# Can Dispel Magic be used to stop a readied spell from taking effect before the trigger occurs?

NOTE: this does not refer to the case of readying a dispel magic spell to stop a spell from being cast as in this question, but rather using dispel magic to stop a readied spell from being cast.

While writing this answer, I ran into an interesting corner case regarding the dispel magic spell. A readied spell is cast as normal on your turn, but its energy is held (requiring your concentration) until the trigger occurs, after which it is released with your reaction. Would this classify it as an ongoing magical effect (explicitly called out in the description of the dispel magic spell)?

The rules on spell duration (PHB p. 203) explicitly split spells into "Instantaneous" and "Concentration" sections, mentioning under the latter that (emphasis mine):

Some spells require you to maintain concentration in order to keep their magic active.

However, the official Sage Advice rules answers column for March 2016 says, under the question "Can you use dispel magic on the creations of a spell like animate dead or affect those creations with antimagic field?" (bold for emphasis mine):

Whenever you wonder whether a spell’s effects can be dispelled or suspended, you need to answer one question: is the spell’s duration instantaneous? If the answer is yes, there is nothing to dispel or suspend. Here’s why: the effects of an instantaneous spell are brought into being by magic, but the effects aren’t sustained by magic (see PH, 203).

How do these rules interact? Can dispel magic be used to stop a readied spell from taking effect before the trigger occurs?

• Related, as the two situations complement each other: Can a readied spell be Counterspelled after it is cast, but before the trigger occurs? May 30, 2016 at 22:23
• I'm not seeing a difference. May 30, 2016 at 23:39
• @Christopher if nothing else, Dispel Magic having an Action casting time and Counterspell having a Reaction casting time make the two cases distinct to me.
– nitsua60
May 31, 2016 at 0:44
• Oh, I see. Dispel magic vs. counterspell. Two different spells. Gotcha! May 31, 2016 at 0:59
• @Christopher the two questions are indeed tightly coupled, as an yes answer to this one should imply a no answer to the other one, and a yes answer to the other one should imply a no answer to this one. However, they are two separate cases, each with its implications, and discussing both in the same question would be ill fitted. May 31, 2016 at 6:38

# Yes, because the spell is no longer instantaneous

The rules on Readying a spell state (PH 193):

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal [...] and holding onto the spell's magic requires concentration [...] If your concentration is broken, the spell dissipates without taking effect.

Since the spell is now a concentration spell, it should be susceptible to dispel magic like any other concentration spell—including being dispelled before the trigger.

• I'm not sure about this. "Instantaneous" refers to the duration of the spell's effects. The ready action requires you to concentrate, but doesn't change the spell's duration to "concentration". May 31, 2016 at 21:19
• While the duration of the effect is instantaneous, there is still a duration between when the spell is cast and when its effect occurs. May 31, 2016 at 21:58
• I think the best way of stopping such a spell from being cast is actually neither dispel magic nor counterspell, but instead the spell anti-magic field. drop that on the caster, and he can't even trigger the spell, because the magic gets negated by the field instantaneously. Jan 8, 2018 at 12:21
• Why is this answer the accepted one? :( Mar 15 at 10:29

## No, dispel magic can't be used this way.

Dispel magic is not intended to be used until the spell has actually taken effect. Consider the Sage Advice Compendium ruling regarding the timing of dispel magic. It's pretty clear that the rules intent is that dispel magic cannot be used until the spell has actually resolved:

Can you ready dispel magic to stop another spell from taking effect?

The easiest way to stop a spell is to cast counterspell on its caster while it’s being cast. If successful, counterspell interrupts the other spell’s casting, and that spell fails to take effect. Counterspell works against any spell, regardless of a spell’s casting time or duration.

With the Ready action, dispel magic can be cast in response to another spell being cast, yet dispel magic can’t substitute for counterspell. The main reason is that dispel magic removes a spell that is already on a target, whether that target is a creature, an object, or some other phenomenon. Dispel magic can’t pre-dispel something. If a spell isn’t already present on a target, dispel magic does nothing to that target. The best that a readied dispel magic can do is dispel a spell immediately after it’s been cast to prevent it from having any effect after the action used to cast it. For example, on your turn you could say something like this: “I ready dispel magic, and if the high priest casts a spell on anyone, I cast dispel magic on the target if the spell takes hold.” If the high priest then cast hold person on your companion who fails the save against it, you could unleash your readied dispel magic and end hold person.

