Introduction

Wisdom is crucial, but the usefulness other cleric races’ traits depend on your build and your choice of Divine Domain. Constitution is similarly useful regardless of build, but easy access to healing spells means that you can mitigate damage by healing yourself so Constitution isn’t as crucial as it is for martial classes.

Strength or Dexterity increased can be helpful for clerics planning to use weapons, but since weapons are mathematically a poor choice for the Cleric increases in those abilities don’t make a race an effective cleric by allowing them to limp along by using weapons at the expense of their spellcasting. A weapon-based cleric is playable, but a well-built weapon-using cleric will struggle to be just barely as effective as a cleric who is using cantrips. Unless you can also get Booming Blade, your racial traits won’t weapons a good option no matter how good they are.

Beyond your race’s ability score increases, look for useful things like Darkvision (the spell Darkvision isn’t on the Cleric’s spell list, though you can cast plenty of spells to produce light), additional skill proficiencies and weapon proficiencies if you’ll use either, and other things that can broaden your capabilities beyond what your class offers or which complement your class features.

Like with many spellcasters, innate spellcasting is very appealing to the cleric. As a full caster you have no shortage of spell slots beyond low levels, but innate spellcasting often offers access to spells from other classes’ spell lists. While the Cleric spell list is great, there are still appealing option which you may want.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my Cleric Handbook.

Table of Contents

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Cleric Races

Keep in mind that not all races will be available in every game. Consult your DM about which races are welcome in your game, as not all settings are appropriate to every setting or even to specific campaigns within a setting which might otherwise welcome any and all races.

AarakocraEEPC

UpdatedMMoM: With their speed reduced in exchange for some uninteresting innate spellcasting, the Aarakocra can’t compete with other flying options. It’s still good because flight is good, but it can’t match the Fairy or the Winged Tiefling.

Customized Origin: The Aarakocra was already a fantastic option for the Cleric. Shift the +2 increase into Wisdom and the +1 into either Dexterity or Constitution, but your tactics don’t change from the default rules. However, with the ability to customize your origin and rearrange ability score increases the Winged Tiefling becomes a better option than the Aarakocra.

Default Rules: The increases are great for a lightly-armored Cleric, and flight is always fantastic. Remaining safely out of melee is a massive tactical asset, and most of the Cleric’s best offensive options work at range. The Dexterity increase makes it easy to compensate for being limited to light armor, but your AC will still lag medium armor because you need to increase your Wisdom before your Dexterity. if you want to be able to wear medium armor, check out the Winged Tiefling.

AasimarVGtM

UpdatedMMoM: A good middle of the road option that can fit a variety of builds. Especially good in campaigns where undead and enemy clerics will be enemies.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two damage resistances, Darkvision, and Healing Hands and Light Bearer feel like natural additions to the Cleric. Each subrace offers a transformation with a damage boost (plus other stuff) which notably applies to both attacks and spells. Since clerics never get Extra Attack, the most reliable way to use this in conjunction with AOE damage spells. But even Spiritual Weapon can apply the damage bonus, so if you get one or two of those going you’re probably fine.

  • Fallen: Fear is a great crowd control effect, but due to the limited range this is only useful on heavily-armored clerics who can handle being in melee.
  • Protector: Once daily flight is typically enough to address your tactical needs, and it’s a great way to get yourself out of harms way if you can’t handle being in melee.
  • Scourge: Scourge gets more damage at the cost of your own health. That’s a gamble for many classes, but for the cleric is just means that you need to spend a couple spell slots to heal yourself. Easily worth the extra damage, especially against small numbers of powerful enemies.

Default Rules: Charisma doesn’t do much for a cleric, but the flavor works very well, and the Aasimar’s other racial traits and their subraces work for a variety of cleric builds.

  • Fallen: A more direct option for offensive clerics that prefer to use weapons.
  • Protector: Wisdom and a temporary ability which turns you into a flying death machine.
  • Scourge: A decent option for a cleric in heavy armor, but the short range on Radiant Consumption makes it hard to rely on spells offensively. As a cleric you have plenty of healing to offset the self-inflicted damage.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: Rearrange the increase to +1 Con/+2 Wis, but otherwise my advice under the default rules still applies.

Default Rules: You get the crucial Wisdom increase, and the two damage resistances are nice since you can’t address them with spells. The innate spellcasting is already on the cleric’s spell list so there’s nothing new there, but it could save you some prepared spells.

Air GenasiMMoM

Darkvision, and all of the Air Genasi’s innate spellcasting are new to the Cleric’s spell list. This is especially good for tempest clerics because Shocking Grasp will trigger Thunderbolt Strike.

Bugbear

UpdatedMMoM: Cleric don’t have a way to make more than two attacks per turn (one as an Action and one using Spiritual Weapon), so the Bugbear’s signature trait is wasted.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Surprise Attack only works with attacks, but it works with Guiding Bolt which is a great opener at low levels, and it looks like it works with Spiritual Weapon, too. The biggest problem you’ll have is that clerics rarely have the Dexterity to act early in initiative, and you may have trouble making more than one attack in your first turn. Long-limbed is neat and can help with delivering spells like Inflict Wounds and Harm, but it only works with attacks so you can’t use it to deliver Cure Wounds for some reason.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread, and none of the cleric’s cantrips use attack rolls so you’ll need to rely on weapons to benefit from Long Arms and Surprise Attack. So your spellcasting will lag and your racial traits encourage you to focus on weapon attacks which are mathematically just barely as good as spells in your best-case scenario. You could argue that combining Surprise Attack with an attack spell like Inflict Wounds is worthwhile, but I don’t think that gimmick is good enough to make this a go-to option.

