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So, my Cleric 4 character (just leveled up) wants to take the Magic Initiate feat sorcerer class. However, he asked about the 1st level spell that he gets because the firebolt cantrip he chose would gain damage die at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels, but the burning hands spell would be stuck at 3d6, even as a level 20. I was wondering if there was a way to increase the damage Burning hands does, since it would be outstripped by the firebolt cantrip as he leveled up.

Also, the handbook said that the 1st level spell gained by that feat can only be used once a day. Because it is only used once a day, does it not take a spell slot?

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The Magic Initiate feat description reads, in part (emphasis mine):

You learn that spell and can cast it at its lowest level. Once you cast it, you must finish a long rest before you can cast it again using this feat.

There is typically no way to upcast a 1st-level spell that is gained via the Magic Initiate feat (see below for exception).

A 1st-level spell gained via the Magic Initiate feat does not typically use a spell slot (again, see below for exception). This makes sense, as classes without spell slots can take this feat.

Your player should keep this inability to upcast in mind when selecting his 1st-level Magic Initiate spell. If he is planning on advancing his character to high levels, there are better choices than a basic damage-dealing spell like burning hands.

Alternately, if he really wants burning hands and wants to be able to upcast it, he could always take a level in a class that has that spell on its spell list (assuming you allow multiclassing, and the multiclassing requirements are met).

Exception:

In his answer, J.A. Streich points out that the Sage Advice Compendium (PDF link) states that if you take the Magic Initiate feat choosing your own class, then you can use spell slots to cast the 1st-level spell you learned with Magic Initiate. So if your player took Magic Initiate (cleric), then he would be able to use spell slots to cast whatever 1st-level cleric spell he chose.

The Sage Advice Compendium ruling doesn't discuss multiclassing, but I don't see why it wouldn't apply to multiclassing too: If your cleric player took Magic Initiate (sorcerer) and burning hands, and later took a level in sorcerer through multiclassing, he should then be able to use spell slots to cast burning hands.

This seems like suboptimal feat selection to me, but it is an option.

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Burning Hands learned from the Magic Initiate feat can be cast at its lowest level once a day without spending a spell slot.

You learn that spell and can cast it at its lowest level. Once you cast it, you must finish a long rest before you can cast it again using this feat.

Additionally, if you have spell slots from the class you chose for Magic Initiate Feat -- either by choosing the class you already are or multi classing -- you can also spend spell slots to cast the spell. This allows you more than 1 a day and casting it at a higher level.

If you have spell slots, can you use them to cast the 1st level spell you learn with the Magic Initiate feat? Yes, but only if the class you pick for the feat is one of your classes.

...

In short, you must follow your character’s normal spellcasting rules, which determine whether you can expend spell slots on the 1st-level spell you learn from Magic Initiate.

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You cannot upcast the spell

If you take the RAW ruling, you cannot upcast the level 1 spell you acquire from the Magic Initiate feat, in your case of cleric/sorcerer, since you don't have any sorcerer spell slots to upcast it with.

The learned spell does not have a spell slot

You can treat this spell you learn similar to how some races can cast spells once per day, such as a Tiefling's Hellish Rebuke and Darkness racial spells.

Some Suggestions

Now depending on what your cleric domain is, you might already have access to Burning Hands as part of your extended class spell list, so you may want to consider that.

If Burning Hands is not on your domain spell list, then you can take a level dip into wizard or sorcerer. Since they both have Spellcasting as a class feature like the cleric, you can up-cast Burning Hands with your higher level spell slots (refer to PHB p163-164 under full caster multiclassing).

I would also suggest that you may consider looking at more utility spells for the spells you gain from the Magic Initiate feat. Cantrips like Message, Minor Illusion and Control Flames can be useful and level 1 spells like Hex, Absorb Elements & Bane, can be really helpful and frees up a spell slot that can be used to really turn the tides or lessens the work of your casters if you were a martial class.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "You cannot upcast the spell" this is incorrect. They can upcast the spell using their spell slots gained through their cleric levels. See my answer for details \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Oct 27 '19 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah yes, I forgot to check SA-Compendium on this one. I will try to remember to look at that in the future. \$\endgroup\$ – Kentrol Oct 27 '19 at 17:01
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You can upcast the spell using the multiclassing rules

The Magic Initiate feat states (emphasis mine):

In addition, choose one 1st-level spell from that same list. You learn that spell and can cast it at its lowest level. Once you cast it, you must finish a long rest before you can cast it again using this feat.

The benefit of learning this spell and the once per day casting of it are not the same benefit. As is outlined in Medix2's answer to a related question, the spell gained through Magic Initiate counts as a class spell for the class you choose. If you choose a class you already have levels in, it extends your known spells.

The second benefit allows you to cast the spell once per day "using this feat". It does not limit how you can cast it other ways, which includes using their spell slots gained through their cleric levels.

Under the rules multiclass rules for spellcasters we have:

You determine what spells you know and can prepare for each class individually, as if you were a single-classed member of that class. [...] Each spell you know and prepare is associated with one of your classes, and you use the spellcasting ability of that class when you cast the spell.

So for your cleric burning hands counts as a spell known for the sorcerer class and they use charisma as their spellcasting ability. In 5th edition your spells known and spell slots are entirely separate and your spell slots are determined by the following rules:

You determine your available spell slots by adding together all your levels in the bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, and wizard classes, and half your levels (rounded down) in the paladin and ranger classes. Use this total to determine your spell slots by consulting the Multiclass Spellcaster table.

If you have more than one spellcasting class, this table might give you spell slots of a level that is higher than the spells you know or can prepare. You can use those slots, but only to cast your lower-level spells. If a lower-level spell that you cast, like burning hands, has an enhanced effect when cast using a higher-level slot, you can use the enhanced effect, even though you don't have any spells of that higher level.

Therefore with these rules your player can use the spell slots gained through their cleric levels to upcast the spell gained from Magic Initiate.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You can only do this if you have Sorcerer levels. You don't get to use the multiclassing rules if you're a Cleric 4/Sorcerer 0. See the Sage Advice Compendium, which has an entry on this topic. A brief excerpt: "If you have spell slots, can you use them to cast the 1st level spell you learn with the Magic Initiate feat? Yes, but only if the class you pick for the feat is one of your classes. [...]" \$\endgroup\$ – Blckknght Oct 27 '19 at 6:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ It might just be too early but I can't quite make out what you are trying to say here, are you counting a cleric4/sorcerer0 as multiclass? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Oct 27 '19 at 9:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ The spellcasting section for the Cleric states: "The Cleric table shows how many spell slots you have to cast your cleric spells of 1st level and higher. To cast one of these spells, you must expend a slot of the spell’s level or higher." This means that cleric slots cannot be used to cast the Sorcerer spell burning hands. Using spell slots, a class can only cast spells from their class \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Oct 27 '19 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ He is not a multiclass, thanks for the answer for a multiclass situation, though! \$\endgroup\$ – ThE_UnDeR_OvEr_TaKeR Oct 27 '19 at 19:51

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