One of the defining characteristics of a Cleric in the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons are their Domain. Your Domain is directly related to the Deity that you choose to worship and an aspect of life or civilization that your Deity has influence over. Whichever Domain you select will dictate the type of Cleric you will be playing, the Channel Divinity abilities you will be able to use and the Domain Spells that you will receive at their appropriate level. Below, see our take on the best 5E Cleric Domains.
Our Criteria for Ranking the Cleric Domains
We did not decide to rank our Cleric subclasses on a whim. Instead, these rankings are based on a combination of five important factors. Each of these factors is important and weighs heavily in our decision. The factors include:
- Design. We prioritize subclasses based on their usefulness and regular usage by players. This includes paying particular attention to low-level abilities, as most characters will not reach the maximum level. Subclasses with features that are not effective or likely to be rarely used will not rank highly on our list.
- Clarity. To ensure that playing a subclass is enjoyable, it is important for the subclass to be easy to understand and not use unnecessarily complex language. Using clear and straightforward language can also help prevent misunderstandings between players and Dungeon Masters and avoid conflicts.
- Fun. It is essential to consider both fun when choosing a subclass for your character. The subclass options should provide enjoyable and meaningful choices that do not disadvantage you compared to other members of your group. It is important to find a balance between optimizing your character’s abilities and having fun with the game.
- Theme. When evaluating subclasses, we prioritize those that have a cohesive theme that connects the various features of the archetype. If all other factors are equal, we will prioritize subclasses that have a strong and interesting theme over those that do not have a unifying concept.
- Versatility. We prioritize subclasses that provide versatility and the ability to create diverse character builds when evaluating them. While it is important for a subclass to excel at a particular skill or task, the ability to adapt to various roles is even more valuable. Versatility is an important consideration in our evaluation of subclasses.
What is the Best Cleric Subclass?
The Twilight Domain is exceptionally powerful. Some of its options, like improved Darkviosn for the entire party, can be helpful across the board. The real strength of this subclass is its Channel Divinity option. All allies within 30 feet of you gain temporary HP each turn, which dramatically increases survivability during combat.
The Best Cleric Domains 5E Rnked
A Domain Spell stands out, as you do not have to prepare it and it does not count against the number of spells you can prepare each day. If the spell is typically not a Cleric spell and the spell is in your Domain’s spell list, it will be considered a Cleric spell for you. PLEASE NOTE: While you can cast the spells that you get with your Domain like a Cantrip, that does not make them a Cantrip. So that means an effect like “Potent Spellcasting,” a Channel Divinity ability the Knowledge and Light Domain obtain at level eight, will not help your spells Domain spells deal more damage.
Using a Channel Divinity ability works the same way as using a spell, but instead of preparing the ability, you get to use the ability of your choice. Depending on your level will depend on how many Channel Divinity abilities you can use before you have to take a long rest to recoup your Channel Divinity uses. Starting the second level, you get one Channel Divinity use, two at the sixth level, and three times at the eighteenth level before you need to rest to recoup those uses.
This is an important decision in the creation of your Cleric, so that is why we are ranking all of the Cleric Domains from best to worse. So I hope you said a prayer to your Deity because we will be jumping into the list right… now!
Trickery Domain is at the bottom of our list. The patrons of thieves, scoundrels, gamblers, rebels, and liberators will grant your Cleric that ability to Trick your targets with Illusion, Adjuration, and Conjuration spells. From the moment you choose this Domain, you are able to give other characters a Blessing of the Trickster, which will give anyone touched by this ability an Advantage on Dexterity checks that will last for 1 hour. 1 hour in gameplay is about 800 actions that your character can take! Unfortunately, that is not enough to Trick me into rating this Domain higher than last in our Cleric Domains Ranking.
As a Nature Cleric, you might look like a Druid on the outside. But deep down, everyone associated with your Deity knows that you are actually a Cleric that can cast Druid spells… You even get a bonus Cantrip that ONLY a Druid can obtain. Every spell you obtain with this Domain is meant to either communicate with nature or to use nature as a weapon. Your Channel Divinity abilities help the creatures that you have “convinced” to join your side… That is until you reach level seventeen, which is when your Channel Divinity lets you become the Master of Nature. The Master of Nature lets you command ALL creatures and plants in your sight. As a bonus action, you can command them to do your bidding. While Nature Cleric can be fun, it is very situational and limited for lower-level characters.
