Fighters are the vanilla warriors of the Dungeons and Dragons universe. They might not come with magical abilities (barring some subclasses), but a high-level Fighter is basically a demi-god on par with Hercules.

Skilled with all weapons and armor, reliable and solid damage output from range or up close, and the potential to be extremely durable, Fighters are really a jack-of-all-trades — as long as all the trades we’re talking about involve combat.

They might have a simple base class, but Fighter subclasses range from beginner to advanced levels of play. Plus, Fighters get more feats than any other class in DnD 5e, allowing for even greater customization.

I’ll go over the basics of how Fighter features work in 5e and touch a bit on the skills, feats, and subclasses (archetypes) for Fighters. Note that I use a rating system from 1 to 5 to rate features, feats, races, etc., with 5 being the best.

Fighter Features by Level

Here are the Fighter features from level 1 to 20:

Level Proficiency Bonus Features
1st +2 Fighting Style, Second Wind
2nd +2 Action Surge (x1)
3rd +2 Martial Archetype
4th +2 Ability Score Improvement, Martial Versatility
5th +3 Extra Attack (x1)
6th +3 Ability Score Improvement, Martial Versatility
7th +3 Martial Archetype feature
8th +3 Ability Score Improvement, Martial Versatility
9th +4 Indomitable (x1)
10th +4 Martial Archetype feature
11th +4 Extra Attack (x2)
12th +4 Ability Score Improvement, Martial Versatility
13th +5 Indomitable (x2)
14th +5 Ability Score Improvement, Martial Versatility
15th +5 Martial Archetype feature
16th +5 Ability Score Improvement, Martial Versatility
17th +6 Action Surge (x2), Indomitable (x3)
18th +6 Martial Archetype feature
19th +6 Ability Score Improvement, Martial Versatility
20th +6 Extra Attack (x3)

Fighters get a 1d10 Hit Dice (ties for second highest, after Barbarian), have proficiency with all weapons, shields, and armor, and have Strength and Constitution saving throw proficiencies. The only “meh” thing in that is Strength saving throw proficiencies, since Str saves aren’t that common. Everything else is top-notch.

dnd fighter wielding a greataxe against zombies

Fighter Features Explained

Beyond the basics of each Fighter feature, I’ll also give a rating for each feature to help you understand what’s good, what’s meh, and what’s bad in the Fighter kit.

Level 1 – Second Wind (3/5)

Heal for 1d10 + Fighter level once per rest (short or long) as a bonus action. A decent “oh crap” in-combat heal since you can still attack on the same turn, but it’s not a lot of healing overall.

Still, using it 2-3 times a day means you won’t run burn through hit dice for healing as fast as others.

Level 1 – Fighting Style (?/5 – depends on the style!)

  • Archery (5/5): Mathematically the strongest fighting style in the game, Archery gives a +2 bonus to attack rolls. That means +10 percentage points (and ~15% overall) chance to hit. If you want to use ranged weapons, there’s no better fighting style.

  • Blind Fighting (2/5): Can sense invisible creatures or when you’re blinded or in darkness up to 10 feet. Pretty rare to get utility from this in most scenarios, but if your party is built around spells like Darkness and Fog Cloud, or if you’re righting lots of invisible foes, this is a great addition to your kit. Otherwise, skip it.

  • Defense (5/5): A flat +1 AC if you’re wearing armor. It may not sound like much, but the fact that it’s useful 100% of the time you’re targeted with an attack means you’re guaranteed to get great value out of this fighting style. Downside: it’s boring. Upside: the math of DnD 5e (bounded accuracy) means +1 AC is just as useful at upper tiers of play as lower.

  • Dueling (5/5): +2 damage when you’re wielding a one-handed melee weapon and no other weapons. Bonus: you can be wielding a shield and still get this effect, meaning your one-handed weapons deal as much on average (and more consistently) than two-handed weapons AND you get the +2 AC bonus from wearing a shield.

  • Great Weapon Fighting (2/5): Reroll 1s or 2s on your damage dice when wielding a two-handed weapon. Mathematically, this works out to about a +1.2 damage per hit overall — much worse than Dueling or Archery. Sure, two-handed weapons already hit hard, but your character is better served by the Defense fighting style in most scenarios.

