Spirit Guardians 5e: Everything You Need to Know

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Spirit guardians in 5e is a spell just about every cleric learns when they gain access to it. Why? Because it does solid damage every round, provides excellent crowd control, allows for great chemistry with other abilities and spells, and it lasts 10 minutes. 10 minutes is equivalent to 100 rounds of combat in Dungeons and Dragons.

Spirit guardians in 5e is no joke.

But people often interpret the spell incorrectly and there are always questions surrounding the appropriate use of the spell. So let’s clear those up, give you tips to make the most of spirit guardians, and outline some strategies for countering this incredible spell.

Spirit Guardians 5e Description

LEVEL: 3rd
CASTING TIME: 1 Action
RANGE/AREA: Self (15 ft sphere)
COMPONENTS: V, S, M (or holy symbol)
DURATION: [Concentration] 10 Minutes
SCHOOL: Conjuration
ATTACK/SAVE: WIS Save
DAMAGE/EFFECT: Radiant or Necrotic

You call forth spirits to protect you. They flit around you to a distance of 15 feet for the duration. If you are good or neutral, their spectral form appears angelic or fey (your choice). If you are evil, they appear fiendish.

When you cast this spell, you can designate any number of creatures you can see to be unaffected by it. An affected creature’s speed is halved in the area, and when the creature enters the area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, it must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes 3d8 radiant damage (if you are good or neutral) or 3d8 necrotic damage (if you are evil). On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 3rd.

Player’s Handbook, page 278
Art by u/kovah

What is Spirit Guardians in 5e?

Spirit guardians in 5e is a 3rd-level spell used almost exclusively by clerics. It allows casters to deal decent damage every round and slow down enemies across a significant space.

Mechanically, spirit guardians creates a 30-foot sphere (15-foot radius) centered on the caster that affects creatures within it. You decide which creatures are unaffected by the spell. If you don’t identify your allies as unaffected, they will be attacked by the spirit guardians.

An affected creature’s speed is halved. So if a creature has a movement speed of 40 feet per round, it drops to 20 feet per round while the creature is within the affected area.

A creature must make a Wisdom saving throw if the creature:

  • enters the area for the first time on the creature’s turn
  • starts its turn in the affected area

On a failed save, the creature takes:

  • 3d8 radiant damage if the caster is of good or neutral alignment
  • 3d8 necrotic damage if the caster of evil alignment

On a successful save, the creature takes half as much damage.

The downside to spirit guardians is it is a concentration spell. So be prepared to roll Constitution saving throws if you plan or expect to get close to the enemy.

Common Mistakes People Make With Spirit Guardians in 5e

Spirit guardians does not deal damage when you cast it

If you cast this spell when you’re surrounded by hostile creatures, those creatures will not be damaged or slowed by the spell until their turns start.

Alternatively, let’s say you cast this spell and then move toward an a group of enemies so they are within the affected area. Those creatures will not be damaged or slowed by the spell until their turns start.

Remember, the spell description states, “when the creature enters the area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, it must make a Wisdom saving throw.

But we can take advantage of that.

Since each creature has a turn for each round of combat, you can use abilities (i.e., thorn whip, thunderwave, charm) that force a creature to move in and out of the affected area.

If one character casts thorn whip to pull an enemy out of the affected area and then another character casts thunderwave to push the enemy back into the affected area, that enemy “enters the area for the first time on a turn” and thus must make a Wisdom save.

Art by u/anticlass

You can only identify unaffected creatures if you can see them

If you cast it and a nearby ally is invisible, you cannot identify that ally as unaffected. Therefore, that ally will have to make a Wisdom save on his or her turn and suffer the effects of the spell.

Movement speed of creatures entering and leaving the affected area

  • A creature that enters the affected area will have its total movement speed cut in half. For example, a creature with a 40-foot movement speed moves 20 feet before entering the affected area. Upon failing the Wisdom save, the creature’s movement speed is cut in half to 20 feet, but the creature already moved 20 feet. So the creature can no longer move.
  • Conversely, a creature that leaves the affected area will have its total movement speed restored. So if a creature with a 40-foot movement speed moves 15 feet to escape the affected area, the creature regains its 40-foot movement speed and has 10 feet of movement left.
  • Let’s say a creature with a 40-foot movement speed is prone in the affected area. Since it costs half a creature’s movement speed to stand up and spirit guardians halves a creature’s movement speed, that means it costs 10 feet of movement to stand up, rather than the 20 feet it would cost outside of the affected area.

