As a cantrip available to wizards, sorcerers, warlocks, and bards, players of these classes may be tempted to learn True Strike as one of their very first spells.
This is typically met with a chorus of “No!” from other players at the table.
But does True Strike really deserve the hate that it gets?
Let’s take a moment to take a closer look at what is often considered to be one of the worst spells in Dungeons & Dragons 5e.
What is True Strike?
First things first, True Strike is a cantrip that allows the caster to have advantage on their first attack roll against the target on their next turn.
As a concentration spell, the caster needs to make sure that they don’t take any damage between casting the spell and their next turn. Otherwise, they might lose concentration and the advantage roll that the spell grants them.
It takes 1 action to cast True Strike and the benefit explicitly doesn’t happen until your first attack on your next turn. You’ll want to make sure that you attack next round after casting this spell as it only lasts until you take your next turn.
Opportunity Cost: The Argument against True Strike
The argument against True Strike is a valid one. Critics reason that skipping your attack in the first round to cast the cantrip and gain an advantage on your next attack still lowers the amount of damage that you can deal.
With advantage, you would roll two d20 and take the higher number for one hit (hopefully).
On the other hand, you could have just attacked both rounds (one d20 per round) and had the potential to hit twice for, effectively, double the amount of damage.
This is what’s referred to as “opportunity cost.” By choosing to take advantage next round, you are faced with the opportunity cost of not potentially hitting the enemy twice.
The critics make a fair point. The opportunity cost of True Strike is steep. You may lose concentration between turns, the chosen target may get killed by another party member, or you may even still miss despite having advantage.
Because of this opportunity cost, many D&D 5e players consider True Strike a waste of a cantrip and rank it among the worst spells in the entire game.
True Strike Isn’t THAT Bad…
But let’s be real…
There are some moments where the opportunity cost of using True Strike are totally worth it or even nonexistent.
Even with all of the downsides, this cantrip can be invaluable in certain clutch, all-or-nothing moments.
Making True Strike the meat-and-potatoes of how your character fights is an… interesting… choice. It’s more likely to give any min-maxxers at your table nosebleeds than be consistently effective. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t more niche applications.
In a game like Dungeons & Dragons 5e where high-level spells have the ability to warp reality and manipulate fate, we have to remember: True Strike is a cantrip. It’s a level zero spell that’s meant for some quick maneuvering and support. The majority of cantrips are niche by their very own definitions!
So what are some of these niche applications?
Situations for Casting True Strike
Three situations stand out as prime examples of when True Strike will your best friend.
In these all-or-nothing, ride-or-die moments, this long-suffering cantrip is there to help tilt the odds in your favor.
Situation 1: You are at disadvantage
The critics make a good point. Mathematically, taking two normal attack rolls is better than taking one roll at advantage.
But for this same reason, one normal attack roll is better than two rolls at disadvantage. The only exception to this is if you’re facing a monster with a remarkably low Armor Class like a Zombie or a Lemure.
For example, if you find yourself with a disadvantage due to a status effect like being poisoned or exhausted, True Strike can help you overcome that disadvantage to just make a normal attack roll.
Situation 2: This HAS to hit
Once you hit the upper levels of play, you get access to incredibly powerful spells. However, you have a very limited number of these higher-level spell slots.
Attempting to use a 7th level spell like Plane Shift to banish another creature to a different plane only to have your melee spell attack miss is such a sad moment.
You’ve wasted a 7th level spell slot, are likely in melee range of your opponent, and can still hear the sad trombone of being let downplaying in your head.
In this instance, the opportunity cost of losing an action to cast True Strike and gain an advantage on your next turn is very small compared to the opportunity cost of wasting one of your highest level spell slots. While your melee spell attack may still potentially miss, you’ve just doubled your odds of success.
Situation 3: You’re an Arcane Trickster
Arcane Trickster Rogues in particular have no shortage of ways to get an advantage on their attacks, but it never hurts to add another tactic to the old bag of tricks! By leading with True Strike to get advantage on your attack and dishing out that tasty Sneak Attack damage, I think Arcane Tricksters can potentially benefit the most from True Strike.
It’s situational, of course, but there’s nothing quite like being prepared! (Especially when the potential to deal so much extra damage is at stake!)
You can learn more about how to play an Arcane Trickster in my full guide to the subclass!
Situation 4: Any of the Above + You’re an Elf
The Elven Accuracy feat is only available to Elves and Half-Elves. Making a ranged attack with advantage allows you to re-roll one of those dice. Effectively, you are rolling three d20 for super-ultra-mega-elf-advantage.
If you’re an elf with this feat and find yourself in one of the other situations we described above, True Strike is even more potent.
I’m not saying that the criticisms of True Strike are unfounded. But what I am saying is that making blanket calls about a particular spell or ability can limit the ability to experiment and find usefulness in even the most ridiculed options.
Except for Find Traps.
That’s one that I just can’t find anything redeeming to say about…