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Fighter Cleric Multiclassing- A 5e Guide for Holy Beatdowns
Fighters are the versatile masters of the battlefield capable of taking on any combat role that possess every sort of weapon mastery. Clerics are versatile holy priests that can suit any deity, able to pick and choose from all the divine spells and the widest range of archetypes in 5e. Put them together and you essentially have the most options to play with out of any class combination and we can sculpt some weird and powerful builds out of these two clays. Draw your sword and your holy symbol as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Play a Fighter Cleric Multiclass?
Fighter and cleric are debatably the most versatile core classes in 5e and by combining them you have possibly the widest range of options possible. Now putting those options together into something worth playing more than a straight fighter or straight cleric is its own issue but simply having all those options at your fingertips is a tempting prospect.
As a baseline adding access to cleric spells with healing magic and some magical utility to a fighter is potentially worth the level and adding a fighting style to a more combat-focused cleric build can also be worthwhile. This is a multi - class that works best as small level dips to augment a core focus and enhancing your strategy with only a level or two dip can be a major boost without much investment.
What are the Downsides?
The first thing you’ll need to ask yourself when building a fighter/cleric multi class is why not simply build a paladin? Paladins are already “holy fighters” and if you’re just looking to add a few divine spells and damage to your martial character that may be the better option than a dual class.
And like every multiclass combination, even a level dip means giving up on some late game class features like 9th level spells we'd get with a single class. We’re also combining a spellcasting and martial class whose features don’t really stack up in a meaningful way so our progression on either will be slowed down compared to straight cleric or straight fighter.
When Does a Fighter / Cleric “Kick In”?
A few of our builds here are essentially only level dips so they’ll “kick-in” with only a single level in each class. Our more synergistic builds tend to require a level or two in cleric and the 3rd level fighter archetype feature so those will start working at total character level 4-5.
What Class Features Do We Care About?
We’ve got several strategies to go for here so not all of the following fighter abilities and cleric abilities will apply to every build but they’re generally the features we’re going to care about.
Significant Fighter Features
- Hit Points. While the upgrade from 1d8 to 1d10 isn’t huge, it’s worth considering that on average every level of fighter you take over rogue will make you a bit beefier.
- Fighting Style. Obtained with only one fighter level, the Archery, Dueling, Two-Weapon Fighting, and Thrown Weapon Fighting options all provide a bit of extra damage in different ways and for different strategies. The new Superior Technique option also provides a way to pick up a maneuver with only one fighter level and without taking up the fighter archetype. You'll want to use this feature for weapon specialization, and you should figure out what basic combat strategy you want to go for.
- Second Wind. Also picked up with only one fighter level this feature gives a decent healing option. We’re getting far more healing potential from our cleric levels, but extra healing is always nice.
- Action Surge. Gained at 2nd level, this is the king of fighter abilities and its merely great for “fair” builds, and absolutely bonkers on the “unfair” builds. Now sadly, we still have a hard cap on spellcasting in 5e so we can’t use action surge to cast multiple spells, but there are still plenty of uses for an emergency action.
- Archetypes. We’ll go into them in more detail in a moment, but a lot of the fighter archetypes and even just the initial 3rd level features of those archetypes can be incredible for the build.
- Extra Attack. Several of the cleric archetypes have features that sort of make up for their lack of extra attack but fall short of a full extra attack. 5 levels are a big commitment if you’re core cleric, but it can potentially be worth it.
Significant Cleric Features
- Spellcasting. Clerics are a full prepared spellcasting class. This means you have access to the full cleric spell list; you just have to pick which spells you prepare each day. Clerics have a couple really good damage spells, but you’ll likely get the most value out of their utility, buffing, and healing spells.
- Channel Divinity. Clerics get a special divine resource in their uses of “channel divinity”. You first gain this feature with your 2nd cleric level, and you get one of these “uses” of channel divinity every short or long rest and more uses at your 6th cleric level. The base use of your channel divinity is “turn undead” which is unsurprisingly only useful if you’re running into undead monsters. All the cleric archetypes however provide us with much more interesting uses of our channel divinity power. Tasha’s also gave us another “base” use of our channel divinity power called “harness divine power” that lets us spend it to regain a lost spell slot. You can only do this once per long rest to stop us from farming spell slots, but you can do it more often at higher cleric levels.
