Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition-Builds, Beasts and Battles Part 2: Tanks But No Tanks!

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Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition-Builds, Beasts and Battles Part 3: Dat Damage!

What is a tank in D&D 5E?

Merriam-Webster’s defines a tank as, among other things, a military vehicle that moves on two large metal belts with wheels inside them and that is covered in heavy armor. It is in that last part it earns it’s nickname within gaming. Nerds the world round have learned to call the character who is heavily armored and works as a walking wall to protect the group by the famous moniker of tank.

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How can I survive in D&D 5E?

The parts of a tank, like any machine, are simple and mathematical. To be a tank, one has to be able to attract the attention of your foes or baring this, have the ability to prevent the foe from attacking one’s allies. The second part, and the more important part claim some, is the ability to survive said foe’s ire.

Here is where the number crunching will come in. I have scoured through the Player’s Handbook and found many many routes to the same goal. Come with me, and you’ll see, a world of controlling aggravation. To show this I will be listing what are the some of the classic best tank options, and a few tricks to flavor it to your needs. I will start with a notation based on how nonmagical items would enhance things, then list what magic items do in the mix. Though I won’t list items any class could benefit from such as ring of protection and such. I will also be assuming at least a 14 or higher in each prime stat for the class at 1st level and assuming a focus on tanking for build and equipment choices. The categories I will mention are Armor Class, Hit Points, saving throws, control method, special abilities and spells and finally a verdict overall based on the combined score. scale of 1 (lowest usefulness/power) to 10 (highest usefulness/power).

Barbarian

Armor Class (10). Oddly, you can see better numbers from this class by ditching armor entirely. Unarmored Defense allows you to add your Constitution modifier to your AC. At level 20 a pure barbarian gets a +4 Strength and Constitution while raising their max by a like amount. This adds another another 2 to their AC, for a total max of 10 + 2 (shield) + 7 (Con) + 5 (Dex) = 24 AC. ***MAGIC*** With +5 halfplate a barbarian can achieve the same AC with just a 14 Dex. There is a feat that allows the Dex mod to go up to +3; thus needing a 16 dex. If armored bracers are released later, the unarmored version wins hands down. As well as anything like potions of mage armor. These magical versions could push the AC to the 27-29 range. Beautiful defense for a tank no matter how you slice it… or stab it… or smash it…

HP (10). Being the only class with a d12 HP, the Barbarian reigns supreme. Beyond that, the barbarian is the ONLY class that has a lowest con possible that gives a bonus to HP. That level 20 ability pushes the minimum con to 12 and the maximum to 24 (net gain of 2 hp/level or 40hp at level 20!).  This means the the HP range of a barbarian is 2/level to 19/level depending on how the dice land; with an average of about 10/level.

Saving Throws (7). Con and Str; This generally means if it is physical, you resist it. Though it would be nice to be able to have dex saves, but this is not your strong suite. Take note that they do get advantage on dex saves from sources they can see.

Special (7). High- It is well worth note the barbarian has resistance to physical (bludgeon, slash, pierce) while raging. Also worth note is the ability to essentially shrug off fatal damage with relentless rage, though it takes til level 11, it is well worth the investment as the saving throw is something you are proficient in and are NOT based on how much damage you take. All and all, the Barbarian is going to be a nightmare to anyone in front of them. Would be nice if it could somehow heal itself.

Control (10). I will be covering these bad boys damage capability in next weeks article, but needless to say they control the battlefield through hitting so hard you can’t ignore them. Wielding a martial one hander, and raging, you can deal 1d8+4rage+7str=12-19 per hit. The best part is when you crit you add up to 3 dice on top of your normal crit.

I could give you the math, but needless to say this equates to a 20% boost in your damage overall (turning the above figure to 14-23 average an attack). A berserker gets up to 2 extra attacks and a totem bear warrior makes any attack that doesn’t include him be at disadvantage.

Worth note is that the barbarian can put down his shield, use the great weapon feat, and swing a great axe for (1d12+4rage+7str+10feat)*1.20=26-39 average damage an attack, not something you wish to ignore 2 to 4 times a round! Also note their increased speed keeps them where they need to be.

Verdict. With a final score of 44, the Barbarian is a strong contender for the tank crown.

Fighter

D&D 5eArmor Class (10). With the ability to wear any armor or shield, plus the defense fighting style, you can easily hit 21 AC before magic (platemail+shield) and 26 after with +5 platemail+shield. Not bad for any tank!

 

HP (8). Though not likely, it is possible to have a negative con mod with a fighter. Also with the second largest HP die at D10, you won’t run short on HP anytime soon. Worst case scenario you will see hp of 1 per level with a maximum of 15 per level. The average being 9 per level.

Saving Throws (7). Con and Str; this generally means if it is physical, you resist it. Though it would be nice to be able to have dex saves, but this is not your strong suite. Though worth note is the ability to reroll saves a set amount of times beginning at level 9.

Special (5). Though there is many many options, They are dwarfed by what others can do. That being said, the fighter does have the ability to heal himself with second wind and the ability to regenerate HP up to halfway with the champion archetype’s survivor ability, which is impressive, but about the only really powerful defense ability I found.

Control (7). Though it can do many things and gains up to 4 extra attacks a round, the fighter’s control method drastically depends on it’s archetype. The champion sees a 10% boost through a triple sized crit range, stacking well with the extra attacks. The Battle master is all about maneuver’s that trip and debuff the enemy. The eldritch knight trades extra attacks to cast evocation magic alongside his attacks for impressive damage.

Verdict. With a final score of 37, the fighter of D&D 5e makes a very good tank with many interesting options. He just is not self sufficient.