  • Interception (1/5): -1d10 + proficiency damage to an ally within 5 feet of you if you use your reaction to protect them. Sounds great for tanks, but it’s hard to use in practice. Plus, the allies beside you in a fight are usually also frontliners who don’t need the protection as much, and you give up your reaction to do it (no opportunity attacks for you that round).

  • Protection (1/5): Disadvantage on an attack targeting an ally within 5 feet of you if you use your reaction to protect them. Same problem as Interception, but even worse.

  • Superior Technique (2/5): Gain one Battle Master maneuver and the ability to use it once per rest (short and long restore it). Battle Master maneuvers are strong (especially Menacing Attack, Riposte, and Precision Attack), but your superiority die never goes up from 1d6, and only having one use per rest is pretty limiting. It’s fun, but not as mechanically strong as other fighting style options.

  • Thrown Weapon Fighting (4/5): +2 damage on thrown weapons. This is only really worth picking up if you’re building a hoplite-inspired character that tosses javelins and the like around. Mechanically, it’s really strong (just as good as Dueling, which is great), but it’s harder to optimize a character around thrown weapons than one-handers.

  • Two-Weapon Fighting (4/5): Get to add your ability modifier to off-hand attacks when dual-wielding (usually you don’t get this). That works out to a +3 to +5 damage boost to your offhand attacks, which is really strong. But two-weapon fighting is a tad clunky in 5e, since it eats up your bonus action to do it. If your subclass doesn’t eat up your bonus actions already, this is a great option for dual-wielding focused Fighters.

  • Unarmed Fighting (2/5): 1d6 + Strength modifier for unarmed strikes, going up to 1d8 if you’re not wielding weapons or a shield. Plus, +1d4 bludgeoning damage for free at the start of your turn to a creature you’re grappling. I really want to like this character concept, but even if you’re grappling 100% of the time, you’ll deal better, more consistent damage using a weapon. Leave the fisticuffs to the Monks.

Level 2 – Action Surge (5/5)

Once per rest (short or long), you get +1 action. This is a phenomenal feature, and a big reason why some players choose to multiclass into Fighter for two levels. The action economy is everything in DnD 5e, and +1 action that’s usable 2-3 times a day can be a huge momentum swing in important fights.

Usually, you’ll be using it to attack one more time (or more, once you get Extra Attack), and death is the absolute best control condition in the game; enemies can’t fight back once you’ve dispatched of them!

Level 4 – Martial Versatility (4/5)

Yay, you can switch your fighting style. At least, whenever you hit a level that gives an Ability Score Improvement (levels 4, 6, 8, 12, 14, 16, 19).

If you have a core character concept that’s unchanging throughout your campaign, this feature does nothing for you. But if you’re open to changing tactics based on what weapons you find along your adventure, this is a massive boon for Fighters.

Levels 5 and 11 – Extra Attack (5/5)

You can attack twice, instead of once, when you take the Attack action. This scales up to three attacks at level 11 and four attacks at 20th-level, giving Fighters the most attacks per turn of any class in DnD 5e.

This is an incredibly strong feature on every martial class that has it, including Fighters. Twice (or thrice/quadruple) the chance to hit, crit, apply on-hit effects, and just plain do what you do best: deal reliable damage.

Levels 9, 13, and 17 – Indomitable (5/5)

Once per long rest, reroll a saving throw you fail. Scales up to twice and three times per long rest at levels 13 and 17.

This is game-changing (literally) if you use it on powerful spells and abilities that can completely take you out of the fight, like a dragon’s Frightful Presence (ew, Wisdom saves).

Do not waste this powerful feature on damage spells — save it for stuff that will ruin your combat capability for an extended duration if you fail.

Fighter Ability Scores

Here are all the ability scores in 5e, and how important they each are for Fighters:

  • Strength (5/5 or 1/5): The main ability for most Fighters, Strength dictates your damage, ability to wear armor, and important skills your party will rely on you for. Note that if you want to use a finesse or ranged weapon and don’t care about wearing heavy armor, Strength becomes a useless ability for a Fighter.

  • Dexterity (2/5 or 5/5): This will dictate your damage and AC if you’re not wearing heavy armor and plan to attack with ranged or finesse weapons. Otherwise, Dexterity isn’t very important for Fighters (one of the few classes that’s true for).

