What Makes the Class?
The druid class is exceptional and exciting, giving you access to incredible abilities alongside their spellcasting that draws in nature and animal lovers alike. When we talk about how good a druid subclass is, we still have to consider what an excellent base class we have to work with.
Before we start rating each druid circle, let’s talk about the abilities that draw people to studying the elemental forces.
Starting with the obvious, druids get a feature called wild shape, a tremendous ability that allows these mages to transform into all sorts of beasts.
As you level up this gives you the ability to become stronger creatures, creatures that can swim and fly, and creates roleplay and battlefield applications alike. Similar to a barbarian’s rage or a rogue’s sneak attack, a druid’s wild shape is their central ability.
Amazingly, the capabilities of druids don’t stop there. They’re also amazing casters, getting access to the full range of spell levels, cantrips through 9th. Most of their spells focus on the use of nature so they get cast spells like Shape Water and Call LIghtning, along with a few supportive spells to boot.
A druid is a character that can really be whatever you want it to be. Support, offense, defense, healing, any mix of these is possible with the right selection of spells and playstyle. So when we look at the subclasses, we’ll see how they focus.
In a druid subclass, we want the powers of nature to give us better wild shape abilities or more spells, or some sort of ability that synergizes extremely well. Now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s get to it.
Circle of Dreams – B Tier
Circle of the Land – A Tier
Circle of the Moon – S Tier
Circle of the Shepherd – A Tier
Circle of Spores – B Tier
Circle of the Stars – S Tier
Circle of Wildfire – B Tier
Black Citadel’s Guide to Ranking Subclasses
Each of the tiers judges how well a feature or subclass changes the base class. We consider how well they use the features and theme of the base class to create something new.
To be more precise, these tiers show how much synergy a subclass has with the class it is a part of.
- Orange – D Tier. These options are unbalanced in the wrong way, and make for a class that is almost difficult to play. They tend to take away from the play experience
- Red – C Tier. Red options can sometimes be situationally useful, but are largely less effective than other tiers. New players are discouraged from playing them typically.
- Green – B Tier. A great subclass that provides a lot of fun options, but can be clunky at times. In certain situations, subclasses in this tier can easily perform on the level of A’s or even S’s. Generally, subclasses in this tier are excellent for beginners.
- Blue – A Tier. An excellent choice. Widely regarded as powerful in some way, useful, highly effective. This is the tier where the subclasses and features that do everything right end up.
- Purple – S Tier. The top of our rankings. Objectively powerful or transformative in some way. Widely regarded as powerful and engaging to play.
Rogue Subclasses Ranked
Circle of Dreams
2nd Level: Balm of the Summer Court – You get a pool of fey energy (a number of d6s equal to your druid level) which you can use to heal your allies and give them temporary hit points. You can roll a number of dice up to half your druid level when you use this ability as a bonus action. The chosen ally regains the amount rolled, and gets temporary hit points equal to the number of dice.
6th Level: Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow – While you take a short or long rest you can create a 30 foot sphere around a point you touch that has total cover and grants you and your allies a +5 bonus to stealth and perception checks while inside. Not to mention, light from open flames inside can’t be seen from outside.
10th Level: Hidden Paths – You can teleport up to 60 feet as an action, or teleport a willing creature you touch up to 30 feet as an action. You can do this a number of times equal to your wisdom modifier.
14th Level: Walker in Dreams – When you finish a short rest you can cast Dream, Scrying or Teleportation Circle without using up spell slots or components. The Teleportation Circle is special, transporting you instead to the last place you finished a long rest on your current plane.
A circle of dreams druid has strong connections to the feywild, granting them abilities that feel very wondrous in nature. All of the abilities it offers are great, but nothing here is unattainable to the druid base class.
In order of the features given, we gain access to additional healing, safety, teleportation, and then we get some free use spells. Aside from the free use spells, a druid gains access to all of these abilities by expending spell slots.
That being said, the healing is substantial, and scales with your level up to a potential 120 points of healing each day. The protection during rests is something that many parties could benefit from, and is a huge boon to groups that get more involved in the pillar of interaction.
The free teleportation is a great way to save spell slots, as is the 14th level abilities walker in dreams ability. Not a single ability is lackluster in any way.
Overall, this is a solid B tier subclass that is going to feel like an A in a lot of campaigns. It sets the standard for how druid can be played but doesn’t give us access to anything unique or particularly exciting.
Circle of the Land
Circle Spells – The land that you became a druid in grants you certain spells that are always prepared and don’t count against your prepared spells. There are 8 different land types with different additional spells offered up at 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th levels, so there’s quite a bit of variety.
