Ray of Frost spell in DnD 5E explained

Ovanis backed up slowly, eyeing the gap between them, and the hungry dire wolf advancing. Ovanis knew they were fast, faster than most of their friends from a couple of centuries of running amongst the great oaks of the forest, but not faster than a wolf. Unless… Seizing an opportunity they stretched out a hand, uttering ancient words of power before a torrent of frost burst from their palm towards the wolf. Yipping in surprise as the cold burned its flesh, the Dire Wolf attempted to give chase seeing Ovanis bolt for the cave’s entrance, but the cold seized its muscles enough to keep the elf just out of reach. Some furious sprinting and a perilous leap later, Ovanis was catching their breath whilst thanking the ancestors that ice was the family trade.

What is Ray of Frost?

Ray of Frost is an evocation cantrip available to Artificers, Sorcerers, and Wizards, although there are many other ways to gain access to it. When you use your action to cast this spell you can make an attack roll against a creature within 60 feet, on a hit they take 1d8 cold damage, and their speed is reduced by 10 feet until the start of your next turn. The damage increases to 2d8 at 5th level, 3d8 at 11th level, and 4d8 at 17th level. 

It is important to note that the speed reduction from this spell cannot stack with itself, if you used an ability like Action Surge or the Quickened Spell Metamagic to cast it again, the target would take the damage but their speed would still only be reduced by 10ft total. This is because a creature can only be affected once by a spell or ability, only something with a different proper name would stack with Ray of Frost, like the 10ft reduction from the Slasher feat.

Is Ray of Frost a good spell?

A very solid yes, being able to reduce the speed of a monster at range is a great control cantrip that synergizes really well with area control spells such as Web and Spike Growth. The damage is average for a cantrip that also imparts a debuff, the cold damage type will serve you well against most monsters but will notably lose effectiveness against Fiends. 

If you choose to focus on Ray of Frost as your at-will offensive magic, you may wish to choose a class/subclass that will give you a boost to its damage. Examples of this are:

  • Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer’s Elemental Affinity ability at 6th level allows you to add your Charisma modifier to the damage, as long as you have chosen silver or white for your Draconic Ancestry.
  • Evocation Wizards will get Empowered Evocation at 10th level, allowing them to add their Intelligence modifier to the damage.
  • Artillerist Artificers can add 1d8 to the damage by casting the cantrip through their Arcane Firearm.

How can you get Ray of Frost?

Being a cantrip on the Wizard’s spell list there is no shortage of ways to grab this great defensive offering, so take your pick of:

  • Artificer, Sorcerer, and Wizard – All three of these classes get access to Ray of Frost as part of their normal spell lists.
  • Arcane Trickster (Rogue Subclass) – This subclass gets access to the Wizard spell list and can choose Ray of Frost as one of their two cantrip choices.
  • Eldritch Knight (Fighter Subclass) – Similar to above, this Fighter can choose from the Wizard list for their cantrips.
  • Arcana Domain (Cleric Subclass) – This Cleric can choose two Wizard cantrips and make them Cleric spells, this allows Ray of Frost to pair with their 8th level feature Potent Spellcasting to add their Wisdom modifier to the damage. 
  • High Elf (Subrace) – To represent this subrace’s mastery of the basics of magic, they can choose a Wizard cantrip of their choice.
  • Sun or Moon Half-Elf (Race Variant) – Similar to their ancestors, these half-elves can choose a Wizard cantrip.
  • Levistus Tiefling (Race Variant) – This Teifling gets access to Ray of Frost, in addition to Armor of Agathys and Darkness.
  • Aberrant Dragonmark (Feat) – This feat allows you to choose a cantrip from the Sorcerer’s list.
  • Artificer Initiate (Feat) – You may have guessed it, this feat allows you to choose a cantrip of your choice from the Artificer spell list.
  • Magic Initiate (Feat) – By choosing Wizard as the class you choose this as one of your two cantrips.
  • Spell Sniper (Feat) – This feat allows you to choose the Sorcerer or the Wizard list to gain access to this cantrip, with the modifier used depending on your choice.
  • Strixhaven Initiate (Feat) – If this feat is available, then choosing Prismari as your college will get you Ray of Frost as well as either Fire Bolt or Prestidigitation.

We hope this article has helped keep those nasty monsters at a distance, or at least keep your ale chilled. If you enjoyed this article and are interested in learning about other spells, check out our spells section, or if you’re here researching for your Arcane Trickster check out our Rogue guide. Good luck out there adventurers, and until next time, stay frosty.