For the unaware, feats are taken in place of an ability score increase once a character reaches specific levels in their class. Feats offer variety and diversity that can entirely shift how a class is played. With that said, while the rogue has sub classes, the cleric is much more diverse, in that there are different gods with a wide variety of domain options available. The result is that the cleric can be played in some of the most creative ways in the entire game, relative to some other classes.
We will begin with the cleric that most party members expect to see, which is one focused solely on healing. This may be exactly what you wish to do when playing the class, as healing can be a tremendous boon to the party. At the same time, watch for players who dive in headfirst to ridiculous and deadly encounters with the assumption that you will be there to pick up the pieces. As a cleric, you are an intermediary between the mortal world and the distant planes of the gods, not a walking first-aid station to come running to the headstrong fighter who does not understand tactics from their backside.
Healing is important, but so too is preserving spells between rests. As a physician, this feat allows you to mend wounds quickly. Using a healer’s kit to stabilize a dying creature restores one hit point, and as an action you can apply another of the healer’s kit uses to restore 1d6 + 4 hit points, plus additional hit points equal to the creature’s maximum number of hit dice. This is particularly useful when there is simply too much demand for healing that will quickly drain those prepared spells.
If MMORPGs like World of Warcraft have taught us anything, it is that prebuffing helps tremendously in a raid. With Inspiring Leader, a cleric spends 10 minutes shoring up the resolve of the party for the upcoming fight. Up to six friendly creatures, including yourself, within 30 feet who can see or hear (and understand you) receive temporary hit points equal to your level + your charisma modifier.
What’s better than healing wounds? Giving your teammates imaginary hit points that you do not have to heal!
Alright, above we stated that we should not coming running to the whims of every charging fighter, and while this is absolutely true, some classes are simply more adept at moving and may soon be just out of our reach. At level 5 Barbarians have Unarmored movement, granting them +10 feet, and Monks at level 15 gain the same but with +25 feet.
The Mobile feat will allow for you to keep up and get within the necessary range to target an ally, and if you are set on being the party healer, you do need to be able to reach everyone.
These three feats will surely assist in making your cleric the best healer they can be. Now, onto the battle-hungry cleric!
The Cleric That Craves Combat
These clerics may have little interest in healing at all. They are far more interested in charging into the front line to start causing damage, and if an ally happens to be around who needs healing, and there is no monster to attack, some incidental may occur.
Unlike the feats listed above for a healing-centric cleric, we must now focus on feats that will both keep us alive and make us effective.
Heavy Armor Master
All clerics have access to medium armor, shields, and weapons, but clerics of the War domain have proficiency with heavy armor and military weapons. Heavy Armor Master is an absolute necessity if one plans to be a front line cleric. The feat will increase your Strength by 1, to a maximum of 20, and when wearing heavy armor, bludgeoning, slashing and piercing damage you take from non-magical weapons is reduced by 3.
This should assist tremendously in avoiding all but the most serious of attacks made against you, especially when facing hordes of smaller, weaker creatures.
This again looks to provide you with additional protection on the front line, specifically in that as long as you are not incapacitated, you can add the AC bonus of your shield to any dexterity saving throw against a spell of other harmful effect that targets only you. Since your dexterity score is likely going to be low, this becomes a necessity to stay alive at the later levels. The ability to shove an opponent away is also useful in certain situations.
Wizards are not the only class that can benefit from this feat, which grants advantage for constitution saving throws when making a concentration check caused by damage, and more importantly, if your hands are full of weapons and shields, movement is not required to cast a spell. Given that the style of a battle cleric is often to be on the front line with their shield and melee weapon, this is an absolute must.
This brings us to the best spells on the front line. Without a doubt, Inflict Wounds is a great choice here. Despite how great your desire to be a front line warrior, the damage from a one-handed weapon will be lower than that of a barbarian or a fighter, but with Inflict Wounds you can do a good amount of sudden burst to a single target.
This will have the dual benefit of upping your constitution, which is useful on the front lines for incoming damage, but also assists with concentration saving throws if and when you may be channeling a spell.
The obvious pattern here is that most of these feats are geared towards protecting your cleric as opposed to doing damage.
Finally, there are numerous other types of clerics that one can play, we have simply covered two that may be considered opposites in terms of game and story objective. With that said, one could consider a cleric that leans hard into their deity, or who seeks to explore the world with the goal of acquiring knowledge.
In that case, consider a combination of Keen Mind, Linguist, and Observant. This would make you a cleric who can speak with all kinds of people, create and better deal with ciphers, and take note of one’s surroundings.
Mixing and matching feats for a cleric can allow for some interesting playstyle, so be sure to mix it up and search for a combination that best suits your personal playstyle!