During my younger years aside from fantasy RPGs, I fell in love with the show: Avatar: The Last Airbender. The idea of bending elements was such a cool concept to my child brain. I knew if I were in the Avatar world, I would want to be an Earth-bender. Imagine molding the ground beneath you and creating absurdities!
Thankfully, D&D 5e fulfills my wish through the Mold Earth spell. Keep in mind that it is not a very powerful spell, but it is helpful; you would not feel like Toph trashing a couple of Fire Nation guards with her mighty Earth-bending powers, but it is a few steps to that goal. Plus, it is a cantrip! You can cast it whenever you want; if you want to learn more about Mold Earth, this article is what you need. Welcome to a Mold Earth 5e Guide.
Bottom Line Up Front: What is Mold Earth in D&D 5e?
Mold Earth is a transmutation cantrip you can find in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything on page 162. Transmutation spells change an object or more to another material or state of being, like how King Midas can turn anything to gold by a simple touch. Examples of such spells are Blink and Message; below are the crucial details about the Mold Earth cantrip.
- Mold Earth
- Transmutation cantrip
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 30 ft.
- Components: S
- Duration: Instantaneous; 1 hour
Mold Earth’s duration may vary depending on which effect you are doing because you can do more than one effect with this spell. You can learn more about the multiple effects in the sections below.
How to use Mold Earth in D&D 5e
Like casting any spell in D&D, you need to check first if you can cast the spell by looking at its requirements. You do not need a spell slot for it since Mold Earth is a cantrip, but you move your arms for the spell to work; note that it has a range of 30 ft., and in combat, casting the spell would cost an action.
Now that we have cleared everything that you need to do to cast Mold Earth successfully, you can follow the steps below:
- Choose a 5-foot cube area of dirt or stone you can see within range.
- Choose from three possible effects. You can manipulate your chosen area to perform one of the following effects below:
- You can excavate the area and move it 5 feet away if it is composed of loose dirt; do not worry if you are confused about what “loose dirt” means because Jeremy Crawford, D&D 5e’s game architect, explained that you should “think dirt, not stone.” So, if you imagine yourself digging the area out with a shovel, then Mold Earth would work.
- Shapes, colors, or both can appear on the chosen area of dirt or stone. You can make words, images, patterns, tracks, or anything you want.
- You can make your chosen area become difficult terrain if it is normal terrain on the ground; you can also do the reverse (turning difficult terrain into normal terrain).
The next section explains what will happen after choosing an effect for Mold Earth.
How does Mold Earth work in D&D 5e?
You have chosen an area of dirt or stone and the appropriate effect for the circumstance; the following events happen if you chose the first effect (referring to the previous section):
- The area becomes excavated. If something was buried in the area, it becomes unearthed; this effect would be excellent for treasure hunting!
- The movement of dirt does not cause damage; thus, you cannot do this effect with hurting enemies in mind.
- This effect is instantaneous.
If you have chosen the second effect instead:
- Other creatures can see your alteration of the area. You cannot specifically choose who can and cannot see it; thus, everyone can see it as long as it is within their range of vision.
- The effect lasts for an hour.
Finally, if you have chosen the third effect:
- Creatures moving through difficult terrain uses double the normal feet of movement. For example, if someone with 30 ft. of movement moves through two tiles of difficult terrain, it would cost them 20 ft. instead of 10 ft. Note that this rule only applies to difficult terrain; thus, this rule takes place when you transform normal terrain into a difficult one.
- The effect lasts for an hour.
Furthermore, you can cast this spell multiple times, but you can only have a maximum of two active instances of the last two effects. For example, you can have the second and third effect active, or the second effect active twice, etc. You can also dismiss the effects of Mold Earth, but if you are in battle, it will cost an action. All of this explanation might sound confusing, so I will give you an example.
Example scenario for using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
It has been a long time, but Arthur is back with D&D Lab; this time, we are testing out Mold Earth with your favorite Half-elf Wizard, Marshal. He knows the Mold Earth Cantrip and is ready to shape the ground beneath his feet. Sadly, we will not be hurting anyone in this demonstration; however, we still have a “willing” participant we will call “Randall” who has 30 ft. of movement.
