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If a witch bolt misses the attack, does it still get the concentration to allow the user to use their action next turn to retry the attack on the target if the target is still within range and has not hit the user?

We had an instance where the warlock missed the initial attack roll and we need the ruling on if the warlock would get another chance next turn to use the witch bolt without having to spend another spell slot or does it fizzle out and require another spell slot?

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If it misses initially, it fizzles out.

The text for Witch Bolt is clear that it only takes effect on a hit:

Make a ranged spell attack against that creature. On a hit, the target takes 1d12 lightning damage, and on each of your turns for the duration, you can use your action to deal 1d12 lightning damage to the target automatically.

On a miss, the spell slot is wasted and the warlock would need to try again next turn.

Yes, the spell is situational. It has its uses, though there are many drawbacks and shortfalls, but I wouldn't tell a guy not to pick it if he really wanted to.

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The extra action/damage requires Witch Bolt to hit. If it misses, there's no concentration and you can't deal the extra damage on subsequent turns.

On a hit, the target takes 1d12 lightning damage, and on each of your turns for the duration, you can use your action to deal 1d12 lightning damage to the target automatically.

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I would say, that if the spell doesn't connect with it's initial attack that the spell is wasted. If the spell can't connect with it's intended victim the spell slot is used up.

On a hit, the target takes 1d12 lightning damage, and on each of your turns for the duration, you can use your action to deal 1d12 lightning damage to the target automatically.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going off of what the others had said. I've edited to add source. \$\endgroup\$ – Kaldur_Rahm Apr 8 '17 at 6:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's a lot better now, we expect answers to stand alone, and even if you refer to other answers, it's good to link to it. \$\endgroup\$ – daze413 Apr 8 '17 at 6:48
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No, your Warlock would not get the chance to make a Ranged Spell Attack roll on following turns due to the specific wording of the spell. He would, however, maintain Concentration on the spell.

He cannot try again due to it not being stated within the spell's effects, as it is stated in a similar spell, Vampiric Touch:

Until the spell ends, you can make the attack again on each of your turns as an action.

Due to the rules of Duration: Concentration (PHB, pg. 203), the Warlock can maintain Concentration on the spell after the initial attack roll miss.

Some spells require you to maintain concentration in order to keep their magic active. If you lose concentration, such a spell ends.

The following factors break concentration: Casting another spell that requires concentration, Taking damage, Being incapacitated or killed

As none of those requisites are met by the ranged spell attack missing, the Warlock may maintain concentration on his Witch Bolt spell but will not be able to apply any of the spells effects (explicitly stated as "On a hit") or make any additional ranged spell attack rolls (as it is not stated within the spells effects separate to the "On a hit" effects).

In conclusion, your Warlock may choose to maintain his concentration on the spell, but gains none of its effects (or any additional ranged spell attacks) for the duration he maintains concentration on it.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Interesting. Can you identify any situations where maintaining concentration on a spell that has no effects would matter? \$\endgroup\$ – Ceribia Apr 8 '17 at 7:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ceribia The War Magic Wizard from a recent UA would be one. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Apr 8 '17 at 7:47
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The confusion lies in the handbooks lack of rules on what happens when a spell misses. "On a hit,". It is assumed that, say in this case Witch Bolt, if the spell misses it's effects don't trigger. So even if the spell has concentration-


Witch Bolt 1st-level Evocation Casting Time: 1 action Range: 30 feet Components: V,S,M (a twig from a tree that has been struck by lightning) Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute A beam of crackling, blue energy lances out toward a creature within range, forming a sustained arc of lightning between you and the target. Make a ranged spell attack against that creature. On a hit, the target takes 1d12 lightning damage, and on each of your turns for the duration, you can use your action to deal 1d12 lightning damage to the target automatically. The spell ends if you use your action to do anything else. The spell also ends if the target is ever outside the spell's range or if it has total cover from you.


you can't concentrate on a spell that does have it's effects trigger.

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