There are eight choices of basic Cantrips that can be learned by all Bards as soon as you take a level in it. Because of this, you’ll always have to leave a few of them behind in order to make due for something more effective. Luckily, there are a few spells in the Cantrips list that make Baldur’s Gate 3 a lot easier to traverse through. While none of the options on this list are necessarily bad, only a few of them are generally useful. The important thing to keep in mind when playing a Bard is that your magic will define how you’re used by the party. You can easily lose yourself into a healer role, or go the route of a master manipulator.
Really the support role of a bard is only as necessary as the bard’s creativity is limited. You can easily make this class into a specialized diplomat or entertainer while holding some semblance of combat magic. You’ll really need to think outside of the box when playing this class, but the Cantrips will matter arguably the most. You can easily make up for any of the higher-level spells using magic items you pick up along the way. However, when you start out, the Cantrips you dedicate yourself to can really make all the difference in a situation. Because of this try to shape your bard spell list to what you specifically feel works for you.
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What Are Cantrips?
Cantrips are a type of at-will spell that can be casted by basic spell users. Typically these are limited to being basic actions or abilities that can ever so slightly tip the odds in your favor. From environmental effects like lights and illusions all the way to speaking to animals and using the mage hand spell. While they may not be the most powerful magic ever used, early on Cantrips can make a big difference where it counts. Half the battle when using these spells is knowing when to incorporate them, and when to focus on other items. Overall, Cantrips can be found across every spell caster class, and when combined a party with only Cantrips can achieve powerful things.
The best time to use a Cantrip is honestly either before a battle or during it. Very few will offer the player a heal or damage in terms of the bard. Because of this, it’s better to focus on effects that can better flavor your interactions. For instance speaking to animals and the friends spell can make for much easier dialogue options. Additionally spells like magehand or minor image can change the course of a conflict and edge it away from your character. Once you’ve mastered how to use your Cantrips effectively, you can start to really judge which ones are better than others.
Spell Casting As A Bard
Spells used by a Bard are meant to help the party navigate through social situations and dungeons unabated. They can assist in the small comforts of life, while offering their knowledge for the better of others. As a bard, you can easily use spellcasting to keep your party going. Just like warlocks and paladins, bards use charisma to cast spells. Additionally, they usually try to boost their dexterity so they don’t get caught in the middle of a fight. As a backline combatant, they use ranged attacks and spells to damage anything that gets too close.
The spells that a bard uses can range from buffs and debuffs to attacks and heals. They use a strange form of social magic that can incorporate anything from summons to enchantments on people around them. This can be a powerful tool when dealing with towns and villages, especially at a lower level. However as you increase in your abilities, the bard can become a form of rogue like a spellcaster, using tricks and special magic. In such cases, the bard can be a doorway into a new world of action economy as suddenly a movement becomes a teleport and a dimensional door.
Support and Control Magic
The specific spell casting role of the Bard is to deal in support magic. Alternatively they may focus on control magic as a means of making sure conflict doesn’t break out around them. The support side of this magic can be seen in buffs, heals, and making environment effects easier to traverse over. The control side takes the form of command words and debuffs that can keep enemies at bay and at a disadvantage. Either way it’s meant to leave the opponent on the back foot against the rest of your party’s combatants. Overall this can mean that your party stays in the fight longer and deals with situations far easier. You’ll be able to pass through most cities with open arms, and pace through dungeons with your bardic song spells.
Optimized Bard Spell Casting
In order to maximize the effect of your spells as a Bard it’s a good idea to specialize in Charisma. You can follow this up by keeping a fair amount of scrolls and magic items on you in order to minimize the amount of spells you cast on your own. This can be a difficult thing to master especially at first, but pooling all your magic items into one character helps. As you get higher in level you can gradually rely less and less on the items you get. Another major obstacle you’ll need to overcome is taking damage. In order to stay in the battle for the longest period of time, you’ll need to stay away from heavy front lines fighting. If there is a creature chasing you, you should absolutely avoid it.
Dancing lights #8
Dancing Lights is the least effective Cantrip on the bard spell list since it works like a torch. The spell can also hinder you by showing where everyone is if they stand around these lights. You can use the Dancing Lights Cantrip to put on a show or confuse an enemy, but it’s less effective otherwise. It’s like a watered-down version of first-level faerie fire. This means you should avoid it unless your party is completely dark vision-free. In the early game, you can pick up plenty of torches or candles to completely negate the need for this spell.
