If you have played Valorant before, you would probably be familiar with Erik Torsten, a.k.a. Breach, the Swedish ex-convict with fantastic metal arms.
He has many powers, such as blinding opponents with a harsh flashing light, releasing a powerful shockwave that damages enemies through walls, and crushing the ground in a straight line that concusses anyone within it. However, his coolest power is his ult.
When he uses his ult, he causes a massive earthquake to the whole area in front of him, which dazes the people affected. As a D&D player, I often think about borrowing powers from different games, movies, and shows, and Breach’s ult would be great to use.
I would even argue that the Destructive Wave is more potent than Breach’s ult since the former can affect a wider area than the latter. It is a handy spell when a lot of enemies surround you, and you have no way to escape.
However, a big question remains; is it worth using a level-five spell slot? To answer the question, you need to understand the pros and cons, and this Destructive Wave 5e guide will help you.
Bottom Line Up Front: What is Destructive Wave in D&D 5e?
Destructive Wave is a level five evocation spell you can find in the Player’s Handbook on page 231. This spell is an evocation spell like Word of Radiance and Burning Hands because the caster manipulates the energy around them to cause such a damaging wave. Below are the crucial facts about the Destructive Wave spell in D&D 5e.
- Destructive Wave
- Level five evocation
- Casting Time: One action
- Range: 30-foot radius from self
- Components: V
- Duration: Instantaneous
How to Use Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
Before you can make a tsunami of hurt to the enemies around you, you need to meet the spell’s requirements first. Below is a checklist I made that you need to go through. If you meet everything in this list, you can cast Destructive Wave.
- You must know the Destructive Wave spell or have it prepared. There are two approaches for spellcasters: having spells as part of their knowledge (e.g., Bard and Sorcerer) or memory through preparation from their spell list (e.g., Paladins and Clerics).
- You must have at least a level five spell slot to cast Destructive Wave. Since Destructive Wave is a level five spell, you need to use a spell slot of the same level or higher. However, the effects are the same regardless of the spell slot’s level.
- You need to use your action during combat to cast Destructive Wave.
- You need to speak freely in an audible voice to cast a Destructive Wave. Destructive Wave requires the verbal component.
If you meet all the requirements in this list, you are good to go! You do not need to touch anything or anyone; instead, you shout the magic words and strike the ground, and a forceful wave comes out from you. Then, you need to do the following:
- Choose creatures within 30 ft. of you to become affected by Destructive Wave. For example, if your allies are within 30 ft. of you along with an army of enemies, you can cast Destructive Wave and choose not to affect your allies even though they are within the spell’s range.
To know what Destructive Wave can do when you cast it, proceed to the next section.
How does Destructive Wave Work in D&D 5e?
An explosion of “divine energy” ripples from where you stand as you utter the magic words to cast a Destructive Wave. Your chosen targets within 30 ft. of you become affected, and the following effects occur:
- The affected targets roll a d20 to make a Constitution saving throw. They roll a d20 and add their Constitution saving throw modifier to the result. They also apply the necessary modifiers if there are any, like advantages or disadvantages.
- The affected targets compare their result to your Spell Save DC. Your Spell Save DC may vary from class to class because of the difference in spellcasting ability. I have listed the different Spell Save DCs for every class that can cast this spell in the “Who can cast Destructive Wave in D&D 5e?” section. If the result is equal to or higher than the Spell Save DC, they succeed.
- If the affected targets fail, they take 5d6 thunder damage and 5d6 radiant or necrotic damage. You decide whether the second damage type is radiant or necrotic. You apply any damage modifiers like resistances or vulnerabilities for both damage types. Then you subtract the target’s HP from the resulting sum of damage.
- Furthermore, they become prone. Being prone is a condition in D&D, where the following effects occur:
- The prone creature can only crawl as a movement.
- The prone creature can choose to stand up, taking half its movement speed.
