Last Updated: September 25, 2022
While the core of the Druid’s capabilities remains functional regardless of your Druid Circle, your choice of circle adds a set of unique capabilities to complement the Druid’s core class features.
Table of Contents
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.
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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.
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Druid Subclasses – Druid Circle
Circle of Dreams offers a few utility options and some healing, but most of the options are lackluster or highly situational. It’s not totally clear what role Circle of Dreams is intended to take in the party. They have a mix of utility and healing options, but druids already have plenty of those capabilities. I think your best bet is to focus on spellcasting, but Circle of the Land does the same job better.
Balm of the Summer Court allowed the Circle of Dreams Druid to make a good showing in The Healbot Olympics, but it didn’t make the top 3.
- : A pool of healing which you can use as a bonus action. It’s largely redundant with Healing Word, but it does have a few notable advantages. The pool of dice will quickly outpace your number of low-level spell slots, allowing you to quickly and inexpensively rescue dying allies. The ability to use more than one die is helpful if you want your ally past single-digit hit points, and the temporary hit points can help keep them conscious, though with so few temporary hit points you shouldn’t expect a miracle. Finally, since Balm of the Summer Court isn’t a spell, you can use it in the same turn as casting a leveled spell.
- : Situational, and there are tons of other options available that solve the same issues better. For example, Rope Trick will allow the party to climb into an extradimensional space with an invisible entrance. Still, if you don’t have a wizard in the party this is nice to have while camping in dangerous places like dungeons.
- : Excellent range, it works as a Bonus Action, and you get a decent number of uses per day. It’s especially nice because Misty Step isn’t available to druids. This is a great way to get out of dangerous areas, to escape grapples, or to rescue allies from the same.
- : Dream and Teleportation Circle aren’t on the Druid spell list, but Scry is. The unique version of Teleportation Circle is a nice way to get yourself and your party back to a known safe point, but generally you can do that by other means like walking or turning into a bird and flying long distances. If your party includes a character who can cast Teleport, this is an inexpensive way to get home after teleporting.
Circle of Spores is strong, and brings a lot of really powerful offensive options to the druid, in addition to a splash of undead. The circle features use your Reaction and Bonus Action almost exclusively, which means that you’re left to use your Action for normal druid things like casting spells. Symbiotic Entity, the only circle feature which uses an Action, provides a massive pile of temporary hit points, allowing even the most frail druids to take several hits before dipping into their normal hit points.
It’s interesting to note that the Circle of Spores is capable of thriving in melee without turning into an animal. This is generally how people play the subclass, though doing so is complicated and takes a solid build to do successfully. For detailed guidance, see my Circle of Spores Druid Handbook.
Circle of Spores is arguably the most complex druid subclass to build successfully. I do not recommend this for players who aren’t ready for the mechanical complexities required for them to succeed with Circle of Spores.
: Almost everything on the
spell is useful frequently, and you get a handful of options which
aren’t on the Druid’s spell list.
- : You get Chill Touch for free at 2nd level. It’s buried in the text of Circle Spells rather than in the Circle Spells table alongside everything else, so it’s easy to miss.
- : A fantastic debuff and a very situational utility option.
- : The logic behind why Circle of Spores druids can raise undead is a huge stretch, but Animate Dead is great regardless. Having four human skeletons is useful at any level because they’re expendable and easy to use as bait without feeling sad about killing an innocent person. Gaseous Form is great too for a variety of sneaking and exploratory purposes.
- : A decent single-target damage spell that works really well on plants, and a mediocre, unreliable debuff.
- : Two excellent offensive options.
- : When you first get this, a free 1d4 damage is a really nice boost to your damage output. The damage scales very slowly, so it won’t be especially threatening at high levels, but consider how infrequently most druids get to do something with their Reaction this is a fantastic improvement to your action economy. Find allies who make numerous attacks (fighters, etc.) to stun-lock enemies for extended periods of time. The range is short, unfortunately, so make sure you have a tanky ally between you and whatever is trying to kill you.
- : Someone finally wrote a way for druids to thrive in melee without turning into an animal! Cast Shillelagh on a club or a quarterstaff, grab your shield, and go clubbing. The 10 minute duration may be enough to get you through several fights if you move quickly, and even if you’re not walking around swinging a weapon, 4 temporary hit points per class level is a massive pile of hit points.