  • Constitution (3/5): Responsible for how many hit points you gain each level — usually your secondary ability after Strength or Dexterity. Abilities that force Constitution saving throws can also be deadly, so having a higher Con is always good for that as well.

  • Intelligence (1/5): Unless you’re playing an Eldritch Knight or Psi Warrior Fighter, Intelligence is a dump stat for you.

  • Wisdom (2/5): Perception and Insight are useful on every character in DnD, and both are controlled by Wisdom. Plus, some of the nastiest abilities and spells in 5e force Wis saves, making Wisdom a solid tertiary ability score for Fighters (but feats are usually better once you’re happy with your main two ability scores).

  • Charisma (1/5): Most groups will already have a “Face” who relies on Charisma (Bards, Paladins, and Warlocks all rely on it), so your Fighter can dump this stat completely.

Fighter Skills

Fighters start with proficiency in their choice of any of the two skills below:

  • Acrobatics (2/5): Acrobatics won’t come up too often, and in some situations, Athletics can cover you instead. Unless you’re a Dex-based Fighter, Athletics is the better option here.

  • Animal Handling (1/5): Let someone else in the party handle this skill. Unless you’re gonna go crazy as a horse thief or something.

  • Athletics (5/5): Comes up a lot. And, as a Fighter, you’re likely to Shove/Grapple more often than most (or be targeted by them), which is based on Athletics in either case.

  • History (1/5): Intelligence is a dump stat for non-EK/Psi Warrior Fighters, so History proficiency will work against a bad natural modifier. Let someone else handle this.

  • Insight (2/5): Same reason as above; Insight is Int-based. However, it’s generally more useful as a skill, so I rate it slightly higher.

  • Intimidation (3/5): Sure, Charisma is a dump stat for Fighters. But if your DM uses variant skill checks (an official rule), then Strength (Intimidation) checks are possible, making Intimidation your best route for social situations (just beware the consequences!)

  • Perception (5/5): Perception is useful on literally every character in 5e. It’s how you avoid being surprised, find traps, and notice hidden features of your environment. You can never go wrong with proficiency in Perception.

  • Survival (3/5): Good for finding the right way in a dungeon or outdoors environment, but better for a character who already has a good Wisdom score.

Fighter Races

I’m not going to go over EVERY race and how it works for Fighters. Instead, I’ll break down a few strong options. Note that I’m ignoring racial ability score modifiers, since most tables (in my experience) use Tasha’s Customized Origin rule for +2/+1 to whatever ability scores you want (yay, no more racial determinism!)

  • Half-Orc. Relentless Endurance lets you avoid falling to 0 HP (falling to 1 instead) once a day; basically a free Death Ward (4th-level spell) for a character that’s likely to be targeted by enemies often. Savage Attacks adds an extra damage die to your critical hits. Intimidation proficiency and Darkvision are nice bonuses.

  • Dragonborn. Breath Weapon is a decent AoE damage option for a class that lacks it, and you’ll already be in melee range most of the time. Damage resistance is always nice, and the elemental options are all common enough (probably fire most of all). Gem Dragonborns are even better, with a bonus action Gem Flight once a day (1 minute of flying — great on melee classes) and a fun little Psionic Mind ability.

  • Mountain Dwarf. Advantage against poison saving throws and resistance to poison damage, tool proficiency, and two +2 ability score modifiers (instead of one +2 and one +1). You get Darkvision as well, but the 25-foot movement speed is a bit annoying for melee Fighters.

  • Bugbear. Advantage on saves against charm, Stealth proficiency, Darkvision, +5 feet range with melee attacks (very, very good), and Surprise Attack for +2d6 damage to a creature who hasn’t taken a turn yet in combat. This is one of my personal favorites for Fighters, especially if you’re going with a “Defender” build that uses the Sentinel and Polearm Master feats.

  • Hobgoblin. Advantage on saves against charm, Darkvision, and two great abilities: Fey Gift and Fortune from the Many. Fey Gift lets you take the Help action as a bonus action and makes the Help action do even more (+1d6 + proficiency bonus temporary hit points, +10 movement speed, or disadvantage for target of attacks), which are all great and highly usable, since your bonus action isn’t usually spoken for. And Fortune of the Many gives a +3 max bonus to a failed attack roll, ability check, or saving throw (best used to pass a failed save against a shutdown ability).

