Baldur’s Gate 3 has an overwhelming selection of spells and cantrips that your characters can add to their kits. Not all of these spells and cantrips are great, though. In a turn-based game where your actions are limited and you can run out of spell slots, casting spells that cost an action or a spell slot means losing access to the rest of your spell list for that turn. You’d really rather spend those resources on spells and cantrips that have consistent results or don’t take up too much movement or high-level spell slots.
For example, True Strike is a noob trap because while it doesn’t take a spell slot to cast, this cantrip wastes an entire action. The buff just isn’t good enough to make up for your caster not dealing damage for that turn. Sleep and Charm also suck because you need to meet an HP requirement to cast them, and at higher game difficulties, they get even less consistent as enemies accuse you of casting spells on them.
So, which spells stay good throughout Baldur’s Gate 3? Here are our picks. If you’re expecting to see Firebolt and Eldritch Blast, that’s on the other side of the fence in our ranking of the best cantrips in Baldur’s Gate 3.
1. Magic Missiles
A lot of spells have to meet a check in order to not miss or allow the target to dodge by succeeding on a saving throw. Magic Missiles’ beams are only limited by the distance they can be shot at, and even then, it’s more flexible than other projectile spells. Firebolt (or igmiss) and Eldritch Blast may not consume a spell slot when cast, but Magic Missiles not only don’t miss they also ignore path interruptions as long as the missile can just go around the obstacle.
2. Misty Step
Positioning matters in Baldur’s Gate 3. You want your Fighters and Barbarians in punching distance of enemy entities. Meanwhile, your casters need to be as far from a melee fight as possible because their spells gain a disadvantage when a target is too close. For a lot of characters, stepping back might not be an option because that can trigger opportunity attacks from enemies. Not to mention, moving costs you, well, movement.
This is where Misty Step comes in handy. You can move your character anywhere on the battlefield as long as they can see the target location. It doesn’t trigger enemies into hitting you as you move away and it only costs a Bonus Action, so you can still attack after casting Misty Step.
Counterspell is the only spell in the game that negates other spells. It has the caveat that you have to succeed against a check to nullify spells higher than Level 3, but few spells in the game over Level 3 are used repeatedly, so most of the time, you’ll encounter spells that can be auto-Counterspelled.
What really makes Counterspell so good is that it gives you a strategic advantage without costing an action. It is cast as a reaction, allowing you to act outside of your turn and without having to spend an action or bonus action to cast it. Since it’s cast out of turn, it often gives you the opportunity to mess with enemy strategies. Like, say, Counterspelling a ‘Turn Undead’ for an enemy that was counting on a graveyard to do their fighting for them.
4. Hunger of Hadar
Hunger of Hadar doesn’t say it outright, but the cold blackness it creates is actually Darkness. It creates a field condition that keeps enemies from targeting you with ranged attacks and spells while also dealing them both cold and acid damage. Since it’s 4-24 damage, depending on your role, Hunger of Hadar can get pretty nasty for an enemy.
5. Hold Person
Hold Person stops humanoid enemies from doing anything. No spells, no attacks, no running away, no casting Counterspell on your characters. It also lasts 10 turns as long as your Concentration isn’t interrupted, so you can keep pummeling an enemy held in place by this spell without having to worry about your melee fighters getting hit. Not to mention, the promise of attacks within 3 meters being Critical Hits on every strike is too good to pass up. Few other Level 2 spells are worth casting over Hold Person.
Keep everything we’ve just said about Hold Person in your head, and note that Hex requires that enemies fail a Wisdom saving throw to come into effect. With Hex, you can make sure they fail it by giving enemies Disadvantage on an Ability check of choice. That’s without taking into account that it’s a Bonus Action (so you can still cast another spell), it deals damage on its own, and you can recast it if the damage it deals just happens to kill someone right away. At no cost of spell slots, mind you.
7. Healing Word
Lay on Hands and Cure Wounds may heal for more hit points, but Healing Word is a league above them because it only asks that your caster see the target. This means you can easily keep your caster behind the melee fighters and separate your team across the battlefield without having to worry about some of them being too far away to heal.
Really, the only healing spell that’s better than Healing Word is Mass Healing Word, the version of this spell that heals up to 6 allies.
If you’re out of spell slots for a Counterspell, you can just cast Silence, which stops all spell casters within range from casting any spells that have a verbal component. You know the voice lines everyone says when they cast a spell? That’s a verbal component, and it’s vital for the spell to be cast. All of those can be nullified by this spell, and that’s without considering no one can cast Thunderwave on you when you’re in this.
A better version of igmiss, Fireball won’t let you fail outright because targets will still take half of the damage you rolled even if they manage to succeed at the Dex saving throw to run away. If you manage to get the full 48 damage, that’s still 24 damage taken — enough to take low-level enemy swarms down. But if you really don’t want to waste your Fireball, have another party member put down Grease or throw a Grease bottle before setting everything on fire. The burning damage they take is separate from the one dealt by your Fireball.
If you’ve ever wondered how those videos of people casting Eldritch Blast or Firebolt multiple times in a turn came to be, you have Haste to thank for a good chunk of it. Haste is a concentration spell that gives allies or the caster an extra turn for 10 turns, provided that the caster doesn’t break concentration. Combine this with the Fighter’s Action Surge and the extra attack at Level 5 that Fighters, Barbarians, Paladins, Monks, and Rangers get, and you can see how deadly the combination can be with a bit of multiclassing.