Roleplaying

D&D 5E Classes Ranked From Worst to Best

Five D&D adventurers standing together wielding swords, bows, and magic.
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.

13. Artificer

An artificer character wielding a potion and surrounded by magitech.

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.

12. Ranger

Drizzt fighting with two swords alongside is panther companion.

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.

11. Monk

A group of Sohei monks armed with arquebuses.

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.

10. Rogue

Art from the MTG card Stealth mission showing a woman with a glowing sword sneaking up on a humanoid monster. Stealth Mission by Heonhwa Choe

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.

9. Barbarian

Art from the MTG card Ursine Champion, a blonde woman with a huge axe. Ursine Champion by Alex Konstad

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.

8. Warlock

Art from the MTG card Shadowstorm Vizier, a woman with green armor wielding purple lighting. Shadowstorm Vizier by Yongjae Choi

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.

7. Fighter

Art from the MTG card Knight of the Reliquary, a woman wearing gold armor. Knight of the Reliquary by Michael Komarck

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.

6. Sorcerer

Art from the MTG card Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. A woman in red clothes surrounded by fire. Chandra, Acolyte of Flame by Anna Steinbauer

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.

5. Cleric

Art from Xanathar's Guide: a dark skinned woman with a flowing scroll.

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.

4. Paladin

Art from Silverblade Paladin, an armored man with a huge scythe. Silverblade Paladin by Jason Chan

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.

3. Bard

A bar brawl from the Yawning Portal tavern, showing a red haired woman punching a purple skinned humanoid.

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.

2. Druid

Art from the MTG card Devoted Druid, a woman with an antler helmet summoning magic. Devoted Druid by Kimonas Theodossiou

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.

1. Wizard

A skeletal mage summoning purple magic.

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.

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Comments

  1. Aloysius

    Did you take Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything into account when you wrote this? All of the classes received optional class features, and the Ranger in particular got an extensive overhaul.

    • George

      I’m just gonna leave a comment here, for when he answers..

      • Ari Ashkenazi

        This was written before Tasha’s was published, however I don’t think anything it would change my rankings by much. Ranger is better but still bad, as Wizard’s refusal to fully rework the class has left it with features that don’t properly work together because they weren’t designed with each other in mind.

        The one class ranking I might have changed given what was released in Tasha’s would be the cleric. Twilight and Peace are both very strong subclasses, especially Twilight. I’d need to give it more thought, but cleric might be number 2 or 3 with the buffs it received.

  2. Space Dingus

    Artificer isn’t bad just because it doesn’t have high damage output and it’s not a full caster. People don’t have experience with it. And to put bard that high when singing its praises for versatility, but then put artificer, another extremely versatile class dead bottom after judging it for damage output, spell list, and ‘support potential’ is inconsistent.

    It seems that you favor full casters and elevating a class based on the strength of one top-tier subclass it has available. Case in point: druid.

    Rogues and barbarians are powerhouses. I don’t understand a lot of these judgments.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      The bard is good because it backs up its versatility with power. Artificers don’t do this. The bard can top damage charts while still doing all the traditional bard support stuff, where the artificer is stuck in the roll of “give all my toys to the effective characters” if they want to be fully contributing to the party.

      Full casters have always been the strongest option in 5e and 3.5 before it. I don’t like it, but that’s how it is and my rankings reflect that reality.

      I ranked classes based on their strongest options because there is an almost infinite number of sub-optimal ways to build every class, so I have to use optimal builds as a baseline.

      There are no unplayable classes in 5e, even the monk can outshine the wizard from time to time, that doesn’t mean the monk is a stronger class. Monoclassed barbs and rogues have a hard time staying effective compared to stronger options over the long term. Doesn’t mean they’re bad, just not as good as other options overall.

      • Apple

        100% agree with the the artificer part. I’m currently playing one and I hate it. I feel useless. My spell list is terrible, I have all of my infusions on other ppls gear and I have a dumb dog that I have to remake after almost every battle bc it’s so weak. I’ve had to take levels in wizard to get any useful spells and abilities. Not to mention, tool proficiencies are useless. There is no crafting system, so the only tools ever used is thieves tools. “Yeah, I have expertise in all my tools, too bad I never use them.”

