You fill the air with spinning daggers in a cube 5 feet on each side, centered on a point you choose within range. A creature takes 4d4 slashing damage when it enters the spell’s area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the damage increases by 2d4 for each slot level above 2nd.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
Components: V, S, M (a sliver of glass)
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
School: 2nd-level conjuration
Player’s Handbook, pg. 222
Cloud of Daggers 5e
Cloud of Daggers is the small-space, big-damage “area of effect” spell that can lay down oodles of pain with proper set-up. It’s also a spell that’s frequently misunderstood, which we hope to clear up.
So let’s get into all the fun ways to bring a Cloud of Daggers to your next DnD session, as well as tips for DMs running the spell.
Who Can Cast Cloud of Daggers in 5e?
The following classes have Cloud of Daggers on their spell list:
No subclasses get Cloud of Daggers for free.
What Does Cloud of Daggers Do in 5e?
Cloud of Daggers that can affect between 1-4 squares (depending on your DM) and deals 4d4 (average 10) slashing damage to any creature that enters the spell’s area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there.
Cloud of Daggers can last for up to 1 minute (concentration allowing) and can deal damage multiple times per round of combat, but cannot deal damage multiple times in a single turn.
Lastly, Cloud of Daggers can be upcast, dealing an additional 2d4 (average 5) additional slashing damage for spell slot above 2nd.
What Are the Rules for Cloud of Daggers in 5e?
The rules for Cloud of Daggers in DnD 5e are as follows:
Cloud of Daggers only affects one 5-foot square if your DM rules that effects snap to a battle map grid, or between 2-4 squares if they don’t rule that effects snap to the grid. Originally a controversial answer on Sage Advice and later codified in the Sage Advice Compendium, the game’s developers have left it up to DMs to decide whether AoE effects need to “snap” to a grid or not (SAC 16).
In any case, the space that Cloud of Daggers affects is a 5-foot cube, meaning it affects the equivalent of 1 square on a 1 square = 5 feet battle map. Lazy artist’s rendering:OOO
Only the X square is affected; all creatures on O squares are completely safe from Cloud of Daggers.
However, a DM may allow a player to cast Cloud of Daggers on the intersection of two or even four squares. In that case, Cloud of Daggers would look like:OOO
Obviously, this decision has a big impact on the power of Cloud of Daggers.
Cloud of Daggers deals “magical” slashing damage.“Magical” damage isn’t a technical DnD term, but it’s important to note that, for the purposes of overcoming creatures’ resistances and immunities to “nonmagical” slashing damage, Cloud of Daggers works. Sage Advice confirmation.
Cloud of Daggers does not deal damage immediately if cast on a space that a creature already occupies. The Sage Advice Compendium confirmed that spells like Cloud of Daggers and Moonbeam don’t have an immediate effect, but are instead “setting up hurt for your foes on later turns” (SAC 19).
You definitely don’t auto-hit with Cloud of Daggers both on your turn upon casting it and again when the enemy’s turn begins.
You can force a creature into Cloud of Daggers area to immediately deal damage to it (once per turn). The SAC goes on to say that “entering such an area of effect needn’t be voluntary…so hurl away” (SAC 19).
In other words, you can instantly damage an enemy by blasting them into Cloud of Daggers with something like Thunderwave. This does have its limits, as the SAC also reminds us that CoD and similar spells only affect a creature “the first time it enters the area on a turn.”
Of course, there are many turns in a single round of combat, so the potential to stack Cloud of Daggers damage high with clever teamplay does exist.
Cloud of Daggers can damage allies (including yourself). Cloud of Daggers deals damage to “a creature” — the spell text says nothing about hostile or friendly.
You roll damage for Cloud of Daggers when it actually hits a creature. So when you actually cast Cloud of Daggers, you won’t be rolling the damage dice right away.
How Do I Use Cloud of Daggers in 5e?
