Class Tier List 2.0, SCAG+ Xanathars

Zardnaar

Hero
I will be going through the archetypes from these two books and putting them into a tier list. Some slight changes from last time I will be using S tier and A,B,C,D as tier 1-4 is used to describe levels of play in 5E.

The archetypes will also be rated on how good they are in the exploration, combat and social pillars with a roughly 30% rating in each of them but 40% in the combat pillar which lets face it most class discussions revolve around. Utility will also be considered.

Sometimes exceptions do exist, I rated the battlemaster very high last time around as its so front loaded at low levels. In the combat pillar I use a sword and board fighter or a Rogue as a default.

I will also make the following assumptions.

1. A reasonable amount of character optimization. This means an archer probably takes the sharpshooter feat, a warlock probably takes eldritch blast. Uber feat combos and multiclassing are not considered but such builds can definitely move things up. Feat combos generally won't be considered.

2. Feats are used.

3. 6-8 encounters are used along with 2 short rests a'la the default expectation of 5E

4. Default array is used.

This is mostly to set a baseline. Obviously if you use rolled stats and roll high that will make a big difference with some classes. I may make a note of this in the review ie bump it up a tier if you have uber stats as some archetypes are way more MAD than others. Those classes tend to be spellcasting classes that have a warrior type expectation built into them but can only wear medium armor eg valor bards, death clerics.

The difference between S and A is also not that much. For example a high level wizard might be S tier while another is A tier. That doesn't imply the class is weak just the archetype in S is better than the one in A. Other archetypes may also be rated differently as its very very difficult to state what one is truly different. For example a life cleric might be S tier while a invoker wizard is A tier for example. Both are very good classes but its really hard to say what one is better due to what they're good at and its not like a life cleric or invoker are going to duke it out one on one and in any event its a crap way of judging a class.

The archetypes will also be rated on the tiers- local heroes (1-4), Heroes of the Realm (5-10), Masters of the Realm (11-16), Masters of the World (17-20)

As an overall guide to class power I also rate level 1-10 far higher than level 11-20. This is a guideline only YMMV based on a variety of factors which no guide can ever really account for or just how you value the pillars. I rated combat higher as its fairly easy to judge.

I'll probably go through SCAG and Xanathars in order, but I can do requests. I'll also do it by the tiers in game so the archetypes will be rated in local heroes first.
 
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Zardnaar

Hero
Local Heroes (Level 1-4)

Barbarian- Ancestral Guardian

This one is fairly simple to evaluate. While raging when you hit something it gets disadvantage to hit you. Ultimately limited by how much you get to rage. Still D tier however as you just don't get to rage that often at low level short of 5MWD situations.

Barbarian- Battlerager
So far the path of the totem warrior is the barbarian MVP so far. The battlerager looks decent on paper as it deals more damage without the drawbacks of the Berzerker. It is reliant however on spiked armor. Functionally spiked armor is very cheap breastplate but you probably won't be able to afford it at level 1. Its AC is also lower than the best medium armor you can buy. You also kind of have to be a Dwarf which lets face it is perfectly fine for this archetype. DMs discretion for non Dwarves.

I'm not a fan overall of this archetype and even in the combat pillar I have my doubts and the class is heavily based around that. You're probably nor going to find a magical set of spiked armor in any published adventure (DM fiat), and at these levels its a bonus action 1d4+ strength modifier extra attack which is great. Still if you want to play a grappler its another option. Overall I am going to put it in the D tier. Its a barbarian with a bonus action attack reliant on its armor and you have to use inferior armor in the long run.

Barbarian Path of the Totem Warrior
just a few more options here to pick from, still probably MVP of the Barbarians IMHO C tier.

Barbarian- Storm Herald.
Its a barbarian with an aura effect when you rage. More damage or more HP to allies. Its cute but once again limited by the amount you can rage. D tier like most of the Barbarians going up to C I suppose if you 5MWD it.

Barbarian- Zealot
Recurring theme here with all of these new Barbarians. More damage. Barbarians raging are tough as guts but share similar problems to the fighter with bigger spikes than the fighter when they rage. At least they start to diversify more in the next tier. D tier for much the same reasons as every other Barbarians and Rangers and Paladins are a bit better in the other pillars while dealing similar damage.

