In a darkened cave, a band of adventures faces off against a terrifying beholden. The aberration's central eye glows with eldritch power while its smaller eyes flit around the chamber, sizing up each member of the group.
Zira, the party's gnome wizard, knows this abomination must be stopped before it brings doom upon the village above. As her companions charge at the beast, swords and spells at the ready, she utters a few mystical words under her breath.
A faint whisper tickles the beholden’s mind. Suddenly, one of its eyestalks goes slack. The creature burbles in confusion, a look of dumb incomprehension on its face. Seizing the opportunity, the party’s attacks crash over the off-balance monster. It staggers under the onslaught, unable to muster its otherworldly might.
With another whisper, Zira’s cantrip strikes again. The final eyestalk droops as mental fog clouds the beholden’s mind. Her allies let out a cheer as their spells and strikes fell the once-fearsome aberration.
As the dust settles, the party surrounds Zira, peppering her with praise and questions. “What did you do to that monster?” asks the dragonborn paladin.
“Just a little cantrip I picked up recently,” Zira says with a wry smile. “It's called mind sliver…”
Much like Zira's timely cantrip, the mind sliver spell can turn the tide of battle, toppling even legendary foes. This potent cantrip is one of the most overlooked gems introduced in the D&D 5e sourcebook Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.
Mind sliver deals modest psychic damage, but its true power comes from the secondary effect—the target has a 1d4 penalty applied to their next saving throw before the start of the caster's next turn.
This cantrip is the bane of brutes and beasts everywhere. A cunning caster can use mind sliver to systematically dismantle the abilities and advantages of any foe. As we'll see, creative applications of this cantrip open up a realm of possibilities.
In this exhaustive guide, we’ll explore what makes mind sliver tick, from its spell description to optimal uses. We’ll also highlight character builds, magic items, and techniques that maximize its potential.
So listen closely, and we'll share all the secrets to mastering the unexpected power of mind sliver!
Understanding Mind Sliver's Spell Description
Before unleashing mind sliver, it pays to understand exactly what this cantrip does. Here's the full description of mind sliver from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything:
You drive a disorienting spike of psychic energy into the mind of one creature you can see within range. The target must make an Intelligence saving throw. Unless the saving throw is successful, the target takes 1d6 psychic damage and has disadvantage on the next saving throw it makes before the end of your next turn.
This spell’s damage increases by 1d6 when you reach certain levels: 5th level (2d6), 11th level (3d6), and 17th level (4d6).
The key points are:
- It targets Intelligence saving throws instead of a physical ability score like Constitution or Strength.
- On a failed save, it deals 1d6 psychic damage. This scales up at higher character levels.
- It imposes a 1d4 penalty to the target's next saving throw before the caster's next turn.
- The range is 60 feet, and the only component is verbal.
Let's break this down in more detail…
Targeting Intelligence Saves
Mind sliver is unique among cantrips in that it calls for an Intelligence saving throw instead of Dexterity, Constitution, Wisdom, or another common save.
This is excellent news against monsters like raging barbarians, treant protectors, and other brutes with high physical ability scores but poor mental ones. Even mighty dragons often lag in Intelligence compared to Strength or Constitution.
Furthermore, Intelligence is by far the least common saving throw proficiency for monsters to possess. By targeting this uncommon save, mind sliver gains a demonstrable accuracy advantage over cantrips like toll the dead and others that target frequently high and proficient-boosted saves.
Of course, this advantage vanishes against more cerebral foes like mind flayers, aboleths, and archmages. But even the most cunning villains falter before mind sliver's power. We'll detail how to cripple these mental masters later!
Psychic Sneak Attack
The 1d6 psychic damage dealt by mind sliver is underwhelming at first glance, especially compared to vicious mockery's scaling 1d4 or toll the dead's beefy 1d12 necrotic damage.
However, psychic is phenomenal as a damage type, for two key reasons:
Firstly, it's one of the rarest damage types for monsters to possess immunity or resistance against. In fact, only two monsters in the entire Monster Manual have psychic immunity (the demilich and guardian naga), and four have resistance (the couatl, allip, nightmare, and nighthag).
Secondly, psychic damage rarely appears on player abilities and spells, so monsters are unlikely to be designed with the intent of countering it through immunities or resistance.
This means mind sliver can chip away at foes almost entirely unimpeded. The relative rarity of psychic damage immunity strongly positions mind sliver as an “always useful” cantrip ready for any situation.
Saving Throw Debuff
Here's where mind sliver truly excels. The penalty to the target's next saving throw is monumentally impactful thanks to D&D 5e's bounded accuracy system.
Reducing a saving throw by 1d4 makes it meaningfully more likely that the next major spell or effect will land.
When every +1 matters, a 1d4 reduction is huge. This can transform a failed hold person or disintegrate into a success, or cause a frightening dragon's breath attack to finally connect.
And because it's a cantrip, there's no reason not to cast mind sliver every single turn. An optimized caster can erode saving throws constantly without expending any resources.
Even highly resilient monsters will crumble after round upon round of debuffs, leaving them wide open to a party member's save-or-suck spell landing decisively.