  • Duergar. Advanced Darkvision, poison advantage/resistance, advantage against charms and stuns, and the ability to use Enlarge/Reduce (3rd-level) and Invisibility (5th-level) once a day each. So, so much good stuff for melee characters here.

  • Githyanki. Invisible Mage Hand from level 1 and Misty Step (bonus action teleport) at level 5 are the big ones here, but you can also choose and change one skill proficiency each day. Resistance to psychic damage is a nice perk as well.

  • Goliath. Athletics proficiency, cold resistance, and the ability to reduce incoming damage by 1d12 + proficiency bonus, usable a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus each day. Phenomenal race for FIghter tanks.

  • Warforged. Advantage/resistance to poison, disease immunity, sleep immunity, +1 skill and tool proficiencies. and, most importantly, +1 AC. Again, a great option for tanky character builds.

I purposely didn’t include some generally “overpowered” races that are good for any class (Magic Resistance on Yuan-Ti, for example).

fighter vs. balor and beholder dnd 5e minis

Fighter Backgrounds

Backgrounds add extra proficiencies and bonuses to your character, in addition to giving flavor to how your character became an adventurer. Some make more sense (thematically and/or mechanically) than others for a Fighter:

  • Charlatan (3/5): Deception and Sleight of Hand proficiencies are nice to have, as are tool proficiencies with a disguise kit and (less so) a forgery kit.

  • City Watch (2/5): Athletics and Insight are good skill proficiencies, and knowing +2 languages is always nice.

  • Criminal (2/5): Stealth proficiency is good for negating your disadvantage from heavy armor, and thieves’ tool proficiency is great if your party lacks a Rogue or Artificer to handle lockpicking.

  • Outlander (2/5): Athletics, Survival, musical instrument proficiencies and +1 language — a solid pick.

  • Sailor (2/5): Athletics and perception proficiencies are great and free you up to take other Fighter skill proficiencies. Nothing else great here, though.

  • Soldier (3/5): Athletics and Intimidation proficiencies and, thematically, very easy to square with the Fighter class.

  • Urban Bounty Hunter (3/5): Pick 2 of 4 proficiencies from Deception, Insight, Persuasion, and Stealth (Stealth + 1 other is a good idea). Plus, thieves’ tools proficiency.

  • Urchin (3/5): Stealth, Sleight of Hand, disguise kit, and thieves’ tools proficiencies — all good stuff (although Sleight of Hand is kind of a waste).

  • Uthgardt Tribe Member (2/5): Athletics, Survival, and artisan’s tools proficiencies, and +1 language — pretty much the same as Outlander.

Fighter Feats

With more Ability Score Improvements than any other class in DnD 5e, Fighters can max out their main ability score(s) and gain feats early to boot. I cut out the 1/5 and 2/5 feats from the list below, but here are some of the best feats for Fighters in 5e:

  • Alert (4/5): Can’t be surprised, +5 (!) to initiative, and attackers don’t get unseen attack advantage. The +5 initiative is what we’re really here for — the earlier you go in the turn, the faster you kill stuff, and the less damage you and your party takes as a result.

  • Chef (3/5): +1 Con, +1d8 healing to anyone who uses a Hit Dice during a short rest, and the ability to make 2-6 treats at the end of a long rest that give +proficiency bonus temporary hit points to whoever eats them. Good on any class as a support feat.

  • Crossbow Expert (5/5): Ignore loading quality of crossbows, no disadvantage on ranged attacks when within 5 feet of enemy, and ability to attack with a hand crossbow as a bonus action after using the Attack action. Hands down the most important feat for ranged Fighters to maximize damage.

  • Crusher (4/5): +1 Str or Con, crits give advantage against that creature for a full round, and can move an enemy 5 feet after hitting it with bludgeoning damage. All solid buffs, but the ability to move a creature 5 feet is extra strong with parties that rely on space-based crowd control abilities (Web, Spirit Guardians, Moonbeam, Spike Growth, etc.).

  • Defensive Duelist (5/5): When wielding a finesse weapon, can use a reaction to add your proficiency bonus to your AC after being hit by a melee attack, possibly causing the attack to miss. This is so, so strong if you’re playing a Dex-based melee Fighter; basically, an infinite Shield spell.