Below is an illustration showing Randall’s and Marshal’s positions. It is Marshal’s turn, and he casts Mold Earth. He chooses the highlighted area of conveniently-placed loose dirt for the spell and decides to do the first effect, which is to excavate the area and move the dirt 5 ft. elsewhere.
Marshal decides to dump the dirt on where Randall is; however, the cantrip does not damage him since moving the dirt cannot harm anyone. Now, there is a hole beside Randall and dirt all over him. Luckily for us, some treasures have surfaced thanks to our excavation.
It is Randall’s turn, and he decides to chill and not move at all (no, we did not force him to stay put). So, it is Marshal’s turn, and he uses Mold Earth again but this time, he chooses to do the second effect. He chooses the highlighted area to experiment with.
Marshal makes a red letter “A” on the area. Randall sees the effect but it does not affect him. It is Randall’s turn, and like his previous turn, he does nothing. It is Marshal’s turn again. He casts Mold Earth, and this time, he chooses the area in front of Randall as the area of effect for the cantrip. He chooses to do the final effect and makes the highlighted area into difficult terrain.
It is Randall’s turn. He decides to move now, and he is going toward Marshal. He passes through the difficult terrain and goes in front of Marshal. This action would normally take ten ft. of movement; however, because the highlighted area is difficult terrain, it takes him 15 ft. of movement instead (10 ft. for the difficult terrain, and 5 ft. for the space in front of Marshal.
Who can cast Mold Earth in D&D 5e?
Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards can cast Mold Earth, along with four subclasses (Arcana Cleric, Arcane Trickster Rogue, Eldritch Knight Fighter, and Nature Cleric), and two races (High Elf and Half-elf descending from a Moon Elf or Sun Elf).
Classes that can cast Mold Earth in D&D 5e
Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards can change the ground around them anytime if they know Mold Earth. Below is a list of these classes and their sources to learn more about their intricacies. Note that Druids only know two to four cantrips throughout levels 1 to 20; for Sorcerers, they know four to six, and for Wizards, they know three to five.
- Druid: Player’s Handbook, page 64
- Sorcerer: Player’s Handbook, page 99
- Wizard: Player’s Handbook, page 112
Subclasses that can cast Mold Earth in D&D 5e
Only four subclasses can cast the Mold Earth cantrip and they are in the table below along with their originating class, their source, and their class source.
Subclasses that can cast Mold Earth
|Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, page 125
|Player’s Handbook, page 56
|Player’s Handbook, page 97
|Player’s Handbook, page 94
|Player’s Handbook, page 74
|Player’s Handbook, page 70
|Player’s Handbook, page 61
|Player’s Handbook, page 56
It is important to remember that these subclasses have a limited number of cantrips. For Clerics, they know three cantrips through levels one to three, four cantrips through levels four to nine, and five cantrips through levels 10 to 20. Rogues and Fighters only know three cantrips through levels three to nine, and the count increases by one at level 10.
Races that can cast Mold Earth in D&D 5e
Only two races can cast the Mold Earth cantrip, and the best part is: that they do not even need to have the spellcasting feature! They can be Barbarian and still perform the tricks of manipulating the ground. The races in question are the High Elf and the Half-Elf, specifically the Moon Elf or Sun Elf Descent variant.
Both these races can have Mold Earth in their arsenal thanks to their “Cantrip” racial feature. As stated, they can choose one cantrip from the Wizard spell list, and since Mold Earth is part of that list, they can choose Mold Earth.
However, for the Half-Elf variant, they must choose between the “Skill Versatility,” “Elf Weapon Training,” or “Cantrip” racial feature; they cannot perform Mold Earth as a racial spell if they do not pick the last option.
Creative and useful ways to use Mold Earth in D&D 5e
Mold Earth surprisingly has many haters; many people say it is overrated, but I say it is an effective spell in the right circumstances. You can make any spell helpful and fun with a creative mind. Many fans of the cantrip have listed ways to make Mold Earth useful, but I am making my list! I have listed below some creative and useful ways to utilize the Mold Earth cantrip in D&D 5e.