Bard-College of Glamour
This bard seems to be easy to compare to say the lore bard in the PHB. This subclass doubles down on the support/face roll bards are usually associated with. Mantle of Inspiration lets you grant temporary hit points to allies and they can use their reaction to move.Enthralling performance lets you charm an audience so supports the social pillar. Since 5E bards are a primary spellcaster, get a few more resources than the other spellcasters and have more class features piled on top they tend to be great. While not quite as good as a Lore Bard IMHO this one is close at these levels. A tier.

Bard-College of Swords
There has been a fair amount of power creep in SCAG and Xanathars in regards to gish type classes as the PHB ones were a bit of a failed concept. This subclass grants you medium armor a weapon style, and things to do with your bard dice via Blade Flourish that later on refresh on a short rest. This archetype IMHO completely obsoletes the Valor Bard in the PHB unless you are hell bent on using a shield. All bards are good to some extent they are still a primary caster that are useful to have around plus bard dice, song of rest, expertise etc. Overall I would rate this a high B tier class as it still suffers from the MAD problems all gishes in medium armor suffer from using the default array. If you roll stats and roll high you can kick this one up to A or maybe even S tier. Its damage will creep up from meh range to something that is not embarrassing between the weapon style and bard dice "smite" mechanics.

Bard- College of Whispers
This might be another failed concept type bard similar to the Valor Bard. At these levels it gains two abilities- Psychic Blade which let you deal more damage with bard dice that is psychic and words of terror. Words of terror is more or less an out of combat ability that frightens the target which is mostly applicable in combat.

Psychic blades despite its name is best used on a ranged weapon and adds a decent amount of psychic damage to the attack and could be stacked with with the SCAG gish cantrips. Overall its just an odd two abilities that probably aren't as good in either pillar the bards trying to be decent at. It doesn't get any better anytime soon either. Still could be useful multiclassed probably with fighter or hexblade. Its a low B tier class you're still a Bard but yeah.

Cleric-Arcana Domain

The arcana cleric is a great little cleric IMHO but it suffers from the same problems most low level spellcasters suffer from- a lack of spell slots. Its class abilities let it turn outsiders (rare/useless at these levels YMMV) so for the most part its 2 wizard cantrips and some wizard spells prepared. This clerics makes a fairly decent primary spellcaster and has potential in melee combat due to being able to pick up spells like booming blade and greenflame blade and keying them off wisdom.

With higher stats or default human picking up shillelagh can also make it surprisingly good at melee combat but its a bit early in its career to excel much at that. This cleric regardless of how you play it ramps up later in its career but for now its a D. Its not particularly good at anything (healing, utility, damage, blasting etc) relative to the other clerics or the other classes.

Cleric Forge Domain
Generally I believe the cleric is best played as a primary caster/support rather than trying to be a bad fighter. Generally. This domain is one of those exceptions to every rule type thing and if you want to be a tank look no further. This class also switches on at around level 2. At this tier you pick up heavy armor and smiths tools proficiency and blessing of the forge which functionally gives you +1 armor or a weapon at level 1. Its channel divinity is also very interesting/fun but is really only good in those situations where you need to acquire something now and cant make it back to town. It also has some nice domain spells.

So I'm going to put this cleric in tier B. You're still a low level cleric with a limited amount of spell slots and one can compare this with the college of swords for example for another type of Gish and this one has the same MAD issues as most non Paladin gish types.. There is a very specific build with the heavy armor feat that combined with higher rolled stats that could kick this up to A tier. This Cleric however scales very well and only gets better....

Cleric Grave Domain
Right away you notice that this cleric doesn't gain any martial weapons or heavy armor. IMHO this means play it as a primary caster/support type cleric. At low level you are still going to be limited by the amount of spell slots you get and what your channel divinity does. You get several abilities here all of which are useful to some extent.

Circle of Mortality maximizes the dice you roll for healing which lets face it probably means healing word or maybe prayer of healing in a pinch. You also get spare the dying boosted up to a 30'range and bonus action which is great for stopping people bleeding out. You can also use eyes of the grave to detect undead out to 60'. Since total cover blocks it odds are you can probably see any undead at that range or they can see you if you can't so how useful it is is situational both on if undead are there and if using this ability will actually matter- its a bit meh.

Your channel divinity is interesting. You use it on a target and another creature gains vulnerability the next time an ally hits it. However you give up an action to use it so the opportunity cost is high and the double damage thing looks a lot less useful in that regard. Still good but not as good as you probably think it is. The grave cleric is still useful to have around but most of its abilities aren't really that exciting and other clerics do it better and due to the limited spell slots I have trouble rating this higher than D. Heaps of flavor but most of not all of the PHB clerics are better early on.

