Guidance – Alex’s Top 10: Favorite Sorcerer/Wizard Spells

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking about Alex’s Top 10 Favorite Sorcerer/Wizard Spells.

So, this week I’m going to be talking about spells. Specifically, my top 10 favorite (and least favorite) spells on the sorcerer/wizard spell list! Why the sorcerer/wizard spell list? Well, because I have the most experience with that spell list at a high level. I’ve played sorcerer up to 15th level, which means I’ve had access to just about every arcane spell in the game sans the 9th level spells. As a result, you’re not going to see any 9th level spells on this list because A) I’ve never cast any of them before and B) as a general rule, ALL of the 9th level spells are very powerful.

So with that out of the way, here’s my Top 10!

#10 — Acid Arrow

This spell is one of those damage-dealing spells that doesn’t get nearly enough credit. Acid arrow is extremely powerful, even if you’re not a primarily damage-dealing caster like my sorcerer was. Acid arrow is one of an extremely small number of spells that requires no saving throw and ignores spell resistance, and the fact that it targets touch AC makes it a solid choice against any of those big, hulking monsters that have ridiculous Reflex saves AND spell resistance. As a matter of fact, I remember there was this rakshasa who was wearing something crazy like +4 enhancement bonus full plate that we were trying to fight. None of our martial characters could hit him and his spell resistance was too high for all of my spells. So how did we end up killing him? I empowered an acid arrow and laughed as it ticked on him every round. Furthermore, acid arrow’s damage is continuous damage, so if you smack another spellcaster with it they’ll have to make concentration checks to cast spells on their next turn. This is a low-level, but often underestimated spell. Pick up this (or molten orb, its fiery cousin) at your earliest convenience!

#9 — Floating Disk

This is one of those spells that’s just a lot of fun to have. My buddy had a character who actually refused to walk when possible; instead he just floated around on a floating disk that he used with his mind. Given the spell’s rather long duration, sure, you can use it for that if you want to. It can be designed to hold liquids, loot, or if you’re my friend, elaborate mobile tea parties. This is a fun spell with as many useful applications as you can dream of.

# 8 — Magic Missile

Sometimes, you just don’t want to roll to hit. For those times, cast magic missile. For as long as there’s been spellcasters, there have been players who’ve sought to optimize magic missiles. Not necesscarily because its powerful; five bolts of 1d4+1 damage isn’t great at 10th level, but because this is basically the iconic wizard spell. EVERYONE thinks of magic missiles when you play a wizard, so much so that games like World of Warcraft have included magic missiles in their arsenal as well. With the right abilities, magic missiles becomes an almost unstoppable source of free damage for your wizard, all at the cost of a 1st-level spell slot.

#7 — Dimension Door

I think part of the reason that dimension door is so popular is that short-range teleportation comes up much more frequently than long-range teleportation. This is the spell that most (not all, but most) demons, devils, and evil outsiders in general use to get around the battlefield quickly. And you know what? Even though it isn’t sending you miles across the world, being able to move 400 feet + 40 feet / level is a very impressive distance in its own right. You can cross chasms, brave minefields, and more all thanks to this very helpful spell. Dimension door is an awesome way to set yourself up for a powerful, ranged barrage or escape from foes when the going gets tough. To make it even better, you can usually bring allies along for the ride if you want to. I’ve personally used dimension door to scale walls, avoid being splatted by surprise attacks, and reposition myself (and others) around the battlefield for a more defensive or advantageous placement in general. After all, controlling the battlefield is one of the most powerful tactics that a spellcaster has at her disposal.

#6 — Scorching Ray

This is by far the most versatile of the high-damage rays because it gives you the ability to fire four rays at the same time, each of which deal an impressive 4d6 points of fire damage. Scorching ray is one of those rare low-level spells that can actually be quite impressive when its empowered, quickened, and/or maximized simply because of the raw number of dice you’re throwing around. What’s more, scorching ray doesn’t require a saving throw like many of the more powerful blasty spells do; you hit the target and it burns. As a result, this is a must-have in any serious sorcerer’s arsenal, especially if you have an easy way to change its elemental damage type.

#5 — Haste

The buff that all of your martial buddies love. Not only does it give you a wonderful +30 feet bonus to your speed, but it also gives a +1 to hit, +1 to AC, AND a free attack during a full attack action. How can you beat this spell? Hint: it’s a trick question, you can’t. Haste is by far one of the most powerful buff spells in the game and for good reason. Only time stop itself delivers a better manipulation of the action economy, so until you reach 17th (or 18th) level, you’re just going to have to settle for haste, one of the most powerful spells in the game.

#4 — Stone Shape

This spell is, like, my secret weapon. My group and I LOVE to use this spell because there’s so much crazy stuff you can do with it. One time, we had a spellcaster use this spell to essentially entomb a prisoner into a wall while we carted him from point A to point B. In another instance, I personally used this spell to root a phase spider in place, forcing it to plane shift to the Astral Plane and buying us a precious round to deal with its deadly poison. I’ve built crude huts for sleeping, stables for protecting animals while we dungeon delved, hidden store rooms for hiding treasure, I’ve even used this spell to completely ruin a trap or two in my day. Just remember that if its made of stone (and most stuff is in a fantasy campaign) its fair game with stone shape.

