Horizon Walker 5e Guide
Published on June 1, 2021, Last modified on February 20th, 2023
In this post, we will be examining the Horizon Walker’s class features and how you can optimize your Horizon Walker through choosing your race, background, ability scores, spells, and feats.
Horizon Walker 5e Guide Rating Scheme
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the Horizon Walker Ranger subclass. For a full overview of the Ranger class, check out our ranger 5e Guide.
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 Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
- 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, because the other options are discussed in the parent guide or other subclass guides. We also discuss options that normally would be good for a typical build, but underperform when used in a subclass.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
Extra Attack: Attacking twice is a martial character staple and allows Distant Strike to come online at 11th 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.
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.
Hide in Plain Sight: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
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.
Vanish: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
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.
Feral Senses: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
Foe Slayer: Refer to the 5e Ranger Guide.
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 (*).
- Race: Wood Elf
- Background: Outlander
- Ability Scores (Point Buy): STR 8, DEX 15 (+2), CON 14, INT 8, WIS 15 (+2), 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
- Fighting Style: Dueling
- Spells: Entangle, Zephyr Strike
- Ranger Archetype: Horizon Walker
- Detect Portal
- Planar Warrior
- Primeval Awareness
- Spells: Protection from Evil and Good*, Absorb Elements
- Feat: Elven Accuracy with +1 DEX (DEX 18)
- Extra Attack
- Spells: Misty Step*, Pass Without Trace
- Favored Enemy improvement: Your choice depending on campaign
- Ethereal Step
- Spell: Lesser Restoration
- ASI: +2 DEX (DEX 20)
- Land’s Stride
- Spells: Haste*, Conjure Animals
- Hide in Plain Sight
- Natural Explorer improvement: Your choice depending on campaign
- Distant Strike
- Spell: Revivify
- ASI: +2 CON (CON 16)
- Spells: Banishment*, Guardian of Nature
- Favored Enemy improvement: Your choice depending on campaign
- Spectral Defense
- Spell: Conjure Woodland Beings
- ASI: +2 CON (CON 18)
- Spells: Teleportation Circle*, Steel Wind Strike
- Feral Senses
- ASI: +2 CON (CON 20)
- Spell: Tree Stride
- Foe Slayer
Sources Used in This Guide
- BR: Basic Rules
- GotG: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
- SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
- ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
- EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
- EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
- FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
- GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
- MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
- MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
- MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
- PAitM: Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
- PHB: Player's Handbook
- SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
- SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
- SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
- TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
- TTP: The Tortle Package
- WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
- VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
- VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
- XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything