D&D 5e Gift of the Metallic Dragon Guide: Clothe Thyself In Armor Of Scale
D&D 5e Gift of the Metallic Dragon Guide: Clothe Thyself In Armor Of Scale
SOURCE: Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons
Rating the Benefits of Gift of the Metallic Dragon
Benefit #1 –
Draconic Healing – Learn the Cure Wounds spell. It can be cast once per day for free, and recast with any spell slots the character has.
Free healing once per day is nice, as is learning a free spell for characters that have limited slots for spells known. Finally, this adds Cure Wounds to the spell list of characters that don’t otherwise get it. A clutch Cure from the Wizard might be the thing that turns a whole encounter around.
Benefit #2 –
Protective Wings – After you or a creature within 5ft is hit with an attack, spend a reaction to boost their AC by your proficiency. This can cause an attack that has hit to miss. The ability can be used an amount of times equal to your proficiency bonus.
A reactive Shield spell that’s slightly weaker until late game, but can also be used on allies, multiple times per day, is incredibly powerful.
This is doubly true if your GM openly rolls their dice or communicates hits in a way that makes it obvious; a la “The orc’s axe barely catches you…” so you know whether using this ability will force a miss before you spend the resources.
Mechanics and Requirements
Understanding How It Functions
Everyone knows what Cure Wounds does; it’s generally one of those spells that’s only appreciated in its absence. Ideally, everyone in a party of adventurers should have some way to get the others up and moving instead of bleeding on the floor.
But many characters don’t get natural access to healing. Especially martial characters, who are generally limited to mundane means, which, unless supported through feats or class abilities, tend to suck.
Several spellcasting classes also lack healing. Arcane casters like Warlocks, Wizards, and Sorcerers especially don’t have natural access to healing spells or class abilities unless they lean into feats or particular, niche subclasses.
In all of the above examples, the single cast of Cure Wounds offered by Gift of the Metallic Dragon is a great answer. If the big, bad Barbarian is all that’s left standing, his singular heal will be all that’s needed to get a real healer back on their feet and the party up and moving.
Some spellcasting classes might not even want to take healing. We’re thinking of Rangers or Artificers here, who might only have a handful of spells known even into the mid-levels, and just don’t have the space in their build to take a spell they won’t regularly cast.
Again, a single cast of Cure Wounds is often enough. If you need more healing, Gift of the Metallic Dragon adds the spell to a character’s spells known.
The Protective Wings feature of the Gift of the Metallic Dragon feat is surprisingly simple to understand. It works almost the same as the Shield arcane spell, so if you’ve seen that before, you know what this does.
By spending a reaction after being hit by an attack, or after an ally within 5ft is hit by an attack, increase the AC of that attack’s target by your proficiency bonus against that attack.
Despite being so simple, this is a very powerful ability. Proficiency scales up with character level, starting at +2, which is already a solid bonus to AC, equivalent to holding a shield or having Shield of Faith cast on you.
By late game, though, the bonus is a colossal +6, which is, if we’re not wrong, the single biggest boost to AC in the entirety of 5e.
On top of this, the ability can be used multiple times per day, again, scaling with proficiency; which means 2 to 6 uses.
This means, for most of a character’s career, they can expect to use this ability 3 or 4 times per day. Used correctly, that’s 3 or 4 missed attacks that would otherwise have hit. We’ll let you do the quick maths and work out how much HP this saves across an adventuring day.
Now, the nuance. AC bonuses are strongest on characters that already have high AC. Further reducing a creature’s chance to hit the tank is far more useful than pushing the Sorcerer’s AC up from “terrible” to “okay I guess.”
The strength of this ability also jumps markedly if your GM uses open rolls, or tells you how close a roll was to your AC in any way. There’s a big difference between being told “Yeah, the dire bear slashes you with its claws.” and “It rolls a 21, just beating your AC of 20.”
What we’re saying is, that if you know that using this ability causes the attack to miss, before you use it, then you’re only ever going to use it when it works. If every use of this shifts a hit to a guaranteed miss, it’s incredibly strong, so talk to your GM, or watch how they deal with similar abilities to work out where you stand.
Lastly, remember that, unlike Shield, the AC boost from this ability only works on the attack that triggers the ability. Your AC drops back to its standard level after that attack is resolved.
Gift of the Metallic Dragon has no stat requirements, even for the casting of its single spell.
Ideal Characters for Gift of the Metallic Dragon
Fighter – The Fighter is a class that’s always naturally tough without having to do anything, but that can angle itself into incredible defense prowess. Adding more AC to a frame that might pack Plate and Shield, the Defense fighting style, and situational bonuses from class abilities, can make a character nigh impossible to even touch with weapon attacks.
Most Fighters will also appreciate an emergency Cure Wounds more than most, as the class doesn’t get natural access to magic unless it takes the Eldritch Knight subclass, and that’s in a very limited, linear form. Other subclasses can only pour potions down their allies’ throats, or stand there waving their hands as people bleed out.
