If you drop the weapon or throw it, it dissipates at the end of the turn. Thereafter, while the spell persists, you can use a bonus action to cause the sword to reappear in your hand.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a 3rd- or 4th-level spell slot, the damage increases to 3d8. When you cast it using a 5th- or 6th-level spell slot, the damage increases to 4d8. When you cast it using a spell slot of 7th level or higher, the damage increases to 5d8.
Casting Time: 1 bonus action
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
School: 2nd-level illusion
Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, pg. 164
Shadow Blade 5e
Shadow Blade is a wickedly cool spell that packs a serious punch on certain character builds. It’s also frequently misunderstood, which we aim to fix in this write-up.
Who Can Cast Shadow Blade in 5e?
The following classes have Shadow Blade on their spell list:
No subclasses get Shadow Blade for free. But as an illusion Wizard spell, Arcane Trickster Rogues have access to it starting at 7th level. Eldritch Knight Fighters also have access to it starting at 8th level.
What Does Shadow Blade Do in 5e?
Shadow Blade creates a magic sword that you’re automatically proficient with. On hit deals 2d8 (9 average) psychic damage, plus whichever attack modifier (Strength or Dexterity) you use for the attack roll.
The weapon has the finesse, light, and thrown properties (20/60-foot range). Additionally, you have advantage on attack rolls made with the sword in dim light or darkness.
If you release the weapon from your hand, it disappears at the end of the turn. While the spell persists (up to 10 rounds of combat, concentration permitting), you can use a bonus action to re-conjure the sword in your hand.
Finally, Shadow Blade can be upcast for 3d8 damage at 3rd- or 4th-level, 4d8 damage at 5th- or 6th-level, and 5d8 damage at 7th-level or higher.
Now for the trickier rules…
What Are the Rules for Shadow Blade in 5e?
The rules for Shadow Blade in DnD 5e are as follows:
You can use Shadow Blade with spells that require a melee weapon with a minimum monetary value. After developers changed Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade to require a weapon with a monetary value of at least 1 sp, players were left wondering if Shadow Blade could still be used with them.
Jeremy Crawford confirmed that these spells can indeed be used with Shadow Blade. In his words, “Shadow Blade creates a simple melee weapon…I’d pick a value from the list of simple melee weapons…and apply that value to the shadowy blade.”
You add your Strength or Dexterity modifier to Shadow Blade’s damage. As this Sage Advice thread points out, “the shadow blade spell creates a weapon, and the spell doesn’t tell you to ignore the general rule on making weapon attacks. You therefore add the appropriate ability modifier.
As a finesse weapon, you can use your Strength or Dexterity modifier for the weapon’s attack and damage rolls. In other words, if you use your Dexterity modifier of +3, Shadow Blade will deal 2d8 + 3 psychic damage on hit.
Shadow Blade is a normal weapon in every other way. To take the above ruling further, Shadow Blade functions as a regular weapon in other ways. You can use it for stuff like Extra attack, two-weapon fighting, Sneak Attack, on-hit effects like smites, etc., etc.
You cannot hand Shadow Blade to another PC. As the Sage Advice Compendium cleared up, “the intent is the blade vanishes when you let go of it” (SAC 20).
Warlocks cannot make Shadow Blade their Pact weapon. Shadow Blade only lasts for 1 minute; the ritual to make a Pact of the Blade weapon happens “over the course of 1 hour.” (PHB 108).
Same goes for Hexblade Warlock’s Hex Warrior feature (kinda). It can only be done at the finish of a long rest, so you’d have to cast Shadow Blade during the last minute of a long rest and then attune it right away with Hex Warrior.
You’d then have to be in combat within the 60 seconds following your long rest to make use of the Shadow Blade as your Hex Warrior weapon.
Dim light and darkness explained: Dim light is described as “shadows” and “a boundary between a source of bright light and surrounding darkness” (PHB 183). Twilight, dawn, and the night of a bright full moon also fall into this category.
Finesse, light, and thrown properties explained:
Finesse: You can use your Strength or Dexterity modifier for Shadow Blade’s attack and damage rolls. “You must use the same modifier for both rolls” (PHB 147). Finesse weapons are also a requirement for Rogue’s Sneak Attack feature (PHB 96).
Light: A requirement for two-weapon fighting, meaning that you can use Shadow Blade as a dual-wielder.
Thrown (20/60). You can throw Shadow Blade up to 20 feet regularly, or up to 60 feet with disadvantage on the attack.
Darkness, magical or mundane, causes the blinded condition (PHB 291), which gives attackers disadvantage on attack rolls. In the context of Shadow Blade, this disadvantage is canceled out by the advantage granted by attacking with the spell while in darkness.
Although, you’ll still have to guess where your target is, unless you can see through darkness somehow. And in that case, you would still have advantage on your attack roll with Shadow Blade.
How Do I Use Shadow Blade in 5e?
Here are a few ways to use Shadow Blade in DnD 5e:
Pair with Sneak Attack. There’s a reason Arcane Tricksters love to pick up Shadow Blade. The automatic advantage from dark environments (Rogue’s natural environment anyway) makes Sneak Attack damage a guarantee on every attack.
This bonus damage on top of Shadow Blade’s already superior-to-regular-weapons base damage makes for a very juicy (and reliable) source of damage. Not to mention all the dice you’ll get to roll if you land a critical strike with this combo…
Get around creatures that are immune to non-magical weapon damage. If you don’t have a consistent way of getting around creatures that are immune to normal weapons, Shadow Blade is one of your best options. While a normal spell can get through this immunity as well, Shadow Blade’s 1-minute duration makes it better for longer engagements.
