Clerics are unfairly pigeonholed in Dungeons & Dragons, stereotyped as healers and nothing more. In practice, Clerics can do all sorts of things outside of simple healing, and this is embodied by the variety of Domains that a cleric can take. Still, not all clerics are created equal, so here’s a ranking of the 9 cleric subclasses in the Player’s Handbook.
9. Nature Domain
The Nature Domain isn’t bad. It’s just… not a druid. It’s very much like a druid in that you get druid spells and the ability to control plants and animals, but it is still a cleric subclass. Since druids and clerics have very similar roles of semi-tanky casters, the only reason to pick the nature domain would be if you really want to roleplay a cleric or your party needs a dedicated healer. Being able to grant resistance to certain damage types is nice, but there are better options for you. For instance, being able to shapeshift.
8. Knowledge Domain
The Knowledge Domain is great for Clerics who want to provide more utility than combat usefulness. This subclass gives you a lot of useful abilities: more languages, temporary experience in skills and tools, the ability to read minds, and the ability to see through time. There’s not much to say about these, other than the fact that they’re very cool and useful and absolutely not combat oriented. This class should be ranked higher if your DM is running any sort of intrigue or social campaign, but since you can’t guarantee that, it remains here.
7. Death Domain
The Death Domain is a cleric subclass with a necromancy flavor, which basically means you can heal your allies… from death! In practice, this means that you will wait until your teammates are knocked t0 zero hit points in order to get the maximum value from your healing while they beg you to do your job. Your Channel Divinity ability, which lets you make a opponent vulnerable to the damage of the next attack (and only that attack) is useful at higher levels when you can maximize the damage of high-level spells, but at low levels it might be better for you to just make an attack yourself. The ability to eliminate critical hits is good, but there are better tanking abilities in other subclasses that can be done more than once per rest.
6. Trickery Domain
This subclass is another one that is good for non-combat clerics, but that will have more universally useful effects than the Knowledge Domain. And while there’s some overlap in class purpose with the rogue class, but the Trickery Domain has enough unique abilities that it keeps it fresh. You can turn invisible, create illusory clones, and you get a whole bunch of fun spells with plenty of utility. It’s not really what you expect from a cleric subclass, but it’s certainly enjoyable.
5. Forge Domain
This class, like all Artificer-ish classes, has the potential to be fun if your DM is cooperative. This subclass has a great advantage in that it includes boosts to your armor class and resistance (and eventually immunity) to fire damage, a very common damage type. You also have an ability to turn any regular weapon or armor into a +1 weapon or +1 armor, which is very good at lower levels, although less so at high levels when you should reasonably have magic weapons and armor already. If your DM is the type to let you use spells creatively, the fabricate and creation spells and your Channel Divinity ability will have dozens of uses in creating all sorts of objects. You might want to invest in a cart for all the scrap metal you’ll be carrying around, though.
4. Life Domain
The reason this subclass is ranked so high is because it is incredibly useful. The reason it’s ranked a bit lower is because it is incredibly boring. It mainly lets you heal very well. That’s mostly it. You get one ability at level 8 that lets you do extra radiant damage on attacks, but that seems like a consolation prize more than anything. This class can be very useful if you have a party that runs headfirst into danger, or if your party stuck you as the only healer – but usually, you can find better player dynamics instead of just being regulated to being a healbot.
3. Tempest Domain
The Tempest Domain is just a solid subclass. It’s arguably not as much of a benefit to your party as the Life Domain, but it is way more fun. The fact that you have plenty of opportunities to deal thunder and lightning damage along with abilities that trigger when you deal thunder and lightning damage makes this a very efficient, if one-note, subclass that lets you do a lot of damage and knock your opponents around while not sacrificing your ability to tank a little. Plus, the fact that you get the ability to fly at high levels is just icing on the cake.
2. Light Domain
It’s a cleric that can cast fireball. Now, you might be asking, why not play a wizard if you want to cast fireball? Well here’s the thing, it’s a cleric who can cast fireball and not be killed immediately the first time they get hit. Not that you’re likely to get hit anyway, since you can blind your enemies when they try to attack you. Don’t worry about your team either – pretty early on, you’ll be able to blind enemies when they attack your allies too. There’s a lot of blinding enemies to make them not hit you and your team. So, essentially, it’s a subclass that combines the traditional cleric tanking role and, again, the ability to launch a fireball at your enemies.
1. War Domain
Why would you ever play a Paladin? Between proficiencies in martial weapons and heavy armor and the ability to be a full caster and a full healer, the War Domain cleric is truly the superior holy knight. You get extra attacks, extra damage, and the ability to increase an attack roll by you or your ally by 10. If you want to be a powerful warrior while not sacrificing any of your spellcasting ability, the War Domain might be for you.
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