Electric Arc seems to be much stronger in combat than other cantrips. Damage and DPR for it and some select comparisons:1

Cantrip Damage DPR Range
Electric Arc 3d4 + 4 (11.5) ( 0.05 × 2 + 0.45 + 0.45 × 0.5 ) × 11.5 × 1.52 = 13.36 30 feet
Electric Arc (Single Target) 3d4 + 4 (11.5) ( 0.05 × 2 + 0.45 + 0.45 × 0.5 ) × 11.5 = 8.91 30 feet
Acid Splash 1d6+4 (7.5) +1 splash +2 persistent (on crit) 0.5 × 7.5 + 0.95 × 1 × 1.52 + 0.05 × 2 × 2.53 = 5.43 (40.61% of EA) 30 feet
Daze 1d6+4 (7.5) ( 0.05 × 2 + 0.45 ) × 7.5 = 5.81 (43.48% of EA) 60 feet
Produce Flame 3d4+4 (11.5) ( 0.05 × 2 + 0.45 ) × 11.5 + 0.05 × 11.5 × 2.53 = 7.76 (58.06% of EA) 30 feet
Telekinetic Projectile 3d6+4 (14.5) ( 0.05 × 2 + 0.45 ) × 14.5 = 7.98 (59.65% of EA) 30 feet
Telekinetic Projectile + True Strike 3d6+4 (14.5) ( 0.0975 × 2 + 0.6975 ) × 14.5 = 12.94 (96.83% of EA) 30 feet

Other Comparisons

  • Chill Touch: Damage same as single target EA, worse range
  • Disrupt Undead: Only works on undead, but then it has better single target damage than EA. Still worse if you would have two targets, unless they have weakness to positive
  • Divine Lance: Also limited in targeting, but likely to trigger weaknesses. Damage similar to Produce Flame. Worse damage than EA
  • Gale Blast: Damage same as Daze, horrible range, needs 5 targets adjacent to you to break even with EA. Frequently resisted damage type
  • Gouging Claw: Damage same az Telekinetic Projectile, adds persistent damage on a crit. Worse range, damage type and damage than EA
  • Haunting Hymn: Damage same as Gale Blast, but better damage type. Worse range, damage type and damage than EA
  • Ray of Frost: Damage similar to Produce Flame, but the best range of any cantrip. Worse damage than EA
  • Puff of Poison: Horrible damage type and range. Better than EA against a single target (unless it is undead, construct, ooze, devil etc)
  • Scatter Scree: Damage same as EA, but worse damage type. The targets need to be adjacent, while with EA they might be 55 feet apart
  • Spout: Damage same as Chill Touch. Worse damage type and damage than EA


In my experience, in 90% of rounds Electric Arc is the right cantrip. Against generic monster in a generic encounter, EA is the best choice.


Obviously, Electric Arc is not the best one to use in every situation, there might only be 1 enemy present, or they might be too far away or resitant to lightning or vulnerable to fire.
But it definitely seems to be the first one to take, then some others to fill the likely gaps (like Ray of Frost for range).

Am I mistaken? Is there a cantrip that is better in most of the common scenarios?

  1. for simplicity, below I will assume level 5, and 19 in the main casting ability. The following chances are used hit: 45% , crit: 5% , successful save: 45% crit success: 5%, fail: 45%, crit fail: 5%
  2. Damaging two targets for 10 damage is usually not as good as damaging one for 20
  3. If the enemy had infinite hit points, persistent damage would go on for 3.33 rounds on average. They usually die sooner however
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I'd recommend avoiding changing the question after there was already an answer, and instead asking your new question as a different question. The old question, which asked if there are common scenarios in which a different cantrip is better, has been answered and is what people have already voted on. The new question is answerable, but I suspect we both know the answer to that one. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Feb 9, 2022 at 18:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE, you are absolutely right, but only your answer made me realize that I did phrase it in an misunderstandable way. The new question would be about 97% identical, in my experience the system would not let me create it. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Feb 9, 2022 at 19:02
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Something to consider for your math; per the monster creation rules, a moderate AC at level five is 21, while a moderate save is +12. This means a level 5 caster (which as +11 to hit, and DC 21) will see a hit 55% of the time (10+ on die), while the monster will save against the DC 60% of the time (9+ on die). I didn't actually expect this to be so different, but it might be good for your calculations to use those stats. Maybe AC is actually generally supposed to be higher success than saves, given it's usually all or nothing? Bears investigating. \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Feb 10, 2022 at 0:23
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @ESCE, it would be too much work, but the only meaningful difference is that True Strike + Telekinetic Projectile becomes better than EA (while spending a spell slot + one more action) \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Feb 11, 2022 at 6:57
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I made an error in Acid Splash calculation; the persistent damage only happens on a crit. This cantrip is really as bad as it seems \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Mar 4, 2022 at 22:57

