D&D Best Fighter Subclasses for 5th Edition

D&D Best Fighter Subclass
Big horns. Big weapons. A fighter stands ready to chop her next victim to pieces

If you want to play a fighter in your next (or first) Dungeons and Dragons campaign this is the list for you! Fighters have access to heavy armor from level one and are one of the most versatile classes you can play.

Melee, ranged, some can even cast spells! Having so many options may seem daunting, but rest assured, I will be giving you the five best Fighter subclasses, in no specific order, so you can lay the smackdown stress-free.

5. Eldritch Knight

Magic and steel make a wonderful union.

An Eldritch Knight is a Fighter that can also perform magic. Do you want to cast powerful spells like Fireball while also wearing plate armor? Then this is the subclass for you! Also, they can teleport during battle before they attack again in the same turn. Like a big, plate-wearing, greatsword-wielding, spell-casting Nightcrawler from the X-Men. 

What makes the Eldritch Knight awesome?

  • Eldritch Knights can move much more freely across the battlefield using teleportation magic.  
  • Eldritch Knights are dangerous at virtually all ranges. They can use their weapons for melee attacks and spells for ranged attacks.  
  • Multiple different attacks. Eldritch Knights can cast spells and perform weapon attacks the same turn.

Eldritch Knight Guide

Most Fighters will want to make Strength and Constitution their highest ability score, and that is true for an Eldritch Knight as well. However, Intelligence is the ability you will be using for your spellcasting, so do not make that your dump stat. Put as many points as you can into Intelligence, it will make you a much better Fighter.

An Eldritch Knight gets their spells from the Wizard spell list, which is the most extensive spell list in the game. There is a slight downside to this however. Most of the spells you pick have to be from the schools of abjuration and evocation. This is only a slight issue though, since as a fighter you will want to use abjuration magic to help you stay alive and evocation to kill your enemies faster. Also, you have some freedom at levels 8, 14, and 20. When you reach those levels you can choose a new spell from any school of magic, as long as it comes from the wizard’s spell list. Any new spells you learn can replace spells you already knew, so don’t feel like you're committed to what you have picked. 

When you pick this subclass at level 3 you learn two cantrips and three spells from the Wizard’s spell list, as discussed earlier. You can choose any two cantrips but two of the three spells must be from the abjuration or evocation schools of magic. By the time you reach level 20 with this character they will know one 4th-level spell, and have 11 spell slots, and 13 known spells. 

As an Eldritch Knight you will also gain access to a few great abilities.

  • Bonded Weapon, which is when you spend an hour performing a ritual with you weapon, forming a bond with it which allows you to summon it as a bonus action and prevents you from being disarmed. You can do this with two weapons.
  • War Magic, which gives you a bonus action to attack after you cast a cantrip. 
  • Eldritch Strike, which gives a creature you hit with your weapon disadvantage on their next saving throw against a spell you cast, as long as it is cast before the end of your next turn. 
  • Arcane Charge, which allows you to teleport 30 feet to an empty space in before or after you use your Action Surge. 
  • Improved War Magic which works the same as War Magic, except you can cast spells instead of cantrips and still get the bonus action to attack. 

Conclusion

The Eldritch Knight is truly a force to be reckoned with. Blending melee with magic, if you choose this subclass you will have many different ways of being the powerhouse that the Fighter is.

4. The Samurai

"Omae Wa Mou Shindeiru"

If you want to stay alive for as long as possible while looking cool as hell, the Samurai is the subclass for you. Do not get the wrong impression, just because you pick the samurai does not mean you have to use a katana. You can use a greataxe, maul, even a halberd! This subclass is all about the samurai aesthetic. Staying alive and swinging your weapon violently.

What is awesome about the Samurai?

  • You can stay alive and in the fight much longer.
  • Extra attacks. As the samurai you will be able to attack much more often. 
  • Hitting more often. As a bonus action you can give yourself advantage on all attacks until your next turn. 

Samurai subclass Guide

When you choose this class you should make Strength (or Dexterity if you plan on using finesse weapons), and Constitution your primary abilities. Some points into Charisma would go well with your abilities as well. Nobody can resist the strong, smooth-talking Samurai.  

  • When you choose this subclass at level 3 you will gain access to the ability Fighting Spirit.

This is activated as a bonus action and gives you temporary hit points, as well as advantage on all weapon attacks you make until your next turn. The temporary hit points start at 5, then 10 at level 10, and 15 at level 15. This ability can be used three times. You regain all uses after a long rest. At level 3 you also gain a bonus proficiency or you can learn another language. 

  • At level 7 you will become much better equipped for social situations. You gain the feature Elegant Courtier, which allows you to add your wisdom modifier to Charisma (Persuasion) checks. You also gain proficiency in Wisdom saving throws, or if you already have that, Intelligence or Charisma saving throws, whichever you prefer. Be the smooth-talking samurai we all wish we could be.
  • At level 10 you gain the Tireless Spirit feature which gives you one use of Fighting Spirit when you roll initiative, provided you do not have any uses left when you roll initiative. 
  • At level 15 you gain access to the Rapid Strike ability. This allows you to exchange advantage on an attack roll for an extra attack instead. This can only be done once per turn.
  • The final ability the Samurai gets is Strength before Death. This ability allows you to shrug off death (as long as the attack does not kill you outright), and spring back to life, taking a whole extra turn as soon as it happens and interrupting whoevers turn it is right now.

