DnD 5e - The Blood Hunter Handbook
Last Updated: May 24th, 2019
I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
This handbook is for version 2.1 of Matt Mercer's Blood Hunter (Affiliate Link). A complete homebrew class, the Blood Hunter has gained some traction in the community, and I have received numerous requests to explore the class.
The Blood Hunter is a martial striker mechanically similar to the Ranger. It has a similar skill set, both in and out of combat, and building a Blood Hunter feels very similar. You could easily take any Ranger and replace all of their class levels with Blood Hunter levels and have a perfectly functional character.
That said, the Blood Hunter is a complicated class. It has several resource pools to track, and Crimson Rite allows you to temporarily alter your own hit point maximum. If you're intimidated by math, or if you find spellcasters difficult to play, you may not enjoy the class. But if you're comfortable managing resource pools and like making life-or-death risk-reward decisions in the thick of combat, the Blood Hunter has a lot to offer.
While the flavor of the class is interesting and the abilities are thematic and exciting, the text of the class is somewhat rough and may be difficult to interpret at times. I'll make an effort to clarify mechanics where I think it's helpful.
Blood Hunter Class Features
Hit Points: d10 hit dice are standard for a front-line martial class.
Saves: Strength saves are fairly rare, but Wisdom saves are common and typically very problematic.
Proficiencies: Martial weapons, shields, but only medium armor. Alchemist's Tools are nice if you enjoy using alchemical items, and you still get the usual 2 skills, though the skill list is small, doesn't fit well with good ability scores for the class, and is mostly composed of highly situational skills.
Hunter's Bane: The Blood Hunter is a class that looks for any excuse to track a monster, so Advantage of Wisdom (Survival) checks to track some monsters is helpful. Being unable to be surprised by what your tracking is nice, especially since Perception isn't on the Blood Hunter skill list. The extra feature at 11th level is interesting, but with dumped Charisma Advantage isn't enough to make you good at Intimidation.
Crimson Rite: The wording of the ability is very specific to ensure that you always lose X hit points and can't regain them until you end the effect, but you also don't lose a total of twice your level in hit points. It's also interesting to note that the bonus damage is magic, but it doesn't make attacks with the weapon magic, so creatures which you attack might resist your weapon damage but not the bonus damage from Crimson Rite. The damage bonus scales with level, and it feels really good on top of Extra Attack. The ability is also worded to disadvantage two-weapon fighting, thrown weapons, and Polearm Master users, but it works really well for Crossbow Expert users.
- Primal Rites: You eventually get all three Primal Rite options, so the biggest decision point is what order in which to take them. Blood Hunters typically face evil creatures like fiends, so you want to take options which aren't commonly resisted by those creatures.
- Rite of the Flame: Nearly all fiends have resistance to fire damage, and it's commonly resisted by other creatures too.
- Rite of the Frozen: Many fiends have resistance to cold, but not so many as have resistance to fire.
- Rite of the Storm: Fiends usually don't have resistance to lightning damage.
- Esoteric Rites: You only get one, and Rite of the Roar is considerably better than the other options.
- Rite of the Roar: Almost nothing resists sonic damage. The only better option is Force damage.
- Rite of the Oracle: Psychic damage is resisted by very few creatures, but many undead and constructs are outright immune to it.
- Rite of the Dead: Most things don't resist necrotic damage, but the things that do resist it are evil creatures which blood hunters can expect to face.
Fighting Style: Fighting Style is a welcome addition for any martial character. The Blood Hunter gets all of the offensive options, but no defensive options.
- ArcheryPHB: The obvious choice for ranged builds. +2 to hit is a big deal in a game where a 20th-level character can expect a maximum of +11 to hit.
- DuelingPHB: Note that this works while using a shield. 2 damage closes the damage gap between a longsword and a two-handed weapon (4.5->6.5 vs. 6.5/7).
- Great Weapon FightingPHB: This adds an average of just over 1 damage per attack on average. If you plan to use two-handed weapons, pick up Defense instead to compensate for lack of a shield.
- Two-Weapon FightingPHB: The Blood Hunter's attacks more closely resemble the Ranger's than the Fighter's. You only get two attacks, and you can apply Crimson Rite to both weapons to get the on-hit damage boost. However, beware the stacking costs of Crimson Rite.
Blood Maledict: Blood Maledict feels a little bit like spellcasting. It's not spellcasting, but it certainly feels that way. You get a maximum of 3 uses per short rest, so when you resort to a Blood Curse it needs to be a situation that really justifies it.
Blood Curses: Most of the options are situational, and the ones that are useful constantly are bad. Think of these less like hammers of various sizes, and more like a belt of single-task tools. You get to learn a total of 5 curses by 20th level, which is exactly enough to skip the worst of the 8 options.
- Blood Curse of Binding: Reducing a creature's speed to 0 can be very effective. Prone enemies can't stand, and flying enemies begin to fall. If you amplify the effect, you might be able to keep melee enemies out of a fight for several rounds. However, if your Wisdom is poor the DC will be unreliable.
