D&D Ranger 5e Guide
Published on June 18, 2020, Last modified on March 10th, 2023
In this post, we will be examining the ranger’s class features and how you can optimize your ranger through choosing your race, background, ability scores, subclass, feats, and spells.
Magali Villeneuve - Wizards of the Coast - Vivien of the Arkbow
Ranger 5e Guide Rating Scheme
This guide is meant as a deep dive into the DnD 5e ranger. 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 ranger. 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
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 Ranger Overview
The 5e ranger is a master of survival who uses their knowledge of the outdoors to track foes and provide advantages in combat. The common motif around the ranger in DnD 5e is a skilled hunter, tracker, and woodsman, most at home on the fringes of civilization and the first line of defense against threats from the wilds.
Most ranger are played as loners in social settings and will be more than happy to scout out ahead for the party.
The 5e ranger is a controversial class because they are typically deemed as being underpowered. Their early level’s class features provide zero benefits if you are not in the proper environment or fighting the correct monster. This can make your ranger feel limited in their abilities, compared to other versatile classes.
|Spell Slots per Spell Level|
|1st||+2||Favored Enemy, Natural Explorer||–||–||–||–||–||–|
|2nd||+2||Fighting Style, Spellcasting||2||2||–||–||–||–|
|3rd||+2||Ranger Archetype, Primeval Awareness||3||3||–||–||–||–|
|4th||+2||Ability Score Improvement||3||3||–||–||–||–|
|6th||+3||Favored Enemy and Natural Explorer improvements||4||4||2||–||–||–|
|7th||+3||Ranger Archetype feature||5||4||3||–||–||–|
|8th||+3||Ability Score Improvement, Land’s Stride||5||4||3||–||–||–|
|10th||+4||Natural Explorer improvement, Hide in Plain Sight||6||4||3||2||–||–|
|11th||+4||Ranger Archetype feature||7||4||3||3||–||–|
|12th||+4||Ability Score Improvement||7||4||3||3||–||–|
|14th||+5||Favored Enemy improvement, Vanish||8||4||3||3||1||–|
|15th||+5||Ranger Archetype feature||9||4||3||3||2||–|
|16th||+5||Ability Score Improvement||9||4||3||3||2||–|
|19th||+6||Ability Score Improvement||11||4||3||3||3||2|
The common motif around the ranger in DnD 5e is that of a skilled hunter, tracker, and woodsman, most at home on the fringes of civilization and the first line of defense against threats in the wilds.
Most ranger are played as loners in social settings and will be more than happy to scout out ahead for the party. While their semi-caster status gives them some versatility, their class features get nerfed quite hard when traveling in environments that are not preferred or fighting enemies that are not their favored type.
Rangers are the best of the martial classes against multiple enemies and hordes. Many of the ranger’s combat abilities are designed for attacking multiple foes in a turn. To bolster that role, ranger also have area of effect spells that can damage multiple foes.
Rangers have two other very unique abilities granted at 1st-level: Preferred Terrain and Favored Enemy. The Favored Enemy ability grants the ranger advantages on attacking and tracking their favored enemy. Preferred Terrain helps the ranger and their party survive, travel, and navigate certain environments.
Many of the ranger’s abilities, including the Favored Enemies and Favored Terrains class features, are highly situational and don’t always mesh well with the campaign’s setting, especially if you are traversing an environment where opportunities to scout are at a minimum.
When ranger are not in their Favored Terrains or dealing with their Favored Enemies, their combat effectiveness and exploration abilities are heavily nerfed, so those abilities are situational at best.
Best Races for Ranger
- Gem: The Breath Weapon can be useful when you're caught in melee range and the flight can help you keep out of reach from most melee creatures. The damage resistance helps with survivability and the telepathic communication can help when sneaking.
- Ravenite: Could work for a STR-based ranger. Vengeful Assault can assist with moving around your hunter's mark.
- Hill: +1 to WIS makes this an alright pick.
- Mountain: Can be useful for STR-based rangers, otherwise the ASIs don't match up with ranger's priority.
- Aereni High: +2 DEX is exactly what you are looking for with a Ranger. Advantage on saving throws against being charmed and immunity to sleep is icing on the cake.
- Aereni Wood: The perfect race for a ranger. +2 DEX and +1 WIS is exactly what you're looking for and the passive abilities can help with mobility and stealth.
- Eladrin (Variant): +2 DEX from the parent class makes this a decent choice. The free casting of misty step is beneficial for maintaining a ranged distance from enemies.
- Mark of Shadow: +2 DEX is great for a ranger, and so are the various buffs to stealth. The expanded spell list, as well as the free mage hand and invisibility, will go a long way to help with the ranger's utility.
- Pallid: Great ASI array for ranger and the free casting of invisibility is solid utility.
- Shadar-kai: DEX and CON are both great ability scores for rangers. The bonus resistance and the teleportation ability will help with battlefield mobility and survivability.
- Mark of Finding: May have significant overlap with the ranger but provides a free daily usage of hunter’s mark.
- Mark of Handling: Will help provide some free nature-based utility spells for your spell slot-starved ranger.
- Mark of Passage: Taking WIS as your free ASI here is perfect for both melee and ranged builds that want to have more movement options.
- Standard: A middle of the road pick because they increase all their ability scores by 1.
- Variant: The variant human is a strong choice for the free feat. Typical rangers can boost their WIS and DEX and still be very happy with the feat.
- Bloodline of Glasya: The Glasya tiefling has an appropriate ASI and offers some stealth options to make you more akin to a rogue.
- Variant – Feral: +2 DEX is exactly what a ranger is looking for, though INT is useless.
