The School of Necromancy is one of the most powerful and intriguing magical schools in all of Dungeons & Dragons. Far from just a means of amassing an army of undead servants, necromancy is an incredibly versatile school, providing you with options for damage, utility, healing, buffs/debuffs, and creation spells. There are 42 official necromancy spells in D&D 5e, and even the lowest ranked spells on this list have their uses as it is one the worst cantrips in 5e.
42. Spare the Dying – cantrip
Spare the Dying allows you to stabilize one dying creature. It is the only healing spell in the game that provides the target with 0 hit points. Sure, it’s a cantrip, but it costs an action and has a range of touch. If you are a spellcaster, use a real healing spell to save your friends. If you’re within 5 feet, give them a healing potion or use medical supplies to stabilize them. There are just too many better options for this cantrip to have any real use.
41. Feign Death – 3rd level
Feign Death allows you to fake kill a willing creature for 1 hour. It’s a third level spell, and wow is it situational. There definitely could be some cool uses for this spell, but I’ve never seen it used more than a couple of times in a campaign, and usually it isn’t even worth preparing.
40. Tether Essence – 7th level
Tether Essence allows you to link the vitality of two creatures, forcing them to share both damage and healing effects. It’s a 7th level spell with a high chance of failure when used offensively, and a high chance of backfiring if used on your allies. It’s a spell I want to like, but practically, it’s just not worth the expense of a 7th level spell slot, not to mention the 250gp of material it consumes.
39. Magic Jar – 6th level
With Magic Jar, your spirit leaves your body behind and is sucked into a little jar. You can then use an action, either to return to your body or to attempt to possess another creature. The problem with this spell, in addition to its limited utility, is that it leaves you incredibly vulnerable. If your defenseless body dies, or the jar is destroyed while not within 100 feet of your body, you die.
38. Ray of Enfeeblement – 2nd level
The School of Necromancy has some great debuff spells. Ray of Enfeeblement is not one of them. On a hit, it allows you to half the effects of Strength based weapon attacks until the spell ends, which it does as soon as the target succeeds on a Constitution saving throw, which, if you are using this on a strong creature, as is intended, is probably one of their highest ability scores.
This spell’s only saving grace is that it doesn’t require the saving throw until the end of the targets first turn under the effect. If that wasn’t the case, Ray of Enfeeblement would be at the bottom of this list.
37. Gentle Repose – 2nd level
Gentle Repose is not a bad spell, it’s just highly situational. It allows you to prevent a corpse from decaying for 10 days. It’s useful if you need to delay raising a fallen ally from the dead for some reason, or if you are trying to pull off some Weekend at Bernie’s style hijinks, but that probably doesn’t happen often enough to warrant preparing this one.
36. Raise Dead – 5th level
Finally, some traditional necromancy. Raise Dead is the middle-tier resurrection spell afforded to necromancers. More expensive and consequential than revivify, but less powerful than true resurrection. Usually, you can rely on these other spells to meet any needs that Raise Dead would fill.
35. Speak with Dead – 3rd level
Speak with Dead gives you the opportunity to ask 5 questions to a corpse, who can lie to you if they want, usually answers in brief, cryptic, and repetitive responses, and only knows what it knew in life. Casting this has a high likelihood of wasting both your 3rd level spell slot and your party’s time.
34. Spirit Shroud – 3rd level
Spirit Shroud surrounds you in spirits of the dead, dealing an extra d8 of damage whenever you attack a creature within 10 feet of you. If you are a melee combatant, this is a great spell for you. If you are a squishy spellcasting necromancer, you probably don’t like to be within 10 feet of your enemies, so don’t use this spell. If you want it for defensive reasons, use Shadow of Moil instead.
33. Whither and Bloom – 2nd level
Wither and Bloom is a healing spell masquerading as a damage spell. Dealing 2d6 damage on failed con save is not worth a 2nd level spell slot. Healing an ally for half that amount makes it passable. It is a great level 2 spells for wizards.
32. Astral Projection – 9th level
The lowest ranked 9th level spell on the list, Astral Projection allows you and your companions to explore the astral plane. It is either a spell that you absolutely need or one that you absolutely don’t.
