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As a single spellcaster, fighting more than one enemy spellcaster with counterspell is very difficult, even if you are much more powerful then them. The reason for this is that they have enough counterspells to lock down all of your spells and remove your ability to lock down theirs (1 of them counterspells your spells, the other counterspells any counterspells you use). This works for them until they have burned all their spell slots, which given that combats are frequently only 3-4 rounds, might be never.

How can a single spellcaster not be completely shut down by multiple enemy spellcasters?

Answers might include (but are not limited to) rules, items, class features and spells which could alter this situation somehow. Mainly looking for RAW answers but particularly creative/interesting RAI would not go amiss.

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Don't be seen, don't be close. Be Ready.

Unseen

Counterspell requires

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

If they can't see you, they can't counterspell you.

Out of Range

Counterspell also has a range of 60'. If you can cast outside of that range, then you are safe.

Ready Action

As this question covers, if you ready a spell either out of range or unseen, you can safely release a Readied spell without risking Counterspell if it was originally cast while either unseen or out of range. This also allows you to bypass the 60' range requirement at casting time which further protects you. However, should you not be able to get within range when you (and/or your target) moves, then you will lose the spell slot.

Subtle Spell (if a sorcerer)

If you are a sorcerer who has the Metamagic Option Subtle Spell, then you can cast spells without Material components without fear of Counterspell.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you counterspell a counterspell? \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Jul 10 '18 at 14:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jeff Counterspelling a counterspell \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 10 '18 at 14:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay, so it looks like, yes, if you can cast an additional spell... Just trying to come up with one more way to possibly survive a counterspell encounter (although, that may just eat up your spells slots faster). \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Jul 10 '18 at 14:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Jeff But if you are against "multiple casters" that OP describes, then you'll only be able to CS one of them. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 10 '18 at 14:35
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Here are a few tactics I've used as a GM to make my BBEG not overwhelmed by multiple counterspells:

Wait until they've used their powerful spell slots

After they've burned away their high level spell slots on delayed blast fireball or hold monster, the counterspells aren't guaranteed to succeed so you are safer in casting high level spells.

Bait out counterspells with cantrips

One way to win the spell slot economy war is to cast low level spells (including cantrips) while pretending they are more powerful. By saying something like "I didn't want to have to use this!" before throwing out a prestidigitation works wonders. This works since the opposing casters do not know the spell being cast automatically, but your GM may call for a Deception check so talk to him about it first.

Use cover to your advantage

This won't be possible in every environment, but in order to counterspell, the enemy has to see you. Just duck behind cover and Ready the Cast a Spell action for the spell you want. Since it is already cast, all you have to do is release the magic when the target comes into view (your chosen trigger) and they can't counter it, no matter how many there are.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The bait works specially well if the DM is using the rule of burning a reaction to get a roll so to identify the spell being cast. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Jul 10 '18 at 14:12
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Stay out of range

Many spells have ranges greater than 60 feet, and you'll likely have 30 feet of movement so you can get out of Counterspell range as long as the enemies are 35+ feet away. Then try some movement-lockdown spells to keep it that way!

Cast 4th+ level spells

Don't bother with 3rd level spells or below, they will definitely be Counterspelled. Go with 4th level or higher - Your average enemy caster who isn't an Abjuration Wizard or Lore Bard will only manage to counter your 4th+ level spells about 50% of the time or less.

Go invisible

An enemy has to see you to Counterspell you. This will prevent you from casting Concentration spells as you need to concentrate on your invisibility.

This could also be substituted for similar line-of-sight-denial tactics, like Darkness & Devil's Sight Warlocks.

Bonus action spells

You can cast spells with your bonus action (not more than 1 1st level spells in a turn though). Since two enemies can only counter 2 of your three available spell actions (action, bonus, reaction), you can use your bonus action spell to:

  • Get a cantrip off - at least you're then doing something.
  • Bait enemies to counter a cantrip and then unleash a big spell.

Baiting works because there are no rules that allow anyone to identify a spell being cast, other than the following one in Xanathar's:

Identifying A Spell

Sometimes a character wants to identify a spell that someone else is casting or that was already cast. To do so, a character can use their reaction to identify a spell as it's being cast, or they can use an action on their turn to identify a spell by its effect after it is cast.

If the character perceived the casting, the spell's effect, or both, the character can make an Intelligence (Arcana) check with the reaction or action. The DC equals 15 + the spell's level. If the spell is cast as a class spell and the character is a member of that class, the check is made with advantage. For example, if the spellcaster casts a spell as a cleric, another cleric has advantage on the check to identify the spell. Some spells aren't associated with any class when they're cast, such as when a monster uses its Innate Spellcasting trait.