Plus, psychic damage is great (more on that below).
Use in dim/dark environments. If you’re going on a dungeon crawl, a cave exploration, a night-time mission, or any other dim/dark setting, you’ll get a lot more mileage out of Shadow Blade.
Advantage on every attack is a huge boost to your chance to hit (and thus damage per round) — especially if you’re using Extra Attack. Also, Shadow Blade is an excellent choice for fighting in the Darkness spell (or natural darkness), as you’ll offset the disadvantage from being blinded.
Be an Bladesinger Wizard, Sorcerer/Paladin, Arcane Trickster Rogue, or Eldritch Knight Fighter. These are the subclasses/multiclass combinations that tend to work really well Shadow Blade. I won’t get into the full details, but let’s quickly touch on why each one likes Shadow Blade:
Bladesinger. The Extra Attack feature that allows you to cast a cantrip in place of one attack is great for Shadow Blade — pair it with Green-Flame Blade or Booming Blade for a truly potent combination of damage (and damage types). Plus, the Bladesong feature makes concentration easier to maintain.
If both your normal attack and Green-Flame Blade hit, you’re looking at a total of (2d8 + Dex) + (2d8 + Dex + 1d8 + Int) damage — like 29 damage on average. And since Shadow Blade is a light weapon, there’s no reason not to take a bonus action to attack with a second weapon via two-weapon fighting. Let’s say it’s a rapier — that’s another 1d8 piercing damage, bringing us up to 33.5 damage.
Again, this assumes that literally every attack lands and that there’s an eligible target for Green-Flame Blade — real damage per round is lower, like 20 or so. This can be significantly increased by fighting in dim light to get advantage on attacks.
Sorcadin (Sorcerer/Paladin multiclass). Players like this one for two main reasons: Twinned Spell for even more Green-Flame Blade/Booming Blade attacks with your Shadow Blade and Divine Smite for adding even more damage dice to your attack (especially if it crits).
Arcane Trickster Rogue. We already covered this one — basically Sneak Attack + Shadow Blade + regular Rogue gameplay of stalking shadows = good.
Eldritch Knight Fighter. EK Fighters get War Magic at 7th-level, which allows them to attack after casting a cantrip — pretty much the same combo as the Bladesinger using their Extra Attack cantrip for Green-Flame Blade or Booming Blade.
It’s also great to pick up Twinned Spell via the Metamagic Adept feat (TCoE 80) or a Sorcerer multiclass dip.
Protect your concentration. No matter what character build you hope to use Shadow Blade with, protecting your concentration is paramount. If you’re using this spell, you’re fighting in melee range, so you’re a likely target for enemies.
Things like the Resilient feat (PHB 168) for proficiency in Constitution saving throws or the War Caster feat (PHB 170) for advantage on Constitution saving throws are always solid options for these sorts of character builds anyway.
Throw that Shadow Blade — especially in dim/dark settings. While Shadow Blade’s normal 20-foot range is short, it’s not nothing. If you don’t want to put yourself in melee range of enemies, this is a great way split the difference.
Sure, the 60-foot range of the throw has disadvantage — but if you attack a target in dim light or darkness, then voila — you’ve got advantage on the attack to cancel that out.
Is Shadow Blade 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Shadow Blade is a good spell in DnD 5e — for certain character builds. Psychic damage is a very rare immunity (21/818 creatures in the official sourcebooks) and resistance (19 creatures), so it’s reliable.
Darkness and dim light are also very common in many DnD adventure settings, so it’s fairly reliable to have advantage on your attacks as well (just be sure to bug your DM about the room’s lighting every time).
The finesse and thrown properties are great added properties that allow you to use Shadow Blade from a limited range if you need and use it with Dexterity instead of Strength — something most half-casters really appreciate so that they only need to invest in two ability scores.
That said, Shadow Blade is not a great choice on full-casters with poor ACs and little reason to get in melee range of enemies. It’s also worth noting here that the Hexblade Warlock also doesn’t really like Shadow Blade, because they can’t use it as their Pact weapon or Hex Warrior weapon, making it substantially worse.
Shadow Blade 5e DM Tips
There’s very little uncertainty with Shadow Blade’s rules, but the spell will force you to constantly consider the lighting in the room, as players will be eager to get advantage on their attack rolls if they can.
Beyond that, some players like to re-flavor the spell to transform their normal weapon into a shadowy one. As long as the spell functions the same way, there’s nothing wrong with this.
Similarily, it’s fine if a player wants to “sheathe” their shadow sword for dramatic effect, even though they’re technically letting go of it, which should cause it to disappear.
Simple Shadow Blade 5e Spell Text
Shadow Blade: (2nd-level illusion, 1 bonus action, Self, Concentration, up to 1 minute, V/S) Conjure a sword of shadow, a melee weapon with which you are proficient. It deals 2d8 psychic damage on a hit and has the finesse, light, and thrown properties (range 20/60). Attacks made against targets in dim light or darkness have advantage.
If you drop or throw the weapon, it dissipates at the end of the turn. While the spell persists, you can use a bonus action to cause the sword to reappear in your hand.
3d8 at 3rd- or 4th-level spell slot | 4d8 at 5th or 6th-level spell slot | 5d8 at 7thlevel spel slot or higher