  • Durable (3/5): +1 Con and minimum HP restored from Hit Dice is twice your Con modifier (so likely 6 to 10). This is pretty huge for saving healing resources throughout the day and makes short rests a big source of reliable healing.

  • Fey Touched (3/5): Misty Step and +1 Divination or Enchantment spell (Bless is my top choice), castable once per day each. A bonus action 30-foot teleport is great for melee classes (and all classes, really), and Bless makes you and two other allies hit more often and avoid more failed saving throws while freeing up your Cleric’s concentration for something else.

  • Fighting Initiate (3/5): +1 fighting style. Solid if you want Dueling and Defense for a consistently strong offensive and defensive Fighter (although it’s a tad boring as far as feat selections go…)

  • Gift of the Chromatic Dragon (4/5): +1d4 elemental damage for a weapon for 1 minute and the ability to use a reaction against elemental damage to get resistance to it (usable a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus each day). The bonus damage is okay, but the resistance is even better; basically a free Absorb Elements spell that can help you survive Dragon Breath and the like.

  • Great Weapon Master (5/5): Whenever you land a critical hit or kill a creature, +1 melee weapon attack as a bonus action AND you can take a -5 penalty on an attack roll for +10 damage if it hits. Mathematically, this is one of the strongest feats in the game, and the obvious #1 choice for maximizing your damage output.

  • Heavy Armor Master (3/5): +1 Str and -3 damage from nonmagical weapon damage while in heavy armor. This is very, very strong early game and against minions and the like, but it’s much less useful as you progress and nonmagical attacks become rare and -3 damage/minion attacks are no longer a big deal.

  • Lucky (5/5): Reroll d20 rolls up to three times a day. Save this for failed saving throws for maximum effect. Fantastic on every class, but boring as heck.

  • Martial Adept (3/5): +2 maneuvers and +1 superiority die (1d6). Battle Master maneuvers are great, and having more options is always good. But I personally think other feats are stronger for Fighters.

  • Mobile (4/5): +10 movement, difficult terrain doesn’t affect you when you Dash, and don’t provoke opportunity attacks against creatures you melee attack. More movement and fewer incoming opportunity attacks is huge, especially for a melee fighter who wants to be everywhere at once on the battlefield.

  • Polearm Master (5/5): +1d4 bonus action attack after attacking with a polearm and enemies who ENTER your range provoke an opportunity attack. A lot more consistent damage/on-hit trigger effects and tons more battlefield control (especially when paired with the Sentinel feat).

  • Resilient (3/5): +1 ability score and proficiency in saving throws for the ability you choose. Wisdom is my pick for the best option, since it’s the only way to consistently pass saves against devastating spells and abilities that enemies have in spades. Dexterity is also decent, since many hard-hitting abilities rely on Dex saves.

  • Sentinel (5/5): You ignore enemy Disengage, can use your reaction to redirect an attack against an ally within 5 feet to you instead, and hitting a creature with an opportunity attack drops its speed to 0 for the turn. Excellent battlefield control/tankiness (enemies can’t run from you once you’re in range), decent ally protection, and beautiful synergy with Polearm Master — now when an enemy enters your 10-foot range, you stop them in their tracks, leaving them unable to attack anyone that turn (unless they have ranged options).

  • Sharpshooter (5/5): Ignore disadvantage for long-range attacks, ignore half and three-quarters cover, and can take -5 on your attack roll for +10 damage with ranged weapons. Combined with Crossbow Expert, this leaves absolutely no disadvantage to using ranged weapons over melee weapons. Not to mention the damage boost is necessary for a fully optimized ranged Fighter.

  • Shield Master (3/5): Bonus action shove after attacking, add shield’s ACM bonus to Dex saves, and can use a reaction to take 0 damage from successful Dex saves that usually deal half damage. Overall, a solid defensive and offensive option, and the shove can be very useful for giving allies attack advantage (or yourself, with Extra Attack) against the now-prone target.

  • Skill Expert (4/5): +1 ability score, +1 skill proficiency, and Expertise in one skill (double proficiency bonus). If you’re building a grappler-type character, Expertise in Athletics is essential to your success.

  • Tavern Brawler (3/5): +1 Str or Con, use a d4 for unarmed strikes (redundant if you have unarmed fighting style), and can grapple as a bonus action after hitting a creature with an unarmed strike. Great if you’re building a knock-off Monk and using the unarmed fighting style; otherwise, it’s worthless.

