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The entry for Shield says that the reaction is triggered by being hit by an attack, which would tend to imply that you can wait to see if your opponent actually succeeds on their attack roll (otherwise they would not be hitting you with their attack) to beat your AC before deciding whether or not to cast the spell. However, wouldn't that be considered meta gaming? After all, my character does not know whether the attack will hit or miss; only that he or she is being attacked.

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No. You get to wait to see if the attack would hit you.

It's specifically a reaction to when you were hit and it allows you to rewind and replay the attack as if you'd cast shield before it (using the original attack roll). See the text:

Casting Time: 1 reaction, which you take when you are hit by an attack or targeted by the magic missile spell

...

An invisible barrier of magical force appears and protects you. Until the start of your next turn, you have a +5 bonus to AC, including against the triggering attack, and you take no damage from magic missile. (Basic D&D p100)

So the clear intent here is the use it after the attack roll so you know whether or not you've been hit.

This is not meta gaming any more than 4e's immediate interrupts were meta gaming (if the action negated the trigger, then the action didn't happen but was expended). This is about modeling quick reaction in a way that's fair. It might be a bit meta, but it's far better than requiring a wizard to use a valuable spell (especially at early levels) for something that wouldn't have affected them anyways.

If you're looking for a simulationist model, this is the wizard waiting to see if the attack would otherwise hit them and only casting shield then.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Just in case anyone wants "proof": thesageadvice.wordpress.com/2014/10/11/shield-before \$\endgroup\$ – WannabeCoder Dec 24 '14 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ You might also want to cite Adjudicating Reaction Timing on page 252 of the DMG. It's a very useful passage about design intent, but in particular it uses Shield as its example. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Apr 12 '15 at 16:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ It does not rewind and replay. You just bump your AC after knowing that the attack is going to hit, but before it actually hits. I really dislike this "time traveling shield" trend. It is a fallacy. \$\endgroup\$ – Mindwin Aug 14 '17 at 12:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ It may also help to remember that that "single attack" is part of an ~6s long fight sequence of trying to harm you. You may have "cast shield" 4s into that time period, after seeing that they were gaining ground on you. \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Aug 2 at 4:06
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I think you're reading too far into it. It's still not a guarantee. Just because you're hit by an attack does not mean that the +5 AC will negate, just gives you a chance at it. Your DM does not have to tell you what they rolled to hit.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This answer isn't bad, but it could use a bit of support from how the text of the rules explains how rolls work, and how Shield works. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 14 '17 at 12:51

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