Cure Wounds 5E: DnD Spell Guide

The battle had only lasted a couple minutes, but the bodies around the barbarian were only outnumbered by the cuts, bruises, and other wounds scattered across his body. As the fury of battle faded, the pain of these injuries replaced it, and the wounded warrior began to stagger back to his companions for aid.

Looking up from the minor injury of the merchant he had just treated, the elven cleric quietly groaned as he saw his blood-soaked companion limping towards him. After every battle over the last few seasons, he had lectured the barbarian on the importance of dodging as he poured most of his daily allocation of healing magic into him.

Lately, this response only seemed to encourage his companion to collect more injuries while fighting, and today’s bounty was almost certainly a new record.

“I count 33 today!” the barbarian proudly exclaimed. “Now, let’s see how many you can fix with a single spell!”

Narrowing his eyes in annoyance, the cleric began his lecture anew, working in the required incantations and motions of his most powerful healing spell at the same time. Open wounds began to close as the cleric touched them, and minor injuries simply disappeared as though they were never there.

“Hey, that’s 17! You’re getting really good at this!”

Taken slightly aback by the compliment, as the barbarian normally spent their healing sessions drinking or chatting with anyone else who happened to be nearby, the cleric quickly resumed his spellcasting, deciding today’s remaining criticism could wait.

Cure Wounds is a staple spell for many characters, as it is accessible to a wide variety of classes at low levels, can heal a surprising number of hit points, and often saves you a fortune during trips to the apothecary for healing potions!

But is Cure Wounds all it’s cracked up to be? Should every character that can prepare it do so? How does it compare to other sources of healing? To answer these questions, we’ll begin by turning to the Player’s Handbook.

Cure wounds spell effect
A quick Cure Wounds spell is all it takes to remove any trace of an injury in battle.

Breaking Down the Cure Wounds Spell

Here’s the Cure Wounds spell as it is written in the Player’s Handbook.

Cure Wounds
1st Level evocation

Casting Time: 1 action
Range: Touch
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous

A creature you touch regains a number of hit points equal to 1d8 + your spellcasting ability modifier. This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 2nd level or higher, the healing increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 1st.

The Player’s Handbook, p.230

Simple and to the point, with 2 clear benefits.

Benefit #1: You can heal an injured creature, often completely if they have a low hit point maximum.

Healing light

Level 1 characters just don’t have a ton of hit points (HP). This is especially true of the sorcerer and the wizard with d6 hit dice, but even those with d8s feel pretty mortal if they have a low Constitution score until at least level 3.

A 1st level Cure Wounds can cure up to 13 HP in most scenarios, usually averaging around 7-8 per casting, so a mortal injury to an inexperienced adventurer is often mostly or completely managed in exchange for a single 1st level spell.

It’s also worth noting that Cure Wounds works on any creature that isn’t an undead or construct, regardless of whether they’re willing, so whether you’re a druid tending to an uncooperative animal or a paladin playing the good cop in a hostage interrogation, Cure Wounds is going to do the work you need, when you need it.

Assuming you can hit an unwilling target’s armor class (AC), of course.

Benefit #2: Cure Wounds can scale with higher level spell slots.

Rather than scaling cure spells through separate light, moderate, serious, and critical wounds iterations as in earlier editions, Cure Wounds is intended as a catch-all for your low-mid level healing needs.

While I do wish the spellcasting ability modifier multiplied along with your healing dice, not having to learn or keep track of 4 separate early level healing spells that effectively do the same thing with the same mechanics is appreciated, regardless of whether you learn specific spells like a bard or prepare a set number of spells like a cleric.

5E Classes That Can Learn the Cure Wounds Spell

Cure Wounds can be found on all divine spell lists and the occasional arcane spell list, making it readily available for many classes and archetypes:

  • Artificer
  • Bard
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Sorcerer (Divine Soul)
  • Warlock (Celestial patron)

If your favorite class doesn’t have access to Cure Wounds, you can also gain access to it through the Artificer Initiate or Magic Initiate feats. This allows a variant human to gain immediate access to the same healing as any class that gets it organically, but with the spellcasting stat of their choice for the modifier!

cauldron in magic clearing
For many characters, becoming a Magic Initiate will be far more appealing than spending years at a temple.