  • Tough (3/5): +2 hit points per level. If you want the highest possible HP, this feat is necessary. But I think it’s only worth it once you have Constitution maxed out at 20, and many other defensive feats will raise your “effective hit points” more than this does.

  • War Caster (5/5): Can cast spells as opportunity attacks — not useful on most Fighters, but downright necessary for Eldritch Knights.

dnd elvish archer lining up her shot

Fighter Subclasses

Fighter subclasses open up the door to game-changing customization options, but some are definitely more powerful than others. Here’s a brief rundown of each, looking specifically at the features from 3rd and 7th level:

  • Arcane Archer (2/5): As the name implies, Arcane Archers are semi-magical-focused, ranged weapon-wielding Fighters. It sounds super cool, but they’re let down by the fact that other Fighter subclasses can be much better archers than them (somewhat because their features only work with shortbows and longbows, and crossbows are the best-in-slot, meta option for ranged characters in 5e).

    Their first 3rd-level features grant proficiency in Arcana or Nature and the ability to cast the Prestidigitation or Druidcraft cantrips – neat, but not gamechanging. Arcane Shot is the main 3rd-level feature, giving you two Arcane Shot options that you can apply after the arrow hits. Some of these are pretty good, but you only get two uses per short rest…all the way to level 20.

    At 7th-level, Magic Arrow allows you get around nonmagical resistance, and Curving Shot allows you to to redirect a ranged attack misses to make a bonus action attack against a different target. Overall, these features are pretty “meh” and don’t live up to most players’ expectations of a cool ranged Fighter.

  • Battle Master (5/5): Wins my vote for the most fun Fighter subclass in DnD 5e, and it’s mechanically strong as well. A choice of three maneuvers from a huge list (only like 6 are good, but they’re really good) that you can use four times(!) per rest (short or long), scaling to +1 at levels 7 and 15. You also get proficiency with your choice of artisan’s tools at level 3, but that’s way less exciting. Maneuvers literally make this archetype what it is.

    Battle Master’s 7th-level feature is kind of weak by comparison; the ability to learn if you’re stronger, equal, or inferior to an enemy you size up in any ability score, AC, HP, or level. Really doesn’t come up that often. The 3rd-level feature-heavy Battle Master is a great candidate for multiclassing.

  • Cavalier (4/5): Cavaliers rely on mounted combat which, in my experience, is hard to run consistently, what with narrow dungeons and other indoor settings being a common feature of most campaigns. Their 3rd-level feature gives them advantage to not fall off their mount and land on their feet if they do fall off, while also making dismounting cost less movement speed. Their second 3rd-level feature grants proficiency in a skill (they’re not great options) or +1 language.

    Their third 3rd-level feature, Unwavering Mark, is the good one — marking foes so that they have disadvantage attacking anyone except the Fighter, and you get a free attack if it does (Strength modifier times per day). Tanking is hard in 5e, and this is one of the best single-target soft taunts in the game.

    Their 7th-level feature, Warding Maneuver, allows them to roll a 1d8 as a reaction when they or a creature within 5 feet is attacked, adding the result to the target’s AC. Even if the attack still hits, it only deals half damage. Usable Con modifier times per day (basically a free subpar Shield spell 2-5 times per day). Together with Unwavering Mark, this makes Cavaliers a great defender subclass, even if you can’t make the most of mounted combat.

  • Champion (2/5): A simple subclass that’s good for beginners but will likely put veteran players to sleep. 3rd-level feature allows you to critical hit on a 19 or 20 (doubling your crit chance from 5% to 10%). Fine, and even better with a Half-Orc, but not that exciting most of the time. Their 7th-level feature allows you to add half your proficiency bonus to any Str, Dex, or Con check that you’re not already proficient in and long jump farther.

    Overall, I find the Champion weak and boring, but it’s fine.

  • Echo Knight (5/5): Here’s a subclass that’s anything but weak and boring. Echo Knights are…quite possibly broken with how good they are. Their main 3rd-level feature lets them Manifest an Echo as a bonus action. It has scaling AC, 1 HP, and immunity to all conditions. You can move the echo 30 feet on your turn for free (no actions), bonus action swap places with it, attack from its space, and make opportunity attacks from its position.