        • Ari Ashkenazi

          The artificer who’s playing in my Thursday game has some similar issues. He had the bad fortune to pick alchemist, which is the weakest subclass as far as I can tell. We’re level 14 and the barb and my homebrew ranger are dealing 70-80 per round and he’s barely cracking 30.

          • Apple

            As soon as my party members find magic weapons and armor of their own, my buffs to their stuff is over. So, my enchanting is useless, my damage is terrible, my healing is bad, and so what if I can get my AC high? Eventually ac doesn’t matter.

          • Ari Ashkenazi

            Yeah pillow fisted d8 hit dice tanks aren’t the most useful unfortunately. I’d talk to the GM about getting some unique magic stuff to help let you shine. I’m currently designing stuff for my groups artificer so he can at least keep up with our stronger characters.

    • Jack

      I agree, rogues can deal disgustingly high damage with sneak attack, barbarians can shrug off almost any hit, and artificers can have up to 26 AC with the right infusions.

      • Ari Ashkenazi

        Monoclassed rogues suffer from a lack of good defensive options that more powerful classes pair with the ability to deal good damage. Barbs fall off very hard post level 5 and HP tanking is weaker than High AC/Save tanking, as even the largest healthpool gets whittled down while AC/Save tanks avoid damage entirely.

        Any defense brought by the artificer isn’t particularly useful as the class does very little damage. A class needs both for me to consider it good.

        • WrabbitW

          I disagree a bit, rogue has two of the better defensive features of the game, namely uncanny dodge and evasion. And I think they are designed to get sneak attack almost each turn putting them on the same level of damage as many other classes.

          On the other hand the character I have seen dealing more damage consistently was an half orc zealot barbarian with great weapon master and a great axe. The crits are just insane and it is REALLY hard to put him unconscious without magic!

          • Ari Ashkenazi

            The problems mono-classed rogues have is that just doing sneak attack damage once per round isn’t enough to keep up, and if they want to achieve the twice per round activation that lets them deal good damage they open themselves up to being attacked. Evasion is a powerful yet narrow ability and Uncanny Dodge is very bad against multiple attacks, the way most monsters deal large amounts of damage. This couple with rogues generally meh AC means that they crumple under sustained attack.

            As for barbs, yeah they’re not bad using Great Weapon Master, especially combined with Polearm Master. Unfortunately the class doesn’t get much past level 5. You’re right that Zealot barbs can be very difficult to take down at high levels without magic, but being weak to magic is a pretty huge weakness.

            I don’t think rogues or barbs are awful, they just aren’t as good as most other options when viewed holistically.

  3. Victor

    Plz, do the multiclasse list!

  4. Backcountry164

    When was this first written?? Tasha’s may not have made massive changes but it certainly should be taken into account. For example the Monk is easily the worst class now. Every other class got better while the Monk just became more irrelevant. Rhe Monk needed the most love and they basically got none. They got more uses for their Ki but running out of Ki was already a major problem. The new Unarmed Fighting style gives unarmed fighters d8 damage at level 1, the Monk can’t match that until level 11! Unarmed fighting is kinda their thing and they aren’t the best option for that. The Monk is practically a ribbon class at this point.

    • Moustache

      I agree about the monks statement. They kinda just fell behind the rest of the group, and they aren’t getting the buffs or changes they need.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      This was written prior to Tasha’s. I simply don’t have the time to go back and update the articles written prior to its release. Monk, ranger, and artificer all orbit the same very low power level and I don’t think any of them gained much in the new book. I agree that the monk needs help and sadly they nerfed the astral self subclass so it has the exact same problem all the other monk subclasses have.

  5. Chris Britton

    The deadlocked is mentioned as the first caster on the list. The author is evidently unaware that ALL the classes on the list before warlock can have spell ability through innate features or subclasses. Artificer.. Spells, ranger, spells, monk – 2 sub classes can cast with ki points, rogue, arcane stricter hello?, even the barbarian via totem warrior can cast spells.