5E Classes That Should Learn or Prepare the Cure Wounds Spell

Since Cure Wounds is a spell that can scale up its healing through higher level spell slots, spellcasting classes are going to be among those that get the most benefit from the spell. Dedicated spellcasters like the cleric or Divine Soul sorcerer are especially capable in this area, as they gain higher level spell slots the fastest.

Spellcasters that gain high level spell slots more slowly and cap out at 5th level spells like the Paladin or Ranger are likely to find that Cure Wounds just doesn’t do as much healing as they’d like in their hands, especially as you reach mid-high levels. The maximum returns on one of their high level spell slots just aren’t as high and the spell’s impact diminishes much more rapidly.

If your campaign is generally focused on levels 1-6, however, there’s still enough mileage for these “half casters” to do some real good with a well timed application of Cure Wounds, as HP totals are lower and even a 1st or 2nd level spell slot can heal a reasonable amount of damage, particularly on squishier spellcasters.

If your DM allows multiclassing, warlocks with access to 5th level spell slots can also get a lot of mileage out of Cure Wounds from full spellcasters like the bard, cleric, or druid.

Being able to put your pact spells that don’t gain any benefit from being cast at a higher level in a low level spellcasting slot and vice-versa proved to be quite powerful, allowing my tabaxi warlock/cleric combination to contribute a lot more in a campaign at higher levels than it ever could have as a higher level warlock.

5th Ed Classes that should consider the Cure Wounds spell at all levels:

  • Bard
  • Cleric
  • Druid
  • Sorcerer (Divine Soul or with a feat)
  • Warlock (Celestial patron, multiclassing, or with a feat)
  • Wizard (with a feat)

5th Ed Classes that should consider the Cure Wounds spell at low levels (1-6):

  • Artificer
  • Paladin
  • Ranger

5E Classes That Should Never Learn or Prepare the Cure Wounds Spell

fighter pic D&D 5E

As handy as it might be to heal yourself as a 1st level fighter or barbarian, without higher level spell slots, Cure Wounds is going to be wasted on strictly martial D&D classes very early in level progression, especially for those with lots of hit points.

Don’t waste your first feat in these builds on Artificer Initiate or Magic Initiate for this spell.

The same advice applies to Eldritch Knights (fighter) and Arcane Tricksters (rogue). When your first access to spells is at level 3, and you only gain 2nd level spells at level 7, Cure Wounds just isn’t going to do enough for you past level 4.

Realistically, there are many better things you can spend both a feat and a spell slot on in these builds. Heck, there are many better spells you can spend these feats on.

As was mentioned earlier, half casters like the artificer are going to find that Cure Wounds simply isn’t effective beyond a certain point, and that point is frequently around level 7.

2d8 + 5 (with a good casting stat and a 2nd level spell slot) just isn’t going to put a dent in the needed healing for a gravely wounded fighter that has ~70 HP, and if your party wizard or sorcerer foolishly used Constitution as a dump stat, you’re almost always going to have something better to do than babysit them in fights at that level.

5th Ed classes that can not or should not consider the Cure Wounds spell at all:

  • Barbarian
  • Fighter
  • Monk
  • Rogue

5th Ed Classes that should not consider the Cure Wounds spell beyond level 6:

  • Artificer
  • Paladin
  • Ranger

Is Cure Wounds Good?

To better answer whether Cure Wounds is worthwhile, let’s start by comparing it to other spell-based sources of unconditional healing, omitting any spells that only grant temporary hit points.

Spells were pulled from the Player’s Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