    The infinite teleport alone makes this feature busted good; being able to attack from its space and the extra battlefield control of opportunity attacks are just gravy. You also get Unleash Incarnation at 3rd level, allowing you to make an additional attack from the echo’s space whenever you take the attack action, Con modifier times per day. Pretty solid, but nothing compared to Manifest Echo itself.

    Their 7th-level feature lets them see through their echo and walk it around up to 1,000 feet from the Fighter. Good for scouting and such, but again, this feature isn’t what makes Echo Knights stupid good. Manifest Echo makes Fighters into the most mobile character in the game at 3rd-level, which is why this subclass is so amazing.

  • Eldritch Knight (3/5): Being a spellcasting Fighter (a battlemage, if you will) is what Eldritch Knights are all about. Many people would rate this subclass higher than me, but the spellcasting progression is just too slow for me (it’s a “1/3” caster, as opposed to the “1/2” caster progressions of Artificers, Paladins, and Rangers). You only get 2nd-level spells at 7th level, at which point full casters are getting 4th-level spells.

    You also get Weapon Bond, which allows you to summon the weapon to you as a bonus action and you can’t be disarmed, as a 3rd-level feature. Their 7th-level feature is more intriguing; War Magic lets you use your action for a cantrip, then make one weapon attack as a bonus action.

    Overall, Eldritch Knights are definitely strong; having the Shield spell on frontliner is noice, for example. And the War Caster feat along with Booming Blade can make for some very fun moments in combat. But don’t expect your gameplay to change as much as you might expect; you’ll still be attacking with a weapon more often than spellcasting in combat, and you have to put points into Intelligence to make use of any spell attacks/saving throw-based spells effectively (14 Int is usually sufficient).

  • Psi Warrior (3/5): The Psi Warrior is exactly what you think it is; a Fighter with Psi powers. Their 3rd-level feature, Psionic Power, lets them use one of three powers with a scaling Psionic Energy dice. It can reduce incoming damage to you or an ally, deal extra psychic damage on an attack, or telekinetically move an object or creature 30 feet. You can use these abilities once per long rest, and get them back as a bonus action once per rest (once per short or long rest) (so 2-4 times a day).

    These abilities are all pretty useful in different situations, and fun to use. Their 7th-level feature lets them fly for one turn, once per rest (unless they use a Psi die to do it again), or shove targets hit by their Psionic Strike (the bonus damage effect from 3rd level). This is a decent subclass that’s interesting to play, but I still prefer the Battle Master for similar, but more frequently-available, extra powers.

  • Purple Dragon Knight/Banneret (2/5): 3rd-level feature grants up to three allies Fighter level HP when you use Second Wind — pretty good as a faux-Mass Healing Word, a top-tier healing spell.

    7th-level is Expertise (double proficiency bonus) in Persuasion and +1 skill proficiency. Fine, but you really don’t want to be forced into putting points into Charisma, and your party likely already has a better Face. Kind of boring subclass with not much fun going on mechanically.

  • Rune Knight (4/5): 3rd-level feature grants 2 out of 6 possible runes, which give passive bonuses and come with active abilities that are generally usable once per rest (short or long). The passive effects generally give advantage in two skills, one one skill + another bonus effect. The active effects range from okay to great.

    You also get Giant Might as a 3rd-level feature, which allows you to use a bonus action to become large-sized, get advantage on Strength checks and saves, or deal +1d6 damage on hit for 1 minute. Great for grapplers and just dealing more damage in general.

    Runic Shield, the 7th-level feature, allows you to reroll an attack that hits an ally; solid protection/tanking feature. Overall, Rune Knights have strong passive and active effects that make them mechanically strong, varied, and fun to play.

  • Samurai (4/5): A strong Fighter subclass with a lot going for it. Proficiency in 1 or 4 skills or +1 language and the ability to grant yourself advantage on all weapon attacks as a bonus action AND gain +5 temporary hit points are your 3rd-level features. Usable three times per day.

    The 7th-level feature lets you add your Wisdom modifier to Persuasion checks and, more importantly, gain proficiency in Wisdom saves (big for Fighters, since Wisdom save abilities/spells are usually nasty if they land).

    Fighting Spirit scales very well as you get access to more and more attacks and with stuff like Great Weapon Master or Sharpshooter to negate the -5 attack roll, and the added survivability is a nice secondary effect. Overall, this subclass is reliably strong, both offensively and defensively.

