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I've searched here and in various reference books but can't find the answer to this specific question.

The description of the Battle Master fighter's Precision Attack maneuver (PHB, p. 74) states that it can be used for any weapon attack.

Thorn Whip, for example, uses magic to create a weapon... that is not magic.
So would that "weapon" attack count towards as being able to used with Precision Attack, even though the attack is using a spell?

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No, it can't be used on a spell attack

Attacks are broken down into weapon attacks and spell attacks.

Each of these can be either a melee attack or a ranged attack. So any attack must be one of the following:

  • Melee Weapon Attack
  • Ranged Weapon Attack
  • Melee Spell Attack
  • Ranged Spell Attack

Except for a few rare cases, if you're casting a spell that gives you an attack (like in the case of thorn whip), you'll be making one of the latter-most two. Some non-spell abilities grant spell attacks, too.

In every case, the spell or ability will tell you which of the options above you're making. In the case of thorn whip, the relevant part of the spell description says:

Make a melee spell attack against the target.

So this means you're making a spell attack with thorn whip, not a weapon attack.

The Battle Master fighter's Precision Attack maneuver states (PHB, p. 74):

When you make a weapon attack roll against a creature, [...]

This means that it only works with attacks of the first two kinds, where the character is making a conventional attack with a some sort of weapon held in hand(s). Notably, it can be a melee or ranged attack (Precision Attack doesn't care which); it only matters that it's a weapon attack, and not a spell attack.

Because thorn whip involves the character making a spell attack, that character can't use Precision Attack on that attack.

By way of example, there are spells that would benefit from the Battle Master fighter's Precision Attack such as Booming Blade or Green Flame Blade because they involve a making melee weapon attack.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Minor note - nothing in the thorn whip spell says the thorns spring from the ground; it just says "You create a long, vine-like whip covered in thorns [...]". \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Nov 29 '20 at 7:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ @v2 That was how I interpreted "lashes out at your command" since, if it was wielded like an actual whip, the caster wouldn't need to command it to lash out, merely attack with it. I'll edit the answer to remove that bit since it's not integral to the larger thesis. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Nov 29 '20 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth noting an example of a spell that can benefit from Precision Attack, such as Booming Blade. It specifically says "make a melee attack with a weapon". \$\endgroup\$
    – Glen O
    Nov 29 '20 at 23:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Glen. Good idea! I've added that, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    Dec 22 '20 at 21:02

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