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Spell-like abilities cannot be used to counterspell, nor can they be counterspelled.

Says PHB.

Counterspell: When dispel magic is used in this way, the spell targets a spellcaster and is cast as a counterspell. Unlike a true counterspell, however, dispel magic may not work; you must make a dispel check to counter the other spellcaster’s spell.

Also says PHB.

So let's say someone has dispel magic as spell-like ability, which "cannot be used to counterspell", can he use this spell-like ability to counterspell another guy who is casting spell (not a spell-like ability) with this spell-like ability?

I am asking this because it seems using a dispel magic to counterspell (while the targeted spell is not another dispel magic) is not a "true counterspell", as noted in PHB. So perhaps the "false counterspell" could work with this spell-like ability (especially when it is part of the spell's effect).

I see quite a lot of high-level monsters have access to dispel magic and greater dispel magic as a spell-like ability, and I wonder if they can use it in this way.

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2 Answers 2

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No

Spell-like abilities cannot be used to counterspell, nor can they be counterspelled.

This is unambiguous. You cannot use a spell-like ability to counterspell.

The text of dispel magic does not contradict this. You can use the spell dispel magic to counter another spell but must make a dispel check. You cannot use it to counterspell a spell-like ability, because the rule says those cannot be countered, with dispel magic or otherwise.

A counterspell normally is the use of the same-named spell to counter another instance of that spell, as explained under counterspells. This is what dispel magic refers to, when it says "true counterspell". It's not about how dispel magic is cast.

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Maybe. If you abide by the Rules of the Game articles.

TL;DR: The Rules of the Game articles make an exception for dispel magic, allowing it to counterspell spell-like abilities (SLAs). This appears to be a conscious deviation from the original rules text, and not a mistake or misinterpretation. The reasoning behind this exeception can be extended to the case of a dispel magic spell-like ability counterspelling a spell (or even another spell-like ability). If you accept this extension, then the answer is YES.

Please not that Rules of the Game are not technically RAW and often times will contradict the rules. They may also not necessarily have been written by the same person who wrote the original rule, so even them being RAI is questionable.

However, many DMs will find these articles authoritative, so I think they deserve mention, just like the FAQ.

Examining the Source

This is what the Rules of the Game article on SLAs (now only available via the Wayback Machine) has to say:

A spell-like ability cannot be used as a counterspell, and it is not subject to counterspells

This statement essentially restates the rule found in the PHB.

A counterspell involves recognizing a spell as it is being cast, then quickly altering that same spell so as to create an opposite effect that cancels out the original spell. A spell-like ability is essentially hardwired into its user's psyche, and its power is released mentally. The process is sufficiently different from spellcasting so that doesn't allow a foe to identify the spell-like ability, and a counterspell cannot interfere with the spell-like ability's magical energy as it can with a spell.

The article proceeds to provide a mechanical reason/explanation for why SLAs cannot be counterspelled.

As noted earlier, a spell-like ability is subject to dispelling (provided the spell it duplicates is subject to dispelling). When a spell-like ability can be dispelled (as most of them are) one can effectively counter them with a dispel magic spell.

This is explicitly making an exception to the rule that has just been given at the start of the same paragraph. Therefore, it appears to be an intentional choice rather than an error on the part of the author. So they either desired to clarify the rule in the PHB or to alter it.

They then continue with the mechanical reason/explanation for this exception:

While spell-like abilities are not normally subject to counterspells, dispel magic is not really a counterspell. When you use dispel magic as a counterspell, what you're really doing is casting a quick, targeted dispel effect at the correct moment to negate the enemy spell and not creating an opposite magical effect that cancels your enemy's spell.

Extending to dispel magic as an SLA

The passage suggests that SLAs are immune to conventional ("true") counterspells because their casting process is significantly distinct, thus lacking the 'magical interference' that occurs with spells. However, since they are subject to dispelling, they can be counterspelled with dispel magic because:

what you're really doing is casting a quick, targeted dispel effect at the correct moment to negate the enemy spell and not creating an opposite magical effect

From a logical standpoint, there is no impediment to applying this rationale to the dispel magic SLA as well. Although an SLA might lack the capability to disrupt other SLAs or spells for a genuine counterspell effect, the situation at hand is different:

  • Just like the case when dispel magic is cast as a spell, we are "dispelling at just the right moment to negate the enemy spell".

However, this is just an extension of the logic used in the article. It is not explicitly written out.

In Summary:

  1. Counterspelling with dispel magic amounts to dispelling the spell at the exact moment of casting.
  2. There is no difference between the way a dispel magic spell dispels effects and the way a dispel magic SLA dispels effects. The latter works just like the former.
  3. As such, counterspelling (via dispelling) falls under the capabilities of dispel magic used as an SLA.
  4. Nonetheless, employing a dispel magic SLA for a "true" counterspell against a spell-cast dispel magic is not possible; instead, a dispel check must be rolled.
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