D&D 5E Classes Ranked From Worst to Best
As much as I love 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, it’s not the most balanced of games. Some mechanics are numerically stronger than others. This doesn’t just hold true for items and spells, but for entire classes as well. I’ve written a lot here on Mythcreants about the various powerful builds and even top subclasses, but I’ve never codified my feelings on how each class as a whole stacks up against the others, so let’s fix that. For this list I rank each class on its own without considering any multiclass options. The addition of multiclassing changes the equation so drastically it deserves its own list.*
Let’s look at 5th Edition D&D’s classes power ranked from worst and best.
Although it pains me to give the game’s newest class this dubious distinction, there wasn’t much competition in my mind. The artificer is Wizards of the Coast’s third attempt at a half caster,* and it fails even more spectacularly than the ranger did. This class feels like 10 levels of abilities spread over 20 levels of class. Its damage output is low, it’s not particularly survivable, and its spell list is average. I’ve heard people say it works well as a support, but I don’t agree. Druid, cleric, bard, sorcerer, or wizard all make significantly better support options.
The one thing artificers do well is create a selection of magic items with their Infuse Item feature. This allows them to imbue a selection of non-magic items with certain magical properties, including replicating the effect of some magical items listed in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. As part of a stronger class, this feature would be a great addition, but the artificer is simply too weak. The best use for these infused items is to give them to the effective characters. This is artificer support at its strongest, but compared to other support options that both help the party and work as strong characters in their own right, being an item dispensary isn’t enough.
Saved from the bottom slot only by the existence of the artificer, we have the ranger. What puts the ranger so low on this list isn’t strictly its mechanical weaknesses. It is possible to build a competent martial ranger. The problem is everything it does is done better by another class. Fighters make better archers, and any number of martial options make superior melee combatants.
Even the ranger’s most flavorful mechanic, a beast companion, is not only reserved for one subclass, but also it’s terrible. Having a pet should have been the ranger’s core feature, something the entire class was built around to maintain a powerful core ability regardless of subclass. Wizards of the Coast did this with the paladin’s Holy Smite, and it ended up as one of the best classes in the game. Meanwhile, the ranger’s problems have been well known for years, and no significant change has yet been forthcoming. I’m very confused by the obstinate refusal to fix a class so obviously in need of help.
Rounding out the truly bad classes, we have the monk. Arguably, this class should have its rank switched with the ranger’s, but I award it points for at least having a core class mechanic that’s not simply done better by another class. Is it a particularly good mechanic? No, it’s awful. Monks are squishy, easy to hit, deal low damage, and have a resource pool that is drained so quickly that they soon find themselves unable to use their class or subclass features.
The monk also suffers from a lack of support from official Wizards content. I have found one item that boosts unarmed attacks with a +1 to hit and damage rolls.* Besides that, monks are left with no way to improve their unarmed combat outside of what their class gives them. I was pretty positive in my review of the Astral Self subclass in Unearthed Arcana; here’s hoping it makes its way into official material to give this class some much-needed support.
Moving on to the first decent class on this list, we have the rogue. Its first problem is a one-note combat ability. The class is completely reliant on its Sneak Attack feature for dealing damage, a conditional ability that means missing a single attack results in dealing no damage for an entire round. Rogues are also fragile, pushing them even further behind other martial classes. Without dipping into a class like fighter for increased toughness and a fighting style, the rogue can’t keep up in a fight.
As for noncombat, everything the rogue does is replicated by the much stronger bard. I’d even argue that bards fulfill the skill character role better, as they get more proficiencies and have the Jack of all Trades feature, granting half their proficiency bonus to all skills they aren’t already proficient in. Rogues eventually get Reliable Talent, guaranteeing them at least a ten in anything they’re proficient in, but that doesn’t come online till level 11. This doesn’t mean the rogue is an awful class, but I definitely consider it one of the weaker options.
Continuing the run of martial characters, we have the barbarian. The class itself is fairly straightforward and so is the reason for its inclusion here: barbarians don’t hold up as a single class across all 20 levels of play. Levels 1 through 5 feel amazing for the class: they pick up Rage, Reckless Attack, Danger Sense, and Bear Totem.*
However, after gaining their extra attack, barbarians enter a realm of disappointment until Primal Champion at 20. Despite 14 levels of bad, the other 6 levels are good enough to earn our angry friend a spot at ninth place.
The first full caster we see on this list, and, sadly, I doubt it is a surprise to many. The warlock is a perplexing class to me. It has so much front-loaded on its early levels* that, much like the barbarian, they feel fantastic. It’s like the class was made for multiclassing, as once you get past level 5,* its power falls off a proverbial cliff.
Eldritch Invocations are used to imitate what other arcane casters get for free, and the Mystic Arcanum feature standing in for higher level spells is needlessly restrictive. The class pales in comparison to the higher entries on this list. Eldritch Blast does its best to prop up the class, but a restrictive spell list and a severe shortage of spell slots earn the warlock its eighth place.
Often considered the default class of D&D 5E, I was happy that the fighter made it to the middle of this list. A monoclassed fighter is a dependable source of damage that is also good at protecting itself. Heavy armor ensures a high armor class, and options such as Shadow Blade from the Eldritch Knight allow for even a sword-and-board fighter to output a respectable amount of damage per round. On top of this, the class’s 3rd and 4th attacks grant it a level of scaling higher than other pure martial* classes. This reliability and smooth power curve net the fighter seventh place.
If I had made this list before Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was printed, the sorcerer would have ranked much lower. With a reduced spell list compared to the wizard and a major bottleneck created by how few spells it learns, the original sorcerer had little to recommend it outside of its brief power spikes from Twin Spelling buffs like Polymorph.
The creation of the Divine Soul changed all that. With the ability to turn failed saves into successes with Favored by the Gods at level 1, indefinite flying at 14, and a bonus action to heal half their health at 18, this subclass would already be one of the best options. However, these abilities are mere icing on the cake that is access to the entirety of the cleric spell list, in addition to what sorcerers already get. Unfortunately, a monoclassed sorcerer isn’t able to take full advantage of that second spell list, as it lacks the AC or hit points to be on the front line where spells like Spirit Guardians are at their best.
