The Barbarian’s options in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything range wildly in both flavor and quality. The Storm Herald is supposed to be the weather-oriented one. Once their rage is mastered, it manifests in a whirlwind of fury that surrounds them. Magically constructed, these heralds would change the entire aspect of the battlefield. These beings are not normally barbarians as one might expect; they instead train next to druids, rangers, and storm protection services to defend the elements. But, are these storm guardians just as useful when tackling kobolds in dungeons? Find out in our Storm Herald Barbarian 5E guide.
The Wild Hurricane: Storm Herald Barbarian 5E
The Storm Herald is one of the most interesting of the Barbarian archetypes, though not necessarily the strongest. As a Storm Herald, you get 3 options for environments that you are most comfortable in; Desert, Sea, and Tundra. This environment manifests in a whirlwind around you which harms enemies, shields allies, and eventually increases your durability. It’s a fairly versatile archetype, but gets some abilities that simply doesn’t do much.
Your first choice is of aura. This aura, gained at level 3, will influence the rest of your abilities. It is 10 feet large, and activates once when you rage, and then again whenever you take a Bonus action. This aura does not go through total cover.
You can change your aura whenever you take a level in Barbarian, and the DC to resist an aura effect is Constitution-based (8 + Proficiency + Con Mod).
Desert. When this effect is activated, all other creatures in your aura take 2 fire damage each. The damage increases when you reach certain levels in this class, increasing to 3 at 5th level, 4 at 10th level, 5 at 15th level, and 6 at 20th level.
This is a decent amount of guaranteed damage. As a bonus action, you deal area-of-effect damage… And it scales fairly okay! Since Barbarians and most weapon-based classes are awful in combats with multiple enemies, this does help a little bit. Great use of a bonus action!
However, if you are not the only frontliner, you must be careful. This does not specify that allies are avoided. That means you will be damaging your friends whenever you pulse with this ability, if they are in range. Tell your allies to keep away, or think about whether that extra damage is worth hurting your allies.
Sea. When this effect is activated, you can choose one other creature you can see in your aura. The target must make a Dexterity saving throw. The target takes 1d6 lightning damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. The damage increases when you reach certain levels in this class, increasing to 2d6 at 10th level, 3d6 at 15th level, and 4d6 at 20th level.
This one is the worst, since it just deals damage and is not even guaranteed. Dexterity saves are one of the most common proficiencies among monsters, so it’ll be frustrating to use this. Even so, you’ll do some damage. As a bonus action, zapping a creature for 1d6 is far from bad… But it also doesn’t scale until level 10. You’ll be behind for a while! Sea is worth considering at level 15 or 20, since that’s when this damage becomes pretty high.
Tundra. When this effect is activated, each creature of your choice in your aura gains 2 temporary hit points, as icy spirits inure it to suffering. The temporary hit points increase when you reach certain levels in this class, increasing to 3 at 5th level, 4 at 10th level, 5 at 15th level, and 6 at 20th level.
Now this, this is a good one! If your party has multiple melee combatants, you likely don’t even need fire aura’s AoE. That means giving your party an overshield of temp HP will be extremely useful. In addition, unlike Fire, this only friendly-fires. You don’t need to worry about giving your enemies bonus health.
2 temp hitpoints might not seem like too much (because it really isn’t). But, you are able to give that small boost to health every round; if you do so, that’s up to 20 temp hitpoints! Eventually, 60! That’s a pretty good shield, all things considered, and hits all allies that aren’t yourself.
In general, you will pick either Fire or Tundra. Fire is fantastic, especially if you don’t have too many frontlining allies. However, Tundra is fantastic if you do have melee allies. Sea is not specifically powerful at any point in it’s scaling, but works best at level 15 or so.
After 3 levels, at level 6, you receive another defensive ability. Unlike most archetypes, this strictly increases your resistances outside of rage! So you get this benefit all the time!
Desert. You gain resistance to fire damage, and you don’t suffer the effects of extreme heat, as described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Moreover, as an action, you can touch a flammable object that isn’t being worn or carried by anyone else and set it on fire.
Fire damage is the most common damage type in the game. You will often find yourself lit aflame, especially if you’re in the enemy’s face. So, getting resistance to fire damage at all times will be a ridiculous boon for yourself. Extreme heat is, obviously, relatively niche. If you know for certain you’re about to wander into a volcano, you might want to swap to Desert when you level! Otherwise… whatever.
The flammable object clause is fun, but cantrips can perform the same task fairly easily. This part is a little more of a party trick, but hey, it’s a cool party trick!
Sea. You gain resistance to lightning damage, and you can breathe underwater. You also gain a swimming speed of 30 feet.
This one is the most impactful of the three, since it gives you a spell effect and a swim speed. Breathing underwater and swim speeds are both niche, but this can save spell slots or magic items. If your campaign is water-focused, then you get amazing utility at this time.
Lightning damage is unfortunately quite rare for enemies to use, compared to fire and cold damage. It does happen, and there are dangerous spells that deal lightning damage. But, you might only want to take this effect while preparing to go underwater.
Tundra. You gain resistance to cold damage, and you don’t suffer the effects of extreme cold, as described in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Moreover, as an action, you can touch water and turn a 5-foot cube of it into ice, which melts after 1 minute. This action fails if a creature is in the cube.
