The DnD 5e Paladin Guide (2022)

Published on December 12, 2021, Last modified on May 23rd, 2022

In this post, we will be examining the paladin’s class features and how you can optimize your paladin through choosing your race, background, ability scores, subclass, feats, and spells.

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e paladin. For a quick overview of other 5e classes, check out our Guide to DnD 5e Classes.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your paladin. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange is an OK option
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized
So if you're ready, get your smites on deck and let’s get into it!

Did you know?

D&D Beyond can help create your characters by making choices using a step-by-step approach. Full customization and control of your character, none of the flipping through hundreds of pages to reference obscure rules.

D&D 5e Paladin Overview

Level Proficiency Bonus Features Spell Slots per Spell Level
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
1st +2 Divine Sense, Lay on Hands
2nd +2 Fighting Style, Spellcasting, Divine Smite 2
3rd +2 Divine Health, Sacred Oath 3
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement 3
5th +3 Extra Attack 4 2
6th +3 Aura of Protection 4 2
7th +3 Sacred Oath feature 4 3
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement 4 3
9th +4 4 3 2
10th +4 Aura of Courage 4 3 2
11th +4 Improved Divine Smite 4 3 3
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3
13th +5 4 3 3 1
14th +5 Cleansing Touch 4 3 3 1
15th +5 Sacred Oath feature 4 3 3 2
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3 2
17th +6 4 3 3 3 1
18th +6 Aura improvements 4 3 3 3 1
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement 4 3 3 3 2
20th +6 Sacred Oath feature 4 3 3 3 2

Playstyle

The paladin is a class known for its heavy armor, damage output, and roleplaying demands.

Righteous warriors on the path of the paladin must dedicate themselves completely to an Oath devoted to certain ideals. Some examples are:

  • The Oath of Devotion is for the classic paladin feel. They are typically lawful and the follower of some deity.
  • The Oath of the Ancients is cool if you want to ease up on the lawful good roleplaying. Protectors of sacred groves as well as innocents, paladins of the Oath of the Ancients devote themselves to protecting the Light from the darkness of the world, which is a pretty vague mission and gives some room for flexibility.
  • The Oath of Vengeance is for people who want to go for a more Marvel’s Punisher vibe. This Oath is dedicated to the single-minded pursuit of the guilty at the cost of all else. Extremely mobile and terrifyingly efficient, paladins of this Oath will never stop pursuing their prey.

Strengths

Paladins are a great option for a tanky damage dealer. They are a semi-spellcaster, meaning they only learn up to 5th level spells and have a limited pool of spell slots to draw from.

Paladins are proficient in all weapons and armor, so they have their pick of the litter when it comes to how they want to outfit themselves for combat. This, on top of their extra damage from Divine Smites, makes them one of the highest damage dealers available.

Paladins have a unique ability to be a sort of battlefield medic. They can be in the thick of the fray without getting killed and have a pool of healing to draw from thanks to their Lay on Hands class feature. The paladin’s spells also have a focus on healing and, when combined with their ability to buff party members through their Aura of Protection, allows for some powerful party support.

Weaknesses

Paladins are known as one of the stronger 5e classes due to their damage output and versatility. Similar to bards, paladins are at their best when you are able to take advantage of what roleplaying and CHA can do for you. A paladin’s Oath is what gives the class their holy butt-kicking powers and sticking to this oath is important to maintaining these powers.

The largest gaps in the paladin’s arsenal are attacking at a distance and dealing area of effect damage. Their spells and class features mainly focus on dealing single target, melee damage. While they are great at what they do, paladins can feel a bit out of their depth when having to deal with a ranged or highly mobile enemy.

Paladin Class Power Spikes

If you are jumping into a campaign at a specific level and you want a character that’s going to be really strong right away, this section of our guide will help you understand the points where the paladin class is strongest.

As a class, the paladin tends to perform best at the early stages of the games, especially after gaining access to their Spellcasting and Divine Smite abilities. However, the class remains a powerful damage dealer and tank at most stages of the game, while offering an overall utility that makes it one of the strongest class options in the 5e system.

The best levels to play the paladin class are between 2nd and 5th Level, when you gain access to the powerful starting abilities and features of the paladin class. At this stage of the game, your character will quite frankly outshine most other party members.

Following 5th Level, the paladin starts to plateau and will dip towards parity with other classes in the game. It has other major power spikes at 9th, 13th, and 17th level as it gains access to high-level spell slots, but nothing will feel quite as broken as that early game domination.

1st Level (Moderate Start)

The paladin starts off with a moderate power level, since they are missing the Spellcasting and Sacred Oath features that will make this class into such a menace at later stages of the game. Playing a one-shot as a 1st-level paladin may be underwhelming, although you do have access to the utility of Lay on Hands immediately.

2nd Level (First Power Spike)

2nd Level is the first major power spike for paladin characters. At this level, you gain access to your 1st Level spells slots and basic class spells. In addition, you get to choose a Fighting Style, which is great for flavor and character direction, and you can start to use Divine Smite.

3rd – 4th Level (First Plateau)

3rd Level is your second major power spike, when paladins gain access to their Sacred Oath Feature and their specific Oath Spells. Although this feature does not add as much raw power as 2nd Level, it is a more satisfying threshold from a flavor perspective and another great point to play a paladin character.

There is a lull on 4th level with no significant improvements, but it still feels very good to play a paladin at this early stage in the game.

5th – 8th Level (Second Plateau)

5th Level is the third major power spike for paladin characters, where they get access to their 2nd level Oath Spells and class spells. While this is significant, the biggest bump at 5th Level is the Extra Attack feature, which immediately ramps up a paladin’s possible damage output.

After the massive spike at 5th Level, the following three levels offer relatively small improvements. This is still a decent level threshold to play a paladin, but it’s mainly the carry-over effects of the massive spike at 5th Level.

9th -12th Level (Third Plateau)

9th Level is the next major power spike for paladin characters, when they get access to their 3rd level Oath Spells and class spells. They also receive a nice little increase to their proficiency bonus. It is probably the weakest of the class’s power spikes on the way to 20.

11th Level is a secondary power spike in this plateau that will provide them with the Improved Divine Smite feature and access to a third 3rd Level spell slot. While not as significant as 9th level, it is another strong threshold to hit and a decent level to be playing at.

The other levels in this plateau do not offer any significant power spikes and these are not great levels to jump into paladin play overall.

13th – 16th Level (Fourth Plateau)

13th Level is the second-to-last major power spike for paladin characters, when they get access to their 4rd level Oath Spells and class spells. Again, they also receive an increase to their proficiency bonus. This is a very similar spike to the 9th Level, although you do get access to more powerful high-level spells.

At this plateau, paladins begin to access some cool end-games features. This includes Cleansing Touch at 14th, which is a great utility feature, and the penultimate level of their Sacred Oath Feature at 15th Level. Both of these are nice thresholds and this is a better plateau overall for paladin players.

17th – 20th Level (Final Plateau)

17th Level is the last major power spike for paladin characters before 20, when they get access to their 5rd level Oath Spells and class spells. These are super powerful, end-game spells and this is a fairly satisfying threshold for paladins.

The plateau between 17 and 20 is a lull spot for paladin players, with no significant improvements for the class.

20th Level offers a final power spike to paladin players, in the form of the ultimate Sacred Oath feature. Almost all of the Oaths offer amazing ultimate abilities that you’ll be excited to try out for the first time, although some are more awesome than others (I’m looking at you, Oath of Devotion). Not all classes offer huge payoff at Level 20, but paladin is definitely up there with the best of them.

