, too.

Best used when:

  • Fighting dumb(er) enemies. Think trolls or ogres, though a bard could safely target most things that can be frightened (immunity to the frightened condition makes creatures immune to this spell, unfortunately). Enemies abound requires an Intelligence saving throw, which is rarer and usually a lower save bonus for many creatures.
  • Dealing with a powerful enemy that’s part of a group. Enemies abound targets only one creature at a time, so you really wanna make your choice count. Is that guard captain wreaking havoc with his greatsword? Well, turn him against his allies, and they might just stop listening to him! 

Best Level 4 Bard Spells

Best Level 4 Bard Spell: Polymorph

With an incantation and a strum of his lute, the bard transforms the fearsome bear into a...kitty cat? Or perhaps, he changes his friend into a giant eagle to fly away to safety instead. Polymorph lets a bard turn any creature into a beast of an equivalent Challenge Rating (CR) or lower. The main drawback is that the creature mentally becomes like the animal, too. Though, they usually maintain a baseline sense for its friends or foes.

We’re getting into the more limited spells now, so our best choices will be either extremely versatile or potent. Polymorph is what I consider another swiss-army knife spell. When a creature is transformed by polymorph, it can gain a lot of extra hit points in its new form and another set of abilities. In exchange, a player can’t use their class features or spells. 

Best used when:

  • You need a big combat boost. Using polymorph on an ally mid-combat is like getting an entirely new, fully-healed character to control. The giant ape (CR 7) and tyrannosaurus rex (CR 8) transformations usually pay for themselves. Make sure you maintain concentration, though!
  • You need extra mobility. Different animals have different forms of movement, and they can have higher move speeds than player characters! If a party needs to fly, swim, or even burrow through an area, then there’s probably an animal form that can do just that!
  • You have any other problem. There’s a lot to say for the versatility of different beast forms. It’s honestly what makes the druid class’s wild shape so good. For most any problem or even encounter, some beast form exists that can help you solve it. Polymorph’s an absolutely diverse spell that only gets better as the bard becomes more familiar with animal forms.

Second Best Level 4 Bard Spell: Dimension Door

The bard’s first significant teleportation ability! With an incantation, you can whisk yourself, and a friend if you so choose, away to another point within 500 feet. Just be careful about blindly choosing a spot since teleporting into a wall or obstacle will stop your travel and cause damage to you (and your companion). 

Dimension door is another utility spell that makes the bard almost as unpredictable as polymorph does. So long as you have the spell slots, you can threaten to be anywhere in a massive range. It also becomes near impossible to capture a bard or really pin them down if they can cast this spell.

Best used when:

  • You need to run away from a fight...or get into one. 500 feet is no joke. In most games, that range will cover an entire battle map and then some. It’s a no brainer choice for quickly getting away from a fight. Any bard worth their salt will eventually use dimension door to teleport into one, though. Nothing more surprising than appearing in the villain’s planning room!
  • You need to reposition during combat. Fights sometimes get a lot harder when you and your friends can’t reach the thing making your lives difficult (see: backline archers and mages). Use dimension door to plop your hungry, hungry barbarian right next to a squishy enemy mage.

Best Level 5 Bard Spells

Best Level 5 Bard Spell: Hold Monster

The upgraded version of the hold person spell. Hold monster can affect any creature except those of the undead subtype, and if a creature fails its save, it’s affected with the paralyzed condition. A bard not only takes a creature out of a fight but also makes it easier for her friends to kill it. Paralyzed is a terrifying status effect in 5e because a paralyzed creature:

  1. 1) Can’t take actions,
  2. 2) Has all attacks against it have advantage to roll, and
  3. 3) Any attack that hits is considered a critical hit.

Your DM might just cringe as your bard renders their awesome monster useless while the rest of your party kicks it into the dirt. 

Best used when:

  • You’re fighting a powerful creature, especially when it’s alone. Stopping an enemy from attacking you AND doing more damage to it makes hold monster an excellent choice. Level 5 spells don’t come cheap, though, so best save this for a really important fight!
  • You have a paladin and/or rogue on your team. Let’s get this straight: ANY martial character will love it when your bard paralyzes an enemy. You make it easier for them to hit with advantage, and critical hits double the number of damage dice they roll! Paladins and rogues just add a lot more dice to each of their attacks (divine smite and sneak attack, respectively), so they tend to have the most powerful critical attacks.

