Is there anything better in life than seeing that evil wizard raise his hands to cast his mighty spell, and then seeing that spell fizzle into nothing?
Yes, there is! It’s more rewarding when you did that yourself!
Dispel Magic is the trump card in your back pocket to just ruin that enemy spellcaster’s day.
Though, there are plenty of people out there who read this spell description and just…don’t get it at all. That is where I am coming in.
We are going to take a look at this spell in both Pathfinder 1st and 2nd Edition, and break it down to get it to make sense!
Then we are going to follow that up with some recommendations for how to best use Dispel Magic in both editions.
Blue Mana Dispel Magic
Dispel Magic is just different enough in both editions for you to get into trouble if you aren’t sure what is going on. For the purpose of this section, we are going to break them down separately.
Pathfinder First Edition
Let’s take a look at Dispel Magic as it is written in the Pathfinder SRD:
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target or Area one spellcaster, creature, or object
Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no
You can use dispel magic to end one ongoing spell that has been cast on a creature or object, to temporarily suppress the magical abilities of a magic item, or to counter another spellcaster’s spell.
A dispelled spell ends as if its duration had expired. Some spells, as detailed in their descriptions, can’t be defeated by dispel magic. Dispel magic can dispel (but not counter) spell-like effects just as it does spells.
The effect of a spell with an instantaneous duration can’t be dispelled, because the magical effect is already over before the dispel magic can take effect.
You choose to use dispel magic in one of two ways: a targeted dispel or a counterspell.
Dispel Magic is a spell that only takes one standard action to cast, and requires Verbal and Somatic requirements. So unless you have prepared some metamagic beforehand, this one is going to need you to be able to talk and you’ll need at least one hand free to gesture (rudely or otherwise).
The range is a normal medium range spell, so it’s only going to reach a good 20 squares to be in range. Luckily, that is going to get better as you level up, and by the time you even get access to the spell, it’s already got a good boost.
Most single-room fights aren’t going to operate at too long a range anyway. It only affects a single target, but that target can be a person, a creature, or even an object. That last part is important, because you dispel magical items as well as active spells.
Targeted Dispel: One object, creature, or spell is the target of the dispel magic spell. You make one dispel check (1d20 + your caster level) and compare that to the spell with highest caster level (DC = 11 + the spell’s caster level). If successful, that spell ends.
If not, compare the same result to the spell with the next highest caster level. Repeat this process until you have dispelled one spell affecting the target, or you have failed to dispel every spell.
You can also use a targeted dispel to specifically end one spell affecting the target or one spell affecting an area (such as a wall of fire). You must name the specific spell effect to be targeted in this way.
If your caster level check is equal to or higher than the DC of that spell, it ends. No other spells or effects on the target are dispelled if your check is not high enough to end the targeted effect.
If you target an object or creature that is the effect of an ongoing spell (such as a monster summoned by summon monster), you make a dispel check to end the spell that conjured the object or creature.
If the object that you target is a magic item, you make a dispel check against the item’s caster level (DC = 11 + the item’s caster level). If you succeed, all the item’s magical properties are suppressed for 1d4 rounds, after which the item recovers its magical properties.
A suppressed item becomes nonmagical for the duration of the effect. An interdimensional opening (such as a bag of holding) is temporarily closed. A magic item’s physical properties are unchanged: A suppressed magic sword is still a sword (a masterwork sword, in fact). Artifacts and deities are unaffected by mortal magic such as this.
The Targeted Dispel action is for that moment when you simply have to point at an enchanted creature and say “None of that.” You make your dispel check, when you cast the dispel magic. Then just go down the enchanted effects on the creature like a checklist.
If you manage to beat the DC, then the effect is gone. Note, you can only dispel one spell per casting of Dispel Magic. You’ll need to cast it more than once to get any additional effects.
The SRD supplies a good example of how this works:
For example, a 7th-level caster casts dispel magic, targeting a creature affected by stoneskin (caster level 12th) and fly (caster level 6th). The caster level check results in a 19. This check is not high enough to end the stoneskin (which would have required a 23 or higher), but it is high enough to end the fly (which only required a 17).
Had the dispel check resulted in a 23 or higher, the stoneskin would have been dispelled, leaving the fly intact. Had the dispel check been a 16 or less, no spells would have been affected.
You can also target specific spells that have an ongoing effect but aren’t cast on a specific creature. An example being something like an Ice Storm or Grease spell.