Best Races for Paladin

Standard Races

Dragonborn:
  • Chromatic: Great option to make your paladin more tanky while also giving you a solid option for AoE damage. Unfortunately you only get one extra attack as a paladin and you'll be focused on landing your attack to make sure you can smite. Still, the option to use an AoE if your enemies are lined up properly is always a good choice to have in combat.
  • Metallic: Solid choice for paladins that have pumped their CON modifier. The breath weapon can help with AoE damage, something that paladins struggle with, and the Repulsion Breath could offer a chance to make an attack with advantage for extra smite potential.
  • Standard: +2 to STR and +1 to CHA make dragonborn an ideal race for paladins. Combine this with the Breath Weapon and damage reduction and you are looking at a very strong base build.
  • Ravenite: +2 STR and +1 CON is perfect for a paladin. The extra attack from Vengeful Assault helps with dishing out more damage and landing smites.
Dwarf: Dwarves are a great choice for all paladin builds. They get bonuses to CON and a free resistance to poison which is just gravy.
  • Hill: A bonus to WIS isn’t going to help a ton but may be useful if you need to have high Perception, and the bonus hit points are always welcome.
  • Mountain: Most paladins will take +2 bonuses to STR and CON all day.
Elf: You're likely not going to play an Elf as a Paladin. Elves get a bonus to DEX, free Perception proficiency, and Darkvision, all of which aren't very important for Paladins.
  • Eladrin: Interesting ASI array if you're going for a DEX-based paladin. Unfortunately, STR-based paladin's are usually too multi-ability dependant to give up a bonus to STR or CON just for misty step.
  • Mark of Shadow: No STR or CON, so paladins choosing the Mark of Shadow will likely be focusing on DEX fighting. While you may not be able to build a particularly tanky Mark of Shadow paladin, they will have tons of utility due to the extra spells and bonus to stealth.
Gnome: INT is useless for a paladin.
Half-Elf: Half-Elves get a buff to CHA and get two free Ability Score Increases (ASIs). This combined with Dark Vision and two free skills make Half-Elves one of the best races for Paladins.
Half-Orc: Half-orcs get you a STR and CON bonus, both of which are perfect for paladins. Darkvision is nice, proficiency in Intimidation will help your face skills, Relentless Endurance is a nice bonus, and Savage Attacks is just plain savage with smite crits.
Halfling: Paladins really want to be focusing more on STR, CON, and CHA more than the Halflings ASIs provide.
Human:
  • Mark of Passage: No CHA for spellcasting, but Mark of Passage could lay the groundwork for a really cool DEX paladin with plenty of movement options.
  • Mark of Sentinel: +2 CON is welcome, as is the extra spells granted by Spells of the Mark. A free casting of shield can go a long way to help paladins hold onto spell slots for Divine Smites and the ability to swap with an attacked party member will help them tank. All around a great choice, even though the ASIs aren't on point.
  • Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
  • Variant: Variant humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for paladins.
Tiefling: Paladins are right at home with CHA bonuses. STR and DEX subraces will determine weapon and armor choices.
  • Bloodline of Dispater: DEX and CHA is a good combination, and spells will work well for a sneaky character.
  • Bloodline of Glasya: DEX and CHA is a good combination, and spells will work well for a sneaky character.
  • Bloodline of Levistus: CHA, CON, and some great defensive options for a tank paladin.
  • Bloodline of Mephistopheles: +2 CHA, good spells, and useful racial traits.
  • Bloodline of Zariel: STR and CHA is perfect for a paladin, and free smite spells is the cherry on top.
  • Variant – Devil’s Tongue: Useful spells that expand on what the paladin can do for the party, especially vicious mockery.
  • Variant – Feral: This is a great option if you want to lose out on some spellcasting with CHA to go all-in on a DEX build.
  • Variant – Hellfire: Replacing hellish rebuke with burning hands is personal preference, so this subrace is just as good as the Asmodeus.
  • Variant – Winged: Combined with Feral this could make a very interesting DEX-based paladin that can fly around.

Non-Standard Races

Aarakocra: Paladins will want to be on the ground and tanking. Plus, their ranged options are awful.
Aasimar: This is THE Paladin race. +2 CHA, extra healing, a useful cantrip, and damage resistances.
Bugbear: The STR bonus is useful and paladins are classic Polearm Master/Sentinel candidates, making good use of Long-Limbed. The proficiency in Stealth can help your disadvantage while wearing heavy armor.
Centaur: The +2 to STR and the Charge ability are perfect for paladins.
Changeling: CHA is perfect for spellcasting and combines nicely with the free skill proficiencies from Changeling Instincts.
Fairy: Unfortunately, fairies just don't work as paladins. Their heavy armor restricts flight, they can't use heavy weapons without popping their once-a-day enlarge/reduce, and they don't really have any ranged options that make the exclusion of those two things worthwhile.
Firbolg: The +2 to WIS is going to be wasted, except for when you cast your Firbolg Magic spells. The +1 to STR and Powerful Build is nice. Being able to go invisible and cast some limited spells can improve your utility to your party.
Genasi:
  • Earth: The earth genasi provides great ability score increases for a STR paladin, improved movement options, and a reliable way to be stealthy as a paladin, even in heavy armor.
Gith: INT is useless for a paladin.
  • Githyanki: STR is good for paladins, but they are too multi-ability dependent to waste an ability score increase on INT. Nothing besides the STR on the githyanki is interesting for a paladin.
Goblin: Because paladins rely on several ability scores, a lack of both STR and CHA is not ideal. Despite this, DEX and CON are still useful and the goblin’s racial traits add extra movement options and boosted damage.
Goliath: Some paladins do not want to pump their CHA as high as it can go for spellcasting, and will instead focus on STR for melee damage output while focusing on spells that don’t require CHA to be effective. In that case, goliath paladins are quite strong and will be effective tanks rivaling the other viable melee classes.
Harengon: Going higher in initiative, getting a bit of extra perception, avoiding AoE damage, and some extra movement options are all things a paladin can work with.
Hobgoblin: Paladins are too multi-ability score dependent to choose a hobgoblin.
Kalashtar: Paladins are very multi-ability dependent, so not seeing STR, DEX, or CON and only have +1 CHA will not cut it.
Kenku: Paladins can be quite good when focused on DEX, although the WIS is largely wasted and would rather be seen in either CON or CHA.
Kobold: A simple DEX bonus is not quite enough for the Paladin to be optimized. If building around DEX, the character will function fine simply due to Pack Tactics.
Leonin: Perfect ability score array, the bonus to your walking speed can help you close with enemies, and your Daunting Roar can provide a massive debuff to enemies you're in close quarters with.
Lineage:
  • Dhampir: Some extra movement is useful for closing with enemies and the Vampiric Bite will be at it's best with your pumped out CON modifier.
  • Hexblood: If your paladin doesn't already use a lot of concentration spells, hex is an insanely good value spell to help boost your damage. The utility from disguise self and the Eerie Token effects is a cherry on the cake.
Lizardfolk: WIS is basically pointless for paladins since they depend on several other ability scores. Hungry Jaws also doesn’t look too exciting as paladins are already experts at healing and self-preservation. A DEX-based paladin will work as they won’t depend on STR and heavy armor for AC.
Loxodon: Paladins need to focus on quite a few stats, and WIS isn’t one of them. However, a STR build could dump DEX and use Natural Armor, thereby freeing up enough stat points for STR and CHA.
Minotaur: Paladins are pretty multi-ability dependent, but STR and CON is a solid start. If you focus on CHA for spellcasting, Imposing Presence is a nice little bonus skill proficiency.
Orc: Paladins work very well with STR due to the ASI, Aggressive, and free skill proficiencies. Since they use CHA as their spellcasting modifier, you can pick up Intimidation skill proficiency with Primal Intuition for a nice and easy social skill.
Satyr: +2 CHA is a great start as it pumps your spellcasting ability modifier. Magic Resistance will be great for tanking and the extra movement can help you close the gap with enemies to unleash your smites.
Shifter:
  • Beasthide Shifter: Excellent choice for a tanky frontline paladin.
  • Longtooth Shifter: Excellent choice for a damage dealing STR paladin.
  • Swiftstride Shifter: DEX-based paladins can choose the swiftstride shifter for the DEX boost as well as CHA for their spellcasting.
Simic Hybrid: Paladins can be built in many ways and are multi-ability dependent, so the flexible ability score can go to STR, DEX, or CHA. Keep in mind that Carapace won’t work with heavy armor.
Tabaxi: Paladins are one of the better classes for a tabaxi, as they love stacking AC and cast their spells with CHA. Pick up some STR for attacks and armor, CON for hit points and CON saves, and you have yourself a well-rounded paladin.
Tortle: The default build for a paladin is to use STR. Without needing to pump DEX for AC, this greatly reduces the paladin’s multi-ability dependency. A tortle paladin can comfortably increase their CHA for spellcasting while still having a respectable 17 AC (19 with a shield) right from the start.
Triton: STR, CON, and CHA are the exact three ASIs that most paladins are looking for. Add to that some useful racial traits and some innate spells and tritons make a really strong case for this class.
Vedalken: Paladins are very multi-ability dependent, so not seeing STR, DEX, CON, or CHA is bad news.
Warforged: Paladins care about STR, CON, and DEX, and many even want to boost their CHA to help their Spellcasting Modifier. It will be impossible to focus on everything when your biggest racial ASI is CON, but a warforged paladin will still perform very well as a frontline melee attacker and damage soaker.
Yuan-ti Pureblood: Although paladins really want some STR or DEX to go with their CHA, the yuan-ti offers a racial trait that is just too good to ignore. Without STR or DEX your paladin may not be the best at swinging a weapon, but they’ll excel at casting spells. Combining high AC, Magic Resistance, and Poison Immunity, a yuan-ti pureblood paladin will be really hard to take out of a fight.

Background

  • Faction Agent: Diverse skills including CHA skills, two languages, and a good amount of starting gp.
  • Mercenary Veteran: Two perfect skills, though they are already on the paladin’s skill list.
  • Soldier: Proficiency with Athletics and Intimidation is certainly a good choice, especially because Intimidation can add to your utility for the party. Proficiency with the gaming set and land vehicles isn’t awesome but could be useful in certain circumstances.
  • Sailor/Pirate: Proficiency in Athletics and Perception are two great choices. Proficiency in water vehicles isn’t awesome but could be useful in certain circumstances.

Pretty much all of the other backgrounds give DEX, WIS, or INT-based Skills which aren’t worth it for paladins. The only WIS-based skill that’s worth proficiency is Perception because of how often it is used.

Ability Scores

Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.

STR: Most paladins go with STR as it lets them wear heavy armor and affects attack and damage rolls. Don’t worry about STR if going for a DEX build.

