Horizon Walker 5e Guide

Published on June 1, 2021

In this post, we will examine the different choices you will be presented with when leveling up your Horizon Walker in D&D 5e. We will be discussing everything from which ability scores to max out, to which races will give you the best stats (and everything in-between). This article will focus primarily on content from the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Player’s Handbook, but will also delve into some of the content in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

What is this guide?

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the Ranger Subclass, the Horizon Walker. You can find a full overview of the Ranger class here: DnD 5e Ranger.

For our full class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:

  • 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

For our Subclass Guides, we focus mainly on the Blue and Sky Blue options and options that are different from the parent class’ rating for races, backgrounds, and feats. This is to allow a streamlined view of the subclass’s features and because the other options are discussed in the 5e Ranger Guide or other Subclass Guides.

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.

What is a Horizon Walker?

Horizon Walkers are Rangers that act as guardians to the locations that connect the planes of the multiverse. Planar Portals are often sought out by those that wish to do harm to the inhabitants on the other side, and it is a Horizon Walker’s mission to protect the planes from such threats.

Strengths

Melee Rangers are notoriously difficult to make as effective as those that fight with bows, but Horizon Walkers make a strong case for a melee build. Horizon Walkers come equipped with great mobility that pairs very well with weapon attacks, allowing them to fly around the battlefield even when using a melee weapon. They can also make good use of the self buffs and defensive options they get to improve their survivability compared to many of the other Ranger subclasses. Essentially, Horizon Walkers are viable as both traditional ranged attackers or melee combatants.

If playing in a campaign that involves traveling between planes, Horizon Walkers are quite useful. Detecting the presence of planar portals as well as being able to quickly hop into the Ethereal Plane could save you and your party some headaches.

Most importantly, Horizon Walkers have a very powerful spell list, perhaps the best spell list out of all the Ranger subclasses.

Weaknesses

The Horizon Walker’s most fun and differentiating feature, Distant Strike, doesn’t come online until 11th level, at which point they become one of the coolest Ranger subclasses. Even then, this subclass isn’t going to give you the same high damage output as a Gloom Stalker or a Hunter.

The Planar Warrior feature is intended to be used every turn and takes up your bonus action, rendering Two-Weapon Fighting useless and marginalizing the usefulness of Hunter’s Mark. Hunter’s Mark becomes even less appealing when you get Haste, since you will likely want to use your concentration for that spell.

In addition, being able to detect planar portals at a low level is rarely useful (though this entirely depends on your campaign), so one of the Horizon Walker’s early traits feels wasted.

Before You Start

Races

Check out our Guide to DnD Races for non-standard races. Keep in mind, most races and subraces are limited by the setting and source material chosen by the DM. Below are some of the best options for Horizon Walkers from the standard races.

Horizon Walkers will do well with any race that gives a +2 DEX bonus. In addition, look for races that give secondary bonuses in WIS, or even CON if you want to use melee weapons. Mobility isn’t a huge issue for Horizon Walkers due to their movement options granted by the subclass features, but leaning even more into movement options could make for a very powerful build.

Elf: Elves get +2 to DEX, ideal for this subclass. Free Perception proficiency is also fantastic and is a WIS skill. As an elf, you also gain access to the Elven Accuracy feat, boosting WIS or DEX even further and making attack rolls more reliable.

  • Wood Elf: Wood Elves are the classic choice for Rangers, and they hold up just as well for the Horizon Walker variant. The WIS boost will help with spellcasting and the increased walking speed is great for mobility, especially as a melee character.

Halfling: Halflings come with the +2 DEX bonus, which is great for Horizon Walkers. Stout Halflings offer some CON for survivability and some of the non-standard subraces offer WIS to go with DEX.

Variant Human: Variant Humans are powerful for pretty much any build. Boost CON and DEX, take a feat at 1st-level like Mobile or Sharpshooter, and you’re pretty well set up from the jump. Since Horizon Walkers don’t get their fun teleporting abilities until higher levels, having that early feat could make playing them more exciting at the beginning of a campaign. 

Backgrounds

Horizon Walkers are flexible in their background choices. Good choices are backgrounds that give DEX skills or WIS skills. Ideally, choose one that works for your backstory and fills in some of the gaps in your skill proficiencies.

