Witch Bolt spell in DnD 5E explained

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What is Witch Bolt?

Witch Bolt (PHB, p. 289) is a 1st level evocation spell, which is only natively available to Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. It requires a vocal, somatic, and material component, with the latter being a twig from a lightning-struck tree. It takes an action to cast, the caster making a ranged spell attack against a creature within 30 feet when they do so. If hit, the creature takes 1d12 lightning damage, and for the next minute as long as you maintain concentration, you can spend an action to deal 1d12 lightning damage to the target again without needing to make another attack. However, the spell ends early if you use your action to do anything besides this automatic damage.

If you cast this spell with a 2nd level or higher spell slot, the lightning damage of the initial attack increases by 1d12 for every level above 1st. For example, a 3rd level casting of Witch Bolt would deal 3d12 lightning damage, but the automatic damage that follows would remain 1d12.

Is Witch Bolt a good spell?

Simply put, not really beyond level 3 or 4 due to how it scales and how the spell will end early if you use your action for anything but triggering the follow-up damage. The initial damage of the spell attack and the ability to do that damage again without another attack are actually pretty good in the early levels. The upscaling for the attack’s damage is nice, an additional d12 per level of the spell slot isn’t bad at all, but the lack of scaling for the automatic damage makes this spell a terrible use of your action from 5th level, where your cantrips will scale and be competitive or better in damage.

Now, if the idea of looking like a Sith Lord is appealing to you, or you consistently roll bad enough that you dread having to make attacks but love the idea of the automatic damage, this spell can be improved somewhat. A Sorcerer using Twinned Spell could snare two creatures in the automatic damage, a War Wizard could use one of their Power Surges on the automatic damage to bump it up, and so on. Witch Bolt will, however, rarely be an optimal choice once you get to 4th level and beyond. That doesn’t mean you can’t use it, fun is an important part of the game, and it isn’t all about numbers!

How can you get Witch Bolt?

If the idea of becoming a Sith lord interests you, then don’t worry! There’s a surprisingly long list of ways you can unlock unlimited power:

  • Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard – These classes get Witch Bolt on their spell lists natively.
  • Arcane Trickster (Rogue Subclass) – This Rogue can choose spells from the Wizard spell list, and can choose Witch Bolt as one of their unrestricted spells as early as 3rd level.
  • Eldritch Knight (Fighter Subclass) – Similar to above, this Fighter subclass can choose spells from the Wizard list and can choose Witch Bolt as one of their spells as it matches their evocation restriction.
  • Magic Initiate (Feat) – By choosing Sorcerer, Warlock, or Wizard as the class spell list, you can choose Witch Bolt as the spell you can cast once per day, along with two cantrips from the chosen list.
  • Strixhaven Initiate (Feat) – By taking any college, besides Silverquill, for this feat, you can choose a Witch Bolt as the first level spell and also gain two cantrips.
  • Magical Secrets (Bard Class Feature) – This feature allows a Bard, and the College of Lore subclass, to choose any spell from any list and make it a Bard spell. Whilst you can use this to grab Witch Bolt, it’s a very expensive way of getting ahold of it.

How to roleplay the Witch Bolt spell

Need some help roleplaying the Witch Bolt spell? Here are some examples to help you out:

  • As you cast the Witch Bolt spell, a bolt of crackling energy shoots from your fingertips and connects with the enemy, delivering a jolt of lightning. You hold the spell and continue to channel the energy, causing the bolt to sizzle and burn the enemy’s flesh. Your eyes narrow as you focus your will, maintaining the spell for as long as you can.
  • Your character extends their hand, and a crackling bolt of electricity arcs towards the enemy, striking them with a jolt of power. As the energy courses through their body, you feel a sense of satisfaction, knowing that you’ve dealt a significant amount of damage to your foe.
  • Your character chants a dark incantation as they cast Witch Bolt, and the air around you crackles with energy. Suddenly, a bolt of blue-white lightning emerges from your outstretched hand and slams into your enemy. The bolt sears their flesh, causing them to convulse in agony. You grin with malevolent pleasure as you continue to channel the energy, keeping your foe locked in a cycle of pain and torment.
  • As you prepare to cast Witch Bolt, you focus your will, calling upon the power of the storm. Suddenly, a bolt of lightning descends from the sky, striking your enemy and inflicting a significant amount of damage. You can feel the energy crackling around you, and you know that you have tapped into the elemental power of nature itself.

Hopefully, this article was informative and didn’t give you too many aspirations of conquering the galaxy. if you’re interested in getting more bang for your buck from this spell, then check out our Sorcerer guide, or If you’re interested in researching other spells then check out our spells section, Good luck out there adventurers, until next time, remember to not use this spell on any enemies wielding sun blades!

What classes get Witch Bolt in 5E?

Witch Bolt is on the spell list of the Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard.

How good is Witch Bolt in 5E?

Not very, the initial damage is nice, but the lack of scaling and restriction on your actions of the automatic damage severely hurts its appeal.

Expert Editor-in-Chief