There’s only one fing

That we believe in

And, universe, it’s coming for you, it’s

WAAAAGH!

Time to WAAAGH! – Shootas, Blood, and Teef

Introduction

The Domain of War is on the stronger end of Cleric Domains, if you don’t get tripped up trying to use weapons and get distracted into being a discount Paladin. Oh, don’t misunderstand, these subclass features are fine to use when they are acquired. At early levels a War Domain Cleric can wade into the thick of things if they so choose, but it is of course the nature of a good soldier to rise through the ranks as an officer tempered by the flames of War. If this path seems fit to follow, then take a seat upon your Red Steed and perhaps you will find yourself in the company of riders of White, Black, and Pale.

However, if you really wanted to keep swinging a weapon around for some reason while also being a Cleric, then I see no reason to stop you. This is after all, the Domain most suited to doing that. It’s not the most productive use of a Cleric, but you will have made that decision for yourself while fully aware of the consequences. Those consequences being that you’re still a Cleric: best class in the game (you’ll need to imagine the sound of Tyler teleporting into my home and screaming).

The example build below is the fourth member of our army of undeath, Die Kriegerin der Zerstörung, arriving fashionably late to let you know that spookiness never ends. Bringing a thirst for War to transform this disorganized mob into a particularly devastating force of destruction, we shall carve a path across the land and crush all opposition under our heels.

Table of Contents

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. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: 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 this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

War Domain Features

  1. Domain Spells: Many really fantastic options, but more than half of the domain spells require Concentration, which makes it hard to use more then one or two in a fight.
    1. 1st Level: Divine Favor won’t remain useful beyond low levels, but at low level it’s a nice bit of extra damage with a decent duration that costs a bonus action to cast. Shield of Faith will remain useful at every level. +2 AC is big in 5e, and 10 minutes is a fantastic duration for a spell slot. However, it requires Concentration, which means that you can’t combine it with other great low-level buffs like Bless.
    2. 3rd Level: Since Magic Weapon requires Concentration, you generally only want to use it if you lack permanent magical weapons, and only against enemies that resist non-magical weapons. Spiritual Weapon is a staple cleric option, and great way to convert your Bonus Action into damage output without requiring Concentration.
    3. 5th Level: Crusader’s Mantle is Divine Favor for the whole party. The damage per attack is still small, but if you have someone using Two-Weapon Fighting, allies with Extra Attack, or just a large party, the value adds up quickly. But it generally can’t compete with Spirit Guardians, which you also get. Spirit Guardians id among the most efficient damage options in the game, and many clerics prepare it every day.
    4. 7th Level: Stoneskin is a fantastic buff, but it’s very expensive and it won’t help you once you get Avatar of Battle. Freedom of movement is situationally useful.
    5. 9th Level: Flame Strike is a decent AOE damage spell, but for the same spell slot I would much rather cast Spirit Guardians and walk into a fight. Hold Monster is a simple save-or-suck spell, and it scales well with spell level so it remains effective for a long time.
  2. Bonus Proficiencies: Heavy armor is great on a Cleric, and Martial Weapons add a few more combat options, including better two-handed options if you want to go that route.
  3. War Priest: As many as five extra attacks per day! This is terribly disappointing. The fact that it takes your bonus action is absurd on top of the tragically low number of times you get to use it. Divine Strike adds to the damage so your attacks will at least feel impactful, but Divine Strike only applies once on each of your turns, so generally activating War Priest is only useful at low levels or if you’re high level and missed with your attack.
  4. Channel Divinity: Guided Strike: This isn’t limited to weapon attacks, and clerics have a few powerful spell attacks like Inflict Wounds which will benefit. However, spell attacks become uncommon beyond low levels, so the value of Channel Divinity: Guided Strike diminishes over time. At high levels it’s likely better to use the Harness Divine Power Optional Class Feature.
  5. Channel Divinity: War God’s Blessing: While Clerics don’t typically deal a huge amount of damage on their attacks, allies like Rogues certainly do, and when they miss their one attack for the round a +10 can really change the outcome of a fight.
  6. Divine Strike: While not as flashy as the Nature Cleric’s version of Divine Strike, the ability to deal the same damage type as your weapon allows you to change damage types with relative ease by changing weapons. However, against enemies with resistance to non-magic weapon damage, this will be very frustrating. If your game doesn’t use magic items, be sure to prepare Magic Weapon or similar buffs which cause your weapon to deal damage as a magic weapon. See also: Divine Strike vs. Cantrips, above.
  7. Avatar of Battle: Most damage of those types comes from non-magical weapons or from monsters with non-magical bodyparts, so this resistance is consistently useful even at high levels.

