Ice Storm: 5e Mechanics and Guide to Using the Spell

Casting Time

1 action

School

Evocation

Damage/Effect

Bludgeoning, Cold

Range

300 feet

Class

Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard

Attack/Save

Save, DEX, Half DMG on Successful Save

Duration

Instantaneous

Level

4

Components

Verbal, Somatic, Material

Spell Description:

A hail of rock-hard ice pounds to the ground in a 20-foot-radius, 40-foot-high cylinder centered on a point within range. Each creature in the cylinder must make a Dexterity saving throw.

A creature takes 2d8 bludgeoning damage and 4d6 cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.

Hailstones turn the storm’s area of effect into difficult terrain until the end of your next turn.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the bludgeoning damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 4th.

4th Level5th Level7th Level9th Level
Damage Dice2d8 + 4d63d8 + 4d65d8 + 4d67d8 + 4d6
Minimum Damage67911
Average Damage8.5 + 12.512.5 + 12.520.5 + 12.528.5 + 12.5
Maximum Damage16 + 2424 + 2440 + 2456 + 24

4th-level, Evocation, Damage, Control, Cold, Bludgeoning

Level: Druid (7), Sorcerer (7), Wizard (7), Tempest Domain (7), Oath of the Ancients (13), Artillerist (13), Eldritch Knight (19), Arcane Trickster (19)

Materials Required: A pinch of dust and a few drops of water.

Number of Targets: 1 20-foot radius, 40-foot tall cylinder that you can see

Die Type: d8 (Bludgeoning), d6 (Cold)

Number of Dice: 2 (Bludgeoning, increased by 1 for every spell slot level above 4th), 4 (Cold)

Damage Type: Bludgeoning, Cold

Save: Dexterity

Damage on Successful Save: Half

Statuses Inflicted: Area of effect becomes difficult terrain 

Status Duration: Until the end of your next turn

Affected By Cover: Yes

Advantage: None

Disadvantage: None

What is Ice Storm?

Ice Storm is an area of effect damaging spell that deals both Bludgeoning and Cold damage on hit. The area of effect for Ice Storm is a 20-foot cylinder within 300 feet of you that you can see.

Hail rains down in this cylinder, dealing bludgeoning and Cold damage to anyone hit by it. 

Who can cast Ice Storm?

Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards all get access to Ice Storm at level 7, when they get their first 4th-level spell slots. Tempest Domain Clerics also add Ice Storm to their expanded spell list at level 7 upon getting their first 4th-level spell slots.

Oath of the Ancients Paladins and Artillerist Artificers will have to wait a bit longer, as they do not get access to the spell on their expanded lists until level 13.

Bards can pick the spell up at level 10 using their Magical Secrets feature. Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters cannot take this spell without first reaching the 19th level.

Anyone within the radius of the spell must make a Dexterity saving throw in order to avoid taking the full brunt of the damage. Those who succeed on the throw take half the damage. 

Even if everyone succeeds on the saving throw, the ice remains on the field where it fell, turning the ground into difficult terrain. Moving through difficult terrain costs twice the movement, so every 1 foot that you move, costs 2 feet of your base movement speed.

In addition to the slowed movement, landing a jump on difficult terrain requires a Dexterity check otherwise the character lands prone.

When and Where should I cast Ice Storm?

Ice Storm, like Shatter, represents a strong spell for clearing large groups of enemies. Thus, it runs into all the same major roadblocks that Shatter does. 

Being an area of effect spell, it can and will hit your allies if you do not have some way to protect them. They will also run into issues crossing the difficult terrain if they need to.

Ice Storm shouldn’t be cast in extremely small places where it may impede allies either by damaging them or through preventing their movement. 

Additionally, a vast number of enemies are either resistant or immune to Cold Damage, so it may not be worth factoring in the Cold Damage as a major portion of your damage. A fourth-level spell-slot for 2d8 damage is a pretty steep price to pay as well.

Why should I take Ice Storm?

Ice Storm’s first major boon is that it is a magical source of bludgeoning damage and that damage does scale with spell level. Still, a fourth-level spell slot for just 2d8 of damage remains a very steep price. 

Secondly, Ice Storm does provide a pretty hefty area of effect that also includes a volatile status on the ground itself, a feature that can be utilized to great effect in small but long areas to prevent movement.

