Scorching Ray 5e D&D Guide [2021]

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A spell that can quickly take the place of Magic Missile as a wizard’s go-to, Scorching Ray is a powerful attack spell that can deal damage to multiple targets. It offers significant appeal in the ability to focus fire on one target if desired.

The rules for Scorching Ray can be found in the Players Handbook on page 273.

Scorching Ray 5e

Evocation 2nd Level

Casting Time: 1 Action

Range: 120 Feet

Components: V, S

Duration: Instantaneous

You create three rays of fire and hurl them at targets within range. You can hurl them at one target or several.

Make a ranged spell attack for each ray. On a hit, the target takes 2d6 fire damage.

At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, you create one additional ray for each slot level above 2nd.

The rules for Scorching Ray reveal key aspects of the spell. It can deal damage to multiple targets or a solitary one. The base cast produces three separate rays using a ranged spell attack. The spell also has the potential to be upcast for additional damage.

Is Scorching Ray Good?

Scorching Ray is an excellent combination of damage and flexibility. A base cast creates three rays that can target a single target for 6d6 damage or different targets for 2d6 damage each. The spell levels up to create additional rays – not just extra damage. This allows the player to customize the point of the attack and the effect the spell has.

In a situation with multiple weak enemies, turn economy can be a huge challenge to the players. This is especially true in circumstances where characters have not reached extra attacks. A wizard at 3rd level gains access to scorching ray. The wizard can now attack 3 enemies in one turn reducing the effect of turn economy.

At higher levels, the need to divide the rays is less but still serves an important purpose, forcing concentration checks. Enemy spellcasters need to make concentration checks the same as player characters. Each ray counts as a hit and forces a check for each hit. This can be huge against enemy spellcasters.

One of the biggest upsides to the spell is one of the biggest downsides as well, each ray gets a separate attack roll. This prevents one bad roll from ruining the whole attack, but it also opens the possibility for casting a spell and only getting partial damage.

Does Scorching Ray Ignite?

There are long-running jokes about fire-based spells burning down a forest because of an errant shot. Unfortunately, many of these are not possible according to the rules, and Scorching Ray falls into this category.

The rules for Scorching Ray do not specifically state that items hit by the rays ignite. Other spells such as Fireball, Create Bonfire, and Fire Bolt all have a line in their description that specifically states items ignite when hit in some manner.

Bottom Line
One thing that is specific to 5e compared to other versions is the way in which the words are used specifically. Many house rules have been developed to fill in details, but ultimately, in 5e, if it isn’t specifically said, it doesn’t happen.

Can you Twin Spell Scorching Ray?

Twin Spell is Metamagic available to the sorcerer. The ability reads as follows:

  • When you Cast a Spell that Targets only one creature and doesn’t have a range of self, you can spend a number of sorcery points equal to the spell’s level to target a second creature in range with the same spell (1 sorcery point if the spell is a cantrip).
  • To be eligible, a spell must be incapable of targeting more than one creature at the spell’s current level. For example, Magic Missile and Scorching Ray aren’t eligible, but Ray of Frost and Chromatic Orb are.

As you can see in the second point, Scorching Ray is specifically mentioned. The spell is mentioned specifically because it can target 1 or more targets. Even if you only target one creature, it has the option to target more, thus disqualifying it from being able to be twinned. This would apply to any other spell that has the option of targeting more than one creature.

Spells that are capable of targeting only one creature at level one are eligible for Metamagic. Spells that target more creatures at higher level casting lose the ability to be twinned. For example, Charm Person at 1st level can only target one creature and therefore can be twinned. Charm Person at 2nd level can now have two targets and is no longer eligible for the Twin Spell effect.

Is Scorching Ray Better than Magic Missile at 2nd Level?

Magic Missile is an iconic spell in every edition of the game, but some have said it isn’t worth casting at higher levels. A common replacement proposed is Scorching Ray.A summarized comparison is provided below. Magic Missile is compared as being cast at 2nd level for this purpose.

  • Magic Missile (2nd Level)- Creates 4 darts that deal 1d4+1 each (12 Avg damage/20 max damage). Can have multiple or a single target. Creates four separate concentration checks. Automatically hit for force damage.
  • Scorching Ray (2nd Level)- Creates 3 rays that deal 2d6 each (18 Avg damage/36 max damage). Can have multiple or a single target. Creates 3 separate concentration checks. Attack roll required for each ray to hit for fire damage.

The spells have situational differences that could make one rank better than the other. The key in the comparison is Magic Missile automatically hits, dealing force damage, while Scorching Ray might hit for fire damage. Fire is the most common resistance, while force is the second least common resistance.

Final Thoughts

Scorching Ray is a great spell. It can have a single or multiple targets and has decent damage. The option to upcast the spell allows it to remain relevant as the character advances in level.

The weaknesses in the spell are separate attack rolls and the commonly resisted fire damage type. In the end, it is a great attack spell for any caster that can provide some flexibility.

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