    Thus the comment that the warlock is the first spell caster on the list is at least, poorly worded.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Apologies, should have said full caster, I’ll see if I can fix the wording

  6. Thosar

    Dude, even before Tasha’s, the artificer was a good class, and with Tasha’s it is excellent. Tool expertise with any tool with which you’re proficient, so you’re good at a fair number of things with little effort. Flash of genius to almost guarantee a save when you need it, yours or an ally’s. Int to attack and damage with battlesmith, and with Tasha’s armorer (so good), so you’re not suffering MAD trying to cast and be in combat. Armorer is such a good tank, especially when you haste yourself. Con as a proficient save, so your buffs tend to stick around. At level 10 I’m running a 23 AC, 25 with haste, +10 attack, 1d8+5 thunder damage (ok, not the greatest damage, but I rarely miss, not many things have thunder resistance, and I’m the tank), and imposing disadvantage on two opponents’ attack rolls against my allies (three if I’m hasted). Plus 10 temp hp as a bonus action, 4 times a day, cure spells, and mirror image. I keep my allies safe(ish) and can go toe to toe all night long, doling out consistent damage.

    • Thosar

      Sorry, +11 to attack and 1d8+7 damage.

      • Ari Ashkenazi

        I’m glad that build is working for you, and nothing I say here is trying to prove the artificer is unplayable, just that numerically speaking it is weaker overall than other options.

        I didn’t have time to discuss it in this article, but the artificer also loses points for having benefited from years of designer experience and feedback and still come out very weak.

        • Tristan Bryan

          I feel like the artificer is more an RP class that requires you to work with your DM a lot to see what crazy things they will let you build to use in combat or for other reasons. But in terms of power level I can totally see them being at the bottom.

      • Oren Ashkenazi

        Editor’s note: I’ve removed a comment for breaking our rules on personal attacks. Disagreeing with our content is fine, claiming that our writers simply haven’t done their research is not.

  7. Gwen

    I think this list is mostly based on having less than the recommended number of encounters per long rest. I’ve found, when wizards cannot pile all their spells at once, they become a much weaker class as a whole. All spell-casters do. Melee classes keep putting out consistent medium damage and the spell casters always eventually run out of spells but have a few big ones they can throw around. That is how the game is designed, easier fights with less of a marathon emphasis aren’t a fair comparison because the natural flaws built into a class are suddenly absent.

    When dnd is about resource management, much like how the game was designed, the classes are much more overall even with each other. But if there are only a few fights between rests than of course the spellcasters are coming out ahead and the whole thing gets unbalanced.

    Monks are still pretty bad though.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      You’re right that casters benefit from fewer encounters. However even expanding encounters per day to 8 4-round encounters with 1 short rest casters still win. You just need to be efficient and choose spells that grant benefits over multiple rounds if 32 rounds of combat per day is the type of game your playing.

      • Gwen

        I would argue 4 rounds of combat is rarely the norm for anything but the easiest fights. But regardless, it definitely changes everything about how they are played and their utility, even the need to ration them out changes how useful they are and brings them much closer to the martial classes/half casters and warlocks.

        • Ari Ashkenazi

          Fewer, longer fights actually favor casters more, as some of the best spells are 1-10 minute concentration. Regardless my research has turned up almost no groups that actually conduct the recommended number of encounters, because few have the time or the want to slog through 12 hour dnd sessions. This is a major issue with 5e’s design as its assumption on session content doesn’t line up with how players are interacting with it.

          If you are in a campaign that loves 32-50 rounds of combat per long rest, full casters still come out on top, you just need to understand the pace of play and build yourself accordingly. Fewer fireballs and more polymorphs will stretch a caster’s resources much further than most people think.

          • Gwen

            I mean long, and fairly common fights. I agree that many don’t play that way, but many also do and that’s why they enjoy the game. It’s for the players who desire a razor edge balance for a hard and meaty fight the rules were designed. You need a better balance when playing that way and particular concepts aren’t as necessary when players choose to make a game easier by making it more fun.

