© Wizards of the Coast by Billy Christian

Paladin Oaths Ranked for DnD 5e – Most Powerful and Useful

Choosing a Paladin Subclass

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 – hopefully, helping you decide which subclass you’d be interested in playing.

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 its 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.

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 resistance, 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 thereof (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:    ★★★★☆

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:    ★★☆☆☆

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:    ★★★☆☆  

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:    ★★★★★

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:    ★★☆☆☆

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:    ★★☆☆☆

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:    ★★★★☆

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:    ★★★★☆

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 a 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:    ★★★★☆

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.

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.