Every class in the game has its ups and downs, its pros and cons. Players must consider each these carefully when choosing how they will play their next campaign. Does a class's advantages outweigh its drawbacks? Or are certain aspects deal breakers? It's up to the player to decide what's worth sacrificing for the magnificent abilities each class has the potential to harness.
Updated April 5, 2022, by Demaris Oxman: Dungeons & Dragons has remained popular for decades, and it's not going away anytime soon. And as long as it maintains its wild popularity, players will continue to debate over the best classes and the worst classes in D&D. Since every player has their own preferences and play styles, this debate is impossible to settle for good. However, it's worth taking a look at the merits and drawbacks of each class. With that in mind, this list has been updated to include more detail on the specific features that make each class great — or not so great.
Playing an Artificer allows players to flex their creative muscles by way of Artificer Infusions. A simple touch can turn a pair of boots into a teleportation device, add damage to weapons, or create a homunculus servant. Outfitting their party with fantastical gear is what Artificers do best. Each subclass has a different specialty; it's up to the Artificer to decide what would be most beneficial to their party.
As a fairly new class, the Artificer's subclasses are all a bit bare bones. Alchemists can produce a very limited variety of tonics; Artillerists have don't have many options for weapons they can create. Aside from creating admittedly very fun items, there's not a lot that gives this class power or distinction.
Barbarians are difficult to kill. Their Rage action gives them resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. It also allows them to hit harder, giving them advantage on Strength checks and saving throws, as well as bonus damage to any attacks with Strength-based weapons.
Also adding to their resilience, Unarmored Defense greatly increases the player's AC if they choose to go without armor — AC will be equal to 10 + Dex modifier + Con modifier. Any player can take this feature as a Feat, but Barbarians get it by default at level 1.
After obtaining the class features that they do in the early levels, Barbarians don't gain much until level 20. Thus, the middle levels can feel dull for the player. Barbarians aren't very versatile; they're good for hacking and slashing and crushing skulls, but not much else.
It's hard for a Bard or their party members to fail often. The class features Jack Of All Trades and Expertise, obtained at levels 2 and 3 respectively, make any Bard's skill checks easier.
Even more importantly, with Bardic Inspiration, these characters can regularly save their comrades with the power of song and dance. This class feature allows a Bard to use their bonus action to grant one party member an extra die to roll on ability checks, attacks, or saving throws, and add that number to their total. At level 1, the Bardic Inspiration die is a d6, but it increases at levels 5, 10, and 15.
Bards have a lot to keep track of. Whether they're trying to remember who has Bardic Inspiration, or combing through their huge list of spells looking for the right one, it can get overwhelming for some players.
Clerics can become the only thing that stands between their party and complete annihilation. With heavy armor, spells with huge damage potential, and the ability to heal, D&D players far and wide rely on their party's Clerics — and that Cleric's deity — when faced with difficult enemies.
Channel Divinity is the most unique example of a Cleric's divine power. Its effects include Turn Undead, or another effect determined by the Cleric's chosen domain. Starting at level 2, this feature is available once per long rest, but players can use it more frequently as they gain power.
It can be easy for Clerics to become pigeonholed, especially in parties full of characters who love to put themselves in danger. Despite their access to plenty of damaging spells, several Clerics get stuck using up all their spell slots to restore the party's HP. It can be a shame, rarely getting to truly show off.
Perhaps the best-known feature of the Druid is its Wild Shape feature, allowing the character to take the form of an animal. Whether attacking as a lion, sneaking under a door as a mouse, or scouting dangerous terrain as an eagle, this shape-shifting power can make situations almost too easy.
Druids can use Wild Shape starting at second level, and gain access to more impressive animal forms as they level up. They can use this feature up to twice per short or long rest, and can stay in animal form for a number of hours equal to half their Druid level (e.g.; 2 hours for a Level 4 Druid).
Like Bards, Druids need to multitask and keep track of several things. They need to know the stats and abilities of every Wild Shape they can take and creature they can summon. These abilities can be immensely powerful, but only if the Druid remembers what they're doing and doesn't lose any of the stat sheets for their familiars and Wild Shapes.
Playing a fighter is straightforward and easy to master, making the class a great option for first-timers. Fighters are flexible and can hone their skills in a particular style for extra damage.
