Absorb Elements is an easy to overlook spell for most classes. The spell itself doesn’t deal damage or regain hit points but taking a closer look reveals that it actually does a little bit of both.
The rules for Absorb Elements can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Absorb Elements 5e
Abjuration 1st Level
Casting Time: 1 Reaction
Duration: 1 Round
The spell captures some of the incoming energy, lessening its effect on you and storing it for your next melee attack. You have resistance to the triggering damage type until the start of your next turn. Also, the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage of the triggering type, and the spell ends.
When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the extra damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.
The rules for Absorb Elements indicate the spells biggest strengths and benefits. It is a reaction-based spell, so it only gets cast when needed. It also reduces damage and increases the casters next melee attack damage.
The damage types it works on are limited, though, only working on acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder, which is perhaps the biggest downside.
How does Absorb Elements Work?
Absorb Elements is a reaction spell that is cast when the caster would be subjected to damage from an attack that deals acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage. The caster uses the spell to negate a portion of the incoming damage by granting themselves resistance to the attack.
The spell also adds 1d6 per level of damage of the same type to the caster’s next melee attack. This property can be incredibly useful when fighting multiple enemies that use similar elemental damage.
The downside to this spell and probably the reason it remains at first level is that the majority of creatures, aside from humanoids, that use elemental-based attacks are either immune to or resistant to that type of attack themselves. This makes the damage boost less likely to have a significant impact, but that is not always the case.
Does Absorb Elements Provide Resistance to the Trigger?
In short, the answer is yes, Absorb Elements applies resistance to the triggering attack. This means that the effects of the spell are actually applied in two different instances. First, resistance is applied to the triggering attack, meaning the caster takes half-damage.
For example, An enemy wizard casts a fire-based spell that deals 36 damage. The target of that spell gets a dexterity save for half and passes, reducing the damage to 18. Then the target casts Absorb Elements as a reaction, and this provides resistance to fire, halving the damage again to 9. Ultimately the target of the fire spell takes 9 damage out of a possible 36.
Absorb Elements is a better to have and not need type of spell. It isn’t a mandatory pickup at low levels, although it could prolong the life a squishy caster or add some punch to melee ranger.
Since it is a reaction when the character gets more spells that can be prepared, it might be worth having just in case. At higher levels, and especially if the character is aware of possible elemental threats, focus on the damage reduction more than the extra damage.
Does Absorb Elements Stack?
It is a 5e principle that resistances don’t stack. This applies to Absorb Elements as well. Beyond that, the spell has a target of self and is cast as a reaction of which you only get one per round. This makes it impossible to stack the spell on a target. The same applies with the damage bonus from the spell.
It is important to note that damage and damage reduction can be added to other features that drive similar results. For example, a rogue who can reduce damage via the evasion feature could also use Absorb Elements to reduce it further.
A weapon that deals fire damage could gain a boost from being used with Absorb Elements as well.
Is Absorb Elements a Wizard Spell?
Absorb Elements can be found on many spell lists. It is available to the Artificer, Druid, Eldritch Knight, Ranger, Arcane Trickster, Sorcerer, and Wizard. This makes it widely available.
Just remember that the damage bonus only applies to melee attacks. Not that damage reduction through resistance on call as a reaction isn’t good enough, it just limits the benefits for ranged attack-based characters.
Absorb Elements isn’t the first spell that comes to many players minds when picking them at first level or the first few levels, for that matter. The idea of only being able to use it when an enemy specifically uses that type of attack can be a deterrent.
However, the benefits of having this spell available at later levels, when enemies really start hitting hard, brings into focus how important this spell could be.