Last Updated on November 29, 2021
Control over the elements of nature is not a power restricted to natives of the elemental planes. Powerful mages who focus their spell practice on the manipulation of natural energies can reach a level of power that even the Avatar would struggle to combat.
So crack open your spellbook, have a seat with your patron, or harness the energy deep within you, it’s time to learn about the Elemental Adept feat in D&D 5e.
Before long, you’ll be unleashing fiery magic with the power to burn down kingdoms, or harnessing lighting that could drop Zeus himself from the skies.
In this article, we’ll cover how this feat works, why this feat is amazing, and who should take it.
What is the Elemental Adept Feat in D&D 5e?
The elemental adept feat allows your spells to ignore resistances for a chosen type of elemental damage from acid, cold, fire, lightning, and thunder. It also lets you treat 1s as 2s when you roll damage for your chosen type.
All feats represent a specified course of study, practice, or expertise; additional training that sets you apart from the average combatant. This feat is for mages who wish to focus on a specific damage type without having to worry about the many creatures they might encounter with resistances to it.
The specific wording for the feat is as follows:
Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell
When you gain this feat, choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder.
- Spells you cast ignore resistance to damage of the chosen type. In addition, when you roll damage for a spell you cast that deals damage of that type, you can treat any 1 on a damage die as a 2.
- You can select this feat multiple times. Each time you do so, you must choose a different damage type.
This feat is also one of the few feats characters can take more than once. However, taking the feat a second time means choosing a different damage type, instead of getting some sort of added benefit to the first damage type.
This makes perfect sense, but taking this a second time is something that only very specific builds should consider. It’s a good idea to focus on one type of damage, rather than spreading yourself thin.
What isn’t the Elemental Adept feat?
I want to clear up a few things that this feat doesn’t do, just in case there’s any confusion.
- This feat doesn’t ignore immunities, or create vulnerabilities. It simply ignores resistance, which we’ll discuss more in a bit.
- This feat doesn’t treat a 10 as a 20. Yes, a roll of a 10 doesn’t become a 20 because 1s are treated as 2s. Only a 1 (one) is treated as a 2. It feels silly that I have to say this but you’d be surprised at how many arguments I’ve seen about this.
- This feat doesn’t work on abilities, weapon damage, or anything other than spells. If you have a flaming sword, or a class feature that lets you deal damage, this feat isn’t the one you should be looking at. The prerequisite, and the language of the feat, make it very clear that this ignoring of resistance only works for spells of the chosen damage type.
Is the Elemental Adept feat good?
The elemental adept feat is more than good, it’s amazing. One of the worst things for a mage focused on one type of damage is to come across a creature resistant to that damage. Getting rid of this is a huge lifesaver.
Understanding this feat means understanding resistances. Simply put, resistance to a type of damage means that a creature takes half of the total damage. We discuss this in more detail in our resistance article.
So kind of immediately we see that this is going to turn you from Book 1 Zuko into Book 3 Zuko. You’re dealing full damage to creatures that would normally laugh at your spells. Switching out 1s for 2s is kind of just an added bonus that will save you from blundering spell damage.
If you want to know how truly impressive this is, we have to dive a bit into statistics. There are 2074 creatures published by WotC at the time this article was written. Not all of those creatures have resistances, but out of the ones that do, cold damage is the most resisted.
There are 238 creatures that have resistance to cold damage, which is more than double the amount of creatures with resistance to the type in 4th place.
As you can see on the graph above; cold, fire, and lighting damage are by far the top 3 resisted damage types. Acid is almost exactly at the average level of resistance, and thunder is very close to the bottom. There is definitely a ranking within this feat of which version is the best.
Best Elements to Choose for Elemental Adept
If you do go with cold, or even fire or lightning, you’re looking at about a 1 in 10, 1 in 11 chance of coming up against a creature with resistance and ignoring that completely.
There are also other weird instances of resistance that this feat gets around wonderfully. Archmages, a relatively common, if extremely powerful, type of spellcaster you might come across has resistance to damage from spells.
Normally, this brings spellcaster damage to a halt, either forcing a player’s strongest spells or making them rely on a weapon instead.
