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The conjure minor elemental spell states:

You summon elementals that appear in unoccupied spaces that you can see within range. You choose one the following options for what appears:

  • One elemental of challenge rating 2 or lower
  • Two elementals of challenge rating 1 or lower
  • Four elementals of challenge rating 1/2 or lower
  • Eight elementals of challenge rating 1/4 or lower.

It seems like the only two things a player can select are the maximum CR of the elemental conjured, and, arguably, the location its summoned in. I am confused as to why you would want to use this spell given that its results are so unpredictable.

Why would a wizard cast a spell that's essentially an open invitation to whatever elemental from a list decides to show up? You can't strategize around the spell very much because, as written, you don't choose what gets summoned, and you can easily end up with something you weren't counting on.

It won't be useless, but why would you cast a spell that has such an unpredictable result? It's like the difference between the chromatic orb and chaotic bolt - if the chaotic bolt didnt have the chance to bounce. You'd never pick a random damage type over a damage type of choice. Why would you choose a spell that might do something you want over something that does exactly what you intend it to do?

What are the situations in which you would use this spell that wouldn't be better solved by a spell of equal or lower level that has more predictable results?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @BenHaskell what experience do you have as a DM in 5e? I ask due to the trouble I put a party of 5th levels through using lava and mud mephits. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Jun 12 '19 at 20:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BenHaskell I edited you question to try to make it suitable for our format. If you have issues with it please edit it further. - To reopen voters, please wait for OP to confirm this is the question they are asking before reopening. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Jun 13 '19 at 4:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Based on the games I've run, sometimes casters just wants some chaos. Or to ruin a wedding. \$\endgroup\$ – Overthinks Mar 24 at 15:43
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You Can Request

From the Sage Advice Compendium:

When you cast a spell like conjure woodland beings, does the spellcaster or the DM choose the creatures that are conjured? [...]

Some spells of this sort specify that the spellcaster chooses the creature conjured. For example, find familiar gives the caster a list of animals to choose from.

Other spells of this sort let the spellcaster choose from among several broad options. For example, conjure minor elementals offers four options. [...] The design intent for options like these is that the spellcaster chooses one of them, and then the DM decides what creatures appear that fit the chosen option.

Notice you can request an intent, and a nice DM might give it to you. There are a few reasons why it might be written this way:

  1. Story. A particular creature with a history with the party is summoned.
  2. Prep. He doesn't have to have all the stat blocks on hand at the time you cast.
  3. Curve Ball. Some DMs will allow the player to chose most of the time, but might like to throw an extra curve ball occasionally.
  4. Balance. Conjuration is powerful. This limitation on the spell makes it less likely to be spam cast, without placing a huge material cost or higher spell level on it. It's part of the balance of the spell.

So, that does leave the actual questions:

Why would you choose a spell that might do something you want over something that does exactly what you intend it to do?

Conjuring is powerful; it gives you more currency in the action economy (you're doing more things because you basically "control" more creatures), potential access to a lot of abilities your PC doesn't have, and has huge potential for abuse. So, even if you aren't guaranteed which elemental shows up, you know the amount and rough strength level of the creatures that will come to your aid. There are a lot of cases that is a better option than something that does what you intend.

Remember that almost none of the options for this spell are bad.

You could get: One of the following:

  • Azer
  • four-armed Gargoyle
  • Gargoyle
  • Lady Gondafrey

Two of the following:

  • Fire Snake (If you're not in Ravnica, you have one guarantee.)
  • Galvanice Weird (If you're in Ravnica)

Four of the following:

  • Dust Mephit
  • Dust Mephit (Summoner Variant)
  • Ice Mephit
  • Ice Mephit (Summoner Variant)
  • Magma Mephit
  • Magma Mephit (Summoner Variant)
  • Magmin

Or Eight of the following:

  • Geonid
  • Mud Mephit
  • Mud Mephit (Summoner Variant)
  • Smoke Mephit
  • Smoke Mephit (Summoner Variant)
  • Steam Mephit
  • Steam Mephit (Summoner Variant)

I'm not seeing anything I wouldn't want to show up and help me.

What are the situations in which you would use this spell that wouldn't be better solved by a spell of equal or lower level that has more predictable results?

How about something as simple as you're in a large combat with many opposing forces and need more strong able bodies in the battle.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for mentioning balance in conjuration spells, espeically considering a Circle of the Shepherd druid's features \$\endgroup\$ – Orc's Plunder Mar 15 at 9:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Technically, Khargra and Chwinga would also be valid options for the summonings. Also additional "bad" Elementals might be added in future books. However, usually you can count on the cooperation of a good DM to not give you on Chwinga when requesting one elemental of CR 2 or lower. So I agree with the general notion of the answer. \$\endgroup\$ – SourceOverflow Mar 15 at 18:37

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