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I was reading Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes when I stumbled on an interesting turn of phrase (it's repeated often in the book and in others, but this was where I first realized it).

The Demonic Boons section lists the following trait for followers of Graz'zt (p. 30):

Joy from Pain. Whenever this creature suffers a critical hit, it can make one melee weapon attack as a reaction.

[Emphasis mine]

Meanwhile, in Xanathar's Guide to Everything (p. 46), the Mastermind rogue's Misdirection subclass feature says:

When you are targeted by an attack while a creature within 5 feet of you is granting you cover against that attack, you can use your reaction to have the attack target that creature instead of you.

[Emphasis mine]

Is there any mechanical difference between these two phrases? If something is done "as a reaction", does it not "use your reaction"? Or are they just interchangable phrases?

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Grammar is the only difference

Mechanically these two phrases are identical. Doing something "as a reaction" "use[s] your reaction". They only exist in two forms to make the sentence structure and grammar correct for the various abilities that use them.

Third Person vs. Second Person

[...] it can make one melee weapon attack as a reaction.

is a third person description of the action. Whereas,

[...] you can use your reaction [...]

is a second person perspective. Potentially, this the reason for the variations in phrasing. There are contradicting examples however, so this probably isn't the case.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like this answer and I think it's correct, since I just now noticed a similar pattern with "use your action" and "as an action," and allowing "as an action" to not burn the creature's action would be absurdly broken. However, I will note that other abilities in Xanathar's use second person and still use "as a reaction", such as the Scout Rogue's Skirmisher Ability on page 47 ("you may move up to half your speed when an enemy ends its turn within 5 feet of you..."), so I'm not sure that's the reason. It was a good theory, though. \$\endgroup\$ – SeraphsWrath Nov 28 '18 at 4:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeraphsWrath ah well. The first part was my main answer. I was just having a guess based on the examples given. I would need to go a analyse a bunch more examples to come up with a better reasoning. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Nov 28 '18 at 5:05

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