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5E War cleric and spiritual weapon vs. gwm

Warpiglet

Adventurer
TLDR: great weapon master is under rated for war domain clerics due to its competition for bonus actions and single attacks of clerics. Likewise, It does not pair well with spiritual weapon; but we might not need spiritual weapon as much as we think.
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I am a big fan of battling clerics back to 1e days.

I have been planning a fighting cleric once again.

So much about melee clerics suggests the use of spiritual weapon in lieu of say war cleric extra attack or even use of great weapon master with its bonus attack on a crit or kill.

however, I started looking at the opportunity cost. Clerics have only a handful of 2nd level spells in a day. For the price, I could cast hold person or a number of other good spells.

I am thinking that there is less an issue with bonus actions and gwm/war priest after all.

As a war cleric, you can use war priest. It might be good for a combat or two before depleted. It seems many low and mid level combats are fairly short.

coupled with great weapon master and the war priest’s channel divinity, Spiritual weapon is nice but replaceable in several melees a
I am looking the channel divinity a bit closer. 3 times a short rest by 6th probably translates into 9 uses a day. Than means +10 on perhaps 9 attacks a day.

I would feel very comfortable using -5/+10 on those attacks I think. If a majority of those hit, there is a good amount of damage implied.

of course one or more might drop a creature leading to a bonus attack aside from war priest, at least at low and mid levels.

do I think spiritual weapon is a poor choice? Not at all. It’s nice for clerics. My thesis here is perhaps more about great weapon master and war domain

In most instances I see the opinion that it is poorly spent on a war cleric wanting to do well in melee, and I am starting to disagree.

if we look at resource expenditure and total damage dealt in a day, I can see that leaning more on GWM vs spiritual weapon might save some spells.

again, the war priest gets used up in a day but the channel divinity steps in with a number of strikes a day and many at +10.

if we use an extra hold person or blindness/deafness in place of spiritual weapon in some combats, I think We can be less concerned with the competition for that coveted bonus action.

So in short, I think great weapon master and war priest and channel divinity do well with bonus actions too. And I do not think their competition for the bonus action is overly redundant or crippling and they may be more potent than the typical set up with spiritual weapon

add in greenflame blade or booming blade and would only make gwm more fearsome and likely to kick of a bonus attack after level 5.
 
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jgsugden

Legend
Some back story and then some conversation about bonus actions:

I played a war priest early in 5E. Went from level 1 to 12, then died as part of a TPK.

I was a variant human with GWM, and at first level I was a power house. In meaningful combats I was attacking twice a round (for up to 3 rounds), and often hitting due to advantage from flanking, the bless spell, and was dealing 2d6+13 damage. I had AC 17 soon, and eventually around with AC 19 while using a 2 handed weapon, and then AC 24 when I went to sword and shield.

Over his life, he had a pretty solid pattern of combat performance:

  • Aid if we knew combat was coming.
  • Spiritual weapon if we were not fighting something really terrifying. If we were, the spiritual weapon was replaced by the domain ability for harder hits.
  • Spirit Guardians.
  • Bonus action healing spells.

So, from about 7th level on, it would go like this:

Rd 1: Move in and cast Spirit Guardians.
Rd 2: Melee attack, spirit guardians damage, and spiritual weapon.
Rd 3: Melee attack, spirit guardians damage, and either spiritual weapon or healing word/mass healing word/sanctuary.
Sometimes, rather than attack, he'd cast aid to give hps to multiple people that were about to get hit hard (dragon breath, etc...)

I eventually switched to a sword and board style over big weapons when we were going down too fast in combat and I determined that I could avoid a lot more damage by using a magic shield to raise AC and get in more attacks rather than using slots for healing spells. I still busted out the big sword for some combats, but we had an awesome shield and battle axe combo available that gave me nearly the same average damage overall against reasonable ACs.

During this experience, I used spiritual weapon for my bonus the most, but there was a lot of competition for it. Healing word, War Domain ability, Sanctuary, etc... However, Spiritual Weapon remained a key spell for me during the entire time period and I did not feel like it was a misstep.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Best war cleric is nature and arcane with the default array.

You key everything off wisdom and use spells like spiritual weapon/guardians.

Arcane cleric picks up shillagh via a feat and combined it with green flame blade.

Vuman can have 20 wisdom by level 8.

GWM looks cute but you still only get 1 attack most if the time.

War cleric with rolled stats is a bit better.

You avoid soaking the -5/+10 part but deal similar damage anyway due to gfb/spiritual weapon and key everything off wisdom.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
TLDR: great weapon master is under rated for war domain clerics due to its competition for bonus actions and single attacks of clerics. Likewise, It does not pair well with spiritual weapon; but we might not need spiritual weapon as much as we think.
———————————
I am a big fan of battling clerics back to 1e days.

I have been planning a fighting cleric once again.

