- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 120 feet
- Duration: 1 round
- School: Necromancy
- Class: Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
- Level: Cantrip
- Damage/Effect: Necrotic
- Attack/Save: Ranged Spell Attack
- Components: V, S
You create a ghostly, skeletal hand in the space of a creature within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the creature to assail it with the chill of the grave. On a hit, the target takes 1d8 necrotic damage, and it can’t regain hit points until the start of your next turn. Until then, the hand clings to the target.
If you hit an undead target, it also has disadvantage on attack rolls against you until the end of your next turn.
This spell’s damage increases by 1d8 when you reach 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8).
What Is the Chill Touch Spell?
Chill touch is a great damage-dealing cantrip that works especially well if you use it against undead enemies. Like many good cantrips, it is more than just a simple damage-dealer and is a great addition to many spellcaster builds.
While this isn’t the highest damage die you can roll with cantrips, a d8 is a pretty standard amount, and it’s not bad at all considering that cantrips are essentially at-will spells. So we’re definitely starting off strong. Before we get into the really exciting part of this though, let’s talk about some of the basics of spellcasting since if you’re here, I’m assuming you’re new to the game or at least new to spells in 5e.
A cantrip, which this is, is a type of spell that a spellcaster can use at any time without needing to expend any spell slots. Because of this, they are extremely valuable, and choosing a good one to deal damage with can make all the difference. You can think of damage-dealing cantrips like a caster’s go-to weapon; instead of swinging a long sword, you cast Chill Touch or something comparable.
All spells have a few mechanics they include, such as range and components.
With this cantrip, we have a range of 120 feet, which means our target can be up to 120 feet from us. This is incredible range, especially for an early-level caster since most of them can’t take much damage before dying. Staying far away from the action while still making a difference in combat is exactly what we want to be doing.
The casting time of 1 action simply means we use our action during our turn to be able to cast this spell. The components V and S stand for verbal and somatic, so you need to say some things or make some form of noise and move around in some way, typically waving your arms around “magically.”
The last key bit of information we want to look at is that this is a ranged spell attack. This means that we roll to hit our targets. We’ll be adding our Spell Attack bonus (spellcasting modifier + proficiency bonus) to our d20 attack roll. If we get a number higher than their AC, we hit and can move onto the actual spell itself.
So, at its core, this is a spell that deals 1d8 necrotic damage. The type of damage isn’t hugely important, but there are some creatures that might have resistance or immunity to it (taking half or no damage). Realistically, necrotic is one of the better damage types out there since it isn’t commonly resisted.
This spell does have the added effect of stopping your target from regaining hit points until the beginning of your next turn though. That means that if you can continuously hit the same target each turn, they’ll never have the chance to regain any health.
This effect is very much like a soft version of reducing a creature’s hit point maximum, and the concept is great if you’re looking to focus in on a single target and take them down piece by piece. Since it’s a cantrip, it even gets stronger depending on your level, which you can see in our damage table as well.
As if all that wasn’t enough, we get even more benefit when we use this on an undead target. They now have disadvantage on attack rolls against you until the end of your next turn. Including the end of your next turn means you can actually get two rounds of combat where you can move past an undead with a strong likelihood of dodging their opportunity attacks.
It also means that you can just be a little bit closer if you want, but remember that this isn’t a touch spell despite the ironic name.
All in all, this is a great spell that will keep low-level casters safe while allowing them to really dish out the damage to their enemies.
When To Cast Chill Touch
Chill touch is a spell to constantly cast until you have a wealth of other spells to rely on. Even then, it may remain a mainstay of your arsenal as it progresses in damage alongside you. Whether you’re using it offensively or defensively, you’ll be getting your money’s worth out of this spell.
The biggest thing to remember is that you are actively stopping a creature from healing. You can definitely use this as a way to continuously deal with one of your enemies and handle them on your own, but you can also use it as a way to aid your allies when they’ve almost killed a creature with any sort of regenerative abilities.
It will be easy enough to notice if the enemy party has some sort of healer in their midst or if the big monster you’re facing doesn’t seem to be getting weaker from round to round. Most DMs make this pretty clear in their descriptions of the events in combat.
