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I thought it was pretty simple: a power's an attack if it says Attack in the top right. Apparently, it's not that simple. I keep hearing there are other conditions a power must fulfil to count specifically as an attack. For one example: in this question.

This is mechanically important, since some game features, like feats, single out attacks from other powers.

The Rules Compendium just offers this to say on p308, which sort of clarifies:

Attack

An attack roll and its effects, including any damage rolls. The word “attack” is sometimes used as shorthand for “attack power.” Some attack powers include multiple attacks, and some powers, such as magic missile, are designated as attacks yet lack attack rolls (using such a power counts as making an attack if the power has a target).

So when is a power an attack?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 6 down vote accepted

A power is an attack when it meets the following two conditions:

  1. It's an attack power. So it says "xyz attack power". However, this is probably not complete. It's understood both on this site and seemingly on the wizards forums, that a class feature can be an attack as well.

  2. It has a target line. (indicates the target of a power).

This excepts several varieties of powers. For one, no Utility powers are attacks (though sometimes they have an auxiliary power that is marked as an attack). Things like stances, summons, polymorphs etc that are labeled "attack powers" but do not have a target line are not attacks. Often these powers will have an attached auxiliary power that is an attack.

A power need not have a damage line or an attack roll to be an attack power. Magic Missile and Direct the Strike are two great examples.

  • Magic Missile. This power has a target line "one enemy" and an effect line "deal some damage". It has no "attack roll" nor does it have a hit line (can't have one of those without an attack roll). But it's an attack power because it's a "wizard attack 1" and also has a target line.

  • Direct the Strike is a bit funkier because the target line is an ally, but that doesn't matter here. What matters though is that it has a target line the target of the target line is not a factor. Warlord Attack 1 seals the deal.

The seemingly much bigger question is whether the Monk's flurry of blows is an attack, but since we have a question about that already, it's best left there.

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What about "Wizard Attack 1" Flame Arrow, that targets all allies in a close burst 1 and buffs their next attack with 1d6 fire damage? No "attacks" happen with or as the result of the use of that power, unlike Direct the Strike. –  Soulrift May 11 '13 at 3:22
    
@Soulrift it's an attack. –  wax eagle May 11 '13 at 14:40

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