In any party, but especially parties prone to finding themselves in melee, it’s tempting to have the cleric just stock up with healing spells. And when spell slots are used for something else, it’s usually another sort of support or protection spell like Sanctuary or Aid.
There’s an understandable logic to that, since dealing damage is usually handled by the party’s bruisers for melee and casters like wizards or sorcerers for magical attacks. Healing/buffing the party is the cleric’s natural role.
However, there are a few cleric spells that aren’t healing or support that are still worth taking up a precious spell slot. Even though other members of the party can do the damage-dealing, there are a few spells that do it so well you just have to give the cleric their turn. And one such spell, which we’re going to look at, is Spiritual Weapon.
What is Spiritual Weapon?
Spiritual Weapon is a 2nd-level evocation spell on the cleric lists which, per normal spell slot progression, means clerics can begin casting it at 3rd level. It is also a 3rd level Domain spell for both the Life and War Domains.
The stats of Spiritual Weapon are as follows:
Casting Time: 1 Bonus Action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 minute
Classes: Cleric, Bard, Paladin, Sorcerer
The spell allows the caster to create a spectral, floating weapon anywhere within range, that can then make a melee attack against any creature within 5 feet of it. The weapon deals force damage equal to 1d8 + the cleric’s spellcasting modifier.
That makes the base damage an average of 4.5 HP, and presumably a cleric will have a decent casting bonus of at least a +2 if not more, so we have average damage somewhere between 6.5 and 8.5 HP. If cast with a higher-level spell slot, this damage increases by 1d8 for every two slot levels above 2nd.
Each turn, as a bonus action, you can move the weapon up to 20 feet and make an attack against a valid target (i.e., within 5 feet of the weapon’s position). The weapon is not considered to take up space, meaning it can freely pass through allies’ locations – though it can’t pass through walls or other solid obstructions.
The form of the Spiritual Weapon can be whatever suits your particular deity. Most deities have something in their symbolism which either is or at least suggests a sacred weapon of some kind, and it’s an obvious choice for Spiritual Weapon to take that form.
Looking at the Forgotten Realms deities, for example, Tempus (God of War) has the symbol of a flaming sword, while the God of Courage, Torm, has the symbol of a gauntlet. Meanwhile Mielikki, Goddess of Forests, has the symbol of a unicorn’s head which would be . . . something to see.
Of course, the mechanics of the spell are exactly the same regardless of what form the spell takes. So, if you’re a worshipper of the Eberron God Aureon (whose symbol is an open tome) and you cast Spiritual Weapon as a book flying around and whacking enemies, that’s perfectly fine.
And for non-cleric casters (bards and sorcerers, since paladins would go by their deity just like clerics), the symbol can be anything they want, from a personal insignia to a weapon shape of their own choice. The form is just flavor, and you can tailor that to whatever seems right.
What Classes Can Cast Spiritual Weapon?
As noted, this is a spell from the cleric lists. Any cleric of 3rd level or better can prepare it, and a few key Domains always have it ready. But there are a few other classes that have ways to access it as well.
Bards, as always, can get to the spell with the Magical Secrets class feature at 10th level. Bards from the College of Lore can do so earlier when they first get that feature at 6th level.
Paladins can access the spell, though the way their spell slot progression runs, they won’t have access to this spell until 5th level. It is also a 5th level Oath spell for paladins who choose the Oath of Conquest (from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything).
And finally, this spell is available to sorcerers choosing the Divine Soul origin from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. With their Divine Magic feature (gained at 1st level), they can choose a cleric spell instead whenever they are able learn or replace a sorcerer spell.
Who Should Cast Spiritual Weapon?
Almost everyone who can cast it, should – Spiritual Weapon is a gem of a spell. If you have access to it, it makes a fantastic go-to spell for melee situations, and in particular, can work for battles against groups of lower-level enemies. Let’s dive deeper into the mechanics of the spell and see why.
First off, note that the spell does force damage, which is the least common form of damage resistance in the entire game. Almost four times as many creature types are resistant to radiant damage – and that resistance is far from common.
The spell’s damage may be relatively small, but you will almost never encounter an enemy that won’t take all of it. Not to mention, it’s round after round, for up to a minute. Based on the averages calculated earlier, Spiritual Weapon will do a total of 65 to 85 HP force damage if it hits each round, and that’s not shabby.
Secondly, the spell doesn’t have a save. It runs on the caster’s melee spell attack, which will generally put the odds in the caster’s favor. Not to mention, melee spell attacks mean the possibility of getting a crit in there somewhere – over the course of 10 rounds, maybe more than one.
Lastly, note that casting Spiritual Weapon is only a bonus action. That leaves the cleric (or other caster) free to use their standard action for a cantrip, attack, or whatever else they’d like to do. And on the following rounds, moving and striking again with the weapon is still a bonus action, now freeing the cleric to cast other spells while still smacking enemy after enemy with Spiritual Weapon.
Why Cast Spiritual Weapon 5e
But the most appealing part of Spiritual Weapon is that it’s not a concentration spell. That’s right – you can deal attacks round after round with a floating hammer, sword, severed unicorn head, or whatever you like, all without having to maintain concentration.
That means that, after the initial casting round, a cleric is free to cast a concentration spell while Spiritual Weapon is still ping-ponging off enemies in the background. Let’s look at an example.
