The rogue is a strong class on its own. However, with seven interesting subclasses, there are countless ways to flesh out these characters. Whether you want to stick with the tried-and-true lockpicking sneak or branch out to a more interesting archetype, there is a subclass for everyone. Let’s dive into our Rogue 5E Archetypes rankings.
Our Criteria for Ranking the Rogue Archetypes
When we rank subclasses, we take great care to review each of them objectively. We take into account five different factors in these rankings. It is also worth noting that we only compare rogue archetypes against each other instead of to other classes. That means the subclass at the top of this list might not stack up to other classes. The factors we consider when making these rankings include:
- Design. The primary factor we consider is the design of the subclass. We look for subclasses with mechanics that are useful and can be regularly utilized by players. Subclasses with weak or rarely used features will not be highly ranked on our list. We also place more importance on low-level abilities, as the majority of characters will not reach the highest level.
- Clarity. Clear and easy-to-understand language is important for the best subclasses. Complex or confusing language can make playing the subclass tedious. In addition, unclear language can cause conflicts between players and game masters if there is disagreement on the terms of the archetype.
- Fun. Subclass options should be enjoyable to use. This includes providing meaningful choices and features that won’t leave the character underperforming compared to the rest of the party. It’s important to strike a balance between optimizing the subclass and ensuring it is still fun to play.
- Theme. We also favor subclasses with a strong, cohesive theme that ties the features of the archetype together. If all other factors are equal, we will give more weight to subclasses with interesting themes over those that lack a unifying theme or concept.
- Versatility. We prioritize subclasses that offer versatility over those that are limited to a single role. While it’s great to excel at one thing, subclasses that offer a range of character builds are even better. Versatility is a key factor in our consideration of subclasses.
What is the Best Rogue Subclass?
Don’t want to skim our entire ranking list? Here is our pick for the best rogue subclass in 5E.
The concept of a swashbuckler might not immediately fit your idea of a fantasy rogue, but features of this subclass fit the rogue class perfectly. Both level 3 features are excellent, which means you get a lot of bang for your buck. Rakish Audacity virtually guarantees you get Sneak Attack each turn, while Rakish Audacity improves your ability to move in and out of melee range without taking damage. Every high-level feature of this subclass is useful, making it our clear favorite.
Rogue 5E Archetypes Rankings
When approaching these rankings, we considered how a subclass can function on its own as well as how it enhances the class traits all rogues share. One of the the best parts of playing a rogue is that all of these subclass options excel at something. it is one of the strongest arrays of archetypes available.
The Inquisitive Rogue is firmly in last place in our subclass rankings. The concept of this archetype is enhanced insight and perception above and beyond a rogue’s natural strength.
Unfortunately, this archetype is largely a miss. While the inquisitive rogue is better at noticing traps and identifying liars, there is nothing aids them in addressing those challenges once they are noted. Even the top-level feature Eye for Weakness is substantially weaker than most other subclass traits at that level.
Although near the bottom of our list, there are certain players and campaigns where the Mastermind can shine. It is a fun concept built on intrigue and the social interactions within the game. However, it is subpar outside of very specific campaigns and largely useless in a classic dungeon dive.
Each of the features of the class are designed to manipulate NPCs or assist your allies. While some of them are fine, much of them are very hit and miss depending on your DM. Like with the Inquisitive Rogue, the high-level subclass trait is especially weak. You would need a campaign tailored to social interactions and intrigue to make this worthwhile.
First released in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the scout is essentially the merger between ranger and rogue. In some ways, it can out-ranger the ranger.
This archetype is especially strong if you are interested in a ranged weapon build for your rogue. Skirmisher works especially well for archers. The subclass also gets skills, increased mobility, and advantage on initiative rolls. Altogether, it’s a nice class.
The Phantom is one of two roguish archetypes released with Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. This archetype is based around the concept of a rogue that draws power from death itself.
Mechanically, this is a very fun subclass-once you hit level 9. Tokens of the Departed gives you a soul trinket each time a creature within 30 feet of you that you can see dies. You can use these trinkets for a number of great buffs like asking the spirit questions, advantage on death saves, and more.
The problem with this archetype is that you don’t get the highlight of the subclass until level 9. What’s more, Wails from the Grave at level 3 is very underwhelming compared to other archetypes. If there was more to offer prior to level 9, this would be rated much higher.
5. Arcane Trickster
The Arcane Trickster is a good option, and it is unique given that it is the only rogue subclass that can use magic. the subclass uses a lot of illusion and enchantment magic, which fits thematically. What’s more, these spells offer utility that most rogues lack.
Much of this class is built around enhancing the Mage Hand spell. Not only does it improve the powers of the hand, it also lets you use the hand to get Sneak Attacks in. The features of the subclass can be situational but strong.
It should come as no surprise that the Assassin excels at sneaking around and killing. This subclass gives you more than that, though. You gain useful bonus proficiencies off the bat.
Assassinate is one of the real highlights, though. Not only do you get advantage against creatures that have not taken their turn yet, you also get to count every hit against a surprised creature as critical. All in all, there is massive damage potential with this archetype.
Most classes have a “vanilla” subclass that offers little outside of amplifying that classes natural strengths. For the rogue, that subclass is the thief. That doesn’t mean the thief isn’t strong. In fact, it’s probably the most popular archetype for the rogue.
The thief’s early skills – particularly Fast Hands – are nice. Disarming traps and breaking locks is great, but doing it with Cunning Action is wonderful.
It is at the higher levels that the Thief really shines. Supreme Sneak makes you virtually impossible to detect, while Thief’s reflexes gets you a second turn each round. It’s hard to beat that.
The Soulknife is a psionics-based archetype released in Tasha’s cauldron of Everything. It is one of the better psionic options, in my opinion. The Soulknife relies on a pool of dice as a resource similar to Bardic Inspiration. These dice are useful, rarely leading to a situation where you get nothing out of expending one.
Some of the benefits of the subclass include a form of dual-wielding with psionic blades that not only deal psychic damage but also let you apply your dex bonus to damage rolls for offhand attacks. You can also use your Psionic Energy dice for things like boosting ability checks, damage rolls, or teleporting. It’s a very strong subclass that has a lot of fun flavor.
The swashbuckler sits at the top of our Rogue 5E archetypes list. This subclass might not be most people’s vision of a rogue, but the subclass traits are outstanding. Fancy Footwork gives you some interesting ways out of melee range when you miss your attacks, and it is only the beginning of what is possible with this archetype. The Swashbuckler also gets Rakish Audacity, which lets you essentially always use Sneak Attack.
Panache gives the Swashbuckler the ability to taunt, which works surprisingly well for a rogue. At the highest levels you get Master Duelist. This lets you reroll a missed attack – with advantage. The swashbuckler is hard to beat for a combat-centric rogue.
Wrapping up our Rogue 5E Subclasses List
That wraps up our Rogue 5E archetypes rankings. There were some challenges pinning down our favorite rogue 5E subclasses, but we are happy how the list ultimately turned out. Agree? Disagree? Let us know your choice for your next rogue in the comment section below!
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