© Wizards of the Coast by Manuel Castañón

Choosing a Paladin Subclass: Most and Least Impressive Oaths

Today we’re going to look at how the different Paladin subclasses stack up against each other.

The goal of this article is to give you a good idea of how each subclass plays, which subclasses are better than others and how, and hopefully help you decide which subclass you’d be interested in playing.

Ranking the Subclasses

We’ll be comparing the Offensive, Defensive, and Support merits of each subclass, as well as looking a bit into how each of these subclasses presents itself for roleplay opportunities.

Since we are comparing the subclasses, we really won’t be looking at any of the paladin’s main class abilities, except for judging how the subclass uses these to their advantage.

 Additionally, while we may discuss the level 20, or capstone ability, of a subclass, we won’t take that into consideration for our paladin rankings, since most campaigns won’t make it to 20th level.

Offensive 

The offensive abilities of the paladin class lie in the fact that they are a half-caster/ half-martial class. They have the basic ability to attack, cast some spells, and are perhaps best known for their smiting abilities.

In this guide, we’re looking for subclasses that do these things better. This could present itself as powerful damage spells, bonuses to attack damage, or any number of things that make your combat potential greater.

Defensive

Paladins typically bolster their own defenses through various auras or spells. They also have the impressive feature Divine Health, which gives them immunity to disease.

We’re going to be looking for abilities that give us resistances, heal us in some way, or just increase our AC or HP. Additionally, spells and effects that control or inhibit the actions of our opponents can be considered defensive abilities.

Support

Paladins support their allies in many ways. Perhaps the most common is through their healing abilities, but they also boast a series of spells and auras that have beneficial effects.

When we talk about support abilities, we’re talking about anything that makes your teammates’ jobs easier. This is basically a combination of the offensive and defensive abilities, but with the stipulation that the effects are being used by others. 

Roleplay

Allow me to start off by saying that roleplay is impossible to judge. Anyone could take any character and have the most amazing roleplay experience of their life if they just allow themselves to have fun.

Our rating system for this category is purely a look at how well we believe the subclass presents opportunities for roleplay that don’t exist within the base class.

We want to see something that presents us more than just a knight sworn to uphold ideals of justice in righteousness. If the tenets, or lack there of (cough, cough, Oathbreaker), provide us with exciting plot hooks this will get a good rating.

Rating System

We will be using a five-star ranking for each of the categories.

Below is each rating and what it means in relation to the category it’s next to.

☆☆☆☆☆ – Makes this category worse somehow.

★☆☆☆☆ – Doesn’t improve on the base ability of the category at all.

★★☆☆☆ – Provides a small amount or very specific benefit to the category.

★★★☆☆ – Boosts the category up well. Still limited in effectiveness, or requires a lot of planning to pull off well.

★★★★☆ – Excels in the category. Most players will see consistent benefits.

★★★★★ – Jaw-dropping abilities in the category. Consistently useful in any context.

Oath of Conquest (XGtE)

  • Offensive:   ★★★☆☆ 
  • Defensive:   ★★★★☆
  • Support:      ★☆☆☆☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★★★☆

Oath of Conquest Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Armor of Agathys, Command

5th Level Hold Person, Spiritual Weapon

9th Level Bestow Curse, Fear

13th Level Dominate Beast, Stoneskin

17th Level Cloudkill, Dominate Person

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Conquering Presence. Frighten creatures within 30 ft of you on a failed wisdom saving throw.
  • Guided Strike. Gain +10 to an attack roll. Use this after you’ve rolled but before your DM says if the attack hits.

7th Level

Aura of Conquest. Frightened creatures within your 10 ft aura have a movement speed of 0 and take psychic damage equal to your charisma modifier when they start their turn there. 

15th Level

Scornful Rebuke. Whenever a creature hits you with an attack, that creature takes psychic damage equal to your Charisma modifier if you’re not incapacitated.

