You have practiced casting spells in the midst of combat, learning techniques that grant you the following benefits:
You have advantage on Constitution saving throws that you make to maintain your concentration on a spell when you take damage.
You can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands.
When a hostile creature’s movement provokes an opportunity attack from you, you can use your reaction to cast a spell at the creature, rather than making an opportunity attack. The spell must have a casting time of 1 action and must target only that creature.
Player’s Handbook, pg. 170
War Caster 5e
The War Caster feat is a premier feat option for spellcasters in DnD 5e. If you’re thinking about making a character who uses a lot of concentration spells, you can bet that War Caster will come in handy on multiple occasions.
In this article, I’ll go over how War Caster works in detail, how to use War Caster optimally, and compare War Caster to the Resilient (Con) feat. I’ll also give my opinion on what classes should consider taking the War Caster feat and answer some of the most common questions about how War Caster works in DnD 5e.
How does the War Caster feat work in 5e?
DnD’s War Caster feat does three things:
Lets you cast Verbal/Somatic or Somatic spells while holding a weapon and shield or two weapons (you still need a free hand for spells that require material components, even if that’s an arcane focus/component pouch).
Lets you cast a spell targeted at a creature who provokes an opportunity attack from you (must have a casting time of 1 action and only target that creature).
Gives you advantage on concentration checks (Constitution saving throws made when you’re concentrating on a spell, primarily after you take damage).
If two of the three of those things sound good for your character build, War Caster is an excellent feat to pick up. The advantage on concentration checks alone is incredibly valuable, as losing concentration on spells can have a huge impact on a fight.
What are the rules for War Caster in 5e?
The rules for War Caster in DnD 5e are as follows:
If a spell has material components, you still need a free and to interact with them with War Caster. War Caster’s second bullet point allows you to perform somatic components of spells even when your hands are full (specifically with weapon(s) and/or a shield.
However, spells with a material component requirement still require you to have a free hand to use them. This means War Caster only benefits you if you’re casting a spell with a V and/or S component only; anything with a material component won’t be helped by War Caster.
In the case of Clerics and Paladins, whose spellcasting focus can be a part of their shield, spells with material components without a cost requirement can still be cast with both hands occupied with War Caster.
War Caster only allows you to target one creature. But it still works with a spell that CAN target multiple creatures. You just can’t ACTUALLY target multiple creatures with it; all the attacks must be directed at the creature who provoked the opportunity attack.
This is in contrast to something like Twinned Spell, which can’t be used with any spell that CAN target multiple creatures, regardless of if you actually do.
This means that War Caster cannot be used with area-of-effect spells, since they target an area rather than a creature. But War Caster can be used with spells like Eldritch Blast, Magic Missile, and Scorching Ray, as long as all the attacks/missiles are directed at the creature who provoked the opportunity attack that triggered War Caster.
Ranged spell attacks made with the War Caster “opportunity attack” are made at disadvantage if the target (or any enemy creature) is within 5 feet of you. Same as the normal rules for ranged attacks in close combat.
How to use War Caster in 5e
Here are a few ways to use War Caster in DnD 5e:
Use Booming Blade. Booming Blade is a great cantrip to use with War Caster’s “opportunity attack.”
A creature you hit with this has a decision; continue moving and take the extra damage from Booming Blade, or stay where they are? If you’re a tank, that means extra stickiness and soft taunts on creatures who have even less reason to chase down your allies. If you’re a hit-and-run tactician, like an Arcane Trickster Rogue, melee enemies are forced to give chase (and take damage) or otherwise do nothing with their turn.
Don’t cast spells that have repeated saving throws. A spell like Hold Person might seem like a good thing to cast with War Caster (“Stop right there scum!”), but it’s actually not a great idea. The enemy will get to make their initial saving throw, and even if they fail and are stuck in place, they get to make another saving throw at the end of their turn.
That’s basically giving an enemy advantage on their save for free.
Is War Caster good in 5e?
Yes, War Caster is good in 5e. It’s not overpowered or essential to your character build, but it’s a top-tier feat for all spellcaster classes. Concentration spells make up 46% of all spells in DnD 5e, and many are considered among the most powerful spells in the game.
Having advantage on checks to ensure that these spells stay active longer is a strong buff in its own right, even without the other perks. Advantage works out to a +4 to +5 bonus, which is a huge deal in DnD 5e’s system of bounded accuracy.
Additionally, the ability to cast a spell in place of an opportunity attack means you’re more offensively threatening than most spellcasters, who are forced to make pathetic attack rolls when an enemy leaves their range if they don’t have War Caster.
The fact that you don’t need a free hand for somatic components is actually good on paper, but not really necessary. Many DMs hand-wave components, and most spellcasters don’t really care about carrying a weapon — they’re fine to carry their arcane focus or component pouch in one hand (for somatic + material components) and a shield in the offhand (or not, if they’re not proficient with them).
War Caster vs. Resilient (Constitution)
War Caster is better than Resilient in DnD 5e up until around level 10. For more details, I highly recommend ThinkDM’s article, Warcaster vs. Resilient (CON), to learn more specifics on the math, but the TLDR version is that War Caster is better at protecting your concentration up until 13th-level. https://thinkdm.org/2019/12/14/war-caster-vs-resilient/
This is because Resilient (Con) allows you to add your proficiency bonus to Con checks (including concentration), so it gets better as you level up and your proficiency bonus increases. It’s also better against higher incoming damage (which raises the DC of a concentration check), because it lifts your highest possible result, unlike advantage, which is still limited in its max result by your modifiers.
