The Player’s Handbook comes with a lot of goodies that all classes can use, one of which being the Tempest Domain. This starter subclass for the Cleric focuses on the aggressive usage of thunderbolts and lightning to slay their foes. Common backgrounds for this class include vikings, warlords, demigods, or pious druids. So, let’s batten the hatches and get ready for rough waters because there’s a storm coming in our Tempest Cleric 5E Guide.
Brave the Storm: Tempest Cleric 5E
The Tempest domain in D&D 5E is rather simple. What it can possibly do is limited, but the abilities that it gets greatly increases the Cleric’s ability to be a frontline damage-dealer. That’s not factoring out ranged abilities, either. The Tempest Cleric’s ability to blast is largely improved over the baseline Cleric. The combination of fierce frontline tankiness and brutal new options for damage makes this a real hurricane of a domain.
The Tempest domain gets blasting options outside of the standard 5E cleric spells that are affiliated with storms… Or at least, natural disasters. These options focus primarily on damage and combat control, with a few utility spells.
Most of these spells deal lower damage but focus on a longer duration. Call Lightning, for example, calls multiple bolts of lightning over a 10 minute period. Per round, it deals less damage than a traditional blasting spell, but it makes up for it with the ability to deal that damage more times. The same deal goes for spells like Ice Storm and Insect Plague.
Still, the domain has some blasting, with Thunderwave, Shatter, and Destructive Wave. Gust of Wind, Fog Cloud, Sleet Storm, and Control Water all affect environments, letting the Tempest Cleric craft battlefields to their want. You can really make the fight into something that is highly beneficial to your team with good placement of these spells. The spell list really emphasizes this subclass as a battle-cleric and quite an awesome display of godly power.
When you pick up this class, you’re getting proficiency with both heavy armor and martial weapons. Obviously, this is quite big. Heavy Armor is a staple of the frontline tank, increasing AC by quite a bit without needing to build into Dexterity. You’re free to build a lot more into Strength and Constitution in order to be a bruiser. While no Forge Cleric, the benefits of Heavy Armor are quite prevalent in 5E, and thus using it to build into the frontline role would be a major upside.
Martial Weapon proficiency unlocks two major directions. Adding to the frontline role with weapons like the Greatsword and Lance offers options for the frontliner to become more dangerous. Martial weapons tend to be, at least, one dice category stronger than the simple variant, meaning that you naturally do more damage. They also have a lot more options for the one-handed build path, like the Longsword or Morningstar, which deal good damage and let you have a shield… Or another weapon. Alternatively, the options of the Longbow gives a consistent ranged build some love, along with the two Crossbow variants. Either path you choose, you can either become a frontliner or backliner, without needing cantrips for your resourceless damage.
Wrath of the Storm
Your true 1st level ability comes as a counter-attack, lending credence to a melee build;
Also at 1st level, you can thunderously rebuke attackers. When a creature within 5 feet of you that you can see hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to cause the creature to make a Dexterity saving throw. The creature takes 2d8 lightning or thunder damage (your choice) on a failed saving throw, and half as much damage on a successful one.
You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (a minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
What a powerhouse of the early game! As a reaction, inflicting 2d8 damage to a melee-ranged enemy is quite strong. To put it in perspective, that’s basically using a reaction to cast a level 1 spell at someone hitting you. And you get to do it a few times per day. That’s not bad at all! As a level 1 ability, this absolutely melts low-level attackers, so it’s important that you use this whenever you take damage.
However, the weakness of this ability comes with lack of scaling. Dealing 2d8 damage in the early game is crazy good. But, the fact that the damage never increases means that this ability becomes less and less impressive as the campaign goes on. Thankfully, the lightning damage that this ability uses is super good with the future aspects of this domain.
Channel Divinity: Destructive Wrath
Rather than simply turning undead, the Tempest Cleric prefers to bring their A-game;
Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity to wield the power of the storm with unchecked ferocity.
When you roll lightning or thunder damage, you can use your Channel Divinity to deal maximum damage, instead of rolling.
This has a lot of potential throughout a Tempest Cleric’s career. At level 2, your options are somewhat limited. Even then, maxing out the damage on Wrath of the Storm or Thunderwave means dealing 16 damage for a use of Channel Divinity. As levels go on, maxing out abilities like Call Lightning and Destructive Wave can do upwards of 100 damage, guaranteed, to targets. For Call Lightning, do remember this ability only triggers on a singular lightning bolt.
And this ability is for “when you roll.” Depending on your GM’s discretion, you roll damage either before or after a target saves. If your GM has you roll damage after the target saves, then you can guarantee high damage to whoever you want. Otherwise, this ability still guarantees high damage, potentially to multiple people, with spells like Thunderwave and Destructive Wave; halving maximum damage to a target still deals about average damage.
And, the options get wild if you multiclass into Storm Sorcerer. Any arcane multiclass would give fantastic, high damage options for Thunder or Lightning spells, since the Cleric doesn’t get many options. That’s not to say that staying the Cleric path isn’t powerful, but for a pure Blasting role, consider the Sorcerer or Wizard multiclass, just because this ability is so strong.
