Shield might be one of the most popular and misused spells in the game. It provides a last-second defense for spell casters, and the aftereffects might be just as important.
Shield has the power to change the outcome of a fight, and for a defensive spell, that is rather beneficial.
The rules for Shield are found in the Players Handbook on page 275.
Casting Time: 1 Reaction
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 Round
An invisible barrier of magical force appears and protects you. Until the start of your next turn, you have a +5 bonus to AC, including against the triggering attack, and you take no damage from magic missile.
The rules for Shield reveal the spell as a reaction spell. This reaction is triggered when you are hit or targeted by Magic Missile.
The spell increases your armor class as a reaction, or after you know you have been hit. The armor class bonus carries through until the start of your next turn.
Is Shield Good?
Shield might be one of the best spells in the game. It blocks Magic Missile automatically, can be used as a reaction to block an attack, and provides an AC bonus. This makes Shield hard for any caster to bypass when choosing spells at the first level.
Shield blocks Magic Missile automatically. You may cast Shield as a reaction to being targeted by Magic Missile. Casting the spell in this manner stops all of the darts that are targeting you.
You may cast Shield as a reaction to being hit with an attack. This instantly increases your armor class by 5. If this is enough to make the attack miss, then it misses.
If you cast Shield in either of these circumstances, the key thing to remember is that the +5 armor class bonus stays with you until the start of your next turn, in addition to protecting you for the same duration from Magic Missile.
The extended armor class bonus is almost good enough to make this spell a lock. The ability to cast it only when needed is what makes the spell as great as it is.
How Does the Shield Spell Work?
The Shield spell is cast as a reaction only when hit by an attack or when targeted with Magic Missile.
This means Shield is different from the majority of other spells. It does not follow the rule of casting a cantrip or leveled spell since it doesn’t happen on your turn.
For instance, if you cast a bonus action spell and then a cantrip on your turn and then are attacked on the enemy’s turn, you can still cast Shield.
Ultimately the spell description is vague as far as how the Shield actually manifests, providing only that a magical barrier of force surrounds and protects the caster.
It has been determined that it takes the form of a large physical shield shape of energy. It does not produce a “bubble” of protection.
This determination has been made based on the bonus to armor class and that it does not provide immunity to damage or extra hit points.
It functions as ¾ cover in the form of an energy wall. Likewise, it provides no protection to area of effect or resistance to single magic effects if paired with the Shield Master feat.
The barrier created cannot be used for any type of physical attack or action. For instance, it cannot be used for a shield bash attack or combination with shove.
Shield 5e and Other Reaction Spell Choices
Above it is outlined how Shield works as a reaction and how that differs from standard spells. Shield is not alone in its uniqueness, however. Below are several other choices for reaction spells, along with a short description.
- Absorb Elements – Allows the caster to capture elemental energy and deal it out on their next melee attack.
- Feather Fall – Allows the caster to slow the descent of up to five creatures within range to a safe speed.
- Hellish Rebuke – Allows the caster to surround an attacker in hellish flames dealing damage after an attack.
- Counterspell – Allows the caster to interrupt the casting of another spell rendering it useless.
- Soul Cage – Allows the caster to capture a soul and manipulate it to your advantage.
War Caster Feat 5e
One of the biggest benefits of Shield is the ability to use it as a reaction. While unrelated, it is important to point out that the War Caster feat allows a spell to be cast as a reaction for an attack of opportunity.
The spell must have a casting time of one action and only target that one creature. This allows the caster to cast multiple spells in the same round.
Shield 5e FAQs
Does Shield Protect Against Spells in 5e?
Shield doesn’t primarily protect you against damage from spells so much as it protects you from attack in general.
While it does make you immune to being damaged by Magic Missile, all other spells still need to hit you in order to deal damage/activate their effects, and having bonus AC helps to avoid that.
If you think about it, having +5 AC on any class except spellcasters, especially Barbarians, Clerics, Fighters, and Paladins, basically means they have to pass ACs of 18 all the way up to 20, which is highly unlikely.
How Long Does Shield Actually Last in 5e?
The Duration of Shield states that it lasts for 1 round, which means it’ll last until the caster’s next turn.
You can calculate exactly how long it’ll be, as there aren’t always the same amount of creatures taking part in a battle, but below is a good example of how it would look:
If the caster has initiative 5 out of 10 creatures and casts Shield on his turn, the spell will then stay active until it’s his initiative again.
Can You Cast Shield After Being Damaged in 5e?
It’s quite easy to get confused when Shield is actually cast, but to make things simple to understand, always think about the Attack roll and the Damage roll, as they are two separate things.
Shield can only be cast as a reaction after the Attack roll is made, but it has to be cast before the Damage roll, or else whatever is rolled will affect the target.
Thinking about the attack process like this will save you a lot of unneeded confusion, so remember that for next time and help those who don’t already understand this concept.
While Shield is a defensive-only spell that benefits the caster on the battlefield exclusively, it remains a top choice for any caster. Casters, by nature, are most commonly the squishiest of the classes, so any opportunity to avoid damage should be held in high regard.
Casting the spell as a reaction doesn’t limit the caster’s ability to provide offensive firepower, so it avoids the conflict of other classes that use an action to cast buff or healing spells.