Polymorph is one of the best spells in D&D, but with dozens of options, players are often overwhelmed by the animal kingdom. Here’s how to master it.

Some of Dungeons and DragonsThe spells are so versatile that players can be overwhelmed by the available options. Polymorph is an excellent example of this. The spell allows a caster to transform himself, his allies, or an enemy into a beast of his choice, but with so many options available, it is difficult to decide which one is the best for the situation at hand.

By looking at a few key applications for the spell and the best options within them, players can narrow down their options to a few. The polymorph can be a powerful weapon or the most useful tool for a given situation, but it only reaches its full potential when you understand how to use it in the first place.

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Polymorph essentially transforms its target into any beast of an equivalent or lower level, with the same stats and abilities as its new form. However, there are some important limitations that users should be aware of. Reluctant creatures can make a Wisdom saving throw to resist the spell, the spell itself requires concentration to hold for one hour, and the definition of “beast” applies to a specific creature rating in Dungeons and Dragons Fifth edition. Finally, the target assumes the hit points of its new form and will revert to its original form with its original hit points if they drop to zero while in polymorph.

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A bard faces a great green dragon.

Players looking to use the spell offensively may be tempted to turn their opponent into a useless creature. However, while doing so can create a memorable moment in combat when an epic dragon falls to the ground like a harmless fish, there are some flaws in this strategy. The first is the Wisdom saving throw against unwilling targets. Since the spell does nothing against successful targets, it can be a waste of a fourth-level spell slot. Also, even if successful, the target will revert to its original form after taking enough damage, if the caster breaks concentration, or after an hour. A fish may not be a threat, but if it takes fall damage or suffocates without water, it will turn back into a dragon.

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A rat may be the best option to disable an opponent, as their movement speed, mobility, stats, and attacks are so pitiful that there isn’t much an enemy can do that way. Still, Polymorph is more useful to players or their willing allies, as the saving throw doesn’t matter. To that end, there are many, many possibilities. To break them down into reasonable categories, think about the uses of the spell as combat, exploration, or adaptability. Each of those tasks is best performed by different beasts, and a Polymorph user should keep those options in mind.

Combat is all about getting the highest challenge rating possible, and towards that end, the T. Rex takes the cake. Lower-tier casters can test out a giant monkey or mammoth, but at 25 power and +10 attack, the T. Rex is the best a beast can get. When exploring, a launcher wants to be very mobile and stealth while enjoying the best possible senses for reliable information. To this end, it is difficult to beat the owl. Not only is it a flying creature with dark vision, but it also has an advantage on perception checks and does not provoke attacks of opportunity if it suddenly needs to escape. A more discreet alternative would be a spider, whose ability to climb walls and see in the dark is invaluable for infiltrating tight spaces.

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Perhaps more than combat or exploration, however, Polymorph is ideal for adapting to different environments. There is an even wider variety of creatures that will serve users well for that purpose. Blending into an urban environment is the perfect job for a cat or mastiff and the echolocation of bats makes them ideal for navigating in the dark. When it comes to aquatic environments, the giant shark is probably the best form of underwater battle. Outside of that, the giant octopus has dark vision and camouflage to serve as a water explorer, and if any other member of the group needs a lift, a giant seahorse has the best swimming speed to serve as a fast mount.

Even after narrowing down the options based on the possible use of the situation, there are a staggering number of ways to use Polymorph. Used wisely, a spellcaster can handle virtually any situation, making Polymorph one of the best spells in the game. Even the deadliest weapons and most practical tools are useless if their wielder doesn’t know how to use them, but in the hands of a master, Polymorph’s versatility is unmatched.

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