Ranking the classes of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is no easy feat and has formed the subject of many Mountain Dew-fueled debates amongst players for decades. How does your favorite class rank?
How Do the Classes in Dungeons & Dragons 5e Stack Up Against Each Other?
There has never been a better time to be a Dungeons & Dragons player than right now. The game has experienced a resurgence unlike almost anything else thanks largely to the popularity of shows like Stranger Things and Critical Role. Players create characters that inhabit the world narrated by the Dungeon Master. With the game largely operating on a mixture of totally-open character choices and dice rolls, these characters set out into the world to face fierce enemies, collect awesome loot, and develop their own role within the game’s story.
Making characters is one of the most fun parts of Dungeons & Dragons as players largely have the freedom to create any kind of character they want. But the choices can get overwhelming to new players who may have difficulty choosing what type of character they would like to play.
Never fear! While all of the classes in Dungeons & Dragons are great, some are still greater than others. So how do they stack up against each other?
Well, seeking to answer that question, we developed a simple system for ranking each class. Each ranking was based on their effectiveness, how fun they are to play, the general position of the moon, 627 unanswered emails to Matt Mercer, and whether or not the class has likely met a man named Steve.
But we realized that that system made no sense and decided to just make a subjective list based on our own opinions.
Coming in last place we have the Ranger.
Hey… someone had to be last…
The Ranger has a very specific function in the party. Their ability to have favored enemies and preferred terrain means that they can get all kinds of sweet bonuses, but they greatly suffer if they aren’t fighting those favored enemies or in their preferred terrain.
A part of me feels bad for the Ranger. Even after Wizards of the Coast released a revised version of the class, there’s a certain level of “once bitten, twice shy” when it comes to this class. For almost everything that the class has to offer, a Fighter, Rogue, or Druid could adequately fill its role while maintaining other cool abilities.
For multi-classing, however, the Ranger is a popular pick. This is especially true of Rogues who may prefer ranged combat over the typical “up close and personal” approach.
Next up is the Warlock.
Warlocks gain their magical abilities through making a deal with some powerful entity. This entity may be some manner of fiend, fey, celestial, or something else entirely. As a part of the deal, the Warlock’s patron grants them magical abilities and some pretty nifty invocations.
For roleplaying, the Warlock adds an excellent way to introduce the characters to whatever entity the Warlock player has chosen and really add to their immersion in the world.
For combat, however, it’s a solid bet that the Warlock will spend every round using the same spell with few exceptions: Eldritch Blast.
Look… It’s a fantastic cantrip and there are numerous invocations available that allow the Warlock to further buff and alter their Eldritch Blast. But it starts to get old after a while. The Warlock’s greatly limited spell slots can be useful in a pinch, but the Warlock is still specifically geared to blasting like there is no tomorrow and… not much else…
For a short campaign, Warlocks can be a very fun choice. Like the Ranger, they’re also a popular class for multi-classing. But for a long campaign, the limited spell options and possibly constant nagging from one’s patron can start to get old.
In a world full of swords, spells and armor, the monk stands out as an absolutely lethal character class. Using their Ki to unleash relentless flurries of attacks (and dodge attacks being sent their way), the Monk hones their body, mind, and spirit to become a one-person army. This is usually through dishing out unarmed beatdowns, but the Monk also has bonuses when using monk weapons such as a quarterstaff or shortsword.
The monk’s speed is their greatest strength as they are able to quickly move about the battlefield. As skirmishers, they can make quick work of smaller enemies and use the environment to their advantage. Using Ki points to tap into their abilities (like Stunning Strike or Flurry of Blows), the Monk is able to quickly adapt and overwhelm opponents.
In a game where the Dungeon Master encourages or provides dynamic combat descriptions, the Monk can really add a level of cinematic depth to the party’s combat encounters. However, without awesome descriptions of what the Monk is doing in combat, it can get stale.
The Fighter is the archetypal hero. This class has a wide spread of weapons, armor, and skills that they can take advantage of to make for a powerful combatant. They make for incredible sword-and-shield front line combatants, but can just as easily shine bright with a bow or polearm. However you want to build your Fighter, they are sure to be an invaluable addition to the party.
