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Fire is a very dangerous element to use in most cases. It is very unpredictable and destructive that it can burn down buildings that have stood for decades or even centuries in just a quick snap. In the words of Jeong Jeong from The Deserter episode in the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, “fire is alive. It breathes, it grows…fire will spread and destroy everything in its path if one does not have the will to control it!” In fact, the main antagonists of that series are people who can control or bend fire.
It is indeed scary, but here in the D&D world, many can control it effectively, especially spellcasters. There are a lot of spells that can do such a thing, and they can be used in a myriad of ways. Most of the time, however, they are used to inflict damage on the enemies; after all, fire spreads and destroys everything in its path, so why not destroy your enemies as well?
One of these spells is the Scorching Ray spell. It is a widely recognized spell that offers great damage and flexibility. You can either deal fire damage to a certain number of enemies or deal huge amounts of fire damage on a single target using Scorching Ray. If you want to find out more about this spell, read on further into our Scorching Ray 5e guide to decide whether or not it is a good spell for you to have in your spell list.
What is Scorching Ray?
Scorching Ray is a 2nd-level evocation spell; an evocation spell is a spell that can manipulate energy or raw magical power and use it for the desired end goal. Scorching Ray is a 2nd-level spell, so it would require an available level two spell slot to use it. It has a casting time of one action and a range of 120 ft. The spell’s effects are instantaneous, meaning by the time you cast it, the rays of fire reach your targets in the given turn and instantly deal damage to your targets.
Finally, it has the vocal and somatic component requirements. Scorching Ray can be found in the Player’s Handbook on page 273. These properties of the Scorching Ray are listed down below for brevity. Further down below are sections talking about how to use the spell and how it works.
- Scorching Ray
- 2nd-level evocation
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 120 feet
- Components: V, S
- Duration: Instantaneous
How to use Scorching Ray
When you are planning to use Scorching Ray, first, you need to check whether or not you are capable of doing so. Therefore, you must meet the requirements listed below.
- You must have this spell in your spell list as a class feature, race feature, background feature, etc.
- Since the spell is a level two spell, you need an available level two spell slot or higher that you can use.
- Since the spell has the vocal component requirement, you must have the capability to speak freely in an audible voice. If your mouth is restricted from external, internal, magical, or other forces such as having your mouth tied up with or being under the influence of the Silence spell, you cannot cast this spell.
- Since the spell has the somatic component requirement, you must have the capability to move your hands freely. If your hands are restricted from external, internal, magical, or other forces such as having rope or handcuffs tied on your wrists or being under the influence of the paralyzed condition, you cannot cast this spell.
- You must cast this as an action on your turn.
Have you met these requirements successfully? Congratulations! You can cast this spell, and when you do, you make a ranged spell attack. Below are the necessary steps to take when doing so. Keep in mind that the steps with bold first sentences are the steps that you as a player must follow, while those that are not are the steps that the DM must follow. This is to ensure that this list of steps is easy to follow.
- You must choose either a single target or multiple targets to hit Scorching Ray with. If you choose to hit multiple targets, the number of targets is determined by how many rays are created. Each ray hits only one target, and the number of rays is determined by the level of the spell slot that you used to cast this spell. If the spell slot is level two, you can create three rays; therefore, you can hit up to three targets. For every level above that, you create an additional ray. This is further explained in the “At higher levels” subsection in the “How does Scorching Ray work?” section.
- Your chosen target or targets must be within 120 ft. of you since Scorching Ray has a range of 120 ft.
- The DM must determine the necessary modifiers for the attack. For example, attacking enemies, you cannot see with Scorching Ray will give you a disadvantage on your attack roll. Another example would be that if your target is half-covered by something like a boulder or a tree, they will benefit from a +2 bonus to their Armor Class (or AC) and Dexterity saving throws. There are more modifiers than this that can be applied.
- The DM must apply these necessary modifiers before or during the attack roll.
- You must roll your attack roll, which is usually a 1d20.
- You must add the results of your 1d20 attack roll + your spell attack modifier. This is your final attack roll.
- Your DM must determine if your attack lands or misses your target. This is done by comparing your final attack roll and your target’s AC. If your final attack roll reaches or surpasses your target’s AC, then it is a hit. Otherwise, your spell misses.