- Variant – Winged: Combined with Feral to get +2 DEX you can fly around and should your enemies from a safe distance.
- Updated: Tankier builds who wear medium armor and want to be in melee range won't have any use for the Aarakocra's flight, which is it's best ability by far. Ranged builds who are fine wearing light armor and staying at a distance will love the flight at 1st level and may have some use for the natural weapons and spell the race provides.
- Updated: Rangers only get a single Extra Attack, but they usually are DEX-based and use bows, both of which contribute to the effectiveness of Surprise Attack. Gloom Stalkers are probably the best choice as their Dread Ambusher trait allows them to boost their initiative rolls even higher.
- Updated: Now that you aren't pigeonholed into STR, centaurs can be decent melee rangers with DEX weapons.
- Updated: This still isn't a great choice for rangers as they will likely not choose to take CHA, rendering the skill proficiencies less effective.
- Updated: The updated firbolg will likely still choose WIS, but the improvements to the racial traits makes it even better for a ranger, giving you access to spells and effects rangers otherwise wouldn't have. The spells and effects firbolgs get make rangers much better at stealth and infiltration.
- Air: The air genasi provides DEX and levitate can be used to shoot enemies safely from the air.
- Earth: STR-based rangers could try the earth genasi, though pass without trace is already available to the class and Earth Walk is also redundant due to access to the freedom of movement spell.
- Water: The water genasi is a consideration for the WIS, but rangers typically prefer DEX.
- Githzerai: WIS is good for spellcasting, but rangers typically need more DEX than WIS. The rest of the traits of the githzerai are quite good, but not really enough to make up for the lack of DEX.
- Updated: Nimble Escape will be very useful to stay away from your enemies if using a bow, and even melee rangers will make use of it as they aren't as tanky as some other classes. Fury of the Small will stack nicely with Hunter's Mark and other ways to boost damage since rangers don't get many extra attacks.
- Updated: A premium option if going for the difficult to build STR ranger, but even regular DEX-based rangers will enjoy Stone's Endurance as a way to increase durability as rangers don't have much in the way of damage reduction.
- Updated: The ranger's bread and butter spells like hunter's mark use up your bonus action, so you may not have many opportunities to use Fey Gift. Still, Fortune from the Many is useful to have as a failsafe for saving throws.
- Updated: Rangers won't care too much about what Kobold Legacy can offer, and their bonus action is probably better spent on things like hunter's mark rather than Draconic Cry.
- Dhampir: The dhampir lineage will work best for melee rangers who will be pumping their CON and want to be up close and personal to their targets. Ranged rangers can still make quite good use out of the Spider Climb ability.
- Hexblood: You already have hunter's mark, which makes the free casting of hex a lot less appealing. That said, the utility from disguise self, Darkvision and the Eerie Token effects are quite useful in non-combat scenarios.
- Wildhunt Shifter: The wildhunt shifter offers great ASI and synergistic features that complement a ranger. Unfortunately the wildhunt shifter is just not that interesting or powerful of an option compared to the other subraces.
Sticking with the fact that we are going for DEX and WIS for a ranger doesn’t leave us with a ton of options for backgrounds:
- Folk Hero: Animal Handling and Survival are two skills that a ranger SHOULD really be good at. Animal Handling as written is definitely a subpar skill though.
- Urchin: Sleight of Hand isn’t a DEX based skill ranger typically have access to. Stealth is an awesome free proficiency.
- Criminal: Deception proficiency will help offset a dumped CHA stat and can help you face a bit more for your party. Free Stealth proficiency is awesome.
- Outlander: This is another “flavor pick”, similar to Folk Hero. The skill proficiencies aren’t great but the backstory and Wanderer feature certainly make sense for a ranger.
Ability Score Increases (ASI) at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level.
Prioritize DEX over the other Ability Scores. Once WIS is maxed, the decision is between CON and WIS based on the Ranger Archetype you choose.
STR: This is a definite dump stat for rangers as they can get by with finesse weapons if you want to go melee.
DEX: Seeing as the only armor rangers have access to is light or medium, DEX is your primary means of defense (it’s better to be missed than hit with some extra HP). DEX also plays into your weapon attacks, damage, Initiative, the all-too-common DEX saving throw, and the very important Stealth skill.
CON: If you plan to go for a melee ranger, it is best to forgo WIS in place of CON. This will allow you to maintain concentration on your awesome hunter’s mark spell. If you’re going for a ranged ranger you can save this for after you stack your WIS.
INT: Don’t bother with INT.
WIS: If you plan to go for a ranged ranger, it is best to forgo CON in place of WIS. This will allow you to get your spell save DC and spell attack modifier to a relevant level. If you’re going for a melee ranger you can save this for after you stack your CON.
CHA: Rangers shouldn’t try to focus on social skills outside of WIS based ones. If you must, the overall effectiveness of the character will suffer.
Ranger Class Progression
Hit Points: Rangers have a solid d10 hit dice.
Saves: Proficiency with STR and DEX saves is great. DEX saves are extremely common, STR saves are less so but helpful against being knocked prone and restrained.
Weapon/Armour Proficiencies: Light armor, medium armor, shields, simple weapons, and martial weapons is exactly what the ranger wants to work with.
Skills: Rangers aren’t known for their diverse skillset. They can only choose three of the following eight skills.
- Animal Handling (WIS): Animal Handling as written is a trash skill. If your DM is lenient with the rulings it is definitely a worthwhile skill for rangers to pick up but otherwise avoid this.
- Athletics (STR): Athletics isn’t a super common ask for someone in the ranger’s position. It also doesn’t mesh well with the dumped STR score.
- Insight (WIS): Insight is great for social interactions since it can give you a ton of information on the person you are trying to convince or manipulate.