3 Answers 3


Electric Arc is the strongest cantrip by far

It is an exceptional cantrip, no wonder it is the highest rated one in two spell guides and tied for first in the third:

  • Resistance to electricity is not common
  • Multi-target but party friendly, even slotted spells are rarely better in this aspect
  • The DPR even against one target is significantly better than any cantrip with an attack roll (unless you can spam True Strike)

First to be taken

Sure, it is not the best for every situation, but it is the best in most, no other cantrip comes close to its applicability. Most casters I know picked it first, then the other cantrips to plug in the holes it might have, like Ray of Frost, for farther enemies. In my experience, there are only two types of casters, for whom it is not the first pick:

  • Do not have access to it (divine and occult spell lists)
  • Magus (they prefer attack-roll cantrips because of Spellstrike)

First to be used

Once I played in an adventure where 4 of the 6 players had it (the Rogue and Inventor did not cast any spells):

  • Occult Summoner (Kobold ancestry feat)
  • Archer Monk (Druid multiclass)
  • Cleric (Adapted Cantrip, picked Human just because of this)
  • Wizard (obviously)

In several turns it was the only spell cast. Not against the Skeletal Champions (resist 5 electricity) of course, but basically the thought process was like this:

  1. Do I have any really fitting slotted spell?
    • Something needs debuffing?
    • Someone needs buffing?
    • Is it a time for Blasting?
  2. Any reason not to use Electric Arc right now?
  3. What other cantrips do I have?
  4. What non-spell options do I have?

Note: this answer was in response to an earlier form of the question, which simply asked about cantrip strength; thus this answer focuses on why Electric Arc is not the best to use in every situation, and doesn't discuss whether it is the best to take.

Cantrips Don't Exist in a Vacuum

In a vacuum? Sure, Electric Arc is the contender for the most damaging cantrip. Something like Scatter Scree is also in contention. However, to answer whether Electric Arc is substantially stronger than other cantrips, we have to ask; is there any niche in which other cantrips are a better choice than Electric Arc?

The Duh Case: Resistances

When an enemy is resistant to Electric damage, it's not great. Or when an enemy is weak to the damage type of a different cantrip, then that cantrip is probably better. This is uninteresting to analyze, really, but take a look at this answer of mine for resistance, immunity, and weakness tallies. Note that there are few electric weaknesses, and that bludgeoning damage (from Telekinetic Projectile, Scatter Scree, etc.) has far less immunities and resistances.

The Strategy Case 1: Range

If you are 60 feet away from your enemies, with a 25ft move speed, then Electric Arc is going to do 0 damage on your turn (it'd take you two actions to get into range, leaving you with only 1 for Electric Arc). Ray of Frost (range: 120ft) is better here; even Daze (range: 60ft) is better here!

Further, being in 30ft of range means you are much more likely to be in range of the enemy. For most spellcasters, this is quite dangerous. That puts you in the range of collateral damage from a Young Red Dragon's breath weapon, which might otherwise only hit your melee characters. It also puts you only one action away from the range of many dangerous monsters (like my personal favorite, the T-Rex) who might decide the scrawny spellcaster is more delicious than the armored Champion.

The Strategy Case 2: Targeting Weak Defenses

Electric Arc targets the Reflex save of your enemy. Sometimes this is to your great advantage, like on the aforementioned T-Rex. However, against an Abandoned Zealot, you don't want to target its Reflex Save. Assuming you are also a well built 6th level caster, you'd have a +12 to Spell Attacks and a DC 22 save. That means you have a 50% hit chance and 5% crit chance with an AC targeting effect like Telekinetic Projectile. With Electric Arc, the Zealot only has a 30% chance of failing the save (5% crit fail, 50% success, 15% crit success), assuming you aren't casting Electric Arc as a divine spell (which is possible with some builds from Oracles, Gnomes, and the like), in which case it's even worse. Assuming it's not divine, Telekinetic Projectile will average 8.7 damage, whereas Electric Arc is only 7.475 damage on average. You might want to target Fortitude (via Chill Touch or Puff of Poison) or Will (Daze) depending on the enemy as well; Leopards excel at Reflex saves, but their Will save is terrible by comparison, and you'd definitely want to target the Dhampir Wizard's Fortitude save.