- Blood Curse of The Eyeless: Imposing Disadvantage as a reaction is really nice. Amplifying it is easily worth the cost because even at low levels enemies will routinely deal more damage than your Crimson Rite dice in a single attack.
- Blood Curse of The Fallen Puppet: Situational. Unless you're fighting something that relies on big single attacks, this won't do a lot of damage. The amplification is tempting, but doesn't make this great.
- Blood Curse of The Fending Rite: Situational by design. Definitely tempting if you're built with poor Dexterity.
- Blood Curse of The Marked: You don't get enough uses of Blood Maledict to waste them on such a small boost to damage output. Even with the enhancement it's not worthwhile. If your enemy is resistant to your rite damage, change damage types.
- Blood Curse of Mutual Suffering: There is no cap on how many times you can have this running at once. Use all of your daily uses of Blood Maledict, then go stand in front of the BBEG and watch them explode when they touch you.
- Blood Curse of Purgation: The normal version is too situational, and even the amplified effect is worse than Lesser Restoration.
- Blood Curse of Spell Sunder: Too situational, and the amplified version is bad because your Wisdom can't keep pace with spell levels.
Blood Hunter Order: See "Subclasses - Blood Hunter Orders", below.
Extra Attack: A crucial feature of almost any martial class.
Grim Psychometry: Situational and poorly defined. This is greatly dependent on your DM's willingness to reveal plot details that might otherwise not be accessible.
Dark Velocity: Darkvision is really good, but most creatures have Darkvision so you're hardly unique in that capacity. Extending existing Darkvision range is really good because creatures relying on Darkvision are effectively blind beyond their Darkvision range. The extra move speed is nice, too. The text says "Attacks of Opportunity", which is a term from 3rd Edition/Pathfinder. In 5e they're called "Opportunity Attacks".
Hardened Soul: Fear and Charm effects become common at high levels, and many effects that don't make you frightened and don't charm you are also considered "fear" and "charm" effects, so resistances like this are much more effective than they appear at first glance.
Sanguine Mastery: Falling below 1/4th hit points usually means that it's time to run away, but now it's time to step up and deal some damage. The ability to recharge Blood Maledict is really nice, but the ability doesn't limit how you score the critical hit so you can easily use this to recharge Blood Maledict by repeatedly striking unconscious enemies or by stabbing a bag of rats.
Subclasses - Blood Hunter Orders
- Order of The Ghostslayer: This is the baseline for the Blood Hunter. It's a solid archetype that broadens the Blood Hunters possible targets, and its still effective in a variety of situations that don't directly pertain to killing undead creatures.
- Rite of the Dawn: This is fantastic. Halve the cost of Crimson Rite, and Radiant damage is a better damage type than you can get until you can get Rite of the Roar. The bonus damage is great too, and adding it against all creatures at 11th level means that radiant damage remains your best option against anything that isn't resistant to radiant damage.
- Hallowed Veins: Blood Curses work on most creatures, and you get so few uses per rest that you'll have plenty of targets. However, incorporeal undead like banshees and shadows don't have blood, and for a subclass clearly out to hunt ghosts it's nice to be able to affect ghosts.
- Supernal Surge: At the same level that Rite of Dawn applies bonus damage against all enemies, you get to make three attacks several times per short rest. The ability to walk through enemies and walls is nice, too. Usually you can't do that without high-level spells like Etherealness.
- Vengeful spirit: Magical Darkness is a serious problem for nearly any adventurer. If you have an ally who can cast Darkness, have them case it on your while you murder your blinded enemies.
- Order of The Lycan: Order of the Lycan is objectively overpowered. It's a horrifying melee threat with too much AC, damage resistance that's too good, damage output that's too good and too reliable, limited resources that will well outlast the rest of your party, and pointlessly minor drawbacks that are further mitigated as you gain levels. This subclass combines all of the best mathematical parts of the barbarian, the fighter, and the monk, and outdoes all three of them.
- Heightened Senses: Detecting creatures sneaking around often relies on sound, so advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks involving hearing is useful frequently.
- Hybrid Transformation: This is your signature ability. The 10-minute duration is long enough to last through a fight or two if you move quickly, and you get two uses per rest so you can easily use this in every fight in a day. The biggest risk is going into a fight unprepared and being forced to spend an action to transform. Even the ability's drawbacks are extremely
- Feral Might: The damage bonus is small and scales very slowly, but more damage is always great. Advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws will help compensate for your dumped Strength.
- Resilient Hide: With 20 Dexterity you can match the AC of full plate, and you also get damage resistance. Throw on a shield and you have 20 AC.
- Predatory Strikes: The scaling damage dice honestly don't matter that much, but getting another attack as a bonus action is absolutely fantastic.
- Cursed Weakness: I suppose in a game with Order of the Lycan Blood Hunters it would make sense that some enemies might use silvered weapons, but in a typical campaign the only people with silvered weapons will be the PC's. Even in those cases, you can revert to your normal form and grab a sword.
- Bloodlust: Problematic, but not insurmountable. Position yourself carefully, and always keep an enemy between yourself and your allies. Remember that opportunity attacks only occur when you leave a creature's reach, so you're free to run into melee then run around behind an enemy to make them the target of your Bloodlust.
