5E: Best and Worst Classes


4th Edition

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Matthew Koelbl wrote:
SmiloDan wrote:
Hmmmm.... I'll check out those cantrips, but clerics get some Divine Channeling (or whatever it's called nowadays) boosts with a short rest, and the Wizard gets Arcane Recovery.

One of my favorite things about 5E is that everyone seems to be jealous of what other classes get. I think I've seen players of every single spellcasting class complain about how much better other class's spell lists are. (And that includes a bard who can pick and choose from everywhere.)

I'm running a high-level Fey warlock. We converted our campaign from 3.5 to 5E, in part because we had hit the point in 3.5 where players either died instantly or won fights without every being challenged. My warlock obviously took a big step down in power - I know longer was constantly flying and invisible and dropping maximized empowered chained eldritch blasts on people.

But in return, suddenly, I find each round I am actually making choices. Sure, I only have 3 spell slots per rest. But I also have a couple actions from being a fey warlock - like frightening nearby enemies, or trapping a foe in an illusory world that I entirely control. And of my spells, I have tough choices to make - do I focus on buffing and cast Greater Invis on our Rogue? Do I just try to shut down enemies by Banishing a few to another plane or ensaring them in Confusion? Do I polymorph myself into a T-Rex and wade into the fight? Or do I just hex an enemy and unload Eldritch Blasts into them for damage? Or do I instead use those Eldritch Blasts to knock an enemy away so it has to waste its next turn running back to the fight? Or maybe, before the fight, I summoned up a spirit Mammoth and I'm riding it into battle.

The power level may have gone down, but the fights are more interesting. And I'm sure that is true for other casters, who also have plenty of versatility of their own. Still, the Warlock has felt pretty good at being able to bring big effects to each fight, and worst case, being able to simply deal quite a bit of...

Yeah, I really like how every fight is really different!

In some fights, my dwarf cleric tanks, in others, he blasts, or buffs, or de-buffs. Sometimes he just hits things with axes, in others, he uses the Dodge action and relies on spiritual guardians to cause damage. Sometimes, he just runs around healing.

Even our archers sometimes pull out rapiers and go stabbity stab, especially with the changes to finesse and Dex to damage.

President, Jon Brazer Enterprises

Matthew Koelbl wrote:
One of my favorite things about 5E is that everyone seems to be jealous of what other classes get. I think I've seen players of every single spellcasting class complain about how much better other class's spell lists are. (And that includes a bard who can pick and choose from everywhere.)

I love my warlock. Other classes can keep what they have.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

I find it very difficult to call tiers at this point.

But I gotta say, Barbarians as mediocre?

Rage doesn't have penalties. And you don't mention that Barbarians take half damage from all physical sources while raging (or essentially all sources with Bear Totem). That's huge. You're basically doubling your effective HP.

The Barbarian's Unarmored Defense is not only totally badass, it also literally allows the highest armor class in the game (I'll confess I haven't looked at the DMG so I'm not sure if there are magic items that mess with the calculation). But with maxed Dex and Con, plus a shield, nothing tops your AC.

Reckless Strike helps you draw aggro by both helping you hit, and incentivizing enemies to swing at you when you are otherwise massively tanky. If they have advantage against you anyway, then it equalizes the battle for free.

Small shoutout to getting advantage on pretty much all Dex saves and Initiative. No biggie.
----
Personal Barbarian Experience:
I've seen a Frenzy Barb destroy a dragon hardcore. I've played a Wolf Totem barbarian and enabled my allies like crazy.
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The Ranger does look underwhelming because a fair amount of mechanics are dedicated to "fluff" abilities, mostly provided by the Outlander background anyway. But I haven't seen it in play.
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Casters: Concentration really reigns them in a fair amount. Can't stack buffs (and certain offense spells), damage can make you lose it anyway (especially for those that don't have Con proficiency and have to pay a feat tax to get it, if feats are even being used).
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Fighter Edit: I assume you mean they are the undisputed kings of the maneuvers that only they get access to? Because fighters aren't the best at tripping/grappling.