Centaur

UpdatedMMoM: Charge is almost good enough to make weapons tempting for a centaur cleric, but Spiritual Weapon remains consistently better and easier for your whole career, so beyond low levels your racial traits are reduced to “is fast”.

Classic (Customized Origin)GGTR: Relying on Strength-based weapon attacks is not a good idea for the Cleric. The Centaur’s speed is excellent, but unless you’re using Charge and Hoof you can get the same speed from the Aarakocra with the added benefit of flight.

Classic (Default Rules)GGTR: Fast with a Wisdom increase, and maybe a way to make weapon attacks worthwhile for the Cleric. Charge offers an additional attack as a Bonus Action, and that additional attack might make Divine Strike appealing since the second attack provides insurance in case your first attack misses. But the best time to use that combination is early in a fight when you should be casting spells to set the stage for your party to succeed, and if you want to use your Bonus Action for damage there’s nearly nothing that competes with Spiritual Weapon.

Changeling

UpdatedMMoM: I would consider this for a high-Charisma trickery cleric, but nothing else.

Classic (Customized Origin)ERLW: +2/+1 increases, two skills. Shapechanger is neat, but very few clerics can use it in any meaningful way. I wouldn’t consider the Changeling for anything except Trickery Domain.

Classic (Default Rules)ERLW: The Flexible increase can go into Wisdom, and with a Charisma increase and two Face skills, the Changeling can be a fantastic party Face. Unfortunately, there’s little here that contributes directly to your primary function as a cleric beyond the Wisdom increase.

Deep GnomeMMoM

With the exception of trickery clerics, clerics can’t cast Disguise Self, and none of them can cast Nondetection. The Trickery Cleric’s Blessing of the Trickster only works on other creatures. The Deep Gnome neatly fills those gaps in capabilities. Trickery is almost certainly your best choice of domain to capitalize on the Deep Gnome’s traits, but it’s a decent choice in general.

DragonbornPHB

Chromatic: The Dragonborn’s breath weapon is less impactful for the Cleric because they have an easy short-range AOE damage option in Word of Radiance, and the Dragonborn’s damage resistance is less useful because the Cleric can cast Protection From Energy.

Gem: Gem Flight makes the Gem Dragonborn somewhat more useful for the Cleric than other dragonborn varieties because the Cleric’s options for flight aren’t as good as those for most other full spellcasters.

Metallic: The Metallic Dragonborn’s additional breath weapon options are neat, but they won’t compete with your spells.

Customized Origin:

  • ClassicPHB: With the introduction of the Fizban’s variants, there is no reason to play the classic Dragonborn, either with or without the custom origin rules. The new variants are strictly better in absolutely every way.
  • DraconbloodEGtW: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and Forceful Presence. Helpful if you’re a Face, especially since the Cleric can’t afford as much Charisma as classes better suited to the role. Not getting additional Face skills is hard, too, so races with additional skills are likely a better choice.
  • RaveniteEGtW: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and Vengeful Assault. The Cleric’s attacks aren’t dangerous enough to make Vengeful Assault meaningful, especially since Divine Strike doesn’t apply outside of your own turn.

Default Rules:

  • ClassicPHB: With the introduction of the Fizban’s variants, there is no reason to play the classic Dragonborn, either with or without the custom origin rules. The new variants are strictly better in absolutely every way.
  • DraconbloodEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Bad ability spread.

DuergarMMoM

Clerics don’t get either of the Duergar’s innate spells, but they can’t target other creatures and other creatures will benefit more than you, so there’s little appeal there. The Duergar’s defenses are nice, but only situationally useful.

DwarfPHB

For the updated version of the Duergar, see their separate race entry on this page.

Customized Origin: +2 increase, Darkvision, and resistance to poison. Retrain the weapon proficiencies unless you’re dead set on using them. Even then, you get four and only need one.

  • DuergarSCAG: Numerically great, but Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain if your campaign doesn’t take place underground.
  • HillPHB: Put the +1 in Constitution and Dwarven Toughness will give you even more hit points. Great for melee builds, and the extra hp will close the gap between the Artificer’s d8 hit dice and the d10 hit dice of classes like the Fighter.
  • MountainPHB: The second +2 is really tempting, but it’s not essential since the Cleric really only needs to raise Wisdom to 20. Still, starting with two ability scores at 17 makes it easy to get both to 20 if you want to do that. It also leave lots of room for feats in your build, and makes it easier to start with a second ability at 16 while spending fewer points, which then lets you raise your lower ability scores. Trade the armor proficiencies for two more tool proficiencies.

Default Rules: +2 Con, Darkvision, Poison Resilience, and some extra proficiencies, including martial weapons which aren’t available to most clerics, including some that are built to be in melee in heavy armor. Dwarfs are very durable, which is a good thing when you’re the party’s healer.

  • DuergarSCAG: The innate spellcasting is a good complement to the Cleric’s spellcasting, offering some options which most clerics can’t replicate. But be careful with Sunlight Sensitivity.
  • HillPHB: A bit of Wisdom and additional hit points further improve the Dwarf’s durability.
  • MountainPHB: The Strength bonus is helpful for those clerics who will benefit from the martial weapon proficiencies, but weapons are mathematically not a good choices for clerics. The armor proficiencies are redundant, unfortunately.

