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    Default Why each class is in its tier: 2019 update!

    We've come a long way since JaronK presented the original iteration of the tier rankings for classes in D&D 3.5, and our understanding of the system has advanced quite a bit in the intervening time. About a decade ago now, the Minmax forum community collected a series of discussions to explain why each class was ranked the way it was. Well, it's 2019, and we've had a new set of discussions here at GiantITP. I think it's high time we got another summary, don't you?

    This version of the tier list is derived from the Retiering the Classes project originally begun by eggynack and later completed by heavyfuel. The rankings are based on community voting. Some of you may be thinking, hey, wait, I have strong opinions, but I missed the vote! Well, good news for you: you can still vote in this thread. That's right, I still have the spreadsheet, and I can and will add to it in order to increase our sample size. Any bones you have to pick with these rankings, this is the place to share 'em. The retiering project was always intended to be an ongoing discussion without strict deadlines. This thread represents a continuation of the project as well as a summary. Please feel free to jump into the debate! If you already voted, you can refine your old votes or fill in votes for the classes you missed. If you're just joining us now, give us your two cents. Either way, do please include a reason for your votes, preferably one that acknowledges and engages with the explanations that are already given here; don't just vomit a list of classes with numbers next to them.

    But anyway, let's begin with the all-important definitions of the tiers that we're working with, as given by eggynack. Please note that these definitions are refined and distilled from JaronK's original definitions and are not the same. Part of the purpose of updating the tier list was to make it a more straightforward measure of relative power. I'll let eggy explain:

    What are the tiers?

    The simple answer here is that tier one is the best, the home of things on the approximate problem solving scale of wizards, and tier six is the worst, land of commoners. And problem solving capacity is what's being measured here. Considering the massive range of challenges a character is liable to be presented with across the levels, how much and how often does that character's class contribute to the defeat of those challenges? This value should be considered as a rough averaging across all levels, the center of the level range somewhat more than really low and really high level characters, and across all optimization levels (considering DM restrictiveness as a plausible downward acting factor on how optimized a character is), prioritizing moderate optimization somewhat more than low or high.

    A big issue with the original tier system is that, if anything, it was too specific, generating inflexible definitions for allowance into a tier which did not cover the broad spectrum of ways a class can operate. When an increase in versatility would seem to represent a decrease in tier, because tier two is supposed to be low versatility, it's obvious that we've become mired in something that'd be pointless to anyone trying to glean information from the tier system. Thus, I will be uncharacteristically word light here. The original tier system's tier descriptions are still good guidelines here, but they shouldn't be assumed to be the end all and be all for how classes get ranked.

    Consistent throughout these tiers is the notion of problems and the solving thereof. For the purposes of this tier system, the problem space can be said to be inclusive of combat, social interaction, and exploration, with the heaviest emphasis placed on combat. A problem could theoretically fall outside of that space, but things inside that space are definitely problems. Another way to view the idea of problem solving is through the lens of the niche ranking system. A niche filled tends to imply the capacity to solve a type of problem, whether it's a status condition in the case of healing, or an enemy that just has too many hit points in the case of melee combat. It's not a perfect measure, both because some niches have a lot of overlap in the kinds of problems they can solve and because, again, the niches aren't necessarily all inclusive, but they can act as a good tool for class evaluation.

    Tier one: Incredibly good at solving nearly all problems. This is the realm of clerics, druids, and wizards, classes that open up with strong combat spells backed up by utility, and then get massively stronger from there. If you're not keeping up with that core trio of tier one casters, then you probably don't belong here.

    Tier two: We're just a step below tier one here, in the land of classes around the sorcerer level of power. Generally speaking, this means relaxing one of the two tier one assumptions, either getting us to very good at solving nearly all problems, or incredibly good at solving most problems. But, as will continue to be the case as these tiers go on, there aren't necessarily these two simple categories for this tier. You gotta lose something compared to the tier one casters, but what you lose doesn't have to be in some really specific proportions.

