Of the many useful spells and features in the Ranger’s kit, few are as iconic and impactful as Hunter’s Mark. Sure, you don’t necessarily have to take it but it’s kind of like eating tortilla chips with no salsa.
Get the salsa!
Used cleverly, this humble spell brings a great mix of extra damage and tracking utility to the table.
So, what do you say, dear Ranger? Shall we go hunting?
This is everything you need to know about Hunter’s Mark in D&D 5e!
How Does Hunter’s Mark Work in D&D 5e?
Hunter’s Mark only requires verbal components and can be cast on a creature you can see within 90 feet of you.
Because it only takes a bonus action to cast, you should have no problems getting this onto the enemy you intend to focus on right as combat begins.
The spell itself lasts for 1 hour but you can extend that duration by casting it with a higher level spell slot. Using a level 3 or level 4 spell slot, the duration is increased to 8 hours. Using a level 5 or higher slot, the duration becomes an astounding 24 hours!
Just take note that you will need to maintain concentration to keep Hunter’s Mark active. (I’ve got another guide that will teach you the ins and outs of concentration. I recommend checking that out!)
Until the spell ends, the creature you’ve marked takes an extra 1d6 damage when you hit it with a weapon attack.
Additionally, you get advantage on your Wisdom (Perception) and Wisdom (Survival) checks to find that creature.
If the target is reduced to 0 hit points before Hunter’s Mark’s duration is up, you can move it to a new creature. Doing so only takes a bonus action on a subsequent turn of yours.
Using Hunter’s Mark in Combat
Because it only takes a bonus action to cast Hunter’s Mark, you should have no problem casting it early in combat. The extra damage will add up very quickly!
And speaking of the damage…
Note that the extra damage from Hunter’s Mark applies any time you hit the target with a weapon attack.
That means that both of your attacks when you get the Ranger’s Extra Attack feature at level 5 get this bonus.
Additionally, any attacks you make with your bonus action (such as if using Two-Weapon Fighting or Crossbow Expert) will also benefit from this extra damage.
As for the damage itself, it is the same type as the attack that is triggering it. (Slashing with a scimitar, piercing with a rapier, etc.)
Per Jeremy Crawford (D&D rules-boss), if your attack is dealing two different types of damage, choose which of those two you want the extra damage from Hunter’s Mark to deal.
Pretty awesome, right?!
When you cast Hunter’s Mark, you want to have a clear idea of which enemies to prioritize. Whichever enemy you target with this spell, you want to keep your focus on them.
When that enemy is reduced to 0 hit points, get Hunter’s Mark on your next priority enemy ASAP. It will take a bonus action, but it’s virtually always worth it!
Rinse, repeat, and you’ll be watching your enemies drop like flies!
Using Hunter’s Mark for Tracking
The second benefit of Hunter’s Mark tends to be less common, but it can be incredibly helpful in the right situation.
Rangers are excellent trackers and Hunter’s Mark makes them even more impressive at hunting down their target.
Advantage on Wisdom (Perception) and Wisdom (Survival) checks is great. You should have no problem tracking your target and spotting them if they’re trying to hide.
This might be useful for chasing down a fleeing boss enemy or a minion who is trying to run and call for backup. In either case, you would have a major reason to want to chase them down.
If you happen to be tracking an enemy that you’ve tagged with Hunter’s Mark in your favored terrain, you’ll be gaining even more insight into their movements. They can run, but they won’t be able to hide!
Hunter’s Mark and Stealth
More often than not, you’ll be casting Hunter’s Mark once combat has already started. However, there might be times when you’re able to scout ahead of the party.
While you’re sneaking around and preparing an ambush to take your enemies by surprise, it might be a good idea to identify your primary target and cast Hunter’s Mark on them before combat even begins.
That way there’s one less thing to worry about once the dice start rolling!
But that opens the question of whether or not casting Hunter’s Mark breaks stealth.
The (very) short answer is that it’s really up to your DM. There are arguments to be made on both sides of the matter.
On one hand, some might argue that the verbal components of the spell would cause it to break stealth. Additionally, they might argue that an enemy might be aware that they have been “tagged” by the spell.
Honestly, I disagree with both of those.
Rangers are more than capable when it comes to tracking and hunting. I wouldn’t imagine the verbal component for this spell being terribly loud.
They can’t cast it if they’re in an area affected by a Silence spell or similar effect, but surely that verbal component isn’t them yelling “I SEE YOU!” at the top of their lungs.
There is also no specific mention in the Hunter’s Mark spell description that a creature knows it’s being targeted. It feels less “on brand” for a hunter to stalk prey that knows it’s being stalked.
I mean, if the Hobgoblin commander suddenly had a visible Hunter’s Mark on them, why wouldn’t they immediately up their garrison’s security and take cover in the safest place possible?
For my two cents, Hunter’s Mark doesn’t and shouldn’t break stealth.
Is Hunter’s Mark Good?
Hunter’s Mark is such a valuable part of any Ranger’s kit that it would almost make more sense for it to just be a built-in feature for the Ranger class.
You’ll consistently be wanting to activate Hunter’s Mark at the start of important combats similar to Barbarians and their Rage feature.
It’s that iconic and impactful!
As I mentioned at the start of this article, it’s certainly possible to build a Ranger without taking Hunter’s Mark.
