The spell captures some of the incoming energy, lessening its effect on you and storing it for your next melee attack. You have resistance to the triggering damage type until the start of your next turn. Also, the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage of the triggering type, and the spell ends.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the extra damage increases by 1d6 for each slot level above 1st.
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you take acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage
Duration: 1 round
School: 1st-level abjuration
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, page 150
Absorb Elements 5e
Absorb Elements is a spell that provides both elemental protection and damage for just a 1st-level spell slot. While the spell’s description is pretty straightforward, there are plenty of rules questions and applications ideas that may not be readily apparent at first glance.
Let’s go over just what those are.
Who Can Cast Absorb Elements in 5e?
The following classes have Absorb Elements on their spell list:
No subclasses get Absorb Elements for free. However, Eldritch Knight Fighters can choose to learn Absorb Elements and Arcane Trickster Rogues can pick it up at 8th, 14th, or 20th level.
What Does Absorb Elements Do in 5e?
Absorb Elements is used as a reaction to taking elemental damage (acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder). The spell immediately gives you resistance to that type of elemental damage for one full round of combat, including against the spell/effect that triggered your use of Absorb Elements.
“If a creature or an object has resistance to a damage type, damage of that type is halved against it” (PHB 197). So if you would have taken 10 or 11 fire damage from the spell, you’d only take 5 fire damage after casting Absorb Elements (because of the rule about rounding down — PHB 7).
After “absorbing” the damage, your next melee attack is empowered, dealing an extra 1d6 damage of whatever element you absorbed. So if you cast Absorb Elements to absorb fire damage, your next melee attack will deal an additional 1d6 fire damage.
Finally, Absorb Elements can be upcast to increase the bonus melee attack damage by 1d6 for every spell slot level above the first. Upcasting Absorb Elements has no effect on the spell’s defensive power.
What Are the Rules for Absorb Elements 5e?
The rules for Absorb Elements in DnD 5e are as follows:
Absorb Elements reduces damage from the triggering spell. Some players get confused when they see “you have resistance to the triggering damage type” but no explicit mention of the triggering attack itself. Luckily, we’ve got Sage Advice confirmation that “the absorb elements spell works against the spell that triggers it.”
You choose to use Absorb Elements when you take damage. In other words, you can wait to see the result of your saving throw and/or learn how much damage you would take without casting Absorb Elements.
It’s therefore impossible to waste Absorb Elements, since you’ll know beforehand exactly how much you’ll be reducing the damage by.
Hitting with a melee spell attack still triggers Absorb Elements’ bonus damage. The Sage Advice Compendium clarified that “a melee spell attack is, indeed, a melee attack” (SAC 15). This means you can use spells like Shillelagh, Shocking Grasp, and even Thorn Whip to trigger the elemental bonus damage from Absorb Elements.
Resistance reduces damage taken by 50%, but having double resistance doesn’t stack or give you immunity. Here’s the relevant section from the Player’s Handbook:Multiple instances of resistance or vulnerability that affect the same damage type count as only one instance. For example, if a creature has resistance to fire damage as well as resistance to all nonmagical damage, the damage of a nonmagical fire is reduced by half against the creature, not reduced by three-quarters (PHB 197).
A Wild Shape’d Druid or Polymorphed character can cast Absorb Elements after damage forces them to revert to their humanoid form. According to the Sage Advice Compendium, “when the creature reverts to its true form, any leftover damage is subject to that form’s damage resistances, if any.” (SAC 20)
An example should help: say you’re a Druid using Wild Shape and you have 10 hit points left. Let’s say you take 30 cold damage — after taking 10 damage, you’ll revert back to your Druid form, at which point you can cast Absorb Elements. Once you do so, you gain resistance against the remaining 20 cold damage, therefore reducing that damage to 10.
Absorb Elements’ damage doubles on a critical strike. If your next melee attack after casting Absorb Elements results in a critical strike, you can double the amount of d6 you’re rolling for the spell’s damage.
That’s because if an “attack involves other damage dice…you roll those dice twice as well” when you score a critical hit. (PHB 196).
Your next melee attack may or may not have to be on the same turn. Sadly, the language of Absorb Elements is a little less than clear on this point and I’m unable to find a definitive answer on Sage Advice.
As the spell’s first line reads, you store the incoming spell’s energy, “storing it for your next melee attack.” However, the third line says “the first time you hit with a melee attack on your next turn, the target takes an extra 1d6 damage.”
Overall, there are very few situations where this will even be an option — a player won’t be able to take opportunity attacks after casting Absorb Elements (they both use a reaction), so the player would’ve needed to have Readied an attack, used Absorb Elements before the trigger for that Readied action, and then have the trigger’s condition met.