Speaking of taking advantage of the cleric spell list, the cleric sneaks into my top five. With access to heavy armor and spells like Spirit Guardians, clerics deal great area damage and are difficult to hurt. Subclasses like the Life cleric also give the class the rare ability to heal efficiently, although its full effectiveness isn’t unlocked without multiclassing. Though the cleric spell list doesn’t hold up as well as some other classes at higher levels, their ability to up-cast Spirit Guardians means they’ll never be without something useful to do.
Clerics are also quite flexible, with more subclasses than you can shake a scepter at. Forge and Life clerics can operate on the frontline, supporting their party while absorbing damage. If backline casting is what you want, Light and Grave clerics work reasonably well as blaster mages. While I wouldn’t rank all of these subclasses as particularly high tier,* the existence of so many options is useful in its own right.
The strongest martial class in the game, paladins are the best mix of offense and defense 5E has to offer. Large hit dice, heavy armor, and the best saves available, thanks to Aura of Protection, paladins are equipped for any type of danger. Even better, paladins share these awesome features, granting their increased saves and even resistance against spell damage* to allies within 10 feet of them. Since my first 5E character smote an offending villain to my current paladin/warlock hybrid, I’m happy to see this class take fourth place.
From the laughingstock of early editions to one of the best classes in the game, bard has come a long way. This class can fit almost any role you want it to play. Bards come with a full spell list that they can augment with upwards of eight spells taken from any other list in the game. This by itself earns the bard a top placement.
But the class doesn’t stop there. Bards also gain access to the most skill proficiencies of any class, with Expertise and Jack of All Trades allowing the bard to both specialize and be a generalist. Bards can also support themselves and their parties with Bardic Inspiration, shoring up critical rolls or turning enemy successes into failure. If I had to name the bard’s greatest weakness, it would be how fragile the class is and the amount of planning needed when considering spells to take from other lists. When a class’s biggest problem is deciding which power spells to steal, it’s earned the number three slot.
More than any other class, the druid earns its high spot thanks to a single subclass: Circle of the Moon. The gulf in power between Circle of the Moon and the other subclasses is one of the widest I’ve ever seen. Moon druids take a full spell list and add on the ability to shape-shift into powerful beasts to protect themselves in combat. All druids can shape-shift, but the Moon subclass jumps the available creatures from CR 1/4 to CR 2, increasing by one every 3 levels.
Just as the first form of Moon’s Wild Shape starts to dwindle in power, it acquires Conjure Animals, or Raptor Swarm as I like to call it.* From there they upgrade their shape-shifting forms and pick up spells like Polymorph for when they want to get serious. This steady power gain is capped off with a massive spike as the number of times the druid can transform increases from 2 per short rest to…unlimited. This capstone is by far the strongest in the game and makes a druid lucky enough to reach that level an unstoppable force as they constantly reset their hit points to a mammoth 126. Any player character who can serve as a multistage boss fight for an entire party deserves its second-place rank.
The more D&D changes, the more it stays the same. Despite the powerful abilities brought by every other class, from the bard’s flexibility to the druid’s infinity mammoth, no character class tops the raw power of the wizard. The wizard’s spell list cannot be beat. From level 1 with Find Familiar they receive exclusive* spells that are too good to ignore. On top of this list are subclasses like Evocation and Divination.
Evocation allows the wizard to cast their area of effect spells with no concern for friendly fire, while Divination wizards can manipulate dice rolls in a way no other class can match. The class’s capstone feature is not great, but they make up for it with an amazing 18th level feature that grants them a 1st and 2nd level spell to be cast at will. Though part of me wanted to be contrary and put the wizard in 2nd or 3rd, I would be lying. This wizard is the strongest class in 5E, bar none.
With that we wrap up the power ranking of 5th Edition D&D classes as they stand on their own. Next time, we’ll take a look at multiclassing, where things get a bit more complicated.We’ll get there.The others are ranger and paladin.Thanks, Insignia of Claws.There are technically other subclasses, but this is the best one.Especially Hexblade.Coincidentally the highest level amount I consider a dip.Although the strongest fighter subclass uses spells.Trickery knows what it did.With the right subclass.Your mileage may vary depending on whether you use the errata or not.Barring a couple exceptions.
Treat your friends to an evening of dark ritual murder. In a fictional game scenario, of course.Uncover your lost memories and save the day in our stand-alone game, The Voyage.
[Top 5] D&D Most Powerful Classes
One of the biggest decisions that a player must make when creating a character is the class. Which class is best to play in Dungeons & Dragons 5e? According to the D&D Player’s Handbook, there are 12 classes: barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, rogue, sorcerer, warlock, and wizard. Read on to find out my top five selections, based on gameplay and research, for the most powerful classes in D&D!
The D&D Player’s Handbook defines cleric as “a priestly champion who wields divine magic in service of a higher power.” I have played clerics for both D&D and Pathfinders games. The Cleric is considered as the party’s healer. They can also use spells, such as Bless, that assist the party. Read more to find out why clerics are literally a blessing to play!
Why Cleric is Needed:
- Clerics are needed to heal themselves and/or the rest of the party. In my current campaign, my cleric has saved us from TPK (Total Party Kill) a couple of times.
- When there are a lot of undead creatures, Clerics are useful. They can also cast spells that affect undead monsters where other magic users cannot.
- Most of the creatures that a party will encounter will have an evil alignment. A cleric with a good alignment will be effective in game play by turning or casting spells on them.
Pick Cleric if...
- The DM’s campaign features a lot of undead monsters. Clerics will be needed to turn them away and/or destroy them.
- Your character has high Wisdom & Charisma scores.
- There are no other clerics in a party and/or if your party is smalI. I recommend having at least one cleric in every party for healing purposes.
My friend who plays a fighter in our game refers to his character as a meat shield. It’s kind of true, because Fighters are on the front lines in combat and usually take damage first. The D&D Player's Handbook provides a more dignified definition: “A master of martial combat, skilled with a variety of weapons and armor.” If you are interested in playing a fighter in your next game, keep reading!
Why Fighter is Needed:
- Fighters can handle taking a lot of damage from opponents and can in turn deal a lot of damage (d10) in battle.
- Most combats are up close (hand-to-hand) and Fighters have a wide span of techniques and weapons they can use, including shields, in battle.
