The spell steel wind strike (XGtE, p. 166) says that you:

vanish to strike like the wind.

(Emphasis added)

At first glance you might read this as an inconsequential part of the description. But strictly speaking there is no flavour text in spell descriptions. Vanishing implies being unseen, which (if we carry on the logic) grants advantage on attacks due to being unseen.

I've seen this argument appear in a couple of answers recently and thought it deserved a question of its own.

However, steel wind strike looks like a pretty strong spell without advantage, and granting advantage on all the attacks seems like something too important to leave to a bit of rules lawyering, which makes be doubt this interpretation.

Do you intrinsically gain advantage on all of steel wind strike's attacks?


9 Answers 9


RAW: you don't get any condition that grants advantage on attack rolls.

The description of the Steel Wind Strike spell says (XGtE, p. 166; emphasis mine):

You flourish the weapon used in the casting and then vanish to strike like the wind. Choose up to five creatures you can see within range. Make a melee spell attack against each target. On a hit, a target takes 6d10 force damage.

You can then teleport to an unoccupied space you can see within 5 feet of one of the targets you hit or missed.

The description says that you "vanish", not that you gain the invisible condition, nor that you are unseen in any term of game mechanics. The description of the spell would have specified such condition, as it happens for other spells or class abilities (some examples are down below). After having resolved all the attacks, you can teleport next to one target. Note that the description does not says You reappear and you can then teleport [...]: if the description assumed the meaning of "becoming unseen" for "vanishing", then there would be some indication of what happens after the spell ends. Moreover, in this way (vanishing=become unseen) there are no indications when some enemies have truesight or similar ability.

Hence, this spell allows you to attack simultaneously up to five enemies and then teleport next to one of your targets: during each attack you are not invisible or under some condition that grants you advantage on attack rolls.

Recall that spells only do what they say they do. For example, the Shadow Blade (XGtE, p. 164) spell says

In addition, when you use the sword to attack a target that is in dim light or darkness, you make the attack roll with advantage.

Here it is explicitly said that you roll with advantage (under certain environment conditions). Another example is Zephyr Strike (XGtE):

Once before the spell ends, you can give yourself advantage on one weapon attack roll on your turn. That attack deals an extra 1d8 force damage on a hit. Whether you hit or miss, your walking speed increases by 30 feet until the end of that turn.

Spells that grant one or more conditions which may give advantage on rolls explicitly stress out such conditions (as per Invisibility spell, Basic Rules , pg. 254). Other spell, on the other hand, have a more general description, but searching in the PHB you can find the correct interpretation. For example, Darkness produces...well, darkness, and you can find the consequences of this spell here:

A heavily obscured area—such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage—blocks vision entirely. A creature effectively suffers from the blinded condition when trying to see something in that area..

Furthermore, there are some uses in the PHB of the verb vanish and when its equivalence in game terms is required the text is pretty clear:

[...] If the target is native to the plane you’re on, the creature vanishes into a harmless demiplane. While there, the target is incapacitated.

On a roll of 11 or higher, you vanish from your current plane of existence and appear in the Ethereal Plane (the spell fails and the casting is wasted if you were already on that plane)

Starting at 6th level, you can use your Channel Divinity to vanish. As an action, you become invisible until the end of your next turn. You become visible if you attack or cast a spell.

Starting at 14th level, you can use the Hide action as a bonus action on your turn. Also, you can’t be tracked by nonmagical means, unless you choose to leave a trail.

Starting at 6th level. you can vanish in a puff of mist in response to harm. When you take damage, you can use your reaction to turn invisible and teleport up to 60 feet to an unoccupied space you can see. You remain invisible until the start of your next turn or until you attack or cast a spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 18:49

If you vanish, you are unseen.

There is no condition "vanished", and it is never given a definition in the rules. This means we understand it in the common English sense. Taken from dictionary.com:

vanish: to disappear from sight.

If you vanish, you are unseen. That's just what the word means.

The spell description of steel wind strike says you:

vanish to strike like the wind.

This indicates that vanishing is part and parcel to the striking. Since vanishing means you are unseen, and being unseen means you have advantage on attack rolls, the attacks for steel wind strike are made at advantage:

When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

Vanish. A game term?

