An elven woman guiding her elk.

Springmantle Cleric by Cristi Balanescu

Last time, we continued our journey through the cleric’s 14 subclasses. Now, we finish that journey. As a reminder, there are three main categories I am looking at as I judge the power level of each subclass: combat strength, allowance for a range of powerful builds, and how it interacts with multiclassing. So let’s wrap up the cleric with the final four.

4. Forge

An armored warrior with a bloody axe.
Anax, Hardened in the Forge by Eric Deschamps

The quintessential tanking domain, Forge clerics make excellent frontline characters. With a good spell list and features that can enhance either their own or another party member’s survivability, this domain is simple and solid.

Level 1 – Domain Spells

Cleric Level Spells
1st identifysearing smite
3rd heat metalmagic weapon
5th elemental weaponprotection from energy
7th fabricatewall of fire
9th animate objectscreation

With nine of the ten spells on this list normally unavailable to the cleric, the flexibility alone would be a nice addition to this subclass. When those nine spells include powerhouses like Heat Metal and Animate Objects, this feature goes from good to amazing.

Level 1 – Bonus Proficiencies

You gain proficiency with heavy armor and smith’s tools.

No cleric uses heavy armor better than Forge clerics. A thematic tool proficiency is nice, if not particularly useful.

Level 1 – Blessing of the Forge

At the end of a long rest, you can touch one nonmagical object that is a suit of armor or a simple or martial weapon. Until the end of your next long rest or until you die, the object becomes a magic item, granting a +1 bonus to AC if it’s armor or a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls if it’s a weapon.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

The ability to enchant a +1 weapon or armor piece at level 1 is a very nice thing to have. Like the artificer’s Infusions, Blessing of the Forge becomes less useful as the party acquires magical items, but while artificers are stuck with…being an artificer, the Forge cleric has plenty to offer even after this ability loses most of its usefulness.

Level 2 – Channel Divinity: Artisan’s Blessing

You conduct an hour-long ritual that crafts a nonmagical item that must include some metal: a simple or martial weapon, a suit of armor, ten pieces of ammunition, a set of tools, or another metal object (see chapter 5, “Equipment,” in the Player’s Handbook for examples of these items). The creation is completed at the end of the hour, coalescing in an unoccupied space of your choice on a surface within 5 feet of you.

The thing you create can be something that is worth no more than 100 gp. As part of this ritual, you must lay out metal, which can include coins, with a value equal to the creation. The metal irretrievably coalesces and transforms into the creation at the ritual’s end, magically forming even nonmetal parts of the creation. The ritual can create a duplicate of a nonmagical item that contains metal, such as a key, if you possess the original during the ritual.

Thank goodness for the new Tasha’s Channel Divinity option, because this ability is trash. The gold restriction severely limits what can be created. Even the example of copying a key isn’t particularly useful because you need to already have the key to do so.

Level 6 – Soul of the Forge

Your mastery of the forge grants you special abilities:

  • You gain resistance to fire damage.
  • While wearing heavy armor, you gain a +1 bonus to AC.

Resistance to a common damage type and free AC? Yes please.

Level 8 – Divine Strike or Blessed Strikes

Divine Strike. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 fire damage to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Blessed Strikes. When a creature takes damage from one of your cantrips or weapon attacks, you can also deal 1d8 radiant damage to that creature. Once you deal this damage, you can’t use this feature again until the start of your next turn.

Another case of the expanded options in Tasha’s giving this subclass a boost. Even in melee, Toll the Dead gives you more damage than a single weapon attack, making Blessed Strikes the better choice.

Level 17 – Saint of Forge and Fire

Your blessed affinity with fire and metal becomes more powerful:

  • You gain immunity to fire damage
  • While wearing heavy armor, you have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks.

A sweet name and a good ability. We now have fire immunity, and we gain resistance to one of the most common damage types in the game. Even high level monsters rarely have magical weapons, meaning this feature effectively doubles a Forge cleric’s health in many encounters.

I often recommend this subclass to newer players due its ease of use, and I’m glad it has power to match. Fourth place goes to the forge.

3. Peace

An armored woman staring out into the distance.
Tarzi, Beacon of Unity by Chris Rahn

Our second Tasha’s subclass makes its appearance, this time with the Peace domain. With a heavy emphasis on support, Peace clerics do a great job of supporting their allies and redistributing damage to keep the entire party on their feet.

