The phantom steed spell seems like a cool but ultimately useless spell at first.
Like, ‘”Oh, nifty. I can have a horse for an hour. I’d rather have a fireball now, though.”
But with a little bit of thought, this spell can be a signature spell for the right type of character as well as the cornerstone of how your character operates on and off the battlefield.
In this post, we will discuss the wondrous roleplaying and combat possibilities of phantom steed.
- Level: 3rd
- Casting Time: 1 Minute
- Range/Area: 30 ft.
- Components: V, S
- Duration: 1 Hour
- School: Illusion
- Attack/Save: None
- Damage/Effect: None
A Large quasi-real, horse-like creature appears on the ground in an unoccupied space of your choice within range.
You decide the creature’s appearance, but it is equipped with a saddle, bit, and bridle. Any of the equipment created by the spell vanishes in a puff of smoke if it is carried more than 10 feet away from the steed.
For the duration, you or a creature you choose can ride the steed. The creature uses the statistics for a riding horse, except it has a speed of 100 feet and can travel 10 miles in an hour or 13 miles at a fast pace.
When the spell ends, the steed gradually fades, giving the rider 1 minute to dismount. The spell ends if you use an action to dismiss it or if the steed takes any damage.
Spell Tags: Movement, Ritual
Available for: Wizard, The Undead
What Does Phantom Steed Actually Do?
Phantom Steed is an illusion spell of the phantasm variety with the movement and ritual tags.
In order to understand what the hell I just said, there is a certain amount of vocabulary that needs to be broken down.
Behold! A list:
This is the school of magic to which the spell belongs. Illusions usually work in tandem with Enchantment spells and sometimes disappear with a certain type of interaction.
These types of illusion spells actually create something that can affect a target physically.
They typically deal psychic damage and have a saving throw, but this is not always so. The other two phantasm spells are called phantasmal force and phantasmal killer.
In the old days of Dungeons and Dragons 3e, phantasms were said to be made of material from the plane of shadow instead of occurring within the mind of the target, and this is why they could actually affect a person.
5e has neither confirmed nor denied this.
In the case of this spell, the phantom steed is a real creature anyone can interact with.
It uses the statistics of a riding horse and disappears if it takes any damage.
Ritual spells do not require spell slots if you take 10 minutes to cast the spell in addition to its normal casting time. In the case of phantom steed, this would mean 11 minutes.
This tag means the spell affects a character’s movement. In this case, the character is given a mount, which will greatly increase their speed in most cases.
That is what phantom steed does. It creates a temporary mount that you can ride. Great!
Who Should Take Phantom Steed and When Should They Cast It?
Phantom Steed is available to wizards and to warlocks of The Undead.
Wizards should take this spell, but only if they have room in their spell book, and they should never use a spell slot to cast it except in dire circumstances.
As a 3rd-level spell, there are simply too many other choices that are more important for wizards (fireball!).
The only times one could use phantom steed is when they need to travel quickly or to use in mounted combat, and I can not think of a single reason why a wizard should be involved in mounted combat.
None whatsoever. Not even on a broom.
They should, however, get scrolls of it. Alternatively, you could use a figurine of wondrous power (ivory goat).
The goat of traveling becomes a riding horse for up to 24 hours, which is a bit like phantom steed.
A wand or rod of phantom steed could have 10 charges, regain 1d6 charges at dawn, and be a rare magic item.
That being said, the spell is available to Arcane Tricksters and Eldritch Knights. If you’re an Arcane Trickster, fuhgeddaboutit.
An Eldritch Knight, though? You should definitely have this spell for all the same reasons that a Warlock of the Undead should, so read on.
Warlocks of the Undead
Warlocks of the Undead should absolutely take this spell. Yes, at 3rd level, you get some amazing spells, such as vampiric touch or counterspell. Fly is also very tempting.
But for you? You excel in combat, either melee or ranged. You have the Form of Dread ability, which means you can frighten any creature you hit.
