Two women standing back to back from the MTG card Splinter Twin.

Splinter Twin by Goran Josic

Multiclassing is by far my favorite mechanic in 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. I love the weird and powerful combinations it unlocks and how it allows me to demonstrate an amount of creativity monoclassing simply can’t match. However, just because there are a ton of options doesn’t mean all those options were created equal. Today, I want to examine how the classes stack up when factoring in multiclass additions. While I consider each class’s strengths when used as a dip* and as a primary class, I weigh primary viability over dip viability. This means a class that is powerful as the main selection for multiple builds receives a higher ranking than one that is used as a dip in multiple builds.

13. Artificer

A woman in lightning armor from the MTG card League Guildmage.
League Guildmage by Svetlin Velinov

Saving me from having to change my outline from the monoclass rank article, we once again have the artificer. There isn’t much new to say about the artificer; it’s a half caster with a bad spell list and lackluster martial features. Its one redeeming element is the Infusions feature, and that is not enough to prop up an entire class.

Multiclassing does nothing to improve the situation. The artificer is one of two classes that uses intelligence as its primary stat, the other being the wizard. This means that most builds hoping to use the artificer have to invest at least a 13 in one of the worst stats in the game. As for wizards, they are one of the best classes in the game and have little motivation to weaken themselves by spending levels on the artificer. The Battle Smith’s ability to use intelligence as a martial stat does present some interesting possibilities, but so far nothing strong enough to free the artificer from its second 13th-place finish.

12. Monk

A woman parting the waters from MTG card Soulfire Grand Master
Soulfire Grand Master by Johannes Voss

The first change from the monoclass rankings, we have the monk. Even on that list I mostly ranked monk above ranger for its stronger thematic design rather than mechanical superiority. When multiclassing is added to the mix, I can no longer in good conscience put the monk higher than 12th place. Like artificer, the monk has a heavy cost to multiclass, requiring a 13 in both wisdom and dexterity. This, combined with the monk’s weak abilities, means it’s rarely worth multiclassing into.

There’s one exception: the Martial Arts feature, which allows you to use dexterity as the damage stat for a variety of weapons. This makes taking one level of monk at least a possibility. However, this feature is so restrictive that I’ve only found one build that makes use of it. With the recent publication of Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the monk slips even further down the list, as the unarmed fighting style allows non-monk characters to increase their damage to levels the monk can’t surpass until very late in the game.

11. Ranger

A warrior with two swords leaping through the forest, from the MTG card Borderlands Ranger.
Borderlands Ranger by Jesper Ejsing

Edging its way into 11th place is the ranger. This class shares the monk’s steep multiclassing requirements, and like previous entries, almost none of its features lend themselves to even B-tier builds. However, there is one feature that secures the ranger its spot on this list: access to the Goodberry spell. A ranger that dips a single level in Life cleric can now use their Goodberries to heal their party for forty hit points per spell slot. I would almost always recommend making cleric the main class in that combination, but it’s more than the previous entries have.

10. Fighter

A woman with a glowing sword from the MTG card Elspeth Tirel.
Elspeth Tirel by Michael Komarck

Escaping the dregs of the last three entries, the fighter plays rear guard for worthwhile* classes. The fighter’s problem is that its feature set gains minimal benefit from dipping into other classes. There are some small damage increases that can be gained: warlock levels for Hex, ranger for Hunter’s Mark, or rogue for Sneak Attack and Expertise. But a monoclassed Eldritch Knight is a solid standalone package that would only be weakened by delaying its progress for multiclass dips. Fighter does make a great dip for other classes due to its generous multiclass requirements, proficiencies, and level-one fighting style. However, as the primary class in a build, I rarely find myself wanting to add other classes to the fighter.

9. Barbarian

A woman wielding an axe and wearing furs from the MTG card Lovisa Coldeyes.
Lovisa Coldeyes by Anna Steinbauer

The barbarian was a hard entry to rank on this list. If I were taking a narrow focus at early and mid levels, this would be one of the top-ranking classes. The Bear Totem with Moon druid dip and eventually a Life cleric level is incredibly good. However, even the best barbarian builds I can come up with take at most five levels. A pure martial build would have a split of 4 barbarian/16 fighter, and the Barbarian/Druid/Cleric build I mentioned rounded out its remaining 12 levels with fighter. None of this is to say those builds are bad – in fact, I think they’re quite effective – but with so many classes gaining a huge amount of power from multiclassing, the fact that barbarian never takes center stage in “barbarian” builds secures its ninth-place entry.