- Investigation (INT): Investigation can sometimes mesh with Survival, it is best to choose Survival to play to the ranger’s strengths and go with the WIS based skill.
- Nature (INT): Nature is an important INT skill. If nobody else in your party has it, it makes sense for the ranger to know what’s up when you’re out in the woods.
- Perception (WIS): We’ve said it before, Perception is the best skill in D&D. Getting proficiency and expertise in this can help make up for your low WIS score.
- Stealth (DEX): If Perception is the best skill, stealth is a close second.
- Survival (WIS): Similar to Nature. If you don’t have another savvy woodsman in your party, it is your duty as a ranger to pick this up.
Favored Enemy: You can select your favorite (or least favorite, I guess) creature type and gain some minor bonuses, such as: advantage on tracking them and recalling information about them. This feature is certainly a weak class feature and is where the ranger class begins to go off the rails a little bit.
The creatures to choose for your Favored Enemy vary wildly by campaign, but looking at the Monster Manual shows us that Beasts, Fiends and Undead are very likely to show up. Beasts are likely to show up at lower levels, but you get to choose more favored enemies at 6th and 14th level.
Natural Explorer: Natural Explorer is a stronger passive ability than Favored Enemy but is still extremely situational. You can choose one of eight possible terrains to gain a myriad of bonuses in, but if you’re not in the chosen terrain you are SoL.
Deft Explorer: This optional feature replaces Natural Explorer and makes the rangers expertise a lot less situational. The expertise you get at 1st level, likely Stealth or Perception, will be useful across plenty of scenarios. At 6th level, you boost your walking speed by 5ft and get a climbing and swimming speed which drastically helps your movement options. At 10th level, you can some minor healing abilities and can reduce exhaustion levels after a short rest, rather than a long rest, both of which help your longevity over an adventuring day.
- Archery: +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons is exactly what you’re looking for as a ranger and helps offset the penalty from taking Sharpshooter shots.
- Blind Fighting: Blindsight is a decent option to have, but it’s effects can be replicated with spells like darkvision or faerie fire that a number of races or ranger subclasses get access to.
- 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.
- Druidic Warrior: shillelagh and guidance make this an extremely tempting option. If you stack WIS and wield a quarterstaff, you will find that your melee ranger becomes a lot less multi-ability dependent (MAD).
- Dueling: Being able to wield a shield while dealing close to two-handed weapon damage is a very, very tempting option.
- Thrown Weapon Fighting: Being able to draw and throw as part of an attack is really only an issue for very law abiding DMs. Unfortunately, the bonus you get is to damage rather than the attack roll, making this strictly worse than the Archery fighting style.
- Two-Weapon Fighting: While Two-Weapon Fighting can make you hit a lot easier with your offhand weapon, there are some disadvantages to being a dual-wielding fighter. Mainly, the fact that attacking with your offhand takes your bonus action. This doesn’t cause your offhand attacks to scale with your extra attacks. This will cause the damage you output to quickly become overshadowed by something like using a Greatsword or taking the Dueling Martial Archetype.
Spellcasting: Rangers are a semi-caster, this means they only get spell slots up to 5th level and no Cantrips. Their spell list focuses mainly on passive, utility/survival abilities, with the exception of hunter’s mark. Hunter’s mark is to rangers as hex is to warlock. It is their bread and butter extra damage spell that keeps their attacks on a similar level to fighters and their extra attacks.
Primeval Awareness: This is…not a great ability. You can tell when certain creature types are within 1 mile, but not their location or number. Definitely not worth a spell slot 90% of the time.
Primal Awareness: None of these spells are particularly powerful but they’re all ranger-y, nature things that rangers should be able to do. The free casting once per day goes a long way to reserving your ranger spell slots, which are usually in high demand.
Ranger Archetype: At 3rd Level, rangers get to choose their Ranger Archetype. A ranger’s Archetype completely defines how the build plays, so choose the one based on a playstyle you might enjoy the most.
The Beast Master has an animal companion that aids them on their journey. This subclass was revised in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything to help fix issues which prevented the Ranger's Companion from being effective.
- 3rd level
- Ranger’s Companion: This one is a bit of a bummer. The Ranger Companion is strictly worse than a wizard’s Familiar (and much worse than a Pact of the Chain’s Familiar) at lower levels. The main reason for this is because a familiar takes actions independently of you, so you don’t have to waste an action to command it around. If you want your companion to do anything, you have to have willing to give up your action own in order to do so. You also can’t use your compaion’s senses or have it deliver touch spells like you can a familiar. The companion does get better at later levels, but until the 7th Level, it is pretty much useless.
- Flying Snake: Flyby can keep the Flying Snake out of trouble and it has blindsight. Damage is alright.
- Giant Badger: Unfortunately, you cannot use multiattack until you unlock Bestial Fury at 11th Level, where each other Companion gets the ability to make two attacks. This makes the badger strictly worse than the Wolf in every way.
- Giant Crab: Good AC and HP, can breathe air and water and can grapple a target. Damage isn’t great.
- Giant Poisonous Snake: Good AC, HP is on par with a Wolf, and the damage from the failed CON save makes this the potential heaviest hitter out of all the Companions.
- Owl: Flyby, so it doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks, but the low AC, pitiful damage and HP, make this a hard choice. It really comes online at the 7th level when it has the ability to give the help action on each turn.
- Pteranodon: Great HP and good AC. Flyby and solid damage. This is your best option in the air.
- Vulture: If you don’t have a Pteranodon handy to make your familiar, the Vulture will do just fine. Worse damage, AC, and HP than the Pteranodon but has Pack Tactics.