Earth GenasiMMoM

Clerics don’t get access to Blade Ward or Pass Without Trace, and despite sometimes getting heavy armor, d8 hit points still feels frail compared to classes like the Fighter. Jumping over difficult terrain isn’t as easy with poor Strength, which makes Earth Walk helpful for front-line clerics. All of the Earth Genasi’s traits are additive for the Cleric and broadly useful.

EladrinMMoM

Darkvision, Perception proficiency, and short-range teleportation which won’t conflict with your spells.

ElfPHB

For the updated versions of the Eladrin, the Sea Elf, and the Shadar-Kai, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: Retrain the weapon proficiencies unless you’re dead set on using a weapon. The innate spellcasting is hard since it’s Charisma-based. Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain. If you just want the Innate Spellcasting, consider the Drow Half-Elf instead.

  • DrowPHB:
  • EladrinMToF: Fey Step is great, but the secondary effects are Charisma-based so you may find them difficult to use.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Functionally similar to the regular Eladrin, but you give up the rider effect on Fey Step to get 4 weapon proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies.
  • High ElfPHB: Booming Blade is good enough to make weapon-using clerics not only viable but extremely effective, and it notably doesn’t care about your Intelligence. You’ll generally want to avoid other options. If you want effective wizard cantrips on the Cleric, consider the Arcana Domain.
  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Decent skill bonuses and innate spellcasting, but sleep is obsolete immediately.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Damage resistance, and the teleportation effect is a better fit for the Cleric than the Eladrin’s secondary teleportation effect. Teleport into a crowd and cast Spirit Guardians.
  • Wood ElfPHB: None of these traits improve the Cleric.

Default Rules: High Dexterity is nice for lightly armored Clerics, and Perception is a great skill for Clerics due to their high Wisdom, but only one subrace that isn’t setting-specific provides a Wisdom bonus so the Elf is a hard choice.

  • DrowPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • EladrinMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Bad ability spread.
  • High ElfPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Similar to the Wood Elf, but less of a martial focus. Incisive Sense offers some useful options outside of combat, and the innate spellcasting offers some great tools not normally available to the Cleric.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Wood ElfPHB: A bit of Wisdom, plus access to Shortswords means you have a decent Finesse weapon to make use of your high Dexterity. Mask of the Wild looks like an interesting option for Trickery Clerics, but it’s only situationally useful due to the limitations on where it can be used.

FairyWBtW / MMoM

Flight and access to two good buffs that aren’t on the Cleric’s spell list. You can only fly in light armor, which presents an AC problem, but flight can compensate to some degree as long as you stay at a careful distance..

Firbolg

UpdatedMMoM: Detect Magic, Disguise Self, and invisibility (the effect, not the spell). Only trickery clerics get access to Disguise Self and Invisibility, so the extra options allow other clerics to be a little bit sneaky.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases. Firbolg Magic and Hidden Step offer some interesting magic options which most clerics can’t replicate, but it doesn’t add much to the Cleric’s capabilities.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Strong, wise, and with a small pile of active abilities and innate spellcasting which nicely complements the Cleric’s spellcasting.

Fire GenasiMMoM

Clerics don’t get Produce Flame, but you don’t need it. Most clerics don’t get Burning Hands, and while it’s a decent low-level AOE you can often handle the same targets with Word of Radiance. There’s very little to gain here.

GenasiEEPC

For the updated versions of the Air Genasi, the Earth Genasi, the Fire Genasi, and the the Water Genasi, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi’s traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: Clerics don’t get access to Water Breathing, so the ability to breath anywhere is very occasionally useful. Similarly, the Cleric has few options for magical flight compared to the Wizard, so Levitate may be a useful way to get out of the reach of melee enemies stuck on the ground.
  • Earth: Pass Without Trace is helpful, but it’s not enough to give up everything else that your race could give you.
  • Fire: Damage resistance and Darkvision. Produce Flame is a decent offensive option, but not as good as Sacred Flame. The innate spellcasting is also Constitution-based, so it will lag behind your regular spellcasting so you’ll almost certainly forget about the innate spellcasting after very low levels.
  • Water: Damage resistance, amphibious, swim speed, and some innate spellcasting including Shape Water. Shape Water is one of my absolute favorite spells, but unless you’re in an aquatic campaign I don’t think it justifiable. Consider the High Elf or the High Half-Elf instead.

Default Rules:

  • Air: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
  • Earth: Bad ability spread.
  • Fire: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
  • Water: A bit of Wisdom, damage resistance, and access to Shape Water, which is one of my absolute favorite Cantrips.

GithMToF

For the updated versions of the Githyanki, the Githzerai, see their separate race entries on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: One skill, and trade the armor and weapon proficiencies for as many as five tools. All of the innate spellcasting is new to the Cleric, and Misty Step is a spectacular tactical option. However, remember that it’s still a level spells so you can’t Misty Step then immediately cast Revivify or Spirit Guardians.
  • Githzerai: Shield is a great spell on any character, and Mental Discipline provides some insurance against status conditions which can take you out of a fight. If you want a durable cleric, this is a fine choice.