Level 1 – Domain Spells

Cleric Level Spells
1st heroismsanctuary
3rd aidwarding bond
5th beacon of hopesending
7th aura of purityOtiluke’s resilient sphere
9th greater restorationRary’s telepathic bond

With only four non-cleric spells, I’ve seen better domain spell lists. The standouts here are Aura of Purity, a situational yet powerful spell normally limited to high level paladins, and Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere, which can be used as a strong defensive or control tool.

Level 1 – Implement of Peace

You gain proficiency in the InsightPerformance, or Persuasion skill (your choice).

More proficiencies are always nice. Insight is probably the best pick here as it uses the cleric’s traditionally high wisdom stat.

Level 1 – Emboldening Bond

As an action, you choose a number of willing creatures within 30 feet of you (this can include yourself) equal to your proficiency bonus. You create a magical bond among them for 10 minutes or until you use this feature again. While any bonded creature is within 30 feet of another, the creature can roll a d4 and add the number rolled to an attack roll, an ability check, or a saving throw it makes. Each creature can add the d4 no more than once per turn.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

This is the main feature of the Peace domain, and it is very good. At this early level, this effect is a weaker Bless spell without requiring concentration. Bless is one of the better early concentration spells available to the cleric, and it can be stacked with Emboldening Bond for up to 2d4 on any roll the bonded character makes. As we gain proficiency and levels in this subclass, Emboldening Bond will increase in power and the number of characters it can affect.

Level 2 – Channel Divinity: Balm of Peace

As an action, you can move up to your speed, without provoking opportunity attacks, and when you move within 5 feet of any other creature during this action, you can restore a number of hit points to that creature equal to 2d6 + your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1 hit point). A creature can receive this healing only once whenever you take this action.

Finally, Tabaxi clerics everywhere can rejoice.* In seriousness, this Channel Divinity falls into the category of “good early, bad later.” At low levels, being able to hand out 2d6+3 healing to most of, if not the entire, party is great. However, that amount will become almost meaningless at higher levels. Thankfully, the Tasha’s option for Channel Divinity is there for us once Balm of Peace stops being useful.

Level 6 – Protective Bond

When a creature affected by your Emboldening Bond feature is about to take damage, a second bonded creature within 30 feet of the first can use its reaction to teleport to an unoccupied space within 5 feet of the first creature. The second creature then takes all the damage instead.

This ability completely changes how a party’s survivability is calculated. Instead of looking at each character’s hit points individually, bonded characters can now pool their hit points, limited only by the number of reactions they have. Now the fighter and paladins can easily block hits intended for the squishy wizard. This feature gets even better if the party includes characters like a barbarian, as the resistance granted by rage is still applied to attacks taken with this ability.

Level 8 – Potent Spellcasting or Blessed Strikes

Potent Spellcasting. You add your Wisdom modifier to the damage you deal with any cleric cantrip.

Blessed Strikes. When a creature takes damage from one of your cantrips or weapon attacks, you can also deal 1d8 radiant damage to that creature. Once you deal this damage, you can’t use this feature again until the start of your next turn.

Cantrips are the way to go with this subclass, making Potent Spellcasting the right choice.

Level 17 – Expansive Bond

The benefits of your Emboldening Bond and Protective Bond features now work when the creatures are within 60 feet of each other. Moreover, when a creature uses Protective Bond to take someone else’s damage, the creature has resistance to that damage.

Now everyone in your party only takes half damage when taking hits for each other. This alone would be enough to make Expansive Bond a good capstone, but the increase in range from 30 to 60 feet is also a great boost. You will not be disappointed if you take a Peace cleric to 17th level.

What I love about the Peace cleric is how it starts with a central feature and builds on that ability as the subclass gains levels. It’s not the only subclass that does this, but it’s one of the only cleric domains to do so. Even though it’s not the strongest Tasha’s cleric, it’s definitely my favorite. Peace out in third place.

2. Life

A robed man with a staff and blue energy.
Hallowed Priest by Kim Sokol

Alongside the Peace domain we have the other healing support, the Life domain. Given that Life was designed significantly earlier than the Peace domain, its approach to support is a bit simpler: heal more than everyone else. Normally, healing spells in 5th Edition are pretty inefficient. They’re useful to get a downed party member back up during a fight, but not enough to fully heal anyone outside of very early levels.

As a monoclass, the Life cleric does a decent job of bringing healing magic fully into relevance, but it’s thanks to druid, ranger, and the Mark of Hospitality halfling that makes the Life domain one of the best subclasses in the game. But what do two classes and a halfling have in common?

