Many spells compete with others in functionality, so writing about those in isolation is not enough. Their merits stand not only on their own, but compared against the fact that others could be used instead.

Choosing which spells to memorize before a rest is an interesting (and sometimes frustrating) exercise. Choosing spells after level up as a Sorcerer it is even more. Sorcerer’s limited choices can give serious headaches. This page is a collection of comparisons that were first quickly scratched to think about the choices for a solo-Sorcerer playthrough, then tidied up for a more general reading.

Tip
Sometimes the point of discussion one spell against the other might be moot, if the compared spells belong to different schools, and one specialist mage might have advantage using one, but not the other, or just might not have access at all at one or some of the spells. The comparisons hardly address the case of specialist mages, given that there are too many cases.

1. Divine buffs

Effect/Characteristic Bless Aid Chant Prayer Recitation

Level

1

2

2

3

4

Casting time

9

5

9

6

7

Range

40 ft

Touch

0

0

0

Area of effect

15 ft

1 creature

15 ft

30 ft

25 ft

Duration (rounds)

6

1 + 1 per level

10

1 per level

1 per level

THAC0 bonus

1

1

0

1

2

Damage bonus

1

1

0

1

0

Saving throws bonus

0

1

1

1

2

Luck bonus/penalty

0

0

1

0

0

Morale bonus

5

0

0

0

0

2. Sequencers and triggers

2.1. Introduction

Minor Sequencer, Spell Sequencer and Spell Trigger are 3 spells that serve the same purposes and work the same way, so the bulk of their section in the guide is covered here.

Note
For simplicity, in the next paragraphs only the word "sequencer" is used, but it applies to all three above-mentioned spells, including Spell Trigger.

Once one of them is cast (which in almost all occasions will be out of combat), the game pauses, and a dialog appears. The player is then given the choice of selecting several spells. Once the dialog is completed, the game resumes as usual, and the character has gained one use of an special ability, available in the standard location on the bottom right button. The spells chosen in the dialog are now instantaneously cast (no longer available till resting), but stored in the sequencer, like those would be saved in an item, or a scroll.

The player can now rest, optionally changing the spell selection partially or completely (that includes both the sequencer, and the spells stored in it). That effectively expands the number of spells you can cast in a battle by the capacity of the sequencer.

Additionally, and probably even more importantly, now the character can unleash several spells in the same round, almost instantly, and without risk of interruption. If a character is affected by spell failure (Deafness, Miscast Magic), silence, poisoned, or any other issue that could cause a spell to fail, it can safely use the sequencer to still unleash some spells.

2.2. Features and limitations

  • Both arcane and divine spells can be stored in a sequencer (for Cleric/Mage dual or multiclassed characters)

  • Only up to 2 or 3 spells can be stored, and those have to be only up to certain level (depends on the sequencer, see the table below).

  • The spells have to be memorized and not consumed.

  • Most circumstances that disable casting spells, like Polymorph Self, Shapechange, still allow the use of sequencers.

  • Many game versions have bugs that cause that a killed and resurrected character still has a non-working sequencer active. It is necessary to manually use it, see it fail, and prepare it again as usual.

  • Combining spells that have different ranges and/or conflicting areas of effect is prone to causing one or more of the spells to fail when the sequencer is used at a wrong point. Conflicting areas of effect means that some spells can only be cast on a target, some only in the caster, and some in any point in space.

Effect Minor Sequencer Spell Sequencer Spell Trigger

Level

4

7

8

Stores that many spells

2

3

3

Stores spells up to level

2

4

6

2.3. General approaches for choosing sequenced spells

Just casting two or three random spells at once via the sequencer is good, but doing so with a specific intention is even more useful.

Since the compared sequencers support a different set of spells (because of the different supported levels) more detailed examples with explanations are provided in the description of each individual spell, but those usually fall into this categories:

Multiply an effect

Doubling or tripling the effect (typically damage) of one spell by using several all at once. Examples:

  • 2 × Magic Missile

  • 3 × Skull Trap

  • 3 × Lower Resistance

Whether the goal of the spell is doing damage (very common) or causing some penalty to the opponent (rather uncommon), doing it multiple times in one go is useful to neutralize quickly one opponent and move on to the next. In the late game, specially with the SCS mod, it might also be interesting to chain several spells that remove protections, when the opponents have many that need to be stripped.

Improve the success chance

Increasing the chance of a spell that allows a save to negate the effect to succeed at least once. Examples:

  • 2 × Blindness

  • 2 × Web

  • 3 × Remove Magic

When the spell grants the opponent a saving throw to entirely be free of its effects the purpose of the sequencer is increasing the chance of success in the first round. While it may seem more optimal to cast the spell over and over only the necessary amount of times, sometimes succeeding one round earlier can change the tide of the battle. If you want to reason about how much of an improvement is applying the same effect twice (or more), check the repeated probability page for a chart and discussion.

