Chaos bolt is a very powerful, and sometimes extremely jinxed, 1st-level spell falling under the sorcerer spell list. Here we discuss the basic traits, optimizations, and differences between chaos bolt and another similar spell.
Chaos Bolt 5e
Casting time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S
A concentration of chaos energy is thrown toward one target in range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. If hit, the target takes 2d8 + 1d6 damage.
Take one of the d8 dies, the number on one die you chose will be the type of damage dealt to the target, and the other number on the d8 die will be the damage. See below:
d8 Damage Types
If the same number is rolled on both d8 dies, the chaotic energy then strikes another target (which you choose) within 30 feet of the previous target.
A new attack roll should be made against this target, as well as a new 1d8 damage roll.
This can cause another chaotic energy strike, having another chance to yet again strike another target (the strikes continue based on how many double d8s you roll, keep in mind how many targets there are).
Choose wisely because once the strike happens, the same target cannot be targeted by another casting of the spell.
When At Higher Levels: If the spell is cast using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, all targets affected take an extra 1d6 damage of the type rolled for each slot level above the 1st.
Is Chaos Bolt Good in 5e?
At first glance, chaos boltcan easily be overlooked by players wanting more constant damage output. Mostly due to chaos bolt not having a consistent damage type. This is, in fact, why the spell is so GOOD!
Think about it. You have a 1 in 8 chance to cast any one of the damage types listed above, all with a 1st-level spell. One of the main reasons for this spell being so good is because it includes poison, psychic, force, thunder, acid, and lightning.
Poison in itself isn’t a very reliable damage type due to many creatures being immune to it. On the other hand, many creatures aren’t very resistant to poison.
This means you will either do massive damage against a target with low resistance or no damage against a creature that is immune. Luckily you still have 7 other damage types that you can potentially roll.
Force and psychic damages are some of the least resisted damage types in the game, and only a select few creatures are immune to them. This means you will always deal reliable damage to most creatures in the game.
Thunder is an extremely reliable damage type that is present in low-level spells (cantrip and 1st-level) such as Thunderclap, Thunderwave, and Thunderous Smite.
Very few creatures are resistant to thunder, and almost none are immune to it. One creature is even vulnerable to thunder.
Acid and lightning are very similar to each other as few creatures resist their damage, and even fewer are immune to it.
Acid and lightning are extremely reliable rolls made increasingly better by the damage dealt by 1d8 and the other 1d6 die.
How You Can Optimize Chaos Bolt?
Getting value from this spell won’t come from its damage output, low-level access, or even its diverse damage types. It will come from knowing how many and which enemies to use it on.
Using it against a single enemy will usually be a waste, as you have a 12.5% chance to roll the damage type you need.
On the other hand, if you roll a double, then you won’t get any benefit from the bonus target, as there is no other target to jump to.
Using it against a group of enemies doesn’t automatically deal more damage. However, it uses the randomness of the spell to your advantage. If you can roll a double, you will be putting out a lot of area of effect damage with one spell.
Hopefully, you will be blessed by the randomness of the spell since you have only a 12.5% chance to roll any one of the 8 damage types. You might even be able to save your party…or not!
What Is Better, Chaos Bolt or Chromatic Orb?
Many players compare chaos bolt to chromatic orb as they share some similarities regarding their damage types, however, which one is better?
We have to start by looking at what you need to cast both spells. Both spells fall under 1st-level evocation, are instantaneous, and are cast using 1 action.
The main difference is that the chromatic orb needs a 50G diamond to be cast, while the chaos bolt doesn’t. Making it especially difficult for low-level players to even cast it.
When casting chromatic orb, you will be able to choose between 6 damage types (fire, cold, acid, poison, lightning, and thunder).
Even though chromatic orbs possess potential damage types that are very reliable, like thunder, lightning, and acid. Chaos Bolt having access to both psychic and force damage types make it more versatile against resistance and immunities overall.
Chromatic orb does, however, have chaos bolt beat when discussing reliability and player choice.
Being able to choose your damage type without having to roll makes chromatic orb less of a coin flip than chaos bolt. Your damage will, however, be less depending on if creatures have resistances and immunities to your damage types.
Which one should you choose? In my opinion, chromatic orb is too expensive at the start to be viable for most new characters.
Sticking with chaos bolt and having access to force and psychic damage types would be more valuable. It might even save you when you accidentally run into a high-level creature!
In reality, chaos bolt isn’t as bad as players think. Even though its randomness might throw some players off, it can still deal reliable damage in the right situations.
Just hope you are one of the lucky players who roll a double, it might be your character’s end if you don’t!
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