Welcome to the Lightning Lure spell breakdown! When it comes to lassoing your foes, you’ll be shocked to find that the Sword Coast Adventure Guide brought over more cantrips than just Green-Flame Blade! Lightning Lure is a spell that evaded our lists of best Wizard, Warlock, and Sorcerer cantrips… As well as Cantrips in general. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a diamond in the rough; Dungeons and Dragons 5E has a lot of fantastic options for cantrips in the early-to-mid game, and now you’re going to learn a new one!
Lightning Lure 5E Guide
Lightning Lure is a hybrid utility/damaging spell for our three primary arcane spell users. After a Strength saving throw, an unlucky creature within 15 feet is pulled 10 feet straight towards the caster. If that ends up being within 5 feet of said caster, gets a 1d8 shock. This scales up at 5th, 11th, and 17th levels for 1d8 a piece, to a maximum of 4d8.
Simple enough! As cantrips go, it adds extra utility to go with a somewhat low amount of single-target damage. But, let’s tie a lasso around why this is a good investment for a cantrip slot.
As a cantrip, Lightning Lure doesn’t need to be prepared. It doesn’t use concentration and doesn’t spend any resources to cast. However, a hidden bonus is that Lightning Lure doesn’t require a Somatic component. As long as you can speak, you are able to use this spell to pull them towards you and deliver a sudden jolt.
The spell targets Strength, which is fantastic. Most of the enemies you’d be targeting with this would not have a high Strength score. Instead, they normally want to focus on being out of range of combatants. This means that the spell actually has a decent chance of succeeding on the targets that you want them to – pulling the crossbow-wielding Halfling off the back of the Orc, for example – and put them in an unenviable position.
Electricity is also a fairly unresisted source of elemental damage in the bestiary, so the damage is likely to go through a lot of targets without being resisted (though, not nearly to the level of force damage).
Another underappreciated use of this spell is in conjunction with other AoE effects. For example, you not only lure your enemy in and electrocute them, but you could damage them further if that lure pulled them through the AoE zone of another party member’s spell or even a fire.
A significant problem with Lightning Lure is that… It moves you, a caster, into melee with something. As a caster, there are builds that are useful in melee, but most Wizards and Sorcerers struggle to find the health to back up the build. Warlocks, on the other hand, do have quite strong melee builds, but spending one of your precious spell slots on Lightning Lure leaves less room for usage of better damage cantrips to supplement the damage-dealing role.
Since this is forced movement, it cannot activate opportunity attacks by itself. This decreases the potency of this spell on weapons with reach. Other abilities which are negated by forced movement also apply.
On the topic of forced movement, the damage only comes through if the target ends its movement within 5 feet of you, so it can be stopped by having something powerful to restrain it – such as manacles of high quality – and then you don’t get to deal the electric damage to them, even if they failed the Strength save.
The range of this spell is somewhat pitiful, only offering 15 feet of range from level 1 to 20. As other abilities start cropping up that allow creatures to take massive, 100 feet potshots at the party, this cantrip wont keep up on the utility front without some significant help.
Finally, the spell can only target creatures, so you cannot even use it as a pseudo-Mage Hand by pulling an object to yourself.
When Should You Use Lightning Lure?
The spell is situational, but the situations where the spell is useful are surprisingly vast! It can compliment any area spells you have; forcing opponents to get pulled into traps – such as Cloud of Daggers or a tripwire. It can compliment melee-ranged allies by pulling enemies into positions where they are more easily flanked or surrounded, preventing escape and increasing the damage potential of your allies. Or, if the roof is low and there’s an enemy flying out of reach of your Barbarian, you can pull them down.
Another instance of this spell’s utility is as a Prepared Action. This spell offers 15 feet of forced movement. You can use this to pull a party member out of harm’s way as they open a trap (and give them a zap as a slap on the wrists), halt a fleeing enemy from getting much farther than 15 feet away, or, if you have the feat Mage Slayer, you can reap the benefits by pulling a caster 15 feet closer as they try and cast. Admittedly, not many casters would want to cast while that close to another caster with a prepared action. However, a good GM may see the gears moving and give you a chance.
However, its out of combat usefulness is not to be understated. Pulling someone 10 feet with a string of lightning, produced without a single somatic component, can be highly threatening and intimidating in the right situation. You can also save lives by pulling people over a cliff edge with a quick lasso of lightning… With a bit of a shock, which may or may not be deserved. Since its a spell with a save, you wouldn’t even need to attempt a Strength check to pull up someone in the heaviest of armors. This aspect does get better if your GM house rules the ability to willingly fail a save.
When Better Options are Available
As time goes on, the usefulness of the spell gets overshadowed by abilities that control the battlefield much better, allow you to close the gap between yourself and your opponent more efficiently, and deal more electric damage to them. The usefulness of Lightning Lure then gets relegated to a spell you can cast to pull an enemy towards you when they are out-of-range of a movement action, and you really want them to be in your range next round.
Is this useless? Absolutely not! Any Arcane Skirmisher can extend their potential reach by 15 feet with it. What’s more, you can deal some damage on top of it. If that appeals to you, consider adding the Lightning Lure to their arsenal.