- The prone creature has a disadvantage on its attack rolls.
- Anyone within five ft. of the prone creature gets an advantage when attacking them.
- Anyone further than five ft. from the prone creature gets a disadvantage when attacking them.
- If the affected targets succeed, they take half as much damage. In other words, you roll 5d6 thunder damage plus 5d6 radiant or necrotic damage. Then, you apply the necessary modifiers if there are any. Finally, the affected targets who succeeded in the Constitution saving throw get half the resulting sum of damage.
The effects of a Destructive Wave are straightforward; you make a tidal wave of pain, and targets who fail the vibe check fall off and take a lot of damage. Still, many players quickly get confused, especially during the heat of the battle. If you are someone who is on a game right now and speedily looking up how it works, the next section will (hopefully) clear things up better, as it is a demonstration of the spell.
Example Scenario for Using Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
Welcome to Arthur’s Lab, where we surf on a painful tidal wave on purpose or die trying. This time, we will test out the Destructive Wave spell.
Along in our journey is Guardian the Dwarf Paladin and a couple of bandits we “met” along the way. Also, some of Guardian’s friends will participate in this demo to showcase the ability to choose targets when casting Destructive Wave.
For the sake of this demo, Guardian has the appropriate spell slots to cast Destructive Wave. Furthermore, the participants are wearing special kinds of armor that give them vulnerabilities and resistance to different damage types.
We will do the activity on our private islands because the lab is too small to fully demonstrate the spell’s capabilities. The necessary info for everyone is listed below.
- Charisma modifier: +2
- Proficiency bonus: +6
- Spell Save DC: 8 + 2 + 6 = 16
- Bandit 1
- HP: 50
- Constitution saving throw modifier: +1
- Has resistance to thunder damage
- Bandit 2
- HP: 45
- Constitution saving throw modifier: -2
- Has resistance to necrotic damage
- Bandit 3
- HP: 52
- Constitution saving throw modifier: 0
- Has vulnerability to radiant damage
- Bandit 4
- HP: 47
- Constitution saving throw modifier: -1
Part One: Using a Level Five Spell Slot to Cast Destructive Wave
In this demo combat, Guardian has the Destructive Wave spell ready, and she has a level five spell slot. It is her turn, so she uses the spell slot to cast it. She can freely speak in an audible voice; thus, she qualifies for the spell’s component requirements.
The spell’s area of effect is a 30 ft. radius coming from her. So, it would look like the picture below.
As you can see, Bandit 5 is not within Destructive Wave’s area of effect. Thus, Guardian cannot affect him with her spell. As she casts it, she chooses who will become affected; she targets Bandits 1, 2, 3, and 4, leaving out Marshal by the boat and Shorty on the southeast. After choosing her targets, they must roll a d20 for their Constitution saving throw.
Part Two: Bandits 1 and 4 fail, but Bandits 2 and 3 Succeed
Bandits 1 to 4 roll a d20 to make their Constitution saving throw; below is a formula and summary of their results.
- Bandit n Constitution saving throw (CST): d20 + Constitution saving throw modifier
- Bandit 1 CST: 13 + 1 = 14
- Bandit 2 CST: 18 – 2 = 16
- Bandit 3 CST: 17 + 0 = 17
- Bandit 4 CST: 16 – 1 = 15
Guardian’s Spell Save DC is 16 (8 + Charisma modifier of 2 + proficiency bonus of 6). Since Bandits 1 and 4’s Constitution saving throws do not meet Guardian’s Spell Save DC of 16, they fail.
Meanwhile, Bandits 2 and 3 succeeded since theirs reached 16 or higher. Now that we have determined who fails and who succeeds, it is time to calculate the damage!
Part Three: Choosing Necrotic Damage for Destructive Wave
First, we roll 5d6 for the spell’s thunder damage. After rolling, we get three, four, two, five, and one, which sums up to 15. Next, we roll 5d6 for the spell’s necrotic or radiant damage.