Level 1 – Domain Spells

Cleric Level Spells
1st blesscure wounds
3rd lesser restorationspiritual weapon
5th beacon of hoperevivify
7th death wardguardian of faith
9th mass cure woundsraise dead

Before I spoil that surprise, let’s look at this admittedly uninteresting spell list. It’s not that these spells are bad, it’s just that all of them are already on the cleric’s spell list, and clerics can prepare so many spells that more options they could already pick aren’t particularly useful.

Level 1 – Bonus Proficiency

When you choose this domain at 1st level, you gain proficiency with heavy armor.

Heavy armor has been great with every cleric domain that received it, and that remains true here.

Level 1 – Disciple of Life

Whenever you use a spell of 1st level or higher to restore hit points to a creature, the creature regains additional hit points equal to 2 + the spell’s level.

But back to that question I posed earlier: druids, rangers, and Mark of Hospitality halflings all get access to a little spell called Goodberry. That spell combines with Disciple of Life for unrivaled amounts of healing.

Normally, this feature provides between 3 and 11 bonus healing to a spell the Life cleric casts, depending on the slot level. This is decent, but not unreasonable. However, Goodberry creates ten separate instances of healing. This means that a Life cleric’s 1st-level Goodberry spell heals 4 hit points per berry, netting 40 hit points for one 1st-level slot. This healing also increases as we upcast Goodberry; a 2nd-level Goodberry heals for 50 hit points, with each slot level increasing the total amount healed by 10 hit points.

In combat, this is pretty useless, as each Goodberry takes an action to eat, but out of combat your party will have almost unlimited healing. I’m personally playing a ranger that provides healing to a party of five, and she’s a half caster. This amount of healing is truly absurd and changes the way a party can operate during an adventure.

Level 2 – Channel Divinity: Preserve Life

As an action, you present your holy symbol and evoke healing energy that can restore a number of hit points equal to five times your cleric level. Choose any creatures within 30 feet of you, and divide those hit points among them. This feature can restore a creature to no more than half of its hit point maximum. You can’t use this feature on an undead or a construct.

Disciple of Life might be the best feature, but it’s not the only good one. Preserve Life is a solid way to use your Channel Divinity at any level. My main issue with this feature isn’t in its effectiveness, but in its complexity. I understand the balance reasons behind having both a total pool of hit points that can be healed and limiting the amount healed on any one target to half their hit points, but the result is overly complicated.

Level 6 – Blessed Healer

When you cast a spell of 1st level or higher that restores hit points to a creature other than you, you regain hit points equal to 2 + the spell’s level.

Now every time one of your spells  heal someone, you heal a similar amount. Sadly this doesn’t work with Goodberry as this feature triggers on “cast” instead of “use*” like the 1st level feature. This ability is easily the weakest in the subclass, providing only minor amounts of healing that feel better than they actually are.

Level 8 – Divine Strike or Blessed Strikes

Divine Strike. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 radiant damage to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Blessed Strikes. When a creature takes damage from one of your cantrips or weapon attacks, you can also deal 1d8 radiant damage to that creature. Once you deal this damage, you can’t use this feature again until the start of your next turn.

We love cantrips and cantrips love Blessed Strikes more than Divine Strike. Blessed it is.

Level 17 – Supreme Healing

When you would normally roll one or more dice to restore hit points with a spell, you instead use the highest number possible for each die. For example, instead of restoring 2d6 hit points to a creature, you restore 12.

Maximizing healing dice is another game-changing feature. It’s admittedly weaker at higher levels as many late-game healing spells heal flat amounts rather than with dice, but any lower level healing spells you cast will have their effects massively improved. Not only does this increase your healing output but your reliability as well, as you know for sure how much each spell you cast will heal.

Even without the Lifeberry combo, the Life domain would be one of the stronger cleric domains due to its durability and healing abilities, but factoring in that combination was what pushed Life to second place.

1. Twilight

An armored figure turning into shadow.
Twilight Prophet by Seb McKinnon

At last, as we have the third cleric subclass introduced in Tasha’s: the Twilight domain. I reviewed the Twilight cleric when it was Unearthed Arcana.* I thought it was a poorly designed, overpowered mess with very little connection to the fiction of a cleric that fights against the darkness. What Wizards released was just as poorly designed, but even more powerful. As a player looking for strong options, I love the Twilight domain. As a GM and designer, I think it is one of the worst oversights in 5E.

