This Handbook from Wizards Community Forums was posted October 2014 has since been deleted. There were a lot of great optimization guides and handbooks that were also lost when all the information on the forums was deleted. Fortunately, I pulled the original post before it was deleted, cleaned it up and did a lot of editing. I found this Guide on Conjuration to be particularly useful in play, and I have the hope that you are able to use it too. Enjoy!
Conjurer of Cheap Tricks – A Conjuration Handbook
1. Overview and discussion of spells, classes, and races.
2. Challenge 0 and 1/8
3. Challenge 1/4
4. Challenge 1/2
5. Challenge 1
6. Challenge 2
7. Challenge 3-5
8. Challenge 6-8
Because there are a number of options for the various summoning spells in the Player’s Handbook, with new options just added from the Monster Manual, this guide is intended to give good advice for why Conjuration spells are useful and how to use them in a useful way. It also serves as a quick reference for possible creatures to summon and where to find them.
From this point forward, the common color coding is being used:
Sky Blue = Top of the line
Blue = Very strong choice
Black = Solid choice. There are better options, but this is more than serviceable
Purple = Not top tier. It may have niche use, but better options exist
Red = Mechanically weak. If you feel it fits your concept, go for it, but you will likely be less effective
Some General Advice
More is usually better- but let this be a guide, not a rule. If you use one of the conjuration spells that lets you pick from several choices of CRs with varying amounts of creatures, if you’re summoning more than one creature, they don’t have to be the same type of creature- just have the same CR or lower. Summoning four wolves and four giant owls is completely reasonable and possible. Creatures that generate their own Advantage are awesome. Creatures that generate Advantage for players are awesome. Creatures that do both are the most useful (which is why Wolves are rated so highly). Sometimes, survivability of your conjurations is more important than generating advantage. If you’re up against something that’s dropping lots of high damage save spells, especially area effects, wolves aren’t as awesome as usual. If you’re fighting a bunch of goblins with mundane weapons and no spellcaster, wolves are awesome, but so are some of the other creatures.
The Summoning Spells
Conjure Animals– Extremely useful. Gives access to eight or more wolves (pack tactics and prone on a hit), as well as a few other great options. In most cases, more is better. Find the CR 1/4 creature (or a combination of several) that works for you, either making a wall or swarming targets. You’ll have some situations where a few stronger creatures might be more useful. Also keep in mind that when you take a choice with multiple creatures, they do not all have to be the same creature. For instance, when taking eight Challenge 1/2 creatures, you could take four Wolves and four Giant Owls. Occasionally, you might use this only as a utility spell- perhaps to get somewhere you need to go or to take care of a minor problem for someone (like pests). This is a very versatile spell and has the largest bank of options of the conjuration spells.
Conjure Celestial – There’s not enough Celestials yet for this to be incredibly powerful. The Couatl and the Unicorn are the only good options now. The Couatl is especially good with Paladin level AC and a good innate spellcasting list, as well as the Constrict ability for fun time flying and dropping. The Unicorn is also great with Legendary Actions.
Conjure Elemental = Solid choice. There are better options, but this is more than serviceable – Getting a single creature is interesting. You can’t access Genies which would be the best thing, but there are some great options, namely the Xorn. Four attacks a turn. Keep in mind you must have an area that makes since for the elemental conjuration. No fire? No fire elemental. You’re probably a wizard, though, so you can fix that. Air and earth based elementals are the easiest to find. Don’t lose concentration or it could turn on you.
Conjure Fey – Beasts are a better option for this spell than Fey. Green Hag is currently the only Fey creature that isn’t a valid target for the minor version of this spell. Don’t lose concentration or it could turn on you.
Conjure Minor Elementals – Similar to how useful Conjure Animals is, but in different ways. Currently, only Mephits are CR 1/4, but they just aren’t as good as wolves. Each Mephit has a death burst and an area attack with low saves, but some have good effects on the failed save and innate spellcasting that can actually be useful, such as Blur on the Steam Mephit, and Sleep on the Sand Mephit. You don’t have to summon all of the same elemental using this spell, as long as they’re all the same CR.
Conjure Woodland Beings – This one can be just as good if not better than Conjure Animals. The main reason is Pixies. They are fragile but include an awesome innate spellcasting list (polymorph, fly, sleep and more) and you get at least eight of them. You don’t have to summon all of the same elemental using this spell, as long as they’re all the same CR.
Druid – Conjure Animals, Conjure Woodland Beings, and Conjure Fey. The most options of conjuration spells, but Conjure Fey is mostly unuseable currently. Green Hags just aren’t going to be worth it. You get the spells sooner than the Ranger, and have more slots. Circle of the Land seems better for conjurations than Circle of the Moon due to Natural Recovery.
Ranger – Conjure Animals and Conjure Woodland Beings. You get them later, but still useful. You get no class features which help with conjurations other than casting them. You also get the spells later and have less slots.
Wizard – Conjuration School has the best feature for this after level 10. Other Wizards still have access, but Focused Conjuration is where it’s at if you want to Conjure. The level 14 feature makes these summons even better, especially when summoning a large number. You get your Conjuration spells later than Druids, but you also get other Conjuration spells that play into your class features. All Wizards have Arcane Recovery for recovering spells and also can get Find Familiar from level 1, which can at least get you someone who can provide the Help action or let you use your Touch spells at range. Abjuration Wizards can also work with a very nice defense against making concentration checks using Abjuration spells- such as Shield.
Cleric – You’ve got access to armor so you’re less likely to be hurt from attacks. You don’t get a conjuration spell until level 13, but you can conjure one of the best options in the game (Couatl) using it. You’re not likely a Cleric because you want to use conjurations, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t.