War Domain Ability Scores

Not too different from the Cleric handbook, but, as we have access to Heavy Armor, we do have the option to lean into Strength instead of Dexterity. This unfortunately doesn’t really change much, trading the need for 14 Dexterity in Medium armor for 15 Strength in Heavy Armor is basically a wash for a full caster like the Cleric.

There are a few exceptions which will be covered below in the races section. These exceptions would be useful if we needed another ability score, for multiclassing mostly, but after Wisdom and Constitution are good, it’s not like Clerics need another ability score.

Str: If you want to swing a melee weapon and wear Heavy armor, get some of this.

Dex: If you want to fire a ranged weapon and wear Medium armor, get this instead.

Con: Avoid dying, get Con.

Int: Unless you’re one of the exceptions, your ability scores need to be elsewhere.

Wis: Save DCs and Spell Attack Bonus. Number one Cleric ability score.

Cha: Unless you’re one of the exceptions, your ability scores need to be elsewhere.

Point BuyStandard Array
Str15 (8)13 (8)
Dex8 (15)8 (13)
Con1514
Int812
Wis1515
Cha810

War Domain Races

For anything not listed below refer to the Cleric Races Breakdown.

As mentioned above, there are a few races that can switch around your tertiary ability score priorities without messing up your AC. These exceptions do apply to any Cleric that has heavy armor access.

  • CentaurMMoM: The Centaur doesn’t ignore the penalty, instead by having a higher base speed to begin with the penalty brings the speed down to the common speed of 30 feet.
  • DwarvesPHB: Because Dwarves can ignore the penalty for heavy armor, you can ignore both Strength and Dexterity without sacrificing your AC or speed.
  • TortleMMoM: Tortle is the third exception, having a built-in AC of 17. Note that this option does work on all Clerics, but is included for completeness.

While these are interesting exceptions, being able to put ability points into Intelligence or Charisma instead of Strength or Dexterity isn’t super useful unless you intend to multiclass. That said, these exceptions aren’t the only options to consider.

  • Dragonborn (Fizzban’s)FToD: Read Warpriest, then read the breath weapons of Fizzban’s Dragonborn. The Attack action to use a breath weapon is good enough to allow the use of the bonus action attack for Warpriest. It’s not the most optimal way to be a Cleric, but it is a fun and thematic way to use both of those abilities in tandem, especially because the total uses per day of each is similar. You could certainly do worse than breathing some elemental damage and following it up with a weapon attack.

War Domain Feats

I suggest just following the advice in the Cleric Handbook for feats. There isn’t enough of a difference if you’re building an optimal Cleric even with the features of the War Domain. That said, if you insist on wading into melee I can’t stop you but I can help you out.

  • Resilient (Constitution)PHB: Trading blows in melee means getting hit every now and then. It’s pretty awful to lose a whole 3rd-level spell slot when someone punches the Spirit Guardians out of you.
  • War CasterPHB: Weapon of choice in one hand, Shield in the other, and stuck with no way to do somatic components is a poor life choice for any caster, so don’t get caught out like that.

