The quintessential healing spell, Cure Wounds, offers up old comfort in the new edition. It is made available to a few more classes than in previous editions, making it readily available through a variety of sources and a staple for any adventuring group.
The rules for Cure Wounds are found in the Players Handbook on page 230.
Cure Wounds 5e
Evocation 1st Level
Casting Time: 1 Action
Components: V, S
A creature you touch regains a number of hit points equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier. This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the healing increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.
The rules for Cure Wounds identify the spell as a touch-based healing magic. It grants a small 1d8 base plus spell casting modifier amount of healing to any creature. It also specifically points out that it cannot be used to heal or damage undead and constructs.
Should I Cast Cure Wounds?
Cure Wounds is a classic healing spell. Some version of this spell can be found in just about every RPG on the planet. The effects of the spell bolstersan ally’s health to allow them to carry on fighting.
The real question, though, is whether or not giving up an attack or action to help an ally is worth it. In most cases, the answer, surprisingly, is no. The benefits of Cure Wounds are largely overshadowed by nostalgia and fall short of being truly impactful.
Early on, Cure Wounds can restore an ally to full health, which could be the difference between life and death. The characters are more niche, and spell slots are incredibly limited, so using a healing spell dramatically reduces the casters impact in the battle. This can make a character feel useless if an enemy can cancel out the benefits of the spell in one turn.
For example, the fighter stands toe-to-toe with a goblin. The fighter starts off the combat with 12 hit points. The goblin wields a short sword that does 1d6+1 damage. A few unlucky rolls in, the fighter goes down to 2 hit points. The group looks to the cleric for a cast of Cure Wounds on the fighter.
Cure Wounds at level 1 heals 1d8+modifier (+3 in this case). If the cleric casts the spell and rolls average (4), the fighter will heal 7 (roll 4+ modifier 3) hit points. This concludes the clerics turn. The next turn, the goblin hits again. It is possible for the goblin to deal 7 damage on a straight roll. This makes the spell casting a wash.
It could be argued that the cleric should attack the goblin. The character then has the ability to neutralize the threat and keep the fighter alive. Since Cure Wounds is a touch spell, the cleric still needs to move in close. Removing the threat and then regaining hit points with a potion or on a short rest might be best.
Who Gets Cure Wounds?
In 5e, multiple classes have the ability to use Cure Wounds. This is significantly different compared to other generations. Previously the role of party healer defaulted to the cleric class. Now multiple classes can step in to help keep party members alive.
The base classes that have access to cure wounds are the Artificer, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, and Ranger. The need for a cleric in a party to have balance is significantly diminished. However, it does allow the cleric to dabble in other spells more frequently.
In addition to the base classes, there are also a few subclasses that get access to Cure Wounds. The Divine Soul Sorcerer, Celestial Warlock, and the Mark of Healing Dragonmark have the ability to take and cast it as well.
Cure Wounds vs. Healing Word
The addition of spells like Healing Word has dramatically reduced the benefit of Cure Wounds. The best use of Cure Wounds or any healing spell with a roll is to keep allies alive only when they go down. In this instance, it only takes 1 point of healing to get someone back on their feet.
Comparing Cure Wounds to Healing Word side by side is the best way to see which is better.
- Heal 1d8+Mod (+1d8 per level above 1)
- Touch based
- Takes an action
- Verbal and Somatic Components
- Heal 1d4+Mod (+1d4 per level above 1)
- 30 Foot Range
- Takes a Bonus Action
- Verbal Components
Comparing the two spells in this manner makes it easy to see which one is the better choice, provided the goal is to keep allies alive.
Remember, it only takes 1 point of magical healing to keep someone in the fight or acting normally using the standard rules. This means a healer can cast Healing Word and take an action while keeping themselves out of danger if need be. This is just not possible with Cure Wounds.
Cure Wounds is a classic spell, but the changes made in 5e make it feel borderline useless sometimes. It is probably best used as a self-healing option in desperate situations.
The addition of healing abilities to numerous classes has diminished the overall need for the cleric to be the group “healer,” but it has also created the opportunity for the cleric to grow as one of the more powerful classes in the game.
They have access to an enormous spell list full of powerful spells. So, feel free to play a cleric without feeling shoehorned into being “just a healer.”