Bard/Multiclassing Bard – Magical Secrets can grab any of the minor conjuration spells as well as Conjure Elemental. Jack of all Trades applies to Initiative. You definitely want to have your summons out before your opponents get a turn. You probably can’t give your summons an initiatve boost with Inspiration. College of Lore Cutting Words could prevent an attack on you, and Additional Magic Secrets can get you Conjure Animals sooner than 10th level. Peerless Skill at Level 14 can be applied to your Initiative checks, again because you want your summons out before they act. It’s also of note that Magical Secrets and Additional Magical Secrets can grab you the Conjuration spell of your choice (if at the right level) and quite a few other tasty spells including Haste, Blink, Mirror Image, Sanctuary, Shield.
Warlock/Multiclassing Warlock – Short rest slots, but you’ll have to level a bit for the right ones to use. They can get Conjure Elemental once a day at level 9, and can take Conjure Fey as a Mystic Arcanum option. Eldritch Blast is also a great thing to have. If you take Pact of the Chain, you also get a familiar that can actually attack and is more interesting than the standard choices. As with any other familiar, they don’t scale, so after a few levels they’ll only be good for RP and using the Help action or Touch spells. The Fiend’s level 6 feature also gives you a boost to one saving throw between short rests. Abjuration Wizards might come here to pick up one or both at-will Abjuration spell invocations.
Multiclassing Barbarian – Armor proficiency and Con Saves if you start as a Barbarian at level 1. Unarmored Defense CAN be good if you’re a Moon Druid, though whether the forms that have “natural armor” give you a bonus is up for debate to some. Danger Sense might avoid some damage. Rage ruins this as a strong conjurer, as you can’t concentrate while raging.
Multiclassing Cleric – Armor from certain domains even after level 1. Nothing of much use here, though. Resistance would be good if it wasn’t Concentration. If you have an ally with Resistance, plead with him to give you a d4. Sadly, Conjure Celestial comes too late for this mutliclass to be strong for conjurations.
Multiclassing Druid – 7 levels and you have the best of the conjuration spells. 5 levels for only Conjure Animals. This could be quite good combined with a few ideas. Rogue for almost always on Sneak Attack. Extend tanking ability by bringing out constructs that grab and/or restrain. With Wizard to make the Druid conjurations more likely to last.
Eldritch Knight Fighter– At level 20 you can grab Conjure Minor Elementals. Probably not worth it. You do get CON save proficiency, which is nice.
Multiclassing Fighter – Con Saves and Armor if you start Fighter at level 1. Battlemaster maneuvers can be good to strengthen some of your summons’ attacks or to protect them.
Multiclassing Monk – At level 1, you get Unarmored Defense. There are some other good features, especially the level 14, but you delay conjurations too long for them to affect summoning. Unarmored Defense is good for Moon Druids, mainly. This is because when you are Wild Shaped, your UD bonus can apply. There is some debate on whether “natural armor” removes this bonus, but there are forms that are strong.
Multiclassing Paladin – Aura of Protection at 6 adds +Cha to saving throws. The other Auras are also good. Might not be worth the wait, though you do get heavy armor and martial weapons if you start as Paladin at level 1.
Multiclassing Ranger – I wouldn’t suggest multiclassing to Ranger from any of the other conjurer classes. Starting Ranger and picking up a few levels of features and spells may work out okay, then move to Druid or Wizard.
Arcane Trickster Rogue – Arcane Trickster – At level 20 you can grab Conjure Minor Elementals. Probably not worth it, though you will have Sneak Attack against targets you’re conjurations stand next to. You also have other ways of getting that.
Multiclassing Rogue – This isn’t terrible. If you’ve got conjurations out, then you’ve got someone to stand next to enemies and give you Sneak Attack. The Theif archetype with the Healer feat could be good if you want to run around bandaging your conjurations while dealing sneak attack. Remember, your conjurations won’t get a short rest, so you’ll only heal each of them once. The level 2 bonus actions are also fantastic for staying out of harm’s way.
Multiclassing Sorcerer – Multiclassing with Sorcerer can be useful to get Extended Spell and Quickened Spell. Also gets you Con saves if you start at level 1 as Sorcerer.
Multiclassing Wizard – The best features for conjurations come late but you get the elemental conjuration spells. Druid 6 / Wizard 14 may be a very interesting build for Conjure Animals abuse but you’ll not have access to Conjure Woodland Beings.
Alternate Human can get you War Caster or Resilient right from Level 1, and you can start with a CON of 17. Forest Gnomes are extremely good here. The main thing is the Magic saving throws which could help avoid taking damage or being placed under a status that could break concentration. Halflings are also great because Lucky can be used on saving throws and advantage against Frightened. Elves and Half-Elves can’t fall asleep from magic and have advantage against charm spells. You could also try a Mountain Dwarf to have medium armor and start with an 17 CON.
Challenge 0 and 1/8
Generally, everything at Challenge 0 or Challenge 1/8 is Red. The main reason is that you can’t get more than eight of these and there are much better options in CR 1/4. I’m listing these anyway, as there are a few utility or roleplay possibilities, but you’re mostly going to avoid summoning any of these.
Baboon(Basic,MM) – Pack Tactics, but only +1 to hit. I don’t see this going well when you’d get just as many Wolves or other CR 1/4 beasts.
Badger(Basic,MM) – Burrows. Maybe if you had a situation where things needed to burrow, but there’s better options.
Bat (PHB,Basic,MM) – Flying and blindsight. Could be used to frighten, possibly.
Blood Hawk (Basic, MM) – Flying and Pack Tactics. Pretty good for the CR, but other options are better. Flying is useful, though.
Cat(PHB,Basic,MM) – Maybe utility, if someone’s complaining about rodents.
Camel (Basic, MM) – No.
Crab(Basic,MM) – No point.
Deer(Basic, HotDQ,MM) – You can’t even eat them. Not much point here.
Eagle(Basic,MM) – Flying is good, but not still not much use. Maybe if you’ve got someone complaining of an overstocked lake.
Giant Crab (Basic, MM) – Auto-grab on a hit, but not restrained. Can grab two targets, though.