In the Fighter’s first two levels, they get the incredible Second Wind and Action Surge abilities. These allow them to heal themselves in a pinch and take extra actions. As the Fighter levels up, their ability to take damage and punish enemies with multiple attacks increases exponentially. Even if you aren’t looking to exclusively play Fighter, few characters wouldn’t benefit from a few Fighter levels for multiclassing!
Plus, there’s no shortage of inspiration when making a Fighter class character. Nearly every book, movie, comic or other medium featuring fantasy action is FULL of Fighters. You may take inspiration from figures such as Leonidas of Sparta, Legolas from Lord of the Rings (as an example of a ranged Fighter), or many others.
Alchemists, tinkerers, and engineers rejoice as the Artificer class joins the official list of D&D classes since its release in 2019’s Eberron: Rising From the Last War. For inventive characters with a big focus on solving the party’s more practical problems, the Artificer offers a unique experience with a focus on using magic to create a wide array of arcane tools to aid the party. The artificer knows one thing above all else: magic items are awesome.
What the Artificer lacks in a wide selection of spells, they make up for with their Arcane Infusion ability. With this, the Artificer is able to apply temporary magical effects to otherwise mundane items. Itching for a particular item? Just make it! See an opportunity to buff your party? The power is yours! With the Artificer class, the sky is the limit.
The Artificer is at its best when you have a Dungeon Master who will help you take full advantage of your character’s creativity and craftsmanship. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources available in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and the Dungeon Master’s Guide that relate to crafting magic items! If your campaign features reasonable amounts of down-time, the Artificer can be a miracle-worker.
Did you ever have that kid in one of your classes who just got it? Like, you’d stay up all night studying and doing trigonometry problems while hoping for a B on the test only to find out that this person just walked in and aced it with no studying. That person is the Sorcerer.
Unlike Wizards (who spend their time studying the arcane) or Warlocks (who basically just slipped the teacher $20 before the test), the Sorcerer’s power comes naturally to them. While their power is unpredictable at times, this also allows them to use Sorcery Points to achieve a number of crazy effects. Sorcery Points can be used to recover spell slots, enhance their spells with powerful Metamagic options, or other abilities depending on their subclass.
While the sorcerer may never have the arcane diversity of their more studious Wizard counterpart, they prove that, when it comes to magic, the rules are just more like guidelines.
With their ability to both take and dish out massive amounts of damage, Barbarians come in at the number 7 spot in this ranking. The Barbarian is a hulking front-line combatant who uses their Rage ability to enhance their combat abilities by reducing incoming damage and increasing the damage they deal. Even more, the fact that the Barbarian gets bonuses from its Unarmored Defense means that the character doesn’t have to sacrifice dexterity to be a strong tank for their party.
In the higher levels of play, the Barbarian gets upgraded versions of their lower level abilities. These include being able to Rage indefinitely, automatically ace nearly any strength check, and potentially shrug off blows that would otherwise reduce them to 0 hit points.
Drawing on the power of nature, Druids are a powerful and flexible class with a particularly wide range of abilities. Nothing highlights this quite as well as their most well-known ability: Wild Shape. Need some extra muscle on the front line? Turn into a bear! Need to do some recon? Turn into a bird! The item you’re looking for is at the bottom of the lake? It’s octopus time baby!
Druids really shine by being able to fill any holes in your party’s composition reasonably well. The shillelagh cantrip is must-have and helps your Druid function well in combat without their Wild Shape ability while they also have access to a great selection of spells for healing, conjuring allies, and unleashing massive Area of Effect spells to transform the battlefield. The Druid’s subclass options only enhance these abilities and make your character a true force of nature.
It’s hard not to love the Rogue class! With their ability to pump out tons of damage with their Sneak Attack ability, skill in finding/disarming traps, and general cunning, the Rogue makes an excellent addition to any party.
The Rogue ranks particularly high in this list because of how interesting their subclass options are. While most Rogues are generally thought of as the archetypal Assassin or Thief, the other subclass options really highlight just how much of a blank slate a Rogue character can be. Swashbucklers, for example, capture the fun and daring of a duelist while a Rogue with the Arcane Trickster subclass is able to put more focus on clever use of spells to distract or incapacitate enemies.
Ahh, the Bard. My personal favorite and most-played class! Many a D&D story is made possible by the inevitable antics of the Bard.
