Baldur's Gate 3 Class Tier List and Guide
Introduction and Fundamental Assumptions
This article is a resource for optimizing your Tavs! It is entry three of four in my Baldur’s Gate 3 rankings and guide series. In the first entry I analyzed and ranked the six abilities: strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence, and charisma. That analysis formed the base for the second article , my race tier list, where I discussed all of the sub-races in the game and ranked them on a tier list. In this article I will give the same treatment to the 7 classes and the 15 sub-classes available in the early access so far. I hope you find it helpful!
Before diving into my tier ranking system, let’s take a moment to discuss how I expect this guide will be different from the two that precede it. So far, I have ranked abilities, sub-races, and now classes. Of the three it is classes that are the most complex and are going to be the most impactful to your runs. This means that ranking classes is much more difficult than ranking the others. Moreover, I find the class system in BG3 to be quite balanced overall. Classes that I will give an S-tier will still be bad if you build them poorly, and classes I will give a C-tier can be great if you make the right choices. Because of all of this, I want this article to be more guide than tier list. My primary goal in writing this is to help you readers get the most out of the class you want to play, because they are all really fun! Towards that end, I have included a build outline for every subclass for you to try.
Now some of you may be asking “why even have a tier ranking at all then?” There are a few reasons. One is that thinking about the relative strength of certain options compared to others is a great way to understand those options, which is to say that having power rankings helps us get the most out of our favorite sub-classes. Another reason is that I am hopeful that articles like this and the discussions that follow them will help Larian balance the game even better. Probably the most important reason is that power rankings and tier lists are just a fun part of gaming culture that I enjoy! If you do not enjoy them, I think you will still find a lot of helpful advice in this article anyways.
The Tiers and Combat Roles
I will be using a similar tier system to the one I used in my Race Tier List. It is:
S Tier: Consistently amazing classes where you feel it when you do not have one on your squad. A class that offers something worth building your entire team strategy around. For sub-classes an S-Tier indicates a sub-class whose features strongly compliment the base class, either by adding new role options to the class or by perfecting the original role.
A Tier: Classes that excel at their given role. For sub-classes, features that improve the role of their base class by one tier.
B Tier: Classes that are average at their given role. For sub-classes, features that offer minor improvements, not big enough improvements to shift the base class up a tier ranking.
C Tier: Classes that tend to get overshadowed in their role. These classes could use a buff. For sub-classes, features that, due to their opportunity cost, will seldom get used, and thus are not improvements to the base class.
RP Tier: Classes and sub-classes that get completely outperformed by others. Do not pick these options unless you are role-playing. There is always a better choice.
The roles mentioned in the ranking are the roles a character can take in a combat encounter. They are:
Control: The hallmark of a controller is having effects which ruin your enemy’s day, but not because they do a lot of damage. Controllers manipulate the battlefield with an arsenal of status effects and debuffs.
Defender: The role of a defender is to draw aggro and control enemy movement by throwing yourself into them.
Striker: The role of a striker is to generously dispense damage. That damage can be done to a single target or to many. It can be sustainable damage over a long period or focused into single turn. It can be dealt at range or at melee. All this counts as striking in my book.
Support: Supporters enable their allies through buffs and healing. Again, there are a lot of different kinds of buffs – offensive, defensive, mobility, etc – but they all enable allies, so all count as support for me. In previous editions of D&D this role was called “leader,” but I prefer the straight-forward description of support.
Something needs to be said about the defender role. Many people think that any class or build that is durable is a defender. This is not correct given the way I have defined these terms. The defender role is about drawing aggro. Durability is just about being able to withstand more enemy focus. I see durability in 5e as similar to mobility: it is something every role can benefit from that isn’t the hallmark of any one role in particular. A durable striker will deal more damage by surviving longer. They will also be better able to push through to priority targets. A durable support or control caster will be better able to maintain concentration. Durability is not role-defining, but it is almost always valuable. Of course, some roles will benefit from durability more than others, and the defender will benefit from it the most.
In the rankings I will list the roles of each base classes. Many classes can be built for more than one role or for multiple roles simultaneously. Nonetheless, each class should have a single primary role which they are best at, with all other roles being secondary. To note this, when I list the roles of a class, the primary role will always be listed first. Most sub-classes do not alter the role of their base classes. For the few that do, I will note this in their review.
Fundamental Assumption Disclaimers
I know you are probably anxious to get to the rankings, and we are almost ready, but there is still this one thing we need to get out of the way. My rankings only make sense given certain fundamental assumptions, which I will list now.
First, I will be operating under the same assumptions concerning combat versus out of combat utility as my last two articles. For those who didn’t read them, starting with the most valued and moving to the least:
direct combat utility --> indirect combat utility --> convenience --> role-play utility
The reason I make these assumptions is because what makes a better role play experience will differ from person to person, whereas combat utility is by contrast easy to compare and measure. I go into in more detail in my previous articles. I recommend reading them first, I will build off of the arguments I make there for this tier list.
This tier list will also operate from the fundamental assumption that you are trying as much as possible to minimize the amount of reloads and long rests you take in your runs.
Ok, that is out of the way. Let’s get started!
Cleric - S Tier
- Hit Points: 1d8 progression
- Saving Throws: Wisdom and Charisma
- Proficiencies: Light and Medium Armor, Shields, Simple Weapons
- Team Role: Support, Control
We are starting out hot! There is a lot to talk about with this class. The Cleric base class offers two invaluable support buffs at this stage of the game. The first is Bless, a concentration team accuracy and saving throw booster. Bless gives you on average a +2.5 on saving throws and attack roles. That is big deal (on Great Weapon Master builds the +2.5 accuracy will add on average 4 damage per hit, which is a lot). The second spell is Aid, which increases the maximum hit points of your allies by 5. With a 4-member party, a single cast of this spell is increasing the overall party hit point pool by 20. It is not a concentration spell, so you can stack it with bless. Notice also that it is not giving temporary hit points but increased maximum hit points, so you can still stack it with temporary hit points. It is easy to overlook small buffs that stack on multiple allies like this but getting a guaranteed 20 HP on a single cast is a very efficient use of a second level spell slot.
Clerics also get the spell Healing Word, a subtle spell that is practically a cheat code for most fights. Healing Word is like Cure Wounds, but it heals 1d4 + your ability modified at 18m range at the cost of a bonus action. If you are not sure why this is good, you should play Darkest Dungeon, and you’ll figure it out. Basically, in BG3, same as in Darkest Dungeon, in-combat healing is not designed to be efficient, you should never be able to reliably heal more damage than your enemies are dealing. An efficient use of healing in combat is either when it revives a fallen character, or it gives a character just enough hit points to survive an attack that otherwise would have downed them, effectively giving them another action.
Let’s model it in our minds. Imagine a cleric, an enemy owlbear, and an ally fighter taking turns in that initiative order. When it is the owlbear’s turn, he will down the fighter, but a Cure Wounds spell will allow the fighter to survive the attack with 1 HP remaining. This is an efficient cast of Cure Wounds, because at the cost of one action you are giving the fighter one action and forcing the owlbear to expend one action more to kill the fighter; it’s a 1 for 2 trade. As good as that is, Healing Word is even better. Healing word will not heal enough to save the fighter against the owlbear’s onslaught, so the cleric will spend their turn attacking the owlbear. On the owlbear’s turn it will down the fighter. The fighter loses their turn, and we are back to the cleric. The cleric can then cast Healing Word to revive the fighter with a bonus action and spend their action to attack again. Now it’s the owlbear’s turn again, and they are in exactly the same situation as last time: they have to spend their action downing the fighter. Suppose the owlbear averages 20 damage per action, they will have to spend that 20 damage to down the fighter, even though the fighter only has 6 hit points remaining. So, casting Healing Word in this situation is effectively absorbing 20 damage at the cost of a bonus action… That is insane efficiency.
Putting Bless, Aid, and Healing Word together, you get a class that, as long as they are alive and are maintaining concentration, will reliably swing the action economy in your favor.
But there is even more to this class than just its phenomenal support buffs. The cleric also has some top tier control spells like Bane and Hold Person. Hold Person is an important spell. In short, it’s a single target death sentence if it lands, since all melee attacks made against a held target are automatic crits. Bane is an undervalued debuff. It’s the offensive counterpart to Bless, subtracting 2.5 on average to enemy saving throws and attack roles. It the saving throw debuff that is the most important, because it can help you land debilitating control effects like Hold Person more reliably.
