Last Updated on January 22, 2023
From disarming, tripping, and pushing opponents, to parrying an enemy’s blows, Battle Master maneuvers present martial characters with a fantastic range of tools, tricks, and tactics to control and dominate the battlefield.
If you want to play a fighter (and why wouldn’t you?) but are concerned about feeling like your options in combat are limited compared to classes with spellcasting or other abilities, then either choosing the Battle Master Martial Archetype, or otherwise incorporating Battle Master maneuvers into your build (more on that below) is a great way to broaden your range of options in a fight.
In this guide, we’re going to break down the different Battle Master maneuvers (including the new options by Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything).
We’ll also offer up some opinions on the “best” maneuvers to pick up at level 3, and examine how different maneuvers can help you create different character concepts for your Battle Master.
We’re also going to look at the Martial Adept Feat and the new Superior Technique fighting style (also from TCoE) to see how you can get your hands on some maneuvers even if you aren’t playing a Battle Master.
What are Battle Master Maneuvers?
The Battle Master is arguably the coolest, most versatile Martial Archetype available to fighters at 3rd level. Sure, the Eldritch Knight gets access to spellcasting, and the Psi Warrior can batter their enemies with psychic energy, but all that (admittedly awesome) stuff feels like it compromises the experience of playing a big, dangerous bastard with an even bigger bastard sword.
For me, that’s what fighters are all about, and the Battle Master does it better than anyone (suck it, Champion – nobody likes you).
When you choose the Battle Master subclass, you gain access to a resource called Superiority Dice – a pool of four d8 (you get another one at 7th and 15th level) which power your maneuvers and replenish after a short or long rest.
Maneuvers are special effects that you can apply in combat when you burn a Superiority Die – usually while making an attack. Their effects range from dishing out extra damage (most of them let you roll your Superiority Die and add it to your damage roll) to disarming an opponent, and some make you better at protecting your allies or out-positioning your foes.
You get to choose three maneuvers at 3rd level, and gain two more of your choice at 7th, 10th, and 15th level. Also, when you learn new maneuvers, you can also replace one of your existing maneuvers with a new one.
Because you’re going to be soldiering your way from 3rd to 7th level with just a handful of maneuvers, picking the right ones is an important decision for a budding Battle Master.
Battle Master Maneuver Breakdown
There are 23 Battle Master maneuvers to choose from (7 from TCoE and 16 from the Player’s Handbook) so whittling that list down to just three can feel like a bit of a challenge. We’re going to go into more detail about choosing maneuvers based on the type of Battle Master you want to play in a minute.
To help you get a grip on this rather long list, we’ve added three descriptors – Damage, Control, and Defense (which applies to protecting both yourself and your allies) – where they apply, although some maneuvers are a mixture of both, or all three. We also use the Back Citadel color rating system:
Black Citadel’s Ranking and Tier System
- Red – C Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful, and might make for an interesting narrative choice, but are largely less effective than other tiers.
- Green – B Tier. A solid choice, but nothing that is absolutely critical for a build, or can be very good but only situationally.
- Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, and highly effective.
- Purple – S Tier. The best of the best. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way. No choice in D&D is essential, but these options are definitely worth considering when you create your character.
When you make a Dexterity or Stealth check or roll for initiative, as long as you aren’t incapacitated, you can spend a superiority die, roll it, and add the result to your roll.
Great for low-Dex fighters who want to make sure they take out their enemies before they get a chance to act, or especially dextrous warriors looking to ensure they always get the drop on the opposition.
This is one of the few maneuvers that doesn’t boost your damage, but it’s a great way to ensure you don’t end up stuck at the bottom of the initiative order, especially if you’re about to start a long boss fight.
Bait and Switch (Defense)
You spend a superiority die to switch places with a willing creature within 5ft of you, provided they aren’t incapacitated. You and the creature quickly bob and weave around one another, making it harder for one of you to be hit. The movement doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity, and you can add the result of your rolled superiority die to either your AC or that of the creature you switch with until the start of your next turn.
This is a pretty clutch way to get a wounded ally out of the firing line, and give yourself a nice AC boost in the meantime (rolling a 7 or 8 on your superiority die could mean you end up with an AC in the mid 20s for a round, which is almost guaranteed invulnerability).
However, because it’s a little positioning-reliant, this might not always be the easiest maneuver to pull off. Also, no damage.
