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The Ancestral Guardian barbarian feature Ancestral Protectors (XGtE, p. 10) reads as follows:

Starting when you choose this path at 3rd level, spectral warriors appear when you enter your rage. While you’re raging, the first creature you hit with an attack on your turn becomes the target of the warriors, which hinder its attacks. Until the start of your next turn, that target has disadvantage on any attack roll that isn’t against you, and when the target hits a creature other than you with an attack, that creature has resistance to the damage dealt by the attack. The effect on the target ends early if your rage ends.

Assuming I have a fighter dip, what would happen if I hit a creature then used BA to rage? Would the ancestors target the creature I hit at the start of my turn even though rage was initiated after the hit?

If I then action surged and hit something else, would they target that?

I’m specifically wondering if you can use booming blade to trigger the ability RAW.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand the premise of the question. Is just theoretical, or is there some reason you can't start your turn with a bonus action to rage? \$\endgroup\$ – mattdm May 19 at 3:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @mattdm You can’t cast booming blade while raging, but it has a synergy with the ancestral ability (especially if you can do it with range/reach). Wondering about mixing them in a build using mobile feat and EK subclass. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Zollo May 19 at 4:05
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Ancestral Protectors would not affect a target you hit before entering a rage

You can take bonus actions before actions in a turn but this does you no good because your bonus action, activating rage, would prevent you from casting booming blade.

If you instead cast booming blade first, which includes making an attack as part of casting booming blade:

As part of the action used to cast this spell, you must make a melee attack with a weapon ...

You get to the heart of your question. Ancestral Protectors says:

While you’re raging, the first creature you hit with an attack on your turn becomes the target of the warriors...

Most people would probably read "hit" and understand it in the subjunctive tense. That is: you must first be raging and then make an attack for the Protectors to take affect.

However, out of context, the sentence also makes sense if you read "hit" in the past tense. That is: when you activate rage, the Protectors affect any creature that you already attacked that turn.

The problem, if you use this second interpretation, is that the past tense would not make sense after the first turn when you entered the rage. You can't be talking about a triggering attack in the past tense when haven't made an attack (say, at the start of subsequent turns). So you have to understand the sentence in the subjunctive mood and that means the attack must come after the rage is entered as a bonus action.

So booming blade won't work with Ancestral Protectors. Further, the Protectors would only affect a creature you hit with an attack resulting from action surge if your normal attack action produced no hits.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To further clarify, if you read hit as being past tense, it sounds like it only works on the first round of combat. \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Zollo May 19 at 16:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a good argument for how it works in terms of RAW. That said, I find it funny that the ancestors could arrive to the scene mid-turn and (1) know someone was already hit before they got there and (2) use that knowledge to justify not doing anything for a full round. “Sorry dude, union rules are union rules.” \$\endgroup\$ – Adam Zollo May 19 at 17:26

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