If you take the Mounted Combat feat, you suddenly get advantage on every melee attack against a Medium or smaller creature while mounted.
Voilà! You now have a combat tactic that isn’t eldritch blast! What a unique warlock!
Consider this tactic with a few levels in Rogue. A Scout with mounted combat is uncatchable on the battlefield, and a Soulknife would mean you always have hands free to cast spells or ride as necessary.
A Character Idea: A Kenku Warlock of the Undead/Soulknife Rogue
Their patron could be the Raven Queen, who specializes in psychic and necrotic energy.
As an Undead Warlock, they will get mostly necromancy and illusion spells, and they will get bonus necrotic damage to their spells.
As a Soulknife, they will do mostly psychic damage.
They could fashion their phantom steed to look like a large raven or even a swarm of ravens that remain close to the ground.
Mounted Combat will grant them sneak attack with every hit and a chance to frighten their target with every hit, and they can ensure all attacks against their mount go to them instead, meaning their phantom steed will not disappear due to taking damage.
I love it when flavor and mechanics come together.
Common Questions About Phantom Steed
We get a lot of questions about spells here at the Citadel, and this is a handful I found in
my boss’s trash can the archives.
We work hard on these things, you know. And it’s all for you.
Can You Have Multiple Phantom Steeds?
Yes. The spell does not require concentration, so you could have as many as time allows you to cast.
If you use spell slots, you can have as many phantom steeds as you have 3rd-level spell slots, and each subsequent steed will last 1 minute longer than the previous.
If you use only rituals, then you could cast five of them before the first one winks out of existence.
So, yes, you could have multiple phantom steeds, but at some point it becomes impractical.
Two or more phantom steeds could pull a carriage. I suppose you could be riding in a carriage while performing the ritual nonstop in an effort to keep the carriage moving, provided you are always replacing a steed as it fades.
There are no stats for a carriage that I can find that detail its movement speed. In fact, carriages tend to be slower than single mounts up to a point.
Conceivably, you could create up to four phantom steeds in an hour and take a short rest and five if you took no breaks at all. If you have a four-horse carriage, you could keep the thing running until you fall from exhaustion.
There are no official stats for a four-horse carriage; the Player’s Handbook says you can travel 30 miles a day at a fast pace.
I bet your character could make some good money this way too, especially if they are a warlock. They could operate a two-horse carriage using their spell slots and take a short rest to refill.
With a 5th-level warlock, that’s 5 hours of ride time in a two-horse carriage and 6 hours if you use a ritual on your first pair.
And you know those horses will look so badass!
Does it sound silly? Yes! But that’s what makes this game great.
Does a Phantom Steed Have To Be a Horse?
Yes and no. It has to use the Stat Block of a riding horse, but it doesn’t have to look like a riding horse.
You could make it look like anything, so long as it doesn’t swim or fly.
That being said, a riding horse is a Beast with a CR of 1\4, so with DM approval, you could replace it with any Beast of that CR.
However, the spell does provide differences, and at 5th level, movement type does affect how difficult the game is.
Ultimately, the DM has the final say, of course.
Does Phantom Steed Have HP?
Technically, it has 13 HP, but the spell ends if it takes damage, so it may as well not. Hence, the importance of the Mounted Combatant feat.
How Fast Is Phantom Steed?
A phantom steed moves 100 feet per round. If a round is 6 seconds, that means the steed moves at 16.6 feet per second.
This comes out to 11.3 miles per hour. The spell states that the steed can travel anywhere from 10-13 mph, so this tracks.
The Wizards can math out there on the coast, apparently.
Can You “Disbelieve” a Phantom Steed?
No. It is “quasi-real,” which means it does have a physical substance in the material plane, even if for only a short period of time.
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I played the game a lot as a kid, back in first edition. Over the past few years since 5e was released, I’ve really started getting back into it. Currently, I run a campaign online for some friends and my brothers, and we also play a side-sesh just to mix things up.