When a creature you can see moves within range of your melee weapon, you can burn a superiority die to make an attack with that weapon against them using your reaction. If the attack hits, you add your superiority die to the damage rolled.
This is a downright excellent maneuver that more or less reverse engineers aspects of the Polearm Master and Sentinel Feats. Extra damage and a use for your reaction. Bonus points if your character can disengage as a bonus action to repeat the process next turn.
Commander’s Strike (Control, Damage)
When you take the Attack action, you can spend a superiority die to forgo one of your attacks (note: if you can make multiple attacks, you still get to make the other ones) and a bonus action to allow an ally nearby to make a weapon attack as a reaction. If your ally’s attack hits, they roll your superiority die and add the result to their damage roll.
So, this maneuver costs a lot; you need to give up an attack and a bonus action, and your ally needs to give up their reaction. This means that Commander’s Strike is only really worth it if you’re making multiple attacks per round (thus minimizing the relative cost of giving up your attack, making this a better choice at higher levels) and if you have an ally who can do, like, way more damage than you do.
Pairs well with rogues and paladins. If you’re the main melee damage dealer in your party, skip it.
Commanding Presence (Control)
When you make a Performance, Intimidation, or Persuasion check, you can roll a superiority die and add the result to your d20 roll.
This is like a hyper-specific version of bardic inspiration that you can’t give to other people, and there are probably going to be players in your party with better ‘face’ skills. Stick to what you do best unless your party really sucks at social checks.
Disarming Attack (Damage, Control)
When you make a weapon attack (melee or ranged, which is cool) you can expend a superiority die and add the result to your damage. You also force the target to make a Strength saving throw or drop an item it is holding, which lands at its feet.
This is probably my favorite utility maneuver. Not only do you tack on some extra damage, but you can force enemies to drop weapons and shields – or force BBEGs to drop the all-important macguffin you’re trying to get your hands on, especially if you use it during a chase.
Distracting Strike (Damage)
When you land a blow on an enemy with a weapon attack, you expend a superiority die to deal an extra d8 of damage. You also distract the target, throwing them momentarily off balance and – as they turn all their attention towards you – giving the next attack roll against the enemy advantage if it’s made before the start of your next turn.
I think a lot about the fact that some of my favorite fight scenes in cinema (the Battle of Carthage recreation fight in Gladiator, and just about anything from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie or a Marvel film) are all about teamwork, sick combos, and interaction between different party members.
That’s something lacking from D&D, a game where everyone has their “thing” that they do that’s going to be more mechanically impactful than doing something that gives their friend advantage. As such, something like Distracting Strike is a refreshingly cooperative move that more people should pick up.
Evasive Footwork (Defense)
When you move, you get to roll a superiority die and add the result to your AC until you finish moving.
This is a very expensive way to take the Dodge action that doesn’t even persist after you standstill. There are other maneuvers that boost your AC for longer and have other benefits. Pass.
Feinting Attack (Damage)
Expend a superiority die and use your bonus action to feint at an enemy within 5ft of you. You gain advantage on your next attack roll against the creature this turn, and add your superiority die to the damage roll.
This is a really good way to make sure you hit a boss or high AC baddie. Just make sure there aren’t more important things you’re supposed to be doing with your bonus action (two-weapon fighting builds need not apply).
Goading Attack (Control)
When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can spend a superiority die in order to try and goad them into attacking you. You add your superiority die to the damage roll and force the target to make a Wisdom saving throw. If it fails, it has disadvantage on attacks against targets other than you until the end of your next turn.
I think people overestimate how useful this is going to be against most enemies. Most of the time, simply being the biggest, baddest party member, holding a big weapon at the front of the group is going to be enough to make everyone focus on you.
The fact that it’s reliant on a saving throw isn’t great either, but you get the damage either way. However, if you need to rescue a squishy spellcaster who’s become the focus of the BBEG’s attention, this can be a literal lifesaver.
Also, you can apply this effect using a ranged weapon too, so use it to kite powerful enemies around the map, or to stop their archers from turning your wizard into a pincushion.
Grappling Strike (Control)
If you hit a creature with an attack, you can immediately use a superiority die and a bonus action to try and grapple them, adding your die roll to the Athletics check.
Great for a grappler builds but not much of anything outside that very specific style of play.