Default Rules:

  • Githyanki: The Githyanki will make the cleric better with weapons, but weapons are mathematically a poor choice for the Cleric. The innate spellcasting is appealing if you want to be in melee, but you’ll still do better with cantrips than with weapons.
  • Githzerai: A Wisdom increase, Mental Discipline, and innate spellcasting borrowed from the Wizard which works well on any cleric.

GithyankiMMoM

Clerics don’t get Misty Step or Mage Hand, so the innate spellcasting is nice, but the Eladrin and the Shadar-Kai are better options if you want short-range teleportation.

GithzeraiMMoM

Clerics already have excellent Wisdom saves, so charm/fear effects aren’t especially problematic, but a little insurance is nice. Most clerics also can’t cast Shield, so it’s a great way to boost your durability.

GnomePHB

For the updated version of the Deep Gnome, see their separate race entry on this page.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), Darkvision, and Gnome Cunning.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Superior Darkvision is nice, but the very few clerics delve into Stealth. This would work for a trickery cleric in a subterranean campaign, but otherwise you’ll struggle quite a bit.
  • ForestPHB: Minor Illusion is a great spell, but it doesn’t solve any problems for the Cleric. Speak with Small Beasts is rarely useful.
  • RockPHB: Tinker doesn’t do anything that you couldn’t do better with other options.

Default Rules:

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • ForestPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • RockPHB: Bad ability spread.

Goblin

UpdatedMMoM: Darkvision, Nimble Escape, and a damage boost from Fury of the Small. Great for caster clerics who don’t want to get stuck in melee. If you go for Arcana Domain, Booming Blade combines well with Nimble Escape, allowing very effective hit-and-run tactics in melee.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. A great option for caster clerics. Nimble Escape makes it easy to get out of melee safely if you find yourself there by accident, and Fury of the Small works with spells (though it only affects one target). If you go for Arcana Domain, Booming Blade combines well with Nimble Escape, allowing very effective hit-and-run tactics in melee.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread. Nimble Escape is great for getting out of melee if you don’t want to be there, but if you’re worried about getting dragged into melee you can learn Word of Radiance and suddenly getting into melee with you is much less appealing for your enemies.

Goliath

UpdatedMMoM: Stone’s Endurance is great for front-line builds, especially if you’re in a small party and you’re the only Defender, but otherwise the Goliath’s traits won’t be especially impactful.

Classic (Customized Origin)EEPC: +2/+1 increases, one skill, damage resistance. Stone’s Endurance is great on front-line clerics and easily makes up the difference between the Cleric’s d8 hit die and d10 hit dice more common among front-line martial classes, and it saves you healing resources which might otherwise cut into your spell slots. A great option for heavily-armored subclasses intended to be in melee.

Classic (Default Rules)EEPC: A great package for a melee tank, but absolutely nothing helpful for the cleric’s spellcasting or other capabilities. I would only consider this for a domain which provides heavy armor proficiency.

Half-ElfPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1/+1 increases, Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry. Excellent, versatile, and it works for any subclass.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign, and even then there are better options.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: Faerie Fire provides a way to handle invisible creatures which isn’t normally available to clerics, and Darkness can be very useful if you’re clever, but because the spellcasting is Charisma-based it’s difficult to rely upon Faerie Fire unless your Charisma is at least moderately high.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Booming Blade is good enough to make weapon-using clerics not only viable but extremely effective, and it notably doesn’t care about your Intelligence. You’ll generally want to avoid other combat options, though utility options may still be worthwhile. If you want effective offensive wizard cantrips on the Cleric, consider the Arcana Domain.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: You likely moved the +2 increase out of Charisma and into Wisdom, but even then two skills are very useful. Unfortunately, Darkvision and two skills are very common with customized origins, so the standard half-elf doesn’t stand out unless you desperately need that third increase for some reason.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: If you want more tool proficiencies on the half-elf, this is the way to get them. Trade some or all of the four granted weapon proficiencies for new tool proficiencies. Maybe not as reliably effective as the two skills from the standard half-elf, but still very appealing. The Cleric doesn’t need the speed boost of Mask of the Wild.

Default Rules: Two flexible increases is enough to make the half-elf work for any cleric build, and the Charisma increase makes it easy to make your cleric a Face without sacrificing your emphasis on spellcasting.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: Faerie Fire provides a way to handle invisible creatures which isn’t normally available to clerics, and Darkness can be very useful if you’re clever, but because the spellcasting is Charisma-based it’s difficult to rely upon Faerie Fire unless your Charisma is at least moderately high.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Booming Blade is good enough to make weapon-using clerics not only viable but extremely effective, and it notably doesn’t care about your Intelligence. You’ll generally want to avoid other options. If you want effective wizard cantrips on the Cleric, consider the Arcana Domain.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Between two skills and a Charisma increase, this is a go-to option if you want your cleric to be a Face.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: The weapon proficiencies look tempting on a cleric, but they’re not as good as the cantrip from High Half-Elf, and none of the other traits are worthwhile for the Cleric.

Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, a skill, Darkvision, and Relentless Endurance. Savage Attacks is neat, but not especially impactful since clerics don’t use weapons enough to benefit in any meaningful way. Relentless Endurance is great since the party’s cleric dying often means that the rest of the party is going to die, too.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread, and few of the Half-Orcs other traits work well for the Cleric. Relentless Endurance is helpful since the cleric dying in combat is often a death sentence for the party, but beyond that there’s little to gain here.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1. Brave and Lucky are good on literally any character, but the Cleric makes surprisingly few attack rolls compared to most characters, so Lucky may be less useful than you’d like.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech is great, but unless you’re built for stealth your party may have trouble benefiting. That means Trickery Domain and few other options.
  • LightfootPHB: Naturally Stealthy could be useful for a cleric who takes a dip into rogue to get Cunning Action. Cast a spell, then hide behind an ally. Sounds like a fun Trickery Domain build, but one build doesn’t make this a strong option.
  • LotusdenEGtW: Some innate spellcasting from the Druid’s spell list, and since it’s Wisdom-based the DCs will be useful.
  • StoutPHB: Stout Resilience is really great, providing some of the Dwarf’s durability.

Default Rules: Ghostwise halfling puts the halfling on par with the wood elf, making it a viable option for builds which might enjoy high Dexterity like the Trickery Domain.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: An interesting choice for trickery clerics, but I wouldn’t consider it for other builds.
  • LightfootPHB: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
  • LotusdenEGtW: A Wisdom increase and some interesting spellcasting from the Druid’s spell list.
  • StoutPHB: Nothing useful for the Cleric.

HarengonWBtW / MMoM

An extra skill, Hare Trigger helps you go early and get area control and crowd control spells in place, and Rabbit Hop lets you escape melee safely without eating your action. Altogether a great option for clerics who don’t plan to run around in melee.

Hobgoblin

UpdatedMMoM: The go-to use for the Cleric’s option at basically every level is Spiritual Weapon. Outside of combat, you can use the Hospitality option to get some temporary hit points while helping an ally with something like a skill check.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and some weapon and armor proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies. The Hobgoblin’s defining trait is Saving Face, which I recommend reserving for saving throws or for powerful spells that require an attack roll like Inflict Wounds. Just be sure not to hang onto Saving Face too carefully. It’s a great resource, but if you’re not actively using it, you’ve payed a huge opportunity cost for little benefit.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules:

  • Standard: Increases beyond Constitution and Wisdom are wasted on the vast majority of builds, and builds which need Strength or Dexterity don’t need it enough to justify this.
  • Variant: You still get crucial bonus to your Wisdom and something else, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases. Dual Mind and Mental Discipline make the Kalashtar very resilient to mental attacks. Mind Link is neat, but won’t be particularly impactful.

Default Rules: A Wisdom increase is a great start, and the resistances are nice, but the Kalashtar isn’t actually good at doing anything. They’re great at not having stuff happen to their minds, but that’s about it.

KenkuVGtM

UpdatedMMoM: Two skills offer some more options for the Cleric, but few clerics can do a lot with skills. Trickery Domain is your best bet, but other clerics will struggle to benefit from the Kenku’s skills.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Expert Forgery and Mimicry do little to help the Cleric.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Potentially a good trickery cleric, but Dexterity can be hard for a cleric to use.

Kobold

UpdatedMMoM: An easy go-to option for front-line cleric builds. Kobold Legacy (Draconic Sorcery) offers easy access to Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade, either of which will make using a weapon justifiable despite the Cleric’s difficulties making weapons useful. Grab a domain which grants heavy armor proficiency, march into melee, and use Draconic Cry to support your allies.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2 increase, Superior Darkvision, and Pack Tactics. Clerics rarely make attacks on their own, but it looks like you can attack with Spiritual Weapon at Advantage if you meat the criteria for Pack Tactics. Spiritual Weapon is a staple offensive option for the Cleric, and adding reliable Advantage to that calculation is nice. But that’s one combination, and one decent combination doesn’t make the Kobold a consistently good race choice.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Daunting Roar is the Leonin’s signature trait, offering a helpful crowd-control option for clerics who are frequently in melee.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Lizardfolk

UpdatedMMoM: Clerics should not be built with enough Strength for Hungry Jaws to be meaningful in combat, but you can always dip into your bag of rats for some easy temporary hit points. The two skills are nice, and you get several Wisdom-based options. Natural Armor isn’t helpful.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Natural Armor matches the AC of heavy armor, provided that you can get to 20 Dexterity, which is appealing for a stealthy cleric since you can get 18 AC (not counting shield, spells, etc.) without Disadvantage on Stealth checks. Bite and Hungry Jaws are great, but they’re Strength-based which is a hard choice, especially if you’re also raising Dexterity to get your AC up without using armor. If you go this route, expect parts of your racial traits to be ignored so that you can make others work.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Durable, extra skills, and some other useful traits. Excellent for any kind of cleric. The Lizardfolk’s natural armor can match full plate’s AC if you can get your Dexterity to 20.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills.Limited Amphibiousness can be difficult in land-locked campaigns, but in campaigns where you’re at least water-adjacent it’s manageable. You can cast Create or Destroy Water, but the amount of water produced simply isn’t enough to submerge yourself.

The Locathah’s distinguishing trait is Leviathan Will, which provides resistance to an impressive list of conditions. This would be a difficult choice of race in most campaigns, but in the right game this could be an interesting choice for a front-line Defender build.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: The Loxodon’s ability score increases are already perfect for the Cleric, so my advice under the default rules still applies. However, the ability to shift ability score increases makes almost any race that can match Loxodon Serenity a better choice. Consider the Locathah, the Kalashtar, and the Vedalken (I’ve never seen a charm/feat effect on a physical save, so Vedalken Dispassion applies).

