The War Cleric

For a while, I've floated the idea of how to make use of inflict wounds. A spell that can roll for 30 damage at level 1 is pretty awesome. The biggest problem is that it can miss and do nothing.

I think the War Cleric might be the answer. The ability to add +10 to my attack roll means inflict wounds will rarely miss. This also works with guiding bolt. I guess the question I have is if that and the ability to get a few bonus action attacks per day is enough to make this cleric subclass good.

At least through level 5 this will be one of the best NOVA damage clerics in the game. Inflict Wounds + channel divinity + attack and bonus action attack + attack and bonus action attack.

That's a lot of damage coming out in 3 rounds. I think we are looking at level 5 battlemaster fighter NOVA style damage for a few fights a day.

Thoughts on this Cleric Subclass?
 

cmad1977

Adventurer
War cleric is pretty awesome. Seems to work for the guy at my table. The +10 to hit makes things like inflict or... guided strike(?) really effective.
He doesn’t use it all the time, but when the chips are down, a near guaranteed 4d8 damage plus advantage for an ally has tipped the scales a couple times already.
 
Particular Build I'm thinking looks like.

Level 1 Variant Human War Cleric (Heavy Armor Master feat)
16 str
10 dex
13 con
16 wis
8 int
12 cha

9hp
Greatsword: +5 / 2d6+3
Chain Mail: 16 AC

Spells:
Divine Favor (subclass)
Shield of Faith (subclass)
Command
Healing Word
guiding bolt
Inflict Wounds
 
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cmad1977

Adventurer
Yes I got the spell details wrong. Guiding Bolt is the spell he’s unleashed with that’s been a balance tipper.
Since we’re doing CoS the cleric in general is a pretty good class.
 

Esker

Explorer
Particular Build I'm thinking looks like...
<snip>
Is this a Standard Array only game? Feels to me like if you're centering inflict wounds at low levels you'd really like to get war caster and make yourself really sticky. If point buy were allowed I'd probably drop CHA down to 10 to get WIS to 15 before the racial bonus, and swap observant for war caster.

As for your nova strategy... Inflict wounds with a 1st level slot does an average of 15.5 damage (edit: nope, 16.5) on a hit. Your greatsword does an average of 10. If instead of using inflict wounds you cast divine favor in round 1 and attack with your greatsword, your 1st round damage is up to 12.5 on a hit.

Assuming a 60% or so to-hit chance, the expected damage in each round of the inflict wounds strategy is

Round 1: 16.5 * 0.95 = 15.7 (with Guided Strike you'll only miss on a nat 1)
Round 2: 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^1) + 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^2) = 15.8
Round 3: 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^3) + 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^4) = 13.6

where I'm assuming you use Guided Strike the first time your attack roll would miss but isn't a nat 1 (which in this scenario has a 35% chance of happening each attack).

So, cumulative damage over the first three rounds is 15.7, 31.5, 45.1.

With Divine Favor in round 1 instead, the expected damage per round is

Round 1: 12.5 * 0.95 = 11.9
Round 2:
19.7 (same math as above but replace 10.0 with 12.5)
Round 3: 17.0

Cumulative damage is 11.9, 31.6, 48.6

Of course that assumes you maintain concentration.

You're down about 3 damage in the first round, even after 2, but up about 3.5 after 3. Whether that's better depends on how likely the extra round 1 damage is to make the difference between something going down and not.

Of course you have 3 uses of War Priest, and we're only using 2 here. What happens if we don't cast any spells and just use War Priest in each of the first 3 rounds?

Round 1: 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^0) + 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^1) = 17.8
Round 2: 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^2) + 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^3) = 14.4
Round 3: 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^4) + 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^5) = 13.0

Cumulative: 17.8, 32.2, 45.2

So that's the best 1st and 2nd round nova option, but lags divine favor slightly after three rounds. But it seems like inflict wounds is never the best option unless war priest is used up.

