What does a caster Cleric do in combat?


So.. I'm just curious.. I'm considering making anotehr cleric and I was thinking of making a pure caster Cleric but I started wondering... What does caster clerics do in combat? Just buff up the party and them summon a monster..?

Sorry for the dumb question..

That’s certainly one way to do it. And probably my preferred style with the herald caller archetype. But in general, cleric is a bit odd because it starts out as more of a martial and becomes more and more of a caster as you gain levels. Eventually you will have great spells to cast every round.

There are alternative ways to play cleric, like a more martial-centric build where you buff and wade into combat, but those won’t be quite as optimal as the eventual caster cleric.

My very first Pathfinder character ever was a cleric. Back then I had no idea what I was doing and he was poorly built, High strength, Low wisdom (I eventualy calculated it and found I couldent cast 9th level spells untill at earliest level 20, If at all, Due to my low wisdom.. xD) That was years ago now and I havent played a cleric since...

But I'm intrested in trying them again, And was thinking of trying a more castery cleric that is less combat focused and more spell focused. But that might not be the best idea, I dont know..

What do you mean by “castery” though? You could go with buffs and summons with moderate wisdom. That’s a classic choice. Or you could pump your wisdom up and go for more offensive spells.

By castery I mean, A Cleric who focuses on being a caster, Casting spells and not engaging in melee.. Do Clerics have many offensive spells other then the touch based Inflict spells? Sorry for the dumb questions, I'm not good at pure caster types... xD I just dont wanna end up standing there and not doing much after the intial buffing.

The cleric doesn’t have many direct damage spells, but it does have many debuff-type spells. For instance at first level, Command can be used to make an enemy prone or disarmed, but you’ll want a high wisdom to raise the spell DC so it doesn’t get saved against. The main problem with caster cleric is that the caster side of the class doesn’t really have enough spells to go full caster until around level 5, and the cleric cantrips aren’t very useful as Combat filler. So, you’ll probably be poking things with a spear fairly often at the beginning.

As we’ve already mentioned, the cleric could be a good summoner with the right choices. And there is another popular buffing choice using the evangelist archetype to buff like a bard with the cleric spell list.

Thank you. =) Maybe I should allow the cleric to handle melee or archery aswell as casting. I shall ponder what kind of cleric to make, Thank you for putting up with my questioning!

A typical option for most clerics is to use a reach weapon like the long spear, so you don’t have to get as close to danger and you might get an attack of opportunity.

Sounds like a good option, Thank you for the sugestion! =)

Clerics of Erastil get longbow as a favored weapon, and can switch but fairly well at low levels. On the other hand, if you go that route you'll likely want to have moderate wisdom and focus more on spells that don't have saves.

Thank you, I have not yet decided on a deity for my cleric. I should probably look into the deities a bit to figure out what I like!

I have a Level 11 caster-y cleric in PFS. What he does in combat tends to be:

1. Buff - not just with spells, but with feats (Combat Advice) domain powers (Touch of Good) and basic abilities like Aid Another and flanking
2. Debuff / disadvantage enemies - Burst of Radiance, wall spells.
3. Counter enemy actions - cure disease, cure poison, liberating command, healing (yes, I know it's a dirty word) - anything that keeps the party in the fight.

On very rare occasions he actually hits something.

The cleric's weakness is a lack of skill points for everything outside combat - 2/level and Int being a long way down your list of preferred stats means you will struggle with social or skill situations, and you are never the knowledge guy. I got round that a bit by multiclassing Evangelist, but I'd suggest looking at one of the archetypes that gives you more skill points as a trade off for a domain.

These are your offensive spells as a cleric, just to name a few.

Summon Monster I-IX
Burning Disarm
Murderous Command
Admonishing Ray
Hold Person & Mass Hold Person
Bestow Curse
Dispel & Greater Dispel
Cold Ice Strike
Slay Living
Hellfire Ray
Fire Storm
Energy Drain
Polar Midnight
And depending on your Pos/Neg Energy chosen, any of the Inflict Wounds spells + Reach Spell = Spontaneous Nuke.

Get Heighten spell to keep your DC's high in the late game.

Thank you both. =)

1 person marked this as a favorite.

When I play a caster cleric I do consider my task to maintain the advantage of the party over the enemy.