    Tier three: Again, we gotta sacrifice something compared to tier two, here taking us to around the level of a swordsage. The usual outcome is that you are very good at solving a couple of problems and competent at solving a few more. Of course, there are other possibilities, for example that you might instead be competent at solving nearly all problems.

    Tier four: Here we're in ranger/barbarian territory (though the ranger should be considered largely absent of ACF's and stuff to hit this tier, as will be talked about later). Starting from that standard tier three position, the usual sweet spots here are very good at solving a few problems, or alright at solving many problems.

    Tier five
    : We're heading close to the dregs here. Tier five is the tier of monks, classes that are as bad as you can be without being an aristocrat or a commoner. Classes here are sometimes very good at solving nearly no problems, or alright at solving a few, or some other function thereof. It's weak, is the point.

    Tier six: And here we have commoner tier. Or, the bottom is commoner. The top is approximately aristocrat. You don't necessarily have nothing in this tier, but you have close enough to it.
    I'd also like to emphasize a couple of points. Firstly, as eggynack mentioned in the quote, these rankings are based on a weighted average of expected power level. Most classes can become more or less powerful depending on how they are built and played, and depending on the circumstances of the campaign. Understanding why a class is ranked where it is will hopefully help you to determine what circumstances might cause that ranking to become inaccurate.

    Second, these rankings cover single-class characters only. Many classes can become significantly more powerful with the introduction of prestige classes or even just a small amount of multiclassing. We can't take any of that into account here, though, because it would add a staggering amount of complexity to the discussion, making evaluation functionally impossible. Suffice it to say that just about any character can be lifted to a higher tier when combined with the right prestige class.

    Third, these rankings give very little weight to the lowest levels of play. If your campaign is starting at level 1, you shouldn't expect a hierarchy like this to materialize until a little later on. Why? Because that's just kind of the paradigm in most optimization discussions. Level 1 gameplay tends to be swingy and generally unrepresentative of most of the rest of the level progression. (The same is true for the highest levels of play, of course, but since the classes that are good at level 20 and 30 are mostly the same as the classes that are good at level 10, you won't see the tier list break down to quite the same degree.) As a rule of thumb, if your campaign doesn't go past level 5 or so, you can expect frontloaded classes with poor lategame scaling to go up in value the most, while classes with quadratic spellcasting but poor early games will see the biggest drops.

    Okay. Without further ado, here are your updated tier listings!

    The Tier List (with average rating) (rankings last updated 12 Nov 2019)

    Tier 1

    Cleric: 1
    Druid: 1
    Sha’ir: 1
    Archivist: 1.05
    Wizard: 1.1
    Shaman: 1.12
    Artificer: 1.18
    Wu Jen: 1.18
    Spontaneous Druid: 1.31

    Tier 2

    Death Master: 1.55
    Generic Spellcaster: 1.66
    Spontaneous Cleric: 1.74
    Urban Druid: 1.77
    Erudite: 1.78
    Psion: 1.78
    Sorcerer: 1.8
    Spirit Shaman: 1.87
    Evangelist: 1.88
    Mystic: 2
    Ardent: 2.2
    Dread Necromancer: 2.2
    Beguiler: 2.22
    Favored Soul: 2.24
    Mystic Ranger: 2.44

    Tier 3

    Wilder: 2.55
    Shugenja: 2.83
    Bard: 2.91
    Trickster Spellthief: 2.95
    Jester: 3.07
    Swordsage: 3.08
    Totemist: 3.08
    Crusader: 3.17
    Psychic Warrior: 3.17
    Warmage: 3.17
    Binder: 3.21
    Warlock: 3.21
    Warblade: 3.25
    Dragonfire Adept: 3.26
    Healer: 3.31
    Wild Shape Ranger: 3.31
    Duskblade: 3.34
    Factotum: 3.36
    Lurk: 3.4
    Psychic Rogue: 3.4

    Tier 4

    Wild Monk: 3.51
    Incarnate: 3.57
    Shadowcaster: 3.82
    Rogue: 3.85
    Barbarian: 4
    Generic Expert: 4
    Generic Warrior: 4
    Scout: 4.08
    Spellthief: 4.11
    Paladin: 4.18
    Adept: 4.19
    Ranger: 4.19
    Ninja: 4.36
    Savant: 4.37
    Fighter: 4.48
    Marshal: 4.49