It is worth noting that ranged attacks can suffer from a disadvantage if there is a hostile creature that is within 5 ft. of you. The hostile creature must also be able to see you and must not be incapacitated. Therefore, make sure that there are no enemies near you when you cast this spell. Furthermore, the spell attack modifier varies from class to class, and they are listed in the “Who can cast Scorching Ray” section.
How does Scorching Ray work?
When you succeed in your attack roll, you create three rays of fire, and you hurl them at your chosen target (or targets) within range. Each ray hits only one target and deals 2d6 fire damage. You can decide where each ray hits. For example, you can hit all three rays at a single target, dealing a total of 6d6 fire damage. You can hit three targets with a ray each or hit two rays at one target (thus dealing 4d6 fire damage) and the remaining one to another target (dealing 2d6 fire damage). There are many possibilities when you cast Scorching Ray.
At higher levels
Scorching Ray is a 2nd-level evocation spell, so it would need a level two spell slot. When you do so, you make three rays of fire as usual. However, you can also use level three spell slots or higher to cast this spell, and there are additional effects when you do so. When casting Scorching Ray at levels higher than two, you make an extra ray of fire for every level after level two.
For example, if you cast Scorching Ray using a level three spell slot, you can make four rays of fire. As usual, you decide wherever these four rays hit. The damage remains the same for each ray, yet if you focus all these rays on a single target, then, of course, the damage would increase per level higher than two. In the previous example, hitting four rays of fire on a single target would deal 8d6 fire damage, which has an average of 28 fire damage.
Who can cast Scorching Ray?
Scorching Ray is somewhat limited when it comes to the number of classes that can cast it. Right now, there are only two classes that have access to this spell, and these classes are listed down below, along with their source and their spell attack modifier.
|Classes that can cast Scorching Ray||Source||
Spell attack modifier
|Sorcerer||Player’s Handbook, page 99||Your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier|
|Wizard||Player’s Handbook, page 112||Your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier|
Sorcerers and wizards have different ways of “owning” spells. For sorcerers, they have a predetermined number of spells known depending on their level, and this information can be found in the Player’s Handbook, page 112. An existing spell can be replaced by another one every time the sorcerer levels up.
For wizards, they prepare a list of spells that they would use, and this list can be changed after every long rest. They choose from their spellbook a number of spells equal to their Intelligence modifier + their wizard level (with a minimum of one spell). So, for example, a level 3 wizard with an Intelligence modifier of +2 can prepare 5 spells in their list of spells since 2 (their Intelligence modifier) + 3 (their wizard level) = 5. The number of spells cannot go lower than one. So if the same wizard in the previous example has an Intelligence modifier of -3, they can still prepare one spell.
Both the sorcerer and the wizard have access to level two spell slots by the time they reach level 3. Both of them gain 2 level-two spell slots.
More subclasses can have access to the spell compared to the classes. In total, there are 7 subclasses, and they are listed below, along with their source and their spell attack modifier.
|Subclasses that can cast Scorching Ray||Originating Class||Subclass Source||Class Source||
Spell attack modifier
|Arcana Trickster||Rogue||Player’s Handbook, page 97||Player’s Handbook, page 94||Your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier|
|Artillerist||Artificer||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 17||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 9||Your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier|
|Eldritch Knight||Fighter||Player’s Handbook, page 74||Player’s Handbook, page 70||Your proficiency bonus + your Intelligence modifier|
|The Fiend||Warlock||Player’s Handbook, page 109||Player’s Handbook, page 105||Your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier|
|The Genie||Warlock||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 73||Player’s Handbook, page 105||Your proficiency bonus + your Charisma modifier|
|Light Domain||Cleric||Player’s Handbook, page 60||Player’s Handbook, page 56||Your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier|
|Circle of Wildfire||Druid||Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, page 39||Player’s Handbook, page 64||Your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier|
Both the Eldritch Knight fighter and the Arcana Trickster rogue have access to the Scorching Ray spell because they gain access to the wizard spell list as dictated in their Spellcasting subclass feature. The Artillerist artificer has access to Scorching Ray as part of their Artillerist spells, as mentioned in the “Artillerist Spells” subclass feature.
