You unleash a string of insults laced with subtle enchantments at a creature you can see within range. If the target can hear you (though it need not understand you), it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or take 1d4 psychic damage and have disadvantage on the next attack roll it makes before the end of its next turn.
This spell’s damage increases by 1d4 when you reach 5th level (2d4), 11th level (3d4), and 17th level (4d4).
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 60 feet
School: Enchantment cantrip
Player’s Handbook, pg. 285
Vicious Mockery 5e
Vicious Mockery is a classic, Bard-exclusive cantrip that’s sure to create memorable moments at any Dungeons and Dragons table. A spell that attacks an enemy’s psyche by insulting them is just plain fun.
But Vicious Mockery isn’t just for flavor — it’s an impactful spell that contributes both offensively and defensively in combat situations. This article will cover how the spell works and the best ways to use it.
Who Can Cast Vicious Mockery in 5e?
The following classes have Vicious Mockery on their spell list:
No subclasses get Vicious Mockery for free.
What Does Vicious Mockery Do in 5e?
Vicious Mockery forces a target to make a Wisdom saving throw. If they fail, they take 1d4 (2.5 average) psychic damage and have disadvantage on the next attack roll they make before the end of its next turn.
The creature only needs to be able to hear the caster; they don’t need to understand them.
As with most damaging cantrips, Vicious Mockery gains an extra damage die at levels 5, 11, and 17.
What Are the Rules for Vicious Mockery in 5e?
The rules for Vicious Mockery in DnD 5e are as follows:
Immunity to psychic damage doesn’t grant immunity to Vicious Mockery’s rider effect. This was confirmed by the game’s developers. If a psychic-immune target fails their saving throw against Vicious Mockery, they still have disadvantage on their next attack — they just don’t take any damage from the spell.
It only affects one attack roll. So if a creature has Multiattack, they only have disadvantage on the first attack roll they make, not all of them. This is not limited to weapon attack; spells with attack rolls also have disadvantage.
You still need line of sight to target a creature. According to the game’s rules, “to target something, you must have a clear path to it, so it can’t be behind total cover” (PHB 204). Vicious Mockery doesn’t get around this by being sound-based; you still need to have a clear path to your target.
On top of that, your target needs to be able to hear, so they can’t be deafened.
The words used to cast Vicious Mockery are separate from the words of the insult itself. From the game’s rules, “Most spells require the chanting of mystic words. The words themselves aren’t the source of the spell’s power; rather, the particular combination of sounds, with specific pitch and resonance, sets the threads of magic in motion” (PHB 203).
Additionally, the game’s developers ruled that the Verbal component of the Suggestion spell is separate from the suggestion itself: “Verbal components are mystic words. The spell’s suggestion is a separate, intelligible utterance.”
Given that Vicious Mockery makes no mention of breaking this general rule, I can only assume that the developers would rule the same way about Vicious Mockery. This means that you cannot cast Vicious Mockery without the target noticing, unless you’re using the Sorcerer’s Subtle Spell metamagic.
However, players and DMs are split pretty evenly on how they rule/think it should be ruled. This Reddit thread shows that slightly more than half of 540 voters thought that Vicious Mockery should be castable in normal conversation without being noticeable.
In other words, this one’s ultimately up to your DM.
How Do I Use Vicious Mockery in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Vicious Mockery in DnD 5e:
Protect allies. Vicious Mockery’s damage might not be great, but it’s excellent as a defensive debuff. Disadvantage on an attack roll is very impactful — even more on an attack against your high-AC frontline. And if your insult target attacks a squishy backliner (like yourself), they’ll be that much less likely to land a hit.
Use it as your default option. Cantrips are the fallback action to take when there’s nothing worth wasting a spell slot on. For Warlocks, that’s Eldritch Blast. For Clerics, it’s Toll the Dead or Sacred Flame. For Sorcerers, it’s often Fire Bolt.
And for Bards, it’s almost always Vicious Mockery. And it’s a great staple spell to spam — low on damage, but big on consistent and reliable support. Wisdom saving throws are also generally pretty bad on enemies, so you’ve got a higher chance of landing this against an enemy than many of the attack roll- or Dexterity save-based cantrips.
Get creative (or use an insult generator). Vicious Mockery is just fun to use — make the most of it by leaning into the trash-talking nature of the spell. DMs might even reward you for an especially good line. Even if they don’t, you’ll make the session that much more memorable.
And if you don’t like the roleplaying aspect of the spell, you can always use an insult or Vicious Mockery generator. Or just skip the RP entirely if the whole thing feels tiresome to deal with.
Pair with Subtle Spell metamagic. So, we mentioned in the rules above that the verbal component of Vicious Mockery isn’t the insult itself. But with Subtle Spell, you can ignore the verbal component and just deliver the insult (and deal damage) without the target knowing you’ve cast a spell.
This doesn’t have much practical application, but it is pretty neat (and dark) to have a character who can literally talk somebody to death by attacking them with insults while they slowly roast in psychic pain, unaware of what’s happening.
This also requires either a Sorcerer multiclass dip or picking up the Metamagic Adept feat (TCoE 80).
Who Can I Target With Vicious Mockery 5e?
You can target any creature who you can see and isn’t deafened with Vicious Mockery. The target needs to be able to hear your words, but does not need to be able to understand them.
Is Vicious Mockery 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Vicious Mockery is a good spell. Wisdom is one of the lowest average ability scores among creatures in DnD 5e, so it has a greater chance of landing against most targets than a ranged spell attack.
And while Vicious Mockery’s damage is the worst possible of any cantrip, its rider effect is quite strong. Disadvantage, even on just one attack roll, is a powerful condition to apply consistently.
Vicious Mockery 5e DM Tips
I touched on the “can Vicious Mockery be cast in normal conversation” debate in the rules section. For my two cents, I think that the spell should totally be castable in this way.
It comes down to this — is it a really significant power creep to give a player a de facto Subtle Spell metamagic for a cantrip they’ll cast in combat 99% of the time anyway? My feeling is that as long as a player isn’t spamming this out-of-combat tactic to get away with murder-hoboing commoners, it’s unlikely to be annoying or overpowered.
My other DM tip for Vicious Mockery is to reward creativity. If a player comes up with a sick burn that’s original and applies to the situation or target of the spell in an incredibly apt way, give them something for it.
The two most common choices are either Inspiration (advantage on a d20 roll of their choice at a later time) or giving the creature disadvantage on their Wisdom saving throw (because the insult is so good that it’s tougher to resist than normal).
Both are great ways to reward players for thinking on their feet.