Even though the words might not directly point to this, the feat allows spells you cast of the chosen type to ignore “resistance to spell damage” as well. To quote Jeremy Crawford’s Sage Advice column; “The intent is that Elemental Adept bypasses any resistance that would reduce the chosen damage type.”
Who should take the Elemental Adept feat?
The Elemental Adept feat should be a strong consideration for any spellcaster with a focus on damage dealing spells. Mages who specifically focus on spells that deal cold, fire, or lightning damage would be hard-pressed to not pick this up.
Don’t take this feat if you’re not a spellcaster. Even though the prerequisite is the ability to cast at least one spell, I wouldn’t put this into any build that can’t get 9th-Level spells.
In order to get value out of this feat, you need a spell list that can let you deal the damage you choose.
Wizard and sorcerer are definitely the best classes for this feat, with the most options for dealing out “elemental” damage. Of course, spell slots are limited, and there’s no rule saying you need to cast a variety of spells.
You could make a cold elemental adept druid that uses nothing but Frostbite, Ice Knife and Ice Storm and be completely fine. What’s amazing about this feat is that it makes such extremely focused builds viable, since the normal downfall is coming across resistant creatures.
As for when you should take Elemental Adept? This is a feat that is very much the focus of the build, as opposed to more supportive feats. It’s one that you should take as early as you can, even in the character-building stage if that’s an option.
Best Elemental Adept Builds
While you can build any character you want and have fun, there are some which really stand out. Here are my choices for the best builds centered around this feat.
Frozen Order of Scribes Wizard
This build makes use of the Order of Scribes awakened spellbook. Their 2nd-level feature lets them switch out the damage type of any spell they cast for the damage type of another spell in their spellbook that is of the same level.
We fill up our spellbook with one cold spell from each level and stay cool. This is one cold-hearted build.
Spell List staples (spells that deal cold damage):
- Ray of Frost; Cantrip
- Frost Fingers; 1st-Level
- Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm; 2nd-Level
- Spirit Shroud; 3rd-Level
- Ice Storm; 4th-Level
- Cone of Cold; 5th-Level
- Otiluke’s Freezing Sphere; 6th-Level
- Prismatic Spray; 7th-Level
- Illusory Dragon; 8th-Level
- Prismatic Wall; 9th-Level
After that, we can put in any damage dealing spells we want and have them chill out. Some good feats to pick up include Spell Sniper and War Caster, which are just great spellcaster feats that give you a lot of versatility.
Roku Draconic Bloodline Sorcerer
Draconic ancestry provides you with mastery over the elements. This is a much looser build that lets you choose which element you want to focus on. The main feature of the subclass that helps us out here is the 6th-level feature Elemental Affinity.
The feature allows you to add your charisma modifier to damage when you cast spells of the damage type associated with your draconic bloodline.
|Dragon Color||Damage Type|
Simply choose the damage type you’re looking to dish out and lean into it as you fill up your spell list.
Electro Tempest Cleric / Storm Sorcerer
The most complicated build we’ll look at today, this multiclassed character will take 11 levels in storm sorcery and 9 levels in tempest domain cleric.
From the cleric side, we’ll focus on the ability to dish out lightning or thunder damage when we are engaged in martial combat (unaffected by the feat).
The main ability that helps us out is the channel divinity option Destructive Wrath, allowing us to roll max damage when we deal thunder or lightning damage. This is a limited feature, but one that is highly useful when chosen wisely.
Our sorcerer levels will focus on the spellcasting, getting us up to Chain Lighting. The 6th level ability Heart of the Storm lets us deal lightning and thunder damage to creatures surrounding us whenever we cast a spell that deals the damage type.
We’ll want to take the feat twice, first picking up lightning, and then adding thunder into the mix. How we level up isn’t very important, but getting the two mentioned abilities as soon as possible is a smart move.
Commonly Asked Questions
Does elemental adept ignore immunity?
No. Immunity is a separate ability from resistance and is unaffected by abilities that interact with resistance. This feature only ignores resistance.
Does elemental adept work with Eldritch Cannon?
No! Some people are spreading misinformation on other websites, but this feat does not interact with eldritch cannon, the 3rd level artillerist feature.
This feat only ignores damage resistance for spells that you cast, and eldritch cannon is not a spell, it is a class feature.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.