The DnD 5e Ranger Guide (2022)

Published on June 18, 2020, Last modified on May 19th, 2022

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.

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What is this guide?

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.

There has been so much talk about this that Unearthed Arcana actually released a Revised Ranger to address some of the concerns with the class. This new version of the ranger  hasn’t been published in any materials but it is commonly included at tables despite the fact that is it still in “playtest” mode. We will address the Revised Ranger in a later article.

Level Proficiency
Bonus
Features Spells
Known
Spell Slots per Spell Level
1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
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
5th +3 Extra Attack 4 4 2
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
9th +4 6 4 3 2
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
13th +5 8 4 3 3 1
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
17th +6 10 4 3 3 3 1
18th +6 Feral Senses 10 4 3 3 3 1
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement 11 4 3 3 3 2
20th +6 Foe Slayer 11 4 3 3 3 2

Playstyle

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.

Strengths

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.

Weaknesses

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

Standard Races

Dragonborn:
  • 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.
Dwarf: +2 CON and Darkvision are nice.
  • 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.
Elf: +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 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.
Gnome: INT is useless for a ranger.
Half-Elf: The CHA bonus is largely unproductive for Rangers, but increasing two ability scores by 1 allows you to boost WIS and STR/DEX to create a rather well-rounded character. Advantage on saving throws against being charmed and immunity to being put to sleep is nice. The +2 WIS bonus offered by the Mark of the Detection subrace is very tempting for rangers as it is not offered by many other races. The spells are an added bonus to the Ranger's limited spell list.
Half-Orc: No WIS or DEX for rangers which is typically where they want to be. However, half-orcs are a great choice for STR-based rangers.
Halfling: +2 DEX and +1 WIS is the ideal starting array for Rangers. Lucky will help you with your attacks and you can ride your beast master companion into battle as long as it's a medium creature or larger.
Human:
  • 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.
Tiefling: Look for subraces with DEX or use the Feral variant.
  • 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.

Non-Standard Races

Aarakocra: Perfect racial bonuses and flight make this an ideal race for a ranger.
Aasimar: No DEX will make this tough for rangers.
Bugbear: Nothing here for a ranger.
Centaur: Viable for that elusive STR-based melee ranger, but won't be a good choice otherwise.
Changeling: DEX is the only choice for the free ability score increase. The CHA is largely wasted and will just make your Ranger feel like a budget Rogue.
Fairy: Access to additional spells and flight can make a decent ranger. Unfortunately, you won't be able to reliably use a longbow which can certainly impact your damage output.
Firbolg: This is a great choice for rangers, because of the racial bonuses. Most rangers prefer DEX to STR as ranged combat is their forte.
Genasi:
  • 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.
Gith: INT is useless for a ranger.
  • 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.
Goblin: Goblins are a great choice for rangers. The DEX and CON ASI spread is second only to races with DEX and WIS. The goblin’s racial traits all increase the effectiveness of the class.
Goliath: Rangers are typically bow users, and melee ranger builds would likely prefer finesse weapons.
Harengon: Rangers likely won't see a ton of benefits here, beyond the free Perception proficiency and some extra movement from Rabbit Hop.
Hobgoblin: Rangers need DEX to be effective.
Kalashtar: Rangers do most of their damage with weapons, so the WIS doesn’t help too much in that regard. STR or DEX is very important for this class.
Kenku: Like the monk, DEX and WIS are exactly what the ranger is looking for. With the kenku’s racial traits, the ranger can close the gap between themselves and stealthy rogues.
Kobold: DEX is an important stat for rangers, and will work well with Pack Tactics. A WIS bonus here would have made this an ideal choice for the ranger.
Leonin: Nothing here for a ranged ranger. Melee rangers can make use of the Daunting Roar if they get their CON high enough.
Lineage:
  • 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: If your paladin doesn't already use a lot of concentration spells, hex is an insanely good value spell to help boost your damage. The utility from disguise self and the Eerie Token effects is a cherry on the cake.
Lizardfolk: A lizardfolk ranger will have a bit of a slow start without DEX to start off, but the added survivability should serve you well until you get some ability score increases under your belt. WIS is nice to see for spellcasting.
Loxodon: CON and WIS both are useful to a ranger, although most Rangers like to see DEX for their finesse or ranged weapons. With a high DEX score, you will likely wear armor and ignore Natural Armor. As a STR ranger, you can instead dump DEX and use Natural Armor.
Minotaur: Minotaurs aren’t a bad choice for STR-based rangers, although there are better options out there with WIS bonuses. DEX rangers should look elsewhere.
Orc: If you’re up for the challenge, rangers can be built as melee STR-based characters. Keep in mind that they will never be as powerful as the DEX variations.
Satyr: Extra movement and Magic Resistance can help mitigate only getting a +1 to DEX.
Shifter:
  • 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.
Simic Hybrid: DEX is likely the choice here and will make the character stronger overall than WIS. Rangers can struggle with hit points due to their meager hit dice, making the CON bonus very useful. Nimble Climber and Carapace are the likely go-to Animal Enhancements for ranger builds.
Tabaxi: DEX is an important stat for rangers, but rangers would much rather see WIS or CON as a secondary ability score increase. The added mobility and free skills do compliment rangers, so this is a middle of the road pick.
Tortle: A STR-based melee ranger will do really well with a tortle. You can largely ignore DEX because of Natural Armor, and tortles even have a mild boost to WIS for spellcasting.
Triton: Tritons aren’t a bad choice for STR-based rangers, although there are better options out there with WIS bonuses. DEX rangers should look elsewhere.
Vedalken: Rangers do most of their damage with weapons, so the WIS doesn’t help too much in that regard. STR or DEX is very important for this class.
Warforged: There is nothing truly exciting about a warforged ranger, but every racial trait is beneficial.
Yuan-ti Pureblood: Rangers need DEX or WIS to be effective.

Backgrounds

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 Scores

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

1st Level

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.

2nd Level

Fighting Style:

  • 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.
  • Defense: +1 to AC isn’t overly exciting but seeing as AC is hard to scale it can make a difference in the early and long game.
  • Dueling: Being able to wield a shield while dealing close to two-handed weapon damage is a very, very tempting option.
  • 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.

3rd Level

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.

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.

Beast Master

  • 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.
  • 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.

Gloom Stalker

Check out our Gloom Stalker 5e Guide for build optimization tips.

Horizon Walker

Check out our Horizon Walker 5e Guide for build optimization tips.

Hunter

  • 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
    • Multiattack
      • 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.

Monster Slayer

  • 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.

5th Level

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.

8th Level

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.

10th Level

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.

14th Level

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.

18th Level

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.

20th Level

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, especially Gloom Stalkers, like to go first in Initiative.
  • 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.
  • Defensive Duelist: If you are going for a melee build, this can help reduce damage.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Lucky: Lucky is a feat that is useful to any character but martials can make especially good use of it.
  • Magic Initiate: This feat is a good choice if you pick wizard as the class that you can draw spells from. The tried and tested find familiar as your 1st level spell lets you deliver touch spells and give Help actions to players.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

1st level

  • 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?

2nd level

  • 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.

3rd 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.

4th level

  • 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.

5th level

  • 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

Mike Bernier

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

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