In this Baldur’s Gate 3 Best Cantrips Guide, I’m going to discuss the top 10 Cantrips in the game at launch. This list is limited to level zero Spells that don’t take a Spell Slot, and can cast infinitely. Baldur’s Gate 3 calls them Cantrips, and they mostly come with base classes at level 1. But there are more ways to get your hands on Cantrips, and we will explore them. As well as explaining the best ones for both damage and utility.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Cantrips Guide
You can distinguish Cantrips from normal spells by their unlimited nature. So characters can cast without going into Rest. Most Cantrips are spells that deal damage at range, to damage enemies. They might have an extra function such as Bone Chill giving a Disadvantage to undead enemies. Or they might upgrade to a more powerful version, such as Eldritch Blast which gains three projectiles later on. There are other forms of Cantrips, as you will see further in this guide.
How to Choose a Cantrip for Your Class
Cantrip Damage Type & Enemy Resistance
Cantrips as all spells have a main damage type, that checks against enemy resistance. Some damage types are widely resisted by enemies, such as Fire and Poison, which lowers the value of certain Cantrips. So expect Cantrips such as Fire Bolt to be less useful against more enemies.
On the other hand, some damage types have rarer resistances. An example is Vicious Mockery which deals ‘Psychic damage’, that isn’t a common resistance among enemies. Therefore, using it will have a higher chance to land.
Which Ability a Cantrip checks for Saving Throw
While some Cantrips checks against enemy Armour Class (AC), other cantrips check against enemy abilities. In the latter case, the Cantrip checks against a specific ability for Saving Throws. If the enemy saves, it either avoids the damage altogether, half the damage or avoids a control effect. As enemies don’t have even distribution in an ability score, some Cantrips get a higher chance to hit, and some have a higher chance to fail.
For example, bosses and high HP enemies usually have higher Con scores. So if a single target Cantrip checks against the Con score, it will have a terrible accuracy against bosses. On the other hand, an AOE Cantrip such as Poison Spray that checks against Con will be more viable. Since smaller enemies have less Con, these are the ones you want to AOE. However, Poison Spray itself is not top tier, due to most enemies having poison resistance.
Note that Cantrips with Dex or Wis saves are the hardest Cantrips to stick. A lot of enemies at higher levels have an abundance of either Dex or Wis ability scores, and they will save easily. Cantrips such as Acid Splash, and Sacred Flame will fail more often than other Cantrips. So be mindful of enemy Dex, if you decide to use them.
Cantrips that are guaranteed to hit, or help with accuracy
Some rarer Cantrips don’t go through the AC check, or Ability check. It outright hits the enemy 100% of the time. This is a huge bonus, especially against enemies who have stacked defensive abilities and buffs. They are also great Cantrips to pair with characters who don’t have access to Darkvision. Enemy visibility affects hit rate, and Darkvision reduces the impact of dark places on accuracy. So characters without Darkvision are at a Disadvantage, and a spell is guaranteed to hit counter this Disadvantage.
On the other hand, there are other Cantrips that give light, to illuminate the battlefield. This light will help all teams to see better and increases their accuracy. Cantrips that give light are Dancing Lights, and Light. They are useful if used before combat begins, so they don’t cost Actions. However, there are other sources of light that don’t cost Cantrip slots, or actions, such as using a torch on a Cleric. So the decision to pick up a light Cantrip is up for personal preference, but it’s not super optimal.
With these basics out of the way, let’s get going with the best Cantrips to pick in Baldur’s Gate 3.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Best Cantrips: Guidance
Bestowing Guidance upon an ally means they gain a +1d4 bonus to Ability Checks. This Cantrip comes with Druids and Clerics, letting you select it as a starting Cantrip. It provides a single character with a random 1~4 bonus to all ability checks. So it effectively increases all hit checks, damage checks, and saving throw checks. But that’s not its strongest aspect.
Outside of combat, there are so many uses for Guidance. In conversation, it gives a boost to any check, whether it’s Intimidation, Persuasion, Deception, etc. The Cantrip can be manually selected in any conversation, regardless of who initiates the conversation, or who has Guidance in their build. The boost can be fairly high, and allows passing checks that are much harder without it.