After much discussion in comments and chat, I have seen many allege something to the effect of "Vanish is not a pre-defined game term." Let us examine some of the other use-cases of the word in game to see if we can understand what it means.

Consider first the ring of temporal salvation:

If you die while wearing this gray crystal ring, you vanish and reappear in an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the space you left (or the nearest unoccupied space).

Is it unclear what "vanish" means here? Of course not. You disappear, and then reappear five feet away.

Consider the spell temporal shunt:

You target the triggering creature, which must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or vanish, being thrown to another point in time and causing the attack to miss or the spell to be wasted.

It is quite clear again what the word vanish means here. The target is gone - not to be seen.

The monster Balhannoth has an ability called Vanish:

The balhannoth magically becomes invisible for up to 10 minutes or until immediately after it makes an attack roll.

So this is the name of an ability, but they explain exactly what vanishing means for this monster.

Consider the spell blink:

Roll a d20 at the end of each of your turns for the duration of the spell. On a roll of 11 or higher, you vanish from your current plane of existence and appear in the Ethereal Plane (the spell fails and the casting is wasted if you were already on that plane).

Under the affect of blink, we vanish - cannot be seen.

In every single one of these examples, any reasonable person would say "yes, the thing that has vanished can no longer be seen until it has reappeared again."

So why is steel wind strike different? When I use the spell wristpocket, "You flick your wrist, causing one object in your hand to vanish", no one will question that I can no longer see the object. But when steel wind strike says, "you vanish", you aren't an unseen attacker?

Steel wind strike is not the only place we find the word vanish. In every other place, it is not ambiguous what the word means - just as it is not ambiguous what it means in steel wind strike. There is no understanding of the word vanish that leads to us being able to still see that which has vanished.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ There is one problem with this interpretation - the spell doesn't specify when you reappear. If we take it literary you could still be indefinitely unseen even after you teleport to the final location. If not - why? (e.g. is teleporting somehow different from attack?) \$\endgroup\$
    – SilentAxe
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 7:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Based on JC's tweet, the intent is that you reappear for each attack: you blink into view as you make each attack \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 11:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SilentAxe and you'd blip back into 'seen' once you made the first of multiple attacks, rendering further 'unseen' moot. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 12:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's interesting to note that all examples you've provided where the word "vanish" appears in the body of the text don't actually describe someone being invisible. Instead, they describe someone who's not there at all (having gone somewhere or somewhen else). The only counterexample I find to this is the Trickery Cleric's Cloak of Shadow (referenced in eddymage's answer), and in that case the wording explicitly applies the invisible condition. \$\endgroup\$
    – gto
    Commented Apr 4, 2022 at 11:14

Rules As Written: ???

Rules As Intended: You don't have advantage

There are numerous answers to this already, and, as can be seen in the two most-upvoted answers reaching opposite conclusions, it is not a settled issue in terms of interpreting the literal rules. In the interest of simply dispensing information, I am presenting this completely unofficial ruling (nothing more than a tweet) from lead rules designer Jeremy E. Crawford:

Q. Is the spellcaster invisible during every attack?

A. If you cast steel wind strike, the spell doesn't make you invisible during its attacks. You do vanish from your starting location, as you start teleporting around the battlefield, but you blink into view as you make each attack and then teleport to your final destination.

Thus, the interpretation of the spell that at least one of the game designers uses is clear:

You are not intended to have advantage on the attacks of steel-wind strike solely for casting the spell (obviously, outside factors such as already being invisible would grant advantage). This says absolutely nothing about interpreting the text of the spell for oneself, but is information I felt should be made known.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Such a great find, thanks for this! +1 \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 11:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ That puts the kibosh on my idea of "all attacks are simultaneous" - the Ranger behaves like a pinball bouncing around the table ... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 12:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast As far as I'm aware, things are only simultaneous if they say they are such as magic missile. scorching ray and eldritch blast are not though the case of Whirlwind Attack / Volley is less clear, at least steel-wind strike explicitly involves completely new attacks and not just attack rolls or anything similar to what Whirlwind Attack and Volley do \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Medix2 yeah, the simultaneous / AoE magical attacks like fireball or shatter tend to have saves associated with them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 12:28

You probably shouldn't have advantage.

The other answers here cover the analysis of the spell's language, which I admit seems open to debate. I honestly believe the writers didn't think it all the way through when using the term "vanish" and didn't intend for players to have advantage on one (or all) of the attacks, as some of the answers claim.

