Last Updated: September 19, 2023
Tempest is both offensive and durable, falling somewhere between Life’s durability and Light’s damage output. Tempest’s abilities and spells provide several fun crowd control, area control, and area damage options, allowing the Tempest Cleric to serve as an effective threat both at short and long range. Tempest domain provides no utility or support options, so expect to lean on your spell list to solve problems that can’t be solved by hitting them.
Tempest domain, as the name might imply, depends heavily on Lightning and Thunder damage. The subclass’s most noteworthy feature, Destructive Wrath, allows you to maximize the damage of spells which deal Lightning or Thunder damage. However, the Cleric’s absolute void of applicable spells presents a huge limitation for the subclass. You do get a handful of spells from the subclass, but it’s really not enough. Shatter and Destructive Wave are your best options, and they depend on chronically frustrating Constitution saves.
To address this gap, you’ll need to look beyond the Cleric. A few races can get you Shocking Grasp as a cantrip, and you may be able to get better spells from another class, though you’ll struggle to find Wisdom-based spellcasting which can deal Lightning or Thunder damage.
A few magic items may also help: Javelin of Lightning, Staff of Thunder and Lightning, and Wand of Lightning Bolts. Unfortunately, it’s a short list, and none of the options are great.
None of this is to say that Tempest Domain is bad. It’s not. it’s just a whole lot of sound and fury and class features that seem like they would be amazing when you use them as intended and the result is just kinda average.
Table of Contents
- Tempest Domain Cleric Features
- Tempest Domain Cleric Ability Scores
- Tempest Domain Cleric Races
- Tempest Domain Cleric Feats
- Tempest Domain Cleric Weapons
- Tempest Domain Cleric Armor
- Tempest Domain Cleric Multiclassing
- Example Build – Shattering Expectations
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.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we 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 are released, and the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.
Tempest Domain Cleric Features
: A handful of utility
options, but mostly blasting. Clerics don’t have many built-in options for
lightning or thunder damage, so these are great additions in conjunction
with Tempest Domain’s other features.
- : Fog Cloud is a great escape or crowd control mechanism. Thunderwave is tempting for when you get in over your head in melee and need to buy yourself some space or need to break a grapple, but remember that it’s on a Constitution save, and those tend to be high.
- : Gust of Wind is very situational, but Shatter is basically diet fireball, and it works with Channel Divinity: Destructive Wrath so you can maximize the damage.
- : Sleet Storm is a mediocre crowd control spell, and Call Lightning is frustrating and can be very difficult to use to great effect. Note that Channel Divinity: Destructive Wrath only applies to a single damage roll, not to the whole spell, so using it with Call Lightning is largely pointless.
- : Ice Storm is a bad spell, and Control Water is only useful when you have a large body of water handy, which isn’t often in most campaigns.
Insect Plague is a fantastic area control option, but has some overlap with Spirit Guardians. Insect Plague uses larger damage dice, but due to spell slot scaling deals roughly the same damage as Spirit Guardians. Both spells have 10-minute durations and require Concentration. Insect Plague is cast at range and has a larger AOE, so you don’t need to stand in the middle of the AOE, but you also can’t move it. The two spells are roughly equivalent, but excel in different situations.
: Destructive Wave does
excellent damage of types which are very rarely resisted, but since the
damage type is split, Channel Divinity: Destructive Wrath only maximizes
half of the damage dice. For the same 5th-level spell slot, Shatter does
6d8 damage (maximizes to 48), while Destructive Wave will deal 47.5 on
average (30 maximized, plus 17.5 average) in a much larger AOE while
also excluding your allies, so Destructive Wave does still win over
Shatter in the vast majority of situations. Unfortunately, Destructive
Wave doesn’t benefit from upcasting because it’s intended to be a
- : Heavy armor is great on a Cleric. Martial Weapons add a few more combat options, but clerics are bad at using weapons and martial weapons don’t change that. With heavy armor and Wrath of the Storm, you might pick up a 2-handed weapon, though cantrips will still be more effective as you gain levels and add extra damage dice.
- : At low level, this will outright kill enemies. At high levels it’s a mild deterrent.
- : Great for when you absolutely, positively need to Shatter every enemy in the room. Don’t be tempted to use this with Wrath of the Storm; that’s a tragic waste of a great ability. Unfortunately, the Cleric’s spell list includes very few spells which qualify for this, so your best options are from your domain spell list unless you multiclass.