The Cantrip can also help with other checks, such as trap detection, trap disarm, and lockpicking. The bonus is applied to all checks during the Cantrip duration, not just one check. So Guidance is a huge quality of life feature, and you should have a character with it all the time.
How to get Guidance Cantrip
The easiest way to get your hands on Guidance from the start is by adding a Cleric or a Druid to the team. An Origin character such as Shadowheart comes with Guidance by default. However, if you don’t use a Cleric or a Druid Companion, you can still get Guidance through other means. One easy way is to choose a Feat at level 4 that features this Cantrip, such as Magic Initiate: Druid, or Magic Initiate: Cleric.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Best Cantrips: Eldritch Blast
Eldritch Blast is easily, the best DPS Cantrip in Baldur’s Gate 3. Not only does it have high 1d10 damage, but also gets several projectiles at higher levels, up to three at level 11. So it can get even more damage, and the projectiles can be used on one enemy for massive damage, or multiple enemies. It’s especially useful when enemies are not gathered in a tight spot, but scattered around. So where your AOE spells don’t work, Eldritch Blast works as a pseudo-AOE.
This Cantrip comes with Warlock, and Warlocks have a way to boost it through class features. A warlock can select up to five Invocations throughout their leveling process, and two of them could be Agonizing Blast and Repelling Blast. They boost Eldritch Blast damage by the Charisma modifier, and add knockback to it. This makes it a very effective DPS tool that’s not limited by Spell Slots.
Outside of combat, you can use Eldritch Blast to apply force to some objects. It can destroy some walls, and make some halls bigger. This enables players to access some areas they don’t usually go.
How to get Eldritch Blast Cantrip
A Warlock can select Eldritch Blast as one of the starting Cantrips. Wyll comes with Eldritch Blast by default, without needing a Respec.
If you don’t use a Warlock companion, and still want access to Eldritch Blast, you can get it through other means. Either by picking Warlock as a Multiclass, which is a valid option for certain builds that scale with Charisma. Or you can pick from a Feat instead, such as Magic Initiate: Warlock, or Spell Sniper.
Another none-damage Cantrip, that creates an illusionary image to distract enemies. You can cast this illusion with a hidden character, without breaking their hiding. Or you can cast to force enemies to look away from you, to hide in the middle of combat. This is very useful on all characters relying on stealth, but also helpful for more squishy characters to distract enemies away. Another use for this Cantrip is to taunt enemies in close proximity to each others, then follow with an AOE spell such as Cloud of Daggers, Fireball, or Flaming Sphere.
Outside of combat, you use Minor Illusion when you are trying to get past enemies in stealth. You cast to force enemies to look a certain way, so you can slip away behind them, steal from them, or pick their pockets. Or to start combat by a surprise attack (to force enemies to skip the first turn!)
Without having a damage component, Minor Illusion doesn’t go through any checks to cast. The illusion image itself forces enemies to make an Intelligence check though, and those who fail, go to investigate. So it has a higher chance of success in most cases, since the average Int score on enemies is not as high as other abilities.
How to get Eldritch Blast Cantrip
A number of classes have access to Minor Illusion, it’s not a rare Cantrip by any means. 4 classes have it readily available from level 1, Bard, Sorcerer, Wizard, and Warlock. Then three more classes can get it from a Subclass. Monk gets it from the Way of Shadow Subclass, Rogue from Arcane Trickster Subclass, and Fighter from the Eldritch Knight subclass.
So you can get it on Wyll, Astarion, Gale, and even Lae’zel if you choose Eldritch Knight as her subclass. And of course you can get it if you multi-class a bard, or any of the caster classes.
This Cantrip serves two purposes, being a light source, and dealing 1d8 damage at range. So picking it up can save you two cantrip slots, and may even save you some actions in combat as well. It works as an alternative to Dancing Lights, and Light as a light source. At the same time, it’s compared to Fire Bolt and Sacred Flame as ranged Fire Cantrip.