Pick Fighter if...
- Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution scores are high (and in that order).
- You can play your character through a calculated and methodic paradigm. (Fighters are usually no-nonsense and all about strategy.)
- Your party is small. You will need a fighter to protect other classes, especially on new and lower-level adventures.
Although this is not usually what a person thinks of when considering which class to play. However, Monks are powerful after sixth level or so. My husband plays a monk in our RPG game and his character can deal some massive damage! The D&D Player’s Handbook states that a monk is “A master of martial arts, harnessing the power of the body in pursuit of physical and spiritual perfection.” If you are interested in playing this unique class, read on!
Why Monk is Needed:
- The damage caused by a monk is d8 without modifiers or magic, so they can be useful in combat; monks can also make an unarmed strike as a bonus action.
- By using the mystic energy of qi to power their class features, Monks can get several abilities that are helpful in or out of combat, such as extra movement, deflecting missiles, and even becoming invisible for a minute!
- The monastic traditions that they follow can give even more special abilities and with the Way of the Four Elements tradition, they even acquire spell-like abilities.
Pick Monk if...
- You have more than three players in your party.
- Your Dexterity, Wisdom, and Strength scores are high.
- You enjoy having the ability to move around the map in a battle.
Rogues are fun to play, because they are not usually super pious due to their vocation. I am currently playing a rogue and am having a great time! I also love the definition that the D&D Player’s Handbook provides for rogues: “A scoundrel who uses stealth and trickery to overcome obstacles and enemies.” Scoundrel! (Han Solo, anyone?) Read on to find out more about this fun class! (Yes, I may be a tad bit biased.)
Why Rogue is Needed:
- Even assassin rogues can save lives (rather than take them) by finding out information, discovering dangerous and deadly obstacles, and alerting the party to danger.
- Rogues are the locksmiths and handy; they are great to have around to pick locks, remove traps, and sneak attack opponents.
- Not only can rogues attack from behind, but they can also fare reasonably well in melee and hand-to-hand combat.
Pick Rogue if...
- There is a small party, as Rogues have great survival skills.
- Your Dexterity and Intelligence scores are high.
- Your character does not have a strong moral compass.
Last but not least is the Wizard! When I played 1e, I believe the only class available was Magic-User. The wizard is the D&D 5e version of magic-users. The D&D Player’s Handbook defines Wizards as “a scholarly magic-user capable of manipulating the structures of reality.” Although Wizards will need a lot of protection in lower levels, the spells they acquire in higher levels are quite powerful! Read on to find out more about playing a wizard on your next adventure!
Why Wizard is Needed:
- Wizards have versatility concerning melee combat and spells.
- In higher levels, Wizards have spells only available to them when adventuring.
- Wizards can learn new spells from other creatures, scrolls, tomes, and wizards on adventures. They are intellectuals and learning new spells is their thing!
Pick Wizard if...
- The party has at least one fighter-type to provide protection since Wizards cannot wear heavy armor.
- If the character has high Intelligence and Wisdom scores.( A decent Constitution score is a bonus because they will take a lot of damage because of the lack of armor.)
- If you prefer to be in the background in a battle rather than front and center.
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What is the most overpowered class in DND 5e?
Can Rangers heal DND?
Paladin and Ranger can off heal, but aren’t great at it. Divine Soul sorcerer can be pretty good since it can Twin Spell cure wounds, I’d say it’s the best non-cleric healer.
Is Ranger revised official?
While not official, many fans preferred the Revised Ranger to the original Ranger class found in the Player’s Handbook. And some players expected the Revised Ranger to eventually make its way into an official D&D book so that it could be used in Adventurer’s League and other “official” D&D games.
Does Hunter’s Mark and favored foe stack?
I’m curious, can you stack Favored Foe and Hunter’s Mark together? No, since you can’t concentrate on both at the same time.
Do Rogues get 2 attacks?
Rogues do not ever get multiple attack rolls with their action, regardless of level… UNLESS: They use the two weapon fighting rules in the PHB (light melee weapons, offhand attack is a bonus action, and no ability modifier to the damage of the offhand attack)
Is the Ranger in D & D 5e underpowered?
So it’s no secret that the ranger is underpowered in D&D 5th edition. Listed below is my attempt to update the 5th edition ranger to be on par with the other classes. I’ll list my changes as well as my reasoning behind making those decisions.
How to make your Ranger more powerful in dungeons and Dragons?
An easy way to give your ranger character a big boost in power is to make an argument for using the Revised Ranger that WotC released in Unearthed Arcana. It goes back over the class presented in the Player’s Handbook and rebalanced some key features, making them useful instead of just…there.
Are there any good D & D 5e builds?
D&D 5E was not well-balanced around the concept of multiclassing. That’s fine, since it leads to some absolutely hilarious build possibilities! If you’re tired of a hard DM, or wanting to do some ridiculous damage without too much effort, we have a few builds that might work well for you!
Which is more powerful a beast master or a Ranger?
In 5e’s first incarnation of the ranger, the Beast Master archetype felt distinctly underpowered, which was a shame since an animal companion is a big part of a ranger’s draw. But Revised Ranger gives us a much more powerful Beast Conclave.
Dungeons & Dragons' Most Overpowered Classes & Subclasses Explained
Dungeons & Dragons 5e offers 12 playable classes, each with a broad selection of subclasses. Here are the most overpowered options for D&D players.
Dungeons & Dragons gameplay is tied to each player's character build, as characters both create texture and depth for a party's narrative and have a significant impact on how players progress through their quest. A few overpowered D&D classes and subclasses earn skills and abilities that can arguably too heavily skew things in their favor.
Many of D&D's character classes are well balanced, especially when players approach character creation with roleplaying in mind. However, when properly min-maxed, several can become significantly overpowered, effectively breaking the game. Some DMs may outright ban certain classes and subclasses for this reason, but D&D homebrew rules can also limit specific abilities to keep them in check.
Related: Old D&D Campaigns That Deserve 5e Reprints
Class abilities can easily sneak up on players and DMs, though, delivering surprisingly effective results when used in creative ways. Much of what makes the game compelling is the limitless possibility allowed by its imagination-based gameplay, and that sometimes means suddenly finding a loophole in the rules or a workaround to avoid a situation. Some of Dungeons & Dragons' most overpowered classes have an easier time of doing this than others.