Druid-Circle of Dreams
Very easy to rate this one you only get one ability- balm of the summer court. This is the healer Druid thing and between the balm of the summer court ability and new spells like Healing Spirit the life cleric has probably lost its niche as best healer in 5E. Although you can splash a single level of life cleric onto this thing as well. Druids also tend to have some useful exploration pillar abilities as well such as spells, wildshape, cantrips etc.

Balm of the summer court gives you something very close to an extra healing word per level as it grants you 1d6 bonus action healing plus a temporary hit point in effect enabling whack a more healing but without having to use your precious spell slots. Since Druids tend to have better blasting spells than a cleric and have very good cantrips including guidance this is a good option for someone who doesn't want to be reduced to healbot when combined with healing spirit. So its a primary caster that at low level gets more resources to use than a lot of casters and those resources like bard dice are useful on top of a basic chasis which is good. I'm going to rate this as a B tier class which is quite good for a low level primary spellcaster.

Circle of The Shepard
This archetype early on is about utility and a bit of help in the exploration pillar. Its more or less the summoning druid. Healer, summoning, beatstick/tank, and spellcaster are the basic Druid archetypes now.
You pick up some languages and utility vs the 3 types of spirits you can summon. The spirits lean heavily into the support type role, extra hit points, advantage on attack rolls (its better than faerie fire no save+ other stuff), or skill checks+ healing. Early days and this archetype gets better but I like low level spellcasters that get additional resources as it helps negate the low levels of spells you have at low level. I like this archetype and will give it a B and it gets better later as well on top of being a primary caster.

Fighter- Xanathars
I'm going to cheat here and lmp all of these fighters together as I'm going to get sick of repeating the same thing over and over. Every fighter in 5E has the same problem. Its all in on the combat pillar of the game but isn't that much (if at all better) than say a Ranger or Paladin. Rangers and Paladins do other things and the fighter gets better at higher level but its a long long way away. In a feat less game the fighter also suffers.

All 3 of these fighters are slightly better than the PHB ones outside combat as they all get an extra skill at level 3. They're all decent enough at combat in different ways and they diverge a bit later on. If you like fighters they're all fine in the combat pillar as long as you are happy to play whatever they are trying to do. For example don't play an arcane archer if you don't want to be an archer. Overall a D really. They don't suck as such but they're a fighter. And at this tier its debatable if they're even that good at combat relative to Barbarians/Rangers/Paladins.

Fighter- Purple Dragon Knight
Its a fighter that can heal a minute amount of damage when it second wind. Its a fighter with a very minor utility ability that is limited in use.....

E tier.

Its a failed concept IMHO and can hang out with the Elemental Monk, and Beastmaster Ranger. Its not outright awful as such but yeah.

Monk Drunken Master
The base Monk is a very good monk to build off and Ilike the Drunken master a bit at level 1-4. You pick up a bonus skill and tool proficiency, and the Drunken Technique. The Drunken technique lets you use flurry of blows plus the disengage action. Monks can be fairly mobile but they often have to give up there flurry of blows to do it and flurry compares well to action surge at low levels. As an added bonus your speed increases by 10' as well. Highly mobile skirmisher, more skills, base monk chassis its a great package. Overall a B rating.

Monk- Way of the Kensai
The Kensai grants you two weapons that can be used as a monk. This means you can pick up a longbow that most Monks can't use (Elves can) which shores up a monk weakness (ranged attacks) and you can also pick up a longsword which is a d10 versatile weapon which is a lot better than a staff or spears d8 and magic longswords are fairly common.

Agile parry grants you +2 AC while you use a Kensai weapon which means your martial weapons (probably a longsword or something similar) grants you +2 AC. This will get your AC up into heavy armor territory probably around 17 or 18. Not bad for level 1-4. Kensai shot is an expensive amount of ki points to deal extra damage with your short bow or longbow but its better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Finally you gain proficiency with calligraphers or painters supplies.

Hmmmn. I think you can see where this is going. Its a B, would have been an A but you will suffer a bit from a lack of ki points this early on.

Monk- Way of the Long Death

I quite like 5E monks in general and this one is probably the 2nd best one after the Way of the Open Hand Monk. Monks are generally competitive with Fighters and Rogues in terms of damage and while they have few abilities related to the other pillars due to dexterity and wisdom being key class attributes its a bit better in exploration. With low level adventures often containing monk type encounters its touch of death ability will likely fire often which makes them reasonably sticky. I'll be generous and make it a C tier due to the overall Monk package and a bit of utility (less healing likely required).