It deals less damage than Fire Bolt, and has less range. Though it’s a more accessible ranged attack to Druids and Clerics, who doesn’t easily get a Fire Bolt, if they get it, it scales with the wrong ability (Int). It helps Druids early on, while they don’t have access to good ranged spells. For Cleric, it’s a better pick than Sacred Flame, as it doesn’t make a Dex check to hit.
It can also be used to light up any flammable surface, such as Grease, vines (e.g. Faithwarden’s Vines, Twisting Vines), or Firewine. It helps add more AOE and DoT damage. If paired with other Druid’s control spells or Cantrips, such as Thorn Whip you can drag other enemies into the effect field. So it’s overall a good Cantrip to pick up and use.
How to get Produce Flame Cantrip
By default, it’s a Druid and Cleric Cantrip. So the main way to get it is by having either of these classes as the main class, or multiclass into it. Otherwise, you need to get through a Magic Initiate: Cleric or Druid Feat.
But note that damage spells or Cantrips acquired through Feats have different scaling. If you get a Produce Flame from Magic Initiate: Druid for example, will scale with Wisdom. So if your class has low Wisdom, the effectiveness of Produce Flame will be diminished. You would be better off with Flame Bolt in such a scenario.
Yet another good Cantrip from the Druid class, Thorn Whip works as both a damage spell and control spell. It has a medium range, and pulls the enemy towards the caster. Although it has lower 1d6 damage, the utility on Thorn Whip is more useful in a lot of situations.
The Druid can pull down an enemy from a ledge (that’s not higher than 9 meters) with Thorn Whip, and it will knock them making them Prone. Bringing down the enemy removes their “high ground” advantage, and removes ally’s Disadvantage when shooting at them. Prone also forces them to skip a turn, so it’s a lot of control stacked in one Cantrip.
Another use for Thorn Whip when the player’s characters and enemies are on even ground, is pulling them into an AOE. Some powerful AOE spells such as Cloud of Daggers have a limited radius, and might miss some enemies. So now you may use Thorn Whip to force enemies inside the damage range. It also works on burning ground, mud, grease, and other similar control areas. If you pull an enemy, you can further apply more effects to them. There are even more deadly combos with Thorn Whip and Spike Growth spells. Since spike Growth deals damage to anything that moves inside its radius, it pulls targets counted as moving.
How to get Thorn Whip Cantrip
If I’m not a druid, or I didn’t bring a Druid companion into the party as I personally prefer Multiclassing my Shadowheart with a Druid. I only need to put one level of Druid to get Thorn Whip, some proficiencies, and healing spells. This is an effective way to access a Whip Cantrip, in addition to playing a Druid or using Halsin as a companion.
If I haven’t mentioned how amazing Druid Cantrips are by now, here’s another Cantrip from the class that’s worth picking. It’s an enchanting spell that turns your melee wooden weapon (Mace, and Staff) into a magical weapon. It makes melee attacks check for the spellcasting ability. You can build your Druid as a pure caster and still deal with melee threats without a worry about Str or Dex abilities.
Shillelagh is one of the very rare Cantrips that uses a bonus action, instead of an action. So you can cast easily, and it lasts for 10 turns, which is long enough to deal with most fights.
The damage bonus is 1d8 Wisdom, so it’s mainly useful for Druids and Clerics, and not so much on classes that don’t use Wisdom. Shillelagh doesn’t remove any damage bonuses you get from other sources, such as Dipping weapons in fire or poison. So when you deal a melee hit with it applied, you get that extra damage, which is free and a nice bonus on top.
How to get Shillelagh Cantrip
Shillelagh doesn’t come with Spell Sniper Feat, so you have to be a druid, multiclass as a druid, or pick Magic Initiate: Druid to get it.
Ray of Frost is a ranged ice Cantrip, that slows enemies’ movement speed and is able to freeze water plus blood surfaces. Freezing a surface has a chance to knock enemies Prone, which forces them to skip a turn. Not only that, but also gives an advantage to anyone attacking them in Melee. So overall, it gives a lot of utility, especially since targeting surfaces doesn’t go through any checks. Against Wet enemies, it deals double damage, which makes it the highest-hitting Cantrip in this specific situation.
