In this article we look at what is war caster feat and how to use it in Dungeons and Dragons to its full advantage!
To fight or to cast
In the earliest versions of Dungeons and Dragons, there was a clear distinction between those who fought and those who cast spells. If it was your job to hold the front line in combat, smite enemies and generally bash opponents into submission, you never had to worry about the multi-tasking problems of simultaneously fighting and casting spells. It just never came up.
But as the game evolved through subsequent reworkings and reissues of the rules, things began to change. DnD might be set in a fantasy world but it needed to follow the same internal logic that the real world does and to that end, things began to change. The demarkations between spell casters and fighters began to blur, especially when the characters began to reach higher levels.
It acknowledged that the world was not a black and white place, that characters shouldn’t be ruled by such narrow minded class restrictions and that it was logical that character classes, which at lower levels might not have access to spells, might eventually allow the players to master some basic magics which complement their nature and experience. Thus in the current version of the game, you find Rangers calling up roots and plants to entanglement their enemies, Paladins wielding magically blessed weapons against unnatural enemies, Bards conjuring sonic forces out of thin air and much more besides.
The War Caster feat
This ability to be in the thick of combat, clad in arms and armour fending off hordes of goblins whilst throwing around spells led to a bit of a logistic problem. The more traditional spell caster tends to stand away from combat, clad in robes or normal clothing with their hands free so that they can juggle the material components and concentrate on the verbal requirements of the spell, something which is hard to do when trying to beat off Nosram the Nauseous and his elite Goblin guards who have taken it upon themselves to ruin your day.
The War Caster feat is the solution to that multi-tasking nightmare. Have chosen the feat, it is assumed that you have spent many hours training for just such a scenario, that you have practised how to fulfil the requirements of spell casting without becoming distracted by the cleaver-wielding maniacs who have just descended upon you.
These multi-tasking techniques afford you the following advantages.
You have an 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.
Who can use the War Caster feat
The War Caster feat is available to anyone who casts spells but is only of real advantage to those who use mainly concentration based spells and wish to do so from the midst of combat. If you play a more aggressive, “blaster caster” style, someone who charges in like a magical cannon, then you might be better off choosing a different feat or opt for a boost to the Ability Score that your spell use is dependant on.
War Caster vs Resilient feat
When a spell caster takes damage while maintaining concentration on a spell, they need to make a Constitution saving throw to see if they are able to keep the spell active. Both War Caster and Resilient feats offer advantages to this saving throw, so which is better?
Well, the maths are complex and dependant on many factors, mainly based on your current ability scores and more variable factors such as how often you use concentration based spells and how likely you are to do that in a situation where you will need to make a saving throw, ie combat. For those who love working through the statistics of the debate, there are some great graphics and explanations to be found HERE.
Using the War Caster feat to its full advantage
The big advantage of the War Caster feat is this “hands-free” approach towards spell casting. Normally a spell caster needs to have at least one hand free to manipulate the material elements of the spell or make the required gesture. With the War Caster feat, it is assumed that you have learned how to do this whilst your hands are full with various combinations of weapons, a shield and other items.
On top of this, the real icing on the cake is the ability to cast a spell in place of an opportunity attack, should the circumstances arise. This means that even if you have cast a spell during your own turn, if provoked, you are able to take advantage of the changing circumstances and cast another during an opponents turn.
There are also some great combinations that you can put together to further enhance the War Caster feat. Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade cantrips can both be brought to bear on your weapon whilst in combat, thus ramping up the effectiveness of your attack. You can opt for one or the other, but not both.
When I last saw a graphic that covered this, admittedly it is a couple of years old now, War Caster was the most popular feat by some margin, with over 10 per cent of players choosing it overall for their character. It was also the most popular, by class, with Paladins, Clerics, Sorcerers, Warlocks and Wizards, all classes who would gain a big advantage by wielding spells and also being able to take part in combat. You might expect the Paladin, primarily a fighter, after all, to favour something more martial, although Heavy Armour Master and Polearm Master did come in second and third.
But whatever your class, if it is one that has the spell-casting ability, even if you don’t gain access to those spells until later on, War Caster makes for a useful and reliable choice of feat. After all, no one wants to be faced with an opponent in full armour, waving around a shield and battle-axe who can, not only cast spells but also, under certain circumstances, even be able to do so multiple times before you get a blow in. War Caster can give you that sort of an advantage.