With more and more books coming out for 5th edition, there is an even more comprehensive selection of spells to choose from. One thing I like about 5e is their cantrips. Being able to let mages just cast meaningful spells is excellent. However, the wide selection also has a downside where you may not know what cantrips to choose for an offensive caster. So let’s go ever the top 5 best offensive cantrips for 5e.

Ground Rules

So before we begin, here are the rules. First off, these spells are in a vacuumSome cantrips are really strong in a specific scenario but overall relatively weak. Race and class benefits will also not be taken into account. Because most of these have an additional effect, those will be taken into account as well.

The top 5 will be the cantrips with the best damage output and offensive utility.

Attack vs. Saves

Before we get to the top 5, I want to discuss the difference between attack rolls and saving throws. Saving throws are generally weaker. For example, let’s say two level 1 characters are fighting, one with an AC of 12 and the caster with a save of 12. Suppose the caster attacks with a spell with an attack, assuming they have a 16 in the necessary ability score. In that case, they need to roll a 9 on the die or higher to hit. That is a 60% chance to hit.

Now, the caster attacks with a spell requiring a save. If the defender is proficient, then they have to roll a 9 or higher to succeed. You may see that 9 and think that the numbers are the same; however, the 9 to hit is a success. The 9 to save is a fail for you. You need them to roll an 8 or lower, which means you have a 40% chance of the attack to work. Even if they are not proficient in the saving throw, you still have a 45% chance for the attack to land.

With that squared away, let’s get on the top 5 best offensive cantrips.

5 Toll The Dead

This is the only spell on this list with a save. The reason this is is because of the damage it can do. When attacking an injured enemy, you do d12 damage. The only other cantrip that does this much damage is poison spray; however, you need to be within 10ft of the target. The additional effect of doing a d8 if uninjured does not matter as much unless you are fighting a swarm of weak enemies.

Produce flame

4 Produce Flame

I have always been a fan of produce flame from the previous versions of D&D. This game is no exception. Many of you may be thinking, why produce flame over firebolt? For me, the answer is because of space. Unlike other spell levels, you are limited to the number of cantrips, you know. Why have a sperate spell of light and another for damage when you can combine those two together? You get a little less damage, but you also get a light source that is not concentration-based. It is the best of both worlds. Firebolts’ ability to light things on fire does not come into play much, and I find it an effect they gave to add flavor to the spell.

3 Chill Touch

Chill touch is a spell with a lot going for it besides damage. While the d8 damage is ok, the two bonus effects that come with it are significant. The ability to shut down healing is especially helpful in boss fights. Giving disadvantage on attack rolls to the undead that targets you is also an excellent way of staying in the battle.

2 Eldritch Blast

Many of you probably expected this to be on the list. It is a good spell with some exciting traits that set it apart from all the other spells. For example, while all the different spells level up and gain more damage dice, the eldritch blast gets another beam. There are some excellent and bad aspects to this. With other cantrips, you can think of hitting the target as a 50/50. When you hit with an attack, you roll all damage; if you miss, you roll none. With this cantrip, you have a range. You could miss and do nothing, or you could hit with all. The more likely scenario is that you hit with at least a few rays. This means that, on average, if you target one creature with all the beams, you will do some damage instead of other spells, which have a greater chance of doing nothing. Additionally, you can target multiple enemies anywhere within range. That makes it the only cantrip that can accomplish this without needing the enemies to be adjacent to you or each other.

1 Shocking Grasp

This is fantastic. With a d8 damage, it may not be the most damaging, but it has two powerful effects. The first is giving an advantage when attacking someone wearing metal. As stated above, you are more likely to hit with an attack roll than a save, and providing an advantage to your attack roll will make this cantrip connect more often than not. The second ability is to have the target you hit not able to use reactions. With many skills and maneuvers using reactions, you can connect with a shocking grasp and walk away knowing that they cannot opportunity attack you.

The Sum Up

These are the top 5 offensive cantrips for 5e. If you have your own list or an opinion on what should or should not be there, let me know. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Shocking Grasp

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