    Tier 5

    Truenamer: 4.56
    Sohei: 4.58
    Hexblade: 4.72
    Monk: 4.72
    Battle Dancer: 4.73
    Divine Mind: 4.75
    Mountebank: 4.84
    Samurai (OA): 4.85
    Dragon Shaman: 4.86
    Magewright: 4.94
    Swashbuckler: 4.98
    Knight: 5.02
    Noble: 5.05
    Soulborn: 5.08
    Soulknife: 5.22
    Samurai (CW): 5.28
    Expert: 5.43

    Tier 6

    Aristocrat: 5.76
    Warrior: 5.8
    Commoner: 6

    The spreadsheet with all the data can be found here.

    The original discussion threads are below:
    Last edited by Troacctid; 2020-04-03 at 01:56 PM.

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    Default Re: Why each class is in its tier: 2019 update!

    Tier 1

    Cleric
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-ir-and-Wizard
    Average rating: 1
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    It was universally agreed that the cleric is top-tier, with every respondent ranking it as a 1. With one of the most powerful spell lists in the game coupled with the ability to “know” every single spell on its list, the cleric has a ton of power and versatility before you even consider that it also has multiple domains on top of that, and a strong melee chassis on top of that. Tricks like Divine Metamagic can heap on even more power, but you don’t even need them; the class is a powerhouse in its own right simply by the virtue of its spellcasting. There was some discussion as to how much equity the cleric loses when played poorly (e.g. as a healbot and nothing else), but the consensus was that the worst case is actually still pretty damn good.


    Druid
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-ir-and-Wizard
    Average rating: 1
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Like the cleric, the druid’s vote was unanimous, for a lot of the same reasons. Their spell list is amazing and they have access to the whole thing for free. However, on top of that, they also have really powerful class features in the animal companion and wild shape, giving them a ton of additional combat power and utility essentially free. One point that came up was that you could take away a druid’s spellcasting completely, and it would still manage to hit around Tier 3 from the companion and wild shape alone. Another point was that it’s really hard for a druid to not be overpowered, even at low optimization levels, because the baseline power level of the class features is so high.


    Sha’ir
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-ir-and-Wizard
    Average rating: 1
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Sha'ir has some weird mechanics, but ultimately it's just a Charisma wizard, except instead of learning new spells by spending time and money to scribe them into a spellbook, you learn spells by seeing them cast and saying, hey, what a neat spell, I can cast it now. Oh, and you have an expanded spell list that also includes divine spells, because why not. Once wizard was firmly established as T1, there was no real debate about sha’ir.


    Shaman
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...orcerer-Wu-Jen
    Average rating: 1.03
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Like sha’ir, shaman is a spinoff class of comparable power to the original. In this case, it's kind of a cleric-druid-monk hybrid? But it has the cleric casting mechanic (including domains), a class spell list containing a wide selection of the most powerful core divine spells, an animal companion as a druid, a strong chassis, and a potpourri of other abilities on top of that. All in all, you have powerful combat ability with loads of utility and buffing and healing thrown in, and you can swap out your spells daily for anything you happen to need. Inarguably top-tier.


    Archivist
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-ir-and-Wizard
    Average rating: 1.06
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    The archivist casts prepared divine spells off the cleric list, but doesn't automatically get access to the entire list—you need to scribe spells into a book, much like a wizard does. This would be a drawback, but the archivist has an advantage over the cleric in that if they find a divine scroll, they can scribe and learn it even if it's not on the cleric list—so they have access to druid spells too, for example. Also, they get more skills and some Knowledgey-type abilities. The general sentiment, I think, was that archivist is ultimately a bit weaker than cleric because of the extra time, expense, and unreliability involved in its casting mechanic, with the off-list casting not really making up for it—but none of that is enough to bring the class down a tier. It’s a solid T1 that should have no trouble hanging with clerics and wizards.


