Sacred Flame is not the most powerful cantrip spell in the game, however, it is one of the most practical choices for clerics of neutral or better alignment. There are benefits to this spell over the other options, even if damage output isn’t one of them.
The rules for Sacred Flame can be found in the Players Handbook on page 272.
Sacred Flame 5e
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 60 Feet
Components: V, S
Flame-like radiance descends on a creature that you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 radiant damage. The target gains no benefit from cover for this saving throw.
The spell’s damage increases by 1d8 when you reach 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8).
The rules for the Sacred Flame Cantrip identify this as an all-or-nothing spell. The target can make a dexterity saving throw to negate the damage. They also show that Sacred Flame follows other cantrips in progressive damage increase based on character level.
How does Sacred Flame Work?
Sacred Flame targets a creature the caster can see within range. A pillar of radiant energy fire descends on the target. The spell does 1d8 damage at base level with an allowed dexterity save to negate the damage completely.
The rules are extremely specific to the advantages and disadvantages of this spell. The caster needs line of sight only to target the creature. Since there is not an attack roll, l partial cover is negated for the target.
A pillar of radiant flame descends on the target. It is important to note that Sacred Flame does radiant damage -not fire damage. This is a benefit to the spell since radiant damage is less likely to be resisted than fire damage. However, the spell does not specify any additional damage to undead which is a change from other options of divine magic.
The Sacred Flame spell is all-or-nothing when cast. The target either takes 1d8 damage (at base level) or makes a dexterity save vs. the spell save DC of the caster for no damage. This is not entirely uncommon for cantrips. It does, however, make the spell weaker than some of its counterparts since dexterity is generally a higher stat for many creatures.
Is Sacred Flame a Ranged Attack?
Classifications and terminology can be confusing, especially when in reference to certain spells. Sacred Flame, for example, is a spell action, not an attack action; therefore, it cannot be a ranged attack.
The typical telltale sign of an attack action compared to a spell action is the presence of a roll to hit. Sometimes there is a roll to hit as a component to a spell action such as Booming Blade, but it is still a spell action.
- Spell Action- Sacred Flame is a spell that, when cast, has an effect. Then rolls are made to resolve the effects of the spell (dexterity save vs. spell save DC). There is no attack roll made.
- Ranged Spell Attack- Firebolt is a spell that, when cast, requires a ranged spell attack roll. The results of the roll (attack roll vs. AC of target) resolve the effect of the spell, either a hit for damage or a miss.
- Spell Action with an Attack- Booming Blade is a spell that, when cast, requires a melee attack to be made as part of casting the spell. The spell has an effect when cast that is independent of the roll required. Then the melee attack roll is made to resolve the effect of the melee attack, not the spell effect.
How much damage does Sacred Flame do?
Sacred Flame deals 1d8 damage at the base level with an opportunity for the target to make a dexterity-saving throw to avoid the damage. You do not add your ability modifier to the damage for Sacred Flame. The target does not take any damage on a successful save.
Like all attack cantrips, Sacred Flame increases in damage output based on total character level (not class level). At 5th level, the damage is 2d8, and at 11th level, the damage is 3d8. Then at 17th level, the damage is 4d8.
The damage output is based on total character level. A 2nd level cleric deals 1d8 on a cast. A 2nd level cleric multi-classed with a 3rd level fighter deals 2d8 on a cast. While a 15th level ranger and 2nd level cleric deals 4d8 damage on a cast.
Is Sacred Flame the Best Cleric Cantrip?
Originally Sacred Flame was the only attack cantrip for clerics. With the addition of expansion materials, however, it has fallen out of favor. Players are leaning towards spells like Toll the Dead and Word of Radiance as replacements.
Sacred Flame is lower on damage output than Toll the Dead but does radiant damage compared to necrotic. Sacred Flame does more damage and has a larger range than Word of Radiance but only attacks one target. The best way to figure out which is the best option might be to figure out which fits the character type the best.
Radiant damage is in the top three least resisted damage types. While this may not seem important at lower levels, while enemies offer virtually no resistance to any type of damage at later levels, that can change dramatically. It can be really nice to always have a spell on hand that deals full damage to enemies even if the full damage is a little low.
Sacred Flame is not the newest, flashiest spell around, but for a casting cleric, it still remains hard to pass up. The damage is a little low, and the dexterity save to negate it can be frustrating but radiant damage is a solid type that applies to most enemies.
The spell is weak compared to cantrips of other classes, but since those aren’t available, you can’t go wrong with Sacred Flame.