Shocking Grasp is a cantrip that doesn’t get picked up often, but that has surprising usefulness for a spell caster. The melee aspect of this cantrip places it in a risk/reward or emergency use only category.
The rules for Shocking Grasp can be found in the Players Handbook on page 275.
Shocking Grasp 5e
Casting Time: 1 Action
Components: V, S
Lightning springs from your hand to deliver a shock to a creature you try to touch. Make a melee spell attack against the target. You have advantage on the attack roll if the target is wearing armor made of metal. On a hit, the target takes 1d8 lightning damage, and it can’t take reactions until the start of its next turn.
The spell’s damage increases by 1d8 when you reach 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8).
The rules for Shocking Grasp outline the benefits as well as the negatives of this spell. A spellcaster generally is not a class to lean on a melee attack. The advantage against metal armoris nice, and the enemy’s loss of reaction can save some hit points if the caster chooses to flee.
Is Shocking Grasp Good?
Shocking Grasp is a surprisingly good cantrip for casters who like to get in close or find themselves in melee often.
The D8 damage leaves a lot to be desired for a cantrip that requires a caster to be in melee range as that is not their specialty. This makes it more suited for a backup cantrip than a primary means of attack. There are plenty of cantrips that have range and are better suited for combat casters.
The interesting thing about Shocking Grasp is the effect and how it is applied. First, looking at the advantage of metal armor, it is clear that this cantrip is best used against humanoid or intelligent enemies. Most monsters don’t wear armor. It also means the chance to hit is improved.
Second, the loss of reaction can bail a caster out if they find themselves singled out in melee. Sure, the caster could use their action to disengage and run, but why not try to deal some damage on the way.
The spell also specifies “no reactions,” so the enemy can still use reactions if the caster simply disengages. This is not the case with successful use of the spell.
What Does Shocking Grasp Do?
The Shocking Grasp cantrip causes lightning to shoot from the casters hand-delivering a shock to the target. The spell actually does lightning damage as its damage type. This is an important distinction to make as lightning damage is less commonly resisted than some other damage types such as fire.
The target takes d8 lightning damage on a successful hit and cannot take reactions for the round.
Shocking grasp is a spell that has its uses and benefits, making it serviceable if a character is avoiding fire. The downside is that the spell requires a melee attack to make, and that doesn’t fit most casters.
If you are going to use Shocking Grasp as a primary damage cantrip, hopefully, it is with the understanding that the character is going to be in harm’s way. Sorcerers are the exception as their Metamagic abilities improve the impact and usefulness the spell can have.
Is Shocking Grasp an Attack?
Shocking Grasp is a spell that requires a melee attack roll. This means that the player is taking the spell action, not the attack action.
Secondary attacks, such as using an offhand weapon, are only available when a character takes the attack action. The caster is also still limited to one action and bonus action spell (one being a cantrip) as usual.
While Shocking Grasp has advantage to hit a creature wearing metal armor, it is also a melee spell attack. This means that a character with the parry capability can use that feature to reduce the damage.
This is not incredibly clear based on the idea that the spell has advantage to hit a target wearing metal armor. It ignores the idea that the target may have a metal shield or weapon.
Can Mage Hand Deliver Shocking Grasp?
Mage Hand does not have the capability to deliver touch spells, so it cannot deliver Shocking Grasp. Since it is a touch spell, Shocking Grasp could be delivered by a familiar. Another option is to use Metamagic to give the spell a ranged capability.
Shocking Grasp is not the first spell that comes to mind when selecting damage cantrips for a caster. However, if you are looking for something other than the typical choices, it is a potential option.
Obviously, its usefulness is affected by the class choice as Sorcerers can get more bang for their buck out of this cantrip. It is best taken as a secondary cantrip to give the caster some elemental flexibility if they find themselves stuck.
A melee spell attack doesn’t suffer penalties if cast within melee range, and this one might actually get you an advantage on your roll.