They do get more attacks than monks though.
Monk: 2 attacks, flurry bonus action 2 attacks
Fighter: 4 attacks, TWF (or Polearm Master or whatever else) bonus action 1 attack. Potentially Riposte for a Reaction attack.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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I found rangers underwhelming when I read it, but I've seen one in action, and it's pretty amazing. Glad he's on my side!


Dale McCoy Jr wrote:
2097 wrote:
I can't just "give" the party any encounters if they just stay holed up in their super fort all day.

Nothing can wander in while they are away? no returning from a long quest to find their door kicked in and their place looted? No kobolds can tunnel up into their lair by accident? No one comes banging at their door in the middle of the night looking for someone to take them in and protect them from the horrible monster out there? No flock of owlbears on a hooting rampage pass by? No termites cause the wall to collapse (not monstrous termites, just regular old ordinary, everyday termites)? No floods? No extra planar messengers asking for their help? No cloud dwarves that dug too far down for cloud silver dropping from the sky?

Their super fort is protected from all this?

What I do is roll on the tables / use the faction turns / etc to see which creatures will likely approach their super fort and I try my best as DM to break in. Usually they can't come in.

Grand Lodge

Petty Alchemy wrote:

I find it very difficult to call tiers at this point.

But I gotta say, Barbarians as mediocre?

Rage doesn't have penalties. And you don't mention that Barbarians take half damage from all physical sources while raging (or essentially all sources with Bear Totem). That's huge. You're basically doubling your effective HP.

The Barbarian's Unarmored Defense is not only totally badass, it also literally allows the highest armor class in the game (I'll confess I haven't looked at the DMG so I'm not sure if there are magic items that mess with the calculation). But with maxed Dex and Con, plus a shield, nothing tops your AC.

Reckless Strike helps you draw aggro by both helping you hit, and incentivizing enemies to swing at you when you are otherwise massively tanky. If they have advantage against you anyway, then it equalizes the battle for free.

Small shoutout to getting advantage on pretty much all Dex saves and Initiative. No biggie.

Sorry, rereading what I wrote I "misspoke". It's not Rage that incurs penalties - it's a few of the rage abilities and class features. And if you go Path of the Berzerker, Rage does indeed incur a penalty. But anyway, the problem is without Rage you still kind of suck. And Rage is way, way limited. I understand they were reigning in the absurdity of rage cycling and the cheese that multiclassing let Barbarians do in 3.PF. But breaking down the things you mentioned:

Resistance: Only works when Raging. Low levels, you'll get to do this TWICE between long rests. Most battles you're just a crappy fighter. Hope you didn't waste it before the important battle - ESPECIALLY if you go Path of the Berzerker.

Reckless Attack: OK, makes you a tank? The Sentinel feat does it way, way better with no actual penalty. More on that below, too.

Unarmored Defense (Spoilered cause it gets a bit long):

Spoiler:
When I first looked at this, I thought it was pretty cool, too. But then I really broke it down - the typical 5E point buy is 27 points. If you want to effectively do damage and have the AC that means you need high DEX, high CON, and high STR. Even with a Mountain Dwarf, the best choice, your highest are going to be 17STR 15DEX 17CON with a possible "10" in any of your mental stats. OK, so +5 total AC, +7 after your shield. Come 4th level you get to bump those values up by 1 (unless you want a feat, of course.) so +9

19 AC. Not bad, and that's assuming a best case scenario. Your Damage output will be pretty 'meh' until you rage (at least no better than any other high STR melee class), at which point it becomes respectable. But again, you don't get that all the time.

But then we make a fighter. You can dump Dex thanks to thrown weapons - which a Barbarian cannot because he needs it for his AC, so your mental stats will be much better. Or keep it for Dexterity saves - although Dex saves are still pretty useless, and even more so now that most Dex saves usually let you swap STR and the most common use from 3.PF - tripping - has been switched to a STR save. By 4th level, the fighter should have more than enough money for Plate which is an 18AC base and +2 with the shield for a 20 total. But he can also take the 'Defense' fighting style for an additional +1 to AC. And he'll have the option to eventually get magic armor which will make his AC even better. OR he could instead choose to do the "Dueling" fighting style which will give him a +2 to Damage constantly, or go Protection style and get your "Reckless Attack" feature sans the penalty.