There are two ways to do this, either avoiding the enemy to cripple the party, or removing the crippling conditions on the party. Ideally the first one is better and more fun to play in my opinion, but depending on your group and your GM it has a great caveat. If the enemies continually have difficulties to cripple or damage your fellow player characters, you might find the GM starts to increase the challenge of the encounters or your other players start to get bored because they are not 'challenged' enough by the enemies. Groups that are more aware on how the game plays or that are more interested on playing the adventure than on being challenged, are better met with the 'avoid crippling' strategy, while groups where the GM ends adjusting up the challenge, are better met with the 'remove crippling' strategy.

The 'remove crippling' strategy is more reactive and thus generally faster to learn as it becomes more obvious when and how to use each spell. Typical spells of this strategy are: remove paralysis, liberating command/freedom of movement, invisibility purge, death ward, block mental control through protection from evil, cure badly damaged characters with cure and heal spells, dispelling nasty effects with dispel magic or break enchantment, heal ability damage with restoration, restore the ability to reach a flying enemy with air walk, bypass an outsider DR with align weapon, etc.

The 'avoid crippling' is more proactive and thus more complex in nature as there are different approaches to trigger it out and each one plays better depending on the encounter layout and challenge level, but they are usually referred as one of (some spells are mixed bags and you can place on a different category):
- 'support' or 'buffing' you enhance the ability of the group to resist damage and/or deal more damage to the enemy: shield of faith, bless, resist energy, bull's strength, prayer, magic vestment, greater magic weapon, blessing of fervor, heroes' feast, etc.
- 'blasting' you remove the enemies before they can cripple your allies: hedging weapons, spiritual weapon, admonishing ray, flame strike, slay living, harm, destruction, etc.
- 'control' you change the battlefield conditions so the enemy cannot reach your allies or it is too busy to cripple them: obscuring mist, barbed chains, summon monster, silence, wall of stone, repulsion, chain of perdition, etc.
- 'debuffing' some people consider some of these as control, or they call them save or die, but they all try to limit the number of actions your enemy can take, or to lower their stats: hold person, greater command, burst of radiance, sound burst, dispel magic, instrument of agony, bestow curse, blindness/deafness, debilitating portent, etc.
Many people agree you can generally order those four approaches depending on how effective they remain if you have a low Wis or the GM rises up the challenge to what is statistically expected for your level: 'support' > 'control' > 'blasting' > 'debuffing'. But that's just a general idea and specific spells vary. There are variations, because many blasting spells at least deal some damage even if the enemy saves, but some don't, and many debuffs do nothing if the enemy passes the save, but some do. And some 'control' spells are always relevant, while some 'support' bonuses might become irrelevant when high bonuses are playing. So the order might change. If your Wis is instead high or the challenge level is low the order starts to reverse, becoming 'debuffing' more relevant than 'support'.

Another aspect of the cleric to take into account is usually called 'utility' spells, that allow you to solve problems without the need for skills or combat. You need to keep all those in mind if you want to be useful on non combat days, because you are not good with skills. These do not require a high Wis and are thus easy to pull off by both combat and casting focused clerics. Things like comprehend languages, augury, communion, scrying air walk and walk with the wind (for long distance travel), find the path, speak with dead, stone shape are just a few examples. Some of those often require you or the GM to become creative.

Also, some personal spells that are useful for combat clerics are not for pure casting ones: divine favor, defending bone, divine power, righteous might, etc...

Hope it helps.

Merellin wrote:

So.. I'm just curious.. I'm considering making anotehr cleric and I was thinking of making a pure caster Cleric but I started wondering... What does caster clerics do in combat? Just buff up the party and them summon a monster..?

Sorry for the dumb question..

Clerics have such a wide range of spells that it's difficult to isolate good offensive spells.

Generally I would avoid summons. They're powerful, but they gum up the works.

Pick domains that give you low-level options. Water lets you launch icicles, Air lets you launch lightning, and (I believe) Fire lets you launch little firebolts. These are essentially 0-level spells, although they scale slightly. Furthermore these domains tend to have some good wizard offensive spells that you can poach from.

I'm okay with buffs, but (to avoid stepping on the wizard's toes) I try to avoid any single-target buffs.

