You create three glowing darts of magical force. Each dart hits a creature of your choice that you can see within range. A dart deals 1d4 + 1 force damage to its target. The darts all strike simultaneously, and you can direct them to hit one creature or several.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the spell creates one more dart for each slot level above 1st.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S
School: 1st-level evocation
Player’s Handbook, pg. 257
Magic Missile 5e
Magic Missile is one of the most iconic DnD spells around, having been a part of the game since the first edition. A first-level spell that’s guaranteed to hit, Magic Missile is a great option in the early game, and continues to be useful (even mega-powerful, for certain builds) into the later game.
Let’s go over just what you can accomplish with Magic Missile in your quiver.
Who Can Cast Magic Missile?
The following classes have Magic Missile on their spell list:
The following subclasses get Magic Missile for free:
What Does Magic Missile Do in 5e?
Magic Missile automatically and instantly deals damage to between one and three targets within 120 feet. The darts hit simultaneously, so you have to choose 1, 2, or 3 targets for the magic missiles before seeing how much damage the spell will do.
Cast at first level with no modifiers, Magic Missiles does an average of 10.5 total force damage. Upcasting this spell increases the total damage by an average of 3.5 and allows you to choose one additional target per level above the first.
Importantly, you only roll one d4 for each level of the spell. Many players mistakenly roll 3d4 (or more, at higher levels) and add up the total or assign each roll to a specific target. While this technically has no impact on the average damage you will do, it is incorrect to play Magic Missiles this way.
What Are the Rules for Magic Missile in 5e?
The rules for Magic Missile in DnD 5e are as follows:
You only roll the 1d4. This is the most important rule that players and DMs get wrong with Magic Missiles. Regardless of what level you cast Magic Missile at, your one d4 roll + 1 is the damage you deal, before additional possible modifiers (more on that below).
This is laid out in the Player’s Handbook Combat section on Damage rolls: “If a spell or other effect deals damage to more than one target at the same time, roll the damage once for all of them” (PHB 196). Since Magic Missile does all damage simultaneously, it clearly falls under this rule.
If you need more proof, here’s Jeremy Crawford on the subject on Sage Advice.
There’s no attack roll. Magic Missile automatically lands, unless a spellcaster uses Shield to defend themselves. Cover does not affect Magic Missile’s damage, because it boosts AC, which the spell doesn’t interact with at all. Of course, you still need to be able to see the creature to target it.
A concentrating caster has to roll for each missile that hits them. If a caster is concentrating on a spell and hit by multiple Magic Missiles, they need to roll a Constitution check (DC 10 or half the damage, if a missile somehow hits for over 20 :)) for each missile (PHB 203).
The Shield spell automatically negates all Magic Missile damage. The Shield spell has a specific interaction with Magic Missile.
Since Magic Missile darts deal damage simultaneously, all of Magic Missile’s damage can be negated if they all target a caster who uses the Shield spell; the Magic Missile-caster does not have a chance to reassign those darts.
Damage modifiers affect each Magic Missile bolt. Because you roll Magic Missile’s damage once, you add any modifiers to that roll once. However, because each missile is independent, modifiers end up being multiplicatively effective with Magic Missile.
Take Empowered Evocation, for example — Evocation Wizards’ 10th-level feature. It allows them to add their Intelligence modifier to the damage roll of any Wizard evocation spell. So if they have a +5 modifier, they’re effectively getting +15 total damage to their Magic Missile, when cast at 1st-level.
For every level you upcast Magic Missile above the first, you’d add an additional 5 damage. Here’s Jeremy Crawford settling a Reddit debate on the matter.
You can’t target objects with Magic Missile. Unfortunately, you can’t use Magic Missile like real arrows — they need to target a creature.
How Do I Use Magic Missile in 5e?
Magic Missile is a straightforward damage option at early levels, but it there are ways to optimize your use of the spell:
Breaking a caster’s concentration. One of the most popular applications of Magic Missile is forcing multiple concentration rolls for a caster who’s concentrating on a powerful spell. Since concentration rolls are either a DC of 10 or half the damage taken, the DC will almost certainly be 10.
Note that this is a Constitution check, so casters with high Constitution or proficiency in Consitution saving throws are less susceptible to this tactic.
Evocation Wizard’s best friend. At level 10, Wizards of the School of Evocation get to add their Intelligence modifier to to each bolt. That’s because of the cheeky one-roll nature of Magic Missile that makes it eligible for the Empowered Evocation effect (PHB 117).
A level 10 Wizard likely has a +4 or even +5 Intelligence modifier, basically guaranteeing an additional 12 or 15 damage on a guaranteed-to-land first-level spell.
There’s even crazier theory-crafting out there for really maximizing your damage, but I’ll leave that for the Magic Missile savants.
Spread the damage. Beyond all the crazy applications, Magic Missile is just a good way to clear out lots of low health baddies in an efficient way. Dropping a big spell on a single Goblin doesn’t make much sense, but smacking three of them for 5 damage each can make clean up a breeze.
Blasting through death saves. Some NPCs are epic enough to fall unconscious before dying, just like player characters. These baddies might seem extra resilient, but Magic Missile can make them as easily-slayable as your garden variety goblin.
Every time a creature takes any damage while at 0 hit points, they suffer a death saving throw failure (PHB 197). Three failures and they die. Does anyone remember how many missiles a 1st-level Magic Missile has? Oh, that’s right — three.
Who Can I Target With Magic Missile 5e?
You can target up to three creatures with Magic Missile at first level, plus one additional creature for each spell slot level above the first. This means you can target a maximum of 11 creatures with Magic Missile in one spell cast if used as a ninth-level spell.
Is Magic Missile 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Magic Missile is a good spell. It deals solid damage at low levels and continues to deal decent damage into the midgame. Additionally, not many foes are resistant to Force damage. Magic Missile is also guaranteed to land, giving you a consistent and safe option at all times.
Magic Missile continues to be incredibly powerful for Evocation Wizards into the late game, due to Empowered Evocation’s ability to grant each dart bonus damage equal to the caster’s Intelligence modifier.
Even if you’re not an Evocation Wizard, Magic Missile’s ability to force multiple Consitution checks against enemy spellcasters who are concentrating is incredibly useful. Not to mention that the decent spread damage for low health enemies keeps it relevant into the late game.
Magic Missile 5e DM Tips
There’s only one tip for DMs regarding Magic Missile: the player only rolls one d4, regardless of the spell slot level being expended. If you’ve misplayed Magic Missile in the past, it isn’t a big deal — the average damage works out to the same; it just becomes more consistent.
Simple Magic Missile Spell Text
Magic Missile: (1st-level, 120 feet, V/S) Create 3 darts that deal 1d4+1 Force damage each (roll once) to one or more creatures in range. The darts strike simultaneously. +1 dart for each spell slot level above 1st.