Best Spells vs Undead 5e: Magic to Secure Your Victory

When it comes to defeating undead creatures in Dungeons and Dragons, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Different spells are more effective against different types of undead because various undead creatures are resistant or immune to different damage types and effects. In this article, we take a look at the best spells vs undead in 5e.

What to avoid when fighting undead

Undead in 5e encompasses a variety of different creatures from mindless undead such as skeletons, to incorporeal undead such as ghosts, to powerful undead like dracoliches.

Consequently, they are resistant or immune to different damage types and effects. Step 1 in battling the undead is to avoid the most common mistakes.

Spells that target the living

Don’t use spells that target the living because the undead are not alive, so the spells won’t work.

Spells that charm or frighten

Think of the undead as robots. They are neither alive nor dead. They simply exist, therefore they cannot be subject to the emotions of the living so they cannot be charmed or frightened.

Spells that paralyze

Paralysis is a result of losing control of your musculature. Undead are magically animated and in many cases have no musculature, so any spell that paralyzes simply won’t work.

Spells that cause exhaustion

Exhaustion comes from the exertion of energy in a living creature. Undead are magically animated and so they cannot be exhausted.

Spells that inflict poison damage

And poison spells. Poison harms life because it wreaks havoc on the internal structures (i.e., organs) of living organisms. The undead do not rely on internal structures to keep them alive because they are not alive.

Spells that inflict necrotic damage

Do not use spells that deal necrotic damage because necrotic damage is caused by death magic, the same magic that breathes “life” into the undead in the first place. Many undead creatures are resistant or immune to necrotic damage.

NOTE—There are exceptions to this list (like the first spell we’re about to touch on), but this is a decent set of restrictions to keep in mind until you are better able to handle the undead.

So, now that the restrictions are in place, what spells should you use to dominate the undead?

Best Spells vs Undead 5e
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The Best Spells vs Undead in 5e

Chill Touch—3rd level transmutation

Cast chill touch to conjure a ghostly, skeletal hand that closes around the target. The hand deals 1d8 necrotic damage and prevents any regeneration of hit points until your next turn, which is great for creatures like vampires because they can naturally regain hit points every turn.

In addition, casting chill touch on an undead target confers disadvantage on attack rolls against the caster until the end of your next turn.

Death Ward—4th level abjuration

This spell helps protect the target from death. When the target creature drops to 0 hit points, the target gains 1 hit point and remains conscious. The spell doesn’t work if the target creature is hit with a spell that kills it instantaneously without reducing the target’s hit points (i.e., power word kill).

This is effective when facing the undead because you typically fight multiple enemies of undead nature. Rarely does a party of adventurers face off against a single skeleton compared to a horde of skeletons. In those cases, a character can be taken down quickly if the enemies gang up on that character.

Fireball—3rd level evocation

This spell is a blessing and a curse. Fireball is one of the most effective AoE damage spells in 5e, but it’s also the spell most responsible for friendly fire.

When you cast fireball, a streak of fire shoots out from your finger to wherever you’re pointing, causing an explosion of flame 40 feet in diameter and spreading around corners. Any creature that fails a Dexterity saving throw suffers 8d6 fire damage and the flame ignites any flammable objects that aren’t being worn or carried.

This is the first spell you cast when you see a swarm of shambling skeletons and zombies heading your way. But be wary of casting it after your party engages the enemy or you may take out your other party members in the process.

Flame Strike—5th level evocation

Casting this spell calls down a column of divine flame from the sky, causing a 40-foot-high cylinder 20 feet across to incinerate any creatures unfortunate enough to be caught inside. Said creatures must make a Dexterity saving throw or suffer 4d6 fire damage and 4d6 radiant damage.

This is another great AoE spell for dealing with typical hordes of undead.

Guiding Bolt—1st level evocation

Fire off a bright flash of burning radiant energy at your target, leaving a residual glow to help your companions land their attacks. Make a ranged spell attack against a creature to inflict 4d6 radiant damage and confer advantage on the next attack roll made against the creature.

Divine spells that inflict radiant damage are preferred when dealing with the undead, and guiding bolt provides the additional benefit of helping a companion vanquish them.