Default Rules: Excellent ability score increases for a cleric. Natural armor won’t matter, and Trunk is mostly a novelty since you won’t be using it to grapple. That leaves Loxodon Serenity as the Loxodon’s only interesting trait, and consider how common Charm and Fear effects are it’s a good asset.

Minotaur

UpdatedMMoM: Goring Rush would work with Divine Strike, but fighting with weapons is a poor choice for the Cleric compared to cantrips, so building around Strength is a difficult choice.

Classic (Customized Origin)GGTR: +2/+1 increases and one skill. The Minotaur is built around melee weapon attacks almost entirely, and not in a way that the Cleric can use to make Divine Strike viable.

Classic (Default Rules)GGTR: Bad ability spread.

Orc

UpdatedMMoM: The Orc doesn’t add any new capabilities, but it’s very good at keeping you alive, which is important when you’re the one keeping everyone else alive. Adrenaline Rush is a great way to rush to an allies aid or to get out of a dangerous spot. You don’t need to keep it available every round, but it’s good when you desperately need to get into or out of melee, and you can sacrifice one round of Spiritual Weapon attacks. Relentless Endurance can keep your party’s primary healer conscious.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and two skills. Aggressive helps you get into melee, but as you gain levels you may find that your Bonus Action is better spent on other things like Spiritual Weapon or Healing Word.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

OwlinSCoC

Flight, Darkvision, and a bonus skill. You can only fly in light armor, which presents an AC problem, but flight can compensate to some degree as long as you stay at a careful distance.

Satyr

UpdatedMMoM: Magic resistance is really nice, but that’s basically all that you get that the Cleric cares about.

Classic (Customized Origin)MOoT: +2/+1 increases, two skills, one instrument. The Satyr’s non-humanoid creature type and Magic Resistance make the Satyr very durable, which is a great asset when you’re the party’s healer, and the additional skills make you very durable.

Classic (Default Rules)MOoT: Bad ability spread.

Sea ElfMMoM

Clerics can’t cast Water Breathing, so in an aquatic campaign, you really need to be an aquatic race like the Sea Elf. Perception is a great skill for clerics due to their high Wisdom, and Trance offers access to some martial weapons if you insist on using them but don’t get them from your domain. Still, this only truly great in an aquatic campaign.

Shadar-KaiMMoM

Clerics don’t have access to short-range teleportation, and they have a lot of good spells with touch range. You won’t be able to use Spiritual Weapon the same turn that you teleport, but sometimes that’s a sacrifice that you need to make. Trance can get you a martial weapon if you insist on using them for some reason, and Perception is a great skill for the Cleric.

Shifter

UpdatedMMoM: Beasthide is a great option if you’re built to walk around in melee. The extra AC and temporary hit points will keep you from dipping into your spells slots to compensate for your d8 hit dice. Unfortunately, Survival is your best skill choice from among the listed skill options.

Customized OriginERLW: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, and one skill. Shifting is the Shifter’s signature feature, and the benefits from your subrace affect Shifting’s usefulness significantly.

  • Beasthide: More temporary HP and +1 AC. Perfect for any front-line cleric.
  • Longtooth: An extra attack as a Bonus Action, but it’s Strength-based and there is very little reason to invest in Strength. If you really want to lean into Divine Strike, the extra attack can make Divine Strike more reliable, so its average expected damage may be good enough to make it useful while you’re shifting.
  • Swiftstride: Useful for quickly getting into and out of melee to deliver spells.
  • Wildhunt: Too situational.

Default RulesERLW: Darkvision is a great start, but there’s little that we want from the Shifter’s subraces.

  • Beasthide: Workable for a melee cleric, but lacks a crucial Wisdom increase.
  • Longtooth: If you want melee, go for Beasthide. If you want to attack with your Bonus Action, cast Spiritual Weapon.
  • Swiftstride: Bad ability spread.
  • Wildhunt: Dexterity and Wisdom can work, though they’re not ideal. The shifting feature is easy to overlook, but Wisdom checks will include ability checks with Counterspell and Dispel Magic.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Fantastic and versatile, you have plenty of room to customize your traits to suit your needs and your role in the party.

Tabaxi

UpdatedMMoM: Perception is a great skill for the Cleric, but few clerics can use Stealth effectively. Clerics also notably can’t cast Darkvision, so getting it for free is always nice. The Tabaxi makes an excellent trickery cleric, giving you as many skills as most rogues (though no Expertise).

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and two skills. Feline Agility and Cat’s Claws are the Tabaxi’s signature traits, but the claws are useless. Feline Agility is a great speed boost, and it’s pretty common in combat to need to rush into position then stand still for several turns, especially if you need to deliver short-range healing spells.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and fire resistance. Most subraces/variants offer innate spellcasting of some kind. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so anything which requires an attack or a save is largely worthless.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: The innate spellcasting is fine, but Hellish Rebuke is the only part that you’ll be able to use consistently.
  • BaalzebulMToF: The leveled spells are both offensive and require saving throws.
  • DispaterMToF: Thaumaturgy might look tempting on a cleric since it fits the theme, but it’s a bad spell.
  • FiernaMToF: All three spells require saves.
  • GlasyaMToF: All illusions, but very few clerics can cast these spells, and most of them don’t allow saves.
  • LevistusMToF: Armor of Agathys is tempting, but it’ll only last for one hit because the spell ends when the temporary hit points go away.
  • MammonMToF: Mostly situational utility options.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Tries to split the difference between Asmodeus’s fire stuff and Mammons utility stuff, but the offensive stuff ends up just being worse.
  • ZarielMToF: Some interesting options borrowed from the Paladin’s spell list, but if you want those you can get them from your subclass.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: All three spells require saves.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke is better for the Cleric since it doesn’t cut into your turns, though not by much.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Permanent non-magical flight. The Aarakocra is faster, but the Tiefling gets Darkvision, fire resistance, and can fly in medium armor.

