In Dungeons & Dragons, the element of a character that has the largest effect on your capabilities, strengths, and impact on a party is your choice of class. Your role in a party is largely determined by this choice, but the various subclasses mean two characters of the same class can offer fundamentally different utility.
While some of you enjoy focusing on how much damage your character can deal to their foes, protecting yourself and your allies can greatly improve a party's chance of survival. We're going to examine the various subclasses of D&D, and see which offer the best defensive benefits!
5 Barbarian – Path Of The Totem Warrior (Bear)
An iconic class based around strength-focused martial combat, Barbarians are traditionally capable of dishing out heavy damage whilst being incredibly bulky due to their high HP. While far from adept at preventing one's allies from taking damage, Barbarians of the Path of the Totem Warrior are among the most durable characters in all of D&D.
Though all Barbarians gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage when in their iconic rage, Path of the Totem Warrior Barbarians with the Bear Totem are resistant to all damage, save for psychic. This essentially halves all damage that would be dealt to their already substantial HP totals.
4 Wizard – School Of Abjuration
Though the Wizard class is often known as one of the frailest classes in D&D, Wizards of the School of Abjuration are skilled in reducing the damage that both they and their allies sustain. Upon reaching level two, an Abjuration Wizard gains the ability to produce an Arcane Ward whenever they cast an Abjuration spell.
This Ward has HP equal to the Wizard's level plus their Intelligence modifier, and it takes all damage the Wizard would take as long as it's active. In addition to the Ward regaining HP whenever the Wizard casts an Abjuration spell if it's depleted, a Wizard of this subclass is capable of using their reaction to have the Ward sustain damage for an ally. This allows a Wizard to help keep their friends alive and fighting.
3 Artificer – Armorer
As the name implies, Armorers are Artificers who specialize in the augmentation of magical armor. As an Armorer gains levels, it is capable of amassing an absurdly high armor class. This can make it incredibly difficult to hit and is largely in part due to the class's Armor Modifications feature. This allows the various parts of your armor to be granted the benefits of magical infusions.
The Enhanced Defense Infusion causes a given item to provide +2 to the wearer's armor class once an Armorer reaches level ten. When put upon each part of your armor, an Artificer can have an armor class in the high 20s, potentially one of the highest in all of D&D.
2 Sorcerer – Clockwork Soul
Sorcerers are often regarded as some of the best offense-focused spellcasters in D&D. The Mechanus-influenced Clockwork Soul subclass provides a character with some great options that allow a character to protect from danger, substantially reducing the damage a party sustains.
While Sorcerers have access to a notably small hit dice, they may seem frailer than other members of a party. However, due to their ability to learn Abjuration spells from the Warlock spell list, they can reliably up-cast Armor of Agathys, providing themselves with a significant amount of bulk.
Perhaps the most impactful defensive ability these Sorcerers have access to is Bastian of Law. This ability allows a Clockwork Soul Sorcerer to expend up to five sorcery points to bestow a creature with a ward. This ward is capable of reducing an number of d8s worth of damage equal to the number of sorcery points spent to activate this ability. A Sorcerer of this subclass can reliably keep their allies protected with this ward, while protecting themselves through Armor of Agathys.
1 Cleric – Forge Domain
Some subclasses on this list are capable of reliably protecting others, while others specialize in protecting themselves. Clerics of the Forge Domain, however, are incredibly durable in their own right, while also maintaining the ability to shield their allies from harm.
In addition to having access to heavy armor proficiency, these Clerics are capable of improving the armor class bonus provided by any armor by +1. All armor worn by a Forge Domain Cleric also provides an additional +1 to armor class once they reach level six. This allows them to consistently boast a substantial armor class, while maintaining the stellar support spell list of the Cleric class — with easy access to spells like Shield of Faith, Protection from Evil and Good, and the best healing options in the entire game.
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