1st - Bless, Cause Fear, Command, Magic Stone
2nd - Sound Burst. Spiritual Weapon is a decent one, but the attack bonus is kind of low. Maybe Hold Person, but I don't like "person" spells.
3rd - Blindness/Deafness, Dispel Magic, Divine Fervor (like a divine Haste), Invisibility Purge (essentially a low-ranged mass See Invisibility), Prayer, Searing Light
4th - you need to branch out of core spells, but Spell Immunity is pretty decent (single target only though)
5th - Breath of Life, Flame Strike
6th - Animate Objects (why is this a cleric spell?), Greater Dispel Magic, Symbol of Persuasion
7th - Destruction
8th - Holy Aura (or alignment equivalent)
9th - Gate, Implosion

Clerics have some decent spells, but their combat spells tend to be focused on undead and outsiders. Against other foes they are a lot weaker than an arcane caster. As a cleric you are never going to match a wizard’s offensive capability, but you can still contribute to the party’s success. Buffs are the most obvious way to do that. Buffs are not just about boosting your party’s offensive ability, they also including boosting their defenses. This is one area the cleric is good at. Sure casting resist energy is not as exciting as using a flaming sphere to take down the enemy, but if it saves the fighter from being taken out by the opposing wizard that is just as valuable.

The clerics spell list has a lot of very circumstantial spells. Many of them are incredibly useful in the right circumstance, but completely useless in others. This is the real strength of the cleric. As a cleric you have access to your entire spell list. A wizard can only memorize what he has in his spell book. A sorcerer is even more limited. But as a cleric you get access to every single spell on the clerics spell list. The hard part is figuring out what spells you need. If you know what you are facing you can probably find a spell that will be very useful.

Figure out the weakness of your opponents and target it. For example hold person works well vs a fighter or rogue, but not as well vs a wizard. Blindness would be a better spell to cast on the wizard.

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Kimera757 wrote:
Generally I would avoid summons. They're powerful, but they gum up the works.


My rule of thumb is that you're allowed to take 50% longer than the other players. If they're taking 60 seconds each for their turns and you're taking 90 seconds that's fine, but if you're taking 100 seconds you need to speed it up. If you can't speed it up you should avoid a summons-heavy build. (Obviously your group might be a little more lenient/impatient, but it's a good place to start.)

At higher levels even the fighter has enough options to be taking a few minutes, so your turn can get longer as well. Just make sure the game isn't just you and your army while everyone watches.

Mysterious Stranger wrote:
But as a cleric you get access to every single spell on the clerics spell list. The hard part is figuring out what spells you need.

Also this.

I found I spent a LOT of time looking up spells as a cleric. Not because I didn't come prepared (I had a list for combat days, downtime days, exploring days, social-heavy days, etc) but because we'd be out in the wilderness somewhere and someone would say: "Do you have a spell that does this?" and I'd spend the next 10 minutes scrolling through lists trying to figure it out.

This is something that will get better as you become more familiar with the class, but if you're new to the caster-cleric you'l have a steep learning curve.

SINCE NO ONE'S MENTIONED IT (as far as I can tell anyway): It' a good idea for casters to leave some spell-slots un-prepared. It takes ~15 minutes to prepare a slot in the middle of the day, essentially giving you access to any spell on your list as long as you have 15 minutes to spare.

depends on the party comp too

If you have a skald, having that skald take one of the linnorm death curse powers and you doing summons is a strong play. You simply summon the d4+1 weakest options, but load them in the way of the enemies, the skald raging songs them, if the enemies kill them they may well find themselves perma staggered

As a Dazing Channel/Channel Void focused Cleric, I spent over half of my actions on Aid Another... Channeling/Spells/whatever, just be Helpful!

Absolutely one of the most fun characters that I have ever played.

Clerics seem to have a lot of blinding spells. Blinding Ray, and one the cleric in my party keeps using, an AoE spell whose name I cannot recall. (It only deals damage to evil creatures, but the blindness alone is worth it.)

Thanks for all the awesome and helpful posts! It is most apreciated. =D

Kimera757 wrote:
Clerics seem to have a lot of blinding spells. Blinding Ray, and one the cleric in my party keeps using, an AoE spell whose name I cannot recall. (It only deals damage to evil creatures, but the blindness alone is worth it.)