Of course plug in a higher enemy AC and at some point the ability to deploy guided strike on that one big attack will presumably overcome the wasted bonus action in round 1.
 
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Is this a Standard Array only game? Feels to me like if you're centering inflict wounds at low levels you'd really like to get war caster and make yourself really sticky. If point buy were allowed I'd probably drop CHA down to 10 to get WIS to 15 before the racial bonus, and swap observant for war caster.
Nope. Just used standard array for ease. I picked charisma to be 12 because it seemed fitting for the war cleric to be a somewhat inspirational figure that could rally the troops so to speak. I actually don't like war caster for this - but it's an option with point buy. Heavy Armor Master just seems much more fitting for a war cleric.

As for your nova strategy... Inflict wounds with a 1st level slot does an average of 15.5 damage on a hit. Your greatsword does an average of 10. If instead of using inflict wounds you cast divine favor in round 1 and attack with your greatsword, your 1st round damage is up to 12.5 on a hit.
Inflict wounds does 16.5 average damage on a hit. 5.5*3 = 16.5.

In a 3 round fight Divine favor will let you do 1 more damage at the end in exchange for doing 4 more damage at the start. The damage difference at the end likely won't matter. The damage difference at the start is enough to reliably kill things like orcs in 1 turn as opposed to 2. That can make a much bigger difference.

Assuming a 60% or so to-hit chance, the expected damage in each round of the inflict wounds strategy is

Round 1: 15.5 * 0.95 = 14.7 (with Guided Strike you'll only miss on a nat 1)
Round 2: 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^1) + 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^2) = 15.8
Round 3: 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^3) + 10.0 * (0.60 + 0.35*0.65^4) = 13.6


In a fight I really wanted to do damage and had a 60% chance to hit I would use both of my slots on inflict wounds, especially if the first hit without needing guided strike +10 hit

That still leaves me my war priest with most of his extra attack feature for other fights. I still have heavy armor master

So, cumulative damage over the first three rounds is 14.7, 30.5, 44.1.
You misapplied my damage strategy and used the wrong average damage for inflict wounds

With Divine Favor in round 1 instead, the expected damage per round is

Round 1: 12.5 * 0.95 = 11.9
Round 2:
19.7 (same math as above but replace 10.0 with 12.5)
Round 3: 17.0

Cumulative damage is 11.9, 31.6, 48.6

Of course that assumes you maintain concentration.
Let's look at resources remaining after this first fight.
I have 2 uses of war priest extra attack, no spell slots and heavy armor master
You have 1 use of war priest extra attack and 1 spell slot and war caster

I know which option I lean toward in that comparison.

Let me do a more accurate comparison
 
Frogreaver's Inflict Wounds Warcleric (Optimized)

Assuming 60% chance to hit, 5% chance to crit, using guided strike when needed
Combat 1
Round 1:
Inflict Wounds = 16.5 Damage
Round 2:
Attack + Bonus Action attack = 16.5 Damage
Round 3:
Attack + Bonus Action attack = 14.3 Damage

Total Damage = 47.3

Assuming Short Rest
Combat 2:
Round 1:
Inflict Wounds = 16.5 Damage
Round 2:
Attack + Bonus Action Attack = 16.5 Damage
Round 3:
Attack = 7.3 Damage

Total Damage = 40.3



Esker's Divine Favor Warcleric

Assuming 60% chance to hit, 5% chance to crit, using guided strike when needed
Combat 1:
Round 1:
Attack + Divine Favor = 12.4 Damage
Round 2:
Attack + Bonus Action Attack = 20.7 Damage
Round 3:
Attack + Bonus Action Attack = 17.9 Damage

Total Damage = 50.9

Assuming 60% chance to hit, 5% chance to crit, using guided strike when needed
Combat 2:
Round 1:
Attack + Divine Favor = 12.4 Damage
Round 2:
Attack + Bonus Action Attack = 20.7 Damage
Round 3:
Attack = 9.2 Damage

Total Damage = 42.2
 
Based on the above numbers, Divine Favor does slightly more damage assuming at least 3 rounds of attacking in combat. The downside is that divine favor does less damage up front, relies on concentration and forces you to use other resources to hit the number listed above, even in circumstances where it's now apparent the fight is easily winnable and you would be better off saving those resources for later.