2nd Level: Bonus Cantrip – You get access to an additional druid cantrip of your choice.
2nd Level: Natural Recovery – When you finish a short rest you can regain spell slots with a total combined level no greater than half your druid level rounded down. None of the slots can be greater than 6th level. You can’t use this again until you’ve finished a long rest.
6th Level: Land Stride – Nonmagical difficult terrain cost you no extra movement, and nonmagical plants don’t slow you or cause damage. Additionally, you have saving throws against magically created plants that impair you somehow.
10th Level: Nature’s Ward – You can’t be charmed or frightened by elementals or fey, and you are immune to poison and disease.
14th Level: Nature’s Sanctuary – Before a beast or plant attacks you, it must make a wisdom saving throw against your spell save DC. If it fails it chooses another target, and if it succeeds it’s immune to this effect for 24 hours.
The circle of the land subclass of druid presents itself as its own class, with plenty of options to choose from when deciding on your land type.
Those spell lists are all pretty unique and can offer a lot to the campaign and party if chosen correctly. The lands you have to choose from are arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, swamp, and Underdark.
With exciting spells like Greater Invisibility, Cone of Cold, Insect Plague, and Stoneskin being always prepared and not counting against your prepared spells, you’re looking at one of the best spellcasting subclasses of druid.
You’re also getting a bonus cantrip, something you might’ve had to burn a feat to get, and spell slot recovery. Spell slot recovery is highly coveted and is going to let you cast a lot more of these extra tricks you have up your sleeve.
All of this happens by 2nd level, and after that it really tapers off in a lot of different campaigns. If you’re going to be dealing with difficult terrain, fey, elemetals, beasts, or plants with any level of regularity, these higher level features are going to feel amazing.
If you’re in an urban setting like waterdeep, you might never see a use for any feature past 2nd level.
This is a tough one, and I chose the A tier with faith in you the player. Talk to your DM. see if the abilities are going to come to fruition. Get their advice on which land’s spell list is going to be the most useful.
In a party that has a really open and thoughtful discussion during a session 0 this subclass can be everything you need and more, and it’s going to make you feel like an archdruid way before 20th level.
In the wrong campaign or in a situation where there’s no communication between you and your DM, this is going to be a C or worse.
Circle of the Moon
2nd Level: Combat Wild Shape – You can use wild shape as a bonus action instead of an action. You can also expend a spell slot as a bonus action to regain 1d8 hit points per level of the spell slot while you’re in your wild shape form.
2nd Level: Circle Forms – This replaces the normal CR restrictions of wild shape, with your 2nd level CR limit being 1 and your 6th level CR limit being ⅓ of your druid level rounded down.
6th Level: Primal Strike – Your beast form attacks count as magical when it comes to overcoming resistances and immunities.
10th Level: Elemental Wild Shape – You can transform into an elemental by using two uses of your wild shape at the same time
14th Level: Thousand Forms – You can cast Alter Self at will
This is really simple. The CotM subclass is amazing. Druid’s wild shape ability is the pièce de résistance, an amazing ability that is quite literally transformative. For a circle of the moon druid, it goes so much deeper than that.
The combination of combat wild shape and circle forms at 2nd level is a set of features unmatched in other druid subclasses, and really, by any other classes out there. It takes what a druid is good at it and ramps it up to a thousand.
You can transform into higher CR beasts so much sooner and you have a way higher ceiling, transforming into CR 6 beasts at 18th level. I mean, you can wild shape into a mammoth as a bonus action! Plus you get to regain hit points like crazy.
As you go on the features just continue to improve upon that solid foundation. Magical natural weapon attacks means things like spirits, fiends, and more will now have to fear the claws of your bear or the bite of your giant crocodile form.
Then you get to turn into one of the four main elementals; air, water, earth or fire at 10th level. These are actually CR 5 which means you even get a jump on the crazy CR standard your own subclass sets by accessing these 5 levels earlier than CR 5 beasts.
Casting alter self at will isn’t the weakest capstone out there, but it’s taking home no trophies. Luckily, that doesn’t matter much at all. All of the other features of this circle put this solidly as an S-tier ranking, perhaps even objectively the best druid subclass out there.
Circle of the Shepherd
2nd Level: Speech of the Woods – You gain Sylvan as a language you are proficient in. You also are now understood and can understand beasts. They aren’t incredibly intelligent, but you can decipher simple messages from their motions and gestures.
2nd Level: Spirit Totem – You basically get a patronus. You can summon a spirit that creates an aura which benefits you and your allies. The three spirit totems available are bear, which focuses on strength abilities, hawk, which gives attack advantages and perception bonuses, and unicorn, which is all about protection and healing.
