Warlocks have spell slots that scale with their level. Usually most spells that have an upcast feature either deal extra damage (they seem to follow the DMG guidelines for damage/level) or target extra creatures. Conjuration spells may summon extra creatures and healing spells heal more but that also relates to damage.

Are there any spells with more unique or powerful effects (even if just dealing more damage than expected when scaled)?

Not necessarily from the warlock spell list.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm having trouble finding a way to frame this question suitably. Is this about creating a list of all "unusual" upcasting effects? What defines whether or not additional damage is "more damage than expected"? \$\endgroup\$
    – Matthieu
    Jul 11 at 9:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Matthieu though a lot more work than I'd be willing to put in, Taking all upcastable spells (for example level 1) averaging the upcasting damage increase (either % or precise number) and then taking everything outside 1 or 2 standard deviations. I've seen people do long calculations saying upcasting normally isn't worth it a couple of times on the board doing simple (upcast level 3 less damage than level 4 base) calculations showing it is theoretically doable. That being said "upcasts that have non-damage additional effects" would be a better question if suitable for the OP \$\endgroup\$
    – Cassie
    Jul 11 at 10:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Matthieu I'm referring to the table from DMG about recommended damage per lvl (eg rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/192277/…) Primarily, I'm looking for the best spells to upcast. I strongly suspect they'll be buffs or have unusual effects, instead of just damage. But if there's a spell will unusually high damage when upcast, it's still a valid answer. The ranking Cassie describes makes sense, but indeed it's a lot of work - I'm not looking for a complete list or ranking so it's not necessary. \$\endgroup\$
    – falsedot
    Jul 11 at 11:20

6 Answers 6


There are several with useful effects at higher levels

  • Major Image stays permanent if upcast to 6th level
  • Counterspell can counter higher level spells automatically, Dispel Magic can automatically dispel higher level effects, Globe of Invulnerability can negate higher level spells.
  • Glyph of Warding can store higher level spells
  • Several other spells extend durations, for example Dominate Beast or Dominate Monster which can go up to 8 hours if cast at higher levels, or Hex; Geas becomes quasi-permanent if cast at 9th level, Mass Suggestion or Planar Binding last for a year and a day on 9th.
  • Modify Memory can go back further into a creatuers past.
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    \$\begingroup\$ @falsedot It's very kind that you decided to accept my answer, and the choice is certainly yours alone. I would be happier if you stuck with biziclop's answer as the accepted one — both complement each other, and I'm concerned that my comment contributed to the switch. I really just wanted to point out that major image also loses concentration as it seemed especially pertinent to you, not motivate a switch. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 15 at 14:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ No worries on my behalf, I just posted the first thing that came to mind, while you did actual research, so... :) \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    Jul 26 at 13:41

Bestow Curse

This spell has a highly unusual upcast description:

At Higher Levels. If you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the duration is concentration, up to 10 minutes. If you use a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the duration is 8 hours. If you use a spell slot of 7th level or higher, the duration is 24 hours. If you use a 9th level spell slot, the spell lasts until it is dispelled. Using a spell slot of 5th level or higher grants a duration that doesn't require concentration.

Not only does the duration grow pretty rapidly, it eventually reaches "until dispelled", and at 5th level it turns the spell from one that needs concentration into one that does not.

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    \$\begingroup\$ funny how it should say "of 4th level or higher, the duration is concentration", when on higher levels it actually isn't. \$\endgroup\$
    – ilkkachu
    Jul 12 at 7:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ some truly amazing answers all around, but decided to accept this one as removing the concentration requirement is unbelievable and completely transforms the spell! \$\endgroup\$
    – falsedot
    Jul 12 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @falsedot No objection to accepting biziclops fine answer. Just wanted to point out that major image is also normally concentration, and loses that becoming permanent when upcast to 6th level. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12 at 21:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't help but feel that spell could've been written far more clearly with far fewer words if they just tried. All the redundant "or higher" and having to state levels 5+ do not require concentration just because the prior text makes that part needlessly confusing is just big oof. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kryomaani
    Jul 16 at 13:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kryomaani Let's just say it's not how I would've written it either. Then again, seeing how many seemingly clear rules are being challenged/questioned on this site, maybe you need that level of tedious redundancy. \$\endgroup\$
    – biziclop
    Jul 16 at 23:20

Blindness / Deafness was a surprising upcast choice

We discovered, during play, as my bard used this spell to debuff various enemies, that blinding a lot of enemies by upcasting blindness on them (with a high enough spell save DC, it was striking how often the save was missed) really made the battlefield change. I upcast to levels 4, 5 and 6 on a number of occasions in Tier 3 play. A couple of great aspects to the spell are that: (1) it does not require concentration and (2) if the enemy can't see the party, there are a whole host of spells and abilities that cannot be used until the save is finally made.
That it gives allies advantage when attacking the blinded opponent was a key reason I'd use it, since I was playing the bard as a support caster.

