The shrill shrieks of the harpies echoed through the narrow canyon as our party desperately tried to escape their ambush. Their songs compelled half our group to jump off the cliffside to their deaths before we even knew what was happening. Just when it seemed we would share the same gruesome fate, our druid called upon the power of nature itself. Thorny brambles and spikes burst violently from the canyon floor, shredding the harpies’ talons as they swooped towards us. Their horrid singing turned to wails of agony as they tried to fly through the spiked terrain. One by one they fell bloodied and lifeless to the ground. With that, our druid smiled knowingly and ended his concentration on the spell. We had just witnessed the awesome might of Spike Growth.
This guide contains everything you need to master one of the deadliest and most versatile spells in the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons – Spike Growth. We’ll cover how and when to cast it, combo strategies, maximizing damage, mechanics breakdowns, and creative applications across campaigns, subclasses, and multiclass builds. The spell that saved us from the harpy ambush can elevate your gameplay to unimaginable heights, once you unlock its true potential. So prepare yourself for a journey into the heart of primal magic, where balance between life and death hangs by the thorns. This is your definitive handbook for total domination through Spike Growth.
What Exactly is Spike Growth?
Before unleashing Spike Growth’s thorny wrath upon your foes, it’s important to understand what exactly this potent spell does. Here is the full description from the 5e Player’s Handbook:
The ground in a 20-foot radius centered on a point within range twists and sprouts hard spikes and thorns. The area becomes difficult terrain for the duration. When a creature moves into or within the area, it takes 2d4 piercing damage for every 5 feet it travels.
Some key details:
- Spike Growth affects a 20-foot radius sphere of ground, which equals about a 40-foot diameter area.
- The terrain becomes overgrown with spikes and thorns that make it difficult to traverse. This is known as “difficult terrain” in 5e.
- Any creature that moves into or inside the spiked area takes automatic piercing damage equal to 2d4 per every 5 feet traveled.
- There is no attack roll or saving throw needed for this damage. If something moves through the spikes, it takes damage guaranteed.
- The spell lasts for up to 10 minutes, requiring concentration.
So in summary, Spike Growth blankets a significant portion of the battlefield in painful spiked terrain that damages anyone trying to move through it. Let’s analyze why this relatively simple 2nd-level spell is considered one of the most powerful control and damage options in 5e.
The Power and Versatility of Spike Growth
Spike Growth punches far above its weight class. Despite being only a 2nd-level spell, it has the damage potential and control power of high-level magic. There are several reasons why it is regarded as a top-tier pick:
The lack of any saving throw or attack roll for its damage is extremely rare, especially among area of effect spells. Instead of rolling and hoping enemies fail, Spike Growth delivers its painful spike damage automatically. This makes its damage incredibly reliable.
The 2d4 piercing damage may not seem like much at first, but it adds up fast. If a creature moves 20 feet through the spikes, that’s 8d4 or 20 average damage from a single 2nd-level spell! Most spells require upcasting to reach this damage potential.
The difficult terrain halves movement speeds, allowing you to control positioning. You can use Spike Growth to block off chokepoints, prevent enemies from reaching your backline, or corral them into killboxes.
Spike Growth combos insanely well with forced movement abilities. Just a simple cantrip like Thorn Whip can drag enemies across the spikes for big damage. We’ll explore these powerful synergies soon.
The 10-minute duration means Spike Growth can keep dealing damage round after round. Its value continues through the course of a battle rather than being a one-time effect.
Of course, Spike Growth isn’t flawless. The spell doesn’t affect flying creatures, has a limited area, and concentration can be broken. But these minor limitations are far outweighed by the sheer damage, control, and versatility Spike Growth brings to the table. There’s no doubt this primal spell earns its place among the top tiers of D&D magic.
Maximizing Your Use of Spike Growth
Now that you understand why Spike Growth is so powerful, let’s discuss how to optimize its impact by using clever placement and pairing it with other spells and abilities. Here are some tips and strategies for getting the most mileage out of Spike Growth:
Positioning the area of effect carefully is crucial. Cast it in a tight corridor to block off a path completely. Center it over hazardous terrain that you want to cut off. Place it between the enemies and your ranged characters. Obscure it with environmental effects like Fog Cloud so enemies wander in unaware.
