Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Subclasses Analysis Part 2

And we’re back to the second part of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything subclasses analysis.
In part 1 we took a look at the Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, and Druid subclasses. To be clear, what I’m doing in this articles is tracking the changes made in the final versions of the subclasses compared to their versions in the Unearthed Arcana articles. I’m not going to mention the content from Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. If you’re interested in my opinions on that book, let me know.

Before we start checking out the subclasses  I need to apologized. In part 1 I said I would try to finish the subclasses analysis in two parts. However, I’m still quite busy with stuff other than the blog, so I can’t cover so many subclasses today. This Friday I’ll be writing about the Fighter, the Monk, the Paladin, and the Ranger. Sadly, the rest of the classes will have to wait until next Friday. Let’s go!

Fighter

Arcane Archer

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: Fighter Martial Archetypes

Second version: Unearthed Arcana: Revised Subclasses

  • Arcane Archer Lore. It has been upgraded a bit. Now you can also pick the Prestidigitation or the Druidcraft cantrip. Both are really good but, personally, I prefer Prestidigitation.
  • Arcane Shot. No changes but I have a note. There’s an error in the feature. You don’t need a magic arrow in order to use it.
  • Magic Arrow. It is now a 7th level feature. Also, the arrow is still magical but it doesn’t give a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls. Its only purpose now is to bypass the resistance and immunity to non-magical attacks. I don’t mind this change. One of the ideas of 5th Edition is to limit the various small bonuses you get from features, feats, and other abilities.
  • Curving Shot. No changes.
  • Ever-Ready Shot. No changes.
  • Arcane Shot Options.
    • Banishing Arrow. No changes.
    • Beguiling Arrow. This isthe Mind-Scrambling Arrow but with the difference that the target is now charmed by the ally you choose. I consider this a difference in the wording, since the effect will be pretty much the same.
    • Bursting Arrow. No changes.
    • Enfeebling Arrow. This the Brute Bane Arrow.
    • Grasping Arrow. No changes.
    • Piercing Arrow. No changes.
    • Seeking Arrow. No changes.
    • Shadow Arrow. No changes.

The Arcane Archer is one of my favorite subclasses featured in this book. The changes here aren’t really serious, since it had two Unearthed Arcana installments, and are totally fine by me.

 

Cavalier

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: Kits of Old

Second version: Unearthed Arcana: Revised Class Options

The Cavalier has changed a lot. Only two features remain the same. The other four have been replaced by five new ones. That’s because the subclass doesn’t use superiority dice anymore.

  • Bonus Proficiency. No changes.
  • Born To The Saddle. No changes.
  • Unwavering Mark. It’s a taunt effect, pretty much, and I like a lot how it works, to be honest. When you hit a creature you can mark it until the end of your next turn. If it’s within 5 feet of you, it has disadvantage on attacks that aren’t made against you. Moreover, if they hit someone else during their turn, you can make an extra attack on them as a bonus action on your next turn. The number of times you can use this attack per long rest is based on your Strength modifier. Also, it’s really important to note that you can have multiple creatures marked at the same time. I believe the only restriction is the number of times you can attack per turn.
  • Warding Maneuver. That’s one of the maneuvers presented in the previous version of the Cavalier. This was available from the Combat Superiority feature and was gained at 3rd level. Now, Warding Maneuver is a 7th level feature. The die used isn’t upgraded at later levels and the number of times you can use it is based on your Constitution modifier, that refreshes on a long rest. At a first glance, this looks like it gives you less uses of Warding Maneuver per long rest. However, the Fighter gets two Ability Score Improvements before level 7 and one more at level 8. So if you really want to maximize the number of times you can use this feature, you could easily reach a Constitution score of 20.
  • Hold The Line. That’s the first ability of the Sentinel feat (PHB page 169), with an upgraded way to gain attacks of opportunity against enemies.
  • Ferocious Charger. This is a bit like the pounce trait monsters get. If you get to move at least a 10 feet in a straight line and manage to hit an enemy, that enemy has to make a Strength saving throw or be knocked prone. I like that the feature doesn’t require a mount and that you can use it once per turn.
  • Vigilant Defender. This one ties perfectly with Hold the Line. You get a special reaction that you can use only for opportunity attacks. You can use it once during each creature’s turn, except the turn when you will use your regular reaction. Sadly, you get this feature at level 18, but I’m not sure if it would be wise to get it any sooner.

To be honest, I’m happy with the changes. The two previous Unearthed Arcana installments did good to point out what the majority of the community wanted. It’s not centered around using a mount, which could possibly make it less useful in many situations, it doesn’t resemble the Battle Master that much, and now looks like a badass that likes protecting their allies. I wasn’t a huge fun of this subclass, but now I want to try it.

Edit: I just realized that the Cavalier is now heavily inspired by the Knight. I was sure I had seen a couple of the features before, but I just couldn’t remember.