- Stalker's Prowess: An extra 10 ft. of speed is really great for a character so strictly locked into melee.
- Improved Predatory Strikes: By this level you really need your weapon attacks to be magical, and if you don't have Crimson Rite running constantly you're giving up easy access to a lot of damage.
- Advanced Transformation: Transforming as a bonus action means that you can handle being surprised more easily, but remember to activate Crimson Rite long beforehand so that your bonus action is less in demand.
- Lycan Regeneration: Any amount of hit point regeneration is great. If your Dexterity is maxed out, consider taking the Tough feat to dramatically raise your hit point maximum, but remember that the healing is based on your Constitution modifier so its a trade between healing quickly or healing to a higher threshold.
- Beastly Precision: This is amazing. In a campaign with magic items, a +1 weapon is a significant boost to damage output because a +1 to attacks is a huge benefit in a game where a character's attack bonus typically maxes out at +11. When you get this, it's already a +2 bonus to attacks, and combined with Feral Might you're getting +2 to both attack and damage.
- Iron Volition: Bloodlust is already easy to mitigate, but Advantage on the save is still nice to have.
- Pack Hunter: At this point I think it's fair to say that the Order of the Lycan is overpowered. You're already getting +3 to attacks on top of your normal proficiency bonus+dex and a huge pile of damage (something like 2d8+8) on three attacks per turn with an AC of 20. And now you can get Advantage on those attacks by having another ally in melee. Do you have an ally with a familiar? How about a spare ability score increase to get yourself Magic Initiate so you can learn Find Familiar?
- Hybrid Transformation Mastery: In a typical day you can now spend a total of 3 hours transformed. That's a lot of time to kill stuff considering you can regenerate your hit points and your only other limited resource is Blood Maledict.
- Blood Curse of the Howl: A great crowd control effect, but your Wisdom probably isn't any higher than 16 so your DC is going to be mediocre.
- Order of The Profane Soul: While not without problems and pitfalls, Order of the Profane Soul is fun, versatile, and highly customizable. Adding Warlock spellcasting to a martial character opens up some really interesting character concepts, and despite some issues in the design Order of the Profane Soul is easily my favorite of the Blood Hunter orders.
- Otherworldly Patron: Matt Mercer has done a great job keeping up with the new patrons. Unfortunately, few of the patrons are actually worthwhile. Remember that these benefits are fairly minor; the real reason you're here is for the spellcasting.
- The Archfey: Starts with a situational option and never really recovers.
- The Fiend: Primarily focuses on doing fire damage, but doesn't do it especially well.
- The Great Old One: Decent, with a weird combination of crowd control, utility, and buffs.
- The Undying: Starts strong then tapers off almost immediately.
- The Celestial: For a class with no other healing options, this is surprisingly good.
- The Hexblade: Nothing good until 15th level.
- Pact Magic: Order of the Profane Soul gives you the Warlock's Pact Magic in the same way that Eldritch Knight gives the Fighter the Wizard's spellcasting. See the Spells section, below, for help selecting spells.
- Rite Focus:
- The Archfey: Situational, but a great option if your party can't easily handle invisible creatures.
- The Fiend: Rite of the Flame is the worst choice for Crimson Rite.
- The Great Old One: If you're using two-weapon fighting or Crossbow Expert, you might score critical hits fairly often.
- The Undying: Regaining hit points when you kill a creature is great, but remember that you need to reduce it to zero hit points and kill it at the same time, so you can't farm dying enemies for hit points.
- The Celestial: Roughly on par with Healing Word. Great if your party doesn't have Healing Word for some reason.
- The Hexblade: You don't get enough uses of Blood Maledict to make this meaningful.
- Mystic Frenzy: This mimics the Eldritch Knight's War Magic feature. Using either Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade in conjunction with the extra attack from Mystic Frenzy deals more total damage than a fighter making normal attacks at any level (provided that you can trigger the secondary damage from either cantrip). Crimson Rite will be less important, but you'll net more total damage. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.
- Revealed Arcana:
- The Archfey: A fantastic defensive buff.
- The Fiend: You will be more effective with weapons.
- The Great Old One: Situational.
- The Undying: A great debuff, but your spell DC can't compete with a full spellcaster so you may find that the spell is unreliable.
- The Celestial: Lesser Restoration is a crucial spell, but by this level someone else in your party should be able to cast it.
- The Hexblade: Situational, but a great option if your party can't easily handle invisible creatures.
- Diabolic Channel: This is a complex ability, and there are a lot of important complications buried in the wording. First, using this takes your action, so you can't combine it with Mystic Frenzy. However, if you activate Crimson Rite as a bonus action this is a great way to spend your first turn in combat.
Second, you can only use this will spell slots, which means that it won't work with cantrips, so no piling Eldritch Blast on top of your weapon attack. Instead, you'll be using one of your two spell slots per rest. This is likely the best way for you to use an offensive spell, so consider learning one or two damage spells for use with Diabolic Channel.