- : You’re limited to small or medium beasts and humanoids, which means your best hope is for a wolf or something to die right next to you. It’s cool that you can activate this as a Reaction, but 1 to 5 CR 1/4 zombies aren’t going to do a whole lot. Best case scenario: whatever you’re fighting spends a few of its attacks on the zombie instead of you and your allies.
You lose the ability to use Halo of Spores as a Reaction, unfortunately, and the ability curiously doesn’t exclude you from the damage, so be careful not top drop Spreading Spores on yourself. Cast something like Entangle to keep enemies from moving away quickly, then throw your spores on top of them.
This can also monopolize your Bonus Action, which conflicts with common tactics like Polearm Master. That may be perfectly fine depending on your build and your situation. Not every turn needs to involve swinging a shillelagh, and alternating attack turns with turns where you move Spreading Spores and cast a spell could be a great way to bring all of your options into play consistently.
: This creates an additional
area in which enemies can take the damage from your Halo of Spores.
You activate this as a Bonus Action, but after that creatures take the
damage without you spending your Reaction, so if you can keep enemies
inside the area it’s a better use of actions and you may even deal
more damage if you can affect multiple targets.
- : A nice list of condition immunitites. You can still take poison damage, which seems odd, but I’m never going to complain about condition immunities.
Circle of Stars is very powerful, adding a lot of both both damage output and healing, as well as a support mechanic from Cosmic Omen. Starry Form is the class’s signature mechanic, serving as a sort of combat overdrive mode similar to Circle of Spore’s Symbiotic Entity or the Barbarian’s Rage. Outside of this form you’re mostly reduced to core druid features, but at that point you’re still sitting on a full spellcasting arsenal so you’re not struggling by any means.
Despite adding a mildly stressful tactical decision (do I use Starry Form now? What constellation do I use?), Circle of the Stars is very approachable and I think it’s a great option for new players. It’s not quite as simple as Circle of the Land since it does add some new mechanics, but it’s considerably more effective so it’s a great option for newer players in a party of veterans. Despite being reasonably simple to play, this is also a great subclass for veteran players, especially if you’ve passed over the Druid previously because they looked underhwelming compared to other spellcasters.
I don’t think Circle of Stars going to be a balance problem since the druid is both difficult to optimize and arguably the weakest spellcasting class, but if a Circle of Stars Druid is proving to be a problem at your table there are some easy adjustments that you can make to the class to balance them. You might choose to use some or all of these changes, but I’m not totally certain that they’re necessary. Try the subclass, try some of these changes, and email me to let me know how it works out for your table.
- Starry Form: Reduce the dice for Archer/Chalice from d8 to d6 or even d4. That’s a pretty minor numerical change, but sometimes that’s all that you need.
- Twinkling Constellations: Changing constellations requires a Bonus Action. This prevents firing the Archer attack or using Chalice+Healing Word on the same turn in which you change constellations.
- Full of Stars: Either change the resistance to damage from nonmagical attacks or replace it with a pool of temporary hit points.
: There are a total of four
benefits buried in this feature, and they’re all fantastic.
- : While it’s not mechanically impactful, this is a great bit of flavor. I’ve hoped for more unique spellcasting focuses for years and this is the first time we’ve gotten one (the common magic item focuses in Xanathar’s barely count since they’re still generic focuses with added stuff). I also love the idea of a druid running around with a big heavy stone slab or a delicate collection of glass disks, especially since even a tiny amount of damage to either would jeopardize years of delicate work.
- : The best support cantrip, and you get it for free so you can enjoy other cantrips without feeling like Guidance is a cantrip tax because it’s too good to skip.
- : Very solid at low levels both as a support option and for damage output, and radiant damage is a rarity for the Druid.
- : Not only can you cast Guiding Bolt using your spell slots, you get to cast it for free a number of times per day equal to your Proficiency Bonus. This is done as a 1st-level spell, but 4d6 damage and Advantage on the next attack against that creature is better than any damage cantrip, even at 17th level. (Eldritch Blast+Invocations don’t count.) You won’t get enough free uses of Guiding Bolt to totally replace attack cantrips, unfortunately.
