The Dungeons and Dragons franchise is going through quite the controversy thanks to their maligned OGL 1.1. update. Already, millions of fans are letting their discontent be known about these new corporate mandates, and they worry about the future of 5e. While they are showing their anger by canceling their D&D Beyond subscriptions and writing to Wizards of the Coast, it’s unknown if a full rollback will happen for the leaked document or if Hasbro will try again. It makes fans pine for the days when all they complained about was game balance.
5e is modular and accessible, but that doesn’t make it immune to issues of game balance. If anything, that accessibility makes it easier for veteran players to cheese the system. These
Hexblades are a powerful class for one key reason, and that’s their Hex Warrior feature. Particularly the ability to change one’s weapon attack modifier to Charisma. That means Hexblades become SAD (Single Ability Dependent), giving them way more flexibility and power. That means more options for feats and ASIs for shoring up saving throws.
Going pure Hexblade is plenty powerful, but the potency lies in its powerful dip. Paladins, Bards, and Sorcerers dipping into Hexblade become much more powerful by virtue of having one less statistic to worry about. Smites, Bardic Inspirations, Rakish Audacity, all of these benefit greatly from focusing on just Charisma.
Ancestral Guardian Barbarian
While not quite as potent as the Echo Knight subclass in terms of versatility, Ancestral Guardians are the king of tanking in 5e. The Spectral warriors may not “attack” as the Echoes do, but they do force a disadvantage on enemies that attack any other target that isn’t the Barbarian. So, they are forced to deal subpar offense or take hits from the meaty Barbarian.
Spirit Shield is a fantastic survivability boost for the party, as the Barbarian further dissuades attacks against their friends. Vengeful Ancestors even lets the shield deal damage to the attackers, to really seal the deal. Paired with magic items, these Barbarians are the most powerful tanks in the business.
While Ancestral Guardians are powerful, it does have a rather high skill ceiling. It’s not innately overpowered in the hands of a novice. However, the same can’t be said for the Totem Barbarian subclass. It is the most popular subclass for one simple reason, and that’s the third-level Totem Bear feature.
This feature grants resistance against all damage except for psychic damage. Resistance against almost all damage is a class feature that would show up much later in any other subclass. Even then, it wouldn’t be as near-all encompassing as the Totem Bears. The rest of the features being so solid only serve to elevate that incredible power spike in the early game.
Bards are already known for their silver tongues, so this class just leans into that aspect as hard as possible. The class feature Silver Tongue is basically Reliable Talent for two of the most important ability checks in the game, Persuasion, and Deception.
Unsettling Words, much like the Divination Wizard’s “Portent”, force the game to go a certain way. Infectious Inspiration is also powerful in its own right, being able to spread out Bardic Inspiration die without expending any is fantastic for a Bard.
Echo Knight Fighter
Echo Knights, alongside the Chronurgy Wizard, are why the Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount is so feared by DMs as a player resource. Echo Knights have unparalleled mobility, as Manifest Echo might as well be called “Free Misty Step”. The fact that the Echo is at will also means there’s no downside to having it on at all times.
While Battlemaster is arguably a more powerful Fighter subclass in pure combat, Echo Knights have far more versatility outside of battle thanks to their teleport ability. Not only that, but Echo Avatar also allows for some incredible scouting maneuvers, giving access to places that most martial fighters couldn’t have otherwise.
Before the Chronurgy Wizard turned its time-warping head, Divination Wizard was widely considered to be the top Wizard subclass. Portent, their bread, and butter, is the key reason for their popularity. This feature allows Wizards to roll two D20s after a long rest, and store it for later use.
When they see an attack roll, saving throw, or ability check made by any creature they can see, that roll can be replaced with one of the D20s instead. In essence, it forces successes and wins, an incredibly powerful ability for winning unwinnable situations. It’s literally rigging the game in one’s favor. The only reason it’s not over Chronurgy is that D20s are random, and the other features are just okay, not also broken.
Despite bearing the oaths of Peace, these clerics are far from pacifists. While they may not be the ones dealing with most of the violence, their powerful features make their party a force to be reckoned with. That’s on top of being a cleric, one of the most powerful all-rounder classes in the game when built pure.
Emboldening Bond is basically a far superior Bless because it doesn’t require spell slots or concentration. Balm of Peace is a powerful party heals that also doubles as a mobility tool, as it doesn’t proc opportunity attacks. Protective Bond works incredibly with tanks, as it’s a free teleport and prevents damage to backlines.
Twilight Cleric is one of the best support builds in the entire game thanks to its powerful Channel Divinity. The enhanced darkvision and ability to give an advantage on initiative rolls, were already solid. However, it’s Twilight Sanctuary that puts this subclass over the edge. The temporary HP it grants is incredible and scales with levels.
The massive boost to survivability more than earns Twilight Cleric its reputation for making DMs quickly adapt their dungeons. Steps of Night grants flying speed when in dim light or darkness, giving some great mobility, and half-cover gives a flat bonus of +2 to AC, and Dexterity saving throws are just bonuses at that point.
Moon Druid is a powerful subclass on all levels of play because it completely breaks the CR table of typical druids. By going past the imposed limitations, Moon Druids become not only stronger but also far more versatile. Access to powerful giant beasts, and even elementals, are crucial to Moon Druid’s broken status.
However, that’s not enough. As far as level 20 characters go, Moon Druids are by far the most powerful in terms of raw physical power. Infinite shape change means they can just heal for free at the start of every turn and completely change up their attack patterns. The only reason Moon Druid is “balanced” is because that power is limited to the 20th level, rare for games to take place in.
Chronurgy Wizards are practically like Divination Wizards on magic steroids. Chronal Shift is a pseudo-Portent, as it forces a reroll on any attack rolls, saving throws, or ability checks made within 30 feet. Not quite as reliable as Portent (since the player isn’t sure whether the roll is a success or not), but a slightly weaker Portent is still powerful.
Temporal Awareness is guaranteed high initiative rolls, which is always fantastic. Momentary Stasis is a much more powerful “Hold Person” as it doesn’t use a spell slot, and can also be used on Large creatures (humanoid shape not required). Arcane Abeyance is a free Ring of Spell of Storing. Convergent Future is the most powerful variant of the “Portent”, as it’s literally just the Wizard going “I will pass or fail this”, guaranteed. It removes the randomness entirely. In a game fueled by dice, fear the one who ignores the almighty roll.
NEXT: 10 Characters From The Star Wars Clone Wars Era To Play In Dungeons And Dragons (& How To Build Them)