This question is in response to my answer for Do Properties of magic weapons stack when using Two-Weapon Fighting? which I deleted because of contention. In short I suggested that weapons, such as the Vanguard Weapon, only require that they be equipped to trigger vs. other types of magical weapons, Sunblade etc.) which require the attack be made with the weapon because they specifically state so.

I've searched through the online compendium and the printed rules compendium and could find no definitive answer ruling against having a vanguard weapon in the off hand and making an attack with another weapon in the primary hand and still benefiting from the vanguard weapon's property. Another user posted a bit from the Adventurer's Vault (I do not own) saying that this was wrong. Anecdotal evidence (every table I've ever played at and the WOTC optimization boards) supports my viewpoint, but as I would like to find a RAW answer or failing that a RAI answer supported by RAW analysis. I believe there are only 3 magical weapon enchantments that (including vanguard weapon) that fit this, but I would also like to know the impact if custom/homebrew items were introduced that worked along the same lines.


2 Answers 2


The specific rules cite you mention is this one from the Adventurer's vault.

Many weapons have properties that provide a constant benefit. To gain the benefit of a weapon’s property, you must be wielding the weapon. Unless specified otherwise, a property affects only the weapon to which it’s attached. For example, a +2 cunning dagger, which bestows a –2 penalty to an enemy’s saving throws against your weapon powers, affects only powers that are delivered using that weapon. You couldn’t hold the weapon in your off-hand and gain the benefit of the property on powers delivered using a main weapon. (AV 56, Emphasis mine)

This is a funny little sentence stuck into the introduction to magic items in the Adventurer's Vault. The problem though is that it conflicts in two major ways with the rest of the 4e canon.

  • It's not supported with a repetition in either major rules text (PHB/RC). From the magit item properties page in the RC:

    Unless otherwise noted, a magic item's property remains active for a creature only while it wears the item...or wields the item. (RC 280)

  • It seems like the inverse is supported by actual weapon texts. If you read the weapon entries in the very text that has the limitation, only 4 weapons have a property that affects attacks but does not specify that it only applies to this weapon. The ones that don't: Subtle Weapon, Thundergod Weapon, Vanguard Weapon, Lucklender. Interestingly enough, errata has changed Subtle to specify that it's only "this weapon"* and the other 3 were left untouched.

This all comes down to what the word wield means in this context. I think you can find rules support for both holding and using for an attack. However, it seems like there are enough instances where it simply means holding it, that I would rule that the AV text is no longer valid. However, it's written, and that's sufficient for a RAW ruling that the magic item property only affects the weapon that is used for the attack.

This is something you'd have to take to your DM. You could make a compelling RAI argument that the items I listed above are clear exceptions simply for their lack of specifiers, the lack of support, and the fact that one of the 4 was errata'd and the rest were left alone.


DnD4 is full of seemingly conflicting rules.

Your speed decreeses if you wear heavy armor.
Your speed does not change in heavy armor if you are a Dwarf.

You use Strength for Melee Basic Attacks.
You can use Dexterity for Melee Basic Attacks if you are an Executioner.

There is no problem however, the rulebooks tell us how to resolve this; if they are contradicting, the one with the narrower scope wins, otherwise both are valid.

So I do not think anything is ambigious here.

To use an Implement it is enough to hold it, to benefit from an Armor it is enough to wear it. (Rules Compendium)
The properties of a Weapon apply to itself only. A weapon can not have Darkvision, so the property of a Midnight Blade obviously applies to you. On the other hand, an attack can be connected to a weapon, so you have to actually attack with it to benefit from the property of a Vanguard Weapon. (Adventurer's Vault)

Both rules are true at the same time, the RC for all magic items, the AV for magic Weapons only. The second is the smaller subset, so it overwrites the first.

Look at it from the other side, what whas the aim of the AV rule, if not what I explained above?

The applicable rules:

  1. Magic Item level: You have to have the magic item on your person for it to work.

  2. Slotted item level: You have to hold/wield an implement/weapon for it to work. (Rules Compendium). If you have a weapon, these two rules have to collide, and the narrower wins.

    2a. There is no option to satisfy (1) and (2) simultaneously.

    2b. In case of an implement, you have to hold it.

    2c. In case of a solitaire, rule(2) does not apply, so it work from your pocket as well.

  3. Weapons level: You have to attack with weapons to use its attack properties. (Adventurer's Vault). If you attack with the weapon, this and rule(2) has to collide, and the narrower wins.

    3a. There is no option to satisfy (1) and (2) simultaneously. You either attack, or you do not.

    3b. In case of an attack property, you have to make the attack with this weapon.

    3c. In case of a non-attack property, so it is enough to hold it.

  4. Enchantment level: Vanguard gives you 1d8 on a charge. This rule could contradict with rule(3), depending on which weapon you use to attack.

    4a. In case you use the Vanguard weapon for attacking, there is no collision of rules.

    4b. You can not force rules into collision. So the only option is (4a).

Disregarding rule (4b) could cause the following problem:

  • My power says I can shift 1 (rule A).
  • But here is difficult terrain, and difficult terrain costs more to shift (rule B).

If you could force rules into collision, (A) would win, as it is more specific, so you could shift whenever and wherever you want. So rule (4b) from above is actually RULE 0.

In my opinion two things make a rule offical:

  1. It was published by WotC. Adventurer's Vault was.
  2. The rule was not errataed. This part of AV was not.

Otherwise we could start questioning PHB itself, as it is the most errataed publication of WotC, so it must be absolutely wrong.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ What about Subtle weapon? they issued errata for it to specify attacks made with that weapon. They didn't for Vanguard, Lucklender and Thundergod...I'm not sure I buy the specific beats general argument here (it's a good one, its just that the lack of support for it in other texts and the fact that an overwhelming number of weapon entries specify "this weapon" vs the few that don't even post errata. As for the aim of the AV rule? I don't know, tbh it's an odd place for such an impactful rule. Why wouldn't it be restated in the RC or at least present in the online compendium \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 15:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle: Removed reference to Staff of Ruin, the wording or changes of other items are irrevelant. \$\endgroup\$
    – András
    Commented Apr 4, 2014 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ My copy of the AV certainly looks like it was published by WotC, based on the credits page. \$\endgroup\$
    – DCShannon
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 1:54

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