Choosing which constellation to use is one of the most important tactical decisions that you can make in an encounter. If you’re in close quarters and need to keep your spells going, go for Dragon. If your party is short on hit points going into the encounter, or if there’s some kind of hit point attrition issue (enemy has big AOE damage, or you’re fighting in a burning building), go for Chalice. Otherwise, go for Archer and pump out damage as fast as you can. This tactical decision goes away at level 10 when you get Twinkling Constellations (In a way. Keep reading.), but until then this will be among the hardest and most impactful choices that you make in a fight.
: Turning Wild Shape into a
buff rather than a utility option was first done in Circle of Spores, and
it’s just as cool on Circle of Stars. Starry Form is Arguably even cooler
because instead of locking you into a combat mode, Starry Form has an attack
mode, a healing mode, and a utility/casting mode. Much like Circle of the
Moon and Circle of Spores, expect to use Starry Form in any noteworthy
combat, but remember that you only get two uses per short rest so you’ll
still need to be functional without it sometimes.
- : 1d8+Wis radiant damage as a Bonus Action. It’s a spell attack so the attack uses your Wisdom modifier and doesn’t benefit from things like the Sharpshooter feat. This is a great offensive option, and the fact that it doesn’t stop you from casting a leveled spell on the same turn is just spectacular. This is likely your go-to option in combat because it’s going to be useful in every combat on every turn at any level. The damage improves at level 10, but honestly if it didn’t this would still be great.
- : More than doubles the total amount healed by Healing Word, and you can target a creature not targeted by your spell so you can heal two creatures at once. However, this also encourages healing in combat which you should try very hard to avoid doing. The best use case for this is to use it right before a Short Rest if you have a Wild Shape usage left over. The healing improves at level 10.
- : Druids have a lot of Concentration spells, so guaranteeing a minimum roll of 10 on those checks is really helpful. Guaranteeing a minimum roll of 10 on Intelligence and Wisdom checks allows you to use this outside of combat, which is a great utility option if you have knowledge skills like Arcana or Nature. At level 10, this adds a 20-foot fly speed, allowing you to fly while keeping your Concentration on a spell.
- : Tactically similar to the Bard’s Bardic Inspiration and Cuttings Words features. You won’t be able to use this as often as a bard can use Bardic Inspiration, but 3 to 6 times per day is still extremely impactful, especially since you can use this as a Reaction. The Weal/Woe options are roughly equivalent, so when you roll to see which one you get you’re essentially deciding if you get to use this offensively (weal) or defensively (woe) that day.
Do you have an ally down at 0 hit points? Switch to chalice and heal them. Need to maintain a Concentration spell? Turn on dragon, fly out of reach and do your thing. The rest of the time? Archer.
: More damage from
Archer, more healing from Chalice, and flight from Dragon (even at just 20
ft. speed) are all big improvements. The ability to change your
constellation each turn without spending an action means that the
difficult tactical decision which you normally make when you activate Starry
Form goes away, making your life much easier. Now you get to make that
decision every turn instead. Do you suffer from Analysis Paralysis? This
will either make it way better or way worse.
- : A bit late, and strange on a subclass that’s so clearly intended to fill a back-line role, but consider that the Druid has notoriously poor AC and just d8 hit points this is a fantastic improvement to your durability.
The first druid subclass to feature a built-in pet, and rather than a Beast Master-style animal companion, the Druid gets spirit made of fire. Not what I was expecting, but it’s pretty great. The subclass splits its focus between fire-based blasting, healing, and using the Wildfire Spirit as a combat pet. Between those three, you’ll be very busy any time that combat breaks out.
Unfortunately, Circle of Wildfire depends almost exclusively on fire damage, which is a problem because fire resistance and immunity are among the most common resistances in the game. This has been a persistent issue for the Druid dating back to at least 3rd edition, and Circle of Wildfire isn’t doing anything to correct it. Take the Elemental Adept feat to help your own spells (your Wildfire Spirit doesn’t benefit from the feat) or you will face severe and persisten problems throughout your character’s career. If immunity ever comes up, make sure that you have adequate spell options for dealing other damage types.
You might also consider the Elemental Bane spell. It suppresses resistance to the type of damage which you select, and with so many reliable ways to deal fire damage it will be a reliable boost to your damage output. However, it’s on a Constitution save and those tend to be high, so it won’t be as reliable as Elemental Adept.
