According to page 144 of the PHB under Armor proficiency it states that

You cannot cast spells.

However the warcaster feat claims you have learned to perform Somatic components while wielding weapons or a shield in one or both hands.

Now, logic would dictate that shields wouldnt hinder Vocal Components, and you can hold a spell focus in the other hand, Why would one need to have proficiency in shields to cast, if they Have this feat?

I understand stand that RAW would dictate it is simply not possible, but I am unsure as to why.


3 Answers 3


Using armor or shields you are not proficient with has more drawbacks than only not being able to cast spells.

If you wear a shield without the proficiency you have...

[...] disadvantage on any ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that involves Strength or Dexterity, and you can't cast spells. (PHB p.144)

When you pick the War Caster feat you can...

[...] perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands. (PHB p.170)

Lets look at War Caster:

The feat allows you to perform the somatic components even when both your hands are occupied. This part of the feat is focused on not requiring a free hand for your somatic components as long as at least one of your hands wields a shield or weapon.

Let's say you only use a shield and only wear it in one hand. You would be able to perform your somatic component with your free hand (no benefit from War Caster here), but in consequence of not being proficient with the shield you are not able to cast spells at all.


War Caster does not allow you to cast spells when you can't, it allows you to perform somatic components without necessarily requiring a free hand. (Hands may be occupied by shields or weapons)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Keep in mind that a shield is NOT armor. It has its own entry on that same page under armor proficiency and has no baring on disadvantages. Which is farther expounded on by this crawford entry: "...A shield increases your AC by 2 while you use it. For example, if you’re unarmored and use a shield, your AC is 12 + your Dexterity modifier. Keep in mind that some AC calculations, such as a monk’s Unarmored Defense, prohibit the use of a shield..." which goes to say if you can still be unarmored while using a shield, it doesnt count as armor for ANY purposes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ In this instance, @Airatome, the rules disagree with you: Armor Proficiency. Anyone can put on a suit of armor or strap a shield to an arm," (PH144). The rest of the section goes on about disadvantage and not being able to cast spells. Since shields are called out specifically, I agree with Thyzer that the same rules apply. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2016 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ So the consensus here is that feats don't over rule general rules then? Guess dual wielder, grappler, sharpshooter and more are completely useless then. Sharpshooter let's you ignore cover. General rule says cover grants AC bonuses. For some reason, people here seem to not apply the same standard to War Caster, which clearly states you can cast with a weapon and shield, regardless of the general rule. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2016 at 15:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Then how and why is jeremy crawford; the one who made these rules, specifically pointing out the difference of using a shield unarmored? Here are some more sources that elaborate more: mobile.twitter.com/mikemearls/status/… as well as: dnd.wizards.com/articles/features/rules-answers-january-2016 and lastly: mobile.twitter.com/JeremyECrawford/status/… . None of these are possible rulings if Shields = Armor \$\endgroup\$
    – Airatome
    Aug 29, 2016 at 15:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @LinoFrankCiaralli The feat states that you can perform somatic components, not that you can cast spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – Thyzer
    Aug 29, 2016 at 17:06

Taken to the extreme, "The Warcaster feat says I can cast spells with my shield in hand"... would mean that a Battlermaster could choose the feat, pick up shield and start casting... but what? "I cannot cast spells due to my class" trumps the feat anyway, just as "if you're wearing armour or using a shield that you're not proficiewnt with, you cannot cast spells" trumps the Warcaster.


BY RAW: Feats allow you to bypass restrictions put in place by general rules. Or to put it more directly, specific trumps general.

This question also relates to this: Feat Prerequisites

In this case, War Caster does indeed bypass the requirement for shield proficiency because it explicitly states that you can cast a spell with when your hands are occupied by weapons or shields. Of note, you do not get the benefits that would be granted with proficiency with shields. Which means you still suffer disadvantage on your ability checks, saves and attack rolls involving Str or Dex. It doesn't get more clear than that. The wording is very specific in that is states:

...perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands. (PHB p.170)

What's more important is the War Caster specifically states the pre-requisites for it: The ability to cast at least one spell.

Another feat which demonstrates that feats do indeed call out for proficiency when it is required is Crossbow Expert. Example (emphasis mine):

You ignore the loading quality of crossbows with which you are proficient. (PHB p.165)

This example is often repeated. Dual Wielder bypasses the general restriction of light weapons. Magic Initiate gives you the ability to cast spells, even if your class doesn't have the spellcasting feature. This keeps going. Feats are exceptions to the general rule, and do exactly what they say they do.

Shield proficiency is not listed as a pre-requisite, nor is it mentioned even once in the feat, and therefore is not required.

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    \$\begingroup\$ War Caster doesn't "explicitly state that you can cast a spell with [sic] when your hands are occupied by weapons or shields" (quoted from your post above), it says "you can perform the somatic components of spells even when you have weapons or a shield in one or both hands. (PHB p.170)" There's a big difference, in my mind, between saying 'you can cast a spell' vs. 'you can provide S when casting a spell'. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Aug 29, 2016 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's extraordinarily pedantic. If you CAN perform the somatic components, and those are required to cast the spell, then what do you have left? That's like saying I CAN draw my arrow and release it from my bowstring while holding a shield, but I can't attack with the bow. That logic doesn't follow. Furthermore, it would take a caster like Warlock, Sorcerer or Wizard a minimum of 8 levels (Light armor prof, Medium Armor prof, War Caster) in order to get shield proficiency while being a battle mage. This is incredibly counter intuitive to something like a Pact of the Blade warlock. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2016 at 16:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ What's left? Material components, perhaps? I don't think it's extraordinarily pedantic to quote the feat correctly. But I apologize for coming across that way. I still can't quite wrap y head around what you're getting at with this post or your answer on the question you linked, so I'm going to give up. Have a nice day. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Aug 29, 2016 at 16:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with @nitsua60. When not proficient with shields/armour, you cannot cast spells. Somatic component or not. Warcaster only removes the "need a free hand for somatic components" part of casting with somatic components. Just because you can use a shield hand to do them, you still cannot cast spells because you are not proficient with the shield. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 29, 2016 at 16:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ consider the fact that this feat was not intended for full casters to use. there are multiple classes capable of casting spells that are proficient in shields eldritch knight comes to mind. such a character would find a great deal of spells useless if they had to sheath their swords every time they wanted to cast a spell with Somatic components. by leaving the wording as it is the feat allows characters who have already have proficiency with shields to gain additional benefits of not having drop their weapons to cast spells while not negating other feats by giving away shield proficiency. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daniel
    Aug 31, 2016 at 11:14

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