Shield spell in DnD 5E explained

The ghoul’s long claws became nothing but blood-stained blurs as it swang its arm at the exposed Wizard, a slippery flooring having put him down on his rump as a prime target. With a juried warding gesture and muttered words in a dead language, a barrier of brilliant blue force erupted between the two combatants. The claws bounced off its rigid surface with a hollow thud, as the Wizard stood and composed himself. With claws raking the magical defense, struggling to find purchase, the Wizard made different gestures this time and with the glint of a fiery ember in his eyes, immolated his foe.

What is Shield?

Shield is a 1st level abjuration spell that is only available to Sorcerers and Wizards, although there are actually many more ways for your to gain access to this spell. It allows you to take a reaction when hit by an attack to increase your AC by +5, potentially causing the attack to miss instead. It can also be used when targeted by the Magic Missile spell to block it completely, one of the very few ways to block that spell.

Once you cast the spell the magical barrier it creates remains to protect you until the start of your next turn, protecting you from Magic Missile and increasing your AC by +5 until then.

Is Shield a good spell?

An unreserved yes, Shield is an excellent spell! It’s considered a must-have for Sorcerers and Wizards to compensate for their, typically, lower AC and sought after by many other classes for its cheap but highly effective defense boost.

The only downsides to consider with this spell are making sure that you have the free hand needed to cast it, or a feature that allows you to cast it regardless, and making sure it’s the right use for your reaction. For example, if you’re fighting a dragon and its kobold guards is your reaction best used to block a crossbow bolt, or would it be better held in case you need to use Absorb Elements to save yourself from the dragon’s breath weapon? The same can be said about Counter Spell and fighting enemy spell casters. 

That said, the nature of Shield triggering on a hit means that even if it isn’t the most optimal choice, it will rarely, if ever, go to waste when cast.

How can you get Shield?

Lucky for you, if not your DM, Shield is actually easy to get in different ways even if it’s only on two spell lists:

  • Sorcerer and Wizard – Both have access to Shield from their spell lists normally.
  • Arcane Trickster (Rogue Subclass) – This subclass gets limited access to the Wizard spell list, Shield can be chosen with one of the few unrestricted spell choices this subclass gets.
  • Eldritch Knight (Fighter Subclass) – Similar to the above, this subclass gives access to the Wizard spell list, however, Eldritch Knights can choose Shield as one of their restricted spells as it is the Abjuration school. This makes it a lower cost for the Eldritch Knight than the Arcane Trickster.
  • Hexblade (Warlock Patron) – Shield is available to these Warlocks through their expanded spell lists, but they must still spend a spell known on it. Note: The nature of a Warlock’s few, yet high level, spell slots means that Shield is more expensive for a Warlock than most spellcasters. This means that it should generally be reserved for saving your life rather than just saving you from taking some damage.
  • Artillerist and Battle Smith (Artificer Subclasses) – Both of these subclasses get access to Shield no matter what they choose to prepare, the typically high AC of Artificers makes Shield very potent for these subclasses.
  • Magical Secrets (Bard Class Feature) – This feature allows you to choose whatever spell you like, from any spell list, and make it a Bard spell for you. Using this feature for Shield means that you’ll have to wait until Tier 3 and miss out on a higher level spell to steal. This is more economical for College of Lore Bards that get Magical Secrets at 6th level, allowing you to use it earlier and not having to choose between it and many more, much higher level spells.
  • Magic Initiate (Feat) – Taking this feat, and choosing either the Sorcerer or Wizard spell list, would allow you to cast Shield once per day in addition to gaining two cantrips. If you’re a Sorcerer or Wizard then this would save you a learned spell and give you an additional casting of Shield per day.
  • Githzerai (Subrace) – This type of Gith is able to cast Shield once per long rest, with the added bonus that it requires no components to do so.
  • Mark of Sentinel Human (Variant Race) – This dragonmarked human can cast Shield once per day.

We hope that this article helped protect you from some damage, if you’re looking for more spells to pick up then check out our spells section, or if you’re here because you’re planning to play a Hexblade then check out our Warlock guide. Good luck in the heat of battle soldier caster and remember, meets it, beats it!

Editor-in-Chief