Lunging Attack (Damage, Control)
When you make a melee weapon attack, spend a superiority die to increase the reach of your weapon by 5ft for one attack. If the attack hits, roll the superiority die and add it to the damage.
This is a situationally useful maneuver. The damage is good, but there are other ways to apply your superiority dice as extra damage that have better effects. The extra reach is kind of meh… if you’re using a weapon with a 5ft range.
However, using this maneuver while you’re wielding a pike or halberd for example, means you’re making melee attacks against enemies 15ft away from you. Perfect for foes like the Rust Monster or anything with an aura, especially when twinned with the Sentinel Feat.
Maneuvering Attack (Control, Defense, Damage)
When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend a superiority die (adding the result to damage roll) to give your ally an opening to move into a better position. One allied creature gets to move up to half its speed as a reaction without provoking opportunity attacks.
This can be a great way of getting another party member out of trouble in a hurry, although there are probably more impactful options available. It’s still a fun way to make a dicey situation less dangerous for a friend.
Menacing Attack (Control)
When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend one superiority die to attempt to frighten the target. Add the superiority die result to the attack’s damage roll. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. If it fails, it becomes frightened of you until the end of your next turn.
This is some fantastic battlefield control that’s going to impose disadvantage on enemy attack rolls and ability checks, and means they can’t get closer to you. A great maneuver to pair with ranged attacks to keep dangerous enemies at bay for an extra turn or two.
When you get hit with a melee attack, you can use your reaction to roll a superiority die and subtract the result (plus your Dexterity modifier) from the damage you take.
When you get into the mechanics of how Parry actually works, it’s something of a misnomer. Parrying an attack implies deflecting it entirely, which you’re not doing. Instead, you get to cut a fair chunk of damage off of a successful enemy attack.
This is very powerful at lower levels when a single big hit can remove more than half of your hit points. Parry is especially good if you’re playing a Dexterity-based fighter or other class that focuses on being quick and graceful, as it can increase your guaranteed damage reduction considerably.
Precision Attack (Damage)
When you make a weapon attack roll against an enemy, you roll a superiority die and add the result to your attack roll. You can use this maneuver before or after making the attack roll, but before any effects of the attack are applied.
This doesn’t boost your damage, so isn’t fantastic on balance. However, if you’re going up against something with high AC, or think that a roll would have almost hit your target, then this is a great way to raise your chances of landing an all-important killing blow.
Honestly, I’d just pick Feinting Attack instead unless you’re using a ranged-focused build.
Pushing Attack (Control)
When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you burn a superiority die to attempt to push the target up to 15ft away from you. The target – if it is size Large or smaller – must make a Strength saving throw or be pushed. You also add your superiority die result to the attack’s damage roll.
There are very few abilities that let you push an enemy a full 15ft away, meaning this maneuver is perfect for instant kills when you’re fighting near a high ledge, or just some extra control.
Quick Toss (Damage)
You use your bonus action and a superiority die to draw and make an attack with a thrown weapon. If you hit, add the superiority die roll to the attack’s damage.
This maneuver is honestly just super badass. The image of drawing a dagger from your belt and hurling it at an enemy with lightning speed is mechanically and cinematically awesome. Also, it eliminates the need to draw the weapon first, which is really useful. Combo with Pushing Attack to wail on an enemy, send them flying, and finish them off with a throwing axe to the face.
Use a bonus action and expend one superiority die to give your allies a temporary hit point boost. One friendly creature who can see or hear you gains temporary hit points equal to the superiority die roll + your Charisma modifier.
If you already have a healer in the party, this maneuver probably isn’t going to see much use. However, if you need to keep your buddy alive for just one last round, it’s great. Particularly good at lower levels, but you’re probably going to want to switch it out when you hit 7th level.
When an enemy misses you with a melee attack, use your reaction to expend one superiority die. You make a melee weapon attack against the creature. If you hit, you add the superiority die to the attack’s damage roll.
This Maneuver is similar to Brace, and I would say that picking up one of them is a must. If you have a high AC (18 or above) then Riposte is going to give you an awful lot of opportunities to use your reaction to crack some skulls.
Sweeping Attack (Damage)
When you hit a creature with a melee weapon attack, expend a superiority die to attempt to make a cleaving attack. Choose another creature within 5 feet of the original target and within your reach. If the original attack roll would hit the second creature, it takes damage equal to the number you roll on your superiority die.