Basically, if you’re taking your first feat at level 8 (which most spellcasters do), War Caster is the stronger option. Especially if you know that your campaign will end before (or not long after) hitting level 13.
Caveat: If Resilient (Con) increases Constitution to an even number (it also comes with a +1 Constitution ability score improvement), thus increasing your Constitution modifier and, therefore your maximum hit points, it becomes a much more attractive option.
Caveat 2: Resilient (Con) boosts ALL your Constitution saving throws (which are somewhat common and can be very impactful), so it is overall the stronger defensive buff.
BUT if ALL you want is the best protection for your concentration spells, War Caster wins out for most character builds and most campaigns.
War Caster 5e compared to Ability Score Improvements
The War Caster feat, like most feats in DnD 5e, is worse than choosing an ability score improvement instead. At least, until you max out your primary ability.
For spellcasters, this means getting your Wisdom, Intelligence, or Charisma to 20 as fast as possible to get a +5 bonus to your spell attacks and spell save DC. And also preparing an extra spell for prepared spellcaster.
Now, I’m personally of the opinion that this (maxing out your primary ability) should be your primary goal as a spellcaster, and you should forgo feats altogether (or until level 12, but many campaigns don’t even make it far). At least, mechanically, I think that’s the wiser option.
BUT, I’m also understanding of the fact that flat numerical bonuses are kind of boring/unsatisfying, especially for spellcasting classes that don’t get a lot of cool new features (except, you know, all the sweet spells…) And in this sense, War Caster is the more fun and satisfying option.
Your concentration spells will last longer, and on the off-chance someone triggers an opportunity attack from you, you can do more damage with that opportunity.
Best classes and subclasses for War Caster DnD 5e
These classes and subclasses will get the most value out of the War Caster feat in 5e:
Bard. Especially College of Swords or Valor, but all Bards have strong concentration spells that they’d like to keep up as long as possible.
Cleric. Spirit Guardians, Bless, Banishment — these are big, important concentration spells that completely alter the balance of power in a fight. Losing concentration on one of them is detrimental, which makes War Caster valuable for that alone. The somatic thing doesn’t matter, since your spellcasting focus (your material and somatic components) is on your shield anyway, but the concentration protection is still excellent..
Druid. Druids have important concentration spells, and Moon Druids can’t afford to lose those spells after they Wild Shape, since they can’t cast new spells while they’re in beast form.
Wizard. Especially Bladesingers, since they’ll have their concentration tested more than most. But Wizards have a ton of great concentration spells, and no better way to protect them than War Caster (at early levels). Still, maxing out Intelligence first wins out, in my opinion, even for Bladesingers (more AC from Int!)
Arcane Trickster Rogue. Booming Blade opportunity attacks are fun, and concentration spells are an essential part of the AT Rogue arsenal.
Eldritch Knight Fighter. Booming Blade opportunity attacks are great on Eldritch Knights, but concentration spells aren’t as big a thing, and having to worry about Intelligence, Strength/Dexterity, and Constitution leaves very little room for feats. Luckily, Fighters get more ASIs than any other class.
Any other spellcasting class or subclass with concentration spells will benefit from War Caster. However, Sorcerers and Artificers already have proficiency in Constitution saving throws, and Artificers can use any infused item as a spellcasting focus.
Warlocks have the Eldritch Mind invocation, which is much less of an investment to pick up than the War Caster feat, and accomplishes basically the same thing. Paladins have Aura of Protection for better saving throws, and as a class that needs both Strength and Charisma, they can’t really afford to get feats instead of ability score improvements.
DnD 5e War Caster FAQ
Here are the rules for War Caster DnD 5e:
Can you cast Eldritch Blast with War Caster? Yes, you can cast Eldritch Blast with War Caster, even when you’re 5th+ level and it creates multiple beams. The only stipulation is that all of the beams must target the creature who provoked the opportunity attack.
Can you cast Magic Missile with War Caster? Yes, you can cast Magic Missile with War Caster, but all of the missiles must target the creature who provoked the opportunity attack.
Can you cast Booming Blade with War Caster? Yes, you can cast War Caster with Booming Blade, confirmed by Jeremy Crawford. You can also cast Green-Flame Blade with War Caster, provided you forgo targeting a second creature with it/
How does War Caster work with material components? War Caster takes away the need for a free hand for the somatic components of a spell; however, it does not change the fact you need a free hand to interact with material components (or an arcane focus/component pouch) to cast spells that require them.
What is the War Caster opportunity attack range? The range of the War Caster opportunity attack is as far your normal reach for an opportunity attack. From whatever distance a creature triggers your opportunity attack (usually within 5 feet), you can target that creature with a spell.
Does Polearm Master work with War Caster? Yes, Polearm Master works with War Caster. More specifically, polearm master gives you an additional way for a creature to provoke an opportunity attack (when they enter your reach while you’re wielding a glaive, halberd, pike, quarterstaff, or spear), and War Caster gives you a way to replace an opportunity attack with a spell cast.
However, Jeremy Crawford said that “the intent is that any OA triggered because you’re wielding a polearm is then made with that polearm.” However, to me, that goes directly against RAW, which is rare for rulings from 5e’s lead game developer.
Does Sentinel work with War Caster? No, Sentinel does not work this War Caster. The Sentinel feat’s third bullet requires that you “hit a creature with an opportunity attack.” War Caster lets you “cast a spell…rather than making an opportunity attack.” Since you are not making an opportunity attack, you do not trigger the condition for Sentinel.