Sometimes the difference between success and failure of a spellcaster is as simple as choosing the right cantrips. While leveled spells have more “oomph”, they’re also limited in the number of castings, while cantrips can be cast over and over. And when you’re saving the big guns for the inevitable boss battle, having the right cantrips in the quiver can vastly improve your odds in all the lead-up fights.
So, let’s look at one particular cantrip that you may want to consider keeping on hand. While it can be trickier to use it well than cantrips that just deal simple damage, it has the potential to allow for creative, strategic actions that can help maximize your party’s action economy and give you an edge in melee. So, let’s look at this clever cantrip – Thorn Whip.
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What is Thorn Whip?
Thorn Whip is a transmutation cantrip with the following stats:
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S, M
Classes: Druids, Artificers, and Bards
The spell creates a long, whip-like vine that lashes out at a single creature in range. With a successful melee attack by the caster, the spell deals 1d6 piercing damage (increasing to 2d6 at 5th level, 3d6 at 11th level, and 4d6 at 17th). Additionally, on a successful hit, large size and smaller targets are 10 feet closer to the caster.
Who Can Cast Thorn Whip?
Thorn Whip is a cantrip from the druid 5e list in the Player’s Handbook, which means the most obvious and common caster would be druids. But it also appears on the list for the artificer class from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Any class that takes the Magic Initiate feat has the option of choosing druid, and thus getting access to Thorn Whip. And there are a few loopholes in the rules that open it up to additional classes as well.
At 10th level (or 6th level for bards of the College of Lore), bards gain the Magical Secrets ability, which allows them to take 2 spells from any other class. This includes cantrips or any spell level they can currently cast, which would put Thorn Whip on the table – though by 10th level, you can probably find better options than even the best cantrip in the candy store of “everybody else’s spell lists”. Even for the bards that can get it at 6th level, it seems a waste to spend one of those slots on a cantrip, however useful.
Clerics of the Nature Domain can select a druid cantrip at 1st level. Guidance is already on the cleric’s list, and Produce Flame is somewhat redundant when they already have Sacred Flame. Shillelagh has potential, but it whether it’s a better choice than Thorn Whip is a tough call.
Lastly, warlocks taking the Pact of the Tome at 3rd level can take three cantrips from any other class. Since they already have the mother of all ranged damage cantrips in Eldritch Blast, they might be better served balancing out with cantrips that serve other functions, like Light or Message. But Thorn Whip has applications that involve more than just its base damage that might make it worthwhile.
Thorn Whip Cantrip 5E Uses
On its face, Thorn Whip is a respectable ranged attack cantrip, doing 1d6 base on a successful melee spell attack roll. The druid’s other cantrip with ranged damage capability, Produce Flame, does 1d8 damage (and increasing according to the same level progression as Thorn Whip) at the same range. So, what makes Thorn Whip worthwhile?
That would be the part pulling the target 10 feet closer to the caster. If you just skim over that, it can seem like a useless flourish. But with a little thought, that feature of Thorn Whip can make it a highly useful cantrip in the right circumstances.
Now, whenever you talk about moving enemies around, the first question in a savvy player’s mind is “will this let someone make an attack of opportunity?” And it would be easy to see the utility of Thorn Whip if you could yank back the enemy facing off with your party’s barbarian and give your ally a free swing.
Alas, it doesn’t work that way – the specific text on attacks of opportunity in the Player’s Handbook notes: “You also don’t provoke an opportunity attack when you teleport or when someone or something moves you without using your movement, action, or reaction.” In other words, pulling an enemy along with a vine, as involuntary movement, isn’t going to allow the rest of your party to make an attack of opportunity.
Then what good is it? Well, while it can’t give an attack of opportunity, it can still set up one. With its 30-foot range, you could grab a somewhat distant enemy – say, a spellcaster who’s staying back from the front line – and pull them 10 feet right into the range of one of your party’s brawlers.
Worst case, they have the higher initiative and have to blow their action doing a Disengage (though if you’ve planned this well, you’ll pulled them to an ally with the Sentinel feat, which will negate the Disengage). Best case: your ally smacks them, and if or when they try to run, they smack them again. Using Thorn Whip to pull casters and other backbenchers to the fight can keep them too busy to use their own spells to best effect.
There’s also the obvious potential to pull enemies into natural hazards such as pits or traps, or even into cages or similar confinement which an ally can close. And you can do a one-two punch of an ally caster creating such a hazard (by casting Flaming Sphere, for instance) right before you pull an enemy into it with the Thorn Whip.
And lastly, it’s always a handy spell just to separate an enemy from one of your allies, even if it doesn’t create an attack of opportunity. You could, for instance, pull that orc away from your wizard. In cases like this, it’s more about denying the enemy an attack of opportunity while still getting your ally safely out of harm’s way.
Is Thorn Whip Worth It?
At 30 feet, Thorn Whip doesn’t have the greatest range. And while the damage is decent, there are better cantrips if that’s all you’re interested in. But the real value of Thorn Whip comes from using its “pulling” ability in creative ways.
It involves paying close attention to the positions of allies, enemies, and environmental features, and it requires you know when and where to move to place yourself in the optimal position to use Thorn Whip to best effect. But if you can do it, you’ll find that this cantrip gives you a handy trick up your sleeve for battles where location is everything.
No, unfortunately, it doesn’t. A creature doesn’t cause opportunity attacks if it is moved by another force – only when it uses its own movement, action, or reaction.