Now let’s look at the Cleric’s sub-class options.
Light Domain - A Tier
Light Domain Clerics get three augments to the Cleric base class: Warding Flare, Radiance of Dawn, and bonus domain spells. Warding Flare imposes disadvantage on attacks at the cost of a reaction. You can use Warding Flare a number of times equal to your wisdom modifier per long rest. This is an awesome ability that really compliments the base class. Not getting hit means not losing concentration. Also, finding ways to utilize your reaction bonus is highly efficient, since it has very little opportunity cost.
Radiance of Dawn is an area-of-effect (AoE) nuke spell that you can cast at the cost of an action and your channel divinity, which refreshes on a short rest. The damage value of the spell is equivalent to a typical level 2 (it will average 2.5 less damage per target then Shatter, but has a much wider AoE), so, in effect, you are getting a level 2 spell that refreshes on a short rest. That is great! Especially because the opportunity cost of channel divinity is also low. Turn Undead is only useful when you are fighting undead, so for most encounters you would not get a use out of channel divinity without Radiance of Dawn.
Finally, the bonus spells that the Light Domain gets are all useful. Mostly they get fire-based nuke spells like Burning Hands or Scorching Ray. Faerie Fire is seems like a good spell, but it takes concentration, and its competing against the Cleric's primary bonus, advantage on attack roles, is already easy to get without spending a spell slot (we will discuss this more below). Nuking spells are always welcome, particularly Burning Hands since the base Cleric spell list is lacking in AoE damage.
Altogether, the Light Domain utilizes underused action resources in ways that give a mix of defense and raw damage to an already awesome base class that can benefit from both.
Build: A wood elf Light Cleric is an awesome combination. For your starting stats, max wisdom at 16 and then buy a 14 in both constitution and dexterity. The remaining 7 points just put wherever you prefer. At level 4, take the ASI to bump your wisdom to 18. This build will make it very improbable that anyone cancels your concentration, because you will have 19 AC + Warding Flare (21 AC is you use your concentration for Shield) and are immune to sleep, which is the most reliable concentration breaker in the game.
Life Domain - B Tier
The Life Domain adds Disciple of Life, Preserve Life, heavy armor proficiency, and domain spells to the Cleric base class. Disciple of life is a small boost to healing potency. Its nice, but 80% of the value of healing comes from reviving fallen allies, which you get even if you heal 1 hp (if this claim is confusing to you, read my analysis of Healing Word in the Cleric base class review).
Preserve Life is an AoE heal that costs an action and your Channel Divinity. Again, the base Channel Divinity – Turn Undead – is situationally useful at best, so a consistently useful option like Preserve Life is valuable, because it allows you to get reliable use from a resource that refreshes on a short rest. At level 4, if you hit every ally with it, and every ally has taken at least 12 points of damage, Preserve Life heals 48 HP, and refreshes on a short rest. That is adding a lot of durability to your party. If you are playing a Life Domain Cleric, don’t be afraid to take a little bit of damage in order to maximize your own damage output. Play offensively, trade hit for hit, because those are the fights where you will get the most efficiency from this subclass.
The Life Domain’s bonus spells are useful Cleric staples like Bless and Aid. They are good spells, but ones you would be taking anyways. I prefer domain spells to augment the base spell list with new options. The heavy armor proficiency is forgettable with the state of the game right now. It does allow you to dump dex, and this is one of few sub-classes that can afford to do that.
Build: An optimized build would go half wood-elf, but I recommend the gold dwarf just because it is fun and interesting. Take the ASI at level 4, your stats should be 14,8,18,8,16,12. It’s a tanky melee cleric build with insane durability. If you are concentrating on Bless, it will be rare that you ever lose it. Your melee damage is low, but reliable. You AC should be 18, with 48 hp when Aid is up. It’s an awesome support/tank build.
Trickery Domain - B Tier
The Trickery Cleric is a fun utility support that is sadly difficult to translate well to the video game format. Larian has also made some choices that have really unexpectedly hurt the subclass. The Trickery Domain adds Blessing of the Trickster, Invoke Duplicity, and domain spells to the base Cleric class.
Blessing of the Trickster is an at-will feature that gives an ally advantage on stealth checks. Stealth is really useful, so this should be a really valuable feature. However, the way it is right now, it is taking up the cleric’s valuable concentration slot. If the feature followed the rules of the Players Handbook, it shouldn’t compete for concentration, but for some reason it does in BG3. Taking concentration really cripples this feature, but it is still useful in certain situations.
Invoke Duplicity costs an action, concentration, and your channel divinity to summon an illusion to distract enemies. If you or an ally attacks an enemy that is within 3m of the illusion, that attack has advantage. This is another victim of some of Larian’s current balancing choices. First, this is another feature that in the Players Handbook does not take concentration (although it does use something like concentration, but that doesn’t take up the concentration slot), but in BG3 it does, giving it a steep opportunity cost to cast. This is compounded by the fact that in BG3, advantage on attacks is trivially easy to get without this feature. Put this all together, you get a feature that is dead on arrival. There just isn’t a good time to every use this feature, there is always a better choice.
However, the Trickery Domain is rescued from C tier by its awesome bonus spells. At level 3 you get access to Mirror Image and Pass without Trace. Mirror Image gives you a whopping +9 bonus to AC that decays by 3 every time an enemy misses you. Moreover, my experience has been that enemy AI will shun targets with high AC, which means you will end up avoiding many more attacks then just the ones that your images absorb. Avoiding attacks is the best way to maintain concentration, and maintaining concentration is everything for clerics. Pass without Trace is a concentration spell that gives all allies in the area of effect a +10 bonus to stealth checks. How good is a +10? A level 4 character maximized for stealth with the high roll on guidance will also get a +10 to stealth… that means with this level 2 spell, your trickery cleric is making everyone in your party the equivalent of a fully optimized sneak. And this +10 bonus stacks with other bonuses, like the advantage you get from Blessing of the Trickster, or a bonus from Guidance, and even standard proficiency. With this spell you should never get spotted, which means you basically have an invisibility spell that doesn’t break when you attack enemies. The big problem Trickery Domain Clerics face is that they have too many good level 2 spells to choose from.
Build: For most readers, asking, “how should I build a Trickery Cleric?” is equivalent to asking, “how should I build Shadowheart?” so I will answer the latter question. I recommend spending your ASI to improve her dexterity and constitution instead of wisdom. Wisdom improves your spell DC, improving you as a controller, but most of the Trickery Clerics spell slots are not going to be spent casting control spells. You will lose 1 DC on Hold Person, which hurts, but you get better concentration saves, more hit points, and more damage and accuracy on your ranged attacks, an overall better trade, especially since you will likely have Hold Person on another party member.
Druid – B Tier
- Hit Points: 1d8 progression
- Saving Throws: Wisdom and Intelligence
- Proficiencies: Light and Medium Armor, Shields, Druid weapons
- Team Role: Control, Striker, Support
The Druid is a weird kind of spell casting class that really isn’t about spell casting. It is strong though, and has one of the most interesting sub-classes in the game, so be sure to read through to the sub-classes.
The Druid base class gets two features – spell casting and Wild Shape – which we will discuss in that order. Druid spell casting works the same as a Clerics, but they have their own spell list. So far, I find the Druid spell list to be lackluster. I don’t have the space in this article to review every spell (I will do that in my forthcoming Spell Tier List), so we will have to be satisfied looking at just a few. The most serious problem of their spell list is that so many of the spells use concentration. After casting one concentration spell I find myself spending a lot of turns staring at my spell list looking for something else to cast before settling on a sub-optimal cantrip.
Moreover, some of their bread and butter spells on table top do not work well in BG3. The best example of this is Faerie Fire. In table top, Faerie Fire is a consistently useful control spell that rival Bless in power. It is an AoE spell, and enemies in the area who fail a dexterity save become illuminated. They lose all invisibility, and attacks against them are made with advantage. Attacking with advantage is extremely strong, but in BG3 it is trivially easy to get advantage on attacks without Faerie Fire, so the spell goes from consistently awesome to just situationally good when you need to cancel invisibility.