Similarly, clerics who have chosen the Light Domain and druids in the Circle of Wildfire have access to the spell as part of their Light Domain spells, and Circle of Wildfire spells, respectively. Warlocks with the Fiend and Genie pacts have access to this spell as part of their Expanded Spell List.
There is only one existing background that can let a character gain access to Scorching Ray, and that is the Boros Legionnaire. This background can be found on page 40 in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica, which means that it is only legal for Adventurer’s League if the campaign is set in Ravnica. But if you do not care about AL Legal stuff, then you can use freely use this.
The Boros Legionnaire background gains access to the Scorching Ray spell as part of their Boros Guild spells. Keep in mind that you would need to have a spellcasting or pact magic class feature already to cast this spell. When you do, you can add this spell as part of your spell list.
There is only one magical item that can cast the Scorching Ray spell, and it is the Circlet of Blasting. The best part about this item is that it only has a rarity of “uncommon,” so it is not that rare to find at all. Plus, it does not need attunement at all. For brevity, it is listed below, along with the rarity and if it needs attunement (which is noted in the “A” column).
|Circlet of Blasting||Uncommon||No||Dungeon Master’s Guide, page 158|
When someone wears the Circlet of Blasting, they can use their action to cast the Scorching Ray spell through this item. Additionally, when you use this item to cast the spell, you add +5 to your attack roll as an attack bonus. After using it, it cannot be used again until the next dawn.
Is Scorching Ray good?
Many think that Scorching Ray is a great spell because it is an excellent combination of good damage and flexibility. It is considered a flexible spell because you can choose where each ray hits. So whether you are facing a single target or multiple targets, you can cast Scorching Ray, and it would still be an effective mode of attacking an opponent.
In terms of damage, each ray hits 2d6 fire damage, which is an average of 7. Although it may be low, do note that it is the average damage per ray of fire. Therefore, if all three rays of fire (assuming this spell is cast with a level two spell slot) are directed on a single target, it would deal a total of 6d6 fire damage, which would be an average of 21.
Scorching Ray is very effective either when fighting against many weak opponents or fighting a singular bulky opponent. Plus, having an additional ray of fire every level after level two of the spell slot used is also very clever. It manages to still be effective against the number of enemies, as mentioned earlier. The number of targets you can hit with it gets bigger, and simultaneously, the amount of damage you can deal at a single target gets larger.
In terms of vulnerabilities, resistances, and immunities, consider these statistics in the scope of the Monster Manual alone.
- There are 9 creatures with a vulnerability to fire damage.
- There are 39 creatures with resistance to fire damage.
- There are 42 creatures with immunity to fire damage.
What we can get from this is that there are massively more creatures that are resistant and immune to fire damage compared to creatures that are vulnerable to it. This might be considered as the Achilles’ heel of this spell. However, most creatures with immunity or resistance to fire damage are dragons, fiends, or elementals. Therefore, if you are certain that you will not be facing such creatures, then Scorching Ray might be effective to use. Otherwise, it is best to pick another one.
Question: What level is Scorching Ray?
Answer: Scorching Ray is a 2nd-level evocation spell.
Question: How much damage does Scorching Ray inflict?
Answer: When using a level two spell slot, Scorching Ray creates three rays of fire that deal 2d6 fire damage each. When using a spell slot higher than level two, an additional one is made for every level higher than two. However, the damage stays the same.
Question: Does Scorching Ray crit?
Answer: Since Scorching Ray is a ranged spell attack, then yes, it can.
Question: Can Scorching Ray ignite?
Answer: By the rules of the book, no; certain spells are specified to have the ability to ignite flammable objects such as Fire Bolt and Create Bonfire. Since Scorching Ray does not have such a specification in its description, therefore it does not ignite.
Question: Which is better, Scorching Ray vs. Fireball?
Answer: Compared to Scorching Ray, Fireball is a 2nd-level evocation spell. Therefore, Scorching Ray is accessible earlier than Fireball. Furthermore, Fireball is a spell that has an area of effect, and any creature within the area is susceptible to 8d6 fire damage. Scorching Ray focuses on a target. Thus, it depends on whether you wish to focus on a target or several targets or if you want to deal damage within an area.