Toppling Titans – Optimal Uses of Mind Sliver
Now that we understand the fundamentals of the spell, let's explore some of the optimal and most creative applications of mind sliver across different scenarios:
Suppressing Legendary Resistances
Legendary monsters possess limited uses of legendary resistance, allowing them to automatically succeed on failed saving throws. Mind sliver is the bane of these limited-use abilities.
By repeatedly targeting a legendary monster with mind sliver, the caster can rapidly drain its supply of legendary resistances. This leaves the monster exposed to the full brunt of devastating spells and abilities.
A clever party can coordinate to hold their most potent effects until mind sliver has eroded the monster's defenses in this way.
Shutting Down Enemy Spellcasters
Does your party face off against pesky enemy casters? Mind sliver shines at disrupting a spellcaster's concentration, eliminating ongoing control spells.
Whenever a creature takes damage, they must succeed on a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration. Mind sliver can weaken this concentration check, causing critical spells like banishment and dominate person to fizzle out prematurely.
Smart players will use mind sliver to target casters first, cutting off the flow of enemy buffs and battlefield control.
Triggering Save-Dependent Effects
Some of the most powerful spells and class features have extra effects when the target fails its initial saving throw. Mind sliver combines potently with these save-dependent abilities.
For example, a paladin's divine smite or a warlock's eldritch smite deals extra damage if the target fails its saving throw against the weapon attack.
A sorcerer's careful spell metamagic or an evoker wizard's sculpt spell ability protects allies from damage on successful saves – made less likely by mind sliver.
Even cantrips like chill touch gain improved functionality from mind sliver, as chill touch prevents healing when the target fails its save.
Maximizing Action Economy
Action economy is a key factor in 5e combat. Mind sliver dovetails perfectly into several potent combos that maximize actions per round.
The most notorious is using Quickened Spell metamagic as a sorcerer to cast mind sliver, then immediately follow up with a dangerous spell to benefit from the debuff.
Multiclass characters like sorcerer/warlocks can alternate between mind sliver and empowered Eldritch Blasts to annihilate foes.
Features like Action Surge, Cunning Action, and the fighter's Improved War Magic allow characters to insert more mind slivers into their tactical repertoire.
When two casters coordinate by combining mind slivers, the results can be devastating.
For example, a sorcerer and wizard could both cast mind sliver on the same turn. This could impose a 1d4 + 1d4 penalty to the next save, dramatically increasing the odds of a failed save on a crucial hold monster or disintegrate follow-up.
The key is manipulating action economy and turn order to “set up” the payload spell or effect. Mind sliver enables exciting combo potential.
Crippling Monsters with Recurring Saves
Some of the most dangerous monsters have recharge abilities that activate on a failed recurring save at the end of each round. Mind sliver combines potently with these monsters.
For example, a beholder's terrifying Death Ray recharges on a 5-6. By using mind sliver to penalize this roll, the caster can potentially prevent the beholder from using its deadliest ability for multiple rounds.
The same concept applies to medusas, basilisks, nagas, and any monster with abilities contingent on a recharge roll. Denying Actions Through Debilitating Conditions
Certain conditions imposed by powerful spells can render a creature unable to take actions or reactions. Mind sliver makes landing these incapacitating conditions much more likely.
Hold person, hold monster, flesh to stone, and power word stun all incapacitate the target on a failed initial save. Mind sliver can help secure victory against even legendary foes.
The stunned condition is particularly devastating, robbing a creature of actions and reactions. A mind sliver before a synaptic static or stun-inducing smite makes landing this brutal condition almost guaranteed.
Splicing Mind Sliver into Skill Checks
Ability checks are the unsung hero of mind sliver's capabilities. The penalty applies not just to saving throws but also any other d20 rolls like ability checks or attack rolls.
Clever casters can use mind sliver to cripple monsters before initiating important skill contests like grapples, shoves, and counterspell duels. The debuff also works on initiative rolls, practically guaranteeing you'll act before an affected enemy.
With an arcana check, mind sliver can foil a monster's attempt to counterspell a crucial spell by imposing disadvantage on their ability check. The possibilities here are limited only by creativity.
Exploiting Unique Targeting Options
Certain spells and abilities allow targeting of additional statistics beyond just saving throws. Mind sliver combines potently with these effects.
The warlock's hex and a paladin's vow both enable rolling an additional damage die when the target makes an ability check or attack roll before the spell ends.
This synergizes exceptionally well with mind sliver, causing hexed enemies to suffer further from the 1d4 penalty on such rolls.
Meanwhile, effects like cutting words and illusory script impose penalties when a creature makes an ability check, which mind sliver makes more likely to occur before the end of your next turn.
Increasing Damage Over Time
Not all of mind sliver's combinations need to focus on the next immediate save. It also combines well with damage over time effects.
For example, spiritual weapon forces a creature damaged by it to make a Wisdom save at disadvantage or suffer additional damage at the start of their next turn.
Mind sliver can make them far more likely to fail this recurring save and take amplified damage each round spiritual weapon persists.
The same concept functions with flame sphere, Melf's acid arrow, phantasmal force, and other effects with recurring saving throws. Mind sliver almost guarantees increased damage and debuff duration.