    Wizard
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-ir-and-Wizard
    Average rating: 1.11
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Wizards have the best spell list in the game. They share the list in question with sorcerers, but compared to sorcerers, their spell progression is faster, they have a ton more spells known (even if they do have to scribe 'em), and they get bonus feats. Since their casting is Int-based, they also have a natural advantage with skills. But mostly, the ranking here boils down to a good casting progression with lots of spells off a fantastic list. There were a few dissidents that argued wizards should be T2 due to the difficulty of playing them and the unreliability of finding spells to scribe into your spellbook. But they were decisively overruled on the grounds that scrolls are actually pretty easy to find and the spell list is just that good. They take a little longer to get their feet under them than clerics or druids do, though, so be aware that in lower-level games, the wizard's stock will definitely fall a bit. (The same is true for some of the other similar classes.)


    Artificer
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-ir-and-Wizard
    Average rating: 1.18
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Artificers have ridiculous crafting powers and a powerful suite of infusions. Not only can they craft just about anything (at a reduced price, and possibly with no xp cost), they can also create improvised wands on the fly of any 4th level or lower spell in the game—in as little as only a single round. This makes artificer one of the best utility casters in the game, but also one of the most challenging to play optimally, because you have functionally unlimited options at all times. Opponents of the T1 ranking contended that the class is campaign-dependent, and can easily become useless if the timeframe of the adventure doesn't allow for crafting breaks or if the treasure doesn't include any cash for crafting. The counterpoints were that the infusion list is bonkers good even if you never craft anything (this handbook was cited as an illustration), and if you're only getting randomized loot, being able to sell it to craft the items you actually want is an even bigger advantage than usual. The “I need three spreadsheets to keep track of everything” problem is real, but even detractors did not consider it significant enough to knock the class out of T1.


    Wu Jen
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...orcerer-Wu-Jen
    Average rating: 1.19
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Everyone agreed that wu jen is a weaker version of the wizard. The question was how much worse, exactly. Their list is ultimately quite good, with most of the best spells from the core wizard list, and they do have some decent class features backing it up, so T1 won out over T2, with some stray 1.5 votes straddling the fence.


    Spontaneous Druid
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-and-WS-Ranger
    Average rating: 1.31
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    While the spontaneous variant is definitely worse than the standard druid, there's certainly space to be worse than arguably the best class in the game and still be T1. In this case, unlike most spontaneous casters, you still have the good druid spell progression, rather than the delayed sorcerer spell progression, and you have the druid’s two flagship class features, animal companion and wild shape, completely untouched and just as powerful. So, yes, it's a bit of a nerf, but still top-tier.

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    Default Re: Why each class is in its tier: 2019 update!

    Tier 2

    Death Master
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...orcerer-Wu-Jen
    Average rating: 1.55
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    There were three main schools of thought on the death master. First, that it's basically a core-only specialist wizard, and since the wizard is still T1 under those conditions, the death master is too (see also wu jen). Second, that the death master spell list is worse enough to drop the class to T2. Third, that we may as well split the difference and call it a 1.5. Personally, I’m in the first camp, but when the votes were tallied, it ended up at almost exactly 1.5, so I guess the latter argument ultimately won out. A few extra votes might tip the scales—what do you think?


    Urban Druid
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-and-WS-Ranger
    Average rating: 1.89
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Here’s one that probably should have gotten more discussion than it did, IMO. Urban druid is essentially what you get if you take the druid, restrict it to core-only, and remove its spontaneous summoning ability. The spell list is about as good as the core druid list—possibly better, by eggynack’s reckoning here, which I'm inclined to agree with—and the animal companion and wild shape are left basically intact with a few changes that don't move the needle much power-wise. So the question with urban druid is fundamentally the same as the question with death master, wu jen, and jester: how much worse than a core casting class can you be without dropping a tier? I think there’s a good case for T1 here, but nobody really made it at the time. What do you think?