Level 1 – Domain Spells

Cleric Level Spells
1st faerie firesleep
3rd moonbeamsee invisibility
5th aura of vitalityLeomund’s tiny hut
7th aura of lifegreater invisibility
9th circle of powermislead

To start us off, we have the only domain spell list that has ten non-cleric spells on it. Not only does this list offer the largest number of new spells, but also many of those spells are powerhouses. Sleep is the best level 1 and 2 control spell,* Faerie Fire is good at all levels, Aura of Vitality allows for solid healing in and out of combat, and Greater Invisibility is one of the best buff spells in the game.

Level 1 – Bonus Proficiencies

You gain proficiency with martial weapons and heavy armor.

Heavy armor continues to be great, and if you do want to make a weapon cleric, then so is martial weapon proficiency.

Level 1 – Eyes of Night

You have darkvision out to a range of 300 feet. In that radius, you can see in dim light as if it were bright light and in darkness as if it were dim light.

As an action, you can magically share the darkvision of this feature with willing creatures you can see within 10 feet of you, up to a number of creatures equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of one creature). The shared darkvision lasts for 1 hour. Once you share it, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a spell slot of any level to share it again.

Generally the difference between the standard 60 foot and Twilight’s 300 foot darkvision won’t be noticed, but it’s always nice to have. The ability to share that vision with all the helpless variant humans is the stronger half of this ability. This is the worst feature Twilight clerics get, and it doesn’t get any worse than “fine.”

Level 1 – Vigilant Blessing

As an action, you give one creature you touch (including possibly yourself) advantage on the next initiative roll the creature makes. This benefit ends immediately after the roll or if you use this feature again.

Constant advantage on initiative to yourself or one of your party members is hugely valuable. Spellcasters are always looking to set up their buff spells early or drop a fireball on grouped enemies that haven’t moved yet, and subclasses like Assassin rogues get bonuses if they attack someone that hasn’t taken a turn yet. The fact that this feature has no limits on the number of times it can be used is great for the subclass, bad for game balance.

Level 2 – Channel Divinity: Twilight Sanctuary

As an action, you present your holy symbol, and a sphere of twilight emanates from you. The sphere is centered on you, has a 30-foot radius, and is filled with dim light. The sphere moves with you, and it lasts for 1 minute or until you are incapacitated or die. Whenever a creature (including you) ends its turn in the sphere, you can grant that creature one of these benefits:

  • You grant it temporary hit points equal to 1d6 plus your cleric level.
  • You end one effect on it causing it to be charmed or frightened.

This feature might be the single strongest ability in 5E. For one action, you get a non-concentration aura that hands out temporary hit points to your friends or ends two of the most debilitating conditions commonly inflicted by monsters. At early levels, a party standing in Twilight Sanctuary will come close to doubling their base health every turn. At later levels, monsters will be able to fight past these free hit points, but it will blunt swarm attacks and make spreading out attacks even more of a bad idea than it normally is.

The closest thing to a weakness this ability has is that it does require you to take more cleric levels to make it better, but clerics are great so I wouldn’t worry too much.

Level 6 – Steps of Night

As a bonus action when you are in dim light or darkness, you can magically give yourself a flying speed equal to your walking speed for 1 minute. You can use this bonus action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Sustained flight, even if it’s limited, is great to have at such an early level. Many encounters at this point in the game will simply be countered by this feature while the cleric expends very few resources to do so.

Level 8 – Divine Strike or Blessed Strikes

Divine Strike. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 radiant damage. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Blessed Strikes. When a creature takes damage from one of your cantrips or weapon attacks, you can also deal 1d8 radiant damage to that creature. Once you deal this damage, you can’t use this feature again until the start of your next turn.

If only Twilight clerics got Potent Spellcasting, then they’d have nothing to complain about. As I’ve said about other subclasses with this choice, generally cantrips are stronger on clerics than weapon attacks, so Blessed Strikes is usually the right choice.

Level 17 – Twilight Shroud

You and your allies have half cover while in the sphere created by your Twilight Sanctuary.

A simple +2 to AC and dexterity saves while in the Twilight cleric’s aura isn’t particularly flashy, but it is a solid bonus that will almost always be useful.

If I sound bitter talking about the Twilight cleric, it’s because I seriously question the design thought behind it. This subclass’s power wasn’t derived by some unexpected interaction or multiclass; it’s out in the open for anyone who has read the domain’s abilities to see. This subclass isn’t the best in an interesting way; it’s the best because it has higher numbers than anyone else, and it was a mistake when they released the domain in this state.

On that cheery note, we’re finally done with the cleric, so tune in next time for my thoughts on the worst of the druid subclasses.

I have also created a tier list for those of you that are interested.

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.

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