            I also prefer to play video games on easy mode, but I recognize I am unbalancing the game mechanics in my favor and also understand certain character choices might benefit from the unbalancing more than others. There is not a “wrong” way to play DnD and I’ve met too many players who are all about the combat to dismiss that they need more rules and better balancing for what they desire to play than I do. I can assure you, they exist.

            As far as spellcasters, you are correct, but only if you count the higher levels. Like most previous editions, Spellcasters are less effective at early levels and Melee are less effective at later levels. That’s been true of most editions where the achievement of getting a weaker character to a high level pays off better. If you are leveling in order, surviving 30 rounds of combat with 7 spells, most of them 1st level is part of the achievement of being a powerhouse later. Overall, they are fairly balanced…except the monk, which is terrible.

          • Ari Ashkenazi

            There are theoretical combinations of encounter type and length that more heavily favor martial builds, but I can come up with encounters that favor any type of build, regardless of its general strength. The best I can do is account for a best fit encounter spread, and casters always come out on top.

            This isn’t just at early levels either. The moon druid demolishes any martial class at levels 2-4 with its bear form and early levels are where normal martial attacks are closest to d10 cantrips, meaning even when they’re out of spells casters aren’t far behind in round-to-round damage.

            agree that levels 1-5 are where martial builds are most likely to contribute more to fights than casters, but that’s a small portion of the game and I can’t just rank class strengths based on that small range of levels.

  8. Kit

    Have you looked at the Zealot Barbarian subclass? I’d argue it’s worth as much consideration as the Circle of Moon subclass for Druids. Some of its abilities include being able to give the party a full round of advantage – very clutch if you’ve got a rogue in the party, extra radiant or necrotic damage that scales as it levels, it can reroll saving throws similar to the Fighter’s ability, it’s incredibly cheap to revive, making it hard to permanently kill AND on top of that, at only level 14, whilst raging it’s basically unkillable. Take one extra level as a barbarian up to 15, where your rages don’t stop, and you have 10 rounds where you can be knocked down to 0 hp, fail all 3 death saving throws, and still keep fighting until the enemy is downed, and then if there’s a healer in the party, they can just expend a spell slot to revive you and you’re back up again. Not to mention the Barbarian’s ability with Relentless Rage to bounce back from death with saves they’re proficient in, their general inability to be surprised and increased movement, allowing for more tactical maneuvering on the battlefield. All this allows them to take incredible levels of damage and protect the weaker members of the party, whilst steal dealing incredible levels of damage and becoming VERY hard to kill past level 10.

    If you’re basing the Druid mostly on one sub class being strong enough to make it 2nd place, I’d argue the Zealot subclass for Barbarians does the exact same.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Zealot barbarian is a very cool subclass that is awesome if you start the game at level 14, but is pretty meh before that. If I could combine Bear Totem’s early features with Zealot’s late game abilities I think I would rank barbarian higher. Unfortunately, zealots damage is not nearly as good as bear totem’s survivability, I’d rather never need a rez than be rezzed for free.

      Druid is a good caster at all levels made great by moon’s features filling in the cracks, barb just doesn’t have that.

  9. Oren Ashkenazi

    Editor’s note: accusing someone of not actually playing D&D is against our comments policy. Any comments that do it will be removed.

  10. Nowan

    This falls a bit out of the scope of the post, but the big weakness I see in Monks is that they absolutely CANNOT be multiclassed.
    Most other classes can take a multiclass dip for covering some of their obvious weaknesses, such as armor proficiencies for more ac, a fighting style for more dpr or even some spells for variety.
    The Monk, whoever, is hardwired to not be able to benefit from any of that. Their core feature (Martial Arts) NEEDS you to play according a very strict set of rules:
    – You cannot wear any armor, ever
    – You need to use your bonus action every turn
    – You need to attack with mediocre weapons (1d8 damage die, maximum)
    – A lot of things rely on your Unarmed Strikes, which are not Melee Weapons* and therefore cannot trigger abilities like Sneak Attack, smites or Dueling Fighting Style, all of which would up your dpr considerably.
    (*An Unarmed Strike attack is a “melee weapon attack”, but not “an attack with a melee weapon”. This sort of wording is one more reason why playing Monk sucks)

    On top of that, Monk is probably the MADdest class in the game, requiring good scores in Dex, Wis and Con to be minimally effective, has very few magical items useful for them (Insignia of Claws, as mentioned in the post, and Eldritch Claw Tattoo now in Tasha’s).