So much about melee clerics suggests the use of spiritual weapon in lieu of say war cleric extra attack or even use of great weapon master with its bonus attack on a crit or kill.

however, I started looking at the opportunity cost. Clerics have only a handful of 2nd level spells in a day. For the price, I could cast hold person or a number of other good spells.

I am thinking that there is less an issue with bonus actions and gwm/war priest after all.

As a war cleric, you can use war priest. It might be good for a combat or two before depleted. It seems many low and mid level combats are fairly short.

coupled with great weapon master and the war priest’s channel divinity, Spiritual weapon is nice but replaceable in several melees a
I am looking the channel divinity a bit closer. 3 times a short rest by 6th probably translates into 9 uses a day. Than means +10 on perhaps 9 attacks a day.

I would feel very comfortable using -5/+10 on those attacks I think. If a majority of those hit, there is a good amount of damage implied.

of course one or more might drop a creature leading to a bonus attack aside from war priest, at least at low and mid levels.

do I think spiritual weapon is a poor choice? Not at all. It’s nice for clerics. My thesis here is perhaps more about great weapon master and war domain

In most instances I see the opinion that it is poorly spent on a war cleric wanting to do well in melee, and I am starting to disagree.

if we look at resource expenditure and total damage dealt in a day, I can see that leaning more on GWM vs spiritual weapon might save some spells.

again, the war priest gets used up in a day but the channel divinity steps in with a number of strikes a day and many at +10.

if we use an extra hold person or blindness/deafness in place of spiritual weapon in some combats, I think We can be less concerned with the competition for that coveted bonus action.

So in short, I think great weapon master and war priest and channel divinity do well with bonus actions too. And I do not think their competition for the bonus action is overly redundant or crippling and they may be more potent than the typical set up with spiritual weapon

add in greenflame blade or booming blade and would only make gwm more fearsome and likely to kick of a bonus attack after level 5.
You know what else the +10 bonus to attack works great for. A level 2 inflict wounds. 4d10 damage that nearly never misses.
 

jgsugden

Legend
4d10 is 22 damage average. With GWM, a war cleric can deal 20 damage nearly as reliably - without a spell slot.

GWM decreases in effectiveness when you focus on fewer attacks, but greater damage per attack (as you do with Green Flame Blade, etc...), but for levels 1 through 4, a War Cleric with GWM is one of the most effective melee combatants out there due to those 3 bonus attacks they get to take.
 

Warpiglet

Adventurer
I get what you are saying, zardnaar. It is efficient surely.

However, in a few fights a day, I suspect war cleric would pull ahead.

I mapped one out. A level 8 you could have gwm, magic initiate for gfb/bb and 16s in Str, con and wis. Heavy armor of course.

I do like the idea of being able to add magic weapons u might find too.

As stated above, the +10 would be juicy on an inflict wounds too.

But you are not ‘wrong’ by any stretch. The other issue is timing however with Shillelagh.

If you are flat footed when a fight starts, you will not be casting it with spiritual weapon round one. Not a huge deal, bur I am noting it.

Also, if it is a long adventuring day, you only get 2-3 spiritual weapons a day. I like that gwm can moonlight as the buff for a combat a day.

I too like the idea of a bonus attack, at times on a gfb or bb attack. I think the real big difference for me is the spell lists.

I really like arcana and spell breaker in that regard...but for pure smacking potential? I am now moving to the war domain camp.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Supporter
It's probably not optimal, but it works fine. Especially at Tier 1, you're going to trigger the cleave BA attack quite a bit averaging 20 dmg a hit. The feat starts to become a drag later in in Tier 2, when you really start to wish you had War Caster instead.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
4d10 is 22 damage average. With GWM, a war cleric can deal 20 damage nearly as reliably - without a spell slot.
Sure. But 2 counterpoints.
1. There is a higher chance the GWM user uses his channel divinity.
2. There is also the cost of the GWM feat itself. Consider the possibility of taking the healer feat and then using nearly all spell slots on inflict wounds while still functioning as a healer.

GWM decreases in effectiveness when you focus on fewer attacks, but greater damage per attack (as you do with Green Flame Blade, etc...), but for levels 1 through 4, a War Cleric with GWM is one of the most effective melee combatants out there due to those 3 bonus attacks they get to take.
I'm not convinced he does meaningfully more damage than one without the feat.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Cumulative Damage of Warcleric using inflict wounds and the bonus action attacks. Assuming 60% chance to hit and no short rests. Looking at level 3.

Round 1: 22
Round 2: 38.6
Round 3: 50.6
Round 4: 62.6
Round 5: 74.6
Round 6: 84.5
Round 7: 94.4
Round 8: 104.3
Round 9: 114.2
Round 10+: +6 per Round.

I'll let someone else do the GWM comparison.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I get what you are saying, zardnaar. It is efficient surely.