Like many similar effects, this only specifies that you push the target “away”, rather than “directly away”. This means that you’re free to push them upward and away, potentially launching enemies 10 feet into the air and forcing them to fall 10 feet from where they were previously.
: This combines well
with Wrath of the Storm when you need to get out of melee for whatever
reason, and since Wrath of the Storm still deals half damage on a successful
save you’re guaranteed to get the push effect. Unfortunately, clerics don’t
have access to any cantrips which deal Lightning damage. This would be great
if it worked with Lightning or Thunder damage, but it doesn’t.
- Divine Strike vs. Cantrips, above. : Thunder is among the best damage types in the game, but clerics are still bad at using weapons. See also:
- : Near-permanent flight! Flight is absolutely crucial at high levels, and getting it this easily can free up resources for more exciting things. You won’t be able to use this inside dungeons and other common adventuring locales, but this is still very helpful.
Tempest Domain Cleric Ability Scores
No different from other heavily-armored clerics.
Tempest Domain Cleric Races
Little different from your typical cleric, but the ability to get Shocking Grasp as a Wisdom-based spell is a huge advantage.
MotM: One of few ways to get Shocking Grasp as a Wisdom-based spell other than being a different variety of cleric. This is a huge boon for a front-line cleric, especially once you get Thunderbolt Strike. Lightning resistance is nice, too.
MotM: Draconic Sorcery lets you get Shocking Grasp as a Wisdom-based spell. You could get Booming Blade instead, but other than Destructive Wrath there’s no synergy there, and you really shouldn’t spend Channel Divinity on a cantrip.
Tempest Domain Cleric Feats
No different from other clerics.
- PHB: A possible way to get some Thunder and/or Lightning damage, but you’ll struggle to find Wisdom-based spellcasting that does the damage that we want, and you can’t re-cast the 1st-level spell unless you select Cleric, which goes against why we want the feat.
- TCoE: Transmuted Spell twice per day to make a spell deal Thunder damage. Unfortunately, your choices of spells are extremely limited.
- GotG: The Storm Strike option allows you to deal lightning damage with a weapon attack a few times per day, which gives you a way to trigger Thunderbolt Strike.
Tempest Domain Cleric Weapons
No different from other clerics, which is to say that you’re bad with weapons. Carry something for opportunity attacks, but otherwise skip it.
Tempest Domain Cleric Armor
No different from other clerics.
Tempest Domain Cleric Multiclassing
This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.
- : One level for Shillelagh, Thunderclap, and Absorb Elements. Absorb Elements can give you a way to deal lightning damage with attacks, but it requires that you take Lightning damage first, which isn’t often enough to make Thunderbolt Strike consistently useful.
- : Way of the Ascendant Dragon’s Draconic Strike feature lets you deal lightning damage with your unarmed strikes, making Thunderbolt Strike easily available 2 or 3 times per turn. But that requires three levels, and three levels to be slightly better at weapon attacks isn’t as powerful as 3 levels of spellcasting.
- : Two levels to get access to Thunderous Smite, which works with Destructive Wrath, and you’ll only give up one level of spell slot advancement to get it. But Shatter and Destructive Wave will both be better sources of damage without consuming Concentration, so it’s not a good option.
- : Storm Sorcery is a natural combination with Tempest Domain, but the class dip needs to go the opposite direction. A cleric can’t make good use of Charisma-based spellcasting, but a sorcerer can make use of Destructive Wrath. But two levels for Font of Magic and Transmuted Spell will do a lot after you can cast Fire Storm since that’s the only cleric spell worth transmuting.
- : Order of Scribes only works for wizard spells. Much like Storm Sorcery, the multiclass dip needs to go the opposite direction. 2 levels of Tempest Cleric and 18 of wizard.
Example Build – Shattering Expectations
You probably came here for a Thor build. This isn’t that. Tempest Domain isn’t Thor. It’s not even Storm from the X-Men. It tried to dress up as Thor, but it’s mostly a cleric in Thor cosplay that makes loud noises and causes property damage.
This build leans hard into Tempest Domain’s features and attempts to use them to their absolute maximum effect. This allows us to do two things that other clerics can’t match: Launch people with Shocking Grasp to control single targets and spam Shatter and Destructive Wave for area damage.
