Widely agreed upon as one of the, if not the, best defensive spells in D&D, the shield is right up there as a spell you should learn to master, particularly if you’re into choosing the Wizard or Sorcerer class. So join me as we explore how the spell works, how to get the most out of it, and some sneaky use cases that can really turn the tide of battle. So let’s equip our magic shields and get in on the action!
How Do You Use the Shield Spell in Dungeons & Dragons?
The shield spell can only be cast on yourself and has a duration of one round.
Make sure you have a free hand to cast it or have an ability or item that allows you to cast a shield regardless of your free hand situation.
The shield spell is on the spell list for Wizards and Sorcerers so can be accessed easily.
The ability to cast it only when it is necessary is what makes this such a powerful spell, and what makes it stand out from other similar defensive spells.
What Is the Shield Spell?
The flavor text is that ‘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 the magic missile’.
Being a 1st level abjuration spell that is only available to Sorcerers and Wizards, the shield is a top-tier spell that will save your bacon in many situations. Other classes have some sneaky ways of obtaining the spell as well.
The boost to armor class (AC) is sorely needed for classes that naturally have almost no defense in these situations.
Spellcasters are particularly squishy when it comes to damage, so any damage reduction or damage blocking is great.
So generally you want to be casting it when you expect certain characters to be attacking you during the next turn, although you can wait until you get attacked or targetted to cast it, then have the chance of you being hit being recalculated by the dungeon master.
The +5 to AC is much higher than what standard armor or even rare magical armor will confer.
How Does Shield Reaction Work?
The spell has a casting time of 1 reaction, which means that the action technically only takes place when you are hit by an attack or targeted with the magic missile spell.
However, as the description clearly states that the reaction cost applies when you are hit or targeted, the intent here is to use it after the attack roll.
While some call this meta gaming, it is meant to model a quick reaction in an even way, so you know whether or not you’ve been hit before being forced to reveal whether you cast it or not.
This means that the boosted AC gets fed into the equation, and the attack may end up missing.
If a player is using the shield spell, after rolling it’s not necessary to inform the player of the attack roll value, just the fact that the attack would hit them.
The shield does not follow the rule of casting a cantrip or leveled spell. As it is a reaction spell, the action doesn’t happen on your turn.
This means you can cast a bonus action spell followed by a cantrip on your turn, only to be attacked on the enemy’s turn. As the shield spell is only cast as a reaction spell, you can still cast it at this point.
Does Shield Work on Spells?
Shield is said to block all attacks, including the specifically named magic missile spell, so shield does block spells as well.
It doesn’t provide total immunity, and fundamentally the AC roll is going to form the basis for the total damage taken.
How Long Does the Shield Spell Last?
The actual duration has a bit of leeway depending on how you want to play the game, but generally, it is one turn in duration.
The effect of shield ends at the start of your next turn, which is the next turn you take. As the famous Jeremy Crawford stated, ‘when your turn ends, the next person’s turn starts.
To maximize the benefit of the AC, generally, you want to use shield as soon as possible after you’ve taken a turn, but of course, you must take into account the likelihood of you getting attacked.