The Ultimate Cleric Class Guide to Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Posted by Theodore Cory on

The Ultimate Cleric’s Guide to Dungeons and Dragons 5e

What’s the best cleric build in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition? Do you have a complete beginner’s guide for cleric’s in 5e? These are common questions. The fact is, cleric’s are more than just healbots 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 in to the answers to these questions in our Ultimate Guide to DND Cleric’s.

5e Cleric Guide for Dungeons and Dragons

Build:

Wisdom is your main attribute; followed by constitution if you plan to hold concentration spells and strength if you plan to be on the front lines laying down damage.


Races:

Human: Variant human is always good for that bonus feat, especially at early levels.

Dwarves: The mountain dwarf’s plus to wisdom and constitution are great if you’re looking to build a tanky cleric. As an added bonus you also get an extra hitpoint per level.

Wood elves:

Elves: Wood Elves +1 to Wisdom and improved speed make for great dex based clerics.

Cleric Domains: Choose your Gods

Cleric’s 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.

Cleric Domains in the Player’s Handbook (beginning on page 59)Include:

Knowledge: You have access to knowledge and skills that others wouldn’t, including wizard spells like identify and arcane eye.

Life: Your healing spells are more effective, and at higher levels you also heal yourself.

Light: You gain access to potent fire based spells including fireball and wall of fire

Nature: You gain charm abilities for plants and animals, and can use your reaction to reduce some types of damage to creatures.

Tempest: You gain several storm based damage options, including a Channel Divinity that allows for maximum lightning or thunder damage. At later levels you also gain the ability to fly when not underground or indoors.

Trickery: This domain includes several wizard spells like mirror image, and disguise self. Their channel Divinity option Invoke Duplicity is great as it allows you to create an illusionary duplicate and you may cast spells as if you were in the illusion’s space.

War: This domain offers additional proficiencies in heavy armor and weapons, as well as access to many combat related spells like stoneskin and crusader’s mantle. Their Channel Divinity option allows you to use your reaction to give a +10 to strike on an attack roll. This can change the tide of battle!

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 as long as 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

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 abosultely 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 cleric’s 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.

**Xanathar's Class Updates**

Forge Domain (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)

Tank cleric with a layer of crafting goodness. You worship a deity that loves all things metal and you get heavy armor proficiency right off the bat. You also get to magically forge things with a ritual that shortcuts the painfully time-intensive crafting rules. This is a great option for the cleric that wants to perform the role of party tank.

 

Grave Domain (Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)

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.

Conclusion:

We hope that we’ve shown you that cleric’s 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, cleric’s can be a solid addition to any party.

 

Enjoy this Guide? You May Also Like:

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

Hungry for Adventure? Your group will love these D&D Game Night Snack Recipes

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

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 5e Cleric Guide for Dungeons and Dragons

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