I love the bard and think it’s the most versatile class in the game. While its unique features and spells focus on support, the bard is the only class that can freely pick spells from any other class – which allows it to adapt to any party composition and desired playstyle!
However, picking the best spells as your Magical Secrets from the massive list of options is easier said than done. Having spent many evenings deciding my own personal picks, I figured I could share my thoughts to perhaps make your life as a bard a little easier.
First of all, no single spell can be said to be the best pick. It all depends on the circumstances.
The beauty of Magical Secrets is its flexibility, and you should always focus on picking spells that fill the gaps in your party by picking important spells the other player characters won’t have access to. If your group already has two spellcasters with counterspell and haste but is in dire need of healers, I would always suggest that you go with some kind of healing spell – and vice versa.
With that in mind, there are, of course, favorites, dos and don’ts, and spells that are almost always a good pick! Here are my personal top picks.
Level 6 (Lore Bards only!)
Counterspell. For a Lore Bard, picking up counterspell at level 6 is a good choice in almost any situation. Not only is the spell great, but the Jack of All Trades feature also allows the bard to add half of its proficiency bonus to the required skill check – making bards the most efficient spell-counterer in the game!
Fireball. Most of us love a good damage spell, and bards have very few of those. Fireball is as good as it gets at this level. However, if your party already has a lot of damage dealers, you may want to pick something else. I like lightning bolt too!
Revivify. Dealing damage is great, but saving lives is even greater! If your party doesn’t have a cleric (or another class who will be able to resurrect fallen comrades later on), revivify is a good pick! It might not be needed often, but when it is, you won’t regret having it.
Haste. Haste is a strong spell, and if your party has one or more characters that deal a lot of damage on each of their physical attacks, they will love you for picking up this one! The harder the hitter, the higher the value.
Spirit Guardians. This is also a concentration spell, but giving 3d8 radiant damage to any creature that enters or starts its turn within 15 feet of you (Wisdom save halves) and halving their movement speed is ridiculously good at lower levels – especially if you plan to face your enemies head-on in melee combat. No matter what, it’s a solid pick!
Spiritual Weapon. Another great pick if you like to deal damage consistently. It does require a bonus action to hit, but it doesn’t require concentration and scales relatively well if cast with a higher-level spell slot. Good in combination with spirit guardians too. I see a theme here!
Aura of Vitality from the Paladin spell list allows you to heal someone for 2d6 as a bonus action each round and lasts 1 minute. This is pretty strong at level 6 (Paladins have to wait to level 9 to get it) and will be an even more viable pick if you are multiclassing into a Life Cleric. However, bards already get a lot of concentration spells and have other things to do on their bonus action.
Slow. Haste’s nemesis. Put this on your boss, and you will start to see tears in your DM’s eyes after a few rounds of the BBEG only being able to take one single action each round! Note that this spell is listed in the Optional Class Features-section of Tasha’s Cauldron to Everything as a possible bard spell –so, if your DM is running with that, you won’t even have to use a magical secret to grab it!
Fly. Flying away solves a lot of problems. It’s just awesome to be able to fly.
Counterspell. If you are not a lore bard and therefore haven’t picked up any Magical Secrets yet, I think counterspell is still your best bet!
Wall of Force. Controlling the battlefield is great, and I think wall of force is – at least at this point in the game – one of the most effective spells at doing that.
Banishment. Removing one or more enemies completely from combat is incredibly powerful, and if none of the characters in your group have this spell, it’s definitely a good pick!
Circle of Power. Advantage on all saving throws against magic and magical effects for both you and your party is very good. However, it does use up your concentration and there might be better options in your campaign, especially if you don’t think you’ll be facing a lot of spellcasters.
Swift Quiver and Destructive Wave. If you are playing a ranged Valor bard, swift quiver is a solid pick. Likewise, if you are engaging in melee combat, I would recommend picking up destructive wave. Like circle of power both of these spells only become accessible for the ranger and paladin respectively at level 17, making them all the sweeter to get at level 10!
Steel Wind Strike. Another option for the valor bard is to pick steel wind strike from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Personally, I like the flavor, and doing 6d10 force damage to up to five creatures is pretty strong compared to even destructive wave (5d6 necrotic damage and 5d6 radiant damage).
Telekinesis. I’ve watched and read enough Star Wars material to love just about anything that allows me to wield the Force. If you’re on the same page, telekinesis is a fun and versatile spell that can be quite powerful – especially as a bard as the Jack of All Trades feature also works on the spellcasting ability checks with this spell.