However, it’s just so good (and exclusive to Rangers!) that it should only be passed up if you have a VERY specific build idea that would require you to pick something else.
Even if you take it as a “just in case” type spell, Hunter’s Mark belongs on every Ranger in much the same way that a spell like Cure Wounds or Healing Word belongs on every Cleric!
Especially at the lower levels (where Rangers are at their most impactful), it makes a huge difference!
The only real downsides to Hunter’s Mark are that you have to maintain concentration (which isn’t terribly hard) and that it doesn’t scale as you level up.
You’ll eventually hit a point where that 1d6 extra damage just isn’t particularly exciting. It’s unfortunate, but more of your subclass features will be coming online by that point which should ease the pain a bit!
Hunter’s Mark – FAQs
As usual, let’s look over some of the frequently asked questions regarding Hunter’s Mark in D&D 5e.
If you’ve got a question that isn’t answered in this article, let’s chat in the comments!
That said, let’s get into it.
Does Hunter’s Mark Count as Magic Damage?
I have a confession to make…
For YEARS, my group reasoned that the damage from Hunter’s Mark is not magical. The spell itself is not dealing damage but it is increasing the damage dealt by the triggering weapon attack.
However, I tend to try to align my own games/rulings with what D&D’s designers say as much as possible.
So I’m eating a bit of crow, so to speak, learning that Jeremy Crawford said on Twitter that the damage from Hunter’s Mark IS considered magical.
It was already a fantastic spell to begin with, but this means that Rangers have a VERY reliable way of overcoming enemies’ resistances to non-magical damage.
Sure, the damage from the weapon attack itself isn’t dealing full damage in such a situation. However, that extra 1d6 per turn against something like a Specter adds up quickly!
Can You Use Favored Foe and Hunter’s Mark at the Same Time?
Favored Foe is an excellent new option for Rangers that was introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
This feature allows you to mark an enemy that you hit with an attack as your favored enemy for 1 minute. Once on each of your turns, you’re able to add extra damage to one of your attacks against that creature.
There’s a certain rivalry between Favored Foe and Hunter’s Mark. However, both serve their own purposes.
If your subclass puts a high demand on your bonus action, Favored Foe is great. This means options like the Horizon Walker, Beast Master, and Drakewarden will get better use out of it.
Meanwhile, Hunters and Gloom Stalkers will generally prefer Hunter’s Mark.
Though I can certainly understand why someone might want to use both at the same time, it, unfortunately, doesn’t work.
Hunter’s Mark and Favored Foe both require concentration which means that you can only have one of these active at a time.
If you cast Hunter’s Mark on an enemy and then try to mark them or another creature as your Favored Foe, the Hunter’s Mark would instantly fade away.
Does Hunter’s Mark Damage Double on a Critical Hit?
If you land a critical hit against an enemy that you have your Hunter’s Mark on, all of the damage dice are doubled. That means you’re doubling the damage from the weapon attack itself as well as from Hunter’s Mark.
If you have some other effect (such as Sneak Attack if you multiclass with Rogue), those dice would also be doubled on a critical hit.
So, grab those dice and start dealing out some punishment!
Does Hunter’s Mark stack with Sneak Attack?
Ranger/Rogue is one of the most popular multiclass combinations in D&D 5e for a reason!
Adding in both Hunter’s Mark and Sneak Attack against an enemy is a wonderful feeling. As we covered in the last section, doubling all of that because you rolled a critical hit is simply incredible!
Does Hunter’s Mark Work on Unarmed Strikes?
A frequent point of confusion in D&D 5e (mostly thanks to the wording) is whether unarmed strikes count as weapon attacks or not.
Unarmed Strikes DO count as weapon attacks which means that Hunter’s Mark will work.
This is worth noting if you’re doing something like a Monk/Ranger Multiclass or playing as a character with natural weapons (like a Tabaxi and their claws, for example.)
While you’ll almost certainly be using this with weapons in most situations, you might sometimes find yourself having to improvise!
Does Hunter’s Mark Work with Wild Shape?
For those who want to go all in on a nature theme, Ranger/Druid is another common multiclass.
Especially if you’re playing something like a Circle of the Moon Druid, being able to benefit from Hunter’s Mark while being in Wild Shape is very helpful.
To get the benefit of Hunter’s Mark while using Wild Shape, make sure that you cast Hunter’s Mark first.
You won’t be able to cast the spell while you’re in your animal form. However, the spell’s effect will still be up once you change forms.
Once that enemy is reduced to 0 hit points, you can still use your bonus action to reapply the Hunter’s Mark to a different enemy.
Though it’s worth the extra reminder to mind your positioning. You’ll still need to maintain concentration on the spell if you get hit!
If this is a type of character that you’re considering playing, I’d also recommend checking out my guide to Wild Shape. It’s a vital feature that can get very overwhelming, so I think you’ll find that article helpful!
Conclusion – Hunter’s Mark in D&D 5e
Look… Rangers get a bad rap in D&D 5e.
While they’ve been steadily improving as more subclasses, spells, and optional class features are being released, they still tend to get dismissed.
But Hunter’s Mark is a major reason why that criticism isn’t entirely fair. It’s a powerful spell that lets Rangers deal respectable bonus damage in the early levels while also improving their tracking utility!
It might not always be the best pick for every Ranger build, but it’s one that should always be considered at the very least!
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