 

Samurai

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: Fighter Martial Archetypes

  • Bonus Proficiency. The skill proficiencies from Elegant Courtier have been moved here. Also, Performance is now in the list you can choose from.
  • Fighting Spirit. You no longer gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. Instead you get temporary hit points. They go from 5 at level 3, up to 15 at level 15. This majorly decreases the defensive capabilities of the subclass. You can’t compare the resistance to temporary hit points, especially at higher levels. If, at level 15, you get hit by 2 attacks that deal 30 damage each, you will take 45 damage, instead of 30 that you’d get with the resistance. However, resistance, especially to these common damage types, isn’t the best thing.
  • Elegant Courtier. The first part is the same. The proficiencies have been moved to a separate feature. Also, the Unbreakable Will feature has been moved here.
  • Tireless Spirit. This is a feature we’ve seen with different names in various Unearthed Arcana subclasses. It gives you an additional use of Fighting Spirit, when you roll initiative and you have no more uses of it. I really like this feature, because it probably tries to balance the absence of the resistances, and also because I consider it a really good mechanic.
  • Rapid Strike. The same idea but with modified mechanics. The attack with advantage mentioned now needs to be part of your Attack action and the extra attack no longer needs a bonus action. Also, you can use this feature only once per turn. That’s here because the wording has changed. I believe the change has happened because both this feature and Fighting Spirit needed a bonus action.
  • Strength Before Death. The idea has changed a bit. The damage isn’t delayed and now you are considered to be at 0 hit points. This means taking damage causes death saving throw failures. I guess it has changed because temporary hit points don’t help you regain consciousness (PHB page 198).

I liked the previous version because it looked badass, but I understand the changes. It still looks badass but maybe in a more balanced way.

 

Monk

Way of the Drunken Master

First version: Unearthed Arcana:A Trio of Subclasses

  • Bonus Proficiencies. The proficiency to Performance has been moved here. You now also get proficiency with the brewer’s supplies, which is a really flavorful addition.
  • Drunken Technique. No changes apart from the skill proficiency moving to a separate feature.
  • Tipsy Sway. A couple of changes here but they are good ones. Redirecting an attack now also costs 1 ki point. That’s probably for balancing reasons. Moreover, a thing that’s been added is that you can spend only 5 feet of your movement to stand up now. That’s a practical and flavorful addition.
  • Drunkard’s Luck. The idea is the same but the feature has changed. Now you can spend 2 ki points to cancel the disadvantage imposed on a ability check, attack roll, or saving throw. I think I like it better this way because it’s a bit more versatile, even if you need to have disadvantage in order to use it.
  • Intoxicated Frenzy. No changes.

The subclass a bit more balanced now. The changes don’t seem bad to me.

Way of the Kensei

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: Monk Monastic Traditions

Second version: Unearthed Arcana: Revised Subclasses

  • Path of the Kensei. No real changes but we get an extra benefit.
    • Kensei Weapons. No changes.
    • Agile Parry. No changes.
    • Kensei’s Shot. No changes.
    • Way of the Brush. A nice addition to flavor by giving proficiency to either the calligrapher’s or the painter’s tools.
  • One with the Blade. No changes.
    • Magic Kensei Weapon. No changes.
    • Deft Strike. No changes.
  • Sharpen the Blade. There are no changes. However, it’s now mentioned that the feature doesn’t work on magic weapons that already have a bonus to attack and damage rolls. To be honest, this makes sense to me.
  • Unerring Accuracy. Technically that’s not a change, but it has been made more clear that you can use this feature only on attacks you miss on your turn.

The Way of the Kensei is one of the subclasses that had two Unearthed Arcana versions so I wasn’t expecting any changes. It was already good in its second version.

Paladin

 Oath of Conquest

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: Paladin Sacred Oaths

Second version: Unearthed Arcana: Revised Class Options

  • Tenets of Redemption. No changes.
  • Tenets of Conquest. No changes.
  • Oath Spells. No changes.
  • Channel Divinity. No changes.
    • Conquering Presence. No changes.
    • Guided Strike. No changes.
  • Aura of Conquest. No changes.
  • Scornful Rebuke. The only change is that the minimum amount of damage is now 1 instead of 0.
  • Invincible Conqueror. No changes.

That’s another subclass with two Unearthed Arcana versions. I believed it was close to being ready to be published and it seems that I was right. Yay!

 

Oath of Redemption

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: A Trio of Subclasses

  • Tenets of Redemption. No changes.
  • Oath SpellsShield has been replaced by Sanctuary and Ray of Enfeeblement has been replaced by Calm Emotions. I don’t think these changes have been made for balance reasons.
  • Channel Divinity. No changes.
    • Emissary of Peace. No changes.
    • Rebuke the Violent. No changes.
  • Aura of the Guardian. The target now can also be someone other than an ally. Moreover, it’s now stated that the damage taken can’t be reduced in any way. Finally, at 18th level the radius of the aura increases to 30 feet. I like the radius increase and the change of wording about the target. This way you can have more options.
  • Protective Spirit. No changes.
  • Emissary of Redemption. No changes.

