A paladin riding a strange creature.

Lightwielder Paladin by D. Alexander Gregory

Last time, I wrapped up my monk subclass rankings. Now, it’s time for the paladin. As a reminder, there are three main categories I’m 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. Since the paladin has nine subclasses, this is a two-part post, starting with the bottom five.

Paladin Multiclassing

Before we start, I want to cover one multiclass option that is relevant to every paladin: the Hexblade warlock. Allowing paladins to use charisma as their combat stat takes an already good class and makes it great. Almost every paladin is improved by 1-3 levels of Hexblade, so I won’t be mentioning that multiclass unless the subclass I’m covering benefits from the dip more than the average paladin would.

Paladins are also unique in that their subclass capstones are received at level 20. This extremely small window of play reduces their impact in assessing a subclass’s strength more so than any other class. This is compounded by the prevalence of multiclassing, meaning that many paladin builds will never see these abilities even if they are played to level 20.

9. Devotion

An armored woman with two glowing axes.
Twinblade Paladin by Jana Schirmer

One of the original paladin subclasses, the Oath of Devotion fills the role of the goody two-shoes stereotype many think of when imagining this class.

Level 3 – Oath Spells

Older subclasses will always be at a disadvantage when it comes to subclass spell lists, as they can’t include spells that didn’t exist when they were printed. Sadly, this spell list isn’t great even by the standards of other Player’s Handbook subclasses.

The best spell on here is Dispel Magic, with decent options like Protection From Evil and Good and Beacon of Hope. Unfortunately, even these stronger entries are reactive or situational. From that relative high point, the offerings become even more situation-dependent, like Freedom of Movement or, just plain bad, like Flame Strike. Most Devotion paladins will be better off ignoring this list in favor of the standard paladin options.

Level 3 – Channel Divinity

When you use your Channel Divinity, you choose which option to use. You must then finish a short or long rest to use your Channel Divinity again.

Some Channel Divinity effects require saving throws. When you use such an effect from this class, the DC equals your paladin spell save DC.

Sacred Weapon. As an action, you can imbue one weapon that you are holding with positive energy, using your Channel Divinity. For 1 minute, you add your Charisma modifier to attack rolls made with that weapon (with a minimum bonus of +1). The weapon also emits bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light 20 feet beyond that. If the weapon is not already magical, it becomes magical for the duration. You can end this effect on your turn as part of any other action. If you are no longer holding or carrying this weapon, or if you fall unconscious, this effect ends.

Turn the Unholy. As an action, you present your holy symbol and speak a prayer censuring fiends and undead, using your Channel Divinity. Each fiend or undead that can see or hear you within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails its saving throw, it is turned for 1 minute or until it takes damage.

A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can’t willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you. It also can’t take reactions. For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that prevents it from moving. If there’s nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action.

If you have an action prior to combat to activate Sacred Weapon, it’s a good buff, but it’s not worth an entire action once combat has started. Turn the Unholy is very good when fighting fiends and undead, but otherwise is useless. Thankfully, much like the cleric, paladins received a generic Channel Divinity option in Tasha’s that allows them to restore a spell slot. This means Devotion paladins will always have something they can do with their Channel.

Level 7 – Aura of Devotion

You and friendly creatures within 10 feet of you can’t be charmed while you are conscious.

At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet.

While charmed is a condition no player wants on their character, this feature is somewhat at odds with the increased saving throws already granted by base paladin features. Since paladins hand out increased saving throws, charm spells are already much more likely to fail. This ability only works if another paladin feature fails.

Level 15 – Purity of Spirit

You are always under the effects of a protection from evil and good spell.

This is a solid defensive buff against aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead, but has the downside of doing literally nothing against anything else.

Level 20 – Holy Nimbus

As an action, you can emanate an aura of sunlight. For 1 minute, bright light shines from you in a 30-foot radius, and dim light shines 30 feet beyond that.

Whenever an enemy creature starts its turn in the bright light, the creature takes 10 radiant damage.

