Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Subclasses Analysis Part 1

It’s time to take a good look at the subclasses of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

Last Friday I took a very quick look on Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and wrote about my first impressions. I had promised that if I see important changes in the classes, I will write a separate analysis so here we are.

Barbarian

Path of the Ancestral Guardian

First version: Unearthed Arcana: Barbarian Primal Paths

Second version: Unearthed Arcana: Revised Subclasses

  • Ancestral Protectors. No mechanical changes. A bit better wording.
  • Spirit Shield. The damage reduction has been reduced(hey!) from d8s to d6s. There’s also an error in the table of the subclass’ features, saying the damage reduction die is still the d8.
  • Consult the Spirits. You can now choose to cast either Augury or Clairvoyance. In its latest Unearthed Arcana version you could only cast Clairvoyance. I’m a fan of how this feature was changed compared to its first version, so I just consider this change to an upgrade to an already useful feature.
  • Vengeful Ancestors. No mechanical changes. A bit better wording.

Not many changes in this subclass. I’m not sure why they had to change the damage reduction dice. It operates with your reaction so you can use it only once per round, so I don’t think it was so powerful that needed reduction.

 

Path of the Storm Herald

First version: Unearthed Arcana: Barbarian Primal Paths

  • Storm Aura. This one got some major changes. The aura now works differently. It works only during your turn, pretty much. When you rage, the aura activates and creates an effect. After that, you can activate effects from your aura using a bonus action, while you’re still raging. Also, you can now change the environment your aura is based on, each time you gain a level in this class. This adds a little bit more versatility. Finally, how you calculate the DC for the effects of your aura
    • Desert. The damage before was calculated as 2 + half your barbarian level. Now it’s just 2 damage at level 3 that scales through levels, up to 6 damage at level 20. This means it deals 1 damage less at level 20 than it would in the previous version. The most important, however, is that it now affects everyone in your aura and not just your enemies.
    • Sea. The damage scaling has changed and it’s a bit slower. At level 3 you start with 1d6 lightning damage, which goes up to 4d6 at level 20.
    • Tundra. This one has changed completely. It used to deal cold damage, but now it grants temporary hit points to creatures of your choice that are inside your aura. The amount of temporary hit points goes from
  • Storm Soul. These effects work even when your aura isn’t active.
    • Desert. It’s the same as in the previous version, with the addition that you can now light stuff on fire by touching them. However, the objects must be flammable and can’t be worn or carried by someone else the moment you want to set them on fire. I think this can lead to some awesome roleplaying.
    • Sea. It’s the same as in the previous version, only now you also have a swimming speed of 30 feet. A flavorful addition, to be honest.
    • Tundra. It’s the same as in the previous version. However, you now can freeze water. The water can’t be frozen if there’s a creature in the area you want to freeze.
  • Shielding Storm. This one has changed only a tiny bit. Because of the changes in Storm Soul, it has changed so that it gives only the resistances to allies.
  • Raging Storm. This feature works when the aura is activated.
    • Desert. This one has totally changed. Now when a creature hits you with an attack, you can use your reaction to try to deal some damage back. The creature makes a Dexterity saving throw against taking fire damage. It definitely is a simpler effect now.
    • Sea. This effect now is limited only to when you hit a creature. It also needs your reaction in order to use it. Its power has gone down by a lot, but that’s probably for the best.
    • Tundra. This is like the previous Desert effect. The difference is that you have to choose one creature in your aura.

Overall, the subclass has been toned down a bit. Some of the area of effect options were a bit too much. It now it seems much more balanced. I like it a lot.

 

Path of the Zealot

First version: Unearthed Arcana: Barbarian Primal Paths

  • Divine Fury. The damage part is the same. However, the feature used to be an area of effect power and now you can deal damage only to the first creature you hit during your turn.
  • Warrior of the Gods. Nothing has changed.
  • Fanatical Focus. The idea is the same but the mechanics have been changed. Now it works once per rage and the rage doesn’t end when you use it. It’s now much better, in my opinion.
  • Zealous Presence. The only change is that you can apply this feature to up to 10 other creatures, instead of every ally.
  • Rage Beyond Death. This has gotten a very small change, but this change impacts the subclass greatly. You only die if at the end of your rage you are still at 0 hit points. So if an ally manages to heal you before your range ends, you are going to be ready to go.

This subclass has been greatly polished. It’s much more balanced now. Also, in my opinion, due to how Rage Beyond Death has changed, it is more powerful.

