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I'm trying to build a Draconic Bloodline sorcerer with the Elemental Adept feat (PHB, p. 166) and the Elemental Affinity subclass feature to maximize one element. I'm a new player, and our group so far is still only using the PHB.

When I look through all the sorcerer spells in the PHB, I was a bit surprised that the basic game would so overwhelmingly emphasize one element over the others—fire seems hands down to be the strongest element across most levels:

  • 0: Fire bolt
  • 1: Burning hands
  • 2: Scorching ray
  • 3: Fireball
  • 4: Wall of fire
  • 7: Delayed blast fireball and fire storm
  • 8: Incendiary cloud
  • 9: Meteor swarm

There are great spells, diverse in effect and often among the best in class, available at almost every step of my character's development.

Compared to cold-damage spells:

  • 0: Ray of frost
  • 4: Ice storm
  • 5: Cone of cold

Basically I can use cone of cold a handful of times, and otherwise I just have my cantrip. Well there's ice storm, but I suspect I'd be using it for utility more than damage.

Or lightning-damage spells:

  • 1: Witch bolt
  • 3: Lightning bolt
  • 7: Chain lightning

I can use chain lightning once or twice at levels 13-16; otherwise most of the time I'd be firing off lightning bolts, which I presume are inferior fireballs due to the line-shaped area of effect. The low-level spell slots are also pretty barren, as witch bolt seems bad and there's no ranged cantrip.

Am I missing something, or does an Elemental Adept & Elemental Affinity specialization grossly favor fire-damage spells, at least for the PHB selection? Do I need to include other spell sources if I want to attempt this build outside of fire?

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Pretty much. Fortunately, there's an official free answer. One of the early published adventures was set in the classic Temple of Elemental Evil, and there is a freely-available Elemental Evil Player's Companion. The spells from that supplement are published as freely available in D&D Beyond (including errata from later printings of the same spell, which are considered official updates). Most of them are also in Xanathar's Guide to Everything.

You can find that list here:
D&D Beyond Spells filtered by "Source: Elemental Evil Player's Companion".

This includes spells like Frostbite, Gust, Ice Knife, Magic Stone, and Tidal Wave — as well as a lot more fire spells.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not familiar with "expansions" (not sure of the colloquial term for published adventures). Are some companions free—and therefore considered standard to always include in games? Are there any other companions like this? I've seen some names floating around DnD sites like Xanathars, but I figured their content was reserved for when playing campaigns specific to them. \$\endgroup\$ – Blaise Jan 12 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Oh, it's even more complicated than that. There is no standard — it's really up to the DM — although in my experience most DMs allow material published in any official hardcover book, sometimes with specific exceptions. Some of the additional material is tied to a setting or adventure (like the Elemental Evil supplement), but actually Xanathar's and Volo's (despite their cute names) are meant to be general additions. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jan 12 at 18:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is part of the 5E business model — with previous editions with "Player's Handbook 1, PHB 2, PHP 3" and "Monster Manual 1, MM 2, MM3", purchases decline as the numbers go up, therefore eventually basically requiring a reset to a new edition simply to keep funding coming in. This isn't good for the long-term sustainability of the game, so with 5E, new rules material and character options are generally added in concert with published adventurers ­— or else in very flavorful supplemental books. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jan 12 at 19:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you're playing in Adventurer's League, the general rule is that all hardcover published material is okay, but any given character can only use options from PHB plus any one other book. This is presumably to help prevent people from cherry-picking crazy combos that weren't really meant to be used together. I've never heard of a "home game" using that restriction, though. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jan 12 at 19:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ I guess mostly the main rule I've seen is: "Does the DM have access to the material and time to understand it? Okay, then." For this reason, I've been part of groups that have chipped in to buy DM's subscriptions and content on D&D Beyond. \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm Jan 12 at 19:03
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Not necessarily

Remember, damaging spells are only part of your repertoire and you choose which damaging spells to use.

Given that you have a limited number of spells to know, it’s unlikely that you would actually choose that many damaging fire spells.

In addition, fire is the most resisted or immune damage type for monsters. Now, you may never meet such a monster since the ones your DM chooses aren’t actually random but their selection set is biased towards such monsters.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This is...wrong on several levels. Sorcerers don't prepare spells, for crying out loud! \$\endgroup\$ – Stackstuck Mar 18 at 2:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Stackstuck That error has been addressed; what other “levels” were you addressing? The claim that fire is the most resisted energy type could use sourcing (though I know that has historically been true in D&D and it would not surprise me if it still is in 5e), but other than that, this is spot on. When you have limited spells known, you don’t want redundancy among them. So having only a couple options that work is fine so long as at least some of them are actually good. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 18 at 3:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding the last paragraph: resistances are what the Elemental Adept feat is for. If it's the most resisted damage type, Elemental Adept makes that no longer a problem. (It has no effect against immunities, though.) \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 18 at 3:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan the question is asking from within the frame "I want to optimize for the most things I can get the Elemental Adept/Draconic Heritage bonus on". This looks like either a very poorly written frame challenge or somebody outright missing the point. \$\endgroup\$ – Stackstuck Mar 18 at 4:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Stackstuck The question does not, in fact, use the wording you do; that’s your own reading. My reading, and apparently Dale’s, is that this user is trying to optimize this feature, and thinks that the lack of options in other elements means they are less-good choices with this feature. But since you don’t actually want to take tons of spells that do the same thing, that’s irrelevant: if you only want 2 or 3 or whatever, you only care that there are that many good options for your element. Fire has the most options, but all the others have enough options. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Mar 18 at 13:42

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