The Ultimate Cleric 5e Class Guide to Dungeons and Dragons

Posted by Ted Cory on

Cleric is one of 5e’s strongest and most diverse classes. Read on for all the tips, tricks, and the best Strategies for Clerics in DND5e!

What’s the best cleric build in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition? Do you have a complete beginner’s guide for clerics in 5e? These are common questions. The fact is clerics are more than just heal bots in 5th edition. Whether they are controlling the battlefield, doing direct damage, or snatching back the wounded from the brink of death a clever cleric player can be a valuable addition to any party. Let’s dig into the answers to these questions in our Ultimate Guide to DND Clerics.

5e Cleric Guide for Dungeons and Dragons

What Are Clerics?

Clerics are spellcasters who draw their power from the divine. Gods or otherworldly powers bestow their favor and a bit of their power onto clerics, their most devout followers. Clerics are healers, wise men, and holy warriors who can bless and heal their allies while bringing their god’s holy wrath upon their enemies. In earlier editions, clerics were relegated to pure healing duty and their duty was to keep the party hit points topped off. In 5e however, clerics are not only some of the strongest spellcasters in the game, but are also extremely flexible and can fill any role from tank, to damage dealer, to the ubiquitous heal bot.

Some of the most iconic characters that would probably be clerics in D&D include Friar Tuck of the Robin Hood legend, Jesse Custer from Preacher, Thoros of Myr from Game of Thrones, and depending on your interpretation every single Jedi and Sith from Star Wars.

Building a Better Cleric

It feels like everybody hated playing the “heal-bot” cleric in the past and they’ve just been slowly growing what a cleric is capable of. Now clerics can be built up into practically anything, making excellent tanks, damage dealers, utility casters, party buffers, and yes, even healers. To start with though, you’ll need to address your ability scores. 

Cleric Ability Scores

Wisdom is your spellcasting ability score for clerics, and you’re going to want your Wisdom to be high and quite likely your highest ability score. 

Past that it gets more complicated because of all the routes you can take when building your cleric. Most if it revolves around what armor you plan on taking, and if you plan on being a “combat cleric” or more of a “spellcasting cleric”. Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are all in the running here for your 2nd highest ability score.

If you end up with heavy armor (more on that later), you’ll most likely want to make Constitution your next highest ability score. If you’re relying on light or medium armor, Dexterity should be your next highest. And finally, while not all builds will want it, some of the more combat oriented cleric builds will want Strength as their next highest score.

In any case, none of these “physical scores” should be your dump stats and should at least be neutral “10’s”. Charisma and Intelligence however are largely useless for you, and you should put as few points as possible into them unless you’re doing some very specific and odd builds of cleric.

Cleric Races

You can choose any race but as a cleric you’ll want particularly high Wisdom and a buff to one of the 3 physical ability scores, depending on the type of cleric you’re trying to build. The following races gain either a +2 bonus to Wisdom, or have a +1 bonus to Wisdom and a +2 bonus to a physical score, making them optimal choices for a cleric character:

Aarakocra

+2 Dex and +1 Wis is appealing, but let's be honest, the big reason to take this race has always been the flight. This is by far the most often banned race in 5e so make absolutely sure your DM is cool with the bird folk before building your character. If you do manage it, I recommend taking full advantage of your flight by focusing on ranged spell attacks and other abilities you can use from a distance.

Centaur

Centaurs gain +2 Str and +1 Wis. Extremely mobile (unless you’re in a climbing situation) and can potentially hit very hard and fast with the Charge ability. Centaurs are a powerful option for Strength focused melee cleric builds.

Dwarf (Hill)

Hill dwarves get +2 Con and +1 Wis. This is one of the strongest options for “tanky” clerics, as the boost to your Con combined with the free hit points from Dwarven Toughness will make you particularly chunky and survivable.

Elf (Pallid)

Elves get +2 Dex and selecting the Drow subrace snags a +1 Wis bonus. Technically only available in Critical Role’s unique setting, but if your DM allows it this is an incredible option. Pallid elves gain permanent advantage on Investigation and Insight checks, which combined with their racial spell sets makes this one of the best options for utility clerics. 

