While the Player’s Handbook certainly gives a lot of options for spells, it can still be worthwhile to look beyond the core rules. Expansion books like Xanathar’s Guide to Everything offer new choices that can be well worth considering when filling up your spell slots for your next adventure.
For Sorcerers and Wizards, Xanathar’s Guide has one particular spell that’s an intriguing addition to the spell lists for D&D 5E – Aganazzar’s Scorcher.
What is Aganazzar’s Scorcher?
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything gives the following stats for Aganazzar’s Scorcher:
2nd Level Spell
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M (a red dragon’s scale)
Classes: Sorcerer, Wizard
The spell creates a line of flame extending from the caster that is 5 feet wide and 30 feet long, in a direction of the caster’s choosing. Creatures in that line take 3d8 fire damage, or half that on a successful Dexterity save. When cast with a higher spell slot, the spell does an extra 1d8 fire damage for each level above 2nd.
Aganazzar’s Scorcher 5e, The Good and the Bad
A 2nd level spell should do an average of 17 hit points of damage against a single target, or 14 hit points against multiple foes. By that standard, Aganazzar’s Scorcher succeeds with its 3d8 (average 13.5 hit points), when it’s used to hit more than one creature.
The downside is that fire damage is one of the more common types of resistance, and second only to poison in outright immunity. Still, if you’re smart about picking your targets, Aganazzar’s Scorcher will do worthy damage.
The area of effect is unusual – a 5-foot corridor of flame that extends out 30 feet. But that’s not necessarily either a plus or a minus. It’s just an idiosyncrasy of the spell, once can play in your favor if used correctly.
How to Use Aganazzar’s Scorcher
With its long and narrow area of effect, Aganazzar’s Scorcher has obvious uses for any choke point that will force enemies into a line – a narrow tunnel or bridge, or example. If the caster is willing to stand nose to nose with the first one, they can fit up to six Medium-sized foes into the spell’s range lined up this way.
The spell is especially useful for narrow choke points the enemies have to squeeze through, giving them disadvantage on that Dexterity check. Likewise, Aganazzar’s Scorcher is best against enemies who are likely to be taken out by the average 13.5 hit points of damage. If you’ve just come out of a 2’ wide cave passage and have a line of orcs squeezing through behind you, well, this spell was made for moments like that.
But Aganazzar’s Scorcher isn’t just useful when enemies are coming at you in a line. You can put them in a line – specifically, if you can move to the flank of a melee, you can aim your shot to help multiple allies by sending that line of flame through their opponents. This will potentially still get just as many targets with the benefit of not having them coming directly at you (at least, not until after you set them on fire).
How Does Burning Hands Compare?
The obvious comparison for a low-level fire damage spell, especially since it’s also available to both Sorcerers and Wizards, would be Burning Hands. So, how does this new spell compare to it?
Obviously, Aganazzar’s Scorcher wins in terms of range – 30 feet versus the 15-foot cone of Burning Hands. But it’s a little more complex than that. Since Burning Hands’ area of effect is a cone, it covers a wider if shorter area.
At the full 15-foot range, the reach of Burning Hands would be 15 feet wide, or wide enough to catch three Medium creatures. Aganazzar’s Scorcher can reach targets further away – but Burning Hands will likely hit more of them unless they’re standing single file.
In terms of damage, Aganazzar’s Scorcher wins since its aforementioned damage just edges out Burning Hands’ 3d6 (average 10.5 hit points). And both spells rely on Dexterity saves and deal fire damage, so they play out the same in terms of odds regarding saves and resistances.
Overall, given that Burning Hands only takes a 1st level spell slot, it compares pretty evenly with Aganazzar’s Scorcher. The deciding factor between the two spells is going to be situational – for situations suited to Aganazzar’s Scorcher like those already described, it’s the clear winner, while for combats that involve a cluster of enemies up close, Burning Hands wins out.
But we can also compare Aganazzar’s Scorcher to another 2nd level spell from Xanathar’s Guide. And it’s one which, like Aganazzar’s Scorcher, is available to both Wizards and Sorcerers – Dragon’s Breath.
Dragon’s Breath has the same area of effect as Burning Hands, a 15-foot cone. Also, like Burning Hands, it forces the target to make a Dexterity save and deals 3d6 damage if they fail, or half if they succeed.
Unlike Burning Hands, however, Dragon’s Breath is a concentration spell with a duration of up to 1 minute. It also allows the caster to select from a number of damage types when the spell is cast – acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison – meaning the spell can come in handy no matter what kind of resistances you’re facing.
Dragon’s Breath can also be cast on any willing creature within touching distance, so the caster can move back outside the spell’s short range and be safe from the melee. And while it doesn’t fit the “long and narrow” choke point situations as neatly as Aganazzar’s Scorcher, the multiple rounds of use will still likely do more damage in those cases.
Is Aganazzar’s Scorcher Worth It?
There are other 2nd level alternative to Aganazzar’s Scorcher, and even a few 1st level spells that hold their own against it. But in the right situations – times when you can line up a shot with as many bad guys as possible, ideally in a situation where their DEX saves are at disadvantage – Aganazzar’s Scorcher shines. And while a few other spells can work just as well for choke points – Flaming Sphere and Cloud of Daggers come to mind – Aganazzar’s Scorcher holds up in its own right and is still a worthy expansion of 5E spell lists.