War Domain Weapons

As the domain grants Bonus Proficiency in all Martial Weapons, anything you want to use is on the table. You’re still better off focusing on spells, but it’s your character so you do you. I will make a special note for Crossbows, the Loading property doesn’t prevent you from making two attacks if those attacks are separate actions.

War Domain Armor

We have access to Heavy Armor, but, as I explained above, that doesn’t really change much for a Cleric. The eventual difference between Heavy and Medium armor is 1 AC, but you need either 15 Strength or 14 Dexterity to get the most out of these options. This is a meaningful difference in choices for anyone that makes weapon attacks, but doesn’t really change anything for a full caster that relies on spells and cantrips.

Example War Domain Cleric Build – Die Kriegerin der Zerstörung

In these example builds we’re supposed to do two things: show off the subclass features and provide an optimized build that takes advantage of these features. Doing both of these things can get rather difficult depending on the subclass, so we sometimes take a third option to go off the rails.

War domain presents an interesting flip around the 5th and 6th levels. Before anyone has Extra Attack, nothing really holds it back from playing like one of the martials, with two features that give it a little boost. Then once the gang get their Extra Attacks, War domain gets something sort of rare among Clerics in that it gains a second way to spend Channel Divinity. This makes a natural progression from soldier to officer. We just need an army to command. I wonder how we’ll get one of those.

What, were you expecting Death domain to be the one we awkwardly shoehorn into the Animate Dead party? Don’t be silly, we already have a Death. This is War.

Abilities

To take advantage of Heavy Armor without the speed penalty, we’ll be getting a 15 in Strength and it will stay 15 for our career. I know that odd number will bother some people, but our Wisdom and Constitution are too important. Speaking of which, we’ll also be putting our Point Buy points into those two scores. In an interesting twist, we’ll be putting the +2 from our racial adjustment into the Constitution and the +1 into Wisdom. The reason why will be explained in the feat section below.

BaseIncreasedLevel 20
Str151515
Dex888
Con151720
Int888
Wis151620
Cha888

Race

For our race, we’re taking Chromatic Dragonborn and choosing Green. As mentioned above in the race section, because the newer Dragonborn make their breath weapon as part of the attack action, Warpriest can trigger, but we don’t really have the strength to take advantage of that. Instead, we’ll be able to use the poison breath weapon without hurting our Skelesoldiers.

Background

We’re taking Sage for Arcana in order to scribe scrolls, and History to know wars. We get a pair of languages, which can be whatever works well in your campaign.

Skills and Tools

From Cleric, we take Insight, because it’s the only really useful Wisdom skill on our class list, and Religion to know the Undead. We’re not really great in the skill department, but that’s not really our job anyway.

Feats

At fourth level, we’ll take Resilient (Constitution), giving us +1 Constitution to hit 18 as well as proficiency in Constitution saves. I’ve gone on at length in the past about how maintaining Concentration on spells for their full duration can be better than the 5-10% difference in saving throw failure.

At eighth level, we’ll take an ASI for +2 Wisdom, also pushing it to 18. We do have a wild option to take Gift of the Chromatic Dragon early and further delay our Wisdom bump, but I would advise against that.

At twelfth level, we finish Wisdom with a second +2 ASI. This level would be a more reasonable place to take the Gift early, taking the Wisdom ASI at 16th level.

At sixteenth level, we take the Gift of the Chromatic Dragon primarily for the reaction ability to resist elemental damage since clerics don’t get Absorb Elements. Taking less damage means we have to roll lower Concentration checks. We could take this earlier in some circumstances. There are some interesting spells we could take that don’t even care about our Wisdom score and the bonus action to add some damage to a weapon once per day is weak at this level.

At nineteenth level, we’ll take another ASI to finish raising Constitution to 20.