Cleave attacks are surprisingly rare in D&D. Other than Green-Flame Blade, this is one of the only ways to hit multiple targets with a single attack. However, the fact that you’re splitting damage across two targets means that this is going to stop feeling very useful once you start getting into the higher levels.
Tactical Assessment (Control)
When you roll to make an Investigation, History, or Insight check, you can expend one superiority die and add the superiority die to the d20 result.
Much the same as Commanding Presence; it’s a crappy version of Bardic Inspiration you can’t give to other people, and meets a need that other players in your party probably already fill.
Trip Attack (Control)
When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can expend one superiority die to attempt to trip up the target and knock it prone. Add the superiority die roll to the attack’s damage. If the target is Large or smaller, it must make a Strength saving throw. On a failed save, the target is knocked prone.
Along with Disarming Attack, this is one of my favorite moves for cinematic, tactical plays. It’s a great maneuver for feeling as though you’re dancing around your opponents, out-matching them with pure skill and training.
Also, the prone condition is going to knock out some of your enemy’s movement and impose disadvantage on any attacks they try to make from the ground.
Which starting Maneuvers are best?
So, you’ve decided to play a Battle Master. You’ve reached level three and want to pick the three best maneuvers to carry you from 3rd to 7th level. Now, I’m personally an advocate of choosing the maneuvers that help you express your character concept, but more on that in a minute.
Pick from the following maneuvers at 3rd level if you want the best options for Damage, Control, and Defense – as well as ones that aren’t reliant on you having the multiple attacks per round you’ll gain access to later on.
If your AC is 18 or higher, pick Riposte. A high AC will mean that enemies will miss you more often and you’ll get more chances to respond with a devastating blow using your reaction.
If your AC is 17 or lower, pick Brace, allowing you to hit enemies when they enter melee range, potentially taking them out before they can hit you.
If you want to disrupt your enemies, pick Menacing Attack for the chance to frighten them.
If you have squishy friends and a high AC, pick Goading Attack to make the bad guys focus on you.
If you want to stay alive for longer, pick Parry to reduce incoming damage.
Pick Rally to dish out some temporary HP if your party doesn’t have a healer (or your healer keeps getting knocked unconscious).
Battle Master Builds
The versatility afforded by maneuvers gives you a wide range of options if you want to give your fighter a particularly distinctive flavor.
There’s no one “right” way to play a Battle Master; whether you want to be a devastating ranged combatant, an undefeatable duelist, an indomitable tank, or something else entirely, picking the right maneuvers can redefine how you play your character.
Inspired by the Battle Master Builds section in TCoE, here are a few ways you can use maneuvers – as well as Feats, fighting styles, and multiclass options – to create different flavors of Battle Master.
A true leader knows that they’re part of a team, and that their job is to make sure everyone in their team does their job. They might not be the fastest or the most dangerous, but they ensure that the warriors under their command are a force to be reckoned with. Build a Commander-style fighter if you want to channel a battlefield leader like Captain America.
Maneuvers: Bait and Switch, Commander’s Strike, Commanding Presence, Distracting Strike, Rally, Tactical Assessment.
Feats: Martial Adept, Inspiring Leader, Alert, Sentinel, Tough
Fighting Style: Interception
Multiclass Options: Bard, Paladin
Yojimbo, the Man With No Name, Ser Barristan Selmy – go for a duelist build if you want to be able to walk up to the biggest, baddest thing on the battlefield and take it down one-on-one.
Maneuvers: Disarming Attack, Feinting Attack, Goading Attack, Parry, Precision Attack, Riposte
Feats: Alert, Defensive Duelist, Fighting Initiate, Savage Attacker
Fighting Style: Dueling (and Superior Technique if you take the Fighting Initiate Feat)
Multiclass Options: Rogue, Paladin
The Hand-to-Hand Specialist
For when the gloves come off and you want to settle things the old fashioned way. Channel Tyler Durden, Apollo Creed, and the RDJ version of Sherlock Holmes if you want to prove that, when it comes to bare-knuckle fighting, there’s no reason monks should have all the fun.
