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What's the best build for a Blood Hunter in DnD5e?
Blood hunters are the monsters who hunt monsters, these masters of hemocraft sacrifice of themselves to banish evil from this world. Matt Mercer of Critical Role fame added these resolute warriors to 5e D&D and they’re now just shy of an official class. Made even more popular by Talisan’s character Mollymauk of the Mighty Nein, these homebrew sanguine champions are finding their way into countless adventures. How do you play these stalwart pariahs? Make a secret blood oath so we can go through everything you need to know.
Blood Hunter Ability Scores
Blood hunters are mostly a martial class, and while you’ll want a high Intelligence score to make the most of your abilities, you’ll also need to keep a primary damage score high (either Strength or Dexterity) and you need to keep a high Constitution score even more than most other martials.
CHOOSE YOUR WEAPON! Blood hunters are quasi-fighters and can take fighting styles just like fighters can. So, if you plan on making use of archery or two-weapon fighting, make Dexterity your highest ability score. If you plan on making use of dueling style or great weapon fighting, make Strength your highest ability score.
Next, while the official text recommends making Intelligence your next highest score, but honestly, you’re going to need more hit points over a bump to your save DC. Blood hunters are going to take just as many hits as other martial classes and you’ll need to sacrifice your hit points for a lot of your abilities (more on that later). Make Constitution your second highest ability score.
Finally, you’ll want to make Intelligence your 3rd highest score, you’ll want to get it to at least a +2 or a +3 to make your save DC decent.
That is, a lot of spread. Unlike many classes that have a primary score and a secondary score, blood hunters basically have 3 ability scores they care a whole lot about. My advice, try to get those 3 scores up to a 16 as early as possible, and the other three (Wisdom, Charisma, and whichever of Strength or Dexterity you aren’t using) need to be truly full dump stats.
Best Races for a Blood Hunter
Blood hunters are really starved for ability points, so your best choices are going to be those that give you a bonus to two of your important stats. Normally I’d recommend just playing whatever race you’d feel like, but blood hunters really hurt without those ability bonuses.
Genasi (Air, Earth, or Fire)
The elemental-born genasi all come ready with a +2 Constitution bonus, and 3 of their 4 elemental types come with a handy +1 in another vital blood hunter stat. +1 to Dexterity for air genasi, +1 to Strength for earth genasi, or +1 Intelligence for fire genasi. I have a bias towards the fire genasi (I just think they’re cool) but any of them would work wonders. Each one comes with a few bonus features and you can pick whichever elemental flavor you like best.
Halflings gain a +2 bonus to Dexterity (huge) and the old stout lads gain a vital point of Constitution. It also can’t be understated how amazingly good the halfling lucky ability is, never fumbling in combat goes a long way. You lose some mobility due to the halfling’s slow speed but it’s still a very strong option.
Base human (not variant human) gets a +1 to every stat. This means at 1st level using point buy you can min/max to get a 16 in Constitution, Intelligence, and your choice of Strength or Dexterity, leaving a 9 in the remaining 3 scores. Blood hunters are starved for ability points and getting your 3 needed stats up to a +3 is HUGE. It’s a tad boring, but I strongly think base human is the best way to play your blood hunter character.
How to use Blood Hunter Class Features
Hunter’s Bane (your spellcasting) - I found it odd that they wrapped up the spellcasting ability in with a completely unrelated ability, but there it is. The first half of “hunter’s bane” gives you advantage on Wisdom (Survival) checks and Intelligence checks made to track down and identify fey, fiends, or undead. In some campaigns this will be completely useless, but it can be a godsend in the right adventure.
Blood hunters are like 4/5 martial class, with a dash of 1/5 spellcaster. You’re not going to be casting a lot of “spells”, but when you do, they’re based off your Intelligence.
Blood Maledict (your actual spells) - You get fewer spells than even a warlock gets, but at least they usually use only a bonus action or reaction. Blood hunters have their own special spells called “blood curses”, but your selection is EXTREMELY LIMITED. You start with 1 and gain a new one at levels 6, 10, 14, and 18. They’re all pretty good though, and since they’re mostly bonus actions and reactions you won’t even need to forego attacks for them.
The big gimmick with your blood curses is that you can choose to “amplify” them by sacrificing hit points equal to a roll of your “hemocraft die”. The amplified versions are obviously better versions of the same spells, and since you get to cast so few of them, you’re always encouraged to amplify them.
For the most part, if you can amplify a blood curse, you should. It’s only when you’re really hurting on those last few hit points that you might reconsider.
