War Cleric 5E Guide | Attributes, Tips, Builds, and More

war cleric 5e

In the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, The Player’s Handbook offers a lot of variety for Cleric domains of any god. One of the most ferocious is, of course, the War Domain. Flavorwise, War Clerics are essential components to any city under siege, any militia in need of divine intervention, or a simple mercenary being guided by their god. They gain great strength, magically, in order to become threats on the battlefield. As a result, mechanically, the War Cleric becomes a substantially powerful support with a lot of tools to become threats themselves. To celebrate this domain, we’ve put together this War Cleric 5E Guide. So put on your pauldrons and grab your greatswords, because we’re going to war!

Prepare for Battle: War Cleric 5E

The War Cleric has a lot of solid options for combat. From their domain spells to their abilities, they get a lot of tools for affecting allies, and enemies, directly. Most of their abilities are focused on increasing the damage of weapons and the likelihood of connecting with the opponent. However, they do get a few defensive abilities and some options to deal magical damage at a long-range.

Domain Spells

The domain spells of a War Cleric follow the themes described above quite effectively; Most of these spells are buffs, but later levels have options to restrict opponents. And even more deal damage!

War Cleric Domain Spells

  • 1st Level – Divine Favor, Shield of Faith
  • 3rd Level – Magic Weapon, Spiritual Weapon
  • 5th Level – Crusader’s Mantle, Spirit Guardians
  • 7th Level – Freedom of Movement, Stoneskin
  • 9th Level – Flame Strike, Hold Monster

One of the major downsides of this list is how many concentration spells there are. You can only really use one concentration spell per minute or so, and this list has quite a few that have that restriction. You may find yourself having to turn off Crusader’s Mantle if you want to cast Hold Monster, for example.

However, a lot of these buffs are good to have up for a long time, and the spell efficiency of the War Cleric can be seen as an upside. The Domain is encouraged to use fewer spells per combat, and are given impactful spells from Paladin and Arcane lists as a result. Be careful using some of these in the front line, and you’ll increase everyone’s damage quite significantly.

Offensively, Divine Favor, Magic Weapon, Spiritual Weapon, Crusader’s Mantle, and Hold Monster are effective. They require Concentration for a lot of them, but they all help you deal damage to important foes. Shield of Faith, Spirit Guardians, and Stoneskin also need focused thinking, but all can defend against specific types of enemies. 

Oh, Freedom of Movement and Flame Strike are quite powerful spells that don’t have concentration, if you’re in the mood for burning slots in the higher levels. A lot of these spells actually don’t heighten, so having good, late-game options is always smart. Flame Strike isn’t an amazing use of your spell slots, due to its low damage, so try and look for better options.

Bonus Proficiencies

Just like the Tempest Cleric, the War Cleric comes out the gate in heavy armor and with martial weapons. This is significant. Heavy Armor opens the door for Clerics to more easily invest in Strength, and become better frontliners without Dexterity requirements. The high AC offered by heavy armor is great for survival early game and becomes crucial for even having a chance of being missed later on.

Martial Weapons tend to be rarer proficiencies for domains. Martial Weapons usually have 1 or 2 dice sizes up on their Simple Weapon counterparts; Greatclub’s 1d8 to Greatsword’s 1d12, for example. The melee War Cleric gets more options than the basic cleric for weapons that hit hard near the front. And the ranged War Cleric gets access to harder-hitting crossbows and the Longbow. All of which is to say that Martial Weapons give War Clerics free access to smacking dudes around. And trust me; this is a Domain that does not like to cast cantrips very much!

War Priest

Surprisingly, the first ability of the War Cleric is, by a large margin, the worst.

From 1st level, your god delivers bolts of inspiration to you while you are engaged in battle. When you use the Attack action, you can make one weapon attack as a bonus action.
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.

Oh boy, where to start…

Having this feature use the Bonus Action is a little rough. This is already worse than Extra Attack, since Extra Attack just makes your attack actions stronger. What’s even worse is that the limit of times you can use this ability is up to Wisdom. That’s rather insignificant in the early game, where the amount might be once or twice. In the late game, this usually reaches 5 extra attacks, which is nice, but nowhere near incredible. You’d want to use your bonus actions on things like Spiritual Weapon instead.

However, don’t mistake this ability as being useless. Later on, when weapon attacks get larger, this ability scales with that. Even earlier, since AC is rather low in 5e, a War Cleric with good strength gets two opportunities to destroy someone. Not necessarily worthless, but this is far from the reason you should take the War Domain.

Channel Divinity: Guided Strike

This, and the following ability, are much better reasons.

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity to strike with supernatural accuracy. When you make an attack roll, you can use your Channel Divinity to gain a +10 bonus to the roll. You make this choice after you see the roll, but before the DM says whether the attack hits or misses.

A +10 to a roll is gigantic. This ability can turn a 12 – which wouldn’t hit much – into a 22 – which can hit almost anything. Adding so much to a roll by default is usually worth Channel Divinity, since a +10 heavily affects any attack roll. Weapon attacks from a cleric don’t do much, but guaranteeing a hit with them means that you deal a heck of a lot more than 0. Consider running Great Weapon Master if your GM allows you to get the feat.