In short for level 2 I firmly believe inflict wounds is the better war cleric option, despite a slightly lower best case scenario DPR for both builds.

In addition once level 3 is reached, using a 2nd level slot on inflict wounds is now much better. In fact, it's also better than spiritual weapon for single target damage.
 

Esker

Explorer
Nope. Just used standard array for ease. I picked charisma to be 12 because it seemed fitting for the war cleric to be a somewhat inspirational figure that could rally the troops so to speak. I actually don't like war caster for this - but it's an option with point buy. Heavy Armor Master just seems much more fitting for a war cleric.
That's fair enough; I was just trying to think about squeezing as much out of inflict wounds as possible. Being able to use it on an AoO potentially makes you a formidable lockdown force.

Inflict wounds does 16.5 average damage on a hit. 5.5*3 = 16.5.
Yeah, duh, you're right. I'll edit my post above to have an accurate reference.

In a 3 round fight Divine favor will let you do 1 more damage at the end in exchange for doing 4 more damage at the start. The damage difference at the end likely won't matter. The damage difference at the start is enough to reliably kill things like orcs in 1 turn as opposed to 2. That can make a much bigger difference.
I get 3 less in round 1 and 3-4 more at the end, but maybe you factored in crits? Those would favor inflict wounds, naturally.

In a fight I really wanted to do damage and had a 60% chance to hit I would use both of my slots on inflict wounds, especially if the first hit without needing guided strike +10 hit

That still leaves me my war priest with most of his extra attack feature for other fights. I still have heavy armor master
I don't understand why you'd use up your spell slots instead of your bonus action attacks if you were going all out in the first two rounds. The bonus action attacks are both leading to more damage (at least in the first two rounds) and are a less versatile resource.

You misapplied my damage strategy and used the wrong average damage for inflict wounds
I obviously used the wrong damage number, but how did I misapply your damage strategy? I was just applying what you wrote in the OP:

Inflict Wounds + channel divinity + attack and bonus action attack + attack and bonus action attack.
Let's look at resources remaining after this first fight.
I have 2 uses of war priest extra attack, no spell slots and heavy armor master
You have 1 use of war priest extra attack and 1 spell slot and war caster
But again, isn't a spell slot a more valuable thing to have remaining than a bonus action attack? You might find yourself in a situation where a guiding bolt or a healing word is more urgently needed than a bit more melee damage.
 
I get 3 less in round 1 and 3-4 more at the end, but maybe you factored in crits? Those would favor inflict wounds, naturally.
I may have miscalculated in my first response. I posted my actual numbers and the include crits.

I don't understand why you'd use up your spell slots instead of your bonus action attacks if you were going all out in the first two rounds. The bonus action attacks are both leading to more damage (at least in the first two rounds) and are a less versatile resource.
This is a great point. Also of note is that not even using your spell slot and just using the 3 bonus action attacks in 1 combat comes very close in damage to your divine favor option. It has the added benefit of being very front loaded and frees up your more versatile resources for later. I think that's actually the best strategy. Save your spell slots.


I obviously used the wrong damage number, but how did I misapply your damage strategy? I was just applying what you wrote in the OP:
The OP wasn't written from a this is the best damage possible concept. Just a this is very good damage. I actually thought 2 inflict wounds in a single combat would be meaningfully better which is why I proposed that. It's not the case though.

But again, isn't a spell slot a more valuable thing to have remaining than a bonus action attack? You might find yourself in a situation where a guiding bolt or a healing word is more urgently needed than a bit more melee damage.
Totally agree. In that case divine favor is an even worse idea. Just use the 3 bonus action attacks for your high damage fight. Then you have your versatile spell slots for more damage or healing etc.
 