In addition, for the duration, you have advantage on saving throws against spells cast by fiends or undead.

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

Even if we ignore all the problems with paladin subclass capstones, Holy Nimbus is not a great ability. It casts a souped-up Light cantrip, does a small amount of sustained damage, and grants a situational buff for something paladins are already very good at.

For anyone interested in this subclass, the good news is that the paladin base class is powerful enough that even the worst subclass can be made into an effective character. However, that doesn’t save Devotion from ninth place.

8. Glory

An armored woman holding off an attack.
Steadfast Paladin by Chris Rallis

I reviewed this subclass when it was called the Oath of Heroism during playtesting. Overall, I was happy with the subclass’s strength and felt it was a good option that didn’t power creep the already strong paladin. Unfortunately, the subclass fared poorly during its transition to official content.

Level 3 – Oath Spells

Before Tasha’s, I would have been a lot more positive towards this list. Haste is a good enough spell that it can prop up an otherwise weak set of options. However, the new Spirit Shroud spell offers a competitive 3rd-level self-buff spell for all paladins. Personally, I think Haste is still the stronger option, but it has lost some of its relative strength compared to what every paladin can do.

Level 3 – Channel Divinity

When you use your Channel Divinity, you choose which option to use. You must then finish a short or long rest to use your Channel Divinity again.

Some Channel Divinity effects require saving throws. When you use such an effect from this class, the DC equals your paladin spell save DC.

Peerless Athlete. As a bonus action, you can use your Channel Divinity to augment your athleticism. For the next 10 minutes, you have advantage on Strength (Athletics) and Dexterity (Acrobatics) checks; you can carry, push, drag, and lift twice as much weight as normal; and the distance of your long and high jumps increases by 10 feet (this extra distance costs movement as normal).

Inspiring Smite. Immediately after you deal damage to a creature with your Divine Smite feature, you can use your Channel Divinity as a bonus action and distribute temporary hit points to creatures of your choice within 30 feet of you, which can include you. The total number of temporary hit points equals 2d8 + your level in this class, divided among the chosen creatures however you like.

Unless you plan on playing a grappler, Peerless Athlete is sub par. This was true with the UA version as well, but instead of the old increase to crit range, Glory paladins are stuck with Inspiring Smite.

Handing out temporary hit points to your party can be quite powerful, as the Twilight cleric will attest. Unfortunately, Inspiring Smite generates too few hit points to be terribly useful given its limited usage.  On average, this option provides eleven hit points. This is a minor improvement to one target, and it gets even worse if you try to spread out the benefits. Most Glory paladins will be better off using their Channel Divinity for additional spell slots.

Level 7 – Aura of Alacrity

Your walking speed increases by 10 feet. In addition, if you aren’t incapacitated, the walking speed of any ally who starts their turn within 5 feet of you increases by 10 feet until the end of that turn.

When you reach 18th level in this class, the range of the aura increases to 10 feet.

This isn’t the worst aura improvement we see in this list, but it’s not good. Movement speed is nice to have, but it suffers from diminishing returns. If a character needs to move 40 feet to reach their target, it doesn’t matter if they can move 40 feet or 400 feet that round, and once characters are in position, they often don’t move much.

This aura is also hard to coordinate given its below average five-foot range and the turn-based structure 5E uses. If the Glory paladin goes late in a round, then this feature works fine, buffing the speed of their allies before moving themself. However, if the paladin goes first, the only one benefiting from this speed boost is themself, as their allies will no longer be starting their turn within five feet of the paladin.

Level 15 – Glorious Defense

When you or another creature you can see within 10 feet of you is hit by an attack roll, you can use your reaction to grant a bonus to the target’s AC against that attack, potentially causing it to miss. The bonus equals your Charisma modifier (minimum of +1). If the attack misses, you can make one weapon attack against the attacker as part of this reaction, provided the attacker is within your weapon’s range.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of once), and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

This is a fine, if unexciting, use of the paladin’s reaction to protect their allies. This does clash with the Shield spell many paladins have through Hexblade levels, but sometimes protecting your friends is more important than yourself. It is unfortunate that this feature is limited to a maximum of five uses. Increasing the number to twice proficiency or some other value larger than a stat modifier would make me much happier with this ability.

