My party went up against two wizards. Wizard NPC 1 cast a spell, and Wizard PC used their reaction to Counterspell to try to block it. Wizard NPC 2 counterspelled Wizard PC. I have two questions about this:

  1. Is there any defence against this?
  2. If it was just one NPC Wizard, could they use their reaction, during their turn, to counterspell the PC Wizard's counterspell?

Is there any defense against this?

There are several, but none of them are great:

  • Bring more wizards.

  • Put yourself within range of the first wizard, but out of range of the second.

  • Make them want to use their reaction elsewhere. They can't counterspell if they used shield to stop the fighter from smashing their faces in (and vice versa).

  • Cast counterspell from a higher level slot, to force the NPCs to either roll for their counterspells or at the very least burn high level slots of their own.

  • Just assume they can cast the spells they want to, but outlast them with more/better spell slots.

If it was just One NPC Wizard, could they use their reaction, during their turn, to counterspell the PC Wizards counterspell?


Page 190 of the Player's Handbook covers the rules for reactions (emphasis mine):

A reaction is an instant response to a trigger of some kind, which can occur on your turn or on someone else's.

In general, counterspell is more of a tax than a hard protection against wizards casting spells. And if you're outnumbered, you will tend to lose out on counterspell wars. If counterspelling is what you want to do, I'd highly recommend being an Abjuration wizard so that you can get some free hitpoints while you drain their slots.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ One thing that often gets overlooked in casting Fireball and Counterspell is needing a free hand to use somatic components for counterspell. If you are using a component pouch, you are fine. If you are using an Arcane Focus to cast Fireball, then your other hand has to be empty to cast counterspell. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Jul 15 at 12:37

AceCalhoon's answer is only mostly correct. While counterspell can be blocked with another counterspell, a single wizard could not counterspell a counterspell that targets a spell he is casting. Although he can take reactions, he cannot actually cast counterspell in the middle of chanting fireball.


Wizard One attempts to cast fireball.

Player Wizard uses counterspell.

Wizard One cannot counterspell back because he is in the middle of casting fireball.

Both fireball and counterspell have verbal components. According to the rules of components on PHB 203, "If you can't provide one or more of a spell's components, you are unable to cast the spell."

You need multiple wizards for this, or a sorcerer with the subtle spell Metamagic.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not only is this not accurate, the situation posited is identical to the example in the Sage Advise Compendium article by Wizards, that clarifies that this is indeed possible: "Can you cast a reaction spell on your turn? You sure can! Here’s a common way for it to happen: Cornelius the wizard is casting fireball on his turn, and his foe casts counterspell on him. Cornelius also has counterspell prepared, so he uses his reaction to cast it and break his foe’s counterspell before it can stop fireball." media.wizards.com/2017/dnd/downloads/SA-Compendium.pdf \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Oct 21 '17 at 0:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just noticed that this was probably your first post. Please don't be discouraged from posting more. Though technically incorrect, your answer was well-formulated. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Oct 21 '17 at 4:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Counterspell doesn't have verbal components, it only has Somatic. Therefore you can cast fireball and counterspell at the same time, assuming you have a free hand. \$\endgroup\$ – Nick Jul 15 at 12:14

No. You can't counter Counterspell on your own turn by using your Reaction to cast Counterspell.

You CAN use your reaction to cast Counterspell, but you will lose the original spell you were casting and the result would be the same. The only difference being that you wasted 2 spell slots instead of one.

If you are attempting to cast a spell, let's call it Fireball, then someone within 60' of you can use their reaction to cast Counterspell. The trigger is seeing you "in the process of casting a spell" as spelled out in the description of Counterspell on p.228. Fireball requires verbal, somatic and material components. If you are in the process of casting it, it is impossible for you to cast another spell at the same time. You would have to cease the somatic component of the casting and instead use your hands or focus to cast Counterspell. The only time that you could conceivably do this would be in cases where the original spell you were casting had ONLY a verbal component. You would be casting one spell (Counterspell) with your hand while you finished speaking the magic words with your mouth.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The official rules clarifications disagree with you, using exactly the same example. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Aug 17 '16 at 10:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're suggesting that "break his foe’s counter-spell before it can stop fireball" would stop the fireball anyway - if that was the case, why on earth would anyone do it? And trying to shame me for downvoting you runs entirely opposite to site principles, as well as making it drastically unlikely that I'd remove my downvote. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Aug 17 '16 at 11:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ "Cornelius has counterspell prepared, so he uses his reaction to cast it and break his foe’s counterspell before it can stop fireball." Seems pretty clear that the intent is that Fireball is successful. You're thinking of it as counterspell keeps the spell from happening, but if this were the case, the spell slot wouldn't be used up. Think of it instead as Counterspell undoes the spell after the fact, so fast that the effect never materializes. Then a counterspell of a counterspell would keep the "counterspell effect" from materializing, so that the original fireball would be able to resolve. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Aug 18 '16 at 2:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, I agree that the wording of counterspell could be improved, as RAW is not clearly reflecting the revealed RAI. "Interrupting" the spell, as written, is ambiguous, leading to an unintended interpretation. It works better with the (unwritten, but clarified) intent that the spell is cast, but is "interrupted" before the effect occurs. \$\endgroup\$ – keithcurtis Aug 18 '16 at 2:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Actually Keith, you are spot on as to my thinking. This question's answer has a large impact on that other question, "Does a countered spell cost a spell slot?" I must confess that the argument I have made here, was only intended to nail down the answer to that other question (which I have answered). I actually agree with your interpretation. The original spell is cast (and costs a spell slot), counterspell nullifies the effect, and a second counterspell then nullifies the effect of counterspell, allowing the effect of the original spell to go off. \$\endgroup\$ – Lumenbeing Aug 21 '16 at 21:00

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