One of the druids in my group have the spell Ice Knife which specifies:

Make a ranged spell attack against the target. On a hit, the target takes 1d10 piercing damage. Hit or miss, the shard then explodes. The target and each creature within 5 feet of the point where the ice exploded must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw or take 2d6 cold damage.

When making the first roll he rolled a natural 20. The piercing damage of the knife has the critical hit effect.

Does the explosion of the shard also benefit from the increased damage from the critical hit? (4d6 rather than 2d6)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Well I didn't know ! Thanks, and what for the next step, does the shard have the ctritical effects too ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Usakumo
    Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 22:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a slightly different question, in that specifically, the OP is asking if ALL of the damage effects of the spell receive the effects of a critical hit, not just if there is critical hit damage at all. This can be confusing for newer players (leading to questions about things like Sneak Attack damage). The proper answer is debatable, in that the initial damage is dependent on an attack roll, (crit-able), whereas the second damage is subject to a saving throw, which is usually not. I think with a touch of work, this could be an excellent question. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 0:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @keithcurtis I think my edit captured the question being asked. Please improve it if you think I misunderstood Usakumo's intent form the previous edit. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 0:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ Perfect. I'm glad this question re-opened, because it's an interesting one about a quirky spell. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 15:13

1 Answer 1


The damage will remain 2d6 if the save is failed.

Where a spell effect calls for a saving throw, critical damage is not in play. Reviewing spells like lightning bolt, fireball, and thunderwave that have multiple dice for damage, nowhere does the spell effect describe a doubling of damage dice for critical hits.

Hit or miss, the shard then explodes. (p. 19 Elemental Evil Player's Companion)

What this indicates is that the explosion damage is not linked to the attack roll's success or failure, and thus cannot benefit from the auto hit or critical on a 20, nor the auto miss on a 1. (p. 194 PHB)

Ice knife is an unusual spell in that it has two separate effects. One effect is an attack roll (hit or miss, and thus eligible for a critical hit benefit), while the other effect is the standard save versus damage.

Compare to other elemental spells

As a point of comparison, see this last part of the spell description (p. 19 Elemental Evil Player's Companion):

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the cold damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.

This is comparable to Lightning Bolt's similar "at higher levels" language. From PHB p. 255:

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 3rd.

That elemental spell effect is also influenced by a saving throw and has no "critical" hit feature.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Good job, and well-stated. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 19, 2016 at 15:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is also true of, for instance, attacks that do additional poison damage contingent on a saving throw; on a crit, the initial weapon damage is doubled, but not any damage that occurs after a save. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 16:51

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