DEX: DEX is important skill to stack because of the sheer number of instances that a DEX save is required. Paladins can also be built for using DEX weapons, which would make DEX light blue.

CONEvery paladin needs hit points and good CON saving throws to tank for their allies.

INT: This is a big ol’ dump stat for paladins. You don’t need to be smart if you’re righteous, right?

WIS: WIS is helpful for Perception (the most important skill in the game). This stat would be best left to classes that need WIS for other class features (Rangers, Monks, etc.) because paladins are so dependent on their other stats.

CHA: The paladin’s CHA score is a hotly debated topic. The arguments mainly revolve around the question, “do you want to max your damage output?”. If the answer to this question is “yes“, you can feel free to make CHA a lesser priority. If the answer to the question is, “I want to play a well-rounded character that can support my party and also provide help in social situations while being able to output solid damage“, then CHA is going to be really important.

CHA is used as the paladin’s spellcasting modifier, the save DC for Channel Divinity, the bonus to Aura of Protection, and affects how many spells you can prepare each day. If you want to get by on limited spells and just smash people with smites then you likely can make CHA a secondary priority. Otherwise, you will be forgoing a maxed STR, CON, or DEX for CHA.

Paladin Class Progression

1st Level

Hit Points and Hit Dice: d10 hit points is the second-best hit dice around. The only class that gets a higher one is the barbarian. Combine this with a high CON score, Lay On Hands, and heavy armor, this means your paladin will be hard to put down.

Saves: WIS and CHA are great saves to have proficiency in. WIS saves happen a fair bit and the failures usually have nasty effects. CHA saves can keep you from getting banished, but not much else.

Proficiencies: All armor, weapons, and shields? Yes, please.

SkillsAthletics (being the only STR-based skill) is a shoo-in for the paladin’s most important skill if they fight with STR. There are also some CHA skills to choose from that pair nicely with the paladin.

  • Athletics (STR): Perfect for STR-based builds.
  • Insight (WIS): Insight is normally a decent skill, but the paladin will likely not have enough WIS to make it useful.
  • Intimidation (CHA): Paladins should have a decent CHA score to make this work. Choose either this skill or Persuasion.
  • Medicine (WIS)Paladins are often the healer of the group so this fits thematically.
  • Persuasion (CHA): Paladins should have a decent CHA score to make this work. Choose either this skill or Intimidation.
  • Religion (INT): INT is always a dump stat.

Divine Sense – Can prevent an ambush in certain situations, especially if you have low Perception or Insight.

Lay on Hands – One of the best healing mechanisms in the game. Versatile enough to bring a party member up to full health or just give them enough healing to bring them out of Death Saves. Scales with leveling up as well.

2nd Level

Fighting Style: A common class feature between the paladin and other martial classes, like the fighter and ranger. Fighting Style provides a passive boost in combat and is a great reason to multiclass into a paladin.

  • Defense: +1 to AC isn’t overly exciting but seeing as AC is hard to scale it can make a difference in the early and long game.
  • Dueling: Being able to wear a shield while dealing close to two-handed weapon damage with a one-handed weapon is a very, very tempting option.
  • Great Weapon Fighting: Not an awesome option, only adds about 1 damage per attack. It would be better to pick up Defense to make up for the fact you aren’t wielding a shield.
  • Protection: Only being useful when within 5ft is a major disadvantage for this skill, especially if you’re the tank of your party as most of your party members will be staying back while you are up in the fray.

Optional Class Feature: Fighting Style Options: This optional class feature adds to the list of available fighting style options:

  • Blessed Warrior: The best two Cleric cantrips to pick up here are Guidance and Toll the Dead. Guidance is amazing utility and Toll the Dead helps provide a ranged option outside of javelins.
  • Blind Fighting: Blindsight is a powerful ability, there is no doubt about that. If you are a paladin, the reality is that you should be focusing on something that will allow you to hit people harder, or get hit harder without going down.
  • Interception: This is a very similar ability to the Protection fighting style. The same limitations apply (have to be within 5ft, uses your reaction), but you are able to use this ability if you are wielding a weapon or shield, not just a shield. The actual effect is kind of a toss-up when compared to Protection. If you are going to be fighting alongside another melee fighter that has a reasonable AC, the disadvantage granted by Protection is better. If you are going to be mainly defending casters with poor AC, Interception is better.

Spellcasting – Paladins get an interesting mix of healing and buff spells, as well as their signature smites. Most of these spell slots will be reserved for the good ol’ Divine Smite due to its propensity for damage and the ability to cast after hit and stack with crits.

Divine Smite – When playing a paladin, you will notice that you often will be holding on to your meager spell slots for these sweet, sweet smites. Being able to activate the smite on hit, not taking up a bonus action or concentration like the other smites, allows for this to be a significant burst of damage when you want it.

Optional Class Feature: Additional Paladin Spells: The list of additional spells is quite small, but having more options is usually a good thing in D&D. The spells added by this update have been added to the Best Spells for Paladin section.

3rd Level

Divine Health – Very situational. Diseases can also be cured by expending 5 hit points from your Lay on Hands.

Optional Class Feature: Harness Divine PowerThis option offers a ton of versatility on a typical adventuring day. Sometimes you will need your channel divinity options more than spell slots, but when you don’t, you can always use this ability to bring some spells back online.

Sacred Oath: The paladin’s Oath comes with a choice that is more impactful than almost any other class. As with every class’ archetype, the paladin’s Sacred Oath offers customizability and unique features as you level up. Where the paladin class differs, is in the tenets that the paladin binds themselves to as they choose an Oath. While breaking the tenets don’t have any concrete, RAW consequences, paladins that go against their oath can be presented consequences by their DM.

Oath of Conquest

The Oath of Conquest paladin is all about besting one’s opponents. Their spells and channel divinity options focus on subjection and domination of enemies in combat.

  • 3rd level
    • Oath of Conquest spells:
      • 3rd level
        • Armor of Agathys: Solid defensive and offensive spell. Ppcasting at higher levels remains to be quite good value.
        • Command: Very effective charm spell that can be very versatile in combat, you can lock down opponents, cause them to drop important items, and so on. Make sure the target can understand your language before casting. Unfortunately, it only lasts one round so using it out of combat is pretty tricky.
      • 5th level
        • Hold Person: This can be encounter-breaking against humanoids. Scales well with levels.
        • Spiritual Weapon: Spiritual Weapon is an amazing spell that can provide tons of damage and action economy over an encounter. The fact that the weapon sticks around without needing concentration, is a bonus action to summon, has an effective damage type, and scales with your spellcasting modifier make this an absolutely stellar spell.
      • 9th level
        • Bestow Curse: If you can get within touch range, this can be an extremely powerful debuff for a single, tough enemy. The effect that causes the enemy to make a WIS save or waste their turn is extremely powerful and is made more powerful because they only get one chance to save, at the initial casting of the spell.
        • Fear: Amazing crowd control spell. Particularly good because they don’t get to retry the save until they break line of sight.
      • 13th level
        • Dominate Beast: Not many Beasts are going to be worth your 4th level spell to dominate. If you’re fighting a CR8 T-Rex you’ll wish you had this spell.
        • Stoneskin: Effectively double your or your favorite melee fighter’s hit points. Better at lower levels or when fighting enemies without magical attacks. If you’ll be casting this on yourself, make sure you have a decent CON modifier and consider taking the Resilient (CON) feat if you don’t have proficiency in CON saving throws or the War Caster feat for advantage on concentration checks.
      • 17th level
        • Cloudkill: Not great in an open field but if you can get the drop on an enemy or contain a group of enemies within the spell it can be very effective because it deals damage turn after turn, as long as the caster keeps concentration. It can also be effective to block off a vantage point used by ranged enemies.
        • Dominate Person: Amazing spell when fighting humanoids. Taking over the mind of an enemy can completely swing the direction of the encounter. While spells like hold person can take an enemy of the fight, dominate person can make that enemy into an ally essentially creating a two for one. If you are fighting against humanoids a lot in the late game, this is a simply outstanding spell.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Conquering Presence – 30ft radius frightened effect is amazing for Paladins who will likely be in the thick of combat.
      • Guided Strike – This can turn just about any miss into a hit. This is an amazing ability for Paladins because hitting means smites and smites mean damage.
  • 7th level
    • Aura of Conquest – Give frightened creatures a speed of 0 and deal psychic damage equal to half your paladin level at the start of each turn. While the radius is fairly small to start off with, this is a devilish ability when combined with Conquering Presence or fear.  The only downside of this effect is that it doesn’t do anything to creatures not frightened by you so high WIS creatures or creatures immune to fear will be hard to pin down.
  • 15th level
    • Scornful Rebuke – Dishing damage equal to our CHA modifier every time you are hit is okay bonus damage. Even if you’ve maxed your CHA modifier by 15th level, 5 extra damage each time your hit is going to feel underwhelming against the tougher monsters you are fighting.
  • 20th level
    • Invincible Conqueror – Resistance to all damage, extra attack, and doubling your chance for a crit. If that isn’t a capstone ability I don’t know what is.

