Last Updated on January 22, 2023
Cantrips are a spellcaster’s bread and butter. Warlocks are famous for having to rely heavily on Eldritch Blast for reliable damage across encounters, but cantrips exist so that any spellcaster can have reliable spells when they’re low on spell slots and need some damage or utility.
Starting out with four cantrips and moving up to six over the course of levels 1-10, sorcerers get the most cantrips of any single spellcasting class (barring additional feats or abilities that might get you more).
Four to six cantrips is one more than even the powerhouse casters, clerics, and wizards, who only get three to five.
Selecting Cantrips for Sorcerers
With cantrips a caster’s backup option, you definitely want to pick them carefully. For sorcerers, this is doubly important. Generally, once chosen, sorcerers cannot switch out their cantrips.
There is an optional rule that allows you to swap a cantrip you know for another cantrip at levels 4, 8, 12, 16, and 19. In other words, when you receive an ASI, you could swap out a cantrip that hasn’t been working for you.
However, not all DMs will be okay with this optional rule! Moreover, with this rule, you have to choose between swapping metamagic options and cantrips; you can’t swap both.
Players might find that alternate metamagics are more important to get correct than one of six cantrips.
Since your cantrip choice as a sorcerer is somewhat “locked in,” it’s important to look at all your options and make sure your selection provides you with a range of options, works with your build, will be useful in your campaign, and works the way you think it works.
The Right Cantrip for the Right Job
Because sorcerers get more cantrips than anyone else, they can afford to have a cantrip for every situation rather than having to specialize.
Generally, I recommend having a couple of cantrips for dedicated combat situations while keeping the rest for various kinds of utility.
If you select only damage-dealing cantrips, you’ll quickly find that you only like using one or two of the options while your other cantrips go to waste.
Having a cantrip for each damage type might sound appealing, but in reality it will significantly reduce your effectiveness because of the loss in utility.
There is certainly enough variety among utility cantrips to pick only those, but if you do that, you leave yourself with no backup damage source for long adventuring days.
I recommend looking for cantrips you expect you’ll use; Mold Earth is unlikely to be useful in a campaign set entirely on the ocean.
Below are the best cantrip options complete with analysis. I’ve divided the best options into three sections depending on your needs.
The first section covers the overall best cantrips. These will be good choices for pretty much anyone in any campaign, and you’ll definitely get some use out of them.
The second section covers cantrips that are best when complimenting a particular build or playstyle. This section includes cantrips that might be a little lackluster when used by builds not well suited for them.
Lastly, there are cantrips that can be extremely powerful or pretty much useless, depending on the kind of campaign you find yourself in and the way your DM rules certain ambiguities.
These cantrips must be discussed with your DM and perhaps your party beforehand to be guaranteed effective.
While there is some overlap between these groups, dividing the cantrip selection up in this way allows you to more easily analyze a particular cantrip and decide whether or not it is a good fit for your character.
Most players will benefit from selecting cantrips from all three sections.
This diverse array will ensure that your cantrip selection can not only shine when dealing damage or solving puzzles but also when using your build’s signature combos and facing the unique situations of your campaign.
Best Overall Cantrips
1. Fire Bolt
This cantrip does 1d10 fire damage (with an additional damage die at levels 5, 11, and 17) on a successful ranged spell-attack roll against a creature within 120 feet.
While the spell doesn’t do the highest damage of cantrip, its excellent range makes it the best sorcerer cantrip for pure damage. It can also ignite unattended objects, but that utility is small.
It’s worth noting that fire is the damage type most resisted by monsters, but even so, this cantrip is a solid damage choice for any sorcerer.
2. Mind Sliver
Mind Sliver does 1d6 psychic damage (with an additional damage die at levels 5, 11, and 17) to a creature within 60 feet that fails an Intelligence Saving throw.
Additionally, if the creature fails the save, it subtracts 1d4 from its next saving throw.
This is my personal favorite damage cantrip for sorcerers, even though it doesn’t do as much damage as some.
Intelligence is not a saving throw most enemies will have, making it much easier to make this cantrip land, and the utility of a weakened saving throw makes this spell excellent.