Edit: Also, if your group is using feats, the Fighter will qualify for that heavy armor feat that will 1. Let him increase his STR to 18 to do even more damage AND 2. get DR all the time.

Dexterity/Initiative Advantage: The initiative advantage is pretty good I'll grant you, but like I explained in the spoilered content up there, Dexterity saves are honestly always the least of my concerns.

It's not like the Barbarian is useless --- I just think his schtick is done better by everyone else.

Quote:

Personal Barbarian Experience:

I've seen a Frenzy Barb destroy a dragon hardcore. I've played a Wolf Totem barbarian and enabled my allies like crazy.

I will say if I were to choose to try a Barbarian, I'd definitely go Totem Warrior. It's still not my favorite choice, but it has enough in there to make it intriguing.

Quote:
Casters: Concentration really reigns them in a fair amount. Can't stack buffs (and certain offense spells), damage can make you lose it anyway (especially for those that don't have Con proficiency and have to pay a feat tax to get it, if feats are even being used).

Casters do get some much-needed reigns, but there are other things that still keep them at the top of the list. They're still incredibly SAD, and now their spells add their casting modifier to Attacks/Damage instead of the typical DEX for ranged and so on. And also did you notice that casting spells in a threatened square no longer provokes AOO's? And high level spells are as powerful as they've ever been.

Quote:

Fighter Edit: I assume you mean they are the undisputed kings of the maneuvers that only they get access to? Because fighters aren't the best at tripping/grappling.

They do get more attacks than monks though.
Monk: 2 attacks, flurry bonus action 2 attacks
Fighter: 4 attacks, TWF (or Polearm Master or whatever else) bonus action 1 attack. Potentially Riposte for a Reaction attack.

That is what I meant, although while they may not be the "best" trippers/grapplers, if you're using Feats they quickly become if not THE best, then one of the best choices.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

Sentinel also makes you a tank, yes. However, it's a feat. Feats are huge in 5e. There's a big opportunity cost paid.

The DR feat is excellent early game, but is overcome by any type of magic, so it scales very poorly.

Using Frenzy when raging is optional. Frenzy is honestly my least favorite type of barbarian, but it gives you that extra boost when you need it.

Adding casting stat to damage isn't automatic. Dragon Sorcs do it with their element, Warlocks do it with EB with an invocation. Else you're not getting anything besides the dice.

I haven't tested play past level 5 yet, but I often see the best spells coming with Concentration to gate them. Hold Person (which is still great) makes our Warlock have to drop Hex, or save opening with Hex to start with Hold.

Fighters don't at any point become the best trippers/grapplers, unless they aren't pure Fighter. Feats don't give them any edge that others can't also get.


SmiloDan wrote:
I found rangers underwhelming when I read it, but I've seen one in action, and it's pretty amazing. Glad he's on my side!

Is it a hunter ranger or a seeing eye dog ranger?

The Exchange

Matthew Koelbl wrote:
Or do I just hex an enemy and unload Eldritch Blasts into them for damage?

Just played for the first time (at ECL 6) and this is what my Sorlock did, combined with the occasional Quickened Scorching Ray.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Hudax wrote:
SmiloDan wrote:
I found rangers underwhelming when I read it, but I've seen one in action, and it's pretty amazing. Glad he's on my side!
Is it a hunter ranger or a seeing eye dog ranger?

Hunter.

He uses Hoard Breaker and hunters mark A LOT, and has saved our tuckuses when he used pass without trace, spike growth, and once used cure wounds on my cleric so I could then heal everyone else...


SmiloDan wrote:

I found rangers underwhelming when I read it, but I've seen one in action, and it's pretty amazing. Glad he's on my side!

Indeed. You don't know until you play. Like most games really


Hunters are awesome. Ranger spells are great. I don't think anyone in the thread is disputing that.

On the other hand, beastmaster (or "seeing eye dog ranger" as I will continue to refer to it) is objectively broken. No amount of playing will alter that fact. Beastmaster follows the formula that 1 + 1 = 1. Combining a ranger with an animal companion should result in something MORE than the two separately, but instead it results in one of them being less. Therefore it's broken.


it is only disappointing if you limit your imagination to combat encounters

In everything else, having a trained pet can be a huge benefit.