- Wolf: Ahh, the tried and true Ranger Companion. Good damage, HP, AC, Pack Tactics. and a chance to knock an enemy prone makes this a top tier choice.
- Primal Companion: This is a huge improvement from the original Beast Master’s Ranger’s Companion, which this feature replaces. First, you can command your companion with a bonus action, rather than a full action. Second, your companion can be magically summoned, you won’t have to go find a non-hostile beast to make your companion. Third and most importantly, the companion scales its AC, hit points, and damage with your level. The Primal Companion comes in three flavors, Land, Sea, and Sky, which can you change on a long rest.
- 7th level
- Exceptional Training: This makes your companion a lot more useful, you can use it to give you advantage to one shot each turn.
- 11th level
- Bestial Fury: This pairs nicely with giving the companion feature that allows you to give your companion one of your attacks. To put this in perspective, if you are using a longbow, have hunter’s mark on, and have stacked your DEX, you will be doing 1d8+5 + 1d6 (average of 12). For the sake of it, if you hit twice with your Wolf you are doing on average 2d4 + 6 x 2 (average of 20). This is, of course, assuming you don’t have any upgraded weapons.
- 15th level
- Share Spells: Rangers have some nice buff spells to increase the lasting power and effectiveness of your companion. Stone skin is an obvious choice for this.
The Drakewarden can summon a drake companion that follows you into combat and grows as you level up.
- 3rd level
- Draconic Gift: Thaumaturgy is one of the weaker utility cantrips when compared with similar options like minor illusion and prestidigitation. Luckily for your draconic ranger, it’ll allow you to do cool dragon-y things like make your voice boom or cause flames to roar to life. Learning the draconic language is campaign specific but will likely be useful due to the frequency of dragons in D&D.
- Drake Companion: The Drakewarden’s features mainly revolve around this drake companion, upgrading its abilities as your ranger increases in power. Luckily for your ranger, this drake starts off as a great companion and only gets better as it levels up. First, you can use your bonus action to issue a command, which is solid action economy but may interfere with hunter’s mark on occasion. Second, the drake can be summoned for free using an action once per long rest and can be summoned using an action and expending a 1st-level spell slot after that. Each time you summon the drake, you can choose a different type of elemental damage that the drake (and eventually your) abilities are associated with. These generous summoning rules means your little drake can soak up some mean damage, which is further complimented by the reasonable 14 + prof. bonus AC, free damage resistance, and 5 + five times your ranger level hit points. In terms of offensive capabilities, the drake has a decent bite and can add 1d6 elemental damage to an allies’ strike, as long as they’re within 30 ft. One last thing to note is that the drake has an INT of 8 and can speak draconic, meaning that you can easily have a conversation with your dragon buddy.
- 7th level
- Bond of Fang and Scale: Besides some increased damage, the biggest feature here is a free damage resistance from a list of fairly common damage types. At this point, you can ride your drake, but unfortunately the drake can’t fly while you’re mounted. Though drake doesn’t have any long range attacks, it’s flying speed is mainly for exploration and reconnaissance. If you plan on riding your drake into battle, consider picking up the Mounted Combatant feat, which will allow you to tank some hits for your dragon buddy and give it a bit more survivability. The real benefit from this feat comes online at 15th level, when your drake grows to the Large size. Keep in mind that a Mounted Combatant build would only really be worth it if you plan to have your dragon in melee range, as ranged attacks don’t trigger the advantage on attacks.
- 11th level
- Drake’s Breath: You get a breath weapon that outputs 8d6 of your drake’s Draconic Essence damage type, which puts it on par with a 3rd-level fireball. This is absolutely amazing for rangers, who don’t normally get access to AoE attacks of this caliber. Better yet, you can use this for free once per long rest. After that, you can expend a 3rd-level spell slot to use it again. The damage increases to 10d6 at 15th level as well, which helps it keep up with other party member’s damage output.
- 15th level
- Perfected Bond: The moment we’ve all been waiting for! Your dragon buddy has grown to the Large size so now you can fly them into combat! On top of that, the drake’s bite deals an extra 1d6 elemental damage depending on its Draconic Essence. Lastly, if you get hit while you’re within 30ft of your drake companion, you can use your reaction to give yourself or your drake resistance to the triggering damage a number of times per long rest equal to your prof. modifier. This is essentially a pseudo Uncanny Dodge 5 times per short rest (up to 6 at 17th level) which will majorly help with survivability. Another thing to keep in mind at this point is the drake’s Infused Strikes ability will still apply if you’re riding the drake, using your longbow to rain down death on your enemies.
Infused with the power of the Feywild, Fey Wanderer rangers can beguile their enemies and move effortlessly across the battlefield.
- 3rd level
- Fey Wanderer spells: You gain some fey staples that allow you to trick the mind and make you hard to catch.
- 3rd level
- Charm Person: One of the better options for dealing with NPCs outside of combat. Good for quick interactions, but the biggest caveat to this spell is the target knows it was charmed by you once the effect ends.
- 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.
- 9th level
- Dispel Magic: Always make sure at least one of your party members has this.
- 13th level
- Dimension Door: Teleport, with a friend, over a much longer distance than misty step. Unfortunately, it’s two spell slots higher than misty step and a full action to cast. Still, this spell can save your bacon is a tight circumstance.
- 17th level
- Mislead: Pretty decent scouting spell or opportunity to plan an ambush. Pretty high spell slot for the meager effect though.
- Dreadful Strikes: Deal an extra 1d4 psychic damage each turn, which turns to 1d6 at 11th level. Free damage is never a bad thing, but is almost more annoying to roll a d4 than not gain the extra 2 average damage.