To a lesser degree Entangle suffers the same fate. Entangle imposes the restrained affliction in an area. Restrained is an important condition, because it is one of a few ways to impose disadvantage on a saving throw. Its designed to set up for a party member to blast the area with a AoE striking spell that targets the dexterity save, like, say, Fireball. But in BG3 so far, there is only one AoE striking spell that targets dex, and it is Burning Hands, which can be hard to position with Entagle, due to its range restrictions. If you don’t get Entangle just right, your ally will have to walk into the roots to hit the enemies with Burning Hands, meaning they will also take damage from the spell. All of that said, Druids still get access to some great spells. Heat Metal is devastating DPR on a single target. Moonbeam is also fantastic DPR if you can keep enemies in it. They get Healing Word and Pass Without Trace, which we discussed above in the Cleric review. They have Hold Person, an important control spell. These are all good options, it is just to bad so many of them compete for your concentration.
The Wild Shape feature allows you Druid to shapeshift into various animals like you are an Animorph. You can use this feature twice per short rest, which is a lot of uses. By level 4, you will have six Wild Shape options, seven if you take the right dialogue options. Those seven are: badger, cat, raven, spider, wolf, deep rothe, and abberation. The badger, cat, and raven are sub-optimal in combat, being more useful for exploration, so we will set them aside and look at the others. The spider is the most mobile, has an enweb ability as a bonus action, and its attacks can impose the poisoned condition. The wolf has a very interesting once per short rest ability that guarantees a critical for the next ally that hits a target. The deep rothe you get at level 4, it is the best DPR wild shape. The abberation has a powerful intelligence attacking ability, but use this shape carefully, since NPCs will attack you when they see you.
Wild shaping costs an action, but you maintain concentration in your animal form. When in animal form, if you are reduced to zero hit-points, you revert back to your human form with however many hit-points you had when you wild shaped. So, hit points from your animal form function very similarly to temporary hit-points, and you get two wild shapes per short rest. The spider, for example, has 20 HP, so if you use all your wild shapes on the spider, you can get up to 120 bonus hit-points per long rest. That is a lot of extra durability.
In summary, the Druid is a weak spell caster, but makes up for it with its Wild Shape feature, which gives unparalleled durability. Now lets look at the Druid’s sub-classes.
Circle of the Moon - S Tier
An S-tier ranking indicates a subclass whose features strongly compliment the base class, either by adding new role options to the class or by perfecting the original role. The Moon Druid is S-tier because it adds a new role – Defender – to the Druid base class. I consider it the only real defender class in the game so far. The Circle of the Moon adds three features to the Druid base class: Combat Wild Shape, Lunar Mend, and the Polar Bear Wild Shape.
Combat Wild Shape allows you to Wild Shape at the cost of a bonus action instead of a standard action. The usefulness of this feature is straightforward and obvious, so let’s not waste a lot of words discussing it.
Lunar Mend allows you to heal yourself while in wild shape for the cost of a bonus action and a spell slot. You heal 1d8 per spell level of the slot you use. Druids are already insanely durable, so with Lunar Mend it is as if you are shapeshifting into a rock. It is like Paul Simon said, “rocks feel no pain, and Moon Druids never die.” Remember how Druids find themselves staring at their spell list and not having any to cast because so many of their spells take concentration? Well Lunar Mend takes care of that dilemma. Now you can use your spell slots healing yourself.
The last feature is the Polar Bear Wild Shape, which is a unique shape available to Moon Druids only. On full release there should be more of these unique options, but for now we have the polar bear, and honestly, its enough. Polar Bears have 30 hit-points. That means if you use every Wild Shape to turn into a Polar Bear you will be getting 180 bonus HP… That is on top of your Lunar Mend feature… Polar bears can also spend their action to do a goading roar, which is a taunting ability. When you use it, enemies within 9m of you must make a wisdom saving throw or be forced into attacking you. This is one of the few taunting mechanics in 5e.
Combine all these features together with the Druid base class and you get a highly durable character who can draw enemy fire through an at-will taunting ability. Use this class to lock up high DPR enemies or casters.
Build: Moon Druids are easy to build, because all of your physical abilities (strength, dexterity, constitution) will be replaced when you wild shape. All you really need is to prioritize is wisdom. Gold dwarf is a great choice then because of the wisdom and extra hit-points. Take Produce Flame and Thornwhip as your cantrips. For spells, take whatever looks cool! You will be using most of your spell slots healing yourself anyways. In combat, cast a concentration spell, then Wild Shape and start tanking for your team. Moonbeam, Spike Growth, and Heat Metal should be your go to options for using your concentration. At level 4, take an ASI in wisdom to bump it to 18.
Circle of the Land - B Tier
This sub-class is the king of the casters. Choosing Circle of the Land gives you three features: Natural Recovery, a bonus cantrip, and Circle Spells.
Natural Recovery allows you to recover some spell slots between encounters. You can use it once per long rest, and the spell slots recovered must be equal to or less than half your Druid level (rounded up). So, a 4th level Druid can recover one 2nd level spell slot, or two 1st level spell slots. This isn’t a flashy feature, but it is awesome, giving you more spells to cast.
At level 2, Land Druids also get an extra cantrip. We haven’t discussed Druid cantrips, so here is a good place to do that. Druids have two cantrips that stand out among the others, they are Produce Flame and Thornwhip. Both are ranged spell attack cantrips. Produce Flame does 1d8 damage, but can also be held in hand, shedding light in a 3m radius. If you cast this before shapeshifting you can combat a lack of darkvision in your animal forms. Thornwhip does 1d6 damage, but also pulls your target 3m towards you. There is no saving throw on the pull. The remaining cantrips to choose from likely will not get a lot of use. Guidance is fantastic, but you already get access to it from a very easy to acquire item. Shillalegh is probably the best choice, it’s a good cantrip, but Druids should try to avoid attacking melee in human form, so you will seldom use it. So, getting a bonus cantrip seems cool at first, but it doesn’t do much for you in the end.
Finally, at level 3 Land Druids choose a biome which represents the natural environment they study and protect. There are eight biomes to choose from, and each gives your Druid two bonus spells which are always learned. It is this feature and Natural Recovery which make Land Druids the king of casters. Classes like the Cleric get bonus spells for more choice. Wizards get spell recovery features for more casts per long rest. Land Druids are the only class option that gets both.
What I want out of my Circle Spells choice are spells that don’t take concentration, are consistently useful, are not otherwise available to Druids, and that compliment the Land Druid’s combat role as a controller. The Coast and Swamp spells fit these criteria the best. It’s a matter of preference between the two. For Swamp, chaining Acid Arrow with the Druid’s DPR concentration options, like Heat Metal or Moonbeam, is a lot of consistent damage. However, choosing Coast allows for Misty Step into Thunderwave combos, which are always fun, and Druids already get a lot of utility from Thunderwave when they use it to push enemies back into their ground effects, like Entangle or Spike Growth.
Honestly, as good as the Mood Druid is, I have more fun playing as the Circle of the Land. I'm not about that Animorph life, and casting spells is fun.
Build: Wood Elf or Half-Wood Elf are you best choices for race, because they get a bonus to wisdom and Fey Ancestry to prevent sleep from breaking your concentration. Because you will spend more time in human form than a Moon Druid, it is worth investing in constitution and dexterity for the durability. Make sure you buy the highest even numbers you can get in wisdom, constitution and dexterity, and spend the remaining points however you like. For cantrips, take Produce Flame, Thornwhip, then whatever at level 2. At level 3, choose the Coast biome. At level 4, get that wisdom score up to 18 with an ASI. In combat, cast Spike Growth, then try to use your mobility and Thunderwave to push enemies into it.
Fighter - A Tier
- Hit Points: 1d10 progression
- Saving Throws: Strength and Constitution
- Proficiencies: Light, Medium, and Heavy Armor, Shields, Simple and Martial Weapons.
- Team Role: Striker
Besides the excellent hit-point progression and proficiencies, fighters get the following features: Second Wind, a Fighting Style, and Action Surge. We will go through them one at a time.
Second Wind is a self heal on a bonus action that refreshes on a short rest. It heals 1d10 + your fighter level, so at level 4 it’s on average a bonus 9.5 health per short rest. It doesn’t seem like much, but that is a lot of extra durability if you make sure you are using it three times per long rest.
A Fighting Style represents the specialized martial training a fighter has received. You can choose between six styles, with each style giving a different bonus:
- Archery: gives a +2 bonus to attack roles made with ranged weapons
- Defense: gives a +1 to AC while wearing armor
- Dueling: gives a +2 to damage when attacking with a one-handed melee weapon while the other hand is free.
- Great Weapon Fighting (GWF): allows the player to re-roll 1’s and 2’s on damage die on attacks made with two-handed melee weapons.