31. Contagion – 5th level
A pretty solid debuff when successful, Contagion poisons the target on a successful melee spell attack, and if the target fails three saves on subsequent turns, they contract a disease which works as an even stronger debuff. The downside with Contagion is that there are just too many ways that it can fail for it to be relied on. A lot of creatures have resistance to poison and disease, and even if they didn’t, the target gets plenty of opportunities to avoid the consequences of the spell.
30. Enervation – 5th level
Enervation allows you to deal continuous, guaranteed damage to a target within 60 feet of you, while healing yourself for half the damage taken, until the spell ends, which can be up to 1 minute.
It is a pretty strong damage spell, and necrotic damage is a strong damage type. The only drawback is that it doesn’t allow you to take any actions or move out of range of your target, meaning once you start, you’re stuck doing this, and only this, for the rest of the combat.
29. Negative Energy Flood – 5th level
With Negative Energy Flood, you get to deal 5d12 damage to an enemy within 60 feet of you, and raise them as a zombie if this kills them. Unfortunately, this spell requires a Constitution save, which is usually one of the strongest saving throws, and the zombie you raise is not under your control. This is pretty weak for a 5th level spell.
28. Chill Touch – cantrip
Chill Touch is not the highest damage cantrip available, but it prevents the target from regaining hit points. Having this ability in your back pocket when you are plagued with enemy healers makes this cantrip a solid option.
27. Harm – 6th level
Harm is a decent damage spell, dealing 14d6 necrotic damage on a failed save, but the real kicker is the hit point reduction for the same amount, which can make this an absolutely brutal spell when used near the beginning of a combat.
26. Ray of Sickness – 1st level
Ray of Sickness deals 2d8 poison damage on a hit and poisons the target on a failed Con save. Poison damage is often resisted, and con saves are often successful, but the poisoned condition is such an effective debuff that this is still good value for a 1st level spell.
25. Life Transference – 3rd level
Life Transference allows you to sacrifice 4d8 health to heal an ally for double that amount. Double 4d8 is an incredible amount of healing for a 3rd level slot, but chances are, if you are a squishy spellcaster, you don’t have a lot of spare hit points to give.
24. Shadow of Moil – 4th level
With Shadow of Moil, you get to surround yourself in darkness and deal 2d8 necrotic damage to anyone who attacks you within melee range. This is a great defensive spell if you are in a close quarter fight or if you prefer using melee spell attacks over safe, long-range attacks.
23. True Resurrection – 9th level
The most powerful resurrection spell in the game, True Resurrection allows you to restore a dead creature to life, even if they no longer have a body, provided that they haven’t been dead for more than 200 years and didn’t die of old age. This spell costs 25,000gp to cast, and should be used only if none of the other resurrection spells will do the trick, but if you need it, you need it.
22. Danse Macabre – 5th level
Danse Macabre allows you to create a temporary gang of zombies or skeletons to do you bidding. It is a fun spell that can be really useful, but your undead thralls aren’t very strong, and if you are going against a caster with area effect abilities or if you lose concentration, this could turn out to be a big waste of a spell slot.
21. Sapping Sting – cantrip
Sapping Sting does only a d4 of necrotic damage, but the real value of this cantrip is that it knocks the target prone at a range of 30 feet. A prone target is very vulnerable to melee attacks, and they will have to spend half their movement speed just to stand up, so this is actually a pretty good control effect for the cost of a cantrip.
20. Blight – 4th level
Necrotic damage is rarely resisted, and Blight deals 8d8 necrotic damage to a target within 30 feet of you. It’s not a very versatile spell, but sometimes damage is all you need.
19. Cause Fear – 1st level
Cause Fear does just what you think it would. One target becomes frightened of you on a failed Wisdom save. Frightened is a debilitating condition, making this a great value for a 1st level spell slot, especially late in the game when your other 1st level spells become useless.
18. False Life – 1st level
Another classic 1st level spell, False Life gives you about as many hit points as another hit die. It’s a great way to make your squishy spellcaster body a little more durable.
17. Soul Cage – 6th level
When you see a creature die within 60 feet of you, you can use Soul Cage to snatch up their soul, using it up to 6 times on future turns in a variety of different ways. What makes this spell so good is the action economy that surrounds it. It can be cast as a reaction, and it gives you an array of super strong bonus actions for the duration.
16. Circle of Death – 6th level
Circle of Death is a classic horde killing spell. It deals 8d6 necrotic damage to creatures in a 60-foot radius. 8d6 is not a ton of damage for a 6th level spell, but a 60-foot radius means that you could target an entire army with this effect, giving it the potential to be one of the highest damage spells in the entire game.
