By Jacobe Simon-Hanks
The wizard class is a powerful magic-based class that offers lots of room for creativity, flavor, and character customization in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.
Ranging from thematic elemental builds to fully optimized min/max options, the Wizard’s spells range from levels 1 through 9 and are slotted into their spellbook, with the number of known spells growing as the player levels up. In this article, we will explore the best level 1 Wizard Spells for D&D 5e.
1. Magic Missile
Magic Missile is one of the best spells for a Wizard to take early into their class progression and will be a staple in your character’s spellbook throughout the game’s campaign.
Considering the spell gets guaranteed damage due to it never missing, it is excellent for sniping low-health enemies or for hitting high AC opponents that other spells, or your party, may struggle with connecting.
Cover and concealment are also ineffective against Magic Missile due to its lack of an attack roll. Wizards can cast this spell at higher levels to increase their damage output and rain death along the battlefield. Magic Missile is a reliable spell that every level 1 Wizard should consider.
Much like Magic Missile, Shield is another essential spell for level 1 Wizards. While most spells are used as actions and sometimes bonus actions, Shield is used as a reaction. Wizards can cast this top level 1 wizard spell when they are being attacked, increasing their Armor Class by 5.
These 5 additional points can turn a hit into a miss, which can mean the difference between life and death as Wizards tend to be low health early into campaigns. Their Armor Class also tends to be on the low end. A plus 5 to AC is not only a big spike for the glass cannon mage, but a spike against early-game enemies, who may struggle to roll high attack rolls.
If a Wizard plans to get up close and personal, perhaps they are weapon-based users or are multiclassing, then Shield will increase their survivability greatly with its significant boost in defenses,
3. Mage Armor
Mage Armor is a great level 1 defensive spell that replaces the caster’s Armor Class with a 13 + their Dexterity modifier when they are not wearing armor. This is massive for Wizards that prefer to stay back and cast their ranged spells against enemies and it does not require any action in combat.
Wizards that may not have access to armor or otherwise choose not to wear armor due to the drawbacks of hindered movement and disadvantage on certain checks will appreciate the effects of Mage Armor to their fullest.
Wizards tend to have a low Armor Class regardless, so even without the Dexterity modifier, the raw 13 will help a lot and makes Mage Armor a premium defensive spell.
Sleep is a potent spell that can incapacitate multiple enemies at once. The spell is particularly unique as it is calculated by a number of hit points, starting with the creature with the lowest amount of health and working its way up until the total number of affected creatures’ hit points equals the number rolled when casting Sleep.
Large groups of enemies all at low health can easily be put down with this spell, or if fighting a single large enemy the party can find the dangerous encounter to quickly become naptime. Sleep is also great for non-violent actions, as the spell does not harm the targets. It is perfect for the rare pacifist runs when combat might seem inevitable.
5. Charm Person
You do not have to be a Bard to charm your way through life; you just need to have the level 1 Wizard spell Charm Person. This spell allows the Wizard to charm a humanoid creature with an Intelligence score of at least 3, and if successful, the target will regard the Wizard as a friendly acquaintance for the spell’s duration.
If diplomacy is needed yet unlikely, Charm person can make it happen and provide a non-lethal, non-violent engagement between the party and the target. The spell is also great for gathering intel or information from sources that would otherwise not be forthcoming with strangers, due to the sudden friendly disposition the target adopts when under the spell’s effects.
6. Detect Magic
Detect Magic is a utility spell that allows the Wizard to sense the presence of magic within 30 feet. It’s an excellent spell for identifying magical items among the mundane or for detecting hidden magical traps or effects. The spell can also be used to locate hidden enemies who might be using invisibility spells or other magical means to remain hidden.
At your Dungeon Master’s discretion, you may find it possible to locate specific magic as well, such as if searching for a Fey user who has transformed or if the party’s quest is to look for a specific artifact or treasure that is magically charged. When used in combination with the 2nd level spell Detect Thoughts, parties can act as powerful sentries that can find any potential threat before it reaches them.
Better yet, parties can use Detect Magic to get a surprise attack on groups of enemies that are not trying to keep their presence hidden, allowing for a ton of advantages that come from getting a series of surprise attacks. This is one of those spells that requires a bit of creativity but is powerful in a spellbook nonetheless.
Grease is a terrain-based spell that can be utilized in a plethora of scenarios. This spell creates a slippery area on the ground, causing creatures within the area to potentially fall prone. This spell can be used to slow down enemies, giving the Wizard and their party an advantage in combat or when fleeing.
It can also be used to create obstacles to further slow down enemies and mitigate their approach options. This will create more opportunities to escape or retreat, but can also help create zones for powerful Area of Effect spells and attacks the party can use to combo with your Wizard’s Grease spell.
8. Burning Hands
Burning Hands is a potentially high-damage fire spell that covers a 15-foot cone based on the caster. As a level 1 Wizard spell, the 3d6 damage on a failed save can be devastating to enemies especially if they are grouped together. Even on a successful save, half the damage in a widespread flame will do a lot for a combat encounter.
The fire attribute to the spell not only makes it thematic but also useful for resourceful players, as the spell ignites anything flammable that is not being worn. If there has been an oil spill or if fighting in an area with a lot of dry brush, Burning Hands can ignite the area and increase the lethality of the spell greatly.
Utility spells such as the aforementioned Grease that help redirect enemies can create predictable routes for enemies to travel through, making the cone-shaped area of effect stronger for the caster.
Also, considering how many of the powerful level 1 spells are utility and defensive-based, taking Burning Hands as an offensive choice solidifies the spell as one of the strongest picks for a Wizard’s spellbook.
9. Ray of Sickness
Ray of Sickness acts similarly to Burning Hands but is necrotic in nature. Necromancers will want to take this great level 1 wizard spell as it is a premium option for a thematic class.
Ray of Sickness lashes out in a beam at opponents, forcing them to make a constitution save or take a hefty amount of damage. On a successful save, the damage is halved, but on a failed save the damage is full and the target is poisoned until the end of the caster’s next turn.
This helps provide consistent damage over time so long as the enemy is unable to pass their saving throws. Even if the poison only lasts one turn, that extra damage can be enough to end an encounter before party members take more damage, as prolonged fights can get messier than intended if not carefully managed.
That’s it for the best level 1 Wizard spell choices. As you can see, there are a lot of good options for any Wizard’s build. At level 1, it can be hard to build around a team your character has yet to meet, so it would be best to take what you think looks strong or fun, but as you level up and earn more level 1 slots and more known spells, feel free to take your party’s needs and potential synergies into account when choosing new spells to learn.
You can always change out spells in the future by leveling up. At higher levels, some spells such as Magic Missile will function better than spells such as Charm Person, where a better option could present itself or when saving throws become stronger for enemies. Regardless of the specifics, if you need a spell this list will remain a tried and true resource throughout your campaigns.