Guardian decides to go for necrotic damage this time. After rolling, we get four, six, one, six, and three, which sums up to 20. For a quick reference, below are the damage calculations.
- 5d6 thunder damage: 3 + 4 + 2 + 5 + 1 = 15
- 5d6 necrotic damage: 4 + 6 + 1 + 6 + 3 = 20
Bandits 1 and 4 failed to resist the Destructive Wave, so they received the full damage. Meanwhile, Bandits 3 and 4 succeeded, so they received half as much damage.
Bandit 1 has resistance to thunder damage, so he receives seven instead of 15. Bandit 2 has resistance to necrotic damage. Furthermore, he only receives half the damage because he succeeded in his saving throw.
So, he gets a quarter of the original damage thanks to his resistance and success, which is 5. Below is a quick damage calculation for each bandit.
- Bandit n: 15 + 20 = 35
- Bandit 1 (failed): 7 (thunder damage resistance) + 20 = 27
- Bandit 2 (succeeded): 7 + 5 (necrotic damage resistance) = 12
- Bandit 3 (succeeded): 7 + 10 = 17
- Bandit 4 (failed): 15 + 20 = 35
We subtract their HP from the damage they receive.
Part Four: Bandits 1 and 4 Become Prone
Additionally, since Bandits 1 and 4 failed the Constitution saving throw, they become prone. Thus, they suffer from the condition’s effects. They can only crawl, which takes up twice the amount of movement speed needed.
For example, if Bandit 1 wants to move toward Guardian by ten ft., it would require him to use twenty ft. They can use half their movement speed to stand up, though.
Also, they have disadvantages on their attack rolls; if Bandit 1 were to try and attack Guardian, he would need to roll two d20s and choose the lower number. People five ft. near them would get an advantage on their attack roll, so if Guardian were five ft. near Bandit 1, she would roll two d20s and choose the higher number for her attack roll.
Finally, anyone attacking them who is not five ft. near them will get a disadvantage on their attack roll. For example, Marshal would have a disadvantage on long-range attacks against Bandit 4.
Part Five: Using a Level Six Spell Slot to Cast Destructive Wave
Normally, Guardian cannot cast a spell using a level six spell slot because Paladins never get them; the highest level of spell slot they can attain is five.
However, for the sake of this demo, we give her a magic item that grants her a level six spell slot. She uses the level six spell slot to cast Destructive Wave; the spell’s effects do not change because the spell slot level used does not affect them.
Guardian still targets Bandits 1 to 4 and excludes Marshal and Shorty from the spell’s effects. Once again, the bandits must roll a d20 for their Constitution saving throw.
Part Six: Bandits 1 and 4 Succeed, but Bandits 2 and 3 Fail
Bandits 1 to 4 roll a d20 again to make their Constitution saving throw for this second Destructive Wave (they cannot catch a break, huh). Below is a summary of their individual results.
- Bandit n Constitution saving throw (CST): d20 + Constitution saving throw modifier
- Bandit 1 CST: 15 + 1 = 16
- Bandit 2 CST: 17 – 2 = 15
- Bandit 3 CST: 8 + 0 = 8
- Bandit 4 CST: 18 – 1 = 17
As a reminder, Guardian’s Spell Save DC is 16. Now, the results have reversed; it is Bandits 2 and 3’s turn now to suffer because they failed the Constitution saving throw. Bandits 1 and 4 are spared from the full damage this time.
Part Seven: Choosing Radiant Damage for Destructive Wave
We roll 5d6 once more for the spell’s thunder damage. After rolling, we get six, two, five, two, and three, which sums up to 18. Next, we roll 5d6 for the second damage type, and this time, Guardian chooses radiant damage. After rolling, we get one, three, one, two, and four, which equals 11. For a quick reference, below are the damage calculations.