- Divine Domains. Clerics gain their archetypes at 1st level and more than most classes you’ll be getting most of your unique class features from your archetype. Typically, you gain some skill checks or armor proficiencies at minimum for a 1 level dip. In particular we’re going to care about the features gained at the 1st and 2nd cleric levels and alternate uses for our channel divinity feature.
Fighter / Cleric Ability Scores
Just like with a normal fighter build we’re going to need to pick between Strength and Dexterity as our primary damage ability. Next, we’ll want a high Wisdom since that’s our cleric spellcasting ability score. Finally, we’re likely going to be in the thick of combat so we want Constitution as our third highest score.
For our ability score improvements, we're not too stretched or too reliant on our spellcasting modifier so you're free to snag feats like polearm master or sentinel for classic fighter shenanigans
Intelligence and Charisma are largely irrelevant for us, and we can use them as dump stats.
Fighter / Cleric Equipment
The fighter class gives us full access to heavy armor and shields and we should be taking advantage of that. A one-handed melee weapon, shield, and the best heavy armor we can get our hands on is going to be the primary setup for most of our builds. With fighter we have full martial weapon proficiencies, simple weapons, and armor proficiencies so the sky's the limit on weapon style.
We can switch that up to a medium armor or light armor with a rapier if we’re going for Dexterity though, which should get us to similar ACs. Depending on the setting or original campaign you might even be able to swing firearms and get a shotgun preacher build going on so keep the Dex version on the back burner just in case.
Fighter / Cleric Spells
A single level dip gives us access to cleric spells, many of which can be incredibly helpful for a martial strategy. Most of our builds aren’t pushing too high into the cleric levels so we’re mainly interested in low level spells like cantrips and 1st or 2nd level spells. 3rd level spells may seem attractive but it's unlikely worth that deep of a dip. We’re also planning on being in the thick of combat, so spells that require concentration are less valuable to us and we’re incentivized to look for spells we can cast in addition to our attacks.
This cantrip lets you grant an extra 1d4 to your own ability checks or the ability checks of your allies. The nice thing here is that since it is a cantrip, it’s essentially always going to be free in situations where time isn’t an issue. That means your entire party gets this 1d4 to practically anything they attempt to do outside of combat.
This cantrip is essentially the same as guidance except you get a bonus to saves instead of ability checks. A 1d4 bonus to saves is rarely ever good enough to use in combat but it can come in clutch when trying to avoid traps and you can essentially keep using it on yourself outside of combat to keep the extra 1d4 up for any surprises your DM might spring on you.
Word of Radiance (Cantrip)
This cantrip is unique to clerics and is often forgotten about when picking offensive spells. You get to force any number of creatures within 5 feet to take a con save or take 1d6 radiant damage (with cantrip scaling increases). This is especially great for us as a martial build when we expect to be right in the thick of combat. It even allows you to pick and choose the targets so even though it’s sort of an area of effect around yourself you’re never at risk of hitting your allies.
Cure Wounds (1st level)
It’s bog standard boring but cure wounds is a staple for a reason. It’s a 1st level healing spell that scales well and can keep you and your party alive.
Detect Magic (1st level)
Probably the most useful out of combat spell, detect magic essentially gives you a magic flashlight that detects craziness in the room. A bit dull, but one of the best utility spells in the game.
Guiding Bolt (1st level)
One of the best low level offensive spells in the game, guiding bolt is a ray of 4d6 radiant goodness that leaves an aftereffect granting advantage on the next attack against them. Even only using a 1st level slot guiding bolt is amongst the most powerful spells and will remain a relevant and useful attack into the 2nd and 3rd tiers of play.
Healing Word (1st level)
Healing word does significantly less healing than cure wounds at the same level, but it has two differences that make it definitely worth taking. First, healing word has a range of 60 feet vs the touch range of cure wounds, which means with healing word you can save a downed ally even when you can’t physically reach them. Second, healing word only uses a bonus action, which means we can use it and still make our attack on the same turn.
Sanctuary (1st level)
Sanctuary forces enemies to make Wisdom saves if they want to attack you. I wouldn’t recommend this normally since it's a concentration spell but keep this spell in mind for one of our later builds that makes better use of it.