Esker

Explorer
This is a great point. Also of note is that not even using your spell slot and just using the 3 bonus action attacks in 1 combat comes very close in damage to your divine favor option. It has the added benefit of being very front loaded and frees up your more versatile resources for later. I think that's actually the best strategy. Save your spell slots.
That was my original conclusion above. Divine favor wins if our benchmark is cumulative all-in damage after three rounds as you had framed the question in your OP; even moreso after four (with the big caveat that you have to maintain concentration), but if you want to really frontload as much as possible, you should be using up war priest before you think about using any damage spells.
 
That was my original conclusion above. Divine favor wins if our benchmark is cumulative all-in damage after three rounds as you had framed the question in your OP; even moreso after four (with the big caveat that you have to maintain concentration), but if you want to really frontload as much as possible,
I don't agree with your conclusions about divine favor. In the best case scenario it can ink out a couple of points of damage. In many other scenarios it doesn't end up paying off. It's not just Loss of concentration. Perhaps there's no meaningful reason to continue using your bonus action attacks due to some good fortune and enemies falling faster than planned (a team lucky streak on hits). Becoming controlled. Dropping to 0 hp. Etc.

Damage up front strategies bypass all those concerns. The difference in combat damage would have to be significantly higher than single turn alternatives provide in order to justify damage buffs. IMO.

you should be using up war priest before you think about using any damage spells.
The more I examine the issue the more I agree with this. Use the bonus action attacks first. Use the spells after... At least till level 3+ ;) At that point we are better off using inflict wounds instead of divine favor etc.
 
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@Esker, I'm interested in your observations for this character at level 6. I get an extra use of the channel divinity. I get spirit guardians and spiritual weapon (traditional cleric damage spells). I have an ASI choice.

What would you choose and what would be your basic damage combat progression for single target.

I'm thinking level 3 inflict wounds, level 2 inflict wounds, attack bonus attack

For all out damage you could use all high level inflict wounds. Something like 77 damage over 3 turns.
 

Esker

Explorer
@Esker, I'm interested in your observations for this character at level 6. I get an extra use of the channel divinity. I get spirit guardians and spiritual weapon (traditional cleric damage spells). I have an ASI choice.

What would you choose and what would be your basic damage combat progression for single target.

I'm thinking level 3 inflict wounds, level 2 inflict wounds, attack bonus attack

For all out damage you could use all high level inflict wounds. Something like 77 damage over 3 turns.
Let's compare that to taking GWM, which lets you take full advantage of Guided Strike (unlike inflict wounds where a +10 is overkill most of the time).

Option 1: Using War Priest bonus action attack with GWM (assuming base to-hit is down to 55% since we didn't boost strength):

Avg damage per hit: 2 * 3.5 + 13 = 20

Round 1:
Chance we have 2 guided strikes left: 1.00
0.80 chance to hit with guided strike
Damage per attack: 0.80 * 20 = 16
Expected damage Round 1 (using War Priest): 32

Round 2:
Chance that we have 0 guided strike left: 0.50 * 0.50 = 0.25
Chance that we have 1 guided strike left: 2 * 0.50 * 0.50 = 0.50
Chance that we have 2 guided strike left: 0.50 * 0.50 = 0.25
Main attack to-hit: (0.30 + 0.75 * 0.50) = 0.675
Chance that we have 0 guided strike left now: 0.25 + 0.50*0.50 = 0.50
Chance that we have 1 guided strike left now: 0.50 * 0.50 + 0.25 * 0.50 = 0.375
Chance that we have 2 guided strikes left: 0.25 * 0.50 = 0.125
Bonus attack to-hit: (0.30 +(0.375 + 0.125) * 0.50) = 0.55
Expected Damage for the Round: (0.675 + 0.55) * 20 = 24.5