- 5d6 thunder damage: 6 + 2 + 5 + 2 + 3 = 18
- 5d6 radiant damage: 1 + 3 + 1 +2 + 4 = 11
It is Bandits 2 and 3’s time to fail to resist the Destructive Wave, so it is their time to receive the full damage. Bandits 1 and 4 are safe now, as they receive half the full damage.
Bandit 1 receives half the damage, plus he is resistant to thunder damage. Therefore, he would receive four thunder damage instead of 18 (half of 18 is nine, and half of nine is four rounded down). Bandit 3 has vulnerability to radiant damage, so he receives double the damage, i.e., 22 radiant damage. Below is a calculation for each bandit.
- Bandit n: 18 + 11 = 29
- Bandit 1 (succeeded): 4 (thunder damage resistance) + 5 = 9
- Bandit 2 (failed): 18 + 11 = 29
- Bandit 3 (failed): 18 + 22 (radiant damage vulnerability) = 40
- Bandit 4 (succeeded): 9 + 5 = 14
After subtracting their HP, Bandits 3 and 4 faint, also, Bandits 2 and 3 become prone.
Who Can Cast Destructive Wave in D&D 5e?
Only one class can cast Destructive Wave, which is the Paladin. Technically, Bards can get it through Magical Secrets, but this technicality applies to all spells.
Three subclasses have access to Destructive Wave, and they are all Clerics (Tempest Cleric, Strength Cleric, and Zeal Cleric). Finally, anyone with a Gruul Anarch background can have access to the spell.
Classes that Can Cast Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
Only the Paladins have the Destructive Wave spell as part of their spell list. They can prepare it when they acquire a level five spell slot; Paladins get at least one when they reach level 17. So, it is an extremely late-level spell for Paladins. Below are the critical details about this class, like their source and Spell Save DC.
- Source: Player’s Handbook, page 82
- Spell Save DC: 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier
Subclasses that Can Cast Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
Three Cleric subclasses have access to Destructive Wave as part of their domain spells, and they are the Tempest Clerics, Strength Clerics, and Zeal Clerics.
However, note that the last two subclasses are not legal sources if you are playing Adventurer League campaigns. Below is essential info about each subclass, like their source and their Spell Save DC (spoiler alert: they all have the same Spell Save DC).
|Subclasses that can cast Destructive Wave
|Subclass Feature for Destructive Wave
|Spell Save DC
|Tempest Domain Spells
|Player’s Handbook, page 62
|Player’s Handbook, page 56
|8 + Wisdom modifier + your proficiency bonus
|Strength Domain Spells
|Plane Shift: Amonkhet, page 26
|Player’s Handbook, page 56
|8 + Wisdom modifier + your proficiency bonus
|Zeal Domain Spells
|Plane Shift: Amonkhet, page 28
|Player’s Handbook, page 56
|8 + Wisdom modifier + your proficiency bonus
Clerics prepare spells instead of knowing them, and they have access to their entire spell list whenever they try to change their prepared spells during a long rest.
All Clerics within a domain have a list of spells that they always have prepared; these spells are called domain spells. The Clerics in the Tempest, Strength, and Zeal Domains all have the Destructive Wave as part of their domain spells.
They have it prepared when they reach level nine because it is the level when they acquire level five spell slots. Furthermore, they have an additional spell prepared alongside Destructive Wave upon reaching level nine; Tempest and Strength Clerics get Insect Plague, while Zeal Clerics get Flame Strike.
Backgrounds that Can Cast Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
Characters with the Gruul Anarch background have access to the Destructive Wave spell, thanks to their Gruul Guild Spells background feature. It adds Destructive Wave (and a bunch of other spells) as part of their class’s spell list.
For example, a Druid with the Gruul Anarch background can prepare Destructive Wave since it is now a part of the Druid spell list for them.
Obviously, you need to have the ability to cast spells in the first place to get Destructive Wave. Martial classes that cannot cast spells, like Barbarians and Fighters, cannot cast this spell even if they have the Gruul Anarch background. Also, you need at least a level-five spell slot to use it.
