One of the best get-out-of-trouble spells, Thunderwave does damage and can possibly buy some time when enemies are a bit too close. It offers decent damage and a potential pushing effect that makes it a great spell to have handy.
The rules for Thunderwave spell are found in the Players Handbook on page 282.
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: Self (15-foot cube)
Components: V, S
A wave of thunderous force sweeps out from you. Each creature in a 15-foot cube originating from you must make a Constitution saving throw.
On a failed save, a creature takes 2d8 thunder damage and is pushed 10 feet away from you. On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage and isn’t pushed.
In addition, unsecured objects that are completely within the area of effect are automatically pushed 10 feet away from you by the spell’s effect, and the spell emits a thunderous boom audible out to 300 feet.
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 Thunderwave describe it as a self-centered area of effect spell. A cast of Thunderwave does damage in a 15-foot cube and potentially pushing enemies up to 10 feet away.
The rules also do not allow you to choose who is affected, so friendly fire is a very real possibility. A constitution save allows for half damage and avoids the push.
It is important to note that there are some points of contention on the use of this spell. One explanation is that the 15-foot cube must be used with the caster being on one of the faces, so it may only be cast outward.
The other understanding is that the caster is the point of origin at the center of the cube. As always, this comes down to DM discretion. If you are planning to take the spell, it would be wise to clarify the interpretation used.
Is Thunderwave Good?
Thunderwave is a great low-level spell considering its damage and effects. It has the ability to deal 2d8 damage at base level and shove enemies away.
As a caster, it is almost the ultimate plan B. Thunder damage isn’t the most common resistance out there, so that is a benefit as well.
The downside is the saving throw. Large creatures will have no issue against a constitution save, thus limiting the potential. Not to mention, successful save results in only half the damage.
The spell does increase in damage as it gets up-cast, but ultimately all low-level area of effect spells fall a little short at higher levels. The spell is also indiscriminate of friend and foe, meaning your allies can be shoved out and take damage as well.
What Classes Get Thunderwave?
The base classes that have access to Thunderwave are the Bard, Druid, Sorcerer, and Wizard. There are a few subclasses that have access to the spell, including the Arcane Trickster Rogue, Eldritch Knight Fighter, Armorer and Artillerist Artificer, Tempest Cleric, and Fathomless Warlock.
The casters certainly benefit from taking this spell as it can create space between them and melee-based assailants. The rogue and fighter might use this in a pinch if they get surrounded and overwhelmed.
The others, though, depend greatly on the way they are played. But, again, putting some space between yourself and the enemy is never a bad thing as a caster.
The spell should be strongly considered for a druid and potentially a bard based on the spells that are available at 1st level. The wizard and sorcerer can probably make better choices for 1st level spells.
The Tempest Cleric gets Thunderwave as a domain spell, so it is always prepared and doesn’t count toward the total for the day. The rest of the potential classes really do come down to play style.
Thunderwave in Combat
Thunderwave makes a great escape plan, but there are multiple opportunities to include it in the main plan.
For a druid, a Thunderwave can buy some room. Using the movement to retreat, they can set up for the next turn. At the next opportunity, cast a Spike Growth or Entangle between yourself and the attackers.
Perhaps a properly timed casting of Thunderwave sends enemies off of a cliff face or right into a pit.
There is always the opportunity, though a bit risky, to charge into a group of enemies and cast the spell to scatter them a little bit.
Whenever you opt to use Thunderwave in combat, make it epic. The spell creates a massive boom and is quite a show. Big motions and character actions are fun.
Thunderwave 5e FAQs
What Is the Difference Between Thunderwave and Thunderclap in 5e?
The main differences between Thunderwave and Thunderclap would be the range, damage, number of creatures affected by the spell, and the intensity of the sound.
Thunderwave has a Range of self (15-foot cube), while Thunderclap has a Range of self (5-foot radius), which is quite a big difference. Thunderwave also deals 2d8 Thunder damage, while Thunderclap only deals 1d6 Thunder damage.
Since Thunderwave targets a larger area than Thunderclap, but it’s also an “AoE” spell, Thunderwave can essentially target more enemies than Thunderclap. You should also take into consideration that Thunderwave can be heard from 300 feet away, while Thunderclap can only be heard from 100 feet away.
Does Thunderwave Affect Allies in 5e?
The origin of Thunderwave is the caster; however, the spell doesn’t specify whether it doesn’t deal damage to allies, meaning you should assume that any creature, even if they are an ally, will have to succeed on a Constitution saving throw or be damaged.
Unfortunately, even if your ally does succeed on the Constitution modifier, they will still take damage, so be aware of that when casting Thunderwave.
How Can I Make Casting Thunderwave Fun in 5e?
There are two simple ways you can go about making Thunderwave extremely fun to use, one would be luring enemies, and the other would be scaring enemies/NPCs.
Since Thunderwave makes a lot of noise, you can cast it from far away to lure enemies to your location. Whenever you know they are near you and in Thunderwave’s range, you can surprise them and unleash Thunderwave.
Another way would be to use the noise of Thunderwave to not damage creatures but to simply scare them or show them your real power. What if you’re in an altercation at the tavern, and you step outside only to unleash a thunderous wave and leave the ruffian who messed with you stunned?
Note: Be careful to not get NPCs in your range, as you might alter the guards or some other powerful NPC that could pose a threat to you later in the campaign.
Thunderwave is a solid spell to take early on that holds some value at later game stages.
Out of all the classes that have the option, it is most commonly associated with the druid due to spell choices at that level. It provides a great opportunity for visual role-play and a big dramatic flavor.
Thunderwave is a spell that has the opportunity to be used in creative ways and should be taken advantage of.