20th Level

Invincible Conqueror. As an action, you can become an avatar of conquest, gaining the following benefits for 1 minute:

  • You have resistance to all damage.
  • When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can make one additional attack as part of that action.
  • Your melee weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20 on the d20.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

The Oath of Conquest is not by nature an evil subclass, but it does venture into much darker territories than our base paladin would. This paladin is mainly focused on controlling, or conquering, the wills of others. 

Perhaps the most recognizable ability of this class is its Conquering Presence, a channel divinity that sends a wave of fear out 30ft from you. This ability keeps frightened enemies away from you and gives them disadvantage on attacks against you.

It also rolls nicely into your level 7 aura which both stops the movement of creatures frightened by you, and deals a bit of psychic damage to them.

You’re going to pick up a nice variety of oath spells that will round out a good list. You gain spells that boost AC and a spell of each level that in some way gives you dominion over the actions of others. 

All of these features really go to improving your defensive capabilities, mostly through stopping your opponents from attacking you. But being able to control the actions of others also becomes offensive quickly for a paladin, because it means getting off more of your attacks with ease. 

For the offense, we also get a channel divinity that gives a one-time bonus of +10 to our attack rolls. If you know a target has high AC this will definitely give you the edge you need to deal your damage. 

Spiritual weapon is also a great bonus action spell that is going to be used just about every combat like an extra attack each turn.

All of the ways you achieve your goals, and even your goals, are vastly different from your run-off-the-mill lawful good paladin. Your tenets are even shaped toward malice instead of justice or truth. 

This paladin prevents some amazing ways to control a battlefield and shape it to their advantage. While they don’t do much in the way of supporting their allies, their ability to set up foes to be knocked down makes them a great damage dealing tank. 

Oath of Devotion (PHB)

  • Offensive:   ★★★☆☆ 
  • Defensive:   ★★★☆☆
  • Support:      ★★★☆☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★☆☆☆

Oath of Devotion Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Protection from Evil and Good, Sanctuary

5th Level Lesser Restoration, Zone of Truth

9th Level Beacon of Hope, Dispel Magic

13th Level Freedom of Movement, Guardian of Faith

17th Level Commune, Flame Strike

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Sacred Weapon. As an action you turn a weapon into a magical weapon. For 1 minute, you add your Charisma modifier to attack rolls made with that weapon. The weapon also emits bright light in a 20-foot radius and dim light 20 feet beyond that. You can end this effect on your turn as part of any other action. If you are no longer holding or carrying this weapon, or if you fall unconscious, this effect ends.
  • Turn the Unholy. Use your holy symbol and prayer to turn any fiends or undead that can see or hear you. A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can’t willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you. It can’t take reactions. For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that prevents it from moving. If there’s nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action.

7th Level

Aura of Devotion. You and your allies within 10ft of you can’t be charmed. Increases to 30ft at level 18.

15th Level

Purity of Spirit. You are always under the effect of Protection from Evil and Good.

20th Level

Holy Nimbus. As an action, you can emanate an aura of sunlight. For 1 minute, bright light shines from you in a 30-foot radius, and dim light shines 30 feet beyond that. Whenever an enemy creature starts its turn in the bright light, the creature takes 10 radiant damage. In addition, for the duration, you have advantage on saving throws against spells cast by fiends or undead. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

This might as well be the Oath of the Paladin paladin. This subclass gives us a lot of what paladin already does for us. Mind you, it does this very well.

Where our other subclasses attempt to add something to spice up the paladin, or hone in on some aspect of the main class, this oath just carries along with the motifs set forward for any paladin.

For starters, there are only three oath spells that aren’t already available to paladins. Sanctuary, Freedom of Movement, and Flame Strike are presented to this oath, and they’re good spells.

They aren’t particularly exciting, although flame strike deals a lot of damage, it is a 5th level spell so that should be expected.