Third, all attacks that you would normally make as part of the spell hit automatically, provided that your weapon attack hits, but any spells which call for saving throws still allow saving throws. So Witch Bolt would hit (provided that your weapon attack hits) and go into effect, but the target still gets a save against Shatter.
Fourth, if the attack is made with Advantage, the target of the attack takes Disadvantage on any initial saving throw. Other targets make their saves normally.
Fifth, area spells center their area on the target. If you're using a melee weapon, that means that you're setting of Shatter or whatever else immediately in front of you. This can work for cone spells or for spells with a small AOE like Cloud of Daggers, but generally you'll want to save AOE spells for making ranged attacks.
Finally, there is an additional paragraph on the next page of the PDF which specifies requirements for the spell used with the ability. However, the grammar of this paragraph directly conflicts with the earlier text of the ability which specifies that you need to use a spell slot. It's hard to guess Matt Mercer's original intent for this text, but as it's worded a spell must satisfy any one of the three requirements listed. Under the wording of this paragraph, you could cast a cantrip like Eldritch Blast because it takes an action to cast. I think the intent was that the spell must be a spell of 1st level or higher, and must meet either the second or third requirement (cast as an Action, or an ongoing spell which allows you to activate it as an action like Witch Bolt). This would disallow spells cast as a Reaction like Hellish Rebuke.
- Unsealed Arcana:
- The Archfey: Slow is a fine spell, but by this level your Wisdom is far enough behind that your spell save DC is really poor.
- The Fiend: The Blood Hunter isn't great at handling crowds, so Fireball is a great addition, but your spell save DC is still terrible. If you're using a ranged weapon you can throw this into Diabolic Channel and shoot something with it, but unless you have Advantage on the attack I wouldn't bother.
- The Great Old One: Haste is a fantastic buff, and you have very few spells which require Concentration.
- The Undying: A great debuff, but your spell save DC is still poor. But if you can get Advantage on an attack and use Diabolic Channel it could work.
- The Celestial: Revivify is one of the best spells in the game.
- The Hexblade: A fantastic defensive buff.
- Soul Syphon: Considering Matt Mercer typically forgets the "bag of rats" trick, I'm surprised to see that Soul Syphon has a CR requirement. Due to the wording of the ability you need to reduce the creature to 0 hit points and kill it at the same time, so you can't execute a target that's already at 0 hit points.
- Otherworldly Patron: Matt Mercer has done a great job keeping up with the new patrons. Unfortunately, few of the patrons are actually worthwhile. Remember that these benefits are fairly minor; the real reason you're here is for the spellcasting.
- Order of The Mutant: Despite the numerous Mutagen options, Order of the Mutant is boring and not terribly the effective. The best thing you can get from the subclass is a scaling numeric bonus to Dexterity.
- Formulas: See "Mutagens", below.
- Mutagen Craft: The phrasing of the ability is abnormal, but this works like identifying a magic item. You spend time while taking a short rest to craft your mutagen, but you still get all of the normal benefits of a short rest (hit dice, etc.). You only get one mutagen at a time until you get Advanced Mutagen Craft at 7th level, so you'll generally want to prepare you favorite mutagen unless you know that you're going to need something specific.
- Advanced Mutagen Craft: Having only one mutagen means that you need to guess what you'll need or you need to stick to a favorite mutagen that always works.
- Strange Metabolism: Most of the good mutagens have fairly gentle side effects, but sometimes they're still a problem.
- Robust Physiology: Poison damage is really common, so immunity is really helpful.
- Exalted Mutation: The only way to get two mutagens simultaneously. Choose Celerity.
- Mutagens: You get just 7 choices from the 15 options, but since you can never have more than 2 mutagens prepared you'll probably never use most of the options you learn.
- Aether: You can't learn this until 11th level and it still has frustrating side effects. By this level your party's spellcasters will have multiple means of magical flight and can probably share them with you.
- Celerity: Blood Hunters are Dexterity-based, so adding up to 5 to your Dexterity is a significant buff both offensively and defensively. This is a great go-to mutagen at almost any level, but depending on how your ability scores line up you may not want to use this until it gives you at least +2 Dexterity. The penalties to Wisdom are annoying and will handicap your Blood Maledict DC, but your DCs were already terrible and you should pick your Blood Curses with that in mind.
- Conservant: Useful if you're doing a lot of knowledge checks or something, but definitely not a must-have.
- Cruelty: Only useful for two-handed weapon builds and archery builds that don't want to use Crossbow Expert. The side effects are brutal, and neither of those builds should exist.
- Impermeable: Situational.
- Mobility: Situational.
- Nighteye: Not very exciting, but extremely useful if you don't have Darkvision naturally. You can probably forget about this once you get Grim Velocity at 10th level.
- Potency: Blood Hunters rarely need Strength.
- Precision: Helpful, but the side effect is problematic. Fortunately the effect ends when you take a short rest, so I think your hit dice are unaffected.
- Rapidity: Get a horse.
- Reconstruction: Define "in combat". You see my friend the wizard? I'm going to aggressively grapple them. They'll flail at me with unarmed strikes for a while so I can regenerate all of my hit points for free.