Another way to infer whether SWS should grant advantage is by a simple analysis of how strong the spell is, and whether it should need advantage on the attacks to be on par with other spells of its kind. Once again, if players were intended to get advantage, the spell would probably make it explicit to you, but let's analyze it anyway.

Based on DMG guidelines, pg283, because SWS doesn't do half-damage like save spells, the DMG suggests adding 25% to the value below. This puts the guideline at 35 average damage for a 5th level multi target spell, and SWS sits at 33 average damage. SWS also has a teleport incorporated into it, which can be used offensively or (in a small set of conditions) defensively, so it seems to be fairly balanced already.

enter image description here

Let's now compare it against other spells. High-level spells with attacks rolls are few, actually. Let's compare Steel Wind Strike with Crown of Stars (CoS), Mordenkainen's Sword (MS), both 7th level spells (2 spell lots higher!), and Synaptic Static (SS) (5th level).

Let's say we have from 1 to 10 enemies, and compare the average damage per enemy.

enter image description here

Against single targets, if the players could spend up to 10 rounds attacking the enemy without getting dispelled or losing concentration, they'd make an incredible amount of damage. However, as this question shows, combats take around 5 rounds, and at higher levels, usually less. Given that SWS is available for Rangers at 17th level only and for Wizards at 9th level only, we can assume that users of these spells will be in the upper tiers of gameplay, usually 3rd/4th, and we can adjust the average combat to be 5 rounds. We will also assume there are at least 3 enemies, as using SWS with less than that is (to me, at least) a last resource or a sub-optimal choice.

enter image description here

Results are a lot closer now against CoS and MS. Of course, this is only a testament to how bursty SWS is, capable of dishing it out in a single turn. CoS is meant to be an economy spell, and MS is a poor spell overall. Synaptic Static does a bit less damage, but does half-damage on a successful save and also leaves a nasty debuff on targets. However, it's an area spell that will affect allies too, and high-level bosses are likely to have Legendary Resistances. All in all, not a completely fair comparison.

So now let's see how SWS compares with other more similar low-level spells (upcast to 5th level). We will compare the closest spells I could find, instantaneous with an attack roll and no additional effects. Scorching Ray is the closest match, able to target multiple enemies. Chromatic Orb and Chaos Bolt are single-target spells. I left some spaces in blank, when the spell was unable to target that many enemies.

enter image description here

The results are surprising, I wasn't expecting SWS to be this good. It outputs more damage on a single target than both the single-target spells, and only needs 2 targets to outclass Scorching Ray as well. The caveat here is simply that these spells may not scale so well to higher levels.

Overall, SWS follows the DMG's damage output guidelines and is not only on-par with both lower- and higher-level spells, but it also outclasses them in a general case of short bursty combat. Doesn't take concentration, has the benefit of teleporting the caster (if desired) both in offensive or defensive cases, does a rarely resisted damage type, and can't be negated by legendary resistances.

Steel-Wind Strike is an awesome spell. I agree with multiple other answers here (please refer to them for sound reasoning and analysis of the spell's text), it should not grant advantage on its attacks. If it did, it would go from a great spell to a top-tier spell, and would most likely be an almost mandatory pick for any class that could pick it up.

PS: I think I did the math right, but ping me if there is some error here! Also looking for suggestions for better spells to compare with, maybe I missed a really good match.

PPS: This weekend, our Wizard made good use of SWS :P

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ Wizards can get the spell at 9th level, and Bards can get it at 10th. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 14:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ Notably, mordenkainen's sword is a rather terrible spell so I'm not sure that using it for a comparison is the best idea. Also, though only very technically, an Arcane Trickster and Eldritch can both cast steel-wind strike using a Spell Scroll \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 14:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, remove "Mordenkainen's Sword" from the comparison. Using a spell that is legendarily bad is not a good foundation for any argument. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 17:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ Second, Crown of Stars is all about action economy. You burn an action outside of combat and, up to 1 hour later, you can burn bonus actions to deal 4d12 damage. So if you are a wizard with little use for your bonus action most rounds, it is action-economy free damage. Third, you should compare it more to Synaptic Static, a 5th level damage spell; that does 28 damage (the target for 5th level AOEs) with half on a miss, targets a weak save, and imposes a nasty effect; 5th level spells having bonus riders/nasty effects is presumed by actual spell balance. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 17:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Yakk I've added a note on how MS is a poor spell and added Synaptic Static to the comparison, thanks for the feedback :D \$\endgroup\$
    – BlueMoon93
    Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 10:59

It's a straight roll

Vanishing does not imply unseen, you have inferred unseen.

