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Pathfinder - Cleric Archetypes Breakdown


I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.


The Cleric sits at the top of the tier list alongside Wizards and Druids. They can fill nearly any role with fairly little effort, and because they don't need to expend resources to learn spells, they are more versatile than Wizards in many ways. Cleric archetypes alter the Cleric to focus on certain aspects of the class, and combined with your choice of domains your Cleric can embrace any number of Roles. When selecting your Archetype, be sure to also consider what Domains you plan to use, and what roles you need to fill in your party.

No Cleric archetypes combine with other archetypes.

Cloistered Cleric

The Cloistered Cleric gives up a lot of what a normal Cleric does for better knowledge skills. If your party desperately needs a Librarian, but you want to play a Cleric, this is an option. Despite typically low intelligence on Clerics, Breadth of Knowledge will let you keep pace with Wizards and Bards.

You give up medium armor, shields, nearly all of your weapon proficiencies, a cleric domain, and a spell per spell level. Expanded access to knowledge skills is really nice, but with only two extra skill ranks per level, the cost far exceeds the benefit. If you desperately need access to knowledge skills, consider traits which give you knowledge skills as class skills.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: This limitation can be easily overcome with a feat or two, but it still hurts. Heavy Mace is going to be your best martial weapon unless you put a feat into weapon proficiency, and using a sling as your only ranged weapons is just depressing. Being reduced to light armor and no shield really limits your options in combat when your limited spells run out.

Class Skills: The additional skills really add a lot of utility to the Cleric, especially the Knowledge skills. Because you won't have Wizard intelligence, your knowledge skills will depend on Breadth of Knowledge, but be sure to put one rank in every knowledge skill for the class skill bonus.

Skill Ranks per Level: 2 extra skill ranks per level really goes a long way for a Cleric.

Diminished Spellcasting: Giving up a domain hurts a little bit, but giving up a spell per spell level is devastating.

Breadth of Knowledge: This turns the Cleric into a Librarian on par with the Bard. This bonus stacks with your normal skill bonus, so you can become truly fantastic at your knowledge skills.

Well-Read (Ex): Very situational, and not a particularly large bonus.

Verbal Instruction (Ex): Very situational. There aren't a lot of situations where you can't just stand next to your allies to help them, and there are even fewer situations where you need to assist multiple allies simultaneously.

Scribe Scroll (Su): Scribe Scroll is an excellent feat, and getting it for free is really nice. Use it to prepare scrolls of situational spells which you can't justify preparing on a given day. This also helps to compensate for your limited spells per day.

Replaced Features: Weapon and Armor Proficiency, Class Skills, Skill Ranks per Level, Domains, Spells

Compatible Archetypes: None


An attempt to find more of middle ground between the Cleric and the Paladin, the Crusader gives up some spellcasting ability to get a few extra feats. You still get full spell casting, albeit at reduced spells per day. The feats are nice, but your options are severely limited, and you only get 5 feats over your career, and none of the feats will significantly improve your character. Overall, the cost far exceeds the benefit.

Diminished Spellcasting: Giving up a domain hurts a little bit, but giving up a spell per spell level is devastating.

Bonus Feat: You get several bonus feats, similar to a fighter, which can add to your effectiveness in combat. The feats lend themselves to being a sword-and-board fighter, and many of the feats add to your AC. You don't need to meet the prerequisites of the feats, which really opens up your options. Unfortunately, most of the feats just aren't very good. The best you can hope for is a +1 to your attack rolls or AC.

Legion's Blessing (Su): Spending an extra spell slot three levels higher is rarely more effective than just casting that higher level spell. Many "Mass" spells are three levels higher than their single-target equivalent, incluyding Heal.

Replaced Features: Domains, Spells

Compatible Archetypes: None

Divine Strategist

Divine Strategist gives up Channel Energy and a Domain for a couple of weird abilities. The bonus to initiative is pretty great, but Caster Support will probably never get used, and Tactical Expertise makes you reliant on intelligence.

Domains: Giving up a domain limits your spell options, but it's not crippling.

Master Tactician (Ex): Channel Energy can be a decent ability with a little bit of investment, but Master Tactician is good by itself. Initiative bonuses are fantastic, and being guranteed an action in the surprise round is huge.

Caster Support (Su): Caster level checks are generally only important for bypassing spell resistance, and you will rarely find a situation where helping someone else is better than casting another spell.

Tactical Expertise (Ex): This could be nice if it didn't require you to have high intelligence. However, without Channel Energy, you no longer need to invest in Charisma, which could free up resources to put into intelligence.

Replaced Features: Domains

Compatible Archetypes: None


The Ecclesitheurge is a strict-caster Cleric. If you already planned to forego melee combat, this archetype is fantastic. However, be sure that your party has someone to serve as a secondary tank before you give up your armor.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: There are Wizards who are better with weapons than the Ecclesithurge.

Ecclesitheurge's Vow: No armor for you.

Blessing of the Faithful (Su): I frequently advocate for applying the Guidance cantrip to every check in which you have the time to cast it because it's a constant +1 to basically anything that requires a d20 roll. This is essentially the same, but it's twice as much bonus, you don't need to prepare a cantrip, and it's an exceptionally rare sacred/profane bonus. You can spend channel energy charges to extend the duration for a few rounds, but that's probably not your go-to option in a lot of fights. At low levels you won't enough channel energy dice to justify spending charges, and at high levels you'll hopefully have better buffs. Still, when one of your allies is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in combat, +2 that stacks with nearly everything on nearly every roll can go a very long way.