    Generic Spellcaster
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...eneric-Warrior
    Average rating: 1.66
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    We had a fairly low voter turnout for the generic classes, but there was at least some discussion. Heavyfuel called the class straight-up better than the sorcerer and spontaneous cleric and put it at a low T1. Cosi argued that nothing the class gains compared to a sorcerer is significant enough to boost it out of its tier, and voted T2. I contended that the bonus feats, list access, and customizable class skills and casting stat were absolutely significant advantages, but I thought the slower casting progression was too much of a drawback for it to make T1, so I voted 1.5 (which I stand by).


    Spontaneous Cleric
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...taneous-Cleric
    Average rating: 1.7
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    There's a whole mess of classes with spontaneous cleric casting: favored soul, evangelist, mystic, and spontaneous cleric. They all cluster around the same power level as the sorcerer—the spell list is a bit weaker, but each of the classes has its own perks to make up for it. In the case of the spontaneous cleric, those perks are a faster spell progression, plus all the class features of the standard cleric, including domains, turning, and access to alternative class features and stuff. This is clearly the best in the category, and so it accordingly ranks the highest of the four; however, it's still comfortably in the T2 range due to its limited spells known. It was noted that if you take the reading of Book of Exalted Deeds's sanctified spell rules that grants spontaneous clerics full spontaneous access to every sanctified spell, there's probably a strong case for T1, but most DMs would probably be justifiably uncomfortable with that interpretation, and it didn't end up getting a lot of weight.


    Psion
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ulknife-Wilder
    Average rating: 1.78
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Psion feels a lot like a spontaneous wizard, with Int-based casting, bonus feats, and school specialization. Limited powers known drawn from a weaker list relegate the psion to a lower ranking than the wizard, and knock it out of T1; faster progression, bonus feats, and increased versatility put it above the sorcerer. That leaves it somewhere in between, in the higher reaches of T2.


    Erudite
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Psychic-Rogue
    Average rating: 1.78
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Discussion around the erudite centered on whether it was better or worse than the standard psion. “Worse” ended up being the consensus...mostly. (The standard deviation value here was pretty high.) Some choice quotes:
    Quote Originally Posted by Troacctid View Post
    Erudite versatility is somewhat of an illusion. The fact of the matter is you're extremely limited in your unique powers per day, even if you do have the ability to change them each day. And while you can learn spells like a wizard, the psion list is significantly more limited than the wizard list. The end result is a class that compares more closely with the spirit shaman than anything else, IMO. Yeah, you can do a bunch of stuff, but you can do so few of them at the same time that in actual gameplay, your practical versatility ends up being significantly lower than your theoretical versatility.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    [Erudites] don't actually know many more powers than the Psion does. You know more off the bat, because you get extra 1st level powers. But you get two extra powers known per level, and the Psion does at most levels. You end up like 5 or 6 powers known ahead at 20th level, which is not huge. And you can't naturally pick up discipline powers. So even if the UPPD aren't a huge deal, they're not buying you that much power.

    Ah, but you say, you can learn new powers! Except to do that costs you XP. To permanently learn a new power, you have to pay 20 XP per Erudite level. If you're paying that kind of XP to pick up new powers, the Psion can probably afford to spend a similar amount of XP to psychic reformation himself into a new set of powers.
    The spell-to-power variant pushes the rating up a bit, but ultimately not that much, because once you remove it from JaronK's original criteria of being able to break the game in a bunch of different ways (which, as a reminder, we are not using), you're basically just a glorified sorcerer. Actually, if we're being honest, what really boosted the rating this high was a few voters not reading the thread and assuming we were still working under JaronK's rules, so really, it should probably be lower. What do you think?


    Beguiler
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...er-and-Warmage
    Average rating: 2.22
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    With a ton of known spells, a powerful and versatile spell list, and a heap of skills on top of it all, beguiler is one of the most powerful spontaneous spellcasters in the game, handily beating the vast majority of sorcerers at their own game (at least until fairly high levels). Like dread necromancer, it can be summed up as a sorcerer with a whole bunch of extra spells known, all of which are solid mid-op picks, and you also get other sweet abilities.


