Shield 5e – The Best Defensive Spell in the Game

Book of Spells and Magical Effects

Bottom Line Up Front 

Shield 5e is a First Level Spell with outstanding Action Economy and the ability to turn a definite hit into a clean miss. It’s the best defensive spell in the game.

In 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, Wizards of the Coast have kept this classic spell popular because it’s effective and worth memorizing from 1st to 20th Level. Casters tend to be easy to hit with the smallest number of Hit Points and this spell can turn an enemy’s hit into a miss. Memorize it because it could save your life.

In Point Form – Shield Spell 5e

1st-level abjuration

Casting Time: 1 reaction, when you are hit by an attack or targeted by the magic missile spell

Range: Self

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.

Classes: Sorcerer, Wizard

Subclasses: Arcane Trickster Rogue, Artillerist Artificer, Battle Smith Artificer, Clockwork Soul Sorcerer, Eldritch Knight Fighter, Hexblade Warlock

The Breakdown

The Shield Spell has been around since I started playing with the Greyhawk and Blackmoor rulebooks even before 1st Edition. In Fifth Edition, it’s in the Player’s Handbook and remains one of the community’s most popular spells. It’s one of those spells that you want to take advantage of if you’re going to play a squishy Caster or you want to give an already tough Eldritch Knight an even higher AC.

As a 1st Level Abjuration Spell, it’s accessible and Abjurer Wizards will get their Arcane Ward refreshed.

Basically, a Caster can react when hit by an attack and cast the Shield Spell to increase their AC by +5. This will turn a lot of hits into misses. It’s essentially the same as putting on a suit of armor or a getting 3/4 cover from your own personal energy field but only when you need it.

Action, Bonus Action, Reaction

Since you cast it as a Reaction when you are hit, and it lasts a full round, this Wizard and Sorcerer staple. That’s good Action Economy. Basically, you are guaranteed to benefit from this spell. Therefore, your Caster never wastes this spell slot.

Since the attack against you occurs on someone else’s turn, the rules about casting multiple spells (except Cantrips) on your turn does not come into effect. Therefore, in the right circumstances, you have the ability to cast an Attack Cantrip, a leveled spell and Shield as a reaction in a single Round.

An invisible barrier of magical force appears and protects you.

Not much mechanical to break down in this statement but I want to talk about two things to discuss with your DM.

The most important point to bring up is “duration 1 round”. Most people interpret this to mean that it lasts until the end of the round or until your next turn. I like the idea that it lasts a full round until the next turn of the creature that attacked you. This means that your defensive bonus will last against every enemy attack role before it drops. If you’ve been rushed by a half dozen Orcs, you’ll have that extra defense up against all their attacks for one full Round.

If you’re into role playing, you can talk to your DM about customizing the appearance of your Shield rather than having it be invisible. A Scribe Wizard could have it look like a book, a page or even a writing table. A Clockwork Soul Sorcerer would be protected from damage by a rectangular magic field reminiscent of a Modron’s shape or the original Dune movie. A Hexblade Warlock might be warded by a copy of their patron blade.

Magic Missile

Clearly this spell was created when some young whippersnapper got tired of being pelted by Harry Potter style Magic Missiles. As a result, it completely negates magic missiles and has the side effect of impacting any attacks against you that require a To Hit role.

At Higher Levels

You can use a higher level spell slot to cast it but there’s no additional benefit.

5e D&D Shield Spell
A Shield is never wasted but it won’t protect your pony.

Common Questions about Shield 5e

Unfortunately, the crossover between ‘a shield’ and ‘shield the spell’ causes Google some problems. Hopefully, covering some of the common questions about using a physical shield will help someone out.

How does a shield work 5e?

A shield gets equipped on one arm and increases your Armor Class by +2. The Shield Spell can be cast when you are hit and imposes a -5 penalty on your enemy’s attack roll.

What does a +1 shield do?

A +1 shield is magic and adds the plus as a bonus to your Armor Class. In addition, it can be great

How does attacking with a shield work 5e?

The Shield Master feat has a specific rule for attacking with a shield.  With the feat, if you take the Attack Action, you can use a bonus action to Shove or Shove Aside your opponent. However, even without the feat, you can use it as an Improvised Weapon for 1d4 damage.

What level spell is shield 5e?

The Shield Spell is 1st level.