  • Athlete: Probably the best way to get Acrobatics proficiency if you want it. Also comes with land vehicle proficiency as a nice bonus.
  • Folk Hero: Perfect if you’re lacking WIS skills, granting Animal Handling and Survival.
  • Guild Artisan: An interesting choice for roleplay. Insight and Persuasion are both decent for Horizon Walkers.
  • Outlander: Great flavor for the Horizon Walker, and picking up Survival frees up some skill proficiency choices.
  • Urchin: Sleight of Hand and Stealth are both pretty neat if you want to take on a Rogue-adjacent role. Proficiency in the Disguise Kit and Thieves’ Tools help achieve that goal.
  • Urban Bounty Hunter: Many useful choices from Deception, Insight, Persuasion, and Stealth. If you also want proficiency in an instrument, game, or Thieves’ Tools, The Urban Bounty Hunter fills those gaps.

Ability Scores

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

Like most Rangers, Horizon Walkers should max out DEX first. They are happy to boost either WIS or CON after that depending on their survivability needs and playstyle. 

In summary, Horizon Walkers should prioritize DEX > WIS/CON.

STR: Even though Horizon Walkers do well as melee characters, STR is still a much weaker choice than DEX because of the Ranger’s armor limitation. It is possible to create a STR-based Ranger, but they won’t be nearly as optimal as DEX-based Rangers.

DEX: Rangers only have access to light and medium armor, so DEX will be the main way they can increase their AC. Attacks will also rely on DEX, so pump this as high as you can.

CON: CON will keep you alive. If you want to play as a melee Horizon Walker, consider taking more CON than WIS.

INT: Dump and focus on other stats.

WIS: WIS is used for the Horizon Walker’s spellcasting. Consider boosting CON over WIS if you want to fight in melee range.

CHA: You could get away with taking some points in CHA if your party is lacking a dedicated face, but know that you would be better off with as much DEX, CON and WIS as you can muster.

Horizon Walker Class Progression

1st Level

Hit Points: A d10 hit dice is great, especially if you want to go toe to toe with some bad guys.

Saves: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

Proficiencies: Horizon Walkers get access to all the weapons and armor they could ever need.

Skills: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

Favored Enemy: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

Natural Explorer: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

2nd Level

Fighting Style: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide for the various Fighting Style Options. As a rule of thumb, Archery is by far the best if planning to use a bow. Dueling is a great option for melee oriented Horizon Walkers. Two-Weapon Fighting is outright bad on Horizon Walkers as they would rather use their bonus action for Planar Warrior.

Spellcasting: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

3rd Level

Ranger Archetype: Horizon Walker

Source: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Horizon Walker Magic: Horizon Walkers have one of the best spell lists of all the Ranger subclasses. This spell list has it all: buffs, defensive options, utility, and battlefield control.

  • 3rd Level – Protection from Evil and Good: You love to see this spell in any party, especially when you get it for free. The creature types this affects are very common so this spell will likely be useful in your campaign.
  • 5th Level – Misty Step: It’s not a surprise that being able to teleport is amazing. This is a great way to get out of trouble or get right in your enemy’s face.
  • 9th Level – Haste: Everyone loves Haste. It’s not only one of the strongest buffs in D&D, it’s also loads of fun. If playing as a melee Horizon Walker, cast it on yourself and use your mobility options to get out of the way to avoid breaking concentration. If you plan on casting this on yourself and getting into melee range, the Resilient (CON) feat is highly recommended to help keep your concentration.
  • 13th Level – Banishment: Banishment is a fantastic way to take out the strongest enemy temporarily while you deal with the lesser threats. You may not have the highest save DC if you choose to focus on CON over WIS, but CHA also isn’t a very common saving throw for enemies to be strong at.
  • 17th Level – Teleportation Circle: Lots of utility here to transport you and your party around the plane you are on. 

Detect Portal: This is a subclass feature that often feels wasted, but actually being able to use it feels really good. Oftentimes planar portals are very difficult to find and Detect Portal can take away this frustration nearly entirely. Besides, planar portals are the Horizon Walker’s whole shtick, so the flavor is on point.

