A massive ogre looks down at the puny halfling, a smirk writ large on its bulbous face. It hefts the mighty club and swings it overhead. The halfling can’t move in time, and the ogre feels a surge of adrenaline at a hit. But, wait! At the last second, the halfling manages to turn slightly. You feel the impact of a hit, but they don’t look nearly as battered as you’d hoped.
How did they manage to survive such a mighty blow? By being a Rogue and utilizing their Uncanny Dodge feature, of course. So, how exactly does it work? And when do you know when to use it? We cover all of that and more below.
What is Uncanny Dodge 5e?
Uncanny Dodge is a 5th level Rogue feature. If a character is hit by an attack, they can use their reaction to automatically halve the damage from a single attack. This applies to melee, ranged, or spell attacks.
How Does Uncanny Dodge 5e Work?
Uncanny Dodge might seem simple at first, but there are a few critical parts to understand if you want to use it properly. Many DMs take one look at it and think that it is completely overpowered, especially for a 5th level character. However, the restrictions on the ability and the significant jump in the power of enemies and spellcasters at 5th level mean that Uncanny Dodge is actually balanced.
The first essential restriction is that the character must be able to see their attacker. Attacks from unseen foes and damage from overlooked traps don’t qualify. Note that the feature specifies that the damage must come from an attack, not an area of effect or magical effect. Recurring damage from poison, fall damage, or magic missile (which automatically hits) cannot be reduced.
Secondly, Uncanny Dodge only applies to a single instance of damage. Level 5 is when many opponents and classes gain a second attack, so DMs usually have a second chance to do full damage to a Rogue on the same turn if their monster has Multiattack. Rogues only have a single reaction per round, so Uncanny Dodge can easily be overcome by giving enemies multiple attacks or having more than one enemy attack.
Thirdly, Uncanny Dodge applies solely to damage. Many attacks and spells inflict status conditions in addition to damage, and Uncanny Dodge doesn’t do anything to mitigate those. The same thing is true for attacks that cause recurring damage in future rounds; Uncanny Dodge doesn’t do anything about that damage.
When Should You Use Uncanny Dodge?
As mentioned above, Uncanny Dodge consumes your entire reaction and only halves the damage from a single attack. If you rely heavily on your reaction for other purposes, Uncanny Dodge may not be as handy.
The best time to use Uncanny Dodge is if an enemy scores a critical hit on you or if they manage to roll well on the damage. While it’s true that you can only use Uncanny Dodge once per round, those are times when it’s always worth it to halve the damage.
For Rogues who don’t use feats like Sentinel (Player’s Handbook), Gift of the Chromatic Dragon (Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons), Gift of the Gem Dragon (Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons), or Defensive Duelist (Player’s Handbook), or rely on spells like Shield or Silvery Barbs, there’s no reason not to use Uncanny Dodge every round. Just make sure that you save it for the hardest-hitting enemies so that you reduce the largest amount of damage possible.
However, plenty of Rogues built for melee enjoy using their reactions to make attacks of opportunity in case enemies start fleeing or trying to attack your softer spellcasters. Uncanny Dodge leaves you unable to take a parting swipe at someone trying to get around.