Levels

LevelsFeats and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1Divine Domain: War
-Heavy (abyssal?) Armor
-Martial Weapons
-War Priest

Spellcasting
-Cantrips
–Guidance
–Toll the Dead
–Word of Radiance
-1st-level spells
–Divine Favor (c)
–Guiding Bolt
–Healing Word
–Protection from Evil and Good (c)
–Shield of Faith (c)
We start by taking up a shield, chain mail and a warhammer. We have the option to swing this weapon, and we can do so with reasonable effectiveness for at least a few levels if we feel like it.

The major issue is not having our hands full while performing somatic components for our spells. We don’t take Warcaster on this build because we’ll stop using weapons with our own hands around level five.

If we do want to get our melee Cleric power fantasy out of the way before then, I suggest two-handing the Warhammer or another weapon so that we can still cast spells without having to juggle too badly. It’s tough having to choose between Dragon’s Breath and double slash, but, then again, it’s not like War has an easy time of it in general.

If we’re looking for some offensive magic, Guiding Bolt does some decent radiant damage as a spell attack which can be used with Guided Strike when we get it next level.

Protection from Evil and Good and Shield of Faith are both good defensive options.
2Channel Divinity
-Turn Undead
-Guided Strike

Harness Divine Power – Optional
Guided Strike is helpful if we’re still swinging that warhammer around, getting a bonus to hit after seeing the roll and deciding if it’s worth the cost. It won’t be useful forever, but we will conveniently get a second CD later.

Harness Divine Power is great to get extra spell slots each day, especially if we’re not going to use Guided Strike.
3Spellcasting
-2nd-level spells
–Lesser Restoration
–Magic Weapon (c)
–Spiritual Weapon
Lesser Restoration removes some dangerous effects, so it’s worth having around. If possible, use that Arcana proficiency to scribe it in scroll form. Sure it’s a bit pricey but it’s not something you need every day so having it in a scroll case for emergencies is great.

Magic Weapon isn’t going to be the most flashy or powerful use of our bonus action, but applied to an ally’s weapon it can be a helpful boost for an entire hour duration.

Spiritual Weapon is great because it gives us a great use for both our bonus action and for Guided Strike. It also makes a great case for never using War Priest anymore. Also, there’s no reason you can’t make it look like a gun, scythe, or whip if you get bored of it being a sword that’s even taller than you are.
4Feat: Resilient (Constitution)
-+1 Constitution (17=>18)

Spellcasting
-Cantrip
–Light
Resilient (Constitution) will boost our ability to hold our Concentration spells for their full durations.

Light is a fine cantrip for seeing in the dark. Just don’t Ruin your night vision.
5Destroy Undead (CR ½)

Spellcasting
-3rd-level spells
Animate Dead
–Crusader’s Mantle (c)
–Revivify
–Spirit Guardians (c)
With 3rd-level spells we can start adding to the undead army Skelecorp. Sure our personal set of minions won’t be as strong as the Necromancer’s, but bodies are bodies.

What we really bring to this party is Crusader’s Mantle, a normally Paladin-exclusive spell. With 30 feet of radius, every skeleton (or anything else we consider an ally) crammed in that square circle will add an extra 1d4 radiant damage to every one of their attacks. That’s a lot of damage.

Revivify is a tax we must pay, but with our Arcana proficiency it would be prudent to get that in scroll form for emergencies.

Spirit Guardians is strong. We’ve talked about it at length. If we’re not playing in the Skelebros party, this is stronger than Crusader’s Mantle, but if we are in the minion pile there’s a lot of complicated math that determines which is better.

I’m not doing that math, as it heavily depends on how much AC the enemy targets have vs any attack bonuses our Skeletons have and how many foes there are that we can hit with Spirit Guardians. Use whichever feels good, both will help us kill people.

Remember though that we can designate any number of creatures to be immune to Spirit Guardians, which includes our Skeletons.
6Channel Divinity (2/rest)
-War God’s Blessing
With War God’s Blessing we can now give the bonus we were getting for our attack rolls to our fellow Officers and the Soldiers under our command.