- Sagacity: This will boost your Blood Maledict save DC, but you don't get to use that enough for it to matter.
- Shielded: Situational.
- Unbreakable: Situational.
- Wariness: Hard to use, and you need to use it before Initiative is rolled for it to matter.
The Blood Hunter's abilities look just like the Ranger's. You need Dexterity and Constitution for martial stuff, and Wisdom for your class features.
Str: In only medium armor and with no good reason to use two-handed weapons, Strength is a poor choice.
Dex: Your primary offensive ability regardless of your build.
Con: Always necessary.
Int: Dump. If you have spare points to spend between Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma, increase Intelligence if only because several of the Blood Hunter's class skills are Intelligence-based.
Wis: Sets the save DC of your class features, but you don't need to max it out.
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A Dexterity increase is all that you really need from your race, which means that there are a ton of good options.
AarakocraEEPC: Increase Dexterity, increased Wisdom, and flight at first level. It's hard to find a better option.
AasimarVGtM: Charisma is a dump stat for the Blood Hunter. The other racial traits are fine, but none of the subraces provide the Dexterity increase which we sorely need.
- Fallen: Bad ability spread.
- Protector: Bad ability spread.
- Scourge: It would be very difficult, but you could use the Scourge Aasimar for a Strength-based build.
BugbearVGtM: Strength builds are hard for the Blood Hunter, but a Dexterity increase and the Bugbear's other racial traits offer some interesting possibilities for a two-handed build in the tiny handful of builds where it makes sense.
Dwarf: Nice and durable, but without a Dexterity increase you may have trouble keeping pace with the attack vs. AC progression.
DragonbornPHB: Bad ability spread.
ElfPHB: A Dexterity increase and Perception proficiency are both things that the Blood Hunter sorely needs.
- Drow: Bad ability spread, but the Darkvison and spellcasting are tempting.
- High Elf: Not an obvious choice, but possibly a good option for Order of the Profane soul to get you an extra cantrip.
- Wood Elf: A Wisdom increase and additional speed are both great additions, and Mask of the Wild can be very useful.
FirbolgVGtM: A possible option for a Strength-based build, but there are better options.
GenasiEEPC: Air Genasi is the only option with the ability scores we want, and it's still not a great option.
- Air: The Dexterity increase is nice, but the other traits are weak.
- Earth: Save this for a barbarian.
- Fire: Bad ability spread.
- Water: Bad ability spread.
Gith: The them of a Gith Blood Hunter hunting down illithids seems like a really cool character, but the ability scores aren't great.
- GithyankiMToF: A Strength increase could work for a Strength-based build, but there are several better options for that.
- GithzeraiMToF: Bad ability spread.
Gnome: Intelligence is largely wasted on the Blood Hunter, but Gnome Cunning is tempting.
- Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Bad ability spread.
- ForestPHB: A Dexterity increase helps, but it's simply not enough.
- RockPHB: Bad ability spread.
GoblinVGtM: Fantastic ability scores, fast, Darkvision, and a nice damage boost from Fury of the Small.
GoliathEEPC: Bad ability spread.
Half-ElfPHB: You can get the ability scores you need and the skills you want, but that's all.
Half-OrcPHB: Blood Hunters are Dexterity-based, and the Half-Orc isn't strong enough to buck that trend.
HalflingPHB: A Dexterity increase and Lucky are both really nice.
- Lightfoot: Naturally Stealthy is tempting, but the Blood Hunter isn't the sort of class to hide behind their friends.
- Stout: Dex, Con, Poison Resistance. Not very exciting, but very effective.
HobgoblinVGtM: Bad ablity spread.
HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.
- Vanilla: You can get +1 to Dexterity and +1 to either Constitution or Wisdom from numerous other races, so there is very little reason to play a vanilla human.
- Variant: Feats are really good for the Blood Hunter. Get +1 Dexterity and +1 Constitution, and pick a feat that fits your build.
KenkuVGtM: Perfect ability spread and two skills from a skill list that complements the Blood Hunter very nicely.
KoboldVGtM: A Dexterity increase and Darkvision are great, and Pack Tactics is outright overpowered.
LizardfolkVGtM: Definitely an interesting choice, and the Lizardfolk's natural armor is good enough that with 20 Dexterity you can match the AC of full plate.
OrcVGtM: Bad ability spread.
TabaxiVGtM: Fine, but the Kenku is linearly better in every way.
Tiefling: Several viable options.
- Variant: FeralSCAG:
- Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG:.
- Variant: HellfireSCAG:
- Variant: WingedSCAG:
TortleTP: A flat 17 AC is a great excuse for a Strength-based build since you no longer need to pad your medium armor with Dexterity to have a decent AC.
TritonVGtM: Bad ability spread.
Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGtM: Bad ability spread.
Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.
Races of Ravnica
CentaurGGTR: There are better options for Strength-based builds. Charge and Hooves looks tempting, but to maximize Blood Rite you would need to rely solely on your hooves which defeats the purpose of Strength-based builds: using a two-handed weapon.
GoblinGGTR: See above.
LoxodonGGTR: Bad ability spread.