It also does have decent overall damage and can be used to nuke down large groups of small enemies.

Harry’s Take on Ice Storm!

I asked Harry to add his take on this spell too, this way we have a range of opinions.

Is Ice Storm good?

Short answer: not really. 

Longer answer: well, maybe. It depends… 

At first glance, Ice Storm seems an awful lot like another area of effect damage spell. It can hit everything within a 20ftx40ft cylinder (which is better than the 20ft diameter sphere covered by Fireball – the benchmark for pretty much any AoE damage spell), making it useful against flying enemies as well as land bound ones. 

However, that’s where the positive comparisons to Fireball run a little dry. 

Ice Storm doesn’t do nearly as much damage as Fireball, especially if you upcast fireball to use the same level spell slot as Ice Storm, 4th, meaning it does 9d6 fire damage on a failed save. Even when cast at 3rd level, Fireball’s base damage averages out at around 28 damage per target that fails its saving throw, which is 5 damage more than Ice Storm’s average. 

Also, cold and bludgeoning damage are a little more likely to overcome enemy resistances. Although, while there are 188 creatures with fire damage resistance and 137 with fire damage immunity in D&D 5e, cold damage is actually worse. There are 238 cold-resistant monsters and 101 cold-immune monsters in 5e. The chances that you’ll end up doing full damage against a monster (especially if you’re playing in a snow-themed adventure like Rime of the Frost Maiden) aren’t great. 

Unlike more straightforward damage-dealing spells like Fireball, or more reliable control spells like Hold Person, Ice Storm’s value is going to be a lot more situational. 

In the right situation, however, this can definitely be a spell that’s worth picking up, purely because of Ice Storm’s other effect: turning its area of effect into difficult terrain. 

Difficult Terrain 

Whether you’re traveling through a dungeon or through the wilderness, difficult terrain is something all adventurers would do well to avoid. Difficult terrain can mean anything from a stinking, treacherous swamp or sheer mountainside to a frictionless, icy floor. 

When moving across difficult terrain, movement costs 2 ft for every 1 ft of movement spent. Basically, it cuts your speed in half. 

The fact that Ice Storm can turn a 20ft circle of ground into difficult terrain can take this spell from lackluster to a serious game-changer.

When should I cast Ice Storm?  

Basically, if you’re just looking to dish out some damage (and assuming your targeting something that isn’t immune to fire damage) you should cast Fireball. 

If you’re looking to slow down a charging enemy, provide cover for your escape, or otherwise hinder your opponents while doing some respectable damage, however, Ice Storm is the spell for you. 

This spell is especially good either if you’re defending a chokepoint, where you can ensure that every enemy coming through the doors is going to have to save vs damage and take longer to reach you (particularly if you have other ranged damage dealers in your party). 

Alternately, if you’re trying to beat a hasty retreat, forcing every enemy chasing you to double the amount of movement they spend for a turn is going to virtually guarantee your escape. This is actually an extremely clutch play to make against flying pursuers like harpies.

Now, to continue an unfortunate trend with this spell, the difficult terrain Ice Storm creates isn’t actually as good as it first seems. The effect only lasts until the start of your next turn. Granted, this is plenty of time to put some distance between you and your attackers, or to potentially give your allies an extra round of missile attacks before the ravening horde of undead smashes into your ranks, but if I could change one thing about this spell it would be that the area remains difficult terrain for, say, ten minutes or something. 

It wouldn’t be an article without a rant about how the almost legalese specificity of rules in 5e makes for very little room to interpret or come up with cool, out-of-the-box ideas. Sure, a DM could rule that, because the party covered the room in a big puddle of water beforehand, the difficult terrain would last longer, but they could also point to the spell entry and say “nope. Not in the rules” and be perfectly justified. This is the sort of crap that makes 5e feel like a video game. If I wanted to play video games I’d go play video games. Video games don’t cancel sessions at the last minute or forget to bring snacks. Bah! Humbug. 

But I digress. If you’re looking for a slightly off-the-wall AoE damage spell that can help you slow down advancing enemies and confound your attackers, Ice Storm is a great option. Happy adventuring, folks. 

Common Questions About Ice Storm