Now here’s a chillingly interesting spell in Dungeons and Dragons: Ice Knife!
Just by the name, you can begin to imagine what the spell does in the most reductive of ways – the caster creates a knife – made of ice! But oh, dear adventurer, is this spell so much more!
The caster who takes this spell has much more than a frozen dagger! They have something more akin to a throwable claymore in their hands, because, you see, this dagger explodes into ice shards on impact!
Yes, you too can live the fantasy of throwing exploding ice daggers like some sort of cryonic medieval ninja! All you have to do is pick up this little number and off you go! Welcome to our Ice Knife 5e Spell guide.
What is Ice Knife Spell?
Before we go running off and whipping our new weapon out on unsuspecting goblins, it might do some good to take a look at the spell as written in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything:
You create a shard of ice and fling it at one creature within range. Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 piercing damage. Hit or miss, the shard then explodes. The target and each creature within 5 feet of the point where the ice exploded must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 2d6 cold damage.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the cold damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.
Ice Knife 5e Spell Stats
|Casting Time||1 Action|
|Classes||Druid, Sorcerer, Wizard|
How does Ice Knife spell work?
First off, Ice Knife is a 1st level spell from the arcane tradition of conjuration. This means that as opposed to evoking the energy within a medium or creating an illusion of an object, the frosty caster will create a dagger of ice out of thin air.
As a conjuration spell, this could be important in certain campaigns, as it requires very little – a single drop of water (sweat is water, my friends!) or a piece of ice.
What does it mean for this spell to be 1st level? Simply put, the level of spells is independent of the level of your class. A 2nd level caster may not necessarily be able to cast a 2nd level spell.
Each time you level your class, you get a certain number of spell slots, which each carry their own level. A 1st level spell can only be cast in a 1st level spell slot (or above). A 2nd level spell may only use a 2nd level spell slot (or above).
Many spells of a lower level can be cast at a higher level to enjoy additional benefits (a 1st level spell cast with a 2nd level spell slot may get additional effects or damage.)
Ice Knife can be cast at targets up to 60ft away. This is in optimal conditions with your target clearly visible and unimpeded by objects in the way. While 60ft might not be the longest-range spell a caster has in their arsenal, Ice Knife packs enough of a wallop that it more than makes up for this slight deficiency.
The dagger forms instantaneously, however, a caster must be able to make a magical sign with their fingers or hands (somatic component) and they must have a drop of water or a piece of ice (material component). A savvy caster will keep in mind the number of things that could substitute for a drop of water: sweat, blood, rain, tears, wine, and so on.
For the actual meat of the spell, the caster creates a dagger made of ice and magically whips it through the air as a ranged attack. On impact, the dagger deals 1d10 piercing damage to the target. Regardless of whether the spell actually hits or misses, the dagger explodes in shards of ice that fill the area.
Each creature within 5ft of the exploding dagger has to dodge out of the way by passing a DEX check (DC 8 + caster’s proficiency + casters spell modifier). Any creature that fails the DEX save is subject to 2d6 cold damage.
Casting Ice Knife at a higher level will yield an additional 1d6 damage on the secondary damage per spell slot level used (3d6 total at 2nd level, 4d6 at 3rd level, and so on.)
Ice Knife spell applications
Now that the finer details of the explanation are out of the way, let’s get into some more specific use cases for Ice Knife. It helps to think of it in two phases: ranged single target piercing and area of effect magical cold damage.
Area of Denial
Akin to crowd control, area of denial is a useful strategy that one can employ with area of effect spells. Area of denial is essentially creating areas where the enemy would hesitate to go or control the way in which enemies feel comfortable gathering.
As opposed to dog-piling on a flanked ally, a group of enemies who know the area of effect capabilities of a caster may opt to stay spread out. This tendency can be used strategically by a caster and their allies.
As the initial cast of Ice Knife deals piercing damage, a cunning caster may find situations in which to utilize the damage type. From cutting a rope from across the room to ripping a hole in the sail of a boat, the applications are mainly limited by the caster’s imagination.
