Shield Master 5e

Published on March 12, 2022, Last modified on July 25th, 2023

Want to get your Captain America on and start bashing enemies with your shield? Physic-defying vibranium shields might not be available in the worlds of D&D, but the Shield Master feat can get you part of the way there.

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What Is Shield Master 5e?

Imagine yourself as you wade into battle, your bruised and battered shield in hand. An extension of your arm, just like your sword by your side. Together, you are one and the same, a force to be reckoned with.

Shields are an easy item to forget in most D&D games, as they tend to only offer a flat +2 to AC, and most class abilities don’t do much with them. However, there is a feat that brings it from subpar to superstar: Shield Master.

How Does Shield Master Work?

Once you pick up this feat, you gain three benefits as long as you’re wielding a shield:

  • After you take the Attack action on your turn, you can then use a bonus action to shove a creature within 5 feet of you.
  • Whenever you were to make a Dexterity saving throw to reduce damage to half, you can use your reaction to take no damage if you succeed on the saving throw.
  • As long as you aren’t incapacitated, you can add your shield’s AC bonus to a Dexterity saving throw against something that only targets you.

Is Shield Master Good?

In our 5e Feats Tier List, Shield Master was given an A Tier rating, making it an excellent pickup for specific classes.

Being able to shove with your shield as a bonus action is a huge benefit. Because you can choose to knock the shoved creature prone, as opposed to away from you, you can provide advantage on melee attack rolls to all of your other party members. Keep in mind, the specific wording around this feat states that this can only be done after you use the Attack action, which means you will not get advantage on attacks.

The defense bonuses from being able to add your shield’s AC to DEX saves fairly niche because DEX saves are usually to avoid AoE attacks, which don’t normally target a single creature. On top of this, taking no damage when you succeed in DEX saves against damage is a huge boon for survivability.

This is a very tempting feat for builds where tanking is everything.

Shield Master 5e Interactions

There can be some interesting rulings that come along with this feat.

Which 5e Classes Make the Most of Shield Master?

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good the Shield Master 5e feat is for a specific class/subclass.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Artificer: Artificers can use this feat if they prefer to be in melee range, such as Battle Smiths and Armorers. This feat will make them much tankier than usual and is excellent overall for those builds. Unfortunately, these subclasses allow artificer's to ignore strength and attack/do damage with INT, so you'll need to pump a suboptimal ability score in order to use Shield Master's shove ability to the fullest.

Barbarian: While the bonus action from raging might interfere with using this on the first round of combat, having a consistent bonus action to push enemies prone can be a solid boost to action economy. Also, they get advantage on the Strength (Athletics) checks required to succeed in the attempt to push enemies prone. This is a solid option for tankier barbarians who aren't focused on pure damage output.

Bard: Bards can’t use shields outside of the College of Valor subclass, and they generally want a hand free for instruments to cast spells. Even when using the College of Valor subclass, they are more likely to stack into DEX than STR.

Cleric: If your cleric will be keeping their distance in combat, this isn't the feat for you. Melee clerics on the other hand can benefit from this feat as they tend to use shields more often than not. It not only lets them last longer in a fight, but it also helps keep enemies away from them in a pinch. This feat is especially good for clerics that like to attack with their weapons, rather than using cantrips in battle because they will have invested in STR for the Shove bonus action.

Druid: Surprisingly enough, druids actually have a bit of synergy with Shield Master. While they typically like to keep their distance and pump WIS for spellcasting and DEX for AC, so the Shove bonus action will go unused, the DEX saving throws buffs are actually quite beneficial. Because of their high DEX, both of the DEX saving throw features can go a long way to helping the survivability of your druid. Keep in mind that wielding a shield WILL boost your druid's AC but you won't be able to wield a weapon as well as the shield and still cast spells. Unless you plan on going for a shillelagh build, this shouldn't be an issue.

Fighter: This is a great option to use your bonus action if you don’t already have a use for it. Knocking a creature prone gives the rest of your party advantage, but keep in mind that this is only available after you have taken an attack action.

Monk: Monks lose their Unarmored Defense if they equip a shield, making them (and this feat) terrible for them.

Paladin: This is a solid use for your bonus action if you don’t already have a use for it. Knocking a creature prone gives the rest of your party advantage, but keep in mind that this is only available after you have taken an attack action.

Ranger: STR-based melee rangers will find plenty of use for Shield Master because of the Evasion-esque feature combined with the ability to shove their opponents with a bonus action. DEX-based melee rangers will enjoy the extra buffs to DEX saving throws, but likely will have trouble shoving their opponents as a bonus action. DEX-based ranged rangers have very little use for this feat because most ranged weapons are two-handed.

Rogue: Rogue's don't get proficiency in shields and have too many uses for their bonus action to pick this feat up.

Sorcerer: Despite wanting more survivability, sorcerers don't get access to shield proficiencies making this feat unavailable.

Wizard: Despite wanting more survivability, wizards don't get access to shield proficiencies making this feat unavailable.

Warlock: Warlocks don't have a shield proficiency and usually have their bonus action locked up with hex anyways. Even for the melee-focused Hexblade that provides a shield proficiency, between hex and Hexblade's Curse, it's better to choose a feat that's going to provide more value.

Shield Master 5e FAQs

Can I used the Shield Master bonus action Shove before an attack?

No. Seeing as the feat specifies 'If you take the Attack action on your turn', the Attack action must be made before the bonus action Shove.

Can I use the Shield Master Shove bonus action between attacks if I have extra attacks?

No. If you have extra attacks they are all taken as part of the Attack action. In order to use the Shield Master's bonus action Shove ability, you must use the Attack action first.

Keeping Your Guard Up

Any player who prefers to shield-bash and channel their inner Captain America or Leonidas will love this feat, not only for the flavor it adds but for the massive bump in survivability it offers. Not only that, but it also allows for some battlefield manipulation that is hard to come by as a bonus action.

How do you like Shield Master? Do you wish it worked differently? Let us know in the comments!

Jeff Nabors

Jeff Nabors has been playing D&D ever since he stumbled upon the 3.5E core books in his high school library. When he isn’t running a campaign or designing a game, you can find him on Twitch, writing about game design, or staring off into the endless abyss.

6 thoughts on “Shield Master

  1. Actually the information regarding timing is incorrect. You can definitely take the bonus action shove before your attack action, Jeremy Crawford even stated this saying to the effect of “so long as you commit to taking the attack action, you can use this bonus action before your attacks.”

    In other areas of the phb is also states that with extra attack, you can take your first attack, then resolve other actions and finish your turn with your additional attacks.

      1. he did say that in a tweet back then, but it has since been corrected in Sage Advice compendium. Here is the official WotC ruling.

        Shield Master

        The Shield Master feat lets you shove someone as a bonus action if you take the Attack action. Can you take that bonus action before the Attack action? No. The bonus action provided by the Shield Master feat has a precondition: that you take the Attack action on your turn. Intending to take that action isn’t sufficient; you must actually take it before you can take the bonus action. During your turn, you do get to decide when to take the bonus action after you’ve taken the Attack action. This sort of if-then setup appears in many of the game’s rules. The “if” must be satisfied before the “then” comes into play.

    1. Unfortunately not. Readying only allows you to save your action for later use, not a bonus action as well.

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