Aid (2nd level)
Aid increases the maximum hit points of up to three creatures by 5 and it lasts for 8 hours. This is better defensive boost than temporary hit points since the actual maximum is increased, and you can heal back up to that new limit. For us in particular it’s also a buff spell that doesn’t use concentration and those are few and far between.
Prayer of Healing (2nd level)
This lets you heal up to 6 creatures for 2d8 + your spellcasting modifier, but it takes 10 minutes to cast. It’s the equivalent of casting 6 2nd level cure wounds spells but only uses one slot, at the cost of requiring essentially a miniature short rest. But in situations where you can take a breather but not an actual rest, this spell can refresh your entire party.
Spiritual Weapon (2nd level)
With this spell you conjure a big ghostly weapon and bonk your enemies with it every turn for 1d8 + your Wisdom modifier at the cost of your bonus action. We’re already not using our bonus action for much, so this spell typically translates to straight extra damage and is one of the best arguments for taking your cleric levels up to 3 just to get it.
Should I Start with Cleric or Fighter?
There are minimal differences between skill proficiencies, saving throw proficiencies and weapon proficiencies you’ll have, but the big issue is heavy armor proficiency, and the short answer is to start as a fighter. If you start as a cleric and then multiclass into fighter you won’t have heavy armor proficiency unless you take one of the cleric domains that also gives it (which are forge, life, nature, order, tempest, twilight, and war).
Fighter / Cleric Multiclass Builds
Clerics are primarily spellcasters and fighters are absolutely martial so we’re not going to get far with an even split. Instead, most of the following builds focus on getting the most out of a small level dip.
For this build our goal is to royally hose a boss monster so that they waste their attacks every turn. To accomplish this, we want 2 levels of cleric taking the peace domain, and 3 levels of fighter taking the cavalier archetype. The levels in cleric are only a dip and the remaining levels should go towards fighter, giving us a final split of 2 cleric / 18 fighter.
At third level when we first gain the cavalier archetype we gain a bonus proficiency, a bonus to mounted combat, but more importantly we get the feature unwavering mark. Unwavering mark lets us mark any creature we hit with a melee attack, and while within 5 feet of a marked creature they make all their attacks at disadvantage unless they target you.
From our levels in peace cleric, we get another bonus proficiency and two prominent features, emboldening bond at first level and the channel divinity option balm of peace at second level. Emboldening bond works essentially like a super version of the guidance spell, letting us grant ourselves and some of our allies an extra 1d4 on all their attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws for 10 minutes. Balm of peace gives us an odd sort of dash movement that doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity, but every one of our allies that we run past as we do so heals 2d6 + Wis hit points.
So how do we do this? Firstly, we just run in and smack the big boss monster with our melee weapon of choice. When we hit the creature, we activate our unwavering mark for free, giving them disadvantage on every target that isn’t us so long as they’re in melee range of us. Next, using our bonus action we cast the spell sanctuary which is conveniently a domain spell for the peace cleric. Think of sanctuary as sort of a temporary truce, so long as you don’t make attacks, creatures that attempt to hit you have to succeed on a Wisdom save to do so.
You’ve now set up a scenario where the boss monster has to pass a save to attack you and has disadvantage on anything but you and is screwed either way. For your turns while this is happening you can either make your attacks and then simply cast sanctuary again, or you can use this time to heal your allies using any number of healing spells or the balm of peace as you keep locking down the boss.
Technically this is more of just a recommended dip than a full build, but you can gain add a lot of power to any fighter build with a single cleric level dip to take the light domain. The light cleric gains the ability warding flare at first level that can be amazing for a martial character. Whenever you’re attacked by something within 30 feet, you can throw up a flash of light to impose disadvantage on the attack as a reaction. You can do your flashbang a number of times per day equal to your Wisdom modifier and regain them on a long rest. Beyond that a single level is getting you 3 cantrips and 2 first level cleric spell slots ready for wound curing.
This one level dip adds survivability for any type of fighter build. Battle master is an excellent option for battle maneuvers, but I think it pairs best with the rune knight fighter archetype, specifically taking the cloud rune. The cloud rune lets you magically swap the target of an attack and force your enemy to hit their ally once per short rest. Put together this build has a ton of opportunities to swerve, deflect, and divert the nastiest attacks you run into with only a minimal level dip.