The Clerics that pray to the gods of war are tasked with the job of inspiring warriors in battle with spells that can make weapons stronger (like Divine Favor and Magic Weapon) or to give your party the strength to endure the battle (like Freedom of Movement and Stoneskin). At level six, you gain the Channel Divinity ability War God’s Blessing, which is a reaction ability that can give a target attacking character a +10 bonus to the roll that they are currently making. The rest of your Channel Divinity abilities help you join the battle with your party, making your attacks hit harder. War Clerics are here for battle, gang.
The gods of the Knowledge Domain value learning and understanding above all else and that is clearly visible from the list of spells and divinity abilities you can use. Knowledge for the Ages lets you become proficient at a skill or tool of your choice. Every spell that you obtain as a result of the Knowledge Domain is about giving you the information you need to manipulate another character. The old saying “knowledge is power” rings true with these Clerics.
Unsurprisingly, Death Clerics are built around dealing damage. With the martial weapon proficiency and domain abilities, these clerics can deal tremendous focused damage on a single target. The domain spells aren’t excellent, although False Life is a great spell, and Vampiric Touch is not usually an option for clerics. This falls down our cleric domains ranking because of the lack of support roles.
A Grave Cleric respects the natural order of life and death. They believe resisting death or summoning the undead to be an abomination. This domain is a mixed bag, primarily focused on spellcasting. It has some interesting damage-dealing spells and features some creative ways to mitigate damage like Sentinel at Death’s Door or False Life. Some of the domain abilities make for strong support options as well. While there are a lot of options, several other domains do each individual thing better than a Grave cleric.
The Life Domain focuses on promoting vitality and health through healing, caring for those in need, and driving away the forces of death. Every spell the Life Cleric receives will either protect an ally, prevent someone from hitting zero hit points or heal hit points. Cure Wounds, a spell that I have rated highly for multiple classes, is available to the Life Cleric as a Domain Spell AND it is improved with all of the Channel Divinity abilities that will increase the number of Hit Points a typical healing spell will give you. These Clerics ARE the Life of the party!
The gods that govern storms, sea, and the sky give your Tempest Cleric the ability to cast multiple natural disaster spells. Early on in your journey, you will get a bunch of defensive spells like Fog Cloud and Thunderwave. But once you pass level three, you can start pushing out devastating damage with Shatter (3d8 Thunder at level three) and Call Lightning (3d8 Thunder to multiple targets at level five). If you use your Channel Divinity to call for a Destructive Wrath, you will maximize the amount of damage each spell will deal, as the Destructive Wrath lets all of your Lightning and Thunder damage-dealing spells deal maximum instead of rolling when you have successfully hit your targets. That means each Shatter and Call Lightning will automatically deal 24 damage! I, too, am shocked!
Introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, the Arcana domain blends the benefits of a cleric with some of the spellcasting ability of the wizard. This magic-heavy domain is excellent, with a strong mix of domain spells for low-level characters like Detect Magic and Magic Missile. Later, Arcane Eye offers a lot of fun options. On top of the domain spells, Potent Spellcasting and Arcane Mastery are incredibly powerful. You can do a lot with an Arcana Cleric, and do it well.
An Order Cleric could serve as a powerful front line or support character. Excellent with heavy armor, an Order Cleric can wreak havoc in tandem on the front lines with Voice of Authority. While the domain spells are hit and miss, there are some nice options at the higher and lower end of the scale. While this domain can serve as a nice support role for higher-level characters, branching off as a spellcaster is often more fun.
Despite it’s constantly-changing name during UA testing, the Peace Cleric is an excellent option. This subclass works as a healer or in a utility role, and it excels at both. My favorite part is the Channel Divinity. It allows you to use your action to walk your full walking speed without being susceptible to attacks of opportunity. During this walk, you dish out 2d6 + your wisdom modifier’s worth of HP. On top of this, the subclass is also built around a cool bond mechanic where two characters that are bonded together can boost each other’s roles or even absorb damage for each other.
3. Forge Domain
The Forge Cleric is a very special domain. It offers a nice mix of powerful spells from top to bottom. The abilities are also both unique and useful. You can take these characters in many different directions, as they are an excellent tank option with bonuses for heavy armor. They could also serve as powerful spellcasters and useful in the support role. At the higher levels, the amount of damage these clerics can absorb is insane.
These Light Clerics are enlightened souls promoting the ideals of rebirth, truth, vigilance, and beauty. Most of the spells and Channel Divinity actions a Light Cleric takes uses light and fire, much in the same way that their Deity uses the Sun. The offensive powers of a Light Cleric are legit, with six different fire-related spells to choose from. With Potent Spellcasting at Level 8, their cantrips also pack a punch. The Channel Divinity abilities are meant to supplement the heavy damaging spells that you are casting with an interesting but situational ability to banish magical darkness. It is also useful for crowd control as it deals AOE radiant damage to hostiles that fail a Constitution saving throw. I don’t know about you, but to me, this is the best Domain a Cleric can obtain. This Cleric has seen the light!