No rule anywhere says you get any advantage from "vanishing."

You may think logically that popping up and swinging should give advantage, but what about how hard it is for the attacker? The defender pops up as quickly to you as you to them.

But the simplest explanation is this: The spell does not say "Make a melee spell attack against each target with advantage." So you don't.

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    \$\begingroup\$ From dictionary.com - vanish: to disappear from sight \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 9:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov b: to pass completely from existence, from Webster's. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tiger Guy
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 9:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ That too would leave you unseen. I didn’t infer unseen at all, I just read the definition of the word and there it was. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 9:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you find an applicable definition of "vanish" that doesn't imply unseen? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 19:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the point is that you vanish from one location to seemingly re-appear at up to 5 locations, and then teleport to a final location. If someone teleports they appear to "vanish" but don't become invisible; they have just moved elsewhere. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 16:48

Yes, you have advantage

The Basic Rules of Combat(PHB Ch. 9) include the following:

When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

This is true of all attack rolls, whether they are weapon attacks or spell attacks. Casting steel wind strike causes you to vanish. When something vanishes, it is no longer visible.

The clause where the caster vanishes clarifies that it is in done "to strike like the wind." After vanishing, the caster makes up to five attack rolls, which can be inferred as the "strik[ing] like the wind". As such, the caster is still vanished during these attacks, and therefore has advantage for them.

It is irrelevant whether the spell effect is visible, since the targets cannot see you.

On the invisible condition

Gaining advantage in this way is not contingent on the invisible condition. In fact, the relevant rule offers multiple methods of being unseen by the target:

Combatants often try to escape their foes' notice by hiding, casting the invisibility spell, or lurking in darkness.

Lurking in darkness or hiding are two methods beyond invisibility explicitly mentioned by the rules. Vanishing is another method that is not explicitly listed but certainly makes you unseen.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "After vanishing, the caster makes up to five attack rolls": are the attacks done after vanishing or at the same time? Per my reading, I understand that the 5 (or less) attacks are done at exactly the same instant in which the wizard disapperar and suddenly appears next to one target. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 13:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage I infer that you vanish first. By analogy: If I "jump to reach a high shelf" then I jump first in order that I might reach the high shelf. Similarly, if I "vanish to strike like the wind" then I vanish first in order that I might strike like the wind. If the intent was that it were simultaneous, I imagine it would be worded "vanish and strike like the wind". \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 13:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage Either way, you are unseen while you do them, so I dont see why that matters. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage I'm aware that the attacks are simultaneous. That is entirely irrelevant to the rules. You are not seen by the target when the attacks are made because you "vanished" in order to make them \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 13:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Vanishing does not mean it works like invisibility. Making the spell attacks in the spell doesn't reveal the target. The target is revealed once their done "striking like the wind" (since that was what the spell says they vanish in order to do) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 23:44

No advantage on the attacks unless already unseen or hidden

I'll get to specific cases in the second part, but if the Ranger begins their turn visible to their enemies, they do not get advantage on any of the attacks. The Ranger is visible when they take their action and chooses to cast an offensive spell. That does not accrue advantage. When you cast an offensive spell you are making an attack. (The rolls themselves are a part of the spell's magical effect).

When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it. If you are hidden—both unseen and unheard—when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

The Ranger is instructed by the text to "make a melee spell attack" but it does not, unlike its little cousin Zephyr Strike, explicitly grant advantage in the making of this attack.

Once before the spell ends, you can give yourself advantage on one weapon attack roll on your turn. (Zephyr Strike, XGtE).

Absent that explicit language granting advantage, we cannot conclude that Steel Wind Strike grants advantage on the attack(s) by itself. (FWIW, this tweet from the lead dev indicates concurrence with my rules interpretation, but it's unofficial: it didn't make it into the Sage Advice Compendium (Thank you @Medix2, I should have searched for that once I found no SWS in the SAC).