Effect variety

Cast a wider net by combining different attacks to ensure that the creatures are not immune to all of them at once. Examples:

  • Web + Stinking Cloud

  • Grease + Glitterdust + Slow

  • Fireball + Skull Trap + Ice Storm.

If you plan to face a group of mixed opponents with different immunities, or if you want to be prepared for something you don’t expect, maybe you’ll need to have different spells for the situation. A group of undead will be immune to Stinking Cloud, and one of spiders to Web, but none of those is immune to both.

Reapplying protections

Combining defensive or protective spells to reapply quickly if you get stripped from them. Examples:

  • Mirror Image + Invisibility

  • Shield + Blur

  • Stoneskin + Protection from Magical Weapons + Improved Invisibility.

Besides the ambushes and the unexpected battles (specially for new players), one typically enters a battle with some spells already in effect. But those expire, or can be taken down by enemy casters, and you often refresh them during the battle. Refreshing several at once is obviously better, as it takes less rounds. You may need to rebuild protections if all of them got stripped at some point of a long battle. Or if you used your initial round(s) with offensive spells and stripping opponents' defenses so your fighters do their work, but the opponents did similarly and now you need to apply new defenses quickly to survive.

3. Armor versus Shield

Effect Armor Shield

Base Armor Class (lower is better)

6

4

Armor Class modifier against missile weapons (lower is better)

0

-2

Protects against Magic Missile

Protects against Mordenkainen’s Force Missiles (IWD spells mod)

Casting time (lower is better)

1

9

Duration (in game hours)

9

1

Note
Mordenkainen’s Force Missiles is a spell only available with a mod that brings the IWD spells to Baldur’s Gate.

This two spells are two obvious competitors, as they fulfill a similar purpose and both are level 1. That makes appear often in questions from newcomers, specially when looking at picks for Sorcerer spells.

As you can see, Shield is better than Armor in every regard, except the duration, where it loses hands down. Armor’s 9 hours are extremely good compared to just 1 hour for Shield (which is also fairly good). But it’s the difference in duration that important? Most often no, but that still depends on play styles and preferences.

A possible use case of Armor is to make a character cast it, go to rest to refresh spells, and still have 1 hour of duration left to enter the battle. So for the very early game, where you have very few casts per day and few alternative resources, it can have more use than Shield. This approach has been explained and showcased in a no-reload play through with a solo Sorcerer, so even if it might not be everyone’s cup of tea it has been proven useful in practice for some player. Don’t underestimate it too quickly.

Another possible reason to not pick up Shield in favor of Armor as a Sorcerer pick, or as a memorized spell as a Mage/Bard, is that there are amulets that provide exactly the same effect, making it kind of a moot point: a Sorcerer could pick Armor as normal spell, and use the amulet. See the Shield Amulet if you are interested in that path. Note that this amulet can be used by anyone, which makes it extremely useful, specially for Monks, Kensais, or anyone who cannot equip armor, so party composition affects this route. Also note that it uses charges, so it can be shared, but only if used moderately or recharging often.

However, for all other use cases (most of them, in fact), I think Shield is the right choice, particularly once one has progressed a bit through the game (but you can’t change spell picks a Sorcerer, so be aware).

Magic Missile immunity is very valuable given how prominent that spell is. That can very well save your life in multiple ocasions, starting with Tarnesh (from the Friendly Arm Inn ambush, one of the first big challenges of the saga). Opponents can still surely hit you with some other damaging spells, but having out of the equation the most useful one from the first level makes it very valuable. It’s one of the reasons why Mages in SCS are notoriously tough: they will very often use Shield, taking an important tool out of your arsenal. And remember that several traps throw Magic Missile at you as well, so it’s a useful tool if you need to run over traps because you lack a Thief.

The 4 base AC provided by Shield is a bit of help even when you are equipping some robes that only give AC 5, specially since the -2 AC improvement for missile weapons applies even when your AC is lower than the 4 AC provided by Shield, and stacks with every other modifier. Ranged weapons are very dangerous in BG1, specially against casters, so every bit counts.

Shield will keep being useful in BG2 for large parts of the game as well, because it will surely take a while to get equipment that improves over a base AC of 4.

In short: prefer Shield, unless you really know what you are doing.

