Last time, we covered four of the seven druid subclasses. This week wraps up that list with the top three. As a reminder, there are three main categories I look 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 finish up the final three druid entries.
Continuing the theme of druid subclasses not quite living up to their potential, we have the Circle of Wildfire.
Level 2 – Circle Spells
Druid Level Circle Spells 2nd burning hands, cure wounds 3rd flaming sphere, scorching ray 5th plant growth, revivify 7th aura of life, fire shield 9th flame strike, mass cure wounds
The absence of Fireball is the most glaring spell list omission since Armorer artificers were robbed of Shield. Without Fireball, this list is full of subpar spells and options the druid already has access to. The Unearthed Arcana version of this subclass had Fireball, but it was dropped before the official release. A fire-based druid without the most iconic fire spell in the game is a crime, and I don’t think the spell’s inclusion on this list would have pushed this subclass into being overpowered.
Level 2 – Summon Wildfire Spirit
As an action, you can expend one use of your Wild Shape feature to summon your wildfire spirit, rather than assuming a beast form.
The spirit appears in an unoccupied space of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you. Each creature within 10 feet of the spirit (other than you) when it appears must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw against your spell save DC or take 2d6 fire damage.
The spirit is friendly to you and your companions and obeys your commands. See this creature’s game statistics in the Wildfire Spirit stat block, which uses your proficiency bonus (PB) in several places. You determine the spirit’s appearance. Some spirits take the form of a humanoid figure made of gnarled branches covered in flame, while others look like beasts wreathed in fire.
In combat, the spirit shares your initiative count, but it takes its turn immediately after yours. The only action it takes on its turn is the Dodge action, unless you take a bonus action on your turn to command it to take another action. That action can be one in its stat block or some other action. If you are incapacitated, the spirit can take any action of its choice, not just Dodge.
The spirit manifests for 1 hour, until it is reduced to 0 hit points, until you use this feature to summon the spirit again, or until you die.
While we might not have Fireball, at least there’s a cute fire spirit to keep us company. Since druids don’t have a bonus action damage outlet like the cleric’s Spiritual Weapon, this is a welcome source of additional damage. The spirit also has a short-range group teleport, allowing for more movement options both in and out of combat.
Level 6 – Enhanced Bond
Whenever you cast a spell that deals fire damage or restores hit points while your wildfire spirit is summoned, roll a d8, and you gain a bonus equal to the number rolled to one damage or healing roll of the spell.
In addition, when you cast a spell with a range other than self, the spell can originate from you or your wildfire spirit.
A decent boost to damage and healing spells similar to other subclasses I’ve covered already. The added ability to cast through our spirit is a nice, if minor, bonus.
Level 10 – Cauterizing Flames
When a Small or larger creature dies within 30 feet of you or your wildfire spirit, a harmless spectral flame springs forth in the dead creature’s space and flickers there for 1 minute. When a creature you can see enters that space, you can use your reaction to extinguish the spectral flame there and either heal the creature or deal fire damage to it. The healing or damage equals 2d10 + your Wisdom modifier.
You can use this reaction a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
I love the idea of little ghost fire landmines littering the battlefield as creatures die. Given how late this feature is received and the relatively low numbers involved, I think it would have been fine to remove the usage limit, but even with that limit, it’s a nice way to convert our reaction into healing or damage.
Level 14 – Blazing Revival
If the spirit is within 120 feet of you when you are reduced to 0 hit points and thereby fall unconscious, you can cause the spirit to drop to 0 hit points. You then regain half your hit points and immediately rise to your feet.
Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.
The requirement that your spirit be alive for this feature to function does add some unwanted uncertainty to an ability that you really want to work when it’s needed. Revival abilities are most likely to be used in fights where players are getting knocked unconscious, and in such a battle it’s very possible that your spirit will be dead before you are.
While no single Wildfire feature is a massive standout, taken together they provide the druid with efficient sources of damage and healing through normally unused bonus and reactions. Wildfire burns up in third place.
The Circle of Stars is a considerable step up in power compared to earlier entries on this list. The flexibility and strength granted to this subclass make for excellent damage and support options.
