Counterspell 5e Guide

3rd level Abjuration
Casting Time
1 Reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell
60 Feet

Spell Description

You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell. If the creature is casting a spell of 3rd level or lower, its spell fails and has no effect. If it is casting a spell of 4th level or higher, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a success, the creature’s spell fails and has no effect.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the interrupted spell has no effect if its level is less than or equal to the level of the spell slot you used.

Is Counterspell Good?

Overall Rating: Sky Blue. This means that counterspell is an amazing spell. If you do not take this spell your character would not be optimized.

Overall Notes: Always get counterspell. Even if you don’t want to pick it up as soon as it is available to you, come back and get it at a later level. It can literally save lives when facing a powerful spell caster.

Class Specific Ratings for Counterspell

Warlock: You don’t necessarily want your warlock to be blowing spell slots on counterspell because you can't control which level you're going to cast it at. But if nobody else has it you, need to take it.

Oath of Redemption paladin: Counterspell is always amazing and every party should have at least one character with it. Sadly, paladins won’t be able to use this at very high levels since their spell slots cap out at 5th-level.

Oath of the Watchers paladin: Counterspell is always amazing and every party should have at least one character with it. Sadly, paladins won’t be able to use this at very high levels since their spell slots cap out at 5th-level.

Wild Magic sorcerer: While counterspell is normally a must-take for sorcerers, it's even more imperative to take this with Wild Magic sorcerers. There are quite a few spells that can be cast centered on yourself on the Wild Magic Surge table which can be devastating, fireball and polymorph specifically. Grabbing counterspell will give you a chance to avoid these consequences if they arise at in inopportune time.

How to Use Counterspell Effectively in 5e

Counterspell allows you to disrupt any other caster that might do something your party would not like. The obvious use cases are to stop your party from being hurt by a high level magic. Out of combat, you can stop casters from using deception magic against people or running away with teleportation magic. Any listed spell can be stopped using counterspell.

Counterspell can even prevent other enemy counterspells. This makes it even more effective when more party members have access to it, as it still takes up a reaction from each creature that uses it. More party members with this ability helps to better guarantee the spell works. Counterspell wars can be very common occurrences when there are encounters involving multiple spellcasters.

Spells cast at 4th level or higher can bypass counterspell. However, if you cast it at the matching level, it will work as intended. It is important to assess the danger of the spell you are trying to counter along with your own spell slot economy when using higher level spell slots to insure that counterspell works. If you need to save spell slots, it may be more valuable to use a lower level spell slot, but if the danger of the spell you are trying to stop is too great, it may be more valuable to use the higher level slot.

Where Does Counterspell Not Work?

There are a few limitations to counterspell. There are the straightforward mechanical limitations: you must be within 60 feet of the caster and you must see them casting the spell you wish to counter. This means you can not stop a caster that is too far away, that is invisible or hidden, hiding their casting in some way. This can most obviously be seen with the Subtle Spell Metamagic, which allows the caster to remove the verbal and somatic components of a spell. If the spell does not have a material component, the person with counterspell would not be able to see the Subtle Spell user casting their spell.

The other limitation comes with some of the newly designed monsters in 5e. Many of the new 5e creatures that function as spell casters have abilities that would typically function like spells listed as actions or special traits. This means these actions are not preventable with counterspell, even though they otherwise function like a spell.

Counterspell 5e FAQs

Can I stop any spell?

As long as it is listed as a spell, counterspell can be used against it.

Is there any benefit to casting counterspell at a higher level if I do not match or beat the spell cast?

No. Unless you cast counterspell at an equal level or higher, the DC remains 10 + the spell’s level.

Why can I not stop certain enemy spells?

There are three common reasons. As stated before, some spells are listed as actions on an enemies stat block and do not work like spells, even though they look like magical spells. Secondly, the caster may be using Subtle Spell to hide how they are casting the spell. The last is you are simply too far away from the caster.

Why would I not take counterspell on my caster?

Your campaign setting could be low magic, early encounters in your campaign might have less magic so you do not need it yet, or your campaign does not include a lot of spell casting villains.

Closing Thoughts

Counterspell is a fantastic spell that can enhance any caster build. While you may not need it for every encounter, especially early where there are less magical threats, this is a spell you should eventually take for your build. As spells provide so much power and utility in D&D, a spell that is able to prevent any of that is always useful.

Is there anything I have missed? Any reasons you would not take counterspell? What are some exciting counterspell moments you have had in your campaign? Share your thoughts in the comments below.