    Which is not, of course, to say Monks and multiclassed Monks are a bad idea. I play a terrible Monk/Bard multiclass and I love her dearly, despite having to deal with terrible Bonus Action clutter from time to time.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      You are 100% correct that monk suffers from a ton of issues that limit its options. 5e has a design issue where classes that have a unique type of weapon (martial arts) aren’t supported properly so they’re left massively behind the options everyone else is taking.

      Monks also shouldn’t have 2 stat requirements for multiclassing, it’s very silly that 2 of the weakest classes (ranger/monk) have more restrictive multiclassing than the best classes in the game.

  11. Bob Bobberson

    This list is so completely wrong in my opinion. Yes, wizards are very good, but putting DRUIDS at second of all classes? i would swap sorcerer with druid, move ranger to at least 5th, fighter and rouge up, and warlock down. (Warlocks can only truly cast up to 5th level spells and are not very strong with weapons) and move barbarian up now that they have come out with path of wild magic.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Druids, specifically moon druids, are great at all levels of play. Sorcerers, while still good, are too narrow in their abilities to compete with the very best classes in the game.

      Ranger is still one of the worst classes in the game. It got better with Tasha’s but so did most other classes, meaning their relative strength stays similar.

      Monoclass fighters are solid enough they beat out monoclassed rogue, warlock, and barbarians. Path of Wild Magic is worse than Zealot and Bear Totem so that does nothing to change the classes’ power.

  12. BriKar

    Warlock’s Hexblade subclass easily moves Warlock up a few notches. Medium armor proficiency, and the thirsty blade evocation combined with pact of the blade puts them on the front lines of combat. Add eldritch smite, and they are almost like a paladin with better spells.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      While I agree that Hexblade’s early features are quite good, as with the warlock class in general its late game abilities are sub-par. There’s a reason warlock is so often a dip but almost never a main class pick in optimized builds.

  13. tony

    I don’t understand your comment about the errata and raptors in your druid entry. What did they change?

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Wizards has errated the conjure spells to have the GM choose what comes out when you cast them.

  14. Joshua Nathan Ashby

    Rogue’s do have problems making attacks, but their skill set is unsurpassed by all but the bard. And, when they do hit, it is like instant murder. Their sneak attack is very high at high levels, and they can use it most every turn if used correctly.
    Barbarians are lacking in a few traits at high levels, but so do many other classes. Also, it doesn’t matter because their attack and health is so high that they stay in the battle very long and do a ton of damage doing it.
    Warlocks don’t have many spell slots, but regain ALL of them from a short rest, which means they can cast their higher spells about twice as much as other classes.
    Sorcerers aren’t only good because of one subclass. Their sorcery points can be spent to give them more spell slots than any other class, or can me used in metamagic to improve their spells in different ways.
    Clerics do make an amazing helper class, but their attack isn’t actually that powerful. They have less damaging spells and they only use simple weapons (unless you choose the right subclass).
    Bards should not be that high on the list. Yes, they get some useful spells and features, but they’re damage output is seriously limited. Also, their healing power is worse than the cleric, making them more limited.
    And last of all, the wizard. The wizard does gain an amazing amount of spells, but has about the worst survival rate of any other class, which means they’ll be put out of a fight before being able to use most of their spells.

  15. Joshua Nathan Ashby

    Actually, druids (especially the ones with the circle of the moon) are pretty powerful because of their wild shape. It gives them the ability to transform to an animal, and once that animal is reduced to 0 hp, they revert back and just as strong as before, and then can turn into an animal again, making it very difficult to actually deal any real damage to them.

