Chromatic Orb D&D 5e Spell Guide: Rules, Uses & TipsThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Ever feel like enemies keep resisting your main damage type?
Ever want to throw a magical baseball at your enemies?
Well Chromatic Orb can help fill both these needs and more. So let’s analyze it.
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 90 Feet
Components: Verbal, Somatic, Material (A Diamond worth 50 Gold Pieces)
So basically, you hurl a magical baseball at a creature, choosing between six different damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, poison, thunder. And it does 3d8 damage on a hit.
Its material component is not consumed, but you need to make an initial investment to do it.
Who Gets It?
First off, Chromatic Orb is available to sorcerers and wizards.
Since the spell targets a single enemy, it is an option for the sorcerer’s Twinned Spell metamagical ability.
Besides the classes that get this as an option on their spell list, both Arcane Trickster Rogues and Eldritch Knight Fighters gain access to the wizard spell list in some capacity, allowing them to also use this spell.
All classes can gain this spell from the magic initiate feat as well.
Chromatic Orb Uses
Being one of the most powerful first level spells, being able to deal 3d8 of an assortment of different damage types can be very useful.
Fire can be a very useful damage type, as certain enemies like trolls can have their regeneration stalled by fire, and enemies like mummies are vulnerable to it.
Shambling Mound comes your way? Cold and Fire damages aren’t great options, so hit it with some acid or poison?
Basically, if you find enemies resistant to the damage type you throw at it, try and try again.
Chromatic Orb also has a very good range, allowing you to harass enemies at a distance that will require 2-3 turns to cover.
Chromatic Orb Spell Comparisons
So let’s compare Chromatic Orb to a few first level spells that wizards or sorcerers may find useful.
Magic Missile and Witch Bolt, which are available to both wizards and sorcerers, and the sorcerer’s Chaos Bolt, which is very similar to Chromatic Orb.
vs. Magic Missile
Magic Missile, when cast at a first level spell slot, allows the user to fire 3 magical darts that automatically hit, and each hit does 1d4+1 force damage.
One roll is made and all darts do the same damage.
So on average, Magic Missile does 10.5 force damage, compared to the 13.5 damage that Chromatic Orb puts out on average.
So from a raw damage per turn perspective, Chromatic Orb is better.
However, Magic Missile is more accurate. And force damage is probably the best damage type that doesn’t come from magical slashing/bludgeoning/piercing.
So both are good in their own right.
Vs. Witch Bolt
Next, Witch Bolt.
Witch Bolt is a concentration spell unlike the other two, having a concentration of 1 minute.
It does an average of 6.5 lightning damage per turn, and requires a ranged spell attack, doing 1d12 lightning damage on a hit.
However once it hits, you can use an action each turn to automatically deal an additional 1d12 each turn as long as it remains within thirty feet of you, and is not in total cover.
So Witch Bolt is remarkably less powerful than Chromatic Orb. But can do a more consistent damage output, falling somewhere between Magic Missile and Chromatic Orb.
Vs. Chaos Bolt
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything gave us one of the most fun sorcerer spells in Chaos Bolt.
Chaos Bolt allows you to throw a mass of chaotic energy at one creature in range. Make a ranged spell attack, and on a hit, the target does 2d8+1d6 damage.
You can choose one of the two d8s, and that number determines damage type. Have a peek at this page for a damage type table
Chaos Bold does 2d8+1d6 damage as a bolt of chaotic energy hits a target.
Depending on what you roll for the 2d8, that gives you options to pick for your damage type.
If you roll doubles the spell jumps to another creature, allowing you to make an attack roll against an additional target.
Then you roll again for damage.
If you roll doubles again, it can keep going as long as there are targets you haven’t hit, since it can only hit each enemy once per cast.
So Chaos Bolt could potentially do infinite damage based on the number of enemies you have.
Chromatic Orb is more consistent, doing an extra point of damage on average, but Chaos Bolt has better range & could potentially do more damage.
Chromatic Orb Build Ideas
The biggest flaw of Chromatic Orb is the fact it requires that 50 gp material component.
On average, wizards have 110 starting gold, with 10 of that coming from the background. You need to hit this average to afford this.
Since a Spellbook and the small diamond each cost 50 GP and would both be needed, you’d elect to use mage armor over normal armor, with using a staff (5 gp) as an arcane focus and traveler’s clothes (2 gp) for obvious reasons.
Sorcerer’s only get an average of 70 gold pieces to start, but don’t have to buy that pesky spell book, so substitute an explorer’s kit for that, which is 40 less gold.
There isn’t really a wizard subclass that Chromatic Orb is best suited for.
Rather it works with all of them.
Sure, school of Evocation has a great 10th level feature that could help. But cantrips outpace lower level spells at that point.
High Elfs and Forest Gnomes can be good choices, but Wizards only need their Intelligence Bonus.
If you opt to take the Elemental Adept feat, this can be really awesome to pair with chromatic orb, especially fire or cold.
Elemental Adept allows you to ignore resistance to one of acid, cold, fire, lightning, and thunder, as you can see all options for Chromatic Orb.
You also can treat a 1 on the damage die as a 2.
Draconic Ancestry also allows you to select a dragon associated with acid, cold, fire, lightning or poison, leaving acid, cold, fire, or lightning as the go to choices.
You gain more hit points, and potentially a high armor class from draconic resilience, which are both useful for squishy sorcerers.
Elemental Affinity allows you to do even more damage for your preferred damage type, adding your charisma to one of the rolls, allowing even more damage and allowing you to spend a sorcery point to gain resistance to said damage for one hour.
With Metamagic and Draconic Bloodline, you could fire off a quickened chromatic orb and a twinned firebolt.
Since one of the two attacks with this has to be a cantrip, it can also be a quickened fire bolt and a twinned chromatic orb, which is possible at level 3 since it requires 3 sorcery points to pull it off.
So it can do 3d8 fire damage to one target, and 1d10 fire damage to two targets, or 3d8 fire damage to two targets and 1d10 fire damage to one target.
So either 13.5 + 11 fire damage to one target, and 11 to another, or 13.5 +11 fire damage to one target, and 13.5 damage to another on average every turn.
This isn’t even factoring in the bonuses!
Depending on DM’s allowing it, or to swap the fire element with others at a DM’s discretion, by level 6 you gain resistance to fire damage.
And you can ignore resistance without the feat, and can deal 3 additional fire damage to creatures of your choice within 10 feet if you use a 1st or higher level spell that does fire damage.