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5E Is the Poison Spray Cantrip any good?

An AT or EK would almost always be better making a weapon attack in those circumstances.

Yep. I like the IDEA of Poison Spray, but in practice? Ideal scenario for a Poison Spray is lots of very weak enemies crowded into a very small space. But pretty much nothing is vulnerable to poison and 1d12 isn't even enough to reliably kill goblins. And in 5e as written the early levels fly by in a couple of encounters, and by then enemies are tough enough that it's pretty much useless even once it adds another d12 at level 5. My dragonborn paladin's breath weapon is in a similar situation at level 5. 2d6 damage for a couple of enemies, with a relatively easy save? When even minion-types are heading into the 20-30hp range? Two greatsword attacks are much more reliable, unless the target has an appropriate energy vulnerability.
 

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We had someone use it religiously up to at least 5th level as their default attack. It's no worse than any other cantrip, but can depend on the enemy your fighting (and thus, DM selection).

I mean, it is worse than quite a lot of cantrips. It has a 10' range, the save is CON (generally the easiest save, even at those levels), it does Poison damage, which lots of things are immune to (again, even at low levels), and the only thing it has going for it is the 1d12 (avg. 6.5) damage.

Basically it's good if you have a creature that somehow has high AC but low CON (pretty rare, if it even exists), and isn't immune to poison, and you can get close to it reliably. One of the players in the group I play in has it, but most of the time they just use their light crossbow. The actual odds of hitting tend to be similar to landing this spell, it does 1d8+2 damage (so 6.5 average), and whilst it is subject to cover, it can also crit or you can get Advantage on the attack roll, so it tends to work out.

Also as Paul says, if you have a decent melee attack of any kind, you're probably better off using that if you're that close anyway. 1d6+3 does the same average damage, anything larger does more. Longer range cantrips have much more general applicability, and almost any other damage type would be better.
 

Stormonu

Legend
With a lot of cantrips having riders, I do wish the cloud lingered until your next turn - do damage to the initial target and anything that ends/moves through the cloud possibly takes the damage.
 

FreeTheSlaves

Explorer
War magic and Eldritch strike make it feasible for an Eldritch Knight.

R1 throw yourself into the enemy's midst, cast Blade ward then strike to impose save disadvantage.
R2 Poison spray for 2d12 then strike to reimpose disadvantage.

Not amazingly impressive, but expends no limited resources, you can make this default combo 1.
 

jmartkdr2

Adventurer
War magic and Eldritch strike make it feasible for an Eldritch Knight.

R1 throw yourself into the enemy's midst, cast Blade ward then strike to impose save disadvantage.
R2 Poison spray for 2d12 then strike to reimpose disadvantage.

Not amazingly impressive, but expends no limited resources, you can make this default combo 1.
This only works at 10th level - at 11th you're giving up two attacks* for +3d12.

* at least 2, that is. Even still at least 2d8+2str/dex+4 for dueling, or 4d6+2str for greatweapons.
 

FreeTheSlaves

Explorer
This only works at 10th level - at 11th you're giving up two attacks* for +3d12.

* at least 2, that is. Even still at least 2d8+2str/dex+4 for dueling, or 4d6+2str for greatweapons.

Well I guess we need to run some numbers to see the state of things regarding EKs and Poison Spray.

Poison Spray is a Con save, so we can assume the EK is using it against a higher AC foe they’ve fought before with a known modest Con save: the Veteran springs to mind, AC17 and Con+2. I don’t know what a typical EK looks like, so I’ll run the numbers with the stats of a known PC.

Level 10 EK versus CR3 Veteran
2x Rapier+9 d8+7 versus AC17
Poison Spray DC16 versus Con+2

Two rapier attacks
Hits on an 8+ or 65%
Average damage = d8+7 equals 11.5
5 of the 65% hit chance is a critical that averages 9+7 equals 16
So average sword DPR = 2*(0.60*11.5+(0.05*16))
Average sword DPR = 2*(6.9+0.8)
= 15.4

Let’s compare that to Poison Spray and one attack.

One Poison Spray attack
Veteran saves on 14+ or 35% (so EK succeeds 65%)
Average damage = 2d12 equals 13
So average Poison Spray DPR = 0.65*13
Average Poison Spray DPR = 8.45

If we now include one sword attack DPR of 7.7 the combined sword and Poison Spray DPR = 16.15

But this doesn’t account for Eldritch Strike imposing save disadvantage, and if so the save +2 effectively becomes Con-3.

Therefore, one Poison Spray attack at disadvantage
Veteran saves on 19+ or 10% (so EK succeeds 90%)
Average Poison Spray damage = 2d12 equals 13
So average Eldritch Strike Poison Spray DPR = 0.9*13
Average Eldritch Strike Poison Spray DPR = 11.7

However we can only say 65% of the time the Poison Spray DPR is 11.7, because 35% of the time the Poison Spray is 8.45.
So average Eldritch Strike Poison Spray & normal Poison Spray DPR = (0.65*11.7)+(0.35*8.45)
Average Eldritch Strike Poison Spray & normal Poison Spray DPR = 10.56

If we again include the sword attack DPR of 7.7 the combined average sword DPR and Eldritch Strike Poison Spray & normal Poison Spray DPR = 18.26

Two sword swipes of 15.4 versus Poison Spray and sword swipe of 18.26. Looks like Poison Spray works well with this EK at level 10 versus a high AC modest Con save foe. Doesn’t exactly blow me away as a killer combo, more like a tool in the toolbox option.

A 3rd attack versus an extra d12 likely favours the former. That said Eldritch Strike reduces the save chance to such a degree it’d likely be very minor. I suspect the level 11 Poison Spray plus sword swipe still averages higher than 3 sword swipes on this build versus this foe.

3 sword attacks = 3*7.7
= 23.1

11th level Poison Spray = 19.5 (3d12)
65% chance of 17.55 and 35% chance 12.67.
11.41 + 4.43 = 15.84

1 Poison Spray and 1 sword swipe = 23.54 (15.84+7.7)

Wow, 23.1 versus 23.54. Certainly not overpowered.
 

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