Druids don’t have as versatile a spell list as some other casters, but there are nevertheless a ton of great options available. Spells like faerie fire, barkskin, and healing word are time-honored mainstays of any druid’s prepared spells. But today I wanted to discuss some of my favorite additional choices that many druids overlook. I should note that my philosophy when it comes to spells is “evergreen cantrips, situational leveled spells.” Since you can only cast them a few times, better to pick leveled spells that excel when needed and rely on your cantrips for all-purpose adventuring. As always, my articles are designed for early-level druids, so nothing above 2nd level.
(Please additionally note that shape water would be on this list if I hadn’t already dedicated a whole article to it.)
1. Heat Metal
You know why druids don’t wear metal? People think it’s because of their affinity to nature or something, but that’s bollocks. It’s really because they can learn this spell and understand how badly it cripples their enemies.
Heat metal lets you superheat a single metallic inventory item belonging to your victim. There’s no saving throw, they immediately take 2d8 fire damage, and will continue to do so until they remove or drop the item. (And if they try to keep fighting through it, they get disadvantage on attack rolls indefinitely.) This is very good for disarming or incapacitating most typical humanoid foes, but I’ve also used it against pickpockets and environmental props (like ladders). Don’t be afraid to ask whether your enemies are wearing things like earrings, belt buckles, or golden teeth. On one memorable occasion, I superheated a friend’s crossbolt midair when it became imperative he kill a long-range target with a single shot.
2. Fog Cloud
Yes, I know I’ve repeatedly mentioned this one before. Fog cloud is normally a very situational spell since it blinds everyone within a 30-foot radius. But you’re a druid; you can turn into combat forms with blindsight and heavily tilt the odds in your favor. (Just be careful using this spell if you have teammates anywhere near you, unless you’re about to ferry them to safety on your back as a Giant Constrictor Snake.) I also use it when dropping something heavy on a victim’s head, if I want to ensure they fail the Dex check to get out of the way.
3. Thorn Whip
Most druids I know go with produce flame for their ranged damage cantrip, and I understand why. It’s very versatile, a quality I normally lean towards, but I honestly think thorn whip is better. Not only does it deal piercing damage (much less resisted than fire) but it also pulls the target 10-feet towards you. I absolutely love spells that let me move my opponents, they combo amazing with environmental-control spells.
Also, while we’re at it, create bonfire is another ranged damage cantrip people sleep on. It can do everything produce flame does while also unlocking battlefield manipulation via a semi-permanent zoning hazard.
4. Primal Savagery
Once again, I have to side against the goto-spell in a category, namely shillelagh for melee damage. I don’t like how you can be disarmed, plus the damage doesn’t scale with your level. Instead I prefer primal savagery, a spell released in Xanthar’s Guide to Everything. It uses d10s for damage, scales with your level, and doesn’t have a verbal or material component, letting you use it even when silenced.
5. Pass Without Trace
This one’s less for your own benefit than it is for the party. When everybody’s sneaking somewhere together, you’ll likely have somebody who’s either loud by default (aka heavy armor users) or who rolled crappy through bad luck. Either way, you’ll regret not having pass without trace when you find yourself in this common situation.
Bonus #6. Locate Animals or Plants
I use locate animals or plants to learn new druid forms, the bread-and-butter of my playbook. No better way to quickly assemble a massive menagerie of shapeshifting forms as you quest through new environments. Best part is, you can even cast it as a ritual and avoid burning a spell slot. It’s additionally the reason my party specifies that none of our rations contain raisins; if an NPC is hiding in/fleeing the immediate area, I can “locate grape” and hope they’re carrying some of the game’s default travel rations.
The biggest mistake I see beginner casters make is not thinking outside the box with their spells. Don’t be afraid to consider unconventional uses for your ordnance. Druids get to rebuild their spell list after every long rest, you are not beholden to anything. Mix it up, try everything, discover what works best for you!