Oath of Devotion

The Oath of Devotion paladin is probably what most people think of when they think “paladin”. Oath of Devotion Paladins protect the weak and uphold the justice of the land

  • 3rd level
    • Oath of Devotion spells:
      • 3rd level
        • Protection from Evil and Good: Fantastic defensive buff. Requires concentration but you’ll be so hard to hit it doesn’t matter. One of the few spells you would conceivably use in place of Divine Smite.
        • Sanctuary: A good spell to have in your pocket if a team member is in dire straits or you need to protect an NPC.
      • 5th level
        • Lesser Restoration: Diseases and conditions do come up from time to time, so you’ll be happy to have this when they do.
        • Zone of Truth: Great for when you need to gain the trust of some NPCs, or when you don’t quite trust them yourself.
      • 9th level
        • Beacon of Hope: Beacon of hope seems to be best used in a moment of desperation when many of your party members are severely hurt. Unfortunately, this spell uses up your action so you can’t get to healing until the next round. Paladins usually have no use for this spell because they prefer to use Lay on Hands rather than healing spells.
        • Dispel Magic: Hopefully, by the 9th-level, you have somebody else in the party that can use dispel magic. This is not something you want to use your precious paladin spells slots on.
      • 13th level
        • Freedom of Movement: It’s nice to give extra movement options to allies, but there are better buff spells and this one is pretty situational.
        • Guardian of Faith: A decent way to get some extra damage in if you know that a fight will take place in a specific location. Guardian of faith can also be used as a sort of alarm when taking a long rest in a dangerous place.
      • 17th level
        • Commune: Better than augury and divination to get the answers you need, since it’s a simple “yes or no” and you have to be given a correct answer.
        • Flame Strike: Not particularly exciting when you compare it with fireball but seeing as the Oath of Devotion paladin doesn’t get fireball, and paladins struggle with AoE damage as is, this is a welcome addition.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Sacred Weapon – Even paladins that focus on STR/CON should think about getting their CHA to +3 for spellcasting and their aura abilities. +3 to weapon attacks for a full minute is an extremely solid buff, especially with no concentration requirement. If you can activate this before combat it will be even better because eating an entire round’s action to activate this ability hurts.
      • Turn the Unholy – Paladins don’t have a ton of ways to deal with crowds, they are usually best in 1-on-1 combat. This gives a nice, if seldom used utility feature against swarms of undead.
  • 7th level
    • Aura of Devotion – Probably the worst Aura for the PHB subclasses. Not being able to be charmed is certainly a good effect, but it will come up a lot less than the Ancients and Vengeance Aura effects. Increases from 10ft to 30ft at 18th level.
  • 15th level
    • Purity of SpiritProtection from good and evil is simply an amazing buff against a number of very common creature types. Having this spell active all the time, without having to worry about concentration, is an excellent buff.
  • 20th level
    • Holy Nimbus – Again, not as good as the other PHB subclasses. It is a nice AoE but the advantage on saving throws cast by fiends and undead is situational.

Oath of Glory

The Oath of Glory paladin believes that they are destined for greatness. These Paladins help others around them accomplish glorious deeds through buffs and supportive class features.

  • Cantrip
    • Oath of Glory spells:
      • 3rd level
        • Guiding Bolt: Fantastic damage early on, a great ranged attack for a class that lacks options, and if the creature doesn’t die the next attack against it gets advantage which should do the trick.
        • Heroism: Great buff effect, scales nicely as well.
      • 5th level
        • Enhance Ability: Decent buff before you go into combat. Also has a fair amount of utility for just about any out-of-combat situation.
        • Magic Weapon: Making your weapon magical is necessary against some enemy types and the +1 to attack and damage rolls is nice. Concentration hurts if you’re going to be using this then charging into the fray. Good option when you party is lacking magic weapons, but can be dropped once you get into higher levels.
      • 9th level
        • Haste: Haste is an absolutely amazing offensive buff for you Oath of Glory paladin. It provides extra attacks, extra AC, and bonuses to DEX saves as long as you can maintain concentration. Because you will likely cast this spell on yourself then wade into battle, you will want to consider picking up War Caster to get advantage on your concentration checks because you really don’t want to lose a turn if you drop concentration.
        • Protection from Energy: This is typically outshined by absorb elements except in the specific circumstances when you are constantly being subjected to a type of damage.
      • 13th level
        • Freedom of Movement: It’s nice to give extra movement options to allies, but there are better buff spells and this one is pretty situational.
        • Compulsion: On a failed save you can move a creature slightly, but they can still take an action. Not great.
      • 17th level
        • Commune: Better than augury and divination to get the answers you need, since it’s a simple “yes or no” and you have to be given a correct answer.
        • Flame Strike: Not particularly exciting when you compare it with fireball but seeing as the Oath of Glory paladin doesn’t get fireball, and paladins struggle with AoE damage as is, this is a welcome addition.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Peerless Athlete – 10 minutes of advantage on Athletics and Acrobatics checks will certainly be useful in situational circumstances. It will be very rare to use this Channel Divinity feature over your Inspiring Smite.
      • Inspiring Smite – 2d8 + paladin Level temp hit points to any creature within 30ft after smiting is amazing, especially because you can divide this between as many creatures as you want. Seeing as this isn’t a huge amount of healing, it’s best left for when your party members go down.
  • 7th level
    • Aura of Alacrity – Increasing walking speed 10ft is a decent ability that will certainly provide use over the course of a campaign. Increasing your ally’s walking speed if they start their turn within 5ft won’t necessarily provide a ton of value.  Increases from 5ft to 10ft at 18th level.
  • 15th level
    • Purity of Spirit – This is an extremely good use of your reaction. Adding your CHA modifier (most like +5 at this point) as a reaction is what shield, an amazing combat spell provides. Being able to make an attack against the attacker if their attack misses takes this ability to the next level because it can activate smites. The fact that this can be activated up to 5 times per long rest means that you will likely be able to use this once or twice an encounter, depending on your DM.  Once you get this ability, picking up a reach weapon like the glaive or halberd will provide a ton of value.
  • 20th level
    • Living Legend – Two out of three of this capstone’s features are incredibly strong. Being able to automatically hit at least once per round will mean consistent damage and access to smites for your high-level fights. The advantage on CHA checks may not mean much outside of combat and you definitely don’t want to expend a usage of this outside of combat when enhance ability could just as easily give you advantage on CHA checks. The last feature allows you to automatically gain advantage on all saving throws for 1 minute which, in addition to the first ability, makes this capstone feature absolutely amazing.

Oath of Redemption

The Oath of Redemption paladin is perfect for a pacifist-style player, as all of the spells do not directly do damage. The best way to build this subclass is by getting the highest AC possible to tank damage for your allies. Even if you want to hurt things, the spells here are very powerful and useful, getting access to some of the best spells that paladins normally do not have.

  • 3rd level
    • Oath of Redemption spells:
      • 3rd level
        • Sanctuary: A good spell to have in your pocket if a team member is in dire straits or you need to protect an NPC.
        • Sleep: Sleep is a very good 1st level spell slot. It can easily end encounters at lower levels. By the time you reach 5th-level  it will be pretty useless unless you want a semi-consistent way of none lethal damage.
      • 5th level
        • Calm Emotions: The fact that this spell has two different use cases makes it decent, even if those events may not come up too often. Enemies often have effects that charm or frighten in an area of effect, so being able to suppress those effects also in an area of your choosing could save your whole party. When used on enemies, you can make them non-hostile for a whole minute, giving you enough time to escape. The main issue with this spell is the concentration and the relatively small radius.
        • Hold Person: This can be encounter-breaking against humanoids. Scales well with levels.
      • 9th level
        • Counterspell: Counterspell is always amazing and every party should have at least one character with it. Sadly, paladins won’t be able to use this at very high levels since their spell slots cap out at 5th-level.
        • Hypnotic Pattern: Good range, good AoE, and its effect are potent. Incapacitating multiple enemies is a fantastic tactic to passively flee from the situation or do massive damage with automatic crits. The effect can be ended by a friendly creature taking an action to wake the affected creature from its stupor, but that will eat up a lot of action economy. Either way you slice it, hypnotic pattern is one of the best crowd control spells at this level.
      • 13th level
        • Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere: DEX-based save or suck. Great way to take a baddy out of the fight while you finish off its friends.
        • Stoneskin: Effectively double your or your favorite melee fighter’s hit points. Better at lower levels or when fighting enemies without magical attacks. If you’ll be casting this on yourself, make sure you have a decent CON modifier and consider taking the Resilient (CON) feat if you don’t have proficiency in CON saving throws or the War Caster feat for advantage on concentration checks.
      • 17th level
        • Hold Monster: Spell that can take a creature out of the fight. Allows for a save after each turn which makes it worse than banishment for consistently keeping a monster out of the fight, but the monster can be attacked with advantage which will make quick work of it after it fails a save or two.
        • Wall of Force: You’re just making a wall. So what? You can split up opposing forces, hide behind an impenetrable wall, or make a dome over your party. It is immune to dispel magic but can be disintegrated.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Emissary of Peace: A +5 boost to Persuasion is huge, especially since this can last for a whole conversation. Can help you completely avoid a fight.
      • Rebuke the Violent: “Stop hitting yourself!” This is great to get in extra damage on a turn and disincentivize enemies from attacking your allies.
  • 7th level
    • Aura of the Guardian: You can take on all of an ally’s damage, no questions asked. This is a wonderful ability for a tank character and epitomizes what that style of play aims to do. Increases from 10ft to 30ft at 18th level.
  • 15th level
    • Protective Spirit: Pairs very well with taking damage for your allies through Aura of the Guardian or by being on the front lines of battle. The best part is that it happens automatically so it doesn’t eat up any of your potential actions.
  • 20th level
    • Emissary of Redemption: This feature makes you the ultimate tank as long as you haven’t attacked the creature, so you will have to figure out a way to make them focus on you.

