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One of the players in my game is playing an Artificer. Upon gaining 5th level, he commented to me that magic stone is great at 1st level, but awful compared to every other damage-focused cantrip as soon as they start adding damage dice. He announced that he was trading it for a different cantrip (which artificers can do).

Looking at the spell, I'm inclined to agree. At 1d6+INT damage, each magic stone deals a bit more damage than a firebolt at half the range and the cost of an occasional bonus action (which isn't usually a big cost), but once your cantrips upgrade to 2 dice, it falls behind pretty rapidly, and by 11th level it seems basically worthless.

The only benefits I can see would be to give a strength-focused ally a longer ranged attack than thrown weapons normally have without disadvantage, or for Artificers that have the Extra Attack ability (Battle Smiths & Armorers) and lack enough Dexterity to make ranged weapons viable.

So my question is whether I'm missing something. Is there some use case for magic stone for spellcasters above 5th level? Is there some aspect of the spell that makes it a good pick in the long run that I just can't see?

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Tasha's Cauldron of Everything fixed the problem with magic stone, sort of.

You have made all the relevant observations about magic stone. It is good until it falls behind other cantrips at 5th level. So if you are planning long term, even though it is good for a little while, it becomes a waste of space later, so isn't even worth taking when it is usable. Tasha's Cauldron of Everything introduced some optional class features to the Druid and Warlock that make it less of a trap choice in the early game.

At 4th level, Warlocks get the Eldritch Versatiliy feature:

Whenever you reach a level in this class that grants the Ability Score Improvement feature, you can do one of the following, representing a change of focus in your occult studies:

  • Replace one cantrip you learned from this class’s Pact Magic feature with another cantrip from the warlock spell list.

And druids get Cantrip Versatility:

Whenever you reach a level in this class that grants the Ability Score Improvement feature, you can replace one cantrip you learned from this class’s Spellcasting feature with another cantrip from the druid spell list.

Artificers have this feature built into the class already, so no optional features required. Your intuition is correct - it can see some use in the early game, but it gets bad later. If the DM is cool with the optional rule from Tasha's, just use it while it's useful, then swap it out later.

Niche uses: not worth the cantrip slot

There are still some situations where you might find yourself saying "magic stone would be useful right about now", but they are going to be pretty few and far between.

  • Your martial comrades have been relieved of their weapons.

In this case, if for some reason one of your non-caster party members needs a weapon of some sort, magic stone is better than punching in melee and better than nothing at range. So you might find yourself thinking "magic stone would be nice right now", but you will quickly be reminded how bad it is when you use the rest of your cantrips far more often.

  • You want to look like you're throwing pebbles while actually hurting someone.

Remember when you were a kid, and you had the brilliant idea of putting a rock inside a snow ball? That's magic stone. You can look like you're throwing mostly harmless pebbles while actually packing something of a wallop, relatively speaking. Again, not worth the cantrip slot, unless you're into this kind of mischief.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would point out an alternative use for it...it's a Bonus Action cantrip (which means it can be cast alongside Action Cantrips) that can be used to give someone else magic ammunition they can either throw or fire from a sling. So if the party is up against something they really don't want to get close to (like, say, a Living Spell), and your melee combatant doesn't have a ranged magic weapon--then even if they have Multiattack 2, they can still make their full three attacks with your stones as a projectile. Fairly niche use, probably not worth a cantrip slot...but maybe worth mentioning \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26 at 18:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also is decent for a class with Multiattack...as it's the only cantrip I'm aware of that natively adds your spellcasting mod to the damage. It's basically a magic shortbow you can pick up off the ground. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty Added some niche uses. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 26 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @guildsbounty I was about to say the same thing. I would add that it can be given to more than one person, so whether your allies have Extra Attack or not, up to three of them a turn may use it. And it is duration 1 minute but NOT concentration, so you can prepare it in advance of a fight or for an ally whose initiative is before yours. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 26 at 18:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkov "You want to look like you're throwing pebbles" Also could see use where you don't want to look like you are capable of doing more than throwing pebbles - ie if you and / or teammates are being searched for weapons / foci or required not to carry any but are planning a future attack \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 26 at 18:50
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I'm fairly fond of it, actually, and have a few characters that use it, and one who is built around it.

It is definitely niche, but has uses. (a) It can provide other people with magical attacks. (b) It can be used subtly, to make more effective attacks while not obviously using magic. (c) If you have Extra Attack from some source, you can sling two of them, which extends the equivalence with other cantrips' damage up to 11th level. (d) it can be combined with some other things well, such as Hunters mark, or Hex, or Sneak Attack, or some Battlemaster maneuvers, or Sharpshooter, etc. (e) If you are disarmed, or without weapons for some reason, it's relatively easy to improvise a sling and stones, and Magic Stone makes that more effective. Which is a much more stealthy option than flinging Firebolts or Eldritch Blasts around.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sneak Attack: "The Attack must use a Finesse or a ranged weapon." Magic stone is a ranged spell attack (NOT a weapon) regardless of whether it is thrown or hurled with a sling. I don't think you can use magic stone to make a Sneak Attack. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 27 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree. When flung from a sling, the attack uses a ranged weapon. It may or may not be considered to be a "ranged weapon attack", but the Sneak Attack does not say that. Nor, BTW, does it say you have to attack using your dexterity. You must use a Finesse weapon (even if you do so using your strength) or a ranged weapon (even if you make a spell attack with it). \$\endgroup\$
    – PhilB
    Jun 27 at 22:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ The accepted answer to this question (accompanied by a JC quote) agrees with you that Sneak Attack can be used with magic stone. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 27 at 23:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ However, the accepted answer to this question says that "Making a ranged attack does not make it a ranged weapon". I understand your argument, but I think it would be most accurate to say that '(d) it can be combined with Sneak Attack in some interpretations of RAW". Personally, I don't think that is what Sneak attack means by "The Attack must use a...ranged weapon," but I can see why some people might rule that it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Jun 27 at 23:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ You are correct that "Making a ranged attack does not make it a ranged weapon", but you are backwards on applying that to this situation. I'm not saying that there is anything that makes the sling a ranged weapon -- the sling IS a ranged weapon already. And you're using it to make the attack. THEREFORE, you are using a ranged weapon, and THEREFORE, Sneak Attack can be applied. Simple step-by-step logic. \$\endgroup\$
    – PhilB
    Jun 28 at 2:32
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Magic Stone scales with Extra Attack

An Armorer or Battle Smith Alchemist can use their Extra Attack feature to throw two magic stones as one action, each doing 1d6+INT on a hit. This easily keeps up with a Firebolt's single 2d10. By the time you reach level 11, an Artificer could easily have a 20 INT, which would be an average of 17 damage if both stones hit - a Firebolt's 3d10 is still only 16.5

Considering this cantrip also works well with spells like Hex or Hunter's mark, it's a pretty good choice if you are able to have someone with the Extra Attack feature do the throwing.

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