Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Cantrips are a key part of building any spellcaster, and paladins aren’t an exception. While they only have a fraction of the spells of a full caster like wizards or sorcerers, paladins still have notable spell-casting abilities that support their primary martial role in the party.
However, unlike other partial casters and casters in general, cantrip selection for paladins involves more sacrifices than other classes. Moreover, the paladin’s role is much more clearly defined by the sword than the spell. Cantrips for paladins, therefore, need to be carefully oriented around the paladin’s role in the party as a defender and striker.
Do Paladins Get Cantrips?
Generally, paladins do not get cantrips. They are limited to 1st– through 5th-level spells and don’t have any infinite-use magical abilities like cantrips for other spell casters.
However, it’s not as if D&D 5e forbids paladins from cantrips entirely. There are a variety of ways that a paladin might gain access to these to support their spell casting or combat abilities.
Primary among these are:
- Racial Abilities
- And recently, the Blessed Warrior fighting style
Of these, multiclassing and the Blessed Warrior fighting style are the best ways to get cantrips for paladins. While feats can get you cantrips, taking a feat, even a half-feat, primarily for a cantrip is simply not worth it. The cost is simply not worth it for paladins.
As for racial abilities, these can be a nice bonus but are generally an inflexible way to gain cantrips. Cantrips via racial abilities can be helpful, but you probably shouldn’t orient your build around your choice for race.
With that in mind, let’s look at the more useful methods for getting cantrips as a paladin.
Multiclassing is an excellent way to get cantrips because, although the cost of multiclassing is high, your build will benefit in a lot of ways other than cantrips.
For paladins, the usual multiclassing choices are clerics or sorcerers.
Clerics enhance paladin’s support and healing abilities while not deeply compromising the paladin’s martial role. Sorcerers, being Charisma based like paladins, provide an interesting approach to a gish build. For sorcerers/paladins, the approach is usually to be primarily a spellcaster who uses magic to enhance their martial abilities.
It’s worth noting that while warlocks are also Charisma based, you’ll rarely see a paladin/warlock build. That’s because both classes are partial casters, and multiclassing in this way has hefty costs without the strong benefits provided by multiclassing into more focused classes.
The newly available Blessed Warrior fighting style grants the paladin two free cantrips from the cleric spell list. Moreover, whenever you level up, you can hot-swap one of your cantrips, granting some excellent versatility.
Of course, picking this fighting style means missing out on excellent fighting styles like Blind Fighting (self-explanatory) and Defense (+1 AC). That means your cantrip picks from this ability need to be able to reinforce your martial abilities like the other fighting styles would.
How To Pick Paladin Cantrips
The general strategy for picking paladin cantrips is to pick combat-oriented spells that merge well with your existing strategies.
Paladins don’t get a lot of cantrips, so combat-oriented spells should always be the first choice. Utility spells are nice, but generally, you’ll want to leave those to the more flexible casters like full clerics, wizards, and sorcerers.
Moreover, you’ll want to pick combat cantrips that don’t compete for your core melee attacks. That means AOE and ranged cantrips are generally better choices, giving your paladin options when your core attacks aren’t suitable.
What Are the Best Cantrips for My Paladin?
The cantrips below have been selected primarily for reinforcing the paladin’s primary combat role. However, your build might dip into the paladin class while focusing on a different concept, in which case these cantrips might not be the best choice. Instead, I recommend checking out our other articles about cantrip selection, like this article for sorcerer picks, this one for clerics, and this general guide to picking cantrips for different party roles.
Booming Blade is a cantrip that allows you to make a melee attack as part of the spell. Assuming the attack hits, the spell does 1d8 thunder damage to the target if they willingly move more than 5 feet.
The damage scales as you level up, and notably, the cantrip starts doing extra damage on hit at level 5. At levels 5, 11, and 17, the damage from both of these sources increases by 1d8.
This is an excellent cantrip to grab as it is a simple damage increase in many cases. Below level 5 when paladins get extra attack, this is a straight bonus, and after level 5, there are still some situations where you can get more damage from the cantrip than two attacks.
Moreover, if you get this cantrip through sorcerer multiclassing, you might also get access to metamagic. Quicken Spell is an excellent way to essentially get three attacks in a round for some nice burst damage.
This spell is actually pretty similar to Booming Blade, and I recommend it for the same reasons. However, instead of dealing its extra damage on voluntary movement, it does extra damage to another creature within 5 feet of your primary target.
While this spell is also an excellent damage boost to your paladin, you shouldn’t take both spells. They overlap too much in use.
Other than the sources of the bonus damage, which will be situational, the main difference between these two cantrips is that one does fire damage while the other does thunder damage. Depending on your build, extra sources of fire damage might be useful, but I would lean slightly more toward booming blade since thunder damage tends to be less strongly resisted.
Toll the Dead
This cleric cantrip is probably the best option for single-target damage. It targets a creature within 60 feet for 1d8 (scaling) damage on a failed Wisdom saving throw. That’s pretty decent damage, but spells like Firebolt (and of course Eldritch Blast) do more.
However, if the target creature is missing any of its hit points, the damage jumps to a d12 of necrotic damage. That’s the biggest damage die in the game in a cantrip, which makes this an excellent backup ranged option for your paladin.
Word of Radiance
Word of Radiance is your paladin’s AOE spell. Creatures within 5 feet of you take 1d6 (scaling) radiant damage on a failed Constitution saving throw.
This is a reasonable, mid-sized amount of damage for a cantrip. Usually, you’ll want to simply use your melee attacks. However, when surrounded by enemies (generally at least three), the total damage output vastly outpaces your usual melee damage.
Having an AOE cantrip, thus, is always an advantage. You might not always use it, but when you do, it’s a straight upgrade.
Sword Burst is a good side grade to Word of Radiance. The spell does similar damage in a similar way to Word of Radiance — 1d6 damage to creatures within 5 feet of you.
The spell does damage on a failed Dexterity save instead of Constitution and notably does force damage instead of radiance.
Generally, force damage is the best kind of damage in the game (at least in terms of creatures that resist it). For some, that might make Sword Burst a better option, but Radiance damage does have its own advantages. Neither cantrip is strictly better, but if you have the chance, you should grab one of them.
Paladins are the quintessential blend of divine magic and martial prowess, and the absence of cantrips as a base-class ability is notable for paladins.
The effect of this is not to prevent paladins from wielding cantrips (for reasons of lore or game mechanics). Instead, it primarily rebalances paladins around raising the cost of the infinite spells that cantrips represent.
Picking paladin cantrips thus starts with what you’re willing to sacrifice to have cantrips for your paladin build. Of course, you don’t need cantrips to be an effective paladin, but for many playstyles, they can be very helpful.
Once you’ve decided you want cantrips, you’ll need to make sure your picks were worth the cost. Hopefully, this guide will help you make those choices and take cantrips you’ll be able to use often and effectively.