Introduction

Many of D&D’s playable races exist to make some cool monster into something closer to a human. Dragonborn for dragons, tieflings for fiends, and shifters for lycanthropes. Originally introduced in Eberron back in 3rd edition, the Shifter is a mostly-human humanoid descended from a lycanthrope. While the Shifter doesn’t retain full lycanthropy, they can briefly “shift”, gaining various benefits depending` on their subrace.

Mechanically, Shifters are defined almost entirely by the Shifting trait. While they share speed, Darkvision, languages, and the basic mechanics of Shifting, the rest of their traits are tied up in whatever version of Shifting your chose. This allows each variety of shifter to thrive in its own niche, but it also means that there is very little overlap between where each type of Shifter thrives.

While the specifics of the mechanics vary slightly, the core concept of each variety of shifter has remained the same in 5e. Beasthide is durable, Longtooth is attack-heavy, Swiftstride doesn’t get stuck in melee, and Wildhunt is good at countering ambushes and hidden enemies.

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.

Shifter Versions

The Shifter effectively has three versions. The original version of the Shifter was published in Eberron: Rising from the Last War.

The introduction of the custom origin rules in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything gave use the second version of the Shifter. This allowed rearranging the Shifter’s ability score increases and changing the skill offered by each shifter subrace, making the Shifter considerably more flexible.

Most recently, Monsters of the Multiverse gave us an updated version of the Shifter which made some changes to their traits. The Shifter’s free skill proficiency is once again restricted, but rather than being tied to your variety of shifting, you can now select one from each of the four options previous available to each of the four subraces. The skill options aren’t great for many classes, but there’s enough options that you can almost always find something at least moderately useful.

As WotC moves away from the concept of subraces, the Shifter’s subraces were replaced with four version of the Shifting trait in the same way the Aasimar’s Transformation trait now have three versions which reflect the previous subraces.

The specific effects of the Shifting versions didn’t change, but the core of the Shifting trait did. Rather than being usable once per short rest and giving a big pool of temporary hit points, it’s now usable PB/long rest and gives a smaller pool of temporary hit points. This places more emphasis on the benefits of the individual varieties of Shifting rather than just a big pile of temporary hp. If you still want a big pile of temporary hit points, Beasthide works fine, and since you can use Shifting more frequently you’ll actually get more temporary hp per day once your Proficiency Bonus increases a bit.

Shifter Classes (Customizable Origins and MMoM)

This section assumes that you’re using the option updated versions of the race, including the “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and/or the updated version published in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse. Because the race changed so little between those two versions, I have decided to combine these two sections. If you’re not using those rules, scroll down to the “Classic Rules” section.

Artificer

Beasthide works great for front-line artificers who want to stand still and draw attacks. Swiftstride is great for hit-and-run builds built around Booming Blade, allowing you to move out of melee during enemies’ turns so that you can move back into melee on your turn to cast Booming Blade before using Boots of the Winding Path to teleport back out of reach.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, the Shifter’s additional skill proficiency isn’t helpful.

Barbarian

Beasthide and Longtooth both make excellent barbarians. Beasthide will be more durable, while Longtooth will be more effective offensively. Just keep in mind that Shifting and Rage both take a Bonus Action to activate so your Bonus Action will be in high demand. Longtooth’s additional attack also takes a Bonus Action, so it’s only worthwhile on subclasses that don’t already use your Bonus Action every turn.

The Barbarian is perhaps the only class on which I would consider Wildhunt. Wildhunt allows you to negate the Advantage on attacks against you from Reckless Attack. Reducing the likelihood that you’ll be hit will dramatically improve your durability, possibly even more so than Beasthide.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, I recommend Athletics as your racial skill proficiency.

Bard

Beasthide’s durability and Swiftstride’s ability to get out of melee are both helpful defensive options for the Bard, but they’re primarily useful in melee which is a place that bards shouldn’t be willingly. Beasthide looks tempting for swords/valor bards, but it won’t make your weapon attacks meaningful, so you can wander into melee for a while, but plan to rely on spells offensively.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, select Intimidation as your racial skill proficiency. An extra Face skill from your race makes other sources of skills more flexible.

Cleric

Beasthide is a great option if you’re built to walk around in melee. The extra AC and temporary hit points will keep you from dipping into your spells slots to compensate for your d8 hit dice.

Longtooth’s extra attack qualifies to trigger Divine Strike, which makes it a tempting option for melee builds because it allows you a second attack, significantly improving the likelihood that you’ll hit and deal the bonus damage from Divine Strike. But even with that added insurance, you’ll still do more damage by casting a cantrip (typically either Toll the Dead or Word of Radiance).

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, Survival is likely your best skill choice despite Survival’s limited usefulness.

Druid

Beasthide’s additional durability is welcome on druids, who typically have worse AC than comparable clerics. This is especially appealing on Circles of Spores, but their action economy is also very strenuous so it may be difficult to fit Shifting into a turn.

Since Shifting is a physical transformation based on your character’s physical body, I don’t think Shifting works while using wild shape. You may be able to combine Shifting with Circle of the Moon, but spending two Bonus Actions on back-to-back turns can be difficult, and it’s not so good that you want to spend your Action to Wild Shape just so that you can get both effects going in one turn.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, Survival is likely your best skill choice despite Survival’s limited usefulness.