Here are a few ideas on how to use Cloud of Daggers in your next DnD session:
Pair with push/pull effects. This is the real secret sauce to make Cloud of Daggers go from a “meh, decent one-time damage” spell into an absolute monster source of pain. A few examples for pairing with Cloud of Daggers, either yourself or with fellow party members include:
Warlock’s Eldritch Blast invocations: Using Grasp of Hadar and/or Repelling Blast can pretty much guarantee that you can trigger Cloud of Daggers damage on multiple rounds of combat as long as the spell and your allies are strategically placed. And it’s a cantrip, so it’s easily replicable.
Even just shoves (Shield Master feat anyone?) can make it easy to blend up baddies with your glorious Cloud of Daggers.
Pair with Grapple. Casting Cloud of Daggers around your group’s grappler is a great way to guarantee an immense amount of damage from the spell. What makes grappling so special is the ability to freely move the grappled creature around — back and forth out of the blender of blades.
Beyond a creature’s ability to break free of the grapple, this is a much more straightforward way of getting multiple procs of CoD damage than the push/pull method, which relies a bit on how the monster moves and how far it moves each turn.
Pair with other effects that restrain movement. Spells like Hold Person and Web can do a decent job of accomplishing the same thing that grapple accomplishes — making sure a creature takes multiple rounds of damage from one casting of the spell.
Beyond that, there are also several conditions that can reduce a target’s movement to 0, effectively guaranteeing multiple instances of CoD’s damage. Those conditions are:
Any spell or effect that causes those conditions (especially for multiple rounds) can make Cloud of Daggers do silly amounts of automatic damage.
Block narrow paths. Creating hazardous terrain doesn’t need to just be about dealing mad damage — it can also be used for battlefield control. Shutting down escape routes, making “rock-and-a-hard-place” scenarios, and creating single-file clusters can all help shut down your enemies’ options.
Watch out for allies. The hazardous terrain thing is a double-edged sword, so make sure you don’t trap allies the same way that CoD is used to trap foes. Of course, if you do put your buddy in an awkward spot, you can drop your concentration whenever (even on their turn).
Is Cloud of Daggers 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Cloud of Daggers is a good spell in DnD 5e and can be a great spell with the right character build and/or party composition. Guaranteed damage is always great, and the no-save, no-attack roll nature of Cloud of Daggers is undeniably attractive for that alone.
But that’s not why players pick up Cloud of Daggers — they do it because they have a party that works with a playstyle that creates opportunities to trigger Cloud of Daggers multiple times per round of combat.
If you don’t have a squad that’s down for this type of clowning, we suggest skipping Cloud of Daggers for a more straightforward blasting spell.
Cloud of Daggers 5e DM Tips
We left DMs with a pretty big choice to make (or more accurately, Jeremy Crawford did) by ruling that Cloud of Daggers affects somewhere between 1-4 squares. For me, I think Cloud of Daggers is a good enough spell when it only affects 1 tile, and so I see no need to (somewhat) arbitrarily buff a perfectly well-balanced spell.
Plus, from a purely practical perspective, who the hell wants to deal with figuring out every single AoE spell now that none of them snap to a grid. That’s not just a headache for the DM; it’s a narrative-killing, time-eating annoyance for the other players who have to watch you bust out the measuring tape every time someone wants to cast Fireball.
But that’s just my two cents — buffing it to affect two tiles isn’t game-breaking, and I’ve also heard the solution of cutting the damage in 1/4 if you allow it to affect four squares. That sits fine with me and essentially changes the spell to allow it greater utility, which is almost never a bad thing.
Simple Cloud of Daggers 5e Spell Text
Cloud of Daggers: (2nd-level conjuration, 60 feet, concentration, up to 1 minute, V/S/M (a sliver of glass)) Place spinning daggers in a 5-foot cube. A creature takes 4d4 slashing damage when it enters the spell’s area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there. | +2d4 damage per slot level above 2nd.
How Other Conjuration Spells Work in DnD 5e
5e Create Bonfire
5e Mage Hand
5e Sword Burst
5e Find Familiar
5e Ice Knife
5e Flaming Sphere
5e Healing Spirit
5e Misty Step
5e Call Lightning
5e Sleet Storm
5e Spirit Guardians