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I'm about to play a beastmaster ranger for a one shot. I'm interested to see how it goes.
It doesn't seem broken to me, I think one has to take the view that the ranger is heavily involved in the beast's attacks - more like a sheepdog or police dog and trainer, rather than a true "companion" acting of its own volition.


Hudax wrote:
On the other hand, beastmaster (or "seeing eye dog ranger" as I will continue to refer to it) is objectively broken.

Isn't that like saying the color green is objectively broken? :P

Sovereign Court

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bugleyman wrote:
Hudax wrote:
On the other hand, beastmaster (or "seeing eye dog ranger" as I will continue to refer to it) is objectively broken.
Isn't that like saying the color green is objectively broken? :P

Only if you wear the power ring.


Terquem wrote:

it is only disappointing if you limit your imagination to combat encounters

In everything else, having a trained pet can be a huge benefit.

Combat is the only portion of the game where attack actions have meaning, so yes it's the only portion where it's broken. But that doesn't mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that it's somehow NOT broken.

bugleyman wrote:
Hudax wrote:
On the other hand, beastmaster (or "seeing eye dog ranger" as I will continue to refer to it) is objectively broken.
Isn't that like saying the color green is objectively broken? :P

Only if yellow and blue made grey instead of green in combat.


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What's the problem with it? My guy seems about the same as other fighter-y types of his level (5th).


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Beastmaster is not broken, at least not in a "vacuum". Its abilities work well as a set of abilities and as an extension of the character.

But coming from 3.5 - or even observing how summoned creatures work - the animal seems rather devoid of a life of its own, which I would say "feels" wrong rather than being broken.

I would have been happier with a concentration mechanics, whereas the beastmaster "casts" its beast into action and then requires concentration to keep it active.


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Ah, okay thanks. I'm generally ccomfortable with pretty abstract mechanics, so the loss of an attack to give commands to the beast doesn't bother me. It doesn't feel like an obviously weaker option to me (which is how I was reading broken).

I guess the concentration mechanic would be another way to go. Perhaps losing the extra attack at fifth level instead.


Steve Geddes wrote:

Ah, okay thanks. I'm generally ccomfortable with pretty abstract mechanics, so the loss of an attack to give commands to the beast doesn't bother me. It doesn't feel like an obviously weaker option to me (which is how I was reading broken).

I guess the concentration mechanic would be another way to go. Perhaps losing the extra attack at fifth level instead.

as i mentioned in my write up earlier, earlyish game they are fine, but not outstanding, they shine briefly mid game, but they fall out HARD late game where any appropriate encounter can one-shot your pet on turn one, at which point you have lost your entire subclass until you can get a new pet (who will be swiftly one-shot as well)

Sovereign Court

No thoughts yet on the spell-less Ranger?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

The Rogue with the Folk Hero or Outlander or Hermit background makes a good spell-less ranger. Go human or half-elf if you need some extra class skills.

Assassin if you want to be a master hunter, Thief if you want to scout.


Lorathorn wrote:
No thoughts yet on the spell-less Ranger?

Is there such an official spell-less ranger I'm not aware of, or are you asking for ideas/opinions?

[edit] never mind, found the source....


I first thought that Ranger was weak on my initial reading. Then I took a closer look at the spell list. It is now one of my favourite classes in 5th (alongside the Bard and Paladin). Hunter's mark is pretty much a class feature disguised as a spell, and is mandatory for rangers to pick up. They also have some fun little spells at higher levels like the one that lets them summon 8 or 16 wolves (depending on spell slot level) that love to gang up on enemies; sure they're only CR 1/4, but with the flattened math they can dish out a lot of damage even against high level enemies.


I feel the Ranger is the worst designed class in 5e. I'm not just talking about power level or "tiers" or anything; its implementation is poor. Many abilities feel contradictory, poorly implemented, or far too narrow. It also is a class with only one truly viable build.

