You choose a creature you can see within range and mystically mark it as your quarry. Until the spell ends, you deal an extra 1d6 damage to the target whenever you hit it with a weapon attack, and you have advantage on any Wisdom (Perception) or Wisdom (Survival) check you make to find it. If the target drops to 0 hit points before this spell ends, you can use a bonus action on a subsequent turn of yours to mark a new creature.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd or 4th level, you can maintain your concentration on the spell for up to 8 hours. When you use a spell slot of 5th level or higher, you can maintain your concentration on the spell for up to 24 hours.
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Range: 90 feet
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour
School: 1st-level divination
Player’s Handbook, pg. 251, SRD
Hunter’s Mark 5e
The quintessential “must-pick” Ranger spell, Hunter’s Mark is the subject of much theorycrafting and debate among players. Some lament it as the “too-good-not-to-use” bane of the Ranger class, while others see it as an overrated trap.
This article will mostly go over how to use the spell optimally and what the rules are. And, while I’m not much of a number-cruncher, I’ll do my best to suss out who Hunter’s Mark shines on, and when it’s not worth your time.
Who Can Cast Hunter’s Mark in 5e?
The following classes have Hunter’s Mark on their spell list:
The following subclasses get Hunter’s Mark for free:
Paladin (Oath of Vengeance)
What Does Hunter’s Mark Do in 5e?
Hunter’s Mark causes all subsequent attacks to deal an extra 1d6 (3.5 average) damage to the target you mark whenever you hit it with a weapon attack. You also have advantage on Perception and Survival skill checks to track the target.
If the target dies before the spell ends, you can use a bonus action to mark a new creature — the ability to mark a new creature is only limited by the duration of the spell; you don’t need to mark a new target right away or lose it.
However, you do need to maintain concentration on Hunter’s Mark for this option to remain available to you.
Hunter’s Mark lasts for up to 1 hour when a 1st or 2nd level spell slot is used, up to 8 hours at 3rd and 4th level, and up to 24 hours at 5th level or higher.
What Are the Rules for Hunter’s Mark in 5e?
The rules for Hunter’s Mark in DnD 5e are as follows:
Hunter’s Mark does the same damage type as the weapon attack that triggers it. So if your arrow does piercing damage, Hunter’s Mark deals 1d6 piercing damage; if your scimitar does slashing damage, Hunter’s Mark deals 1d6 slashing damage. Here’s Sage Advice confirmation.
Hunter’s Mark damage is magical. For the sake of overcoming creatures that have resistance or immunity to damage from “nonmagical weapon attacks,” Hunter’s Mark’s damage is considered magical. Sage Advice confirmation.
Hunter’s Mark damage is only added to damage from weapon attacks. Not from spell attacks. This is in contrast to a spell like Hex, which triggers its damage when any attack lands, be it a weapon or spell.
You can re-assign a Hunter’s Mark target at any time. Meaning you can move it in the middle of an Extra Attack, after killing the creature you currently marked. We have this Sage Advice thread stating that bonus actions can be taken at any time, so long as they’re not condition-dependent (which Hunter’s Mark isn’t).
Some people wonder about the “subsequent turn” language in the spell description, but that’s just to clarify that you can’t re-assign Hunter’s Mark on the same turn as you initially assign it. This is, however, a bit redundant, since a creature only has one bonus action per turn anyway.
Re-assigning a Hunter’s Mark target is not casting a spell. For the sake of Counterspell and the like. It also doesn’t require a verbal component to move Hunter’s Mark’s target, so you can do it within an area of Silence and without drawing notice.
Moreover, enemies don’t have an obvious way of knowing who you’ve re-assigned Hunter’s Mark too.
How Do I Use Hunter’s Mark in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Hunter’s Mark in DnD 5e:
Keep it up all the time at low levels. 1d6 damage is a significant damage boost during the first tier of play. And with 1 hour to work with and not many competitive low-level concentration spells available to Rangers, there’s really no reason not to constantly have Hunter’s Mark up on your target.
Grab it as a ranged build. Concentration is hard to maintain in melee range, so if you want to increase your odds of keeping Hunter’s Mark active for its full duration, it’s a better choice for an archery-focused character.
Scale it with Extra Attack. Hunter’s Mark’s damage never scales, only its duration. However, Extra Attack does allow Hunter’s Mark to scale somewhat, by nature of more attacks giving more chances to trigger its damage.
This keeps Hunter’s Mark competitive into tier 2 of play from a damage perspective, even if the concentration requirement starts to become a bummer.
Use it if you don’t need your bonus action for something else. While dual-wielding seems like a great tactic with Hunter’s Mark (more hits = more 1d6 damage triggers), there’s a problem — attacking with your off-hand weapon requires a bonus action, same as Hunter’s Mark target re-assignment.
One more reason why ranged Rangers get more mileage out of Hunter’s Mark.
Track enemies who flee. The rider effect on Hunter’s Mark won’t come into play very often, but it’s not completely worthless. Many intelligent enemies will flee from a fight once they know it’s a lost cause.
Tracking these enemies down and preventing them from returning to their superior or lair can make a big difference in a story.
Is Hunter’s Mark 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Hunter’s Mark is undoubtedly a good spell in 5e. In fact, many players call it a “must-pick” Ranger spell. I think it’s a great spell in some cases, but not for all Rangers at all times.
Hunter’s Mark is incredibly efficient — continuous 1d6 bonus damage for up to an hour at the cost of one 1st-level spell slot is phenomenal. But if you’re in danger of losing concentration often because you’re fighting in melee range, then its efficiency drops considerably.
And if you’re building a dual-wielding Ranger or a Beast Master Ranger, then your bonus action is already spoken for, meaning Hunter’s Mark will always stifle your damage when you have to re-assign it mid-combat.
The other argument against Hunter’s Mark is that it prevents a Ranger from using their other great concentration spells like Spike Growth, Conjure Animals, and Wind Wall. This is hard to argue with.
Which is why it’s great that One D&D playtest material, Expert Classes, has changed Hunter’s Mark to an always-prepared spell for Rangers that doesn’t require concentration once cast. This will be a very welcome change that removes two big opportunity costs of Hunter’s Mark.