Cold damage is like a slightly rarer fire damage. Not a completely abysmal choice! Cold damage is rather common, especially if you’re taking advantage of that extreme cold immunity. If you’re heading to the far north, Tundra is an extremely obvious choice.
The additional action-based ability is… fine? Once again, magic can do it better, but this still gives you a tiny bit of fun utility, even outside of rage.
This ability favors Desert the most, once again, but all three of these can help a barbarian out. They tend to be a little bit focused around resisting magic, which is fantastic for a Barbarian! Magic stinks! So, don’t be worried about selecting a specific environment if you need to, or if it benefits your party.
Ugh, thank goodness! You don’t need to worry about your environment choice at this level.
At 10th level, you learn to use your mastery of the storm to protect others. Each creature of your choice has the damage resistance you gained from the Storm Soul feature while the creature is in your Storm Aura.
So, during your rage, you give out your damage resistance to all allies within Storm Soul. Awesome! This helps your melee allies tank fireballs without care, or will help your party fight an ice dragon and stay intact. This is only while you rage, so keep this around for boss fights or against encounters that do a silly amount of elemental damage.
Hilariously, while it doesn’t give a benefit from specific environments, this still favors desert! This will help your allies take reduced damage from your Bonus Action, so you’ll feel less guilty when you have to ping your friends. Sea and Tundra simply doesn’t have to worry about that! So you can guarantee that this resistance gets used!
Finally, at level 14, you get one last environment-based ability. This requires you to be raging, but has a different effect based on what aura you have active.
Desert. Immediately after a creature in your aura hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to force that creature to make a Dexterity saving throw. On a failed save, the creature takes fire damage equal to half your barbarian level.
So, as a reaction, you deal damage to someone. That’s quite potent! It’s a new way to use your reaction. However, there are so many problems. First, it’s a Dexterity save – which isn’t too rare among enemies. Second, it’s not much damage for a reaction! Opportunity attack is really strong, especially while you’re raging. This is, finally, the worst choice at this level (though Desert is still plenty strong!).
Sea. When you hit a creature in your aura with an attack, you can use your reaction to force that creature to make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is knocked prone, as if struck by a wave.
This is a really powerful effect! Knocking a creature prone as a reaction on your turn is quite powerful, granting you advantage on all future attacks. If you time it right, you can give advantage to your entire party! If that wasn’t good enough, strength saving throws are significantly less common, and high priority targets might not have much Strength.
Tundra. Whenever the effect of your Storm Aura is activated, you can choose one creature you can see in the aura. That creature must succeed on a Strength saving throw, or its speed is reduced to 0 until the start of your next turn, as magical frost covers it.
The final option is, admittedly, not incredible? It doesn’t take your reaction, thankfully, and it locks someone down. If a creature seems to be eying your Wizard and hefting their greataxe, you might want to set their speed to 0. That’s added to your bonus action, meaning you still get your reaction to opportunity attack. Really good, but admittedly requires a keen eye and a hard read to keep your backline protected.
Desert is the loser at this level, but the aura and defensive passive still makes it plentifully useful. Sea is now a legitimate option if you have a Rogue in a party. Tundra now has a fairly offensive ability, since you can ensure a target can only escape through teleportation. Still, Desert does loads of damage, and if you think nobody is going to trigger an Opportunity Attack, then this at least spends your Reaction somehow!
Best Races for Storm Heralds
Storm Heralds are like any barbarian; Strength is important to split skulls, and Constitution is good for defense and increasing the DC of your aura. In that case, Constitution becomes more and more important as you get more and more saves. Otherwise, Dexterity increases your AC, and Wisdom helps prevent dominate or charm effects.
This dwarf, available in Mordekainen’s Tome of Foes, is a weird one. +2 Constitution, +1 Strength is right up your ally… But why not the +2 Strength of a Mountain Dwarf, you might ask? Well, instead of getting a useless Armor Proficiency, you get something really good! Duergar Magic starts with the ability to case Enlarge, turning yourself into a Large character. This is great, since it “increases” the size of your aura! It also makes you more dangerous, with 1d4 extra damage on your attacks and better ability to make opportunity attacks. This is only once per day, so make sure you use it wisely. And you’ll need to find a way to overcome Sunlight Sensitivity, though Superior Darkvision usually makes up for that.
These green menaces from Eberon: Rising from the Last War (Or Volo’s Guide, or Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount) are great barbarians. At +2 Strength, +1 Constitution, you have the stats to get the job done. Rather than become blinded by the light, you get normal darkvision. Primal Intuition gives you two free proficiencies, and Powerful Build is great for becoming the party’s pack mule. Aggressive will help you keep up with fast enemies, though only if your bonus action isn’t better used to proc Aura. It’s a great choice, but only if the Duergar’s Sunlight Sensitivity is hard for you to overcome in a campaign.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Storm Herald Barbarian
The Path of the Storm Herald is the most complex and predictive Barbarian, but that doesn’t make it bad. Desert and Tundra are each fantastic at an aggressive and defensive role, respectively. And Sea is essential for a water-based campaign, allowing you to become part fish instantly. The auras are each powerful for their own reasons. If you’re looking for a Barbarian with a shocking amount of utility, then the Storm Herald is for you!