Domain Mastery: Allowing you to prepare domain spells in non-domain slots is a huge benefit, and being able to swap out your secondary domain's spell list is amazing. You can pick a secondary domain with cool powers an a terrible spell list, then trade the spell list for a domain with a good spell list and terrible powers.

Bonded Holy Symbol (Su): The ability to cast any Cleric spell once per day without preparation has a ton of excellent applications. I'm not 100% sure what items can be used as a holy symbol since holy symbols are typically their own thing, but the text implies that it can be a necklace at the very least. If you can get a holy symbol ring, that might be a better option. Check with your GM.

Replaced Features: Weapon and Armor Proficiency, Domains, Channel Energy Damage (Increase at 3rd level)

Compatible Archetypes: None


The Evangelist brings the Bard's Bardic Music ability to the Cleric. This gives you additional support options beyond your spells, but won't match the capabilities of a a real Bard. Evangelists give up a spell domain, medium armor, and shields, so they give up the Cleric's ability to serve as a defender in order to focus entirely on support. Despite the vocal nature of the archetype, Evangelists are no better as a Face than any other Cleric.

Single-Minded: Giving up a domain limits your spell options, but it's not crippling by itself. Giving up access to Medium Armor and Shields makes you almost entirely dependent on your magic and special abilities, so sacrificing a domain is a much bigger problem.

Public Speaker: Very situational. Perform matters for Sermonic Performance, but you will never be as good as a Bard.

Sermonic Performance: Bardic music is pretty fantastic, but Clerics get a huge number of spells which provide morale bonuses that don't stack with Bardic Music.

Spontaneous Casting: Evangelists can spontaneously cast a list of enchantment spells which can be fairly useful, but aren't going to win you any fights.

Replaced Features: Domains, Armor Proficiency

Compatible Archetypes: None

Merciful Healer

Sometimes you just want to roll a Healbot. In that case, Merciful Healer is a solid option. You give up a spell domain and some utility with Channel Energy, but you reduce the need for situational restorative spells, and vastly improve the healing capabilities of Channel Energy.

Willing Healer: The Healing domain is bad, and its subdomains are worse.

Channel Energy (Su): Limits the utility of an already limited special ability. If you planned to use it exclusively for healing already, you won't notice the difference.

Combat Medic (Ex): Or you can cast Stabilize or literally any healing spell. As a Cleric, you know a few.

Merciful Healing (Su): Merciful Healing adds aspects of the Paladin's Mercy ability to your Channel Energy. This removes to need to prepare a lot of condition removal spells such as Remove Fear/Disease/Curse/Etc. The added ability to affect up to 2 creatures at level 6 can really help save resources.

True Healer (Su): If you don't need the condition removal, you get to heal an average of .5 more per die. It's not a ton, but it feels nice.

Replaced Features: Domains, Channel Energy

Compatible Archetypes: None


The Seperatist trades in some very, very modest stuff for the ability to choose their second domain from outside of their deity's domain list. If you really want to choose an abnormal combination of domains, Seperatist is the way to go.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Martial weapons really aren't that much better than simple weapons. Your Heavy Mace will do just fine.

Forbidden Rites: This really opens up your domain options. You get the second domain with some small penalties, but the added utility definitely outweights such a small penalty.

Replaced Features: Weapon and Armor Proficiency, Domains

Compatible Archetypes: None


The Theologian gives up their second domain for the ability to prepare their domain spells in their regular spell slots. Domain Secret adds additional utility by permanently applying metamagic feats to some of your domain spells at no cost. I would consider Focused Domain enough to justify this archetype, especially if you pick a decent domain to focus on.

Focused Domain: The extra two effective levels for your abilities is nice, but the real draw is the ability to cast your domain spells more than once per day. Many domains grant spells from outside the Cleric spell list, so this really opens up your access to those spells. Giving up your second domain is annoying, but overall this is still an improvement.

Domain Secret (Ex): This is a hugely useful ability. Depending on your domain, the benefits of the metamagic feats can change dramatically.

Replaced Features: Domains

Compatible Archetypes: None

Undead Lord

As a general rule, I would never allow a player to take this archetype in my campaigns. An army of skeletons is rarely conducive to the normal function of an adventuring party, and draws the spotlight away from the other players more than I like as a GM. That said, the abilities are good, and the archetype would make for a wonderful BBEG.

Death Magic: If you want to be an Undead Lord, the Undead domain is basically a given. Giving up your other domain is annoying, but you won't miss it.

Corpse Companion (Su): Basically an undead Cohort. You will probably want to replace your companion every level to get a bigger, better version, unless your GM decides to let you advance your companion as you level. If I were a GM, I would want my player to get attached to their Corpse Companion.

Bonus Feats: Command Undead allows you to control additional undead, especially at low levels before you get the Control Undead spell. The additional feat at level 10 is nice, but most of the options are mediocre.

Unlife Healer (Su): Basically Empower and Maximize your Inflict spells for undead. This will save you a lot of resources when healing your minions.

Replaced Features: Domain

Compatible Archetypes: None