- Otherworldly Glamour: Being able to add your WIS modifier to CHA checks helps your ranger become a more rounded build out of combat, as does gaining a free CHA-based skill proficiency.
- 7th level
- Beguiling Twist: Charmed and frightened are two solid conditions to have advantage against. The secondary feature can be used defensively (when you or a friendly succeeds against being charmed or frightened), but can also be used offensively (when an enemy succeeds against being charmed or frightened). Unfortunately, you don’t have many options to charm or frighten an enemy, beyond animal friendship or your new charm person. This can work well with the leonin’s Daunting Roar ability, if you or a party member decide to choose that race.
- 11th level
- Fey Reinforcements: Summon fey is a quality summon spell that you can further improve by dropping the concentration requirement. As 1 minute is 10 rounds of combat in D&D, this amount of time is plenty for summoning fey backup into a combat situation while keeping concentration for hunter’s mark.
- 15th level
- Misty Wanderer: Casting misty step for free up to your WIS modifier (probably 5 at this point) times per day is a solid movement option, but doesn’t really give you any additional raw power output. Being able to bring a willing creature along is added value, but doesn’t really push this feature into a new tier.
Check out our Gloom Stalker Ranger 5e Guide for build optimization tips.
Check out our Horizon Walker Ranger 5e Guide for build optimization tips.
- 3rd level
- Hunter’s Prey
- Colossus Slayer: Deal an extra 1d8 of damage per turn reliably.
- Giant Killer: Good use for a reaction, but is somewhat limiting due to the caveat that it has to be a Large or larger creature.
- Horde Breaker: Extra attack that can be taken reliably, multiple times each combat. Very good.
- 7th level
- Defensive Tactics
- Escape the Horde: Decent ability to get out of danger. Good for moving around in combat or if you are a ranged fighter than constantly finds themselves in melee range.
- Multiattack Defense: Lots of creatures have multiattack. This is essentially a free Shield spell against them when they hit you.
- Steel Will: Advantage on saving throws against being frightened is a fairly limited ability.
- 11th level
- Volley: Good pick up for ranged builds. If you have already picked up Horde Breaker, this will only net you an additional attack if 4 creatures are jammed into the 20ft square.
- Whirlwind Attack: Again, a good pick for melee builds but likely won’t net you more attacks than your two attacks + Horde Breaker.
- 15th level
- Superior Hunter’s Defense
- Evasion: Great ability because DEX saves are so common. Your high DEX score and proficiency in DEX saving throws will likely cause you to not take damage from these effects unless you roll very poorly.
- Stand Against the Tide: This is a fun one and can cause some major damage in the right situations. The fact of the matter is that these situations are far and few between.
- Uncanny Dodge: One of the best defensive abilities in the game.
- 3rd level
- Monster Slayer spells:
- 3rd level
- 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.
- 5th level
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hunter’s Sense: This is a cool ability. Unfortunately, not many creatures have vulnerabilities and most creatures with resistances are fairly obvious.
- Slayer’s Prey: A strictly worse Hexblade’s Curse. It’s even worse than Colossus Slayer for the Hunter and Planar Warrior for the Horizon Walker. Just underpowered in general
- 7th level
- Supernatural Defense: This is where Slayer’s Prey starts to get good. Adding a d6 to any saving throw and checks against grapples is pretty darn good.
- 11th level
- Magic-User’s Nemesis: A free counterspell per short or long rest. If you have a good WIS modifier this is a great ability to improve your ranger’s versatility.
- 15th level
- Slayer’s Counter: This is an awesome capstone for the Monster Slayer.
Swarmkeepers conjure a swarm of nature spirits to add them in battle.
- 3rd level
- Swarmkeeper spells: Some decent utility options are available here. Because of your limited spell slots mage hand is probably the best pickup in all honesty.
- 3rd level
- Mage Hand: Mage hand provides a lot of utility for a caster, allowing them to extend the range they can grab or interact with objects, with little combat benefit.
- Faerie Fire: Giving your allies advantage is really good, especially if you have a rogue or paladin in the party. Invisible creatures can also be a nuisance, so having a way to deal with them as extra value is sweet.
- 5th level
- Web: For when you want to get creative. Web is a great way to take away an enemy’s turn and deal some extra damage at the same time.
- 9th level
- Gaseous Form: This spell can honestly vie for the top “infiltration” spell over invisibility. Being able to fly and move through tiny cracks as an inconspicuous cloud can make getting into any heavily defended fortress a cinch.
- 13th level
- Arcane Eye: A great scouting tool and can be moved as an action, making it a worthy spell to pickup.
- 17th level
- Insect Plague: A decent AoE damage and crowd control option.
- Gathered Swarm: Your swarm allows you to deal an extra 1d6 damage, move an enemy 15ft, or move yourself 5ft after you hit a creature with an attack. More often than not, you’ll be using the added damage option, though you may find it beneficial to move enemies into a hazard if there’s one available. It’s worthwhile to note that choosing the option to move yourself doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks, making it a strong option if you need to disengage.
- 7th level
- Writhing Tide: A concentration-less flying speed is something that most classes covet and DEX-based rangers can make a great use of it. Even though it’s only 10ft, that’s still plenty to get out of reach of enemies while you rain arrows down on them.
- 11th level
- Mighty Swarm: You get some upgrades to your Gathered Swarm feature. The damage increasing from 1d6 to 1d8 is quite measly, but luckily it’s made up for in the next two improvements. Now, when you attempt to move a creature, they also fall prone. Unfortunately, that means you can’t follow up with an attack with advantage unless you follow them with your movement. If you have another party member who can make use of prone enemies and the initiative works in your favor, this will be a very strong choice. Finally, you get half cover (+2 to AC and DEX saving throws) when you use the movement option on yourself. All three of these options are strong contenders in their own scenario and provide plenty of meaningful choices in combat.
