Time to use the power of the cold and unleash the potency of the frost. Today we are discussing a spell with a massive AOE: Ice Storm in 5e DnD. We will take a look if it is worth picking, the advantages, drawbacks and like always the best uses for the spell.
- Casting time: 1 action
- Level: 4
- Range: 300 feet
- Target: 20-foot radius, 40-foot-high cylinder centered on a point within range
- Components: Verbal, Somatic, Material (a pinch of dust and a few drops of water)
- Duration: Instantaneous
- Classes: Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard
A hail of rock-hard ice pounds to the ground in a 20-foot-radius, 40-foot-high cylinder centered on a point within range. Each creature in the cylinder must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 2d8 bludgeoning damage and 4d6 cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
Hailstones turn the storm’s area of effect into difficult terrain until the end of your next turn.
Upcasting: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the bludgeoning damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 4th.
Advantages and Drawbacks
- Incredible Range: This is pretty self-explanatory. The spell has a range of 300 feet, which can basically cover the entire battle map (if the group is using one). It can be used as a surprise attack if the enemies haven’t noticed the spellcaster yet, or simply as a starting move from a distance.
- Large Area of Damage: The spell itself is a literal ice storm. This means that as long as the creature(s) is not taller than 40 feet, or if there are multiple creatures gathered together in one area, the spellcaster should be able to contribute a lot to the team in terms of damage. This is very similar to fire storm.
- Instant Damage: One would usually think that conjuring a literal storm would require concentration or at least a ritual. However, the spell itself is instantaneous, so the only wait the spellcaster would need is for their turn within initiative.
- Take Out the Weaklings: With the spell’s damage output of 2d8 bludgeoning and 4d6 cold, it should be simple to take out a horde of creatures that are low on health or have low health altogether. For example, goblins and swarms usually have a low amount of hit points. This way, the frontliners are able to get to the bigger guys without possible opportunity attacks from the smaller mobs.
- Upcasting: The spellcaster is able to upcast this spell, increasing the bludgeoning damage done by an additional 1d8 for each slot level above 4th. Nothing can go wrong with more damage done towards mobs, especially when the spell itself already does a lot of damage as it is. This means that this is simply a smaller buff to the bullet points above.
- Indisputable Damage: This spell always deals damage, especially since it relies on a saving throw rather than rolling for an attack. Even if the creature were to have a successful save, they would still take half of the damage dealt.
- Friendly Fire: The storm itself is indiscriminate towards its targets, whether friend or foe. If any of the spellcaster’s teammates are in the area of effect for the spell, they will also have to make a saving throw and take the damage.
- Materials Needed: The materials needed for the spell aren’t necessarily difficult to obtain. However, some people may find gathering materials for spells to be a hassle.
- Versus Cone of Cold: It is debated whether the spell Cone of Cold is generally better than Ice Storm due to the fact that it is only one spell level higher and typically does more damage. It is also less problematic since it only goes in a 60-foot cone.
- Not Suited For Higher Levels: As the encounters for sessions become more difficult, this spell may not be suited for higher CR (Challenge Rating) creatures. It becomes rather costly for a minuscule amount of damage done, sometimes rendering it pointless. As the spellcaster levels up, they will probably replace the spell with a more useful one that deals more damage and/or contributes more to their party.
- Creates Difficult Terrain: Unless the character can ignore difficult terrain, this can be seen as more of a hindrance than anything. Once the storm passes (the spell is instantaneous, so it will happen right after the spell), the area of effect of the storm turns into difficult terrain until the end of the caster’s next turn. That being said, if anyone wishes to pursue the bigger boss in the middle of the storm, they will have to wait an entire round or possibly waste it entirely on other things.
Best Uses for Ice Storm 5e
1. Dealing with Low-HP Hordes:
As stated previously, the Ice Storm spell is effective against a group of low-HP enemies gathered in one place. It deals significant damage to the smaller monsters, leaving the larger ones as the only threat. This is especially useful when the DM employs the “damage in numbers” philosophy, placing hordes of monsters in a single area.
2. Slow Them Down:
If the bigger monsters are too far away or the party is occupied with other tasks, the caster can use the spell to slow them down, as the spell creates difficult terrain. As long as the creatures within the spell’s area of effect don’t ignore difficult terrain, the spell should stall them, allowing the party to tend to other matters.
Alternatively, party members with levitation or flying abilities can enter the spell’s area of effect, deal damage, and leave.
3. Synchronize with the Party:
Despite its advantages, the Ice Storm spell should be used situationally. It’s best to discuss and plan how to use the spell with the party before the battle. It’s an excellent tool for keeping the backline occupied and safe while the frontlines deal with their tasks, especially since the spell is instantaneous.
4. Back-up Damage
There will be occasions when creatures may call for reinforcements in the middle of battle. If the creature is already high CR, the reinforcements will most likely be low-leveled minions. To top it all off, the minions will most likely make their entrance around the same area. This spell is perfect for making sure that reinforcements will never be able to touch the other players.
When fighting hordes, it can be a spellcaster’s worst nightmare since they’re not known for going after one mob at a time. As stated previously, this spell is good for taking out a horde of monsters all in one area with just one spell from one caster. The worry of the spellcaster having to fight a bunch of small monsters will no longer be much of a concern.
Advice and Final Thoughts
It’s a good level 4 spell to take if you’re looking for a straightforward level 4 spell (like a filler spell) with a lot of effects. However, for the most part, it is easily replaceable at higher levels by other damage spells with areas of effect and other perks.
Basically, it’s good for lower levels, but should be replaced at higher levels for better spells with more damage output and utility. Personally, I wouldn’t put this spell on a good portion of my spellcasters, but it’s a good spell if you find yourself jumping into a large group of monsters constantly.
Does the saving throw apply to both types of damage?
Yes, the saving throw applies to both types of damage. If the creature succeeds the saving throw, the damage for bludgeoning is halved, and then the damage for cold is halved. It may seem good in some scenarios, but many creatures at higher levels have resistance to bludgeoning, so the damage output becomes even lower, and even more so if they have resistance to cold.
Can you cast Ice Storm 5e in the air?
In terms of keeping the storm afloat, yes, it is possible. It may seem a little strange, but the rules don’t specify where it can be placed, so it’s possible to cast it in the air unless the DM says otherwise. DM’s discretion should also be in place when determining if casting the spell in the air would result in difficult terrain, regardless of it not touching the ground.
Where should I cast Ice Storm 5e?
It’s not recommended to cast the spell indoors. It’s possible, but not optimal. In close and compact quarters, the caster using this spell may do more harm than good for their team. The difficult terrain and indiscriminate damage would be a world of hurt, especially for those with low hit points.