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DnD 5e - Example Light Domain Cleric Build

Last Updated: March 16th, 2020

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Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials or released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

Introduction

Clerics have more access to radiant damage than any other class in the game, and after writing my Cleric Spell List Breakdown, I really wanted to see how far I could get on a build centered mostly on radiant damage. Because the Light domain does that plus fire damage, I figured that restricting the build to those two damage types would be an interesting character both mechanically and conceptually, and I wanted to share the results.

Light Domain Features

  1. Domain Spells: A fantastic set of offensive spells which close the gap between Clerics and Wizards.
    1. 1st-Level: Faerie Fire is a great way to handle invisible creatures, but it's also helpful support option for allies that rely on attacks because it's an easy source of Advantage against multiple targets. Burning Hands is a great low-level AOE damage spell, but resist the urge to burn all of your spell slots casting it or you won't have any slots to heal with.
    2. 3rd-Level: Scorching Ray is a great option, especially if you have Bless running to boost the attack rolls. Flaming Sphere is strictly worse than Spiritual Weapon, but it's good enough that you could consider not preparing spiritual weapon if you're short on space for prepared spells.
    3. 5th-Level: Daylight is situational, but Fireball is the sledgehammer of offensive spells: sometimes you just need to hit your problems until they fall down.
    4. 7th-Level: Excellent area control options.
    5. 9th-Level: Flame Strike is considerably less important since you get Fireball, and Scrying is situational.
  2. Bonus Cantrip: Not spectacular, but a Light Cleric really should have light, and someone in every party should be able to cast it.
  3. Warding Flare: You won't get a ton of uses, so save this for enemies which can do a lot of damage on a single attack. This needs to be activated "before an attack hits or misses", which is frustratingly vague, but I assume it means "before the result of the attack is determined". So your DM could roll, ask "Does a 25 hit?" knowing full well that it does, and you could scream "Warding Flare!" before the DM says "you are hit" and the DM would then roll with Disadvantage. Of course, your DM might read that differently and my take my portrayal of that interaction poorly, so check with your DM before you assume how this works.
  4. Channel Divinity: Radiance of the Dawn: The damage isn't great beyond low levels, but magical darkness can really cause problems, and a guranteed way to remove it is very convenient.
  5. Improved Flare: Fantastic if you have allies who are squishier than you like a Wizard, or if you need to buy time until you can heal someone.
  6. Potent Spellcasting: By this level you can easily have 20 Wisdom, giving an impressive boost to your damage output. Note that this only applies to Cleric cantrips, so you can't use it in conjunction with Magic Initiate to turn .
  7. Corona of Light: If you're anything like me, you want to make a joke about light beer whenever you see this ability. But unlike light beer, this is fun. It's essentially an overdrive button for your fire and radiant damage spells, which is especially nice with the Light domain's Domain Spells.

Example Build - Variant Human Light Domain Cleric

If only I could be so... grossly incandescent.

This build is fairly simple. Limiting our damage options to fire damage and radiant damage is extremely limiting, but those still include many of the best damage spells in the game. In the party, this is primarily a ranged spellcaster, but with medium armor and a shield, we can still interpose ourselves between weaker allies and things with spears and teeth if they slip past our more melee-oriented allies.

Abilities

This includes the two flexible +1 ability score increases from Variant Human. You can easily make adjustments based on your role in the party. If you pick up some Face skills, switch Intelligence and Charisma..

Base Increased
Str 8 8
Dex 14 14
Con 13 14
Int 12 12
Wis 15 16
Cha 10 10

Race

Variant Human. We'll put the two ability score increases into Constitution and Wisdom. We'll spend the free skill on Perception because it's the most import skill in the game and it's not on the Cleric's class list. We can put the extra language into anything, and Celestial seems appropriate. We'll discuss feats below.

Skills and Tools

We get Perception from our race, and two skills from the Cleric list. Religion is almost guaranteed, so let's assume that as our first choice. If you're your party's Face, take Persuasion. If you're not, take History.

Background

Our choice of background doesn't matter much to the build, so pick something that appeals to you or that helps support your role in the party. If you can't decide, Acolyte is a great option. Take Insight, Persuasion, and two languages that are common in the setting where your campaign takes place.

