I was pretty surprised to see a second survey--especially before the second round of playtesting went out--though I was not expecting it to be entirely about “iconic” spells for wizards and clerics. The survey basically goes from levels 1-9, for both classes, asking you to pick the top 5-10 spells that you believe are necessary and/or define a given class.
Most of the spells were, or rather originated, from older editions, though I did see scorching burst mixed in there along with some other decidely “4th Edition” ones that I do not recall. You do not get to choose which edition’s version you prefer, which is a problem for me because frankly I liked the magic missile that required an attack roll (largely because I cannot think of any other spells that work without some kind of roll/saving throw). There was also the matter that while some cleric spells were iconic insofar as I remember clerics having those spells on the list, they did not feel “cleric-y” enough (though, again, without the survey I cannot think of any examples).
Another, larger issue, is that a lot of the spells are just variations of the same thing. You get “cone of fire that does this” and “cone of fire that does that”, and sometimes you get a spin of “cylinder of fire that does this”. You also get the mix of lesser/greater spells, and spells that two two different things, forcing you (depending on the edition) to require two separate spells (ie, light/darkness and flesh to stone/stone to flesh); I personally liked being able to reverse a spell, as it was one less thing and kind of made sense that a wizard could try to unravel something.
All of these very specific spells leads to the issue of making it difficult for a wizard to properly prepare and apply her magic, and I noticed that the further I progressed the fewer boxes I was checking. I kind of felt guilty hitting some of them, thinking that all I am doing is reinforcing the pointless tradition that is keeping D&D grounded in the realm of pseudo-Vancian magic. It makes me think of Nintendo, where all that really gets churned out are slight variations of Mario, Zelda, and Metroid.
Thankfully there were plenty of comment boxes to voice my criticisms, and since Mearls has come by here at least once before, I’ll consolidate and reiterate my feedback again:
Rather than stick with a pseudo-Vancian system, why not just go all the way? Get rid of levels, make sure that spells can have utility beyond a few levels, and put a global cap on spells that a wizard can retain (or give a wizard just general slots, and have some take up more). To me, this makes a lot more sense than having a bunch of spell levels with various spins on a similar effect, that gradually become useless as a wizard levels up.
I like that in D&D Next spell DCs are set by Intelligence rather than level, as it would allow multiclass characters (or those with Arcane Dabbler) to be able to cast magic effectively, though there is still the issue of spell slots with levels; without auto-scaling magic it seems like all you are doing is kind of delaying how useful low-level magic is.
Also, I will pitch in my vote for a wholly new magic system that borrows mechanics from spell points/spell recharge from 3rd Edition’s Unearthed Arcana.