Elf (Wood)

Base elves get +2 Dex and wood elves gain a +1 bonus to Wis. Wood elves are probably what you’ll need to default to if your DM disallows pallid elves, though they’re not a bad option in their own right. Their extended 35-foot movement speed makes them a more maneuverable option if you want to play a pure spellcasting cleric that keeps their distance.

Firbolg

Firbolgs are one of the few races with a +2 bonus to Wis, and also snag a +1 bonus to Str. I really love these guys for combat clerics strangely enough, their Hidden Step ability can get them out of trouble if the fight gets the better of them. 

Genasi (Water)

Genasi get +2 Con and water genasi pick up +1 Wis. Besides the typical “aquatic stuff” you also strangely get resistance to acid damage. This isn’t a bad option if you expect to be in and around water often in your campaign and would like an easier time with the whole breathing underwater thing.

Halfling (Ghostwise)

Base halflings get +2 Dex and Ghostwise pick up +1 Wis. The halfling Lucky ability is strong enough to justify the race selection on its own, but the silent telepathy option makes them a tempting option for utility clerics.

Kalashtar

These spirit-bound folk gain +2 Wis and +1 Cha. The Charisma bonus is a bit wasted but kalashtar are one of the only races with a +2 Wisdom bonus. You also pick up some very strong resistances, but be wary, this race is technically locked to the Eberron setting so you’ll need to double check with your DM before using them elsewhere. 

Kenku

Kenku gains +2 Dex and +1 Wis. And while they’re abilities overall are a bit lacking; they do pick up some strong utility options and can make for a versatile utility/sneaky cleric.

Lizardfolk

Lizardfolk gain +2 Con and +1 Wis. Lizardfolk have a ton of good minor abilities, but it’s their natural armor that makes them appealing for otherwise lightly armored builds. You also gain a hold breath and natural swim speed which is nothing to sneeze at.

Loxodon

Loxodon gain +2 Con and +1 Wis. The loxodon natural armor is unique in that it uses Constitution, which means you can focus entirely on Constitution and Wisdom and dump everything else. I find loxodon to be the best tanky cleric option, combined with the Unity Domain you can become a giant walking bag of hit points that keeps your allies alive. 

Simic Hybrid

Simic Hybrids gain +2 Con and +1 to any other ability which can be Wis. Simic are innately flexible, but consider taking the +1 bonus to AC. It may not be the most exciting option, but flat AC bonuses are hard to come by and it can make a big difference for a tank build.

Tortle

Tortles gain +2 Str and +1 Wis. Due to their extremely tough and stat independent natural armor, you can fully ignore Dexterity as an ability score and focus on Wis, Str, and Con. One of the better “combat cleric” options if you’re trying for a Str focus. 

Warforged

Warforged gain +2 Con and +1 to any other ability score which you can make Wis. Their inbuilt bonus to AC makes warforged particularly appealing for tanky clerics. Strongly consider choosing warforged if your DM allows them, and you’re running a highly armored domain like the forge domain

Divine Domains: Choose your Gods

Clerics choose which domain they will specialize in at level 1. These domains typically fall to a god in each Pantheon. For instance, the gods of knowledge could be Thoth, Oghma, or Aureon. Each domain is given access to a list of spells from many spell lists (including some wizard spells), which are always considered “prepared”. The domain you choose can have a huge impact on your character’s abilities in and out of combat, so choose…...wisely. Let’s go through them one at a time:

Arcana Domain

This is the domain to take if you want your cleric to dip their toe into wizardry. Mechanically it gets a lot of the iconic wizard spells like magic missile, and it’s one of the absolute best “anti-magic” class archetypes. You get to dispel any nasty effects your enemies have cast on you or your allies with the healing spells you were already using.

Death Domain 

This domain makes you a spooky damage dealer with a focus on melee strikes and upping the power of necromancy cantrips like chill touch and toll the dead. One of the better options for a DPS cleric, especially since your regular damage can come from cantrips and you can save your spell slots for healing or other utility options.

