A hail of rock-hard ice pounds to the ground in a 20-foot-radius, 40-foot-high cylinder centered on a point within range. Each creature in the cylinder must make a Dexterity saving throw. A creature takes 2d8 bludgeoning damage and 4d6 cold damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
Hailstones turn the storm’s area of effect into difficult terrain until the end of your next turn.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, the bludgeoning damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 4th.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 300 feet
Components: V, S, M (a pinch of dust and a few drops of water)
School: 4th-level evocation
Who can cast Ice Storm? Druids, Sorcerers, and Wizards have Ice Storm on their class spell lists. Tempest Domain Clerics, Circle of the Land (Arctic) Druids, Oath of the Ancients Paladin, and Artillerist Artificers get Ice Storm for free and always have it prepared.
Ice Storm 5e
Ice Storm is a strange spell in DnD 5e. I’ve seen many players skip over it because, well, it’s a 4th-level spell that deals less damage than some 3rd-level spells. But I believe Ice Storm is slept on and deserves more attention for your (admittedly limited) 4th-level spell slots.
I’ll cover the situations and settings where Ice Storm shines, a few ways to maximize its utility, and answer questions about its rule that I hear all the time.
How Does Ice Storm Work in 5e?
Ice Storm creates an instantaneous effect (not a continuous one, like Sleet Storm) that forces creatures in a 20-foot-radius, 40-foot-high cylinder to make a Dexterity saving throw. If they fail, they take 2d8 (9 average) bludgeoning and 4d6 (14 average) cold damage, or half as much on a success. That’s 23 average damage altogether on a failed save, or 11.5 on a success.
Additionally, the area of its effect becomes difficult terrain until the end of your next turn. Every foot of movement in difficult terrain costs 1 extra foot (PHB 190). So, essentially, it halves the speed of creatures moving through it.
Ice Storm has a 300-foot range and can be upcast for +1d8 (4.5 average) bludgeoning level per slot level.
How to Use Ice Storm in 5e
Here are a few ways to use Ice Storm in DnD 5e:
Slow down flyers. Ice Storm is one of the only spells or abilities in 5e that can cause difficult terrain for flying creatures (Storm Sphere is another). That’s useful as heck for cutting the movement speed of (usually quick) flying creatures like dragons or the slower ones, like beholders or mephits.
Kite a group of fast enemies. Ice Storm’s huge range, big area of effect, and short-term slow make it ideal for hit-and-run tactics against large groups of enemies. Even one round of half movement speed is pretty great for putting distance between your party and the foes they face.
This tactic is best employed against enemies who don’t have access to ranged attacks and alongside a party that favors ranged combat over melee fighting (sorry, Barbarians).
Use it in multi-level environments. Even when there aren’t any flyers in the mix, Ice Storm shines more when there are multiple levels all sporting enemies. That’s where its 40-foot vertical range wins out against something like Fireball, which is a 20-foot-radius sphere.
Communicate with allies. As pointed out above, Ice Storm is best when you’re actively running away from your targets. Let your party know how you plan to use Ice Storm, so they don’t go charging in after you use it, negating its main utility.
On a more basic level, make sure to look out for friendly fire — Ice Storm hurts ALL creatures in its area of effect, allies as well as enemies.
What Are the Rules for Ice Storm in 5e?
The rules for Ice Storm in DnD 5e are as follows:
Ice Storm can be cast underwater. Nothing in the spell’s description forbids it from being cast underwater, so it can be. Plus, we got confirmation from one of DnD 5e’s designers, Mike Mearls, that this is the case on Sage Advice.
— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) January 7, 2019
Ice Storm creates difficult terrain in the air. Not just the ground.
Ice Storm deals damage instantaneously but creates difficult terrain for one round. Some people get confused by the instantaneous effect yet one-round duration of the spell. Specific beats general, and since the specific text of the spell says it creates “difficult terrain” in the “storm’s area of effect” “until the end of your next turn,” that’s what it does. But the damage element only applies instantly to whatever creatures are in the space.
Both the bludgeoning and cold damage are reliant on the result of the Dexterity saving throw. Don’t be confused by the “2d8 bludgeoning damage and 4d6 cold damage on a failed save” — the “save” applies for both damage types.
You don’t need 40 vertical feet available to cast Ice Storm. If there’s not enough vertical space, Ice Storm just fills whatever space it can. As per 5e’s rules:A spell’s effect expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a location within the area of effect, that location isn’t included in the spell’s area. To block one of these imaginary lines, an obstruction must provide total cover. (Player’s Handbook, page 204)
Is Ice Storm 5e a Good Spell?
Ice Storm is an okay spell that can really shine in games that involve combat scenarios with multiple levels, flying creatures, or a ranged-heavy party that prefers to kite enemies rather than stand and fight in one place.
Fireball and Lightning Bolt deal more damage at 3rd level (8d6, 28 average) than Ice Storm at 4th level (23 average). But in a situation where the Z-axis is in play, Ice Storm hits a bigger area of effect overall AND provides short-term crowd control. And Ice Storm always has a huge range (300 feet is double that of Fireball and triple Lightning Bolt’s range).
Storm Sphere is the only other spell that creates difficult terrain in the air (although Spirit Guardians does halve the move speed of creatures in range, including in a 15-foot radius above/below the caster), so Ice Storm stands out here as well.
All that being said, Ice Storm is a really good spell for Druids, who lack AoE damage options (like Fireball and Lightning Bolt), and Oath of the Ancients Paladins, who also lack ranged AoE options (although they don’t get it until level 13, sadly).