Oath of the Ancients

The Oath of the Ancients focuses on upholding the laws of nature and life. These fey knights gain access to a number of nature-based spells and abilities usually reserved for druids and rangers.

  • 3rd level
    • Oath of the Ancients spells:
      • 3rd level
        • Ensnaring Strike: Great 1st level spell to do some damage and restrain a creature. The caveat that you have to hit with a weapon attack AND they get to make a saving throw makes this spell a bit clunky, especially because it requires concentration. This means you could cast the spell, miss your attacks, get hit, fail the CON save, and lose the spell before it even has the chance to affect the target. Also, keep in mind that Large or larger targets get advantage on the save. The spell has a solid effect but it should be used with caution.
        • Speak with Animals: Situationally useful to learn more about a place or to get something done.
      • 5th level
        • Misty Step: Misty step is the staple movement spell for those classes lucky enough to have access to it. It can be cast as a bonus action and avoids opportunity attacks.
        • Moonbeam: The spell does decent damage and has a good AoE, but it is clunky to move around because it requires an action. Unless you can trap enemies inside the moonbeam and prevent them from leaving, most of the time this spell isn’t worth it. The part where shapechangers make the save with disadvantage and revert to their normal form if they fail is extremely situational.
      • 9th level
        • Plant Growth: Slows down pesky enemies moving around a lot or trying to escape, but not particularly good at either. Also cool for story beats to restore nature that has been devastated by war.
        • Protection from Energy: This is typically outshined by absorb elements except in the specific circumstances when you are constantly being subjected to a type of damage.
      • 13th level
        • Ice Storm: Great spell for a paladin’s lacking arsenal of AoE and ranged attacks.
        • Stoneskin: Effectively double your or your favorite melee fighter’s hit points. Better at lower levels or when fighting enemies without magical attacks. If you’ll be casting this on yourself, make sure you have a decent CON modifier and consider taking the Resilient (CON) feat if you don’t have proficiency in CON saving throws or the War Caster feat for advantage on concentration checks.
      • 17th level
        • Commune with Nature: Can be useful for roleplay and story progression.
        • Tree Stride: A fun spell with a multitude of uses if you can get a bit creative. Without trees nearby you won’t be striding anywhere though.
    • Nature’s Wrath: Great way to take a single enemy out of combat for a turn or two.
    • Turn the Faithless: Paladins don’t have a ton of ways to deal with crowds, they are usually best in 1-on-1 combat. This gives a nice, if seldom used utility feature against swarms of Fey or Fiends.
  • 7th level
    • Aura of  Warding: This is a solid area buff for parties. This will come in handy less often than you may think because a lot of monsters have abilities that cause AoE damage or use spells that don’t necessarily do damage. Increases from 10ft to 30ft at 18th level.
  • 15th level
    • Undying Sentinel: Pretty solid feature, especially with the paladin’s ability to self-heal with Lay On Hands. Stack with the Half Orc’s Relentless Endurance feat and you will be hilariously hard to put down.
  • 20th level
    • Elder Champion: This is some good ol’ busted level 20 shenanigans. Being able to cast banishment as a bonus action while the target has disadvantage on the save will make you a true force of nature.

Oath of the Crown

Oath of the Crown paladins are great for getting the attention off your most vulnerable allies and onto you. Therefore, it’s a good idea to pump their AC and hit points to make them as tanky as possible

  • 3rd level
    • Oath of the Crown spells:
      • 3rd level
        • Command: Very effective charm spell that can be very versatile in combat, you can lock down opponents, cause them to drop important items, and so on. Make sure the target can understand your language before casting. Unfortunately, it only lasts one round so using it out of combat is pretty tricky.
        • Compelled Duel: The spell can make a strong enemy target you over weaker allies. This is good, but the spell ends if an ally casts a harmful spell at it. Essentially, if you cast this spell you’re committing to 1v1 the target, which can certainly end poorly.
      • 5th level
        • Warding Bond: This buff is really good, but can be quite risky for yourself if used at the wrong time. Make sure you aren’t overwhelmed by enemies and have a sizeable amount of hit points and AC.
        • Zone of Truth: Great for when you need to gain the trust of some NPCs, or when you don’t quite trust them yourself.
      • 9th level
        • Aura of Vitality: The healing takes set up and isn’t that impressive considering this requires concentration.
        • Spirit Guardians: Acts as a deterrent against melee attackers or gives them a hard time moving away. This will be especially potent if you plan on diving into the fray.
      • 13th level
        • Banishment: Get rid of creatures from another plane, or take out a big threat for most of the combat. One of the better save or suck spells out there. Keep in mind that, unless the creature is natively from another plane, they will return after the spell ends.
        • Guardian of Faith: A decent way to get some extra damage in if you know that a fight will take place in a specific location. Guardian of faith can also be used as a sort of alarm when taking a long rest in a dangerous place.
      • 17th level
        • Circle of Power: Useful full party buff that makes hostile magic less of a problem.
        • Geas: Not for use in combat but has extremely potent effects if you can cast it. The max damage this can do is 5d10 a day, so it’s best used on a particularly influential commoner.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Champion Challenge: Very similar to Compelled Duel but you can target multiple enemies. If you manage to pull this off in the right position, you could potentially target every enemy and keep them within 30 feet of you for the rest of the battle.
      • Turn the Tide: Nice early heal spell, especially because it targets as many allies as you want if they are in range. The biggest downside here is that they need to be able to hear you, so you won’t be able to target any unconscious allies.
  • 7th level
    • Divine Allegiance: Protecting your weaker allies is what paladins are good at, making this a good use of your reaction.
  • 15th level
    • Unyielding Spirit: Paralyzed and stunned can spell death for you and your party, so its nice to have advantage on saving throws against them, even if they won’t come up too often.
  • 20th level
    • Exalted Champion: Very powerful self-buff that makes you extremely hard to take down for a whole hour.

Oath of the Watchers

Oath of the Watchers paladins specialize in neutralizing extraplanar threats, making their usefulness very dependent on the type of campaign you are playing in.

  • 3rd level
    • Oath of the Watchers spells:
      • 3rd level
        • Alarm: This spell is relatively useful whenever you’re resting. What’s better is it can be cast as a ritual. If you have Ritual Casting, this is never a bad pick.
        • Detect Magic: Every party should roll with at least one character who has access to detect magic.
      • 5th level
        • Moonbeam: The spell does decent damage and has a good AoE, but it is clunky to move around because it requires an action. Unless you can trap enemies inside the moonbeam and prevent them from leaving, most of the time this spell isn’t worth it. The part where shapechangers make the save with disadvantage and revert to their normal form if they fail is extremely situational.
        • See Invisibility: If you know you're going to be coming across invisible creatures, this spell is worth it to stock.
      • 9th level
        • Counterspell: Counterspell is always amazing and every party should have at least one character with it. Sadly, paladins won’t be able to use this at very high levels since their spell slots cap out at 5th-level.
        • Nondetection: Your campaign will really cater to this spell for it to have any kind of application. This is much more of a DM-focused spell, players often won’t find a use for this once in an entire campaign.
      • 13th level
        • Aura of Purity: You won’t use this all the time, but if you face a lot of enemies that can inflict negative status conditions this is great.
        • Banishment: Get rid of creatures from another plane, or take out a big threat for most of the combat. One of the better save or suck spells out there. Keep in mind that, unless the creature is natively from another plane, they will return after the spell ends.
      • 17th level
        • Hold Monster: Spell that can take a creature out of the fight. Allows for a save after each turn which makes it worse than banishment for consistently keeping a monster out of the fight, but the monster can be attacked with advantage which will make quick work of it after it fails a save or two.
        • Scrying: Useful but niche.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Watcher’s Will: This ability will only get more useful as you get to higher levels because it will be more likely that you face spellcasters or monsters with abilities that require mental saves.
      • Abjure the Extraplanar: This ability is useless if you never face the right creature types, but can quickly make things much easier for you if you do. Between aberrations, elementals, fey, and fiends, you are nearly certain to come across some sooner or later.
  • 7th level
    • Aura of the Sentinel: Huge bonus to initiative for the whole party is simply amazing, even if the range is only 10 feet (this increases to 30 feet at 18th level). The only time this could be an issue is if you encounter a creature with a devastating area of effect attack, but then hopefully you will go first in initiative to spread out.
  • 15th level
    • Vigilant Rebuke: Does nothing to creatures that don’t cause you to roll INT, WIS, or CHA saving throws, and even then it only works when you succeed on the saving throw.
  • 20th level
    • Mortal Bulwark: Relatively weak final ability for this subclass, especially if not battling aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, and fiends. On top of that, it only lasts 1 minute, so at most you can use it for one battle per day.

