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You and your D&D party have been fighting orcs for the last hour. It’s your rogue’s turn, she sprints up to stab the large orc in front of you. Instead of simply skewering it with her rapier, she waves her other hand and casts a spell. Her blade trembles in the air and she plunges it into the orc’s chest. The blade cracks with a thunderous roar and vibrations in the air surround the orc. Continue reading our Booming Blade 5e Guide to find out more.
The rogue uses her bonus action to Disengage and step back 5 feet, just out of reach. On the orc’s turn, it steps forward to get revenge. As soon as it moves, however, the energy around it cracks like thunder, and the orc reels in pain while the rogue smiles in satisfaction.
What did the rogue just do? How did she cast a spell that seemed to deal damage twice? And why did she disengage only to back up 5 feet? The answer lies in one of D&D’s most powerful cantrips: Booming Blade.
What is Booming Blade?
Booming Blade is an evocation cantrip on the spell list of the artificer, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard. It was originally published in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide in 2015 and an updated version of the spell was published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything in 2020.
Although two slightly different versions of the spell exist, the version from TCoE is exclusively used and considered the official version of the spell. Therefore, this guide will be focused on the new version and it will cover some of the key differences between the two versions and how it affects the spell.
Booming Blade has a casting time of 1 action, has a range of self (5-foot radius), requires somatic and material components, and has a duration of 1 round. When you cast this cantrip, you make a melee attack with the weapon used as the material component against a creature within 5 feet of you.
If you hit, you deal the weapon’s normal damage and the target of the spell becomes “sheathed in booming energy”. If they willingly move at least 5 feet before the start of your next turn, they take 1d8 thunder damage and the spell ends.
It’s a D&D spell that seems very simple in its function: you make an attack and if the target moves, they take additional thunder damage. While this is the basic form of the spell, it improves dramatically as you level up.
At Higher Levels
Most cantrips in D&D scale in damage according to your level. When you reach the 5th, 11th, and 17th level, the most damaging cantrips deal additional damage die. A notable exception is Eldritch Blast, which adds an additional attack instead of just another damage die.
Booming Blade is another exception because it scales doubly with your level. When you reach the 5th level, the initial weapon attack deals 1d8 thunder damage and if the target moves, they take another 2d8 thunder damage. At the 11th level, the initial attack deals 2d8 and movement damage is 3d8. Lastly, at the 17th level, the initial attack deals 3d8, and the movement damage deals 4d8.
Every time you reach the next tier in the game, you gain an additional 2d8 to your damage output on top of the weapon’s damage. It becomes increasingly important to trigger secondary damage.
To fully understand the power of Booming Blade, let’s compare the damage output of casting the spell with the fighter’s multi attack. For the purpose of this comparison, we shall assume that the weapon brandished for Booming Blade is a one-handed weapon wielded by the fighter making four attacks.
|Level||Fighter||Booming Blade (without additional damage)||Booming Blade (with additional damage)|
|1st||1d8 + 3 = 7.5||1d8 + 3 = 7.5||1d8 + 3 + 1d8 = 12|
|5th||2*(1d8 + 4) = 17||1d8 + 4 +1d8 = 13||1d8 + 4 + 3d8 = 22|
|11th||3*(1d8 + 5) = 28.5||1d8 + 5 + 2d8 = 18.5||1d8 + 5 + 5d8 = 32|
|17th||3*(1d8 + 5) = 28.5||1d8 + 5 + 3d8 = 23||1d8 + 5 + 7d8 = 41|
|20th||4*(1d8 + 5) = 38||1d8 + 5 + 3d8 = 23||1d8 + 5 + 7d8 = 41|
The secondary damage of Booming Blade and the fact that it scales by 2d8 every tier makes it consistently outdo attacking with a one-handed weapon even at 20th level when the fighter can make four attacks.
The most important thing is that the secondary damage is triggered. Without it, this spell pales in comparison. You will therefore need to be tactical about how to reliably trigger this.
The above comparison only focuses on wielding a one-handed weapon. Casting Booming Blade with a two-handed weapon is possible but might not be desirable. Firstly, casting the spell doesn’t outdo Extra Attack at every level of play. A fighter making three or four attacks with a two-handed weapon will do more damage on average.
Secondly, the spell requires a somatic component. In order to cast Booming Blade while holding a two-handed weapon, you will need to take the War Caster feat to overcome this. Moreover, the fighting style Great Weapon Fighting does not allow you to reroll the thunder damage from the spell, only the 2d6 or 1d12 weapon deals.
How To Get Booming Blade
Booming Blade is on the spell list of the artificer, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard. A character who has at least 1 level in any of these classes can learn Booming Blade. Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters both learn spells from the wizard spell list, giving both these subclasses access to this spell.