15. Toll the Dead – cantrip
Toll the Dead is the best damage dealing cantrip for a necromancer. 1d12 necrotic damage on a hit is pretty strong for a starting cantrip, and early on, when your spell slots are precious, this should be your go-to in combat.
14. Vampiric Touch – 3rd level
Vampiric Touch is a great offensive option for early levels. With it, you deal 3d6 necrotic damage on a melee spell attack and regain hit points equal to half the damage dealt. What’s really great about it, though, is that it lasts for up to a minute, meaning that for a 3rd level spell slot, you can have an attack stronger than your fighter’s great sword that simultaneously heals you for an entire encounter.
13. Eyebite – 6th level
Eyebite is a powerful and versatile control ability that allows you to put a target to sleep, sicken them, or make them frightened, allowing you to severely weaken the target or take them out of combat all-together.
12. Bestow Curse – 3rd level
An always useful debuff/control spell, bestow curse gives you a ton of ways to weaken your opponent, waster their turns, and increase damage dealt to them.
11. Time Ravage – 9th level
Time Ravage is the ultimate debuff and a death sentence for a creature without access to 9th level spells. It does 10d12 necrotic damage to the target, gives them disadvantage on everything and half speed, and if that wasn’t enough, will kill them within 30 days, provided that you don’t put them out of their misery after casting it.
10. Blindness/Deafness – 2nd level
Blindness/deafness allows you to blind or deafen a creature for up to a minute. Blinding a creature is an incredible debuff at any level, making this a great value for a 2nd level spell.
9. Inflict Wounds – 1st level
Inflict Wounds is the highest damage 1st level spell in the game. That’s all there is to it, but that’s enough to make it awesome for a low-level necromancer.
8. Horrid Wilting – 8th level
Much like Circle of Death, Horrid Wilting is a crowd killer. With it, you deal 12d8 necrotic damage to every creature within a 30-foot cube, making it one of the highest damage spells in D&D. It deals much more damage than Circle of Death, but it also has a smaller area.
7. Animate Dead – 3rd level
Let’s face it, creating a horde of undead servants is what necromancy is all about, and for the cost of a 3rd level spell slot, Animate Dead does not disappoint. It takes a minute to cast, so its not for use in combat, but after being cast, your shambling servants are under your control for the next 24 hours.
6. Finger of Death – 7th level
Finger of Death deals 7d8+30 necrotic damage to a target on a failed save. This is massive damage, and if this kills the target, which it probably will, they are raised as a zombie companion that is permanently under your command. Do this a few times and you have the beginnings of a horde.
5. Summon Undead – 3rd level
The best-value summoning spell in D&D, Summon Undead allows you to summon a ghost, ghoul, or skeleton with some pretty impressive stats. Controlling it doesn’t take an action, and it is bound to make a very useful ally in and out of combat.
4. Resurrection – 7th level
With Resurrection, you can bring back a creature that has been dead for no more than a century. In most cases, this is the most powerful resurrection spell you’ll need, and will bring back anything that you can’t resurrect with revivify.
3. Clone – 8th level
Clone 5e is a level 8 spell and is the top utility spell on this list. You can use it to create duplicate bodies for each of your party members, including yourself, which your spirits will automatically transfer to upon you death. Any spell that grants immortality is incredibly cool, but this spell is also incredibly practical, essentially eliminating the fear of a total party kill.
2. Create Undead – 6th level
Create undead is a more powerful version of animate dead, and as such, is a staple spell for a necromancer. It gives you control of 3 ghouls for up to 24 hours, after which, you can cast the spell again to extend the spell further. Ghouls are significantly more useful as followers than zombies or skeletons, and to make this spell even better, upcasting it can get you ghasts, wights, or even mummies. For many necromancers, this spell is the true mark of their power over the undead.
1. Revivify – 3rd level
At number one on this list is one of the most iconic, game-changing, and useful spells in the entire game. A 3rd level spell, Revivify gives you the ability to return a creature to life if they have died within the last minute. 90% of the time that you need to return a creature to life, this will be the spell of choice.
It is the most essential spell in D&D for your party to have. If you have the option of grabbing this spell, it is your responsibility to have it prepared. Just don’t forget to stock up on diamonds.