This Intelligence (Arcana) check represents the fact that identifying a spell requires a quick mind and familiarity with the theory and practice of casting. This is true even for a character whose spellcasting ability is Wisdom or Charaisma. Being able to cast spells doesn't by itself make you adept at deducing exactly what others are doing when they cast their spells

-Xanathar's Guide to Everything (pg 85)

Since this takes an action or reaction, it can't be paired with a Counterspell. So the enemy will not know which spell you're casting.

This only works vs. 2 enemies, 3 will be able to fully counter your action, bonus action, and reaction.

Action Surge (Fighter-multiclass-only)

The ability to take more than one action on your turn means you can cast more than one spell. Only increases the number of casters needed to shut you down by 1 though, and you almost certainly will only get 1 use of this in a fight (unless you're a 17th level Eldritch Knight, in which case the solution to this problem for you is "hit them with weapons instead").

Subtle Spell (Sorcerer-only)

When you cast a spell, you can spend 1 sorcery point to cast it without any somatic or verbal components.

You need to be able to see the target casting a spell to Counterspell. Subtle Spell will stop spells with only verbal and/or somatic components from being seen.

Contingency (Wizard-only)

When a spell is cast with Contingency, it cannot be seen to be cast by a creature. A few options here:

  • Otiluke's Resilient Sphere: Stops enemies from targeting you directly for a brief time (until they dispel it). Good for running out of range when you expect you wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
  • Fog Cloud/Darkness: breaks line of sight, you can now cast whatever other spells you want that don't require line of sight to the enemies.
  • Greater Invisibility: Handy when you're already within Counterspell range and can't see a way to get out - now you can cast uncounterable spells from your invisibility.
  • Globe of Invulnerability: Hard to cast when they have counters, easier with Contingency. They can still cast Dispel Magic on it, and as discussed you don't have the Counterspell numbers to stop that. But if they can't cast 6th+ level spells they will be rolling the dice on their Dispel, which is better than nothing.

Glyph of Warding is a lower-level spell that can accomplish similar things, but is restricted by cost and its stationary nature. You can make more than one of them though.

Staff of the Magi

Spell Absorption. While holding the staff, you have advantage on saving throws against spells. In addition, you can use your reaction when another creature casts a spell that targets only you. If you do, the staff absorbs the magic of the spell, canceling its effect and gaining a number of charges equal to the absorbed spell’s level. However, if doing so brings the staff’s total number of charges above 50, the staff explodes as if you activated its retributive strike (see below).

This allows you to absorb enemy spells (1/round) without giving enemies the opportunity to counterspell your counter. Doesn't help you cast your own spells though.

The Rod of Absorption has an almost identical mechanic (and is much more likely to be in the hands of a player than a Legendary Staff of the Magi).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You can only Misty Step if you've cast a cantrip as your action. If someone wants to drop a 3rd level slot to counter a cantrip...let 'em. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 9 '18 at 17:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I suggest clarifying how "bait enemies to counter a cantrip" works. I don't think it's immediately obvious to everyone that casters don't know what they are counterspelling. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruse Jul 9 '18 at 17:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Action surge does not allow you to cast 2 spells in one turn. At most you can cast a spell and a cantrip. While that kind of applies, I'm not sure if thats what you intended \$\endgroup\$ – Nemenia Jul 10 '18 at 9:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Nemenia That's not the case, as laid out in this Q&A: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/94437/… The bonus action rule for spells only applies when you're casting a bonus action non-cantrip. If you aren't, you can Action Surge and cast 2 non-cantrip spells. \$\endgroup\$ – Vigil Jul 10 '18 at 9:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ruse I've clarified that. \$\endgroup\$ – Vigil Jul 11 '18 at 14:01
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Bluff.

(Assuming that the more reliable tactics like "cast the spell where nobody can see you" are unavailable.)

Raise your staff, scream words of power in Abyssal, and do nothing. Everyone then wastes their reaction, and a 3rd-level spell slot, counterspelling... the rogue, who's borrowed the wizard's robe and staff. Then the wizard casts the spell for real.

One limitation with this trick is that strictly speaking, you can't ready an action to cast a spell after the diversion goes off. Instead, the wizard has to actually fall behind the decoy in the initiative order so that they don't start casting the spell too early.