If you notice anything along these lines, you can jump in and use this spell on a creature to ensure they won’t be able to make any sort of comeback.
This attack spell also has really great potential as a way to protect yourself. I know, weird right? Well, if you happen to be dealing with a lot of undead, which isn’t uncommon in D&D, especially at lower levels, then you might be able to really use this spell to your benefit.
Staying 120 feet away from combat isn’t always possible, but you have the fun side effect of Chill Touch that gives undead disadvantage on attacks against you. Specifically, the undead that you’ve attacked with this spell has to take the lower of two rolls until the end of your next turn after casting this spell.
Using this as a way to keep a strong enemy off of you or as a way to move past undead without worrying so much about opportunity attacks is one of the best uses of this spell. And, you’re still dealing damage to them and preventing them from gaining any health back.
Clearly, this performs best against undead, but most casters can’t just spontaneously swap out cantrips depending on their foes. So, keep this handy, use it as the excellent damage-dealer it is, and enjoy the extra benefits when they’re applicable.
Who Should Take Chill Touch?
As this spell is available to sorcerers, wizards, and warlocks, we can pretty much limit ourselves to these classes. Anyone else looking to grab a specific cantrip off of these casters’ lists will have better options to choose from.
While Chill Touch is a great spell, it certainly isn’t the best damage-dealing cantrip out there. Instead of incredibly high damage, it takes the more common d8 so that it can have some great additional effects. While these additional effects can be useful, you won’t always be seeing the benefits.
If you were to play in a campaign where you could guarantee that you were always going to be fighting undead creatures or always fighting creatures that could regenerate health, then this would be the spell to choose. However, those are some strict parameters if I’ve ever seen a set.
The reality is, this would be the perfect spell for a one-shot adventure centered on vampires, but there are just a lot of better options out there for just about every other scenario.
Still, that doesn’t eliminate the utility this spell can have, and a d8 isn’t so much worse than a d10 that it’s unusable. So, I’ve given a bit of a run down below for the classes that can take this spell and what sort of builds it would function best in.
Best Subclass(es): Divine Soul
The only reason I’ve included the Divine Soul as an optimal subclass is because their first feature allows them to add 2d4 to a missed attack roll, which might be crucial if you need to hit with this to stop a creature from healing. Besides that, I like the idea of a healer who stops others from healing; it’s a very interesting theme.
With sorcerers in general though, you have a few metamagic options to make this spell much more effective. Seeking spell (2 sp) can allow you to reroll your attack roll. Quickened spell (1 sp) could see you using this as a bonus action after using a more powerful spell with your action. Lastly, transmuted spell (1 sp) could switch the damage type — useful if you know a creature has a vulnerability to a specific type.
Best Subclass(es): N/A
While an icy spectral/skeletal hand is perfectly on theme for most warlocks, it just is nowhere near as good as Eldritch Blast. Sure, you can take two damage dealing cantrips for some variety, but you should only do that if, again, you’re going to be slaying vampires and zombies left and right.
Best Subclass(es): Necromancy, Bladesinging
The necromancy school has a feature called Grim Harvest that lets you gain HP equal to twice the level of a spell you use to kill a creature or three times the level if you use a necromancy spell. This doesn’t apply to cantrips unfortunately, but you can use Chill Touch to bring a creature down significantly before dealing the finishing blow with a stronger spell.
While the bladesinging wizards have a lot of flashy sword-based cantrips, Chill Touch is actually a great option for their arsenal. This is especially true if you are facing undead and can give the creatures you’re in melee combat with disadvantage on their attacks against you. Otherwise, you’re keeping a creature’s HP low as you slice into them with your weapons.
While Chill Touch may not be the best cantrip in 5e, it certainly makes a great case for its use. If you’re in a setting or if you can create a build to utilize this to its fullest potential, it will feel even more powerful than something like Eldritch Blast. If not, well, you have a spell that deals a d8 of damage and keeps you at a safe distance from combat.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide, and as always, happy adventuring.