As they level up, Fighters can attack 2-4 times per action, decimating enemies. This feature is known as the Extra Attack, and increases at levels 5, 11, and 20. What's more, with the Action Surge feature, players can take two actions in one turn once per long rest. This means that a Level 11 Fighter, for example, could attack up to six times in one turn.
Because of how simple it is, playing a fighter can feel flat for some. Despite the multitude of subclasses available, most boil down to hitting enemies with weapons and little more. More experienced players often multiclass with Fighter, since it can start to get dull after awhile.
Monks are masters of ki, the body's mystical energy force. They can use their ki to pack extra punches, or wriggle out of an enemy's grasp. As they level up, a Monk's ki becomes powerful enough to stun or drain the life force of an enemy.
At second level, all Monks learn three ki skills: Flurry of Blows, Step of the Wind, and Patient Defense. Players gain more ki as they level up, and can choose more ki features to customize their character.
Despite the interesting aspects that ki has to offer, it tends to drain quickly, leaving Monks vulnerable and weak. Once a Monk runs out of ki points, they become fragile, easy to hit, and can no longer deal high damage.
Paladins fight in the name of the gods, and can infuse their weapons with Divine Smite. Starting at Level 2, players can expend a spells slot to make their weapons to do extra radiant damage. This extra damage starts at 2d8 for a level 1 spell slot, and increases depending on the level of the spell slot used. What's more, this damage is even greater against undead enemies and fiends.
The most effective Paladin spells typically require Concentration. They cannot cast other Concentration spells or take damage without losing the spell's effect. This means that Paladins often make difficult choices early in a fight, and the wrong one can spell disaster.
Rangers are well-rounded, combining features of the Fighter, Druid, and even a few Rogue characteristics. They can use spells to befriend beasts or creating exploding arrows, and can camouflage themselves into the environment. Like most fighting classes, Rangers choose their fighting style and gain bonuses. Depending on what the party needs, they can fill several different roles.
The Ranger has earned itself a bad name and many regard it as the worst class in 5e, as many of its abilities are highly situational. Natural Explorer and Favored Enemy only provide benefits related to specific terrain or creatures, respectively. Despite its combination of strength, stealth, and magic, the Ranger is not a very flexible class.
Rogues are sneaky, stealthy, and almost impossible to pin down in combat — if they're not using their stealth to avoid combat altogether. The class features Uncanny Dodge, Evasion, and Elusive are all dedicated to making Rogues harder to hit. What's more, as long as they remain hidden, Rogues can do massive damage with sneak attacks. If a Rogue character has advantage on an attack roll, that attack will deal extra damage.
If those evasive abilities fail, it becomes difficult for a Rogue to do much. Since they rely on sneak attacks, any foe who can't be hit this way will take little damage from a Rogue's blade. Always have a backup plan, just in case the enemy proves to be perceptive.
Metamagic effects allow Sorcerers to fine-tune their spells. With every spell they cast, players can use sorcery points to increase their range, protect party members from AOE damage, increase their potency, and more. These can help circumvent common drawbacks; for example, Careful Spell can prevent allies getting from caught in the crossfire. Sorcerers gain improvements to their metamagic at levels 3, 10, and 17.
Sorcerers are notoriously fragile. With a d6 hit die, their HP is extremely low, and their tendency towards low constitution doesn't help. Though these glass cannons are capable of great power, they're also capable of getting killed by a single blow.
As a Warlock, players gain access to Eldritch Invocations. These gifts from their mysterious patrons allow Warlocks to massively increase the power of their cantrips, cast certain spells without using spell slots, eliminate the need for rest, and more. Every Warlock will gain access to two Invocations starting at level 2, and one more at levels 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, and 18.
For a casting class, Warlocks have abysmally few spell slots. Especially at lower levels, players must be incredibly judicious in how and when they use their spells. Otherwise, they run the risk of facing down a fearsome enemy and having little power to attack with.
Among the casting classes, Wizards have access to the most numerous and varied spells. No matter the situation, chances are a Wizard has a spell for the occasion. They can protect the party, search for magical traps, create distracting illusions, or vaporize enemies with fireballs. While each Wizard must choose a school of magic in which to specialize, they are not limited to using only spells within that school.
Because their knowledge stems from study, Wizards must keep their spellbook on their person at all times. If they fail to do so, they cannot cast spells and effectively become useless. What's more, much like Sorcerers, Wizards are so easy to kill that their fragility has become a running joke among RPG players. Be sure the Cleric is always standing by with a healing spell.