I grew up reading the Eragon novels, an exciting story about a young boy who discovered that he was one of the last dragon riders.
The bond he developed with his dragon, and the magic he was able to harness as a result of that bond was just so incredible that it made me dream of soaring through the sky with dragons.
I know I’m not alone there, and if it wasn’t Eragon it was some other book or piece of media. Dragons are cool, that’s just how it is. Now, with the recent publishing of Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons, we have a dragon rider of our own to dive into in our adventures throughout the forgotten realms and beyond.
Join me as we talk about the features this class brings to us, how it stacks up against other ranger subclasses, and how you can build your very own drakewarden to unveil the next time you sit down for a new campaign.
Drakewarden Ranger Abilities
You learn the Thaumaturgy cantrip, which counts as a ranger spell. You also can speak, read, and write Draconic or one other language of your choice.
You can summon your drake companion as an action. The drake shares your initiative but takes its turn immediately after you, using the Dodge action unless you command it otherwise as a bonus action on your turn.
The drake remains until it is reduced to 0 hit points, you summon it again, or you die. You can not summon it more than once per long rest.
Drake Companion Stat Block
AC. 14 + Proficiency Bonus (natural armor)
Hit Points. 5 + five times your ranger level (the drake has a number of hit dice equal to your ranger level)
Speed. 40 ft.
STR: 16(+3) DEX: 12(+1) CON: 15(+2)
INT: 8(-1) WIS: 14(+2) CHA: 8(-1)
Saving Throws. Dex + 1 + PB, Wis + 2 + PB
Skills. Perception +21
Damage Immunities. Determined by draconic essence.
Senses. Darkvision 60 ft., Passive Perception 12
Challenge Rating. Equal to your PB
Draconic Essence. Choose a damage type (acid, cold, lightning, fire, or poison) when you summon it. This is it’s damage immunity and damage type for the Infused Strikes trait.
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack +3 plus PB to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1d6 + PB piercing
Infused Strikes: When another creature within 30 feet of the drake that it can see hits a target with a weapon attack, the attack deals an extra 1d6 damage of the drake’s Draconic Essence type.
Bond of Fang and Scale:
Your drake grows larger and your bond grows deeper, granting you both new abilities.
- Drake Mount. Your drake is now medium and gains a flying speed equal to its walking speed. If you are size medium or smaller you can use your drake as a mount, but it does not maintain its flying speed while you do so.
- Magic Fang. The drake’s bite deals an extra d6 of the draconic essence damage type.
- Resistances. You gain resistance to the draconic essence damage type.
Choose a damage type from the draconic essence list, it does not have to be the same as the one chosen from draconic essence. You breathe a 30 foot cone in which creatures take 8d6 damage of that type on a failed Dex save against your spell save DC and half as much on a successful save.
The damage increases to 10d6 when you reach 15th level in this class. Once you use this feature you can’t use it again until after a long rest unless you expend a spell slot of 3rd level or higher.
Your heightened bond gives you the following abilities:
- Empowered Bite. The drakes bite now deals an extra 2d6 of the chosen damage type.
- Large Drake. Your drake is now large and can continue to fly while you ride it as a mount.
- Reflexive Resistance. When you or your drake take damage while you are within 30 feet of each other, you can use your reaction to give one of you resistance to that instance of damage. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus and you regain all expended uses on a long rest.
- Ride your drake.
- Harness the elements.
- Fight alongside a powerful dragon.
This subclass has me super hyped. I mean, you get a pet dragon to bond with! I’m going to put some of that hype on the backburner though while we talk about how this subclass actually works.
There’s no doubt that the biggest feature of this subclass is the drake companion you receive at 3rd level. It’s got a decent stat block that scales as you level up, something we’ve seen with the beast master conclave.
We’ve got hit points tied to our ranger level, along with plenty of stats like AC and attack bonus tied to our proficiency bonus.
So how does this stack up against the beast master? Well, the primal companion feature that gave us three options, beast of the land, sea, or sky, was revolutionary when it came out and revised the original subclass. Drakewarden’s drake companion makes it look puny in comparison.