6th Level: Mighty Summoner – Beasts and fey that you summon get additional hit points and deal magical damage with their natural weapons.
10th Level: Guardian Spirit – Beasts and fey you’ve summoned regain hit points when they end their turns within your spirit’s aura.
14th Level: Faithful Summons – If you are knocked to 0 hit points or otherwise incapacitated against your will you immediately benefit from the effects of Conjure Animals as if it were cast at 9th level. The summoned beasts protect you at all costs and require no concentration to sustain.
The circle of the shepherd is the way to go if you’re looking to be a summoner. I don’t just mean that for druids, I mean that in general. One of the druids best spell archetypes is their conjuring spells.
Conjure Animals, Conjure Woodland Beings, Conjure Fey, and Conjure Elemental are all incredibly powerful spells a druid has access to that let you build up a small army.
This subclass reinforces that capability so much at 6th level by giving them additional hit points and making their attacks magical so they can damage things with nonmagical resistances.
All the other abilities work really nicely in tandem by allowing you to heal, give temporary hit points, and then also give those benefits to your conjured beasts.
The capstone is a really cool one here that hopefully won’t ever need to come up, but when it does is a literal lifesaver.
All the temporary hit points and healing should keep you standing, but having a group of critters there to protect you in those worst-case scenarios is the difference between being able to heal again and having to reroll a new character.
This is a solid A-tier subclass. It makes the abilities of the base class much better and if you’re really interested in summoning things (and having a patronus) this will feel extremely powerful.
It should be noted that most conjuring spells require DMs discretion to decide which beings appear, which can be a letdown if your DM doesn’t work with you. Before you pick this up with the intention of choosing the right creature for the situation, talk to your DM and see what their level of involvement with your summons will be.
Circle of Spores
Circle Spells –
2nd Level – Chill Touch
3rd Level – Blindness/Deafness, Gentle Repose
5th Level – Animate Dead, Gaseous Form
7th Level – Blight, Confusion
9th Level – Cloudkill, Contagion
2nd Level: Halo of Spores – You are surrounded by spores which you can use to deal damage as a reaction to a creature ending or starting their turn within 10 ft of you. This damage is 1d4 necrotic and increases each time you gain a feature in this subclass up to 1d10 at 14th level.
2th Level: Symbiotic Entity – You can expend a use of wild shape to enter your symbiotic form which grants you the following benefits:
You roll two dice for Halo of Spores damage.
Your melee weapon deals an extra 1d6 necrotic damage.
You gain 4 temporary hit points for each level in druid.
This form lasts for ten minutes until you lose all temporary hit points, or until you use wild shape again.
6th Level: Fungal Infestation – You can use your spores to reanimate a beast or humanoid that dies within 10 feet of you as a zombie with 1 hit point. The zombie’s turn comes immediately after yours. This uses the zombie stat block and can only move or take the attack action on its turn. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your wisdom modifier.
10th Level: Spreading Spores – As a bonus action, you can move your halo of spores up to a point 30 feet away.
14th Level: Fungal Body – You can’t be blinded, deafened, frightened, or poisoned, and critical hits against you only count as normal attacks.
Let me start off by saying how much I love this subclass. It’s a lot. This subclass comes from Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and is heavily inspired by the Golgari themes of revering the cycle of life and death as the core truth of nature. It’s a necromancer druid that tries to execute a really cool theme, one of my favorite themes.
Unfortunately, it just tries to do so. In comparison to the other subclasses, particularly the circle of the moon druid, the execution here really falls short. Essentially, this circle provides an alternate use of wild shape which lets you deal some extra necrotic damage, lets you have fungal spores which deal damage or reanimate the dead, and gives you some fun extra spells.
This might look a lot different from everything else we see in the druid subclasses, but it’s not. Get rid of the necrotic damage and we’ve just got a watered down moon druid.
The temporary hit points is essentially what wild shape does already, and turning into more impressive beasts will garner more damage and temporary hit points than the spore druid can dream of.
Reanimating zombies is fun, but they’re really weak and only have 1 hit point. Just conjure up some beasts or elementals and you’ll have a much better army working for you.
Aside from the capstone abilities’ sturdiness, which is actually really impressive, this is just a mediocre subclass. I’ll give it a solid B, but it could even be considered a C, since it does feel like a bit of a trap, pulling you away from better options because of its enticing thematics.
Circle of the Stars
2nd Level: Star Map – You have a star map that grants you certain benefits while holding it. You have access to the Guidance cantrip. You also have Guiding Bolt prepared (doesn’t count against your prepared spells) and can cast it without expending a spell slot a number of times equal to your wisdom modifier.