As what is likely the most charismatic and outspoken member of a party, the Bard is bound to be the catalyst for many of your group’s most-remembered moments. Of course, sometimes these moments are fondly cherished tales of epic feats or hilarity and others… well… you did warn them against attempting to woo the dragon…
The Bard is often characterized as a “jack of all trades, master of none” with their colossal repertoire of skills and ability to acquire new talents at the drop of a hat. The Bard is at their best when buffing their allies and inflicting debuffs on enemies with a myriad of spells and Bardic Inspiration. It’s often in those most tense moments where a Bard is able to pull off some kind of clutch maneuver to save the day.
The Bard’s subclasses make them even more versatile with options that spread from enhancing their combat abilities to making them into magically charming battlefield controllers. While the Bard may have a tendency to get the party into some… err… awkward situations, they are just as equally adept at getting their party out!
The Paladin is as powerful as it is iconic. Characters that choose to walk the path of the Paladin have sworn oaths that guide them on their quest. The Paladin doesn’t just stand as a martial powerhouse on the battlefield, they also make for great leaders for the party given their convictions and high charisma score.
While the Paladin typically favors Strength as their primary ability, Charisma comes in at a very close second. As a “half-caster”, the Paladin isn’t just limited to the use of their physical prowess in punishing evil. Calling upon their deity, the Paladin gets access to numerous spells to help them and their allies on their quest like Bless, Sanctuary, and the class-defining Divine Smite.
For their ability to deal colossal bursts of damage, overall theme, and bonuses out the wazoo, the Paladin takes the #3 spot.
Nerds of the world, rejoice!
The Wizard class takes the #2 spot for their huge selection of spells and subclasses/schools. From blasting spells like Fireball to control spells like Wall of Force or Stinking Cloud, the Wizard finds their strength in growing their spell list and using it to properly prepare for the journey ahead.
Many of the most powerful characters in Dungeons & Dragons lore are Wizards and many of them have signature spells that your Wizard may take an interest in. Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion, Tasha’s Hideous Laughter, and Bigby’s Hand are just a few of these spells that were crafted by the Arcane giants on whose shoulders your character seeks to stand. With some creativity and help from your Dungeon Master, your Wizard may soon fast find their name on some signature spells of their own design.
For every situation, there is a spell to overcome it. Whether your Wizard favors blasting, controlling, or utility spells, the class is a swiss-army knife among casters with the ability to prepare for any eventuality.
Finally we come to our #1 spot with the Cleric.
It was tough to determine which class would take this spot, but the Cleric was able to edge out the Wizard for just a couple of key reasons. Where the Wizard is a glass cannon with the ability to unleash powerful spells at the cost of being the squishiest class, the Cleric has no such fears. With the ability to wear heavy armor and stand toe-to-toe with even most fearsome foes, the Cleric becomes the perfect weapon of their deity’s will.
While Clerics are often thought of as the group’s healer (and don’t get me wrong, Clerics are the undisputed CEOs of healing), that doesn’t mean that they’re the typical “squishy, hiding-in-the-backline-and-hoping-the-enemy-doesn’t-see-them” type of healer. Just as the Cleric’s deity of choice giveth HP, so doth they taketh away with brutal spells like Spirit Guardians and Inflict Wounds.
Oh, they also get extra bonuses based on their domain with their Channel Divinity ability. Need an extra-strength dose of healing for one of your party members? Channel Divinity as a Life Cleric. Want to pull some shenanigans and confuse your enemies? Channel Divinity as a Trickery Cleric. The Cleric has more options for their subclass/domain than any other class which gives them one of the largest kits to choose from.
Though we also can’t forget their Turn Undead ability. At lower levels, you can send all kinds of zombies, ghouls, and ghosts running (err… shambling? floating?) for the hills. At higher levels, you just outright destroy them.
Still not satisfied? Okay, what about the ability to call on your deity for some good, old-fashioned Divine Intervention?
Need more? Okay!
At 20th level, your Divine Intervention works every time.
Just like that.
So for fear of invoking the Divine Wrath and waking an army of Clerics, the Cleric takes the #1 spot of our list.
What do you think of this ranking? Would you change anything? Leave a comment below with your own class ranking!