That said, some applications of Steel Wind Strike will (or should) grant advantage on all of the attacks per Cases 2, 3, and 4.

Case 1: Ranger in a room, begins the round visible to enemies

The Ranger uses an action to cast an offensive spell, steel wind trike, and applies the appropriate material and somatic components. (Note for later: no verbal component). At the time the Ranger casts the offensive spell, they are visible. The magical effect of the spell makes a whole host of things happen. Let's examine what is going on with all of these magical effects of this spell that are not the attack rolls?

Back to Basics: when you cast a spell, you create a magical effect.

In casting a spell, a character carefully plucks at the invisible strands of raw magic suffusing the world, pins them in place in a particular pattern, sets them vibrating in a specific way, and then releases them to unleash the desired effect—in most cases, all in the span of seconds. (Basic Rules, p. 82)

What is the significance of the Ranger vanishing to be replaced by something magical that allows them, in the span of seconds, to strike like the wind? How does the wind strike? That's a good question, but if the wind blows through the room or area in which we are standing, we will all feel its effects. Or, you could interpret it as @smbailey did (thank you for the comment)and infer that 'like the wind' means 'really fast' per the idiomatic phrase "run like the wind."

As I consulted various wind spells of fifth level and below I discovered that most of them don't do damage, although investiture of the wind (6th level) can do bludgeoning damage. The consistent theme that I found was that wind (from spells) is air that moves. Gust of wind offers 20 mph, for example. It is this movement - like the wind - that gives the Ranger the ability (speed) to, in one turn, strike multiple targets that are up to 60 feet apart. (I'll drop a picture in later).

Imagine the Ranger in a circular room that is 55 feet in diameter with five hostile ogres equally spaced around its circumference. The Ranger starts in the middle. The ogres are all about 25' from the Ranger and within the spell's range. Normally, the Ranger can't get from one target to the other and attack all five (if they somehow have five attacks for that turn) in one turn - there is not enough movement available. Steel wind strike, through its magical effect, lets the Ranger reach all five of the ogres at once (I'll explain that in a bit).

Again, the offensive spell being cast takes one action, and it leads to from one to five attacks on separate targets happening on the Ranger's turn. That's a big change to how many targets can be attacked, thanks to the spell's magical effect.

The other big change is that the weapon used inflicts, not its usual damage (piercing, bludgeoning, slashing), but instead 6d10 force damage on a hit. This is unique to this spell - the other wind spells I consulted that do damage do bludgeoning damage. Force damage is described as a damage type that is pure magic in nature.

Force. Force is pure magical energy focused into a damaging form. Most effects that deal force damage are spells, including magic missile and spiritual weapon. (Basic Rules p. 78)

And lastly, once all of those attacks go off, the Ranger ends up next to any one of the targets. That's the Teleport function accounted for: the Ranger ends up somwhere else than when they started, somewhat like how misty step works, or dimension door.

Why simultaneous attacks/damage? What leads me to not read this as the Ranger teleporting in sequence from target to target to make sequential melee attacks but rather make the attacks happen all at once, is (1) the spell creating magical effects that let the ranger reach them all at once (strike like the wind) and (2) the spell doing force - pure magic, the weapon is also changed along with the Ranger - damage and (3) we don't see the Ranger reappearing after it hits or misses the last target. We see the Ranger reappear (no longer 'like the wind') next to one of the targets. If the attack had gone in a particular sequence, then the Ranger would be expected to end up next to the last target hit or missed. (I'll find a similar example later, RL calls).

Since the body of a Ranger is a creature it can't be five places at once (per the ogre example above. There isn't enough movement. It is, via the magical effect of the spell, replaced by something 'like the wind' so that it can attack them all 'like the wind' and then, once the attacks are completed, reappear in standard Ranger form. This all takes place in a few seconds.

Case 2: Gloomstalker in an unlit/dark room. Attacks have advantage.

This case grants advantage on all of the attacks thanks to the unique feature of the gloomstalker's sight in places that are dark. The gloomstalker is unseen by all of its intended targets, unless a specific creature can see the gloomstalker via means other than darkvision.

Case 3: Any Ranger begins the round invisible. Attacks have advantage.