MinotaurGGTR: The Minotaur's horns do enough damage that you could reasonably get by without using a manufactured weapon, but that would be a Strength-based build that doesn't use a two-handed weapon which is largely pointless for the Blood Hunter.
Simic HybridGGTR: Fantastic and versatile, and highly customizable.
VedalkenGGTR: Bad ability spread.
- Acrobatics (Dex): Too situational.
- Athletics (Str): Grappling and shoving are great options, but you don't have the Strength to make them work.
- Arcana (Int): Useful, but you'll be really bad at this if you dumped Intelligence.
- Insight (Wis): Probably the best skill on the Blood Hunter's entire class skill list, which really highlights just how bad the skill list is.
- Investigation (Int): Useful, but you'll be really bad at this if you dumped Intelligence.
- Survival (Wis): Expect to do some amount of tracking. It fits the theme of the class, even if the skill isn't fantastic.
This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.
The Blood Hunter's skill list is pretty terrible for a typical ability score spread, which means that your background needs to do a lot of heavy lifting. Look for proficiency in Perception above anything else, but proficiency in Stealth and Thieves' Tools will both prove very effective on a high-Dexterity character like the Blood Hunter.
This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the backgrounds recommended in the "Quick Build" section of the class description, as well as other backgrounds which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. The possibility of custom backgrounds also means that it is literally impossible for me to provide comprehensive analysis of every potential background in existence.
- Crossbow ExpertPHB: Crimson Rite is a significant source of damage output for the Blood Hunter, and like effects like Hex and Hunter's Mark you want to make as many attacks with it as possible. Typically you do this with two-weapon fighting or Polearm Master, but Crimson Rite is specifically worded to make those additional attacks cost additional hit points. Crossbow Expert circumvents that limitation, allowing you an additional attack as a Bonus Action without paying the price for Crimson Rite twice.
- Defensive DuelistPHB: Defensive Duelist can easily close the defensive gap between the Blood Hunter and a heavily-armor character like a Fighter. However, since it consumes your Reaction you can only use it once per round, which means that you may have trouble against numerous enemies.
- Duel WielderPHB: This feat isn't great on its own, and it doesn't solve the issue of double Crimson Rite cost.
- DurablePHB: Even if you take no other damage, you still need to pay the hit point cost for Crimson Rite. Durable makes it easier to recover that hit point cost.
- Elemental AdeptPHB: Doesn't apply to Crimson Rite.
- Heavily armoredPHB: Heavy armor makes Strength-based builds viable, but short of a Variant Human I don't know how you could fit this feat into a build. You would spend at least three levels with absolutely terrible AC and probably die before you got a chance to take a feat.
- Medium Armor MasterPHB: An extra point of AC goes a long way, and you will have plenty of Dexterity to back it up. Stealth is also a great option for the Blood Hunter, so removing Disadvantage is really helpful.
- Polearm MasterPHB: Polearm Master is a really good feat, but remember that Crimson Rite still costs extra to get the bonus damage on the bonus action attack.
- ResilientPHB: More saving throw proficiencies are always great, and you have high enough Dexterity that proficiency in Dexterity saving throws will be really effective.
- ToughPHB: Crimson Rite cuts into your hit point maximum, so raising it by two per level is really helpful.
- Crossbow, Hand: Largely useless unless you take Crossbow Expert, in which case it's essential.
- Crossbow, Heavy: Until you get Extra Attack a crossbow will do a bit more damage than a longbow.
- Longbow: Your go-to ranged weapon unless you pick up Crossbow Expert.
- Longsword: You are not Strength-based.
- Rapier: The go-to melee weapon.
- Studded Leather: Probably your starting armor. Unless you pick up Medium Armor Master, it may also be your permanent armor.
- Scale Mail: Scale mail will give you better AC than studded leather until you get an ability score increase, but it imposes Disadvantage on Stealth checks so you might prefer lighter armor.
- Breast plate: You'll match the AC of Studded Leather with 20 Dexterity, but Disadvantage on Stealth is a problem unless you take Medium Armor Master.
Blood Hunter Spells
This is not a comprehensive guide to every available spell, as that would be an exercise in madness. The following is a brief compilation of the most notable spells available to the class. Spells available via Magic Initiate are also excluded; for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" section, above.
This section applies almost exclusively to Order of the Profane Soul. Remember that since the Blood Hunter is primarily a martial class, you will generally want to avoid spells solely devoted to dealing damage. Your spell attacks and spell save DC's will both be relatively poor, and because you get spell levels so slowly the damage output will be unimpressive in the best of cases. Instead, focus on buffs and utility options.
- Booming BladeSCAG: If you can use Mystic Frenzy with either Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade and trigger the bonus damage, you will consistently deal more damage than attacking normally. Booming Blade has the added benefit of providing extra reasons for enemies to not move away from you, which is sorely needed in 5e because opportunity attacks are usually not a serious deterrent. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.
- Eldritch BlastPHB: Generally a go-to cantrip for damage output, Eldritch Blast isn't a good option for the Blood Hunter. You will consistently deal more damage with weapon attacks at any level.
