The Rogue is a classic fantasy archetype that’s, by most accounts, fairly well-designed in Dungeons and Dragons fifth edition. Sneak Attack damage offers a straightforward gameplay loop that’s consistent and reliable (horrible name notwithstanding), Expertise and thieves’ tools proficiencies ensure utility outside of combat, and Cunning Action provides tactical complexity to combat. Slippery defensive features like Uncanny Dodge and Evasion add to their innate survivability.

But 5e Rogues don’t become truly interesting until you dip into their subclasses. From the archetypal Thief or Assassin to wackier subclasses like the wraith-like Phantom or the brash and charming Swashbuckler, there are plenty of flavors to choose from when building a Rogue character.

In this article, I’ll cover the Rogue subclasses from best to worst and give a quick idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each.

A note on my scoring system: I am only considering a subclasses 3rd- and 9th-level features when rating them. This is with the assumption that most campaigns don’t run past 13th-level, when the 3rd set of Rogue subclass features become available. While many of these subclasses have powerful final features, I don’t think it’s fair to include them in my scoring, as they are essentially not going to be used. In the same vein, I put more weight on the quality of 3rd-level features as opposed to 9th-level, since you’ll have a lot more gameplay with the former.

Additionally, I rate the subclasses and the individual features with a score out of 5. These are relative to the Rogue class as a whole, rather than in relation to all classes and subclasses in the game. The Rogue itself is a middle to bottom-tier base class in DnD 5e, so these scores would be lower if I were comparing them to all subclasses in the game.

To keep things simple, I’m also not taking into account multiclass options that could dramatically improve some of these subclasses.

#1 – Arcane Trickster (4.5/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Spellcasting (5/5). Access to three cantrips (Mage Hand + two Wizard cantrips) and three 1st-level Wizard spells from the school of Enchantment or Illusion, using Intelligence as your spellcasting modifier. At 7th-level, you get access to 2nd-level spells as well.

    There are plenty of cantrips that pair well with Rogue’s hit-and-run tactics (e.g., Booming Blade) and loads of great Enchantment and Illusion spells to choose from, like Sleep and Hold Person at lower levels. At 8th-level+ you can get Wizard spells from any school of magic, and Find Familiar is a popular option here for granting you more attack advantage/Sneak Attacks.

  • 3rd-level feature: Mage Hand Legerdemain (4/5). Your Mage Hand is invisible and can pickpocket/plant items on creatures and pick locks or disarm traps for you. And you can use your Cunning Action’s bonus action to control the hand.

    Overall, this makes trap disarming/lockpicking/pickpocketing much easier. It also allows you to make more tactically interesting choices in combat, like bringing an item to an ally or triggering a trap, without committing your action to it.

  • 9th-level feature: Magical Ambush (3.5/5). Gives a creature disadvantage on a saving throw against your spell if you’re hidden. Ultimately, this situation won’t come up too often, and even when it does, your spell save DC is still likely bad compared to full casters. That’s kinda why you shouldn’t take spell attacks or saving throw-based spells as an Arcane Trickster in the first place.

    But, with a +2 Intelligence modifier, there are certainly good saving throw-based spells worth using as an Arcane Trickster, especially at 8th+ level when you have access to all schools of magic.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Spellcasting opens up so much more versatility to a Rogue, who’s usually a one-trick pony of big damage. Mage Hand Legerdemain leans into the classic Rogue archetype while also being entirely distinct.

  • Weaknesses: Somewhat more challenging to play than most Rogue subclasses.

#2 – Swashbuckler (4/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Fancy Footwork (5/5). Whenever you attack a creature, it can’t make opportunity attacks against you during your turn — regardless of whether the attack lands. This is quite powerful, as it’s basically a free Disengage, opening up your bonus action to Dash with Cunning Action or make an offhand attack if you’re two-weapon fighting. Pairs very well with Booming Blade if you can pick it up somehow.

  • 3rd-level feature: Rakish Audacity (3/5). You can now Sneak Attack when you are within 5 feet of your target and no other creature, so long as you follow the rest of Sneak Attack’s rules (finesse weapon, no disadvantage). While this is quite useful in one-on-one scenarios and pretty much guarantees you’ll always have Sneak Attack with smart positioning, most Rogues don’t have too much trouble proccing Sneak Attack every round without this by just focus-firing whoever is next to the tank.

    But, in the right group, where you focus on kiting, this becomes much more powerful.

  • 9th-level feature: Panache (4/5). A Persuasion check contested by the creature’s Insight check. If successful and you’re in combat, the target has disadvantage and can’t make opportunity attacks against creatures other than you (basically a soft taunt). Quite good for helping your allies, and used in conjunction with Fancy Footwork, you can effectively kite an enemy who can never catch you, or force them to fight your allies with a debuff.

    Outside of combat, Panache charms the target on a successful roll — basically, a free Charm Person, only better, because the target doesn’t know it was charmed by you after the effect wears off.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Incredibly mobile, tactically interesting to play, excellent single-target damage/tanking at 9th-level, and great out-of-combat utility as your party’s face. Dipping into Charisma as your secondary ability after Dexterity also means you can multiclass really effectively as a Hexblade Warlock or Swords Bard. And multiclassing into a Battle Master Fighter offers even more tankiness and tactical complexity to gameplay.