You can read more about the Gruul Anarch background in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica on page 60. As you can see, the background belongs to a Ravnica setting campaign.
Thus, if your game is set in the Forgotten Realms, picking this background would seem illogical. However, nothing can stop you except for your DM. Ask your DM first if they will allow you to play it (and I hope your DM is kind).
Creative and Useful Ways to Use Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
Destructive Wave is a potent spell, which is understandable, considering level five spell slots are hard to come by, especially for Paladins.
Because of the scarce spell slots, you might think it is hard to find the appropriate time to cast it. Do not fret; I have made a list of innovative and creative ways to cast Destructive Wave in D&D 5e for it to be helpful in a given scenario.
- Escaping from enemies around you
- Baiting enemies toward you
- Buying time when chased
Escaping from Enemies Around You Using Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
You and your friends are on a stealth mission; all of you are trying to sneak into a massive castle with a treasure you have to take. Everything is going swell until suddenly, someone in your party trips, which causes a loud noise.
One thing leads to another, and you are surrounded by countless soldiers ready to take you out. You are heavily outnumbered, so fighting all of them is not the answer. What do you do?
In these scenarios where you are surrounded by a lot of enemies, one of the best things to do would be to cast the Destructive Wave spell.
There is no limit as to how many people you can affect with this spell as long as they are within the spell’s area of effect. If you look closely, a 30 ft. radius is a huge area; you can fit at least 90 medium-sized people in it!
Another great thing about this spell is that you can select who gets affected and who does not. So, if you are on a large battlefield and both allies and enemies are within the spell’s area, you can select to affect only your enemies. It is really a great defensive, offensive, AND support spell!
Baiting Enemies Toward You Using Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
If you play video games, you know how important it is to have someone act as the tank. They have nigh impenetrable defenses and massive HP.
They can have abilities that bait enemies toward them, like taunts so that the enemies would go for them rather than the soft and squishy party members. Paladins can act as great tanks, and with Destructive Wave, they can be even better.
Imagine the caster as the ticking pipe bomb from Left 4 Dead and the enemies as the zombies; you drop them off in an open area so that enemies will swarm toward them.
Next thing the enemies know, they get hit by a massive tidal wave of pain by the caster’s Destructive Wave. It is a brilliant solution to a problem that is seemingly impossible to solve. You can take out multiple enemies with just one spell!
It is also an incredible way to distract enemies while the other party members slink away. For example, numerous goblins guard a door that leads to treasure. The caster can just waltz out in the open.
Naturally, the goblins will swarm toward the caster. As they are distracted, the rest try to slip by the door. When the time is right, the caster can unleash Destructive Wave, and it will be so satisfying.
Buying Time when Chased Using Destructive Wave in D&D 5e
In D&D, chase scenes are not uncommon events; the books even have guides for the DM on how to properly convert chase scenes into gameplay.
When it happens during your game, it can feel pretty intense, especially if you are the one being chased. Do you know what is more intense, though? It is if the ones chasing you are slightly faster than you, and they are catching up! What do you do?
If you want to derail your enemies from catching up to you during chase scenes, one attractive solution would be to cast the Destructive Wave. The spell is beneficial if there are multiple enemies chasing you from various sides.
You can target the people chasing you, and when they fail the Constitution saving throw, they become prone. If you are not aware, being prone eats up your speed.
A prone enemy will take twice the movement speed needed to crawl and half their total movement speed to stand up.
If the one chasing you has 60 ft. of movement speed, for example, they need to use 30 ft. of it to stand up or continue crawling, which is a bad option to take. It even amplifies if the chase scenes are happening on difficult terrain since crawling on it would take the average speed thrice.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can You Upcast Destructive Wave in D&D 5e?
