Bards in D&D 5e are famous for knowing at least a little bit about a lot of things. Why should their spellcasting be any different?
One of the coolest features that Bards get is their ability to learn Magical Secrets.
With this feature, they get to cherry-pick their favorite spells from other classes despite those spells not necessarily being on the Bard spell list!
But with so many options for spells available to learn, it can be overwhelming…
So today we’re going over the ins and outs of the Bard’s Magical Secrets feature!
We’ll cover how it works, answer some common questions, then look at some of the best options worth considering at each level!
What Are Magical Secrets?
The Magical Secrets feature represents Bards’ knack for gaining bits of knowledge from a wide spectrum of disciplines. They might learn a clever divination spell from one source and then a powerful evocation spell from another.
Most Bards gain access to the Magical Secrets feature at level 10. They then get it again at levels 14 and 18.
The exception to this is College of Lore Bards who gain this feature earlier at level 6.
In total, Bards get six Magical Secrets except for Lore Bards who get a total of eight.
At each level that you gain the Magical Secrets feature, you choose two spells from ANY class’s spell list. This means that you can pick up powerful spells that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to cast.
Especially for iconic spells that are only found on certain classes’ spell lists, there’s a TON of potential here!
Just be aware that the spells you choose must be of a level that you can cast. Alternatively, you can also pick up cantrips with this feature.
Related: I cover spellcasting (and so much more!) in my Full Bard Class Guide!
Learning and Using Magical Secrets
Keep in mind that Magical Secrets do count towards the total number of spells your character knows.
Spells you gain with this feature count as Bard spells for you. This means that Charisma is your spellcasting ability for them.
Additionally, your musical instrument can be used as a spellcasting focus to cast these spells instead of material components that don’t have a cost.
Note that the Magical Secrets you choose don’t have to be from the same class. That means that you can mix and match the best spells from every class!
If you’re so inclined, you can certainly take a blasting spell from the Wizard list and a healing/support spell from the Cleric list as your Magical Secrets!
Changing Magical Secrets
When you learn a spell with your Magical Secrets feature, you’re adding it to your list of spells known. It’s added to your list of spells known as a Bard spell regardless of what class’s spell list you got it from.
If we’re looking at the Rules as Written (RAW), the Magical Secrets feature is adding your chosen spells to your Bard spell list. When you level up, you can drop some of the spells you know to pick up other options from the Bard spell list.
This makes it a little complicated when it comes to your Magical Secrets feature.
You can certainly drop a spell that you gained with this feature to pick up something else from the Bard spell list. However, the spell you’re replacing it with still must be from the Bard list.
So even if you grabbed Spirit Guardians from the Cleric spell list, you can only swap that out for other Bard spells.
If you decide to pick Spirit Guardians back up later, however, you can still do that because you chose it as one of your Magical Secrets.
If we’re looking at the RAW, whatever you choose with your Magical Secrets feature is there to stay. However, we’ve all taken or prepared spells that ended up not being as useful for us as we had hoped.
If you pick a Magical Secret spell that sounded cool but NEVER seems to be useful, most DMs are probably cool with letting you swap it out for something you’ll actually use.
Just don’t abuse that and try to swap your chosen secrets every session. This is a feature that rewards making deliberate choices!
Also Check Out: Ranking Every Bard Subclass in D&D 5e
Best Magical Secrets by Level
Ok, so there’s a bit of pressure when choosing your Magical Secrets.
But don’t worry! I’ve got your back!
We’re going to look over some standout options at each level. I’ll give you my top picks for the best Magical Secrets and explain why I like the option.
But I’m also looking at a general situation here. Depending on your party’s composition and how you’ve built your character there might be options that I don’t list here that will suit you better.
Still, I’m confident that you can’t go wrong with these picks!
As I mentioned, most Bards have to wait until level 10 to gain access to Magical Secrets. But one of the perks of being a Lore Bard is that you get access to the feature at level 6!
If you aren’t playing a Lore Bard, these spells are still worth considering at later levels. But for Lore Bards, these are excellent picks with a ton of great impact at these earlier levels!
Aura of Vitality is my personal top pick here. Being able to heal allies within 30 feet of you for 2d6 as a bonus action is very powerful. Even if you aren’t the party’s primary healer, being able to drop a total of 20d6 healing over the course of 1 minute should not be understated!
Another great pick is the ever-reliable Counterspell. There should always be someone in your party who has this at the ready. It’s the surest way to ruin an enemy caster’s day!
If you favor some blasting, Fireball is the tried-and-true staple. Bards typically struggle with AoE spell options, so this is very tempting for those who want to add some extra “oomph” to their arsenal.
Haste is one of the best buffs in D&D 5e. Not only are you doubling the target’s speed, but you’re also giving them a +2 to their Armor Class, advantage on Dexterity saving throws, and an extra action on each of their turns. Throw this a heavy-hitter like a Paladin or Barbarian and they’ll love you forever!
Your party should always have at least one person with the Revivify spell. It’s quite literally the difference between life and death, especially at the lower levels.
When you need to make a quick escape (or unforgettable entrance), Thunderstep is a great spell to have. Additionally, it lets you bring one willing creature along with you and deals solid damage to those near where you teleported from.