Giant Fire Beetle (Basic,MM) – Sheds bright light. Conjure Animals requires Concentration, so this isn’t any better than Dancing Lights. Glowing glands would be useful if they didn’t disappear when the conjuration drops to 0 HP.
Giant Rat (Basic) – Only reason this isn’t red is Pack Tactics.
Giant Weasel (Basic) – No.
Goat(Basic,MM) – Has a charge attack and better damage even without it than most CR 0. STR and DEX advantage against prone. This might be the most combat ready CR 0, but there’s better options. You could also use this if people need their grass mowed or sensitive documents destroyed.
Flying Snake (Basic, MM) – Flies and Flyby is good, but damage amount is too low to matter.
Frog(PHB,Basic,MM) – Not sure when you’d use this.
Hawk(PHB, Basic,MM) – Flying is good, but not still not much use. Maybe if you’ve got a farmer complaining of gophers.
Hyena(Basic,MM) – Pack Tactics, more than 1 damage attack. Wolves are just better, though.
Jackal(Basic,MM) – Pack tactics, but low damage. Much better options elsewhere.
Lizard(Basic,MM) – No use.
Mastiff (PHB, Basic) – Proning attack is good, but low HP. Completely overshadowed by Wolves.
Mule (PHB, Basic) – For carrying stuff, could occasionally be useful since it’s consider a large for carrying capacity.
Octopus(Basic,MM) – Advantage on Stealth underwater and grapple on a hit. I could see using this for an ambush you lay in wait as you’re escaping from something, hoping to slow a few people down. Better options exist.
Owl(PHB, Basic,MM) – Other than being another rodent hunter, doesn’t have much use. Doesn’t provoke OAs, which is nice for the Owl.
Poisonous Snake (PHB, Basic) – Low damage, but does paralyze on failed saves. Still, pretty much a pass.
Pony (Basic) – No.
Quipper(Basic,MM) – These things probably look terrifying, they are basically piranha. Maybe could be used in intimidation.
Rat(PHB, Basic,MM) – Maybe if someone’s complaining they don’t have enough rats. Maybe for scaring people.
Raven(PHB, Basic,MM) – The Mimicry bit could actually be useful. Since you’re conjuring, you probably will need to make sure the Ravens can hear the sound you need them to mimic. For instance, you could approach a fortification with sounds of a brigade instead of just 3-6 adventurers.
Scorpion(Basic,MM) – Extremely low poison save on a hit gives possibility for higher damage than most CR 0, but unlikely.
Sea Horse (Basic) – You’re not going to use this unless trying to amuse underwater children.
Spider(Basic,MM) – Spider climb is cool. Like many of the options here, maybe could be useful for scaring people.
Stirge (Starter, MM, HotDQ, Basic) – Decent fly speed and persistent damage without attack rolls after the first attack. Enemies can just use their action to pick them off or attack them, though.
Vulture (Basic,MM) – Maybe if you’ve got people complaining of too many freshly dead animals.
Weasel (Basic,MM) – No.
Because more creatures is usually more useful than fewer higher CR creatures, CR 1/4 is likely you’re go to destination. This is the most true if you have Conjure Animals or Conjure Woodland Beings. Conjure Minor Elementals can get you eight Mephits, a couple of which have decent conditions, but you might be better off going for higher level creatures.
Generally speaking, Wolves are the best option for Conjure Animals. There are exceptions to this statement. If you need a “Wall of Fur” there are better options, such as Giant Owls and Giant Bats, as they are large creatures. If your party has other ways of generating Advantage, most of the Blue options become as good as the Wolves. Pack Tactics is their main advantage. If you’re in a situation where it’s not relevant, look at the blue options and choose what fits your need.
Axe Beak (Basic, MM) – Large, but not better than riding horses and no special movement types. Skip.
Blink Dog (Basic, MM) – Teleport and attack has its uses, but 50% recharge rate. Damage is not strong, either.
Boar (PHB, Basic, MM) – Charge attack adds some damage and prones targets, if you’re ganging the boars up on targets you should get the extra damage on most attacks, and as soon as the target is proned the rest of the boars will get advantage on their attacks. Relentless gives the possibility of sticking around a bit longer, but this won’t be as useful against higher CR enemies.
Constrictor Snake (PHB, Basic, MM) – An auto-grapple and restrain on hit can lock some targets down.
Draft Horse (Basic, MM) – 1 damage higher and 3 HP more than a Riding Horse. Still, better options exist.
Elk (PHB, Basic, MM) – Like the Boar, but different. Higher damage and large size. These would serve as decent mounts for low level party.
Giant Centipede (HotDQ, Basic) – Low HP hurts the rating here. The attack has the chance to paralyse, but has a lower to hit. Decent damage is backloaded onto failed saves.
Giant Badger (Basic, MM) – Multiattack without conditions.
Giant Bat (Basic, MM) – Flying is the only thing it’s really got going for it. It is large, though. You might be able to carry a party if you’re not too heavy. Don’t let them get deafened. Giant Owls outclass them except when needing blindsight.
Giant Frog (H0tDQ, Basic, MM) – On hit restrained is good. The swallow is even better, but only works against small creatures.
Giant Lizard (HotDQ, Basic, MM) – Nothing of interest, besides being large size and having a climb speed. Maybe as mounts.
Giant Owl (Basic, MM) – If you can get your DM to use these as mounts or at least get them to carry you, pretty nice. Flyby only protects them, though, not anyone riding or being carried by them. Understands several languages so could be a very useful scout as well. As they are Large and have Flyby, they are very useful in the “Wall of Fur” strategy where you use their actions for the Help action on a few enemies, attack a few others and then have them fly away and make a wall in front of your allies.. The main downside here is +3 to hit, but if you’re using Help a lot, this gets better.
Giant Poisonous Snake (Basic, MM) – Good to hit for the CR, but decent damage is backloaded onto a failed save.
Giant Spider (HotDQ, Starter) – Large, climb even upside down, could make for ambushes. A recharging restrained ranged ability, but can easily be attacked out of.