- 15th level
- Swarming Dispersal: Reaction-based damage mitigation is always a strong ability and now you can also teleport 30ft away as part of the same reaction. This is great defensive value, especially for DEX-based rangers who want to stay at a distance.
Extra Attack: Extra attacks are the bread and butter of all the martial classes. Like the other semi-caster, the Paladin, Rangers only get 1 extra attack. Luckily, they have Hunter’s Mark to make up for lost damage.
Land’s Stride: Being immune to nonmagical difficult terrain will come in handy a couple of times per campaign, but it isn’t a huge game-changer.
Hide in Plain Sight: This is great for ambushing creatures, something that Rangers really like to do. It is extremely nerfed by the fact that you have to camouflage after each time you move, making this useless for infiltrations.
Vanish: Being able to Hide as a bonus action will be very beneficial for the Rangers, who like to stay at a distance among cover. Being untrackable by nonmagical means can be beneficial as well.
Feral Senses: This is great if you have to fight an invisible creature, something that may or may not happen when you are this late into the campaign.
Foe Slayer: A great ability, massively limited due to the fact it can only be applied to your favored enemies.
Best Feats for Ranger
- Alert: Rangers, don't necessarily like to go first in initiative because of their lack of burst and AoE damage options. That said, Gloom Stalkers are very fond of the initiative boost.
- Chef: Just like druids, the idea of hunting and preparing your meals is a huge flavor win for rangers. While you might not benefit as much from the stat bonuses, your temp HP beef jerky can probably save your bacon in a critical moment.
- Crossbow Expert: This can provide a ton of damage for any DEX-based class. The ranger’s hunter’s mark makes this even more effective. This is a great pick-up even before you max your DEX.
- Crusher: I don’t think most rangers will care much about this feat, as it isn’t in their wheelhouse. The push can help get them in and out of melee range, but it isn’t as effective with any particular ranger build.
- Defensive Duelist: Most rangers focus on DEX, so this feat is an option. However, most ranger subclasses offer a defensive option that is usually much better for them than this feat.
- Dual Wielder: Taking Two-Weapon Fighting with this makes the build somewhat viable.
- Eldritch Adept: While rangers can find use in some of these utility spells, they don’t impact any aspect of gameplay beyond utility. Like druids, if they choose Beast Speech, it’s a flavor win but not an essential part of the ranger class.
- Elemental Adept: Skip. You won’t be dealing much elemental damage no matter what build you go for. Rangers mainly deal with weapons, and those often don’t get elemental damage.
- Elven Accuracy: Dex is essential for most rangers, which works with this feat. While subclasses outside of Beast Master may not get a lot of advantage, you can at least get plenty of use when it does come up.
- Fey Teleportation: Some subclasses already get misty step, paired with the fact that neither of these stats benefits you at all, makes this feat a pass. Fey Touched is still a better feat if you need mobility, and it can actually give you WIS for spellcasting.
- Fey Touched: Misty step is a solid spell for rangers and the WIS can be used to buff your spellcasting modifier. As for 1st-level spells, you could go for a free casting of hunter's mark but that's not particularly exciting. There are some interesting Enchantment and Divination spells that could add utility to a ranger, like animal friendship or beast bond.
- Fighting Initiate: Like paladins, this overlaps with the selection rangers begin with, but unlike them, there aren’t a lot of benefits from an additional Fighting Style outside of Archery for those that only use bows. Melee rangers who want to sword-and-board might want this, but that's it.
- Great Weapon Master: Most rangers won’t get a lot out of this feat. Yes, they can use Heavy weapons, but they don’t have any incentive to do so. STR-based melee rangers using Heavy weapons will certainly see a substantial benefit from this feat, but they are quite uncommon.
- Gunner: This feat actually mixes really well with the ranger class, as you can assume from the hybrid melee/ranged DEX builds. Combining this with the Beast Master, you can get an extra advantage from your beast for some serious damage.
- Heavily Armored: Decent option to boost your AC if you find some mithril plate lying around. You definitely don’t want to sacrifice your stealth for this though.
- Keen Mind: Nothing here for a ranger. Unless you want to lean heavily into a survivalist that always knows which way is north and when the sun is coming up and going down.
- Lightly Armored: Already has access to light armor at the start.
- Lucky: Lucky is a feat that is useful to any character but martials can make especially good use of it.
- Mage Slayer: Most rangers find themselves in between melee and ranged combat, making this feat tough to recommend. If you plan to stay in mostly melee, it's a good pick. Otherwise, it's underwhelming.
- Magic Initiate: Most rangers will appreciate the utility offered here, as rangers don’t get a lot of offensive spellcasting in most cases. However, you’re better off sticking to druid spells so you can use your Wisdom modifier. Otherwise, you might not get a lot of benefits from the spells you pick.
- Metamagic Adept: While they get a few spells, rangers are typically only using theirs for utility or hunter’s mark, making this just okay. Most rangers will not be casting many spells anyway, and adding metamagic won’t improve it by much, making it average at best. You could use this feat to buff your hunter's mark by extending its duration or doubling the targets, but it's not really worth it.
- Mobile: Some rangers might like this, depending on your playstyle. I wouldn’t say it's essential, but it’s nice to have if you wanna be a melee combatant.
- Mounted Combatant: If you are a small creature (halfling or gnome) and take the Beast Master archetype, you can make your companion a bit more defensively inclined. You likely won’t get to use the advantage on melee attacks a whole lot because your companion is limited to a Medium creature.
