You flourish the weapon used in the casting and then vanish to strike like the wind. Choose up to five creatures you can see within range. Make a melee spell attack against each target. On a hit, a target takes 6d10 force damage.
You can then teleport to an unoccupied space you can see within 5 feet of one of the targets you hit or missed.
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 30 feet
Components: S, M (a melee weapon worth at least 1 sp)
School: 5th-level conjuration
Who can cast Steel Wind Strike? Rangers and Wizards have Steel Wind Strike on their class spell lists. No subclass gets Steel Wind Strike for free.
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, pg. 166
Steel Wind Strike 5e
Steel Wind Strike is an anime-like spell that allows the caster to dart around the battlefield attacking multiple enemies. It’s super cool, but also super confusing from a rules perspective.
I’ll go over how to optimize Steel Wind Strike in your next DnD game, as well as answer the most common questions about the spell’s rules.
How Does Steel Wind Strike Work in 5e?
Steel Wind Strike allows you to attack up to 5 creatures within 30 feet, dealing 6d10 (33 average) force damage to each creature you hit. At the end of your attacks, you can teleport to a space within 5 feet of a creature you attacked.
While the spell requires a melee weapon as a Material component, you’re not actually using it to attack; you’re making melee spell attacks. https://www.dndbeyond.com/sources/basic-rules/spellcasting#MaterialM You cannot attack the same creature twice; all five attacks must be against separate creatures.
How to Use Steel Wind Strike in 5e
Here are a few ways to use Steel Wind Strike in DnD 5e:
Use Invisibility to your advantage. Being invisible allows you to make attacks with advantage. While the Invisibility spell ends after you cast a spell or make an attack, it’s unclear whether this applies to only the first attack of Steel Wind Strike or all five (there are somewhat contradictory rules explanations from the game’s developers — more on that in the rules section below).
Either way, getting to start a fight by surprising your foes with this flurry of blows and being more likely to hit on (at least) one of the attacks is a huge boost.
Plus, if you’re using Greater Invisibility, there’s no rule ambiguity at all; all five of your attacks have advantage, which means more hits and more chances to land a critical hit. Perfect for Bladesinging Wizards who can set themselves up with Greater Invisibility beforehand.
Take a 3-level dip into Assassin Rogue. With the 3rd-level subclass feature, Assassinate, you have advantage on all creatures who haven’t taken a turn yet in combat — just as good as being invisible for those attacks. Add in the Elven Accuracy feat for triple advantage (3d20), and your chances to hit and crit go through the roof.
On top of that, if you’re able to surprise the foes (very DM-dependent, but invisibility and a good stealth modifier can make it nearly a sure thing), you automatically land critical hits on any creature you hit with the spell. That’s 12d10 (66 average) force damage on up to 5 creatures, totaling up ot 330 damage in your first round of combat — not too shabby!
And if your initiative is high (which with good Dexterity and the Alert feat is very doable), you can do it again on your next round (the attack advantage part for going before them in combat, not the auto-crits). Check out this Reddit post for even more optimization around this tactic.
Be a Swords Bard. While only Wizards and Rangers normally have access to Steel Wind Strike, a Bard can grab any spell they like with their 10th-level Magical Secrets feature. For an already dominant subclass, this can add a very cool, thematic, and effective spell to their arsenal.
What Are the Rules for Steel Wind Strike in 5e?
The rules for Steel Wind Strike in DnD 5e are as follows:
Steel Wind Strike is a spell attack. Not a weapon attack (Sage Advice). This means your weapon doesn’t matter for the spell’s damage. Even something like Shadow Blade or a Soulknife Rogue’s Psychic Blades will have no impact on Steel Wind Strike’s damage. Likewise, you can’t add a Paladin’s Divine Smite to any of Steel Wind Strike’s attacks, nor does using a +1 melee weapon add +1 to the spell’s attack roll or damage.
You cannot attack the same creature multiple times. If there are not five enemies in range, you’ll have to attack fewer (Sage Advice).
Steel Wind Strike does not make you invisible. While the word “vanish” is used in the spell description, you do not benefit from invisibility during your attacks (i.e., no free attack advantage) (Sage Advice).
If you cast steel wind strike, the spell doesn't make you invisible during its attacks. You do vanish from your starting location, as you start teleporting around the battlefield, but you blink into view as you make each attack and then teleport to your final destination. #DnD https://t.co/eYiFgFy8Ky
— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) February 13, 2018
It is unclear whether the Invisibility spell gives you attack advantage on all the spell’s attacks, or only the first one. I’ll present all the information from the game’s rules developers and let you make up your own mind.