I don't know how you'd resolve the bluff mechanically (Deception vs. Arcana contest?) and it won't work with a DM who has an absurd policy like "all characters instantly know when someone is casting a spell", but it's a realistic tactic and doesn't break any rules.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Unsure about the downvotes here? There are superior answers in my humble opinion, and I don't think this is likely to be the best course of action by any party under normal circumstances, but it's viable, doesn't break any rules, and answers the OP's question. No? \$\endgroup\$ – Euch Jul 9 '18 at 18:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch: The question wasn't "As a DM, how do I adjudicate someone trying to bluff casting a spell." As a player, if I'm trying to beat multiple enemies with Counterspell, this is a trick I might use. Deciding how to resolve it is the DM's job. If they completely seize up when faced with someone pretending to cast a spell then I might nudge them with "so, do I make a Deception check or something?" to keep the game moving, but it's not appropriate to give them a detailed explanation of how the rules apply in this situation. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jul 9 '18 at 19:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ You may be interested in this Q&A. Also, note that the best answers are those that completely answer the question. So this answer could definitely be improved if it included some of the ideas suggested by other answers in addition to this idea. The idea being that we want one answer to have all the best information in it. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Jul 9 '18 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ah, thanks for the link. That's about what I expected (Counterspell says "if the creature is casting a spell..." which implies that if they're not casting a spell it just does nothing) but I'll flesh out this answer based on that. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Jul 9 '18 at 20:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you suggesting that you can both Pretend to cast a spell AND ready an Action to cast an actual spell on a single turn? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 9 '18 at 21:05
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Use cover or distance to deny the counterspell

The simple answer is to deny the conditions required to cast counterspell. However, there are many creative ways to accomplish this. Counterspell has a range of 60 feet and requires line of sight to the caster of the spell being countered. So, if you get out of range or break line of sight, you can cast without fear of being countered. As a wizard or other caster who chooses which spells to prepare each day, you might consider picking longer range spells for this encounter. If you want to use a spell with a range of less than 60 ft, consider preparing it behind cover or slightly out of range and then walking out of cover and/or closer to the target and using your reaction to release the spell. This leaves you without a reaction to cast your own counterspell, but that is probably acceptable in this case since your counterspell will just get countered anyway.

Create your own cover

If there's no cover handy, you can create your own cover using spells like Globe of Invulnerability, which says "Any spell of 5th level or lower cast from outside the barrier can't affect creatures or objects within it, even if the spell is cast using a higher level spell slot." This completely prevents enemies from countering your spells, even if they upcast their counterspell. Even better, the barrier is one-way, so not only can you now pelt your enemies with impunity, you can even turn the tables and counter their spells, since they can't counter your counterspell!

There are also a variety of wall spells that can break line of sight/effect, including Wall of Sand (3rd level), Wall of Stone (5th level), and Wall of Force (5th level). Wall of Force deserves particular mention since it can only be destroyed by Disintegrate, a 6th level spell. Obviously, you should cast any of these before closing within counterspell range of the enemy casters. You can also use any spell that heavily obscures an area (such as the 1st level Fog Cloud). Using the trick of preparing a spell behind these magic walls is less effective, since doing so drops concentration on the wall, causing it to disappear after the first use. A better way to use walls is to zone out all but one enemy caster and then fight them one-on-one, allowing you to counter their counterspell and ensure that your spell is not interrupted.

It's dangerous to go alone

I've described a lot of ways to deny counterspells, but they can all be worked around by a well-prepared attacking force of casters (not to mention the possibility of them using these techniques against you). The ultimate truth, which you have recognized, is that any lone caster, no matter how high level, is potentially vulnerable to being overwhelmed by many lower level casters with the right spells. Sometimes, the best way to deny a counterspell is to have your barbarian buddy "persuade" them to stop it with a big stick, or at least chase them out of counterspell range. Consider casting haste on the barbarian to accelerate the persuasion process.

Physical attacks can also force the opposing casters to spend their reaction casting Shield, leaving them unable to counterspell for that round.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was going to make an answer based on the "this is why you have minions" idea... but the "It's dangerous to go alone," here, covers that. \$\endgroup\$ – Ghotir Jul 9 '18 at 21:17
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Just stay 60' out of range. You can also go invisible. And even use Subtle Spell if you're a Sorceror. Casting Globe of Invulnerability completely negates it. If you're a warlock with Devil's Sight you can cast darkness on yourself and fire away after.

The limitations of Counterspell are :

  • 60' range.
  • You need to be able to see the caster casting the spell.

So the best strategies are to prevent the enemy catsers from seeing you cast your spells.

I have even gone up a ledge and ducked to the floor before casting to avoid being seen while casting a cloudkill.

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protected by Oblivious Sage Jul 12 '18 at 14:36

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