A bard could access Booming Blade from Magical Secrets. This would, however, be a complete waste of Magical Secrets.
Lastly, any player character can access the spell Booming Blade by taking the Magic Initiate feat. This feat allows you to learn two cantrips and a 1st level spell from any class. If you pick artificer, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard, you can learn Booming Blade.
The Limits of Booming Blade
All spells are limited in some way. Often, some of these limits are obvious while others are only noticeable after some time reading the spell’s description or when attempting to combine it with other abilities. Booming Blade has become the focus of many rule clarifications, especially because multiple versions of the spell exist. We will address these changes.
Booming Blade has a somatic and a material component. A somatic component means that when you cast the spell, you need to have a hand free to wave about. This means that if you want to wield a two-handed weapon when casting Booming Blade, you will need to pick up the War Caster feat.
The SCAG version of the spell only required verbal and material components to cast it. This meant that two-handed weapons were not an issue.
Secondly, the spell requires a material component of a melee weapon worth at least 1 silver piece. In the original version, the material component was simply a weapon. This change means that you cannot use this spell with conjured weapons such as Shadow Blade.
The spell still works with a warlock’s pact weapon as well as improvised weapons, as long as you can safely justify its value being at least 1sp. For example, a glass bottle has a value of 2gp in the Adventuring Gear table of the PHB. Therefore, you could cast Booming Blade as you reach across the bar and glass someone.
This spell does not work with unarmed strikes since they aren’t considered weapons and although you are a valuable member of the team, your fists might not be worth more than 1sp.
The range of Booming Blade is “self (5-foot radius)”. While this is an unusual range for a spell, it is one of the more important updates to the spell. The SCAG version of the spell simply had a range of 5 feet and the spell’s description said that you make a melee attack against a creature within the spell’s range.
The old version was the subject of a lot of abuse. The range of a spell can be doubled using a feat like Sharpshooter, or the Sorcerer’s Distant Spell. If combined with Polearm Master and/or War Caster, a player continuously attacks, moves back 5 feet, and repeats.
Instead, Booming Blade’s range mimics an area of effect spell-like Thunderwave. The effect originates from you and can take effect on any creature within a 5-foot radius.
When you cast Booming Blade, you are not taking the Attack action. You are instead taking the Cast a Spell action. This is incredibly important in distinguishing what other abilities work well with this.
Firstly, martial characters who gain the Extra Attack can take multiple attacks when they attack the attack action. If you cast Booming Blade, casting the cantrip takes your action and as part of your action, as the spell describes, you make a melee attack.
Another common case is Two-Weapon Fighting. Characters are able to attack with their offhand as a bonus action if they take the attack action. Therefore, you are not able to make an offhand attack after casting this spell.
Triggering the Extra Damage
As considered above, the key to making Booming Blade a viable option instead of attacking multiple times, you must do everything you can to trigger the secondary damage. What are the most effective ways of doing this?
Firstly, we must ask if your target, after being hit by this spell, is aware that they will take 4d8 thunder damage if they move 5 feet? The answer lies in the hands of your Dungeon Master since they ultimately are running the monsters.
The spell describes that the target is “sheathed in booming energy” which, although vague, indicates that there is an ongoing magical effect that surrounds your target after you’ve hit them. Most enemies shouldn’t immediately recognize the spell and what its effects are unless they are experienced spellcasters themselves. Even then, it is difficult to identify a spell on sight.
Another aspect of this is often overlooked in D&D combat: an entire round of combat is six seconds. That means that every attack the party makes and attacks made by enemies all take place almost at the same time. In such a fray, many monsters may not even make the connection between the pain they feel and the wizard standing on the other side of the room, let alone understand that its own movement triggered more pain.
With all of that said, our advice to DMs is that most monsters you run won’t understand how Booming Blade’s secondary damage is triggered unless they have a good reason to. If they are mages themselves, they might recognize the spell. Otherwise, have your high-Intelligence enemies make arcana checks to see if they know what’s happening.
With a DM that doesn’t metagame, you will still need to give your enemy a reason to move. If they are within range of you and your party, a monster might have no reason at all to use any movement, rather preferring to stay put and continue swinging at you. Here are some ways to make an enemy move.
- Back Away. The simplest way of making your enemies move closer is for you to move further away. The downside is that they will get an attack of opportunity against you as you leave their reach.
- Bonus Action Disengage. The rogue’s Cunning Action or the goblin’s Nimble Escape allows you to take the Disengage action as a bonus action on the same turn, allowing you to attack, then safely back away whilst avoiding the attack of opportunity.