Here we have a Twitter thread (that never made it onto Sage Advice) where Jeremy Crawford says that multiple attacks are sequential rather than simultaneous:
Multiple attacks on the same turn aren't simultaneous, unless a feature or spell says otherwise. https://t.co/6AHqYOcXKD
— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) June 27, 2015
Here we have a Sage Advice post where Jeremy Crawford says that the invisibility spell doesn’t end until AFTER you “make an attack or cast a spell.” This is a bit tricky to parse, since Steel Wind Strike involves multiple attacks; is invisibility over after you “make an attack” (the first attack) or after you “cast a spell” (complete all attacks). I dunno.
— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) August 8, 2017
And here we have Mike Mearls’ post on Sage Advice where he says that you have advantage on all three rays from Scorching Ray if you are invisible; not just the first one. Note that Mike Mearls’ tweets aren’t considered “as official” as Jeremy Crawford’s.
all 3 #WOTCstaff
— Mike Mearls (@mikemearls) September 25, 2016
None of these quotes made it into the Sage Advice Compendium, which is the “official” document for answering edge-case rules questions. What DID make it into the SAC is the answer that “even though the duration of each of these spells (Scorching Ray and Eldritch Blast) is instantaneous, you choose the targets and resolve the attacks consecutively, not all at once.”
Based on that, I think you break invisibility after the first attack of Steel Wind Strike, and so only have advantage on that one; not all five. BUT, I can see arguments for either side, so whatever your DM says (or whatever you say, if you are the DM :)) is the final ruling and should be respected by your table.
You are not within 5 feet of each target you hit. So if a target is prone, you have attack disadvantage against them (unless you happen to actually be standing 5 feet from them when you cast the spell, in which cast you have attack advantage). And if a target is paralyzed, you do not automatically land a critical hit on them (again, unless you are standing within 5 feet of them when you cast the spell).
Just because you’re making a “melee” spell attack against the foes in a 30-foot range, it does not mean you are actually within 5 feet of them for each strike…even if that’s what the flavor text and even Jeremy Crawford’s above tweet seems to indicate.
Just like Spiritual Weapon is a melee spell attack that YOU (not the weapon) make from 60+ feet away, or Thorn Whip is a melee spell attack from up to 30 feet away, in neither of those cases do you benefit from being within 5 feet of the target (because YOU aren’t).
— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) April 20, 2016
Basically, ignore the flavor text of the spell and don’t focus on the “melee” spell attack portion of the spell; you’re attacking creatures from 5-30 feet away from where you are the moment you cast Steel Wind Strike. Apply any rules that rely on distance from the target accordingly. E.g., Spirit Shroud’s bonus damage only applies to creatures within 10 feet of your position when you cast the spell.
You don’t have to teleport at the end of the spell cast. As the spell description says, “you can then teleport.” That doesn’t mean you must.
— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) December 17, 2015
— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) December 21, 2017
— Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford) February 13, 2018
Is Steel Wind Strike 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Steel Wind Strike is a good spell. Let’s compare it to Fireball, which deals 11d6 (38.5 average) fire damage to creatures in a 20-foot radius at 6th-level. It deals half damage if a creature passes their Dexterity saving throw.
Steel Wind Strike deals up to 6d10 (33 average) force damage to up to 5 creatures in a 30-foot radius (around the caster). It can also land critical hits, doubling that damage…but it deals 0 damage if an attack misses.
Let’s assume no critical hits and two misses for Steel Wind Strike — 99 total average damage.
Let’s assume three failed saves and two successful saves for Fireball — 154 total average damage.
BUT, Fireball requires that enemies be more grouped up than Steel Wind Strike, with 33% less area of effect (although a much greater 150-foot range). And fire damage is the second most heavily-resisted/immune damage type in the game, whereas force damage is the least common resistance/immunity.
And Steel Wind Strike allows for an up to 30-foot teleport as well, which is great for repositioning without fearing opportunity attacks. And Steel Wind Strike can be optimized, what with critical hits and attack advantage.
Overall, Steel Wind Strike makes up for its lower average damage with utility and the greater potential for optimization through other features and abilities.
Obviously, Fireball is still the premier AoE spell in 5e, but Steel Wind Strike keeps up with it, in my opinion. Plus, it’s just thematically cool.
Steel Wind Strike 5e DM Tips
A common refrain I’ve heard from players is that Steel Wind Strike comes online way too late for Rangers, who only get access to 5th-level spells at 17th level. And since it’s thematically super cool for them, that’s a shame.
I tend to agree with them, but how to balance the spell for lower levels?
My idea: make a 2nd-level spell that can target up to 2 creatures, dealing 2d10 damage to each and allowing the teleport. Then, upscale the damage and number of targets by +1d10 and +1 target per spell slot level. (adding an additional 1d10 at 5th-level to maintain the damage of the actual spell).
Admittedly, this is a bit strong at low levels. But, hey, it’s not like Rangers are anywhere near being an overpowered class overall, so what’s the harm?
I wouldn’t allow this on a Wizard, though. Those guys are fine as is.