With eyes rolled back into her skull, the warlock probes her enemy’s mind for weak points. The green-skinned warrior faces her down, snarling. Face contorted with concentration, she barks a forbidden word of power.
The orc, brutish and dimwitted, doubles over, head splitting with pain. Eyes watering, vision blurry, the creature staggers upright again, gripping its sword in a rage.
From his mouth he spits blood, then words. “Puny wizard. It will take more than tricks and stings to stop me.”
“Oh, I know,” grins the warlock. “I’m just the one keeping you busy.”
The orc spins on his heels, too late to avoid the ranger’s spear and too off balance to break out of the tangle of ensnaring, thorny vines that burst from the weapon’s tip.
Restrained and helpless, the orc looks up with uncontrolled fury at his captors.
“Now, my friend,” says the warlock, eyes starting to roll up into her head again. “You’re going to tell us what we want to know, or I’m going to show you just how bad that headache can get.
Welcome, everyone, to our guide to the Mind Sliver cantrip, a wholly underrated spell that rewards teamwork, debuffs enemies, and brings some great psionic flavor to any warlock, wizard, or sorcerer willing to weaponize a migraine.
- Casting Time: 1 Action
- Range/Area: 60 ft.
- Duration: Instantaneous
- School: Enchantment
- Class: Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
- Level: 0 (cantrip)
- Damage/Effect: Psychic, Debuff
- Attack/Save: Intelligence Save
- Components: V
You drive a disorienting spike of psychic energy into the mind of one creature you can see within range.
The target must succeed on an Intelligence saving throw or take 1d6 psychic damage and subtract 1d4 from the next saving throw it makes before the end of your next turn.
This spell’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach certain levels: 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6).
How Does Mind Sliver Work?
Mind Sliver lets you force a target you can see within 60 feet to make an Intelligence saving throw or take 1d6 damage (more at higher levels) and subtract 1d4 from the result of the next saving throw it makes before the end of your next turn.
It’s a cantrip, meaning you can cast it every single turn without wasting precious spell slots, and its damage scales with character level in order to keep it relevant at higher tiers of play.
Mind Sliver was introduced to the 5e rules as part of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and is available to the Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard – as well as other subclasses and feats that plunder from those spell lists, like the bard’s Magical Secrets feature, the Arcane Trickster rogue, and the Magic Initiate feat.
The spell also has a strong psionic flavor. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything was sort of the soft launch of playable psionics in 5e with the introduction of the Aberrant Mind sorcerer, the Soul Knife rogue, and the Psi Warrior.
With new psionic subclasses entering into the game, it made sense that Wizards of the Coast would also want to introduce psionic abilities to D&D 5e, which in this edition are just another way to cast spells.
Note that, while Mind Sliver is an innate spell for the psionics-focused Aberrant Mind sorcerer, for example, the spell itself isn’t innately psionic.
A wizard could read it in an ancient tome and learn it in the same way they’d learn to cast Fire Bolt.
Speaking of Fire Bolt, why would anyone pick Mind Sliver, a d6 damage cantrip, over something like Fire Bolt (or Eldritch Blast if you’re a warlock), which deals 1d10?
Is Mind Sliver Good and When Should I Take it?
First, let’s look at the damage.
While a d6 is decidedly poor damage, the damage type (psychic is probably one of the top three damage types in the game in terms of avoiding monster resistances and immunities), coupled with the fact that it forces an Intelligence saving throw (usually the weakest ability score for large monsters with good physical stats), means you’re probably going to be able to apply that damage in full more often than not.
Fun Fact: Mind Sliver is, at the time of writing, the only cantrip in the game that provokes an Intelligence Saving Throw.
Now, let’s talk about that 1d4 saving throw penalty.
Cards on the table, I think Mind Sliver might be my new go-to cantrip for sorcerers. Wizards can definitely pick it up more situationally, and warlocks… should probably stick to Eldritch Blast.
Why is this the rad new spell all the coolest sorcerer teens are talking about? Allow me to demonstrate.
When I play 5e and I want to be a real stinker who ruins the DM’s encounter balance and makes everyone else in the party look bad, I break out Dark Runs the Moon.
