Support Cleric - Ranged or Melee?


Advice


Reaching out to cleric mains, when it comes to filling the support role, which do you find to be more effective? I'm not looking for advice for any of my current characters. I'm looking to discuss the above topic.

Thank you in advance.


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I generally go melee, but that's mostly because I prefer that. It does have the advantage that if you need to heal, buff or debuff you're in melee range (which is the range for a lot of spells). Also if you're using channel to heal at all you want to spread the damage out as much as possible, so taking a hit or 2 might kake the most of that.

Ranged has the advantage that you're less likely to down yourself - if you're buffing and you go down the buffs often go down with you.

Who's your patron deity?


Tyr, Red Knight, and Bahamut back in 3.5.
Iomedae, Sarenrae, and an obscure goddess with a claw in PF.

Like I said, just here for discussing divine capabilities. Not looking for any particular build.

I do like that point you made about spreading out damage. A quickened channel when the groups caught by a surprise breath attack does make one heck of a difference.


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Reach weapons work very well for clerics. If you go ranged you have to invest a lot of feats to be good at it and you are always deciding whether to shoot, or to cast. Melee you can take advantage of AoOs. Reach means you can keep back fairly well behind your front line while doing so.

I fully expect Magda Luckbender to be here in a few minutes to explain all of the reasons why this is advantagous.


Yeah I'm pretty much converted to the reach Cleric now (and reach weapons in general). I don't think I feel as strongly about it as some, but it's definitely effective.

I think it also depends a bit on what you want to do as a Cleric.

If you want to be a caster then you probably don't have the feats, stats or actions to spare on something like archery.

If you're only planning on having 16 WIS by level 10 then your best bet might be to cast a buff spell at the beginning of combat and rain down arrows on your foes (having spent the feats/etc on making that worth your while).

I tend to find Melee lands somewhere in the middle, with the Reach Cleric being the most efficient 90% of the time.


baggageboy wrote:
Reach weapons work very well for clerics. If you go ranged you have to invest a lot of feats to be good at it and you are always deciding whether to shoot, or to cast. Melee you can take advantage of AoOs. Reach means you can keep back fairly well behind your front line while doing so.

Melee: Accelerated Drinker trait to slam Enlarge potions as a move-action for 20' reach with your longspear. AoOs for days on the enemy's turn.

Ranged: "Sic 'em, boys!" <your summoned creatures poof into existence near the targets>


From playing both, melee is better as a support cleric, but combat stats are definitely a secondary consideration. I have a PFS cleric whose build is designed to throw stacking buff cards on the table, and I don’t think he has hit anything with a weapon for the past couple of levels.

If you do go that route, have a look at the feat ‘Combat Advice’. Turn your move action into +2 on an ally’s next attack roll.


Neriathale wrote:
If you do go that route, have a look at the feat ‘Combat Advice’. Turn your move action into +2 on an ally’s next attack roll.

Oh nice feat. Just note that it's a competence bonus so it won't stack with Inspire Courage (for those Evangelicals out there).

If you wanted to go any other archetype though it's pretty great (I'm thinking about it for a Cavalier too).


For a support oriented cleric, anything that keeps you off the front line is good. Being in melee with a creature means there is a chance you'll fumble your spells. Getting outside of their threat range means safe casting.

Reach builds help, but when you start seeing huge creatures your reach build isn't so helpful anymore.

it isn't really the choice of weapon that helps being a support cleric. What helps the most is keeping in mind your position and where enemies are likely to appear. Being able to move to your allies when needed is the key to effective support. Well, that and good spell selection.

Being overly concerned with feats and making your weapon selection effective are signs that you aren't thinking about your support role being primary. It should be possible to balance between hurting the enemy and helping your allies, but it requires you pay attention to everything. That is more difficult than it sounds.


Well I know my opinion isnt a popular one but I still maintain that the only worthwhile "Reach cleric" is just a cleric that happens to use a long spear between level 1-5 to do the occasional bit of minor damage. Any build that starts to dedicate ability score points and/or feats and/or reliance of constant pre-buffing towards becoming a RC is a waste, if your idea is to become optimal as a cleric. If you have other ambitions then thats a different story.

Its a bit like a healing focused cleric build.... can it be done? Yes definitely. Is it optimal? Absolutely not.

In terms of optimal cleric there are only 2 types IMO:

1) Caster cleric

This further breaks down into...

