D&D 5E Silvery Barbs Overpowered or Overrated?

How would you rate Silvery Barbs?

  • Overpowered

    Votes: 12 41.4%
  • Overrated

    Votes: 17 58.6%

ECMO3

Hero
So I have been playing with Sivery Barbs for about 4 months now at 4 different tables. I personally have the spell on a Ranger/Bard (5/1), a Bladesinger 7 and an Arcane Trickster/Arcane Archer 4/3 and several other players have it too.

Overall I think less of this spell than I did. It is a good but it is not overpowered and if we are talking about combat specifically I would put it behind many other spells.

Reasoning:
Strengths:
1. Versatility
You will have the opportunity to use it a lot in combat, almost too much if you are in melee often.

For a combat spell it also has a lot of out of combat uses and it is one of few 1st level spells along with charm person, Hex and Find Familiar that have both good combat and good out of combat uses.

2. No Concentration

3. Potential for very high payoff if use is rationed.

4. Reaction to cast (I put this as an advantage but on some builds this could be a disadvantage)

Weaknesses:
1. High slot cost.
Silvery Barbs affects two rolls. That is it, one enemy roll and one roll you make with advantage and you don't really control when the advantage roll happens. This compares with spells like Faerie Fire or Bless that will affect dozens of rolls for a single 1st level slot.

2. Not as effective as more narrowly focused options.
Shield is a much better spell at keeping you from getting hit, Hex is a better option at causing disadvantage on ability checks, absorb elements is going to save more damage from elements and bane or PEG is going to make enemies affected miss you more often. All these are more powerful than Silvery Barbs at the expense of the versatility SB has. My Bladesinger used SB to beat a crit and it worked for that but she still went down because she got hit 4 more times before her turn (including the reroll) and shield would have probably kept her up even though she would have taken the crit.

3. Not reliable and has a lot of variance in effectiveness
One thing I have found is often Silvery Barbs does nothing at all and other times it has a huge affect but you really can't predict if it is or is not going to work. My Bladesinger used it on a beholder trying to land Fear and he saved the second time. My Ranger has used it a bunch to make enemies reroll in melee and most of the time they have still hit him, as of right now he is nearly out of slots and has only been trhough the first fight of the day (admitedly a difficult one).
 
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It's a good spell and one that certainly wouldn't make me question why someone took it - but it's not the OMGWTFBBQ The Sky Is Falling spell that some people claim it is. It's nowhere near as reliable as shield (or Absorb Elements) at protecting you and there are better offensive options. But if you're a (non-Tasha's) sorcerer where spells known are at a premium it's excellent.
 

Definitely extremely powerful due to its versatility and low opportunity cost.
Unsure whether it rates an "overpowered" label though. - What spells would you actually regard as overpowered as a baseline?
 

jgsugden

Legend
I have also been using it on two builds.

One is a Gloom Stalker 5 / Cleric of Order 1 / Divine Soul 5 / Battlemaster 4 / Rogue 1. The shorthand for that monstrosity of a multiclass is that they're a religious archer. The progression feels more like Archer 10 / Cleric 6.

This PC uses their action and bonus action (for Healing words to grant an attack as a reaction to another PC or for quickened spells) every round, and as an archer rarely makes OAs. As such, they have their reactions available for Shield, Absorb Elements, Silvery Barbs and Hellish Rebuke - but 3 of those 4 rarely trigger. As an archer, they can be far back from the front lines and often escape being targeted. As such, this is the perfect PC for Silvery Barbs. And yet, I rarely cast it, and when I do it is usually to force a reroll on a saving throw. It has been useful, at times, but not overwhelmingly so.

The other PC is an Aberrant Mind Sorcerer in the Odyssey of the Dragonlords campaign setting. That PC also has a magic item that allows them to cast Shield 3 times per day, so when I obtained that I swapped Shield as a known spell for this spell. Now, with Heightened Spell, I can force enemies to save st a disadvantage, then reroll if they make the save. As such, my spells tend to land when I want them to land, which is handy for a spellcaster with a tendency for enchantment spells. Modify Memory, Dominate Person, Hold Monster, Banishment, Phantasmal Force, Suggestion, Enemies Abound, Polymorph, Vortex Warp ... and if you note it, many of those spells require multiple saving throws by the enemy, so this is a way to help keep those failures coming. This is another PC that seems built for the spell - but it isn't cast all that often. On this PC, the best use of this was on an ally which forced their attack to miss ... in order to give another downed PC a reroll on their upcoming death save (which did save their life). Part of the reason I rarely cast it is the PC has uncommonly high DCs on his spells and has faced a lot of enemies without great saving throw bonuses. However, it also sometimes comes down to me not wanting to waste my reaction because I might need to Counterspell...