The issues with the Ranger's design, as I see them:


  • The first mechanic of the class, Favored Enemy, was stated to be purposefully designed to no longer be a combat-oriented ability, instead being made for the "exploration" pillar of the game. However, the Ranger's capstone ability, Foe Slayer, is about dealing extra damage to Favored Enemies, completely negating the point of Favored Enemy's design.
  • Both Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer rely too much on GM intervention to have the ability function. Should you choose a flavorful terrain or enemy relevant to your background, you best hope similar foes and fields will be relevant in the campaign. At best, you can ask your GM what terrains and enemies will be relevant, but in some cases this can lead to unwanted spoiling of future locations and enemies, and even then you won't fight those same enemies all the time, and Natural Explorer doesn't cover all possible areas, such as extraplanar travel.
  • Primeval Awareness doesn't seem very useful. At best you can know if a potential enemy is nearby, but it could be a full mile away or 100 feet around the corner. It actually gets worse in your chosen terrains, since the possible location your enemies could be is even larger, and with no knowledge of their direction, number, or strength, it's pretty much a guessing game.
  • Hide in Plain Sight is almost never useful. When you need to hide, you rarely will have a full minute to do so, and even rarer still will you have an abundance of foilage around to help. On top of that, it only hides you and no one else, so it doesn't help in group play or to set up an ambush with your party.
  • Vanish lets you hide as a bonus action at level 14, which would be nice if weren't already a level 2 ability for Rogues. And unlike a Rogue, Rangers don't really get any significant benefit from being able to hide quickly (aside from the obvious), whereas a Rogue greatly benefits from hiding so as to get Sneak Attack.
  • Everything with Beast Master. Just, why? The pet lacks the survivability at mid to high levels to not get instantly slain, and then you're out of your entire archetype's features for the entire day.

The worst offender, however, is that melee on a Ranger is terrible. Now, as many people have stated, the class can, in fact, output a pretty high damage amount. However, note what abilities are being referenced. Hunter's Mark, Conjure Barrage, or the hunter ranger's features like Volley. Every last one of these is geared towards a ranged combatant. Volley is strictly superior to Whirlwind Attack in both range and number of targets hit. Hunter's Mark adds damage to a target, but requires concentration, which is much easier to maintain when you are distant from your foes. All of the unique spells the Ranger has, like Swift Quiver and Hail of Thorns, all work off of ranged weapons. Despite ALL of these abilities, the class still has a "fighting style" that can choose between archery, defense, dueling, and two-weapon fighting. But really, there's only one good choice (maybe two, if you count Defense), since if you don't play as an archer you are significantly hurting your own effectiveness. Even with this, the supposed bread-and-butter of the class, Hunter's Mark, requires concentration. So while another caster/melee hybrid can use its concentration to get extra abilities in combat, the Ranger has to use its concentration just to keep up.

So we end up with a class that, despite having two archetypes and (supposedly) four fighting styles, is only truly effective as an archer. And that's just not a good design. Maybe if it had some spells that worked off of Favored Enemy, Natural Explorer, or utilized melee combat I might be more inclined to like it, but as-is I'd be hard pressed to play a Ranger without using homebrew to improve it.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I kind of agree. You really need a lot of system mastery to make a decent ranger, it relies a lot on DM choice, and archer/hunter really seems like the best and only option.

Which is really disappointing, because the 3.5 and PF ranger is a really great introduction class.


I have seen a melee hunter ranger using hordebreaker but as the DM I did end up putting in a flametongue to help her out in the damage department. The archer hunter ranger iis fine for the melee one I think you need to MC starting as a fighter and MC into the Ranger so you may be able to keep concentration up. You need to break the list up as well as the Lore bard is really good, the valor bard a bit meh, same with the clerics. 3 wizard subclasses are good, 1 is slightly less good and 4 of them are outclassed by lore bard and light clerics (IMHO).

Beastmaster and the elemental monk are probably some of the weakest in the game, the hunter ranger archer is fine, the melee one built right could be ok with sword and board I suspect.Classes using medium armor (valor bards, some clerics) are also a bit MAD generally but if you roll good stats they benefit more than some of the other classes with good stats.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

I did not have high expectations for the melee ranger, but I've got one in my group (shield and flail, colossus slayer) and they're doing a great job.
Good damage (esp. when readying to take advantage of someone else chipping the enemy for their bonus damage) and relevant skills.

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