Second Best Level 5 Bard Spell: Synaptic Static (XtGE)

Another spell from Xanathar’s. Imagine your bard getting into people’s heads. This time, they give them a really, really painful headache, too! Synaptic static affects a 20-foot radius area where each creature has to make an Intelligence saving throw. On a failure, they’ll take a lot of psychic damage (which most creatures have no defenses against). Plus, they’ll get a debuff that reduces their attack rolls, ability checks, and concentration saves (for those pesky mages) by a d6.

The bard spell list doesn’t have a lot of damaging options, especially ones that affect a wide area. Synaptic static is a great choice to round out your bard’s higher-level spell selection. With damage AND a debuff wrapped into an area-of-effect package, it’ll pack a psychic wallop in any fight! 

Best used when:

  • Fighting dumb enemies. Like enemies abound, synaptic static requires an Intelligence save. Enemies with low Intelligence become more likely to take more damage and suffer from synaptic static’s effects for a longer time.
  • You’re against a lot of enemies. With a 20-foot radius range, you’re likely to affect a significant chunk of a fight. Synaptic static’s damage is comparable to a fireball, so it may just take out weaker opponents entirely. For those enemies that survive, they might have to deal with the debuff after, making it easier for the rest of your bard’s party to clean house.

Best Level 6 Bard Spells

Best Level 6 Bard Spell: Otto’s Irresistible Dance

Your bard stares the fearsome dragon in the eye. Then, you cast your spell and demand that it...dances?! The dragon finds itself unable to resist as it breaks out into a comic jig. The dragon is unable to move from its spot, and it has difficulty doing anything while dancing.

Bards will always want their 6th-level or higher spells to do something whenever they cast them because they only ever get one or two of those each day. Otto’s irresistible dance automatically affects a creature (so long as it’s not immune to charm).

While a creature dances, it has disadvantage on attack rolls and Dexterity saves, and attacks against it have advantage! Plus, a creature has to use its action to try saving against the spell. So, either a creature spends its actions trying to stop dancing, or it stays vulnerable to your party’s attacks! 

Best used when:

  • Fighting a big bad boss. Similar reasoning to hold monster, irresistible dance can deter a creature from attacking you while making it easier to hurt it! What makes irresistible dance more enticing is that it automatically affects the big bad for at least one round, or continuously if they choose not to spend their action to save. This spell will especially hinder any melee-focused enemies since it also removes their movement! 

Second Best Level 6 Bard Spell: Mass Suggestion

Mass suggestion works very much like the suggestion spell further up in this article. There are a few key differences that make it a vastly superior spell, though:

  1. 1) It can influence up to 12 creatures (that aren’t immune to the charmed condition).
  2. 2) It lasts for 24 hours without having to maintain concentration on the spell.
  3. 3) The task can be something the target can repeat for the duration. 

This spell can end a combat encounter before it even begins and also has a lot of potential outside of a fight, too.

Best used when:

  • You want to use suggestion but want it to do more. Since this is just an upgraded version of suggestion, consider using it in the same scenarios I listed under suggestion but to affect more creatures. Just keep in mind that you usually only get one 6th-level slot a day.
  • You just started a fight. If you or any of your allies damage a creature affected by mass suggestion, the spell just ends for them. To avoid any mishaps with unintended crossfire, casting this to dissuade enemies from fighting can make the battle much easier in the long run.

Best Level 7 Bard Spells

Best Level 7 Bard Spell: Forcecage

With a single cast, your bard conjures an invisible prison around an area of your choosing. The mighty balor booms infernal curses in your direction as its blows glance off the barrier uselessly. You smirk and wave farewell, knowing the creature will be there for the next hour.

Forcecage is a big once-a-day “NO” button for whatever you use it against. There is no save for a creature to avoid being trapped so long as it fits in the dimensions (10 feet sides for a solid box or 20 feet sides for a cage with bars). Once inside, the creature(s) can’t leave it short of teleportation, and even then, they still have to make a save to leave. The big tradeoff here is the 1500 gp component cost, but most characters that can cast this spell should be able to afford it.

Best used when:

  • You want to completely take an enemy (or enemies) out of a fight, at least temporarily. Most enemies will not have a way to leave the forcecage, so they will usually be forced to watch as your party takes down their allies.
  • You want to stay safe. On the other hand, forcecage is also an impenetrable defense if you really wanted to hunker down for an hour. Just make sure to have a game plan for when the duration expires!

Second Best Level 7 Bard Spell: Regenerate

The bard increases a creature’s natural healing ability. The target immediately regains a burst of hit points, and for the next hour, they continue to heal every few seconds. Oh, and remember that time the paladin lost his hand in a duel? Well, not anymore. That grows back, too! 