- Green-Flame BladeSCAG: Booming Blade is more useful for utility and controlling single creatures' movement, and you only get a total of 3 cantrips over your entire career, so it's hard to justify taking both. The ability to damage two enemies with one attack is really enticing, but if you need that functionality you can either attack twice or use Mystic Frenzy and hit the second target as a Bonus Action.
- Sword BurstSCAG: Sword Burst is a great way to handle crowds of multiple enemies. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.
- True StrikePHB: If you take this, take it as the new cantrip you learn at 10th level. Wasting an action to cast True Strike is typically a waste of a turn, but if you can buy yourself the time to cast it, True Strike combined with Diabolic Channel can make single-target spells with saving throws much more effective for you.
- Armor of AgathysPHB: An absolutely fantastic buff for a melee character, and the duration is really long so you get a lot of mileage out of your spell slot. Unfortunately, it won't be as effective for you as it would for a Warlock because your spell slot levels scale much slower.
- Hellish RebukePHB: Tempting, but your save DC will be too poor to make this reliable.
- HexPHB: A generally great spell, and you maximize the damage output from Hex the same ways that you maximize the damage from Crimson Rite. Use them together for a whole bunch of damage.
- Protection From Evil and GoodPHB: An absolutely fantastic defensive option, but it's technically situational.
- DarknessPHB: Tempting with Dark Velocity, but Dark Velocity doesn't allow you to see in magical darkness.
- InvisibilityPHB: Always a fantastic option.
- Mirror ImagePHB: A fantastic defensive buff.
- Misty StepPHB: Useful in a all manner of problematic situations, and cast as a bonus action.
- Shadow BladeXGtE: More damage than you'll get from a rapier, and the damage scales as your spell slot level improves.
- CounterspellPHB: You can't cast spells of high enough level to make this meaningful.
- Dispel MagicPHB: Someone else in the party who is better at spellcasting needs to be able to cast this long before you can.
- FlyPHB: Flightis really useful.
- Hunger of HadarPHB: Even with a poor spell save DC, it can still be effective to throw this into a room and lock the door.
- Vampiric TouchPHB: You can use this repeatedly with Diabolic Channel. Beat enemies repeatedly to heal yourself for a full minute.
- BlightPHB: Possibly worthwhile with Diabolic Channel if you have Advantage on the attack.
- Dimension DoorPHB: Misty step usually suffices, and Misty Step is cast as a Bonus Action.
- Shadow of MoilPHB: Tempting, but you have to be hit to trigger the damage, and since the spell requires Concentration you're perpetually gambling with your spell.
- Barbarian: Maybe not an obvious choice, but one level of Barbarian gets you Unarmored Defense. Blood Hunters work best when built on Dexterity rather than Strength, so as long as you're fine never using Rage's damage bonus you can easily max out Dexterity and Constitution and have 20 AC without a shield. A second levels gets you Reckless Attack and Danger Sense. Reckless Attack is a fantastic offensive option, and Danger Sense is probably better than actual proficiency in Dexterity saving throws.
- Cleric: A level of cleric can get you heavy armor proficiency at any level, and cleric spellcasting can be a nice complement to your Blood Hunter class features.
- Fighter: If you're going to take a level of fighter, it should be your first level. Heavy armor proficiency makes Strength-based builds viable and you get a second fighting style.
- Monk: You can't use Crimson Rite on your Unarmed Strikes.
- Ranger: The ability scores line up well, but you get very little from ranger levels that you couldn't get more easily from other classes.
- Rogue: Rogues get a lot at low levels, but nothing that's extremely beneficial for the Blood Hunter.
- Warlock: A single level of Hexblade warlock works nicely for Order of the Profane Soul both thematically and mechanically. You'll get very slightly better spellcasting, and if you take Warlock as your first level you'll get to use the Warlock's skill list. Combined with Hex Warrior, you can easily build yourself as a Face. However, the rules for Blood Hunter Multiclassing With Warlock presented at the end of the document mean that you'll be using your Wisdom as your spellcasting ability once your Blood Hunter levels exceed your Warlock level(s), so you'll be splitting your resources between four ability scores (Dex, Con, Wis, Cha) instead of three.
Example Build - Variant Human Blood Hunter (Order of Ghostlayer)
My primary example builds are typically "staple builds" which use the options from the SRD and the Basic Rules to provide mechanically simple examples of how to build an iconic version of the class. However, since we're already well beyond the basic rules I'm going to use some other options.
We will assume the point buy abilities suggested above with a slight modification. I don't think we'll have a good opportunity to get a +1 to any of our ability scores, so having an odd-numbered score is a waste of points. The three extra point-buy points we save can go into Strength or Dexterity. If you want to pick up some Face skills, increase Charisma.
Variant Human. We want Crossbow Expert at first level so we can immediately start abusing Crimson Rite.
Skills and Tools
We don't get many great options from the Blood Hunter class skills, so we'll take Insight and Survival. We get an additional skill from the Variant Human traits, so we'll take Perception.
There are a number of excellent choices, but I like the Urban Bounty Hunter background out of Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide both for the options it provides and for the flavor. For skills, take Stealth and any other skill (you can select Insight, then replace it with any other skill because it's a redundant proficiency).