Fighter

Beasthide and Longtooth make excellent fighters. Beasthide will be more durable, while Longtooth will be more effective offensively for Strength-based builds. Longtooth offers a great way to use the Fighter’s typically under-utilized Bonus Action which offers a great way to boost your damage output. For ranged builds, consider Swiftstride so that you have an easy way to withdraw from melee on other creatures’ turns.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, I recommend Athletics as your racial skill proficiency for Strength-based builds. For Dexterity-based builds, I recommend either Acrobatics to help get out of grapples or Intimidation so you can be helpful outside of combat.

Monk

Beasthide’s additional durability is great for the Monk, but the Monk’s Bonus Action is monopolized by Martial Arts and Flurry of Blows, so the action economy can be frustrating. Even so, I think giving up an attack or two is worth the cost.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, acrobatics is the only skill likely to provide any benefit for a monk.

Paladin

Beasthide, Longtooth, and Swiftstride all work for the Paladin. Beasthide and Longtooth work for the same reason that they work for the Fighter.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, select Intimidation as your racial skill proficiency. An extra Face skill from your race makes other sources of skills more flexible.

Ranger

Rangers already lean very heavily on their Bonus Action, but if you can manage the action economy, Shifting is helpful. Beasthide is great for melee builds. Longtooth is helpful for some Strength-based melee builds, offering you as many attacks as a two-weapon fighting build while still allowing you to use a shield. Swiftstride is tempting for archery builds, but if you’re worried about getting stuck in melee you can cast Zephyr Strike.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, I recommend Acrobatics or Survival as your racial skill proficiency depending on your role in the party.

Rogue

Beasthide’s durability is nice, but not especially important. Longtooth isn’t appealing because the bite is Strength-based, and Cunning Action makes Longtooth obsolete.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, I recommend Acrobatics or Intimidation as your racial skill proficiency depending on your build and your role in the party.

Sorcerer

Beasthide’s durability is nice, but not amazing. Swiftstride looks nice to get out of melee, but it won’t get you out of grapples so you probably still want Misty Step, and then why bother with Swiftstride?

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, select Intimidation as your racial skill proficiency. An extra Face skill from your race makes other sources of skills more flexible.

Warlock

Beasthide’s durability is nice, but not amazing. Swiftstride looks nice to get out of melee, but it won’t get you out of grapples so you probably still want Misty Step, and then why bother with Swiftstride? Longtooth’s bite attack won’t work with the Hexblade’s ability to attack with Charisma, so there’s no fun interaction there.

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, select Intimidation as your racial skill proficiency. An extra Face skill from your race makes other sources of skills more flexible.

Wizard

Beasthide’s durability is nice, but not amazing. Swiftstride looks nice to get out of melee, but it won’t get you out of grapples so you probably still want Misty Step, and then why bother with Swiftstride?

If you’re using the updated version of the Shifter published in Monsters of the Multiverse, the racial skill proficiency is borderline useless.

Shifter Classes (Classic Rules)

This section assumes that you’re not using the option “Customizing Your Origin” rules presented in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything or the updated version of the race published in Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse. If you are using those rules, scroll up to the previous section.

Artificer

No Intelligence increase.

Barbarian

Beasthide and Longtooth both make excellent barbarians. Beasthide will be more durable, while Longtooth will be more effective offensively. Just keep in mind that Shifting and Rage both take a Bonus Action to activate so your Bonus Action will be in high demand.

Bard

Swiftstride offers a Charisma bonus, but that’s the best that you can get from any of the Shifter’s subraces. None of the Shifting options are particularly helpful for the Bard.

Cleric

Wildhunt is the only subrace which offers a Wisdom bonus, but little else works well for the Cleric. Other subraces like Beasthide and Longtooth could work for martial cleric builds, but they’re still not a great fit.

Druid

Wildhunt is workable, and the additional durability of the Dexterity increase and the temporary hit points can be very helpful since druids tend to be frail and have poor AC. Unfortunately, Shifting likely doesn’t work while using Wild Shape since it’s a physical transformation inherent to your physical body.

Fighter

Beasthide and Longtooth make excellent fighters. Beasthide will be more durable, while Longtooth will be more effective offensively. Longtooth offers a great way to use the Fighter’s typically under-utilized Bonus Action which offers a great way to boost your damage output.

Monk

Wildhunt’s ability score increases work great and the Shifting option is useful defensively, but since Shifting is only helpful defensively, the vast majority of the time your racial traits are reduced to ability score increases and Darkvision.

Paladin

Beasthide, Longtooth, and Swiftstride all work for the Paladin. Beasthide and Longtooth work for the same reason that they work for the Fighter, while Swiftstride works for a Dexterity-based highly mobile build.

Ranger

Wildhunt was basically tailor-made for the Ranger, and if the Shifting option was better it would be a great option. Unfortunately it’s only useful defensively in certain situations so it’s hard to capitalize on Shifting.

Rogue

Swiftstride makes a great high-Charisma build, and the Shifting benefit allows you to quickly move away from enemies if you’re fighting at range or if you just prefer to keep some distance between you.

Wildhunt works well for a highly-perceptive build like the Inquisitive, but it also works well thematically with the Scout.

Sorcerer

Swiftstride offers a Charisma bonus, and the Shifting benefit can keep you from being bogged down in melee.

Warlock

Swiftstride offers a Charisma bonus, and the Shifting benefit can keep you from being bogged down in melee.

Wizard

No Intelligence increase.