1 a) Cloth caster (playing like a divine wizard but always with a dollop of support casting involved).... 80% of the time involving the Ecclesitheurge archetype.

1 b) Tank caster... this requires a different stat array although still maxed out on WIS. You use high AC and good saves to draw fire away for the rest of the party.

2) Summoner cleric

This can involve Herald Caller (my preference) or Evangelist archetype. Contrary to others advice, I would still max out WIS as Monster Summoning can start tailing off in effectiveness once you hit 11-12th and you will need to start mixing up your spells a bit.

In the last 2-3 years of PF1 some solid options for cleric have come on line. You have to always remember that you have the 2nd best basic spell list in the game as a cleric and then when you combine that with careful domain and deity choice this improves it still. First and foremost you are a 9th level caster..... combat cleric was always suboptimal IMO.


doc roc wrote:
First and foremost you are a 9th level caster..... combat cleric was always suboptimal IMO.

I don't strictly disagree that 9th level spells are your most powerful resource, I just don't think that oevel of optimization is necessary. A suboptimal tier 1 class is still a tier 1 class.


I play a Reach Cleric (Evangelist). Usual play is I have mid-low init, so I start off with a buff spell and inspiration then move in. For much of the rest of combat, I provide flanking and HP sponge. When the fight is over, channel works better since I split off some of the damage from someone else.

For huge creatures, this means either I use my Dimensional Hop (Travel domain), provoke an AoO, or take 2 rounds to get into range. Last fight, we faced a Gargantuan dragon. I deliberatly provoked an AoO so I could give flanking to the rogue. It hurt, but it meant the rogue did lots of damage. Enough so that the dragon decided to leave that spot, provoking AoOs from us. Payback! [If only I could have hit the AC, sigh....]

Since I also leave an open slot at each level, I am very good at fast condition removal. Conditions including blind, poisoned, stat damaged, drained, and most especially the condition: dead.

I know that I don't provide much DPS directly, but in that fight, I provided +11 attack and +5 & sneak attack to the rogue. Added to the rogue's talent that zaps AC allowing her to attack at a weakened AC, and she was hitting reliably. I gave everyone +7 / +5 from spells and inspiration, so that helped everyone, even me.

/cevah

Liberty's Edge

The problem with being a "Support Cleric", is that this is defined differently for different campaigns/play style. It's easy to expend several spells per fight if you know there will only be two fights per day... if there are five you have to ration out your spells more carefully. (Also 'support' means having some condition removal spells available during a fight, crimping the number of buffs available.)

However, it's easy to be a support/tank cleric. You cast a one or two buff spells, then go into melee... The tank part comes from the heavy armor proficiency that bulks up your AC, as well as a shield and a one-handed weapon. You can always cast more spells before joining combat if you have reason to believe that you won't be seeing too many combats before going to sleep.

This is how I do it. A 14 Str, 14+2 racial mod Wis, 14 Con and a 14 Cha stat array works out okay. The Hat of Disguise that makes me look like an Alchemist or Wizard most of the time helps direct fire in my direction too.


The thing is, levels 1-5 are a large part of the game. Playing for optimal 20th level, or even optimal 10th level risks making poorer choices for a majority of the play time - if you're starting at 1st level an ecclesitheurge is...suboptimal.

Liberty's Edge

Certainly I found myself going combat less often as I advanced into the level 8-10 range. As your level goes up, you fall further and further behind the pure melee monsters in AC, let alone DPR.

Which is okay: if the melee guys don't need your help, you have more time for spells/channels/etc. And as your level goes up, you have a deeper pool of spells to employ, so the rationing I mentioned earlier becomes less important.

Note: during level 10-11 play at GenCon's 10-98/Gallowspire event, I did some pretty heavy tanking, to let the two archery types stay out of melee.


avr wrote:
The thing is, levels 1-5 are a large part of the game. Playing for optimal 20th level, or even optimal 10th level risks making poorer choices for a majority of the play time - if you're starting at 1st level an ecclesitheurge is...suboptimal.

I largely agree..... which is the reason why I dont have a problem with reach tactics ie) longspear use at low levels. This is a related but different concept than specifically building a reach cleric so as to optimally use reach tactics. This IMO detracts from the prime strengths of the cleric.

In terms of spell list alone the average cleric comes alive with 2nd level spells (ie at 3rd level). However with suitable domain choice, a cleric can start becoming very effective almost immediately. It certainly doesn't take till 10th level to become optimal!!