4. Blindness-causing spells

Spell Level Duration Casting Time Area of Effect Saving Throw Excluded

Blindness

1

2 hours

2

1 creature

Yes

Necromancers

Sunscorch

1

3 rounds

4

1 creature

Yes

Clerics

Glitterdust

2

4 rounds

2

20 ft radius

Yes

Diviners

Nature’s Beauty

7

Permanent

6

15 ft radius

No

Clerics

Power Word, Blind

8

6 rounds

1

5 ft radius

No

Diviners, Bards

Note
Sunscorch is an IWD spell that can be brought to Baldur’s Gate with some mods like SCS.
Note
Nature’s Beauty doesn’t allow a saving throw for the blindness-causing effect, but it has an instant death effect which of course does allow a saving throw.
Note
SCS changes Power Word, Blind to be single target and have no area of effect.

The above table summarizes the spells that can cause the blindness effect. See the blindness section of the game mechanics.

5. Death Spell versus Death Fog

Effect Death Spell Death Fog

Kills enemies with 8 HD

Kills enemy summons

Ignores friendly summons

Deals damage to survivors (8 acid points per round)

Duration over 10 rounds

Affects liches (because acid, and is L6)

Both spells are really good. Death Spell is much, much easier to use, given that it won’t hurt you, and will not send your summons into oblivion as well. You can have so much fun that I could not resist taking screenshots of some very satisfying use of it, which I assembled in a Death Spell Gallery.

Death Fog on the other hand is probably a tiny bit more powerful, but harder to use. It can fulfill more or less the same role of Death Spell and Cloudkill combined, but without the instant killing of lesser, annoying creatures like Umber Hulks or Trolls.

Doing 8 hit points is not a enough to kill anyone, so you will have to try to affect them with the cloud during the 10 rounds of duration to make a significant damage to opponents, given that they will attempt to move out of the area of effect, unless you root them to the spot somehow, which I typically do by keeping them busy with summons (so it will not work here) or just remaining on the area yourself, suffering that damage or requiring a protection.

But it is a good tool to have to interrupt casters. Is specially useful considering that Liches are immune to poison and level 5 spells, so Cloudkill is useless. One point in favor of Death Fog is that there are very few damage-dealing spells in Levels 5 and 6 that can compete against the "must have" ones. This is of course arguable: is not that Sunfire is out for a solo Sorcerer, is that the other spells on Level 5 are very important and without alternative (like Breach, Spell Immunity, etc.).

However, for a solo Sorcerer, a close alternative with similar effects to Death Fog is Cloudkill, and there are Wands of Cloudkill, so you should probably stick with that, and get the instant slaying of any 8 HD creatures from Death Spell, which has no similar alternative.

If anybody on your party can equip helmets, remember that the Skull of Death can cast Death Spell once per day.

6. Protection from weapons

There are a few spells which grant 100% immunity to some group of weapons for a fixed amount of time. These are different than the well known Mirror Image and Stoneskin, because this last two can be consumed if hit many times, and don’t grant full immunity (Mirror Image offers a random chance, Stoneskin doesn’t protect against elemental damage, and none provide full protection against effects). The ones compared here protect from all the hits, damages and effects for the whole duration of the spell, unless the spell is completely cancelled by Breach or a successful Dispel Magic or Remove Magic.

The main difference between them is in the enchantment level that they grant protection to. Some may protect, for example, against all the weapons of +3 enchantment or less, while others protect against more powerful ones.

The Sword Coast Stratagems (SCS) mod has a component to improve some of them, giving one extra enchantment level of protection. This is shown in the table below by the second check mark (✓). So if you play with the default rules, look only at cells with two check marks, and if you play with that SCS component, look for both cells with one or two checks.

Name (level)

+0

+1

+2

+3

+4

+5

+6

≥ +7

Protection from Normal Weapons (5)

✓✓

Protection from Magical Weapons (6)

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

Mantle (7)

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

Improved Mantle (8)

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

Absolute Immunity (9)

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

✓✓

As you can see, Protection from Magical Weapons is the most powerful one, as it’s from a lower level, and protects against all sort of magical weapons, even those of the highest enchantment levels. It only doesn’t protect against the less dangerous weapons, the conventional ones. It’s a Lich favorite, given that they are permanently immune to non magical weapons anyway, which makes them effectively immune to absolutely everything that can be used to hit. In Shadows of Amn, some plot paths and equipment can make a character of the party immune to non magical weapons as well. Note that is not common for an opponent to just carry around a non enchanted weapon "just in case", but it might be a wise choice for a player.

Note that (except for Protection from Normal Weapons), the duration is fixed to 4 rounds, and doesn’t scale with levels.

Mantle, Improved Mantle and Absolute Immunity are rarely worth using except in some circumstances:

  1. If your level 6 slots are too packed with spells without alternative, while can sacrifice something higher level instead that is not critical.

  2. If you have them in a spare scroll that you don’t need to use for transcribing to the spell book. For example, if your character is a Bard (possibly solo) that can’t memorize any spell of those levels, and hence the spell in scroll form is still useful to cast it without preparation. Or if you want some Thief with the Use Any Item ability to be buffed by it.

See also: