Last Updated on January 22, 2023
The air is thick with screams of victory and defeat in equal measure. Volleys of arrows darken the skies above. Across the battlefield, a cleric stalks between warriors locked in desperate hand-to-hand combat.
Bolts of heavenly fire streak from her fingertips, blasting holes in the enemy lines, throwing chunks of earth into the sky. A swordsman charges for her, blade raised.
Her arcane wards flare as they turn aside the blow, leaving her concentration unbroken as she calls down a hail of burning arcane energy to turn the tide of battle.
The War Caster feat is a powerful tool in the arsenal of any spellcaster looking to maximize their effectiveness in combat.
From Wizards and Warlocks to Clerics and Sorcerers, just about any magic user can harness the potential of this feat to take down enemies faster and survive a desperate melee long enough to win the day.
How Does War Caster Work?
The War Caster feat turns any spellcasting character into a powerful combat-focused mage, capable of maintaining unshakable focus on casting spells in the midsts of battle, using their weapons as an extension of their hands as they cast somatic spells, and respond to any threat in the blink of an eye with a lightning fast spell.
Prerequisite: The ability to cast at least one spell
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.
Source: Player’s Handbook
The War Caster feat lets casters like Clerics – who traditionally wade into battle wearing armor, carrying a shield and sword, or the classic two-handed warhammer – get around the somewhat frustrating limitations of needing a hand free to wield a wand, holy symbol, or other spellcasting focus.
For classes with otherwise chronically low AC, like Druids and Sorcerers, this can be a great avenue for keeping a few extra inches of wood and steel between you and a ravening bugbear as you pop off offensive spells.
Another (more situational) benefit that I’ve seen this feat confer a few times is the fact that by removing the need for somatic (think mystical gestures a la Dr. Strange or wand-waving) components of spells means that, even if your character is restrained by a grappling enemy or tied up awaiting execution, you can still calm the emotions of a guard or cast Hold Person in return.
Being able to equip your warlock with a sword and shield (this is a particularly good feat for the Hexblade) is definitely nice to have, but it’s the two other benefits of War Caster that really make this feat top tier for spellcasters.
First of all, the ability to use a spell by way of an opportunity attack is a great way to get around the likelihood that, if you’re playing a full caster, your melee attacks will have roughly the same combat effectiveness as a ball of mozzarella. That’s not to mention the added utility of being able to cast a spell like Hold Person on a fleeing enemy before they can escape.
And then there’s the most potent element of this feat: advantage on all saving throws to avoid breaking concentration. There are 230 spells in D&D 5e that require you to maintain concentration in order to continue manifesting their effects.
From College of Illusion Wizards to Circle of the Land Druids, every single full caster (and most half-casters, like Bards and Artificers) can benefit from this – especially since concentration saving throws use Constitution, which more often than not ends up being a bit of a dump stat for incurable squishies like Wizards and Sorcerers.
However, while this feat can arguably find a home with just about any character with the ability to cast spells, it’s worth noting that you’ll feel the benefits most keenly on a character that actually wants to get into melee combat.
The classic Wizard hiding in the backline and lobbing fireballs is probably better off picking up the Resilience feat and choosing Constitution for the added proficiency and a stat bump; they’re not going to be holding a weapon and/or a shield, and if any enemies actually end up getting into melee range to leave again and trigger an opportunity attack, the plan has already gone very, very wrong.
Which Classes Should Take the War Caster feat?
War Caster is a feat that benefits Warlocks with the pact of the blade, Artificers, Druids, and Clerics – anyone looking to get to grips with your enemies. It can be a particularly useful pickup if you’re playing one of these classes and find yourself as the party’s main frontliner.
Any class that focuses on getting up in enemies’ faces and casting spells in equal measure – like the Eldritch Knight Fighter, the Hexblade Warlock, and the Armorer Artificer – is a great fit for the War Caster feat, particularly since there’s every chance you’ll need to do things like doff your shield or swap your melee weapon for a spellcasting focus in order to cast some pretty valuable spells in the heat of battle.
Picking up War Caster on a class that leans towards two-weapon fighting like the Ranger or the Arcane Trickster Rogue can also be a great way to overcome the somatic limitations of holding a great big knife in each hand.
Then you have characters for whom spellcasting is a priority, like Sorcerers, Wizards, and Clerics. Being able to throw out utility and damage (or in the Cleric’s case, healing) spells with your reaction is fantastic, and will help you feel even more powerful in battle.
Getting the Most Out of War Caster
Because the benefits of the War Caster feat apply when making opportunity attacks and resisting damage, you’re going to struggle to feel impactful applying this feat to a ranged magic or martial class. The War Caster needs to get up in your enemies’ faces, weapon drawn and firebolt at the ready.
The biggest issue with this is that full casters don’t tend to be the most survivable in the game.
As such, if you’re not playing a Cleric with the ability to wear heavy armor, you’re going to want to pick up spells like Shield, Mage Armor, or Armor of Agathys if you’re a Warlock to increase your survivability. Abjuration Wizards make for good War Casters for this reason, as your Arcane Ward is going to keep you on your feet and casting spells for longer.
If you want to bring a little martial to your magical character, the War Caster is a great way to help let you make the most of the spellcasting abilities while compensating for some of the drawbacks inherent to having one foot in each camp.
Commonly Asked Questions
How good is the War Caster feat?
The War Caster feat is a great way to keep up concentration, although if that’s your only goal, feats like Resilience or even a plain old Ability Score Increase to your Constitution will help scratch that itch as well.
Somewhat ironically, if you’re playing a support or utility caster, your spells are going to require concentration a lot more than your classic fireball-slinging wizard.
Clerics, Druids, and Bards can all benefit from being able to maintain a spell for longer in the middle of battle. However, while the concentration buff is great, it’s the other two components of this feat that differentiate it from other feats and abilities that buff your Constitution.
Being able to cast spells instead of making opportunity attacks, and use magic while both your hands are full takes this feat close to the top tier of options for 5e casters.
Can you use a Cantrip with War Caster?
Yes. A cantrip is still a spell, you can throw out fire bolts and eldritch blasts to your heart’s desire.
How many times can I use War Caster per day?
As many times as the necessary conditions are triggered. If an enemy gives you the opportunity to make an opportunity attack every turn, you could theoretically keep doing it forever.
However, because making an opportunity attack requires you to use your Reaction, you can only do this once per round.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.