Sacred Weapon gives you some good bonus to attack. It is set back by being a full-action move instead of a nice bonus action power-up, but that’s okay, it doesn’t hurt us. 

Protection from being charmed is probably the coolest thing you offer up to you and your allies. This ability can be a bit niche, but it’s very useful when it comes into play. 

So this is an interesting paladin. It’s as if you could be a paladin without having to choose a subclass. This lack of deviation makes this the perfect choice for any beginners who are just excited to play a half-martial/half-caster class devoted to honesty, courage, compassion, honor, and duty.

Oath of Glory (TCoE/MOoT)

  • Offensive:   ★☆☆☆☆
  • Defensive:   ★★☆☆☆
  • Support:      ★★★☆☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★★☆☆  

Oath of Glory Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Guiding Bolt, Heroism

5th Level Enhance Ability, Magic Weapon

9th Level Haste, Protection From Energy

13th Level Compulsion, Freedom Of Movement

17th Level Commune, Flame Strike

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Peerless Athlete. For 10 minutes you have advantage on athletics and acrobatic checks; you can carry, push, drag, and lift twice as much weight as normal; and the distance of your long and high jumps increases by 10 feet.
  • Inspiring Smite. After you deal damage with Divine Smite you can 2d8 + your paladin level of temporary hit points to creatures of your choice within 30ft of you.

7th Level

Aura of Alacrity. The walking speed of you and any ally who starts their turn within 5 ft of you is increased by 10 ft. Increases to a range of 10 ft at level 18.

15th Level

Glorious Defense. If a creature within 5 ft of you is being attacked you can use your reaction to boost their AC with your charisma modifier. If this causes the attack to miss you can make a weapon attack against the attacking creature. You can use a number of times up to your charisma modifier and it regenerates expended uses on a long rest.

20th Level

Living Legend. As a bonus action, you gain the following benefits for 1 minute:

  • You are blessed with an otherworldly presence, gaining advantage on all Charisma checks.
  • Once on each of your turns when you make a weapon attack and miss, you can cause that attack to hit instead.
  • If you fail a saving throw, you can use your reaction to reroll it. You must use this new roll.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a 5th-level spell slot to use it again.

This subclass is mediocre. While I love just about everything WotC puts out, I have to admit they dropped the ball here. This oath was meant to feel like a grecian hero akin to Hercules or Perceus, and instead ended up feeling like Michael Phelps learned how to use a sword.

That might be misleading; this has nothing to do with swimming, and any olympic athlete would do.

The Inspiring Smite ability is my favorite thing in this class, and it’s got some flaws. It allows you to dish out health when you use your divine smite. There are two ways this could’ve been better.

You could gain the option to do this after any smite you do or you could make this an aura ability, so it’s not dependent on you burning a channel divinity.

Granted, the other channel divinity will get used rarely, only when you decide you really need advantage on that athletics or acrobatics check. 

The only saving grace for this not-so-glorious oath is their level 15 ability which lets you give your charisma modifier as a bonus to a creature’s AC, as a reaction. 

I’m sure there are ways to make this subclass work for you, which is why I gave an unbiased rating.

However, for a class that says it’s devoted to performing heroic deeds, it’s really nothing more than a jock with a bit of magic.

Oath of Redemption (XGtE)

  • Offensive:   ☆☆☆☆☆
  • Defensive:   ★★★★☆
  • Support:      ★★★★☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★★★★

Oath of Redemption Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Sanctuary, Sleep

5th Level Calm Emotions, Hold Person

9th Level Counterspell, Hypnotic Pattern

13th Level Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere, Stoneskin

17th Level Hold Monster, Wall of Force

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Emissary of Peace. +5 to persuasion checks for 10 minutes.
  • Rebuke the Violent. When a creature attacks someone other than you within 30ft you can send the damage they dealt back at them as radiant damage.

7th Level

Aura of the Guardian. Take damage for another creature within 10 ft of you. Increases to 30 ft at level 18.