- Protection: allows the player to use their reaction to impose disadvantage on attacks made against allies within 1.5m of them.
- Two-Weapon Fighting (TWF): allows the player to add their ability modifier to damage made with their off-hand attack.
Most of the these are useful but not crucial bonuses. Let’s look at some of the weaker ones first. GWF is the weakest DPR boost, giving around a +1 bonus to damage (it varies by weapon type, but is always around a +1 if you round it). Protection is technically the strongest boost, but is extremely restrictive to use. I have always wanted to run a phalanx duo on tabletop, where two players pick this style and always fight in formation, but its asking a lot of my friends for them to chain themselves to that concept. From a pure optimization stand-point I think it is undervalued as a choice, but there are still better build paths out there. In the PHB you can gain the bonus from Dueling even when you have a shield in your off-hand, making it the go-to style for shield builds, but Larian has changed the description in a way that makes me think it does not work with shields in BG3. If that is true (I haven’t tested it yet), it is also to restrictive to compete with other choices. That leaves Defense, Archery, and TWF as the three remaining options. Defense is boring, but awesome, and is almost always the best choice for melee focused builds. TWF is the highest DPR boost among the styles, but dual wielding still loses out to two-handed builds in DPR once you factor in the Great Weapon Master feat. Still, TWF is a decent choice if you just prefer dual wielding. If you aren’t going melee, take Archery, a +2 bonus to accuracy is always good.
Finally, there is Action Surge, which gives you a second action in a turn and refreshes on a short rest. This feature is a lot of fun! Its like a burst damage spell that scales off of your standard action DPR that you can cast three times per long rest. There are two situations where you want to use this. First, whenever the extra attack will reliably kill a target that otherwise would survive your turn. This is efficient because you are not only getting another standard action for yourself, but you are also removing a whole turn that your opponent would be getting. The second situation is when you can target enemies under status effects that guarantee crits, like sleep or paralyze. Two crits in a single turn is a death sentence for most enemies.
Altogether, the Fighter base class is solid foundation for a reliably striker. Its reliable because their features are easy to use, useful in every combat situation, and are either always available or refresh on a short rest. Moreover, the fighter is also highly durable compared to other striking classes in the game, allowing them to consistently push through to priority targets, and to just survive long enough to dish out the damage that you want them for. It is best to not think of the Fighter as a defender class, but as a durable striker class.
Battle Master - S Tier
This sub-class pretty much does what it says on the tin: it masters battles. Seriously though, this class is meat mincer. Battle Master’s add the Combat Maneuver feature to the Fighter base class. Maneuvers are spell-like abilities that use a special resource called superiority dice. Basically, a superiority dice is a resource you expend to perform the maneuver (like a spell slot for a spell), and most maneuvers will have you roll the expended dice (a d8) and add it to the effect of the maneuver in some way. You start with 4 superiority dice, and they refresh after a short rest, meaning you will get a maximum of 12 “casts” per long rest. Some of the maneuvers require the enemy to make a saving throw, in which case the DC is always “8 + proficiency bonus + strength or dexterity modifier (whichever is highest)”
So far in the early access you are able to select 3 maneuvers from a total of 4 options. Those options are:
- Menacing Attack: you make a standard attack against the target and add the superiority dice roll to the damage. The target must also succeed on a wisdom saving throw or be frightened of you until the end of your next turn.
- Pushing Attack: you make a standard attack against the target and add the superiority dice roll to the damage. If the target is large or smaller it must make a strength saving throw or get pushed 4.5m away from you.
- Rally: with a bonus action, expend a superiority die to give 8 temporary hit-points to an ally within 1.5m of you. These hit points last 10 rounds.
- Riposte: when an ally misses you with a melee attack you use your reaction to riposte. Make a standard attack against the target and add the superiority dice roll to the damage.
Now, most of these options are underwhelming, but one of them so awesome you shouldn’t really care. Can you guess which one is the good one? Let’s go through them one at a time.
Menacing Attack is underwhelming. It requires two “hits” to get the full effect: first you have to hit the attack, then they have to fail their saving throw. If you manage to hit both, the enemy is frightened for one turn. Frightened is a good status effect, so if you hit it on the right target you are set for a fight. Nevertheless, I prefer options that are more reliably.
Pushing Attack is situationally worth the cast. If you can use it to push your target off of a high place it does a lot of damage and inflicts prone, which is useful. Otherwise, it is underwhelming.
Rally would be amazing if it worked the way it works in the Players Handbook, but Larian has nerfed it into near uselessness in BG3. In the tabletop rules, Rally has no timed expiration, it just lasts until you take enough damage to break the temporary hit-points or until you take your next long rest. That means you can start every adventuring day by casting Rally on your party, then take a short rest. The expended superiority dice refresh on the short rest, but the temporary hit points stay. In effect, you are boosting your party’s hit point total by, on average, 18 (even more if you have a positive charisma modifier) every day, at level 3, for no real cost at all. Larian apparently noticed the potential for abuse and gave the maneuver an expiration. They tried to buff it by having it always heal for the maximum 8, but its usually a waste of a dice. The fact that it is on a bonus action is nice though.
If you guessed Riposte was the awesome one, you are correct! Riposte allows you to weaponize your reaction, an otherwise under-utilized resource in your action budget. Effectively, assuming you use all of your superiority dice on Ripostes (which is generally what you should do), you are adding 12 attacks per long rest, and you are adding superiority dice to the damage on those attacks.
Build: Like I did with the Trickery Domain Cleric, I am going to suggest a Battle Master build for a companion, this time Lae’zel. Lae’zel is actually really close to an optimized Battle Master already, which is just fantastic. Take Riposte, Rally, and Pushing Attack at level 3, then the Great Weapon Master feat at level 4. This build centers around maximizing damage per attack, then multiplying attacks with Riposte, Action Surge, and the cleave feature from Great Weapon Master. Assuming you proc cleave on around half of your turns, are procing Riposte, and are attacking with advantage, you will average 34.9 DPR against an AC range of 5-25. This isn’t factoring in Bless, or the guaranteed crits from spells like Sleep and Hold Person. If you have a team that can support Lae’zel with spells like this, her DPR shoots into the stratosphere. It is the highest sustain DPR build I know of in BG3 right now, and it even has burst and AoE damage options with Action Surge and Cleave ability from Greatswords. Its the best striker build in the game and you can get it on a stock companion. I can’t say enough good things about it!
Eldritch Knight - RP Tier
This class will be really good on full release, probably A tier, maybe S, but right now it just can’t compete with the Battle Master. It hasn’t gotten enough of Larian’s attention in the early access, so as of now it is always worse to pick Eldritch Knight over Battle Master.
Eldritch Knights add spell casting to the Fighter base class. They learn two cantrips and up to four spells by level 4. Three of those four spells must be in the abjuration or evocation schools. At level 4 they have three first level spell casts per long rest. Their spell casting modifier is intelligence.
The problem with this feature is that there are not enough spells in the early access to support it. In patch 4 there are six evocation or abjuration spells they can choose from. They are Burning Hands, Magic Missile, Mage Armor, Protection from Evil and Good, Thunderwave, and Witch Bolt. None of them synergize well with the Fighter base class. The cantrip selection does not fare much better. For the one spell you get that isn’t restricted there are two interesting choices: Jump and Sleep. Both are good spells, you will use them often, but they are not enough to compete with Riposte.
So instead, let’s discuss what can happen between this patch and full release to make the Eldritch Knight good. The obvious fix would be the addition of new spells and cantrips. The spell Shield, for example, is famously good on Eldritch Knights, basically serving as a defensive counterpart to Riposte. The Eldritch Knight also gets two really important class features at levels 7 and 10. The level 10 feature is particularly good, as it is one of only a handful of ways in the game to reliably impose disadvantage on a target’s saving throws, setting up for those devastating paralyze spells. With more options, the Eldritch Knight should serve as a more durable and control focused alternative to Battle Master.
Build: an optimal build would do something like our build for Battle Master above, taking Great Weapon Master and optimizing for DPR, but we have established that there is no way for the Eldritch Knight to compete, so I’m going to outline a sub-optimal but fun build that plays on a few unique interactions available to this sub-class. Pick Gold Dwarf as your race, max your constitution, and make sure you have a 14 dexterity. At level 3, take Shocking Grasp and Blade Ward as your cantrips. At level 4, take the tough feet. You should have 52 hit points at level 4, the highest possible in the early access. Normally a build that goes full tank like this will be two behind curve for accuracy, but with the Headband of Intellect, your Shocking Grasp is on curve. Your damage will still be painfully low, but you are extremely tanky to make up for it.
