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Suppose I am within counterspell range of an enemy mage (who has counterspell) and want to guarantee that my spell won't be countered.

Could I do so entirely on my turn by moving behind full cover, then casting the spell with the ready action using a trigger of "when I have an unobstructed line of effect to the enemy mage", and then moving out from cover and releasing my spell?

Using my reaction seems like a fairly (or even unfairly) low cost to be able to deny a counterspell, but maybe the requirement for full cover is enough to make it a justifiable reward for making good use of the environment.

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Yes, readying a spell behind full cover would prevent counterspell

Counterspell depends on sight and a clear path to the target

Counterspell has a casting time of:

1 reaction, which you take when you see a creature within 60 feet of you casting a spell

That means that an opposing spellcaster must be able to see the intended counterspell target. Additionally, counterspell must follow the general rules that spells must also have a direct path to the target. Full cover should prevent either or both of these requirements from being met (depending on the type of cover used).

Readying a spell behind full cover and releasing it will prevent counterspell

Casting a spell while under full cover follows all of the appropriate rules.

You can cast a spell behind full cover even though you don't have line of effect per Jeremy Crawford:

The intent is that your target must be within range when you take the readied action, not when you first ready it.

And your trigger "when I have line of sight to the enemy mage" is perceivable.

Then, when you release the spell, it cannot be Counterspelled. Again clarified by Jeremy Crawford:

Counterspell foils the casting of a spell, not the release of a spell that was cast previously using the Ready action.

So, there is no reason why this would not work.

The trick will be in getting an available and convenient source of full cover.

Opportunity cost1 and downsides

Since you are spending your reaction, that means that this strategy will prevent you from casting counterspell as well as any other reactions until the start of your next turn.

Also, you must concentrate on the readied spell which means that you will have to drop concentration on anything else you might have been concentrating on. Also it opens up the possibility that your concentration is lost due to opportunity attacks, enemy readied actions, etc.

Is it overpowered? No (Fool me once...)

At first glance this strategy might appear to be overpowered. However, like most strategies, it has counters. You might get away with using this once, but a smart enemy (especially one that has access to counterspell) will not fall for it for more than that. They can move to negate your cover, move behind cover themselves, prevent you from moving behind cover, and/or use readied action to enact any of the above and more. In the end, this strategy should only be overpowered if creatures aren't responding intelligently to it.

There are other ways to prevent counterspell too

It is also worth noting that making yourself invisible (which is not incredibly difficult at higher levels) or blinding the opposing caster would also prevent any counterspelling without many of the disadvantages of the readied action technique.

Additionally, if the terrain and spell allows, you can cast outside the 60' range of counterspell.


1 - Thanks @Slagmouth!

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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like this is a great question and answer and will likely use it against my own players. One very important side note is that you will have the opportunity cost of not being able to use Counterspell yourself with this tactic. Obviously, not an issue at 4th level but once you hit 5th it does. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Mar 5 '18 at 18:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 5 '18 at 19:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you ready and then move? \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Mar 6 '18 at 0:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus: On your turn, yes. The movement is not part of the readied action but is the normal movement for your turn. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 6 '18 at 0:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ More on whether or not it's overpowered... it involves having full cover, spending your reaction, concentration, and move, in order to thwart a specific kind of anti-spell strategy. More directly significant is the technique where you ready a spell from behind cover, step out, reaction cast, and step back all in the same turn. Mostly, having full cover available and the ability to dance around it without fear of being flanked is strong. It's why castles were a thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Mar 8 '18 at 17:54

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