Forge Domain

This is the go-to domain for tanky clerics. Between the Blessing of the Forge and Soul of the Forge abilities, you can gain +2 AC on top of heavy armor. Start with one of the races that has a built in +1 AC like warforged or Simic hybrid, put on some full plate and add on a shield and your full casting cleric can have 23 AC as early as level 6! Then just cast shield of faith to walk around the dungeon with a cool 25 AC.

Grave Domain

On the face of it, you might think of the grave domain as the spooky necromancer cleric option. It’s really the opposite, you gain a bunch of abilities that are great for keeping your allies alive and a couple bits of anti-undead tech and even a sneaky DPS boost to your cantrips. Putting it all together, the grave domain is an ideal pick if your priority as a cleric is to keep your friends alive.

Knowledge Domain

This domain dips your cleric’s toes into the bard class and grants you some skill expertise and a bunch of utility spells. Consider this domain if you want to build a cleric focused on utility, skills, and the roleplaying pillar of adventuring.

Life Domain

Healing, healing, and more healing. Almost every feature you gain from this domain gives you more opportunities to heal or makes your healing effects better. Run this domain if you’re looking for a traditional heal bot style cleric.

Light Domain

A decent option for a DPS cleric that can be far more survivable even without the heavy armor due to its Warding Flare ability. The damage potential falls off quite a bit in later levels though, as the Radiance of Dawn ability doesn’t scale up terribly well.

Nature Domain

This domain lets you make animal friends like a druid but doesn’t actually gain much. I don’t recommend this domain unless you’ve got a very specific wonky exploit that requires charming beasts or plants.

Order Domain

Order lets you “grant” reaction attacks to your allies when you buff or heal them and combined with the charming effect from the Order’s Demand feature you can easily take control over the battlefield. Best built with a lot of ally buff spells, this domain is one of the best options for a control cleric.

Tempest Domain

The core of this domain is its Wrath of the Storm feature that lets you deal a good chunk of damage to anything that attacks you. Combined with the heavy armor proficiency, this domain works wonders for tank/dps builds looking to shrug the hits and dish out some damage.

Trickery Domain

This domain lets you dip your cleric into a bit of rogue. You gain an illusory double that can be used for all sorts of devious tricks, alongside a ton of illusion and sneaking features. This is one of the best options for utility/sneaky clerics.

Twilight Domain

You wouldn’t think it at first, but this “unearthed arcana” domain is one of the better healing cleric options. Your Twilight Sanctuary ability sets up a mobile area of healing for you and your allies while your other features make it easier for you to sneak around in the dark. Consider this domain if you want your cleric to both sneak and heal.

Unity Domain

This “unearthed arcana” domain provides an insane amount of buffing power to your cleric, and the sharing damage potential of the Protective Bond ability can all but ensure you and your party stay up and fighting. Consider taking this with a high Constitution race, prioritizing hit points and turning yourself into a walking bag of health to spread among your allies when they need it.

War Domain

The war domain is very simple, it wants to hit the enemy and hit it hard. The War Priest ability is especially powerful at early levels and you can dish out a ton of damage with the extra attacks. Consider multiclassing with a few paladin levels to push your damage further with some smites.

 

 

Cleric 5e

Spellcasting with Clerics

Preparation - Clerics must “prepare” their spells and are able to prepare a number of spells equal to their level plus their wisdom modifier (a minimum of one). Casting a prepared spell uses a spell slot; see page 57 of the Players Handbook  for the Spell Slots per level. If you cast a prepared spell, it doesn’t remove it from your list, you just lose the slot.

Unlike some other caster classes, Clerics are given access to ALL cleric spells. Read all the cleric spells. There, we’ve said it. If you have information about what you’re going to face you’ll be able to adjust your prepared spells. The good thing about clerics, is that they are extremely forgiving if you’re able to prepare different spells later. This bears repeating; Don’t forget that you always have your domain spells prepared for “free”. 