Round 3:
Chance that we have 0 guided strike left: 0.50 + 0.375 * 0.50 = 0.6875
Chance that we have 1 guided strike left: 0.375 * 0.50 + 0.125 * 0.50 = 0.25
Chance that we have 2 guided strike left: 0.125 * 0.50 = 0.0625
Main attack to-hit: (0.30 + 0.25 * 0.50) = 0.425
Chance that we have 0 guided strike left now: 0.6875 + 0.25 * 0.50 = 0.8125
Chance that we have 1 guided strike left now: 0.25 * 0.50 + 0.0625 * 0.50 = 0.15625
Chance that we have 2 guided strike left: 0.0625 * 0.50 = 0.03125
Bonus attack to-hit: (0.30 + (0.15625 + 0.03125) * 0.50) = 0.39375
Expected Damage for the Round: (0.425 + 0.39375) * 20 = 16.4

Cumulative Damage (1st 3 rounds): 32, 56.5, 72.9

Chance that we have 0 guided strike left now: 0.8125 + 0.15625 * 0.50 = 0.89
Chance that we have 1 guided strike left now: 0.15625 * 0.50 + 0.03125 * 0.50 = 0.094
Chance that we have 2 guided strike left: 0.03125 * 0.50 = 0.016

Expected Guided Strike Remaining: 0 * 0.89 + 1 * 0.094 + 2 * 0.016 = 0.126
War Priest Remaining: 0
3rd level Spell Slots Remaining: 3

Option 2: Inflict Wounds, Boosting Wisdom

Avg damage per hit (3rd level): 5 * 5.5 = 27.5 (assume 60% base-to-hit)

Round 1
Chance we have 2 guided strikes left: 1.00
0.95 chance to hit with guided strike
Expected damage Round 1: (0.60 + 0.35) * 27.5 = 26.1

Round 2
Chance we have 1 guided strike left: 0.35
Chance we have 2 guided strikes left: 0.65
Expected damage Round 2: (0.60 + 0.35) * 27.5 = 26.1

Round 3
Chance we have 0 guided strike left: 0.35 * 0.35 = 0.1225
Chance we have 1 guided strike left: 0.35 * 0.65 + 0.65 * 0.35 = 0.455
Chance we have 2 guided strike left: 0.65 * 0.65 = 0.4225
Expected damage Round 3: (0.60 + (0.455 + 0.4225) * 0.35) * 27.5 = 24.9

Cumulative Damage (1st 3 rounds): 26.1, 52.2, 77.1

Chance that we have 0 guided strike left now: 0.1225 + 0.455 * 0.35 = 0.282
Chance that we have 1 guided strike left now: 0.455 * 0.65 + 0.4225 * 0.35 = 0.444
Chance that we have 2 guided strike left: 0.4225 * 0.65 = 0.275
Expected Guided Strike Remaining: 0 * 0.282 + 1 * 0.444 + 2 * 0.275 = 0.994
War Priest Remaining: 4
3rd level Spell Slots Remaining: 0

I didn't factor in crits, which would favor inflict wounds a little. So damage-wise, blowing 3rd level slots lags a little behind using war priest in rounds 1 and 2 if we take GWM, but we tend to use only one Guided Strike, vs usually using both with GWM and War Priest, and if we need more than two rounds, we have more left in the tank. Plus we didn't spend a feat dedicated to nova tactics.

In the narrow scope of the theorycrafting exercise, it's a tough call; blowing all three 3rd level slots in one fight is a lot, but then so is blowing all three of our bonus action attacks and likely both of our channel divinities. In reality I prefer inflict wounds, mainly because I don't want to take GWM on a character that never gets a real second attack just to do a little better damage over two rounds.
 

Esker

Explorer
One thing that's interesting about this character is that it seems like there's almost no point in even taking spiritual weapon. You can't cast it on the same turn that you use War Priest or Inflict Wounds, and doing neither of those things on the first round makes your damage massively less. Even if you're out of everything else, it takes a few rounds for spiritual weapon's damage to catch up with a 2nd level inflict wounds.
 