Bigby’s Hand. The big brother of telekinesis comes with a lot of cool and powerful options. If you like to control the battlefield and have a lot of cards on your hand, adding this to the collection is a solid and fun choice.
Holy Weapon & Shadow Blade. Holy weapon can be cast on your allies weapon which makes it an awesome pick for a lore bard who wants to boost the damage output of the party’s fighter. For a valor bard more interested in increasing your own weapon damage, shadow blade is even better!
Find Greater Steed. If you like the idea of having a cool mount this spell allows you to get the pegasus or griffon (or rhinoceros) you always dreamed of! Having a mount can be really handy, and though the spell takes 10 minutes to cast the spell, it doesn’t require concentration.
Cone of Cold. A great damage spell. Consider this if you didn’t pick fireball or lightning bolt earlier. Personally, I prefer the ones on the bard’s spell list like synaptic static, but if your party has no spell casters who can deal a high amount of damage to multiple targets, this is a top-tier pick.
Conjure Woodland Beings. For those of you interested this spell lets you summon 8 pixies that can cast polymorph on you, your party and even your enemies although at a low DC. Pretty powerful, pretty boring in my opinion. Of course, the pixies only have 1 hit point, but they can just spread out and fly away.
At this point there are so many great spells to choose between, and the best pick boils down to the specific adventure party and campaign setting you’re in. However, here are my suggestions:
Heal. If you are the party’s healer, it doesn’t get better than this at this point of the game.
Simulacrum. Having a functional copy of your own character is about as awesome as magic gets. Besides the cost of 1.500 gp and casting time of 12 hours and obvious handicaps, this wizard-exclusive spell is a really solid pick if your DM allows it.
Magic Jar. Another wizard-only spell that bards are better to cast. Magic Jar allows you to take the physical body of another creature, which can be super powerful, but if the possessed body drops to 0 hit points you must make a charisma saving throw against your own DC. For a wizard, that’s likely to be a death sentence and enough to make the spell a no-go for me, but for a bard, it’s a whole other story. Be warned though, this spell can still go wrong in a lot of ways!
Contingency. Having a level 5 cure wounds ready when you drop below a third of your hit points? Automatically using dispel magic after being affected by a set condition? Contingency is yet another awesome spell that is exclusively on the wizard’s spell list – I would personally pick this one over magic jar!
Disintegrate. Dealing 10d6+40 force damage is as good as it gets. If you like to blast your opponents and one-shot the enemy spellcasters, this is the pick for you.
Chain Lightning. Another solid pick if you like to deal a lot of damage and lack AoE.
Wall of Thorns. Controlling the battlefield by reducing movement speed and blocking sight while dealing a decent amount of damage gives this druid-only spell an honorable mention. At this point, you can also worry less about concentration as you’re getting a lot of other spells that don’t require you to concentrate.
Reverse Gravity. I really like the flavor of this spell – reversing gravity is badass! – and it can be quite powerful if used in the right circumstances.
Wish. The title says it all. Wishing for whatever you want is so insanely powerful, awesome, and useful that picking this one should be a no-brainer for any bard. Yes, there can be huge costs from making grand wishes, but the ability to copy and instantly cast any 8th-level spell or lower without any material components is in itself insane. If your DM allows this spell, take it!
Mass heal. This is simply the best healing spell in the game, so if that’s your role, pick it up.
Prismatic wall. The mother of all walls, this seven-layered anti-antimagic wonder requires no concentration and is almost impossible to get through (each layer requires a different method such as passwall or dealing 60 force damage). It can also be cast as a sphere to trap your foes!
Meteor Swarm. Insane amount of damage on a large scale. If you want to lay cities to the ground, this is the way to go. I am more of a city-saver myself.
Shape change. Want to be a dragon that can cast bard spells? A cloud giant that can viciously mock your enemies? With this spell, you can transform yourself into any living creature at your own challenge rating and change to a new one as an action! The downside is that your hit points remain at their current value when you take on a new form – and, of course, that the spell requires concentration.
True polymorph. The more permanent but less awesome version of shapechange doesn’t let you retain your class features – but if cast for a full hour it does let you become any creature at your own challenge rating or less without requiring concentration. The updated version of the spell clearly states that it can be dispelled and is thus not permanent. Personally, I like this errata as I could never say goodbye to life as a bard for good!
That wraps up this guide on picking up the best Magical Secrets for the bard class. What’s your own favorite pick’s, and do you think we missed any spells? Let us know in the comments below!
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S. K. Valeur