It's a fantastic spell. The damage isn't huge but it isn't reduced on a save. If they fail their save they're blinded for 1d4 rounds. And it's an AoE spell, so even if your save DC isn't that high you've got a pretty good chance of blinding someone.

(Oh, and the "only deals damage to evil creatures" part is phenomenal. Just remember that it can still blind your allies even if it doesn't deal damage.)

If you are interested in summoning and not bogging down play, then you may want to stick to summoning singles instead of multiples. Summoning singles usually isn’t quite as strong an option, but it’s far from weak and you can save a feat from not taking superior summoning.

Btw, Clerics with Summon Monster can be absolutely atrocious if you put your mind to it. Whenever I play a class that uses Summon Monster well, I typically prep two Summon Monster at the highest or 2nd highest level that I can. This gives me one big summon that I can do, and one that I can get 1d3 or 1d4+1 mostly decent monsters, and then I also prep a Summon Monster III or IV (for 1d3 or 1d4+1 lvl 2 wolves or elementals, or w/e).

Why Summon Monster III/IV for 1d3/1d4+1 lvl 2 monsters? Because I can get 2-5 monsters to provide flanking or even block an escape route, or form a wall in front of someone who's dying (and there's always the chance they can roll a 20) and wolves TRIP. Even if an enemy moves through the monsters' squares to my ally, that's AoO's and now Flanking. And, the enemies waste at least 1 hit to kill them (and there's always the chance they miss or roll a 1) to deal with them. I can get a lot of use out of a piddly little Summon Monster III/IV.

Grand Lodge

If you don't want to summon you can get the animal domain and you will alway have something to do.

If I went for summoning i'd avoid summoning multiple monsters.. I like having an companion, But having a bunch of them gets a bit too much..

Merellin wrote:
If I went for summoning i'd avoid summoning multiple monsters.. I like having an companion, But having a bunch of them gets a bit too much..

Make notecards or laminated sheets with your frequently used summons. It makes using multiple summons a breeze.

Or if you use a laptop to keep track of your char sheet like I do, use an excel spreadsheet. Copy/paste from D20pfsrd.com and profit.

I play over Roll20 and use Mythweavers for character sheet, And have PFSRD open in another tab. Some people disslike Roll20, But I play with a group of friends who cant play together any other way (Because I'm in Sweden, Two people are in the UK, One is in Canada, And 3 are in the US) And while it probably wouldent be too much of a problem handling multiple summons as I keep their stats open on another tab, I would still rather stick to using just one summon at the time.

But thanks for the sugestion! =)

2 people marked this as a favorite.

It is really all build dependent. You can build to smash face or ...

You can:

1) Get an animal companion and make him do the fighting.
2) Cast spells. You have a great list why not use it.
3) Variant Negative Channel to Daze or Confuse your opponents.
4) Positive Channel to bring your companions back from the brink of death.
5) Summon Monsters or even better Summon Monsters as a Standard action.
6) Did I say casting because I should say it again. Be a bad touch cleric and lay the evil whammy on your enemies.
7) Inspire your allies to greatness. Make the Bard jealous as he is still not a full caster.

This class is so good I do not know how people do not get it.

People look at the cleric too simplistically sometimes...

In terms of a caster cleric you have to remember that you have your domain spells which can provide some good additions and also that some gods provide some very nice bonus spells for clerics

A quick example... for clerics of Shizuru you get Colour Spray (spontaneously) and Scorching Ray as bonus spells.... makes those lower levels more interesting!

Something I don't think has been mentioned above is stacking fear effects. Frightening enemies is effective battlefield control, and if set up right your party can slice them up with AoOs. It doesn't require any build investment other than being a cleric.

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I think the best cleric is one that tries to make use of all of its advantages. So lets look at the advantages.

1) Early game, good melee. 3/4 BAB + medium armor + shield = low level tank. As you get into the mid game real fighters will have a lot of feats invested into being better fighters. Also as gear improves the cleric shouldn't be focusing on acquiring better armor and weapons like a fighter. Clerics should be a bit more concerned with things that make them better...clerics. So expect to be heavily engaged in the front lines and slowly fall back as you get past 5th level. If you build to melee you'll stay front rank but it gets more expensive in character resources to stay relevant. When you start needing 2 buffs to keep up, its time to retire as a melee.