Level 2 – Star Map
You’ve created a star chart as part of your heavenly studies. It is a Tiny object and can serve as a spellcasting focus for your druid spells.
While holding this map, you have these benefits:
- You know the guidance cantrip.
- You have the guiding bolt spell prepared. It counts as a druid spell for you, and it doesn’t count against the number of spells you can have prepared.
- You can cast guiding bolt without expending a spell slot. You can do so a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
If you lose the map, you can perform a 1-hour ceremony to magically create a replacement. This ceremony can be performed during a short or long rest, and it destroys the previous map.
Guidance is one of the best cantrips in the game, so not having to take it as one of our two starting cantrips is very nice. Alongside this cantrip, we get Guiding Bolt, an excellent low-level damage spell normally restricted to clerics. Not only do Star druids add the spell to their list, but they also cast Guiding Bolt for free between two and six times per day. At level 2, this gives Star druids effectively five spell slots compared to the base number of three. While this feature does lose its power at later levels when Guiding Bolt is relatively weaker, its early and mid-game strength can’t be ignored.
Level 2 – Starry Form
As a bonus action, you can expend a use of your Wild Shape feature to take on a starry form, rather than transforming into a beast.
While in your starry form, you retain your game statistics, but your body becomes luminous; your joints glimmer like stars, and glowing lines connect them as on a star chart. This form sheds bright light in a 10-foot radius and dim light for an additional 10 feet. The form lasts for 10 minutes. It ends early if you dismiss it (no action required), are incapacitated, die, or use this feature again.
Whenever you assume your starry form, choose which of the following constellations glimmers on your body; your choice gives you certain benefits while in the form:
Archer. A constellation of an archer appears on you. When you activate this form, and as a bonus action on your subsequent turns while it lasts, you can make a ranged spell attack, hurling a luminous arrow that targets one creature within 60 feet of you. On a hit, the attack deals radiant damage equal to 1d8 + your Wisdom modifier.
Chalice. A constellation of a life-giving goblet appears on you. Whenever you cast a spell using a spell slot that restores hit points to a creature, you or another creature within 30 feet of you can regain hit points equal to 1d8 + your Wisdom modifier.
Dragon. A constellation of a wise dragon appears on you. When you make an Intelligence or a Wisdom check or a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration on a spell, you can treat a roll of 9 or lower on the d20 as a 10.
Another great ability, each option granted by Starry Form is powerful in its own way. At early levels, the damage generated by Archer gives a respectable damage option to the druid, similar to the Wildfire Spirit we covered earlier. For healing purposes, Chalice adds a chunk of extra healing per spell that is flexible in who it targets. Now instead of bringing one ally back with healing word, the Stars druid can revive two.
Finally we have Dragon, which becomes increasingly powerful as concentration spells increase in importance. With this option, the druid needs to take at least 22 damage before failing concentration checks is even possible.
Level 6 – Cosmic Omen
Whenever you finish a long rest, you can consult your Star Map for omens. When you do so, roll a die. Until you finish your next long rest, you gain access to a special reaction based on whether you rolled an even or an odd number on the die:
Weal (even). Whenever a creature you can see within 30 feet of you is about to make an attack roll, a saving throw, or an ability check, you can use your reaction to roll a d6 and add the number rolled to the total.
Woe (odd). Whenever a creature you can see within 30 feet of you is about to make an attack roll, a saving throw, or an ability check, you can use your reaction to roll a d6 and subtract the number rolled from the total.
You can use this reaction a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
Another great feature. You will find uses for these features regardless of which result you receive. Like I’ve mentioned with Bardic Inspiration, the best rolls in 5E to influence are saving throws, as they often mean the difference between powerful effects being applied or nothing happening. My one issue with this feature is the randomness, but thankfully there are only two options and they’re both great.
Level 10 – Twinkling Constellations
The constellations of your Starry Form improve. The 1d8 of the Archer and the Chalice becomes 2d8, and while the Dragon is active, you have a flying speed of 20 feet and can hover.
Moreover, at the start of each of your turns while in your Starry Form, you can change which constellation glimmers on your body.