Every Fighter subclass can use this feat well. As mentioned, the Eldritch Knight, already built for toughness, is a beast with this feat, stacking its own ablative layers of spell defense on top of AC bonuses. The Rune Knight is another great choice, as their main ability, growing huge and swole, means they’re an obvious target and tend to take a lot of hits.
Paladin – Most Paladins have very little to do with their reactions. Stacking defensive bonuses on their own naturally high AC, or onto allies for more protective auras, something the Paladin is already great at is fantastic.
While Cure Wounds is already in the Paladin’s list, and the class gets innate healing anyway, more is better, and this at least saves one more spell slot for Smite. Every Paladin subclass will find an effective use for this feat.
Wizard – An AC bonus tied to reactions, which the Wizard doesn’t often use unless Counterspelling or casting Shield (a very similar ability, only costing a spell slot) plus Cure Wounds added to the spellbook, are exceptional for any scholar of the arcane.
The Bladesinger, as a combat-focused subclass, is most likely to stack up the AC bonuses, and might even spend them on allies instead of itself. Divination Wizards are another great choice, offering a confluence of flavor; “I foresaw that attack missing!” and wanting to play slightly closer support to their party to use their subclass abilities.
Race or Subrace Choices
Warforged – AC bonuses are strongest on characters that already have a high AC value. The Warforged race comes with a built-in +1 to AC, plus a slew of other defensive benefits. If you plan to build an invincible frontline tank, this is a great starting point.
Hobgoblin – One of the most surprising team players in all of 5e, Hobgoblins can boost their own failed rolls several times per day, plus Help their teammates as a Bonus Action, potentially adding a chunk of temp HP or disadvantage on enemy attacks into the bargain. Pairing that with this feat leads to a character who’s always doing something in response to the current situation.
Kobold – Another race that plays for the team, throwing out an AOE of advantage on all attack rolls against your enemies multiple times per day, which is incredibly strong. A stack of other bonuses, plus perfect synergy in flavor make this a fantastic choice.
Combos, Tactics, and Synergies
Gift of the Chromatic Dragon – Another reactive defensive button, protecting against the elemental effects that this feat doesn’t cover, plus a big damage bonus.
Fey Touched – Misty Step gets the tank precisely where they want to be. A second variable bonus spell is an excellent utility.
Toughness – Incredibly boring, true, but extra HP goes a long way on characters that want to get into the front lines.
Spells that Synergize
Absorb Elements – Another reactionary defense; Absorb Elements offers resistance against elemental damage, then adds a boost to your next attack roll.
Shield – Is the attack still going to hit you with +2 AC? How about +5 instead?
Strategies for Maximizing Draconic Effectiveness
How To Become Unkillable
Gift of the Metallic Dragon is primarily a defensive feat. In 5e, defenses, like everything, are better when invested into and built up as a primary focus. Many classes still do enough damage at their baseline power to meaningfully invest in toughness, and if you’ve got a strong backline in your group, you might not even need to do more than tie enemies in place and take the hits.
That said, here are the best ways to increase a character’s toughness:
A character’s primary defense against most attacks in 5e is their AC, or Armor Class. Unlike in previous editions, in 5e AC doesn’t climb much higher than the levels a starting character might be able to reach, so any bonus will be strongly felt.
As an illustrative example, a high-level monster like the Storm Giant has an AC of just 16 and a hit bonus of +14.
So finding ways to boost your AC is a major hike to survivability. A character in the mid-levels could comfortably expect an AC in the low to mid-20s, stacking their base 20 AC with plate armor and a shield on top of magical armor and class or racial abilities.
That Storm Giant, with its mighty +14 to hit, might only hit a defence-focused Fighter 50% of the time, before they start using class and feat abilities.
The higher your AC, the more effective the bonus from Defensive Wings is going to be. An enemy that only hits you on a 15+, a 30% chance, drops to a 17+, which is a 20% chance. That might not sound like much, but it’s a ⅓ drop in the amount of attacks that go through. That’s a colossal increase in toughness.
Find A Way To Mitigate Elemental Damage
As the party levels, enemies start to deal more elemental damage, either through their base abilities or through higher level spells.
It’s much easier to gain resistance to elemental damage, instead of standard physical damage (unless you’re rolling a Barbarian.) A spell or ability that grants this bonus is a good thing for most characters to have in their pocket.
And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a feat for that, released right alongside this one. Gift of the Chromatic Dragon, which offers resistance against elemental damage multiple times per day, plus a significant elemental damage boost of its own.
Grow your HP Pool
Everything so far has revolved around reducing the damage enemies do to you, either by reducing their chance to hit, or reducing the damage dealt.
But this is 5e. You will get hit, and you will take damage.
So it’s important to have a healthy enough pool of HP to take the damage that’s going to eventually get through, no matter how hard to hurt your character is.