Beyond the resistance/immunity issue, Circle of Wildfire is a lot of fun. With staple damage and healing options built in, you have a lot of freedom to explore other parts of the Druid’s spell list. The great balance between damage and healing makes this a great subclass for small parties or for parties who don’t have a big blaster caster like a sorcerer, wizard, or warlock but also need more healing than most druids can provide.
I do wish that they got Fireball, but I’m still happy with the new spells which Circle of Wildfire gets.
: A nice balance
between healing and damage options, the spell list adds numerous fire damage
spells from the sorcerer and wizard spell lists.
- : Staple options for both damage and healing.
- : More staple damage options.
- : Both options are technically situational, but Revivify is such a crucial option that it’s essentially a tax on any class which has access to it, and since it’s only available to most druids as an Optional Class Feature, this is one of very few ways for a druid to get guaranteed access to Revivify.
- : Two situational defensive buffs.
- : You don’t get fireball, but Flame Strike is almost as good.
The Wildfire Spirit also has a short-range teleportation option which leaves a small fire damage AOE in its wake. Even though the 15-foot teleportation range is very small, it’s enough to get an ally out of a grapple and out of melee reach, as well as to get the party through many barriers like portcullises, doors, and windows which would normally block passage but you can still see past.
The Wildfire Spirit has two crucial limitations. First, and most obvious, is fire damage. Fire resistance and immunity are common, and Elemental Adept doesn’t help your Wildfire Spirit’s fire damage. Second, it can only attack targets which you can see and teleport to places that you can see. If you’re blind or just can’t make line of sight, your spirit is mostly useless.
Even with those limitations, for an hour the Druid more or less has the damage of an extra cantrip as a bonus action on every round, and that adds up.
: A powerful combat
summon to College of Creation’s Dancing Item, the Wildfire Spirit is a
flying Striker. At just 10 Strength and small size it’s not strong enough to
carry anything of significant weight, so its function is almost purely
combative. The 30 ft. fly speed allows it to remain safely out of melee
combat, which is good since it has a small pool of hit points and just 13
AC. The 1-hour duration and 2 Wild Shape uses per Short Rest will keep your
spirit around for a big chunk of the day, but if you’re on your second use
be cautious about your spirit’s hit points, and if your spirit goes down try
to get a Short Rest as quickly as possible.
The second portion of this feature allows you to originate spells from your spirit instead of from yourself. Druids are notoriously frail (medium armor, no metal, d8 hit dice), so allowing you to cast short-range spells like Burning Hands while remaining at a safe distance is a huge benefit. The spirit’s ability to fly makes this especially useful because you can target cones straight down and effectively get a circular AOE against targets on the ground.
However, remember that the spirit takes its turn immediately after yours, so positioning for this tactic can be difficult. Be aware that using the Ready action on a spell takes your Concentration so whatever else you were already Concentrating on will end if you try to Ready a spell for when the Wildfire Spirit is in position to deliver a spell.
Also do note that this is not limited to your Druid spells. A good little combo if you for example dipped a level into Cleric is to fly the spirit up to a surrounded ally, use a readied Word of Radiance excluding the ally from the AoE, then using Fiery Teleport to evacuate the ally while adding even more damage.
: The bonus to damage and
healing is fantastic on its own, applying not just to cantrips but also to
your leveled spells. 1d8 damage/healing doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s
equivalent to adding a spell level for many spells like Burning Hands, Cure
Wounds. Just remember that your spirit needs to be summoned, so if you’re
out of Wild Shape uses and your spirit is down, consider a Short Rest as
soon as possible.
Limiting this to your Reaction and proficiency bonus times per long rest prevents you and your allies from running through a series of these spectral flames in one turn to rapidly heal, and limiting the whole effect to small or larger creatures prevents shenanigans like murdering a bag of rats and rolling your party through the spectral flames to produce bottomless healing. WotC really nailed the limitations on this one, so go-to abuse cases don’t apply. However, if you walk into a room full of goblins or kobolds, it starts to look like a room full of health potions.
: 2d10+Wisdom is a
decent amount of healing or damage, especially as a Reaction. Provided that
there are multiple foes in an encounter, picking off the weak ones and
strategically applying this healing or dragging enemies through a spectral
flame to damage them can have a significant impact. However, to make that
work your party will need mechanisms to push, pull, drag, or otherwise
reposition your enemies.