This is good because we’re done attacking outside of a handful of spell attacks.
7Spellcasting
-4th-level spells
–Death Ward
–Freedom of Movement
–Stoneskin (c)
Here we finally get 4th-level spells.

Death Ward is primarily useful for blocking instant death effects, but can also be used to perform a trick known as Death Ward Stacking. Like any other effect, the duration of identical effects overlap and the effects of all but one are suppressed for the overlapping duration.

This means that if Death Ward is cast on a target twice, and that target is sent to 0 HP, one Death Ward ends. This leaves the target with 1 HP and the other Death Ward is no longer suppressed, ready to again prevent the target from dying, which may happen very quickly since they’re now at 1 HP.

Freedom of Movement is a generally useful defense buff, preventing many effects that inhibit movement and control.
8ASI: +2 Wisdom (16=>18)

Destroy Undead (CR1)

Blessed Strikes – Optional
We’ll boost our Wisdom here to keep our Save DCs and Spell Attacks from lagging too far behind the Fundamental Math.

We take the optional Blessed Strikes feature because we’ve by now abandoned using weapons with our own hands. Even if you do use a weapon, the damage boost is the same.
9Spellcasting
-5th-level spells
–Contagion
–Flame Strike
–Greater Restoration
–Hold Monster (c)
Contagion is a bit of a risky move usually because it requires getting into melee range, but as a spell attack, we can use Guided Strike to really stick the spell. The target will then have at least 3 and up to 5 rounds of being poisoned. If we’re lucky and they then fail 3 Constitution saves, we can inflict a laundry list of even worse effects. I’m quite partial to Slimy Doom’s permanent stun effect.

Flame Strike is an okay chunk of damage, except that other casters have been using Fireball for the same total damage since fifth level.

Greater Restoration is good to get rid of some bad status effects. Good to have around for those emergencies.

Hold Monster is good if you can stick it on something surrounded by melee allies. Like a pile of Skeletons or something. An active Spiritual Weapon would also be able to get an automatic critical hit, if we were so inclined.
10Divine Intervention

Spellcasting
-Cantrip
–Thaumaturgy
Divine Intervention is a percentile roll to get something. What that something is is between you and your DM. Maybe summoning the rest of the riders. That would certainly be apocalyptically bad for your enemies.

We’ve already taken the good cantrips, so now we take a fun one.
11Destroy Undead (CR 2)

Spellcasting
-6th-level spells
–Heal
–True Seeing
Heal: it puts HP back on someone’s face.

True Seeing. It sees the truth. Not much else to this spell. Good to have.
12ASI: Wisdom +2 (18=>20)More Wisdom. Better Save DCs.
13Spellcasting
-7th-level spells
–Etherealness
–Plane Shift
Etherealness is great for some sneaky spy missions.

Plane Shift is for mobilizing the troops or for mobilizing someone you don’t like to somewhere hostile to their existence.
14Destroy Undead (CR 3)Not really anything to say here.

I mean who would want to destroy the undead?
15Spellcasting
-8th-level spells
–Holy Aura (c)
Great buff that is only limited by how many allies can fit within the radius. And we’ve got plenty of allies.
16Feat: Gift of the Chromatic DragonTaking half damage halves the DC for making a Concentration save, which is likely a bigger boost to those saves than anything else we can do.
17Avatar of Battle

Destroy Undead (CR 4)

Spellcasting
-9th-level spells
–Mass Heal
Unleash your inner demon with Avatar of Battle, becoming very sturdy against mundane weapons. While taking half damage is, in itself, great, our Concentration DCs will also be half as large.

Mass Heal is good for keeping the party alive. Yeah, it’s that simple.
18Channel Divinity (3/rest)Triple War God’s Blessing. Help allies land that decisive blow three times per rest.
19ASI: +2 Constitution (18=>20)More HP. Better Concentration.
20Divine Intervention ImprovementGo from a 19% chance to 100% chance of getting an effect from this ability.