Blade ward is a cantrip that honestly isn’t chosen enough. As a protective spell, it has some drawbacks that make it very unflashy.
It doesn’t grant anyone advantage, it doesn’t deal loads of damage, and it doesn’t help anyone but the spellcaster.
But with the right technique and action economy, blade ward could very easily be a game-changing, character-defining spell, especially if taken by a non-spell caster via the magic initiate feat.
Blade Ward Stats
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: Self
- Duration: 1 round
- School: Abjuration
- Class: Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
- Level: Cantrip
- Damage/Effect: Resistance to Bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: V, S,
- Ritual/Concentration: N/A
Spell Description. You extend your hand and trace a sigil of warding in the air. Until the end of your next turn, you have resistance against bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage dealt by weapon attacks.
Spell Tags: Combat Warding
Available for: Bard, Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard
Who Can Cast Blade Ward?
Bards, sorcerers, warlocks, and wizards can all cast blade ward.
From that list, Blade ward is probably most useful for bards and warlocks, particularly for College of Swords and Hexblades, who can expect to find themselves in melee.
See, blade ward is a mixed bag. On the surface, this seems like a great spell. Resistance to the three main types of damage I’ll encounter? Hell, yeah!
But it takes an entire action to cast, and you can only cast it on yourself.
This means you need to make sure your next round is very effective to make up for the lack of action on the round you cast blade ward. It also means you can’t use your action to support one of the front-line combatants.
This severely detracts from its usefulness and is probably the reason there have been homebrew feats popping up like Cantrip Master.
Cantrip Master, Homebrew Feat
From OOIDF on DnDBeyond.com
One of the users on DnD Beyond has developed this feat, and I have ported it into my game. It makes cantrips like blade ward and true strike much more viable.
Click the link to check it out and upvote this user.
Basically, this feat allows you to choose one cantrip and cast it as a bonus action. For my game, I allow it to also work as a reaction or in lieu of any extra attacks they can make during an action, which is good for the College of Swords bard in the party and everyone else who multiclassed into a spellcasting class.
They have to choose one cantrip and what type of action it will take when they take the feat.
Who Should Cast Blade Ward?
Since blade ward can only be cast on yourself, then the only classes who should be casting it are those who may find themselves being targeted by the sharp, pointy things of the world.
As mentioned before, College of Swords bards and Hexblade warlocks but also bladesinger wizards, eldritch knights, and arcane tricksters could see this as a potential spell.
Sorcerers get the nifty metamagic option to cast blade ward as a bonus action, so they should also consider taking blade ward along with their obscene number of cantrips. If you multiclass sorcerer with a martial class, you definitely should consider this path.
Finally, at 6th level, bladesinger wizards can make a second attack and substitute one of those attacks with a cantrip. Blade ward should absolutely be on that list of potential cantrips to cast.
When Should You Cast Blade Ward?
You should cast blade ward when you are about to be targeted by weapon attacks on your next turn.
This means you may consider actually making yourself bait. By causing a distraction and attracting fire, you can create an opening for your party members to either escape or set up a flanking position.
Combined with false life and mage armor or even blur¸ you could make yourself a very difficult target to hit and an even harder target to deal damage to.
Alternatively, if you know you are about to walk down a trapped corridor, casting blade ward will help make up for your puny spellcaster saving throws.
Blade Ward and Other Spells
If you have limited cantrips to choose from, you should consider blade ward only if spellcasting is not what you primarily bring to the party — say, if you are a monk with magic initiate or an eldritch knight.
In those cases, blade ward will help to protect you while you accomplish your primary function: melee combat.
Spells that pair well with blade ward are misty step, dragon’s breath, flaming sphere, hold person, dominate monster, and any other spell that requires concentration. With these, blade ward will help you maintain that concentration by reducing the damage you take.
In addition, combining blade ward with false life or armor of agathys will allow you to get the most out of your temporary hit points.
Common Questions About Blade Ward
We do get a fair bit of questions around the Citadel about blade ward, so we gathered up the four most common and put them here for you.
Is Blade Ward Overcome by Magical Attacks?
Thankfully not. If the resistance had that qualifier, it would be stated as it is in creature stat blocks that are only resistant to nonmagical attacks.
Can You Cast Blade Ward and Another Spell in the Same Turn?
Yes, you can! Since this is a cantrip, it can be cast with any other spell on your list, provided you have the actions to do so. See the above list for spells that pair well with blade ward.
Does Blade Ward Activate Arcane Ward?
No, sadly, it does not. Arcane ward is an ability of the abjuration wizard, but it requires an abjuration spell of 1st or higher to work. Blade ward is a cantrip.
Does Blade Ward Protect Against Falling Damage?
Unfortunately, no, since the spell description explicitly says it protects against bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage “dealt by weapon attacks.”
For the DMs
Tired of your PCs’ rogues one-shot killing your BBEG spellcasters? Give them blade ward as a cantrip and an optional legendary action to cast a cantrip between player turns.
If they already have legendary actions, this will force them to choose between those actions, but it will be a simple choice to favor the half damage.
This will have the benefit of bringing your spellcasting PCs to the fore as they will tend to do elemental damage of some type.
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].