- Creating cover.
- Setting up traps.
- Avoiding traps.
- Digging up buried treasure.
- Escaping prisons.
- Making signals.
- Fabricating tracks.
- Distracting enemies.
Creating cover using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
During the first World War, soldiers would use trenches to cover themselves up from the enemy fire. It was an effective strategy as they recuperate while away from machine gun bullets. Why am I talking about World War I all of a sudden? Well, you can apply the same strategy using Mold Earth. If you are expecting a battle against an army of ranged attacks, then you know what to do.
You can use Mold Earth to instantly make a network of trenches. Your DM might consider a 5 ft. hole to be not enough to cover an entire person fully. However, a 3/4 cover is still a good cover! If you move the displaced dirt at the front of the enemy’s line of sight and beside the trench, it may even provide full coverage. They are formidable defensive barriers, and you cannot argue with the results.
Setting up traps using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
You are protecting your base from a wave of angry goblins, and you are expecting a horde coming soon. With Mold Earth, you can set up traps before the threat comes rushing in. How? First, you need to have something dangerous when falling into, like some spikes or barbed wires. Then, you make a hole using Mold Earth on the area you expect your enemies to stand on.
Put the dangerous trap in the hole, and put the dirt back in. Finally, when your enemies stand where you put your trap, you can cast Mold Earth again to remove it and unveil the surprise waiting beneath them. If you have plenty of time, you can even encircle your base with holes full of traps. That way, your enemies would have trouble going towards you while you shoot at them with a barrage of arrows.
Avoiding traps using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
The tables have turned, and you are now the infiltrators to the evil boss’ lair. The evil boss is as smart as you because they have set up holes full of traps. What will you do? Well, you can circumnavigate around the traps as easily as you can set them up. You can use Mold Earth to dig the surrounding areas of the traps and go past them. However, if the evil boss encircled their castle with holed traps, what do you do?
You can also dig up an area of loose dirt and place it on the traps. That way, you can fill up the hole with dirt and you can walk past it without worrying about them. You may ask, “what about trip wires?” Like the previous solution, you can just dig your way below the trip wire using Mold Earth without triggering it. Because Mold Earth is a cantrip, you can do it as many times as you want!
Digging up buried treasure using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
Some rich and greedy people bury their treasures so that no other person can get them. Some people do it for the fun of treasure hunting, and they are known as pirates. You are following a treasure map, and your party arrives at the red and giant X. You are ready to collect your treasure, but you forgot your shovels! Shovels are heavy tools, so it would be logical to not carry them around with you all the time.
Enter: Mold Earth. With this cantrip, you can dig up your treasure without the need for shovels. As long as the treasure is buried under loose dirt, then you can do it (who buries their treasure in cement?). Plus, it does not take a lot of time to perform, as the effect is instantaneous. If I compare digging up the treasure, which takes time and effort, to magically displacing dirt, then I know which solution to pick.
Escaping prisons using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
Uh-oh! You successfully infiltrated the evil boss’ lair and avoided their traps, but you got defeated by them in a battle! They decide to spare you and your party, but they throw all of you in a prison cell. All your belongings, including your weapons. You cannot do your spells that require material components because they took away your arcane focus. However, you have an ace up your sleeve: Mold Earth.
If you are imprisoned without restrictions to your arms, and the ground beneath you is composed of loose dirt, then you can cast Mold Earth. You can dig through the prison bars and surface somewhere safe. Of course, this situation can be rare. I mean, who makes prisons with loose dirt as the ground except for dumb goblin chiefs? But hey, if the situation comes, you know what to do.
Making signals using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
You are preparing a surprise attack against the evil boss’ minion, who is setting up camp in the middle of the forest. Everyone is separated from each other at a not-so-far distance for the surprise attack to work, and everyone is waiting for a go signal. Your fellow teammate is finally ready, and you give them the go signal. You can’t shout it loudly, so what would you do? Mold Earth can do the signaling for you.