Specialized Selections – Character Builds
Now that we've seen mind sliver's flexibility in action, let's examine some of the most potent classes, subclasses, feats, and races to maximize its capabilities:
The quintessential mind sliver class. Metamagic like Quickened Spell, Twinned Spell, and Heightened Spell all combine incredibly with mind sliver for action economy tricks and devastating save penalties. Experienced players will get the most bang for their buck with a Sorcerer.
Eldritch Blast invocations like Repelling Blast and Grasp of Hadar work flawlessly with mind sliver, allowing warlocks to turn failed saves into forced movement triggering environmental hazards. Short rest spell slot recovery allows endless cantrip spam.
The wizard's Spell Mastery synergizes beautifully with mind sliver. Being able to cast it without expending spell slots enables reliable application of the debuff round after round. Diviner wizards can manipulate initiative rolls to act before weakened enemies.
With access to mind sliver through Magical Secrets, bards gain an invaluable tool for dismantling formidable enemies. Cutting Words imposes further penalties on vital ability checks. Eloquence bards squeeze additional value through Unsettling Words and shift action economy with Mantle of Inspiration.
Clockwork Soul Sorcerer
Restore Balance enables additional saving throw penalties that stack with mind sliver. You can potentially strip away entire swathes of a creature's saving throw bonus. Trance of Order allows you to “store” mind slivers for back-to-back use when needed.
Aberrant Mind Sorcerer
A sleeper pick, but the ability to subtly cast mind sliver using sorcery points makes Aberrant Mind tricky to detect. Heightening mind sliver with sorcery points guarantees failed saves. Access to Dissonant Whispers causes damage on failed saves.
Manifest Mind lets you potentially concentrate on mind sliver while having an awakened spellbook concentrate on a crucial debuff like banishment. Awakened spellbook only makes one check, meaning mind sliver gives it advantage for the entire spell duration.
An obvious choice for more metamagic, enabling more frequent use of Empowered Spell and Heightened Spell. Careful Spell has great synergy on a blaster. Subtle Spell enhances stealthy casting.
Gift access to hex and consistent source of 1d6 bonus psychic damage to mind sliver. Combine with Hexblade's Curse on a warlock for extreme damage scaling.
Bonus action shoving synergizes with Repelling Blast to push enemies across the battlefield, potentially forcing opportunity attacks. Excellent source of forced movement.
Enables subtle communication from a distance to coordinate mind sliver timing and set up combos with allied casters.
Grabbing mind sliver itself as the free cantrip opens up the combo potential to non-full casters through multiclassing.
Magic Resistance imposed disadvantage on saving throws to resist your spells. Poison Immunity prevents one of the deadliest damage types from affecting you. A fantastic choice.
Lucky racial trait combined with Bountiful Luck feet enables critical save rerolls for yourself or allies to land a key effect after a quickened mind sliver.
Advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saves make you adept at resisting mind sliver yourself. The Intelligence boost aids your spell save DC.
Advantage on spell saves helps maintain concentration when using mind sliver offensively. Magic Resistance hypothetically protects your debuffs from being counterspelled.
Fey Step’s forced movement keeps you at optimum range for spells. Winter makes targets easier to hit with mind sliver, while Summer imposes further penalties on failed saves.
Gearing Up – Magic Items
Magic items can bring mind sliver to even greater heights. Here are some of our top picks for augmenting the cantrip:
Allowing an additional use of a cantrip per turn, this essentially doubles your mind sliver output. Few items enable more rapid erosion of enemy saving throws.
Increasing the spell save DC of your mind slivers makes failures virtually guaranteed. The extra damage also keeps your cantrip relevant even at high levels when rival cantrips taper off.
Staff of Power
Regaining expended spell slots equals more mind slivers. The various defensive boosts also enhance your survivability while using the cantrip up close.
Robe of the Archmagi
Similar to the staff of power, reprieving expended spell slots keeps your mind sliver uses flowing all day. The AC and save bonuses stack to make you nearly untouchable.
Ring of Spell Storing
Store mind slivers for allies to unleash against formidable foes. The ability to stockpile your signature cantrip makes coordinating combos even easier.
Cloak of Displacement
Impose disadvantage on attack rolls against you while within 5 feet of an enemy. Combined with your AC and saves, this enables aggressive positioning to unleash maximized mind slivers.
Wrapping Up – Conclusion
After reading this exhaustive guide, you now comprehend even subtle nuances of the mind sliver cantrip. You understand precisely why it's one of the most underappreciated and underestimated spells in all of D&D 5th edition.
From its uncommon damage type and secondary rider effect to advanced combos and item synergies, mind sliver enables creative and cunning casters to control the battlefield like no other cantrip.
No titan is safe from its mental disruption, no dragon immune from the extra failed saves it causes. Use this guide as inspiration in your games. Experiment with novel combinations, customized builds, and clever tactical maneuvers highlighted herein.
The next time your party faces imposing villains beyond their skill, remember Zira the Wizard. With a whisper, she toppled behemoths. Now go unleash mind sliver, and turn the tide of your own adventures!