The Most Overpowered D&D Classes
D&D's druids are at first glance a calm, nature-loving group, but they're actually one of the game's most versatile and powerful classes. Starting at level two, druids gain the Wild Shape ability, allowing them to shapeshift into an animal. There are restrictions on the ability, but these are slowly lessened as players level up, eventually allowing druids to become swimming or flying animals and to cast spells while in animal form. Wild Shape greatly benefits the druid class, since it can be used for combat as well as infiltration and intimidation in roleplaying scenarios. Additionally, druids have powerful subclasses, especially Tasha's Cauldron of Everything's Circle of the Stars, that can also be selected at level two.
Monks are tanks who don't need armor or weapons to dominate in D&D combat. D&D's monks begin to be overpowered at level two, when players can harness ki, a magical energy that fuels the universe. In combat, monks can spend one ki point to make an additional attack, dodge, disengage or dash. Starting at level three, monks can also catch or deflect items thrown or shot at them. Then, at the fifth level, monks can take two attack actions instead of one during combat and can stun opponents by interfering with their ki. This means that, in theory, a monk of level five or higher can hit an opponent with two attacks, use two ki points to attack two more times, then stun their foe for an entire round of combat.
Wizards may not seem to be an especially powerful class, given their frailty. But while they do have a low starting constitution, they have one of the most expansive spell lists of all Dungeons & Dragons classes. With smart planning, a wizard can make up for any deficiencies in their own build or those of their party members with their magical abilities.
The Most Overpowered D&D Subclasses
Echo Knight Fighter
Dungeons & Dragons' Echo Knight is a mighty fighter subclass from The Explorer's Guide to Wildemount. Available for selection at level three, the Echo Knight is able to summon an ethereal clone of themselves during combat. This "echo" has an AC of 14 plus the player's proficiency bonus, but it only has one HP. Once the echo is cast, the player can use it for an additional attack, switch places with it for a better vantage point, or use it to distract opponents in combat. As Echo Knights level up, they gain the ability to temporarily transfer their consciousness to it, use it to block attacks, and have it absorb magic. Players who make it to level 18 can even learn to cast two echoes at once.
Related: What Your D&D Class Says About You
Peace Domain Cleric
The Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Peace Domain cleric subclass has serious potential to break the game. Starting at level one, Peace Domain clerics can forge a bond with any creature, including themselves, which allows the recipient to add 1d4 to any attack roll, ability check or saving throw. The subclass also improves the cleric class' already impressive healing abilities, allowing them to heal creatures for 2d6 plus the player's wisdom modifier starting at level two.
Wielding power from the Plane of Shadow, Dungeons & Dragons' hexblade warlocks can forge sentient weapons and can use the Hex Warrior ability to attack with a non-two-handed weapon using their charisma modifier instead of strength or dexterity. As the warlock is a charisma-forward class, this is a major boon in combat. Hexblade warlocks are also able to cast a curse on opponents, giving players proficiency against the target letting and any d20 rolls against them of 19 or 20 count as a critical hit. Starting at the sixth level, these characters can also curse the souls of slain opponents and force their specters to aid them in combat.
Divine Soul Sorcerer
Divine Soul sorcerers derive their magic from some sort of greater being, and their abilities reflect this godly power. These Dungeons & Dragons sorcerers are favored by the gods and can add 2d4 to any failed saving throws or missed attacks, once per long or short rest. They also get access to cleric spell, gain healing at level six, and gain unearthly recovery at level 18, significantly improving the HP recovery potential of the Divine Soul sorcerer and their party. Divine Soul sorcerers can even grow wings at level 14, allowing them the useful ability to fly.
Next: D&D's Fizban's Treasury of Dragons May Buff Dragonborn Race
90 Day Fans Over Big Ed On Single Life After Liz EngagementAbout The Author
Brittany Spurlin is Senior Writer for Screen Rant's Game Features. Previously, she was a news editor on VENN's editorial team. With a screenwriting degree from Boston University, she loves engaging narratives - especially the nerdy ones. More often than not, she can be found playing The Elder Scrolls, Wild Rift, The Legend of Zelda and Stardew Valley. Follow Brittany on Twitter @bsinitials
Class powerful 5e dnd most
The Most Powerful Subclasses in 5th Edition D&D
Classes have been a key part of Dungeons and Dragons since 1st Edition all the way back in 1974, when players could choose between fighter, wizard, and cleric.* Over the intervening 45 years, the class system has been changed a multitude of times, but at its core, it has always played the role of allowing players to easily understand the flavor and mechanics their characters will be employing. 5th Edition takes this idea a step further, breaking each main class into a multitude of subclasses. These subclasses range from slight variations to complete changes in play style, and with that variation comes the unavoidable specter of imbalance.
But which subclasses stand at the top of the pile? Today, we find out. As noncombat abilities are almost impossible to quantify from table to table, I am limiting my examination to the combat viability of each subclass. I also ignore multiclassing in most cases, as I assume no one wants to read a 200-page examination on my descent into incoherence.
Let’s start with the angriest kid on the playground: barbarians. Grumpy fighters who believe clothes are for chumps, barbarians have six subclasses available to them starting at level three. Players can opt for protecting their allies with the power of their Ancestral Guardians, doing extra damage at the cost of exhaustion with the Berserker, doing far less damage with the Path of the Storm Herald,* or saying no to the god of death with the Zealot.
Unfortunately for players wanting balanced options,* there is one option that stands head and shoulders above the rest: the Path of the Totem Warrior. Specifically, the Path of the Bear Totem.* While this option has several features unique to it, the one that really matters is found at level three, granting the barbarian resistance to all damage types, excluding psychic, while raging. This is a massive improvement over other barbarian’s resistance to only bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. Bearbarians effectively double their hit point total, a feature simply not matched by other options in the class.
Bards, long the laughingstock of D&D, have finally found their time in the 5th Edition spotlight. Now full casters with a range of delightful abilities, bards rank as one of the best classes in the game. But which of their five subclasses stands atop the rest? Shall we dazzle our enemies with the College of Glamour, cut them with words using the College of Whispers, or cut them with swords using the College of Valor? Alternatively, you can cut your enemies with swords even better using the College of… well, Swords.