Fighting against a group of bandits, a cleric on the first round of combat uses his standard action to cast, say, Sacred Flame to fire off an initial strike. Then he uses his bonus action to cast Spiritual Weapon and makes its first attack at that bandit over there.
On the 2nd round, he uses his bonus action to move the weapon up to 20 feet and hit a new bandit (or hit the first one again if he didn’t go down). With his regular action, he could now cast Bless, giving 1d4 bonuses to up to 3 allies (or more, depending on level). For each round after this, the cleric can maintain that Bless while hitting each round with Spiritual Hammer and either making his own attacks, casting a non-concentration spell, using Help or Stabilize to support the party, or doing whatever other standard action is called for.
Alternately, a cleric could have Spiritual Weapon running while casting Silence when there’s a caster on the other side of the fight or Hold Person if the enemy has a tank that needs to be sidelined for a bit. And, once you can cast 3rd level spells, you could combine Spiritual Weapon with the concentration spell Spirit Guardians and just deal death all over the place.
A sorcerer with this spell could lead off with Fire Bolt or Ray of Frost while starting Spiritual Weapon. Then starting with round two, he could cast Witch Bolt, using that spell to wear down a boss while Spiritual Weapon takes down minion after minion. Or he could cast Spiritual Weapon while using Crown of Madness to recruit an enemy fighter to his side, or Maximilian’s Earthen Grasp to immobilize and/or crush one.
A bard, meanwhile, could start off with Vicious Mockery and follow up with concentration spells like Tasha’s Hideous Laughter or, at higher levels, Bestow Curse. Sadly, though, one of his key abilities will be off limits.
Other Considerations For 5e Spiritual Weapon
One of the bard’s greatest features (and most useful, from a party-supporting standpoint) is Bardic Inspiration. Unfortunately, that’s a bonus action, and as such can’t be done while casting or running Spiritual Weapon.
That doesn’t stop them from casting spells, using magic items, or doing other actions, of course. And if the bard needs to dispense inspiration in a given round more than he needs to do another whack with Spiritual Weapon, he can always do that. But it’s one round of potential damage down the drain, so it’s good to be mindful of the spell’s limitations and conflicts beforehand, so you’re not throwing away too many of those 10 rounds.
And a few spells, like Dust Devil, don’t pair as well with Spiritual Weapon since, while they take a standard action to cast, moving the Dust Devil to a new location requires a bonus action. So, a sorcerer could cast it while running Spiritual Weapon, he just wouldn’t be able to move it after he did – at least not without sacrificing the ability to attack with the Spiritual Weapon that round.
This sort of conflict likewise applies to bonus actions as a part of certain feats. A paladin, for instance, might well have the Shield Master feat – and shoving an opponent with the shield via this feat is a bonus action, which couldn’t be done while running Spiritual Weapon.
Nor could a someone with Polearm Master feat get their bonus attack. A character with the Charger feat wouldn’t be able to make their weapon or shove attack after a Dash if they were still running this spell.
These – and other bonus actions that players might have in their back pocket – should be considered and weighted carefully when choosing when and where to use this spell. Maximizing the effect of your actions, after all, means knowing not only what you want to do now, but for the upcoming rounds as well, precisely so your various actions and bonus actions don’t step on each other or limit your options when you need them most.
On the other hand, with a little foresight and teamwork, Spiritual Weapon can give you some interesting opportunities to work with allies for maximum effect. There’s no reason, for instance, why Spiritual Weapon wouldn’t count as “an enemy of your target” for purposes of determining whether a rogue could land a sneak attack.
And could the Spiritual Weapon itself benefit from an ally performing the Help action? On the face of it, there’s no reason it couldn’t – by distracting the target, an ally could make the caster’s melee spell attack that much easier, just as it would if the caster were making a melee attack himself.
Paying attention to your spells and abilities, you can almost certainly conjure up a number of ways to use Spiritual Weapon creatively or use to give others a chance to use their own talents creatively. And if nothing else, this spell gives you 10 rounds of melee attacks costing neither concentration nor your standard action – and force damage, no less – that makes it one definitely worth having in your back pocket when combat comes around.
D&D Spiritual Weapon FAQ’s
The Spiritual Weapon spell is cast using a bonus action, causing the phantasmal weapon to appear wherever the caster wishes within the spell range and immediately make a melee spell attack on a target within 5 feet. Each round thereafter until the spell expires (1 minute duration, or 10 rounds total), the caster can use a bonus action to direct the weapon to move up to 20 feet and make an attack at a viable target.
Spiritual Weapon is a 2nd level cleric spell which allows the caster to summon a floating, phantasmal weapon which can attack once per turn, dealing force damage equal to 1d8 + the casters spellcasting ability modifier. Casting the spell is a bonus action and moving the weapon and attacking again each round is a bonus action as well. The spell has a duration of one minute and does not require concentration.
The weapon floats on its own and moves at the caster’s mental direction. It is not required that the caster hold or touch the weapon, and in fact nothing in the spell’s text or other rules allows for it. In any case, holding the weapon (and presumably wielding it personally) largely defeats the purpose of the spell and negates the benefit of having a magical weapon attack for you while you do other things (including making your own attacks).
The phantasmal weapon conjured by Spiritual Weapon is assumed not to take up space and can move through the space of the caster or allies. It can therefore occupy the same 5-foot square as the caster. While the spell is generally meant to hit targets at range, it could be useful in this way for guarding your own back, by striking at an adjacent enemy while you’re occupied with spellcasting or other actions.