The already great Starry Form becomes even better. At this point Dragon will probably be your go-to, as level-5 concentration spells are quite powerful, but no matter which form you pick you’ll feel the impact of this upgrade, and if you do wish to switch, you can do so every turn.
Level 14 – Full of Stars
While in your Starry Form, you become partially incorporeal, giving you resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
What this feature lacks in complexity it makes up for in strength. Resistance to the most common types of damage is always great, and I’m never mad about receiving it.
Circle of Stars is a great subclass and my recommendation for anyone looking to focus on the caster side of the druid class. No matter what role you take on, this subclass has second place written in the stars.
As good as stars are, we need to look a little closer to home for the best druid, the Circle of the Moon. Another subclass published in the Player’s Handbook, I’m sure most of you are aware of what makes Moon druids good: becoming a big ol’ bear.
Level 2 – Combat Wild Shape
You gain the ability to use Wild Shape on your turn as a bonus action, rather than as an action.
Additionally, while you are transformed by Wild Shape, you can use a bonus action to expend one spell slot to regain 1d8 hit points per level of the spell slot expended.
While newer druid subclasses allow for Wild Shape charges to be used in new ways, Moon druids get to do it faster and better. The ability to transform as a bonus action frees up the druid’s action to either attack in their new form or cast a spell prior to transforming. The ability to heal is very inefficient and something of a trap.
Level 2 – Circle Forms
The rites of your circle grant you the ability to transform into more dangerous animal forms. You can use your Wild Shape to transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as 1 (you ignore the Max. CR column of the Beast Shapes table, but must abide by the other limitations there).
Starting at 6th level, you can transform into a beast with a challenge rating as high as your druid level divided by 3, rounded down.
Circle of the Moon Beast Shapes Level Max. CR Limitations 2nd 1 No flying or swimming speed 4th 1 No flying speed 6th 2 No flying speed 8th 2 — 9th 3 — 12th 4 — 15th 5 — 18th 6 —
Alongside speed, this expanded table grants power. The ability to turn into a brown bear at level 2 makes Moon druids the undisputed monarchs of early-level play. This ability does lose much of its dominance at later levels as other classes come online, but its scale does ensure that it is always useful regardless of level. Even at its worst, the additional hit points granted by this feature makes the Moon druid a decent tank while they concentrate on a powerful spell.
While not technically a part of the subclass, the druid class capstone Archdruid upgrades this ability from good to incredible. Now, instead of becoming a mammoth twice per short rest, you can do so infinite times. I already mentioned this was good with the Spore druid, and it’s even better for Moon druids. Now you can set your hit points to 126 every round as a bonus action. As with any level-20 feature, I don’t weight this interaction too heavily, but it’s definitely something to look forward to for any high-level druid.
Level 6 – Primal Strike
Your attacks in beast form count as magical for the purpose of overcoming resistance and immunity to nonmagical attacks and damage.
An essential feature for any druid that plans to fight in beast form. This ability will only get better as you level up and resistance to nonmagical damage becomes more prevalent.
Level 10 – Elemental Wild Shape
You can expend two uses of Wild Shape at the same time to transform into an air elemental, an earth elemental, a fire elemental, or a water elemental.
When you get this feature at level 10, it’s a great alternative to beast forms, especially if your campaign has fewer encounters per day. However, as you gain access to stronger beasts, the elemental options and their lack of scaling become less appealing.
Level 14 – Thousand Forms
You can cast the alter self spell at will.
At-will 2nd-level spells aren’t really what I look for in a 14th-level ability. This is easily the weakest part of the subclass, and I just pretend Moon druid capstone is the 20th-level Archdruid feature.
Moon druids not only benefit the most from taking levels in their own class, but they also have some of the better multiclassing options. A 2-level dip into Moon druid plus 5 levels of barbarian results in an incredibly good early and mid-level build. Druid multiclassing options still aren’t great, but it’s a nice boost to an already great subclass.
That wraps up druids. Tune in next time as I look at fighter subclasses to see how many different ways Wizards of the Coast could flavor “I hit the thing.”
I have also created a tier list for those of you who are interested.
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