Default Rules: With the exception of the Fierna Tiefling, Tiefling’s don’t work well as clerics due to their lack of a Wisdom increase.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Bad ability spread.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • DispaterMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • FiernaMToF: Good for a cleric that wants to be the party’s Face.
  • GlasyaMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • LevistusMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MammonMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • ZarielMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Bad ability spread.

    According to the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants.

  • Variant: Devil’s TongueSCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Bad ability spread. If you want flight, go for the Aarakocra.

TortleTP / MMoM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and fixed 17 AC from natural armor. That’s enough to match medium armor with 14 Dexterity, so for a subclass which is going to be in light or medium armor that’s pretty great. Dump Strength and Dexterity, and focus solely on spellcasting and mental skills.

Default Rules: Fantastic for any cleric who would normally be in medium armor, the Tortle’s ability increases are perfect, and their natural armor means that you don’t need to put points into Dexterity to fill out medium armor’s dexterity cap. That flexibility will allow you to invest points elsewhere to support skill-based roles.

Triton

UpdatedMMoM: Cold resistance and Darkvision are both good, and the innate spellcasting is passable, but this will only be really good in an aquatic campaign.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: Three +1 increases, Amphibious, Darkvision, cold resistance, and some innate spellcasting. The innate spellcasting is neat, but not especially impactful for the Cleric. I would strongly consider this in an aquatic campaign, especially if you’re going to invest resources to be your party’s Face to capitalize on Emissary of the Sea.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill and one tool. The Vedalken’s signature traits are Vedalken Dispassion (which makes you very mentally resilient), and Tireless Precision. Tireless Precision adds a d4 to the selected skill/tool proficiency, and thanks to the Customizing Your Origin rules that can be any skill. I recommend Perception, but don’t limit yourself to that just because it’s the best choice. The best way to capitalize on the Vedalken’s traits is to go for a back-line caster build where spells and special abilities will make up a larger portion of the things pointed at you since you’re typically out of range of melee attacks.

Default Rules: The ability scores work fine, but the Vedalken doesn’t bring anything else specifically useful to the Cleric. With a little bit of Intelligence you can make knowledge skills a good option, and Knowledge Domain seems like a natural choice for the Vedalken.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and one skill. Black Blood Healing might keep you from dipping into spells to heal yourself, and Limited Telepathy is neat, but neither are going to impact your tactics in any significant way.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Put the flexible increase into Wisdom and you’ve got an extremely durable cleric. Pick a Divine Domain which provides heavy armor proficiency (or use a feat), and you can outdo the AC of most other characters without resorting to spells. Combined with the Warforged’s other resistances and immunities, you’re very well-suited to standing between your allies and danger.

Water GenasiMMoM

The only new spell is Acid Splash, and clerics have Toll the Dead and Word of Radiance, both of which will be more consistently effective. Acid resistance is fine, but acid damage isn’t common. Darkvision is also nice, but abundantly available from other races.

Yuan-Ti

UpdatedMMoM: The Yuan-Ti Pureblood’s defenses are great for keeping your party’s primary healer conscious, especially if you’re built to fight on the front lines.

Classic (Customized Origin)VGtM: +2/+1 increases, darkvision, immunity to poison, magic resistance, and some innate spellcasting. The innate spellcasting is borderline useless, but magic resistance and immunity to poison are extremely helpful for front-line builds which will attract a lot of attacks. And excellent choice if you need durability and expect to encounter spellcasters.

Classic (Default Rules)VGtM: Bad ability spread.