- Observant: This feat works excellent for rangers if you want to be a little more flexible and ultra-aware. The extra WIS helps for spellcasting, and the skill bonuses let you be in control of every room you walk into.
- Piercer: Ranged rangers rejoice! This works incredibly well with bows and crossbows, making it fantastic for them. STR rangers need not apply here.
- Poisoner: Rangers who want to act like rogues can pick this up. Since it works for melee and ranged, it blends well with the ranger hybrid style. Obviously, this will compete with hunter's mark for your bonus action slot. But, once hunter's mark is set up, it can be a valuable source of extra damage and debuff.
- Polearm Master: Melee-focused rangers can find some use for Polarm Master, especially with Favored Foe from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Most rangers will forgo the Polearm Master’s bonus action in favor of Hunter’s Mark when needed, as they are both bonus actions.
- Resilient: If you are going to be in combat, you need to make sure your hunter’s mark stays active when you get hit. Advantage on CON checks helps your concentration checks immensely.
- Sentinel: Some might like this if they prefer to be in melee range, but it’s not a do-or-die pick. They can get plenty of use from this feat and it works well with the extra damage from hunter's mark, but overall it doesn’t add much to the class to make it a perfect pair.
- Shadow Touched: Because of the tendency to be the scout for a party, this feat is great for most rangers. A free casting of invisibility will go a long way to making sure they are undetected and the ASI to WIS and extra 1st-level spell is gravy. Most rangers can use this for all kinds of utility unless they’re dedicated to melee combat only.
- Sharpshooter: Ranged attacking is already a very powerful mechanic. Sharpshooter provides a ton of extra versatility to ranged attacks and can net some huge damage, especially combined with the number of attacks Hunter rangers can get. Take this as soon as you max your DEX.
- Shield Master: STR-based melee rangers will find plenty of use for Shield Master because of the Evasion-esque feature combined with the ability to shove their opponents with a bonus action. DEX-based melee rangers will enjoy the extra buffs to DEX saving throws, but likely will have trouble shoving their opponents as a bonus action. DEX-based ranged rangers have very little use for this feat because most ranged weapons are two-handed.
- Skill Expert: This helps rangers specialize in a specific area, like Survival, Nature, Perception, or Stealth, which is excellent as they are pretty flexible in what they can offer a party. It is not the first choice, but handy.
- Skulker: The ultimate archer class; these are excellent picks if you want to go for a stealthy character. Gloom Stalker, in particular, would benefit the most from this; it pairs perfectly with this style of play
- Slasher: Monks can use this pretty well, just like Fighters. However, I think Kensei monks will find the most use out of it.
- Spell Sniper: Can get you access to produce flame or thorn whip but rangers are usually better off with Sharpshooter.
- Tavern Brawler: While you could multiclass into fighter or grab Fighting Initiate for Unarmed Fighting, there are likely no benefits to a ranger grappler build.
- Telekinetic: Rangers don't get access to mage hand and don't normally have a use for this bonus action. Combined with ASI to WIS and Telekinetic offers some decent value.
- Tough: Typical rangers that are stacked in DEX and use ranged weapons likely won't need Tough as they can do a good job of avoiding damage by staying away from enemies. Melee rangers may want the added survivability the extra hit points provide.
- War Caster: Rangers can certainly use War Caster. Based on the spells they choose, they might see a decent buff from this feat. They’re pretty likely to have their hands full, and concentration helps with some of their better spells. However, if you’re choosing to be in the backlines, it’s not as worth it.
Best Spells for Ranger
- Absorb Elements: One of the best defensive spells at this level, especially for protecting against elemental AoE effects.
- 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.
- Animal Friendship: This will likely get you out of at least one low-level beast encounter.
- Cure Wounds: Healing is important so pick it up if you think you’ll need it.
- 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.
- 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.
- Fog Cloud: Obscuring an area can be better than it sounds. While inside the fog cloud, creatures are effectively blinded so make sure you use the spell in a way that makes it advantageous.
- Goodberry: Not particularly useful in combat but if you make goodberries at the end of each day you will have a solid pool of healing to pull from. This spell also have the con—or pro, depending on how you look at it—of completely trivializing the need to find food while navigating the wilderness as long as you an in an environment with berries, or remember to prepare ahead.
- Hail of Thorns: A 1st-level spell slot for a 1d10 AoE can be worth it if you can catch another creature or two within the 5ft radius. As an added bonus, you're still able to inflict the damage from your ranged attack. The worst-case scenario for this spell would be to cast it on your turn, miss your attacks, then get hit and lose concentration before you can get activate the effect. Make sure you don't have any enemies barrelling toward you when casting this spell.
- Hunter’s Mark: THE Ranger spell. It gives you extra damage and some nice tracking abilities.
- Jump: Tripling a creature's jump distance isn't usually worth a 1st level spell slot.
- Longstrider: An extra 10 feet of movement is noticeable, especially since this spell lasts for an hour so you can use the buff before you find yourself in a battle or travel long distances in a short time.
- Snare: Way too many hoops to jump through and downsides to be worthwhile. If you manage to pull it off despite the long casting time and the terrible AoE, a trapped creature can easily find themselves in a bad situation. Having to make the escape saving throw at disadvantage will not be pretty.
- Speak with Animals: Its effectiveness is limited but do you really want to be a ranger that can’t talk with animals?
- Zephyr Strike: For a 1st-level spell slot you get advantage on one weapon attack, an extra 1d8 if the attack lands, and the ability to move without provoking opportunity attacks, and 30ft of additional movement. None of these effects on their own is worth a 1st-level spell slot, but all together offers a potent ability to strategically navigate the battlefield for both ranged and melee rangers. Unfortunately, if your advantaged attack misses, you don't get the extra 1d8, even if you hit while still concentrating on the spell. That said, you don't provoke opportunity attacks for the entire duration, which can help with disengaging from a particularly motivated enemy, if needed.