However, that’s not all this ability does. First of all, it applies to any attack roll. Any. That means you can add +10 on Spell attack rolls as well as weapon attack rolls. Sadly, Cleric doesn’t have too many of those. Guiding Bolt is a good early-game example, as getting a +10 to hit a 4d6 attack that applies additional buffs for your team is amazing. Later on, landing debuffs with spells like Contagion is much easier with a +10, and any other spells you can find that use attack rolls benefit majorly.

Also, this is done after you see the roll, meaning you add +10 to an attack once you “know” that you rolled poorly. Try to get a “feel” for the AC of the enemy before using this ability. Remember that very few monsters have more AC than 25 or so, even in the late game. Use some military tactics here.

Channel Divinity: War God’s Blessing

The level 6 ability is both a blessing and a curse.

At 6th level, when a creature within 30 feet of you makes an attack roll, you can use your reaction to grant that creature a +10 bonus to the roll, using your Channel Divinity. You make this choice after you see the roll, but before the DM says whether the attack hits or misses.

So, just to say, this ability is incredible. Clerics, as discussed above, don’t deal THAT much damage with weapons. Spells get better, but there aren’t many attack roll spells. So, choosing an ally within 30 ft to grant this ability to is downright absurd. Imagine how much you’ll be loved when a Rogue lands that killing blow with sneak attack, or a Paladin lands their huge smite, because of your blessing. Imagine the sigh of relief when the Sorcerer’s awful roll on Disintegrate becomes a clear hit. It’s a significantly better use of your Channel Divinity.

However, the curse is that you don’t get an additional buff at this level. You simply get more versatility for your Channel Divinity. No static growth or extra Channel Divinity to use this on, so your level 2 and 6 abilities kinda meld together. You also don’t have much of a reason to even use your level 2 ability now, since your allies will likely do a little more damage.

You do gain extra uses of Channel Divinity as you level up, however. Feel free to use one or two on your own Guiding Bolts or Divine Strike hits. Make sure you do some planning with your party’s heavy-hitters!

Divine Strike

The divine strike ability is a cornerstone of most domains. This divine strike is no different… But it has a twist.

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 damage of the same type dealt by the weapon to the target. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Multiple options for your damage type… Fantastic!

Bludgeoning damage tends to be your best bet, since they have some creatures who are vulnerable to it. However, Piercing damage also has very few base bestiary monsters with Resistance, so that’s another fine option. Slashing gets the butt end in the Monster Manual with one monster even being immune.

That being said… Have all three damage types. There is no reason not to choose the weapon that best uses the Divine Strike ability. Dealing 2d8 damage of that specific type means that you can always try and find the best way to sneak past that resistance.

There’s not too much else to say, though do remember this only applies once per turn. That means your War Priest ability doesn’t get this benefit unless you miss once. Which might be the best use of War Priest; Divine Strike pickup duty.

Avatar of Battle

And finally, a bit of a doozy in the late game.

At 17th level, you gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons.

Permanent Stoneskin.

These damage types are pretty likely to come from nonmagical sources, even in the lategame. Beasts tend to do this damage. High-tier enemies often tend to have massive statistics rather than magical beatsticks. This is more useful than it may appear, though “nonmagical” does make this useless in some fights.

It’s a great reason to play the frontline role of the War Cleric by level 17. Though it does slightly weaken the power of Stoneskin on your spell list, this simple but effective defensive ability is a plenty good domain capstone.

Best Race for War Clerics

The War Domain is a bit of an enigma amongst domain options. It’s got a lot of good buffing options by domain, so Wisdom is less of a concern. The only ability that is reliant on Wisdom is the War Priest ability, which might not even be worth the investment. This opens up quite a few races to consider the domain, since Wisdom is not as important as being able to swing wildly or shoot accurately.

Human

The Variant Human is a fantastic choice for a melee war cleric. As mentioned above, Great Weapon Master works wonders when paired with an ability that adds 10 to your attack roll. Coupled with the chance to swing twice in a round, and you’ve got yourself one godly blender. Do talk to your GM about needing War Caster for the two-handed build.

Ghostwise Halfling

Halflings got an interesting race with the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. The Ghostwise Halfling grants a bonus to Dexterity, Wisdom, and the ability to speak telepathically. For a ranged build, the ability to move under Medium or larger foes without worry is useful. Strategy is much easier if you can telepathically speak to your party and let them know you’re going to buff them, or Channel for them. That’s not even mentioning Lucky, giving you an additional method to climb back from poor rolls.

Race Notes: War for All

Please note that 5e benefits a lot of races by allowing the player to choose whatever race option fits. Every single race has some inkling about warfare, and thus can make a good War Cleric. Try and choose races that get bonuses to Strength or Dexterity, since those help your attack rolls depending on your build. Otherwise, choose one that fits your backstory; this subclass is insanely flexible, as long as your character can lift a weapon and use it.

Conclusion – Our Take on the War Domain

That concludes our War Cleric 5e Guide! The War Domain is just as simple, but effective, as a lot of combat-focused subclasses in 5e. Channel Divinity is by far the most impactful ability in the subclass… Though that means the cleric themselves lack a bit of oomph in terms of standard domain buffs. Even with this, the domain spells are fantastic, the War Priest ability is… okay, and permanent Stoneskin is one of the more impactful capstones to a domain. Consider this for any offensive-leaning support builds you want to go for.

Want to see your other Cleric options or how to optimize your character in general? Check out our Comprehensive Cleric 5E Guide!

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