She’s a Tabaxi Aberrant Mind sorcerer who recently hit 5th level and may be the scariest single-round nuker I’ve seen at the tabletop.
Now, previously, if I wanted Dark Runs the Moon to make several high-level enemies disappear in a single round of combat, I used to steal this move from Zee Bashew’s Animated Spellbook on flexing with metamagic.
You use Quickened Spell to cast Scorching Ray (upcast from 2nd to 3rd level) as a bonus action, and then use your action to cast Twinned Spell Fire Bolt at anything left standing. It’s pretty brutally effective.
These days, I have an even more devious way to absolutely wreck shop on a couple of tough guys.
First, you lead with Twinned Spell Mind Sliver using your action. This cantrip demands an intelligence saving throw, which is great against big burly brutes with lots of hit points.
Then, use Quickened Spell to drop Fireball on the enemies as a bonus action. Said enemies now have up to a -4 penalty on their saving throws to avoid the full 8d6 fire damage.
Lastly, you make dominant eye contact with the dungeon master and ask if that was the whole encounter.
So, if you’re playing a sorcerer with Twinned Spell and Quickened Spell metamagic up and running, Mind Sliver is fantastic.
While that’s definitely the most showy “wombo-combo” version of how to use this spell effectively, it’s a great demonstration of how you use Mind Sliver to best effect: When you can guarantee you’ll force an enemy to make a saving throw before the end of your next turn.
This is something you’re going to want to set up in advance, whether that means something as simple as an ally ready with their own spell or as contrived as a Home Alone-style paint-can-on-a-string.
If you can’t more or less guarantee you’ll force your enemy to make a saving throw before your next turn ends, throw this spell in the trash, and go get a real damage cantrip.
Is a 1d4 Penalty Even That Good Though?
Well, let’s look at it this way: statistically, advantage and disadvantage on a d20 roll move the needle up and down by an average of around 3.5 points.
That’s admittedly a very oversimplified way of looking at it, and the real impact actually moves around a lot depending on your target number, but it all averages out at 3.5 more or less.
The average roll on a d4 is 2.5, so it’s not quite as good as an explicit luck manipulation spell like Silvery Barbs, but for a cantrip that also gives you damage, it’s pretty freaking good.
When To Cast Mind Sliver: Party Composition and Teamwork Matter
If your adventuring party likes to all do their own thing (the rogue stabs, the fighter stabs, the barbarian also stabs, you cast a spell, nobody heals anyone), then Mind Sliver is going to feel decidedly sub-optimal when compared to the damage or control you can dish out with other options.
However, if you’re in a party with a lot of spellcasters (or even one who’s willing to listen to your instructions), then you can take this cantrip from mediocre to top tier by using this spell to set up the highest-priority target (or, if that’s something with a high intelligence, the biggest dumb guy) to fail their next saving throw; you’re basically giving soft advantage to your ally on an AoE or otherwise powerful spell.
To be honest, even if you’re just using Mind Sliver to set up an ally’s cantrip (like Thunderclap or Sacred Flame), it can form the basis of a strong, repeatable combo attack you can keep throwing out from level 1 to 20.
Personally, I think that D&D 5e is designed in a way that creates a whole party of protagonists.
Everyone has a “thing” they do better than everyone else and, more importantly, acting alone is often more effective than working to give an ally advantage or pulling off some other gambit.
As a result, Mind Sliver, when used as a damage spell and a buff to your next ally’s attempt to deal even more damage, is conceptually refreshing as well as mechanically impactful.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Mind Sliver Require Concentration?
No. Mind Sliver’s duration is instantaneous, meaning the spell ends as soon as its effect is manifested and therefore doesn’t require concentration.
Does Mind Sliver Stack With Bane?
Yes. While two instances of the same spell cannot both affect a target at once (casting Mind Sliver twice on a target in the same turn would apply the damage twice, but the saving throw penalty would remain 1d4), different spells with the same effect (-1d4) do stack while their durations overlap.
A creature hit with Mind Sliver and Bane in the same round would subtract 2d4 from the result of its next saving throw.
Can You Twin Mind Sliver?
Yes. For a spell to be twinned using Metamagic, it can only affect a single target. As Mind Sliver can only damage and debuff a single creature, it is a candidate for the Twinned Spell effect.
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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.