Paladin

Armor Class (10). With the ability to wear any armor or shield, plus the defense fighting style, you can easily hit 21 AC before magic (platemail+shield) and 26 after with +5 platemail+shield. Not bad for any tank!

HP (7). Though not likely, it is possible to have a negative con mod with a Paladin. Also with the second largest HP die at D10, you won’t run short on HP anytime soon. Worst case scenario you will see hp of 1 per level with a maximum of 15 per level. The average being 8 per level. Due to the high strain of abilities other then con, it’s likely to only have a +2 at start.

Saving Throws (9). Wisdom and charisma; Though it would be nice to be able to have dex or fort saves, WHO CARES! You get your charisma modifier to all saving throws and so do your allies! Also you are immune to disease, which is a big con save worry.

Special (10). Alright, this is where the paladin shines. Immune to disease, able to heal yourself for 5*paladin level, ability to remove harmful effects and the ability to cast defensive magic to cut many types of damage in half among other things (AND EVEN MORE HEALS). The paladin can cure just about anything short of death, so is an asset to a party in many ways.

Control (6). I am really really disappointed in how the smite mechanic was done in dungeons and dragons 5th edition, you use up spells to smite. That being said, it is very versatile in that there are spell smites that debuff the enemy. Thusly the classic smite is no longer just about damage. Also, it is somewhat of a control method to make sure the party survives anything thrown at them but the cleric does this better.

Verdict. With a final score of 42, the Paladin may well be the best it can be when it comes to a tank if only he could control the battlefield better.

Monk

Armor Class (6). With unarmored defense, the monk is capable of adding his wisdom to his AC. This means the AC will generally land around 14 at start to 20 at max. Sadly, 20 is the hard max. ***MAGIC*** If armored bracers are released later the armor raises a bit. As well as anything like potions of mage armor. These magical versions could push the AC to the 23-25 range.

HP (5). Though not likely, it is possible to have a negative con mod with a monk. Also with the third largest HP die at D8, you could do better. Worst case scenario you will see hp of 1 per level with a maximum of 13 per level. The average being 7 per level. due to the high strain of abilities other then con, it’s likely to only have a +2 at start.

Saving Throws (10). With Wisdom and Dexterity to start, but later gaining ALL saving throws, the monk reigns supreme here.

Special (8). It can resist arrows, self heal 3*monk level with the open hand archetype, resist pretty much everything, has evasion to negate spells and nasty area of effects, and it’s ability to debuff a foe. The monk really is never without an option in this regard. Also worth note is this tank can close the gap between allies in need of defense better then any other class.

Control (6). The high damage capability and debuffs is really all the monk has when it comes to tanking. The fun part is, they have no shortage of these. It’s pretty straight forward. Though I would point out the open hand monk has quivering palm to add some impressive offense.

Verdict. With a final score of 35, the monk makes a good off hand tank, but is best to keep him off the front line due to it’s limited recovery abilities. I was saddened by this as my flowing monk in Pathfinder was the ultimate tank and 3rd edition saw to it that my monk was a tank to fear. Other classes got beefed up, the monk became much like his first edition version, more crouching tiger, less hidden Goku.

Cleric

Armor Class (9). The cleric can actually come in only 1 point behind the fighter or paladin due to lack of fighting style but the same armor and shield proficiencies depending on domain. 20 to 25 is not bad for any tank!

HP (7). Though not likely, it is possible to have a negative con mod with a cleric. Also with the third largest HP die at D8, you could do better. Worst case scenario you will see hp of 1 per level with a maximum of 13 per level. The average being 7 per level. due to the high strain of abilities other then con, it’s likely to only have a +2 at start. Though this places it on par with the monk, the cleric can “preload” it’s hp through magic to have temp HP on top of their own.

Saving Throws (7). Wisdom and Charisma are their saves, which aids little in combat other then throwing off charms. Though I will say it is kinda a saving throw in and of itself to have the wisdom to avoid a fight entirely.

Special (10). OOOHHHHH BABY! MAGIC! Alright, you are the strongest caster when it comes to defense and healing. You can cure anything, you can heal up to 70hp a round, and even gain resistance to just about everything. Cutting pretty much all damage in half is nice. Did I mention the chance that your deity personally gets involved upside someone’s head who is bothering you in a very… interesting… way?

Control (10). MAGIC BABY! Blade barrier, flame strike, command, hold spells and so much more. You are a Swiss army knife of control. Alright, I will admit. I am excited about magic and how it works in Dungeons and Dragons  5th edition, but it surprised me how well they allow you to tank.

Verdict. With a final score of 43 the cleric actually comes in just behind the barbarian for king tank of D&D 5e.

With the cleric and the barbarian reigning supreme, we have now detailed the tanks of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition here on 3B. Stay tuned to Nerdarchy for many new and exciting articles and definitely stay tuned for next weeks article all about damage! This is Nerdarchist Nubz reminding you all to stay nerdy and role with it.

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Follow Nigel “Nubz” Sanford:
Nubz hails from the American Pacific Northwest where he has spent the last 24 years living the gamer life and running campaigns of all kinds. Through this he has managed to sate his acting bug and entertain many. Now a father, he wishes to pursue writing to leave a legacy in Nerd culture for his offspring to enjoy.

2 Responses

  1. Aaron Barnard
    | Reply

    i thought +3 was the highest in 5E

    • Nigel “Nubz” Sanford
      | Reply

      It is, this was written BEFORE 5E hit the shelves near me. A bit of supposition if you will. Though your comment makes me eager to work out the math with the final product.
      -Nubz

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