While Dungeons & Dragons is a game often associated with role-playing and puzzle-solving the game features an in-depth tactical turn-based combat system in which players are only responsible for controlling their character. In combat, each character comes with their strengths and weaknesses that are often dictated by a character's class and/or subclass.
While some players may enjoy playing the party's Defender, keeping their allies from harm while others may prefer playing a supportive healer, it's often important to ensure at least one member of the party excels at dealing Burst Damage. As Burst Damage isn't a formal mechanic explained in any official D&D books, rather, a concept of a style of damage some characters are capable of dealing, we're going explore everything you need to know about burst damage!
What is Burst Damage?
As its name would imply, Burst Damage is significant damage that is dealt to a target within a quick burst, rather than damage that is dealt with gradually over time. Burst damage is most often not something that can be accessed whenever a character pleases and is often tied to a mechanic or ability that has finite uses per long rest. Mechanics and abilities that deal burst damage are often among the strongest features of a given class, and such features should be used tactically rather than being burned through quickly. Additionally, while some characters may deal their Burst Damage through the use of a single ability or feature, many builds opt to deal yet even more significant Burst Damage through the use of stacking several damaging effects within a single attack.
Which Classes Deal Significant Burst Damage?
While nearly every class is capable of dealing Burst Damage to some extent whether it be through the use of high-damage spells and potent subclass-specific features, the Martial classes most synonymous with impressive Burst Damage are Fighters, Paladins, and Rogues. Meanwhile the Spellcasting classes, Sorcerers and Warlocks are capable of providing noteworthy Burst Damage through the use of potent spells.
- Fighter: Perhaps the most simple source of Burst Damage, Fighters are capable of dealing incredible amounts of damage to a single target through the use of their action surge. As action surge provides that character with an additional action, a Fighter with multi-attack gains several additional attacks through action surge, allowing them to deal severe damage in a single turn, potentially dealing yet even more damage when improved with various fighting styles or feats.
- Paladin: Paladins are capable of dealing massive damage through their Divine Smite mechanic, augmenting their melee attacks with large sums of radiant damage. As Paladins are capable of learning various Smite spells such as Branding Smite and Wrathful Smite that may be cast as a bonus action. A Smite spell may be layered atop an attack with a Divine Smite, allowing a Paladin to deal serious damage in a short amount of time if they're willing to expend the resources to do so.
- Rogue: Rogues are capable of dealing absurd amounts of damage to targets through the use of their Sneak Attack mechanic. While a Rogue is only able to deal their sneak attack damage if key conditions are met, Rogues can deal devastating damage to a target. The Rogue's Assassin subclass is particularly deadly when it comes to dealing Burst Damage due to its ability to automatically land critical hits against surprised foes.
- Sorcerer: While the Sorcerer class has access to a wide range of potent damaging spells, Sorcerers are capable of improving their already high damage output through the use of Metamagic. Most notably, the Quickened Spell Metamagic option allows a Sorcerer to cast a spell with a casting time of one action as though its casting time was one bonus action instead. While a sorcerer must still abide by the rule that only one non-cantrip spell may be cast per turn, a highly damaging spell can be cast as a bonus action while additional damage can be dealt through the casting of a Cantrip like Firebolt.
- Warlock: Warlocks are capable of dealing severe damage to single targets through the use of high-powered spells and their iconic Cantrip, Eldritch Blast. While Eldritch Blast is known to deal serviceable damage, when augmented through Eldritch Invocations, spells like Hex or Spirit Shroud, and features such as the Hexblade subclass's curse, Warlocks can erase sizable amounts of hit points from monsters in a short amount of time.
When Should You Use Burst Damage
Though one may want to be conservative of their most deadly damage-dealing options, making use of a character's Burst Damage can make or break an encounter. When fighting off against a single powerful foe, immediately using one's source of Burst Damage as quickly as possible may be beneficial, as it could potentially shorten the fight substantially and prevent any casualties. However, when facing off against a group of several enemies, it is recommended to either use one's burst damage one the strongest foe present to remove them from the equation or save one's source of Burst Damage, using it in a time of need, such as to immediately take down a foe that may otherwise take down an ally.
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