Dungeons & Dragons: 10 Subclasses That Can Make Any Spellcaster Into A Tank
There are plenty of subclasses in Dungeons & Dragons which can allow a spellcaster to become quite the tank in battle and thus turn the tide. The tabletop experience has already gone through a revitalization due to the popularity of Actual Play shows like Critical Role and Dimension 20. However, with an increased focus on the D&D franchise, thanks to the upcoming release of Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, a new cinematic universe appears to be in the works. While the jury is still out whether the series will be cemented on screen, the game itself is more popular than ever.
A well-balanced D&D party will have a range of player types and there is sure to be someone who wishes to take on the role of a tank. In the context of role-playing games, a tank is a character that can take significant damage and keep on fighting. Usually, this falls to a martial class while the spellcasters tend to be seen as a glass cannon, powerful yet fragile. Several subclasses can take the base skills of spellcasters and buff up these tank qualities into a formidable foe.
Clerics are a fantastic class to have in the field, with a campaign genuinely benefiting from these priestly champions that draw their power from the entities that they worship. Just because they might be religious types, that doesn’t mean they can’t be transformed into tanks, and the Tempest Domain subclass is an excellent place to start on that journey.
There are of course some brilliant magical items for Clerics that will only boost their potential further. However, the notable reason the Tempest Domain works so well in this regard is because of its balance between durability and power. Tanks need to be durable and in this configuration that’s the case for the Tempest Cleric, with its offensive abilities ensuring there is crowd control on the battlefield thanks to the likes of Thunderbolt Strike and Wrath of the Storm.
Druids have always been powerful spellcasters for the Dungeon Master to help a party utilize within a campaign. Their abilities vary massively, but this nature-based class has a tank up its sleeve. The Circle of the Moon subclass is one of the most impressive character builds that players can put together in the entire tabletop experience.
Sure there are some powerful Druid magical items that will make them even more unstoppable, but the durability and attack options for a Circle of Moon Druid are next-level. Combat Wild Shape allows the Druid to transform into something deadly, while Elemental Wild Shape brings the dangers of the natural world into play. The unpredictability of utilizing this Druid ensures that they can power through hordes and control the tide of conflict.
Of all the Monk subclasses in Dungeons & Dragons the Way of the Long Death is among those that would fit into the tank category perfectly. Tanks can be defined in different ways and the most common is those that can just keep taking damage. That’s the case, here, with a Monk’s traditional combat skills coming in handy to fight back large crowds.
While there are other powerful Monk subclasses whose ki manipulation is almost like spellcasting, it’s not out of the question for this subclass to learn further magic through a feat or multiclassing. Touch Of Death does use those mystical forces to siphon the life force from enemies. Mastery of Death and Touch of the Long Death keeps the player in the battle for longer, healing as they go and terrifying the enemy.
Sorcerers are among the best spellcasters, and they can easily be turned into a tank with the right manipulation. Interestingly, there aren’t any particular subclasses that lend themselves to the setup without some tinkering, but conversely many of them can be a good base to build up from. The Shadow Magic subclass is arguably the most sufficient base to forge on.
The versatility of the Shadow Magic subclass cannot be overstated, able to play a powerful support role in a D&D game or able to deal serious damage. Eyes of the Dark, Strength from the Grave, and Hound of Ill Omens, all speak to the adaptability of the Shadow Magic subclass. Although the sorcerer spell list is somewhat limited, the buffs from the subclass and smart use of metamagic can keep the player in the field for longer, like a good tank.
It’s pretty rare to view the Bard as a class that could even provide a tank to a team. After all, its various subclasses are usually equipped to benefit from the lore of D&D, or perhaps are focused on the arts, music making, and barbed vocal jabs. There are very few variations of the Bard that could wade into war, relatively unscathed, and fight back with some ferocity.
Using some of the best feats to bolster a bard, an experimental player could turn their character into a tank then the College of Valor might be the best way to go. The spellcaster becomes quite the all-rounder, with a higher level of defense, a strong repertoire of spells, and martial arts prowess. It’s not a traditional tank setup, but with the right magical items, Bonus Proficiencies, Combat Inspiration, and Battle Magic, it’s plausible.
Warlocks are a complex class to get right. Dungeon Masters can be pretty strict on how players handle these heroes and the mysterious patrons who grant them power. With limited spell slots, a warlock works best as a combination between martial and spellcaster. The Hexblade has a brilliant range in allowing players to kit out their character with better armor, weapons, and shielding, thus mostly putting that problem to rest.
Some warlock subclasses are more powerful than others and the Hexblade is definitely toward the top of that list with Hexblade Curse allowing a player some serious damage to foes. They are excellent in a melee scenario, slicing through the competition while still defended by those option boosts. The attack and protection combo can help to forge a tank that benefits further from an extended spell list and abilities like Hex Warrior or Master of Hexes.
Wizards can study from a full roster of disciplines. Players might fall in love with a particular subclass because of the appeal of the charms and spells that can be picked up, as well as the general ideology of the character. But for someone who is going to be incredibly defensive and forged in the fire of the front lines, the War Magic subclass is the way to go.
There are some great must-have spells that Wizards can still gain access to under the War Magic umbrella, some of which can boost the traditionally frail player character further. Arcane Reflection, Durable Magic, Deflecting Shroud, and Power Surge, demonstrate a complex system to get to grips with, which can thus lead to intriguing tank-based storytelling opportunities for a Dungeon Master to take advantage of.
Artificers are a lot of fun to play as and usually bring some innovative inventions to the table and a range of complicated armors that make them more durable. In the context of video gaming, a tank is usually a character that has sufficient firepower to keep back the enemy. That can be transferred to the tabletop experience, with Dungeons and Dragons’ Artillerist subclass.
As the name would point to, compared to the other powerful Artificer subclasses, the Artillerist is the best for long-ranged attacks, blasting their way through the antagonists with a blazing bluster. Abilities such as Arcane Firearm, Explosive Cannon, and Fortified Position ensure that the Artillerist can be securely positioned and let loose to be the true tank of the group as chaos ensues.
The Blood Hunter is a relatively new creation and players are still getting to grips with how to truly master the character in a campaign. However, all parties could benefit from a Blood Hunter getting turned into a tank, and for a spellcasting advantage, the Order of the Profane Soul is the only subclass available that gain that specific mystical boost.
The base of Critical Role‘s player creation the Blood Hunter involves a character that puts themselves in danger at any cost. It’s a terrifying visual and the sheer scale of the attack power of this subclass ensures that it feels properly like a tank, even if it is less durable. Pact Magic, Mystic Frenzy and Rite Focus round out a compelling lead to take into a narrative and fit in this role.
Another Cleric subclass that might appeal to those looking for a darker twist on the makeup of a tank, the Death Domain Clerics worship a much darker power. Narratively speaking this can inspire fear in the enemy, making this type of Cleric an intimidating person to have in the party from the offset. That can be used with some skill in combat situations.
While powerful armor sets for clerics can make them hard to hit in Dungeons & Dragons because of the wide array of styles to choose from. The Death Domain Cleric might sacrifice supportive options for a more offensive focus. As a result, they boast abilities such as Divine Strike, Reaper, and Touch of Death, it’s clear to see how they can be useful within a campaign. The spell list is also impressive, allowing for many necromantic options, ensuring that here the best defense is a good offense.
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