#3 — Wall of Stone / Wall of Iron

Spot #4 is a tie for me between wall of stone and wall of iron, because they both essentially do the same thing: create a nearly impenetrable barrier. These awesome spells are both instantnaeous, which means that a particularly skilled spellcaster could theoretically use them to create a lot of free building materials. I mean, what can’t you do with a 5-ft block of iron or stone per level? From out-of-combat building schemes to in-combat battlefield control, this spell is a winner.

Plus, seriously? 5 cubic feet of iron per spellcaster level that you don’t need to mine up or anything? Sold. (Literally)

#2 — Black Tentacles

The ultimate control spell. Black tentacles is NASTY. It easily takes care of a multiple of threats with a single utterance of power from you, the spellcaster. This is by far one of the most powerful spells that you can cast when dealing with a large group of enemies. The key is to use this spell to keep foes that your party can’t currently deal with at bay. For instance, tying up the mooks while you blow up their boss with an incredible display of martial prowess. Yeah, black tentacles. Its THAT good, and I don’t even care how provocative that sounds. Cast it all the time.

#1 — Disintegrate

WARNING: Incredible bias ahead!

As I’ve mentioned, my sorcerer was a blasting mage, and this spell was his bred and butter. From his arcane bloodline to his feat selection, my sorcerer was OPTIMIZED out the rear end to make this spell as devastatingly painful as possible. And 9 times out of 10, it was. My sorcerer easily pushed over a hundred damage with disintegrate, and if his foes didn’t fall before him it was common for him to whimsically toss out a quickened scorching ray afterwards for good measure. I’ve reduced everything from pompous druids to terrifying purple worms to otherworldly demons to smoldering piles of ash with this spell.

Are there better spells that deserve to be #1? Probably. Have any of them served my deranged power fantasies better than disintegrate? NOPE!

And that, folks, concludes my list of Top 10 favorite Sorcerer/Wizard Spells. What do you think? Are there any spells that you think I should have mentioned, but different? What’s your favorite sorcerer/wizard spell(s)? Got any stories to share about them? Leave’em in the comments below, and come back on Wednesday to see my list of Top 10 WORST spells on the Sorcerer/Wizard spell list! Take care!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex’s favorite color is blue, his favorite Pathfinder Race/Class combination is kitsune arcanist, but the sorcerer he keeps mentioning in this article is human. As a matter of fact, he’s Alex’s ONLY human character.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC. If you like Alex's writing and are interested in supporting him while getting professional-quality material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game while doing so, check out the Everyman Gaming, LLC catalog, which is listed under Rogue Genius Games at the following locations: http://drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/6101/Rogue-Genius-Games/subcategory/19574_25289/Everyman-Gaming-Catalog

13 Comments

  1. I’m missing one of my own all time favourites, Stonecall!

    2d6 damage, 40ft. diameter cylinder, no save, no SR, no attack, added bonus: difficult terrain.

    Great spell for dealing with minions before battle starts. Sure, 2d6 is not a lot of damage, but I’ve used this spell to great effect in dealing with pesky monks and other evasive and mobile targets.

  2. Alex, I suspect that a follow-up article might be called for here! I’d personally nominate a few cantrips – Prestidigitation, Message, and Mage Hand all come to mind immediately, with Ghost Sound and Open/Close being right up there as well. There’s a few real spells that I can think of too, such as the Create Pit series (a personal favourite), Unseen Servant, Tiny Hut, Pyrotechnics, Aqueous Orb, Grease, Mount, Glitterdust, Stinking Cloud, to name just a few, though I’m sure others will have their own pet spells (Enervation or Animate Dead perhaps?)

    That said, I certainly can’t fault any of your choices, you’ve certainly picked a few of the best!

  3. I would love to see a list of these for Cleric.
    Admonishing Ray is a good candidate, as it’s basically Scorching Ray in a different flavor.

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      I’ll likely do other spell lists in time, but as with the Order of the Stick series, I try not to clump related articles up too much so I don’t bore or frustrate readers who may not be into that group topic.

  4. Darrell Vin Zant Reply to Darrell

    These are some really nice spells, though I’m a little sad not to see Fireball and Prestidigitation on here (two of my favorite spells). I tend to favor things that allow me to do cool stuff, or would, from a cinematic viewpoint, be impressive to watch.

  5. Aqueous Orb for the win. sure its nonlethal, but battlefield control, blocks off areas, and if it catches someone inside it you can move them where ever you want, usually off a cliff!

  6. David Landon Cole Reply to David

    Oo, me too! I’d put grease on there, as well as color spray. It’s fantastic at lower levels, and I’ve seen it with a build (can’t remember the details) that reduced the opponents’ effective HD, so it can keep going into mid game.

    Echoing ME2PL above, I’d love to see something like this for other classes. I might even take a shot at doing it for the witch.

  7. Hey, Alex. Whats the procedure for submitting a build?

    • Alex Augunas Reply to Alex

      Contacting me directly (as you did) is fine. I’m also immediately alerted when anyone posts on the Private Sanctuary Facebook Group OR any article that I write, so both of those channels work as well.

      As for procedure, there is none. Just say, “Hey! It would be sweet if you did a build for X” and I’ll put it on my list. Although that list is REALLY long right now and extends well into March ….

      • thanks, Alex! well, now that it’s been so dang long, i think i’ll finally get around to sharing.
        i’d love to see what you could do with a mortal build for the angels seen in the film “legion”. hope you see this, have a good one!

  8. I really enjoy the fact that this isn’t just a list of “The best spells.”, and instead is full of flavour and personal preference.

    Agree that seeing a “Alex’s top 10 favourite divine spells” would be great too!

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