5 Top Cantrips for Artificers: Rounding Out Your Build

Last Updated on May 16, 2022

The artificer is an amazing class that provides a perfect balance of spellcasting, martial proficiency, and unique abilities.

Each subclass definitely sets you up for a unique playstyle, but overall, we’re looking at a great half-casting class here.

One of the limitations of half-casters is that they can sometimes feel a bit noncommittal to any playstyle.

Unlike a wizard, you don’t have a wealth of spell slots to cast powerful spells on each turn, nor do you have the wealth of features that keep fighters dishing out massive amounts of damage with their weapons.

This is definitely a class that requires us to strike a careful balance. Conserving our resources and knowing how to be efficient with our abilities is important to being effective, whether we’re talking about combat, social interaction, or exploration.

One of the best ways to really conserve your resources is to use cantrips more often than leveled spells.

If you’re newer to spellcasting, you can view cantrips as 0th-level spells; they are spells that you can cast virtually unlimited times a day without expending any spell slots or other resources.

In this article, we’re going to go through the cantrips available to artificers, highlighting the best options and giving you an idea of which cantrips are appropriate for different builds.

Cantrips Available to Artificers

As half-casters, artificers don’t have a huge spell list. It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for them to have as many choices as a Wizard does, considering that they get about half as many spell slots over the course of their progression.

Fortunately, their list is heavily weighted toward cantrips. Of the 90 something spells available to artificers, over 20 of them are cantrips.

It’s no surprise that the game’s designers understand how much an artificer would really rely on free spells.

The problem we run into is that of all these cantrips, we’ll only be able to learn a total of four by the time we reach 20th level. 

Artificers learn two cantrips at 1st level, gain a third at 10th level, and their fourth and final cantrip at 14th level. 

Additionally, whenever you gain a level in the artificer class, you can replace a cantrip you know with another from the artificer spell list.

This is a great way to experience different spells and find out which ones work for you. There are also certain spells (which we’ll note) that become less useful as you face progressively deadlier threats.

Below, we’re listing all of the cantrips that artificers have available to them. To make this more scannable, we use our color-coded rating system.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the power and effectiveness of your character build very much, if at all. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful and might make for an interesting narrative choice but are largely less effective than other tiers.
  • Green is a good option – Solid but nothing special, OR pretty good but only useful sometimes.  
  • Blue is an excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective. 
  • Purple is S Tier. Hugely powerful or transformative in some way. No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are strongly worth considering when you create your character.

Additionally, we’ve tagged each cantrip as one of the following categories. 

  • OFFENSIVE: This is a feat that will help boost your damage or other offensive abilities. 
  • DEFENSIVE: This feat will improve your AC, defenses, hit points, or something similar. 
  • UTILITY: This feat expands on your noncombat or skill-based abilities. It also might be beneficial for supporting your allies.
  • VERSATILE: This feat can work in several different ways, depending on the choices the player makes when gaining this feat and which build it’s being used in.
  • Acid Splash: Offensive – You can choose up to two creatures within 5 feet of each other to make a DEX save or take 1d6 acid damage.
  • Booming Blade: Offensive – You make a melee weapon attack against a creature. If the target chooses to move 5 feet or more before the start of your next turn, they take an additional 1d8 thunder damage. 
  • Create Bonfire: Versatile – This concentration spell creates a magical bonfire that fills a 5-foot cube. Creatures entering or starting their turn in this space take 1d8 fire damage on a failed DEX save.
  • Dancing Lights: Utility – You create four floating lights that shed 10 feet of dim light.
  • Fire Bolt: Offensive – This spell dishes out 1d10 fire damage to a target that you hit with a ranged-spell attack. It also ignites any flammable objects not being worn or carried.
  • Frostbite: Offensive – Your target takes 1d6 cold damage and has disadvantage on the next attack roll they make before the start of your next turn if they fail a CON save.
  • Green-Flame Blade: Offensive – This spell allows you to make an attack with a melee weapon and deal fire damage equal to your spellcasting modifier to a second target within 5 feet of the first target.
  • Guidance: Utility – This concentration spell lets the creature of your choice add a d4 to an ability check they make.
  • Light: Utility – You touch an object and cause it to shed bright light for 20 feet and dim light for an additional 20 feet.
  • Lightning Lure: Offensive – This spell pulls a creature 10 feet toward you if they fail a STR save and then deals 1d8 lightning damage to them if they are within 5 feet of you.
  • Mage Hand: Utility – You create a spectral hand that you can use to interact with objects within 30 feet of you.
  • Magic Stone: Offensive- You touch three pebbles that become magical weapons that deal 1d6 bludgeoning damage when thrown or shot from a sling.
  • Mending: Utility – This spell allows you to magically repair a tear or break in an object.
  • Message: Utility- This spell allows you to whisper a message to a target within 120 feet of you that only they can hear. It also allows the target to respond in the same way.
  • Poison Spray: Offensive – Your target takes 1d12 poison damage if they fail a CON save.
  • Prestidigitation: Utility – This spell allows you to create a small harmless magical effect.
  • Ray of Frost: Offensive – This ranged spell attack deals 1d8 cold damage and reduces your target’s speed by 10 feet until the start of your next turn.
  • Resistance: Utility – This concentration spell lets the creature of your choice add a d4 to a saving throw they make.
  • Shocking Grasp: Offensive – This touch spell has you make a melee attack against a target. On a hit, you deal 1d8 lightning damage and stop them from taking reactions until the beginning of their next turn
  • Spare the Dying: Defensive – This spell allows you to immediately stabilize a creature with 0 hit points.
  • Sword Burst: Offensive – This attack dishes out 1d6 damage to every creature within 5 feet of you that fails their DEX save.
  • Thorn Whip: Offensive – This spell has you make a melee attack (30-foot range) against a target. On a hit, you deal 1d6 piercing damage to them and pull them 10 feet closer to you.
  • Thunderclap: Offensive – This spell creates a booming noise that deals 1d6 thunder damage to every creature in a 100-foot radius that fails a CON save.