Giant Wolf Spider (Basic, MM) – Climbing, including upside down on ceilings, could make for an ambush. Low to-hit and damage is unimpressive. Failing the poison save does cause paralysed.
Panther (PHB, Basic, MM) – Charge includes the possibility of two attacks. Ganging up on targets will get advantage as soon as the target goes prone.
Pteranodon (Basic, MM) – Flyby, but low to hit rolls. Better to fly in, use Help, and fly away. Giant Owls are better at this and could serve as mounts.
Riding Horse (PHB, Basic, MM) – Giving your party mounts could be useful in some situations. Elk are just better for this, though.
Swarm of Rats/Bats/Ravens (Basic, MM) – Can occupy space of other creatures, but gets worse at damage as time goes on. I’d skip it. Might not even be allowed from Conjure Animals. The swarms with fly speed are slightly better.
Wolf (PHB, Basic, MM) – Pack Tactics and the chance to knock prone on a hit. Pack Tactics is the reason they are rated higher than some others in the challenge class.
Mud Mephit (MM) – A recharge attack and a death burst which can restrain. False Appearance could work for ambushes.
Smoke Mephit (MM)- A recharge attack that blinds. Its death burst only obscures, which affects both creatures in the burst as those trying to see into it. Innately cast Dancing Lights.
Steam Mephit (MM) – Innately cast Blur. Its breath and death burst both do damage, but not much. Blur could maybe let them be an effective wall against low level enemies, but low AC hinders that.
Sprite (PHB, MM) – Could be used as scouts, but not much else. Very tiny possibility of knocking creatures unconscious. Heart Sight could come in handy occasionally.
Pixie(MM) – Yes, they only have 1 HP. That is true. Keep them out of harm’s way because they have an amazing innate spellcasting list. 1/day each: confusion, dancing lights, detect evil and good, detect thoughts, dispel magic, entangle, fly, phantasmal force, polymorph, sleep. Remember, you’re going to have at least EIGHT of these things. EIGHT!! There’s a ton of synergies here. A few examples: 1. 4 Person party, or more if you cast at a higher slot. Polymorph the adventuring party into Giant Crocodiles, cast Fly, carry your enemies into the sky and drop them. 2. Polymorph your opponent’s into frogs and then walk away or sleep your enemies and then auto-crit them or do both, since a bunch of frogs have 1 HP, you can easily get 5 of them asleep. 3. Sleep an encounter, then Polymorph your Pixies into Wolves for the next encounter or to finish up the current one. Pixies are insanely useful and very versatile. If you’re using a slot at this level for other purposes, you’re probably not doing it right.
Ape (PHB, Basic) – Multiattack is decent. Also has a ranged attack if you’re farther away.
Black Bear (PHB, MM, Basic) – Multiattack is a good thing.
Crocodile (PHB,MM, HotDQ, Basic) – Automatic grapple and restrain and can hold breath for 15 minutes, so nearby water is very useful.
Giant Goat (MM, Basic) – Can knock prone, but doesn’t get a second attack like the War Horse. is Large, so can block a good bit of space, used as mount.
Giant Sea Horse (MM, Basic) – A charge attack that knocks prone, basically an underwater Giant Goat. Rating bumps up to black if you’re completely underwater. What prone means underwater is not very clear. Currently, it means all the same things it does when you’re on ground. The prone creature stays in is current position and has to spend half its movement to “stand up,” or it can crawl at half speed and gives advantage to melee attacks. Could also be argued as a good aquatic mount.
Giant Wasp (MM, Basic) – Flies 50′. Low HP for the CR. Has a poison attack with backloaded damage though it does paralyze.
Reef Shark (PHB, MM, Basic) – Pack Tactics is good, but only underwater breathing. This bumps up in ratings as soon as you’re completely under water.
Swarm of Insects (MM, HotDQ, Basic) – Climb speed, condition immunities and damage resistances are nice, low to-hit but decent damage. If your DM allows the variants, you can get a flying version. Because the Swarm is “beasts” and not “beast” may be some question as to whether Conjure Animals can conjure them.
War Horse (PHB,MM,Basic) – Large size. Can knock prone and get a second attack if the first one hits after a charge. Great as mounts.
Magmin (MM) – Can be used similar to Dancing Lights. Persistent damage against creatures hit. Death burst for low damage.
Dust Mephit (MM) – Area attack and death burst that both can blind enemies. Can cast Sleep innately 1/day. A minimum of four Sleep spells can be very useful, especially against lower CR enemies.
Ice Mephit (MM) – Innate Fog Cloud is occasionally useful. Death burst and area attack deal damage.
Magma Mephit (MM) – Innate Caster of Heat Metal. That’s pretty great in the right situation. Area and death burst to do damage.
Satyr (MM, Basic) – Advantage on ST against spells and magic. That’s the best thing it’s got going for it. If the DM allows you to take the Satyr Pipes version, you get a pretty awesome summon which has the ability to charm, frighten, or sleep anything with 60′ of it without using any spells at-will. It can do this over and over, as an action. It will affect your allies as well, though Charmed in that situation isn’t bad, but sleep and frightened will be a problem. Without the Satyr Pipes version, overshadowed by Pixies.
Brown Bear (PHB,MM,Basic) – Multiattacking is a good thing.
Dire Wolf (PHB,MM,Basic) – Like Wolves, but bigger and more survivable. Two isn’t bad, but higher slots for more is even better.
Giant Eagle (PHB,MM,Basic) – Multiattack is good, flying is good. Excellent scouts.
Giant Hyena (MM,Basic) – Rampage makes for a great finishing ability. You maybe don’t want them going first, but still want them to survive long enough to use Rampage. This might be a better option if you mix and match you’re summons. A Dire Wolf and a Giant Hyena together could be interesting. Sadly, the giant version of the Hyena does not include Pack Tactics, so you’re relying on the prone condition for advantage.