One thing that's interesting about this character is that it seems like there's almost no point in even taking spiritual weapon. You can't cast it on the same turn that you use War Priest or Inflict Wounds, and doing neither of those things on the first round makes your damage massively less. Even if you're out of everything else, it takes a few rounds for spiritual weapon's damage to catch up with a 2nd level inflict wounds.
Agreed. That may change a bit at level 7?
 

Esker

Explorer
Agreed. That may change a bit at level 7?
Because of upcast spiritual weapon? I mean, in long fights, or fights where you are changing targets a lot, the standard cleric recipe of spirit guardians plus spiritual weapon is likely to come out ahead. But even with a 4th level slot, spiritual weapon is doing 13 damage on a hit, vs 33 for a 4th level inflict wounds. Put guided strike on top of that and you're getting over 30 damage in round 1 out of inflict wounds, vs ~23 over three rounds with spiritual weapon. Add in a greatsword attack each round and one guided strike and you're talking something like 50 damage over 3 rounds with either one 4th level inflict wounds or a 4th level spiritual weapon, but inflict wounds lets you frontload that a lot more (plus you can up that in later rounds if you use war priest, since your bonus action is free)
 
Because of upcast spiritual weapon? I mean, in long fights, or fights where you are changing targets a lot, the standard cleric recipe of spirit guardians plus spiritual weapon is likely to come out ahead. But even with a 4th level slot, spiritual weapon is doing 13 damage on a hit, vs 33 for a 4th level inflict wounds. Put guided strike on top of that and you're getting over 30 damage in round 1 out of inflict wounds, vs ~23 over three rounds with spiritual weapon. Add in a greatsword attack each round and one guided strike and you're talking something like 50 damage over 3 rounds with either one 4th level inflict wounds or a 4th level spiritual weapon, but inflict wounds lets you frontload that a lot more (plus you can up that in later rounds if you use war priest, since your bonus action is free)
Yea, you are right. I think at some point spirit guardians will be worth casting. Just not at level 5. At least by level 9 it's worth using a high level slot on provided I've fixed concentration somewhat by then. (for single target, for aoe spirit guardians still has a use)
 

Zardnaar

Hero
Personally not a fan of the war cleric with the default array.

Prefer going in on light clerics or nature and Arcana clerics for beatdown.

Your blowing a lot of resources to deal barely more damage than the polearm Master feat.

A light cleric for example can Nova almost as good and a lot more especially to multiple targets.

Nature clerics polearm Master or arcana clerics with gfb and shillagh via magic initiate.

War and Tempest clerics tend to have similar issues to the valor bard to MAD.

Rolled stats Chang things of course (16,16,14,14 or better changes things).
 
Personally not a fan of the war cleric with the default array.
I don't use default array. Does anyone actually use it?

Prefer going in on light clerics or nature and Arcana clerics for beatdown.
Light isn't impressive for single target beatdown.
Arcana offers very little other than easy access to a melee cantrip. The bonus actions attacks and +10 attack channel divinity easily make up for that till at least tier 3.

Your blowing a lot of resources to deal barely more damage than the polearm Master feat.
A polearm Master feat does 8.4 damage per turn and interferes with using spiritual weapon and bonus action attacks from war priest. It's a pretty terrible feat for this PC.

A light cleric for example can Nova almost as good and a lot more especially to multiple targets.
No where near the single target capabilities. It does even less than polearm master.

Nature clerics polearm Master or arcana clerics with gfb and shillagh via magic initiate.
Neither are impressive till at least tier 3.

War and Tempest clerics tend to have similar issues to the valor bard to MAD.
18 str and 18 wisdom works fine. Just use point buy or rolling.

Rolled stats Chang things of course (16,16,14,14 or better changes things).
All you really want is two 16's and a 12 for any dual stat PC. Contrary to popular belief - being down 1 ASI in your primary abilities to a non mad character isn't a big deal - especially when you get very strong abilities to make up the difference.

To sum it up, you way overvalue SAD builds.
 

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