Maneuvers: Disarming Attack, Grappling Strike, Feinting Attack, Trip Attack
Feats: Athlete, Durable, Grappler, Tavern Brawler, Tough
Fighting Style: Unarmed Fighting
Multiclass Options: Monk, Barbarian
The Master Archer
Channel your inner Legolas, Hawkeye, Artemis, or Robin Hood to take down enemies from afar. However, this build isn’t just about dealing damage at a distance; the best archers in fiction are all about the stunning trick shots and feats of daring.
Maneuvers: Disarming Attack, Precision Attack, Tactical Assessment, Trip Attack
Feats: Alert, Sharpshooter
Fighting Style: Archery
Multiclass Options: Ranger, Rogue
Sometimes the best thing you can do is keep your allies alive long enough for them to take your enemy down. The Protector is all about keeping your friends alive and your enemies’ attention focused where you want it: on you.
Maneuvers: Bait and Switch, Brace, Goading Attack, Maneuvering Attack, Parry, Trip Attack
Feats: Alert, Sentinel, Shield Master, Tough.
Fighting Style: Defense
Multiclass Options: Paladin, Cleric
The best defense is arguably an overwhelmingly brutal offence. The Vanguard is the first into the fray and the last to leave, breaking through enemy lines, taking and dishing out punishment in equal measure. Barbarians? Bunch of babies.
Maneuvers: Ambush, Goading Attack, Lunging Attack, Menacing Attack, Riposte, Sweeping Attack
Feats: Charger, Great Weapon Master, Heavy Weapon Master, Polearm Master
Fighting Style: Great Weapon Fighting
Multiclass Options: Barbarian, Paladin
Martial Adept and Superior Technique
If you’re not playing a Battle Master fighter, but you think maneuvers are interesting and would complement your character’s build (or you are playing a Battle Master and want even more maneuvers and superiority dice), there are a couple of ways you can do this.
This Feat lets you dip your toe into the Battle Master’s skill pool. When you take this Feat, you learn two maneuvers of your choice from the Battle Master archetype. If the maneuver requires a saving throw, the DC is equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Strength or Dexterity modifier (your choice).
You only gain one superiority die and, if you aren’t a Battle Master already, it’s a d6 instead of a d8, which is kind of a major downside and is going to mean you definitely want to take a short rest whenever possible.
Added as part of TCoE, Superior Technique is a new fighting style that allows you to learn one maneuver of your choice from among those available to the Battle Master archetype, and gain a d6 superiority die (which doesn’t become a d8 if you’re already a Battle Master, which kind of sucks).
In all honesty, unless you’re playing a really maneuver-focused build and getting more strings to your Battle Master bow is all you care about, there are better fighting styles out there.
While these are both alright options for a non-Battle Master to get their hands on a maneuver of their very own – Goading Attack, Grappling Strike, and Ambush are all situational enough that you’ll feel impactful using them just once per combat – these features really shine when you use them to ensure that your Battle Master goes from having 4d8 superiority dice and three maneuvers known at 3rd level to 5d8 + 1d6 superiority dice and six maneuvers known.
Commonly Asked Questions
How many Maneuvers can a Battle Master have?
You can choose three maneuvers from the Battle Master list at 3rd level. At 7th, 10th, and 15th level, you can choose an additional maneuver (as well as swap out one maneuver you already have) for a total of six.
If you take the Martial Adept Feat and the Superior Technique fighting style, you can add another three maneuvers to your roster.
What are the best Battle Master Maneuvers?
All Battle Master maneuvers are at least situationally good. However, maneuvers that combine damage with the potential to protect an ally, disable an opponent, or use your reaction/bonus action to make an attack – like Bait and Switch, Goading Attack, Menacing Attack, Quick Toss, and Riposte – are all worth consideration.
Can you stack multiple Maneuvers in one round?
Yes. The PHB states that you can use only one maneuver per attack, not Attack action. Therefore, a fighter with three attacks each round could apply a maneuver to each attack for an extra 3d8 damage across the whole round, on top of the maneuvers’ different effects.
Be careful, however, as several maneuvers also require you to use your Bonus Action or Reaction, and you only have one of each per round.
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I played my first tabletop RPG (Pathfinder 1e, specifically) in college. I rocked up late to the first session with an unread rulebook and a human bard called Nick Jugger. It was a rocky start but I had a blast and now, the better part of a decade later, I play, write, and write about tabletop RPGs (mostly 5e, but also PBtA, Forged in the Dark and OSR) games for a living, which is wild.