However, in a few fights a day, I suspect war cleric would pull ahead.

I mapped one out. A level 8 you could have gwm, magic initiate for gfb/bb and 16s in Str, con and wis. Heavy armor of course.

I do like the idea of being able to add magic weapons u might find too.

As stated above, the +10 would be juicy on an inflict wounds too.

But you are not ‘wrong’ by any stretch. The other issue is timing however with Shillelagh.

If you are flat footed when a fight starts, you will not be casting it with spiritual weapon round one. Not a huge deal, bur I am noting it.

Also, if it is a long adventuring day, you only get 2-3 spiritual weapons a day. I like that gwm can moonlight as the buff for a combat a day.

I too like the idea of a bonus attack, at times on a gfb or bb attack. I think the real big difference for me is the spell lists.

I really like arcana and spell breaker in that regard...but for pure smacking potential? I am now moving to the war domain camp.
Few fights the other clerics can nova off with their spelks.

Crunch the extra damage from GWM to the extra damage via gfb or whatever. You also gain a bonus to hit and spell DCs due to higher wisdom.

War clerics win tier 1 if they get to nova. If you're using nova spikes though you're just replacing the bonus attack from GWM with spiritual weapon and you're better at range due to using wisdom.

It's also SAD vs MAD.

Under default array use medium armor, 16 wisdom, 14 dex and con strength can be 10 or 12.

Cleric trap is trying to be a bad fighter. The other clerics have got to option of doing similar damage to gwm build and you're a better primary caster and a lot better at range.

Math changes with decent rolled stats or gauntlets of ogre power.

I've been more impressed with melee nature, death and arcana clerics and divine souls than war clerics.

Light and healing also better IMHO.

Do melee death clerics spamming cantrips count as melee? They wade into combat just using toll the dead, inflict wound, spirtual guardians/weapon. They can smite with inflict wounds.
 
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Warpiglet

Adventurer
Not sure if that “counts” but it’s a close up option. But I will also say I like strength and athletics for guys in the midst of a fight.

Most of the SAD wisdom Melee clerics are not going to get out of a struggle easily enough for my taste.

Granted they often take 14 dex I guess.

But then it comes to flavor. Not sure I am into wriggly quick clerics myself.

As to optimization my point is only this: war cleric with gfb is not as bad as it is made out to be.

Add gfb or bb and you might even trigger another bonus swing with your great sword.

On a 3rd or 4th combat you can use spiritual weapon, sure.

But for 2 combats a day you can save that spell slot.

Aid is really nice...as is hold person. The less spiritual weapon you use, the more hold person, blindness, aid you might actually use.

The opportunity cost of gwm is real.

But so is spamming spiritual weapon.

If I have someone held or blind, let gwm with gfb do it’s work and maybe tigger a Bonus after you use up war priest.

I think this is a case of not looking at numbers alone but also opportunity costs.

That being said, I am very interested in playing an arcane domain cleric of wee jas.

I do NOT think arcana cleric is a bad choice. But I am now convinced, with what I have noted above, that war domain clerics are nice as well.

I have just heard so much of life cleric, hill dwarf Shillelagh...

I find some of those builds rather uninspiring from
Coolness standpoint. But that is just taste! We all have our own.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Not sure if that “counts” but it’s a close up option. But I will also say I like strength and athletics for guys in the midst of a fight.

Most of the SAD wisdom Melee clerics are not going to get out of a struggle easily enough for my taste.

Granted they often take 14 dex I guess.

But then it comes to flavor. Not sure I am into wriggly quick clerics myself.

As to optimization my point is only this: war cleric with gfb is not as bad as it is made out to be.

Add gfb or bb and you might even trigger another bonus swing with your great sword.

On a 3rd or 4th combat you can use spiritual weapon, sure.

But for 2 combats a day you can save that spell slot.

Aid is really nice...as is hold person. The less spiritual weapon you use, the more hold person, blindness, aid you might actually use.

The opportunity cost of gwm is real.

But so is spamming spiritual weapon.

If I have someone held or blind, let gwm with gfb do it’s work and maybe tigger a Bonus after you use up war priest.

I think this is a case of not looking at numbers alone but also opportunity costs.

That being said, I am very interested in playing an arcane domain cleric of wee jas.

I do NOT think arcana cleric is a bad choice. But I am now convinced, with what I have noted above, that war domain clerics are nice as well.

I have just heard so much of life cleric, hill dwarf Shillelagh...

I find some of those builds rather uninspiring from
Coolness standpoint. But that is just taste! We all have our own.
I'm leaning towards melee clerics wading into it but using saving throw cantrips instead and using buff spells.

I've seen impressive damage numbers put out by death clerics. Numbers that put war clerics to shame.

If you sit back spamming cantrips you're wasting your time. Trying to use weapons eh but some hybrid approach seems best.