  • Weaknesses: Large groups, tight spaces, and ranged enemies all hamper the desired hit-and-run playstyle that makes a Swashbuckler work. These are problems for all Rogues, but the problem is more pronounced for Swashbucklers.

Full breakdown of the Swashbuckler Rogue

#3 – Soulknife (4/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Psionic Power (4/5). You have d6 Psychic Energy dice equal to your proficiency bonus, restored after finishing a long rest. This die becomes larger (d8, d10, and 12) at higher levels. You can use these dice to do one of two things:

    Psi-Bolstered Knack allows you to add your Psychic Energy dice to a failed skill or tool check you’re proficient in; the die is only expended if the roll succeeds.

    Psychic Whispers establishes telepathic communication with a number of creatures up to your proficiency bonus for a number of hours equal to your Psychic Energy die roll. You can use this once without expending a Psychic Energy die per long rest.

    Overall, getting to turn 2+ skill check fails into successes and get 1-mile telepathy with 2+ allies is quite strong for a 3rd-level feature.

  • 3rd-level feature: Psychic Blades (3/5). A psychic blade weapon that deals 1d6 psychic damage, with the option to make a bonus action offhand attack with a second blade for 1d4 damage. The blades can also be thrown up to 60 feet. Psyhcic damage is rarely resisted, and you’re never without weapons, even if you’re imprisoned and lose all your equipment.

  • 9th-level feature: Soul Blades (5/5). Adds two features to your psychic blades. Homing Strikes: when you miss an attack with a psychic blade, you can add your Psychic Energy die to the result, only expending one if it causes the attack to hit. Psychic Teleportation: a bonus action teleport up to 10 times the number rolled on a psychic energy die, which you expend.

    Both of these features are really strong, as landing a hit every round and triggering Sneak Attack damage is essential for Rogue gameplay, as is the great mobility offered by what is essentially a teleport on par with Misty Step.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Utility, especially for split-party tactics via telepathy, and more reliability for important skill checks. Options for ranged playstyle and decent mobility at higher levels.

  • Weaknesses: Damage potential is no different than the base Rogue class prior to 9th-level.

#4 – Phantom (3.5/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Whispers of the Dead (2/5). The ability to be proficient in any skill or tool of your choice, and the ability to change it to any other skill or tool after a short or long rest. This is nice, but not that good overall; like, your party is probably already covered for skill proficiencies in 80% of the skills already.

  • 3rd-level feature: Wails from the Grave (3/5). Whenever you deal Sneak Attack damage, you can deal half your level’s worth of Sneak Attack damage against a second target within 30 feet of the first creature. You can use this a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, restored after finishing a long rest.

    While the bonus damage is decent, spreading damage isn’t optimal in 5e; focus fire is. This basically works out to +7 damage per adventuring day at low levels, scaling up +40 per day at 10th-level. Not bad, but not exactly game-changing either.

  • 9th-level feature: Tokens of the Departed (4/5). Whenever a creature dies within 30 feet, you can create a soul trinket, holding a total number of trinkets up to your proficiency bonus. When you have a soul trinket, you have advantage on death and Constitution saving throws. Also, whenever you deal Sneak Attack damage, you can break a soul trinket to use Wails of the Grave without expending a use. Or you can destroy it to ask the spirit associated with the trinket one question (like Speak With Dead, but only one question).

    Overall, option two is what you’ll be using most often to deal a lot more damage over the course of an adventuring day with Wails of the Grave. The Speak With Dead part can also be useful in some scenarios, and advantage on an additional saving throw is never a bad thing, especially a somewhat common one like Constitution.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Adaptability, out-of-combat utility, and decent spread damage.

  • Weaknesses: Sort of low damage overall and repetitive combat gameplay. Really good feature doesn’t come until 9th-level.

#5 – Scout (3/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Skirmisher (4/5). When an enemy ends its turn within 5 feet of you, you can move half your speed as a reaction, and the movement doesn’t trigger opportunity attacks.

    Quite good for being extra slippery, and opens up your bonus action rather than needing to use Cunning Action Disengage. Plus, it stops ALL opportunity attacks, not just from the offending creature, so if you’re being swarmed, one extra enemy joining the bunch can actually be a blessing.

  • 3rd-level feature: Survivalist (2/5). Proficiency and Expertise (double proficiency bonus) in Nature and Survival. Free Expertise is never a bad thing, but Nature and Survival aren’t the most common skill checks you’ll be making.

  • 9th-level feature: Superior Mobility (2/5). +10 movement speed, which applies to climbing and swimming speeds if you have those. Fine little buff, but disappointing at 9th-level.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Mobility, hit-and-run tactics, good as a ranged attacker who kites enemies rather than stands and fights. Extra useful in wilderness-heavy campaigns, where your Nature and Survival skills can shine much more often.