Fighter Gameplay

Fighter gameplay can vary wildly depending on what type of Fighter you’re building. As a base class, Fighters are proficient with all weapons and armor, so you have so many options for the type of character you want to play. Here are a few of the gameplay style options you have as a Fighter, painting with extremely broad strokes:

  • The Tank. Wearing heavy armor, wielding a shield, and using abilities to reduce damage or force attacks to miss altogether — this is what many Fighters are built to do. Absorb the hits and negate/reduce the attacks that don’t target them. Add the Polearm Master and Sentinel feats for even more control and stickiness in combat.

  • The Damage-Dealer. Extra Attack and Action Surge give Fighters the chance to deal insane single-round damage, especially when they get advantage, have Great Weapon Master, and can generally slice their way through the battlefield. Whether you’re a finesse weapon user, a dual-wielder, a two-handed weapon user, or even a sword-and-board character, Fighters deal consistent damage.

  • The Archer. Being a ranged Fighter is totally viable and, in many ways, outshines the Ranger class itself. Grab the Archery fighting style, focus on Dexterity, wear light/medium armor, and pelt the enemy with arrows while you stay safe in the backline. A totally fun way to play a Fighter, especially if your party is already good on frontline beefcakes.

Example Fighter Builds

Here are some quick Fighter builds, along with their starting stats if you’re using point buy, good feats, subclass choices, what weapons to use, and general gameplay loop:

  • The Striker. 15 Str, 12 Dex, 15 Con, 9 Int, 10 Wis, 10 Cha. Samurai subclass. Two-handed weapon. Great Weapon Master feat. Use Fighting Spirit, Great Weapon Master -5 attack, +10 damage, and Action Surge and start tearing up the enemies in your way.

  • The Tactician. 10 Str, 15 Dex, 15 Con, 9 Int, 12 Wis, 10 Cha. Battle Master subclass. Hand crossbow. Crossbow Expert and Sharpshooter feats. Menacing Attack to frighten enemies you shoot so they can’t chase you (or your allies), Pushing Attack to shove enemies 15 feet you hit with your bow, and Precision Attack to turn near-misses into hits. Control the battlefield, deal damage at range, and support your party.

  • The Tank. 15 Str, 12 Dex, 15 Con, 9 Int, 10 Wis, 10 Cha. Cavalier subclass. Spear and shield. Polearm Master and Sentinel feats. Mark enemies so they have to attack you and protect nearby allies (and yourself) with Warding Maneuver. Use Polearm Master and Sentinel to make more opportunity attacks and control the battlefield.

  • The Battle Mage. 15 Str, 10 Dex, 14 Con, 14 Int, 12 Wis, 8 Cha. Eldritch Knight subclass. Sword and board. War Caster feat. Use Booming Blade to keep melee-range enemies from running from you (as a normal attack and opportunity attack), use the Shield spell to turn incoming hits into misses, and provide utility spells for the party.

Fighter Multiclassing

It’s easier to multiclass into a Fighter for that sweet, sweet Action Surge than it is to multiclass out of them. That said, here are some good options for mutliclassing once you hit at least level 5 for Extra Attack:

  • Barbarian. Rage and Reckless Attack are great early-level features that make a Barbarian dip quite enticing for Fighters. Go to 3rd level for another subclass and one more Rage per day.

  • Rogue. Expertise x2 and Sneak Attack at 1st level, increasing your damage output and making you a world-class shover/grappler if you get Expertise in Athletics (double proficiency bonus). Cunning Action at 2nd-level for more mobility, and another subclass, extra Sneak Attack damage, and Steady Aim at 3rd-level for even more damage output and utility.

  • Ranger Bonus damage from Favored Foe, Expertise in one skill, and +2 languages at 1st-level, an additional fighting style and spellcasting at 2nd-level, and a subclass at 3rd-level all make Ranger an attractive multiclass option for Fighters.

  • Warlock. A subclass and spellcasting at 1st-level and invocations at 2nd-level make a Warlock/Fighter build come fully online at 5th-level, sooner than most other multiclass combos. For one of the most overpowered builds in the game, go Ghostlance (Echo Knight Fighter/Undead Warlock) — more on how the build works and why it’s so dang good in this article from Tabletop Builds.

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