Good Feats for Clerics

War caster - If you’re going to be using a lot of concentration spells getting advantage on concentration checks is huge. Additionally, being able to cast hold person on people who trigger your opportunity attack could change the tide of battle.

Magic Initiate - This feat with the wizard option and choose the spell Find familiar for ranged healing spells and the “help” action to distract enemies in melee.

Resilient - (Constitution) If you plan on holding concentration spells a lot, you'll want this.

Protection Tips for Clerics

Bless - Almost always ends up being better than Shield of Faith; helps prevent the party from taking damage, which is infinitely more useful. Bless the people that are going to have more die rolls; typically this ends up being the people with the most attacks that you want to A) Hit more often and B) Not get held.

Protection from Good and Evil - This is an amazing defense spell for most of the game.

Sanctuary - Great for protecting that person that’s about to go down and needs a round to get things sorted out.

Combat

Spells - At lower levels your spells should be saved for emergency use only. Use healing only when an ally is down and use healing word. It is the most efficient in combat since it’s only a bonus action. Taking out enemies is always most effective due to the way that the action economy works in 5e. Always try to keep a level 1 slot open so you can healing word someone who goes down. A downed person is a coin toss away from death as sometimes things will escalate quickly and they’ll take splash damage, a melee attack or whatever before you get another round. Healing word is also useful because it’s ranged.

Because all Clerics get medium armor, and many get heavy, you can get a relatively high AC really quickly.

Spirit Guardians - This spell is absolutely ridiculous; it lasts for 10 minutes, and can be upcast, and can potentially do 6d8 (save for half) damage to a target before they get to go. It is concentration, so combining this with the dodge action can be extremely useful and really put a hurting on a group of enemies.

Divine Intervention - Because the nature of this intervention is so open to the DM’s discretion, it’s a total chance and probably only useful if you’ve got nothing else you can try to sway the battle.

Toll the Dead - is an incredibly powerful spell early in the game.

Regenerate - At high levels Regenerate is completely nuts (no concentration, 1 hour, 1hp per round). If you’re life domain cleric, it may heal 10hp per round (it’s ambiguous, you’ll need to ask your dm)  If you’re an arcane domain cleric, you *also* get to remove a spell effect every round as well. High levels

Spirit Guardians - Spirit Guardians, Spirit Guardians - Take warcaster, get high ac, resilient, and then run into combat and dodge. If you can get a ring of spell storing, get one and load it with shield.

Command - This is potentially a “sleeper” amazing spell, as it allows you to do some serious debuffs of enemies. Example is commanding them to drop their weapon then using your free action to pick it up….

Spiritual Weapon - This is a nice spell for clerics to optimize their bonus action uses. While it’s movement is somewhat limited, it doesn’t require concentration.

Utility

Given their access to *all* spells, preparing the right spells ends up being key. Having the Wisdom to prep the right spells in advance based on what you may face could be the key between a party wipe and success.

Command - As noted above this is a pretty amazing spell with a lot of uses.

 

 

 (Article Continues Below)Dice Cases

Optional Cleric Features

In Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything every class got a set of optional features that act like a sort of upgrade patch to fix issues and improve things that needed improving. These features are technically optional, but assuming your DM allows them, make sure to include these class features with your cleric: 

New Spells

Using the optional features, the following spells have been added to the cleric spell list:

3rd Level

Aura of vitality

Spirit shroud 

4th Level

Aura of life

Aura of purity

5th Level

Summon celestial 

6th Level

Sunbeam

8th Level

Sunburst

9th Level

Power word heal

 

Harness Divine Power

Channel Divinity can be situational based on what you’re fighting and what domain you chose for your cleric. In some situations, you’ll find those activations of channel divinity going completely unused. This new feature lets you sacrifice your unused channel divinity as a bonus action to restore spell slots. Losing one use of channel divinity gains you back a spell slot whose level can’t be higher than half your proficiency bonus (rounded up). This can be incredibly useful when the battle has gone long and one more healing or damage spell can be victory or defeat.