15th Level

Protective Spirit. Gain 1d6 + half your paladin level HP when you start your turn with less than half of your max HP.

20th Level

Emissary of Redemption.  You have resistance to all damage dealt by other creatures. Whenever a creature damages you, it takes radiant damage equal to half the amount it dealt to you.

If you attack a creature, cast a spell on it, or deal damage to it by any means but this feature, neither benefit works against that creature until you finish a long rest.

Before you run away because you see a 0-star rating in the offensive category, let me explain. This oath is devoted to non-violence.

While we aren’t looking at a completely pacifist D&D character here, we are looking at a subclass of paladin built so well in the other categories that it can afford to avoid violence.

Let’s start off this class by looking at that 5-star roleplay value. One of your channel divinities gives a very nice +5 to persuasion checks. Why, might you ask?

Because this paladin is going to convince anyone it comes across that fighting is not the solution. Your goal is to stop violence from even starting, and if you’re built right that’s going to happen pretty often.

This 5 star does become a bit conditional though. If your party is hellbent on getting some bloodshed in you’re going to rob them of their fun. It’s worth talking with your group first to see if the non-violent approach is going to be kosher with everyone.

If you do fall short of convincing an evil mastermind to practice non-violence, you’ll pick up a lot of different abilities that allow you to put an end to combat.

Aura of the Guardian lets you take damage from others, and then Protective Spirit heals you in perfect synergy, making your foes’ attempts futile.

All of your spells (with the exception of stoneskin) are cherry-picked to stop magical effects and make creatures stop whatever they’re doing. I mean at 5th level you get Hold Person, and then 9th you become the only paladin to pick up Counterspell.

This is an excellent class for anyone who wants to: A. Play an unconventional role in combat; B. Be the most persuasive character that isn’t playing an instrument to cast their spells; C.

Be the party mom and protect your children at all costs; or D. Rain chaos when something finally triggers your near-pacifist enough to unleash all their holy s-might.

Oath of the Ancients (PHB)

  • Offensive:   ★★★☆☆ 
  • Defensive:   ★★★★☆
  • Support:      ★★★★☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★☆☆☆

Oath of the Ancients Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Ensnaring Strike, Speak with Animals

5th Level Moonbeam, Misty Step

9th Level Plant Growth, Protection from Energy

13th Level Ice Storm, Stoneskin

17th Level Commune with Nature, Tree Stride

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Nature’s Wrath. Use spectral vines to ensnare foes when they fail a strength or dexterity saving throw
  • Turn the Faithless. Force fiends and fey to run away from you. Also ends illusions, shapeshifting, and other effects that could conceal those creatures’ forms.

7th Level

Aura of Warding. 10 ft aura that gives you and allies resistance to damage from spells. Increases to 30ft at level 18.

15th Level

Undying Sentinel. If you are dropped to 0 hit points and not killed, you bounce back up with 1 HP. You also suffer no effects of old age and can’t be aged magically.

20th Level

Elder Champion. You can assume the form of an ancient force of nature, taking on an appearance you choose. For example, your skin might turn green or take on a bark-like texture, your hair might become leafy or moss-like, or you might sprout antlers or a lion-like mane.

Using your action, you undergo a transformation. For 1 minute, you gain the following benefits:

  • At the start of each of your turns, you regain 10 hit points.
  • Whenever you cast a paladin spell that has a casting time of 1 action, you can cast it using a bonus action instead.
  • Enemy creatures within 10 feet of you have disadvantage on saving throws against your paladin spells and Channel Divinity options.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

Green knights, fey knights, horned knights, whatever you call these paladins, there’s no denying that they are the most attuned with nature of any paladin subclass.

The druidic abilities given to this class do an excellent job of gaining some control over the battlefield and boosting most of the abilities of the paladin class.

Both of the channel divinity options reflect this battlefield control aspect. Nature’s Wrath will stop the movement of others by restraining them with vines, and Turn the Faithless forces fiends and fey to run away from you.