Ranger - B Tier
- Hit Points: 1d10 progression
- Saving Throws: Strength and Dexterity
- Proficiencies: Light and Medium Armor, Shields, Simple and Martial Weapons.
- Team Role: Striker
Ranger’s are an interesting class in D&D history. I’ve never felt like they have been executed well, accept in that edition we all decided to hate for some reason. One of my other hobbies is writing short stories, and I actually wrote one specifically to explore what I think a Ranger archetype should be, in contrast to the way we perceive rangers in most D&D editions. Larian has changed the Ranger quite a bit from how it works in the Player’s Handbook. They have tried to give them options that are more consistently useful. Besides the things outlined above, the ranger base class is defined by four features: Favored Enemy, Natural Explorer, Fighting Styles, and spell casting.
Favored Enemy represents the Ranger’s special training in hunting certain targets. You must choose one of five options:
- Bounty Hunter: Gain Proficiency in investigation and learn the Thieves' Cant passive. Creatures you restrain have a harder time escaping. (Note, I am not sure what ‘harder time escaping’ actually translates to mechanically).
- Keeper of the Veil: You gain proficiency in Arcana, and can cast Protection from Evil and Good.
- Mage Breaker: Gain proficiency with Arcana and the True Strike cantrip.
- Ranger Knight: Gain proficiency with History and Heavy Armor
- Sanctified Stalker: Gain proficiency in Religion and the Sacred Flame cantrip. Wisdom is your spell casting ability for this spell.
All of these are mediocre features. None stand-out particularly, probably Ranger Knight is best by a small margin just because it is “always on.” Right now heavy armor options are weaker than light and medium, but there is a helmet which blocks critical hits you can buy in the Druid’s Grove (or find later) that makes the heavy armor proficiency worth the get.
Natural Explorer represents a Ranger’s special training in a particular environment. Again, you can choose one of five options:
- Beast Tamer: You can cast Find Familiar as a ritual.
- Urban Tracker: you gain proficiency with the disguise kit and thieves' tools.
- Wasteland Wanderer (Cold): Gain resistance to cold damage
- Wasteland Wanderer (Fire): Gain resistance to fire damage
- Wasteland Wanderer (Poison): Gain resistance to poison damage
These features are much more useful. The Fire resistance is probably the best choice, with Beast Tamer taking second. Really, any of the resistances will be useful. Pass on Urban Tracker unless you really need it for a concept.
The Ranger Fighting Styles are identical to the eponymous feature in the Fighter base class, only the Ranger gets access to fewer options. Rangers may choose from Archery, Defense, Dueling, and Two-Weapon Fighting. Nothing in the Ranger class changes my analysis of this feature with the Fighter. It is best to take Archery if you want to primarily attack with ranged weapons, take TWF if you want to dual wield, and take Defense in all other cases.
Finally, the Ranger base class also gets access to spell casting at level 2. Their spell list is small, and, for the most part, lackluster, but there are some solid spells that are worth discussing. Hunter’s Mark is the first of what I call “4e striker spells.” These are spells that add a d6 to your damage on attacks against the marked target. The spells always hit their target, are a bonus action to cast, and can be switched to new targets when the first one dies without taking an extra spell slot. Usually they also take concentration. In fact, its helpful to think of them as weaponizing your concentration slot, adding 3.5 damage on average to your DPR when you hit. It’s a decent use of a concentration slot at early levels, and an extremely efficient use of a level one spell slot. Jump is an amazing mobility spell in BG3. Use it to kite if you are ranged attack focused and use it for priority target selection if you are melee.
Ensnaring Strike is a unique spell to the Ranger that has some promise, so its worth taking a second to discuss it. It is cast on an attack, and restrains a target that is hit and fails a strength saving throw. Besides being restrained, the target takes 1d6 damage per round for as long as they are restrained. Restrained is a useful condition, especially when you can chain it with other spells that target the dex saving throw (which is difficult at this point of early access). The damage is comparable to Hunter’s Mark, but does not refresh when the target dies. Its also one of those dreaded spells that has to hit twice to get full effect (hit on the attack and on the saving throw). It competes with Hunter’s Mark for concentration, so 95% of the time you should prefer Hunter’s Mark.
Beastmaster - B Tier
The Beastmaster augments the Ranger base class with the Summon Companion feature. As the name suggests, this feature allows you to summon an animal companion to fight along side you. You may summon this companion an infinite amount of times outside of combat, so you can have it for every fight, but if it falls in battle you cannot re-summon while the combat is ongoing.
Technically there are five options for animals to summon, but functionally there are only four. The five choices are bear, boar, raven, spider, wolf, but there really is no reason pick the the boar, it just gets outclassed by the other options. The bear gets a taunting feature and has the most hit-points at 19. In terms of raw stats, the spider used to be overloaded compared to the other options, but it has taken a big nerf. Still, it gets an enweb ability on a bonus action, and its attacks have a chance to impose the poisoned condition, which gives disadvantage on attacks, so not bad. Raven carves out its own niche by being able to blind opponents and fly away to safety as a hit-and-run move. Blind imposes disadvantage on their attacks, and advantage on all attacks against. The wolf does the most DPR of all the choices by just a smidge, and the wolf’s attacks have a chance to inflict the prone condition. If you prefer the prone condition to the spider’s poison, or the Raven's blind, you might prefer the wolf.
Now, we haven’t discussed summons in general yet, so now if a good time to do it. Summons are really useful, since they come with their own actions there is no real opportunity cost to them. The only opportunity cost is the cost of choosing a summon feature over some other feature. Also, summoned allies are typically at their best when you first get them, then diminish in power as your character progresses. In early access though, we are restricted to lower levels, which inflates the value of summons in general. Since the Beast Master gets the spider, one of the best summons in the game, it is an A Tier subclass. However, I don’t expect it to keep its ‘A’ ranking with full release.
Build: The Beast Master animal companion feature doesn’t scale with anything, so go hog wild. An optimized Ranger would go Mountain Dwarf and take Great Weapon Master at level 4. However, for my play-through as a Beast Master, I played as my boy John Dell (in honor of the Adventures in Odyssey character from the “Castles and Cauldrons” episode, written to warn parents about the secret satanism of D&D in 1990). John Dell is a Stoutheart Halfling, with Agnes, his trusted spider companion. John Dell was a stone cold killer in every conceivable meaning of that phrase.
Hunter - B Tier
The Hunter adds the Hunter’s Prey feature to the Ranger base class. Hunter’s Prey has you choose one of three options to represent your Ranger’s special expertise in fighting a particular type of monster:
- Colossus Slayer: Once per turn, your weapon attack deals an extra 1d8 damage if the target is below its hit point maximum.
- Giant Killer: If a Large or bigger creature attacks you, you can use your reaction to make a melee attack.
- Horde Breaker: Target two creatures standing close to each other, attacking them in quick succession.
Giant Killer and Horde Breaker are impactful, but to situational to proc. Giant Killer looks really attractive when you read it, because there are a few tough fights against Large or bigger creatures in the early access. However, in those fights, I find it difficult to efficiently force aggro on my Ranger, which means you just don’t proc this feature enough for it to add substantial damage. Colossus Slayer is the best choice just because you can consistently proc it in most combats. The damage increase it gives you stacks with Hunter’s Mark, making Hunters very flexible damage dealers.
Build: For this build I recommend shield dwarf. Buy a 16 in strength and constitution, a 14 in dexterity, putting the rest in wisdom (it should buy you a 13 with 1 point remaining). At level 2 take Defense or GWF for your Fighting Style. At level 4 take the Great Weapon Master feat. When you are attacking with advantage (which should be every turn until they change the backstab rules), turn Power Attack off anytime you are attacking an enemy with 17 AC or higher (19 or higher with Bless). For everything below, use Power Attack.
Some of you may be wondering why we wouldn’t go for a dual-wielding build when Hunter’s Mark procs on off-hand attacks. Shouldn’t it be more damage to guarantee a bonus action attack and double proc Hunter’s Mark? The short answer is no, great weapon builds are still better. The long answer is it depends. Dual-wielding averages more damage when attacking targets with a 15 AC or higher (18 or higher with Bless). It isn’t as strong working with a team that can set it up to hit with spells like Bless, Sleep, or Hold Person, but perhaps you are running a control and support light party. In those cases you might get more from dual-wielding.
