Content of the article: "Why Blasting Isn’t Optimal"
TL,DR: Blast spells are generally outclassed by control/utility spells, and are only useful if you can one-round enemies, or soften them up enough for an ally to kill them easily.
To preface, I consider any spell with an instantaneous duration that’s primarily focused on dealing damage a “blast spell”.
Blast spells are often considered strong, especially from what I’ve seen here, and while they are useful in certain situations, slinging a blast is generally not a good choice.
The main issue with blasting is limited slots. You can only do so many blasts in a day,and to be an effective “blaster”, you’ll need to burn a slot most rounds. You’ll suffer a lot at early levels, and the problem will still be around later on.
Another issue with blast spells is poor scaling. Low-level control spells are almost always still effective in high-level gameplay (except Sleep), but low-level blasts are useless later on.
The final issue with blast spells is that a control spell is almost always better, since damage doesn’t reduce an enemy’s ability to fight. An enemy with 150 HP is as much of a threat as the same enemy with 50 HP. Unless you can one-round an enemy with a blast or significantly soften it up so the next guy can kill it, you’re better off using a control spell. Here are examples for each spell level, assuming a 50% save chance and 60% to hit.
1st-level: Burning Hands does 7.875 damage to each target. If that sounds good, wait until you hear about Sleep. Average of 22.5 HP worth of enemies out of the fight, no save. You need to hit 2.86 targets with Burning Hands to disable the same amount of HP, and it still lacks the versatility of Sleep, which can get rid of the one big threat while your party beats up weaker enemies. Burning Hands can’t get rid of bigger threats, just a few small threats.
2nd-level: Shatter is our blast this level, and it does 10.125 damage per target. However, Web has a similar (slightly larger) area, and it has a 50% chance of restraining the enemy. This is huge, since an enemy has to waste an action if they get restrained. Wasting an action prevents the enemy from harming you or your allies. In addition, your allies will have advantage against affected targets.
3rd-level: Fireball time. 21 damage per target. And our control spell at this level is Hypnotic Pattern. Although it has a smaller area, it gives your team an average of 2 free rounds in a 4-round combat.
Let’s see what you can do with 2 free rounds. Suppose your team is 4 level 5 characters: a Champion fighter using a greatsword, an Assassin rogue using 2 shortswords, a Life Domain cleric using Toll the Dead, and a Conjuration wizard with Hypnotic Pattern, Fireball, and Fire Bolt. You’re fighting 5 trolls. In the first sample combat, the wizard casts Hypnotic Pattern first round, and then casts Fire Bolt. Over 2 rounds, the fighter will do 35.39 average damage. The rogue will do 33.48 damage. The cleric will do 19.5 damage. And you’ll do 7.7 damage. That’s a total of 96.07 damage from one slot. On the other hand, if you cast Fireball twice, not only do you lose the extra turns and a slot, you do even less damage. Since AoE damage is valued as 1.5 * single target damage, you only do 69.3 damage over 2 rounds.
4th-level: Ice Storm has a bit of a control aspect, but it’s worse as a blast than Fireball. Let’s just ignore this spell level. Even Confusion sucks.
5th-level: Cone of Cold! 27 damage per target. At this point, you’ve probably noticed that blast spells are useless unless you’re fighting a bunch of very low-CR mooks. Cone of Cold is completely outclassed by the 3 wall spells (Force, Light, Stone) you get.
6th-level: Chain Lightning does 33.75 damage per target. On the other hand, you can cast Mass Suggestion and set the command in a way such that the enemies leave the fight (“Drop your weapons and leave, is this really worth getting harmed?” is an example). That gets enemies out of a fight too.
7th-level: Forcecage. Need I say more? No save unless an enemy tries to teleport out, and it lasts an hour. Also, Delayed Blast Fireball does 57.75 damage per target if you can make it last for the full duration, but that really doesn’t matter anymore.
8th-level: You have Maze, Dominate Monster, and Feeblemind. You really don’t need blasts anymore. (I couldn’t find a good blast for this level, sorry)
9th-level: Meteor Swarm is decent, I’ll give it that. 105 damage per target, and a lot of targets. But when you have Wish, Psychic Scream, True Polymorph, Shapechange, Prismatic Wall, and Foresight, wouldn’t you want to cast one of those?
- Homebrew Rules for storing spells in bottles (Revised)
- What are some non-combat/non-healing spells you find yourself consistently casting?
- A rework to Dispel Magic and Counterspell to make them feel more satisfying. Spell
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