You can consider taking a 2nd level in light cleric for the channel divinity radiance of dawn feature for bonus radiant damage, but since it doesn't scale up, I wouldn't recommend it unless you know it will be a short low-level campaign.
Imagine you walk up, then your duplicate walks up, then your other duplicate walks up. One of your triplets casts a spell, another one swings your sword, and your enemies are left utterly baffled as their attacks seem to pass harmlessly through one duplicate and they’re beaten by the others.
To accomplish this, we’ll need at least 2 cleric levels taking the trickery domain and 3 fighter levels taking the echo knight archetype.
The echo knight lets us create a copy of ourselves as a bonus action, and though we can only have one echo at a time it’s essentially free. This echo has an AC equal to 14 + our proficiency bonus, has a single hit point, and on our turn, we can move it up to 30 feet at the low low cost of absolutely nothing. As a bonus action we can swap places with our echo, whenever we make melee attacks, we can make our attack using the echo, and we can even make attacks of opportunity using the echo. Also, at 3rd level we get the feature unleash incarnation that lets us make an extra attack through our echo when we make an attack, and we can do this a number of times per long rest equal to our Constitution modifier.
Now the trickster cleric gets their duplicate through the channel divinity: invoke duplicity feature. At the cost of our channel divinity use we can create a duplicate illusion as an action that lasts for 1 minute. Our duplicate illusion is less “real” than the echo and we can’t make attacks through it, but we can cast our spells through it and move it up to 30 feet as a bonus action. One of the best parts here is since the duplicate is just an illusion, it’s also essentially invulnerable and if you can get the enemies to attack it they’ll simply waste their attacks.
We can control the echo for free, and the illusion using our bonus action, so together we can move all three of ourselves every turn and just utterly confound our enemies while hitting them from multiple sides using your attack and attacking through your echo using unleash incarnation. Your echo is easy to poof but it’s just as easy to resummon as a bonus action and you should be able to waste a TON of your enemy’s attacks on your cackling counterparts. And if all else fails, you can consider taking just one more level of cleric to gain access to 2nd level cleric spells and mirror image, it’ll technically be easier to spot you (since you’re a triple and your echo and illusion won’t be) but man is it flavorful and useful for a fighter.
This build is more than a defensive boost, it's a whole unique strategy. It relies a bit on your DM ignoring meta knowledge and letting the enemies be confused by your copies, but with a decent DM you should have a ton of fun bamboozling your enemies every combat!
Fundamentally since the 1st level domain cleric powers along with access to basic healing magic makes a single level dip into cleric potentially worthwhile for an otherwise pure fighter build. The following options are decent enough to get an honorable mention for a single level dip. I also want to note that the popular death clerics really don't mesh all that well and they even missed this honorable mention list as the necrotic damage boost just isn't worth it.
This is also a combination that strangely invites even more secondary classes and can potentially benefit from level dips in things like beast master ranger, transmutation wizard, gloom stalker ranger, storm sorcerer, clockwork soul sorcerer, fey wanderer ranger, and a whole host of other strange combinations. We focused only on fighter/cleric combinations, but triple class combinations actually work here and that's not often the case.
Extra Magic Fighter
By taking a level in the arcana domain you gain a whopping 5 cantrips (2 from the wizard spell list and 3 from the cleric spell list) access to healing magic, detect magic, and magic missile. Especially at tier 1, just one level dip into arcana cleric your fighter can be healer, utility caster, and frontline fighter for your party all in one.
Free Magic Item
You can essentially get "free" magical items by taking one level in the forge domain. Blessings of the forge gives you either some "armor of faith" (+1 armor) or a +1 magic weapon whenever you need it. At early levels guaranteed access to a magical weapon can be a big help especially in a campaign with low magic item acquisition. Magic items along with the base spellcasting can make this worth the level dip.
With one level of tempest cleric, you gain the feature wrath of the storm which lets you retaliate when hit for 2d8 thunder or lightning damage a number of times per day equal to your Wisdom mod. If you go one level deeper, you get channel divinity destructive wrath which lets you maximize lightning or thunder damage but other than that it doesn't scale so I really don't recommend this dip if you plan on playing up into tier 2. It does nothing for your normal attack damage rolls and the ability never scales higher. You do get searing smite though which is a decent way to add more damage to weapon attacks.
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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