In many ways, this build works like other clerics. Spirit Guardians is still your go-to in many situations. But the ability to get big bursts of damage from Destructive Wrath and a Thunder damage spell allows us to handle groups of enemies much fast than we could by grinding them down with Spirit Guardians. Constitution saves will absolutely be a problem, but if you resign yourself to enemies always passing their saves, you’ll still deal decent damage with you go-to area damage spells. Sometimes creatures will fail their saves, and you get fun bonus damage.
This build assumes no optional class features, but if your DM is feeling generous, I recommend taking Blessed Strikes.
We want to avoid the speed penalty from heavy armor so that we can rush into melee, which unfortunately means that we need more Strength than usual. We’ll start with 15s in Str, Con, and Cha, then our +2 into Wis and our +1 into Con.
Air Genasi. We really want Shocking Grasp as a Wisdom-based spell.
Not especially impactful to the build. Anything that works for the Cleric is fine.
Skills and Tools
Stick to cleric staples.
At level 4 we’ll split an ASI between Constitution and Wisdom.
We’ll take War Caster at level 8. With Shocking Grasp and Thunderbolt Strike, our opportunity attacks can launch enemies into the air, dropping them prone. After spending half of their movement to stand, our enemies won’t get very far.
At level 12 we’ll max Wisdom.
At level 16 we’ll take Metamagic Adept to pick up Transmuted Spell. We’re going to use it exclusively with Firestorm to turn it into Thunder damage and maximize it with Destructive Wrath.
At level 19, we’ll take Resilient (Constitution). Between that and Warcaster, our Concentration is borderline untouchable. That will also raise our Constitution to 18. making us very durable.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
|1||Divine Domain: Tempest|
Wrath of the Storm
– Shocking Grasp (Air Genasi)
– Sacred Flame
– Word of Radiance
– Fog Cloud
|At level 1, we’re a mostly standard cleric. Grab a weapon, put your holy symbol on your shield, and march into melee. If you get hit, use Wrath of the Storm because it’s going to do more damage than anything you can do except for your leveled spells.|
For your prepared spells, stick to cleric staples. 90% of what you do is standard cleric stuff.
|2||Channel Divinity (1/rest)|
– Destructive Wrath
– Turn Undead
|Destructive Wrath comes online, but we have nothing to use it with except Thunderwave. 12 damage is fine, but the tiny AOE means that you’re unlikely to hit more than 2 enemies, and the Constitution save will be a problem for your whole career.|
– Gust of Wind
|2nd-level spells bring Shatter, which becomes our go-to AOE blast option for much of our career. Maximizing the damage roughly doubles the average damage for a spell, and 2nd-level Shatter’s now 24 damage is almost as much as 3rd-level Fireball’s 28 damage. When we can cast 3rd-level spells, Shatter will deal 32 damage, and adding 8 damage per spell level rather than 2d6 (average 7) will keep us ahead of Fireball damage.|
Of course, Shatter’s range and AOE are both worse, and Constitution saves are consistently less reliable than Dexterity saves, but at least our base damage is slightly better than Fireball, and Shatter explicitly damages objects, so we can also cause property damage to non-flammable things.
So let’s just assume the worst for Shatter’s per-target damage and assume that targets will pass their saves. Honestly, there’s not much we can do about it. Let’s just say Shatter will deal 14 damage to 2 or 3 targets. If we hit two targets, that puts us into the High DPR range. We’re not an Evoker Wizard, but we’re doing okay.
Casting Shatter+Destructive Wrath at our highest or second-highest spell level, hitting two targets, and having both targets pass their saving throw deals enough damage to put us into High DPR. We can’t sustain that because our resources are limited, but the damage output is still good.
|4||ASI: Con 16 -> 17, Wis 17 -> 18|
New Cantrip Known:
|Stay right on the Fundamental Math.|
|5||Destroy Undead (CR 1/2)|
– Call Lightning
– Sleet Storm
|At this level, Spirit Guardians comes online, and it starts to compete for space with Shatter. Spirit Guardians will deal 3d8 damage (avg. 13.5) compared to 3rd-level Shatter+Destructive Wrath dealing 18 (assuming that targets pass their saves). So for a short combat or for distance enemies, Shatter is a good deal. If you’re already in close quarters, Spirit Guardians will deal more damage by the end of your second turn and will also slow enemies in the radius.|
Still, Spirit Guardians isn’t your defining tactic, which feels like a win on a class where that is famously the defining tactic. Ideally you walk into a fight with Spirit Guardians running and spend your Actions to cast Shatter or Word of Radiance on crowds.
