Word of Radiance 5e: Divine Cantrip

The Word of Radiance cantrip is a short ranged blast of radiant energy that can target multiple enemies with a small amount of damage.

Word of Radiance 5e

A new spell that debuted in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, Word of Radiance is an attack cantrip for the cleric class. When cast using verbal and material components, radiant energy bursts from the caster dealing 1d6 damage. This affects all enemies of the casters choosing within 5 feet. They make a constitution saving throw to avoid damage. Like all attack cantrips the spell increases in damage as the character levels.

Is Word of Radiance Good?

To an extent, all cantrips have similar qualities; low damage and at-will casting. This makes it difficult to prioritize one over the others. For the Cleric, the options are Sacred Flame, Toll the Dead, and Word of Radiance. Each has pros and cons and the choice between the three might be best determined by the style of play the player intends to use.

  • Word of Radiance: You utter a divine word and burning radiance erupts from you. Each creature of your choice that you can see within range must succeed on a Constitution saving throw or take 1d6 radiant damage. Range 5 feet.
  • Toll the Dead: You point at one creature you can see within range, and the sound of a dolorous bell fills the air around it for a moment. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or take 1d8 necrotic damage. If the target is missing any of its hit points, it instead takes 1d12 necrotic damage. Range 60 Feet.
  • Sacred Flame: Flame-like radiance descends on a creature that you can see within range. The target must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 1d8 radiant damage. The target gains no benefit from cover for this saving throw. Range 60 Feet.   

Comparison

Looking at the options it is evident that Word of Radiance is a short-range spell. If the intended function of the cleric is to be on the front lines this is probably the best choice. The other two options do provide range, so they are better suited for support-based roles.

All three provide a saving throw to avoid the damage. This can make things tricky. Monsters and enemies generally have higher Constitution and Dexterity saves than they do Wisdom. This makes Toll the Dead potentially better.

The last aspect to consider is flavor. Evaluate what the spell brings in terms of depth to the character concept. Toll the Dead deals necrotic damage while Word of Radiance and Sacred Flame deal radiant damage.

How Does Word of Radiance Work?

Based on the comparison, if you have selected Word of Radiance the character is probably going to be in melee on a regular basis. This is a perfect match of build and spell. Generally, this would lead to a high armor class and the ability to aggro enemies. The more enemies you can pull in the more effective the spell is.

The alternative would be taking this cantrip for a support class as a defense if you find yourself in melee. Either way, plan on being in close quarters or the spell is useless.

Summary

The Cleric did need some additional choices for damage cantrips, and Word of Radiance is a nice change. It doesn’t provide significant damage but cantrips usually don’t. It does allow for the addition of flavor to a seemingly standard build. Clerics make effective tanks and this spell improves on their ability to do just that.

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