- Animal Messenger: This has a lot of caveats. If you have someone in your party with sending you will never need this.
- Barkskin: Not worth a ranger’s spell slot because they have medium armor proficiencies and are usually stacked into DEX.
- Beast Sense: This does not have a ton of uses, especially because you can't control what the beast does or where it goes.
- Cordon of Arrows: 4d6 damage is just not that impressive for a 2nd-level spell. A much more effective battlefield control spell is spike growth.
- Darkvision: Essential if you or party members don’t have natural Darkvision and want to navigate without a torch. At a 2nd-level spell slot, the cost for this effect is quite steep.
- Find Traps: Reveals the presence of traps but not their exact location. Definitely not the best use of a spell slot.
- Healing Spirit: Decent value for in combat healing if you're able to maintain concentration. Outside of combat, this can equate to 6d6 of healing–as long as you have a +5 WIS modifier–in just under a minute which is amazing value for a 2nd-level 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 Animals or Plants: Extremely situational spell. So much so that it will likely not see use in an entire campaign.
- 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.
- Pass without Trace: If you are infiltrating an area with your party that you are unwelcome, the +10 bonus to Stealth is massive.
- 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.
- Silence: Silence is a niche spell with a high ceiling. It can be used in stealth scenarios but it’s most powerful usage is if you can target a caster who won’t be able to cast spells requiring a verbal component. Of course, it’s only a 20ft radius so you will either need to be fighting in close quarters or will need to find a way to prevent the caster from moving.
- Spike Growth: Moderately good crowd control or can be used to stage an ambush because it is camouflaged.
- Summon Beast: Great for summoning an ally that can improve your party’s action economy and fly. Not much worth upcasting past 2nd-level.
- Conjure Animals: Conjure animals can greatly improve your action economy in a fight by giving you more allies to attack with in a turn. It is also extremely useful as a way to divert damage from party members. If your DM is friendly they may even let you summon an animal that could help you achieve your goal (like a flying creature to get something from up high), although they won’t be obligated to give you the creature you want.
- Conjure Barrage: Does roughly half the damage of fireball for the same level spell slot. Can be good if you can catch twice as many enemies in the larger radius, but it won’t happen often. A slightly disappointing spell that can still make the cut if you don't have other ways of doing big AoE damage.
- 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.
- Flame Arrows: You will never be using this spell as a ranger because you have hunter's mark.
- Lightning Arrow: 4d8 single target damage plus 2d8 AoE damage is alright but is vastly outshone by either the summons available at this spell slot level. This spell is quite equatable to conjure barrage and can be interchanged based on the battlefield's layout.
- 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.
- 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.
- Speak with Plants: The flavor is spot on with this spell, it just doesn’t have that many uses.
- Summon Fey: Easily one of the best Summon options from TCoE. Teleportation every round accompanied with advantage on at least one attack per round and decent damage. This one is actually worth upcasting in certain circumstances.
- Water Breathing: This is almost required for enabling underwater traversal, which may or may not happen a lot in a campaign.
- Water Walk: This is likely not to see use in an entire campaign.
- Wind Wall: Useful against lots of archers, swarms of flying enemies, or against deadly fog. Other than that the damage is pretty bad.
- Conjure Woodland Beings: Pretty much the same as conjure minor elementals, but fey have some distinguishing effects from elementals.
- 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.
- Grasping Vine: Only really works if you can pull the creature into something that is actually going to hurt it.
- Guardian of Nature: Can be beneficial for STR builds, like a melee ranger or Circle of the Moon druid, because it essentially acts as a hunter's mark with the added upside of advantage on all attacks, extra movement, and darkvision. For ranged builds, getting advantage to your attacks will enable more potential for crits and the advantage on CON saving throws can help with concentration. The difficult terrain aura will help with enemies who are looking to approach. Either way you swing it, this is a decent value for a 4th-level spell slot and concentration but probably has more value for STR builds.
- Locate Creature: More thorough than locate animals or plants, and can be used to find people. It’s still pretty situational.
- 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.
- Summon Elemental: Tankier than the fey summon because of the damage resistances but does less damage. Still a great option, just depends on what you're looking for.
- Commune with Nature: Can be useful for roleplay and story progression.
- Conjure Volley: About as good as your AoE will get as a ranger. The versatility of being able to hit flying creatures as well as creatures on the ground is a nice added bonus.
- Swift Quiver: Being able to make two extra attacks a bonus action is quite strong for ranged rangers, especially if you have picked up the Sharpshooter feat. Unfortunately, this spell can be used in conjuncation with hunter's mark but the huge bonus to your action economy makes it worth it.
- 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.
- Wrath of Nature: If you find yourself in an environment that has rocks, trees, and grass, this spell provides a huge amount of action economy. A passive that makes it harder for enemies to navigate around, a free AoE at the start of your turn, a free Restrained effect at the end of your turn, and a bonus action ranged attack. In common cases, you will be able to use the Restrained effect and the ranged attack (seeing as rocks are everywhere in high fantasy settings).
Sources Used in This Guide
- BR: Basic Rules
- 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
- 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
One thought on “Ranger”
I want to add an additional comment for why Dhampir’s are a great choice for melee Rangers: health regained and bonus to ability checks equal the PIERCING damage that the bite deals. Since hunter’s mark deals an extra D6 of the same type of damage that the attack would normally do, you’re essentially adding a D6 to either your health re-gained or ability or attack roll benefit that you get from it. I think Hunter’s Mark is the only spell that synergizes with Vamiric bit in this way.