Pair that with the resistance to spell damage you and your allies gain at level 7 and you’ve already got a full arsenal of abilities that keep you and your party safe.

Keep in mind that this is only resistance to spell damage, and doesn’t affect any other magical abilities. In a campaign where you find yourself up against a lot of spellcasters this could even kick the defensive rating up to 5 stars.

The oath spells are one of the most rounded lists offered by a subclass. There are offensive, defensive, supportive, and even some powerful utility spells here.

This class presents itself as a way to multiclass into druid, without actually having to multiclass into druid. The end result is a class that uses the base paladin as a platform to jump into some really nice abilities.

You’ll still be relying on the regular paladin abilities to deal most of your damage, but the control and protection your natural abilities provide allow you to do so with great efficacy. 

Oath of the Crown (SCAG)

  • Offensive:   ★★☆☆☆
  • Defensive:   ★★☆☆☆
  • Support:      ★★☆☆☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★☆☆☆

Oath of Crown Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Command, Compelled Duel

5th Level Warding Bond, Zone of Truth

9th Level Aura of Vitality, Spirit Guardians

13th Level Banishment, Guardian of Faith

17th Level Circle of Power, Geas

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Champion Challenge. As a bonus action, force creatures of your choice to make a wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, the creature can not willingly move more than 30ft away from you.
  • Turn the Tide.  Each creature of your choice that can hear you within 30 ft of you regains hit points equal to 1d6 + your Charisma modifier if it has half of its HP or less.

7th Level

Divine Allegiance. Use your reaction to take damage for a creature within 5ft of you.

15th Level

Unyielding Saint. Gain advantage on saving throws against being stunned or paralyzed.

20th Level

Exalted Champion. You can use your action to gain the following benefits for 1 hour:

  • You have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons.
  • Your allies have advantage on death saving throws while within 30 feet of you.
  • You have advantage on Wisdom saving throws, as do your allies within 30 feet of you.

This effect ends early if you are incapacitated or die. Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

The Oath of the Crown is an interesting class. It’s not terrible, but in comparison to all the other subclasses we’re looking at here, it just falls flat.

The improvement it offers to the base class is minimal at best, and it feels like a lazy mish mash of other oaths’ scraps.

For starters, the level 7 ability allows you to take the damage for a creature within 5 ft of you. The Oath of Redemption ability does the same thing, but better, because it starts out at a 10ft range and moves to 30 at level 18.

I mean this isn’t a ‘bad’ ability, but when another oath does it so much better it begs the question. Why?

The channel divinities pair with nothing else in the subclass. The Champion Challenge functions like a very soft Compelled Duel and yet there are no abilities that support keeping your enemies close until your capstone.

Turn the Tide can boost your allies after they’ve taken some AoE damage, but that’s such a specific scenario, and the amount of health doesn’t scale well with level.

The oath spells are just alright, Spirit Guardians is the best one you’ll pick up, but it quite frankly makes no sense with the paladin devoted to nationalist ideals. Oath of the Ancients clearly has way more connection to their ancestors.

Here’s the thing though. Paladin is a good class, because of what it allows you to do it doesn’t take a lot to improve upon the abilities. It’s hard to mess up such a well-rounded class, and this Oath doesn’t make paladin worse by any means. It’s not a great subclass, but if it excites you, go for it.

Oath of the Watchers (TCoE)

Vigilant protectors who focus on threats from other planes of existence.

  • Offensive:   ★★★★☆ 
  • Defensive:   ★★★☆☆
  • Support:      ★★★☆☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★★★☆

Oath of the Watchers Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Alarm, Detect Magic

5th Level Moonbeam, See Invisibility

9th Level Counterspell, Nondetection

13th Level Aura of Purity, Banishment

17th Level Hold Monster, Scrying

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Watcher’s Will. Allies within 30ft gain advantage on Wisdom, Intelligence, and Charisma saving throws. 
  • Abjure the Extraplanar. Turn aberrations, celestials, fiend, fey, or elementals within 30 ft of you when they fail a wisdom saving throw.