Bard

College of Glamour

First version: Unearthed Arcana: Bard Colleges

  • Mantle of Inspiration. It was the same way but the number of temporary hit points has changed. Before the amount was 2d6 that scaled up to 2d12 at level 15. Now it’s 5 temporary hit points that scale up to 14 at level 15.
  • Enthralling Performance. It’s exactly the same, but now you only need to perform for 1 minute instead of 10.
  • Mantle of Majesty. No changes.
  • Unbreakable Majesty. The wording has changed but the idea is the same. Now it doesn’t say that you cast Sanctuary, which is better. It protects the feature from being counterspelled.

The changes here are tweaks that help the subclass perform a bit better. It would be a same if a counterspelled rendered a 14th level feature useless.

 

College of Swords

First version: Unearthed Arcana: Kits of Old

Second version: Unearthed Arcana: Revised Subclasses

  • Bonus Proficiencies. No changes.
  • Fighting Style. No changes.
  • Blade Flourish. This one has changed a bit. The wording is now much clearer.
    • Defensive Flourish. A straight upgrade. You now also deal damage equal to the number rolled with your Bardic Inspiration dice.
    • Slashing Flourish. Another straight upgrade. This option now deals damage to the target of your attack as well.
    • Mobile Flourish. Guess what. Another upgrade. You now deal damage equal to the roll of your Bardic Inspiration dice.
  • Extra Attack. Since the wording of Blade Flourish is much simpler, this has been renamed to an Extra.
  • Master’s Flourish. No changes.

The wording changes in the Blade Flourish, the core feature of this subclass, have made it much more straightforward. Other than that, no serious changes. The extra damage is also nice.

 

College of Whispers

First version: Unearthed Arcana: Bard Colleges

  • Psychic Blades. The flavor has changed along with the name. The attacks are now toxic to a creature’s mind. This translates to the damage type changing to psychic. Actually, that’s a major change. Many enemies have poison resistance, while there aren’t so many with resistance to psychic damage. Also, the scaling of the damage has changed. Now only the d6 is used and goes from 2d6 at level 3, up to 8d6 at level 15. The average damage goes up.
  • Words of Terror. A couple of changes, apart from the change of name. The amount of time needed to use the feature is now 1 minute. The target is frightened of you or another creature of your choice. The part about the target trying to hide at a safe place is no longer there.
  • Mantle of Whispers. The idea is the same but the mechanics have been polished. This feature can now target only humanoids, but there’s no size restriction anymore. Also the target can be within 30 feet of you and doesn’t have to die by you in order to use this feature. Finally, it appears that the knowledge you gain from this feature won’t disappear.
  • Shadow Lore. No changes.

The Psychic Blades feature is now a bit more powerful. All the other changes seem to have been applied in order to polish the mechanics of the subclass.

 

Cleric

First version: Unearthed Arcana: Cleric Divine Domains

  • Forge Domain SpellsShield has been replaced by Identify. No other changes. I doubt Clerics needed a higher Armor Class, so some extra utility is nice.
  • Bonus Proficiency. You now also get proficiency with Smith’s Tools. I believe it’s a nice addition flavor wise. And now with Xanathar’s Guide to Everything they may get more use.
  • Blessing of the Forge. The only change is that the object stops being a magic item if you die.
  • Channel Divinity: Artisan’s Blessing. It’s pretty much the same but with a much better wording. It just doesn’t mention a short rest anymore.
  • Soul of the Forge. The bonus to AC applies only to heavy armor. Also the fire resistance is still here, but the last part about constructs has been removed. I don’t think the third effect was out of flavor nor that it was too powerful.
  • Divine Strike. No changes.
  • Saint of Forge and Fire. No changes. Is it powerful? Yes, it is.

I don’t see any serious changes here. Most of them are making the mechanics fit better to the flavor.

Grave Domain

First version: Unearthed Arcana: Cleric Divine Domains

  • Grave Domain Spells. No changes.
  • No more proficiency with heavy armor.
  • Circle of Mortality. The first part is the same, but with better wording. The second part now gives you the Spare the Dying cantrip. It doesn’t count against the number of Cleric cantrips you know, it has a range 30 feet, and you can cast it as a bonus action.
  • Eyes of the Grave. It now doesn’t have a casting time, but costs an action to use. The range has been reduced to 60 feet, doesn’t work for undead behind total cover or protected by divination magic, and you don’t get information on what it is. However, you can now use it up to a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once) between long rests. This version is so much better now.
  • Channel Divinity: Path to the Grave. It is now stated that the target must be within 30 feet of you and you have to see it. Also, the part about removing immunity or resistance has been removed. If  you check page 5 of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, you will see that immunity is applied first to the damage. This means that this feature is a bit less powerful.
  • Sentinel at Death’s Door. Now the target doesn’t have to be an ally. Also, just  like with Eyes of the Grave, you can use it up to a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once) between long rests.
  • Potent Spellcasting. It has replaced Divine Strike.
  • Keeper of Souls.  The range has been increased up to 60 feet and the target doesn’t have to be an ally.