2) Channeling. The entire thread has focused in on the OP's topic of a casting cleric. Well, that is appropriate, but lets think about Channel for a bit. Early game, Channel is super powerful for keeping a party up. And honestly, if you just take Selective Channel and sink no further feats into it Channel is an extraordinary powerful ability that shouldn't be overlooked. Especially when confronting a haunt! Typically a cleric needs 2 rounds/channels to solo a haunt. And a channel in response to AoE damage is a perfect response. Sometimes channel will be the only 'safe' healing you can do.

3) Casting. Clerics have a huge list of really good buffs, condition removal, and healing. They also have a wide selection of generally bad damaging spells, very conditional spells, and debuffs. it is possible to make a cleric that focuses on casting spells on enemies, but it often turns out better to focus on spells that don't allow saves: buffs, condition removal, healing and touch spells.

4) Domains. Some domain powers are easy to forget, but mostly you'll wish you could have more domains. Domain powers are generally good to great, and the extra spells...vary a lot. Certainly domains shouldn't be overlooked especially since a lot of them offer you new and unique options.

Character Suggestion: Try a Desna worshiping vanilla Cleric. Focus your stats on cha, wis and con (in that order). Take a 10 in str, dex and int. Start off with Desna's fighting technique as your 1st level feat. Never invest anymore stats or feats into melee. That will give you good melee ability at early levels with a starknife. Use a Starknife and a shield with light armor. Avoid being encumbered. I suggest the Luck and Liberation domains. The Liberation domain is extremely good, and Luck just makes you more reliable in clutch situations.

For skills I'd suggest taking advantage of your charisma and becoming the party face. Or you could do perception and heal like a real support cleric. Well, perception is kind of a must in any case.

Spellwise the build isn't stacked towards any one type. Feel free to take any spells you like. I'd suggest you avoid buffing yourself. Trying to make yourself into a melee damage machine is going to lead to bad habits where you aren't acting like a support which is probably what your party needs from a cleric. Unless someone else is taking the support role?

Lots of people suggest a wand of CLW to heal between encounters. That isn't a bad idea, but channel has a lot of potential to minimize the wand usage. If 3 people need some healing, I think a channel is better than using a wand. Wands of CLW are cheap, not free. Avoid using your spells to heal outside of combat. Save you spells for encounters and overcoming obstacles.

And last thing to mention: Heal is a ridiculously powerful spell. If all you got was the condition removal it would still be worth taking. When most people think about clerics, heal is what they imagine.

I'm a growing fan of the Blossoming Light or Angelfire Apostle as caster clerics. It seems counterintuitive given the loss of domain spell slots for one, or 1 less spell per level on the other, but the versatility of the channeling either of those archetypes offer allow you to really focus your casting on what role your party needs you to play without losing out on either the anti-evil or condition removal that players expect from clerics.

Dark Archive

For a low level caster-y Cleric, I liked cause fear and command (flee), in 1st edition, because they could not only force a creature out of the combat for at least 2 rounds (1 fleeing, 1 returning), but also provoke AoOs from your allies, when used on foes engaged with them.

Even in a gestalt campaign, my Monk/Cleric would spend his time with Aid Another more than any other action he ever made.

Over the course of 8 levels, considering all encounters as a whole, he absolutely used Aid Another more than attacking, more than Channeling, and more than casting spells.

I cannot stress the usefulness of Aid Another enough for a build like this.

What do you do when you're not casting spells? Be helpful, that's what.

The party loved Hbob, and he was one of the most fun characters I have ever played.

He had Dazing Channel, but hardly ever used it.

He was a UnMonk with waveblades, but hardly ever used them.

What he ended up using time and time again was his Adopted (Helpful) trait and Bodyguard. Over and over and over...

Being up in the business wasn't too bad, because the entire party was willing to die to protect me. They loved me for being willing to stand beside them just to help them out.

I was a Kobold, so it's a little chicken-lizard standing toe-to-toe with the enemy besides the Dwarf gestalt Fighter/Inquisitor or the Slayer/Warpriest...

hi guys, I'm here to help...

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / What does a caster Cleric do in combat? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.