7th Level

Aura of the Sentinel. Allies within 10 ft gain a bonus on initiative equal to your charisma modifier. Increases to 30 ft at level 18. 

15th Level

Vigilant Rebuke. When a creature succeeds on a mental saving throw, deal 2d8 + your charisma modifier force damage to the creature who caused the throw to be made.

20th Level

Mortal Bulwark. As a bonus action, you gain the following benefits for 1 minute:

  • You gain truesight with a range of 120 feet.
  • You have advantage on attack rolls against aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, and fiends.
  • When you hit a creature with an attack roll and deal damage to it, you can also force it to make a Charisma saving throw against your spell save DC. On a failed save, the creature is magically banished to its native plane of existence if it’s currently not there. On a successful save, the creature can’t be banished by this feature for 24 hours.

Once you use this bonus action, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest, unless you expend a 5th-level spell slot to use it again.

The Oath of the Watchers is one of the most focused subclasses we’re looking at today. Their purpose is to be the ultimate weapon against extraplanar threats.

Celestials, aberrations, fiends, fey, elementals, basically every creature type in the paladin’s ‘Evil and Good’ spells except for undead. 

For this reason, it could’ve gotten a much lower rating, but I’ve chosen to look at it for what it is made to do. It’s accurate to say that if this subclass doesn’t come across its ‘favored enemies’ it will be far less effective.

However, when looking at a subclass built for one purpose, we have to assume it will be in a campaign that explores those concepts at least marginally.

So, we have a series of abilities that relate to wisdom, intelligence, and charisma saving throws. Your channel divinity gives you and allies advantage on these throws, while your level 15 ability deals damage to the creature that forced the throw to be made.

Great in class synergy here for sure. 

Abjure the Extraplanar is a jacked-up version of the Ancient’s Turn the Faithless, essentially ‘turning’ all of the extraplanar beings you deal with instead of just fey and fiends. 

Then we look at the oath spells and we see some great options here. There’s Banishment and Hold Monster, both of which are incredibly powerful options. You’re also gaining Counterspell.

The spell list here provides incredible interaction with the extraplanar beings

Here’s why this gets such good ratings across the board. Paladins start off with abilities that toe this line of dealing with these kinds of threats. The base class offers Divine Sense, ‘Evil and Good’ spells, and bolsters your defenses against magical threats with it’s auras.

This subclass shows us what a paladin who dives headfirst into that mindset looks like.

We end up with a very specialized class, and while it might struggle at times to keep up when facing other threats, it more than makes up for it with how well it does what it does.

Oath of Vengeance (PHB)

  • Offensive:   ★★★★★
  • Defensive:   ★★★★☆
  • Support:      ★★☆☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★★★☆

Oath of Vengeance Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Bane, Hunter’s Mark

5th Level Hold Person, Misty Step

9th Level Haste, Protection from Energy

13th Level Banishment, Dimension Door

17th Level Hold Monster, Scrying

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Abjure Enemy. Choose one creature within 60 feet of you that you can see to make a Wisdom saving throw or be frightened. Fiends and undead have disadvantage on this saving throw. On a failed save, the creature is frightened for 1 minute or until it takes any damage. While frightened, the creature’s speed is 0, and it can’t benefit from any bonus to its speed. On a successful save, the creature’s speed is halved for 1 minute or until the creature takes any damage.
  • Vow of Enmity. For 1 minute you have advantage on attack rolls against one creature of your choice.

7th Level

Relentless Avenger. Hitting creatures with opportunity attacks allows you to move half your speed as part of your reaction.

15th Level

Soul of Vengeance. You gain a reaction attack when the creature targeted by your enmity makes an attack.