Best Cantrips

While there aren’t a lot of cantrips that are bad for an artificer, there are certainly some that work better with the class’s strengths.

We’ve selected a few spells from the list above to go a bit more in depth so that we can better explain how an artificer uses their cantrips efficiently and effectively.

Shocking Grasp

Lightning springs from your hand to deliver a shock to a creature you try to touch. Make a melee spell attack against the target. You have advantage on the attack roll if the target is wearing armor made of metal.

On a hit, the target takes 1d8 lightning damage, and it can’t take reactions until the start of its next turn.

The spell’s damage increases by 1d8 when you reach 5th level (2d8), 11th level (3d8), and 17th level (4d8).

Most damage-dealing cantrips improve as you gain levels. This echoes how you can cast some leveled spells with a higher-level spell slot to create more powerful effects.

Shocking grasp is one of those, and it starts with an admirable 1d8 damage.

There are a few things that make this one of the best artificer cantrips out there. The first thing that comes to mind for me is how well it fits into the theme of this class.

It’s easy to imagine some sort of high-powered joy buzzer that your artificer wears and activates when they grab people.

More mechanically though, advantage is a huge bonus for a spell to include, and there are going to be a lot of creatures you encounter that wear metal armor.

This can be very campaign-setting dependent, but even in dungeon-delving campaigns full of undead, you’re likely to come across more than a few enemies protected by some form of metal.

If that weren’t enough, this also stops the target from taking reactions until the start of its next turn.

Reactions can be used for a lot, but most often you and your allies will take advantage of this by avoiding a potential opportunity attack from the creature.

Poison Spray

You extend your hand toward a creature you can see within range and project a puff of noxious gas from your palm. The creature must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 1d12 poison damage.

At Higher Levels. This spell’s damage increases by 1d12 when you reach 5th level (2d12), 11th level (3d12), and 17th level (4d12).

Whether you’ve incorporated some sort of compressed gas spray into your armor or have an aerosol container of poison, this is an amazing spell for artificers to have.

In fact, I’d be shocked if there’s a single alchemist out there who hasn’t used this spell at least once.

This is a very straightforward spell, but you’ll quickly notice that it has the highest damage die of any spell in the list above, giving it an easy spot as one of our highlights. 

The one thing to be aware of with this spell is that poison damage is the most resisted damage type in 5e.

While this is a very real concern, you’ll quickly get a hang for which creatures to avoid with this spell. You can also easily switch it out when you gain a level if you find it being resisted too often.

Thorn Whip

You create a long, vine-like whip covered in thorns that lashes out at your command toward a creature in range. Make a melee spell attack against the target.

If the attack hits, the creature takes 1d6 piercing damage, and if the creature is Large or smaller, you pull the creature up to 10 feet closer to you.

At Higher Levels. This spell’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6).

Thorn whip is one of my favorite spells out there. While relatively simple, it has so many uses when put in the hands of a creative player.

Since we’re talking about the most creative players (artificers), it only makes sense to include it in our top 5.

This spell’s ability to pull a creature 10 feet closer is great, especially if you’ve done a bit to prepare.

Pulling them into a standing AOE effect, such as that of Grease or even Create Bonfire, means that you’re getting a lot out of this little cantrip. 

The more obvious benefit of this spell is that you can bring a creature closer so that you can start laying into them with your melee-weapon attacks. Of course, you can also use this to pull them away from one of your allies.

Then, there are more interesting applications based on your environment. Good placement might allow you to pull a target into lava or some gaping pit in the floor.

Essentially, this spell allows you to control a creature’s movement. The more planning you do and the more creative you are with the application of this spell, the better the effects will be of what would otherwise be a weak cantrip.

Also, I have to say it, this is another spell that can be easily rethemed to feel more mechanical if that’s something that fits your artificer.

Having a spiked chain that is shot from your arm, a la Scorpion’s “get over here” move, is something that I’m particularly fond of.

It should be noted that Lightning Lure has a very similar effect to this spell. The differences are that it has half the range, the target has to fail a saving throw, and the damage die is increased to a d8.

On its own, lightning lure might deal more damage and it might even be more reliable in certain situations, but it doesn’t have quite as wide a range of uses.

