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.
Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you are hit by an attack or targeted by the Magic Missile spell
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 round
School: 1st-level abjuration
Player’s Handbook, pg. 275
A Goblin’s arrow is whizzing toward you; an Orc’s ax coming directly for your face; a Drow Mage’s Magic Missile is almost upon you. Fear not, adventurer. With the Shield spell, you can bolster your defenses at the last minute, and keep up your guard for the remainder of the round as well.
Who Can Cast Shield in 5e?
The following classes have Shield on their spell list:
The following subclasses get Shield for free:
Artificer (Artillerist) (TCoE 17)
Artificer (Battle Smith) (TCoE 19)
Additionally, Hexblade Warlocks have access to Shield as part of their expanded spell list (XGtE 55).
What Does Shield Do in 5e?
Shield instantly gives the caster +5 AC and Magic Missile immunity for the remainder of the round, and can only be used in reaction to an attack or Magic Missile targeting the caster.
It’s a fairly straightforward defensive spell with no upcast potential but serious utility all throughout the game. There are a few common questions about Shield though.
What Are the Rules for Shield in 5e?
The rules for Shield in DnD 5e are as follows:
It counts toward the triggering attack. As the spell description clearly states, the +5 AC and Magic Missile immunity happens instantly and applies to the triggering attack.
You can only use it after you’re hit. If a Zombie takes a swing at you, you don’t have to cast Shield until the DM tells you that the attack will land. However…
You can’t waste Shield if it won’t make a difference on the triggering attack. According to this Sage Advice thread, a caster can’t waste their Shield “from not knowing” the result of the roll. If +5 AC won’t help to avoid damage from the triggering attack, the caster should be told that and not taxed a spell slot.
Shield lasts until the start of the caster’s next turn. The duration of the spell “1 round” can be confusing. To be clear, that does not mean at the end of the current initiative count. It means when the initiative count returns back to the caster.
You cannot make an opportunity attack after casting Shield. Both are considered reactions, so you’ll need to wait until the next round of combat before you’re able to make opportunity attacks again.
Sorcerers can use Subtle Spell with Shield. However, that is the only form of Metamagic that the Shield spell is eligible for. This could come in handy if restrained or gagged.
The Shield is invisible. This indicates that other creatures should not notice the effects on the caster. Therefore, they shouldn’t change their behavior in any way, unless intelligent and/or magically inclined.
How Do I Use Shield in 5e?
Shield is obviously good for reacting to being smacked or Magic Missile’d. Here are some additional fun ways to use Shield:
Get into the fray. Shield can be used as a reaction to an opportunity attack, and the fact that it lasts for a full round of combat means this can be the perfect spell to caster before diving deep into the action, perhaps for a Thunderwave.
Run away! Shield is good for getting into sticky situations, but it’s even better for getting out of them. That opportunity attack trick from the tip above applies equally well here.
Read your DM. If your DM isn’t totally forthcoming about how high the monster’s attack roll was, look for clues. Some DMs smile gleefully on a high roll or use verbal cues to indicate a near hit. Learning these hints can help you avoid wasting Shield at an inopportune time.
Is Shield 5e a Good Spell?
Yes, Shield is an incredibly good spell that any caster should consider taking. The classic classes that have Shield (Sorcerer and Wizard) are typically easy targets with low ACs and hit point pools.
Having an instant reaction that not only helps against the triggering attack but provides protection for a full round of combat, is usually enough to save your life at least once in a fight.
+5 AC and Magic Missile immunity are also relevant throughout the game, not just at early levels. While there’s no upcast potential from Shield, having it available for a cheap 1st-level spell slot in the late to mid-game feels really good.
Shield 5e Compared to Absorb Elements
Both Shield and Absorb Elements are incredibly powerful first-level spells.
Absorb Elements is also used as a reaction, but specifically when taking damage from acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage. It instantly cuts the damage in half and allows you to add 1d6 of that type of damage if you land a melee attack on your next turn.
Basically, Shield is better if you think enemies will be rolling against your AC, whereas Absorb Elements is better if you think you’ll be targeted by elemental spellcasters. Absorb Elements is also very strong against area of effect damage, such as dragons’ breath.
Overall, both Shield and Absorb Elements are worth having if you’re a defensively-minded Sorcerer or Wizard, but you can use these general guidelines when prioritizing which spell to pick up first.
Shield 5e DM Tips
As a DM, it’s up to you how much information you let slide about how high your creatures’ attack rolls are. Do you tell players they’ve been critically struck the moment you see a 20 or do you just let them know they’ve been hit?
For new players, I recommend letting Shield always work on the triggering attack. It’s a frustrating feeling to have some mystery dice roll tell you that your spell didn’t do diddly squat. Experienced players can handle this reality, and are more cognizant of the full round effect of Shield.
Another thing that may come up is whether other enemies notice that the caster is shielded for the rest of the round. The spell clearly states that the Shield is invisible, so you should do your best to separate what you know and what the creatures that you’re controlling know.
In other words, the stupid Goblins should probably keep attacking the Wizard who’s shielded himself, while the savvy Drow Mage might recognize a Shield absorbing her Magic Missiles.
Simple Shield 5e Spell Text
Shield: (1st-level, 1 reaction in response to being hit or targeted by Magic Missile, Self, 1 round, V/S) +5 AC and Magic Missile immunity until the start of your next turn.