Magic Circle—3rd level abjuration

Conjure a cylinder of energy (10-foot-radius, 20-foot-tall) surrounded by glowing runes that appear wherever the cylinder intersects a surface. The types of creature you choose (celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, or undead) cannot willingly enter the cylinder by nonmagical means and have disadvantage on attack rolls against targets inside the cylinder.

In addition, the cylinder grants protection for anyone in the cylinder from being charmed, frightened, or possessed. Lastly, if you want to trap your targets, you can instead make the cylinder prevent creatures inside it from leaving and grant protection to creatures outside of the cylinder.

Polymorph—4th level transmutation

Turn your mighty undead foe into a harmless sheep. Nuff said.

Just don’t try to hit the sheep or you cancel the spell.

Best Spells vs Undead 5e
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Protection from Evil and Good—1st level abjuration

Protect one willing creature against aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead. Those types of creatures have disadvantage on attack rolls against the protected creature. In addition, the target is immune to being charmed, frightened, or possessed by the types of creatures just listed. Lastly, if the protected target is already charmed, frightened, or possessed, the target has advantage on any saving throws against the effect.

This is an effective spell when facing undead because undead creatures are infamous for charming, frightening, and possessing characters. The disadvantage on attack rolls is an excellent bonus as well.

Slow—3rd level transmutation

You slow down up to six creatures of your choice in a 40-foot cube. Each creature’s speed is halved, takes a -2 penalty to AC and Dexterity saving throws, and cannot use reactions. The creatures are also only able to take a standard action or bonus action, but not both. Lastly, the creatures cannot make more than one melee or ranged attack per turn.

If any of the creatures try to cast a spell with a casting time of 1 action, the spell can be delayed until the creature’s next turn if you roll a d20 and get 11 or higher.

This is a solid spell for dealing with a horde of undead. If one player is under attack by multiple enemies, it will allow that player to escape without risking an opportunity attack. If you’re fighting a horde of undead, the AC penalty makes it easier to bash their heads in.

Spirit Guardians—3rd level conjuration

Summon an army of tiny spirit guardians to assault any enemies within 15 feet of you. The affected creatures’ speed is halved, making it harder for them to escape the effects of the spell. Depending on the alignment of the caster, the affected creatures suffer 3d8 radiant damage (good or neutral) or 3d8 necrotic damage (evil).

Spiritual Weapon—2nd level evocation

A floating, spectral weapon appears within range. Use your bonus action to move the weapon and attack, inflicting force damage equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier.

This is a good non-concentration spell to give you some action economy when you’re facing a lot of undead. In addition, it inflicts force damage which no creature has resistance or immunity against.

Wall of Force—5th level evocation

Summon an invisible wall of force in any orientation you choose. It can be horizontal, vertical, or at an angle, and it can be free floating or resting on a surface. You can also form it into a dome or sphere with a radius of up to 10 feet. Or you can create a flat surface of up to ten 10-foot-by-10-foot panels that must be connected to one another (in other words, you can’t have ten disconnected panels).

Nothing physical or ethereal can pass through the wall, it is immune to damage, and it can’t be dispelled by dispel magic. The only weakness is it can be destroyed by disintegrate.

This spell is good for crowd control, allowing you to block off a horde chasing you or funnel them into a choke point so you can kill them off a few at a time.

Web—2nd level conjuration

You fill a 20-foot cube with sticky webbing that acts as difficult terrain and obscures the area. If the web isn’t anchored to anything solid, the web collapses and the spell ends at the start of your next turn. Otherwise, it lasts up to an hour as long as you maintain concentration (or until the trapped creatures break free).

Any creature that starts its turn in the webs or enters them must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is restrained until it breaks free.

This one is another great spell for trapping/immobilizing undead because many undead can only make melee attacks. Web gives you time so you can deal with other creatures. Plus, once you’re ready to deal with trapped undead, someone can cast a fire spell or toss a torch at the webbing to light it on fire, dealing 2d4 fire damage that starts its turn in the fire.

Be warned, that the fire will burn away the webbing, so do it when you’re ready.

Conclusion—Best Spells vs Undead 5e

When it comes to best spells vs undead in 5e, there are a few clear winners. Wall of Force is great for crowd control, Web can immobilize enemies, and Spiritual Weapon inflicts force damage which is effective against all types of undead. If you’re looking for a single spell that can take down hordes of the undead easily, then fireball is your best bet.

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