I agree that Ecclesitheurge isn't great at low levels (overall it just about scrapes in as a useful archetype IMO) but it could still utilise reach tactics by standing behind the frontline fighters to make AOOs.

Silver Crusade

Magda is super-pleased to hear other people use the phrase "reach tactics". Pretty sure the phrase got it's meaning on these forums about five years ago. I've never heard the phrase uttered in any official Pathfinder literature. It deserves equal standing with "Sword and Board","Two weapon fighting", and "Two handed weapon fighting". Glad to see that's occurred on these forums, at least.


baggageboy wrote:
I fully expect Magda Luckbender to be here in a few minutes to explain all of the reasons why this is advantagous.

She made it, albeit a little later than expected.

/cevah


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Cevah wrote:
baggageboy wrote:
I fully expect Magda Luckbender to be here in a few minutes to explain all of the reasons why this is advantagous.

She made it, albeit a little later than expected.

/cevah

The thing about reach tactics is that you don't need to rush in. You can take your time and wait for everyone to come to you.


I think an ecclesitheurge cleric usually comes together somewhere from 5th-8th level depending on the exact build. At 3rd level it's still significantly worse than most clerics; missing out on 6+ AC is a problem and their channeling just lost out on a d6.

My reference to being optimal at 10th level is more about a dazing spell build I saw once which really wasn't great earlier. That IMO is a mistake in most games. So is a build which doesn't work well before 5th level (if starting at 1st), but less so.


I think ecclesitheurge gets a bad shake. Sure, it's not very tanky, but it's not really intended to get into the thick of combat. Blessing of the Faithful is pretty amazing, being a close range +2 to so many things, an unlimited number of times per day. And bonded Holy Symbol is an extra on-demand spell pulled from your domain and your entire spell list. And it gets to mix and match a domain's powers and spells to end up with something stronger than either.

If you're talking about suffering at low level, the Herald Caller has it rougher. Waiting till level 4 to get augment summoning means that for level 1 through 3 you're a cleric who gave up your medium armor, shields and a domain for spontaneous summons that can't do much or last very long while eating up a full round. Of course, it also gets 2 extra skills points which is certainly nice, but not generally helpful for combat survival. Personally, it doesn't really get going until it can get both sacred summons and summon guardian spirit, which would be level 5 at the earliest.


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You heal at touch range. When you need to heal don't be too far away.

You cast and dont want to make concentration attempts or take attacks. Don't be too close.

Reach cleric is a great fit for both of these.

Get a long spear.


Ecclesitheurge is a funny one that really does require some system mastery to make work. First off IMO it only works properly with 3 races....

Dwarf gets you CON and WIS boosts which helps your point buy and gives you an excuse to dump CHA hard which further helps point buy. You basically give up on channeling. It also means with Steel Soul and Glory of Old that you can become a walking save machine!!

Samsaran boosts WIS and INT but gives you a CON penalty, this is workable though. The obvious gold is Mystic Past Life..... and clerics get great mileage with the Adept list... not least because it contains Mirror Image, which for someone as squishy as you is invaluable.

Human - this is used to get scribe scroll at Lv1 as your bonus feat. If you're in a non PFS game, then pick 4-5 of the best domains and subdomain combos as a cleric 'of a philosophy' and start shuffling through all your domains, scribing like a lunatic!

Secondly at low levels you really have to make best use of 'Blessing of the Faithful' for yourself and the party. You almost have to look at it as an ongoing cantrip.

Lastly, you really have to max out the usefulness of the primary domain and find some spells that are worth spamming.

But overall yes I agree.... levels 1-4 can be scary as an Ecclesitheurge.

I completely agree with Herald Caller being hard at low levels too.... I've played one a couple of times and hadn't bothered to summon anything until 3rd level due to the duration. Sometimes you get lucky and stumble upon a lesser MM rod of extend. Its partly why unlike many recommendations I've seen for this archetype, I still max out WIS. Until your summons kick in properly with the right feats you will be casting other spells a lot of the time!

Silver Crusade

@OP: I've found melee support clerics more effective than ranged support clerics. This is because ranged support clerics must choose to either shoot an arrow or cast a spell. A melee support cleric who uses a reach weapon, called a reach cleric, can often both cast a spell using their own Standard Action and possibly make iterative melee attacks in the same round during the GM's turn. That's better action efficiency, meaning the PC does more stuff each round.

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