Giant Octopus – (MM,Basic) – Much better underwater, but can still work on land. Attacks at 15′ grapple and restrain with DC 16 to escape the grab. That’s pretty good. 10′ walking speed is pretty bad. Don’t worry about the water breathing as you only have the creatures for an hour anyway and they can hold their breath that long.
Giant Spider (PHB,MM,HotDQ,Basic) – Climb speed, poison and paralysis from an attack, and ranged restrain are nice but the restraining web can be cut out of fairly easily.
Giant Toad (MM,Basic) – Grapple and restrain on a hit with an additional ability to swallow a single creature.
Lion (PHB,MM,Basic) – Pack Tactics, running leap and pounce for a multiattack make for a very strong creature.
Swarm of Quippers (MM, Basic) – Some question to whether swarms can be conjured, but if you’re underwater this actually looks okay. Gets advantage against those that have less than half HP and has great damage potential. Somewhat low HP.
Tiger (PHB,MM,Basic) – Similar to the Lion, but more survivable. No Pack Tactics, so lower on offence.
Giant Vulture (MM,Basic) – Pack Tactics and Flying. Multiattack with decent damage on both attacks.
Dryad (MM) – Innate spellcasting including 3/day Goodberry. That’s 30 HP times the number of Dryads you Conjure. A minimum of 60 HP from Conjure Woodland Beings. That’s just silly. Pass Without Trace can be extremely useful. Barkskin is not too amazing, but could keep the Dryad’s alive longer. Also has 3/day Entangle. On top of all that, the Dryads have a Charm action which can be repeated, though only one humanoid and three beasts can be charmed at one time and only humanoids and beasts can be targetted by the ability. 1/day Shillelagh keeps the Dryads useful even after they’ve used all their spells.
Fire Snake – Trades vulnerability to cold for immunity to fire and has your typical weapons resistances (nonmagical). Anything that attacks or touches it takes fire damage and it has a 2-attack action.
Allosaurus (MM, Basic) – Good to hit, great damage, possible multiattack with a prone on the first attack with Pounce. Good stuff here. Damage is higher on the main attack so you don’t feel as bad if you don’t get the prone in.
Giant Boar (MM,Basic) – Like smaller boars but bigger and more damage. Relentless and the charge to prone are still here as well.
Giant Constrictor Snake (MM,Basic) – A huge creature that can grapple and restrain on a hit. This is pretty fantastic. If you’re summoning any more than one of these it’s just that much better. Huge means you’re blocking off so much space.
Giant Elk (MM,Basic) – Another huge beast, with a knock prone on charge ability. You may occasionally be able to use for RP features such as what’s described below it’s stat block.
Hunter Shark (MM,Basic) – Blood frenzy gives advantage after things have been hit once. Decent damage. Blindsight is nice. Only in water.
Plesiosaurus (MM, Basic) – Large, swim 40′, 10′ reach, perception and stealth training. There are worse options.
Polar Bear (MM,Basic) – If you can wing the variant, you get darkvision. Multiattack is nice. 4
Rhinoceres (MM,Basic) – Charge with a prone save, but higher than most at DC 15.
Saber-Toothed Tiger (MM,Basic) – Pounce allows for a possible prone (DC 14) and a second attack if the target falls.
Swarm of Poisonous Snakes (MM,Basic) – Backloaded poison damage. Not clear if you can even summon this. I’d probably pass anyway.
Azer (MM)- Decent AC, decent HP, things that hit it or touch it take damage. Pretty good damage as well. Can run shield and warhammer or two-hand the warhammer for a tiny bit more damage.
Gargoyle (MM,HotDQ,Basuc) – Great resistances, poison immunity, condition immunities, fly speed, darkvision, then there’s multattack as well. Very nice. Could tank a little but not great at it considering only medium size.
Sea Hag (MM) – Horrific Appearance could be useful but affects both allies and enemies. Could easily backfire. Your party could avert their eyes, but that might lead to other issues when you’re trying to attack something near the hag. Also a frightened action and okay damage on an attack. Both Eight Pixies or Two Dryads look like better options than this.
Pegasus (MM,Basic) – Our first Celestial! Sadly, not much to talk about other than using it as a flying mount. Look to the Coautl unless you need a mount, and if you have a higher slot to use and need a good mount, consider the Unicorn.
Ankylosaurs (MM.Basic) – Good AC, attack can knock prone. Huge.
Giant Scorpion (MM,Basic) – Three attack action, claw, claw, sting. This means you could potentially get two grappled targets and deal one of them poison. If you have the Giant Insect spell, you’re better off using it for this than Conjure Fey since it only requires a level 4 slot instead of a level 6.
Killer Whale (MM,Basic) – One of the more hilarious targets for Polymorph. Using half your Pixies from Conjure Woodland Beings to Polymorph your party into this and the other half to cast Fly is simply hilarious. Remember to find a way to protect your Pixies in that situation. Whales breathe air, so you don’t have to worry about suffocating. If you start falling for some reason, be sure to make friends with a pot of petunias.
Water Weird (MM) – Can’t leave the water. 10′ reach attack that pulls towards water and grapples and restrains. Only one target at a time, though. It can’t leave the water, though.
Green Hag (MM) – This is the only current Fey target for Conjure Fey that can’t be summoned by Conjure Woodland Beings. If you want an hour of at-will Viscious Mockery (at DC 12) then this is great. If not, then probably don’t even learn Conjure Fey unless you’re just hoping for something more down the road. I imagine there will be. Mimicry can also be useful, but you can do a very similar thing with Druidcraft at-will.
Elephant (MM,Basic) – A huge beast with a second attack on prone, good damage but low AC.
Couatl (MM) – Of only two valid targets from a 7th level slot (the other being Pegasus), we’ve got some good stuff going on here. AC19, fantastic save proficiencies, plenty of HP, Fly 90′, Innate spellcaster with DC 14. At-will of detect magic, detect E&G, and detect thoughts and then 3/day bless, cure wounds, lesser restoration, sanctuary, and shield. The you’ve also got greater restoration and some others 1/day, 24 hour Poison condition on a hit from its bite, constrict gives grappled and restrained (which would allow you to fly straight up and drop him), and the ability to change into a humanoid or beast of CR 4 or lower. Although you’ve got basically no other choices, it’s hard to say whether this will be beat when new choices arrive. I’d suggest this over the higher level Unicorn in most situations.
