Druids have a surprising number of spells geared toward controlling the combat environment – moving foes against their will, blocking or discouraging movement into some areas, and so on. A sort of strategic thinking is nearly essential to making the most of a druid build.
In that vein, let’s examine one of the druid spells that works in this regard. Available at first level, a smart druid can actually have a surprisingly large impact on a combat with the judicious use of this particular spell from D&D 5E – Entangle.
What is Entangle?
The game stats for Entangle in D&D 5E are as follows:
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 90 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
The spell causes vines and weeds to spring up from the earth or floor in a 20’ square centered on a point within range. For the duration of the spell, this area is considered difficult terrain.
Furthermore, any creature in the 20’ area when the spell is cast must make a Strength saving throw versus the caster’s spell save DC or be Restrained. Each round, the entangled creatures may spend their action to make a Strength check to attempt to free themselves. When the spell ends, either at the maximum duration or when the caster’s concentration is broken, the plants wither away to nothing.
Entangle is only on the Druid spell list. The only other class that can access it is the Bard via the Magical Secrets ability.
Entangle 5e, The Good and the Bad
The spell allows you to affect a decent area – 20’ square – and that’s a significant bit of real estate in a dungeon or other indoor environment. It’s also a large enough area to catch up to 16 Medium or Small creatures, 4 Large ones, or one Huge or Gargantuan target.
It’s also enough area to potentially capture up to 64 Tiny creatures. That means if the party is ever attacked by an army of pixies or crawling claws, everyone can relax because the druid’s got this (so long as they’re all staying close together).
The ability to immobilize such a potentially large number of enemies for up to a full minute is a significant benefit in combat. And while the spell doesn’t do direct damage, the enemies it Restrains in the initial round will be at disadvantage on Dexterity saves and attacks against them will get advantage, so the odds that they will be damaged by someone else during the duration of the spell are pretty good.
But Entangle is more than just a leafy Hold Person spell. Beyond just the enemies actually caught in the casting, the ability to convert an area to difficult terrain (costing 2’ for every 1’ of movement through the space) can be of great benefit in keeping control of the combat space. If nothing else, Entangle can allow the druid to make it more difficult for enemies to approach the party on one side.
On the downside, Entangle is a concentration spell, limiting the other spells the druid can cast. On the other hand, it doesn’t require an action to maintain unlike some other spells, so the druid can still perform actions like Wild Shape.
The 90’ range of Entangle is good for a 1st level spell. And since the spell’s description specifically says that the spell’s 20’ area of effect extends from a point withing range, the 20’ area could technically be centered just at the 90’ distance and extend 10’ beyond it.
How and When to Use D&D 5e Entangle
The long duration of the spell makes it an easy choice for the initial round of combat. It’s even better if the druid and/or their party manages to approach undetected, giving at worst a round of surprise and at best the leisure to pick the spell’s target area and timing for maximum effect. Beyond that simple tip, properly using Entangle means considering all angles of the spell:
Who to Grab and Who Not To
The benefit of this strategy, as noted, is that the druid can hopefully ensnare a large number of opponents initially. For obvious reasons, the best targets are those least likely to make the strength check – and remember that Strength save bonuses are the 2nd most advantageous for creatures after Constitution.
Obviously, this means you’re not going to cast this spell on an ogre, but even orcs are a +3 on Strength saves. Golems have Strength bonuses that range from +4 to +7, making them another terrible choice. Goblins (-1 Strength bonus), on the other hand, are a great target. Hobgoblins (+1 Strength bonus) are a bit less favorable but still valid.
So yes, the area of Entangle would let you ensnare a Large or bigger creature like a Gorgon or a Blue Dragon. You just wouldn’t ensnare them for more than a few seconds, which doesn’t feel like it would accomplish a lot.