As mentioned earlier, combining Spike Growth with forced movement is key to its full damage potential. Forced movement abilities can drag, push, or slide enemies through the spikes without needing voluntary movement on their part. Some excellent options include:
- Thorn Whip cantrip (pulls targets 10 feet closer)
- Eldritch Blast invocations like Grasp of Hadar (pull 10 feet) and Repelling Blast (push 10 feet)
- Telekinetic feat (push/pull targets 15 feet)
- Gust of Wind and Thunderwave spells to push groups away from you
An often overlooked tactic is to grapple enemies next to the edge of the Spiked area, then move through it while dragging them along. This avoids friendly fire and almost guarantees the grappled target takes damage.
Entangle and Restraints:
Layering Entangle, Web, or other restraining effects over the Spiked area keeps enemies stuck in place unable to avoid taking damage each round.
Shutting down enemy spellcasters so they can’t teleport or fly away from your Spike Growth is brutally effective.
Use the environment to make Spike Growth inescapable. Cast it on bridges, rope ladders, or cliffsides to force movement through the spikes. Topple trees onto it to further block movement options.
With clever placement and ability synergies, you can easily deal more damage consistently with Spike Growth than equivalent level spells like Flaming Sphere, Moonbeam, and Call Lightning. But you need to be thoughtful in your usage rather than just dropping it anywhere. Practice makes perfect!
Comprehensive Spike Growth Mechanics Explained
Let’s dig into the specific mechanics of how Spike Growth operates. Understanding the intricacies of its effects allows you to maximize value and avoid mistakes. Here are some key details:
This does not stack with existing difficult terrain. Any terrain becomes difficult once spiked, halving standard movement. This prevents running through quickly.
Damage is based on total distance traveled, not speed spent. So a hasted creature takes more damage by moving farther even though its speed remains the same.
Unlike some AoE spells, Spike Growth doesn’t deal extra damage to larger creatures. A giant takes the same 2d4 per 5 feet as a goblin would. Only distance traveled matters.
Creatures who didn’t see the spell cast must make this check against your save DC to know the area is hazardous before entering. So enemies might blunder into the spikes unknowingly.
Spike Growth doesn’t do recurring damage at the start of turns like Moonbeam. Damage only occurs from moving into or through the area. Staying still avoids damage.
Jeremy Crawford has confirmed forced movement like shoving triggers Spike Growth damage even though it’s technically involuntary. Only willing movement is excluded.
Spike Growth is not inherently detectable as a magical effect unless a creature saw it being cast. So its thorns appear as natural terrain.
Keeping these key details in mind allows you to utilize the spell to its fullest potential in combat and explore creative applications outside of battles as well.
Classes, Subclasses, and Feats for Spike Growth
While Spike Growth is on the Druid and Ranger spell lists, several subclasses and feats can provide access to it as well. Understanding how to obtain this powerful spell across different classes unlocks additional build opportunities. Here are some proven options:
Circle of the Land Druids gain access to Spike Growth at 3rd level when choosing the Underdark terrain. Moon Druids get it normally at 5th level. Strong synergy with Wild Shape mobility.
Land Stride at 6th level allows Rangers to cross Spike Growth unimpeded, letting you cast it under yourself. Horizon Walkers also get it at 5th level.
These clerics gain Spike Growth at 5th level, bringing divine Spikes to the battlefield. Combos well with Spirit Guardians.
The Dao Genie patron provides Spike Growth at 3rd level, fitting the earth theme. Use Eldritch Blast invocations to push and pull enemies through the spikes.
Bards can take Spike Growth through Magical Secrets at level 10 if they desire this thorny power. Lore Bards are especially suited for controlling spells.
This popular feat can grant non-casters access to some ranger or druid magic, including Spike Growth. Great for martials who can force movement.
As you explore multiclassing or high-level builds, look for ways to incorporate Spike Growth into new combinations and concepts. The spell fits into many different styles.
Creative and Unconventional Uses for Spike Growth
So far we’ve focused on conventional battlefield tactics, but clever D&D players know Spike Growth has potential far beyond basic combat usage. Here are some creative ways to use this spell in your campaigns:
Make the upcoming terrain hazardous for encounters. Place it on top of traps, difficult climbs, or dangerous environmental features to block access.
Cast on rowdy crowds or in front of pursuing enemies to safely disperse them without fatal harm.