Monk Way of the Sun Soul
Comparisons to Dragonball Z, Streetfighter 2, and/or Airbender might be used here. Basically you get a ranged spell attack that deals damage equal to your unarmed strikes and in effect you can flurry with it. This ability counts as a spell. This doesn't so much make the Monk better but you suck a lot less in those situations where your weapons are useless due to range or resistance or immunity to non magical weapons.

This makes it very useful and those situations often happen fairly frequently. Its a low C or maybe a high D rating, its not quite as good as the other monks but you will hate your life less when it matters.

Paladin- Oath of Conquest
Is it possible to make a bad Paladin? Paladins do not drastically differ from each other early on the key differences being spells and channel divinity. Your spell list isn't to bad, and you can frighten opponents. Guided strike is more or less the war clerics +10 to hit ability, obvious combo with the great weapon master feat (+5 to hit, +10 damage). If you really need to land a hit this will more or less do it which means you can use smite if need be so it gives you some nova capability. Always useful. B tier, you're never bad, till a Paladin etc etc etc.

Paladin Oath of the Crown
Its a Paladin and Paladins are tuned fairly high in 5E in terms of power and can cast spells, heal, etc so pack a bit of utility and charisma is also a decent stat in 5E.

This archetype gets a bonus action group heal via channel divinity which is very useful in effect a mass healing word spell if the the party is below 50% hp. Or you can use your channel divinity to try and compel enemies to stay within 30' of you. Nothing to exciting on your Oath Spells.

Overall you're a baby Paladin, the aura isn't up yet but Paladins are always useful, charisma based, spells, smite, lay on hands etc low B tier.

Oath of Redemption
Less than exciting spells, sleep looks great but you won't be able to use it much before it obsoletes itself but its very good at the levels you can use it. Your channel divinity can be used for a +5 bonus to persuasion checks for the next 10 minutes, while rebuke the violent can use your reaction to mirror the damage an opponent deals to you back at them (save for half). That is a useful ability especially at high level if something like a giant hits you. Right now (level 1-4) this Paladin is a bit better than the others and has a social pillar use for its channel divinity so I'm going to rate this one an A.

Ranger
Can you say powercreep of the PHB rangers? Looks like they listened to the Ranger hate. Its really only the beast master that belongs in the D tier IMHO the hunter is up in B tier or so maybe a low A. Xanathars could also be Xanathars Guide to Powercreep IMHO and its not just these Rangers.

Ranger Gloom Stalker
The Gloomstalker gains two main abilities at these levels. Dread Ambusher and Unbral strike. They also get to add disguise self to their spell list. This class is also a prime example of the fighter issues in 5E. Dread Ambusher grants you a bonus to speed and initiative and an extra attack at the start of the combat in round 1. Additionally that extra attack if it hits deals an extra 1d8 points of damage. This is in any combat, a fighter gets to action surge 1/short rest although they can use it for movement I suppose. Free nova damage via an extra attack that always works unlike the situational hunter bonus damage/attack. And since its an extra attack you also get to benefit from the -5/+10 feats as well. And at these levels its functionally action surge on steroids. Plus you're a ranger with spells and exploration pillar abilities. It doesn't even use your bonus action so this extra attack also stacks with Hunters Quarry spell. You're probably outclassing the Paladin smiting here and can do it every combat.

Umbral Sight grants you darkvision or enhances it if you already have it.

Hmmmn. I can't see any reason not to rate this in the A tier. Might even be S tier its fairly bonkers and I have seen it in play as well. The hunter Ranger IMHO is best server being an archer, this one can go either way on melee or ranged IMHO.

Ranger -Horizon Walker
Once upon a time this was a 3.5 prestige class. You acquire protection from good and evil as a spell and Detect Portal or Planar Warrior. Detect portal is probably fantastic in the right sort of campaign (planar game/Planescape), probably fairly useless in most so its a YMMV ability.

The other ability is planar warrior. This ability is great in essence you get a extra damage effect as a bonus action similar to hunters quarry but it can't be interrupted via dmaage unlike hunters quarry and you don't really need that spell now. Its also a 1d8 instead of 1d6. As an added bonus all damage is now force damage which more or less negates resistance to non magical weapons etc. Not much in 5E is resistant/immune to force damage either. Compare with the situational damage the hunter gets in the PHB this ability is always on and never fails and deals force damage. Hunter can combines its bonus damage with hunters quarry though so its not strictly better. Minor downside of being shoirt range which isn't so bad if you;'re a melee character. No surprise I am going to rate this as A tier, might even be borderline S tier.

