Yet another option from the Player’s Handbook comes in green! The Nature Domain was introduced as an option for players who want the spell list of the Cleric with some Druid flavoring. While Druids are more general “protect the wild” types, Clerics advance the wants and needs of specific Gods; From spoiling crops of a wicked man to hunting down lumberjacks. Let’s check out how this blessing plays out, and see if defending the whims of natural gods is worth it. Check out our Nature Cleric 5E guide for the full story.
Revere the Elements: Nature Cleric 5E
Unfortunately, it really isn’t. The Nature Domain is one of the most intensely flavorful domains available to Clerics. But, because it is so centralized around “nature,” a lot of its spells and abilities become rather situational. With some lax domain spells and abilities, not many consider this domain to be great. However, despite all the situational flaws it may have, a few of its abilities are rather substantial generally. It’s far from the worst choice for any nature-bound individual to take.
As described above, the domain spells that were picked for champions of nature are somewhat lackluster.
Alright, let’s start with the positives then. In some situations, Spike Growth is a powerful deterrent for enemies to move, allowing your allies to bombard the opponents from afar. Wind Wall can prevent the same strategy from working on your own party, as long as they don’t have huge ballistas. Insect Plague has consistent damage, and Tree Stride is a fantastic movement spell… In forests.
Even amongst these “good cleric spells,” there are only some situations where they are effective. And the rest are… Somewhat poor. Animal Friendship and Speak with Animals only come up in extremely specific situations. Barkskin requires a target to have less than 16 AC and takes up your Concentrations slot. Plant Growth is really strong difficult terrain, as long as there are plants around, but Spike Growth tends to be enough. Dominate Beast shares the problems of the 1st level spells. And Grasping Vine is decent crowd control, but doesn’t actually lock anyone down.
The spells are just a little too situational to have always on your spell list. And that’s a huge disadvantage, since you’re somewhat limited in what you’re allowed to prepare every day.
Still, there are a few diamonds amongst the rough. And your GM can never really throw an animal-based encounter at your party ever again, so… Benefits?
Acolyte of Nature
The first ability this archetype gets is actually quite nice.
At 1st level, you learn one druid cantrip of your choice. You also gain proficiency in one of the following skills of your choice: Animal Handling, Nature, or Survival.
Druid cantrips hold some utility and power not accessible to any other classes. Infestation, Produce Flame, Control Flames, Magic Stone, Shillelagh, Thorn Whip, and Primal Savagery are all quite unique choices. Do remember that you only gain access to one of these, so choose wisely. And try to choose something that you can’t do with your normal cantrip slots. If you’re looking for some advice on what druid cantrip to choose, check out our list of the best.
The bonus proficiency is nice, since Clerics have pretty limited skill proficiencies compared to “nature” classes. Animal Handling and Survival are both decent choices for combat and exploration, respectively. These both rely on Wisdom, so you can get really good mileage out of them with Proficiency bonuses. Or, if your group needs help with knowledge skills, then Nature might be a good option. That’s Intelligence, however, so late-game knowledge DCs might get too high without some Int investment.
As with a lot of Cleric domains, Heavy Armor proficiency is always welcome. With access to the top tier of armor, your AC will always be acceptable; No dexterity required! You would only need to invest in Strength and Wisdom, and maybe a bit of Constitution, to be effective.
Now, this does actually go a bit against your Domain spells, like Spike Growth and Wind Wall. Make sure you place those wisely. You can also still use a ranged-focused build with lighter armors and use zoning abilities more effectively. You’ll want to invest in either Strength or Dexterity, since this is a Domain with Divine Strike, and thus are good with weapons.
Channel Divinity: Charm Animals and Plants
Now, you can either use Channel Divinity for Turn Undead, or…
Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity to charm animals and plants.
As an action, you present your holy symbol and invoke the name of your deity. Each beast or plant creature that can see you within 30 feet of you must make a Wisdom saving throw. If the creature fails its saving throw, it is charmed by you for 1 minute or until it takes damage. While it is charmed by you, it is friendly to you and other creatures you designate.
Okay… So this is probably not good.
Channel Divinity tends to be one of the strongest aspects of a domain – like the Tempest Cleric’s Wrath of the Storm or the Grave Cleric’s Path to the Grave. They are highly effective alternatives to Turn Undead. This takes a specific usage of an ability, and makes it somewhat more specific.
Let’s at least go over the positives. For your Channel Divinity, you can cause every animal and plant within 30 feet to become charmed. For some encounters, such as an ambushing pack of wolves, this wins the fight. Just, right away. That can be useful, and these two types tend to have rather low Wisdom saving throws. Animals are also fairly common, especially early on… Though Plants are a different story. Even so, as long as there are more than one plant or animal in an encounter, this can be really strong.
Of course… That requires there to be a single plant or animal in an encounter. In some campaigns, you’ll never even touch a plant or animal, meaning that your Channel option becomes useless. And since the other option is Turn Undead, sometimes you actually can’t use your Channel options. That’s pretty bad for a lot of Domains; most of them have a really solid secondary option.
