There are a ton of spells to grace the Wizard spell books, and a lot of them have incredible utility. From destroying huge groups of foes to carrying your massive piles of loot, a Wizard can do it all. However, there’s a pair of spells that seem to do the same thing; Mage Hand and Unseen Servant. These two spells both involve unconnected limbs, moving objects around, or doing basic actions far away from the wizard. So what reasons do you have to do one over the other? Which one should you choose if you can only take one? Let’s explore these spells in this Mage Hand vs Unseen Servant guide.
D&D 5E Mage Hand vs Unseen Servant
These are legitimately similar spells, but there are a ton of reasons to choose one over the other! They each do their job in a unique and specific way, so you can take both of them if you really want to. However, one is a bit better than the other, for an obvious reason.
Mage Hand: Pros and Cons
Mage hand is a Cantrip for Bards, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. This hand lasts for a minute, though you can dismiss it early as an action.
You can use your action to control the hand. You can use the hand to manipulate an object, open an unlocked door or container, stow or retrieve an item from an open container, or pour the contents out of a vial. You can move the hand up to 30 feet each time you use it.
The hand can’t attack, activate magic items, or carry more than 10 pounds.
The limitations of your hand are thus, though the hand can never get farther than 30 feet from you. “Manipulate an object” can be a little bit generic; can the hand pull a lever that requires a Strength check, for example? If it tries, does it simply fail or does the Wizard roll a check? That’s kind of up to the DM. However, you can see how varied the Mage Hand is! It can do a ton of stuff, and it moves around relatively fast. 10 pounds is a relatively high amount of weight, too! It won’t save your allies from a cliff, but it can carry a sword over to an ally while the Wizard is imprisoned. And it can do all this stuff while being a Cantrip that doesn’t take your Concentration!
However, there’s a few downsides. It’s slow, it takes up your action, and while 10 pounds is actually pretty good, it does limit what you’re allowed to grab. This 10 pound limit is enough for most DMs to call the hand incredibly weak, and is the most likely result of you trying to pull that rusty old lever. And unfortunately, that’s a very reasonable downside for a cantrip!
Unseen Servant: Pros and Cons
Unseen Servant is a 1st level (ritual) spell for Bards, Warlocks, or Wizards. The servant lasts for 1 hour, has 10 AC, 1 hit point, and 2 Strength.
Once on each of your turns as a bonus action, you can mentally command the servant to move up to 15 feet and interact with an object. The servant can perform simple tasks that a human servant could do, such as fetching things, cleaning, mending, folding clothes, lighting fires, serving food, and pouring wine. Once you give the command, the servant performs the task to the best of its ability until it completes the task, then waits for your next command.
If you command the servant to perform a task that would move it more than 60 feet away from you, the spell ends.
So, right away, this spell is much more versatile than Mage Hand! The servant can do so much more than a hand; a human servant can do everything that a Mage Hand could do. In addition, the servant can do pretty complex things, like folding clothes or serving food. Just… make sure you’re not giving him an entire Chimera to carry to the table, he only has 2 Strength. You only need to spend a bonus action on each of your turns to command the Servant, and it doesn’t take your concentration. And the range is double the range of Mage Hand!
However, there’s one huge downside; it’s a first level spell. Unseen Servant requires you to sit down and spend 10 minutes to cast it without burning spell slots. Even if you do so, you now have one less spell known to work with! That’s the only downside, but it’s a fairly huge one!
Should You Learn Both?
It’s a rare occurrence that requires you to have both Mage Hand and Unseen Servant. If you are a Bard or Warlock (especially a Warlock), Unseen Servant is a huge weight on you. You already have so few spells known; why limit yourself to only a few 1st level options?
A Wizard, however, can learn both spells quite reasonably. Unseen Servant is still a fantastic spell, and can do a ton that Mage Hand can’t. You can run both if you really want to! Unseen Servant tends to be a bit better in social encounters, allowing you to flex your magical chops while chatting with rich people.
While Unseen Servant is better, it tends not to be necessary. Mage Hand does everything that you should actually know.