While you are taking this turn you have 0 hit points, and any attacks that land will still cause a failed death save, and three can still kill your character. When this turn is over, if you still have 0 hit points, you fall unconscious. This ability can only be done again after you have finished a short rest. 

Conclusion

And that my friends is the Samurai. Taking endless punishment, while remaining on their feet and attacking with all they can muster. This is truly an exceptional subclass where style meets functionality. If for some reason you are ever in a party with limited, or even worse, no healers; this is the subclass for you to ensure that you can stay in the fight and standing as long as possible. 

3. The Champion

Big hits and easy crits.

The Champion subclass is what I would recommend for those who are entirely new to Dungeons and Dragons. The Champion is a powerful, but simple character that does not have to keep track anything like limited-use abilities or spells. The champion is instead the ideal physical threat, dealing the maximum amount of damage more often and excelling at using their physical might.

What makes the Champion awesome?

  • As a Champion you will be able to land critical hits far more often. 
  • You will succeed far more often, and with greater success at Strength-based skill checks. 
  • Champions are able to stay alive a fair bit longer by regaining hit points when their hit points fall below a certain threshold. 

Champion Subclass Guide

When you choose this Fighter subclass your main abilities should be Strength and Constitution. Do not make Dexterity your dump stat, as it can negatively impact your place in the initiative order, but any other score would be fine for your dump stat. 

  • When you choose this subclass at level 3 you will gain access to Improved Critical, which allows you to get a critical hit when you roll a 19 or 20.

This ability will improve at level 15 when you gain access to Superior Critical, which allows you to get a critical hit when you roll an 18, 19, or 20 to attack. If you pick this subclass you better get ready to roll those damage dies over and over. It might not hurt to pick up an extra set of dice or two. 

  • When you reach level 7 as a Champion you will gain the feature Remarkable Athlete.

This feature allows you to add half of your proficiency, rounded up, to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution checks you make, as long as you are not already proficient in them. In addition to that, whenever you make a long jump you can add your Strength modifier to the amount of feet you can cover. 

  • At level 10 you will gain access to an additional Fighting Style.

If your Champion carries a shield Protection and Dueling would be great choices. If you use two-handed weapons however Great Weapon Fighting and Defense would be your best choice. 

  • The last feature the Champion gets at level 18 is Survivor.

This feature allows you to recover hit points equal to 5 plus your Constitution modifier on each of your turns once you have half your hit points or fewer. This feature requires no actions, however you cannot use it once you fall to 0 hit points.

Conclusion

That is the mighty Champion. Do not let their simplicity fool you. They are a strong, hardy character who can dish out intense damage while demonstrating their survivability. If you want to watch the bodies fall before you, this is the subclass for your Fighter. 

2. Arcane Archer

For threading the needle right between someone's eyes. 

The Arcane Archer is a Fighter subclass that turns them into masters of ranged combat. With the various different magical arrows they can throw at targets, their command of the battlefield sets them apart from most other classes. If you want to play a class that can do great damage from a distance while inflicting all sorts of different effects, this is the Fighter subclass for you.

What makes the Arcane Archer awesome?

  • The Arcane Archer has an exhaustive list of Arcane Shots. While you may initially only get access to a few of these, the number of Arcane Shots you have will grow. And since there are so many options you can pick the options that fits your Fighter character best. 
  • Arcane Archers also have extra chances to hit targets. Instead of missed attacks going to waste you will have to option to aim at a different target. There is also no limit to the amount of times you can do this. 
  • As long as you have a bow and arrow, you have a magical weapon. Later in the game many monsters will have resistance, or outright immunity to non magical weapons. If you choose this subclass however that will never be a problem for you. 

Arcane Archer guide

If you choose this Fighter subclass, make Dexterity your main stat and put as many points as possible into Intelligence. Many people will tell you that Fighters can have Intelligence be their dump stat, and usually that is true, but that is not true for the Arcane Archer at all. For this subclass Strength is not nearly as important compared to other Fighter subclasses. 

  • When you choose this Fighter subclass at 3rd level you gain Arcane Archer Lore, which means you can gain proficiency in either Arcana or Nature skills, as well as learning either the prestidigitation or druidcraft cantrip. At level 3 you will also gain the ability Arcane Shot.

You gain access to two Arcane Shots as well as two uses of Arcane Shot. You regain your uses of Arcane Shot after your finish a long or short rest. You gain addition Arcane Shot options when you reach level 7, 10, 13, 15, and 18. Your Arcane Shots will also become more powerful when you reach level 18. With so many options you can create the Arcane Archer that best fits your playstyle. 

  • At level 7 you will gain access to the ability Magic Arrow. This ability infuses your regular, non magical arrows with enough magic to overcome a creatures resistances or immunity to non magical attacks.

