Clerics and paladins excel not only at raining down holy fire upon their enemies, but also ensuring that their fellow party members stay in the fight long enough to bring their own abilities to bear.
Today, we’re going to be talking about Shield of Faith, an iconic 1st level spell available to clerics and paladins who know that the best type of heal is to make sure your buddy never gets hit in the first place.
We’ll be going over how the spell works, how to get the most out of it, and some options like scrolls, wands, rings that allow a party to cast this spell if no one has it prepared.
Whether you want to keep your damage-dealing wizard or rogue alive when they get in over their heads or elevate your party’s already tanky frontliner into an unhittable wall of shimmering light and steel, Shield of Faith is a simple, elegant 1st level spell that really rewards careful, considered play.
Shield of Faith
- Casting Time: 1 bonus action
- Range: 60ft
- Duration: 10 minutes ©
- School: Abjuration
- Class: Cleric, Paladin
- Level: 1st
- Damage/Effect: Buff, Warding
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: V, S, M (a small parchment with a bit of holy text written on it)
A shimmering field appears and surrounds a creature of your choice within range, granting it a +2 bonus to AC for the duration.
What is Shield of Faith?
Shield of Faith is a solid, reliable way to add some survivability to your character, your allies, or just to any creature in the vicinity who’s about to get punched by an enraged orc. It’s one of the most simple spells in the game, with zero luck involved, and therefore a level of reliability that I actually find sort of refreshing.
This spell does exactly what it says on the tin; no more, no less.
Using a 1st level spell slot, you give either yourself or another creature the temporary benefits of a shield, potentially for as long as 10 minutes, although this may require both some careful positioning (lest a stray enemy arrow break your concentration) and planning, as you won’t be able to cast any other spells that require concentration while you maintain this effect.
Is Shield of Faith Good?
In short, yes. It’s almost never going to be session-defining or especially memorable, but cast it correctly, and you’re getting an awful lot of (admittedly subtle) band for your 1st level spell slot buck.
Functionally, a +2 boost to a character’s AC creates a +10% chance that they’ll avoid being hit by melee weapons, ranged, and spell attacks. That’s not actually that massive, given the fact it’s been established the average combat encounter in 5e lasts between three and five rounds.
However, a tanky frontliner that’s taking an average of two to three hits per combat turn could expect to see some decent damage reduction from this spell. Whether or not it’s more impactful than just healing the frontliner after they get hit is kind of fiddly to calculate, however.
Still, if your party is used to handling multiple encounters within a short frame of time – maybe you’re trying to blitz through a dungeon before a foul ritual is complete, or race to take out the enemy sorcerer before a foul ritual is complete, or maybe even stop some sort of foul ritual before… you get the idea – then as long as your concentration isn’t broken Shield of Faith is definitely worth the slot.
The other situation in which this spell shines is a bit more reactive than the simple “cast it on the fighter or the paladin at the start of combat and hope you don’t get hit” method. By saving Shield of Faith until the combat is well underway you get a few nice advantages:
- You can cast other concentration-based spells like Bane, Bless, Divine Favor, Enhance Ability and Magic Weapon first, and save Shield of Faith until it’s needed.
- You can react to your enemies’ decisions better. If you’re fighting something mindless like a gelatinous cube, then giving the fighter in the front a nice AC boost is probably the way to go. If you’re fighting intelligent enemies, however, then buffing the big dude standing up front holding a massive sword and a sign that says “HIT ME”, while the 6 hp wizard with 10 AC hides behind a tree, might not be super smart; anything remotely smart from a goblin up is going to realize that they’re going to have more luck targeting the wizard and use their ranged attacks or spells accordingly. Using Shield of Faith on a squishy ally who’s in a tight spot can be way more impactful than just giving the AC 18 fighter an AC of 20.
This 1st level spell was originally introduced to D&D back in 3e and scaled with the caster’s level. In the current rules, Shield of Faith can’t be upcast (well, it can – you just don’t get any benefits from doing it), so the +2 AC bonus is all you get.
That being said, this spell used to take a whole action to cast, and I think I like the inter-edition mechanical tweak that makes this more firmly into a spell for low-level casters – especially as higher-level clerics in particular are going to have a whole suite of better survivability spells when they hit higher levels, and being able to upcast Shield of Faith would probably make options like Protection From Energy or Meld to Stone feel significantly less powerful.
Personally, if I were to change one thing about this spell, I would either allow upcasting to increase the number of creatures affected.
Maybe 3 creatures at 3-4th level, 5 creatures at 5-7th, and 10 at 8th level; if you’re willing to burn a 9th level spell slot on this effect, I’d have it affect a number of creatures equal to your cleric level.