2nd Level: Starry Form – You can expend a use of wild shape to enter into a starry form empowered by one of three constellations. All forms shed bright light in a 10 foot radius. Archer lets you make a ranged attack as a bonus action by hurling an arrow of light that deals radiant damage equal to 1d8 + your wisdom modifier. Chalice lets you and a creature within 30 feet of you regain 1d8 + your wisdom modifier hit points whenever you cast a spell that restores hit points. Lastly, the dragon constellation lets you treat a roll of a 9 or lower as a 10 whenever you make intelligence or wisdom checks or whenever you make a constitution saving throw.
6th Level: Cosmic Omen – You can roll a die whenever you finish a long rest. Your result lets you add (even) or subtract (odd) a d6 from an ability check, saving throw, or attack roll that is made within 30 feet of you. You can use this reaction a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus.
10th Level: Twinkling Constellations – Your starry forms improve. The archer and chalice’s 1d8 becomes 2d8 and the dragon gives you a flying speed of 20 feet and the ability to hover. You can also now change your starry form’s constellation at the start of your turn.
14th Level: Full of Stars – Your starry form grants you resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
I’ve said that we’re looking for abilities that modify a druid’s wild shape ability, and this is certainly one of them. Taking on a starry form empowered by the wisdom of the constellations rather than a primal bestial form, this subclass certainly shines as one of the best druid circles.
At 2nd level the star map is incredibly useful and really brings an interesting star seer aspect to druids that seems ever so fitting. Guidance and Guiding Bolt are great additions to your spell list and getting to cast the bolt for free while holding your star map is just awesome so early on.
Then that starry form comes online and lets you prioritize a few different styles of druid play. The archer constellation makes you an excellent damage dealer. The chalice makes you a healer and your cup definitely runneth over.
The dragon makes you an excellent spellcaster, giving you an almost guaranteed constitution saving throw. I mean, up to 21 damage and you don’t even have to roll to hold on to concentration, maybe higher depending on your constitution modifier.
The forms are incredible and give you a lot more variety in these three options than turning into a beast might give you. What really makes it is when you get to change between all three at the start of each turn at 10th level along with the other bonuses.
Now you’re not just choosing a playstyle each time you wild shape. Instead, each turn you can gain the benefits you need to be the best at what you plan on doing.
This is a solid S-tier subclass. Although it might fall short of the moon druid, I can’t hold that against it since it shot for the stars and succeeded.
Circle of Wildfire
2nd Level – Burning Hands, Cure Wounds
3rd Level – Flaming Sphere, Scorching Ray
5th Level – Plant Regrowth, Revivify
7th Level – Aura of Life, Fire Shield
9th Level – Flame Strike, Mass Cure Wounds
2nd Level: Summon Wildfire Spirit – You can expend a use of your wild shape to summon a wildfire spirit. You can use bonus actions on your turn to command it on its turn which immediately follows yours. It has a pretty impressive stat block that includes teleportation and a lot of fire damage.
6th Level: Enhanced Bond – Whenever you cast a spell that deals fire damage or restores health while your wildfire spirit is summoned, roll a d8 and add it on. Also, spells you cast that don’t have a range of self can originate from you or your wildfire spirit.
10th Level: Cauterizing Flames – You create small spectral flames when creatures die that you can use to heal or damage creatures that enter into the space. The healing or damage is 2d10 + your wisdom modifier.
14th Level: Blazing Revival – If you drop to 0 hit points while your wildfire spirit is within 120 feet of you, you can have it drop to 0 hit points instead and you regain half your hit points.
Nature is not restricted to simply the flora and fauna that grow within it. As balance is a part of all things, so too is fire an integral part of nature’s design. That is the belief of the circle of wildfire druids and they hold to it pretty well.
The first thing we see here is a pretty decent circle spell list. For spells that are always prepared, it’s awesome to see some fire damage spells alongside healing spells, a bit of a nod to the regrowth that fire symbolizes.
You get a really cool alternate use of your wild shape through this subclass. Instead of you changing forms, you get to create a wildfire spirit companion. Its stats are pretty nice, nowhere near an elemental but there are some features that it has which make it worthwhile.
It deals fire damage when it’s summoned, has a pretty solid ranged fire attack, and has the ability that makes this whole subclass worthwhile. The spirit can teleport it and as many willing targets as you want (within 5 feet of it) up to 15 feet away. And there’s no limit on how much that can happen.
If teleportation like that wasn’t enough, being able to cast spells from it is an incredible little feature that can really diversify your ranged attacks.
This subclass makes it into the A tier for a really unique and powerful wild shape use with solid abilities. If it leaned harder into the fire motif and became a true damage dealer it would see the S tier, but alas, that is not the case.