You can coordinate with your teammates and stack this spell with Bane and other saving-throw debuffs when you really need an enemy to fail their save, or you can simply use the debuff to make it more likely that your next Mind Sliver hits.
As a sorcerer, you can even quicken the spell to set up your next save-or-suck spell. This is a great fallback damage option for damage and utility.
3. Mage Hand
An excellent utility cantrip, Mage Hand allows you to conjure a spectral hand that can carry 10 pounds and do anything a hand can do except attack or activate magic items.
It has a range of 30 feet, and it does require your action to control.
This cantrip is one of the classics, useful for opening trapped doors, testing for mimics, stealing keys, causing distractions, and anything else you can use a hand at a distance for.
Versatile and widely applicable, you can’t go wrong by taking this cantrip.
4. Minor Illusion
Minor Illusion is a fantastically versatile cantrip that lets you create a static image of an object that fits within a 5-foot cube or a sound that ranges from a whisper to a scream.
It lasts 1 minute and is not concentration, which makes this a great spell to use in conjunction with other illusions.
While some of the limits might require DM clarification, even a conservative reading of the spell is excellent.
One common use is creating the illusion of a large stone or crate that your character can crouch down and hide in. You can also use the spell to create a wall where none exists or a vital distraction.
Build & Playstyle Specific Cantrips
5. Booming Blade
Booming blade is a cantrip that lets you make a melee attack with extra damage if it hits. At level 5, the spell does an extra 1d8 thunder damage with an extra die of damage at levels 11 and 17.
In addition, if the target willingly moves 5 or more feet before the start of your next turn, they take an additional 1d8 thunder damage (with an extra die of damage at level 5, 11, and 17).
This is an excellent cantrip for martial/caster builds (often called gish builds). While full sorcerers are unlikely to be good at melee combat, this can provide an easy damage boost to hybrid builds.
In addition, the sorcerer’s Quickened Spell metamagic option allows this cantrip to be cast as a bonus action, effectively granting an extra attack that round.
For more information on the damage potential of Booming Blade compared to multiple attacks, I recommend this analysis by RPG bot.
6. Green-Flame Blade
Green-Flame Blade fills the same kind of niche as Booming Blade, and I recommend taking one or the other but not both.
It allows you to make a melee-weapon attack against a creature, and at level 5, you do an extra 1d8 fire damage to your target on a hit with an extra damage die at level 11 and 17.
If your attack hits, you can also do extra fire damage equal to your spellcasting-ability modifier (Charisma for sorcerers) to a creature within 5 feet of you. At level 5, 11, and 17, this damage increases by 1d8.
As you can see, this cantrip is identical to Booming Blade, except for the damage type and the method of triggering the additional damage.
7. Blade Ward
Blade Ward takes an action to cast and gives you resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage dealt by weapon attacks for the next round.
This spell is usually considered awful since you sacrifice your ability to cast another spell or attack, but for tactical players, this can be pretty useful. There are several scenarios where you might want to be more passive.
As a hybrid build that’s tankier than a regular sorcerer, you might want to block a doorway or hallway with your body. You might also want something to defend yourself when fleeing a fight or when anticipating a heavy attack.
A sorcerer can also make use of the Quickened Spell metamagic to cast this spell as a bonus action while also taking a more productive action.
While this spell does have its place in certain tactical and hybrid playstyles, it’s worth noting that sometimes the Dodge action will simply be better, reducing the average you take more than resistance does.
Also, the dodge action applies to a broader range of damage sources than this cantrip. For a more detailed breakdown of when to use Blade Ward versus Dodge, I recommend this video.
This cantrip is concentration for 1 minute and grants advantage on Charisma checks made toward one creature you choose that isn’t hostile.
Given the description, you might think this is best for highly social campaigns, but while it can work in those, the cantrip comes with a caveat. After the spell ends, the creature knows you used magic on it and becomes hostile.
That makes this cantrip best for players who like to cause social distractions, create quick scams, and talk their way out of trouble and leave before anyone realizes what happened.