I saw similar results with blindness as a DM when the cleric player used it as a debuff.

While it was occasionally useful at lower levels, blindness became a lot more useful as my bard's Spell Save DC went up and she could impact more enemies. Unlike hypnotic pattern, it didn't have the "charmed condition" rider that makes that nice debuff not useful versus creatures who are immune to the charmed condition. (As CR goes up that number seems to increase).

  • @Darth Pseudonym, in a comment, made a point that is worth repeating: Blindness is particularly powerful against spellcasters, who tend to (1) have poor Constitution saves and (2) lose the use of many spells because when they can't see the target of a spell (to include counterspell) they can't cast it.

Two other spells that I see upcast with some frequency are fly and invisibility. Upcasting provides the benefit to more creatures, which can tactically have a substantial impact, and both of them can also have an impact outside of combat. (10 minutes of flying gets you over a non-trivial number of obstacles, the whole party being invisible for an hour allows for quite a bit of movement, infiltration, evasion, etc in many cases).

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    \$\begingroup\$ You touched on it, but Blindness is particularly powerful against spellcasters, who tend to have a lousy Con save and lose most of their spell targeting when they can't see. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 11 at 14:06

Scorching Ray

Most damage-based spells increase damage OR target extra creatures, but which one is fixed per a given spell. With Scorching Ray, every upcast level produces an additional ray, giving you the flexibility at cast time to either spread out targets or pour more damage into one.

With a warlock, this may not be super interesting since Eldritch blast scales the same way with character level.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Suggestion: "OR target extra creatures with non-damaging effects", since as written it sounds like upcasting scorching ray increases ray number and damage per ray. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jul 12 at 0:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ The flexibility is nice, but because it starts with 3 rays and only adds 1 per spell level, the scaling of the spell's total power is objectively inferior to many other spells. Upcasting Scorching Ray to 3rd, 4th, or 5th level grants a 33.3%, 25%, and 20% damage boost, respectively. Compare that to single-target spells like Blindness/Deafness or Hold Person, which grant a 100%, 50%, and 33.3% increase in power for the same casting cost. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12 at 1:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ApproachingDarknessFish: Out of damage spells, though, Scorching Ray is one of the best-scaling spells, especially out of ones with a low base level. An extra 2d6 per level (and more chances to hit at all), is even better than the extra 1d10 from Inflict Wounds. Unless you have something like Advantage and/or Path to the Grave for just your first attack, having more attacks is usually good, especially if you have something that does extra damage on your first hit of your turn. (e.g. Wildfire druid) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12 at 12:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Fireball only scales with an extra 1d6/level, from 8d6 at 3rd (same as scorching ray's 4x 2d6 at 3rd), but they differ in Fireball doing half on a dex save vs. miss for none, and being an AoE. Often Fireball would have advantages if you have both prepared and want to spend a 3rd-level slot, but against a target with evasion or a good dex save but not great AC, Scorching Ray has advantages. \$\endgroup\$ Jul 12 at 12:42

Let's talk about some buffs!

So I have been playing a bard recently and it turns out that they don't do much blasting, which means I started to be more creative with my spell choices and upcasts.


  • a great buff spell on lower levels, but when you upcast it on level three, you get twice as much effect. (Three creatures of your choice get 5 + 5 per level upcast max and current HP).

There are bunch of other buffs that are concentration based but by targeting the entire party on upcast make parts of the game that are often dangerous or difficult trivial.

Enhance Ability

  • I recently started really enjoying upcasting this spell in non-combat situations. Do you need your party of dummies to suddenly get better at a given thing? Just upcast this and give them advantage for the duration.

  • I play in a party with three charisma casters (including me) and this became a pretty strong combat buff. It turns out that you can counterspell pretty much anything when you get advantage on the ability check.

  • I don't think it is clear if you can choose different effects for different targets when upcasting the spell (question that addresses it is here) but if yes, it becomes even better.

Fly, Invisibility

  • Get these to the whole party and things are gonna be pretty different.

Armor of Agathys

  • Not a bard thing but has a nice upcast, where you get more temp HP, which means you might keep them after getting hit more than one and double dip on the damage portion and the damage portion of the spell itself also scales on it's own.

That depends on whether it's Warlock specific or not, the question is confusingly phrased.

For other casters, lots of good ones have been covered in other questions, but for Warlock, because they only get up to level 5 spell slots(the Mystic Arcanum spells are once/long rest class features, they don't give higher level spell slots), Armor of Agathys is by far the best upcast:

A protective magical force surrounds you, manifesting as a spectral frost that covers you and your gear. You gain 5 temporary hit points for the duration. If a creature hits you with a melee attack while you have these hit points, the creature takes 5 cold damage.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, both the temporary hit points and the cold damage increase by 5 for each slot.

It's really useless at lvl1, the temp HP can take 1 hit and deal 5 damage, but at level 5, it can absorb 25HP of dmg and deal 50-100 damage, depending on how many hits it took to break it and is a must-have spell to always have known.


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