  16. Joshua Nathan Ashby

    You said that everything the Ranger does everything else does better. But the actual main idea of the ranger is their TRACKING ABILITIES. They can track down certain creatures better, and have several benefits to traveling within their preferred enviornments. Also, just because the beast master subclass is terrible, doesn’t mean that they are. They have several other good subclasses such as the Hunter, which greatly improves their fighting abilities. Also, some in the Xanathar’s Guide even give them a better spell list, which improves their spellcasting deficiency.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      D&D is a primarily combat based game, making non-combat abilities weaker overall. Situational non-combat abilities like the ranger’s tracking are even weaker.

      The other ranger subclasses don’t do enough to make the class an overall strong pick in my mind.

  17. Matt

    Really confused on this ranking. Is this tier 1 play only? It is fairly common knowledge (at least among the “optimizer” circuit) that Artificers are top tier, along with bards and wizards.

    The common idea would be something like:

    Bard – Artificer – Wizard
    Cleric – Druid – Warlock – Paladin
    Sorcerer – Fighter – Rogue – Ranger – Barbarian
    Monk

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      This list covers all levels of play.

      What about artificers makes them such a highly regarded class?

      • Matt

        Its that artificers have pretty good subclasses and scale very well in the late game as well as providing perfect MC for wizards or int based fighters.

        All artificers are half casters with a prepared list and ritual casting that includes both divine and arcane spells. This lets them either fill gaps in almost any party composition. Also, given their lack of needing to concentrate on core class features (cough ranger) they can often be the one to lay out scalable battlefield control or buff spells and you are not eating the co centration of a wizard bard or cleric to do so.

        They get a huge defensive buff to saving throws that acts similiar to an emergency Paladin (more paladin comparisons soon).

        On top of this no one else vets to attune more than 3 items. Maybe items are stingy in your games but if items get awarded via the DMG tables this is a huge boon.

        At 11th they suddenly vault far ahead of other casters thanks to the spell storing item. 10 extra 1st or 2nd level spells, that anyone in the party can use including a familiar, homonculus, or steel defender is very good. Imagine a steel defender using shield of faith on a small race artificer with mounted combat.

        This is on top of the easy access to any magical items the party may need to help anyone come online. Mind sharpener alone is worth a feat or 2, and can be handed out to druids, wizards, etc without care. Heck you can make multiples. Want to do a silly grapple build? Great you never fail with strength armor and access to enlarge 10+ times a day.

        Looking at the subclasses we will ignore alchemist because it is not very good.

        Artillerist is alright. Getting extra scaling damage on a bonus action that can also be an aoe or have control effects is great, adding extra damage to offensive spells is ok. The real star is the temp HP. Everyone is up in arms about the twillight cleric yet its been here the whole time.

        Battlesmith is one of the 2 best subclasses. Here we have an arcane oriented gish that compares with the paladin. Instead of smites we have consistant damage output via the defender and more spells. We get a psuedo ranged smite or heal at later levels and can effectively conectrate on 2 spells at once thanks to the ring. Access to shield and smite spells especially with the ring and defenders deflect attack is even sillier. The defender also incurs almost no real cost or time to keep up unlike many other pets or summons. On top of this the Battlesmith is SAD and can output damage similiar to all non fighter martials thanks to magic weapons. Grabbing a throwing fighting and or dueling fighting style and you end up throwing javelins at d6+10 2 or 3 times a round is not bad for a half caster that can trivially add smite spells.

        Armorers are also SAD and end up being very disruptive tanks. Thunder gauntlets with booming blade and boots of the winding path/misty step are very obvoxious. Add another party member with sentinel or a barbarian (esp ancestral guardian) and the enemies have no good options on who to attack. Being able to switch to a ranged role is also very handy and multiclasses well (imagine a light armor wearing armorer/bladesinger). On top of this the sheer number of attuned items you can have is pure nonsense.

        • Ari Ashkenazi

          Thanks for taking the time to write this out, you put a lot out here and I’ll try to cover it all, apologies if I miss something.