Though each of these options has its place,* it is the College of Lore that earns the gold in barding. One of the original subclassing options, the College of Lore’s most important feature is letting the bard steal spells from other classes’ lists. The bard can already do this without any subclass, but Lore bards can do it more often, and that makes all the difference. Spell stealing is both powerful and flexible, allowing for combinations of spells that were never intended to be played together.* While other colleges such as Whispers and Glamour are certainly capable, nothing comes close to Lore’s breadth of options and raw power.
Cleric, the first of D&D’s original classes we’re looking at, is a powerhouse in 5th Edition, being one of the only full casters capable of mixing it up on the front lines. Clocking in at a somewhat absurd sixteen subclasses, choosing the strongest was no easy task. However, after reviewing each option, I believe the strongest choice combines effectiveness with a unique power-set, and that would be the Life Domain. Life clerics have a few key features going for them, the first being Heavy Armor Proficiency. Heavy armor is incredibly good in 5th Edition and allows the cleric to function as the party’s healer, tank, and even damage dealer* without suffering in any of those roles.
The other major strengths of Life clerics are their Disciple of Life, Blessed Healer, and Supreme Healing features, found at levels 1, 6, and 17, respectively. Without getting too far into the mechanical weeds, these features remedy a major issue faced by all other healers in 5th Edition: healing damage with spells simply isn’t efficient. By adding flat bonuses to any spells cast by the cleric, healing the cleric whenever they heal others, and eventually maxing any healing dice rolled, the Life cleric is able to efficiently maintain the health of the party, a function not easily found outside of multiclassing. Put this improved healing together with everything else the base cleric gets, and you have one of the best monoclass characters in the game.
Speaking of best monoclass, it’s time to talk about the druid. The five subclass options can be divided into those that improve the druid’s spellcasting and those that improve wild shaping. Circle of Dreams pushes the druid toward a full support roll, focusing on healing and utility. Circle of the Land does…something? Theoretically it adds a wider range of spell options, but in practice it only seems to add regret to druids who take it. Circle of the Shepherd adds strength to the druid’s summoned minions and frustration to the GM’s game as 32 velociraptors swarm over every combat encounter. Circle of Spores grants the druid a suite of flavorful abilities that sadly never end up being as cool as they sound.
As the only option I haven’t mentioned yet, it doesn’t take a Divination wizard to guess which druid subclass I’ve selected as the strongest, and that is the Circle of the Moon. Moon druids remain full casters like the class’s other options, being only slightly worse at whatever each other subclass specializes in, but in return, their shape-changing ability increases drastically in strength. Whether that’s delivering literal bear hugs at level 3 or the truly absurd infinity mammoth at level 20, the Moon druid has a consistently strong power curve interspersed with spikes simply not found in the other subclasses.
The fighter, another of D&D’s original classes, has had a bit of a rough time in modern D&D. It has a whole host of subclasses, but they all find themselves lagging behind spellcasting characters. The Arcane Archer lets you get your Hawkeye cosplay on, but lacks staying power. The Battle Master trips enemies all day but can’t do much once they’re down. Meanwhile, the Cavalier has subpar mounted abilities,* while the Champion is a pile of modest passive bonuses. The list goes on, but none of them can stand up a competently built spellcaster. But what if I were to tell you there was a solution to this problem, a way to enhance your ability to hit things with some arcane might?
Yes, I am declaring Eldritch Knight (EK) the strongest of the fighter’s many subclassing options. In the early levels, having access to Shield makes the EK almost impossible to hit. Later they get access to spells like Shadow Blade and the class feature War Magic, combining weapon attacks and cantrips for a more powerful extra attack feature. In higher-level play, EKs get access to Haste, one of the best buff spells in the game, a feature that pushes this subclass ahead of the competition. This decision was a close one; Battle Master is often held up as the fighter’s strongest subclass, but while Battle Master is good, I believe the Eldritch Knight’s spellcasting takes the win.
The monk is a class with lots of interesting flavor, but it’s never quite had the mechanics to back that flavor up. Drunken Master lets the monk pretend to be Jackie Chan,* while Four Elements turns the monk into an underwhelming arcane caster. Kensei grants the monk subpar martial improvements, or you could get some subpar ways to avoid dying with the Long Death. The Way of Shadow and Sun Soul grant fun darkness and fire abilities, respectively, but neither has much impact on combat.
Out of the seven options, one is clearly the strongest, but sadly not in an interesting way. I am, of course, referring to Way of the Open Hand. Levels 1–16 see this subclass as a below-average damage dealer whose main contribution to fights is annoying the GM with entirely too many constitution and dexterity saving throws to avoid being knocked over or stunned. However, level 17 sees the Open Hand gain a new punch that forces a monster to make a very special save, taking 10d10 damage on a success or simply dying on a failure. As far as I can tell this is the only save or die ability granted to the players* and is so much more powerful than other monk options that they are not even worth considering. If you are willing to pay the monk tax of levels 1–16, Open Hand is the way to go.
A front-line tank with access to a suite of powerful spells and devastating burst damage, the paladin’s base kit is so good you’ll have an effective character regardless of subclass. However, this doesn’t mean those subclasses are created equal. Conquest focuses on battlefield control through spooking your opponents, whereas Crown lets the paladin protect their allies with taunts and damage redirection. Devotion contains generic good stuff with a situational immunity to charm, and Redemption is all about keeping the peace through diplomacy and damage redirection. Vengeance covers your edgelord paladins by granting them a suite of offensive spells and abilities, and finally there is Oathbreaker, the perfect subclass for your selfish paladin player who wants to do as much damage as possible.*
Despite several good options I’ve already listed, the best paladin subclass falls to the Oath of the Ancients. Thoroughly uninteresting in almost every respect, Ancients paladins have one class feature that alone makes them the strongest option: spell resistance for themselves and anyone standing within their aura. This feature is so incredibly good it’s hard to overstate. Spells, especially high-level ones, can deal damage in the hundreds. Halving that for not just yourself but your party easily places Oath of Ancients atop the paladin pile.
While the petty power gamer in me wanted to leave this section blank, I would be doing a disservice to players trying to get the most out of their rangers. I’ll be honest: the ranger is easily the weakest class in 5th Edition, and none of the five available subclasses fix this problem.