We'll start with Crossbow Expert at first level. That gives us two-weapon fighting damage output at range, and the extra attack will benefit from Crimson Rite without paying the hit point cost twice like you would with two weapons or with Polearm Master's extra attack.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
|1|| || |
For your starting equipment, take a rapier, a hand crossbow and 20 bolts, studded leather armor, and an explorer's pack. Spend some of the gold from your background on additional bolts because you're going to go through them quickly.
Our signature combo starts right at level 1. If you are conscious, you should have Crimson Rite running on your crossbow. At this level it costs just 1 hit point, and even at level 1 you can afford 1 hit point. In a typical turn you can attack twice between your action and your bonus action, dealing a total of 1d6+1d4+3 damage (avg. 9) per attack. That's exceptionally high damage for first level.
|2|| || |
Fighting Style: Archery provides a big boost to our DPR by putting us two points ahead of the Attack vs. AC progression.
This level also brings our first Blood Curse. Similar to Shield, Blood Curse of the Eyeless allows us to mitigate enemy attacks. You get to use it once per rest, so don't hesitate.
|3|| || |
We've been using lightning damage for two levels, and while you probably haven't had any issues, Radiant is still better. Use Radiant as your go-to damage type.
|4|| || |
Nothing fancy, but increases to attack and damage always feel good.
|5|| || |
Extra Attack brings a 50% increase to our DPR.
Blood Curse of the Fallen Puppet is situational, but amusing. If you're in an encounter with multiple enemies, you may occasionally be able to use this to get some extra damage when one of those enemies dies. You still only get one use of Blood Maledict per rest, but if you haven't been using Blood Curse of the Eyeless frequently, you may get more use out of Blood Curse of the Fallen Puppet.
|6|| || |
Your second primal rite is largely pointless: between radiant and lightning damage, you can hurt nearly anything. A second use of Blood Maledict is much more interesting.
|7|| || |
Hallowed Veins allows you to use Blood Maledict on any creature. Plants, constructs, undead, whatever. You also get to reroll the damage you take if you amplify a Blood Maledict. I would only use that option if you roll significantly above average, but it could still save you a few hit points every day.
|8|| || |
At 20 Dexterity you're now at our max AC of 17. If your first thought is "but wait, 17 AC isn't very high", you're right. Fortunately, you're fighting at range and you can use Blood Curse of the Eyeless to hamper attacks against you.
|9|| || |
Blood Curse of Mutual Suffering is a difficult prospect. To use it, you're making a conscious decision to plan to take damage instead of shooting a creature to death. This is a good option for creatures with impossibly high AC or whose damage resistances you can't overcome for some reason, but it's absolutely not a go-to option in every encounter.
|10|| || |
Darkvision is absolutely fantastic in a game which often involves exploring caves and dungeons. The bonus speed is nice, but less important for a ranged build than for a melee build.
|11|| || |
Supernal Surge uses are probably the biggest thing we lose by putting so little into Wisdom, but we still have enough that you can use it twice per rest.
Rite of the Dawn also improves at this level, adding another 2 points of damage to all of your attacks.
|12|| || |
With maximize Dexterity, we're now free to explore other options, so we'll take Sharpshooter to further boost our DPR. This makes fighting at long range simpler, mitigates the benefits of cover so that you can more easily fire past allies or obstacles, and allows you to trade some attack bonus for a big pile of damage.
|13|| || |
By this level you have every Blood Curse which works especially well for us. Anything which consumes your bonus action will cut into your damage output at least temporarily, so it needs to be a beneficial trade. If you're facing a single tough enemy, Blood Curse of the Marked may be a good option for a long fight. Start the encounter with Blood Curse of the Marked, then follow up with Supernal Surge so you can get four attacks
|14|| || |
Esoteric Rite may never matter for you, but pick Rite of the Roar because almost nothing resists thunder damage.
|15|| || |
The ability to see in magical darkness is a rare and powerful advantage. If you have an ally who can cast Darkness, it becomes a significant tactical advantage over foes who can't see in magical darkness.
|16|| || |
At this point we have everything that we absolutely need. If you want more hit points, take Tough. Otherwise, strongly consider increasing your Wisdom. Wisdom will improve your skills, add to your damage thanks to Rite of the Dawn, and gives you extra uses of Supernal Surge.
|17|| || |
Our Blood Maledict uses cap at 4 per rest, which is plenty to get you to your next short rest.
|18|| || |
Vengeful Spirit is really cool, but it's definitely a gamble. Use Blood Curse of the Eyeless as often as possible, and be sure to amplify it because it's free to do so since your spirit form takes no damage from Crimson Rite.
|19|| || |
Another ASI where we don't need anything specific.
|20|| || |
Sanguine Mastery is really exciting. When you fall below one fourth of your hit point maximum, you get really scary. If you manage to get Blood Curse of the Marked running, you're dealing 20 extra damage per attack on your three (four with Supernal Surge) attacks. Oh, and you can abuse the rules for critical hits on helpless creatures to recharge your Blood Maledict uses.