Gaining access to this skill so early will be a lifesaver, quite literally for your character. When everyone else is out of spell slots, you will still be able to deal damage reliably from a distance. At this level you will also gain access to Curving Shot, an ability which allows you to target another target if your attack roll on the first target results in a miss. The only requirement is that the new target be within 60 feet of the first target. 

  • At level 15 you gain access to the ability Ever-Ready Shot. This ability allows you to regain one use of Arcane Shot when you roll initiative as long as you roll initiative with no uses of Arcane Shot available. With this class you will always be able to assert your ranged dominance. 

Arcane Shot Options

If I were to list all of the options for Arcane Shot this article would be twice as long. Wizards of the Coast really outdid themselves with this class. Instead I will list two that I believe to be among the better options. 

  • Grasping Arrow is an amazing ability where you infuse your arrow with magic which causes it to conjure poisonous brambles which bind to the target. The arrow deals an extra 2d6 poison damage, as well as an extra 2d6 slashing damage. This effect continues and anytime a creature hit with this tries to move at least one foot without teleporting they will take an additional 2d6 slashing damage. It is possible to remove these brambles, but that will take a whole action from the creature or one of its allies. 
  • Shadow Arrow is great for two reasons. If it hits it will deal an additional 2d6 psychic damage, which most creatures have no resistance to, and it will blind the target past 5 feet unless they succeed on a Wisdom saving throw. Blinded targets always make for easy prey. They may still be able to attack the melee tanks in front of them, but as long as you are more than five feet away from them they won’t be able to touch you. 

Conclusion

That is the Arcane Archer. Masters of ranged damage, inflicting serious damage as well as crippling status effects. You may not reach the levels of damage the Champion or Samurai can, but you can control the field better than either of them. If you want to be a powerful force from range, this is the Fighter subclass for you. 

1. The Battle Master

The bettlefield will be yours to control. 

The Battle Master is the ultimate melee crowd control option. Able to withstand punishment, deal serious damage, and decimate enemy defenses. This subclass requires tactical thinking and situational awareness, but the benefits it provides are incredible.

What makes the Battle Master awesome?

  • As a Battle Master you will have access to incredible crowd control options. 
  • You can spend a negligible amount of in-game time to study and learn about you enemies before facing them, giving you time to plan a strategy to bring them down.
  • With the extra crowd control options you have, you can also increase the damage you deal in addition to the other effects they may cause. Making you a far more formidable force. 

Battle Master Guide

If you choose this Fighter subclass you will need to make your Strength and Constitution score as high as possible, like most of the other Fighter subclasses. The only exception to this is if you plan on using finesse weapons, in this situation, make Dexterity your highest ability score and not Strength. A high Charisma could benefit you as well for certain situations. 

  • When you reach level 3 and choose this Fighter subclass you will gain proficiency in an artisan's tools of your choice.

You also gain access to Maneuvers, which enhances your weapons attacks in different ways. You can only use one Maneuver per attack. You can learn two additional Maneuvers at level 7, 10, and 15. Maneuvers use special dice called Superiority Dice. These start out as d8s but increase as you level up. You start off with four of them and regain expended ones after a short or long rest. You must use at least one Superiority Die per Maneuver.  

  • At level 7 you gain the ability Know Your Enemy.

This requires you to spend at least one minute of in-game time to study your opponent. Once you do that you can learn about them, their Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution score, Armor Class, current hit points, total class level, or their fighter class levels if they have any. The DM must tell you if they are inferior, equal, or stronger than you but only in two of those categories. 

  • At level 10 your Superiority Dice become d10s, and at level 18 they turn into d12s. I told you they would get better. 
  • Finally, the last ability the Battle Master learns is Relentless, which allows them to regain a Superiority Die when they roll initiative provided they do not have any left when they roll initiative. 

Like the Arcane Archer, if I listed all the Maneuvers this article would be twice as long, so I will list some I think are worth taking a good look at. 

  • Sweeping Attack allows you to attack another creature after attacking another. You spend a Superiority Die and if the original attack roll would hit the second target, you add the Superiority Die to the other target. 
  • Trip Attack allows you to add a Superiority Die to your attacks damage roll and if the target is large or smaller they must make a Strength saving throw or fall prone. 
  • Rally is another great option. It does not do damage, instead you use a bonus action to rally one of your companions and they add the Superiority Die roll plus your Charisma modifier to their hit points as temporary hit points. 

Conclusion

The Battle Master has access to other fantastic Maneuvers. I strongly suggest taking a good look at them and finding which ones would create a Fighter that best fits your playstyle. Just like the Fighter subclasses, there are many different fantastic ways for you to control the battlefield and fight on your own terms. 

Fighter Conclusion

Those are the Fighter subclasses worth looking at if you plan on making a Fighter your next character. The Fighter is a fantastic class and you cannot go wrong with any of these options. From hurling magical arrows, to racking up an insane amount of critical hits, the Fighter is wide open to create exactly the character you want to!

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