It might be easy to think of any Barbarian in D&D 5e as being the same as the next. After all, they just get angry, hit stuff, and take ridiculous amounts of damage on the chin, right?
Well… not exactly…
The Barbarian subclasses in D&D 5e show just how varied and unique these characters are. The Primal Paths that they follow allow them to manifest their rage and innermost power in unique and effective ways.
Each subclass brings with it a ton of flavor and interesting ways that the character can play.
In this article, we’re going to be looking over each of the Barbarian subclasses in D&D 5e and ranking them.
Theme and style will be mentioned, but we’ll specifically be looking at the subclass’s mechanics, impact on the game, and how powerful they are in general situations.
Which Barbarian subclass will take the top spot?
Find out now!
- 1 Number 8 – Path of the Berserker
- 2 Number 7 – Path of the Battlerager
- 3 Number 6 – Path of the Storm Herald
- 4 Number 5 – Path of the Beast
- 5 Number 4 – Path of Wild Magic
- 6 Number 3 – Path of the Ancestral Guardian
- 7 Number 2 – Path of the Zealot
- 8 Number 1 – Path of the Totem Warrior
- 9 Conclusion – Ranking Every Barbarian Subclass in D&D 5e
Number 8 – Path of the Berserker
It doesn’t get much more iconic than the Berserker Barbarian. It’s the very thing that comes to mind when you picture a Barbarian going into a fit of rage and bringing the pain down on their enemies.
Unfortunately, the Berserker Barbarian finds itself at the bottom of this ranking.
There are some great features to this subclass that help them put out more damage and scare the daylights out of enemies.
Honestly, if it weren’t for the one major drawback to their Frenzy feature, the Berserker Barbarian would rank much higher on this list.
Going into a Frenzy allows the Berserker to make an extra attack on their turn with a bonus action. However, they also gain one level of exhaustion when their rage ends.
Since exhaustion is difficult to get rid of and requires a long rest or powerful magic to reduce a character’s exhaustion by only one level at a time.
Penalties from exhaustion are steep and include having disadvantage on ability checks, reduced speed, and disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws.
In fact, it’s possible to even Frenzy yourself to death!
Unfortunately, this is the core feature of the Berserker Barbarian and the cost is incredibly steep compared to the benefit it provides.
Get mad with the full guide to the Berserker Barbarian!
Number 7 – Path of the Battlerager
Coming in at number 7 we have the Battlerager Barbarian.
Covered in spiky armor, these warriors charge into enemy ranks and begin throwing themselves around. It’s a method of fighting that is just as fierce as it is unpredictable!
As they swing their weapons and grab onto enemies, the spikes on their signature armor deal extra piercing damage to those they attack.
If you’re going by the book, this is a tradition that is only available to Dwarves. In fact, the Dwarven name for Battleragers is “Kuldjargh” which literally translates to “axe idiot.”
No, I’m not just making that up!
While Battlerager Barbarians might not necessarily have the longest life expectancy because of their careless and intense ferocity, they do still serve an important role.
Causing chaos in the enemy ranks with a purely aggressive charge opens up opportunities for the Battlerager’s allies to strike.
In this way, they’re a bit of a wrecking ball for the party.
While they are very durable, the biggest weakness of the Battlerager Barbarian is their reliance on their very special armor.
If something were to happen to their armor, it would greatly derail this subclass’s most important features until they can replace it.
Lead the charge with the full guide to the Battlerager Barbarian!
Number 6 – Path of the Storm Herald
Harnessing the power of the scorching desert, frigid tundra, and mighty sea, the Storm Herald Barbarian brings the power of the elements to the battlefield.
What makes the Storm Herald Barbarian so unique is its versatility. Their specific role in the party varies based on which of the three environments they’ve attuned to.
The Desert increases damage output while turning up the heat on enemies. Meanwhile, the Sea brings some extra damage but adds in some aquatic utility. Finally, the Tundra offers extra defense and some handy control options.
Don’t confuse the Storm Herald Barbarian’s place in this ranking, though. This is far from a bad subclass and is made even better when you’re building it in with the party’s overall combat strategy.
There’s plenty of extra versatility based on the environment you choose but it’s all tied together in a solid subclass.
The straightforward nature of the Storm Herald Barbarian makes it an especially good option for new players. It plays to the core Barbarian class’s strengths while adding in some exciting extra benefits!
Become the storm with the full guide to the Storm Herald Barbarian!
Number 5 – Path of the Beast
Whether you chose the Path of the Beast or it chose you, it’s time to take a walk on the wild side.
When a Beast Barbarian enters their rage, they access a power so powerful, primal, and raw that it even causes their body to transform.
They might grow sharp fangs or large, crushing mandibles. A huge, spiny tail may sprout from their back or their fingers might develop razor-sharp claws.
The best part: this form can be different every time the Beast Barbarian rages. That means that the Beast Barbarian is actually a very adaptable subclass depending on the situation at hand.
Once you start entering the mid-levels, the Beast Barbarian is able to pass their fury onto others. This can force enemies to attack their own allies and, as a capstone feature, give a damage buff to your allies.
The Beast Barbarian shines most in the earlier levels of play, but it is never not useful to the party. Not to mention, it’s got one of the coolest themes in the game!
While the first few subclasses on this list were easier to rank, the Path of the Beast finds itself where it is simply because of the incredibly steep competition.
Go wild with the full guide to the Beast Barbarian!