The Synergy Case

It's far easier to get buffs to your Spell Attack Rolls (Inspire Courage, Bless) than your Spell DC. Similarly, it's far more common for an opponent's AC to be reduced (e.g. Flat-footed from Prone and the like) than for their Reflex Save. All conditions that reduce Reflex Saves also reduce AC!

The Ideal Use Case

In certain situations, even defenses, range, and resistances/weaknesses being equal, other cantrips will still equal or surpass Electric Arc in damage. Scatter Scree matches it for damage when two enemies are adjacent with a decent rider effect of creating difficult terrain. Acid Splash will devastate swarms, and possibly even surpass Electric Arc when you have several enemies adjacent to one! If you can manage to cast Spout on a creek where 4 enemies are all in a square, it is trivial to see that it outdamages Electric Arc - and you're fairly likely to know if your campaign is going to involve a lot of water in advance. Gale Blast should exceed Electric Arc in damage if you are surrounded by 4 creatures, or need to target Fortitude.

The Archmage Case

Cantrips that target AC become even more valuable at higher levels. If you are a 11th level Sorcerer, let's say, and have a Staff of Divination... you have access to lots and lots of True Strike. If you spend all your Staff charges and your 1st level spell slots on True Strike, that's 15 castings in a day. True Strike with Telekinetic Projectile is obviously strong, and with other cantrips (Produce Flame, Gouging Claw, Ray of Frost), you are twice as likely to trigger those juicy critical success rider effects.

The Focused Fire Case

@Isaac brought up an excellent point in the comments - focused fire (i.e. higher single target damage) has another value. Let's say you are fighting two enemies of equal danger. Having one of those enemies completely dead is generally probably better than having both at a third of their health, since at that point you are denying half of the enemy team's actions. The enemy team also can't flank at that point, is much easier to flank, etc.

The Heroic Case

A minor thing, but if you have 3 Hero Points, and the end of a session is coming up... something like Telekinetic Projectile will be favored here, since you can't use the Hero Point to make the enemy reroll the save.


Every cantrip has an ideal use case, and niche in which is it better than Electric Arc. Electric Arc's best case is very common, but that doesn't mean that it's not surpassed in a wide variety of somewhat common scenarios.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ If you can only take 2 cantrips (multiclass), and you are playing without knowing the expected weaknesses /resistances, Electric Arc is the first pick. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 8, 2022 at 21:14
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "I'm not disputing [...] that Electric Arc is the strongest damaging cantrip"; it is exactly what you seem to be disputing in your whole answer \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Feb 8, 2022 at 22:18
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ @András The intent of my answer is to hopefully highlight that "strongest" is always linked to a situation, and to highlight several situations in which Electric Arc isn't the most ideal answer. I tried to clarify that a bit more in the answer. Does that help? \$\endgroup\$
    – ESCE
    Feb 8, 2022 at 22:59
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ As another consideration, focused fire is often a better choice strategically. \$\endgroup\$
    – Isaac
    Feb 9, 2022 at 9:59
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ yes, that is why we have a 0.5 multiplier for the second target in the DPR calculation. But dealing 6 damage to one is rarely better than dealing 5 to two. (there are only two exceptions: the target has exactly 6 hit points, or has resist 5 all) \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Feb 9, 2022 at 14:02

Electric Arc is Good, but not Best for Everyone

ESCE's answer goes into detail about the numerous situations where electric arc isn't the best cantrip, and you've acknowledged as much in the question. If you're looking for electric damage targeting reflex saves for two targets within 30 feet of you, this is what you'd take.

But an even bigger factor here is what your character can control, particularly in what your character can already do before picking a cantrip.

If your character already has a bunch of reflex targeting spells/abilities, then the value of having one more goes down. Same with the other aspects of the spell, it's far less useful if they can already deal electricity damage or damage creatures within 30 feet reliably.

It also depends on what purpose you have for the cantrip. Perhaps your character is already a powerhouse at dealing damage with range, or will have a lower spell DC/attack roll because they're focused elsewhere. In those cases, less combat-focused cantrips like prestidigitation or detect magic would be more useful because the damaging spells wouldn't have as much an effect in battle.

For example, a wellspring gnomish ranger with a shortbow and lower Charisma might find something like tame to be more useful than electric arc if they'd rather make friends with domestic animals than have a low-DC offensive ability. Or maybe a storm order druid already has tempest surge and would rather not have another reflex targeted spell that does electricity damage within 30 feet.

Deciding what cantrip's best to take for your character should depend on what they can already do, and generalizing it doesn't really make sense when characters have other abilities that make certain options more or less desirable.


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