No important changes, other than the ones in Aura of the Guardian. I wasn’t a great fun of the subclass before but, now that I’m looking at it again, it could be interesting.

 

Ranger

Gloom Stalker

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: Light, Dark, Underdark!

Second version: Unearthed Arcana: The Ranger Revised

For this one we go way back. I don’t even have an analysis article for it. It’s first appearance was made in 2015. In both Unearthed Arcana versions it was called the Deep Stalker because it was focused around the Underdark.

  • Gloom Stalker Spells. The only change is that Glyph of Warding has been replaced by Fear. I guess that’s okay.
  • Dread Ambusher. That’s the first part of Underdark Scout, but upgraded. The bonus to initiative and the extra damage are a great addition. The whole feature focuses on making you look amazing during the first turn of combat, and I believe it does a great job at it.
  • Umbral Sight. That’s the second part of Underdark Scout and it has been upgraded as well. It now gives you Darkvision, or upgrades it if you already have it. I don’t know how often this feature may come up, but it could prove useful.
  • Iron Mind. It’s the same but you also get the ability to choose Intelligence or Charisma, in case you’re already proficient with Wisdom saving throws. That’s not a bad feature.
  • Stalker’s Flurry. No changes but a little bit better wording. It feels close to rolling an attack with advantage.
  • Shadowy Dodge. No real changes, apart from the name change and the slightly better wording. That’s a nice way to use your reaction, especially if you’re using ranged weapons.

I don’t think I gave as much attention to this subclass as I should have. It looks really interesting. Dread Ambusher is a really good feature, in my opinion. To be honest, the whole subclass reminds be a little bit of the Rogue.

 

Horizon Walker

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: Ranger and Rogue

  • Horizon Walker SpellsAlter Self has been replaced by Misty Step and Protection from Energy has been replaced by Haste. That’s definitely an upgrade.
  • Detect Portal. That’s the new Portal Lore, and it has been toned down quite a bit. I wasn’t expecting this to be an issue.
  • Planar Warrior. I’m not sure how I feel about this change. The attack doesn’t ignore resistance anymore but the extra damage has increased. Also, all the damage from the attack is now Force damage.
  • Ethereal Step. No changes.
  • Distant Strike.  No changes. By the way, I really like this feature.
  • Spectral Defense. The wording has changed a bit. You don’t halve the damage but you gain resistance to it instead. I’m not sure if this plays a role because, the way I read it, the resistance is only for that attack’s damage.

Overall, the changes are okay. I really don’t know how important was to change Detect Portal. Do you think it was that game breaking? Also, even after the changes Planar Warrior still looks good to me. I can see myself playing this one just because I want to see how using Distant Strike feels like.

 

Monster Slayer

First Version: Unearthed Arcana: A Trio of Subclasses

I should mention the Fighter’s Monster Hunter here because that’s where this subclass gets ideas from.

  • Monster Slayer Magic. Planar Binding has been replaced by Hold Monster, which is a better fit.
  • Hunter’s Sense. Apart from the name change, it is now more restricted. I wasn’t a great fan of it and, even now that has been toned down, I still don’t really like it. The extra damage part has been moved to a separate feature.
  • Slayer’s Prey. That’s the second benefit of Slayer’s Eye. That’s the one I liked. I don’t see any changes.
  • Supernatural Defense. There’s the addition that you add the d6 to rolls to escape the grapple made by the target of Slayer’s Prey. It may be situational but it’s nice.
  • Magic-User’s Nemesis. This one has been upgraded. It now covers any spell and teleporting. The target must be 60 feet of you, which is 30 feet more than the previous version. I didn’t like it that much and I still have my doubts. However, it doesn’t bother me that much now because you can use it once every short or long rest. Much better.
  • Slayer’s Counter. No changes.

The subclass feels a bit better now, in my opinion. I’m still not a fan of Hunter’s Sense though.

And that’s all for today. I’ll be finishing up the subclasses analysis next Friday, with the Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard subclasses. Please, let me know if you’re interested in seeing me dissecting more of the content from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.

Also, I’d love to hear your thoughts about the book. What parts do you like more? Is it lacking anywhere? Would you like to see more of something? Did you, maybe, see too much of something?

And until next time, have fun!

