A prayer can take many forms: a verse of well chosen words, an offering of hearty foods, a thoughtful meditation guided by wisps of incense, or even the burning of blasphemous undead with radiant fire. In worlds where many gods take active roles in the lives of the mortal folk, Clerics stand apart from the masses gathered in temples, and from spellcasters in general. In Dungeons & Dragons, Clerics channel the worship of their chosen god for divine power, wielding it to spread the will of their deity. From healing the sick and injured, to standing opposed to the evil of the world, Clerics wield their magic alongside more traditional martial training, letting them get into melee if they need to.
Clerics are divine casters, using Wisdom (Wis) as their spellcasting modifier to wield spells that range from healing, bolstering allies, weakening foes, and doing damage when it is necessary. Praying to their god for their abilities, they prepare a selection of spells of their choosing from their spell list every day, giving Clerics a large amount of diversity and versatility in their casting day to day.
Let’s take a look at all the spells the gods have shared with us, and shed some divine light on the ones you should be choosing:
The divine equivalent of writing the answers to the test on the back of your hand, this cantrip is immensely helpful to all us low rollers out there no matter the level. For your concentration and an action, you can add 1d4 to any ability check for the next minute. Whether it’s trying to not fall off that slippery wall britches first, or sweet talking the local noble– your god has your back… As long as you don’t roll too low on the D20, after all, no deity is higher than the Dice Gods. Fun fact, as long as you’re already concentrating on it when initiative is called for, you can add the d4 to your initiative roll. This is because although it’s not a skill check, it is an ability check (Dexterity).
Guiding Bolt (1st Level)
Okay, so there’s a theme so far, but they’re good spells! Whether at low levels or high, Guiding Bolt is a powerful single target blasting spell, with a great range of 120ft, a good damage type (radiant damage is not commonly resisted and certain monsters even have a weakness to it!), and the celestial gravy on top of giving the next person to attack that creature advantage. This is great for setting up any martial characters in your party or teaming up with other Clerics to start a train of advantage Guiding Bolts!
Bless (1st Level)
This spell is a testament of good design inside of Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition’s bounded accuracy system. You can give up to 3 allies a 1d4 to all attack rolls and saving throws for a minute or until you lose concentration. Upcasting allows for more targets (why not buff the whole party?), and if you include yourself in the spell you’ll get to add a d4 to your concentration saving throws! If your DM doesn’t give inspiration for saying ‘bless you!’ when you cast this spell, it’s okay, they probably had a rough day.
Spiritual Weapon (2nd Level)
A fantastic offensive spell for all Clerics with one significant boon, it doesn’t require concentration! This means that it’s fantastic to use in combination with buff and control spells (such as Bless or Spirit Guardians, y’know, the other great spells on this list). Spiritual Weapon takes a bonus action to cast and allows you to make a bonus action attack (including the turn you cast it) for a respectable 1d8+ spellcasting modifier force damage. With a weapon speed of 20ft it can be a little tricky against mobile opponents, but some careful positioning and the most unresisted damage type in the game make this a staple offensive pick for you (it upcasts pretty well for higher levels too!).
Spirit Guardians (3rd Level)
This spell is to Clerics as Fireball is to Wizards or hitting something a second time is to Fighters. Spirit Guardians does double duty as both, a control and damage spell. It forces your enemies to make a Wisdom saving throw or take 3d8 (radiant or necrotic) damage when they first move into, or start their turn within your 15ft aura. Whilst in your aura their speed is also halved, locking down even higher speed and hit and run flying enemies. It will tie up your inspiration, but with a duration of 10 minutes, it can reasonably be precast and possibly last two encounters! A tip: pair Spirit Guardians with Spiritual Weapon and an offensive cantrip, and watch the hordes of evil turn to ash.
Revivify (3rd Level)
Tricky to say at first, but always a spell you’ll wish you had prepared if you come to need it. For an action and a measly 300GP worth of diamonds — nobody said bedazzling your favourite tunic couldn’t be functional as well as fabulous — you can save your dearest friend’s character sheet from the shredder. This is the first piece of resurrection magic you will come across as you level up, and it remains relevant in higher levels (as long as your ally isn’t missing a head or other critical body part; they’re still people, not Mr Potato heads). The only limiting factors here are having the costly material component, getting to the body within a minute of death, and hoping the monster wasn’t too messy… or too hungry. If you don’t have a 3rd level spell slot or diamonds when you need it, you can also cast Gentle Repose on the body, giving you an extra 10 days to grab a long rest and go jewel shopping. Usually best to cast after the fight has ended to avoid the character going down again straight away, but if you have to perform a miracle mid combat, I hope you prepared spell number 4 for the day!
Death Ward (4th Level)
What’s better than bringing your friends back to life? Not letting them die to begin with! Whilst under the effect of this spell, a creature is reduced to 0 hit points (hp), they will instead drop to 1hp. The spell will also completely cancel out an effect that would cause instant death (like the spell Power Word Kill, or disease of a Gas Spore). A 4th level slot is pretty high, but with no concentration and a duration of 4 hours, it can be an invaluable buff to your party, especially in tiers 3 and 4 when you can afford to spend more spell slots on it.
Greater Restoration (5th Level)
Hopefully this list has largely shown you that Clerics certainly don’t have to just heal, that said let’s talk more about healing spells! Greater Restoration is one of the few effects in the game which can reduce (potentially lethal) levels of exhaustion and remove the Petrified condition. You hopefully won’t have to use this spell often, but when you need to use it, the lives of your friend’s characters could be at stake! That sounds dramatic, but I’d hate for you to be left out of that session’s pizza run.
Heal (6th Level)
Though unlike fan-favourite, Healing Word, this spell may take an action to cast (and a much higher level spell slot); the 70hp of healing to a creature within 60ft of you is entirely worth it. This can turn a potential total party kill (TPK) into a minor squabble about who gets the shiniest magic item from the pile of treasure you just cut from an ancient evil’s belly. There’s also more niche benefits of ending the blinded and deafened conditions, as well as removing any diseases (this one is particularly nice if an angry Mummy Lord just slapped your comrade).
True Resurrection (9th Level)
We’ve already touched on the first bit of resurrection magic you’ll get your prayer beads on, now for the last and the most powerful. As long as a creature hasn’t been dead for longer than 200 years, didn’t die of old age, and their soul is free and willing to, that creature comes back to life with full hp. Diseases, poisons, curses, and wounds? No thanks! All of them are removed when you cast this spell, and, in fact, they don’t even need a body to come back to. That’s right, just say the creature’s name and this spell will provide a minty fresh new body for them to promptly throw into the jaws of the next Demon Lord on the appointment calendar. It costs 25,000GP mind you, but isn’t that what temple donations are for? No? Well, that’ll be an awkward conversation next time you return home.
Thanks for making it to the end of the list! Wait, you skipped down here and you! You’re asleep! Well, some of you made it this far and I hope that this has proved enlightening for you. Clerics have a very potent spell list and can cycle through it freely every morning, so go out there and see for yourself how effective these spells are! Just don’t go forgetting to put your holy symbol on before you leave for the day, wouldn’t it be embarrassing to lose that new friend because you failed to properly accessorise with your vestments?