Number 4 – Path of Wild Magic
Depending on how much you love risk, chaos, and randomness in your D&D game, the Wild Magic Barbarian might be higher or lower for you.
While it’s gone back and forth all over the place on this ranking, it’s finally settling in at level 4.
Wild Magic is pretty notorious in D&D 5e. Many campaigns have been derailed or destroyed by certain worst-case scenarios happening by characters who try to handle such power.
Fortunately, there’s no such risk with the Wild Magic Barbarian. While the benefits that they gain from their Wild Magic Surge table are randomly determined, they are all useful.
The trick to playing a Wild Magic Barbarian is to keep yourself flexible. Each of these potential benefits gives you a new way to play your character and a new type of combat tactic to use.
As you level up, it gets easier to change which benefit you get.
For example, at level 10 you’re able to reroll your effect when you take damage which means that you could possibly have a different Wild Magic Surge every round if you’re so inclined!
But what ultimately bumped the Wild Magic Barbarian ahead of the Beast Barbarian for this ranking is the magical utility it brings to the party.
Being able to instantly sense the presence and type of magic in a 60-foot radius can be great for saving your casters’ spell slots and time.
Speaking of making spellcasters’ lives easier…
You can also channel your magic into another creature to recover one of their spell slots. Considering how important of a resource those spell slots are, this is pretty big!
Cause some chaos with the full guide to the Wild Magic Barbarian!
Number 3 – Path of the Ancestral Guardian
At last, we come to the top 3!
Looking to their ancestors for guidance, support, and protection, the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian is an excellent defensive subclass option.
When they enter their rage, the spirits of their ancestors join the battle.
Right out of the gate, these spirits hinder the attacks of the first creature you hit on your turn. That creature will have disadvantage on its attacks against any creature other than you.
If it still manages to hit that other creature, it will only be dealing half damage as that creature gets resistance to the damage!
As you level up, you’ll also gain the ability to have your ancestral spirits reduce the damage taken by your allies. In time, they’ll be throwing that damage right back to the attacker!
And we can’t forget to mention how handy it is to have the ability to consult with your ancestral spirits. Adding some divination utility, you can pull from the wisdom of those who came before you to guide you on your quest!
The Ancestral Guardian starts out strong and only gets better as they continue to level up. If you’re looking to defend and bolster your party, this is an excellent option!
Make your ancestors proud with the full guide to the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian!
Number 2 – Path of the Zealot
At first glance, it’s easy to write the Zealot Barbarian off as a class whose entire schtick is just being easy/cheap to bring back to life.
While that is definitely a major benefit for this subclass, it is just so much more than that.
For starters, you get an extra burst of damage against the first creature you hit on each of your turns. Even better, that damage is your choice of either necrotic or radiant.
From there the Zealot gains features that allow them to reroll saving throws and inspire an all-out assault by giving up to 10 nearby creatures advantage on attacks and saving throws for the next turn.
And just in case you still want more…
Their capstone feature lets them ignore death while raging!
No getting knocked unconscious. No kicking the bucket mid-combat (unless it’s an instant kill effect). Just drink a healing potion or something right before your rage ends and you’ll be fine.
The fight isn’t over until the Zealot says so!
Let the haters hate, but the Zealot absolutely deserves the number 2 spot here. I’d even give it the top spot if there wasn’t one absolutely legendary subclass that is just slightly better all-around…
Bring some divine fury with the full guide to the Zealot Barbarian!
Number 1 – Path of the Totem Warrior
As great as most of the other Barbarian subclasses are, there is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest. It’s powerful, iconic, and supremely versatile.
The Totem Warrior Barbarian may not be as iconic as the Berserker, but it honestly might as well be!
These warriors are certainly strong, but they temper their strength with a deep spirituality and attunement to the natural world.
With each feature they gain, they learn lessons and gain new abilities from their animal spirits. Options like the Bear, Tiger, and Wolf make them tougher while options like the Eagle and Elk give them a supernatural swiftness.
Whether you’re wanting to be an immovable mountain of hit points or a swift skirmisher leaping across the battlefield, you can do it with the Totem Warrior Barbarian.
The number of potential options you have available to you within this subclass is simply staggering!
With a bit of planning (and the link to my guide below will help with that), the sheer power of this subclass will go a very long way for you.
Between some incredible features and mechanical benefits, the ability to work well in any party, and one of the coolest themes in D&D 5e, the Totem Warrior Barbarian easily takes the top spot!
Find what guides you with the full guide to the Totem Warrior Barbarian!
Conclusion – Ranking Every Barbarian Subclass in D&D 5e
When making this ranking, I did a lot of shuffling around when considering the value that each subclass brings to a party.
Ultimately, I’m pretty happy with this ranking and would love to know your thoughts in the comments!
Keep in mind that each of these subclasses can potentially make for the best Barbarian for you and your group. It comes down to personal taste and what would most benefit the group!
To keep it as “apples to apples” as possible, each was taken on its own merit separate from certain adventure types or environments. (For example, a Storm Herald Barbarian would score much higher in a naval campaign.)
But that wraps it up for this article.
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You can find the Berserker and Totem Warrior Barbarian subclasses in the 5e Player’s Handbook.
The Battlerager Barbarian is in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
The Ancestral Guardian, Storm Herald, and Zealot Barbarian subclasses are in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Find the Beast and Wild Magic Barbarians in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.