Our drake has a higher calculation for both HP and AC than all of the beast options. While its attacks are right in the middle, its reactionary-infused strikes ability is going to actually make you stronger, putting its attack on top before we even get the 7th level feature on line.
Now, all of that superiority starts at 3rd level but definitely just gets better as we pick up more abilities. Our drake’s damage increases and it starts getting to deal it’s draconic essence damage when it bites.
You’re choosing that damage type every time you summon it which means you’re going to be able to prepare yourself perfectly for just about any battle you’re about to face.
As a result of your bond you’re also picking up those resistances, and eventually gaining the ability to gain resistance to any attack! That’s incredible, and while it’s extremely limited in usage, its potential is out of this world.
The last part of our drake that really makes the entire package is that you can ride it. You can ride a dragon! The flight doesn’t come into play until 15th level, and I’ll just have to accept that. I understand just how overpowered it would be if you were flying around on a large dragon any earlier, but a man can dream.
Then of course there’s that dragonborn feature you pick up that just give you a better version of a breath weapon. And it is a way better version.
Dragonborn breath weapons are:
- Only one damage type, chosen when you create your character.
- Typically 15’ cones, which means we’re actually getting 4x the target area.
- Way weaker, dealing a maximum of 5d6 at 15th level.
- Less frequently usable. They may recharge on a short rest, but being able to burn a spell slot is a sweet compromise.
So yeah, drake’s breath > dragonborn breath weapon by a lot.
Basically every feature we pick up improves on some sort of existing mechanic in another piece of 5e, and I’m 100% here for it. Objectively, this is an amazing class. Subjectively, I just might start crying.
This is a key piece of our ongoing subclass articles, but I’ll be honest, I have to get real nitpicky to find things to write about here. Still, no subclass can be perfect (except for circle of the moon druid) so let’s discuss.
Action economy when you’re controlling more than one creature, i.e. anything other than yourself, can easily become awkward and difficult to understand. This problem is definitely still present with a drakewarden.
While the drake can move without you commanding it, it’s only ever going to take the dodge action unless you actually use a bonus action to issue a command.
That sucks, especially when there are other things you could be doing on a bonus action.
What’s worse is that there is precedence for a different method of commanding. Animate Objects let’s you issue a command to your constructs and they will continue to follow that command until you issue a new one or they can’t perform the task any more.
This frees up your bonus actions like 90% of the time because you can just say “attack the ogre” and not worry about it for a few turns unless you want to change up the tactics.
Likely this bonus action command is an attempt at balance, but it can get annoying for players and DMs, so I’d suggest finding something that works better at your table.
The only other thing I could call a limitation is the class chosen. While the ranger makes perfect sense to have an animal companion thematically, none of the class features synergize with the subclass itself.
Subclasses should include that synergy. In fighters, we tend to see abilities that improve martial combat, in druids we see wild shape used in a variety of different ways, in wizards we always get abilities that mirror the spellcasting school we’ve chosen and improve our spellcasting.
The drakewarden just gets the drake companion and that’s it. You could say that the infused strikes improves a ranger’s martial abilities, and you’d be right, but it can also be used for any other creature’s weapon attacks.
There isn’t anything here that screams “I am made for the ranger.” I mean, realistically, you could slap this subclass on any class and it would be just as effective.
Think about it. If a fighter had a drake companion that it could ride as a mount, use to gain elemental damage, and fight alongside, everybody would be happy, it might even be better.
That kind of falls into a problem I have with the ranger class in general, but it is what it is. If anyone tries to play a different classed drakewarden, let me know, I’m sure it will be just as cool if not cooler.
Building your own Drakewarden
There’s a lot that goes into building a character. You’ve got to pick a race, choose a background, pick up skills, the list goes on.
We’ll go more in depth on choices that any ranger can make in a feature article for the whole class, but here we’ll be focused on what specifically makes the best drakewarden possible.
