Witch Bolt is a consistent offensive 1st-level spell. It is part of the Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard spell lists and similar subclasses.
Witch Bolt has the consistent power that many players underestimate. Its decent damage and powerful ability make it especially useful for more prolonged early-game battles.
The Player’s Handbook description states:
Witch Bolt 5e
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M (a twig retrieved from a tree that had been previously struck by lightning)
Duration: Concentration, up to 10 minutes
The caster releases a beam of crackling blue energy, which travels toward a target within range; however, upon reaching the target, a sustained arc forms between the cast and the target.
Now the caster may make a ranged spell attack against the target, dealing 1d12 lightning damage to the target on a hit. On each consecutive turn, while the duration lasts, the caster may use an action to deal 1d12 lightning damage to the target automatically.
Witch Bolt ends when the caster uses their action to complete anything else. If the target is ever beyond the spell’s range or if it has full cover from the caster, the spell also ends.
At Higher Levels: Casting Witch Bolt with a spell slot of the 2nd level or higher increases the initial damage by 1d12 for each slot level above the 1st.
Classes That Can Pick Witch Bolt
Traditional classes that have access to Witch Bolt are the Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard classes, as it is naturally part of their spell list.
There are no subclasses with Witch Bolt added to their spell list (except the abovementioned classes’ subclasses).
Therefore they must either level up, be able to pick spells from other classes, or have their spell selection adjusted.
Is Witch Bolt Good in 5e?
Witch Bolt is a perfect low-level spell for players wishing to rack up high continuous damage. It provides easy mechanics, the most challenging part being locating its Material component.
Advantages of Witch Bolt
High Continuous Damage
If players can hit a target, latching the lightning chain around them will deal 1d12 lightning damage each round.
Players will have to make a ranged spell attack to keep the spell going, but that is about it.
It solely depends if a player wishes to use Witch Bolt as their primary damage-dealing spell or if they don’t need their primary action to provide utility to their party.
Note: They can always use their bonus actions to cast certain spells or provide other utility.
Witch Bolt is a 1st-level spell, which means the abovementioned classes can learn and use the spell at level 1.
Note: Early-game Warlocks might find this spell useful, as they are more aggressive than normal spellcasting classes. They just have to be careful not to have their Concentration broken.
Disadvantages of Witch Bolt
Limited Choices After Cast
After successfully hitting an enemy with Witch Bolt, if players use their primary action to do anything except keep the lightning chain up, the spell ends.
This leaves the player with minimal options, as they can only make one bonus action, one movement set, and a reaction if it even occurs.
The most frustrating part of this spell is rolling to initiate a hit or a miss.
A successful hit is the ideal outcome and will make the spell’s used slot worth it. However, if the spell misses, then not only will you deal no damage, but it will use up a 1st-level spell slot.
The caster could have gotten more from reliable 1st-level spells like Hellish Rebuke or Ice Knife.
Rare Material Component
Unlike most low-level spells with more common materials, Witch Bolt uses a relatively rare Material (a twig from a tree that had been struck by lightning).
Finding this on your own will prove quite difficult. However, you might get lucky at a Wizard’s shop or occasional alchemy lab.
How To Use Witch Bolt
Using Witch Bolt effectively can be tricky, as it has some problematic conditions. Therefore players should plan, figuring out which way the spell will be the most effective.
Hold Enemies Still
Working together is one of the most satisfying feelings in D&D. Witch Bolt is one of those spells that flourishes when used with certain spells.
We already know that With Bolt’s biggest positive is its continuous damage. Its weakness, however, is movement. As a creature moves out of the spell’s range, it will cancel the spell, forcing the caster to recast it.
Note: If the spell is canceled after you use your action, you wasted an action and used a rare Material to accomplish nothing.
Hold Person Spell
Having another spellcaster in your party cast Hold Person will paralyze the target for up to a minute. This means they can’t run away or make saving rolls, dealing damage without contest.
Note: Be sure to plan with your party, as you need to know which spells your party possesses.
Since Witch Bolt is a concentration spell, the easiest way to cancel it would be to damage the caster. Enemies will try to damage you no matter which spells you cast, so you must think of ways to outsmart them.
The easiest way would be with reactions, movement, and bonus actions, which do not technically count as actions and will not cancel the spell.
Movement actions move you closer to an enemy or away from one.
Bonus actions enable you to move if you have used your previous movement actions, including other options.
Reactions act similarly to bonus actions as you react as soon as something happens close to you or with your party members.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Witch Bolt Be Twinned?
Since Witch Bolt targets one enemy and doesn’t have a range of self, it can indeed be twinned.
Witch Bolt is an excellent spell for players to learn the importance of working together.
In D&D, facing a powerful monster alone can kill even an experienced player; however, with a few party members, any burden can seem lighter.
Just don’t think you can take on a Tarrasque with a party; those things don’t care who you are or how many of you there are!