Rogue – C Tier
- Hit Points: 1d8 progression
- Saving Throws: Dexterity and Intelligence
- Proficiencies: Light Armor, Simple and Rogue Weapons.
- Team Role: Striker
A C-tier ranking might surprise a few readers. I had planned on ranking both the Rogue base class and the Thief subclass much higher then I have, but once I really did the analysis and compared the Rogue’s average DPR to other striker classes I discovered I was overrating them. It surprised me too. I will try to lay out all of my analysis in detail. If you feel that I missed something I welcome your input.
The Rogue base class gets two features in BG3: Sneak Attack and Cunning Action. Sneak Attack is kind of like a 4e striker spell, but it scales and is more situational to proc. Whenever you are attacking with advantage, or attacking a target that is within 1.5m of an ally, your standard action attack does an extra 1d6 damage, or 2d6 damage after level 3 (it gains 1d6 every odd level). This is a strong feature in BG3, since it is very easy to get advantage. However, as we will see below when we discuss the Thief subclass, it does not compare well to features that multiply attacks, like the Battle Master’s Riposte.
Cunning Action in BG3 allows you to take the Dash action as bonus action instead. Dash doubles your movement; a handy mobility boost. Its value is weakened a tad because it competes with Jump for your bonus action. With a high strength, Jump can be used for a few bonus meters. Dash will get you more movement though, and does not require in investment in strength. Mobility on strikers like Rogues can be used to close distance on priority targets if melee, or to kite if ranged.
Compared to Fighters and Rangers, Rogues have more mobility, but are less durable and do less damage. Its not a favorable trade for them, thus the C ranking.
Thief – A Tier
Just this once we are going to break alphabetic order and discuss the Thief subclass before its counter-part, the Arcane Trickster. Larian has changed the Thief, giving it some attention grabbing features, and its become a fan favorite. However, I will argue that, while the Thief subclass is good, combined with the Rogue base class it equals to a middling grade. However, if and when multi--classing becomes an option, this sub-class will probably be S tier.
This subclass adds two features to the Rogue base class: Fast Hands and Second-Story Work. Second-Story Work gives resistance to fall damage. It has not been noticeable on any of my Thief runs. The real reason the Thief is valued so highly is Fast Hands.
Fast Hands gives the Thief an additional bonus action. That’s right, instead of having one bonus action per turn, you now have two. You can now Jump twice in turn, use the Dash bonus action and hide, Shove two goblins off a roof, drink two healing potions, you get the picture, there are so many possibilities. Probably the most tantalizing of them is combining Fast Hands with dual-wielding and getting two off-hand attacks in a turn, three attacks per turn total. How can that not be S-tier?
The biggest problem is that off-hand attacks are not very good unless you have the TWF Fighting Style offered by Fighters and Rangers. Without TWF, you do not get to add your ability modifier to your damage (in my tests it seems that off-hand attacks also are less accurate, but I am not sure exactly why yet), and this drastically undercuts the efficiency of dual-wielding.
Here is a graph that compares the average damage per round of the three martial striker classes available so far, Thieves, Hunters, and Battle Masters. The X-axis represents average DPR each build has attacking the corresponding AC value on the Y-axis. It assumes each class is attacking with advantage, so the Thief is gaining the benefits of sneak attack as well as the two bonus action attacks.
As you can see, while its damage is more resilient to higher armor classes, it still never surpasses either the Hunter or the Battle Master. Note, the Battle Master DPR assumes they are procing Riposte. Both the Battle Master and Hunter are using the Great Weapon Master Feat, which assumes they proc its cleave feature once every two turns (which is easy to do).
However, this is for a standard Thief build where you take a dexterity or strength ASI at level 4. I tested what should be a better option, which is taking the Magic Initiate: Warlock feat. You can use it to get the Hex spell (we discuss this spell below with the Warlock base class analysis) and your damage improves, or at least it would if Hex proced on off-hand attacks, which it doesn’t in the current state of the game. Its strange, because Hunter’s Mark does proc on off-hand, and rules as written Hex should too.
Just to note balance, here is how the graph would change if Hex Thief build worked:
So, with Hex, the Thief has comparable DPR to the Ranger when attacking roughly the AC 14-20 range, but is otherwise still weaker. All of this is to say, it wouldn’t be overpowered. So Larian, you should allow Hex to proc on off-hand attacks.
Now this doesn’t mean Fast Hands is bad, its just not as useful for DPR as people seem to think it is. Its still very useful for many other awesome things, particularly mobility. Being able to Dash twice, or even three times, is amazing. Its so much mobility that it is practically overkill. The dash away and hide combo is also extremely useful.
Build: Probably the most fun I have had in BG3 is playing a Gith Thief! Gith get a bonus to str, and Jump as a racial spell. Strength gives you farther jump distance, the Jump spell that distance, and Fast Hands lets you jump twice in a round. You can move roughly 50m in a round (if my math is right) and still have your action left to attack with! With strength you also get more potent shoves and longer throw distance on barrels. The build is pretty simple, just pick Gith, max strength, take a strength ASI or the Dual-Wielder Feat at level 4 and go bananas! You can do a similar build on Astarion, just prioritize dexterity instead of strength and use dashes instead of jumps.
Arcane Trickster – B Tier
If the Thief is overrated, the Arcane Trickster is underrated. The gap between these two sub-classes is pretty narrow in my opinion. The Arcane Trickster is a nifty subclass that has its own interesting niche compared to the Thief.
When you pick Arcane Trickster you gain two features: Mage Hand Legerdemain and spell casting.
Mage Hand Legerdemain is incomplete. The tool tip says it gives the summoned mage hand more actions, but it doesn’t yet. All it does right now is make the mage hand invisible when first summoned. Its barely noticeable.
The Arcane Trickster’s spell casting is similar to the Eldritch Knight’s that we discussed above. They learn 2 cantrips and up to 4 spells by level 4. 3 of those 4 spells must be in the enchantment or illusion schools. At level 4 they have 3 first level spell casts per long rest. Their spell casting modifier is intelligence. Like the Eldritch Knight, their spell selection is slim. There are four first level spells in those two schools (there should be five, but for some reason they haven’t put Tasha’s Hideous Laughter on the Wizard’s spell list). However, unlike the Eldritch Knight, the really important spell is available: Sleep.We’ve discussed Sleep a little above. At early levels, it is probably the best control spell in the game, because it doesn’t have a saving throw and the first melee attack against a sleeping target is a guaranteed crit. Rogues get very high value from crits because it multiplies their Sneak Attack damage. So, an Arcane Trickster is a striker that brings some of its own control options.
Build: Pick Half Wood-Elf as your race, putting the two ability bonuses in dexterity and constitution. Your level 1 statistics should be 8,16,16,8,14,12 (its only really important that you have a 16 in dexterity and constitution, for the rest you can do whatever). For your spells, make sure you have Sleep. For your bonus spell, pick Longstrider. You should get 4.5m bonus movement between Longstrider and your race, which you can double on turns when you take Dash as a bonus action. At level 4, take the ASI to boost dexterity to 18. You should also have the Headband of Intellect now, so your intelligence will be at 18 too. Now you are a striker/controller with awesome mobility. This subclass is comparable in power to the Thief. Still not as good as Rangers, Fighters, but underrated all the same.Note, you can do this same build on Astarion.
Warlock – A Tier
- Hit Points: 1d8 progression
- Saving Throws: Wisdom and Charisma
- Proficiencies: Light Armor and Simple Weapons.
- Team Role: Controller, Striker
Warlocks are a stand out class in terms of design, in my opinion. They are powerful and flexible, supporting a wide range of viable builds. They have a lot of features to talk about, so let’s get to it.
The Warlock base class has three features: spell casting, Eldritch Invocations, and their Pact Boon. We’ll discuss them one at a time.
Spell casting works differently for the Warlock then it does for most classes. Warlock’s get two spell slots which refresh on a short rest rather than a long one. Also, their spells are always up-cast at the highest available spell level (spell level 2 for a level 4 Warlock). Warlock’s use charisma as their spell ability. For the most part their spell list is the same as a Wizards, with a few notable unique spells that more or less define their class. In this article we will just look at the really important ones, although I will review every spell in depth in my forthcoming Spell Tier List article, so look forward to it!