Ranger Monster Slayer
A decent class but its worse than the other 2 rangers in the same book at these levels. Bonus spells (same as Horizon Walker), hunters sense and slayers prey. Hunters sense uses an action and lets you read a critter giving you information immunities, resistances or vulnerabilities. Slayers prey functions as a non magical source of extra damage but doesn't play nice with the hunters quarry spell. Still its reliable relative to the hunter so it will be situational as to how good it is. B tier. Neat archetype if you want to call yourself Buffy.

Rogue Mastermind

The Mastermind is a great Rogue in the Local Hero tier and its also front loaded. On top of being a Rogue who isn't really bad at anything. You pick up two tool proficiency, a gaming set, and two languages.

Its MVP ability is Master of Tactics. This ability is always great, and its at will. Iy would be funny seeing two masterminds in the same party granting each other advantage. Everyone will love you and this ability is also very good with the -5/+10 feats. You're also a bit of skill monkey by default and since you're busy giving up your bonus action it pays to try and pick up green flame blade or booming blade via feat or perhaps high elf. Those cantrips are conveniently located in the same book.

This archetype gets a unique ability and is a great all rounder. It doesn't scale as well as the other Rogues but right now you're one of the best. I'm going to be generous and rate it an A tier.

Rogue- Swashbuckler

Smart Rogues should dual wield IMHO or find something else to do with their bonus action thats just as useful vs running around the map not achieving much. This is because dual wielding functions as pseudo advantage in terms of landing a sneak attack. Even vs low AC opponents its usually an extra 1d6 damage.

Well this archetype is for you. With fancy footwork you can negate attacks of opportunities vs anyone you attack and this also applies to off hand attacks. This means you don't have to use your bonus action to withdraw if you do want to hit and run.

Rakish Audacity also means you can sneak attack anyone you like within 5' of you regardless if an ally is present or if you have advantage. Remember those times you win initiative and have to gamble on landing a readied attack? You also get to add charisma to your initiative rolls.

Throw in the normal Rogue abilities and you have a competitive package here. Its not as powerful as the Mastermind IMHO a lot of players prefer making themselves better vs buffing others YMMV of course.
Early on I would rate this as an B tier class.

Sorcerer- Storm

Generally I like Sorcerers but this one is a bit off amiss. At this tier the only thing you get to do is fly 10' when you cast a spell of 1st level or higher.

Well you don't have that many spells so how useful it is varies. It does let you avoid opportunity attacks and I suppose it might let you reach a ledge or something but even then it will depend on how useful the other spell you cast is and if its worth the opportunity cost.

Overall a D tier archetype at least for the moment.

Warlock: The Undying
Low level warlocks are usually very competitive against the Clerics, Druids, Wizards etc of the world. The main problem with this on is that its low level ability is very specific to undead so if you don't encounter any you only get the spare the dying cantrip and advantage on disease saves which once again is very specific.. Big whoop.

Even if you do encounter undead it doesn't help defeat them just at best deflects them onto someone else and you're probably not going to be near them anyway lets face it. So situational and of limited use. You do get the option to pick up ray of sickness and false life.

You're still a Warlock I suppose so I will rate this a low C but its been power crept out in Xanathars and probably even the PHB. Gets better later but right now meh.

Wizard-Bladesinger

The bladesinger is restricted to elves and half elves only but its not that much of a big deal since its suited for a high elf anyway. Wizards tend to suffer at low levels to to a relative lack of resources. Well the bladesinger fixes that by adding a short rest mechanic onto the class that you get a generous amount of with the assumed short rest default rules.

You have two ways of playing this as well. A a skirmish type fighter or use bladesong to make yourself harder to hit and interrupt. Either way its still great and become better at level 3 when you can mix it with flaming sphere or the shadow blade spell from Xanathars. Worst case scenario you can dance around and throw cantrips or fire a bow if you're an elf.

Throw in light armor and probably rapier proficiency and you're good to go.

No surprise here you are one of the best wizards in the game IMHO. While its early in your career this is enough to drag the archetype up to B tier and it only gets better from here.
 
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Do sub-classes really have that huge an impact? That they're not just like other build choices - feats/MCing (check availability in your area), Backgrounds, spell selection, etc..?