- Pushing Attack. If you are a Battle Master or have the Martial Adept feat, you can use Pushing Attack on your Booming Blade attack to shove your enemy back 15 feet. It does give the enemy a chance to save against it.
- Crusher Feat. This feat allows you to move a creature 5 feet when you deal bludgeoning damage to them. Wield a warhammer or flail and force your enemies back 5 feet. This is forced movement and won’t trigger the thunder damage. However, they will need to voluntarily move forward in order to get back in range to attack you.
- Telekinetic Feat. Similar to the Crusher feat, you can move someone 5 feet using your mind. Unfortunately, this requires your bonus action and they have a chance to save against it.
- Mobility Feat. This feat allows you to move away from an enemy that you’ve attacked without provoking an opportunity attack. Move back just enough to still taunt your enemy into coming after you. This ability is also available to Swashbuckler rogues.
There are some abilities and instances in which you or your DM are unsure if the extra damage is triggered. Although this is similar to when an opportunity attack can be made, it differs and in the following situations, the damage is not triggered:
- Shoving or Dragging. If you take a Shove action or grapple someone and want to drag them around the battlefield, they are not willingly moving.
- Dissonant Whispers. While movement from this spell triggers opportunity attacks, it is considered forced movement and doesn’t trigger thunder damage.
- Falling. If a character falls from any height as a result of the environment or an external factor, the damage isn’t triggered. However, if the enemy willingly jumps off a ledge, it is willing movement and the damage is triggered.
- Spells like Infestation or Thunderwave. Any spell that forces movement from its targets as they are shaken and thrown around the battlefield doesn’t trigger the damage.
Once you’ve learned this spell, don’t feel like you’re locked into casting it every round. If you’re in close quarters and you don’t expect your enemies to be able to move, attack normally or take a different action.
Question: How effective is Booming Blade?
Answer: Booming Blade is an effective cantrip to make a melee attack deal more damage by baiting enemies to move after you’ve hit them. Because of its scaling at higher levels, it consistently outdoes attacking normally.
Question: Is Booming Blade better than Extra Attack?
Answer: Booming Blade does more damage than Extra Attack with one-handed weapons even when compared to a fighter’s four attacks. Attacking with a two-handed weapon is more effective than the spell.
Question: Is Booming Blade a wizard spell?
Answer: Yes, Booming Blade is on the spell list of the artificer, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard. This also means that it’s available to Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters. It’s also available to anyone through the Magic Initiate feat.
Question: Does Booming Blade count as a weapon attack?
Answer: Yes. When you cast Booming Blade, you take the Cast a Spell action, not the Attack action. You then make a melee weapon attack as part of the spell. You cannot take an offhand attack since that requires you to take the Attack action. You can, however, use features like maneuvers to add to the weapon attack you make as part of the spell.
Question: Can you throw Booming Blade?
Answer: No. When you throw a melee weapon, you make a ranged attack with the weapon. Booming Blade specifies that you need to make a melee weapon attack.
Question: Do I need a free hand for Booming Blade?
Answer: Yes, you need a free hand to cast the somatic component of the spell. This can be overcome by taking the War Caster feat.
Question: Can you twin Booming Blade?
Answer: The TCoE version of Booming Blade has a range of self, which makes it ineligible for Twinned Spell. However, this is ultimately a decision for your DM to make. It’s not game-breaking to allow it as it requires the caster to have two enemies within 5 feet.
Question: Is Booming Blade loud?
Answer: Yes. As with most spells that deal thunder damage, this spell makes noise. It doesn’t specify who does and does not hear it, that’s up to the DM.
Booming Blade 5e Guide: Summary
Booming Blade is an evocation cantrip that allows you to make a melee weapon attack that deals additional thunder damage. The damage comes in two parts: firstly when you hit with your weapon, you deal its normal damage and, at higher levels, additional thunder damage; secondly, when the target willingly moves more than 5 feet in the next round, they take additional thunder damage.
The damage output of the cantrip scales by 2d8 every tier of play, making it a viable option for your action throughout all the levels of play. It is especially effective when wielding a one-handed weapon.
The key to making this cantrip an effective go-to option is finding ways to consistently trigger the secondary damage. The best way to do this is to find a way to move either yourself or your target out of range of the other. While this is forced movement and won’t count, your target must willingly move back into range to hit you.
Most enemies won’t recognize this spell when you cast it unless they are experienced spellcasters themselves. Therefore, your enemies should move around without knowing that’s the source of the additional damage. Since your DM controls these enemies, it requires a DM that doesn’t metagame. However, if your DM metagames like that, you are already doomed.