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How Much Damage Can Shadow Blade Do in 1 Turn | D&D 5e Build Guide

Updated: Sep 25, 2023

Original Video:

*This article is an edited version of the script for this video


Bugbear, by far the best race for first turn nova damage with the Surprise Attack feature


I know most of you will probably not be able to use them but I feel like I always have to mention the Strixhaven and Dragonlance backgrounds because they’re so good. If you are playing in one of those settings or have a nice DM, these backgrounds are a really good pick.

Ability Scores(point buy):

Str: 13

Dex: 14(+2)

Con: 13(+1)

Int: 8

Wis: 13

Cha: 13

Ability Score Priorities(if rolling):

#1: Dex

#2: Con

#3: Wis(at least 13 for multiclassing)

#4: Cha(at least 13 for multiclassing)

#5: Str(at least 13 for multiclassing)

Ideal Equipment:


-Half Plate


-Longbow and/or Daggers(for when you get stuck at range)

Level 1: Fighter 1

-Con Save Proficiency

-Fighting Style: Superior Technique: Trip Attack, additional damage and a good way to get advantage on our nova round

Levels 2-6: Ranger 1-5

-Spells: Absorb Elements, Goodberry, Pass Without Trace

-Fighting Style: Dueling

-Ranger Conclave: Gloom Stalker

—Dread Ambusher: Increased speed, an extra attack, and that extra attack deals more damage. This all happens on round 1, which is our best round thanks to Surprise Attack. On top of that this adds our Wisdom modifier to our initiative bonus, which is only +1 but it is still something.

—Umbral Sight: Better darkvision and free invisibility sometimes. This is another good way to get advantage on our nova round.

-ASI or Feat: +2 Dex

Levels 7-9: Sorcerer 1-3

Sorcerous Origin: Pretty much any subclass will work, I’m actually playing a character similar to this in our Coming of the Dragon campaign(card) and I went with Clockwork Soul but feel free to pick any sorcerous origin

-Spells: Shield, Silvery Barbs, Shadow Blade, Rime’s Binding Ice or Web

-Metamagic: Quickened Spell and Subtle Spell. Quickened Spell is good for casting spells in combat and still being able to attack on that turn. Subtle Spell is good for using spells in roleplay situations and avoiding counterspells in combat.

Levels 10-11: Fighter 2-3

-Note: You could take these fighter levels before you start taking sorcerer levels. I just wanted to get Shadow Blade ASAP since this build is based on it.

-Action Surge, the best feature in the game for most nova characters.

-Echo Knight:

—Manifest Echo, we can be in two places at once. This also makes us much safer as we can melee attack from range.

—Unleash Incarnation, an additional attack we can use while attacking from our echo’s position. You’ll want to use this on your nova round. This only twice per long rest while most of our other nova abilities will be usable more often so use this wisely.


That is pretty much the core of the build so now we’ll go over tactics. On the first turn you’ll want to go up to an enemy that you’ll get Surprise Attack against, cast Shadow Blade and attack them as many times as you can. This should be 8 attacks with the combination of Dread Ambusher, Unleash Incarnation, and Action Surge.

Nova Damage Vs 18 AC:

3rd Level Shadow Blade with Advantage: 199.07

3rd Level Shadow Blade without Advantage: 137.88

2nd Level Shadow Blade with Advantage: 166.85

2nd Level Shadow Blade without Advantage: 116.28

Levels 12-14: Paladin 1-3

-Spells: Pick whatever you would like just remember we don’t have a very high Cha.

-Divine Smite, another very common and powerful feature for nova characters. I think a lot of people who use this overspend their resources with it. In the damage calculations I do with this I’m going to assume you use it with the most damaging spell slot but only on critical hits.

-Sacred Oath: Oath of Conquest

—Channel Divinity: Guided Strike, this won’t show up on our damage calculations but will make it slightly higher as it should turn just about any miss into a hit once per short rest.

—Guided Strike was the main thing we chose this subclass for but getting Armor of Agathys is also nice since we spend a lot of time in melee.

Levels 15-20: Sorcerer 4-9

-Spells: Pick whatever you would like. Again just remember we don’t have a very high Cha. Things like Fly, Counterspell, Polymorph, and Dimension Door would all be good choices.

-2 ASIs or Feats: +2 Dex and Alert, increasing our Dex is the best way to boost our damage and along with the Alert feat, our initiative, allowing us to get Surprise Attack more often.


You could also consider taking 3 levels of Assassin Rogue for the Assassinate feature. This would increase our damage a lot but it would make us rely a lot on surprise. How good this is will depend a lot on the other characters in your party and how your DM runs surprise. If you think you’ll get enough benefit from it, you can take those 3 levels of rogue right after the 3rd fighter level. Then you would either take 3 levels of paladin and 6 levels of sorcerer to get the paladin subclass or 2 levels of paladin and 7 levels of sorcerer to get 4th level spells.

Nova Damage Vs 20 AC:

7th Level Shadow Blade with Advantage: 310.61

7th Level Shadow Blade without Advantage: 213.4

5th Level Shadow Blade with Assassinate(Surprised and Advantage): 731.69

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