Oath of Vengeance

Oath of Vengeance paladins are for those players that think the best defense is the best offense. If your party already has enough support characters, the Oath of Vengeance is a great option to be the party’s primary damage dealer.

Check out our Oath of Vengeance 5e Guide for build optimization tips.

Oathbreaker

Oathbreakers turn the typical paladin formula on its head by making them break their oath to serve themselves or an evil power. This makes them both interesting and challenging to role-play, and they come with some powerful abilities to make for a unique take on the class.

  • 3rd level
    • Oathbreaker spells:
      • 3rd level
        • Hellish Rebuke: Awesome use for your reaction. Scales with levels.
        • Inflict Wounds: You’re better off just hitting with your weapon and using a Divine Smite.
      • 5th level
        • Crown of Madness: This spell has a lot of crippling limitations because of its powerful effect at such a low level.
        • Darkness: Good way to cut off an opponent’s visibility. Unfortunately, it doesn’t offer much of a strategic advantage unless someone in your party can see through magical darkness.
      • 9th level
        • Animate Dead: The spell slot investment required to keep an undead horde under your control will likely be more hassle than it's worth for a paladin. If you want to command an army of the undead, go with a necromancer wizard who has the spell slots necessary to use this spell to the fullest.
        • Bestow Curse: If you can get within touch range, this can be an extremely powerful debuff for a single, tough enemy. The effect that causes the enemy to make a WIS save or waste their turn is extremely powerful and is made more powerful because they only get one chance to save, at the initial casting of the spell.
      • 13th level
        • Blight: 4th-level single-target spell that targets a common save. It barely out damages 4th-level fireball and flat-out doesn’t work on some common creature types. SKIP.
        • Confusion: Bestow curse is a better targeted debuff and is a full spell slot lower.
      • 17th level
        • Contagion: The poisoned condition is a pretty strong one and this spell grants the condition on-hit for at least 3 turns. You get the potential for more turns under the poisoned condition and a lasting effect which are both quite strong. Make sure to avoid casting this on constructs, undead, fiends, or elementals.
        • Dominate Person: Amazing spell when fighting humanoids. Taking over the mind of an enemy can completely swing the direction of the encounter. While spells like hold person can take an enemy of the fight, dominate person can make that enemy into an ally essentially creating a two for one. If you are fighting against humanoids a lot in the late game, this is a simply outstanding spell.
    • Channel Divinity
      • Control Undead: This ability is lots of fun and can get a bunch of undead on your side. If they fail the save, they must obey you for 24 hours, with no additional saves or other conditions that they may break the control with.
      • Dreadful Aspect: Basically the fear spell and just costs you an action, this is worth using all the time.
  • 7th level
    • Aura of Hate: Can add a bunch of extra damage for you and your undead minions, but don’t forget this increases the damage of your enemies as well.
  • 15th level
    • Supernatural Resistance: Wow, constant resistance to nonmagical weapons is really fantastic and makes this subclass a tank.
  • 20th level
    • Dread Lord: Lots of fun stuff packed into 1 minute of pain for your enemies. When used in conjunction with Dreadful Aspect it shouldn’t be too tough to get your enemies frightened for that sweet aura damage every turn. Plus, you and your allies will be a lot harder to hit from creatures without Darkvision.

4th Level

Optional Class Feature: Martial Versatility: This optional class feature allows paladins to replace a Fighting Style whenever they are granted an ASI. This ability isn’t inherently strong or weak because it is difficult to make strategic changes according to what scenarios you will be facing. Adding this takes nothing away from the game and simply makes it less frustrating if your character isn’t playing how you intended or you discover a new weapon that would change your tactics.

5th Level

Extra Attack: The bread and butter of martial classes. Paladins don’t get as many attacks as a fighter would, but their smites and Spellcasting help make up for it.

6th Level

Aura of Protection – Giving team members a buff to ALL SAVING THROWS is just straight-up great.

Aura increases to 30ft at 18th level.

10th Level

Aura of Courage – Situational but a great effect nonetheless.

Aura increases to 30ft at 18th level.

11th Level

Improved Divine Smite – Helps level out the damage output between paladins and fighters as paladins don’t get as many attacks.

14th Level

Cleansing Touch – There are some nasty spell effects when you get up to 14th level. An at-will, pseudo-dispel magic is an extremely good tool to keep in the pocket.

Best Feats for Paladin

  • Crossbow Expert: You will likely not be a ranged build with paladins.
  • Defensive Duelist: DEX paladins do exist, so it's not a terrible idea. However, there are so many better feats for Paladins to get. It gets lost in the crowd, but it becomes a better option at level 12 and beyond when it scales up.
  • Dual Wielder: Without access to Two-Weapon Fighting, the ceiling for this feat is quite low.
  • Durable: The amount of healing this provides in conjunction with an already high CON stat is an alright way to keep your Paladin on their feet throughout the day. Plus, it gives a +1 to CON. Great choice.
  • Eldritch Adept: Most of these invocations are utility spells, which can work well since paladins have so few spell slots. Being able to cast detect magic at will is pretty handy but not as good as some other feats. Paladins who multiclass into Hexblade warlocks should value this feat much higher, though, as it gives them access to the entire list of invocations.
  • Fey Touched: Misty step is great for any paladin and the CHA can be used to buff your spellcasting modifier. As for 1st-level spells to pick up will want hunter's mark to boost their damage, any other than Oath of Vengeance who already gets it as part of their Oath Spells.
  • Fighting Initiate: Many of the Fighting Styles available overlap with the paladin selection, so double-dipping isn’t terrible. The biggest problem is that this competes with more powerful feats like Polearm Master and Sentinel, which outclass this feat.
  • Grappler: I get that a Grapple build is a thing, but it is not a very strong option.
  • Great Weapon Master: Paladins will adore this feat. It can add tons of damage and works well for all of their subclasses, and they don’t need to compromise their spellcasting for a Heavy weapon. This paired with a Vengeance paladin for Vow of Enmity's advantage on attacks would create a near-perfect killing machine.
  • Heavy Armor Master: Damage reduction like this is a massive boost to being able to stay alive through fights, especially good on builds not looking to use a shield.
  • Lucky: Just a straight-up, damn good feat that's made even better by the paladin's ability to output a ton of damage when they hit.
  • Magic Initiate: Magic Initiate is a stellar choice for paladins, as it opens up for more utility and some impactful spells. Wizard offers the most here, as it can give you booming blade for damage and one of many utility spells afterward.
  • Martial Adept: Don’t bother since you only get one superiority die.
  • Metamagic Adept: Most of the time, paladins will want to hang onto their precious spell slots for Divine Smites. Picking up this feat definitely allows for some versatility in the paladins casting, like being able to double the targets of buffs/healing. Most of the time, this spell is a pass for paladins, unless you're very dedicated to your spellcasting.
  • Mounted Combatant: Decent option because paladins have exclusive access to the find steed and find greater steed spell.
  • Polearm Master: Paladins love this feat because it provides significant extra attacks. Paladins can use the bonus action and the opportunity attacks to trigger extra smites. Polearm Master, paired with Sentinel and some heavy armor, makes paladins an even more terrifying presence on the battlefield.
  • Resilient: Excellent option if you'll be playing a build that uses concentration spells like haste. Seeing as paladins don't get proficiency in CON saving throws, this can go a long way to keep your concentration spells up and running.
  • Sentinel: Sentinel is an amazing way to get extra attacks as a paladin, which means more smiting. Enemies will likely focus on squishier teammates rather than the buffed-out paladin in full platemail, Sentinel allows you to come to your party's aid in those circumstances. This feat works very thematically with the Oath of the Crown subclass and can be paired with Polearm Master for a devastating combo.
  • Shadow Touched: Unfortunately, due to their heavy armor proficiency, paladins will rarely ever be a steathy class. Oathbreaker paladins are the only subclass who would benefit from this, as they get access to an additional inflict wounds for free.
  • Sharpshooter: Paladins don’t get any benefits from dealing ranged damage and would rather be up close and personal.
  • Shield Master: This is a solid use for your bonus action if you don’t already have a use for it. Knocking a creature prone gives the rest of your party advantage, but keep in mind that this is only available after you have taken an attack action.
  • Skill Expert: Paladins have way too many better feats to pick up first. Unless you’re going for a niche build, you probably only want to consider this if your campaign gets to level 12 or higher.
  • Skulker: There are very few times where a paladin will choose stealth for a very long time. None of the subclasses support a stealthy ranged attack build, so you’re better off skipping this.
  • Slasher: Complements builds nicely that know they will use slashing weapons. Reducing speed allows you to chase down enemies you hit so they stay away from your more vulnerable allies.
  • Tavern Brawler: Useful for grappler builds, which is to say not very useful. Otherwise, you can do without it.
  • Telekinetic: In general, Telekinetic offers some decent utility to paladins. Mage hand isn't a spell they normally get access to, the bonus to CHA is always welcome, the only issue comes with the bonus action Shove. Paladins who normally stick to Divine Smites will favor this feat because there is really no other use for their bonus action. Paladins that like to mix it up and use the Smite-based spells may find a bit of contention for their bonus action. That said, paladins don't have a ton of spell slots so the bonus action Shove can still be useful in this circumstance once the spells run out.
  • Tough: Good option to boost your HP max if you are going for a super tank.
  • War Caster: Paladins interact with War Caster in the same way as clerics. This is because they both have the ability to adorn their spellcasting focus on their shield and can both be heavy armor + shield-wielding melee spellcasters. The ability to cast spells with a single target as an opportunity attack isn’t particularly appealing to paladins as they will want to use their weapon attack + smite instead. The benefits of having advantage on CON checks to maintain concentration will vary widely from subclass to subclass. For instance, the Oath of Vengeance has plenty of powerful Oath Spells that require concentration but the Oath of Glory does not. For paladins looking to maximize their concentration potential, it might be more worth it for paladins to take Resilient (CON) instead of War Caster. This is because it provides an ASI to CON as well as proficiency to CON saving throws.