I think of it as a B tier spell - good to have, but not an automatic must have spell.
 


I just used the "see results," since I haven't actually seen it in use. Using it against attack rolls seems pretty bad, except maybe avoiding a critical hit. It might be useful in a social encounter or some contested exploration type encounter, but I don't think anyone's taking the spell for that. I think it's an awkward spell, because it's not really good except with higher level "save or suck" spells.

Spending both your spell slots on a Cause Fear spell at level 1 seems really, really weak. However, using a 1st level spell slot to force a reroll on Dominate Monster is super strong (especially considering by then lv 1 slots are only used for Shield, Absorb Elements, and maybe Featherfall). In between is going to depend on the caster and game, but I suspect anything level 4 or higher is going to get a huge boost with this spell. It's worse if you have multiple casters using it, because you can cause multiple rerolls on your best spells.
 

It is overrated, but that is not the same as saying it's bad.

The problem is, folks took one look at it and (as others said) thought the sky was falling. That it was stupidly, overweeningly, ridiculously overpowered. It's not. It isn't even an automatic pick. It IS very good, probably one of the better picks if you've already covered your bases and you want a little versatility or are heavily specialized in inflicting saving throws. But it's not world shattering.

It's a good to (contextually) great spell, rated as though it were the 5e equivalent of the Natural Spell feat.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Definitely extremely powerful due to its versatility and low opportunity cost.
Unsure whether it rates an "overpowered" label though. - What spells would you actually regard as overpowered as a baseline?
Good point.

I was really using cute wordplay there. "Overpowered" sounds better than "powerful" when paired with "overated" in a poll. I was also reacting to the threads here from December that said it broke the game essentially.

IME I think Fear and Spike Growth are the two spells I would say are arguably overpowered, but those are the only spells I can think of offhand that I would actually use that label on. As far as first level spells Bless, Faerie Fire, shield, absorb elements are all powerful but not really overpowered and if you assume limited spells prepared/known they are probably in the same realm as SB - being better at what they each do but not nearly as versatile as SB.

Shield is the best defensive 1st level spell in the game, Absorb Elements is the best defense against blasters in the game (with some use against other enemies that deal elemental damage), bless is the best 1st level buff in the game, Bane is probably the best 1st level debuff (although not nearly as good as the others on this list). SB takes a bite out of each of those apples, while those spells are the four "apples".

FWIW my bladesinger picked it up with Fey touched. By taking it with Fey touched instead of putting it my book, my logic is I will always have the opportunity to use the free cast, and that is absolutely true, I do.
 
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Both and Neither all at once. It's mostly unnecessary as a spell option and would be better served as a class/subclass feature. On classes that don't have native access to the other 1st lv reaction option is will probably be picked up at some point (bard)
 

Good point.

I was really using cute wordplay there. "Overpowered" sounds better than "powerful" when paired with "overated" in a poll. I was also reacting to the threads here from December that said it broke the game essentially.

IME I think Fear and Spike Growth are the two spells I would say are arguably overpowered, but those are the only spells I can think of offhand that I would actually use that label on. As far as first level spells Bless, Faerie Fire, shield, absorb elements are all powerful but not really overpowered and if you assume limited spells prepared/known they are probably in the same realm as SB - being better at what they each do but not nearly as versatile as SB.

Shield is the best defensive 1st level spell in the game, Absorb Elements is the best defense against blasters in the game (with some use against other enemies that deal elemental damage), bless is the best 1st level buff in the game, Bane is probably the best 1st level debuff (although not nearly as good as the others on this list). SB takes a bite out of each of those apples, while those spells are the four "apples".