Feats

Your choice of racial feat is complicated. Elemental Adept seems appealing, but we get a total of just 6 spells that deal fire damage so it won't get much use. We don't even get the Fire Bolt cantrip. Heavily Armored is tempting, but it's only a total of +1 AC, and the Strength increase isn't helpful. Medium Armor Master could work, but we'll still need more Dexterity to fill it out and I don't see our glowing cleric doing a lot of sneaking.

Spell Sniper or Magic Initiate both look tempting for extra cantrips, but we have Sacred Flame and Word of Radiance, so we don't need much else. If something is resistant or immune to radiant damage, we can use leveled spells instead. Clerics have almost no offensive spells that require spell attacks, so Spell Sniper does very little, and I can't think of any specific spell options that we would want from other classes available via Magic Initiate.

Our best options are like Lucky, Observant, and Resilient. Lucky is just a generally great feat, so it's a great fallback if you don't know what to pick. Observant gets us +1 to Wisdom or Intelligence, so if you're using Point Buy for ability scores you can drop your base Wisdom to 14 and spend the extra points elsewhere and still have 16 Wisdom at level 1. Or, you could rearrange my suggested ability scores to end up with two odd-numbered scores (after applying racial increases and the bonus from Observant or Resilient) so that your first ability increase can increase two of your ability modifiers.

Resilient won't work well to raise your Wisdom at 1st level since clerics are already proficient in Wisdom saving throws, but you could use it on Constitution and you would still get some extra Point Buy points to spend.

You could plan to take two feats which give +1 to an ability score, start with 17 Wisdom, then end up with 18 at 4th level. Unfortunately I don't know of a feat combination that supports that except Observant and Resilient, and you can't do anything with the redundant saving throw proficiency so that seems wasteful.

For this build let's assume Lucky as the default feat choice, but I encourage you to experiment. If you don't have other people in the party with high Perception, I strongly encourage you to explore Observant instead.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1
  • Spellcasting
  • Domain Spells
  • Cantrips Known:
    • Guidance
    • Sacred Flame
    • Word of Radiance
  • Light Domain
  • Bonus Cantrip: Light
  • Warding Flare

For your starting equipment, select a mace, scale mail, a dagger, either pack, and a shield and holy symbol. If you took the Acolyte background you may end up with two holy symbols, but it's nice to have a spare.

At level 1 you have 18 AC while you're holding a shield. You can walk around with your dagger and shield out, but you'll need to stow your weapon to perform somatic components and the only reason to carry the dagger is for opportunity attacks.

Your go-to offensive options are your cantrips. Sacred Flame for single targets and Word of Radiance if you can target more than one by getting into melee range, but don't be afraid to break out Burning Hands if you want more damage or can hit a bunch of targets.

Expect to rely primarily on resting for healing, but bring Healing Word for emergencies. Consider Bless or Shield of Faith to buff your allies, but remember that your spell slots are very limited at this level. If you just need to protect yourself, skip Shield of Faith and rely on Warding Flare instead.

2
  • Channel Divinity (1/day)
  • Channel Divinity: Radiance of the Dawn

At low levels, Radiance of the Dawn is a decent AOE damage spell with a fantastic radius. As you gain levels the damage falls behind very quickly, but it remains an unstoppable way to handle magical darkness which is otherwise a huge problem.

3
  • Domain Spells

3rd level brings 2nd-level spells, and our domain spells have two fun new ways to deal fire damage. Spiritual Weapon is typically a better spell than Flaming Sphere, but we're limiting ourselves to fire and radiant damage, so get ready to summon a very small sun and ram it into people.

2nd-levels spells include Continual Flame, and honestly if your holy symbol isn't perpetually glowing are you even a light cleric?

4
  • Ability Score Improvement (Wisdom 16 -> 18)
  • New Cantrip Known:
    • Any

More Wisdom does a lot for the cleric. More spells prepared, more healing from Cure Wounds and from Healing Word, higher DCs for our spells, and an extra use of Warding Flare.

We already have the cantrips that I care about, so consider something fun like Thaumaturgy or Spare the Dying.

5
  • Domain Spells
  • Destroy Undead (CR 1/2)

5th level brings some important milestones. Cantrip damage increases, and you add Daylight and Fireball. Fireball is one of the best damage spells in the game for its level, and I encourage you to use it whenever the situation even remotely justifies it.