This is where Conjure Elementals has it’s most options. Six elementals that are all very decent for one purpose or another. All of them save the Xorn are Large creatures. The Giant Crocodile is probably the best option for Conjure Fey currently available
Giant Crocodile (MM,Basic) – One of the favourites of the Polymorph grappler. With Pixies, you’re entire party can get in on the fun and maybe be flying while doing it. A two-attack action with one attack that can grapple and restrain and then a second that can prone. You can also pull enemies underwater to suffocate them, since you can hold breath for 30 minutes. A fantastic target for Conjure Fey as well.
Giant Shark (MM,Basic) – Blood frenzy is interesting, good damage on attacks, blind-sight, but can only breathe underwater. That might not be such a problem for Polymorph. A constitution modifier of +5 means you fight for 6 minutes and 5 seconds before you drop to 0, and then revert to your normal form. There may be some question as to whether you’re consider dying at that point as the suffocating rules state, “at the start of its next turn, it drops to 0 hit points and is dying.” Either way, I wouldn’t try this trick unless you can also get a Fly speed and I’d probably suggest Giant Crocodile anyway.
Triceratops (MM,Basic) – Huge, possible prone on charge with an extra attack. Solid damage. So-so AC.
Unicorn (MM) – AC is low, but look at what all this has. Charge attack inlcuding prone on DC15. Innate spellcasting (DC14) including at-will pass without a trace. Magic resistance, multiattack with so-so damage. Healing 3/day for average of 11 HP which also removes poisons and diseases. Teleport with 3 allies 1/day up to a mile. And then, there’s the legendary actions. Off-turn attacks, bonus AC for itself or another creature, healing of itself. Keep in mind Legendary actions return at the start of each of its turns. You could have an off-turn attack and boost a creature’s AC every turn. Still, is the Couatl better overall? I think it is.
Air Elemental (MM,Basic) – Can enter hostile creatures spaces. Whirlwind is interesting but unpredictable. good AC and HP. Two attack action with okay damage. Resistant to several elemental types as well as weapon types. Immune to more conditions than other elementals. You can also try a grab, fly, and drop.
Earth Elemental (MM,Basic) – Great AC, great HP, resistant to weapons, tremorsense, can move through stone and earth. Great against objects or structures as damage is doubled. Two attacks with okay damage.
Fire Elemental (MM,Basic) – Moves through small spaces. Deals damage when touched or attacked. Can move into hostile creature’s space to deal damage which persists until someone puts the fire out. Illuminates the room. Water does damage to it. Two attack action with persistent damage, weaker on the initial hit than other elementals.
Water Elemental (MM,Basic) – Can enter hostile creature’s spaces. Cold damage slows it down. A recharge attack that grapples and restrains and suffocates with persistent damage while grappled. Escape is moderately high at DC14, though a nearby creature can pull others out of the effect.
Salamander (MM) – Attack or touch it and take damage. Multiattack includes a hit to grapple which can also be used on OAs- but limited to one grapple and only making tail attacks against grappled creature.
Xorn (MM) – Resistant to most piercing and slashing, great AC score, darkvision, tremorsense, passive perception of 16, earth glide, stone camouflage, treasure sense and a FOUR attack multiattack make for a very interesting creature. The attacks are a bit weak on damage, sadly. Terran is a dialect of Primordial so the Xorn makes for possibly the best underground scout if you can learn Primordial. Pinpointing coins with treasure sense might allow you to figure out where creatures are hiding.
Mammoth (MM,Basic) – Trampling charge to maybe prone and get another hit in. Great damage on both attacks. Also, it’s a mammoth. That’s just cool. Good target for Conjure Fey.
Galeb Duhr (MM) – Weapon resistances, decently high AC. Rolling charge does extra damage and knocks prone. 1/day can animate two boulders to be dumb versions of itself. Three for the price of one is not bad, but they only last one minute. I’d say CR 5 has better options than this.
Invisible Stalker (MM) – It’s invisible, which is pretty great. Always knows the location of its quarry. Because it’s invisible, it will have Advantage on attacks and Disadvantage when attacked. Good damage resistances and immune to some annoying conditions. Primordial allows you to talk to it, as Aurun is a dialect. I initially thought this was only good as a tracker, but it’s ability to avoid hits due to invisibility and to have advantage on attacks (two a turn) is pretty fantastic.
Giant Ape (MM) – Bad AC, good HP, multiattack for good damage. Decent option for Conjure Fey but the Giant Crocodile is maybe better.
Tyrannosaurus Rex (MM) – Multiattack but forced to use them against two targets. Bite does grapple and restrain with DC17 to escape. Higher HP and better save scores than the Giant Crocodile but the Giant Crocodile is more versatile and has higher AC.
The spells in this section follow a similar theme to the conjuration spells but typically work very differently. All of these options should likely be addressed by your DM or event organizers (for AL play) before you consider them. There are some groups that simply will not tolerate a necromancer as a PC character. Your Find Steed options may be limited to only those listed in the spell. Simulacrum doesn’t have many issues except for the costs it takes to cast and heal it, and whether or not an “alchemical laboratory” can host a creature if you copy a large or larger original.
3rd Level Cleric, Wizard
You animate either corpses or pile of bones to become zombies or skeletons, respectively. I don’t think this is a great spell unless you’re taking the Necromancy (more animated per slot, HP bonuses) school on a Wizard, though it gets better with higher slots for any useras higher slots animate additional corpses or piles of bones. You can recast the spell to keep the same zombies or skeletons alive each day.