    Sorcerer
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...orcerer-Wu-Jen
    Average rating: 1.82
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    Sorcerer was seen as something of a benchmark for T2 by many voters. You've got the wizard spell list, and there are quite a lot of broken spells on that list. However, the designers were terrified of spontaneous casting and thwacked the sorcerer repeatedly with the nerf bat. With a delayed spell progression, limited spells known, and no real class features to speak of, the class is just weaker than the T1 full casters. There's also a fairly substantial amount of variation here depending on optimization (poor spell selection can easily relegate you to being a worse version of a warmage for most of your career) and level (the higher level you are, the harder it is to not be ridiculously powerful, because sorcerer spells are busted). Arguments for why sorcerer should be ranked higher or lower seemed to revolve mainly around exactly how substantial that variation is and how much it should affect the weighted average power level. The consensus was ultimately unsurprising, and it landed where the conventional wisdom said it should. Spells are just too good—although as with most arcane casters, the rating comes with a caveat that the class may struggle at lower levels and/or lower optimization.


    Spirit Shaman
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-and-WS-Ranger
    Average rating: 1.87
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    The spirit shaman is similar to the erudite in that while it theoretically has access to a lot of different spells, in practice, you have so few spells retrieved that you play more like a battle sorcerer with druid spells: slightly better chassis than a normal sorcerer, but your limited spells known are even more limited than usual. While you can change your loadout from day to day, you can’t realistically leverage that advantage outside of downtime because you just have so little wiggle room. On top of that, you have split casting stats, so you need both Wisdom and Charisma. At least you get the faster spell progression rather than the delayed one, which does help. This class earned a robust discussion in the thread, drawing comparisons to the warmage and the favored soul, and some in-depth analysis of possible loadouts. The T3 camp argued that the spirit shaman’s spells retrieved are anemic enough to make it worse than the warmage, pushing it down to T3 as a result. The T2 camp argued that the power inherent in the druid list, especially at higher levels, should be enough to keep the spirit shaman at a higher rank. I think both arguments are pretty reasonable, and the faster spell progression is what ultimately gives it the bump up to T2 for me (although I think it's low in the tier). There were even a couple people who thought it was T1, but they didn’t present much of an argument to support it.


    Evangelist
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...taneous-Cleric
    Average rating: 1.88
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    It’s like the spontaneous cleric, except instead of turn undead, it gets additional domains at higher levels, and it uses a more sorcerer-like progression for spells known (including the delay). Alternatively, it’s like the favored soul, except with domains instead of extra spells known, and you don’t need Charisma. Either way, the class didn’t draw much discussion—there were a couple fractional votes, but nobody put them outside of T2.


    Mystic
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...taneous-Cleric
    Average rating: 2
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    This is another class that didn’t draw much debate. It’s another spontaneous cleric variant, this time with just one domain, making it a middle ground between favored soul and evangelist, and earning it a similar ranking.


    Ardent
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Psychic-Rogue
    Average rating: 2.2
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    The ardent has a much more restrictive method of selecting powers known than other psionic classes, with mantles limiting you to thematic choices only. It makes up for this by having a nice cleric-like chassis, giving it some fighting ability to fall back on, and by the fact that its mantles are mostly pretty decent actually. Overall, you’re not as good as the psion, since your power list is inevitably going to be worse, but you’ve still got full manifesting and plenty of good stuff going on. Also, the dominant ideal variant is broken AF.


    Dread Necromancer
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...er-and-Warmage
    Average rating: 2.2
    Spoiler: Explanation
    Show
    It’s like a sorcerer, except with a whole bunch of extra spells known, and you don’t get to pick the spells, but they’re all solid mid-op picks anyway, and also you get a bunch of other sweet class abilities. So essentially, you’re a beefed-up mid-op sorcerer with an undead theme and no cantrips. Debate centered mainly on whether dread necromancers were better or worse than sorcerers overall; there were also a few stray T3 votes from people who were confused about how the tier system works and believed that the dread necromancer's improved versatility compared to the sorcerer required it to be ranked lower.