Beast Master has the dubious distinction of being the weakest possible option you can take in 5th Edition. It supposedly augments the ranger’s abilities by granting them an animal companion, but these features are so underpowered they are worse than simply using the ranger’s base kit. Gloom Stalker turns the ranger into a weaker assassination rogue. Horizon Walker lets the ranger…detect portals?* Jokes aside, this subclass is also bad, with a paltry damage boost and highly situational extra attack mechanics being the only things to recommend it. Rounding out this list is the Monster Slayer, another weak option that doesn’t even make you good at slaying monsters.
Although none of the ranger’s options are what I’d call good, at least it wasn’t hard to pick out the strongest, specifically the Hunter subclass. Hunter rangers get to choose one of three powers at levels 3, 7, 11, and 15. While none of these choices are particularly exciting, the flexibility found here coupled with the fact that each option is at least as powerful as those found in the other ranger subclasses means that if you want to optimize your ranger, Hunter is the best of several bad options.
The archetypal sneak, rogues supply consistent damage in the form of Sneak Attacks. The class has seven subclass options, all presenting a different flavor of “stab the thing, but maybe where they can’t see me.” Arcane Trickster supplements the rogue’s mundane abilities with a touch of spellcasting, whereas Inquisitive turns the rogue into a Sherlock Holmes–style character, with an eye for detail aiding them both on and off the battlefield.*Mastermind grants the rogue options to assist their party during a fight and aid in battlefield control, and Scout ensures that the rogue can both find and escape from any trouble they’d like. Finally we have the Swashbuckler, for rouge players who realized halfway through the campaign they wanted to be fighters. Eschewing the traditional restrictions on Sneak Attacks, these rogues prefer to get right up in their enemies’ faces for some strategic stabbings.
Although the rogue is another class that receives the lion’s share of its power from its base kit, it is the Assassin subclass that really brings the most combat power to the table. Assassins get Advantage and an automatic crit when they surprise an enemy, doubling all those wonderful Sneak Attack dice. This is really easy to do with the rogue’s ridiculously high Stealth score. While not combat focused, the subclass’s 9th- and 13th-level abilities grant some utility and roleplay options. Then, if you make it to 17th-level, Death Strike can see you rolling roughly 40d6 of damage. While not the most thematically interesting, Assassin delivers reliable amounts of burst and sustained damage that other options cannot match.
Ah, sorcerer, the caster that looks at all the other magic users in the game and laughs at all the hard work they put in for their power. Why didn’t they have the good sense to just be born with a font of magic inside them like a reasonable person? But with this innate magic comes the important question: Where did it come from? 5th Edition provides us with six origins for our gifted mageling: the elemental powers and scale-like hide of a Draconic Bloodline, the pure firepower of Pyromancy, the brooding darkness of Shadow Magic, the electric power of the Storm, or the underwhelming randomness of Wild Magic.
Sadly, for these subclasses, there is one more option that puts them all to shame: the Divine Soul. Born with the inherent power of the gods, Divine Soul sorcerers have access not only to their normal arcane spell list but to the entire cleric spell list as well. I cannot overstate how good this is. Most classes that dip into another type of magic, such as the Arcana cleric, get a select few spells, but Divine sorcerers have no restrictions outside of the limited number of spells they learn per level.
This could be the entire subclass and it would still be the best, but Divine Soul is kind enough to provide our godly sorcerer with an improved save feature, the ability to empower their healing with Sorcery Points, limitless flight, and the ability to regain half of their hit points when they drop below half health. I’d say out of all the classes, sorcerer has the largest power differential between its most powerful subclass and the other available options. If you ever want to make an optimized build using this class, Divine Soul is the correct choice.
Warlock is an interesting class in many ways. It has a unique form of casting, it never goes above four spell slots, and it has almost two different sets of subclass options: the Otherworldly Patron at first level and the Pact Boon at third level. For this discussion I will be exclusively judging which patron out of the six available is strongest. The Archfey is an underwhelming patron that gifts the warlock with some rather weak mental trickery. The Celestial lets warlocks stay on Team Good and grants some useful healing abilities that can turn the warlock into a secondary healer. The Great Old One has cool Cthulhu flavor but little to recommend it mechanically. The Hexblade is a patron that seems tailor-made for multiclassing, granting a host of good abilities at level one, including the ability to use charisma as a weapon’s hit/damage stat. Lastly, we have the Undying, a patron whose 10th-level ability means the warlock doesn’t have to eat any more…wooo.
When it came to selecting the best warlock subclass, I found myself at a quandary. As someone naturally drawn to optimized builds, warlock often makes an appearance on my character sheets, but rarely past level three. The class is so front loaded with features that it is prime multiclassing material. That’s especially true for the Hexblade patron, a key tool in my fight to never use strength as a weapon stat. However, this article is focused on monoclassing, and as such, Hexblade’s value is severely curtailed.
That leaves the tried-and-true Fiend patron as the cream of the crop. The main reason for the Fiend’s victory can be summed up in one word: fireball. The Fireball spell on short-rest recharge is extremely good, and the Fiend is the only way for a monoclassed warlock to gain access to that powerful spell. Add on top of that a little bit of survivability and the power to literally put someone through hell, and you have the best warlock subclass.*
Wizard is without a doubt one of the most powerful classes in 5th Edition. Not only do they have access to the best arcane spell list, but they also have a host of powerful subclasses to choose from. To avoid the entirely too long list of ten subclasses, I can sum up eight of them as a focus on one school of magic. These subclasses enhance that school in some way and range from extremely powerful to weak but flavorful. Alongside these school specializations is the Bladesinger, a wizard who got mad and decided to hit people with a sword, and War Magic, a wizard who got mad and decided to hit people with spells. While both martial-focused subclasses can be fun, and in the Bladesinger’s case can be a part of some very interesting specialist builds, their focus is too narrow for me to rank them any higher than middling for the mono-mage.
