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The War Wizard gets the Durable Magic feature at 10th level which states:

[...] While you maintain concentration on a spell, you have a +2 bonus to AC and all saving throws.

The Ready action states:

[...] When the trigger occurs, you can either take your reaction right after the trigger finishes or ignore the trigger. Remember that you can take only one reaction per round.

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs. To be readied, a spell must have a casting time of 1 action, and holding onto the spell's magic requires concentration. If your concentration is broken, the spell dissipates without taking effect. [...]

Thus a War Wizard with a Readied spell would gain bonuses to their AC and saving throws. But what happens if the Wizard chooses to make an opportunity attack or use their reaction on something else? Do they maintain concentration on fire-bolt or do they drop concentration; Do they continue to benefit from Durable Magic or not?


The only thing I was able to find was that the Sage Advice Compendium document (pdf link) states the following (emphasis mine):

Q. I have a readied action. Can I stop readying to take an opportunity attack? Or is ready a full turn commitment?

A. If you have an action readied, you can make an opportunity attack, which causes you to stop readying.

Notably, this only addresses opportunity attacks and doesn't give any justification, so part of my question is this: Is there support for the conclusion made in the Sage Advice Compendium anywhere in the rulebooks themselves?

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You don't lose concentration, but you can't cast the spell.

This really isn't any different than Readying the spell and either not getting the trigger you expected or opting not to use the trigger when it arrives.

But it is kind of a tricky situation, and while losing concentration makes sense at face value, there are rules to support that it doesn't - even if they don't really matter in the end.

Ready action

Let's begin with the rules around Readying (PHB, chapter 9) a spell (emphasis mine):

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs. To be readied, a spell must have a casting time of 1 action, and holding onto the spell's magic requires concentration. If your concentration is broken, the spell dissipates without taking effect.

So we know that when you are readying a spell, you are concentrating on it. And you are waiting on the trigger so you can expend your reaction and release the spell.

Concentration

The four normal means of losing concentration(PHB, Chapter 11) are:

  • Casting another spell that requires concentration
  • Taking Damage (and then failing a save)
  • Being incapacitated or killed
  • Actively choosing to end concentration

You have not crossed through any of these gates, so concentration is still up. There is nothing in the Ready action that says choosing not to release on a trigger (or the trigger failing to occur) equates to dropping concentration.

So what about the spell?!

Well, you are actively concentrating, but if you've expended your reaction, then you have no means of releasing the energy. Without the ability to trigger the release, the concentration remains until you lose your Ready at the start of your next turn (barring one of the effects that specifically removes concentration)

At that point, the spell energy dissipates without the triggering action and you can begin your turn as normal (minus any spell slot that may have been used for the Ready.)

Penalties

Given that the PC has already expended an action (and possibly a spell slot) and chosen not to use it by taking up their reaction, I really don't see a reason to further penalize them with the loss of their class feature as well - especially when it isn't fully supported in the written rules and only in a Sage Advice ruling.

But even with that SA Ruling, I don't see it as very well supported as I show above with this alternate ruling. They have taken their action to hold the spell, but have not released it. I see this as identical to ignoring the trigger and holding it until their next turn. The difference is simply that they used their reaction for something else, not that they dropped their concentration.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To add another possible "you don't lose concentration" interpretation. I would rule that it is similar to "loss of target". I can't find the ruling (on work PC) but if you cast a spell on a target and they enter a anti-magic field of some kind, the spell is merely suppressed. So even if the spell no longer has a target, it it possible for a caster to remain concentrating in hopes the target eventually is no longer protected by anti-magic. In this case, even though the caster no longer has a Reaction to cast the readied spell, they can still maintain the energy until their next turn, \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Jul 20 at 21:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ "You don't lose concentration, but you can't cast the spell." -- this. Thank you for addressing the question head-on. I find the other answers too oblique. The important parts are both that other reactions don't cause you to lose concentration (otherwise ongoing concentration spells would be affected), but they do cause you to use up your reaction for the turn (losing the readied spell but not because of concentration). Best answer, by far. Definitely should be upvoted over all others. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Duniho Jul 21 at 0:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterDuniho Thanks! I actually was writing a similar answer to the others and realized mid-way through I had to change :) \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jul 21 at 12:47
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Sage Advice does not require additional support.

To answer the last question first, as of the Sage Advice Compendium v2.3 (from mid-2019), they added this statement:

Official Rulings

Official rulings on how to interpret rules are made here in the Sage Advice Compendium by the game’s lead rules designer [...]

The Sage Advice answer is considered an official ruling and needs no support from the book; it acts as a clarification to the rules as written.

You lose the spell when you take a different reaction.

To me, there doesn't seem to be a need for a specific rationale beyond the SA answer -- if you use your reaction, you are no longer ready to react to the trigger because you went and did something different instead. You allowed yourself to be distracted from your readiness.

The rest then follows logically: Taking a reaction causes you to stop readying an action. The ability to concentrate to hold a spell is an aspect of readying, which you are no longer doing, which means you can no longer concentrate on your spell. Thus, you lose your defense bonus.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you elaborate on why this is clear to you? It is not very clear to me at all why the inability to make use of a reaction means you now lose other preconditions for that reaction as well. To me this would be like arguing you drop your sword if you use your reaction because you can no longer take attacks of opportunity. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 20 at 17:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic Except you don't have to make a saving throw every time you take damage in order to check if you are still holding your sword, for example. The logical gap here seems to be introduced by you, not by Darth. And you were not holding your sword exclusively as party of your reaction. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 20 at 18:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HellSaint You’re not holding a spell as part of your reaction either. You did that as an action on the previous turn. Why would your action from your previous turn be invalidated just because you can’t benefit from its normal effects anymore? I’ve not seen a good argument here yet why that should happen based on the basic rules leaving this particular SA aside, which is what the question is asking about. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 20 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic You can't normally cast a spell and then just hold it. It's not like holding a sword; it's a specific and unique thing that is part of the Ready action. Once the ready action ends (per the SA answer), you can't keep doing something that's part of the Ready state. This is basic exception based design -- "If you do X, you can Y". When you stop doing X, you can no longer Y. If you stop running, you can no longer benefit from a special effect that happens when you're running. If you stop readying, you can't hold a spell as part of readying an action. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Jul 21 at 15:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DarthPseudonym This question is about clarifying whether or not the SA on this is referring to existing rules or if it is a new rule created by SA. Your reference to SA makes your argument circular. The SA on this is not worded as an errata and probably wasn’t intended as one, rather the way I read it they’re just reminding people they can’t complete their readied action if they no longer have a reaction. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Jul 21 at 15:22
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I have reviewed the PHB, DMG, XGtE, and the Sage Advice Compendium for any rules relevant to the situation, and unfortunately, none of them explicitly bring any clarity here.

The best we can do is make a reasoned DM ruling from what we have, and the quoted Sage Advice question gives some guidance.

Since the Sage Advice ruling is specific to opportunity attacks, I would rule that we can understand from the ruling a sense of the intended general equity of the ruling, which is:

You stop readying an action if you take a reaction.

The SA ruling does not explicitly follow from any of the explicitly stated rules in the sourcebooks, so the best we can do is infer this ruling from the SA question and answer.

For this reason, I would rule that your concentration ends if you take any reaction while readying a spell.

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The Sage advice response has the force of errata inasmuch as it changes the rules. Consequently, although no support is present for this in any book, making an opportunity attack will cause you to lose your readied action. However, since the Sage advice column says nothing about any other sort of reaction or reactions in general, you can still use those without being arbitrarily penalized, should you have any non-spell non-opportunity attack actions available to you.

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