The Light spell is a slightly better version of Dancing Lights as it turns one item into a glowing beacon. This can be anything from a sword to someone’s armor, illuminating the path around them. Unfortunately while this spell can be useful if no one in the party has dark vision, it’s just a torch. In my personal opinion, spells that act like simple items you’ll already find in the places you’ll find them are annoying. There is absolutely zero reason why you need to take a spell that turns an item into a torch when you can just have a torch. This is further made apparent when you can have a torch specific slot separate from your weapons. The only nice effect of this spell is that it lasts for 24 hours or until a long rest.
Minor illusion #6
Next on the list is the third worst Cantrip you could pick, being a minor illusion. Unlike the light oriented spells, these do have their own usage if you’re running a sneaky build. It can be used in a silenced effect situation, as well as while you’re hiding. Because of this, you can create illusions that force targets to investigate rather than noticing you. Kind of acting as a reverse version of the mage hand spell, you’ll get a summon onto the battlefield that’s noticeable. Overall, this can be great if you need to get past something, however it loses it’s effectiveness over time. As your sneak skill gets higher or you acquire the invisibility spell, minor illusion loses its punch.
Once you’ve gotten past the Cantrips that can honestly be left behind, you start being left with the actually useful ones. A good example of this is the friends spell which can add a 1d4 bonus to rolls regarding humanoids. This will have little to no use in combat as it’s extended to flavor text and conversations alone. However, when you’re trying to get information out of someone, or need just a bit more charisma this can really hit the spot. Friends as a spell can be one of the best methods of getting out of a tough situation with bandits who suddenly find you more appealing. When mixed with things like command person or enhanced ability you can end up with some truly over powered charisma rolls. Ultimately though, friends will work on any non-aggressive rolls made on a humanoid character.
Blade Ward #4
If you want to create a sense of being one of the many creatures with the annoying bonus to take half damage from non magical weapons, there’s Blade Ward. This Cantrip grants the player the ability to take half damage from slashing, piercing and bludgeoning for two turns. This can be quite the effective defensive Cantrip to have especially early on. However, this has an extremely limited amount of time where it works, greatly limiting its usefulness. For the same amount of energy you can cast on something like Blade Ward, you could easily be getting something else out. That being said, as a Cantrip you have no other options being a bard in taking less damage. So if combat is inevitable, Blade Ward may just be your best chance of survival.
Mage Hand #3
Mage Hand is another great Cantrip for Bards. You’ll get an invisible hand that can interact, push, and slap other things. Early on, this can be really helpful in limiting damage and enemies. Mage hands are invisible and can interact with things up to half your strength stat. In other words, if you make a strong bar for whatever reason, you could cause trouble. Mage hand is a great spell that can be used for all kinds of trickster-like stuff. Putting stuff in pockets, picking stuff up, and even slapping people. For almost any play style, the mage hand Cantrip is the best. Unfortunately, it’s not as effective as the next two competitors.
Vicious Mockery #2
Bards only have one offensive Cantrip, but it’s one of the best. It can deal 1d4 psychic damage, but gives it disadvantage on its next attack roll. Due to this, vicious Mockery is one of the best Cantrips to pick up to deal damage and demoralize your enemy. Violent Mockery has one last feature that makes it one of the best abilities out there. Every time you cast vicious Mockery, your bard will make an insult up based on its intelligence stat. This can range from the obtusely insulting to the outrageously hilarious. Because of this, you’ll be sure that vicious Mockery is the perfect addition to any dagger-tongued bard.
True Strike #1
Finally the best Cantrip you can use as a Bard is undoubtedly the True Strike spell. As a Cantrip, you can ensure that you or another party member has a guaranteed hit on their next attack. This can especially potent early game, but never really stops being effective. No matter what play style you have, or who your party members are, having a natural 20 on your next attack can be powerful. Though true strike is not as useful as prior editions where it can be a contingency spell, in Baldur’s Gate 3, it has limitless potential. True Strike lasts for two turns and grants the player the ability to make some amazing shots from uncanny distances. So if you need to take something out without question, True Strike is for you.