Cantrips improve at this level, so if you haven’t started using cantrips instead of your weapon, now is the time. Keep a hammer or whatever for opportunity attacks for a few more levels.
|6||Channel Divinity (2/rest)|
|At this level you have enough spell slots that Shatter+Destructive Wrath twice per rest is doable, and the damage is good enough to justify the expense, provided that you’re hitting two or more targets.|
Thunderbolt Strike is the whole reason we chose Air Genasi as our race. Hit enemies with Shocking Grasp, and you can launch them 10 feet upward at a diagonal. 2d8+1d6 damage and knock them prone. Pretty good for something you can do without limit.
Thunderbolt Strike also applies when you use Wrath of the Storm, so you can also launch enemies as a Reaction if they hit you.
By this level we could use Spirit Shroud with Transmuted Spell (we could have taken the feat at level 4 or as a Variant Human) to make Spirit Shroud deal lightning damage, but that’s a lot of work and resources to replicate what we can do with a cantrip, and you would still need to solve the issue of attacking with a weapon by either improving Strength or getting Shillelagh. it’s simply not worth the effort.
– Control Water
– Ice Storm
|Oh look, disappointing spells. Ice Storm’s damage can’t compete with Shatter, and the area control can’t compete with Spirit Guardians.|
Destroy Undead (CR 1)
Divine Stikes +1d8
|Warcaster gives us Advantage on Concentration, which is nice for Spirit Guardians, but the reason we’re here is the ability to use Shocking Grasp for Opportunity Attacks. When enemies try to move away, you can shock them, launch them into the air, and drop them prone. Standing to move eats half of their movement, which will severely limit how much further they can co. Just be sure not to launch them to wherever they want to go anyway.|
We will absolutely never use Divine Strikes. Never.
– Destructive Wave
– Insect Plague
|Finally, something that can compete with Shatter on roughly its own terms. Destructive Wrath will only maximize half of Destructive Wave’s damage, but 30+5d6 (avg. 47.5 total) will roughly match 5th-level Shatter’s 48 damage, and Destructive Wave’s AOE is three times as large and can also knock enemies prone. You can expect to affect every enemy in most encounters. But, like Shatter, you should probably expect enemies to pass the Con save.|
Shatter’s remaining advantages over Destructive Wave are its 60-foot range, which allows you to use it without marching into the middle of a crowd, and the fact that it benefits from upcasting.
Flame Strike also comes online at this level, but its damage is the same as Destructive Wave before considering Destructive Wrath, so there’s little reason to look at it. Shatter+Destructive Wrath will work better for us.
|11||Destroy Undead (CR 2)||Harm comes online, and despite being on the same save it’s still worse than Shatter+Destructive Wrath even against a single target. 14d6 (avg. 49) vs. 56.|
Okay, not really. Harm is a terrible spell in 5e.
|12||ASI: Wis 18 -> 20||Back on the Fundamental Math.|
|14||Destroy Undead (CR 3)||Fire Storm comes online, and it’s our first spell that will work with Transmuted Spell and be worth the effort to do so.|
– Transmuted Spell
|Twice per day can turn Fire Storm+Destructive Wrath into 70 Thunder damage on a Dexterity save. Compared to Shatter’s absolute maximum of 80 Thunder damage (and that’s with a level 9 spell), Fire Storm is the biggest damage we can do.|
We also have spells slots of 7th and 8th level starting at level 16, so we can actually cast Fire Storm twice per day.
Destroy Undead (CR 4)
|Permanent flight! Now you can do all of the same things, but in the air!|
|18||Channel Divinity (3/rest)||You have enough spell slots to spam Fire Storm, Shatter, and/or Destructive Wave and buff them with Destructive Wrath. You may not need to do anything else.|
|19||Feat: Resilient (Con 17 -> 18)||Tons of HP and we’re really good at Concentration.|
|20||Divine Intervention Improvement||–|