The 12 Worst 5e Cantrips – why you should avoid these

One of the very first spells that you start with as a player, cantrips bring you plenty of possibilities. At your very fingertips, you are able to cast your cantrip can help you amid battle or in everyday trials and tribulations. So choose wisely!

These are the worst cantrips I would not pick! In my experience, they are underpowered, not worth it and there are much better alternatives. Some of these worst 5e cantrips are popular homebrews that we thought were worth including!

1. True Strike 

True Strike, a divination cantrip in D&D 5e, allows the caster to gain insight into a target creature’s defenses, granting an advantage on the next attack roll made against it. While the spell might seem appealing in theory, it has limited effectiveness in practical gameplay situations.

One of its drawbacks is that it requires an action to cast, which means the caster forgoes the opportunity to make an attack or take any other action on that turn. Additionally, the advantage granted only applies to the next attack, so if the caster doesn’t follow up with an attack on the subsequent turn, the benefit is wasted. True Strike may be considered less effective due to its limited duration and action economy cost.

It often proves more advantageous to use a different cantrip or take a different action altogether. However, specific scenarios or character builds may arise where True Strike could find niche applications or synergies, so it is ultimately up to the player and the campaign’s context to determine its usefulness but I think True Strike is the worst cantrip in 5e DnD.

Worst 5e cantrips

2. Friends 

Friendship can be the most valued thing a person can offer. By casting the Friends spell, the caster gains an advantage on all Charisma checks directed at the target for the duration, which is one minute. While Friends can be situationally useful, it has significant limitations and potential drawbacks.

One of the main drawbacks is that after the spell ends, the target becomes aware that they were charmed and may become hostile or resentful towards the caster. Additionally, the spell explicitly states that it does not grant an advantage on attack rolls, so it offers no direct combat benefits.

Furthermore, using the spell in manipulative or exploitative ways can have negative consequences, both in terms of roleplaying dynamics and potential repercussions from NPCs or the DM. The Friends cantrip suffers from its limited duration and the potential for negative outcomes. 

3. On/Off 

The On/Off cantrip is simply just a remote switch that works on electronic devices, leaving it to be not useful for many campaigns. Most especially if you are playing in a pure fantasy setting with no technological advancements as mentioned in this cantrip, the On/Off cantrip may be completely useless in your endeavors.

Even if you are found in a more technologically advanced world, the On/Off is only limited to simple devices that don’t have a software-based shutdown sequence which makes it one of the worst 5e cantrips. Your best bet to activating and deactivating an electronic device is investing points in the Intelligence ability score.

4. Blade Ward

Blade Ward, on the other hand, allows the caster to protect themselves until the start of their next turn. While the spell is active, the caster gains resistance against all bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage dealt by weapon attacks. Blade Ward can be useful in certain situations, particularly for spellcasters who find themselves in melee combat or expect to be targeted by physical attacks.

However, the spell has limitations. It requires an action to cast and only provides resistance against weapon attacks dealing specific types of damage. It does not offer protection against spells or other sources of damage, and its benefits last only until the caster’s next turn. 

bad cantrips DnD

5. Poison Spray

On to number 5 of the worst 5e cantrips. Through the Poison Spray cantrip, the caster can release a spray of noxious gas toward a creature within range. The target must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take a small amount of poison damage. While this cantrip can be useful in certain situations, such as targeting creatures with vulnerabilities to poison damage or finishing off low-health enemies, it has limited application in combat and exploration.

The damage output is relatively low, and it becomes less effective against creatures that are resistant or immune to poison damage. In the world of Dungeons and Dragons, the poison damage type is the most common damage type to be either resistant or immune to. In addition, the spell has a short range and requires the caster to be in close proximity to the target, potentially putting them in harm’s way. 

6. Resistance

Resistance allows the caster to touch a willing creature and grant it resistance to one type of damage of their choice (acid, cold, fire, force, lightning, necrotic, poison, psychic, radiant, or thunder) for the duration, which is up to one minute.

While Resistance can be situationally helpful, its effectiveness is limited. It requires an action to cast and only provides resistance to one type of damage for a short duration. Additionally, it requires the target’s willingness and touch, which may not always be feasible or practical in combat situations. 

7. Dancing Lights 

Dancing Lights is a cantrip that may shed light on your character’s spell list, but its effects may be dimmer than what it appears. As much as the Dancing Lights cantrip can create floating lights that can be used for illumination or distraction, this cantrip requires concentration and to be within range so it may not be too helpful in combat. It also may not be useful during exploration in dark locations such as dungeons and caverns since it only lasts for a minute. You may be better off investing in other illusory cantrips that give you more reigns to do other effects than just light such as Thaumaturgy and Minor Illusion.

8. Fresh Paint

An artist at heart would love the Fresh Paint cantrip at their very fingertips, literally. However, in the world of Dungeons and Dragons, painting may not be a very common activity to engage in when out adventuring.

Unless you find you and your party doing menial odd jobs like painting a fence or a house, the Fresh Paint doesn’t have any other applications to do other than just paint, make the paint last longer, or fill up a bucket with paint. So if your character is an artist or a painter who often finds themselves painting, it may be just best to pick up a proficiency in Painter’s supplies and keep a set on hand.

9. Veil

After a successful melee attack against an enemy, a thick pale mist radiates from you thanks to the Veil cantrip. However, it may come to your demise as the effects of this mist leave you blinded and deafened until the end of your next turn.

Even though you may have the benefits of cover, it can simply be blown off as long that there is a wind of moderate speed that may appear to fan over it and disperse it.

Worst DnD cantrips

10. Prestidigitation 

Prestidigitation can be fun and flavorful, but it has limited application in combat and exploration. It lacks direct offensive or defensive capabilities, and its effects are typically minor and temporary within a short range of 10 ft.

It may not have a significant impact on combat encounters or solving complex challenges. Compared to other cantrips that offer direct damage, healing, or utility effects, Prestidigitation may be considered less effective in terms of combat prowess and practicality. 

Note: I do not agree with my colleague here, I do think this is one of the better ones for creative players.

11. Seek Phrase

A very specific cantrip to be used as a referencing tool, the Seek Phrase spell may be just as good as a highlighter, a bookmark, or even a pair of reading glasses. Though this may be useful for scholars to quickly find specific words and phrases without a hitch, the applications of using this spell beyond that are very limited.

Rather than using this cantrip, it might be better to have a party member proficient in Intelligence spend short rest of careful reading to save your next spell slot.

12. Break

Finishing off our list of worst 5e cantrips is Break. If you want to be loud and destructive, the Break spell may be your go-to cantrip. But there are some things to consider before using this spell. Since this spell destroys an unintended object it can be “a thunderclap of sound that can be heard up to 100 feet away,” which may not be very helpful if you’re trying to be discreet and avoid any unwanted attention.

Be also careful as it can cause damage to innocent bystanders that are within 5 ft of the affected object. But in the case of combat, the Break cantrip wouldn’t be too effective as it only does  a measly 1d4 piercing damage, in which enemies can still attempt to save with a successful Dexterity saving throw.

Final Thoughts and Advice on the worst DnD cantrips

With great access to several powerful and helpful spells, one should not overlook the importance of cantrips. While cantrips are generally less powerful than spells, they can be used in a variety of situations without expending spell slots. Make sure to choose cantrips that are useful in a variety of situations both in combat and in other sorts of encounters. But so long as you feel it fits your character and the story you want to tell feel free to explore and experiment till your heart’s content!

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