8. Druid

A woman casting magic leaves from the MTG card Pollenbright Druid.
Pollenbright Druid by Matt Stewart

Don’t let the druid’s low placement on this list trick you – the class is still fantastic. However, it is one of the classes that benefits the least from multiclassing. Druid features really want you to keep taking levels of druid* and often don’t play well with what other classes are trying to do. Druid’s main role in my builds is a single level dip Goodberry dispenser that doesn’t slow down my spell slot progression. As I mentioned with the ranger, this is a great combo with Life cleric, but druid is never the primary class.

The other popular druid-heavy multiclass build involves dipping into barbarian to gain a host of powerful features. As I noted in my multiclass dips, I think this combo is overrated by much of the community, delaying the druid’s power curve by too many levels to be worth it past very early levels. Outside of those two uses, the best druid builds look almost exactly the same whether multiclassing is allowed or not. Druid secures its eighth-place spot on the strength of its monoclass builds.

7. Warlock

A woman using shadow and lighting magic from the MTG card Shadowstorm Vizier.
Shadowstorm Vizier by Yongjae Choi

When I was first outlining this article and its companion monoclass rankings, I assumed that warlock would be one of the top entries on this list. However, it suffers due to my weighing a class’s role as the primary build class instead of a dip. Warlock plays a huge role in many builds, but it rarely takes the majority of levels. Instead it is used to enable martial builds to fight with charisma or as a two-level dip that provides otherwise low damage builds with the Eldritch Blast/Hex combo.

The main builds warlock plays a major role in are the Lockadin and Sorlock.* The Sorlock in particular is very good, although I’d usually opt for more levels of sorcerer than warlock. The warlock’s short rest spell slots and sorcerer’s ability to use those slots to refresh their sorcery points work so well together, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were part of the same class at some point in 5E’s development. Whichever half of the build you opt to put more levels into, it pushes the warlock far enough to earn seventh place.

6. Rogue

A woman leaning casually and wielding a shadow knife from the MTG card Kaya, Ghost Assassin.
Kaya, Ghost Assassin by Chris Rallis

What sort of dark mirror have we stepped into where I rank the rogue above classes like druid? Well, it just so happens that rogue has two builds that benefit hugely with just a hint of multiclassing. The first of these is a ranged Phantom rogue* that takes a level of fighter to gain the all-important Archery Fighting Style. A +2 to attack rolls doesn’t sound like much, but it makes a huge difference, especially for the rogue, which only gets one attack per round to land its Sneak Attack.

The second, less common, build is the sword-and-board Arcane Trickster rogue. This build also takes one level of fighter, but this time for the shield and armor proficiencies, plus the defensive fighting style. This yields a build that enjoys 20 AC* right out of the gate, while still gaining all the fun goodies the Arcane Trickster gets at later levels. Though I haven’t seen this build in action, just looking at its offensive and defensive outputs easily earns rogue the sixth-place spot.

5. Wizard

A woman taking scrolls from a wrack from the MTG card Scroll Rack
Scroll Rack by Heather Hudson

There’s not much to say on this entry. Are there many multiclass builds that enhance the wizard? No, not really. Is the wizard still the most powerful monoclass in the game? Yes, yes it is. The most viable subclass dip I’ve seen for the wizard is one level of cleric to secure heavy armor proficiency without slowing spell slot progression. Even then I would only recommend that dip for wizards looking to mix it up in melee. The wizard doesn’t even make a good dip class, as its intelligence requirement is one of the worst in the game. Like the druid, the wizard secures its high rank on the list almost entirely due to its monoclassed builds.

4. Sorcerer

A woman conjuring a magic bolt from the MTG card Deconstruct.
Deconstruct by Alexander Gregory

We’re in the home stretch now, with classes that are transformed by the addition of multiclassing. The sorcerer starts us off with two dips that massively improve the class: paladin and warlock. The first of these allows for the ever-popular Sorcadin. As I’ve said in other articles, I don’t regard the Sorcadin as highly as much of the community, but there’s no denying it is an impressive mid-game build that allows the sorcerer to operate as a powerful martial character using heavy armor and spells like Shadow Blade.