 

Cantrip Versatility

Another of the “versatility” features that many classes gained, this one lets you swap out a cantrip whenever you gain an ASI level. A very nice feature to have if your play style has changed over time, or if one of your cantrips has become redundant with other features you’ve gained.

 

Blessed Strikes

Every cleric domain gains one of two abilities at 8th level, either “Divine Strikes” that will add some form of damage to your weapon attacks once a turn or “Potent Spellcasting” that adds your Wisdom modifier to the damage of cantrips you cast. Both features are great, but only if you’re playing that style. These new blessed strikes provide your cleric with the option to do both. A bit less flavorfully and forceful than some of the better divine strike domains, but an excellent option if you are playing your cleric contrary to how your domain expects you to play.

Conclusion:

We hope that we’ve shown you that clerics can be more than just a heal bot in 5e. With their armor options, knowledge of every cleric spells, and the chance to call a god, clerics can be a solid addition to any party.

 

👉 CLICK HERE to explore Cleric Dice Styles!

👉 SHOP CLERIC MINIATURES HERE!

Enjoy this Guide? You May Also Like:

Ready to turn undead? Get a radiant new dice set in our store!

Thinking about other classes? Check out our other Class Guides for Necromancers and Bards!

New to find a D&D Group? Check out our guide on How to Find a D&D Group.

Like this post? Share it/Tweet it/Pin it now!

 

 5e Cleric Guide for Dungeons and Dragons

Disclaimer

Last updated: January 27, 2019

The information contained on www.SkullSplitterDice.com website (the "Service") is for general information purposes only.

www.SkullSplitterDice.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. (source: Section 5)

Blueshift Nine, LLC assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents on the Service.

In no event shall Blueshift Nine, LLC be liable for any special, direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tort, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Service or the contents of the Service. Blueshift Nine, LLC reserves the right to make additions, deletions, or modification to the contents on the Service at any time without prior notice.

Blueshift Nine, LLC does not warrant that the Service is free of viruses or other harmful components.

Affiliate disclaimer

This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of Blueshift Nine, LLC with other companies and products.

Some of the links are "affiliate links", a link with a special tracking code. This means if you click on an affiliate link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission.

The price of the item is the same whether it is an affiliate link or not. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

By using the affiliate links, you are helping support the Service, and we genuinely appreciate your support.

Affiliate advertising programs that the Service uses are:

  • Amazon Services LLC Associates Program

    As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

    Blueshift Nine, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com or endless.com, MYHABIT.com, SmallParts.com, or AmazonWireless.com.

    Pages on this Service may include affiliate links to Amazon and its affiliate sites on which the owner of this Service, Blueshift Nine, LLC, will make a referral commission.

SkullSplitter Dice

Disclaimer

Last updated: January 27, 2019

The information contained on www.SkullSplitterDice.com website (the "Service") is for general information purposes only.

www.SkullSplitterDice.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. (source: Section 5)

Blueshift Nine, LLC assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents on the Service.

In no event shall Blueshift Nine, LLC be liable for any special, direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tort, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Service or the contents of the Service. Blueshift Nine, LLC reserves the right to make additions, deletions, or modification to the contents on the Service at any time without prior notice.

Blueshift Nine, LLC does not warrant that the Service is free of viruses or other harmful components.

Affiliate disclaimer

This affiliate disclosure details the affiliate relationships of Blueshift Nine, LLC with other companies and products.

Some of the links are "affiliate links", a link with a special tracking code. This means if you click on an affiliate link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission.

The price of the item is the same whether it is an affiliate link or not. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

By using the affiliate links, you are helping support the Service, and we genuinely appreciate your support.

Affiliate advertising programs that the Service uses are:

  • Amazon Services LLC Associates Program
  • As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
  • Blueshift Nine, LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com or endless.com, MYHABIT.com, SmallParts.com, or AmazonWireless.com.
  • Pages on this Service may include affiliate links to Amazon and its affiliate sites on which the owner of this Service, Blueshift Nine, LLC, will make a referral commission.

 

dnd5e dnd5e cleric dnd5e conditions dungeons and dragons

← Older Post Newer Post →