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Daily ✦ Arcane, Conjuration, Fire, Implement
Standard Action Ranged 10
Flame Sphere: Effect: You conjure a Medium flaming sphere that occupies a
square within range, and the sphere attacks. Any creature that starts its turn adjacent to the sphere takes 1d4 + Intelligence modifier fire damage. As a move action, you can move the sphere 6 squares.
Target: One creature adjacent to the flaming sphere
Attack: Intelligence vs. Reflex
Hit: 2d6 + Intelligence modifier fire damage.
Sustain Minor: You can sustain this power until the end of the encounter. As a standard action, you can make another attack with the sphere

If flame sphere is created in a square adjacent to a prone enemy, does it gain combat advantage since it's making a melee attack against a prone target?

Related: Does the prone ranged defensive bonus apply to a creature hit by Flaming Sphere's initial attack?

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Given this, and the other question posted regarding this attack, I think this power (and others like it) may be slightly broken in terms of rules verbiage. I suggest you submit these issues to WotC Customer Support for review. You'll probably get a response either stating that the power is entirely Ranged and all defenses/bonuses applicable to its use should be handled the same as any other Ranged attack, or that the issue is open to DM interpretation (as all rules ultimately are) and they'll submit it to R&D. –  Iszi Feb 27 '11 at 8:00
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3 Answers

Yes. Prone creatures grant combat advantage because it's difficult to avoid attacks when you're sprawled on the ground. That's no different for Flaming Sphere than it is for a fighter's sword.

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The power's description doesn't explicitly mention the Melee keyword for the sphere's attack, therefore that attack is not a Melee attack.

The only restriction is that the attack's target has to be adjacent to the sphere, but a close blast 1 or a [non-provoking] ranged 1 attack has the same effect. This means that the range restriction cannot be used to guess any implicit keywords of the attack in that way.

Compare the wording of these Conjuration powers, some of which explicitly mention the proxy's attack's type:

Flaming Sphere[DDI]:

[...] You conjure a Medium flaming sphere that occupies a square within range, and the sphere attacks. [...]

Mordenkainen's Guardian Hound[DDI]:

[...] You conjure a Medium guardian hound that occupies 1 square within range, and the hound makes the following melee attack. [...]

Ball Lightning[DDI]:

[...] You conjure a Medium ball of lightning that occupies 1 square within range, and the ball makes the following attack, which is a close burst 1. [...]

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Personally, I wouldn't be comfortable giving this answer to my players. It's too pedantic for a social game. The sphere can only attack an adjacent enemy. Sure, the power lacks the Melee keyword, but I don't think that makes whether it's a melee attack meaningfully ambiguous. It makes more sense to me to treat it as a melee attack rather than something like a close burst 1 targeting a single enemy or a non-provoking ranged 1 attack. –  J. Strange Feb 28 '11 at 14:03
@J. Strange: Whether it makes more sense to treat is as a melee attack is questionable, imho. How do you think does the sphere attack (this is an honest question, I'm not being ironic here)? Does it bump into the enemy? Does it reach out with some sort of flaming tentacle? Or does it release a small eruption, like a solar flare, into the enemy's space? –  user660 Feb 28 '11 at 20:49
I don't know, does it matter? That kind of flavor is up to the player and his GM. I'm looking at it with a sort of Occam's Razor (or Mordenkainen's Razor, if you like) perspective. If the attack is ambiguous, what's the simplest rationalization of it I can make? In this case, a simple melee attack is much simpler than close burst 1 targeting 1 or ranged 1 not provoking. –  J. Strange Feb 28 '11 at 21:00
@J. Strange: Yes, it does make a difference. Because you have to be consistent with interpretations and rulings to prevent the flavor of the power conveniently shifting to match the magic items of the character ("Did I say the sphere releases a small explosion at the enemy? No, sorry, I meant that the sphere bumps into the enemy."). Also, as detailed in the answer the sphere's attack's type is not explicitly stated, contrary to several other, similar, powers. Therefore it is simply that - untyped - and therefore doesn't gain any of the advantages or disadvantages the other attack types have. –  user660 Feb 28 '11 at 21:09
That is a level of hair-splitting I can't imagine getting into with my group. We're talking about introducing the concept of an "untyped attack" with the complications that entails just because the text doesn't specify that it's a melee attack, all for the purpose of determining whether the wizard gets the odd +2 against a prone enemy with his 2d6 + Int daily. I'd rather err on the side of elegance, personally. –  J. Strange Feb 28 '11 at 21:19
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Even the last reviewDDI of this spell didn't make this point clearer.

My reading is that - even if the attack listed in the spell block is not defined as a secondary attack - it complies to the same rules. Under this hypothesis, the attack inherits all the attributes of the encompassing power that are not explicitly overridden (see Rules Compendium, page 96 - Secondary Attacks).

Secondary Attacks

[...] Unless otherwise noted, the attack type and range of a secondary attack are the same as those of the power's primary attack, and the secondary attack doesn't require a separate action from the action of the primary attack.
Some secondary attacks have the same targets as their primary attacks, whereas others have targets of their own, noted in "Secondary Target" entries. [...]

A new, and broader, definition introduced by Rules Compendium is that of Secondary Powers (see page 97). It broadens the concept of secondary attack by defining an encompassing power (the one that you activate in the first instance) and secondary powers (a sort of temporary powers that you can use only while the encompassing one is active). The Warden's form powers fall gracefully in this category, but also do many Zone powers that hinder or damage creature for more than one round.

Secondary Powers

Some powers encompass what are called secondary powers. A creature must use the encompassing power to gain access to the secondary power. A secondary power requires a separate action from the action use to perform the encompassing power.
A secondary power's entry specifies its action type, attack/utility type, range and effects. [...]
Some secondary powers have the same targets as their encompassing powers, whereas others have targets of their own, noted in "Secondary Target" entries. [...]

Now, flaming sphere has no primary attack; however it clearly defines a range (20 squares). The ancillary attack has no range defined...
Also, even if the attack requires a separate standard action in rounds after the 1st (with the 1st being an exception), I don't feel right in electing it as secondary power because it lacks some of the information secondary powers provide.
This hints me at the concept of secondary (albeit hidden) attack.

So, I'd make the secondary attack inherit the range of the encompassing power but using its explicit targeting (1 adjacent creature).

This would make the flaming sphere attack a de facto Range 1 attack that doesn't benefit from targeting a prone creature.

This answer tries to infer the best we could from the rules and a power description that seems to lack a significant piece. This inference could be far away from what the power was designed for. I personally see no problem in explicitly considering the sphere attack as a melee one, as it has its good backing rationale.

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According to conjuration rules a Flaming sphere can then be attacked could it not? If it uses a Range 1 attack then it is subject to opportunity attacks if it uses that attack. How does this work? –  wax eagle Jul 17 '11 at 1:55
Yes, you are right: it could be attacked like any conjuration could (uses caster's defenses). However, not all conjurations could effectively be damaged, and those that could have their hp or method of destruction explicitly stated in the power block. This is not the case of flaming sphere so, a monster could attack and opportunity attack the great ball of fire, but it has no way of damaging it (unless it uses a conjuration-bane specific power). –  Erik Burigo Jul 17 '11 at 10:42
Oops I was thinking summoning, not conjuration. –  wax eagle Jul 17 '11 at 13:35
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