- : Half hit points is enough to get you back up and fighting without going back down immediately, and sacrificing your wildfire spirit to make this happen is absolutely worth the cost since you can just resummon it, provided that you still have a Wild Shape use to do so. You only get to use this once per day, but hopefully that’s enough, and if you’re ever unsure you can always retreat and live to fight another day.
If you want to emphasize the Druid’s spellcasting, this is the way to do it. Circle of the Land adds almost nothing in terms of complexity to the Druid, which is great because it’s already such a complex class. However, if you can’t get by on just the Druid’s spellcasting you’re going to struggle.
Circle of the Land is arguably the most approachable full spellcaster. You don’t need to manage spells known like a sorcerer, you don’t need to manage a spellbook like a wizard, and in combat where things get messy, you can largely ignore the Druid’s other class features and focus solely on your spellcasting. This makes the Circle of the Land Druid a great option for new players to learn how to play a spellcaster.
- : Druids get one less cantrip than other full casters, so this sets the Land Druid on even footing with other full casters.
- : This provides a bit of sustainability that will help keep you functional throughout an adventuring day as you spend leveled spells. Without any backup options beyond cantrips, it’s crucial that you have enough spell slots to support your best options.
: Varies by biome.
: Several excellent area
control spells. Unfortunately, half of the options address similar needs
and require Concentration, so it’s hard to use the spells in combination
with one another.
- : Hold Person and Spike Growth are excellent crowd control/area control options. However, both require Concentration.
- : Sleet Storm is mediocre, and given the choice between Sleet Storm and Spike Growth, I would pick Spike Growth every time. Slow is still good. And again, both require Concentration.
- : Ice Storm is bad. Freedom of Movement allows your allies to move through your area control effects more easily and to escape grapples, but it’s still only situationally useful. You already have Land’s Stride, so Freedom of Movement doesn’t help you much.
- : A useful divination, and a good source of instantaneous area damage not normally available to Druids.
: Coast starts off very strong,
but most of the spell options will only rarely see use.
- : Mirror Image is among the best defensive options in the game, and Misty Step is a fantastically useful means of getting around. Neither are available to Druids normally.
- : Both are very situational.
- : Both are situational.
- Practical Guide to Summoning Spells for help with Conjure Elemental. : Scrying is very situational, but Conjure Elemental is pretty great. Summon a Fire Elemental and set fire to entire encounters. See my
: A good mix of different
options with different applications, and a couple of spells not normally
available to Druids.
- : Blur is a decent defensive option, and Silence is occasionally useful for stealth and for disabling spellcasters.
- : Most groups will ignore the consumption of food and water until you very suddenly can’t get any. Fortunately, you can typically survive a day to prepare Create Good and Water, so having it constantly prepared isn’t helpful. Protection From Energy is considerably more useful.
- : Both are every situational.
- : Both excellent area control options.
: Nothing really spectacular.
- : Barkskin is a fantastic buff, though it’s not as important since Land Druids don’t fight in Wild Shape. Spider Climb is situational, and seems a bit silly consider you can turn into a spider.
- : Call lightning is one of the most iconic Druid spells, but it can be hard to use. The damage per round isn’t spectacular, but the ability to repeatedly shoot lightning bolts makes it an extremeley efficient use of spell slots, and once you cast it you can Wild Shape into a bird and keep activating Call Lightning. Plant Growth is complex, but potentially very effective area control.
- : Both options are situational, but Divination isn’t normally available to Druids.
- : Commune with Nature is a nice divination, though Divination is probably better, and Tree Stride is a decent way to get around, but can’t compete with real teleportation.
: Some excellent buffs,
several of which aren’t normally available to Druids, but big parts of
the spell list are situational.
- : Two excellent options for stealth and infiltration. The effects remain in place when you use Wild Shape, so you can turn invisible, turn into an owl, and fly around almost undetectable, or you can use Pass Without Trace to allow your entire party to be effective at Stealth.
- : Daylight is situational, but Haste is one of the best buffs in the game if you have martial characters like barbarians and fighters around to make use of it.
- : Both options are situational, but Divination isn’t normally available to Druids.
