We’ve covered under-used spells, healing spells, and dedicated several articles to specific spells. But no series on druid would be complete without an article discussing the all-purpose tried-and-trues. These are the spells that most druids take because they’re usable pretty much no matter what. As always, this article is focused on early-game druids, so we’re only covering spells level 0-2.
Guidance is D&D’s gift to clerics and druids, and everyone else wishes they got it. For free, you can now have a bonus D4 on every ability check (even initiative) when you aren’t surprised. And you can tag teammates to give the blessing to them as well! This really should be one of your earliest cantrips, it’s worth it. Druids are not skill monkeys (no pun intended), so they can really use this free universal buff. (Resistance is a similar option, and it’s not bad, but saving throws usually happen without warning so it’s far less reliable.)
Produce flame is the goto damage cantrip, and it’s easy to see why. The most reliable combat spells are ones that make ranged spell attacks, as you’re not reliant on your enemies’ saving throws. And of those spells, produce flame is among the highest damage. And that damage scales as you level up! Lastly, the 10-minute duration and lack of concentration opens up an unusual edge case for Wildshape. If you cast this before shapeshifting, your animal form gets to carry around self-illumination and a single ranged attack. Considering most beasts lack darkvision or ranged attacks, this is quite nice.
Faerie fire is the most straightforward debuff spell in druid’s spell list. By granting your teammates free advantage on multiple enemies, you massively help everyone’s damage output. It’s also great for shutting down invisible or hidden enemies, if you happen to know their rough location.
Entangle is such a great battlefield control spell. ‘Restrained‘ is one of the most damning status effects in the game, and you can hit multiple enemies with a single cast. And the entangled area sticks around for a whole minute! Whether zoning, debuffing, or slowing down targets, this spell will earn its keep.
Ice knife is a 1st level spell that gives you a much-needed AoE attack. AoEs are one place that most classes struggle with, druid included. When a group of enemies are huddled up, hit the middle one with a flying icicle and watch the shards lacerate everyone around them.
Thunderwave is the other lvl1 AoE people tend to take. It deals better damage and also knockbacks, the main issue is how close you have to get. (Note: its a common misconception the spell is centered on the caster. The whole cube is next to the caster, giving it better range than you think.) This is a great emergency spell if you’ve been knocked out of Wildshape form and suddenly find yourself surrounded.
Barkskin is mostly useful for moon druids looking to augment their beastly forms. Most beasts suffer from low AC, so pumping it to 16 is usually a nice defensive boost. As you level up, you’ll eventually replace this with other buffs like stoneskin, but barkskin gets the job done early on.
This spell (and its close cousin, dust devil) are a different option for enhancing your combat capabilities. Namely, by adding a moving obstacle to the battlefield! By dragging your flaming sphere around with your bonus action, you can continually punish enemies without risking yourself. This tactic works best for casting druids, though moon druids can fight alongside their sphere if they’re good at passing those post-enemy-damage constitution checks.
It’s a well-known in-joke that preparing detect magic is the difference between a veteran and beginner party. There are countless situations where the team wants to know whether a certain area/object/trap is magical, and you’ll regret lacking this spell when that time comes. Especially considering you can cast it as a ritual and not even burn a spell slot. Somebody in the party should prepare it, even if it’s not you.
Entangle‘s big brother, spike growth is equally-versatile with a few additional uses as well. Since the growth is camouflaged, it can be used to lay painful traps for incoming enemies. And the lack of saving throw means all of them are gonna take the damage and get slowed down. It’s this reliability that really causes the spell to shine. And finally it has the single longest range (150 feet) of any spell you can learn at this level.
You may have noticed this article feels a little slapped-together compared to the rest of my druid series. To be honest, I wasn’t originally going to write it, as it kinda goes against my personal philosophy of play. I don’t think you should be picking boring old tried-and-trues; go experiment and test crazy stuff! Certainly don’t just pick these spells and call it a day. There are so many creative uses for everything in druid’s spell list, so many opportunities to blow your teammate’s minds with something unorthodox. Think like a druid, never limit your own creativity!