Spell NameLevelHealingCasting Time
Aura of Vitality3rd2d6/bonus action, up to a minute1 action
Beacon of Hope3rdMaximizes all healing for up to 1 minute1 action
Cure Wounds1st1d8 per spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier1 action
Enervation5th1/2 of 4d8 + 1d8 per additional spell slot level/action, up to a minute1 action
Goodberry1st1 per berry/action, up to 101 action
Heal6th70 + 10 per additional spell slot level1 action
Healing Spirit2nd1d6 for each creature entering or starting in the spirit’s space each turn + 1d6 per additional spell level1 bonus action
Healing Word1st1d4 per spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier1 bonus action
Heroes’ Feast6th2d1010 minutes
Life Transference3rdYou take 4d8 + 1d8 damage per additional spell slot level, then heal another creature 2x the damage1 action
Mass Cure Wounds5th3d8 + 1d8 per additional spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier for up to 6 creatures1 action
Mass Heal9th700 HP divided as you choose among any number of creatures1 action
Mass Healing Word3rd1d4 + 1d4 per additional spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier for up to 6 creatures1 bonus action
Power Word Heal9thAll HP for 1 creature1 action
Prayer of Healing2nd2d8 + 1d8 per additional spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier for up to 6 creatures10 minutes
Regenerate7th4d8 + 15, + 1 each round for an hour.1 minute
Soul Cage6th2d8/bonus action up to 6 times within 8 hours1 reaction
Temple of the Gods7thAdd your Wisdom modifier to any spell that regains hit points (minimum 1)1 hour
Vampiric Touch3rd1/2 of 3d6 + 1d6 per additional spell slot level/melee spell attack, up to a minute1 action
Wish9thAll HP for up to 20 creatures1 action

Among 1st level spells, Cure Wounds is the clear winner compared to its peers, with the only noteworthy drawback of being a touch spell vs. Healing Word’s ability to heal someone within 60 feet. Sure it takes an action rather than a bonus action, but for up to twice the healing, that’s a no-brainer at low level.

As Cure Wounds scales up in spell level, it actually remains the 2nd best single target healing spell, only being eclipsed by Life Transference, until 6th level, where it is usurped by Heal.

Sure, you might get more net healing over the course of a fight out of Aura of Vitality, more party healing in the moment with Mass Cure Wounds, or extremely efficient healing over time with the powerful Prayer of Healing.

Sometimes, you just need to heal a lot of HP for one creature in the moment though. Cure Wounds is usually the best single target healing spell during battle, as it doesn’t rely on you remaining unscathed or needing to heal yourself later like Life Transference.

It is especially useful when combined with Beacon of Hope, maximizing your D8s without being a high level Life Domain cleric. 40-45 points of healing from a 5th level spell slot is going to look really good when your fighter or paladin is getting worn down.

Once 6th level spells enter the equation, however, Cure Wounds is probably going to be relegated to 4th or 5th level spell slots, if it’s needed at all for clerics, druids, and Divine Soul sorcerers. Heal is just too efficient for it to compete at higher levels, and even Regenerate does a comparable job in the moment, while conferring additional benefit over time.

And then there’s Mass Heal and Wish, which just makes all other healing look impotent if you can learn these powerful 9th level spells.

Now that we’ve established Cure Wounds ranks favorably among its peers for single round healing, let’s see how it compares to healing items, omitting artifacts, spell scrolls, and items that only grant temporary HP.

Items were pulled from the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.

Item NameCost/RarityHealingUse Time
Absorbing TattooVery Rare1/2 the damage of the tattoo’s damage type, 1/day1 reaction
Blood Fury TattooLegendary4d6, up to 10/daySuccessful melee weapon attack
Cauldron of RebirthVery Rare1 Potion of Greater Healing/day that must be used within 24 hours1 action, after a long rest
Cure Wounds1d8 per spell slot level + spellcasting ability modifier1 action
Devotee’s CenserRare1d4/round for all creatures within 10 feet, up to a minute per day1 bonus action
Efreeti BottleVery Rare10% chance of casting Wish 3 times within 1 hour1 action
Healer’s Kit (with Healer feat)5 gp1d6 + 4 + target’s total number of Hit Dice once between rests, 10 uses1 action
Instrument of the Bards (Mac-Fuirmidh cittern)UncommonCure Wounds (1st level spell slot with your spellcasting ability & DC)1 action
Instrument of the Bards (Canaith mandolin)RareCure Wounds (3rd level spell slot with your spellcasting ability & DC)1 action
Instrument of the Bards (Anstruth harp)Very RareCure Wounds (5th level spell slot with your spellcasting ability & DC)1 action
Ioun Stone (Regeneration)Legendary15/hour
Keoghtom’s OintmentUncommon2d8 + 2, 1d4 + 1 uses1 action
Luck BladeLegendaryCast Wish, up to 3 times1 action
Moon SickleUncommon++1d4 to any spell that restores HP
Necklace of Prayer Beads (Curing)RareCure Wounds (2nd level spell slot with your spellcasting DC), up to 6/day1 bonus action
Potion of Healing50 gp2d4 + 21 action
Potion of Greater HealingUncommon4d4 + 41 action
Potion of Superior HealingRare8d4 + 81 action
Potion of Supreme HealingVery Rare10d4 + 201 action
Potion of VitalityVery RareRegain the maximum number of HP for any Hit Die you spend1 action
Ring of RegenerationVery Rare1d6 every 10 minutes, as long as you have at least 1 HP
Robe of Useful ItemsUncommon9% chance of removing a patch for 4 Potions of Healing, contains 4d4 patches1 action
Rod of Lordly MightLegendary1/2 of 4d6, DC 17Successful melee attack with the Rod
Rod of SecurityVery Rare1 Hit Die/hour1 action
Staff of HealingRareCure Wounds (1 charge/spell slot up to 4th) and Mass Cure Wounds (5 charges) with your spellcasting ability & DC, up to 10 charges1 action