Level 20 – Living Legend

As a bonus action, you gain the following benefits for 1 minute:

  • You are blessed with an otherworldly presence, gaining advantage on all Charisma checks.
  • Once on each of your turns when you make a weapon attack and miss, you can cause that attack to hit instead.
  • If you fail a saving throw, you can use your reaction to reroll it. You must use this new roll.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a 5th-level spell slot to use it again.

This feature is an odd combination of combat and noncombat buffs. I have a feeling that the bonus to charisma checks will rarely see use. Thankfully, turning misses into hits is very good, especially when combined with Great Weapon Master or Sharpshooter. Rerolling saves is also good, although since paladins are already so good at most saves, this option might not see much use.

I’m always sad when a solid subclass is gutted during its move to official release. The UA version of this subclass would have most likely made the top four, but as Glory, it only reaches eighth.

7. Redemption

Archon of Redemption by Steven Belledin

When it comes to flavor, I see Redemption as Devotion 2.0. Both play into the archetypal nice person paladin, granting more options to players looking to experience that fantasy. Mechanically, Redemption benefits from the content released since the Player’s Handbook, placing it above its older cousin.

Level 3 – Oath Spells

While not terribly strong early on, this spell list has some very good options for mid and late levels. Counterspell and Hypnotic Pattern are great additions to the paladin’s list, giving the class control options it normally lacks. Wall of Force is amazing and will still be useful even at level 17 when half casters get their 5th-level spells.

Level 3 – Channel Divinity

When you use your Channel Divinity, you choose which option to use. You must then finish a short or long rest to use your Channel Divinity again.

Some Channel Divinity effects require saving throws. When you use such an effect from this class, the DC equals your paladin spell save DC.

Emissary of Peace. You can use your Channel Divinity to augment your presence with divine power. As a bonus action, you grant yourself a +5 bonus to Charisma (Persuasion) checks for the next 10 minutes.

Rebuke the Violent. Immediately after an attacker within 30 feet of you deals damage with an attack against a creature other than you, you can use your reaction to force the attacker to make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the attacker takes radiant damage equal to the damage it just dealt. On a successful save, it takes half as much damage.

Emissary of Peace is highly situational but useful for those persuasion rolls you really need to succeed on. Rebuke the Violent, on the other hand, is a solid combat option that will probably see use every session. One of the things that makes this option useful is that the paladin can wait until damage rolls have been made, meaning that the spell can’t be wasted on a low roll. It is unfortunate that there is a save involved, but it’s still good.

Level 7 – Aura of the Guardian

When a creature within 10 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to magically take that damage, instead of that creature taking it. This feature doesn’t transfer any other effects that might accompany the damage, and this damage can’t be reduced in any way.

At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet.

Spending a reaction to take damage is generally a bad idea. There are exceptions to this like the Peace cleric’s Protecting Bond, but that works for the whole party and that damage can be reduced. Even a high AC class like the paladin will take damage and adding even more onto that is risking the party’s tank going down much earlier than normal. This ability can still be useful for saving the squishy wizard from going unconscious at a key moment, but it’s one of the weakest aura improvements in this list.

Level 15 – Protective Spirit

You regain hit points equal to 1d6 + half your paladin level if you end your turn in combat with fewer than half of your hit points remaining and you aren’t incapacitated.

An average of eighteen hit points per round up to half health is solid healing both in and out of combat. This is especially good if the party lacks strong sources of healing, ensuring the paladin is always at least at half health at the start of an encounter.

Level 20 – Emissary of Redemption

You become an avatar of peace, which gives you two benefits:

  • You have resistance to all damage dealt by other creatures (their attacks, spells, and other effects).
  • Whenever a creature hits you with an attack, it takes radiant damage equal to half the damage you take from the attack.