FWIW my bladesinger picked it up with Fey touched. By taking it with Fey touched instead of putting it my book, my logic is I will always have the opportunity to use the free cast, and that is absolutely true, I do.
I have seen it used much more out of combat than in combat. In combat I have seen it used against crits and to punch a more powerful spell through saves mostly. (Although when it was applied to get a critical counterspell to stick was pretty awesome.)
Out of combat however (and generally applied with subtle spell) it has proven very effective, and is so versatile that unlike other spells of its level, it is easy to find a situation where it will be useful.
The only other spell that I would put in its ballpark of effectiveness is Find Familiar.
 

Regardless of how one feels towards it, EVERYBODY at least deserves that one moment where you basically go NO to a Critical Hit at a clutch moment.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Regardless of how one feels towards it, EVERYBODY at least deserves that one moment where you basically go NO to a Critical Hit at a clutch moment.
I have used it for that quite a bit, especially on my Ranger.

Not all crits are the same though and for example rerolling a crit that does 2d6+4 damage is going to save you probably 7 damage (assuming he hits again which he usually does), or about what a healing word cast at 1st level would bring back.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Weaknesses:
1. High slot cost.
Silvery Barbs affects two rolls. That is it, one enemy roll and one roll you make with advantage and you don't really control when the advantage roll happens. This compares with spells like Faerie Fire or Bless that will affect dozens of rolls for a single 1st level slot.
Apples to Apples you are combaring this to other non-Concentration 1st level spells. So affecting two different rolls is actually a mild Strength, not a weakness.


2. Not as effective as more narrowly focused options.
Shield is a much better spell at keeping you from getting hit, Hex is a better option at causing disadvantage on ability checks, absorb elements is going to save more damage from elements and bane or PEG is going to make enemies affected miss you more often. All these are more powerful than Silvery Barbs at the expense of the versatility SB has. My Bladesinger used SB to beat a crit and it worked for that but she still went down because she got hit 4 more times before her turn (including the reroll) and shield would have probably kept her up even though she would have taken the crit.
Umm, no. If Silvery Barbs gave a disadvantage or an advantage, it would have versatility. But it always offers both, so there's no versatility, there's two effects. If you compare, you cannot just discount away that the other affect will still happen and claim that it isn't as effective. It's very effective, just at two different things. Shield is very ineffective spell at giving a bonus while Silvery barbs is less ineffective at causing a miss - net effectiveness is absolutely for Silvery Barbs.

3. Not reliable and has a lot of variance in effectiveness
One thing I have found is often Silvery Barbs does nothing at all and other times it has a huge affect but you really can't predict if it is or is not going to work. My Bladesinger used it on a beholder trying to land Fear and he saved the second time. My Ranger has used it a bunch to make enemies reroll in melee and most of the time they have still hit him, as of right now he is nearly out of slots and has only been trhough the first fight of the day (admitedly a difficult one).
Not as reliable - what is your baseline? For example you were comparing against Shield and Hex. Hex is disadvantage, so exact same reliability. Shield RAW you don't know if the AC bonus will turn the hit into a miss, so reliability is still unknown. Actually, since the is the chance a 20 which a Shield can never block it's probably more effective. I don't see any practical difference in reliability in those cases.

But then, it's actually twice as reliable. Since it effects two rolls. The chance that one of the rolls will end up better than giving (dis)advantage to just one roll is twice as good. So you can put this into the Mild Strength, that it is more reliable in total effect than than similar spells.
 

ECMO3

Hero
Apples to Apples you are combaring this to other non-Concentration 1st level spells. So affecting two different rolls is actually a mild Strength, not a weakness.

Sure, that is why I put lack of concentration as a strength. that is a huge benefit of SB.

The mathematical effect on the battle you get for using a first level slot is smaller than the examples I said though. It is smaller than other non-concentration spells like shield and typically smaller than absorb elements too. You are spending a spell slot to get a battlefield effect and in that respect I don't think it keeps up with the spells I mentioned. That is what I am comparing in the text you quoted.


Umm, no. If Silvery Barbs gave a disadvantage or an advantage, it would have versatility. But it always offers both, so there's no versatility, there's two effects. If you compare, you cannot just discount away that the other affect will still happen and claim that it isn't as effective. It's very effective, just at two different things. Shield is very ineffective spell at giving a bonus while Silvery barbs is less ineffective at causing a miss - net effectiveness is absolutely for Silvery Barbs.