That leaves us with school-based subclasses, and though it may be considered a bit boring, the school of Evocation is my pick for strongest wizard subclass. What makes this subclass so good is the feature Sculpt Spell. This ability allows the wizard to choose who they want to get hit by the fireball they just tossed out. Did the fighter run headlong into a gaggle of bugbears? Not a problem. Unlike those uneducated sorcerers, the Evocation wizard can simply sculpt their explosion around their overexcited party member, leaving them untouched in the middle of a bugbear roast. On top of this incredible ability, Evocation wizards get improved cantrips, additional flat damage on all their spells, and the eventual ability to max damage on any spell fifth level or below. Add all this up, and Evocation wizards blow away the competition.
Obviously, this list has been somewhat light on the mechanical discussion and examines each class through the narrow lens of combat, but I hope reading it has sparked some interesting discussions. Whether it’s about how to eke out the most damage from one of the subclasses I highlighted here, or how you’re going to prove that Beast Master ranger really puts all other classes to shame, I hope to read about how wrong I am in the comments. The 5th Edition class system certainly has its flaws, and I would never dream of calling it balanced, but the fact that I can spend pages discussing just 12 of the available options speak to the varied gameplay it can supply to players.Thief was obviously OP, and we will not dignify it with a mention here.1d4 damage with friendly fire, really?But fortunate for my number crunching.Sub-subclass?Except you, Valor.See my article on powerful 5E builds for an example.Looking at you, Spirit Guardians.One day, wizards will flesh out those rules.Who really doesn’t want any trouble.Power Word Kill is different, don’t @ me.Oh, look, it’s me.Mike Mearls, does big portal have something on you?Anyone remember Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock movie?You will have your day, Hexblade.
Treat your friends to an evening of dark ritual murder. In a fictional game scenario, of course.Uncover your lost memories and save the day in our stand-alone game, The Voyage.
10 best Dungeons & Dragons 5E subclasses you should play in your next campaign
One of the most interesting parts of everybody’s favourite tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, is the opportunity to customise your character to the nth degree.
Deciding how to pick your character class in Dungeons & Dragons 5E, which determines the broad strokes of how your character interacts with the world and operates in combat, is the first step and will largely determine your experience of the roleplaying game. Working out how to choose your Dungeons & Dragons 5E race is more of a question of flavour, though does provide different bonuses and abilities depending on what you go for.
Beyond that, though, there are subclasses to choose between - variations of each class that further refine your character’s abilities. Want to play a Dungeons & Dragons 5E wizard who wears armour and favours a sword? A D&D 5E rogue who specialises in duelling? A druid who obsessively cultivates mushrooms? All are possible!
Best Dungeons & Dragons 5E subclasses
So whatever you want your character to be and however you play Dungeons & Dragons, there should be a perfect character subclass for you. Read on for a runthrough of the best Dungeons & Dragon 5E subclasses available to players that we think are interesting - you might just find something to include in your next campaign.
1. Arcane Trickster (Rogue)
Rogues are usually masters of sneaking and stabbing - not always in that order - and the Arcane Trickster subclass augments these shady abilities with spellcasting.
At third level, Arcane Tricksters pick up Mage Hand and two further wizard cantrips. Your Mage Hand can be made invisible, rifle through people’s pockets and pick locks at range, and at higher levels can be used to distract opponents mid-combat. You also pick up three first-level wizard spells - so long as they are in the enchantment or illusion schools - and more as your progress.
At ninth level and above, creatures who cannot see you gain disadvantage on saving throws against your spells, while at 17th you can literally steal spells cast on you by other creatures for up to eight hours.
The Dungeons & Dragons 5E rogue class is usually the party member most proficient in enchantment and illusion, so the Arcane Trickster specialisation usually lends itself best to pickpockets, thieves or even street performers. One of the best uses we’ve ever heard of was a thuggish half-orc rogue whose “spells” were, in fact, him shouting particularly loudly or throwing gloves filled with sand to act as a crude Mage Hands.
2. Path of the Totem Warrior (Barbarian)
It may seem like your party’s angry, loincloth-wearing axe-fan is a little one-note, but barbarian subclasses can send the class in interesting ways. The Path of the Totem Warrior sees them accepting a spirit animal as a guide, taking their strength to magically power their rages through a physical totem object that incorporates the fur, teeth or bones of the chosen animal.
At third level, you can pick one spirit animal of bear, eagle, elk, tiger or wolf (each is swappable for a creature more suited to your homeland, so your dreams of a huge, hairy spider-person are still achievable) and gain immediate benefits related to them. For example, tiger totems can jump higher and further while raging. You can pick further benefits at sixth and 14th levels.
From 10th level, you can also cast Commune with Nature as a ritual spell, summoning one of your animal guides to give you advice about the surrounding natural area. Though it might be tempting to ask your spiritual bear-parent for the best spot to pick a prickly pear, it can be used to determine the location of monsters, nearby towns or even the influence of other planes of existence.
3. College of Lore (Bard)
The College of Lore is one of two options open to bards of third level in the Player’s Handbook. Where the College of Valor focuses on hand-to-hand combat skills, the College of Lore sends your character further down the ‘jack of all trades’ path and reflects many of the most popular interpretations of the bard class in 5E, whether flamboyant performers, wizened storytellers or complete chancers.
The subclass is also powerful in Dungeons & Dragons 5E: not only can you add three more skill proficiencies onto your character sheet at third level, but you can upgrade your bardic inspiration dice to be used actively thanks to Cutting Words, which lets you subtract the number rolled from enemies’ attack rolls, ability checks or damage rolls, thanks to the distracting nature of your insults. It’s also a fun opportunity to roleplay some trash-talking and vent any DM frustrations you may have.
But the most useful boon from the College is Additional Magical Secrets: at sixth level, you can learn two spells of your choice from any class (in addition to those all bards can pilfer at 10th level). These include powerful class-restricted options like Fireball, Tenser’s Floating Disk, Teleport or - from 18th level - Wish.
4. School of Divination (Wizard)
While many players swear by the Bladesinger or War Magic specialisations to turn your robed spellcaster into a frontline fighter, the School of Divination gives Dungeons & Dragons 5E wizard players some unique tools that also allow for some fun roleplaying opportunities thanks to their clairvoyant powers. You also get the usual benefits to your divination spells, such as quicker spellbook copying times and regaining lower-level spell slots after casting from sixth level.