  • Weaknesses: Low damage and limited out-of-combat utility in most settings.

scout rogue minis d&d 5e

#6 – Thief (3/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Fast Hands (4/5). Allows you to use your Cunning Action to make a Sleight of Hand check, disarm a trap/pick a lock, or use an object. Using an object as a bonus action opens up a lot of possibilities for creative players — alchemist’s fire and caltrops come to mind as the most common uses. Sadly, magic items cannot be used with Fast Hands.

  • 3rd-level feature: Second Story Work (2/5). Allows you to climb as fast as your normal movement and running jump (Dexterity modifier) more feet. Depending on your campaign, these things might rarely or never come up.

  • 9th-level feature: Supreme Sneak (2/5). Advantage on Stealth checks when you move at half speed. Good out of combat when you’re the only one sneaking for a mission, but kind of hard to make real use of in combat unless there are lots of places to hide mid-fight with your Cunning Action.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Fast Hands is a player favorite for all sorts of extra damage via things like acid, alchemist’s fire, hunting traps, or oil, and for extra utility with things like caltrops, healer’s kits, and holy water.

  • Weaknesses: Quite weak in combat unless you’re able/willing to always buy items to use with Fast Hands. Second Story Work and Supreme Sneak are thematically cool, but rarely useful.

#7 – Mastermind (2.5/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Master of Intrigue (3/5). Proficiency with the disguise kit, forgery kit, and on gaming set, plus two additional languages. Add to that the ability to mimic the speech patterns of a native speaker of any land you know the language of, and you have great opportunities for good roleplaying scenarios.

  • 3rd-level feature: Master of Tactics (4/5). You can use the Help action as a bonus action, and aid an ally in attacking a target within 30 feet of you. Giving out advantage to your allies every round is no small thing, so this is a nice, reliable boost to party-wide damage…if you don’t need your bonus action for anything else (like Cunning Action or two-weapon fighting).

  • 9th-level feature: Insightful Manipulator (1/5). Spend 1 minute to learn whether a creature is better or worse than you in mental abilities and one piece of the creature’s history or personality. Neat flavor, but incredibly underwhelming for a 9th-level feature.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Out-of-combat utility via infiltration and intrigue and decent offensive buffer for your party, especially other martial characters.

  • Weaknesses: Low damage and very poor high-level features.

#8 – Assassin (2/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Bonus Proficiencies (2/5). Disguise kit and poisoner’s kit proficiencies. Poisons are kind of whack in 5e, but the disguise kit proficiency can come in handy if nobody else in your party has it.

  • 3rd-level feature: Assassinate (2/5). You have advantage on attack rolls against a creature that hasn’t had a turn in combat yet, and you auto-crit any creature you hit who is surprised.

    Surprise rounds can be a tricky thing to actually achieve, in my experience, so this isn’t something you can count on getting in every fight (or even, like 25%+ of fights). The advantage on attack rolls part for your first round of combat will happen frequently with a decent initiative modifier, so that’s still a nice perk. And when you DO get a surprise round, you essentially have this attack advantage for two rounds — round 1 when they’re surprised, and round 2 before they have a turn in combat.

  • 9th-level feature: Infiltration Expertise (1/5). Pay 25 gp and spend 7 days to establish a fake identity that others will believe unless given a reason not to. Ultimately, I think most DMs would give ANY player with a disguise kit proficiency, the right background, the right skills, or a combination of all three, the ability to achieve exactly what this feature does.

    In my opinion, the worst 9th-level Rogue feature in the game. It’s worse than ribbon, because it implies that nobody except an Assassin Rogue can do this, which I think hampers legitimate and creative gameplay if you hold to that.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Great single-target damage for one or two rounds of combat if you can surprise an enemy.

  • Weaknesses: Often doesn’t play out the way most players envision/fantasize about when considering an Assassin character.

#9 – Inquisitive (1/5)


  • 3rd-level feature: Ear for Deceit (2/5). Cannot roll lower than an 8 on Insight checks to determine if a creature is lying. This certainly comes up (quest giver motives, bad guy explanations when confronted, etc.), but not often enough to rate highly.

  • 3rd-level feature: Eye for Detail (1/5). Bonus action to make a Perception check to spot hidden creatures or make an Investigation check to uncover or decipher clues. Hidden creatures aren’t really a thing once a fight breaks out, and looking for clues is not a thing you do in a fight, so there’s not usually reason to make these checks in combat anyway.

  • 3rd-level feature: Insightful Fighting (2/5). Bonus action Insight check against the target’s Deception — if you succeed, you can Sneak Attack the target even if you don’t meet the normal qualifications (but you still can’t have disadvantage). Rogue’s Steady Aim kind of makes this feature redundant unless you need to move on the same turn as attacking, but if you’re investing in Insight anyway, this does pretty much guarantee that you’ll always have Sneak Attack.

  • 9th-level feature: Steady Eye (1/5). Make Perception and Investigation checks with advantage if you move no more than half your speed on the same turn. These are certainly important abilities that are nice to have advantage on, but as a 9th-level feature? Pretty weak stuff.

Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Strengths: Intrigue missions, sniffing out ambushes, and another avenue for Sneak Attack damage.

  • Weaknesses: Overall mechanically weak, somewhat redundant, and lackluster features. Need to invest in Wisdom to really shine, which is not usually what Rogues want to do.

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