Regenerate is decidedly a supportive spell much like healing word. In combat, a regenerating creature regains a hit point at the start of their turns, letting them always have a turn even if they get knocked down to 0 hit points right before.

Best used when:

  • You want someone to constantly stay conscious (for an hour). Slapping regenerate on a frontline character makes them very difficult to take out a fight. Out of combat, they’ll restore 10 hit points a minute (equal to about 600 hit points of healing over the hour), so they stay ready for consecutive fights, too. Your partymates will love you for making them more persistent!
  • A character loses a body part. Regenerate is the first spell that can restore severed or lost body parts. Losing body parts doesn’t happen often unless your DM uses the variant injuries table from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, but when it does happens, it isn’t great. This spell just completely negates those effects.

Best Level 8 Bard Spells

Best Level 8 Bard Spell: Dominate Monster

Remember enemies abound? This spell is the vastly superior version at the cost of a significantly higher spell slot. Your bard can now bend any creature (that is not immune to being charmed) to her will. Dominate monster lets you direct specifically what the creature does during their turn. Plus, unlike the other dominate spells, this one lasts for an hour instead of just a minute.

Best used when:

  • You have not started a fight. Any creature you’re actively fighting will have advantage on its wisdom saving throw against this spell. With some foresight, you can make an enemy into a friend, so that they can fight their friends instead.
  • You want to really tip the scales of an encounter. This spell can find use in combat or social challenges. Entirely taking over the actions of another character in your favor will give you a notable advantage!

Second Best Level 8 Bard Spell: Feeblemind

With a single incantation, the bard shatters the mind of a creature with psychic energy. Its mental functions almost completely cease as its Intelligence and Charisma scores are reduced to a paltry one. Intelligent thought goes beyond its grasp, and it loses the ability to understand and communicate. 

This state lasts indefinitely unless it saves once every 30 days. Only powerful healing magic can remove these effects. Feeblemind is a potent and cruel spell.

Best used when:

  • You just wanna ruin a mage’s day. Feeblemind renders a creature unable to cast spells, so this will absolutely shut down an enemy mage if they fail the save. Plus, it becomes near impossible to naturally save against the effect after it has taken effect.
  • You just wanna ruin anyone’s day. While most potent against spellcasters, feeblemind will render an intelligent creature into a primitive mess. For example, reducing the commander of an invading force to little more than an animal could put a halt to the invasion altogether.

Best Level 9 Bard Spells

Best Level 9 Bard Spell: True Polymorph

We’ve now reached the most powerful bardic magic possible. I’m gonna top off our list with true polymorph. It’s essentially polymorph, but better in every way. 

You can now turn a creature or an object into another creature (no longer limited to the beast subtype) or object. CR remains a factor and differs between turning someone/something into a creature or object. Plus, if your bard maintains the spell for the duration, this transformation becomes permanent.

True polymorph is the most versatile and potent spell on the bard spell list for utility, power, support, and utter shenanigans! 

Best used when:

  • You want to win a fight, like really hard. Seriously, at the point that your bard can cast this spell, you could turn yourself or a friend into an adult gold dragon. Seeing as a dragon gets its own set of abilities, it’s a pretty potent form to take on! Or, alternatively, you can turn a bad guy into a lute. Your choice.
  • You have any other problem. I repeat this from my discussion on polymorph. With all the forms that your bard can now use, true polymorph is like a sledgehammer to fix a chosen problem. A 9th-level slot is a steep cost, though, so make sure the problems worth the power.

Second Best Level 9 Bard Spell: Foresight

Your bard grants one creature the ability to see into the immediate future. Once affected, the target gains a slew of benefits: can’t be surprised; advantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws; and all attacks against it have disadvantage. Oh, and it lasts for 8 hours, which is practically an entire adventuring day. This spell is arguably the best buff a caster can give to a character, outside of turning them into a dragon or something. 

Best used when:

  • You have a martial character. Martial characters, especially those on the frontline, tend to make the most attacks as well as take the most attacks. Foresight benefits both those situations. Your barbarian/fighter/monk/paladin/rogue/ranger will love you.
  • You expect to fight sometime in the next 8 hours. There’s little reason not to use this spell if you expect to fight soon, and it’s fine to cast early due to the long duration. 

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When Ianara isn't eating, sleeping, or working a day job, she can be found in her natural habitat: a corner of her home where she plays games, manages D&D campaigns, and writes about her experiences.
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