The slow effect is only useful if you try to kite a melee enemy. But even if you are a ranged wizard or sorcerer, you wouldn’t kite, but rather better off teleporting away with Misty Step. Another niche use for slow is making sure an enemy stays inside an effect field for longer. So if you froze a surface, they are less likely to escape it in one turn. Some slowed enemies will find the shorter path to jump out of danger though, so again, it’s not a definitive answer. The frozen part of the Cantrip is the best thing about it.
To trigger the freeze, you need to have natural water surfaces in the area. Or force a water surface with Create Water spell. Otherwise, you can use the blood pools that some melee classes can force out of the enemy, or a Cleric/Druid can get with Contagion.
How to get Ray of Frost Cantrip
Ray of Frost comes with Sorcerer, Wizard, Fighter subclass Eldritch Knight, or Rogue subclass Arcane Trickster. So you can get Gale easily, and as a possibility on Astarion if you pick Arcane Trickster for him. Or even Lae’zel if you choose Eldritch Knight as her subclass.
If used strictly as a utility, Ray of Frost can be picked up in any class without a worry. Either through a subclass, multiclass, or with a Magic Initiate: Sorcerer/Wizard. However, if you use it as a damage-dealing Cantrip, it’s best only if your spellcasting ability is high enough. So if you are a melee class, with no Intelligence or Charisma, you shouldn’t be picking Ray of Frost.
Baldur’s Gate 3 Best Cantrips: Shocking Grasp
Another Wizard/Sorcerer Cantrip, that works as a damage source, and utility. The way to use Shocking Grasp effectively is to electrocute a water’s surface. This is a way to disable enemy reactions and deal damage in the process. It’s a build-enabler for some lightning builds, that relies on using water and lightning to deal damage and control enemies.
Shocking Grasp can target surfaces or enemies. If it targets an enemy, it deals double damage against those inflicted with Wet status, which makes it the second-highest-hitting Cantrip behind Ray of Frost. But Shocking Grasp has additional utility, that prevents enemies from using reactions. Some Reactions can be dangerous, such as an attack of opportunity, or disable allies. As well as knocking them Prone by using such moves as Shield Blow.
It allows ranged spellcasters to escape melee attackers if they catch up with them, without taking penalty damage. On top of playing the offensive role, it applies an electrified status upon surfaces. So overall a good Cantrip for certain builds.
How to get Shocking Grasp Cantrip
Similar to Ray of Frost, you need a Sorcerer, Wizard, Fighter subclass Eldritch Knight, or Rogue subclass Arcane Trickster. Or Magic Initiate: Sorcerer/Wizard. But outside of these, Shocking Grasp can be picked from Spell Sniper Feat as well.
Though I’d like to highlight the niche nature of this Cantrip, since it’s not always the best pick for all builds. So while it’s a very good Cantrip to use in the case of a lightning spellcaster, there are better choices available for other kinds of spellcasters, and other classes.
Final Tips & Honorable Mentions
Cantrips are not only useful for spellcaster classes but some melee classes as well. A Cantrip such as Guidance can work on any build, since it gives a pure bonus to all ability checks in the game. Spells such as Mage Hand can summon a useful hidden ally that can interact with stuff from afar. You could use Mage Hand to lockpick, steal, or press buttons while enemies aren’t aware. Or rather use it to enter very tiny holes to investigate what’s on the other end. Casting such Cantrips doesn’t require a certain build or class, making them very versatile.
Some Cantrips such as Ray of Frost or Shocking Grasp help make certain builds with spells that work well together. There are some lightning builds that rely on having Shocking Grasp.
There are more situational Cantrips such as Bone Chill that have bonuses against Undead enemies. Then there’s Blade Ward which helps melee builds take less damage at the cost of an action. The choice between using an action to deal damage, potentially killing it, and using the action to cast a defensive buff is a tough choice. Sometimes casting a defensive buff is more important, because enemies may gang up on your character and may kill him or her. But melee classes usually prefer taking offensive action, so keep that in mind.
Finally, Fire Bolt is a ranged spell that doesn’t require a line of sight to cast, and wizards will find a use for it in several situations. However there are other Cantrips with more utility, so the choice is yours.
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