Druids are one of the most popular class choices in Dungeons & Dragons, and their subclasses make for some outstanding diversity in roleplaying and combat. How you choose to play can shift radically depending on which Circle your druid chooses to enter. Here are the top five from worst to best, based on how practical they can be in aiding the party in a range of campaigns.
6 Druids Of The Circle Of Spores
Druids of the Circle of Spores "find beauty in death and decay," which is a natural part of nature's cycle. In mold and fungi, they see the potential for an abundance of resources, where others see nothing useful. With that said, the spore subclass is certainly different in flavor from most druids, since instead of restoring life, you can animate a corpse. Using a charge of Wild Shape can fuel Symbiotic Entity, rather than turn you into a creature.
Fungal Infestation and Spreading Spores are certainly interesting abilities and lend towards making a druid that falls away from their traditional roles in a party. There is nothing wrong with that, but perhaps be sure to reiterate to the party that you won’t be tossing out any heals or tanking as a bear while in combat, but they can take solace in knowing their corpse will still be useful once they fall.
5 Druids Of The Circle Of Dreams
Druids who are members of the Circle of Dreams have strong ties to the Feywild and its dreamlike realms. These druids seek to fill the world with dreamy wonder. There is nothing inherently wrong or weak about selecting the Dream subclass, however, other subclasses are more versatile and allow players flexibility in a broad range of circumstances. For example, Balm of the Summer Court, obtained at level two, is an adequate healing ability, but when compared to a Shepherd subclass, we find it lacking in potency.
With that said, Hearth of Moonlight and Shadow make for peaceful rest under an imperceptible cover, and Hidden Paths allows for some creative bypassing of dangerous situations.
4 Druids Of The Circle Of The Moon
Druids of the Circle of the Moon are formidable protectors of the wilds. Their order meet beneath the full moon to discuss dire developments to nature. Players who wish to literally shift into creatures gain Wild Shape at level two. This makes the druid a powerful creature, with the potential to have numerous hit points early on, and at level ten this becomes all but overpowered with Elemental Wild Shape, gaining the ability to transform into an Air, Earth, Fire, or Water elemental.
Moon is an interesting choice for subclass because it can provide the simplest of gameplay, or the most complete. A strategic Moon druid will make it their responsibility to see as many creatures in the world as possible to maximize their Wild Shape potential and can then adapt to any situation, especially at higher levels when the shape-shifting restrictions lessen. We rank this at number 3, though some may consider it number 1 if shifting is their goal, which is an iconic aspect of being a druid for many players.
3 Druids Of The Circle Of The Land
The Circle of the Land consists of mystics and sages who work to keep safe ancient knowledge and rites through a vast oral tradition. In terms of flavor, the story-telling druid has potential to be the most interesting party member, unless they have an abysmal charisma modifier and ruin all their stories with monotone speaking or rambling like Grandpa Simpson.
In practical terms, those that follow the Circle of the Land find themselves as effective casters. There is diverse flavor depending on the terrain, and there is a lot to cast without needing to prepare a formal spell: a bonus cantrip at level two, Natural Recovery for spell slots on short rests, and of course, a variety of circle spells based on the land (arctic, coast, desert, forest, grassland, mountain, swamp, or underdark).
For example, Arctic provides the following:
- 3rd level Hold Person, Spike Growth
- 5th level Sleet Storm, Slow
- 7th level Freedom of Movement, Ice Storm
- 9th level Commune with Nature, Cone of Cold
These spells are always prepared, do not count against the number to prepare at the start of a day, and makes for an extremely powerful and flexible caster that benefits simply being in certain environments, and the rest can be seen by clicking here.
2 Druids Of The Circle Of The Shepherd
Selecting the Shepherd subclass grants your druid the ability to commune with nature’s spirits and call them to aid you and the party. While druids care for all living creatures in the natural world, Shepherds focus most on those animals and fey creatures who have difficulty defending themselves.
One of the strongest abilities as a Shepherd comes in the form of calling forth spirits of nature to influence the world around you. Taking a bonus action allows a druid to summon an incorporeal spirit within 60 feet of you. The three options are:
- Bear Spirit. The bear spirit grants you and your allies its might and endurance. Each creature of your choice in the aura when the spirit appears gains temporary hit points equal to 5 + your druid level, and you and your allies gain advantage on Strength checks and Strength saving throws while in the aura.
- Hawk Spirit. The hawk spirit is a consummate hunter, aiding you and your allies with its keen sight. When a creature makes an attack roll against a target in the spirit’s aura, you can use your reaction to grant advantage to that attack roll, and you and your allies have advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks while in the aura.
- Unicorn Spirit. The unicorn spirit lends its protection to those nearby. You and your allies gain advantage on all ability checks made to detect creatures in the spirit’s aura. For healing, casting a spell that uses a spell slot that restores hit points to any creature inside or outside the aura results in each creature of your choice in the aura also regaining hit points equal to your druid level.
There are other benefits to selecting the Shepherd subclass, but these auras are so useful in virtually every situation that they tend to overshadow the rest of the toolkit’s utility. Shepherd is great for beginners and experts alike, and will never find themselves without a way to help the party.
As you can see, druid subclasses are varied, and it is hard to go wrong depending on the needs of the party. The only caveat we would add is that we do not include the Twilight subclass, because it falls within the realm of Unearthed Arcana, which is perfectly fine for playtesting, but not an official subclass within the game, as far as most are concerned.