          Taking a look at the artificer’s spell list we have a few decent combat concentration spells:
          Faerie Fire, Blur, Enlarge/Reduce, Heat Metal, Haste, Hypnotic Pattern, Greater Invisibility, Animate Objects, Wall of Force.

          I’d say the standouts here are Haste and Hypnotic, as they are both powerful and picked up early enough that they’re not competing with very high level class features/spells. Unfortunately, Hypnotic Pattern is limited to the Armorer, and as much as I like Haste it can’t prop up an entire spell list if that’s supposed to be a big strength of the class. Ritual casting is nice, but the artificer only gets 8 ritual spells in total, limiting the feature’s usefulness. Most parties will have access to enough casting power that the artificer will be completely outclassed.

          There is a huge difference between a constant aura buff to everyone’s saves and a single buff that costs a reaction and has limited uses acquired a level later. Flash of genius is to the Aura of Protection is what Defensive Duelist is to the Shield spell.

          Given the huge number of magical items in the game I avoid assuming any specific item will be available when discussing the game. The artificer is actually relatively weaker the more magical items are handed out by the GM, as their ability to create their own becomes less needed. I would be most excited to have an artificer in my party in a setting where the party wouldn’t be able to get any magical items. As for an increased number of attunement slots, yes this can be quite good, but 3 slots is more than enough for the vast majority of builds, and the artificer’s overall numerical weakness means it needs to use these slots to play catchup with other classes.

          I agree that the artificer can now have more total spell casts than other casters, but I question the quality of those casts. Unfortunately you cannot use Shield of Faith with this feature, as it requires a spell with a casting time of 1 action, while SoF takes 1 bonus action.

          Looking at the spells available for this feature I’d say that Faerie Fire, Enlarge/Reduce, Heat Metal, or Pyrotechnics would be the best options. If this feature came around at level 7 or earlier I’d be much more excited about its power, but getting a limited selection of 1st or 2nd level spells all the way at level 11 just isn’t enough for me.

          I definitely agree that the Infusions are the best part of the artificer, but as I’ve mentioned in other discussions on the class, when your strongest feature is best given away to actually strong characters it lowers my estimation of the class. Good supports should be doing strong things alongside that support, and the artificer has a hard time doing that.

          Glad we can agree on that at least =P.

          Artillerist is alright. Getting extra scaling damage on a bonus action that can also be an aoe or have control effects is great, adding extra damage to offensive spells is ok. The real star is the temp HP. Everyone is up in arms about the twillight cleric yet its been here the whole time.

          Artillerist is the 2nd best subclass in my estimation, and I agree the temp HP is the best part of it. Unfortunately, more and more features are granting temp HP these days, and the artificer’s source caps at the fairly low value of 9.5. It’s not bad but compared to something like the Twilight cleric’s action free capped average of 23.5 there’s no comparison. It’s extra annoying to me that the Artillerist’s temp HP is the version of its cannon that doesn’t scale.

          I think that the Battlesmith is the best of the artificer subclasses for many of the reasons you’ve listed here. However it doesn’t even come close to the paladin. Optimized builds are making extra attacks with their bonus action, and with two-handed weapons or something like the Oathbreaker’s Aura of Hate that extra attack is dealing way more than the Steel Defender. The paladin gets a mount that can also deal decent damage. Holy Smite is so much better than the smite spells, as it takes no action and no concentration. If you’d like to compare actual builds shoot me a Battlesmith and we can compare it to a paladin I come up with.

          I think the Armorer is not resilient enough to be the tank many people want it to be. Yes it can attain a decent AC, but its low HP and relatively weak saves means that it will crumple under focused attacks from mixed sources. However if you have a specific build you’d like to send me I’d love to compare it to other tanking options.

          Overall I think the artificer could be swapped around with the ranger or the monk on this list. I think all 3 classes are pretty weak compared to other options. I personally hold the artificer to a bit of a higher standard as Wizards had years of time to get better at designing classes and what they came up with was a pretty meh addition to the game.