It is versatile in the way you can use it. You can use silvery Barbs against an attack targeting you, you can use it against a save by an enemy, you can use it on a skill check. You can use it to try to give someone else advantage on their attack (although this can be difficult to pull off in play since you don't choose when to use the advantage). That is why it is versatile, it can be used for all these things and can do some in tandem but it is not as effective at those things as other options.

Like you said silvery Barbs is less effective at causing enemies to miss you. If that is your goal shield is a better spell to use, it is more "effective" for that. SB is quasi effective at giving yourself advantage on your next attack, but truestrike will do that every time (unless you lose concentration).


Not as reliable - what is your baseline? For example you were comparing against Shield and Hex. Hex is disadvantage, so exact same reliability. Shield RAW you don't know if the AC bonus will turn the hit into a miss, so reliability is still unknown. Actually, since the is the chance a 20 which a Shield can never block it's probably more effective. I don't see any practical difference in reliability in those cases.

Hex causes disadvantage on every roll made with that ability while it is up, silvery Barbs can only be used on a roll the enemy succeeds on, only if you see him when he succeeds and if he is in range when he succeeds. That is why it is more reliable for this specific use, it will also affect far more rolls.

Shield is flat better at causing enemies to miss you, if someone hits you and you cast shield, the chance of not taking damage is higher than if you cast silvery barbs.

We can evaluate the reliability of shield because while we don't know the roll, we do know it hit, meaning it is from a smaller population than 1-20. Given this known (the attack hit), even if there is only 1 enemy attacking you with a single attack, shield is still more effective. If the enemy needs a 12 to hit you and you don't know what he rolled but you know he hit; if you cast shield will turn that hit into a miss 62% of the time. Silvery Barbs cast in the same circumstance will result in a 55% chance of a miss. If the number needed to hit is 14 shield will stop that hit 84% of the time, while Silvery Barbs will stop it 65% of the time. If the number needed to hit is an 8, shield will stop this 42%, SB will stop the hit 35% of the time.

That is for a single attack too, while shield will continue to carry forward on multiple attacks, making it far more effective for this.

The only time SB is better is when the enemy scored a crit, or if you know the roll ahead of time and know it will beat shield (which is not the correct way to play as you said) and even then it might not be better if there are multiple enemies attacking you.



But then, it's actually twice as reliable. Since it effects two rolls. The chance that one of the rolls will end up better than giving (dis)advantage to just one roll is twice as good. So you can put this into the Mild Strength, that it is more reliable in total effect than than similar spells.
I disagree with this, partly because the second roll is not easily targeted, it is the next d20 rolled.

To be clear when I say "reliable", I am not talking about rolling dice I am talking about changing the effects on the battlefield.

The advantage is nearly random in play. The situation has to be right for it to be tightly controlled and you may end up using advantage it when it is either uneeded or irrelevant, making it "unreliable" in affecting the game. For example, my bladesinger used silvery barbs on an enemy attack and gave the Rogue advantage hoping to have him use it on sneak attack, then the Dragon breathes on us and the Rogue needs a 8 to save and only takes quarter damage if he fails .... and now he has advantage on that roll instead of his attack roll because it was the next d20 he rolled. Or the DM has all players roll perception to see if they notice something - that advantage is now used up. Or the worst case, I give advantage to myself and then have to roll a concentration save and I already have advantage on them, but it is the next d20 rolled, so it is gone. Those are actual examples from play. Most likely the advantage has little affect on that fight, in that respect it is not "reliable". Don't get me wrong advantage is always good to have, but it is not always effective, especially when you don't decide when to use it.

The targeted roll is more reliable, but the enemy already succeeded once. IME with this spell (which is now extensive), more often than not the enemy is going to succeed again on the attack/save/check.

So when I say it is not reliable I am talking about the effect on the battlefield. The vast majority of times you have the opportunity to cast it the outcome for the enemy will be the same and you will have a random advantage on a roll you can't control.

You can ration its use to make it more reliable - only use it when you have strong reason to believe it will change the outcome or when the order makes it easy to predict or perhaps even control where the advantage will happen, but then it is conditional.
 
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