The class defining spell for the Warlock is actually a cantrip: Eldritch Blast. Eldritch Blast is a ranged spell attack that does 1d10 force damage on a hit. When it’s damage scales (not available yet in early access) you also get an option to split the attacks to multiple targets, and you make separate attack roles with each beam. On its own, it is a solid damage cantrip, but the Warlock can also augment it with several invocations. In the early access there are two invocations which augment Eldritch Blast which we will discuss below.
Hex is the Warlock’s 4e striker spell. It’s identical to Hunter’s Mark, except it adds the extra feature of imposing disadvantage on one ability check of your choosing on the target for the duration of the spell (note, it’s an ability check, not a saving throw. I made that mistake for an embarrassing amount of time). I usually use the extra feature to impose disadvantage on strength checks for easier shove targets. However, the bread and butter of Hex is the extra 1d6 necrotic damage on successful attacks you make against the target. It adds up to a lot of damage for just one cast of a spell.
Armor of Agathys and Hellish Rebuke both do retaliation damage, which I value very highly because it has low opportunity costs. Armor of Agathys is the better of the two, but it only retaliates against melee attacks. Hellish Rebuke retaliates at range, so with ranged builds cast it, and for melee focused builds use Armor of Agathys.
For control spells the big one is, obviously, Hold Person, but there are other options as well. Some of the best alternatives are available specifically for certain sub-classes, so we will discuss them there.
Eldritch Invocations are small boosts meant to represent a Warlock’s supernatural powers. You choose two from among nine options:
- Agonizing Blast: When you cast Eldritch Blast you now add your Charisma modifier to the damage it deals.
- Armor of Shadows: You can cast Mage Armor on yourself at will, without expending a spell slot.
- Beast Speech: You can cast Speak with Animals at will, without expending a spell slot.
- Beguiling Influence: You gain proficiency in deception and persuasion checks.
- Devil’s Sight: You can see normally in darkness, both magical and nonmagical, to a distance of 18 m.
- Fiendish Vigor: You can cast False Life on yourself at will as a 1st-level Spell, without expending a spell slot.
- Mask of Many Faces: You can cast Disguise Self at will, without expending a spell slot.
- Repelling Blast: When you hit a creature with Eldritch Blast, you can push the creature up to 4.5 m.
- Thief of Five Fates: Once per long rest, you can cast Bane using a Warlock spell slot.
Some of these have no direct combat utility, namely, Beguiling Influence, Beast Speech, and Mask of Many Faces, so we will set them to one side. Agonizing Blast is a standout option, especially for ranged builds. Pass on Armor of Shadows, it is +2 AC early, but you can eventually find magical armor that is equivalent, and it is useless if you have medium armor proficiency as a racial bonus. Devil’s Sight is an awesome invocation in combination with the Darkness spell, but it seems that Larian hasn’t included a distinction between magical and non-magical darkness in the game yet, so if you have darkvision from your race Devil’s Sight is redundant (I haven’t tested this on patch 4 yet, so it may be fixed). Fiendish Vigor is +7 temporary HP at the cost of an action, not bad, but not amazing, since temporary HP does not stack. Repelling Blast is also a mediocre boost in most situations, but procs automatically when you take an action that you will be taking a lot anyways, which makes it really good. Push effects can be really efficient in BG3 due to Larian’s vertical encounter design. Finally, Thief of Five fates is a great spell, but a once per long rest cast is just not enough, pass. In summary, Agonizing and Repelling Blast will be your best choices on most builds. Fiendish Vigor and Devil’s Sight can be good on certain builds. None of the rest are comparable in terms of combat efficiency.
The third and final feature Warlocks get is their Pact Boon. In tabletop 5e there are four official options for Boons to choose from, but in BG3 so far there is only one: the Pact of the Chain. This Boon allows you to summon a special familiar at will outside of combat (similar to the Beast Master’s summon). There are several options, but this class analysis is already taking up a lot of real estate, so instead of discussing them all I will just recommend the one I think is best, which is the Imp. Imps have a resistance to the most common damage types (including non-magical slashing, piercing, and bludgeoning). They also have a fly speed, and the chance to do extra poison damage on attacks. They are arguably the best summon option in the game so far, it’s between them and the spider for sure. Summons are really useful, since they come with their own actions there is no real opportunity cost to them.
In summary, Warlocks get a ton of features, and all of them are great, so why haven’t I given them an S-tier ranking? It has to do with my own value judgements and the way I have constructed the tier system. The mark of an S-tier class the way I have constructed it is when you really feel its absence if you don’t have it in your party. As good as the Warlock is, it isn’t that, probably because the Warlock is a selfish class. It’s really good on its own and doesn’t increase much in power when you plug it into a party that is built for it. Similarly, while the Warlock is good at two roles, it is not great at either. If you need a striker there are better strikers available. If you need a controller there are also better controllers. By my judgement, 5e favors classes that specialize in a roll and synergize with other roles in a multiplicative way, rather than merely additive. All of that said, Warlock is still an awesome base class, easily deserving of an A-tier ranking, and you party won’t suffer for having one if they are built right.
Whew! That was a lot! Let’s look at the sub-classes now.
The Fiend Patron - B Tier
The Fiend subclass represents a pact made with a devil or demon from the lower planes. They add two features to the Warlock base class: Dark One’s Blessing, and sub-class spells.
Dark One’s Blessing grants you temporary hit-points equal to your charisma modifier + Warlock level upon killing an enemy. This feature patches up a weakness of the base class, which is durability. I don’t think its crazy to expect your Warlock to kill 1-2 targets per encounter on average, which gives them 8-16 extra health per encounter at level 4 (assuming you take a charisma ASI). That is a lot of bonus health. However, this isn’t a durability boost that at all helps you maintain concentration, which is what we would prefer on a caster class like Warlock. Note that the Fiendish Vigor invocation gives you 7 temp hp per cast, which is does not stack with Dark One’s Blessing, so taking it isn’t recommended with this sub-class.
Like the Cleric, Warlock sub-classes have extended spell lists, granting two extra spells learned for each spell level up to level 5. Fiend Warlock’s get Burning Hands and Command for level 1, and Blindness/Deafness plus Scorching Ray for level 2. Both sets give you decent striking and control options but are hardly the best in their role.
Both these features are useful but are not enough to bump the Warlock base class up to an S-tier. Picking the Fiend subclass basically means having a slightly more durable Warlock.
Build: There are several interesting ways to build a Fiend Warlock, but a simple ranged build centered around Eldritch Blast is best, I think. You can use this build on Wyll. Make sure you max charisma and dexterity (or have at least a 14 dexterity on a race that gets medium armor proficiency). For cantrips, take Eldritch Blast and whatever else you prefer (I recommend Chill Touch or Blade Ward. If you aren’t sure how Blade Ward can be useful, keep an eye out for my forthcoming Spell Tier List, I will discuss it there). For your spells, take Hex and Hellish Rebuke. At level 2, take Repelling Blast and Agonizing Blast invocations and Armor of Agathys for your spell. For your level 2 spells, take Hold Person and Misty step, with the charisma ASI at level 4. If you find that you aren’t getting much use out of Hellish Rebuke, swap it out for something else, maybe Command, Mirror Image, or Ray of Enfeeblement.
The Great Old One Patron - RP Tier
Like the Eldritch Knight, this class just isn’t complete yet. It seems like Larian want’s to rework it, but haven’t finished the development. I expect that the class will be very good on full release, assuming they keep some of its key features from the tabletop version, and that Mind Flayers will remain the major enemy of the game.
This subclass adds two level 1 spells to the Warlock’s spells known. Those spells are Dissonant Whispers and Tasha’s Hideous Laughter. Both are good spells when cast with a level 1 spell slot, but scale badly when up-cast, which is kind of the Warlock’s schtick. As a result, there is just no mechanical reason to play the Great Old One patron over the Fiend patron right now.
Build: Just follow the build I outlined for the Fiend subclass.
Wizard - S Tier
- Hit Points: 1d6 progression
- Saving Throws: Intelligence and Wisdom
- Proficiencies: Wizard Weapons.
- Team Role: Controller, Striker, Support
This class is a little weird right now, benefiting from a bug that likely will not survive to full release. The bug is fun though, so enjoy it while we have it! Wizards are the best controllers available so far, and probably will remain the best controllers until full release, although I do not expect them to remain S-tier on full release.
The Wizard base class has three features: spell casting, Arcane Recovery, and what I call the Learn Spells feature. We will go through them one at a time.