Booming Blade/Green-Flame Blade

Booming Blade

You brandish the weapon used in the spell’s casting and make a melee attack with it against one creature within 5 feet of you.

On a hit, the target suffers the weapon attack’s normal effects and then becomes sheathed in booming energy until the start of your next turn.

If the target willingly moves 5 feet or more before then, the target takes 1d8 thunder damage, and the spell ends.

At Higher Levels. At 5th level, the melee attack deals an extra 1d8 thunder damage to the target on a hit, and the damage the target takes for moving increases to 2d8.

Both damage rolls increase by 1d8 at 11th level (2d8 and 3d8) and again at 17th level (3d8 and 4d8).

Green-Flame Blade

You brandish the weapon used in the spell’s casting and make a melee attack with it against one creature within 5 feet of you.

On a hit, the target suffers the weapon attack’s normal effects, and you can cause green fire to leap from the target to a different creature of your choice that you can see within 5 feet of it.

The second creature takes fire damage equal to your spellcasting ability modifier.

At Higher Levels. At 5th level, the melee attack deals an extra 1d8 fire damage to the target on a hit, and the fire damage to the second creature increases to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier.

Both damage rolls increase by 1d8 at 11th level (2d8 and 2d8) and 17th level (3d8 and 3d8).

This is an interesting case as you can probably tell by the fact that I’ve listed two spells where there should be only one. These spells are very similar though as they both allow you to deal extra damage with a melee-weapon attack. 

Both spells are just alright before we reach 5th level. The initial weapon attack doesn’t deal any extra damage, but we then have a secondary effect.

In both cases, the secondary effects aren’t guaranteed. Also, the secondary damage of green-flame blade is pretty underwhelming.

Once we get to 5th level though, both spells become quite effective because they allow you to deal extra damage on that initial weapon attack as well as improving the damage on the secondary effect.

So what does all of this mean? Well, it means that we’re looking at two very similar spells that you probably don’t want until you hit 5th level. But which one do you want?

This really comes down to personal preference and playstyle. GFB is great if you expect to consistently be up in the fray surrounded by several enemies.

Booming blade is great if you want to single in on a single target at a time, quickly taking them down and punishing them for trying to get away from you.

Personally, I find that GFB is a bit superior since you have the ability to guarantee a second target within 5 feet. That just takes planning. 

Booming blade’s secondary effect occurring isn’t really up to you since they have to willingly move.

Again though, if we look at this spell as a way to goad a creature into single combat with you, they’ll quickly learn that moving after you attack them is a bad idea.

Utility Spells and the Artificer

You’ll notice that we didn’t include any utility spells in our top 5. That’s because utility spells, especially in the hands of an artificer, are completely dependent on when and how you use them.

A spell like Prestidigitation might seem incredibly inane at first sight.

However, making a small symbol or mark appear on a surface for an hour can be a great way to trick someone into believing that you are a part of some hidden organization.

Creating the odor of poison gas (or particularly bad farts) can be a quick way to clear a room so you can better search it.

The point is, and this goes for most artificer utility spells in general, that the effects are going to be as impactful as you set them up to be.

There’s also a huge potential that you can use these spells in conjunction with some of your magical trinkets or even just alongside some device you’ve created with a set of artisan’s tools.

Cantrip-Related Feats for Artificers

While we do have a full article devoted to artificer feats, I think it’s important to dive a bit deeper into the feats that specifically benefit our cantrips.

These are often the most important spells we cast, so having good feats to increase their potency is a perfect way to round out your build.

Mobile

It may seem silly, but this feat is a really good fit for a lot of your cantrips. Part of being able to cast spells in an efficient manner is being able to put yourself in the right places.

With mobile’s 10-feet increase to your speed and the newfound ability to avoid opportunity attacks while taking the dash action, you’ll be able to set yourself up for just about any tricky application of a cantrip.

Spell Sniper

This feat gives you a boost on spells that you have to make attack rolls for. Considering that several of the artificer’s best feats fit this category, this is an obvious choice.

This also has the added benefit of giving you a new cantrip, which you should be choosing from the wizard spell list so you can still benefit from your Intelligence modifier.

This is essentially just going to give you one more cantrip in your arsenal, freeing up space for some more utility spells or whatever you need to get your build running.

Artificer Initiate

I would only recommend this if you want a heavy emphasis on spells, but in that situation, this is an excellent feat. It lets you learn one cantrip and one 1st-level spell from the artificer spell list.

For most classes, this means accessing something new and doing a soft dip into the artificer playstyle. For you, this is a way to make yourself feel a bit less like a half-caster and substantially increase your arsenal of spells.

Telekinetic

This feat is entirely built on improving the Mage Hand cantrip. It makes it invisible, increases its range, and allows you to use it for pushing people.

If you find yourself using the cantrip regularly, you can pick up this feat to get several benefits.

This means that you’ll be getting an increase to your Intelligence score, freeing up a known cantrip and learning a new one, and getting a buffed-up version of Mage Hand that you can do a lot of incredible things with.

While I hope this article helps you become a better artificer, I want you to know that it is just one part of a larger puzzle. Check out our other artificer articles if you’re dead set on becoming the best magical scientist there is.

And as always, happy adventuring.