  18. Deebus the Bard

    This is probably one of the better class rankings I’ve found, at least one of the ones I think lines up with my beliefs for the better classes and worse classes. The one major oof of this is that you put the artificer last. That must have been an accident, because the artificer has the best low tier playability. Which other class will allow players to get access to plate armor at level 2? NONE. Which other has the capability to permanently give a ranged weapon the abilities of the 5th level ranger spell swift quiver at level 2? NONE. Which other class can have an ac of 34 with only a multiclass, warforged race, and magic initiate at level 11? NONE. Artificers are literally the best supports(excluding bard), and the best tanks in the game. Really sucks that you put it at last place. artificers are at least top 5 for me.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      I’m glad you liked most of it at least =P.

      As for the artificer, are you referring to using the Replicate Magic Item infusion to make a plate variant of a common magical armor such as Armor of Gleaming? The infusion process requires a non-magical item to work, so unless you have a non-magical set of plate I believe this is a no-go. If you’re referring to some other method please let me know.

      As for emulating Swift Quiver, are you referring to the Repeating Shot infusion? If so nothing in that infusion allows for extra attacks like the Swift Quiver spell.

      As for the 34 AC, how did you reach this number? I’m not saying it’s impossible just that there are so many sources of AC that I’m interested in which you used.

      As for tanking, high AC is only part of being good in that role. Lots of builds can reach mid 20s to low 30s for limited amounts of time, especially with magical items. However, saves and damage output are also extremely important. For classes like the artificer with d8 hit dice damage and control spells can be a major issue, as they bypass the classes’ AC.

      More importantly, a good tank should force monsters to pay attention to it. A pillow fisted character with 30 AC would simply be ignored by enemies with any level of tactics. The easiest way to do this is to be a good source of damage. I have yet to see an artificer build that accomplishes this.

      I do hold the artificer to a higher standard than other weak classes like the monk or ranger because Wizards had years of learning to draw upon when they created this class and they still failed to make a powerful addition to the game.

      If I were to change this list to reflect which classes I’d like to have in my party, the artificer would rank higher, but that would only be so they could use their best feature to give me magic items to make my stronger character more effective.

  19. BLAKE 1001

    Every once in a while I come back and take a look at 5e and see not much has changed.

    My initial impression was that, when “balancing” classes, MM &co must have expected very long days and placed a high value on grinding DPR and on relatively small differences in durrability.

    I think I was off, and that balancing classes was just a very low priority, with evoking the classic game much closer to the top – and the classic game did assume very, very long dungeon-crawl scenarios in which spells would have to be reserved for only the most critical occassions and damage-grinding by fighting men, henchmen & hirelings would get the party through most combat encounters (with outright avoiding or nullifying combat encounters being a solid strategy, as well).

    But the initial impression seems to hold in your ranking, too, or the Fighter wouldn’t be ahead of the Warlock, for instance, nor the Paladin rated quite so high. Or am I wrong again? (Don’t worry, I’m used to it!) How important is the ability to grind out baseline damage round after round – which incldes staying up & fighting round after round? How long a day do you assume? 6-8 medium-hard encounters with 2-3 short rests among them?

    And thanks for the article!

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      I’m glad you liked the article, it was fun to write =).

      As for balancing for encounter numbers I am 100% with you that 5e assumes way more encounter than most tables actually have. I made an entire custom system for my games to have those minor encounters without turning the game into day-long slogs.

      I put fighter above the warlock simply because I think it’s a better monoclass overall. I rated the paladin so highly because it’s a fantastic well rounded class. If your table has more encounters per day you can make very efficient paladin builds that can still crank out very high damage outputs while spending very few resources.

      The importance of resource efficient playstyles varies wildly between tables. I don’t state it explicitly here, but for my builds I now assume 8 4-round encounters a day with 1 short rest at some point. I personally don’t think that type of adventuring day is very likely to happen, but it’s the standard used by the optimizing community I joined so for now it’s the one I use.

      Almost every class in 5e has resources that need to be managed if you want them to stay effective so my assumption of longer adventuring days didn’t play a major roll in my rankings.

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