I was looking over the class feature of the 'fiend' patron warlock in 5e. I'm a bit confused on what actions the player needs to take before they can use the 'Hurl Through Hell' ability on an enemy. The PHB states:

Starting at 14th level, when you hit a creature with an attack, you can use this feature to instantly transport the target through the lower planes.

I'm not clear on what an 'attack' means in this context. Does it have to be a physical attack like a sword or crossbow? Do magical attacks like Eldritch Blast that require an attack roll count? What about spells with no attack roll?

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    \$\begingroup\$ [Related] Is a spell with an attack roll "an attack" for the purpose of Sneak Attack? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 19, 2015 at 18:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ Both answers covered this well, but I also want to key you into that "Attack Action" with the capitalized Attack is a very specific triger/prereq for some feats and abilities (just as an FYI) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 19, 2015 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie You wrote related, but it seems to me like it's a duplicate. Am I wrong to think that? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20, 2015 at 15:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KeineMaster It's very close, isn't it? What tipped it over to "related" for me is that the other could correctly be answered with just whether a spell attack counts as an attack, which wouldn't fully answer this question about all things that count as an attack. I agree that's a fine line though. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 20, 2015 at 15:45

1 Answer 1


You can find the definition of an attack in the Player's Handbook (p. 194) or here in the basic rules. Specifically, it states:

If there's ever any question whether something you're doing counts as an attack, the rule is simple: if you're making an attack roll, you're making an attack

What the means is that an attack with a physical weapon counts, an attack with a spell counts, but a spell with no attack roll (like Burning Hands, or other spells with a save) do not count.

So as long as you're rolling a d20 (and adding modifiers) to beat the target's armour class (as opposed to making the target rolling d20 to beat the caster's DC), and you beat the AC, you can use Hurl Through Hell.

Something is also an attack if it is called an attack in the rules, regardless of if it makes an attack roll

Note that there are a very few things that are considered attacks that do not involve an attack roll. Specifically, grapple and shove are called out as "special melee attacks" in the rules and thus count as attacks despite the fact that they do not involve an attack roll.

This has been confirmed by Jeremy Crawford many times, but specifically in a helpful reiteration of the PHB rule:

An attack involves an attack roll or doing something that the rules call an attack, like grappling or shoving

  • \$\begingroup\$ In the specific context of this ability I think it's also worth mentioning that the attack you make (and you aptly describe) must hit before you can Hurl through Hell. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Nov 19, 2015 at 18:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Excelent answer, Thank You! I somewhat suspected that it was anything with an attack roll but I couldn't find a specific reference to be sure. \$\endgroup\$
    – pbuchheit
    Nov 19, 2015 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ Magic missile isn't an attack? \$\endgroup\$
    – detly
    Nov 19, 2015 at 21:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @detly it's a spell, and does not require an attack roll. Neither is Fireball, nor Lightning Bolt an attack for that purpose. \$\endgroup\$
    – daze413
    Nov 19, 2015 at 22:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @detly It's certainly a hostile action, but abilities that key off an attack aren't triggered by magic missile, or spells that require a saving throw, unless otherwise specified (Shield is an example, it is triggered by an attack or a magic missile spell) \$\endgroup\$
    – xanderh
    Nov 20, 2015 at 0:03

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