The option is to rework it into a Channel Divinity option for the War Domain cleric, where the number of creatures affected by this spell becomes equal to your proficiency bonus.
Or you could still make it a single target and make the AC bonus equal to your proficiency. Just spitballing.
In summary, Shield of Faith is a nice little buffer that you put between the biggest, baddest enemy (or enemies) and the member of your party that’s going to get the brunt of the punishment.
If you’re playing a paladin, that probably means you; Shield of Faith applied to just about any character in heavy armor and wielding a shield is usually enough to tip them over the line between “Pretty tanky” and “oh my God, why can’t anything hit him? This is ridiculous” territory.
If you’re playing a cleric in more of a supporting role, then deciding when and where to cast Shield of Faith becomes a little more complicated. You’re going to want to run some pretty constant mental calculus, weighing the benefits of Shield of Faith versus another concentration spell, and picking your targets accordingly.
One situation where you should always cast Shield of Faith, however, is if you’re going up against an enemy with a disgustingly high to-hit bonus. In these situations, Shield of Faith is a great way to level the playing field a bit and make a decidedly lethal boss fight feel a little bit like a fair contest.
Pick one hero to draw the BBEG’s ire, hit them with this buff, and go hide behind a tree while you wait for the screaming to stop.
Top Tips for Filthy Adventure Capitalists: Hire an Acolyte
Retainers and sidekicks are, as far as I’m concerned, a criminally underused element of D&D 5e.
For as little as a few gold per day, a share of any treasure you may or may not happen to find, or some other reason you can contrive, recruit a low-level cleric or temple acolyte to follow you around casting low-level spells and cantrips, then making sure to stay the hell out of the way of the actual fighting so they don’t break concentration.
On balance, it’s probably going to be cheaper than a spell scroll and, if they don’t survive the dungeon, you don’t have to pay them anyway.
What Combos Well With Shield of Faith?
Because Shield of Faith is a concentration spell, you’re not going to be able to pair it up with other concentration buffs like Bane or Bless. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t pull off some fun combos that help push this spell from good to great.
First, let’s look at other spells with AC bonuses that stack on top of Shield of Faith.
Mage Armor doesn’t increase the target’s AC, but rather sets the target’s AC to 13 + its DEX modifier. Adding a further 2 AC from Shield of Faith can take a wizard out of “virtually-defenseless goblin chow” territory and to a place where they might survive more than one round of being targeted by something that does more than 1d4 of damage.
Shield provides a beefy +5 bonus to AC for a single turn as a reaction (as well as magic missile immunity, which is nice). In combination with Shield of Faith, this +7 bonus to AC is a fantastic way to ensure your ally is going to walk away from an entire round of every enemy in the building wailing on them without a damned scratch.
But what about other spells and abilities that work in synchronicity with Shield of Faith?
Compelled Duel is one of my favorite options here (as is the Battle Master fighter’s Goading Attack maneuver) as it actually lets a tanky paladin be a tanky paladin when fighting enemies who are smart enough to know they should ignore them and go kill the wizard instead.
Combining Shield of Faith with Compelled Duel compounds the usefulness of both spells, as the enemy are forced to focus their attacks on a target they’re now even less likely to hit.
Casting Shield of Faith Without Preparing It
Sometimes the party cleric just snaps and goes full damage build. Then, the fighter has to go toe-to-toe with a Red Dragon Wyrmling in single combat because “my honor demands it” or something dumb like that, and you really really wish you had an alternate strategy for giving that big, beefy moron a higher AC.
One of the best ways to cast Shield of Faith when you don’t have the spell memorized is by using a spell scroll.
Spell Scrolls are single-use pieces of parchment or paper that allow the user to cast the spell recorded on it once, which destroys the spell scroll. If the spell is on your class’s spell list, you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible gibberish.
Spell scrolls don’t function like memorized spells, instead having a fixed DC and attack bonus. Shield of Faith scrolls would be of 1st level. This means their rarity would be Common. Spell scrolls are priced according to their rarity, which is determined by the spell’s level.
A 1st level scroll would cost between 50-90 gp depending on where you’re buying it from – although contextually I could see a scroll-like this being proceed all the way up to 150-200 gp.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Cast Shield of Faith on Myself?
Yes. The spell’s description stipulates a creature of your choice within 60ft, meaning the caster is also included within that radius.
Do Multiple Instances of Shield of Faith Stack?
No. Unfortunately, according to the Player’s Handbook’s rules for Combining Magical Effects, the “effects of the same spell cast multiple times don’t combine”.
Instead, the most potent effect — such as the highest bonus — from those castings applies while their durations overlap.