Fighting Style - You gain a fighting style just like a fighter does and in a lot of ways you can think of blood hunters as fighters with extra damage and spells instead of the bonus ability score increases. Grab your chosen style and play it like a fighter for the most part.
Crimson Rite - Essentially, you cut your hand on your weapon and imbue it with your choice of lighting, fire, or cold damage (then some other types at very high levels). You sacrifice hit points equal to your “hemocraft die”, but until your next rest you get to deal damage equal to your hemocraft die with every hit!
It only costs you a bonus action to use, and it lasts until the next rest, so you should pretty much always have it active. It's important to note that you only get one type of damage initially, and that this can't be changed for each battle.
Brand of Castigation - You get this for free when you smack something using your crimson rite ability. You brand the target with a mark that lets you know what direction they are (super useful for annoying invisible enemies) and you get your own version of “stop hitting yourself”. Whenever your branded target hits you or a friend right next to you, they take psychic damage equal to your Intelligence modifier. It’s not a lot of damage, but it’s practically free so try not to forget about it.
Grim Psychometry - Once you reach 9th level, you basically have the power to grab a plot-relevant item and ask the DM for a hint. It technically just gives you advantage on Intelligence (History) checks on the item, but the way it’s phrased leans hard on the “give me a hint” angle. Try using this item when the party is stuck for clues and you’d really like the DM to steer you in the right direction.
Dark Augmentation - At level 10, you get some nice flat buffs. Your movement goes up by 5 feet, and you get to add your Intelligence bonus to all your physical saving throws (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution). If you’ve been keeping your 3 relevant scores high, this will make your reflex saves nearly as good as a rogue’s, and your other saves better than a barbarian’s.
Blood Hunter Orders
At 3rd level, blood hunters get to choose their class archetype or “blood hunter order”. You essentially get to choose from extra blood curses and ghost walking (Ghostslayer), werewolf mode (Lycan), Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde (Mutant) and half-warlock (Profane Soul).
Order of the Ghostslayer
Themed around exorcists and ghost hunting, you get some great ghost themed powers and extra goodies against the undead. You gain a special crimson rite that deals radiant damage and literal double damage to undead creatures. You also gain an extra use of your blood curses (basically an extra spell per short rest), which is pretty tempting considering how few you really get.
At 7th level you get an extremely strong ethereal step ability that will let you walk right through walls for a few rounds.
This order falls off damage-wise unless you’re frequently fighting undead. However, if you plan on focusing on the blood curses this order is essentially a prerequisite, that bonus curse doubles your spell output in the early levels.
Order of the Lycan
Flavor-wise, this order lets you turn into a werewolf. Gameplaywise this order shifts your playstyle closer to a barbarian. When you line everything up (bonus to attacks, resistance to physical damage) turning into a werewolf functions a whole lot like going into a barbarian rage. If you’re going for a Strength build and want to be the party tank, I highly recommend going for this order, that resistance in combat will let you save your hit points for blood curses and rites. Just be aware that it’s quite unlikely that the townsfolk will take kindly to your type, and anticipate some conflicts arising from your bestial nature.
Order of the Mutant
Extremely reminiscent of the mutagens from the Alchemist class in Pathfinder (which I highly suspect Matt Mercer borrowed from), and extensively varied. You learn a handful of different mutagen formulas and you get to mix one up every short rest (2 once you hit 7th level). Each mutagen gives you a huge boost at the cost of nerfing something else, like gaining 3 Dexterity for a while in exchange for disadvantage on your Wisdom saving throws.
I love this order, simply because it gives you so many more options to play with. Most of the negatives are easily mitigated and you can just go nuts with stat boosts.
Order of the Profane Soul
Profane soul is odd to me, since it almost exactly makes you half a warlock. You gain half as many warlock spells at half the rate, and all your bonus abilities are tied to your choice of warlock patron. The appeal here is that while you gain a good chunk of warlock abilities, you still have the hit points and survivability of a blood hunter.
Think of this option as “blood hunter with eldritch blast”.
Best Blood Hunter Feats
I’m almost tempted to say “none”, blood hunters are very spread between multiple ability scores and you’ll likely need every point. However, as with all martial builds there are some situations where the feat just makes your concept work. Specifically, there’s one common build of blood hunter that really benefits from the following feat:
Crossbow Expert - Crimson Rites deal extra damage with every hit from the same weapon, using a crossbow and getting multiple shots off can really stack that damage up. With this feat and your extra attack at 5th level, you’ll be able to dish out 3 shots a turn, each one packing a bonus d6 of crimson rite damage, that’s potentially 6d6 every round!
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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