I’m very happy about the changes. Eyes of the Grave doesn’t have the ability to ruin the DM’s plans that easily now. I also like the ability to use some of the features multiple times without the need of a short or long rest. Also, Potent Spellcasting may be a better fit to this subclass.

 

Druid

Circle of Dreams

First version: Druid Circles and Wild Shape

  • Balm of the Summer Court. The target doesn’t have to be an ally and they don’t get a speed boost.
  • Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow. Some better wording. It also now grants a bonus to Stealth.
  • Hidden Paths. Your teleportation range has increased to 60 feet. You now use your bonus action instead of your movement. The part about teleporting a willing creature is the same. Also, instead of waiting 1d4 turns between uses of this feature, you now can use it up to a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once) between long rests.
  • Walker in Dreams. It has replaced Purifying Light. Once you finish a short rest you choose to cast DreamScrying, or a special Teleportation Circle that takes you where you had your last long rest on your current plane of existence. Purifying Light could dispel possibly harmful effects from allies, so that’s a major change. Instead of that, you get a free 5th level spell from a very limited list.

Apart from Walker in Dreams, the changes don’t seem too big. They do, however, make clear up some parts and make others a bit more straightforward. I don’t really know how I feel about Walker in Dreams so I’d love to know your opinion on that.

 

Circle of the Shepherd

First version: Druid Circles and Wild Shape

Second version: Revised Class Options

  • Speech of the Woods. No changes.
  • Spirit Totem. The effect ends if you’re incapacitated.
    • Bear Spirit. No changes.
    • Hawk Spirit. You and your allies also get advantage to Wisdom (Perception) checks while in the aura.
    • Unicorn Spirit. No changes.
  • Mighty Summoner. No changes.
  • Guardian Spirit. No changes.
  • Faithful Summons. No changes.

No actual changes here, except for the advantage to Perception from the Hawk Spirit. It had a revision before it was released so most of the work was done there.

Unfortunately, I’ll have to stop here for today. I wanted to do more but I have a very important obligation at the beginning of the next week and I need to start preparing for it. I hope I’ll finish this analysis in the second part. Please, let me know if you’re interested in seeing me dissecting more of the content from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

And until next time, have fun!

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10 thoughts on “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Subclasses Analysis Part 1

  1. Druid Circle of Dreams Hidden Paths. “You now use your movement instead of your movement.” Use what?

    On Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 1:59 PM, ‘The Kind GM’ via Dragon wrote:

    > The Kind GM posted: “It’s time to take a good look at the subclasses > of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.Last Friday I took a very quick look > on Xanathar’s Guide to Everything and wrote about my first impressions. I > had promised that if I see important changes in the classes, I” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m going through the book now so I’ll respond to your comments.

    Ancestral Guardian- I really like the flavor. It fits nicely with my homebrew ancestor worship civilization. I think the abilities are nicely balanced. I had a brief thought of having Spirit Shield allow the player to use their own reaction to prevent the damage but it becomes too powerful if it can be used more than once a turn, thought it is a fun image.

    Storm Herald- I agree the balance in this class is about right.

    Zealot- Also very balanced and full of role-play potential. I’m looking forward to giving this one a try.

    One thing you didn’t mention that I really liked was the advice just before the subclasses. The blurb about not all barbarians being dumb brutes. It’s a sticking point for me that I’ve blogged about and I’m glad they addressed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The subclasses seem polished so far. Actually, the Zealot is a subclass one of my players will really love. I like that they changed the last feature that makes it hard to kill.
      As for the lore bits, I mentioned their existence in the first impressions article. I wanted to focus on the mechanic changes in this one. However, I’m thinking about writing something about them.
      Especially for the barbarians, I agree. They don’t have to be dumb, and one of my players does exactly that.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi!
    thanks a lot for this analysis, im still waiting for my copy to arrive and this helps with the waiting
    I was wondering if you had the chance to see the Hexblade, im really interesed in that subclass.
    I really hope that this time they got it right

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello. I’m glad you found the analysis useful. If I remember correctly, the only change I saw on the Hexblade was that the Shadow Hound feature was replaced by a similar, but simpler and better worded, feature.

      Like

      • You’re welcome. Sadly, I can’t give you a good answer about the invocations. I’m in the process on writing about other subclasses at the moment and I haven’t taken a good look at the invocations yet. I’ll probably write about them next Friday.

        Like

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