13 thoughts on “Xanathar’s Guide to Everything: Subclasses Analysis Part 2

  1. I felt a bit ripped off by WOTC. All of the content was non-essential reading. Sure, it’s nice to have some new class options, and the table of names may come in handy for some of my players, but the rest of the material is already available elsewhere (spells) or is stuff that I already homebrew (traps, for instance). I was disappointed in the length, too. This book was the same price as the core books with far less useful content. I would have preferred some of the tables (encounters, for example), be added to the next printing of the DM’s guide, so that future DMs get the updated versions (I don’t use random encounter tables).
    I am, however, realistic and aware that WOTC needs to keep making money. Big sigh. I’m hoping future supplements won’t be as short shrift as this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing you opinion. I understand why you say that. Most of the DM content could be considered non essential and, technically, can be found in the Unearthed Arcana articles. I don’t think there have been many changes to them.
      However, I see it more as an expansion on the DMG as well as a document that clears up rules on various situations. Also, how useful the content is depends on the experience of the DM. I can definitely see new DMs using it. I can even see myself using it. For example, I want to take a really good look at the traps when I’m done with the subclasses. Being able to create your own content for your games is great. But some beginner DMs can’t do that and could use a few “official” guidelines.
      Most of the spells were included for the same reason subclasses from SCAG were included. That’s for the Adventurers League. I know that this isn’t useful for everyone, but WotC has to think about the AL players as well.
      As for the size, I have to agree. The book was a bit less than 200 pages. It left me wanting for more. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the content. I liked the content overall. However, I’d love to have a 300 page book full of goodies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent summaries of the changes.

    Arcane Archer-thx for posting the error re: magic arrows. I had seen that tweet but forgotten about it. I think Grasping arrow is a bit much. Lasts 1 min and damage every-time a creature moves? Seems like very good crowd control. Forces the creature to try to remove the vines.

    Cavalier is nice and tanky but it is not a guy who specializes in horseback combat. That is the definition of the word and the origin of the Cavalier from AD&D. I don’t want to choose between tanky fighters. I want the horse guy who should benefit when he’s got his mount. I think it’d make more sense as a Paladin Oath that revives the ability to either summon a mount or gain a special mount.

    Monk looked good overall. Drunken master will be fun to play and has nice abilities. Kensei is well balanced and Sun Soul feels like it will provide good RP.

    Paladin Oaths seem well balanced overall. I still maintain Cavalier should have been placed here with mount abilities.

    Ranger paths the most exciting to me was Horizon Walker. I remember not really caring about it in 3.5 but this version looks fun.

    Like

    • I’m glad you liked it and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

      About the Arcane Archer, I understand why you say this. The damage of the Grasping Arrow is nice, especially for the lower levels. I believe they wanted to give the Fighter a more versatile option and that’s why the Arcane Archer is this way. Probably the idea is that the power is balanced by the 2 uses per short or long rest. I will have to test this to see how it works during games in order to determine if it’s that powerful.

      About the Cavalier, when it was presented in the Unearthed Arcana for the first time (Kits of Old) it was how you describe it. In its second version it followed the same theme, but it was much better because it didn’t have that many restrictions as the first one. Between these versions, the Knight came out. The final version is like a mix of the two.
      Probably the survey results showed that the community didn’t want a subclass that would rely on a mount, because it would be situational. As for its current form, the name may not be that fitting but I like how tanky it is.
      As for the Paladin idea, I don’t know how well that would work but I’d love to see a version of that.

      We totally agree about the Monk!

      I agree with you about the Ranger as well. The Gloom Stalker seems okay too but I don’t think I’m a fan of the Monster Slayer.

      Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts. You’ve given me a couple of things to think about.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The power of Grasping Arrow is mitigated by the two uses per rest rest and that the creature affected needs only succeed on a STR check to avoid the damage. So high STR creatures lose and action. to remove it. Low STR creatures, such as say opposing wizards don’t even have to move they just stay still and avoid the slashing damage.

    I can see your point about the mount being situational but that is part of what makes for great storytelling in my opinion. Cavalier can be balanced to be effective is most situation but really shine when he can use his mount.

    Maybe it’s just me but I’d have preferred they make it a paladin Oath. We already have a tanky fighter. I like the variety presented by attaching it to a different class. Tanky fighter v1 or Tanky fighter v2 will still have a lot of the same abilities. You could have a Protection fighter and a Cavalier Paladin in the same group and not have them feel like they are in the same role. Overlap yes but not two characters trying to fill the same job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I’m glad you like them. The Monster Slayer does look interesting and one of my players may like it a lot. As for the Kensei, I don’t know when I’ll be able to see it in action. My players don’t seem interested in monks and I’m rarely a player.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One changed you missed from the original UA. On Oath of Redemption, the Armor of Peace feature is gone completely. No longer do you get to walk around without armor, and have AC 16+Dex. Although may have been OP, it did add to the flavor of the class as being as non-threatening as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re totally right. I missed mentioning it. Probably because it was removed. Thank you very much for pointing it out. I’ll update the analysis as soon as possible. And thank you for checking out my analysis.

      Like

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