Blade Ward is a cantrip in Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) 5th edition (5e) that is cast on yourself for one action and lasts for one round. Available to the Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard, what does this Blade Ward spell do and how useful is it?
Blade Ward helps damage reduction for one turn and is not that powerful of a spell. It can be useful when used in combination with some other spells that see the wielder take damage, such as Armor of Agathys.
Let’s have a look at the spell, how it operates, and the pros and cons of this cantrip. We’ll also consider some unique ways to best utilize the spell to get the most out of its mechanics as well as some specific scenarios that it would work well in.
Does Blade Ward Work Against Magical Weapons?
Blade Ward is a spell known as an abjuration cantrip. It grants protection against damage caused by weapons, so magical weapons are included in this.
The flavor text from the player handbook is that ‘You extend your hand and trace a sigil of warding in the air. Until the end of your next turn, you have resistance against bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage dealt by weapon attacks.
Notice that this flavor text does not say, ‘from non-magical weapons, meaning that no distinction is made between the two types of weapon attacks.
Is Blade Ward a Cantrip?
Blade Ward is a cantrip, it is cast as a spell and doesn’t use concentration. Cantrips are spells that can be cast at level one, although there may be some class limitations for certain cantrips.
This cantrip is thus only accessible to the classes of Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard. Cantrips have the very powerful ability to be castable without using any spell slots.
It has a verbal and somatic element, given that there is movement during the casting of the spell. This is typical of other cantrip spells.
Is Blade Ward Useful 5e?
The general opinion seems to be that Blade Ward is not particularly useful.
One of the main reasons that Blade Ward is not all that useful, is that a dodge is always an option. A dodge can result in zero damage taken, or a dodge will reduce damage by 50%, which is particularly good if your AC is low or you didn’t have enough spell shots for Shield.
The only two classes which might benefit are Eldritch Knights and Valor Bards, but even within these confines you only get one weapon attack, thus losing out on any extra from Extra Attack buffs.
Some more esoteric strategies can be when using the Eldritch Knight, that at Knight level seven, you gain War Magic, which allows you to make a single melee weapon attack after using a cantrip.
At this level, you would be taking less damage from each attack an enemy makes. But if you instead attack twice, this could end up with a much better roll.
A common pairing that has seen some success is Blade Ward used with Armor of Agathys. Armor of Agathys gives you temporary hit points while also retaliating with damage every time an enemy hits you.
There are a range of other spells that act in this way, so if you have a build consisting of taking damage to deal your damage, such as with Rage, these can all work in synergy relatively well with Blade Ward.
Consider also certain monster matchups that have movement restriction attacks, such as putting the player in a net, an entangle spell or another binding spell. Movement restriction, or when a creature’s speed is reduced to 0, that creature then becomes incapable of dodging.
So if you’re going to encounter dungeons with these types of dungeon tactics (think of a cave with spiders and their sticky, slowing web), then Blade Ward might very well give you better results over the long term.
If you suspect either your armor class, effective armor class or movement will be so compromised as to make dodging impossible, then Blade Ward could very well be the only smart option.
What Does Blade Ward Do in 5e?
Blade Ward is a damage reduction spell that can be cast on your character. It tends to be only useful for medium- to high-defense and high hit point characters, as spellcasters tend to be too squishy even with this spell up to be taking too many attacks.
This cantrip only lasts until your next turn, so as it takes up vital spell slots and actions and doesn’t have powerful, general usage, it tends to not be picked very often.
Blade Ward cannot protect against other forms of damage that pop up in D&D that are not from a weapon, such as that caused by spells or by falling. The latter is still bludgeoning damage but not from a weapon.
This also means that it cannot be used to defend against traps, so even obviously booby-trapped hallways must be braved using some other means.
Monster attacks still are covered in this, as a claw or bite attack is classed as melee weapon attacks. However, it is possible for a melee attack to be non-weapon, such as a punch, kick, head-butt, or similar forceful blow.