Dragonmarks

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: Most of the options are only situationally useful. The spells add Armor of Agathys and Knock to your spell list, both of which are excellent additions, but that’s just not enough to make this work for the Cleric.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: Absolutely stellar for Trickery Domain, but still good for other domains. The skill bonus to Stealth will compensate for your Dexterity being relatively poor compared to a rogue, allowing you to sneak effectively without putting resources into Dexterity and ignoring Wisdom. The spellcasting is almost entirely new options to the Cleric, and there’s no overlap with the Trickery Domain spell list, so between the two you can add an impressive number of illusions to the Cleric’s spell list.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: The skills don’t line up, and the added spells are all either very situational or they’re already on the Cleric’s spell list. There is nothing of value for the Cleric here.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: +2/+1 increases. Insight is a great skill for the Cleric thanks to their high Wisdom, so Deductive Intuition is a great benefit. The innate spellcasting will save you spell slots frequently committed to staple divination spells, and the dragonmark spells add some excellent spells the Cleric’s spell list including Arcane Eye. If you light investigation and divination spells, this will be a lot of fun.
  • Mark of Storm: +2/+1 increases, damage resistance, and a lot of very situational options.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: The ability increases are perfect for any cleric, and the remaining traits add a lot of interesting options to the Cleric’s existing capabilities. See Invisibility isn’t on the Cleric’s spell list, and several of the dragonmark’s spells are new additions, too.
  • Mark of Storm: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Hunter’s Intuition applies to two Wisdom-based skills. The innate spellcasting is week, but several of the dragonmark spells are interesting additions from the Druid’s spell list.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Perfect ability score increases, Darkvision, bonuses to some skills, and a bunch of new additions to your spell list. Hunter’s Mark adds a nice damage boost at very low levels, but expect to forget about it the second your can cast Spiritual Weapon.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: Everything that Mark of Healing gives you is already available to the Cleric. There are a few spells that are only on the Cleric’s spell list if you use the expanded spell list Optional Class Feature, but they aren’t nearly good enough to justify comitting your subrace to get them.
  • Mark of Hospitality: A handful of useful options from the Druid and the Wizard’s spell lists, but the skills and innate spellcasting aren’t great, and there aren’t enough new spells to make this a good option.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: Thematically it makes sense, and an extra free use of both Cure Wounds and Lesser Restoration are nice, but with the exception of the three aura spells everything is taken from the Cleric’s spell list. If you just want a healbot this is a fine option, but it doesn’t actually expand your capabilities beyond what you could already do.
  • Mark of Hospitality: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: You get several options from the Druid and Ranger’s spell lists, but the over-emphasis on beasts can be a problem if you get past level 10 where beasts generally stop appearing as threats.
  • Mark of Making: Several useful options from the Wizard’s spell list. This combines will both thematically and mechanically with the Arcana Domain and the Knowledge Domain.
  • Mark of Passage: Significantly improve access to teleportation option which the Cleric normally doesn’t get. Misty Step is obviously a big gain, but if that’s all you want you can get that from the Eladrin or the Shadar-Kai.
  • Mark of Sentinel: There’s a lot to like here. Bonuses on two excellent Wisdom-based skills, great options for defending both yourself and your allies from attacks, and some new spells which will help you protect allies in combat. Compelled Duel will force enemies to attack you, and Counterspell will allow you to respond to enemy spellcasters. There are some dragonmark spells already available to the Cleric, but the rest of the benefits are still good enough to make this a great choice.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Great ability score increases and a great thematic combination for nature clerics, Mark of Handling improves your ability to work with animals, and adds some more spells from the Druid spell list to your spell list. Unfortunately, many of the dragonmark spells are already on the Cleric spell list.
  • Mark of Making: The ability score increases aren’t great, but the spellcasting offers several new ways to buff your allies. Thematically this is a great combination with the Forge Domain.
  • Mark of Passage: Dexterity and Wisdom can be a difficult combination for clerics, but if you’re building a Dexterity-based cleric Mark of Passage has a lot to offer. Nearly every one of the dragonmark spells is new to the Cleric’s spell list, and the spells are mostly teleportation and movement spells which will help you address challenges which most clerics can’t solve with magic.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Great ability scores, and some really great abilities for a protective, tanky cleric. Unfortunately you don’t get an increase to Strength or Dexterity, so expect to rely on cantrips in combat even if you’re in melee, but with options like Compelled Duel you can draw a lot of attention away from your allies. Unfortunately, many of the dragonmark spells are already on the Cleric’s spell list, so you don’t gain as much from Mark of Sentinel as other spellcasters do.

Lineages

Published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and beyond, no Lineage exists prior to the introduction of the Customizing Your Origin rules, and as such each lineage has flexible ability score increases. Every Lineage has the choice of +2/+1 increases or three +1 increases except for the Custom Lineage which only receives a single +2 increase.

Lineages are applied on top of a base race. While the Custom Lineage isn’t affected by your base race, the three lineages published in Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft (Dhampir, Hexblade, and Reborn) borrow from your base race thanks to the Ancestral Legacy trait. Despite selecting a base race, you do not count as a member of your race for the purposes of any other effect, such as qualifying for feats or using magic items.

Custom LineageTCoE

A +2 increase, a feat, and either Darkvision or a skill. I recommend Darkvision since the spell Darkvision isn’t on the cleric’s spell list.

DhampirVGTR

Darkvision, Spider Climb, and Ancestral Legacy. Ancestral Legacy can get you flight or two skills. If you want flight, I recommend the Winged Tiefling as your base race so that you can fly in medium armor. Of course, if you take flight, Spider Climb barely matters, so the Dhampir is Basically just a worse version of the Winged Tiefling for the Cleric’s purposes.

Vampiric Bite offers a weapon option without requiring you invest in Strength or Dexterity, but even with that benefit the Cleric still isn’t very good with weapons. The math still dramatically favors using cantrips. Vampiric Bite’s ability to empower your ability checks and attack roles only cares about the piercing damage dealt, so Divine Strike doesn’t add to the effect.

HexbloodVGTR

Ancestral Legacy (two skills or a movement speed), Darkvision, and some magical utility options which could be useful. Hex won’t be much use in combat except to make enemies bad at grappling, and unless you’re your party’s Scout it will extremely limited usefulness outside of combat. This may be a hard race to play, but I can see it working for a trickery cleric..

RebornVGTR

The resistances are helpful if you’re going to be on the front lines, and Knowledge from a Past Life is an excellent bonus to your skills. Ancestral Legacy gives you two extra skills or a movement speed, and I think the skills make more sense for a reborn cleric. Flight is always great, but if you’re flying around and fighting at distance, Deathless Nature’s resistances don’t matter very much..