With most Bards gaining Magical Secrets at level 10, I stand by the previous list for this level too. However, I want to include some good options that were too high in level for the previous list.
Don’t feel pressured to only choose the highest-level spells you can. You can always pick up others from earlier levels that you didn’t get!
Commune is typically only available to Clerics and a few Paladin subclasses. Being able to ask a deity or other divine being three “yes or no” questions can be incredibly impactful. This is best if your party likes to really focus on planning and working strategically.
It might be easy to overlook Destructive Wave, but this Paladin-exclusive hits hard! A 30-foot AoE spell that deals 10d6 damage (thunder and radiant or necrotic) and knocks enemies prone is something to be feared at any level.
Moving on, I’m including Find Greater Steed on this list for the sole reason of being over-the-top. I mean, Bards love their theatrics, and it doesn’t get more theatrical than riding in on a Pegasus! The movement speed is nice too, I suppose.
Shadow of Moil is a fun defensive option. You probably won’t need the resistance to radiant damage so much, but it’s a great way to punish enemies that manage to hit you.
Finally, Telepathic Bond is useful when your party needs some discreet communication. This is best in campaigns with a lot of stealth, intrigue, and espionage.
At level 14, Bards can cast spells as high as level 7. The spells you can gain at this level are incredibly powerful.
However, you still want to choose wisely!
Depending on your party and character build, it might be worth taking one of these options and then using your other Magical Secret option at this level to grab one of the spells we already covered.
But getting to the top picks for this level…
Up first is Contingency which is one of my personal favorite spells in D&D 5e. This is a spell that rewards careful planning. Used well, it can save your life and defeat ferocious enemies against all odds.
By setting a trigger and secondary spell effect (as an if: then statement), you’ve got a backup plan for the next 10 days!
Simulacrum is another fun spell that you can have so much fun with. Sure, you can use it to make a duplicate of any beast or humanoid, but let’s be real: you’re going to make a duplicate of yourself, right?
If you prefer to focus on restoring hit points, grabbing Heal from the Cleric and Druid lists is excellent. This lets you instantly heal an ally for 70 hit points (no rolling) while also ending any blindness, deafness, or disease affecting the target.
Plane Shift is both powerful and versatile. It can be a great way to travel (or escape!) but it can also work as a way to trap enemies on another plane that they’re sure to hate.
Last but not least, there’s the classic Heroes’ Feast. This is too expensive to use at the start of every adventuring day, but the bonuses that it gives make it excellent for use right before the party goes storming into the BBEG’s lair.
And, hey, if you really want to go the extra mile, it might give you a great excuse to bust open the D&D cookbook of the same name!
At level 18, Bards can use their Magical Secrets feature to learn spells of any level. The options available to you are incredibly powerful and, as before, can come from any spell list!
So, the obvious choice for your strongest Magical Secret is taking the Wish spell. It’s easily the most powerful spell in the game!
(I recommend also checking out my article that covers everything you could need to know about the Wish spell!)
But you might still be looking for other options. In that case, there are a few major standouts worth considering!
Shapechange is just pure fun and is one of my favorite spells in the game. If it’s a creature you’ve seen, you can now turn into it. (Yes, that means you can turn into dragons, beholders, or whatever else with a challenge rating equal to or less than your level.)
If you’re more of the party’s healer, Mass Heal is a great way to recover a ton of hit points. It’s the best healing spell in the game and can easily turn a fight around!
Lastly, I would say that Prismatic Wall is worth considering. It’s a ridiculously powerful defensive spell that will infuriate anyone who is trying to get through it.
Each of the Prismatic Wall’s seven layers has a different requirement to break through. Furthermore, it can also take the form of a sphere if you want to trap someone in an impenetrable hamster ball of doom.
After all, this is a great opportunity to pick up some spells that will greatly help you stand on the party’s front lines in combat!
If you’re frequently on the party’s front lines, Spirit Guardians is a powerful option to consider picking up. Dealing solid AoE damage and also slowing down enemies within 15 feet of you is incredibly powerful if you can maintain concentration!
While it does require your bonus action to use, Spiritual Weapon is a great way to increase your damage output. Just be aware that this will be competing with your Bardic Inspiration feature for use of your bonus action!
Armor of Agathys is a Warlock-exclusive that gives you some very nice defense if you’re in melee with any regularity. Not only are you gaining temporary hit points, but enemies take cold damage when they hit you!
Use your Magical Secrets feature to pick up Holy Weapon at level 10 if you’re frequently in melee combat. Dealing an extra 2d8 damage PER HIT is massively impactful and could potentially make you the party’s heaviest hitter!
Swift Quiver is great if you’re a Valor Bard who uses a bow. Take Swift Quiver as one of your Magical Secrets at level 10 and you can now make four attacks per round.
Considering that this would only otherwise be usable by level 17 Rangers, you’re so far ahead of the curve that it’s sickening (in the best way possible, of course!)
Conclusion – Magical Secrets
There are tons of reasons to love Bards, but the Magical Secrets feature is certainly near the top of the list.
It just adds to the versatility of the class and fits the theme of Bards always having an extra surprise in store!
After all, surprise is a key element of showmanship, isn’t it? Casting spells that others didn’t know you could cast is certainly surprising!
Still got questions about the Bard’s Magical Secrets feature? Let’s chat in the comments!
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