ANSWER: YES, YOU CAN UPCAST DESTRUCTIVE WAVE IN D&D 5E, BUT YOU GAIN NO BENEFIT FROM DOING IT. UPCASTING IS WHEN YOU USE A SPELL SLOT WITH A HIGHER LEVEL THAN THE SPELL YOU WANT TO CAST.
FOR EXAMPLE, YOU CAN CAST DESTRUCTIVE WAVE, A LEVEL FIVE SPELL, USING A LEVEL SIX SPELL SLOT. YOU CAN DO IT, BUT THE SPELL DOES NOT STATE ANY CHANGES TO ITS EFFECTS UPON DOING IT.
QUESTION: CAN CLERICS LEARN DESTRUCTIVE WAVE IN D&D 5E?
ANSWER: YES, CLERICS CAN LEARN DESTRUCTIVE WAVE IN D&D 5E ONLY IF THEY BELONG TO THE TEMPEST, STRENGTH, AND ZEAL DOMAINS. DESTRUCTIVE WAVE IS NOT PART OF THE CLERIC’S SPELL LIST, BUT THANKS TO THE SUBCLASS FEATURES OF THE MENTIONED SUBCLASSES, THEY BECOME ADDED.
IF YOU ARE A CLERIC AND YOU BELONG TO ANOTHER DOMAIN, THERE IS NO POSSIBLE WAY TO PREPARE AND CAST DESTRUCTIVE WAVE (UNLESS YOU ARE MULTICLASSING).
QUESTION: CAN PALADINS LEARN DESTRUCTIVE WAVE D&D 5E?
ANSWER: YES, PALADINS CAN PREPARE DESTRUCTIVE WAVE IN D&D 5E BECAUSE IT IS A PART OF THEIR SPELL LIST. HOWEVER, DESTRUCTIVE WAVE IS A LEVEL FIVE SPELL, AND PALADINS CAN ACQUIRE A LEVEL FIVE SPELL SLOT AT LEVEL 17. THEREFORE, IT IS A SPELL THAT THEY CAN USE UTTERLY LATE IN THE GAME.
QUESTION: WHAT DOES DESTRUCTIVE WAVE DO IN D&D 5E?
ANSWER: CASTING DESTRUCTIVE WAVE RELEASES POWERFUL ENERGY FROM THE CASTER AND HARMS THE CASTER’S CHOSEN TARGETS WITHIN 30 FT. OF THEM. DESTRUCTIVE WAVE DEALS 5D6 THUNDER DAMAGE PLUS 5D6 NECROTIC OR RADIANT DAMAGE (THE CASTER DETERMINES WHICH DAMAGE TYPE THEY WOULD USE). FURTHERMORE, IT MAKES PEOPLE FALL OFF THEIR FEET, A.K.A. BECOME PRONE.
Conclusion: Is Destructive Wave a Good Spell in D&D 5e?
Yes, I think Destructive Wave is a good spell in D&D 5e, especially if you use it as a tool for crowd control. The spell has an extensive area of effect. As I mentioned, you can fit at least 90 people within a 30-foot radius.
Furthermore, the damage is incredibly significant. On average, you can deal 17 to 18 thunder AND radiant (or necrotic) damage. When you consider the number of people you hit with, it is unbelievable.
For example, if there are 20 people within a 30-foot radius from you, and you wish to attack them all, you are looking at dealing 35 damage in total to all of them.
In one round, you can possibly deal a total of 700 points of damage, and that estimation considers only 20 people! The flexibility to choose between necrotic and radiant damage is also astonishing since you do not have to worry about who you are fighting against.
Of course, there are downsides to Destructive Wave. It being a late-game spell for Paladins is not entirely remarkable. Plus, there may be other options for Paladins that might be more useful in their situations.
However, they have the advantage of switching up spells whenever they do long rests, and the same goes for Clerics. Overall, I think it is a great spell to add to your arsenal. A Bard with this spell would be broken!