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
Range: Self
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 round
School: 1st-level abjuration

Who can cast Shield? Sorcerers and Wizards have Mage Armor on their class spell lists. Additionally, Artillerist Artificers and Battle Smith Artificers get Shield for free and always have it prepared. Hexblade Warlocks also have access to Shield as part of their expanded spell list.

Player’s Handbook, pg. 275

Shield 5e

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.

If you’re looking to learn how the Shield spell works, what its best applications are, and its deeper rules are, this article will cover everything you need to know.

How Does Shield Work 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. Let’s look at how to use Shield effectively and some of its more complicated rules.

How to 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:

  1. Consider the initiative order. If the enemy who hits you is right before you in the initiative order, Shield will only help for that one attack, since it ends at the start of your turn. But if the enemy who hits you is right after you in the initiative order, the +5 AC will remain active for other enemies turns before it becomes your turn again.

    Enemies who see you cast Shield may not bother attacking you, and even if they do, they’re much more likely to fail. While you should always use Shield to protect yourself from a big hit, regardless of the initiative order, it’s undeniable that you get more long-term value out of the spell the greater the distance between you casting it and the start of your next turn.

  2. Consider the enemy. If you’ve got the hit points to spare and you’ve seen the attacker deal measly damage before, you might save your spell slot and allow the attack to go through. But if you know that the attacker hits like a truck and has multiattack, you should probably use Shield. You won’t always have perfect knowledge of this, but consider clues like the attacker’s size, weapon, or spell choice.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

dnd 5e shield spell

What Are the Rules for Shield in 5e?

The rules for Shield in DnD 5e are as follows:

  • Shield 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 Shield 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 and/or gagged.

  • The Shield is invisible. This indicates that other creatures should not notice the effects on the caster. However, while the Shield itself shouldn’t change enemy behavior, the fact that they saw you cast the spell might still change who they decide to attack, especially if they’re intelligent and/or magically inclined.

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 (it’s a flat 25 percentage point reduction in being hit), 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.

DnD 5e Shield FAQ

Shield DnD 5e FAQ:

  1. Does the shield spell stack with armor? Yes, the shield spell stacks with armor, shields, and any other AC bonuses your character already has. It simply provides +5 AC on top of whatever your current AC is.

  2. Can you cast shield on the same round you cast another spell? Yes, you can cast shield on the same round as casting another spell. The shield spell requires a reaction, so you cannot use other reaction abilities on the same round (like opportunity attacks), however. But the only stipulation on casting two leveled spells on the same turn applies to your turn, and relates specifically to bonus actions and actions, not reactions (Player’s Handbook, pg. 202).

  3. How long does the shield spell last? The shield spell lasts for one round, which means that it ends at the start of your next turn. For example, if your character is initiative 15, and you use shield as a reaction on the creature with 14 initiative’s turn, shield only lasts for that creature’s turn. But if you cast shield on the creature with 16 initiative’s turn, it lasts for the entire round, only ending when initiative rolls back around to 15, at the start of your turn.

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.

How Other Abjuration Spells Work in DnD 5e

Absorb Elements DnD
Armor of Agathys DnD
Ceremony DnD
Mage Armor DnD
Sanctuary DnD
Shield of Faith DnD
Aid DnD
Lesser Restoration DnD
Pass Without Trace DnD
Dispel Magic DnD