Once again, Cure Wounds comes off pretty favorably from both a monetary and efficient healing perspective. At 1st level, 50 gp is a lot to ask of a character in 5th Edition, making potions of healing feel like a big financial burden when a starting gold total is lucky to reach 200 gp, so Cure Wounds is a no-brainer here if learning it is an option.

On the other hand, if a member of your party starts the game with the Healer feat, a Healer’s kit is both incredibly affordable and useful, frequently outdoing a Cure Wounds spell until characters reach level 3, and sometimes doing so as far level 5. Well worth the feat if you’re expecting combat and want to take pressure off your party’s healer!

At uncommon, I’d recommend a Moon Sickle if your character can use one – it bolsters the effect of Cure Wounds and other healing spells without being consumed, making it the best value by far. Keoghtom’s Ointment is also great at lower levels, providing healing as well as poison and disease management.

Once you start getting into rare items, you really have to be picky about what you’re willing to pick up if you want an alternative as good as Cure Wounds. A Staff of Healing paces well with Cure Wounds and is reusable, making it the best item by far when comparing it to Cure Wounds at higher spell slots.

For items at very rare or beyond, use your best judgment for the situation at hand. If you can sell them, they’re worth a ton of money, and there are definitely duds for healing among these items, like the Regeneration Ioun Stone or Potion of Vitality, that won’t do you much good in a time-sensitive situation.

Others, like the Blood Fury Tattoo, the harp from Instrument of the Bards, or the Luck Blade are insanely useful for healing and/or other pursuits – treasure these should you come across them!

Is Cure Wounds Worth It?

Absolutely – depending on the situation. While you won’t squeeze as much overall healing out of it as many other spells, it is in the top 2 among low level spells when discussing the most you can heal a single creature in 1 round, making it a valuable asset for any full spellcasting class like the bard, cleric, or druid.

Cure Wounds often loses a bit of its luster once your spellcaster has the ability to learn 6th level spells, as Heal is incredibly efficient at healing individual creatures. If you don’t get access to Heal, Mass Heal, Power Word Heal, Regenerate, or Wish, however, Cure Wounds can still do a lot of work in a pinch at higher levels.

Half casters like the artificer, ranger, and paladin should probably steer clear of Cure Wounds past level 6 – it just doesn’t scale quickly enough to keep up with even the mediocre healing items, and class archetypes like the Eldritch Knight and Arcane Trickster that are considered 1/3 casters should just steer clear.

When compared to any magic item, the biggest strengths of Cure Wounds are its ability to be prepared and cast for free, and its ability to scale through higher level spell slots. As your party levels up and acquires more gold, its healing paces as well or better than most items considered common, uncommon, or rare and can actually be further strengthened with a Moon Sickle.

Very rare items are recommended for characters 11th level or higher per page 135 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, and at that point, the Heal spell is frequently part of the conversation for a dedicated healer, making Cure Wounds a secondary healing source at best.

Very Rare and Legendary items also tend to have more abilities and cost a fortune, so while most won’t match a Cure Wounds spell in terms of raw healing in 1 round, there’s usually more information that is involved in evaluating these items’ merit when buying or looting them.

With all that in mind, remember that there are lots of ways to play a healer or simply keep you and your party alive during a D&D campaign – taking the time to consider all your available options could end up saving a PC’s life!

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