Witch Bolt spell in DnD 5E explained

After decades of meticulous planning and carefully executed subterfuge, it was all starting to unravel. The Warlock lay on the floor of his office, shoulders pressed into the window as the lean figure loomed over him. He wasn’t sure what had led to his discovery, but the seasoned knight had burst through the doors, sword already drawn, and in the heat of accusations the mask had slipped and the Warlock lashed out. Quickly overpowered by the seasoned warrior, he now cowered beneath the tip of her enchanted blade, pleading for his life and frantically searching for a solution. The multiverse itself seemed to answer his desperation as the knight’s apprentice arrived, protesting that the Warlock should be arrested and given a lawful trial for his crimes. Smirking at the boy’s naivety, he seized upon his opportunity, waiting for the knight’s eyes to dart to her ward before grasping the small twig concealed in his sleeve and casting his hands out towards her. Lightning arced from those fingers and struck the knight’s exposed skin, grinning with malice the Warlock pushed more and more electricity into her as the room was lit by brilliant flashes of light.

What is Witch Bolt?

Witch Bolt 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.

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.