- : Dream is extremely situational, but Insect Plague is good area control.
: Solid options all the way up
- : Spider Climb isn’t very useful since you can turn into a spider, but Spike Growth is one of my favorite area control spells.
- : Lightning bolt is a decent damage option, though somewhat difficult to bring to bear against crowds of enemies since it’s so difficult to target more than two creatures with a line effect. Meld with Stone is very situational.
- : Stone Shape is insanely useful, and Stoneskin is a great buff so long as you have enough gold to pay the component cost.
- : Passwall is extremely useful, and Wall of Stone is an excellent utility and area control spell.
: Starts off very strong, but
the higher-level options are bad.
- : Two good options, neither of which are available to Druids.
- : Water walk is very situational, but Stinking Cloud is fantastic area control.
- : Both options are only situationally useful. Freedom of movement is helpful for grapples and restraints, but it’s slightly less useful for druids because your get Land’s Stride.
- : Scrying is situational, but Insect Plague is good area control.
: Lots of fantastic options,
many of which aren’t available to Druids normally.
- : So I heard you like spiders. Web is good area control.
- : So I heard you like strange gases. Stinking Cloud is good area control, and Gaseous Form is a great escape/infiltration form.
- : Greater Invisibility is fantastic, and Stone Shape is immensely useful.
- : Cloudkill is extremely lethal, but it’s hard to hit the same target more than once unless they’re confined to a small area. Insect Plague is good area control.
- : Several excellent area control spells. Unfortunately, half of the options address similar needs and require Concentration, so it’s hard to use the spells in combination with one another.
- : Situational, but this likely allows you to walk through the area of a Plant Growth spell unaffected since the magic effect is instantaneous and the plants are natural after that point.
- : Excellent defenses against common and frequently problematic effects.
- : Near-immunity to two types of creatures. By now you should have 20 Wisdom, and beasts and plants both tend to have low Wisdom saves. Unfortunately, beasts stopped being threatening a long time ago (especially if you prepare Animal Friendship) and plant creatures are rare, so this will rarely matter.
Circle of the Moon allows the Druid to use Wild Shape as a combat form. Depending on the composition of your party, this may allow you to take the place of your party’s Fighter-equivalent, filling space as a Defender and Striker. However, in most parties the Druid is taking the place of the Cleric-equivalent, so you may need to drop out of Wild Shape in order to cast spells from time to time. You also may not have enough Wild Shape uses to be in Wild Shape in every encounter of a full adventuring day (the adventuring day guidelines recommend 6-8 encounters per day) if your hit points don’t hold up or if you need to drop out of Wild Shape to cast spels. Fortunately, you can still use leveled spells in encounters where you’re not using Wild Shape.
Because Wild Shape adds a second pool of hit points on top of your regular hit points, Circle of the Moon is arguably the most durable druid, and at level 2 the Circle of the Moon Druid is arguably the strongest character in the game. However, mastering Wild Shape is difficult, so I encourage you to read our Practical Guide to Wild Shape.
- : Moving into Wild Shape as a bonus action means that you can transform, move, and attack in the same turn. This makes it much easier to pick the right form for a combat since you don’t need to guess before the fight starts. It also means that when you get knocked out of Wild Shape you can quickly get back into Wild Shape, often without taking significant damage to your real hit points.
- Practical Guide to Wild Shape for a compilation and analysis of possible forms. : This allows you to take some decent combat forms. See our
- : You’re going to run into a lot of things which resist non-magical weapon damage types, so this is very important.
- : Fire Elemental is a flaming murder machine that you can use from now until you hit level 18 and can turn into a Mammoth. It does take both of your Wild Shape uses, but if you’re successful at setting everything on fire quickly, you may be able to avoid enough damage to stretch this through several fights.
- : This is a 2nd-level spell, and the problems it solves can be solved better by Wild Shape.
Circle of the Shepherd offers excellent options for the Druid to support their party and to summon more powerful creatures with Conjure Animals and Conjure Fey. If you enjoy summoning creatures and buffing your allies, this is a great option. If you want to focus on other aspects of druid spellcasting, Circle of the Land is a better choice.
