I keep seeing posts commenting on the value of taking Shillelagh as a spell.
Can someone explain why? I really don't get it. I'm currently a 6th level druid, and have never seen the need for it a single time. Perhaps I'm not playing my druid as efficiently as I should be and I'm not understanding something. I don't see it scaling well compared to other options.
Is it because I'm a Moon Circle druid and wildshaped more often? I've not played a Land Circle druid so perhaps that's why?
When compared to Thorn Whip or Primal Savagery, there are pros and cons. All of them make melee attacks so can be used against someone in your face.
Thorn Whip - lower initial damage, but it scales up. Still only by d6's, but it scales. Can hit someone at range, and can pull them.
Primal Savagery - higher damage, but melee only and is Acid damage. Not resisted as frequently as something like Fire or Cold damage, but magical Bludgeoning/Piercing/Slashing damage still rule when it comes to not being resisted.
Shillelagh - damage doesn't scale, it simply turns your stick into a weapon you can use to attack with Wisdom as the attack stat. Upsides, it's magical bludgeoning damage which can hit pretty much everything, and because it's a weapon, if you have Shillelagh already active you can thwack people with it as an Attack Of Opportunity. Doing so with Thorn Whip or Primal Savagery requires the War Caster feat.
The thing with Shillelagh (I probably didn't spell that right) is that while it's good it's only useful to certain kinds of play. And it's not a style that we all will play when doing a druid. For the rest of us it's more of an "oh crap. I'm in melee" type of spell that we may rarely use. So like a wide variety of things about the druid. It's good but it's situational and it's all about how you use it and your style.
When things started it also had few competitors for the kind of spell it is at the range that it is for druids. (the other 1 or 2 being like poison spray and thorn whip maybe?) and supplements have since upped the list for them (and for clerics with their own damage cantrip bottleneck). And the cantrips all have the same basic weakness... close range. The other two also weren't desirable to all either because of the type of damage they did (poison) or some other aspect (thorn whips pulling the target closer) which limited their usefulness against certain kinds of targets.
JD actually covered some of the specifics of pro's and cons for the different spells. Only missing Poison Spray which has the advantage of being a bit longer range (10') than melee and higher damage (d12) as well as scaling but the weaknesses that it is a spell so it can't AoO without the War Caster Feat. It is a con save instead of an attack roll as well but that can work both for and against you.
I like the idea of the Nature Cleric getting it as a free druid cantrip and then raining holy nature smackdowns with a gnarled magic staff that starts to wrap itself in elemental energy at level 8.
Another point to consider. Resistance to spell damage and/or advantage on saves vs spells and/or disadvantage on spell attacks or whatever similar defenses will protect you from other attack cantrips but not the enhanced staff from Shillelagh. Conversely, resistance against bludgeoning or disadvantage against melee weapon attacks will protect you from Shillelagh but not other attack cantrips. I suppose that's reason enough to have both? Or skip Shillelagh and carry a scimitar which does less damage and has lower to hit but is better than nothing?