If you attack a creature, cast a spell on it, or deal damage to it by any means but this feature, neither benefit works against that creature until you finish a long rest.

This is a very cool feature, building off the effects of the Sanctuary spell for a unique defensive effect. Unfortunately, unless you can figure out how to make enemies attack you without dealing damage or casting spells on them, those enemies will most likely ignore the protected paladin and go after their squishier allies.

While not amazing, the Redemption paladin’s solid Channel Divinity and strong spell list are enough to propel it to seventh place.

6. Watcher

A mounted paladin with a glowing sword.
Dawnstrike Paladin by Tyler Jacobson

Fifth Edition generally does a good job of creating subclasses that work in just about any campaign. Then we have subclasses like Watcher paladins. This subclass is obviously designed to interact with certain monster types, and if those aren’t present, it loses quite a bit of its functionality.

Level 3 – Oath Spells

This isn’t the worst we’ve seen, but it’s very close. Counterspell is the only strong pick with the rest being too weak or niche to be worth it for most characters.

Level 3 – Channel Divinity

When you use your Channel Divinity, you choose which option to use. You must then finish a short or long rest to use your Channel Divinity again.

Some Channel Divinity effects require saving throws. When you use such an effect from this class, the DC equals your paladin spell save DC.

Watcher’s Will. You can use your Channel Divinity to invest your presence with the warding power of your faith. As an action, you can choose a number of creatures you can see within 30 feet of you, up to a number equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of one creature). For 1 minute, you and the chosen creatures have advantage on Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws.

Abjure the Extraplanar. You can use your Channel Divinity to castigate unworldly beings. As an action, you present your holy symbol and each aberration, celestial, elemental, fey, or fiend within 30 feet of you that can hear you must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is turned for 1 minute or until it takes damage.
A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can’t willingly end its move in a space within 30 feet of you. For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that prevents it from moving. If there’s nowhere to move, the creature can take the Dodge action

Watcher’s Will is another one of those buff abilities that is good if you have time to set it up before combat and almost never worth it if you don’t. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as monsters that almost exclusively target saves instead of AC, but most of the time the action cost is simply too steep.

Abjure the Extraplanar is the first of those campaign specific abilities I was talking about. Aberration, celestial, elemental, fey, and fiend make up about thirteen percent of the 5E monster roster, meaning that there will be many sessions where this option won’t have any targets. Thankfully, the generic Tasha’s option still exists.

Level 7 – Aura of the Sentinel

You emit an aura of alertness while you aren’t incapacitated. When you and any creatures of your choice within 10 feet of you roll initiative, you all gain a bonus to initiative equal to your proficiency bonus.

At 18th level, the range of this aura increases to 30 feet.

This is easily the strongest feature Watcher paladins get. Initiative is an important roll for many characters and can dictate the flow of an encounter. However, while this feature is good, it does suffer from the range of the paladin aura more than most. Since initiative is only rolled once, the party only has one chance to benefit from this feature, and if they aren’t within ten feet of the paladin when combat starts, then they’ve lost out for the entire combat. This can hurt scouting characters or backline characters who don’t want to be right next to the paladin in case they trigger a trap or ambush.

Level 15 – Vigilant Rebuke

Whenever you or a creature you can see within 30 feet of you succeeds on an Intelligence, a Wisdom, or a Charisma saving throw, you can use your reaction to deal 2d8 + your Charisma modifier force damage to the creature that forced the saving throw.

This is a decent chunk of damage to put on a reaction, albeit situational. My main issue is that this is all the Watcher gets at 15. Sure, the damage is fine, but by level 15, I’m expecting a bit more.

Level 20 – Mortal Bulwark

As a bonus action, you gain the following benefits for 1 minute:

  • You gain truesight with a range of 120 feet.
  • You have advantage on attack rolls against aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, and fiends.
  • When you hit a creature with an attack roll and deal damage to it, you can also force it to make a Charisma saving throw against your spell save DC. On a failed save, the creature is magically banished to its native plane of existence if it’s currently not there. On a successful save, the creature can’t be banished by this feature for 24 hours.