You can make words, shapes, or colors on an area with Mold Earth. You can simply spell out, “Go” beneath or in front of your teammates to let them know everything is ready. You can also use Mold Earth to make a mark on a particular place without making a sound. You can even use it as a signal you can come back to before an hour, sort of like a rendezvous spot.
Fabricating tracks using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
Your surprise attack failed, and now the enemies are hunting you down. Your footprints are embedded in the muddy terrain, which does not help you at all. They are following your tracks, and you are almost out of options. Thankfully, you have the Mold Earth cantrip. With it, you can hide the tracks you have left behind. With your footprints gone, they become stumped by the dead end out of nowhere!
Alternatively, you can also fool an enemy tracking you down by making up tracks. You can make the tracks go somewhere they will get lost. However, keep in mind that Mold Earth only affects a 5 ft. area of ground, so it would be a short trip. A good implementation of this trick would be to lead the tracks to a trap you have set up using Mold Earth. Genius!
Distracting enemies using Mold Earth in D&D 5e
The evil boss’ minion is looking for you in the forest, and you are hiding behind a tree. Soon, they will approach your location and you have nothing to help you. You are all out of spell slots, and you do not have any decent weapons. Your only chance is to escape. What do you do? If you have Mold Earth, you can distract the enemy by making something on the ground far from you.
You can make a shape, phrase, or even color on the ground to distract the enemy. Who would not be distracted by something suddenly appearing on the ground? When they approach your marking on the ground, it would be a great opportunity to escape out of there and go to your teammates. With Mold Earth, you can escape dangerous situations like that!
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can Mold Earth move stone in D&D 5e?
Answer: No, Mold Earth cannot excavate hard stone in D&D 5e. If you cannot shovel your way through a ground of stone, you cannot use Mold Earth on it either. According to Jeremy Crawford, one of D&D 5e’s game architects, you should think of “dirt, not stone.” His words are the words of God in terms of D&D, so you can rely on that information.
Question: Can Mold Earth create cover in D&D 5e?
Answer: Mold Earth can maybe create cover in D&D 5e, but it depends on your DM. A forgiving and rational DM would understand the logic behind the reasoning. However, it all comes down to how you explain your usage of Mold Earth, and how strict the table is. Some DMs allow Mold Earth to create a full cover, while some only allow 3/4 of protection. Some stricter DMs do not even grant that privilege.
Question: Is Mold Earth a cantrip in D&D 5e?
Answer: Yes, Mold Earth is a transmutation cantrip in D&D 5e, which means that it does not need an available spell slot and that you can cast it anytime you want. You can find more information about it in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything on page 162. However, I suggest you read this article as it thoroughly explains how to use the cantrip as well as its uses.
Question: Is Mold Earth or Shape Water better in D&D 5e?
Answer: It depends on your campaign setting. If you expect a campaign where you will be on the waters a lot of times, like pirates or sailors, then Shape Water would be better in that scenario. However, if you are moving along the road and occasionally going underground for the dungeons, then Mold Earth would be better.
Conclusion: Is Mold Earth a good spell in D&D 5e?
Mold Earth is good, but not great. It’s a versatile spell, but many haters think it’s an overrated cantrip. However, with the proper usage, Mold Earth can be something incredible. The cantrip does not do direct damage, but it can be helpful during the battle; you can use Mold Earth to create tunnels or foxholes, which are perfect for dodging the enemy’s ranged attacks.
Yet I do think that many spells can outperform Mold Earth’s duties. For example, Mold Earth can be a good signaling device for people far away. However, if that is your intention, then I would rather pick the Message cantrip than this one. The Message cantrip reaches farther (120 ft.) compared to Mold Earth (30 ft.) However, the Message cantrip is only helpful for indirect communication. Mold Earth can be so much more.
I think Mold Earth has a wide array of applications, especially in scenarios where the adventure is on the ground. It may become completely useless in other situations; for example, being in the air or the ocean through an appropriate vessel would deem Mold Earth useless; you have no ground or dirt to use your magic on. As a DM, though, I make my adventures on the ground most of the time.