20th Level

Avenging Angel. Using your action, you undergo a transformation. For 1 hour, you gain the following benefits:

  • Wings sprout from your back and grant you a flying speed of 60 feet.
  • You emanate an aura of menace in a 30-foot radius. The first time any enemy creature enters the aura or starts its turn there during a battle, the creature must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or become frightened of you for 1 minute or until it takes any damage. Attack rolls against the frightened creature have advantage.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest.

This class is just an absolute powerhouse. This is easily the most offensive paladin subclass and is one of the most offensive subclasses the whole game. This class is focused on, unsurprisingly, vengeance, and dealing with their foes by any means necessary.

This doesn’t go all the way to being an evil subclass, but they are definitely ruthless combatants.

Vow of Enmity is a highlight of this class, an ability that has strength and synergizes well with other features as you level up.

The fact that it allows you to gain advantage on attack rolls against any creature of your choosing is going to give you return on investment every time you use this channel divinity.

Later you gain the melee reaction attacks against the creature you’ve vowed enmity about. Such a well-built pairing, on top of the number of attacks you gain through the main class, is going to mean plenty of damage dealt.

The defensive properties of this class are in the movement you gain. Paladins tend to be sentinels, standing firm and locking a target into battle.

This oath provides you with several spells, like Misty Step and Haste, which let you get where you want to be, and get away from the fight if you need to take care of yourself.

You’re also getting a channel divinity that doesn’t just frighten your opponents. It’s also going to stop them in their tracks, especially when you’re dealing with fiends or fey.

The combination of good tactics and strong offensive capabilities available through this oath make it a force to be reckoned with. In any situation where there’s one enemy clearly stronger than the others, you will lead the charge with righteous fury, a true avenger.

Oathbreaker (DMG)

  • Offensive:   ★★★★☆ 
  • Defensive:   ★★★★☆
  • Support:      ★★☆☆☆
  • Roleplay:    ★★★★☆

Oathbreaker Abilities

Oath Spells

3rd Level Hellish Rebuke, Inflict Wounds

5th Level Crown of Madness, Darkness

9th Level Animate Dead, Bestow Curse

13th Level Blight, Confusion

17th Level Contagion, Dominate Person

3rd Level

You gain the following two Channel Divinity options.

  • Control Undead. Target an undead within 30 ft of you, with a CR of at least one less than your paladin level. That creature makes a wisdom saving. If it fails you command it for 24 hours.
  • Dreadful Aspect. Creatures of your choice with 30 ft are frightened of you for 1 minuteif they fail a wisdom saving throw. At any time a creature frightened by this ability that is still within 30 ft of you can make another saving throw to break free.

7th Level

Aura of Hate. You and any fiends or undead within 10 ft of you gain a bonus to melee weapon damage rolls equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of +1). Increases to 30ft at 18th level.

15th Level

Supernatural Resistance. You gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons.

20th Level

Dread Lord. As an action, you surround yourself with an aura of gloom that lasts for 1 minute. The aura reduces any bright light in a 30-foot radius around you to dim light. Frightened enemies take 4d10 psychic damage if they start their turn in this aura. Additionally, you and any creatures of your choosing in the aura are draped in deeper shadow. Creatures that rely on sight have disadvantage on attack rolls against creatures draped in this shadow.

While the aura lasts, you can use a bonus action on your turn to make a melee attack against a creature in the aura, using the shadows as your weapon. If the attack hits, the target takes necrotic damage equal to 3d10 + your Charisma modifier.

After activating the aura, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

The breaker of oaths. This class is incredibly unique. It takes the essence of a paladin, their oath, and uses it to build something truly terrifying. The Oathbreaker class was introduced in the Dungeon Master’s Guide as a villainous character option, and it fits this job perfectly. 

You have an opportunity in this subclass to start out as any other paladin oath. Play that for as long as you want, and then break your oath. That’s right. This paladin’s roleplaying is built right into it.