This is pretty standard stuff for a ranger after the publishing of TCoE, but you’ll want to pick up all of the optional features. Favored foe, deft explorer, primal awareness, and nature’s veil all introduce far better mechanics than the original features in the PHB.
Mainly, these new choices are more versatile, not relying on one-time choices you make when you pick up the feature.
For your fighting style, you’ve got a few options, but it’s probably a solid idea to go for a weapon based style to get maximum benefit from the infused strikes. Archery and dueling are safe bets if you choose this route.
You could also pick up druidic warrior and use that to get the shillelagh and thunderclap. Shillelagh is going to give you a magical weapon, let you boost wisdom over dexterity, and give you a really powerful weapon to use with infused strikes while thunderclap gives you access to an extra damage type unaccounted for in infused strikes.
Rangers may only be half casters, but that just means the spells they do use should be chosen that much more carefully. Fortunately, you have a great built-in way to burn 3rd level spell slots with your drake’s breath, which means you can hone in on the lower leveled spells and pick a few solid higher ones for when you don’t want to breathe fire or anything else for that matter.
Best Drakewarden Spells
- Beast Bond; 1st-Level Divination – You’ll want to use this on your drake often, giving the two of you a telepathic link (while in line of sight) and giving it advantage on attack rolls against creatures within 5 feet of you.
- Hunter’s Mark; 1st-Level Divination – An essential ranger concentration spell that lets you deal more damage against a chosen target.
- Beast Sense; 2nd-Level Divination – Another spell to cast with your drake. This let’s you use it for reconnaissance by seeing through its eyes and hearing through its ears for up to an hour.
- Ashardalon’s Stride; 3rd-Level Transmutation – Introduced in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons along with this subclass, this spell makes you very fast and lets you deal fire damage just by getting close to people.
- Freedom of Movement; 4th-Level Abjuration – Cast this on your mount and you’ll prevent it from being slowed via difficult terrain or magical effects that would reduce movement speed. You’ll also help it to easily escape from any magical restraints.
There are plenty more great ranger spells out there, but I count these as essentials for a ranger with a drake companion.
Any race that boosts dexterity and wisdom is going to be a catch for you. Fortunately, we’re getting a lot of races that take the lineage approach of +2 to one ability score and +1 to another.
You can now pick up a dragonborn, dhampir, hexblood, reborn, faerie, or harengon with whatever ability scores you want.
In fact, you can pick up any race using TCoE custom lineages provided that you say goodbye to the race’s regular features.
If you want a ready made race, there are a few excellent ones that stand out for rangers anywhere.
- Wood Elf – +2 Dex, +1 Wis. You’re going to keep yourself from getting charmed with advantage on charm based saving throws and the wood elf also comes with some great stealth-based features
- Hawk-Headed Aven – +2 Dex, + 2 Wis. Amazing ability scores and doesn’t receive disadvantage with long-ranged attacks. Not to mention a flying speed so you can be side-by-side with your drake as soon as it sprouts its wings.
- Firbolg – +2 Wis, +1 Str. If you want to favor your spellcasting, dexterity isn’t as important, and you can still make it strong without a bonus. This tall, but not large, race gets to become invisible and it gives you a few more spells to work with that don’t require you to burn spell slots.
The last big component of building an excellent character is picking the right feats. Here are some of the best for the drakewarden.
- Mounted Combatant – You get advantage on melee attacks against creatures smaller than your mount. This is useful at 7th level and godlike at 15th. It’s also going to provide a lot of protection to your drake while you’re mounted, giving you an actual mechanical reason to be atop your dragon in battle even before it can fly.
- Telepathic – This lets you communicate with a lot more than just your drake, but it’s especially useful in keeping that line of command silent to really make that bond seamless without consistently casting Beast Bond.
- War Caster – This is just essential for any character that wants to cast spells and participate in martial combat at the same time. It even lets you cast spells as opportunity attacks, excellent if you have a good damage dealing cantrip from druidic warrior.
So there you have it. Get out there and ride your dragon into battle, and as always, happy adventuring.