Likewise, you could try using it against beefier opponents like Vampires, but with their Strength bonus it’s unlikely you’ll get your money’s worth out of the spell. Given the potential for an entire minute of advantage on attacks against an enemy (and disadvantage on their attacks), using Entangle against enemies likely to make their Strength check easily is a waste.
Now, against a number of skeletons, or the aforementioned Goblins, Entangle can have a significant impact on a melee if you catch enough of them in the area of effect. In situations like these, when you’re facing multiple opponents that are roughly human-like Strength or weaker, Entangle is a great tool for evening the odds – or preferably shifting them in your favor.
It also goes without saying that Entangle is wasted against enemies immune to the Restrained condition, such as undead creatures like Will-O’-Wisps or Shadows. Likewise, it’s of little use against creatures that have an ability that will let them simply teleport out of the vines, such as the Banderhobb’s Shadow Step or the Phase Spider’s Ethereal Jaunt.
What to Do After Grabbing Them with Entagle
The first and most obvious benefit of using Entangle to Restrain opponents is that they can’t move. That means they can’t position themselves to threaten your party – say, by flanking on both sides of your combatants to give themselves advantage or closing in to harass your spellcasters.
It also lets you potentially take a certain number of enemies out of the fight. If you can manage to snag, say, half the skeletons closing in on your group, you only have to bash your way through the rest. And with any luck at all, you’ll have that done before the first group works their way out of the vines.
But Entangle also gives you advantages in combat that are worth noting. As already mentioned, creatures in a Restrained condition have Disadvantage on attack rolls and on Dexterity saves. Attacks against them area also made with advantage.
Tangling up key opponents (such as the frontline fighters) can give your side a chance to whittle them down – so long as you’re confident they’ll fail the Strength check enough times to make the spell worthwhile. And while the rules as written don’t expressly say that the Restrained condition prevents casting spells with a somatic component, nor hampers concentration (though your DM could rule otherwise), catching enemy spellcasters in the vines could at least make them easy targets for ranged weapon attacks.
And speaking of ranged attacks, let’s consider the various spells that could work alongside Entangle to deal a double whammy on a group of enemies. Whether the druid casts a follow-up spell or relies on an allied caster to deliver the second shot, there are a variety of spells that can take maximum advantage of Entangle’s effect on foes.
Flaming Sphere – As a druid spell also requiring concentration, this would require a second caster. But being able to move a flaming ball around toward targets that have a speed of 0 and disadvantage on the necessary DEX save can be quite the battle tactic. And like Entangle, it lasts up to a minute, allowing multiple rounds of rolling the sphere around the helpless enemies. As to whether the flame will affect the vines . . . more on that later.
Moonbeam – Another great druid spell requiring concentration (and therefore a companion caster), and one that works especially well when the target can’t move. Moonbeam will deal 2d10 radiant damage in a 5-foot radius, with the caster able to reposition the beam each turn as an action. With a duration of up to a minute, that means the beam could cycle through over half the area of Entangle before it expires. Granted, this spell gives the target a CON save, which isn’t impacted by the Entangle, but it’s still a choice worth considering.
Witch Bolt – Witch Bolt has two slight drawbacks – its relatively short range and its restriction to a single target. Entangle takes care of the first of those two, rendering the target unable to move out of range or seek cover, giving the caster a lot more freedom in their own movement. And while it still only works on one target, it can still be worthwhile if it’s the right target. And it benefits from the advantage on Attack rolls.
Cloud of Daggers – The relatively small area of effect of this spell, coupled with the fact that it can’t be repositioned, usually restricts it to being used as a hallway blocker or similar movement obstacle. But being able to set it on the right target when that target has a movement of zero can make this an effective combat spell.
Burning Hands – Assuming the caster takes up a position right at the edge of Entangle’s area of effect, they could deal fire damage to a sizable chunk of the spell’s area. This is another spell that plays into Entangle’s disadvantage on DEX saves, though it’s also another spell that raises the “fire” question.
