With a small capacity for spellcasting, Rangers must make very careful choices on which spells to complement their overall outfit.
We’re here to give you some quick insight to what we think are ideal spells to choose. These are based on our experiences and will definitely vary from game to game, so we’re going to assume that you’re playing in the traditional D&D high fantasy setting with a mix of role play and combat.
Be sure to check comments too, because while we’re only picking a few to highlight, there are many good choices, and the D&D community is fantastic for giving arguments for how one spell may be better than others
Hunter’s Mark – A must pick, so much so that many people include the damage dice in the Rangers level table. Lasting up to an hour, this concentration spell gives you advantage on tracking a target and doing additional damage when you attack it. What makes this spell even better is that, when the target goes to 0 hp, you can “transfer” the mark to a new target.
Zephyr Strike – If not hunter’s mark, take Zephyr Strike, especially if you intend to be a melee ranger. Concentrating on this for up to a minute, your movement cannot provoke opportunity attacks, increases by 30ft/turn, and you deal an extra 1d8 force damage on one of your weapon attacks.
Absorb Elements – Being the only reaction spell available to rangers, Absorb Elements is an essential spell choice for both defensive capability and for action economy. Upon being hit by particular elemental damage, you gain resistance to that type until your next turn, in which your first attack has an extra 1d6 damage of that type.
Goodberry – Start your day with goodberry and you will have 10 berries that can give 1 hp, gives enough sustenance for an entire day, and lasts for 24 hours. Often a great last ditch tool to revive fallen comrades. Seeing as Cure Wounds is often looked to as well, but with so few slots available, the 10 berries is a very appealing resource pool.
Pass Without Trace – Concentrating on this for up to an hour, you give yourself and your allies +10 to Stealth and no sound or tracks are left behind. This spell is perfect for those stealthy bits of the campaign, and a +10 to any roll is very satisfying.
Spike Growth – In a 20ft radius, you can maintain concentration on a growth of spikes that makes the area difficult terrain, causes 2d4 piercing damage for every 5ft of movement, and looks natural to its surroundings. While this spell does deal damage and makes itself appear as a combat spell, it would also do well as a defensive spell to ensure an area is protected.
Speak With Plants – Choosing between speaking with plants or plant growth, I was inclined to choose this spell for one major reason: creating the situation where your DM will have to give exposition to you as something like an eggplant. This spell allows you to interact with and speak to plants, permitting them to turn difficult terrain into regular, and even assisting you with some requests at the DMs discretion. There’s a lot of possibilities here, and plants are often nearby in some form.
Conjure Animals – For an hour, you summon beasts as per CR restrictions, which can be tremendous help in combat, but can also work to help you for various needs. This gains exceptionally high potency when you consider that there are beast swarms (eg. Swarm of Insects/Rot Grubs).
Guardian of Nature (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) – Primarily a combat spell, you concentrate for 1 minute, choosing the form of a beast or tree, which also represents melee or range focus. The beast form will be ideal for melee, giving attacks +1d6 force damage, as well as giving you +10 walking speed, 120ft of darkvision, and advantage on strength based attacks. The tree form gives +10 temporary hit points, advantage with dexterity and wisdom based attacks, 15ft of difficult terrain around you, and advantage on constitution saving throws. This is a great high level pick for concentration to give you continuous benefits and make the most of your valuable spell slot.
Locate Creature – This spell is so good, it might even be banned by your DM. While it sounds simple to just be able to locate a creature within 1000ft of you, it also lets you find the location of a similar creature that is otherwise nearest. As most campaigns have an on-going antagonistic force, it may very well be in your interest to find them or an ally. Entire campaigns can revolve simply around finding someone, and this spell does it in 1 action.
Swift Quiver – For 1 minute, this spell gives you a bonus action to make two attacks with a weapon that uses ammunition. While this spell doesn’t duplicate magical arrows, it does with regular arrows. That said, the extra attack is alone a massive power surge for the ranger.
Wrath of Nature (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) – Concentrating on this spell up to a minute, you affect a 60ft cube area with rocks, trees, and grass to become difficult terrain, and permits follow up bonus actions. At the start of enemies turns, vines will whip targets who fail dexterity saves, doing 4d6 slashing. At the end of your turn, you can cause roots and vines to restrain a target. During your turn, you can use a bonus action to launch rocks at a target, doing 3d8 bludgeoning damage, and knocking them prone if they fail a saving throw.