Of course, you can make that look as complicated or as simple as you want, but that’s the gist of it. You get to experience a rare opportunity to become evil as a character.

You can also atone! You can decide to switch back to another oath if your path leads you once again to doing good deeds, or at least away from evil. This presents even more opportunities.

You could start off as a Vengeance paladin, take vengeance too far to the point of breaking your oath and going full evil, and then decide to seek redemption through the Oath of Redemption class.

But that’s not all, if you break your oath now we’ll throw in some amazing abilities, for free! The Oathbreaker might not take the full step to being a necromancer, but they’re at very least a necromantic.

This class gives you the ability to control undead creatures! Your channel divinity lets you attempt to overpower the will of an undead so long as their CR is 1 less than your level, not a hard thing to do in most cases.

You’re also going to pick up Animate Dead to create a small group of zombies or skeletons to create a meat shield between you and whatever you’re up against. 

Then you’re bolstering the attacks of yourself and any undead or fiends around you, which can be a detriment, but mostly it means you’ll command an even more powerful group of undead on your bonus action.

On the defensive end, we gain an impressive amount of possession or control spells, and an ability to inflict fear that rivals that of the Oath of the Conquest. Using these abilities, and again, your zombie meat shields, means you should be protected from most damage coming your way.

All in all this subclass is extremely impressive. The limitations of this class are only the limitations of an evil alignment. In a party of good characters, your actions won’t likely fly, so contention could be very easily created. Be sure to discuss expectations with your group or DM before bringing this character out to the table.

Class Superlatives

We’re taking it back to high school to give you a quick summary of what makes each of the classes stand out. Grab your pens and sign the yearbook, it’s time to see who won the Paladin Class Superlatives.

Life of the party. This subclass excels at roleplay and creating meaningful interaction with other members of the party. They’ll keep everyone else up while talking the good talk. Oath of Redemption truly brings a party to life… and keeps them alive.

Most athletic. This oath is going to benefit the most from a high Strength score. They carry a big stick and misty step softly. Oath of Vengeance is a force to be reckoned with.

Most changed. This subclass takes the base class and turns it into something new entirely. Still, a righteous knight but so much more, the Oath of the Ancients truly develops the paladin into something new. 

Most unique. A knight that truly stands out in a crowd. This subclass brings a personality that knocks-em dead… and then picks them back up. The Oathbreaker class is definitely one of a kind.

Most likely to run for President. Or dictator. This subclass has a commanding presence that shows they’re ready to run the show. Oath of Conquest is a born leader.

Most likely to go to space. While astronauts might be a little uncommon in D&D, this class would find themselves at home on a Spelljammer, sailing the cosmos between planes of existence. Of course, they’d be out for blood, but they’d be there. The Oath of the Watchers has an eye on the skies.

Class Clown. This subclass is just trying their best and having a good time. They might not have much going for them, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a good time. The Oath of the Crown is our subclass least likely to succeed.

Most Spirited. This is a subclass that is just so excited to be a part of this class. If paladin were a high school, this oath would be the leader of the Pep Team, never straying too far from the beaten path. Oath of Devotion is certainly devoted to being the most paladin of the paladins.

Most likely to go to the Olympics. On your marks. Get set. Go! This class is off to the races and ready to lift things up and put them down. Captain of the football team, this jock is focused on flexing and being praised while they’re at it. Oath of Glory is in it to win it.

Swear Your Oath

If you’ve read this far you’re clearly interested in the paladin class. Now’s not the time to tell you all the things that make paladins great. You get it. Now is the time for YOU to choose.

What path will your paladin take? Will you take a righteous path, and seek to protect others from harm? Will you journey to wipe all evil from the realms, no matter the cost? Or will you forego your oath and use your powers for evil ends?

Many choices lay before you. Use this article to figure out which subclass of paladin is right for you. Check out our subclass guides for more information once you’ve narrowed it down.

When you’re ready, take your oath, and become the knight you were meant to be.