However, an important note is that the dagger explodes at the end of the cast, so a caster must account for the 10ft diameter icy explosion.
What classes can use Ice Knife?
Ice Knife sits on the Druid, Sorcerer, and Wizard spell lists. This means that all casters of these classes will gain access to Ice Knife as soon as they have a 1st level spell slot.
Additionally, there are some class archetypes that a player can take that open up these spell lists to character classes that don’t normally have access to Ice Knife. These classes include the Fighter and the Rogue.
One option a 3rd level Fighter has is to take the Eldritch Knight subclass. This gives a normally martial character class access to the Wizard spell list. In a similar vein, the Arcane Trickster, a 3rd level Rogue subclass, does the same for the sleeker, stealthier class.
An Eldritch Knight has the fortitude to deal with caster at a lower range (60ft) while a chilly Arcane Trickster has the mobility and stealth to use Ice Knife to bring about a winter of discontent.
Is Ice Knife a good spell?
To be frank, it is a fine spell. It’s not spectacular, but it can do decent damage. For most casters, you’re going to want to be as far away from your enemy as possible, an a 60ft range limits that quite a bit.
Another tick against Ice Knife is the fact that its damage is incredibly backloaded. The initial hit deals 1d10 damage (which isn’t something to laugh at, at lower levels.) However, it simply doesn’t scale very well as it only adds an additional 1d6 in damage to the area of effect.
The range of the area of effect is also quite small and later in a campaign, adventurers might find that enemies are smart enough not to gather in neatly packed groups 5ft away from each other. An Ice Knife might be expected to impede the enemy, but really the only thing Ice Knife has is a very small area of denial based on rather ho-hum damage.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad spell, because it is incredibly cool. The idea of running around and throwing exploding ice daggers is a real power fantasy that many people might appreciate. But as a pure damage spell that doesn’t offer a whole lot of utility, a savvy adventurer might opt to take a spell that allows them to contribute a little more to encounters.
Medium damage is easy to come by, so especially in the mid-to-late campaign, an adventurer should be looking for either cataclysmic levels of damage or some sort of utility to add, as many casters suffer in the late-game.
Should everyone take it? No.
Would it be a fun spell to have to live out some ice-ninja fantasies? Gla-sure!
Ice Knife spell FAQs
Are there any ways for non-casters to utilize Ice Knife?
Why yes! By picking up a scroll of Ice Knife, anyone can cast Ice Knife. While the official materials for Dungeons and Dragons don’t include an exhaustive list of spell scrolls, a creative or willing DM might be up for including the scroll midst the wares in a particularly busy magical bazaar!
Knife? Dagger? Shard? What’s Ice Knife look like?
My dear adventurer, that’s one of the cooler part about Dungeons and Dragons. While the spell as written describes the results as a shard of ice, many DMs are willing to allow the shape to change to fulfill roleplaying fantasy (generally as long as you’re not trying to change the function of a spell.)
As such, you could make ice needles, ice knives, ice kunai, ice throwing stars; anything that would deal piercing damage. However! This is all dependent on your DM, as they have the final call for these sorts of things as changing the shape of a spell falls squarely within the framework of a homebrew.
Anything to keep in mind about Ice Knife?
Well, it is made of ice (albeit magical ice).
As such, adventurers are warned not to use near open flames and a particularly crafty DM may throw in some environmental restrictions if a caster is in a desert or smith, as the atmospheric conditions would not realistically be conducive to maintaining, or perhaps even conjuring, a construct of ice.
Corrie is a passionate writer who draws inspiration from his love of medieval-fantasy and epic science fiction. His obsession with D&D and epic battles shines through in his work, as does his appreciation for authors like Laura Resnick and Marion Zimmer Bradley, whose works ignited his imagination and love of books. You can find Corrie at any given time engrossed in a rewatch binge of Voyager or rolling new characters for the creative joy of it!