Your choice is binary and also based on what’s in your environment. You’re not allowed by the spell to summon other forms of zombies and skeletons like what’s shown in the Monster Manual. If there are only corpses, you can only get zombies. If there are only bones, you can only get skeletons. Both zombies and skeletons have some pros and cons. Both zombies and skeletons share these traits: Immunity to the poison condition and poison damage, Darkvision to 60′. Both are terrible at mental saves. Zombies are slightly better with STR and slightly better with CON. Skeletons are quite a bit better with DEX and don’t lose much in physical stats for it. Zombies have almost twice as much HP and have Undead Fortitude, which could keep them alive indefinitely. Skeletons have better AC, a better +bonus to hit and better damage, has options for ranged and melee attacks, but have vulnerability to bludgeoning. They’be both good and in some situations you’ll definitely want one over the other.
5th Level Sorcerer or Wizard
You animate objects to fight for you. Somewhere between three (a huge and two tiny/small) to ten (all tiny/small) possible objects, with several options in between. You give them a general command and they do you’re bidding. Bigger objects have lower AC and Dexbut higher damage, HP, and Str. Smaller objects have higher AC and Dex, but lower HP and Str. The spell is also only Verbal and Somatic, so as long as you aren’t gagged and you have a hand free you can use this- such as in a situation where all your equipment has been put out of your reach.
6th Level Cleric, Warlock or Wizard
Instead of creating Zombies or Skeletons, you can now create Ghouls. With higher slots on this spell, you can create ghasts, wights, or mummies. This is a lot more interesting than Animate Dead though you don’t get as many minions. If you’re going for quantity, Animate Undead is your spell. That said, there is definitely some interesting fun to be had here. Ghouls bring a paralyzing attack with their claws but they have a fairly low to-hit and damage on their attacks, they also have a higher damage standard attack with a lower to-hit. Ghasts have a Poisoned stench aura which continually causes saving throws as well as Turning Defiance to protect all your undead from those silly Clerics. Also includes a paralyzing attack as well as a higher damage attack with a lower to-hit. Wights have sunlight sensitivity, which hurts. Life Drain could cause you to have even more undead at your control if you keep reasserting your Wights. Mummies Rotting Fist and Dreadful Glare are interesting but ultimately the save DC is quite low. Overall I think the Wights are the best option due to Life Drain, though this depends on the life of your campaign and how long you think you can keep them alive and reasserted. Ghasts or Mummies are likely second best. Ghouls are fine if you need numbers, but again, Animate Dead can give you higher amounts.
2nd Level Paladin
A good flavorful spell for the Paladin, but it takes away from your daily number of Smites. Still, some paladins will enjoy using this. All of the options are in my lists for Beasts above. The Warhorse is likely your best option from those listed in the spell description. Some of the better mount possibilities you might talk your DM into include Wolves, Dire Wolves, Elephants, Giant Elk, Giant Spider, Mammoth Winter Wolves…. There’s quite a few good options. As this spell includes so much DM fiat, you’ll want to work your DM to figure out what will be allowed in the campaign. A good suggestion might be to allow it to get better as you level up, so you can eventually take bigger creatures, flying mounts (Pegasus), and more magical creatures (Unicorn).
4th Level Druid
You’ll end up with either 10 Giant Centipedes, three Giant Spiders, five Giant Wasps, or one Giant Scorpion. One Giant Scorpion may be the best option on the list, though all of the options have some strength to them. In some situations, this is better than Conjure Animals, but only lasts 10 minutes. I’d probably start carrying jars of insects if I wanted to use this spell often as it does specifically say those insects must be in range, not as a material component (which would be covered by a focus or component pouch).
Mordenkeinen’s Faithful Hound
4th Level Wizard
8 hour duration, not concentration, can’t be harmed, deals good damage without taking your actions. Unfortunately immobile.
6th Level Cleric
Risky, as the creature that is delivered to you is not necessarily going to do what you want. Also potentially very expensive. Be smart when you do this, and already have a plan for how to get the creature to help with your task or know what sort of creature might be the most willing to do so at a discount.
7th Level Wizard
This can copy literally any creature you see, everything about that creature. This can be used for quite a lot of reasons such as copying some creature that will be useful in combat (this includes other PCs, amusingly enough) or deceiving someone into thinking someone who isn’t there is there. It is fairly expensive- 1500gp is the only listed cost for materials, but getting that much snow could be prohibitive in certain climes. Additionally, healing it requires money- 100gp for every HP you heal. At the point you have this spell, these amounts may be small to you, but that certainly depends on your campaign. If money’s hard to come by, this might not be good for you. Additionally, the spell takes 12 hours to cast- all of which the original must be present for. Healing mentions no time, but it does require you to be in an alchemical laboratory. If the creature is of any size, this could potentially be an issue. The creature lasts as long as it has hit points and you deifnitely get more out of creatures whose abilitie’s are “always on,” rather than the result of spells. It does not specifically say that abilities that are not spells that recharge on rests are lost, so you may be able to copy something like a Battle Master Fighter, and still get the Superiority Dice back when the copy takes a short rest.
9th Level Sorcerer or Wizard
While this spell is not a conjuration or similar spell itself, it can cast any of them. One of it’s better uses is Simulacrum. Instead of taking 24 hours, you take 6 seconds. It can also be used on any of the conjuration spells as if they were at 8th level or lower, including spells that are not on your list. This spell has so many uses that it’s difficult to say what it’s best use is, but the shortening of longer casting time spells is probably one of the best options.
Conjuration spells are Concentration spells. So Resilient (Constitution) and War Caster are your best friends (unless you get CON saving throws from a multiclass). Conjuration wizards might be able to suffere through until 10th level without War Caster. It’s other features likely won’t be important unless you gained shield proficiency from somewhere, as all conjure spells are at least vocal and somatic.
Inspiring Leader – Doesn’t fit with the main conjuring classes, but if your summons can understand you, a small boost could be worthwile. Eats into ten minutes of the summoned time, though. Might be good if you’re summons survive with some hits after a battle in which you conjure them.