Be sure to pick up Spirit Guardians. Turn yourself into a radiant damage-based blender and wade into melee. You still get your Action, so you can pile on more radiant damage with Word of Radiance or Radiance of the Dawn if you need more damage.

6
  • Channel Divinity (2/rest)
  • Improved Flare

An extra use of Radiance of the Dawn isn't spectacular, but it's a cheap AOE with a big radius, so use it whenever you can catch a bunch of enemies in the effect.

Improved Flare is a great improvement to Warding Flare. Forcing Disadvantage on attack rolls against any of your allies means that you have an easy way to protect your weak or wounded allies without cutting into your blasting time. You still only get a few uses per day, so save this for attacks that will be really problematic rather than burning through your Warding Flare pool as soon as weapons come out.

7
  • Domain Spells

Nothing at this level except 4th-level spells. Wall of Fire is great area control, which makes Guardian of Faith feel silly by comparison because it's a less-useful area control spell. Guardian of Faith admittedly has an 8-hour duration which offers some fun options, but generally you'll go for Wall of Fire.

Get really comfortable with Wall of Fire. The damage scales by 1d8 per spell level just like Spirit Guardians, and the fact that the damage can be applied multiple times makes it a great option for your higher-level spell slots.

8
  • Ability Score Improvement (Wisdom 18 -> 20)
  • Destroy Undead (CR 1)
  • Potent Spellcasting

We're now at maximum Wisdom, which is great. More damage, better DC's, and more Warding Flare!

Potent Spellcasting is a big boost, especially for Word of Radiance. If you can catch two enemies in the effect, 2d6+5 damage is really great, and it gets even better as enemies crowd in around you. I don't know why they would do that, consider Spirit Guardians is a thing, but something enemies are dumb at just rush the nearest player.

9
  • Domain Spells

Nothing at this level except 5th-level spells, and Light Domain doesn't get anything of interest. You won't use Scry most days (though you should absolutely buy the materal cimponent for it), and Flame Strike is just a more expensive fireball so you should probably never use it.

Still, we get access to Dawn and Holy Weapon, and while they're not massively important they're still great sources of radiant damage.

10
  • Divine Intervention
  • New Cantrip Known:
    • Any

Divine Intervention is really cool, but also totally unreliable. At this level you have just a 10% chance to receive Divine Intervention. Use this frequently, if only so that you'll have a chance to actually trigger the effects.

Unfortunately, this is also the last level for a long time where we get an exciting and wholly new class feature. From here on it's all incremental improvements and new spell levels.

11
  • Destroy Undead (CR 2)

6th-level spells, and you can destroy undead of CR 2. Cantrip damage increases, too.

Tragically, there are no 6th-level cleric spells that deal radiant or fire damage, but our favorite spells like Spirit Guardians and Wall of Fire are still fantastic options. You do get great things like Heal, but none of them are divine sunlight-based explosions so they're not very exciting for our purposes.

12
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 14 -> 16)

Your first ability score increase that doesn't need to go into Wisdom. Constitution will improve your hit points, but if you're not being targeted frequently consider feats. If you din't take it at first level, Resilient is a great option.

13

Nothing at this level except 7th-level spells.

14
  • Destroy Undead (CR 3)

Destroy even more undead.

15

Nothing at this level except 8th-level spells.

16
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18)

Another ASI or feat.

17
  • Destroy Undead (CR 4)
  • Corona of Light

9th-level spells and Corona of Light. Corona of Light only lasts one minute, but cast Spirits Guardians as a 9th-level spell and activate Corona of Light and you're an unstoppable tornado of radiant damage, dealing out 9d8 damage per round, with reflex saves for half made at disadvantage. All you need to do is keep enemies in the area and not die, and after a full minute if you haven't manage to kill everything in the room with a total of 90d8 damage (avg. 405; a little less than 2/3 of the Tarrasque's hit points), hopefully spamming Radiance of the Dawn and Word of Radiance were enough to make up the difference.

18
  • Channel Divinity (3/rest)

No change at this level, but the extra use of Darn of Radiance combines nicely with Corona of Light.

19
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 18 -> 20)

Another ASI or feat.

20
  • Improved Divine Intervention

Divine Intervention jumps from 19% effective to 100% effective. At this level you're close enough to your deity that you can always request and recieve direct aid. This is an intentionally vague ability, so expect to do some amount of negotiating with your DM to determine what sort of aid you recieve.