Scorching Ray – Getting advantage on attack rolls to deal 2d6 fire damage to up to three targets? That seems like another great way to make good use of having Restrained enemies.
Beyond these, there’s just about any ranged attack cantrip, such as Eldritch Blast, Produce Flame, or Chill Touch. Or you can use cantrips that take advantage of the targets’ disadvantage on DEX saves, like Sacred Flame or Acid Splash.
Then there are the non-magical methods of dealing damage to Restrained opponents, such as oil flasks, holy water (for undead), or alchemist’s fire (which has a double bonus – advantage on the attack roll to hit the target, and disadvantage on their DEX save each round to extinguish the flames). If your DM allows for it, there is also the grenade, against which the Restrained targets would have to make a DEX save.
But beyond wrapping up and cutting down enemies, Entangle also makes the area difficult terrain for the duration, whether anyone is still Restrained or not. That benefit is often overlooked, but it’s worth a minute of consideration.
By slowing enemy movement through a particular area, you make it more expensive for them to move through it. Depending on how carefully you’ve chosen the area of effect, that could bottleneck enemies trying to move through a doorway or across a bridge or make one of your party’s flanks more expensive to approach.
If there are environmental hazards at play, whether natural or magically induced by your party, difficult terrain can potentially mean an extra round of exposure for an approaching enemy. If you combine Entangle with a spell like the Cloud of Daggers mentioned earlier, you can make a fairly effective obstacle where you want one.
Can’t They Just Burn Entagle?
The official rules don’t give a lot of info about the actual nature of the vines, leaving open space for a few questions. First and foremost, if you Fireball the area of an Entangle, do the vines all burn away and free the targets (after the fire damage, of course)? Likewise, if one creature hacks their way through, does that eliminate the “difficult terrain” aspect for those following its path?
While any DM is free to rule on this in their own way, we can make some general assumptions. Consider that the spell requires concentration, and that the instant that concentration is broken (or the max duration is reached) the vines and weeds wither into nothing.
That implies heavily that we’re not dealing with regular vegetation. If this were merely a Summon Vines spell, the caster wouldn’t need concentration to maintain them any more than they would for Create Water. And the vines that weren’t destroyed would simply remain after the spell was cast.
Since they are maintained only by concentration, we can assume that the vines are regenerative – environmental damage, or damage targeted at the vines, will have no lasting effect so long as the caster is still concentrating, because they “fill in”. Creatures are only caught up in the initial burst of growth – after that, “replacement” vines come in intermittently and are easily avoided (though it could be argued this contributes to its designation as difficult terrain.
Not to mention, green vines aren’t particularly flammable (in survival training, cutting open a vine is often cited as a great source of water). It’s not likely that a sudden burst of flame like a Fireball would clear them out, and even the sustained presence of a Flaming Sphere would possibly take the spell’s duration to do so, even if the vines were considered normal plants.
In short, there’s easy rationalization as to why the vines – and their effect on terrain – can’t be shortcut with spells or normal flames. Your DM can substitute his or her own as they see fit.
Should You Use Entangle?
In the right circumstances, Entangle is stunningly powerful for 1st level. How often those circumstances will align in such a way as to make the most use of the spell is another question. Still, having this spell in your pocket is more than likely going to come in handy.
Be sure to check out our full 5e druid guide to learn the ins and outs of playing a druid in 5e!
Entangle 5e FAQ’S
While the good or bad of a spell hangs largely on when and where it’s cast, Entangle has a lot going for it. Its ability to neutralize multiple enemies and control a chunk of terrain make it a very effective 1st level spell.
Entangle is best used to immobilize a group of enemies who are unlikely to make a Strength check. Ideally, the area of effect will also be centered on some sort of “choke point” or covering a vulnerable flank to take advantage of its effects on movement.
While the rules are less than clear, the general context of the spell seems to suggest that the vines cannot be disposed of normally and will remain until the spell ends.