Chromatic Orb is a high damage spell at 1st level with little competition. The variable damage types that are available make it one of the best, yet potentially toughest, spells to utilize early on.
The rules for Chromatic Orb can be found in the Players Handbook on page 221.
Chromatic Orb 5e
Evocation 1st Level
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 90 Feet
Components: V, S, M (Adiamond worth at least 50 GP)
You hurl a 4-inch-diameter sphere of energy at a creature that you can see within range. You choose acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, or thunder for the type of Orb you create, and then make a ranged spell attack against the target. If the attack hits, the creature takes 3d8 damage of the type you chose.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.
The rules for Chromatic Orb outline why the spell is so good at 1st level and why it requires a bit of explanation to take as one of the first spells for a character.
The material component is a 50 GP diamond which can be hard to come by for a fledgling adventurer. The variable damage type makes the spell worth every dime, though.
Is Chromatic Orb Good?
Chromatic Orb is a quality 1st level spell. The material component of a diamond worth 50 Gold Pieces is the only real downside. Depending on how lenient the DM is, that may not be an issue for even a 1st level character. It doesn’t provide the automatic hit that Magic Missile does or the area of effect of Burning Hands but the damage output more than makes up for it.
The best part of the damage output is that the type of damage is variable. Anyone who has come face to face with a troll understands the importance of being able to modify damage type on the fly.
It also allows the caster to avoid damage types that have common resistances, such as fire when facing an unfamiliar enemy. The spell has the opportunity to be cast at higher levels with no cap, meaning it will be useful on into higher levels.
Chromatic Orb also allows for a decent range attack at 60 feet. This allows the caster to drop in significant damage far away from harm. It also sets it above similar damage spells of other classes. Inflict Wounds, for example, is another spell that does 3d8 damage but has a range of touch.
Does Chromatic Orb Consume the Material Component?
Chromatic Orb requires a relatively expensive material component for low-level adventurers. Some spells require material components to be consumed at each cast; however, Chromatic Orb is not one of them. The spell descriptions in 5e are extremely specific about what does and doesn’t happen. The spell description will explicitly state that the component is consumed if this is the case.
Can You Twin Chromatic Orb?
To qualify for Twinned Spell metamagic, a spell must meet the following criteria:
- Must target only one creature
- Must not have a range of self
Chromatic Orb meets both of these criteria and is eligible for Twinned Spell metamagic. In fact, it is a popular choice to use. Both targets would take the same damage type but dealing 3d8 damage to two targets in one turn is pretty significant. This makes the spell well worth spending the sorcery points to utilize the metamagic feature.
Spell Comparisons for Chromatic Orb
1st level spell options for the Sorcerer and Wizard classes have some good competition. The addition of expansion materials has only made it harder to pick the best one with limited known spells. Each of the choices presents better and worse factors to consider when comparing them to Chromatic Orb.
- Magic Missile – Automatically hits, better range ignores cover, does less average damage.
- Witch Bolt – Has lower range and average damage, does damage round after round with concentration.
- Chaos Bolt – Has lower average damage, better range, ability to hit multiple targets.
Chromatic Orb can be the focus for a build, but it doesn’t need to be. It is effective in its own right without additional focus. It works well with any wizard build. The Evocation Arcane Tradition may provide some slight advantages later down the road, but it is not something to focus on just for this spell.
If the material component for Chromatic Orb is not a concern, then it is one of the best spells available at 1st level. It provides unmatched versatility and supplies significant damage output. It can be used as a flavor piece for any character build, which is always a positive in 5e.
The only real concern is the ranged attack of low-level spell caster. That being said, it is not a unique problem and should definitely not sway you away from this spell.