Starting at second level, divination wizards can peer into the future every time they finish a long rest, rolling two d20s (up to three at 14th level) and taking note of the numbers rolled. You can later use these rolls to replace any attack roll, saving throw or ability check made by you or a creature you can see once, until you take another long rest.
So, if you roll a 2 and a 3, you can force an attacking enemy to flub their weapon swing; if you roll a 19 and a 20, you can make your fighter score a couple of crucial critical hits in the same fight.
It’s a unique ability that can turn the tide of an encounter for better or for worse - and asks deeper questions about the nature of free will in a turn-based tabletop RPG.
5. Eldritch Knight (Fighter)
Much like the Arcane Trickster option for rogues, the Eldritch Knight boosts a purely martial class with some spellcasting abilities from the evocation and abjuration schools of magic. Starting at third level, they gain two cantrips and two first-level spell slots, plus a choice of many nasty surprises from the wizard spell list.
What makes this Dungeons & Dragons 5E subclass particularly strong, however, is the augmenting of your considerable battle prowess with said spells. For example Shield, which gives you +5 to AC for a round of combat as a bonus action, can make you nearly impossible to hit at low levels, while spells like Shadow Blade or buffs like Haste at higher levels make your multiple attacks even more nasty. This is helped by the War Magic feature, gained at seventh level, which allows you to make a weapon attack as a bonus action after casting a cantrip.
Arguably the coolest feature, though, is Weapon Bond; at third level, you can create a magical link between you and your favourite sharp or blunt implement, meaning you can magically summon it as a bonus action and have it appear in your hand from anywhere in the same plane of existence. Thor, eat your heart out.
6. Circle of the Moon (Druid)
I know we promised a mushroom-tending druid - and Circle of Spores is very cool, if a little underpowered - but the most powerful option for your favourite tree-hugger is the Circle of the Moon, thanks to its focus on your Wild Shape ability.
While retaining your potent spellcasting abilities, going down the lunar path at second level means you can transform into more dangerous animals, up to a challenge rating of 1. This includes direwolves, giant toads and - if you’re feeling in a tentacle-ish mood - giant octopuses. This ability gets exponentially better starting from sixth level - by eighth you’ll be able to animorph into flying dinosaurs or giant snakes.
Other bonuses include being able to use Wild Shape as a bonus action (rather than an action), using further bonus actions to regain 1d8 hit points in return for a spell slot and, from 10th level, transforming into powerful elemental forms.
7. The Fiend (Warlock)
Poor warlocks: universally considered the weakest of Dungeons & Dragons 5E’s character classes, but armed with some of the coolest roleplaying tools, the demon-followers do not see a lot of play. But choosing to make a pact with the Fiend when you create a D&D 5E warlock allows the class’s slightly janky spellcasting to become a lot more versatile.
First of all, an expanded spell list gives Fiend warlocks powerful spells like Burning Hands, Scorching Ray and Fireball. You can also sap temporary hit points from hostile creatures you bring down equal to your charisma modifier plus your warlock level, and from 10th level gain resistance to a chosen damage type, changeable once you rest.
From sixth level, call upon your devilish patron to alter fate in your favour - to the tune of a d10 that can be added to ability checks or saving throws once per short rest. At 14th, however, you get your most fiendish ability: once per long rest, you can instantly transport a creature you hit with an attack into the lower reaches of Hell for a turn, taking 10d10 psychic damage on their return.
8. Divine Soul (Sorcerer)
Dungeons & Dragon 5E sourcebook Xanathar’s Guide to Everything has a number of radically altered subclasses, of which the sorcerer's Divine Soul path is one of the most overpowered.
Put simply, sorcerers of this ilk are powered by an innate connection to a god; in practice this means that whenever these sorcerers are allowed to pick a new spell, they can choose from the cleric spell list as well as the sorcerer list, and gain an additional spell depending on whether they and their divine link have an affinity for good, evil, law, chaos or neutrality.
There are other bonuses, too. Favoured by the Gods allows you to add 2d4 to a failed saving throw or attack roll, Empowered Healing at sixth level lets you use your sorcery points to reroll low dice rolls when restoring bonuses, and Unearthly Recovery means you can instantly heal half your HP from 18th level. Among the most coveted is Angelic Form: starting at 14th, your sorcerer can summon spectral (but functional) wings as a bonus action.
9. Oathbreaker (Paladin)
Speaking of radically altered classes, the Oathbreaker option in the Dungeons & Dragons 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide transforms paladins from those dedicated to a particular cause to those that have broken their sacred vows to pursue a dark intent or serve an evil power. Edgy, sure, but it also allows you to play a broken, world-weary holy warrior rather than a goody-two-shoes.
They are also pretty handy as damage dealers. Starting at third level, Oathbreakers gain access to some darker spells - including Inflict Wounds, Animate Dead and Contagion - and can use their Channel Divinity to control undead creatures or frighten nearby creatures. At seventh, they and any fiends or undead nearby can add their Charisma modifier to damage rolls, and at 15th they gain resistance to damage from non-magical weapons.
At 20th level things get real: Oathbreakers can use their action to become a Dread Lord, dimming nearby lights, causing heavy damage to any frightened creatures and summoning the shadows themselves to attack nearby targets. Spooky and effective.
10. Forge Domain (Cleric)
While many players and party members expect clerics to be healing sycophants, there are lots of Dungeons & Dragons 5E subclass options that can turn them into absolute monsters of damage dealers - Storm Domain, we’re looking at you. Clerics dedicated to the gods of the forge domain favour heavy armour, fancy weapons and potent magic items alongside their divine powers, and have several unique factors that make them a boon to any party of adventurers.
Functionally, this gives you access to a range of fire and weapon-based spells in addition to the usual cleric options. From first level, Forge Clerics can also imbue magic into weapons or armour, improving their stats until they finish a long rest, while from second they can use their Channel Divinity to create items out of thin air, including martial weapons, suits of armor, ten pieces of ammunition or any “metal object”, which can include copies of keys you have.
Further down the line, Forge Clerics’ devotion to shirtless blacksmithing makes them even more hardy in combat, thanks to Soul of the Forge’s defensive bonuses and Divine Strike at sixth level, which lets you add fire damage to your weapon attacks once per turn. By 17th level, thanks to the Saint of Forge and Fire perk, you can even become immune to fire damage and resistant to non-magical weapons.
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