Variant Guide 5e

Published on April 26, 2022, Last modified on May 16th, 2022

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the variant will be right for your 5e character build.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your variant. 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.

  • Black is a trait shared by many races and or will not impact the effectiveness of your character build
  • 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

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Update

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has added the "Customizing Your Origin" option that may affect the ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies in this guide. To read more about this, visit our D&D Race Guide.

Many believe that the variant human is the best race in all of D&D 5e, and we tend to agree. Variant humans get ultimate flexibility in their ability score increases, a free skill proficiency, and a feat at 1st level. This makes them one of, if not the best option for nearly every build because they are completely customizable.

Ability Score Increase: Most races get three total ability score increases, but the variant human only gets two. The upside here is that you may assign them however you like, as long as they are two different ability scores. This means that every class will be able to choose the best ability scores for their purposes.

Skills: Typically, racial features that give you a choice of a skill proficiencies let you choose from a short list. The variant human lets you pick any skill you want, ensuring that the skill is never wasted because you can choose a skill that your character will actually be able to use effectively.

Feat: Getting a free feat at 1st level is very powerful and is unique to the variant human. Certain builds require one or more feats to work, so getting it early and not having to sacrifice an ASI on a level up helps tremendously. Even builds that don’t necessarily need a feat will always find something interesting to complement the character.

What are Variant in 5e?

Source: Player's Handbook

Which 5e Classes Work With Variant?

Artificer: Variant humans are usually good, and this is no exception for artificers. Variant humans can boost their INT and DEX/CON and also get a free feat. Depending on your feat of choice, you should be able to pick up another +1 INT at level 1.

Barbarian: Variant humans are usually good, and this is no exception for barbarians. Variant humans can boost their STR and CON and also get a free feat like Tavern Brawler, Charger, or Great Weapon Master.

Bard: Getting bonus CHA plus a proficiency and a feat at first level is typically pretty good. Feats aren’t great for bards that aren’t going to run with the College of Valor or Swords, which makes this choice a bit less appealing if you do not plan on going for that option and picking up the War Caster feat.

Cleric: Variant human clerics will be able to take WIS and either STR, DEX, or CON, while having access to useful feats like War Caster or Healer.

Druid: Increased WIS and a feat at 1st level. Great for picking up the Shadow or Fey Touched feat or something like War Caster for a Circle of the Moon druid.

Fighter: Variant humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for all types of fighters.

Monk: You can increase your DEX, WIS, and CON scores as you see fit. Also, having a feat at 1st-level is really powerful, especially because monks usually want to take ASI over feats when they level up.

Paladin: Variant humans get a bonus to two ability scores of their choice and an extra feat, both of which are wicked for paladins.

Ranger: 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.

Rogue: Variant humans are a good choice, but try to pick a passive feat like Skulker as rogues already have good uses for their bonus action and reaction.

Sorcerer: Getting CHA plus a proficiency and a feat at 1st-level is typically really good. Picking up Shadow Touched or Fey Touched is a great way to get extra spells at 1st-level.

Warlock: Getting CHA plus a proficiency and a feat at 1st-level is typically really good. Picking up Shadow Touched or Fey Touched is a great way to get extra spells at 1st-level.

Wizard: Getting INT plus a proficiency and a feat at 1st-level is typically really good. Picking up Shadow Touched or Fey Touched is a great way to get extra spells at 1st-level. Bladesingers would really enjoy the free feat for something like Mobile, Spell Sniper, or War Caster.

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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