Wizard spell casting is like the Druid or Cleric spell casting. Its has the same progression, refreshes on a long rest, only it uses intelligence rather then wisdom as its ability modifier. The Wizard spell list is extensive and flexible, so there isn’t enough space to talk about every spell in this article (I will review every spell in my forthcoming Spell Tier List article). There is one spell that is unique to the arcane casters (like Wizards) that bears mentioning, and that is Sleep. If you’ve read this tier list in order, you have already heard me mention Sleep several times. Sleep is the ultimate control spell at early levels. It is an AoE control that effects a number of targets up to 24 hit points (32 if cast as a level 2 spell) and there is no saving throw to resist. It targets current hit-points, not max hit-points, so you can get multiple targets if you soften them up first. What is really strong about it is the sleep condition. When you make a melee attack against a sleeping target it automatically hits and automatically crits (this is a buff from how it works in the tabletop rules). The target wakes up after taking damage. Because the target will necessarily have under 32 hit points, it is very likely that a melee attack from a striker will just kill them outright. So, with the right team, Sleep is a death sentence when it lands, and there is no chance for a saving throw. I love that Sleep is so powerful in BG3, since Sleep is also really powerful in the original BG games, it makes it feel like the same world.
Arcane Recovery allows you to recover some spell slots between encounters. You can use it once per long rest, and the spell slots recovered must be equal to or less than half your wizard level (rounded up). So, a 4th level Wizard can recover one 2nd level spell slot, or two 1st level spell slots. This isn’t a flashy feature, but it is awesome, giving you more spells to cast. It is this and the Wizard’s spell list that make them the strongest controllers in the game so far.
The last feature Wizards get is a hidden one; it is the Learn Spell feature. It is not listed as a class feature when you choose the class or when you level up, but it is there all the same. The name pretty much explains it, with the Learn Spell feature you can learn the way words are spelled. Not sure how to spell ‘Expiditious?’ Play a Wizard, its spelled right there on ‘Expiditious Retreat.’ This is the feature that really makes the Wizard base class S-tier, due to its obvious out-of-game utility.
Ok sorry, I couldn’t resist. Learn Spell is actually about learning new spells, not spellings. Unlike other classes, Wizard’s can learn new spells from scrolls you acquire in your adventures. You simply pay 50g per spell level, and you can now add that spell to your available spells to cast. On its own this feature is just okay, but its also bugged right now in a way that makes it incredible. The bug is that you can learn any spell that you find as a scroll regardless of whether it belongs to the Wizard spell list or not . Yes, that means you can learn Bless, or Armor of Agathys, or any other spell you find as a scroll. This greatly expands the Wizards already expansive spell list. It also works on cantrips, so whatever cantrip you find in a scroll you just get for the cost of 50g. Some spells I prioritize learning are, in no particular order, Bless, Aid, Inflict Wounds, Heat Metal, Guiding Bolt, Armor of Agathys, Healing Word, Moonbeam, and Flame Blade. I don’t expect this bug to survive the early access.
Altogether, the Wizard is great because of the sheer volume and variety of spells it can cast. Now lets look at its sub-classes.
School of Abjuration - C Tier
Wizard sub-classes represent an education in a particular arcane tradition. The School of Abjuration is a tradition that emphasizes magic that wards and protects. So far, it adds one feature to the Wizard base class, and that is the Arcane Ward feature. Whenever you cast an abjuration spell (not a cantrip) you will gain temporary hit-points. The first time you cast such a spell after a long rest it gives you temp HP equal to twice your Wizard level plus you intelligence modifier (so 12 HP at level 4 and 18 intelligence). This amount represents your maximum value ward, and however many abjuration spells you cast its temp HP value can never exceed this number. Every abjuration spell you cast after the first will “heal” the ward an amount equal to twice the level of the spell. Its complicated, but I think it is reasonable to expect this feature to give you a comparable amount of temp HP per long rest to what a Fiend Warlock gets from Dark One’s Own Blessing (perhaps slightly less). It is giving your Wizard a respectable boost to durability, which is something Wizards can really use.
One complication of this feature is the pretty sorry selection of abjuration spells available so far. In the Wizard spell list it is just two spells: Mage Armor and Protection from Evil/Good. Realistically, you will not be casting these very many times in an adventuring day. Armor of Agathys is an abjuration spell you can learn from a scroll that you can expect to cast often, but its bugged in a way that doesn’t work with Arcane Ward. There is one trick I know of to consistently proc Arcane Ward, but it requires a very particular build, so I will outline it in the build section.
In summary, the Abjuration School gives you a middling amount of durability. On top of that, it is difficult to get maximum value out of the feature do to early access’s limited abjuration spells. It is an underwhelming subclass.
Build: This is one of my favorite builds, I call it the Sword Wizard (damn… I suck at names). The crux of the build is using the greatsword proficiency that Githyanki get to allow the Abjuration Wizard to use the Sword of Justice. Besides being a +1 greatsword, the Sword of Justice allows the wielder to cast Shield of Faith once per combat (at-will outside of combat). Shield of Faith is a useful Abjuration spell that procs Arcane Ward, so you can keep your ward topped up without expanding valuable spell slots. You also get medium armor proficiency from Githyanki, so your Wizard will function like a warrior with spells.
Pick Githyanki as your race and Wizard as your class. Buy a 16 strength, and a 14 dexterity and constitution, then use the rest of your points however you want (I recommend dumping intelligence and just use the Headband of Intellect when you get it). For cantrips take Light to make up for the lack of darkvision (note, the light spell hasn't been working in some of my runs on patch 4), and the whatever else you like (I recommend Blade Ward and Chill Touch, if these choices confuse you be sure to read my forthcoming Spell Tier List article). For 1st level spells, be sure to take Sleep. When you reach level 3, take Misty Step and Hold Person for your 2nd level spells. At level 4 take the Great Weapon Master Feat. Now you are a decent striker (you have comparable DPR to an optimized Thief), with all of the benefits of being a Wizard. You can cast Sleep on your enemies then crit them yourself for 30+ damage. You are also comparable in durability to a standard Fighter. This is the best Wizard build in the game so far. Sadly it does not work on Gale, since he is not a Gith.
School of Evocation - C Tier
The School of Evocation is a tradition that specializes in spells that unleash elemental energy. This sub-class emphasizes the striker aspect of the Wizard by adding the Sculpt Spells feature to the base class. Sculpt Spells creates pockets of safety within your Evocation Spells. Allied creatures automatically succeed their saving throws and take no damage from these spells. It’s the nature of this feature that you will get no benefit from it when casting single targets evocations spells. After all, why would you cast a single target evocation spell on an ally? So this spell will only practically effect AoE evocation spells that have saving throws. There are three of these spells in the game: Burning Hands, Thunderwave, and Shatter (Darkness is an AoE evocation spell, but does not have a saving throw). I tested to see if it also worked on ground effects from evocation spells, like when you cast Witch Bolt on a target standing in water, but it doesn’t (Larian, if you are reading this, you should change it to effect ground effects from evocations spells too. It won’t break the balance of the game, but it will make Sculpt Spells more interesting). All three of the spells it augments are decent spells, but we are still entering an area of extreme situationality for this feature. It is only effective when you cast one of three spells AND when you couldn’t otherwise have positioned the spell in a way where it would hit all enemies possible without hitting any allies. There shouldn’t be very many of those, so this subclass gets a C ranking from me.
All of that said, you could build your party to better utilize this feature. For example, if you had both a Moon Druid and an Evocation Wizard, you could have the Moon Druid taunt enemies to group them up, then the Evocation Wizard could nuke them with Shatter without hitting the Druid. Its is still a lot of set up for mediocre payoff.
Build: There aren’t any tricks for this subclass, it is pretty much a vanilla Wizard , so I am going to use this section to explain how I recommend building Gale. Gale has good stats for an evocation wizard. The biggest choice for building him comes at level 4. How should you spend his ASI? The deciding factor should be whether or not you have another member of your team who can use the Headband of Intellect. If you do, spend the ASI to boost his intelligence to 18, then swap the Headband to the other party member. Otherwise, split the ASI between constitution and wisdom to bump them to a 16 and a 12 respectively. For spell selection, make sure you have Burning Hands, Thunderwave, and Shatter. Sleep and Hold Person are still mandatory. Misty Step is another good choice, since you can chain it with Thunderwave effectively in vertical terrain encounters.