Use this option even if there is only one animal, like a dog, in an encounter. You would at least be spending an action to nullify a threat… Potentially long enough to defeat the rest of the encounter and then tame the animal. Otherwise, this option just basically increases the targets you have for Turn Undead by two types.
So far, not great. Level 6, however, is where this subclass takes off!
Starting at 6th level, when you or a creature within 30 feet of you takes acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage, you can use your reaction to grant resistance to the creature against that instance of the damage.
Now that’s a worthwhile ability!
Using a reaction to grant resistance will never be bad, especially since you can grant it to anyone that you choose. Is your Wizard about to get blasted by a fire spell? Halving the damage could keep him conscious. Is your Fighter on their last legs and getting hit by thunder? Maybe half damage can keep them afloat. You also get to choose after the damage takes place… Meaning that you can pick one instance per round, after saving throws were rolled. No need to waste it!
And that’s another fantastic part; there’s no limit. Every single round, you can halve damage from 5 of the most common damage types in the game. This can really limit the damage potential of dangerous casters or dragons against your weaker party members.
The only bad part is that it’s against only one creature per round. This limits the ability’s usefulness against big Areas of Effect, like Fireball. It’s still absolutely fantastic, though, and it alone is a good mechanical reason to take the domain.
The damage increasing ability of the nature domain is surprisingly powerful.
At 8th level, you gain the ability to infuse your weapon strikes with divine energy. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 cold, fire, or lightning damage (your choice) to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.
This Divine Strike scales just as well as all of the other domains’. The really good part of it comes with the three damaging options. It’s rare to see anything with resistance to cold and fire, let alone all three. Being able to change between these elements lets you choose the best option for the situation. Considering how often you’ll want to be using your weapon attacks with this archetype, the choice can increase your damage by a lot.
Not much more to say here; try to have someone who can roll Knowledge checks so you can figure out which element works the best, and watch your weapon damage increase significantly.
Master of Nature
The Nature domain has kinda hit a good stride, after a mediocre beginning. Let’s see how it closes out!
At 17th level, you gain the ability to command animals and plant creatures. While creatures are charmed by your Charm Animals and Plants feature, you can take a bonus action on your turn to verbally command what each of those creatures will do on its next turn.
Oh… Oh no…
Okay, so you improve your Charm Animals and Plants; it’s now more like Dominate Animals and Plants. That’s good. Unfortunately, the targets haven’t changed. You still need to fight animal and plant creatures, which would be less of a problem…
If you weren’t level 17. It’s super rare that, at this point in a campaign, you’ll be fighting animals or plants. It’s much more likely that you’ll be tangoing with demons, celestials, or fey. And those would be the targets that you’d be wanting to dominate, rather than basic animals and plants. In fact… In the Monster Manual, there isn’t a single plant or animal above CR 9. The targets for this ability are just too weak for it to be useful.
But hey, if the final boss summons a horde of treants, at least you can take them on easily! That’s good, right?
Best Race for Nature Clerics
Race-wise, the Nature Cleric is quite a versatile one, like most Cleric domains. Investing in Strength for melee builds, or Dexterity for ranged ones, is a must to make the best use of your Divine Strike. An alternate path is to use Shillelagh and have Wisdom be your Divine Strike score. Even then, enough Strength to negate armor penalties might be useful.
Like a lot of heavy armor builds, Hill Dwarves will never not become an essential Cleric choice. Negating heavy armor penalties becomes so helpful if you plan on going for the Shillelagh build. If not, Dwarven Combat Training gives you options for fantastic martial weapons. The Hill subrace boosts your Wisdom and your Health; really good for Clerics.
Thematically, it makes sense for Wood Elves to become nature clerics. And mechanically, it works well. Put a shortbow in their hand, and their boost to Dexterity, fast speed, and hiding ability work well for a ranged option. You could theoretically consider worshipping the Undying Court, or a god that opposes them. And then use your high dexterity and wisdom to perform guerilla warfare for your god’s sake.
Race Notes: Natural Wonders
Like we commonly note for our Cleric Domains, race is what you make of it. Nature Clerics have no abilities reliant on Wisdom, other than for Saving Throws. Thus, feel free to use whatever race makes sense for the Natural world. A repentant Human, a confused Warforged, a mischievous Firbolg… there are infinite options to help the will of the Gods.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Nature Cleric 5E
That concludes our Nature Cleric 5E Guide. This may be the weakest domain option in the game. Too many of its abilities are focused on anti-animal or anti-plant, which becomes problematic later on, when those two types really don’t exist anymore. They still get good abilities in Dampen Elements and their Divine Strike, and some of their spells can really turn a fight in your favor. Before picking this domain, consider picking a druid instead. Still, you can never really go wrong with a Cleric. Even if this Domain is somewhat weak, if any campaign is set outside and above ground – and maybe ends before too long – this is a fine option.
Want to see your other Cleric options or how to optimize your character in general? Check out our Comprehensive Cleric 5E Guide!