Best Spells for Paladin

1st level

  • Bless: Bless is simply an amazing 1st-level buff. Adding 1d4 to all attacks and saving throws can really add up over a combat encounter. When given the choice, it's almost always worth it to cast bless on your party than bane on your opposition.
  • Ceremony: Interesting spell that allows for a number of one-time buffs. These buffs have very specific circumstances like the target being a young adult or a someone looking to be dedicated to your god's service. That said, adding a d4 to ability checks and saving throws for 24 hours, no concentration, as a ritual seems like a worthwhile pick up if you are heading into a tough day. If you're party is a bunch of young adults, that are looking to dedicate themselves to your god, and all want to be married, this spell can provide a pretty huge one-time power boost.
  • Command: Very effective charm spell that can be very versatile in combat, you can lock down opponents, cause them to drop important items, and so on. Make sure the target can understand your language before casting. Unfortunately, it only lasts one round so using it out of combat is pretty tricky.
  • Compelled Duel: The spell can make a strong enemy target you over weaker allies. This is good, but the spell ends if an ally casts a harmful spell at it. Essentially, if you cast this spell you're committing to 1v1 the target, which can certainly end poorly.
  • Cure Wounds: Healing is important so pick it up if you think you’ll need it.
  • Detect Evil and Good: Can be quite useful if you're suspicious that an aberration, celestial, elemental, fey, fiend, or undead is undercover around you. Solid spell to stock when traveling to other planes.
  • Detect Magic: Every party should roll with at least one character who has access to detect magic.
  • Detect Poison and Disease: Being able to detect poison or disease within 30ft of yourself is definitely a situational effect. Only stock when you think you'll need it.
  • Divine Favor: Solid turn after turn damage for the cost of a 1st-level spell slot and a bonus action. Unfortunately, it can't be used to buff other party members so you have to be a weapon-wielder in order to use it. Plus, it requires concentration.
  • Heroism: Great buff effect, scales nicely as well.
  • Protection from Evil and Good: You love to see this spell in any party, the buffs this can provide are extremely useful in any combat scenario. The creature types this affects are very common so this spell will likely be useful in your campaign.
  • Purify Food and Drink: If you're DM likes to poison you via food or drink a lot, this could be a good pickup? Otherwise, save it for when you go to a political banquet in enemy territory.
  • Searing Smite: Could provide better damage than a Divine Smite as it causes fire damage turn after turn until the target succeeds in a CON save, but it’s a gamble.
  • Shield of Faith: +2 AC is quite good, especially in the early game. Sadly, this spell requires concentration. Great buff for a tanking party member if you intend to stay out of the fray.
  • Thunderous Smite: On average does slightly less damage than Divine Smite. Knocking an opponent prone could certainly be worth it depending on the battlefield and initiative.
  • Wrathful Smite: Good choice for some battlefield control. It does less damage but the frightened condition is quite powerful. If you need to take a single enemy out of the fight temporarily, this is a good choice.

2nd level

  • Aid: Proactive healing rather than reactive healing and at a higher, guaranteed rate than Cure Wounds. 5 hit points can make a huge difference in keeping the party alive, and the spell doesn’t require concentration. Can be cast at higher levels.
  • Branding Smite: You need to be able to hit an invisible creature for this spell to be worth it. Really only effective for Oath of the Watchers as they gain access to see invisibility.
  • Find Steed: Find steed is quite an interesting spell. It's similar to find familiar in the sense that you can summon an animal companion with a 10-minute spell that lasts indefinitely (until it is killed or dispelled). Instead of a small creature like find familiar, find steed allows you to summon a rideable companion. Now, riding a mount into combat can be a bit tricky to understand because the rules are confusing at best. Essentially, you can either choose to control your mount (tell it where to go on your turn) or you can let it act independently. If you control the mount, it acts on the same initiative as you and can only Dash, Disengage, or Dodge on its turn. If you let it act independently, it acts on its own initiative and can use the full range of its actions. Because your summoned steed has an Intelligence of 6, it can act independently, unlike other rideable beasts. Jeremy Crawford suggests in his Sage Advice podcast to let players choose each round if the mount will be acting independently or being controlled. While your mount acting independently may allow for better action economy and more damage, it can certainly end with you going somewhere you don't want to because your mount has been spooked in combat.
  • Gentle Repose: Extremely situational spell.
  • Lesser Restoration: Diseases and conditions do come up from time to time, so you’ll be happy to have this when they do.
  • Locate Object: 1,000 feet isn't a particularly wide radius but this spell will be extremely useful when it's needed. Great for city campaigns where everything is packed in tighter together.
  • Magic Weapon: Making your weapon magical is necessary against some enemy types and the +1 to attack and damage rolls is nice. Concentration hurts if you're going to be using this then charging into the fray. Good option when you party is lacking magic weapons, but can be dropped once you get into higher levels.
  • Prayer of Healing: Up to 12d8 + (your spellcasting modifier * 6) is insanely good healing for a 2nd-level spell slot. Unfortunately, the 10 minute casting time makes it impossible to use in combat and each creature only gets 2d8 + spellcasting modifier. If your party needs a boost of healing and doesn't have time for a short rest, this can be effective.
  • Protection from Poison: Has some use if you have a poisoned party member but don't have access to lesser restoration. The resistance to poison and advantage on saving throws against poison is a nice buff in specific circumstances, especially because it doesn't require concentration.
  • Warding Bond: This buff is really good, but can be quite risky for yourself if used at the wrong time. Make sure you aren’t overwhelmed by enemies and have a sizeable amount of hit points and AC.
  • Zone of Truth: Great for when you need to gain the trust of some NPCs, or when you don’t quite trust them yourself.

3rd level

  • Aura of Vitality: The healing takes set up and isn’t that impressive considering this requires concentration.
  • Blinding Smite: Bit of a gamble. Blinded is a devastating condition as it means they attack with disadvantage and attacks against them have advantage. Unfortunately, the damage output isn't great for the spell slot level. If the creature you are attacking has low CON go for it. Otherwise, stick to your Divine Smite.
  • Create Food and Water: Pretty much only useful for survival scenarios in which you aren't able to cast goodberry for whatever reason.
  • Crusader’s Mantle: Great if you have loads of martial characters with you, poor in a party of casters. This spell requires concentration which will likely make you a target if you're wading into battle with it activated.
  • Daylight: The light cantrip on steroids. The biggest downside of this spell is the misleading name which causes people to think that this spell actually produces daylight, which can be helpful when fighting creatures with Sunlight Sensitivity. Dispelling darkness could be situationally useful.
  • Dispel Magic: Always make sure at least one of your party members has this.
  • Elemental Weapon: The damage just isn't great for a 3rd-level spell and concentration. If damage vulnerabilities were more common in 5e, it could be worth it. Unfortunately, as it stands it's just not an effective use of the resources is requires.
  • Magic Circle: While celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead are quite common, this spell provides a very lackluster effect against them. As the creatures can still attack inside the cylinder and can still teleport out using a CHA save, it's not very effective at containing, nor protecting from, these creatures.
  • Remove Curse: Cursed items can be absolutely brutal. This is an excellent way to make sure your party member isn't possessed by a demon after the put on a locket they found in a haunted house.
  • Revivify: Every party needs a party member with revivify. The nature of D&D is such that PC deaths happen fairly easily, so your friends will be looking to you to save them from that fate. Because each round of combat is 6 seconds, a party member that dies during combat can typically be revived within 1 minute. Make sure you've got diamonds worth 300 gp on you if you're planning on stocking this spell.
  • Spirit Shroud: This spell is an amazing buff for paladins. The extra damage on every attack is solid for a 3rd-level, bonus action, concentration spell. The fact that this scales 1d8 for each level of spell slot higher than 3rd makes this spell amazing.