And now for another reason to consider multiclassing;
At 6th level, when you deal lightning damage to a Large or smaller creature, you can also push it up to 10 feet away from you.
This ability is quite solid, right? Good battle control, no save requirement. Even if the creature fails a save against a lightning spell, it gets pushed. Awesome!
Sadly, you have two options for this ability; Wrath of the Storm and Call Lightning.
Because this ability isn’t applied to Thunder damage, the options a Cleric has for using this effect are rather dismal. Still, not all is lost. Call Lightning allows you to push someone back 10 ft once per turn, for 10 minutes. That is significant, and gives your combat group a lot of room to breath. Similarly, Wrath of the Storm can trigger this ability and get a wonderful push-back as well, to avoid flanking rules (should your GM use them) or just to prevent multiple attacks. This also synergizes well if you can find any alternative ways to deal Lightning damage, such as a Javelin of Lightning.
However, if you want to really use this ability, the area of effect options offered to Storm Sorcerers and Wizards should be considered. That way, you can push back multiple groups of foes, have better options to push foes, and control the battlefield from a more specific distance. Lightning Ball, Lightning Bolt, and even some shocking cantrips can use this ability quite well.
It also wouldn’t be so easily countered by being indoors.
Even so, the Tempest Cleric’s options continue to rise in power. This one in particular makes fighting mano-y-mano a little easier.
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 thunder damage to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.
Oh, if only this were Lightning damage…
Like a lot of Divine Strikes, this one is short and sweet. However, “thunder damage” is one of the elements that is most ignored by the Monster Manual, with not many creatures being resistant or immune to it. This makes Thunder damage on a Divine Strike pretty significant, even without much else to supplement Thunder damage from the archetype. With how often the Tempest Domain expects you to brawl, however, the extra burst of damage is always significant. And the damage increases, making it up to 16 damage.
The final ability of the Tempest Cleric helps the brawler mindset become universal.
At 17th level, you have a flying speed equal to your current walking speed whenever you are not underground or indoors.
Nice and simple! You get to fly around like Mary Poppins, but only when you’re outside. This is not as situational as it sounds; a lot of campaigns have to take place outside in the late game. With this ability, your melee build can more easily tussle with dragons or demons, flying high above your Fighter or Barbarian allies. Having constant flight is one of the strongest abilities possible for a melee combatant, so the Tempest Cleric getting it as a class ability frees up your item slots for magic items quite a lot.
In addition, the out-of-combat usefulness is bountiful. No more failing Athletics checks because of that bulky suit of full plate. You’ll be more easily accessible to any ally who needs a Cure Wounds or other form of aid. And flying high above a town as lightning bolts crash down around you is sure to get you advantage on Intimidate checks.
All in all, a pretty significant capstone. It’s a shame that there are caveats to it that make it less useful in campaigns where you are dungeon crawling. With luck, the campaign you will be in will be centered more on towns, invasions, or warfare… Otherwise, you might want to check with your GM before choosing Tempest Cleric for a late-game campaign. This ability is useless inside tombs or dungeons.
Best Race for Tempest Clerics
As with our Forge Cleric guide, beefy frontliners with bonus to Wisdom tend to be massively beneficial for the Tempest Cleric to succeed.
The extra durability and wisdom of the Hill Dwarves make them far and away the best option for your typical Tempest Cleric. Considering you only really need Wisdom, Constitution, and some Strength, the Dwarf’s natural spread is fantastic. Not being slowed by Heavy Armor is good for your melee abilities. And, after all, those beards might be the most “viking” thing in the core rulebook!
Especially if you’re considering a multiclass into a Sorcerer, the Dragonborn are a great addition. The blue dragons are somewhere in their blood, after all! A Lightning breath attack gets a lot of mileage from the lightning abilities in the domain, and gives you an additional option for area of effect. The Charisma is beneficial for the multiclass, but the Strength is fantastic for the frontliner kit. You can consider this race even without a multiclass! If you do, remember to invest heavily in Wisdom.
Races to Avoid
Try to stay away from small races, such as Gnome or Halfling. As good as multiclassing towards a Wizard can seem, the power of Heavy Weapons for this subclass is somewhat painful for the smaller races. In addition, heavy armor worsens their already low movement speed (without some Strength dedication, which may harm casting).
Conclusion – Our Take on the Tempest Domain
One of the simplest subclasses in the game also happens to scale somewhat poorly. While the early game of the Tempest Domain is perhaps the strongest of all the domains, the lack of lightning spells means that your abilities and versatility will struggle, just a bit, during the mid-to-late game. Even with my gripes with the subclass, it still offers booming damage, shocking melee options, and spine-tingling flavor. Consider this Domain for a blasting role, using spell slots on things like Call Lightning for consistent ranged damage. Or consider using it to augment your Storm Sorcerer, and really bring on the Thunder.
Want to see your other Cleric options or how to optimize your character in general? Check out our Comprehensive Cleric 5E Guide!