• According to your own rules answers quote: "The easiest way to stop a spell is to cast counterspell on its caster while it’s being cast"; according to the ready action: "When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal". Once your turn is over, as the spell has a casting time of 1 action, it has finished casting as normal, and you're simply holding on to it's effect through concentration, so you can't counterspell it. Do you mean to imply there is a period of time during the readied spell's lifetime that it can't be counterspelled nor dispelled? Jun 3, 2016 at 20:21
• No, I don't think this is the case. I think the rules clarification makes it clear that the spell, though cast, is not considered "resolved" or "finished" until the effect takes place. For instance, if something causes the caster to lose concentration, the spell fizzles. It doesn't really finish, though the slot is still consumed. It took you an Action to set up the Readied spell (reflected in the casting time). Until it takes effect, it hasn't really been cast, and can be counterspelled. I think this is the only interpretation that makes sense given the rules errata quoted. Jun 3, 2016 at 21:57
• A metaphor would be: It takes you an Action to draw an arrow, pull back the string, and aim. You can Ready to let the arrow fly. You've done all the time-consuming work and have an arrow shot that only takes a reaction to release. Counterspell is the equivalent of someone snatching the arrow out of the bow (and breaking it). Dispel Magic is the equivalent of pulling it out of the target (and maybe casting a heal spell). Jun 3, 2016 at 22:01
• "The spell, though cast, is not considered resolved or finished until the effect takes place" - I fully agree with you. However, as you say, the spell has been cast, and the spell slot consumed. Counterspell specifically says that "You attempt to interrupt a creature in the process of casting a spell" which is not the case here any longer. As an example, just like any summoning spell (which can be dispelled once cast), you finish casting the spell then concentrate on its effect. In the case of readied spells, that effect exists (on the caster, held by him), but is not resolved/finished yet Jun 4, 2016 at 8:25
• There is evidence for this answer here in that you cannot dispel a spell somebody is concetrating on, which is the case when you ready a spell. Jul 14, 2019 at 21:10

### Yes, for this specific scenario, you absolutely can!

Dispel Magic is not Counterspell and can't be used as a reaction, as per the rules. However, in this instance, you are talking about someone having cast the spell and is readying an action earlier in the turn, and on this spellcaster's round (later in the initiative), they cast as their action, Dispel Magic against the readied spell. For this specific situation, it absolutely works! The description of the dispel magic spell says (emphasis mine):

Choose any 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.

So you can choose the creature who has cast the spell, CHECK.

It is a actual spell we are trying to dispel, CHECK.

The rules for Readying a spell state (emphasis mine):

When you ready a spell, you cast it as normal but hold its energy, which you release with your reaction when the trigger occurs. To be readied, a spell must have a casting time of 1 action, and holding onto the spell's magic requires concentration (explained in chapter 10). If your concentration is broken, the spell dissipates without taking effect.

A spell has been cast, CHECK.

There is magic energy an it is vulnerable to dissipation/dispel by numerous means. CHECK.

The spell has been cast, so it is a done deal, the energy has been activated (slot used) and you are holding the spell energy within the caster. There is no way around this very specific fact, by specific over general RAW, the spell has been cast before readying it. There is an active spell, it is vulnerable to being dispelled/dissipated and losing the already cast spell (and the activated spell slot) by other means, those being loss of concentration or holding on for too long, and reaching your next turn. The readied spell completely qualifies for the dispel magic spell.

This has nothing to do with readying a dispel magic spell and using it, this is the other way around, do not confuse the different situations.

The Sage Advice Compendium ruling, already quoted about that different situation, is completely correct, in that you cannot dispel a spell not already cast. However, in this instance the target has specifically cast the spell and the magic energy is active.

To quote the most pertinent part of the ruling:

The main reason is that dispel magic removes a spell that is already on a target, whether that target is a creature, an object, or some other phenomenon. Dispel magic can’t pre-dispel something. If a spell isn’t already present on a target, dispel magic does nothing to that target.

The target is the spellcaster, and there is a cast and active spell present on them in the form of the active spell they have readied. By Sage Advice's own added conditions, the readied spell completely conforms and is vulnerable to the dispel magic spell.