Hide Spike Growth in expected pathways to surprise intruders and thieves. Cast it on treasure piles to punish greedy hands.
Spike random patches of ground around a temple or hideout entrance to confuse and confound trespassers.
When you need to make a quick getaway, drop Spike Growth behind you to prevent immediate pursuit.
Carefully position Spike Growth to steer dangerous creatures like stampeding beasts toward or away from locations.
Use Spike Growth creatively outside of combat like carving through tough materials or safely traversing dangerous floors and ceilings.
Describe the spell differently depending on your setting or environment like icy spikes in tundra, glass shards in ruins, burning lava clusters near volcanoes, etc.
With some creative thinking, the possibilities are endless! Spike Growth enables you to gain advantages in ways enemies won’t anticipate.
Using Spike Growth Effectively Across Different Campaigns
Dungeon Masters can incorporate Spike Growth in their own encounters, and the spell fits seamlessly into all sorts of campaign settings and worlds. Here are some tips:
Lead to Hazards:
Design encounters where Spike Growth can cut off paths to traps, environmental dangers, or other threats you want players to avoid.
Include enemies with forced movement abilities like harpies, griphons, gusts of wind, or telekinetic powers to potentially blow PCs into your Spiked terrain.
Introduce flying creatures that won’t be hindered by ground-based effects to keep players adapting tactically. Aarakocra and air elementals work well here.
In high magic settings, describe Spike Growth as a ward of arcane energy or temporary planar rift spraying spiked chains rather than as natural brambles.
Alternative Damage Types:
In the realms of fire or cold, alter your Spike Growth to deal fire or cold damage instead of piercing to fit the environments.
Use Spike Growth as part of protecting important locations or guarded treasure. Just beware of players commandeering your own defenses!
A great DM always keeps players on their toes by introducing new challenges that force them to reconsider their usual tactics. Spike Growth presents lots of options in this regard.
Our journey through the tangle of Spike Growth’s versatile thorny potential comes to an end. This guide only scratches the surface of what’s possible with clever spellcasting and creative scenarios. The examples provided aim to inspire, not limit. When you weave Spike Growth masterfully into your own encounters and stories, you’ll continue unraveling its hidden potential.
The savage spell that nearly doomed our party against the harpy ambush ended up saving us that day. But it was only the catalyst. Our true salvation came from the strategy, teamwork, and quick thinking that followed in the battle’s aftermath. So keep building up your D&D mastery bit by bit, spell by spell. The journey has just begun. Wherever your winding path leads, may it be strewn with adventure, friendship, and mindfulness rather than pointless peril. The final triumph is not conquering imaginary foes but elevating yourself and your companions along the way.
Appendix A: Glossary of Key Terms
Difficult Terrain: Ground that is obstructed or hinders movement in some way. Each foot of difficult terrain costs 2 feet of movement.
Forced Movement: Movement that is compelled upon a creature through magical or physical means instead of moving voluntarily. Still triggers Spike Growth damage.
Concentration: Maintaining focus on a spell with a duration to keep it active. Losing concentration ends the spell early.
Control Spells: Magic like Spike Growth that focuses more on manipulating the battlefield and positioning rather than just dealing direct damage.
Save DC: The number enemies need to equal or roll over on a saving throw to resist or avoid certain spell effects. Set by your spellcasting ability score.
Synergy: When different spells, abilities, tactics or effects interact to complement each other and create emergent benefits.
AOE/Area of Effect: Spells that affect a specific area like a sphere, cone, cube, etc rather than targeting creatures individually.
Appendix B: Frequently Asked Questions
Does Spike Growth damage allies and affect the caster?
Yes, Spike Growth cannot discriminate between friend and foe. The area damages anyone moving through it.
Can creatures take reactions like Opportunity Attacks from inside Spike Growth?
Yes, the spell only prevents voluntary movement, not general actions. Creatures can still take reactions.
If I lose concentration on Spike Growth, do any remaining spikes immediately disappear?
Yes, the entire effect and any damaging terrain will instantly end when concentration ceases.
Can burrowing creatures travel under the area of Spike Growth underground?
No, the spikes explicitly affect the ground itself, so underground movement would still take damage.
Can Spike Growth appear on surfaces other than normal ground?
This is up to DM discretion, but generally natural surfaces like grass, stone, or even cave ceilings work logically. Smooth floors or open water do not.