Healer – If you summon eight wolves, and they all take a little damage, you could have them all at full health in 48 seconds. Costs a small bit of money to keep purchasing the healer’s kits.
Linguist – If you really want to be able to communicate with some of the elemental and fey conjurations and couldn’t pick the language up another way, this might be alright. Keep in mind downtime days can also be used to learn languages and Comprehend Languages can be used as a ritual.
Magic Initiate – How good this is depends on what you take with it. Bless, Goodberry, Speak with Animals are all good targets.
Ritual Caster – This is most useful for the Ranger, as he does not cast rituals natively. If you’re thinking of taking at least three classes in Warlock, the Pact of the Tome with the Book of Ancient Secrets Invocation is arguably a better route. Keep in mind that rituals require concentration while you are casting them and they take 10 minutes longer than normal. This means you aren’t able to conjure animals and then ritual cast Speak With Animals to discuss things after they go scouting. It’s one or the other.
Helpful Non-Summoning Spells
Some of these will require multiclassing or Magic Initiate, but all have some way in which they improve your conjurations. Remember, all these spells are competing for casting conjurations, so keep that in mind.
Aid – 2nd Level Cleric or Paladin Spell. If it targeted more creatures, this might look better. As is, could keep your conjurations alive a bit longer. I’d be more likely to use this if summoning a smaller number of creatures. If you’re going 5 levels with the Paladin, maybe go one more to get the Aura of Protection, which boosts your concentration saving throws.
Animal Shapes – 8th Level Druid Spell. This spell has three issues currently. The first being Conjure Woodland Beings does this and at higher beast CRs possibly with flying at Druid level 7. The second being that it’s concentration with a long duration. The third being that it only allows up to CR 4 Beasts, and only Large or smaller. If it allowed Huge, your entire party could be Elephants, which would be pretty good. If it allowed CR 5, you could be Giant Crocodiles. Instead, you’re main choices are Allosaurus and Sabre-Toothed Tiger. Not terrible, but you’re likely losing AC by doing this. Other good uses would be giving a fly speed, climb speed, or swim speed and water breathing for situations where those things might be necessary.
Bless – 1st Level Cleric or Paladin Spell. Looks good, but it’s concentration. Ask a Cleric or Paladin that comes along to cast it for you.
Blink – 3rd Level Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard Spell. As far as I can tell, there is nothing stating you have to remain within any distance of your conjurations except when giving them verbal commands. Blink lets you pop in, give your verbal commands, and then possibly pop out of the combat again. If anyone’s aware of a rule that keeps this from happening, let me know.
Comprehend Languages – 1st Level Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock or Wizard Spelll. You can listen to things said by your conjurations, but cannot speak back in their language unless you know it from some other means. Can also be taken by the feats Magic Initiate and Ritual Caster.
Crusader’s Mantle – Paladin Level 3. This looks awesome at first glance… but it’s Concentration. If you have a Paladin ally, plead him for this. It will be that good. This is at least light blue for Necromancers, and willl be more useful to those that can get the Oathbreaker sub-class once the DMG is out.
Feather Fall – 1st Level Bard, Sorcerer, Wizard Spell. Protect yourself and four conjurations from falling damage… if your party won’t hate you for not protecting them. Magic Initiate can grab this.
Goodberry – 1st Level Druid or Ranger Spell. A single slot for 10 HP back to one of your creatures can be quite good. A Druid on a downtime day could spend all their slots to have a good store of berries for the next day. Decent grab for Magic Initiate.
Haste – 3rd Level Sorcerer or Wizard Spell. It’s concentration. Oh, how I wish it wasn’t concentration.
Message – Bard, Sorcerer, Wizard Cantrip. Send commands to your conjurations from hard cover. Just send it around the corner or through it if it’s not too thick.
Mirror Image – 2nd Level Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard spell. Reducing the chance you’ll be hit by an attack improves your likelihood to not be broken by concentration.
Prayer of Healing – 2nd Level Cleric. 10 Minute casting, so you have to concentrate on it (PHB p202). If you’ve conjured, finished a battle quickly, maybe an ally can heal your conjurations for you and you can get to another engagement or use your conjurations for utility.
Tongues – 3rd Level Bard, Cleric, Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard. A better version of Comprehend Languages, but doesn’t work for writing. Whether this works with beast conjurations is somewhat questionable, as they mostly do not have languages defined or state they cannot speak the languages they know (e.g Giant Owl).
Sanctuary – 1st Level Cleric. A defensive spell. Completely prevent creatures from possibly attacking you without concentration. Good stuff. The only prohibitive part is that you cannot cast a spell or attack while under the Sanctuary. By RAW, this means your verbal commands to your conjurations are allowed and won’t end the spell, even if they are for the summons to attack.
Shield – 1st Level Sorcerer or Wizard spell. Possible candidate for Magic Initiate as well. +5 AC for a round will be useful at every level of the game, and it casts a reaction.
Speak with Animals – 1st Level Bard, Druid, or Ranger spell. A target for both Magic Initiate and Ritual Caster. Instead of only being able to give verbal commands to your beast conjurations, you can converse with them.
Spiritual Weapon – An easy way to increase DPR without breaking your concentration.
Teleport – 7th Level Bard or Wizard spell. You and up to eight conjurations (or party members, I guess) can teleport with you.
Warding Bond – 2nd Level Cleric. It’s questionable if you can use this on yourself, but it’s very good if you can. For 1 hour, you get +1 to saving throws and AC. You also take as much damage as your bond takes (ie, you) but you resist all damage, so the damage you take twice is halved each time. I think practically this means you take normal damage, but you take damage twice and you reduce odd amounts of damage by 1. Because you take damage twice, that means you make two seperate concentration saves. This is definitely a better option if you have a high CON, which you should really consider having anyway. Cleric’s can get away with this in the heavy armor domains without worry. Druid’s can rely on their Wild Shape for defense a bit (especially if you MC into Monk).