Or just focus on pure spellcasting.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
I think the GWM route might make for a Good Bless buffer. Turn 1 bless. Turn 2 attack and bonus action attack.
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
It does. Problem with cleric buff builds is combat often lasts 2-3 rounds.
I don't think that 2-3 rounds observation is anywhere near a universal truth.

I'll say this, if your combats are typically 2-3 rounds each then using an action to buff anything is terrible. If your fights go 4+ rounds I think that would be a solid way to get a little extra bang out of GWM.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I don't think that 2-3 rounds observation is anywhere near a universal truth.

I'll say this, if your combats are typically 2-3 rounds each then using an action to buff anything is terrible. If your fights go 4+ rounds I think that would be a solid way to get a little extra bang out of GWM.
Yeah I was one of the first singing the praises of bless back in 2014. You can deal more damage indirectly due to how bless interacts with the -5/+10 feats.

When you start doing that and others can benefit from bless it's how you end up with 2-3 round combats;).

Another reason why the medium armor cleric with 14 dex is good. You want to go before others when you use bless.
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeah I was one of the first singing the praises of bless back in 2014. You can deal more damage indirectly due to how bless interacts with the -5/+10 feats.
Yea, but the difference is i'm talking about inking out a couple more DPR a fight where you made it sound like it was +50 DPR every turn ;)

When you start doing that and others can benefit from bless it's how you end up with 2-3 round combats;).
I mean if you have 3 party members with GWM and a couple of casters that can buff them maybe. But when we are talking about a single GWM PC it's not going to be enough to drop an encounter down to 2-3 rounds.

Another reason why the medium armor cleric with 14 dex is good. You want to go before others when you use bless.
Yea. In many ways I prefer the medium armor cleric. Can even be decent at stealth for a small decrease in AC.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Yea, but the difference is i'm talking about inking out a couple more DPR a fight where you made it sound like it was +50 DPR every turn ;)



I mean if you have 3 party members with GWM and a couple of casters that can buff them maybe. But when we are talking about a single GWM PC it's not going to be enough to drop an encounter down to 2-3 rounds.



Yea. In many ways I prefer the medium armor cleric. Can even be decent at stealth for a small decrease in AC.
Yeah the ACs not the best for fighter type but for Spellcasters type it's good enough when combined with a shield.

Cantrips with saves are fine in "melee" combat. Death Cleric and death cleric 1/Divine Soul XYZ I've seen put out some impressive numbers.

Without decent rolled stats not a fan of the war cleric. Early in 5E i saw one being used with GWM, next campaign I played the light cleric and yeah.

I would build both a bit different now. Your build was the HAM build iirc?
 

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
Yeah the ACs not the best for fighter type but for Spellcasters type it's good enough when combined with a shield.
Agree.

Cantrips with saves are fine in "melee" combat. Death Cleric and death cleric 1/Divine Soul XYZ I've seen put out some impressive numbers.
The thing I'm often more interested in having my cleric do is serve as a mid range body blocker. So if enemies come at the back line he will step up and hinder them. Having a decent attack and weapon for an OA is important here. Or if a melee ally gets weak I can step up and take some of the heat off him or help body block so he can retreat.

Without decent rolled stats not a fan of the war cleric. Early in 5E i saw one being used with GWM, next campaign I played the light cleric and yeah.
I tend to think in most situations that fireball > spirit guardians. So that I would agree with. Also burning hands on a high AC caster that don't mind to mix it up in melee. Amazing. Oh, and let's not forget about the light cleric channel divinity AOE. So yes, I'm a big fan of the light cleric too. It's probably the best AOE focused character in the game.

I would build both a bit different now. Your build was the HAM build iirc?
It was. I believe a 16/16 is essential when playing any melee cleric (outside shileleagh which I think you overrate). Basically, HAM gets you to 16/16 using standard array and is a solid feat overall. If I could hit 16/16 some other way i'd probably take either warcaster / resilient con or the healer feat.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Agree.



The thing I'm often more interested in having my cleric do is serve as a mid range body blocker. So if enemies come at the back line he will step up and hinder them. Having a decent attack and weapon for an OA is important here. Or if a melee ally gets weak I can step up and take some of the heat off him or help body block so he can retreat.



I tend to think in most situations that fireball > spirit guardians. So that I would agree with. Also burning hands on a high AC caster that don't mind to mix it up in melee. Amazing. Oh, and let's not forget about the light cleric channel divinity AOE. So yes, I'm a big fan of the light cleric too. It's probably the best AOE focused character in the game.



It was. I believe a 16/16 is essential when playing any melee cleric (outside shileleagh which I think you overrate). Basically, HAM gets you to 16/16 using standard array and is a solid feat overall. If I could hit 16/16 some other way i'd probably take either warcaster / resilient con or the healer feat.
Rolled stats;).
 

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