The Twilight Cleric is very good. In fact, I think it’s arguably the best subclass in the game. It is so strong it has become one of the most-banned character options available. Martial weapons and heavy armor give you the option of hanging out up front, but you can also serve primarily as a utility caster as well.
Not only do you have excellent Darkvision, but you can give it to your entire party as well. The Twilight Cleric also has cool Channel Divinity that creates a 30-foot aura around you. This aura gives allies temporary HP and baddies your choice of the charmed or frightened condition. This channel divinity is where the subclass really sings, as you can continuously pump additional temp HP to your whole party every turn. You can fly at higher levels, but only in darkness or dim light. That’s no problem though, since the aura from Channel Divinity creates dim light! Lots of cool stuff here.
Concluding our Cleric Subclasses 5E Rankings
And that wraps up our Cleric Domains Rankings for 5E. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments below. And to get a thorough look at playing a cleric, Check out our in-depth 5E Cleric Guide.
Domain spells are not cantrips and still cost a spell slo when you cast them.
You are incorrect about Cleric Domain spells being like cantrips. They still consume spell slots (even if they don’t count against your spells prepared)! The opening section of your article is very misleading!
I tweaked the paragraph to make it more clear, thanks.
I’ll have to respectfully disagree with you regarding the Trickery cleric. They make an excellent caster cleric purely due to their amazing domain spells and damage avoidance:
– Mirror Image/Blink makes it easier to maintain concentration on important spells like Spirit Guardians or Polymorph (another excellent domain spell)
– Pass Without Trace turns your party into ninjas (Blessing of the Trickster stacks with this to make even the clumsy, plate wearing fighter/paladin adept at stealth)
– Dimension Door (a magical medi-vac to pull someone out of danger without opportunity attacks, or to drop a big fighter in the face of the enemy wizard in the back row)
– Polymorph. Such a versatile spell…change someone who’s about to go down into a Giant Ape (essentially a single action, 157 point “heal”) that has a beefy multiattack, or change a fire giant into a frog
Sure, a lot of the domains traits are pretty lacklustre (I’m looking at you Divine Strike), but others have some uses: Blessing of the Trickster costs you nothing to use and can be used an unlimited number of times per day, Invoke Duplicity and Cloak of Shadows leans in on the Trickster cleric’s “you can’t touch me” vibe it has going on.
In the end, what a domain gives you isn’t everything. A Trickster cleric still has access to the full cleric spell list, medium armor/shield, turn undead etc. but they also have a number of tools that allow them to stay out of danger to help better support their party.
All good points you’ve made here!
Indeed, Trickery is no1 on my list, or maybe no2 if we play high level and we plan to play lots of hours at level 17, in which case Arcana comes first, hands down.
Very entertaining video btw!
I have to comment as well. I think the Trickery Domain is very much underrated here. Much has been made about it supposed lackluster domain abilities (the Invoke Duplicity for example could have had no concentration requirement), but the expanded spell list more than makes up for it. I daresay a player who’s had more experience playing the cleric class would probably rank it in the higher tiers. The bonus domain spells really affect the power of the cleric. Mirror Image, Pass Without a Trace, Blink, Dimension Door, and Polymorph are all top notch spells that make me not care that my d8 of damage to one attack per round is of the weakest element.
We mention in our breakdown of the Trickery Domain that the spell list is very strong, but I find the rest of it pretty lackluster. Not to mention, I don’t really hate any of the options for cleric. Something has to be ranked last!
This is just our opinion, of course. I like hearing everyone else’s take.
This guy. This guy gets it. 🙂
Where would you rank the Unity Domain in this list, based on it’s current Unearthed Arcana implementation? I doubt it lands near the top even after final revisions, but I’m interested to know what is good & what could be improved?
It’s hard to say, as I’ve not spent a lot of time thinking about it. The spell list fits the theme well but I don’t think they’re all that strong. I like the channel divinity though, and the various levels of Emboldening Bond are awesome. I’d probably slot it just after Life Domain, but curious where you’d put it.
You interpreted twilight sanctuary incorrectly (not that it was written super clearly). This is how 5w writes it: “Whenever a creature (including you) ends its turn in the sphere, you can grant that creature one of these benefits:
You grant it temporary hit points equal to 1d6 plus your cleric level.
You end one effect on it causing it to be charmed or frightened.”
So, this is not something that affects baddies by putting a condition on them. It affects allies by ENDING the charmed or frightened condition on them.