Comparing cantrips: Toll the Dead, Eldritch Blast, Sacred Flame & Firebolt

While writing my thoughts about Toll the Dead I thought it might be good to compare it to some other popular cantrips for each class, Cleric, Warlock and Wizard. I chose Sacred Flame for Cleric, Eldritch Blast for Warlock and Fire bolt for Wizard. To be honest, I chose these because I’ve seen these used the most in by those classes in the games I’ve played in.

I also decided that I’m not going to dive too deep into using these with combos or Warlock invocations. I’d love to add these in but then things get really complicated. Just know that you’ll want to look into the greater spread of abilities when choose cantrips rather than just this table.

With that said, here we go!


Eldritch Blast Fire bolt Sacred Flame Toll the Dead
Casting Time 1 Action 1 Action 1 Action 1 Action
Range 120′ 120′ 60′ 60′
Components V, S V, S V, S V, S
Duration Instantaneous Instantaneous Instantaneous Instantaneous
Attack/Save Ranged Attack Ranged Attack Dex Save Wis Save
Damage 1d10 Force 1d10 Fire 1d8 Radiant 1d8/d12 Necrotic*
Special Extra beam @ higher levels Extra d10 @ higher levels Extra d8 @ higher levels Extra d8/d12 @ higher levels
Notes 5th, 11th & 17th Level 5th, 11th & 17th Level 5th, 11th & 17th Level
“target gains no benefit from cover”*
5th, 11th & 17th Level
d12 applies to targets missing any HP

So what does this mean?

In every case, the casting time is 1 action, the components are Verbal and Somatic, the duration is Instantaneous, line of sight is required and they are all direct damage spells.

Should a Warlock use Eldritch Blast or Toll the Dead?

Situational. If I were facing a low-Wisdom fighter (making assumptions about there, sorry fighter) then Toll the Dead might be better if they’re already wounded. Against another spell-caster I might suggest Eldritch Blast. Also, Eldritch blast’s force damage means it’s less likely the target will be resistant or immune, plus the double range is always nice.

Should a Wizard use Fire bolt or Toll the Dead?

I definitely lean toward Toll the Dead here. Fire bolt has a better range but if that’s not an issue, go for the necrotic damage, especially if the target is wounded.

Should a Cleric use Sacred Flame or Toll the Dead?

Situational according to enemy. Facing undead, Toll the Dead won’t help you much but your Sacred Flame is going to kick ass. Also, as a divine flame coming from above, the target’s cover doesn’t apply. Facing a wounded opponent who isn’t undead? G for Toll the Dead.

Basically, if you’re choose which one to have access to, I would say… BOTH!

Zoiberg from Futurama saying Why not both

If you’re not able to take both, Toll the Dead is always a good option.

Also, as always, I would suggest making your spell choices based on the character you want to play rather than the most effectively min-maxxed character that you can figure out. Play for fun with your friends rather than trying to “win” D&D.

Okay, I wrote that and remembered characters I had that were not so great in combat and, yeah, that can suck. But still, remember to make it fun and choose spells that fit your concept.

On a final note, check out invocations and spell combos before making your decision, most especially for Warlocks.

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