Is the following use of Contingency legal?

You are a Wild Mage Sorcerer with Wizard levels. You cast Contingency with the following trigger condition: any time wild magic causes you to cast fireball on yourself, OR you turn to a plant, OR you are banished, etc, listing all negative Wild Magic Surge effects.

The contingent spell: dispel magic on yourself.

Restating to avoid enumeration (and the OR operation), could the trigger condition be: if Wild Magic Surge affects me or my allies in a harmful or disadvantageous way, except a self-fireball. Would this be legal, though it is quite a general condition?

It does remove the need to enumerate every instance, though. But in this way, a single sentence summarizes the intent of the contingency without spelling out every condition.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Final sources from the Twitter conversations on Dispel Magic have been added to my answer as well as a clarification on which Wild Surges would be affected by it. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 28 '16 at 16:29

This could only work for some effects.

Dispel Magic will only mitigate some Wild Magic Surge effects; specifically those that have a persistent effect on you personally. For example, dispel magic won't help against a fireball you cast on yourself. Fireball would need to be counterspelled, but contingency only works spells with a casting time of one action, and counterspell has a casting time of one reaction.

Another important thing to note about dispel magic is that it's indiscriminate:

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 4th level or higher on the target, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a successful check, the spell ends.

A spellcaster doesn't get to pick and choose which effects get dispelled, so the contingent dispel magic will also affect any defensive or protective spells that are affecting them.

Further, while there are no limits in the PHB on the complexity of the condition that can be defined for contingency, the DM might not allow overly long or convoluted conditions. For example, in order to prevent abuse, they might require that a player whose character is casting contingency verbally express the triggering condition without recourse to notes. Or they might only allow simple conditions without any kind of logical conjunctions (and, or, if, etc).

In this particular case, the DM might rule that the player doesn't know all of the possible outcomes from a Wild Magic Surge, and so there's no way they can enumerate them all in order to protect themselves.

... "what if the condition instead was: if Wild Magic Surge affects me or my allies in a harmful or disadvantageous way, except a self-fireball?"

The DM might also limit the amount of decision-making that a contingency can perform. Conditions that include phrases like "in a harmful or disadvantageous way" might not be possible, or (worse) not be reliable; the contingency spell might (for example) decide that turning into a potted plant is advantageous under some circumstances.

Additionally, remember that contingency only casts the spell on the caster, not on any other targets. If you really want to cast dispel magic on yourself any time a Wild Magic Surge affects your allies, you can, but that's probably not what you want.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In that case, would Counterspell be a better fit to this strategy, or is that a new question altogether? \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Feb 20 '16 at 16:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MarkCogan I think that's better. "Without recourse to notes" is exactly the thing I had in mind: I'm not sure how to feel about a character that says "okay, this week I'll cast contingent teleport to my house with a trigger of A or B or C or..." where {A, B, C, ...} is the contents of a journal: "things I'm afraid of." \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Feb 20 '16 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Wild Surge table actually lists more persistent effects than instantaneous ones. Self-fireball is the only thing I see it cant mitigate due to duration actually. As for condition length, what if it was "if Wild Surge creates a negative effect for the party"? \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Feb 21 '16 at 1:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ Counterspell only affects spells as they are being cast. Many Wild Magic Surge effects aren't spells. And you can't contingency a counterspell. \$\endgroup\$ – Marq Feb 21 '16 at 9:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Dispel Magic only affects spells unless Wild Magic Surges are spells they will be unaffected by it. Sage has been very, very clear on this on all answers having to do with Dispel Magic. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 27 '16 at 12:36

You can certainly use a contingency spell to have dispel magic cast on yourself and it would end any spell you had affecting you. Unfortunately, Wild Surges are not necessarily spells, only those that would have text indicating that "you cast X" would be spells and thus subject to Dispel Magic assuming a duration of not instantaneous. As stated here they would require no concentration nor are they intended to cost a spell slot as indicated here.

Consider the text of dispel magic

Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 4th level or higher on the target.... (PHB p.234, emphasis mine)

The "Creature, object, or magical effect" indicates what you can target with the spell and any spell on that target ends. I know of no magical effect that can have a spell active on it to be honest and I think this verbiage is the confusing part in its interpretation but I believe the second and third sentences are clear. I know that in our group we have fallen victim to what previous versions allowed and have been stopped short by taking that for granted.

But we have details of the question posted in SageAdvice below:

Can you use dispel magic to dispel a magical effect like a vampire’s Charm ability? Dispel magic has a particular purpose: to break other spells. It has no effect on a vampire’s Charm ability or any other magical effect that isn’t a spell. It also does nothing to the properties of a magic item. It can, however, end a spell cast from a magic item or from another source. Spells—they’re what dispel magic is about. For example, if you cast dispel magic on a staff of power, the spell fails to disrupt the staff’s magical properties, but if the staff’s wielder casts hold monster from the staff, dispel magic can end that spell if cast on the target of hold monster. There are abilities and other spells that can end or suspend magical effects that aren’t spells. For example, the greater restoration spell can end a charm effect of any sort on a target (such as a vampire’s Charm or a dryad’s Fey Charm), and a paladin’s Aura of Devotion can prevent or suspend such an effect. Three of the most versatile spells for ending certain magical effects are lesser restoration, greater restoration, and remove curse.

There have been a number of posts by Mearls and crew about this spell and what it specifically does and all of them have started with "Dispel Magic dispels spells, X is not a spell". This has been the answer to such things as Arcane Ward, Wild Shape and so on (thank you nitsua60 for helping with potential downvotes).

You can also not use Counterspell in this scenario as the target is a creature, moreover the reaction would not be triggered because there are no spells being cast.

You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell. PHB p228

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    \$\begingroup\$ I now reference this answer in my pink-bubble post. I think you've likely got the right of it and hope time sorts out these two answers correctly =) \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Jul 27 '16 at 16:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Time will only tell, thanks nitsua60. I will still update with those Tweets when I can but I think the SA-Compendium has enough in it. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 27 '16 at 16:33

Seems too meta to be allowed. How would the sorceror know about the table and what effects are on it unless they've experienced them or researched other sorceror (even then the effects should only be a guess, legend and rumor that Bob died because of a self inflicted fireball). If the contingency was set to harmful who decides that? Trying to turn yourself invisible and accidentally becoming a potted plant doesn't seem too bad but while trying to cast feather fall it seems much worse.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was actually thinking of viable in-game reasons this could work out. As you said, the sorcerer would have experienced very negative things in the past due to wild magic, affecting the people around him/her, and so is trying to put a lid on his own destructiveness -- but mechanically it doesn't seem to really work, at least with this option. \$\endgroup\$ – user27327 Feb 22 '16 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dispel Magic actually won't work on anything that is not a spell, see my posted answer for all the sources that attest to that. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Jul 28 '16 at 18:13

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