Because summoning creatures is so central to the Circle of the Shepherd, I strongly recommend reading my Practical Guide to Summoning Creatures. It’s difficult to overstate how central summoning is to the Circleof the Shepherd, and understanding the capabilities of the Druid’s summon spells will make you considerably more effective.
Unicorn Spirit is a big enough complement to the Druid’s healing capabilities that the Circle of the Shepherd Druid made its way into The Healbot Olympics, where it tied with the Life Domain Cleric for 1st place in 1-round party healing and took 2nd place in total medal count.
- : A free language and constant Speak with Animals. Not always useful, but wonderful for a Druid to have, and helpful if you’re summoning beasts because you can talk to them to gain information about things that they may have seen, allowing you to use beasts as effective disposable scouts. As an example, you might summon a bunch of low-CR breasts with Conjure Animals (hope for things like rats, crows, or other small, common animals) and send them to scout an area and report back to you.
: Powerful and versatile, and
as a bonus action it’s usable without cutting into your spellcasting.
This is also very helpful if you summon numerous low-CR creatures. The temporary hit points apply to all allies in the area, so if you have 8 summoned hyenas or something, they’re suddenly much more durable and can soak considerably more damage which might otherwise be directed at party members. Your summons get the benefits of Advantage on Strength checks, too, but most creatures that grapple have an attack that grapples automatically. Still, you may be able to command them to grapple by normal means, which may be more effective since they have Advantage.
: If your party is on the
defensive, this is a good way to get some temporary hit points onto your
allies. If you have a grappler in the party or if you’re facing an enemy
that grapples your party, Advantage on Strength checks is fantastic.
However, the temporary hit points only apply when you first create the
spirit, so its effectiveness diminishes quickly in most cases.
- : Your go-to option in most cases, especially if you don’t plan to flood combat with summoned creatures. As a back-line spellcaster, you can use your largely ignored Reaction to grant Advantage on an attack roll If you have a rogue in the party, which means an easy way to get Sneak Attack. For other party members it’s just a nice buff that you can grant once per round.
This is an exciting option when you have numerous summoned creatures because the additional healing doesn’t have a cap on the number of targets. If you have a small army of summoned creatures, you can heal them for free, stretching the benefits of your spell slot.
: If you’re taking a
short rest and haven’t already expended Spirit Totem, use this before
your rest to get some extra healing. The spell you cast doesn’t need to
be anything fancy: It just needs to be a leveled spell that restores hit
points. Healing Word works, for example, and it’s a great way to trigger
this repeatedly. It’s unclear if spells like Goodberry or Healing Spirit
apply since they don’t immediately heal a targeted creature when you
cast the spell.
- : If your party is on the defensive, this is a good way to get some temporary hit points onto your allies. If you have a grappler in the party or if you’re facing an enemy that grapples your party, Advantage on Strength checks is fantastic. However, the temporary hit points only apply when you first create the spirit, so its effectiveness diminishes quickly in most cases.
However, the new summon spells introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything don’t appear to have hit dice, so they don’t appear to benefit from the additional hp. All creatures should have hit dice, and you might argue that they have a number of hit dice equal to the spell level used to summon them, but we haven’t gotten an official answer on the subject so discuss it with your DM before making any assumptions.
: One of the biggest
problems with summoned creatures is that most can’t overcome damage
resistance or immunity to non-magical attacks. This solves that issue, and
also makes your summoned creatures slightly more durable so that you get
some more mileage from your spell slots.
- : With this and Mighty Summoner, you can make Conjure X spells last for an exceptionally long time even while in combat, even if you don’t plan to use Unicorn Spirit to get free healing for your summons.
The language is fairly clear that you can’t trigger this willingly, so unfortunately you can’t tell your allies to beat you unconcious to get free summons (though they could technically decide to do so on their own so long as you weren’t willingly going along with their plan).
This also uniquely allows you to select the beasts which you summon, which is weird since Conjure Animals doesn’t normally allow that. I recommend the Giant Constrictor Snake because its attacks can grapple your foes and buy you more time for your allies to rescue you. But the Giant Boar is hard to kill thanks to Relentless, and the Polar Bear’s attacks are really good without needing to run around and leave your unconscious body defenseless.
: At this level CR 2
creatures aren’t likely to win a fight for you (even with the benefits of
Mighty Summoner), but they might keep enemies at bay long enough for your
party to come to your rescue.