The second build the sorcerer gains is the same Sorlock I mentioned in the warlock’s entry, albeit stronger because this time we’re putting more levels in sorcerer. Five levels of Celestial/Pact of the Chain warlock, a level of Life cleric, and Divine Soul allows for an incredibly durable frontline damage dealer. This character has Spirit Guardians every fight thanks to its pact slots, maxes any dice rolled to heal it, adds the Life cleric bonus to its own healing, and has heavy armor. This is all without mentioning its access to the normal sorcerer spell list. Unfortunately I can’t go over every detail of this build here, but take my word for it: the sorcerer more than earns the fourth-place spot.

3. Cleric

A ghostly cleric from the MTG card Remorseful Cleric.
Remorseful Cleric by Grzegorz Rutkowski

While I am a major proponent of playing classes the way you want, I also recognize that clerics are some of the better healers in 5E, specifically the Life cleric. On its own, the subclass’s Disciple of Life feature is a good buff to healing in the early game, but it falls off later as hit points scale past the amount it adds to healing. However, if you pair Life cleric with one level of druid or two levels of ranger, you get the amazing Goodberry I mentioned way back in the ranger’s entry. This time, however, we’re focusing on the much better class of cleric.

While I think the additional healing is the strongest feature multiclassing adds to cleric, there are other benefits as well. Cleric/paladin multiclassing, while not incredibly powerful, results in a balanced frontline character with the spells* of the cleric alongside the hitpoints and saves of the paladin.

2. Paladin

An armored figure on a warhorse from the MTG card Cabal Paladin.
Cabal Paladin by Lius Lasahido

Speaking of paladins, let’s talk about the amazing combination they get from multiclassing with the warlock. As I hope my Hexstaff build demonstrates, warlock and paladin is a match made in the celestial plane. It takes the already good paladin and allows it to focus exclusively on charisma as the stat that governs all of their combat abilities and class features. This alongside the Sorcadin I mentioned earlier moves the paladin into second place.

1. Bard

A dancing bard dancing in front of a giant's face from Elvish Bard.
Elvish Bard by Susan Van Camp

It’s only fitting that the most flexible class benefits the most from the increased flexibility of multiclassing. On its own, the bard is already one of the strongest classes in the game, competing with wizards for the top spot. However, unlike the wizard, the bard can make heavy use of multiclassing to create a huge variety of builds.

The most obvious dips the bard can take are from its fellow charisma classes. Sorcerer, warlock, or paladin can all lend the bard additional spell and martial options it wouldn’t be able to take as a monoclass. Out of the three, I’d say warlock is the strongest, as so much of the class’s strength is loaded into its first three levels, but it’s hard to go wrong with any of them.

However, there’s more to the bard’s multiclassing power than meets the eye. Two very strong builds that I’ve come up with use bard as the main class while dipping one level into fighter. What I find especially cool about said dip is that the builds I created with it are radically different in feature choice and play style. One is a sharpshooting Sword bard that leaves its full martial competition in the dust. The other is a smack-talking Lore bard that uses grappling to kill the Tarasque in a single round at level eight by dragging it through thorns.* No matter which direction you go, the bard class can be supported and enhanced by a number of multiclassing options, making it my pick for the strongest class in 5E.*

Lists like this are always tough to write, as some classes are so close it’s hard to nail down the exact position of each one. It’s even truer for this list, as there are so many multiclass options that it’s impossible to give them all the consideration they deserve. Some of the lower-ranked entries moved several times while I was writing. The bright side is that almost every class has at least one powerful multiclass build to play with, and an almost unlimited number of bad ones if their flavor suits your fancy. Regardless of whether my rankings match your own, I hope you enjoyed my explanations and hopefully learned some of the cool things you can do with multiclassing.

Treat your friends to an evening of ritual murder – in a fictional RPG scenario, of course. Uncover your lost memories and escape a supernatural menace in our one-shot adventure, The Voyage.

Jump to Comments