Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ranking Pathfinder Classes (Updated)

This old post is by far the most popular on this blog but after the last three years it is rather out of date as Pathfinder has expanded with more classes, features, and feats.

A ranking system never works very well because the classes are so different it makes them difficult to compare. This time I'm going to group the classes up a bit by role although this will get tricky as some classes like the bard can do a bit of everything.

Arcane Full Casters
1. The wizard comes out on top. If you leave a few spells slots open and have a very full spell book then as long as you are not being rushed you probably have a solution for every problem. A good wizard is the QB of every strong adventuring party. Most wizard customization comes via the spell book.
2. Sorcerer. Still extremely powerful, sorcerers have limited spells and tend to focus a bit more than the wizard. With a Haversack full of scrolls they can do just as well as a wizard. The wizard vs sorcerer debate is largely a matter of personal preference. As long as both are well conceived and properly built, you can't go wrong.
3. Witch. Witches are awesome or awful depending on what you are doing. Their limited spell selection hurts but its partially made up with Hexes. Witches are near useless against anything that is immune to mind affecting effects which includes many high end monsters. In any case, they get a bit boring since you tend to cast the same hexes in same order fight after fight. Witches have some very interesting archetypes like the White Haired Witch and the Scarred Witch Doctor.

Divine Full Casters
1. Cleric. Which is the best  divine caster really comes down to what your character concept is. I think in terms of well rounded awesomeness the cleric can't be beat. 
2. Druid. Once you get into more niche builds than things change a bit. The druid can be a fearsome melee machine backed up with self buffs. The ability to spontaneously summon creatures is great when you need a bit of help on the front line. The Animal companion makes a great flanking buddy and a some extra DPS.
3. Oracle. While only slightly less awesome than the cleric, the Oracle excels at specialized builds. A battle oracle is arguably better than a battle cleric. They can also be good archers. The different mysteries allow for more customization than a cleric's domains.

The 2/3 Casters
1. The Summoner is the mightiest and most versatile of this classification. They cast almost as well as a sorcerer - and get early access to some great spells. They have a pet that is usually as powerful as the party Fighter. If the Eidolon is defeated they can just summon more help as a standard action.
2. Bard. The bard is the ultimate in flexibility. Different archetypes allow the bard to specialize in different roles although I can't think of any archetype that lets the bard be a good healer. Every group is stronger with a bard around.
3. Inquisitor. I like the Inquisitor class and they have done pretty well in play but I have yet to see one really shine. I still think and archer build can be really great but the melee version just isn't strong enough defensively. Melee Inquisitors are going to get clobbered.
4. Alchemist. An alchemist with Infusion is probably the games strongest single target buffer. They have lots of knowledge skills and their bombs and some good versatility. Alchemist score pretty highly in my books because they have several different build options and they all seem to be fairly effective. Alchemists have several interesting archetypes that really change things up like Vivisectionist, Beastmorph, and Mindchemist. Just stay away from Rage Chemist.
5. Magus. Great flavor and seemingly effective, I find they lose their shine a bit at very high levels.  They work best when you have only a few battles a day. A long adventuring day and they become a crappy fighter pretty quickly.

The Rest
1. Barbarian. The Core barbarian is pretty bleh. Later splatbooks added lots of great archetypes and Rage powers that don't stink.The barbarian today is in a great spot and one of the strongest melee classes of all. Pounce, DR, Come and Get Me, and Spell Sunder are all awesome in play.
2. Paladin. Paladins are great if your DM isn't a dick and purposely tries to make you fall. If they are sticklers for the paladin code, forget this class and keep reading. Otherwise, the paladin has lots of great build options and can make for a very interesting character. They have superb defenses and against evil a few times a day they can blow away everything.
3. Ranger. They Ranger is a great class to play with lots of fun options. Where they can get rather weak though is that their main class feature is largely dependent on the DM. If you never meet any of your favored enemy you are just a crappy fighter with a dog and few spells.
4. Gunslinger. My group isn't so keen on guns so no one has played one yet but they strike me as a solid damage dealing class with a few non dps options. I keep waiting for a spellslinger type archetype to come along that combine spells with guns (and not the terrible wizard archetype). I just find the Gunslinger class features a bit boring.
5. Fighter. If your Pathfinder games consist of nothing but combat then Fighter is the class for you. Slightly less effective than the stereotype barbarian build, the fighter is much easier to build for newbs and is consistently effective across all levels. They do great damage but really not much else. Fighters do have some interesting archetypes however like LoreWarden.
6. Samurai. A bit better than the cavalier because of its reroll ability. My group doesn't like Asian flavor in its Pathfinder so no one has played one of these. 
7. Cavalier. I have tried to fit some of my character ideas onto a cavalier but I'm never happy with the results. The Houndmaster Archetype is very cool but it just can't compare to the optimized builds that I can do with other classes. This class always seems to come across to me as a crappy paladin with only a weak code to worry about (this is a stronger option if your DM is a dick).
8. Ninja. Great in a stealth/assassin type campaign but otherwise they fall down here on the list. Although their Ki powers give them more options than a rogue they still suffer mainly of the same issues such as have no bonuses to hit and 3/4 BAB, terrible saves, and dependent on sneak attack for damage.
9. Monk. Monk is only saved from the bottom of the list by some of its great archetypes. Zen Archer is a top tier archer, Tetori Monk is a fine grappler, and the Flowing Monk has some very cool moves. The base Monk though is terrible. Avoid it.
10. Rogue. While the rogue has some serious problems many of them could be fixed if they introduced some Rogue talents that were actually good. Whereas the Barbarian trades Feats for Rage powers, the Rogue trades Rogue talents for Feats. That should speak volumes. Unless you are playing a low magic campaign where almost all of the other classes are banned, avoid the rogue.

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