If a player successfully pulls this off, we recommend letting them add Absorb Elements’ bonus damage to their attack — what harm?
The Shield Master feat happens before Absorb Elements. One more super niche rule: if you have the Shield Master feat and are forced to make a Dexterity saving throw, you can take 0 damage instead of half damage. If you have Absorb Elements, you’d wait to see whether you pass the save or not.
If you pass the save, you take 0 damage. If you fail the save, you can then use Absorb Elements to take half damage.
Absorb Elements costs a reaction. As we noted a few rules above, the fact that Absorb Elements uses your reaction means that you won’t be able to use another reaction for the rest of the round. This means no opportunity attacks or other spells with a reaction casting time, like Shield.
How Do I Use Absorb Elements 5e?
Absorb Elements is a reaction spell, so it’s not (usually) your choice when to use it — an enemy typically has to hit you with an elemental spell first. That being said, here are some things to keep in mind to get the most out of Absorb Elements in your next session:
Pair with spells like Thorn Whip, Primal Savagery, Steel Wind Strike, etc. As we covered in the rules above, the bonus damage from Absorb Elements also triggers on melee spell attacks. If you’re looking to really maximize the offensive nature of this spell, you’ll want to be a spellcaster with a melee spell attack or two.
My personal favorite is Thorn Whip, thanks to the 30-foot range on this “melee” spell attack. Oh, and it’s just a cantrip — a great choice for Druids and Artificers looking to smack people with elements from across the room.
Pick it up on your Eldritch Knight Fighter, Shillelagh Druid, or melee Ranger/Cleric. To make things more explicit, these are the builds that tend to get the most mileage out of both Absorb Elements’ offensive and defensive power.
They all like being in the middle of things anyway, so they’re likely to get targeted by elemental spells and effects. And they all have great melee options, with and without using melee spell attacks.
Let friends smack you around with the elements. Absorb Elements only requires that you take damage; it doesn’t mention anything about where that damage comes from.
So if a friend is casting an area of effect spell near you, it’s not the end of the world — cut the damage in half with Absorb Elements and empower your next attack to boot. Some players will even intentionally jump into an actual, environmental fire just to get that sweet, sweet damage boost from Absorb Elements.
Bring it to battles against elementals. I mean, it’s in the spell’s name. But seriously, if you’re going up against elemental creatures that are prone to deal acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage, it’s a safe bet that Absorb Elements will be worth having.
Bring it to battles against spellcasters. The bad thing about using Absorb Elements against elemental enemies is that, well, they tend to be immune to whatever type of damage they deal.
But regular old wizards and warlocks enjoy no such base resistances, making them much more vulnerable to having their spells redirected at them.
Is Absorb Elements 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Absorb Elements is an incredibly efficient and useful spell that stays relevant right until the end game. Flat buffs like resistance (-50% damage) scale with the game’s difficulty, so there will never be a time when Absorb Elements feels like it isn’t doing enough defensively.
While the +1d6 elemental damage from upcasting can be useful for certain builds and in some situations, that’s not nearly as important for keeping Absorb Elements useful into the late game.
Overall, Absorb Elements always makes sense to bring along, since it only eats up a measly 1st-level spell slot.
That being said, it’s not the sort of spell you usually need to pick up in the early levels (1-4). At these levels, spellcasting enemies and elemental damage tend to be less common (in most DnD universes, anyway).
Absorb Elements 5e Compared Shield
If you’re a Sorcerer or Wizard, you’ll be able to choose between two reaction spells right from the 1st-level of play: Absorb Elements and Shield. Shield instantly gives you +5 AC and Magic Missile immunity for 1 round of combat.
Like Absorb Elements, Shield is a 1st-level spell that stays relevant and useful throughout any DnD campaign. Shield tends to get more consistent use, since physical damage is present in nearly every engagement in DnD, while elemental damage is more uncommon.
Shield is also more useful in the early levels (1-4), when the gap between physical damage and magical damage is even more pronounced.
Still, Shield and Absorb Elements cover two separate defensive scenarios, meaning that there’s no reason you can’t have both. Just be advised that, since they both require a reaction, you won’t be able to use both in the same round of combat.
Simple Absorb Elements 5e Spell Text
Absorb Elements: (1st-level abjuration, 1 reaction (taken after taking acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage), Self, 1 round, S) Gain resistance to the triggering damage type (-50% damage) for 1 round. On your next melee attack, deal an extra 1d6 damage of the triggering type. | +1d6 per slot level above 1st.