Druids are a fun and fascinating option in 5E. Depending on how you play, you can be a clever spellcaster with a flair for nature magic, or you can be an absurd tank that is able to soak up a ton of damage in combat. There are a lot of options to consider, so let’s get into our Druid Subclasses 5E Guide.
Our Criteria for Ranking the Druid Circles in 5E
When we rank druid subclasses, we look at five specific factors. Please note that our rankings are relative to other druid circles. That means a highly-rated druid subclass might not stack up against our favorite Paladin Oath. The factors we consider in this list include the following:
- Design. One of our priorities is thoughtful design that will be used and enjoyed by players. Strong designs should carry through the entire subclass, starting interesting low-level options and continuing to level 20.
- Clarity. The best subclasses are simple to understand, even if they are a challenge to truly master. We’re looking for clear, concise language about mechanics that prevents confusion or conflict between players and DMs.
- Fun. What is the point of playing a druid if you aren’t having fun? We take into account how fun a subclass is to play while keeping in mind the important balance of being powerful enough to not be a burden on your party members.
- Theme. I love a strong theme in a subclass. The theme should only be interesting in general, but it should run throughout the subclass features tying everything together.
- Versatility. How many different builds are possible with this subclass. Having one way to build a fun, balanced druid is one thing. The ability to choose from numerous different character builds in the same subclass is another.
What is the Best Druid Circle?
Not interested in reading our list of the best druid 5e subclasses? Here’s a quick glance at our favorite.
Best Druid Subclasses 5E Rankings
When it comes to the druid, there are not a lot of bad options for your subclass. You might only have seven to choose from, but none of them are in a position where I would never recommend taking them under any circumstances. You can make each of the options work, although some are stronger than others.
In fact, the best options for the druid are some of the strongest subclasses in the game. The moon druid has even earned a reputation for being unbalanced or overpowered, although this criticism often spreads to the druid directly.
7. Circle of Dreams
See our Circle Dreams 5E Guide
The first druid subclass on our list is arguably the only one I find truly lackluster. It’s not all bad, as it makes for a decent healer. However, there is little reason to go with this option if you have a stronger healer in your party.
Balm of the Summer Court is a nice early game healing option. You can dish out small bits of healing with your bonus action, which is great for pulling allies back from the dead. The highlight of this class comes at level 10, where Hidden Paths gives you the ability to teleport 60 feet using a bonus action. You can do this a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier, and uses recharge on a long rest.
The rest of the subclass falls flat. Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow is particularly situational. Most of the time, you have far better options available to you. The final feature, Walker in Dreams, is also situational. These spells definitely have their uses, but on the whole this options falls flat in most campaigns. the additional limitations when you cast Teleportation Circle is also less than ideal.
6. Circle of the Land
See Our Circle of the Land 5E Guide
The Circle of the Land is one of the stronger pure spellcasting options for the druid. With this subclass, you also get the opportunity to regain some of your spell slots in a manner similar to the Wizard’s arcane recovery. This is also one of the simpler druid subclasses. While you have some choices to make, they are generally selecting spells.
Whether or not this simplicity is a positive is up to you. The Circle of the Land offers little for your wild shape, which can be limiting. This subclass also falls a little flat at higher levels, as features like Land’s Strike and Nature’s Sanctuary are situational and fairly underpowered for their level.
5. Circle of the Shepherd
See Our Circle of the Shepherd Guide
Circle of the Shepherd might only be fifth on our list, but this circle is still pretty great. It is arguably the best summoner-style subclass in all of D&D, as you can bring forth incorporeal spirits starting at level 2. This summoning power is a strong option in combat that can help the other members of the party conserve resources.
This subclass can be slightly complicated to play. You have a lot of options when it comes to summoning creatures, but you need to have extensive knowledge of beasts in 5E to manage all of your options. Where the circle really shines is that the feature at each level are viable.
4. Circle of Wildfire
See Our Circle of Wildfire Guide
The Circle of Wildfire is a very fun subclass option whose central feature is the ability to summon a fiery spirit companion. You can use this companion to cast spells, and it also offers the ability to deal fire damage. Your wildfire spirit can also teleport, move allies around, and even help you recover HP. The fire spirit is a very powerful option.
the downside is that this subclass is almost entirely built around the fire spirit. Using this spirit requires expending your wild shape, so you can only bring it out so many times. Every time you do is also one more situation where you cannot transform into your wild form. This subclass also gets Circle Spells, but they are especially weak.
3. Circle of Stars
See Our Circle of Stars Guide
We’re into the top three of our list of best druid subclasses, and we’re only looking at strong options from here on out. The Circle of Stars is a powerful subclass that does a nice job dealing damage and dishing out healing. The focal point of the Circle of Stars is the Starry Form. Your Starry Form requires a use of your wild shape. Instead of turning into an animal or providing you with utility, you essentially gain buffs when using this form. They come in various forms depending on the constellation theme you choose.
There are not a lot of downsides here. The theme is great, and the subclass fits into that theme smoothly. It is versatile, allowing you to build a character that dishes out the damage, plays the role of healer, or focuses on utility. The only real downside is that the entire subclass is built around the use of your wild shape to take starry form. Outside of that, and you are basically just using the base druid framework.
2. Circle of Spores
See Our Circle of Spores Guide
There are mixed feelings about the Circle of Spores, but me? I love it. It has a fun theme and an interesting use of wild shape that is similar to the buffs that come with the Circle of Stars. It is also the best druid option for focusing on melee combat without shifting into animal form. You get a great spell list, and none of the subclass features really miss.
From the perspective of making the subclass fun and satisfying to play, I really enjoy how it makes use of bonus actions and reactions. You will always have levers to pull and things to do as part of this subclass, but you don’t have to give up your action to do them. The weakest aspect of this subclass is the 6th level feature that requires the corpse of a small or medium beast or humanoid, making it obviously very situational.
1. Circle of the Moon
See Our Circle of the Moon Guide
At the top of our Best Druid Subclasses 5E List is the Circle of the Moon. This subclass option really gets the most out of using your wild shape to transform into an animal. Having to burn an entire turn wildshaping into a beast is annoying, so getting to do this as a bonus action is very satisfying. As you level up, you can also take strong combat forms in wild shape and deal magical damage with your attacks.
Circle of the Moon is very powerful, but there are some minor quibbles. For as strong as this circle is, the 14th level feature falls very flat. Getting to cast a spell at will is always fun, but Alter Self is only second level. What’s more, there’s not a lot you can do with this spell that you can’t do better using wild shape.
Concluding our Druid Subclasses 5E Rankings
that wraps up our Druid Subclasses 5E Rankings. See eye to eye with our rankings? We’d love to hear about it. Leave us a comment and let us know if we missed anything. And if you need more archetype action, be sure to check out our bard colleges 5E rankings.