A beam of crackling, blue energy lances out toward a creature within range, forming a sustained arc of lightning between you and the target. Make a ranged spell attack against that creature.—D&D 5e Player’s Handbook
On a hit, the target takes 1d12 lightning damage, and on each of your turns for the duration, you can use your Action to deal 1d12 lightning damage to the target automatically. The spell ends if you use your Action to do anything else. The spell also ends if the target is ever outside the spell’s range or if it has total cover from you.
At higher levels, when you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the initial damage increases by 1d12 for each slot level above 1st.
What is Witch Bolt?
Witch Bolt is a 1st-level Evocation spell. The spellcaster launches a ranged spell attack against a single opponent. The spell deals lightning damage on a hit, and the caster can choose to use their Action the following turn to automatically deal additional damage to the afflicted target again for up to 1 minute of combat.
Who can cast Witch Bolt?
Witch Bolt is on the spell lists for Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards. Those classes can all take Witch Bolt beginning at 1st level. Eldritch Knight Fighters and Arcane Trickster Rogues gain access to the Wizard spell list at higher levels (3rd and 8th, respectively). Although it isn’t on the Bard spell list, they can choose it when their 10th level feature, Magical Secrets, kicks in.
When and where should I cast Witch Bolt?
Characters under level 5 benefit the most from Witch Bolt. It is a potent spell that can go on for as many rounds as the caster can maintain Concentration. Considering that low-level characters only have a few spell slots, you need to conserve them whenever possible, and Witch Bolt allows you to do that while staying relevant during battle.
Unfortunately, although it does scale technically, it doesn’t scale well. Upcasting Witch Bolt at higher levels is often much weaker than casting a spell of equal level once you have access to 3rd level spells. Additionally, the damage on subsequent turns does not reflect your upcasting. You still deal 1d12 automatically, regardless of what level you cast the spell at.
Another serious consideration is that Witch Bolt initially uses your Action to cast and requires the caster to use their Action on every subsequent turn to keep the spell going. Again, at lower levels, that’s fine, but at higher levels, you won’t want to occupy your Action with a spell that hardly does any damage.
Why should I take Witch Bolt?
At low levels, Witch Bolt is a convenient spell. Making repeated attacks against an enemy can be risky since you run the chance of missing, especially when you haven’t collected any magical items to boost your attack bonus. The comfort of knowing that, once you hit, you can automatically deal the same damage every round is nice.
Sorcerers can use the Metamagic Twinned Spell on Witch Bolt, allowing them to hit two targets and guarantee damage against them in the following rounds, assuming they manage to maintain Concentration.