Planar Warrior: Extra damage is always great, especially since Planar Warrior transforms all your damage into force damage. Force damage is very rarely resisted, so use this if you don’t know much about your opponent and want to make absolute certain that your attack will be effective. Planar Warrior can stack with Hunter’s Mark, as only the latter uses concentration. Once you have cast Hunter’s Mark as a bonus action, the subsequent turns’ bonus actions can be used to cast Planar Warrior or move around your Hunter’s Mark.

Primeval Awareness: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

5th Level

Extra Attack: Attacking twice is a martial character staple and allows Distant Strike to come online at 11th level.

7th Level

Ethereal Step: A free spell that can be used as a bonus action is great. There is plenty you can do with this feature since it allows you to move in any direction, even if it does cost double movement when moving up or down. Ethereal Step basically gives you an extra use of Misty Step per short rest, which isn’t a bad deal (although the spell doesn’t end until the end of the current turn so you may not get to do anything else on your turn). Ethereal Step is going to give you a ton of mileage when your DM throws a locked door in your way and you’re able to walk straight through it.

8th Level

Land’s Stride: Land’s Stride can come in handy when playing a melee character since you most likely have to move around the battlefield more than when fighting at range. Even still, it’s not particularly exciting and Horizon Walkers have plenty of ways to overcome difficult terrain at this point.

10th Level

Hide in Plain Sight: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

11th Level

Distant Strike: Distant Strike is the coolest thing about Horizon Walkers, and probably also their biggest asset. If two or more enemies are within 10 feet of each other and you’re playing a melee build, you can teleport between them and even get a free third attack, which is very useful as Rangers normally only get one extra attack. The third attack can provide even more Hunter’s Mark damage. If playing a ranged build, you will likely have a much easier time attacking two different enemies in a turn to activate that free third attack.

While Distant Strike is super cool, attacking two different enemies each turn may not always be the most effective use of your turn (or even possible). If you need to focus fire on a big bad or dangerous spellcaster, you may have to forgo this option for the more optimal move.

14th Level

Vanish: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

15th Level

Spectral Defense: This is very similar to the Rogue’s Uncanny Dodge, but grants resistance to the damage instead of halving damage outright. All in all, Spectral Defense is a really good use of your reaction and will prevent a lot of damage coming your way.

18th Level

Feral Senses: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

20th Level

Foe Slayer: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.

Feats

Feats are good for Horizon Walkers. The choice of feats will vary drastically depending on if you want to fight with melee or with ranged weapons. There are quite a few feats that are reasonable, so feat-heavy builds will likely want to choose the Variant Human to get an extra feat for free. 

  • Crossbow Expert: Horizon Walkers have Ethereal Step, Planar Warrior, Hunter’s Mark, and other spells all vying for the bonus action slot. Crossbow Expert becomes a lot worse when you have so many other good options.
  • Dual Wielder: Horizon Walkers have Ethereal Step, Planar Warrior, Hunter’s Mark, and other spells all vying for the bonus action slot. You will be much better off doing those than trying to make a dual wielding build.
  • Elven Accuracy: If you are an elf, Elven Accuracy is very tempting. You can increase your DEX or WIS score by 1, as well as reroll one die if you have advantage on the attack. Rangers typically have good DEX, meaning you can sneak around and get those attacks with advantage on unsuspecting foes. You can also use spells like Zephyr Strike, Ensnaring Strike, and Entangle to get advantage more easily.
  • Medium Armor Master: A great option for the DEX-based sword and board Horizon Walker. Medium Armor Master will allow you to maximize your AC and remove disadvantage on Stealth checks while wearing medium armor.
  • Mobile: Mobile is a great feat for Horizon Walkers. They are at their best when being able to go anywhere on the battlefield, so the extra movement and avoiding attacks of opportunity is a huge plus here.
  • Resilient: A good option to round out an uneven ability score and to get a saving throw proficiency. The most obvious candidate would be to choose CON for proficiency in CON saving throws to maintain concentration.
  • Sharpshooter: With Sharpshooter, you can shoot up to 600 feet with a longbow without disadvantage, as well as ignoring half and three-quarters cover. This makes getting your free third attack with Distant Strike even more likely. The most interesting part of this feat however is the option to take a -5 penalty to your attack rolls to deal +10 damage. This is partially mitigated with the Archery Fighting Style or Elven Accuracy. 