Once you use this bonus action, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a 5th-level spell slot to use it again.

This is a great feature if you’re fighting the correct creature types, and close to worthless if you’re not. Against incorrect creature types, it’s a level 20 version of the True Seeing spell.

The strength of this subclass will vary wildly depending on how much you value maximizing initiative. For me, such a buff is useful, but it’s not worth the otherwise lackluster subclass built around it. Sixth place to the Watcher.

5. Crown

A tall, armored figure surrounded by a crowd.
Protector of the Crown by Johannes Voss

For the brief time Tasha’s expanded spell lists were in UA, I thought I would have to write off Crown paladins completely. Thankfully, the designers realized their mistake and fixed the general paladin spell inclusion that would have ruined this subclass.

Level 3 – Oath Spells

And what spell is that you ask? None other than Spirit Guardians. This is one of my favorite spells and its inclusion on the Crown’s spell list is the reason this subclass is so high in the rankings. Area damage effects are something that paladins generally lack, and this is one of the best ones out there. Paladins also have better saves and hit points than clerics, meaning both them and their spirit guardians are more likely to stay active for an entire fight.

Aside from Spirit Guardians, Crown paladins also get Aura of Vitality. This is a good source of healing both in and out of combat, generating a total of 20d6. This probably isn’t the spell most paladins want to use their precious slots on, but it’s a good option to have.

Level 3 – Channel Divinity

When you use your Channel Divinity, you choose which option to use. You must then finish a short or long rest to use your Channel Divinity again.

Some Channel Divinity effects require saving throws. When you use such an effect from this class, the DC equals your paladin spell save DC.

Champion Challenge. As a bonus action, you issue a challenge that compels other creatures to do battle with you. Each creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, a creature can’t willingly move more than 30 feet away from you. This effect ends on the creature if you are incapacitated or die or if the creature is more than 30 feet away from you.

Turn the Tide. As a bonus action, you can bolster injured creatures with your Channel Divinity. Each creature of your choice that can hear you within 30 feet of you regains hit points equal to 1d6 + your Charisma modifier (minimum of 1) if it has no more than half of its hit points.

Thank goodness for Tasha’s, because neither of these options is good. Champion Challenge is interesting, but in most combats, you’ll have allies within thirty feet of you, so even enemies that fail the wisdom save have options about who to attack.

Turn the Tide is almost as bad as the Banneret’s Rallying Cry ability. The amount healed by this option is pitiful and it can’t even be used on unconscious targets since they can’t hear you.

Level 7 – Divine Allegiance

When a creature within 5 feet of you takes damage, you can use your reaction to magically substitute your own health for that of the target creature, causing that creature not to take the damage. Instead, you take the damage. This damage to you can’t be reduced or prevented in any way.

Remember when I said that the Redemption paladin’s aura feature was one of the worst we’d see? Well, that bad feature was saved from last place by this awful one. As far as I can tell they are almost identical, with the only differences being this ability has a five-foot range instead of ten and doesn’t gain a range increase at 18th level.

Level 15 – Unyielding Spirit

You have advantage on saving throws to avoid becoming paralyzed or stunned.

These are very bad conditions to have, so advantage on saves against them is good. As I mentioned earlier, this can step on the toes of the paladin’s already very good saves, but ensuring success is never a bad thing.

Level 20 – Exalted Champion

You can use your action to gain the following benefits for 1 hour:

  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons.
  • Your allies have advantage on death saving throws while within 30 feet of you.
  • You have advantage on Wisdom saving throws, as do your allies within 30 feet of you.

This effect ends early if you are incapacitated or die. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

This is a solid capstone that increases the survivability of both you and your party.

Crown’s power as a subclass resides almost entirely in its spell list, with some decent features at very high level. Fifth place.


That covers the first five paladin subclasses. Check in next time for part two, where I cover the top four holy warriors.

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

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