(Aside: it's weird, but only fighters & rogues actually get archetypes, everyone else's sub-classes are called other things, like Traditions or Domains or Pants or Origins or whatever - yet we keep saying 'archetype' when we mean sub-class...)
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Do sub-classes really have that huge an impact? That they're not just like other build choices - feats/MCing (check availability in your area), Backgrounds, spell selection, etc..?


(Aside: it's weird, but only fighters & rogues actually get archetypes, everyone else's sub-classes are called other things, like Traditions or Domains or Pants or Origins or whatever - yet we keep saying 'archetype' when we mean sub-class...)
Yes some subclasses are very different. Clerics for example.

Early on yeah a few are not that different.
 

Vitor Bastos

Explorer
I really like your tier lists, cause you give some good info to each Subclass and the reasons behind your picks.
I think the ultimate tier list compendium would be: 3 separate lists for each pillar (Combat, Social and Exploration), Subclasses from PHB+SCAG+XGtE, divided by levels (just the way you do it, with 1-4, 5-10, 11-16, 17-20).
 
Rakish Audacity also means you can sneak attack anyone you like within 5' of you regardless if an ally is present or if you have advantage. Remember those times you win initiative and have to gamble on landing a readied attack? You also get to add charisma to your initiative rolls.
It's not quite that good, if two enemies are within 5' of each other there is a good chance you won't qualify for a sneak attack on either of them.
 

Zardnaar

Hero
It's not quite that good, if two enemies are within 5' of each other there is a good chance you won't qualify for a sneak attack on either of them.
True but it's gonna be easy to set up and you will often win initiative enabling that set up.

If I make any mistakes (I may misread something) I'll change my rating up or down if it's a significant one.
 
True but it's gonna be easy to set up and you will often win initiative enabling that set up.

If I make any mistakes (I may misread something) I'll change my rating up or down if it's a significant one.
Sure, it usually works, and I find Swashbuckler is a very popular subclass - because it's easy to use I think.

I was just being pedantic.
 

Esker

Explorer
Thanks for this @Zardnaar!

A couple of things I noticed (only skimmed a few so far):

About the arcana cleric, you say "This cleric makes a fairly decent primary spellcaster and has potential in melee combat due to being able to pick up spells like booming blade and greenflame blade and keying them off wisdom."

I assume you're referring to the GFB secondary damage which is equal to your casting modifier here. But booming blade doesn't use the casting stat at all; and both still require STR or DEX (depending on weapon) to hit. The way it's written makes it sound like the arcana cleric can make attack rolls using Wisdom like with Shillelagh, which isn't the case, so might be helpful to clarify to avoid misleading readers.

About Circle of Dreams Druid, you say "The spirits lean heavily into the support type role, extra hit points, advantage on attack rolls (its better than faerie fire no save+ other stuff)"

It's worth noting though that the piece of the hawk aura that grants advantage uses the druid's reaction, so although it's true that there's no save, it only works for one attack per round. So I definitely think the effect is weaker than Faerie Fire; though the fact that it doesn't use concentration is lovely. If you have a rogue ally, it could be very nice.
 

RSIxidor

Explorer
One thing I'll say for Arcana Domain once you hit level 5 is that if you have Booming Blade, Warcaster, and are using Spirit Guardians, you get to put enemies into no-win situations and I like that. Still limited to a d6 weapon die if you want a shield, or a d8 if you go two-handed, though.
 

Ruin Explorer

Adventurer
My only question so far is, are Bards really inherently A/B tier in the 1-4 level range? Because my feeling is that, aside from Lore Bards (who get Cutting Words at 3, which is a fight-winner), at this level range, they're basically like Clerics with worse armour and no shield. They've got he same number of spells, far fewer to choose from (though I guess they do have stuff like Tasha's), weapon selection is similar - slightly better because you have rapier so if going DEX that works (but really that's 1 point ahead of the mighty Shortsword, D&D weapon of choice of so many people since the 1980s - man I must have had more characters wielding a Shortsword at L1 than any other weapon). WIS and CHA are similar in value at 1-4.

It just feels weird to me to see a Cleric getting a C rating and barely getting that, when a Bard is getting an A and I'm not sure that I really get it. I say this as a professional Bard-player too, so I generally have a pro-Bard bias (playing a Lore Bard right now and they're definitely A at L1-4 but only because of Cutting Words being like "You are NOT going to save against that!").

Once you get into 5+ I am pretty sure Bards are inherently B+ (and Lore goes to S once you start getting secrets at 6 imho) but I just wonder at this level.
 

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