Example Horizon Walker Build

As mentioned above, Horizon Walkers are a great candidate for a melee Ranger build. This build leans heavily into that idea, choosing feats and spells that compliment a mobile playstyle. The Dueling Fighting Style helps bring damage output closer to those martial classes with more attacks or with harder hitting two-handed weapons, and still allows you to wield a shield for more AC. Make sure to trade out your short swords for a rapier and a shield as soon as you can.

Another cool thing about the Horizon Walker is that they have two really good uses of their bonus action, namely Planar Warrior and Ethereal Step. This means that, unlike most Ranger builds, Horizon Walkers may choose not to rely on Hunter’s Mark to be effective. This is a relief to Ranger veterans, as using Hunter’s Mark on every build does tend to get old. Zephyr Strike is also a good use of the bonus action as it helps with mobility and lets the Elven Accuracy feat shine. Once you are able to use the Guardian of Nature spell, the Great Tree form makes DEX-based attack rolls with advantage, making Elven Accuracy even better.

Choosing a Wood Elf is typical for a Ranger, as DEX and WIS are exactly what they like to see. The odd DEX score will be boosted with the Elven Accuracy feat at 4th level.

Horizon Walker spells are marked by an asterisk (*).

1st Level:

  • Race: Wood Elf
  • Background: Outlander
  • Ability Scores (Point Buy): STR 8, DEX 15 (+2), CON 14, INT 8, WIS 15 (+1), CHA 10
  • Skill Proficiencies: Athletics, Insight, Nature, Perception, Stealth, Survival
  • Equipment: Longbow, arrows (20), 2 short swords, leather armor, explorer’s pack, a staff, a hunting trap, a trophy from an animal you killed, a set of traveler’s clothes, and a belt pouch containing 10 gp
  • Favored Enemy: Your choice depending on campaign. Humanoids (goblins, kobolds, gnolls, and orcs) are likely a good option at lower levels.
  • Natural Explorer: Your choice depending on campaign

2nd Level:

  • Fighting Style: Dueling
  • Spellcasting
    • Spells: Entangle, Zephyr Strike

3rd Level:

  • Ranger Archetype: Horizon Walker
  • Detect Portal
  • Planar Warrior
  • Primeval Awareness
  • Spells: Protection from Evil and Good*, Absorb Elements

4th Level:

  • Feat: Elven Accuracy with +1 DEX (DEX 18)

5th Level:

  • Extra Attack
  • Spells: Misty Step*, Pass Without Trace

6th Level:

  • Favored Enemy improvement: Your choice depending on campaign

7th Level:

  • Ethereal Step
  • Spell: Lesser Restoration

8th Level:

  • ASI: +2 DEX (DEX 20)
  • Land’s Stride

9th Level:

  • Spells: Haste*, Conjure Animals

10th Level:

  • Hide in Plain Sight
  • Natural Explorer improvement: Your choice depending on campaign

11th Level:

  • Distant Strike
  • Spell: Revivify

12th Level:

  • ASI: +2 CON (CON 16)

13th Level:

  • Spells: Banishment*, Guardian of Nature

14th Level:

  • Favored Enemy improvement: Your choice depending on campaign
  • Vanish

15th Level:

  • Spectral Defense
  • Spell: Conjure Woodland Beings

16th Level:

  • ASI: +2 CON (CON 18)

17th Level:

  • Spells: Teleportation Circle*, Steel Wind Strike

18th Level:

  • Feral Senses

19th Level:

  • ASI: +2 CON (CON 20)
  • Spell: Tree Stride

20th Level:

  • Foe Slayer

Other Ranger Subclass Guides


Hope you liked the guide! If you have any questions or feel like we missed something for the Horizon Walker, go ahead and post a comment below. If you like our content subscribe to Arcane Eye!

Roland Drews

Roland Drews is a content creator and editor at Arcane Eye. When he isn't watching basketball or noodling on his guitar, you can find Roland reading, writing, or playing D&D. He currently lives in Bonn, Germany with his girlfriend Jess.

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