Just like the above use on a creature, you make your Dispel Check vs the DC like normal. The difference is that you only get a shot at the spell you want to dispel.
You don’t get a chance to dispel any other effects that might be present if you fail the DC.
It is also possible to dispel summoned creatures just by casting Dispel Magic on the summoned creature. If you manage to be the DC, the summoned creature is banished back to where it was summoned from as though the spell was never cast.
Finally, you can suppress magical item abilities for a limited time. 1d4 Rounds doesn’t sound very long, but it can shift the balance of the encounter dramatically.
Dispel can also be used as an alternative or assistant to Counterspelling.
Counterspell: When dispel magic is used in this way, the spell targets a spellcaster and is cast as a counterspell. Unlike a true counterspell, however, dispel magic may not work; you must make a dispel check to counter the other spellcaster’s spell.
Under normal circumstances in order to Counterspell, you would need to make a Spellcraft check to identify the spell being cast, and then have that spell already prepared.
However with Dispel Magic, you can just have Dispel Magic prepared, and rather than use a Spellcraft check, you make your normal Dispel Check like you were using the Targeted Dispel action.
Who Gets Dispel Magic?
Of the Core Classes, almost everyone gets access to Dispel Magic. For the Bard, the Cleric, the Paladin, the Sorcerer, and the Wizard, Dispel Magic is considered a 3rd level spell. For the Druid, it is a 4th level spell.
Bard gains 3rd level spells at level 7. Clerics and Wizards gain 3rd level spells at level 5. Paladins gain 3rd level spells at level 11. Sorcerers gain access to 3rd level spells at level 6.
Druids can start casting 4th level spells at level 7.
Pathfinder Second Edition
As with most things in Pathfinder 2e, Dispel Magic has been streamlined somewhat.
Dispel Magic Spell 2
Source Core Rulebook pg. 330 2.0
Traditions arcane, divine, occult, primal
Range 120 feet; Targets 1 spell effect or unattended magic item
You unravel the magic behind a spell or effect. Attempt a counteract check against the target. If you successfully counteract a magic item, the item becomes a mundane item of its type for 10 minutes. This doesn’t change the item’s non-magical properties. If the target is an artifact or similar item, you automatically fail.
In this instance, Dispel Magic is the spell that allows you to use the Counteracting action to disrupt the magic of another caster or an object.
When counteracting a spell, you would cast Dispel Magic, then roll your Casting Ability Modifier plus any proficiency bonus vs 10 + Spell Caster Level + Enemy Caster Ability Modifier. Much more simple, but much harder to adapt to any given situation.
For the most part you are contesting against the enemy spell caster directly, rather than worrying directly about the spell itself. However, having immutable rules about what happens seems to be a better option than having to worry about small components of the action.
Best and Creative Uses for Dispel Magic
On the surface, Dispel Magic seems pretty straightforward. Just unmake your enemy’s spells with the snap of the fingers. What is surprising is the fact that most people seem to be sitting on this rather than really using it.
Dispel magic is the perfect spell for a utility caster to just peel away layers of defense and offense from enemy combatants and disrupt the battlefield completely.
Removing Enchantment Buffs from the enemy, or removing curses and debuffs from your own party. Combine that with the ability to suppress any magic on their weapons, armor, or wonderous items, and you can cut the wind right out of an attacking force’s sails.
You can also employ Dispel Magic to end an encounter quickly if you are perceptive. Flying Enemies using magic, can be stripped of their Flying or Hover spells, will plummet to earth and take falling damage.
An enemy with a water breathing spell, can be forced to drown. Battles can be over before they even start if you know where to look!
It should be noted that players who use Dispel Magic frequently, can get somewhat frustrating for the DM to deal with.
As a DM, you can build a huge encounter with Area of Effect spells or powerful Buffs on your monsters, only for the Wizard in the party to just undo everything. If you players are doing this, you could start throwing in antagonists that perhaps aren’t as magical, or don’t depend on magic as much.
Don’t punish the players for their ingenuity, but mix up your encounters to keep them on their toes.
Finally, as a DM, you shouldn’t punish your players with Dispel Magic yourself. The frustration you might be feeling as they use Dispel Magic on your spells and monsters, will also be felt by them if you start unmaking their enchantments regularly.
Use Dispel Magic sparingly to engender a feeling of vulnerability in the party to make sure they don’t get too complacent with certain play styles.
Good Hunting Pathfinders!