This cantrip is also excellent for heist-type situations where a quick-and-dirty social solution is needed.
9. Sword Burst
This spell deals 1d6 force damage (increasing by one die at levels 5, 11, and 17) to every creature within 5 feet of you, provided they fail a Dexterity save.
Generally, sorcerers shouldn’t be in a situation where this spell is useful. However, in certain hybrid builds, this can be a useful spell when surrounded by enemies.
It can also be used effectively by characters who can make themselves grow size categories, as the number of possible creatures affected grows as you take up more space.
Force is also the best damage type in the game, making this better than the similar spell Thunderclap, which does thunder damage.
Campaign & DM Specific Cantrips
10. On/Off (UA)
This cantrip definitely requires DM approval as it is UA content. It allows you to turn on or off any electronic device within 60 feet that has a clear external on/off switch clearly accessible from outside the device (software shutdown not allowed).
This can be extremely useful for subtle distractions or obstacles in a tech campaign, though it requires additional clarity from a DM.
Does a smartphone’s sleep mode count as “off,” or could it be shut down fully with this spell? Does the device need the on/off switch to be physically connected to it? Can you unplug something with this cantrip?
Depending on the answers, this could be very useful.
11. Shape Water
This spell lets you manipulate water in a number of ways, including freezing it. This spell can be overpowered if your DM allows, especially depending on how water is defined.
For example, does the cantrip affect water with mud in it? What about an acid that is 60% water? Can the spell alter the flow of an incoming avalanche to provide a small area of safety? Can the water be made to flow straight into the air?
Depending on the answers to these questions, Shape Water could have some interesting utility uses. At the very least, your DM might allow you to use its freezing ability to break open a lock or two.
12. Mold Earth
Mold Earth’s usefulness is heavily dependent on both the campaign and the DM.
It allows you to excavate and move an amount of loose earth that fits into a 5-foot cube 5 feet, create colors or shapes to appear on earth or stone, and create difficult terrain.
The first of these abilities is the really useful one, potentially allowing you to construct complex earthen fortifications in just a few hours, depending on how “loose” the earth has to be to move it and how well it holds its form after excavation.
In a campaign where you find yourself needing to defend an area against a horde of zombies, it can be extremely useful for funneling and directing the horde.
You can create stepped walls with cubes of dirt along with trenches in a maze formation, a formation that can easily allow defenders to pick off enemies from atop the walls and spells like Spike Growth to be maximally effective.
You can also strengthen fortifications by layering them with cloth, as in this video.
Lastly, your DM may or may not allow you to bury an enemy with this cantrip.
By coordinating with your allies, you could shove an enemy into a prepared 5-foot-cube pit created by this spell, and then before they can take a turn to escape, cast the cantrip again to pile the excavated dirt onto your enemy.
While the spell cannot do damage, it might be able to suffocate any enemies incapable of escaping being buried 5 feet under.
This spell is famous for its versatility, allowing you to create a number of small effects, including making a small mark for 1 hour, conjuring a trinket (from the official trinket table), flavoring food, chilling or warming an object, cleaning or soiling an object, creating small sensory effects, and instantly lighting or snuffing small fires.
However, its versatility is heavily restrained by DM approval. For example, you might argue that you can clean a sword of poison or cover someone’s magical goggles in a thick layer of dirt.
These are powerful effects for a cantrip, but they require your DM to allow the spell to be used like this.
In the right hands, with the right build, in the right campaign, cantrips can be pretty powerful. You can cast them forever, and that makes them ripe with potential for creative applications.
Of course, the more creative the application, the more subject to DM discretion it will be. And you don’t want to pick a cantrip designed for a social character only to find out you’ll only be doing dungeon crawls!
While these cantrips are the best choices for sorcerers, I highly recommend discussing your cantrip choices and limitations with your DM before making your final decision.
- About Author
- Latest Posts
Growing up I spent most of my time reading, so when I first started playing RPGs in middle school and got a copy of DnD 3.5’s rules I loved their collaborative take on storytelling. These days I like to use RPGs to develop my creative problem-solving skills as well.