4th level

  • Aura of Life: Protection from hit point maximum reduction is very situational, although resistance to necrotic damage is handy when facing the undead. Bringing up all downed allies within the radius at the start of their turn sounds useful, but you will need to maintain your concentration until then for this to have an effect.
  • Aura of Purity: You won’t use this all the time, but if you face a lot of enemies that can inflict negative status conditions this is great.
  • Banishment: Get rid of creatures from another plane, or take out a big threat for most of the combat. One of the better save or suck spells out there. Keep in mind that, unless the creature is natively from another plane, they will return after the spell ends.
  • Death Ward: Has an 8-hour duration and doesn't require concentration so it could be a good spell to cast pre-emptively if you have the ability to regain spell slots during a short rest.
  • Find Greater Steed: Being able to summon a griffin or pegasus for a mount is an amazing tactical advantage. Great spell to cast at the end of an adventuring day if you have spells left over.
  • Locate Creature: More thorough than locate animals or plants, and can be used to find people. It’s still pretty situational.
  • Staggering Smite: The damage isn't great considering you could get 5d8 radiant damage out of a 4th-level divine smite. The effect, while powerful, gives them a chance to save and ends automatically after one turn. Can be useful when fighting a particularly tough baddie, especially one that isn't specced into Wisdom.

5th level

  • Banishing Smite: No save to the banishment (as long as their HP is low enough) and, on average, similar damage to a 5th-level smite. This is the best smite in the game.
  • Circle of Power: Useful full party buff that makes hostile magic less of a problem.
  • Destructive Wave: Really good damage, and knocking enemies prone is great. Also, you can choose which creatures are affected. All around great AoE.
  • Dispel Evil and Good: Absolutely amazing spell to use when fighting celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead, which are all common enemy types. Not only do their attacks have disadvantage against you, each time you land a hit, they will be forced to make a CHA save or be banished back to their home plane. Simply an amazing spell in the correct circumstances.
  • Geas: Not for use in combat but has extremely potent effects if you can cast it. The max damage this can do is 5d10 a day, so it's best used on a particularly influential commoner.
  • Holy Weapon: Doing a 1st-level Divine Smite's worth of damage every time you hit is pretty great. Being able to do AoE damage and Blind as a bonus action at the end of the spell is a nice bonus if you end up getting surrounded. If you'll be using this as part of your build, picking up Resilient (CON) would be worth it.
  • Raise Dead: A more powerful resurrection spell than revivify because it has a 10 day time span and can cure Poisons and Diseases. Unfortunately, if you resurrectee is missing their head or other body parts, you'll have to wait until you get resurrection.
  • Summon Celestial: One of the best summon spells from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. The celestial you summon has flight, ranged and melee attacks, radiant damage, and healing abilities.

Best Multiclass Options for Paladins

Multiclassing is always an opportunity cost; you have to determine if taking a level of another class is worth what you will lose from the original class. Many factors come into this decision, with the main factor being how long your campaign will run and, ultimately, what level you will be playing until.

Paladins are very Multi-Ability Dependent (MAD), meaning that they rely a lot on several ability scores to be at their best. This means that you should pick a class that has an ability score overlap with the paladin in STR/DEX or CHA.

Bard: A two-level dip into paladin allows a bard to get access to armor/shield/weapon proficiencies, Lay on Hands, and smites. If you’re going for a Valor or Swords Bard, you already gain the proficiencies but the smites are definitely worth it.

Sorcerer: The Sorcadin is considered one of, if not the most powerful multiclass options in D&D 5e. This build allows for an awesome cross between a tank and a caster and allows for insane nova damage. The most common Sorcadin build is paladin 2 / sorcerer 18 which allows you get to get access to armor/shield/weapon proficiencies, Lay on Hands, and smites. Only dipping two levels into paladin restricts access to some nice paladin features like Aura of Protection and extra attacks, but it gives access to high-level Sorcerer spell options, plenty of sorcery points, and the Sorcerer Origin capstone feature.

Warlock: The Bladelock is a notoriously broken multiclass option. If you dip 1 level into warlock and put the rest into paladin you will be able to take the Hexblade subclass and attack using your CHA modifier. This means allows you to make your paladin a lot less Multi-Ability Dependent as you can take 13 in STR to get heavy armor, max your CHA, and put the rest into CON.

Sources Used in This Guide

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.

22 thoughts on “Paladin

    1. Hey Lewis!
      I have added a quick write-up for Command into the article 🙂 Here it is for reference:

      Command (green): Command is an extremely good first level spell. Just based on the spell description provided in the PHB there is a ton of value available, let alone using command words that uniquely benefit your situation. The only issue with Command is the save DC. If your Paladin is pumping CON, STR, and CHA you likely won’t have a particularly good Spell Save DC which could lead to your spell being resisted and you losing a turn more often than not.

    1. Oath of Vengeance is probably the strongest 1v1 fighter out of any other class combination in 5e. If you want to slay baddies, that is the way to go.

  1. At Polearm Mastery you recommend Defense Fighting Style for an insane Combo. Excuse me, but wouldnt Tunnel Fighter be better?
    For your bonus action, you enter a defensive stance until your next turns start. During the stance, you make opportunity attacks without using the reaction, and use the reaction to make a melee weapon attack against any creature that moves more than 5 ft within your reach.
    I just imagine standing there and attacking everything dumb enough to come into reach…

    1. Hey Merlin! At the time of writing, this guide primarily covers the DMG and PHB. You’re definitely right that the Tunnel Fighter combination is extraordinarily strong; this is probably why it is still only playtest content (Unearthed Arcana) and will probably always stay there. In our experience, most tables don’t use UA, so we don’t find it very productive to mention that content in our guides. That being said, if your group has agreed to allow UA content, go for it! ????

  2. I wouldn’t suggest dumping CHA as a paladin, especially if you are a Devotion Paladin. The aura of protection scales on CHA and is one of the most broken feature of a Paladin. When comparing this to STR as a Devotion Paladin in particular, the channel divinity giving a bonus to hit equal to CHA makes it so that increasing CHA does everything STR does except for one damage per attack, which is nothing compared to +1 on saving throws and +1 to spell save DC.

    1. Thanks Evan, you’re right “dumping CHA” was the wrong term, I have fixed that and increased the rating on the Devotion’s Sacred Weapon from green to blue. I agree that pumping CHA enough for spellcasting and aura of protection is important, but after getting CHA to around +3 you have to make a hard decision of whether to invest further or focus on STR/CON.

  3. Is Word of Radiance a descent choice for Blessed Warrior fighting style. I thought that the an AoE cantrip might prove useful.

    1. Certainly useful if you are going to be in the thick of the battle! Hitting 3 or more creatures with this could outpace damage done by attacking, especially if you’ve invested more in CHA than STR.

  4. I feel like the feats description is geared towards Oath of Vengeance, but I am building a Nasty Ravenite Dragonborn Tanky Oath of Conquest Paladin, and I chose to get the dragon Hide for my first feat, I like the bonuses for incase of broken armor and dropped weapon, and still being able to hold a shield for the bonuses, I was thinking of getting Dragon Fear next as it kind of meshes with Conquest oath, then maybe Durable, maybe getting Durable second and dragon fear third… what are your thoughts on such a build?

    1. Thanks for writing in Michael, the build sounds really cool! I absolutely love Dragon Fear for an Oath of Conquest but I’m not a huge fan of Dragon Hide to be honest. I think there aren’t enough mechanics in 5e (besides Rust Monsters) that can destroy weapons or armor to make this feat beneficial to a Paladin.

  5. Hello, I was reading your guides and I think they are awesome. I was wondering if you could add your review of the Paladin: Oath of Heroism found in Unearthed Arcana 62 – Bard and Paladin. It seems to have some similarities to the Oath of Glory, but has some note worthy differenes.

    I think it would be a great addition to this section.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Juan! While we love the Unearthed Arcana content, our main focus for the time being is to review everything from official sources first. We think this will be more valuable to our readers, but we hope to get around to reviewing Unearthed Arcana content in the future for those players who love to experiment!

  6. If you have time, I think it would be worthwhile to add a section for Non-Standard races to the other classes too. It makes no sense to me that the Paladin guide has a section about them and others don’t…

  7. Hey Mark!
    I am new to DnD and I wanted to make a great frog folk paladin build with a lance and shield, is this possible and how could I make this work? Your guide is amazing and extremely detailed which is great for me with much to learn.

    1. Hey Justin! I’m not sure if there is a specific “frogfolk” race but you could reskin another race to be frogfolk (with your DM’s permission of course). I think a decent option for the reskin would be the Harengon race (https://www.dndbeyond.com/races/harengon).

      As for a knight with a lance and shield, you could choose a halberd or glaive and pick up the Polearm Master and Sentinel feats for an extremely potent combo. This combo works because the halberd gives you a 10ft reach, you get opportunity attacks whenever creatures enter your 10ft reach, then, if you hit them with the attack they cannot move forward into melee range. This doesn’t work with a shield but it provides a similar aesthetic and is a very powerful deterrent.

      If you are dead set on using a shield, then choose a spear and the Polearm Master feat as it will still provide tons of value.

      Hope you have fun!

    1. We only add optimal non-standard races to these guides as there are too many to keep track of otherwise. Lizardfolk isn’t great for paladins because WIS is basically pointless and Hungry Jaws doesn’t really benefit typical paladin builds.

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