© Wizards of the Coast by Colin Boyer

What Is the Shield Master Feat in DnD 5e? How Useful Is It?

The optional feats in DnD 5e offer players a chance to customize characters with unique abilities or training.

With the Shield Master Feat, characters become experts in defense. Not only will they be able to block physical attacks but some spells as well.

In this guide, we’ll cover the details of choosing the Shield Master Feat and explain why it’s a great choice for fighter-type characters.

Also, those who enjoy looking for tactical advantages on the battlefield will find Shield Master an enjoyable choice.

How Do You Use the Shield Master Feat?

The Shield Master Feat gives characters more versatility while wielding a shield. It offers both offensive and defensive capabilities, providing tactical advantages that can be used to great effect, in the right hands.

Rules of the Shield Master Feat

You use shields not just for protection but also for offense. You gain the following benefits while you are wielding a shield:

  • If you take the Attack action on your turn, you can use a bonus action to try to shove a creature within 5 feet of you with your shield.
  • If you aren’t incapacitated, you can add your shield’s AC bonus to any Dexterity saving throw you make against a spell or other harmful effect that targets only you.
  • If you are subjected to an effect that allows you to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage, you can use your reaction to take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw, interposing your shield between yourself and the source of the effect.

Source: Player’s Handbook

Shield Tactics

Taking Shield Master gives a character access to special tactics he or she wouldn’t otherwise have. Each feature of this feat offers a tactical advantage if used correctly. 

Firstly, the ability to shove a creature using a bonus action can be quite deadly. The Shield Master can shove a creature or knock it prone, setting up a teammate for a coup de grâce.

Shoving can also be used to deliver devastating damage. Many battlemaps include dangerous hazards such as pitfalls, pools of lava, or deadly traps. One accurately placed shove could send a creature to its doom.

Secondly, if you aren’t incapacitated, you can use your shield to help avoid certain harmful spells and effects. While this feature may seem minor, some spells can be deadly. A little extra defense could be all that stands between a character and certain defeat.

Thirdly, the Shield Master Feat enables a character to use a reaction to completely avoid the damage of some magic spells. When a group of mages tries to burn the party to a crisp with an onslaught of Fireballs, chances are the Shield Master will emerge uncooked.

Shield Master Class Archetypes

Players looking to play a classic sword and shield type fighter might choose Shield Master to gain a tactical advantage in combat. Fighters who choose the Dueling or Defense Fighting Style may also find Shield Master useful. 

Defensive characters using Sentinel can stack the benefits of these abilities with Shield Master. Shield Master is also a good choice for Paladins, allowing them extra mobility in combat.

And while Paladins do make excellent use of their bonus actions already, the ability to shove opponents at the end of their attack action can make for creative gameplay. 

Being able to use shove as a bonus action enables plenty of tactical opportunities. For players on the lookout for ways to make use of the environment, the Shield Master Feat could be the perfect choice. 

There is no restriction on how often a character with Shield Master can shove in combat, granting strategic opportunities for special attacks. For the Shield Master, every cliff, every bridge, and every Cloudkill spell becomes a chance to deal massive damage to the enemy.

Examples of Characters Using Shield Master

Players who want to emulate classic sword and shield characters will benefit from picking up the Shield Master Feat. Picture a Fighter using her shield to shove an enemy into a pool of hungry sharks, or a Cleric using Shield Master to avoid being instantly destroyed by a Archlich’s disintegration ray. 

Also, characters who are the main line of defense for their party will get a lot of mileage from Shield Master. Using this feat along with other abilities or magic items can yield interesting and powerful combinations. This is really the perfect feat for defensive fighters looking to add versatility to their gameplay.

Because the Shield Master Feat offers players several features, some common questions arise. Like any feat in DnD, the final interpretation of the rules often lands on the DM. We offer some clarity in the name of making this wonderful game a little easier to play. 

Is Shield Master a Good Feat?

Like most feats in DnD, Shield Master will be an excellent choice for some characters, and a bad choice for others. In the right hands, Shield Mastery can be an extremely effective skill in battle. With enhanced offensive and defensive capabilities, the Shield Master often gains a strategic edge in combat.

And for players looking to roleplay a character who relies on a shield not just for combat, but as part of his or her signature style, the Shield Master Feat is the perfect choice. Shoving enemies into ravines or knocking them into a Web spell will make for memorable sessions.

When Do You Use the Shield Master Feat?

Shield Master is perfect for characters that fight primarily with a shield and who want to exploit the strategic advantages offered by this feat. Dexterous characters will benefit more from Shield Master’s second two features.

And while avoiding spell damage is useful, Shield Master only works against certain spells. This limits the usefulness of the feat somewhat, but it could also keep a character alive.

But for players who know how to use the environment creatively and enjoy finding employing advanced tactics, the Shield Master Feat becomes a phenomenal choice. Imagine shoving an enemy down a flight of stairs, or into an oncoming carriage. 

Shield Master is also a good choice for players who enjoy strategizing with other players, setting up big plays with their team. A Fighter with Shield Master, for example, could shove her opponent into the path of her teammate’s Cone of Cold spell.

Does Shield Master Work Against Fireball?

Reviewing the mechanics of the Shield Master Feat, we can see that it’s possible to block the damage of certain spells. Specifically, those spells that allow players to make a Dexterity saving throw to take only half damage.

These spells can be blocked by the Shield Master Feat. By taking a reaction, it’s possible for players to successfully avoid damage from such spells.

The rules of the Fireball spell state that players within range of the spell must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a successful save, the player takes only half damage from the magical flames. As a result, any player with the Shield Master Feat could use a reaction to reduce the damage to zero.

With the the third feature of the Shield Master Feat, characters are capable of avoiding the damage from Fireball, as well as many other dangerous spells. Unfortunately, it’s only this feature of Shield Master that works against the Fireball spell.

Because this spell affects an area instead of a single target, the second feature of Shield Master doesn’t work against Fireball. This means characters won’t be able to add their AC bonus to spells that don’t specifically target them.

What Does Shield Master Shove Do?

The Shield Master Feat allows players who’ve used an attack action to use a bonus action to shove a creature. If the creature is within 5 feet, it can be knocked prone or pushed away from the player.

While knocking a creature prone is an excellent way to set up your teammates for an attack, shoving your target is often more effective. Some of the best DnD battles occur in dramatic locations.

Whether the party is fighting a powerful Sorcerer over a pool of lava, or defending a ship from a pirate attack, shoving creatures can yield unique opportunities to deal massive combat damage.

Summary

The Shield Master feat offers many potential benefits. It’s a useful choice for fighters who love strategizing. And for players who love finding tactical solutions in combat, the Shield Master Feat can be an exciting choice. 

If you’re looking to shove an opponent into harm’s way, or simply avoid getting BBQ’d by every Wizard that comes your way, Shield Master may be just the feat you’ve been looking for.