Spirit guardians can stack damage but not the speed halving effect

The Player’s Handbook specifies “the effects of the same spell cast multiple times don’t combine” but this is meant to stop spells like spirit guardians from reducing creatures’ movement speed to almost nothing.

If two clerics are standing next to one another when they cast the spell there will be twice as many spirits attacking enemies in the affected area.

With that said, it’s ultimately the DM’s call.

Spirit guardians does not go around corners or pass through walls 

The Player’s Handbook states:

“A spell’s effect expands in straight lines from the point of origin. If no unblocked straight line extends from the point of origin to a location within the area of effect, that location isn’t included in the spell’s area”

What classes can cast spirit guardians in 5e?

Except for paladins who swear the Oath of the Crown, spirit guardians is exclusive to clerics. And clerics who choose the War Domain gain access to spirit guardians as a domain spell when they reach 5th level and can cast it without using a standard spell slot. In either case, you still need the components or a holy symbol.

How do you use spirit guardians in 5e effectively?

Spirit guardians in 5e is ideal for crowd control of small, melee enemies. If you want to maximize damage, position yourself in the center of the enemies. They will be forced to take one of two actions. They will stay in the 15-foot radius, thus risking taking significant damage every round. Or they will flee to escape the spirit guardians damage.

Either situation is a win for you and your party. You either deal damage until they die, or you break up the group. And if you break up the group while other party members are fighting the enemies, those fleeing enemies will trigger attacks of opportunity.

Spirit guardians in 5e centers on the caster, so don’t cast the spell if you’re not expecting enemies to come within 15 feet of you. If you’re trying to stay out of combat, consider casting a different spell or taking a different action. But if you expect the enemy might approach you, then it makes sense to cast it because the spell will last longer than the battle.

The downside of the spell is it requires concentration. So if you jump into battle and the enemy attacks you, be prepared to roll some concentration checks. If you want the dice on your side, pick up the War Caster feat or the Resilient feat. Both will grant you advantage on concentration checks.

Bonus Tips:

  • Take the Dodge action to decrease the chance you lose concentration. The Dodge action grants you advantage on Dexterity saving throws and confers disadvantage on attacks made against you (assuming you can see the attacker). This increases the chances of spirit guardians lasting longer if you’re in a fight with multiple enemies who might try to attack you.
  • Summon your spiritual weapon for more damage. It only lasts 1 minute (10 rounds of combat) but it’s not a concentration spell so you can deal extra damage each round.
  • Cast it before combat begins. 10 minutes is equivalent to 100 rounds of combat. No fight lasts nearly that long. So save yourself a standard action at the beginning of a fight by casting it before the fight starts.

DM Strategies to Counter Spirit Guardians in 5e

Not sure how to handle the cleric who brings forth spirits to protect his party every time initiative is rolled?

  • Focus fire on the caster to break his or her concentration.
  • Have a balance of creatures who use ranged attacks and melee attacks.
  • Don’t clump your creatures together because that makes them vulnerable.
  • If the caster uses the Dodge action, switch to attacks/abilities that require saving throws instead.
Art by @spectrecleric

Spirit Guardians 5e FAQ

Do the type of spirits change the effectiveness of spirit guardians?

The spirit guardians you summon do no change the effectiveness of the spell. But your alignment changes the type of spirits you summon which determines whether they deal radiant or necrotic damage.

Can I choose the type of damage spirit guardians deals?

No, because the type of damage is related to the character’s alignment. If you are good or neutral, their spectral form appears angelic or fey (your choice). If you are evil, they appear fiendish.

What classes other than cleric can use spirit guardians?

Paladins who swear the Oath of the Crown gain access to it at 9th level. Divine Soul sorcerers gain access to it at 5th level. And bards gain access to it at 10th level.

If multiple clerics cast spirit guardians, do the effects stack?

The damage stacks from both spells, but the movement will only be reduced to half speed once.

Conclusion—Is spirit guardians in 5e a good spell?

Just about every cleric picks up spirit guardians because of how powerful and useful the spell is. It deals damage that scales. It is effective at controlling crowds of weaker enemies and dealing damage to large enemies every turn. And it lasts 10 minutes. 10 MINUTES! That’s 100 rounds of combat. No fight lasts for 100 rounds.

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