The cleric class has been an option for players since the earliest days of Dungeons & Dragons. It is one of those classes that aren’t necessary for the party to have, but definitely makes life easier for the players when one is present.
The main role of a cleric is that of a healer, and this is regard it sets itself apart among the available classes (with the exception of the druid class). Bards can cast arcane spells, many classes have access to thief skills, and classes other than the fighter class are capable of fighting on the front-lines of a battle – but none of the other classes have the unrestricted access to the healing spells that clerics have.
10 The Healer
This build optimizes the cleric for its main purpose – that of a healer. The 5th edition rules have lessened the need for a healer after fights with the introduction of the short and long rest periods.
However, during fights, the cleric’s ability to heal wounded party members is still often the difference between victory and defeat. For this build, the player will want to pick the Life domain for its bonus healing. The player will also want to take the Healer feat that further increases the cleric’s healing capabilities; however, this is true only if the DM makes healing kits available.
9 The Battle Cleric
Battle clerics who get their divine power from the War domain are similar to paladins; but they trade a little fighting ability for more robust divine spellcasting abilities. The player will want to take feats that improve the cleric’s effectiveness in melee, like Great Weapon Master.
The 5th level domain ability called Crusader’s Mantle is extremely useful; it has a 30’ radius and causes all attacks by allies of the cleric to deal an extra 1d4 radiant damage. When the party if focusing their attacks on one target, this extra 1d4 per attack adds up and can allow the party to fell strong opponents quickly. This build can be combined with the fighter class to further improve battle efficacy if desired.
8 Arcane Cleric
In previous versions of D&D one of the most potent cleric builds was the cleric of Mystra. These clerics had access to arcane spells and could cast in anti-magic, dead magic, and wild magic zones without consequence.
The 5th edition equivalent (so far) is the Arcane Cleric. It is not nearly as good as the cleric of Mystra, but it is still an excellent cleric build. Arcane Clerics have access to arcane spells, but the selection is very limited. One benefit to this build is the ability to dispel negative spell effects from a party member when using a healing spell on them.
7 The Trickery Cleric/Rogue
This is a very potent combination. The Trickery domain almost seems like it was designed for multiclass cleric/thief characters as the benefits of the domain are much more useful for rogues. One great ability is that the trickery cleric can create an illusionary duplicate of themselves.
This, on its own, doesn’t seem too useful, but this ability allows the cleric to cast spells as if they were in the position of the duplicate. This means that a trickster cleric can cast healing spells on party members from a distance. At 17th level the cleric can create four duplicates and have them remain close to the other party members – this allows the cleric to be able to quickly heal anyone in the party from a safe distance.
6 The Tempest Cleric
Tempest clerics are typically followers of gods with weather in their portfolio – such as Zeus or Talos. This domain has abilities/spells that work together to devastating effect. One of these abilities is Destructive Wrath (acquired at 2nd level), which maximizes lightning and thunder damage.
This ability is awesome when paired with the bonus Call Lightning spell Tempest clerics receive at 5th level, and the Divine Strike ability gained at 8th level. By far the best ability Tempest clerics get is the ability to fly at will at 17th level as long as the character is not indoors or underground.
5 The Light Cleric/Monk
This is a great way to make a monk a multi-purpose character. Monks can handle themselves in melee almost as well as fighters, but are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to ranged attacks. The Light domain gives numerous bonus spells that are ranged damage spells. Some of the more notable of these are; scorching ray, fireball, and flame strike.
The monk's mobility will allow the character to quickly move across a battlefield to heal wounded party members. Lastly, the monk’s ability to land touch attacks is unrivaled; so all those touch attack spells, like bestow curse and inflict wounds, are much more reliable with this build.
4 The Forge Cleric/Artificer
This is an excellent choice for playing with a DM that is a bit stingy with magical items, weapons, and armor. The Forge cleric gains several abilities that allow the creation of non-magic items; including weapons and armor.
The artificer class then allows the character to imbue these crafted items with magical properties. Even before this build allows for the creation of permanent magical items it has abilities that allow for the creation of temporary magical weapons and armor. The Soul of the Forge ability is also useful for its permanent +1 to the character’s armor class.
3 The Death Cleric/Monk Multiclass
Here is another great monk/cleric multiclass combination that is even better than the Life cleric/monk pairing. The Death domain has numerous (and powerful) bonus spells/abilities that require touching the target. The most notable of these is the Touch of Death. This ability adds bonus damage to a melee attack equal to 5+(2x the cleric’s level).
At a high level, this could kill lesser opponents with one blow. Another benefit to the Death cleric build is the ability to ignore an opponent’s resistance to necrotic damage (which is far more common than in 4th edition). The Death cleric also works well when multi-classed with the necromancer sub-class as they reinforce each other well.
2 The Nature Cleric/Ranger
This is one of the more powerful multiclass cleric builds in 5th edition. The ranger class will make the cleric better in melee, and the cleric class will allow the ranger access to heavier armor. One of the best features of this combination is that both the cleric and ranger classes use wisdom for their spellcasting.
This combination also gives the character a larger number of available spell-slots. The obvious choice of race for this build is the wood elf, but a hill dwarf also makes an excellent Nature cleric/ranger character. Lastly, this pairing is unparalleled at utilizing animal companions to their fullest.
1 The Knowledge Cleric/Bard
When a bard is in the party, they are usually the spokesperson for the group. The Knowledge cleric gains many abilities that will make the bard class much more successful in that role. First and foremost is the Knowledge cleric’s ability to know more languages than normal.
Bards are also the loremasters of D&D, and the Knowledge domain increases this skill via abilities such as object reading and bonus identify spells. This combination also gives the bard bonus spells that dovetail with the traditional role they generally play; examples of these bonus spells are command and suggestion.