Ways to do this might include:
- Choosing classes with high base HP totals; Barbarians, Rangers, Fighters
- Boosting Constitution. Each point of Con bonus is 1 HP per character level
- Taking the Tough feat, which adds another 2 HP per level
- Gaining Temporary HP from somewhere. Temp HP is essentially a shield of HP on top of your actual HP
- Stack healing. In-combat healing in 5e is designed to be inefficient, so it’s best not to focus a build around it. But certain spells and abilities can offer a lot of HP every turn, for example; Aura of Vitality or Regeneration, which can keep characters on their feet through serious ongoing damage.
Force Enemies To Deal Less Damage
Ironically, one of the best ways to take less damage is to prevent enemies from dealing it.
We’ve already touched on AC. But imposing effects on enemies that lower their hit chance through disadvantage, or disable their ability to act entirely, can utterly shut down the damage of an encounter.
Most encounters last 3-4 turns. Even a single turn where enemies deal zero damage can save 20% or more of a party’s total HP.
Stop Trying To Hit Me And Hit Me!
One interesting build that works well with this feat is a Barbarian with Gift of the Metallic Dragon, and, ideally, Sentinel.
It works like this.
The big, scary Barbarian stands next to one of their allies. It doesn’t matter which one.
If the enemy hits the Barbarian, great! If the attack is a near-hit, you might pop Protective Wings and make it a miss. If not, you’re a Barbarian, with a big, honking chunk of HP. You want to take hits. Plus, the Barbarian has probably popped Reckless Attack for the advantage, anyway. That makes them a much more tempting target.
If the enemy attacks an ally, suddenly we have options.
Is the attack a close hit? Pop Defensive Wings and make it a miss.
Will your Wings ability not help? Pop Sentinel’s reactionary attack and strike back harder!
Worst comes to worse, and your ally dies. Well, isn’t it great that you’ve got a Cure Wounds, lined up and ready to roll!
The whole point of this build is to present the enemy (and your GM) with no good options. Whoever they hit feels like a bad choice, and that’s always good for you.
Best Classes For A Free Cure Wounds
Artificer – Utility spells, limited amount of spells known, defensive enough to be alive at the end of an encounter, and great synergy with theme and flavor. This is great.
Barbarian – Ironically, the Barbarian is incredibly powerful with healing abilities. Smart enemies are likely to target party members they can actually kill, which means often the Barbarian is the one mopping up the mess. Pair with a defensive subclass for maximum fun.
Bard – Nah. Healing Word is better, and no Bard subclass can stack AC high enough to make the rest of the feat worth it.
Blood Hunter – With no way to innately heal themselves or allies, and abilities that cost HP to use, the Blood Hunter really appreciates healing powers. Even if you’re just using them to top off at the end of an adventuring day.
Cleric – The Cleric is generally seen as a party’s primary healer. In-combat healing in 5e isn’t particularly efficient, and the Cleric can change their spells known at the start of every day. The class likes the other side of the feat, so this isn’t bad, you just don’t need it.
Druid – Healing + full spellcasting slots = you don’t need this.
Fighter – Big tank smash all enemy! Why big tank friend no move no more? Big tank fix friend! Big tank best teammate!
Monk – Thematically appropriate, plus incredibly useful in a class that can leap halfway across an encounter to heal an ally in need.
Paladin – You already have a bunch of free healing bolted onto the class chassis. More is good, but not essential.
Ranger – You have spell slots, yeah, but an incredibly limited amount of spells known. Most Rangers won’t waste a slot on healing, so getting it for free is awesome.
Rogue – Don’t get innate access to healing, and their magical subclass, the Arcane Trickster, has no way of grabbing the spell. Because of all the sneaking and flipping around, the Rogue might just be the last character alive, and a clutch heal is exactly that.
Sorcerer – For a primary caster, the Sorcerer’s spell list is teeny weeny, to the point that a bunch of subclasses give out bonus spells known, and it’s a significant boost in power. Adding a healing spell into the mix is awesome.
Warlock – Almost no Warlock class gains innate access to healing spells, and with their limited spell casts, probably wouldn’t want to spend them on Cure anyway. That makes this spell great utility for a DPS class.
Wizard – No way to get Cure spells, a massive amount of spells known, and a colossal amount of spell slots. Yeah, the Wizard loves access to healing spells.
Final Thoughts on Gift of the Metallic Dragon
With a list of defensive benefits, Gift of the Metallic Dragon is for the party players. Smart positioning can maximize the effects of Protective Wings, and emergency heals are useful for almost anyone.
This feat probably isn’t priority number one. It’s generally better to grab something that increases damage, like Polearm Master, or something that’s essential to a build, like Sharpshooter, first. But defensive benefits are always useful, for every single character. No matter what you’re playing, there’s a use here for your choice of Draconic Gifts.