Underrated or Underpowered: Shield Master

Welcome everyone! Today we’re going to be diving into feats for the first time in Underrated or Underpowered. I figured I’d choose one I’m very familiar with, so here’s Shield Master!

Welcome everybody to a new week of Underrated or Underpowered! Today we’re going to be talking about our first feat, and I wanted to ease into this with a feat I’m familiar with! Without further ado, let’s don our shields, put the wizard behind us, and get ready to protect our party!

Alright so off the bat, I personally feel like Shield Master is a feat that doesn’t see much use. I figure people will mostly be using things like Resilient: Dexterity to get the bonus to their Dex scores, and most people will opt for the more flashy feats like Great Weapon Master and Sharpshooter. Likewise, people are more keen towards increasing their ability scores over feats, so both of those combined mean that Shield Master is probably on the back burner for a decent amount of fighters/paladins, but most often won’t be picked up. But, let’s go ahead and look at some of the pros and cons!

A normal size shield becomes a full body shield for the smaller races!

A Stalwart Protector

The first feature that you gain from this feat allows you to Shove a creature within 5 feet of you when you take the Attack action on your turn. One of my favorite things about this ability is that it grants some bonus action economy to classes that’ll be using this feat like Paladins and Fighters. Outside of the Fighter’s Second Wind and certain subclass features as well as the Paladin’s spell smites and certain class features, the classes don’t have much in the way of bonus actions. Additionally, they’ll most likely be using their actions to attacks, so being able to use a bonus action basically every turn with that is very nice! The easy part of the feature is using the Shove bonus action to push an enemy 5 feet away from an ally and get them out of position. The difficult and double edged sword part of this feature is knocking prone. In my experience, this ability is amazing if you have other front line fighters with you that are able to take advantage of the proned target. However, imposing disadvantage for your ranged casters can be a big problem! Taking a look at the battlefield and judging when you should use the ability is a big part of maximizing this feat!

I promise these next two features are less text. The second feature lets you add your shield’s AC bonus to any Dexterity saving throw or other harmful effect that targets only you. This is the part where I don’t tell you guys I never knew the “targets only you” part of the feature existed. So while you can’t use this against spells like fireball or lightning bolt, there’s still a good amount of spells that’ll target your Dex saves. Being able to add at minimum a +2 to those saves is great, especially since the classes that’ll most likely pick up this feat don’t have proficiency in Dex saves! While it would be nice if the feature gave you the +2 to every spell save, it would be bordering on overpowered at that point, and I wouldn’t be able to write about it!

The last feature allows you to use your reaction when you succeed a Dexterity saving throw to take no damage as opposed to half damage. It’s like Evasion, but for Fighters! While it is contingent on you rolling well on your Dexterity saves, the aforementioned feature coupled with the likes of Indomitable and, if you’re a Paladin Aura of Protection, means you should hopefully be making most of those saves. Taking no damage from a potent fireball or a dragon’s breath weapon will always be helpful, and unless you’re a Sentinel user/Eldritch Knight, you won’t be using your reaction for much more outside of opportunity attacks!

Sword and board, best thing since peanut butter and jelly

Final Verdict

What?? Only one section? I figure for feats it’s not really useful comparing it to other feats because if I continue talking about feats, it’ll always be “people will pick Resilient of GWM/Sharpshooter over this”. But with that, I will give Shield Master a nice place in the Underrated category! I think that being able to knock prone as a bonus action can be insanely useful, especially if you have a melee rogue in the party or a cleric who needs to hit that inflict wounds. The other two features really boost your Dex saves which is something the Fighter and Paladin lack! Also consider picking this up on a Barbarian, advantage on those Athletics checks makes you the scariest schoolyard bully.

And that’ll do it! Feats are a pretty great addition to the game in my opinion and despite them being an optional rule, I always love to allow them in the games. Do you have a favorite feat or feat you absolutely can’t stand? Let us know on our twitter, instagram, or our forums! Thank you all for reading and we’ll see you next time 🙂

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