This case grants advantage on all of the attacks. The Ranger is both unseen and unheard since there is no verbal component to the spell. (I am pretty sure that this was intentional). The DM may call for a Stealth check to make sure no unintended noise occurs, but being unseen ought to cover this case by itself. The Ranger, upon casting the offensive spell, is unseen unless a specific creature can see them via some kind of 'detect invisible' ability or spell.

Case 4: Any Ranger begins the round hidden. Attacks have advantage.

If the Ranger has already used a class feature to become hidden - such as the 14th level Vanish ability, or the 10th level Hide in Plain Sight ability - the Ranger is unseen and unheard. The unheard is crucial to this. The spell has no verbal component. They'll be visible at the end of the attacks, next to one of the bleeding victims, but advantage accrues to all of the attacks since they all go off at once. It is not until the attack hits, or misses, that the Ranger is revealed to those who survive.

When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it. If you are hidden—both unseen and unheard — when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

Notes on timing

I had begun this answer while thinking that once the first of two, three, four or five attacks had happened all of the others would be made while visible in cases 2 through 4 (attacks in sequence) but as I read through the spell and the supporting material, that no longer made sense once "like the wind" got me looking at what wind spells do.

Why must the Ranger vanish? Changing form is necessary to strike like the wind.

You flourish the weapon used in the casting and then vanish to strike like the wind.

As written in that completed sentence, vanish does not exist as a term by itself, but as the precursor to striking like the wind. Without changing into something else, the Ranger lacks the ability to strike all of those dispersed targets (see ogre example). I challenge the frame of this question; asserting that vanishing provides an additional feature to the spell in a game mechanics sense without explicitly including that feature.

Once the striking "like the wind" is done the Ranger returns to mundane form. Becoming like the wind is the significant magical effect that allows all of those targets to be reached in the space of one turn and to hit them with magical, not mundane, damage.

If the granting of advantage, like in Zephyr Strike, had been included in this spell's text then this answer would not have been presented and I'd not have realized that this spell's features have some unique nuances. So thanks for asking in the first place.

Note: while I used Ranger for this case, as it is a Ranger spell, Wizards and Bards (via Magical Secrets) can also use this spell.


This is an interesting question!

Let us walk through the rule as written.

The rules for unseen attackers are pretty simple.

Unseen Attackers and Targets


When a creature can't see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it.

So ask these questions.

  1. Are you making an attack?

  2. When you make the attack, can the attacker see you?

That is it. If you answer yes to both, you gain advantage on the attack.

It matters not if you are invisible, they have their eyes closed, or if they cannot see the color green and you are dressed up for St. Patricks' Day.

Note that this applies to hidden. If you are in the darkness (outside of their darkvision range), and make an attack, you are no longer hidden and they might know where you are. But unless they can see you, you keep advantage on attacks.

Gaining advantage from being unseen does not required hidden, does not require invisibility, does not require darkness. Those are just 3 possible ways to be unseen. Whenever you are unseen, you have advantage on attacks.

So the spell. Are you unseen when you make the attacks?

The first line of the spell is:

You flourish the weapon used in the casting and then vanish to strike like the wind.

  1. So you flourish a weapon.
  2. Then you vanish.
  3. Then you strike.

Make a melee spell attack against each target. On a hit, a target takes 6d10 force damage.

  1. Here are the strikes.

You can then teleport to an unoccupied space you can see within 5 feet of one of the targets you hit or missed

  1. Now you teleport to a space.

There isn't any fluff in spell descriptions, and words mean what they say in English if there is no game term.

I doubt this is the Ranger class ability here. (I am making an RAI interpretation here. You could make the other, that this spell means "Vanish" as "use the 14th level Ranger class feature", which is a strange way of saying "take the hide action as a bonus action (!) and become untrackable for the action"?!)

So we fall back on what the word means in English.

Vanish means:

disappear suddenly and completely.

and many variations. You disappear suddenly and completely.

So can you see something or someone that vanished? No; if you could see it, it hasn't vanished yet.

So it is quite clear that, when vanished, you cannot be seen. And you are making attacks. As you are making attacks while unseen, you have advantage on the attack rolls.

The only question is, do you also have disadvantage? I mean, you vanished, maybe you are equally blind striking them. And advantage + disadvantage cancel out.

At this point we'll fall back on spells do only what they say. It doesn't say you cannot see your targets. It also doesn't say you gain any advantage on seeing your targets.

So we will presume you have disadvantage only if you cannot see your targets when you cast the spell.

So yes, by plain reading, your attacks gain advantage from this spell.

Note that in other versions of D&D this reading would be wrong.

In other versions of D&D, there is fluff (descriptive flavorful text) in spell descriptions. That fluff doesn't have mechanical weight, it is there to be evocative. Changing it has no game impact, and it is to be ignored in determining what a spell does.

In 5e, when burning hands says you have to do something with your hands to cast the spell, you actually have to do that with your hands. And when a spell says "vanish", that actually happens.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A spell is a magical effect. An explanation on how that impacts this answer would be a great addition to your RAW answer. And it is absent. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 23:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ By the way, while you are at it, this answer could be full of win if you address the fact that the ranger in question isn't unseen before they cast the spell ... and also address the edge case where the ranger starts unseen before casting the spell. That would make for a very thorough answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 26, 2020 at 23:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @korvin the "magical effect" rules have zero impact on the answer? And your state before the spell wouldn't change the concusion either? (Well, if you where blinded or in darkness, you'd also get disadvantage) I am uncertain what you are suggesting I add. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast If it was a non-magical ability with the same text, my interpretation would be identical. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 13:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage It is sometimes given additional rules, and isn't sometimes given additional rules? The idea that "translated in game terms/mechanics" is a fundamental misunderstanding. It is already part of the game mechanics. Spell descriptions aren't fluff, they are part of the rules -- the game mechanics -- for what the spell does. This isn't 4e D&D (may it RIP, it was a fun game), all descriptive text has game impact. Sometimes the descriptive text doesn't matter. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Commented Oct 27, 2020 at 18:01

You vanish but you're not completely unseen

At its heart, this question is asking which of spells only do what they say they do and there is no flavour text in spell descriptions wins out when they seem to conflict.

Those two conflicting feels like a false dichotomy though, and in practice both can be true.

Does the spell say you're hidden, invisible or otherwise unseen? Not literally, you 'vanish'. Vanishing, as it's not a game term, without extra text around it is not enough to confer any mechanical effects. Although it's not 'flavour text' that doesn't mean every word needs to have the mechanical effect of not being seen:

When a creature can’t see you, you have advantage on attack rolls against it. If you are hidden — both unseen and unheard — when you make an attack, you give away your location when the attack hits or misses.

To understand why this is, look at Eddymage's Answer which does a great job of breaking down where vanish is taken to mean you are invisible or hidden (Cloak of Shadows, Vanish, Misty Escape), and where it means the vanishee suddenly leaves their location (Banishing Smite, Blink). Thomas Markov's answer also brings in Temporal Shunt, which is another good example. Those last three don't list any advantage to rolls while 'vanished', or on return. The creature's who are Banished or Shunted don't have the opportunity to make the most of suddenly unvanishing (reappearing), but Blink explicitly calls out:

Creatures that aren't there can't perceive you or interact with you, unless they have the ability to do so.

So although you might not be able to make the most of attacking at advantage, you are explicitly told when you would not be perceived.

So no mechanical benefit given, without being explicit, because those that do make you unseen do so explicitly.

So how should we interpret the text of Steel Wind Strike, if vanishing does not give you advantage? Note that while it does say you 'vanish' (which also has the meaning to 'suddenly disappear'), it also says you 'strike like the wind', like the wind is an idiom for 'very quickly'.

Taken together, it seems implicit that the description is meant to imply that you move so fast you can't be perceived normally or easily. Not so much that you become invisible, and gain advantage, but enough that you are hard to perceive.

The only comparable ability I know of is Rapid Strike from the Fighter subclass Samurai. You trade advantage for extra attacks. If anything this trade implies that any advantage you could infer from this spell is actually working towards increasing the number of attacks.

What benefit might you get from 'vanishing' but not being 'unseen'? Firstly, this is part of what allows the spell to have a range of 30ft, despite still being a melee attack. Secondly, it's likely unless the target's saw you before they don't know who made the attacks or what they look like. That is the sort of bonus I would read from, and give, based on the spell description.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The comparison with Rapid Strike seems apt. I believe the best answer would be a combination of Tomas Markov's, & Yakk's answers, with mention of the "trading advantage" concept, from this answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 9:25

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