    Favored Soul
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...c-Spont-Cleric
    Average rating: 2.24
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Pretty much everyone agreed that the cleric spell list is weaker than the sorcerer spell list, and that split casting stats are a meaningful drawback; however, the favored soul has extra known spells and a better chassis, so that helps close the gap. The consensus, I think, was that it’s one of the weaker T2 casters, but still good enough to climb over the bar on the strength of that spell list.


    Mystic Ranger
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...onk&p=23439210
    Average rating: 2.44
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Mystic ranger is a bit of a headscratcher because of its weird level curve. At low levels, it has casting kinda like a bard, but then it quickly shifts to a more sorcerer-like progression as it scales up to 5th level spells, and then after level 10, it kind of caps out, and the whole second half of the class chart is comparatively empty. And this whole time, it still has the normal ranger chassis of full BAB and 6 + Int skill points. So if you only look at the first 10 levels, it's better than a lot of T2 classes, and arguably even competitive with T1s, but if you look at levels 11–20, it falls off pretty hard. How do you average that out into a single rating?

    Most people agreed that the first half of mystic ranger fell somewhere in T2 and the second half fell somewhere in T3. The main question was how to average them out. By the end of the thread, the voting put it smack dab in the middle of the two tiers.

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    Default Re: Why each class is in its tier: 2019 update!

    Tier 3

    Wilder
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...der&p=23373106
    Average rating: 2.63
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Even though you get 9th level powers, you get a very, very small number of them: only 11 powers known over 20 levels (or 15 with the educated wilder variant). There are some solid powers on the wilder list, but the class is very difficult to work with due to its harshly limited resources and tremendous room for error. In many ways, the closer comparison is warlock rather than psion—in fact, you actually have fewer powers known than the warlock has invocations. How does a wilder hold up level-by-level against a warlock, bard, warmage, or martial initiator? The answer is “Not especially well.” With optimization, you can maybe end up about even with them, but at lower levels of system mastery, you're lucky if you ever catch up.

    All that said, full manifesting is still inherently powerful enough that nobody was seriously considering dropping wilder below T3. In fact, quite a few voters thought it was one of the most powerful classes in T3 (which I disagree with, but whatever).


    Warmage
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...er-and-Warmage
    Average rating: 3.2
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Warmage is one of the best classes in the game for sheer damage output. With a wide selection of blasting and battlefield control spells, some free metamagic, a flat damage bonus to all spells, and the ability to learn a small handful of sorcerer/wizard spells via advanced learning and/or eclectic learning, you have an incredibly potent combat toolbox at your fingertips. What keeps the class out of T2 is essentially overspecialization. When you're in a fight, warmages have tons of options and can adapt to almost any combat scenario. When you're not in a fight...well, you probably don't have much to do. It's almost the opposite problem of the bard, actually!

    The upside of being specc’ed for combat is that combat is the biggest and most important part of most games, which means in practice, it's a smaller drawback than you might think. So the question was really T2 or T3. Proponents of T2 argued that at higher optimization levels, the warmage will be expanding her spell list to include broken spells (including with the native advanced learning and eclectic learning abilities), thus keeping pace with the sorcerer; and at lower optimization levels, the warmage will often be flat-out better than a sorcerer, at least until very high levels. Furthermore, warmages are at their best in the level 6–12 range, which happens to be the range that should get the most weight in these rankings. And when you do a head-to-head comparison with some of the weaker T2s like spirit shaman and favored soul, it's not uncommon for warmage to come out ahead for the majority of levels, even if it’s clearly behind the beguiler and dread necromancer. Proponents of T3 argued that while the class is great at mid-levels, the spell list tapers off sharply at high levels, and furthermore, the heavy combat focus actually makes martial adepts like the warblade and crusader the closer comparison.

    One thing even the T3 side agreed on was that warmage probably has more upward mobility than any other T3 class, and can definitely break the barrier into T2 in the hands of a skilled optimizer—whether by list expansion to improve versatility, or by vertical optimization for a mailman-style build. And while it ultimately landed in T3, it's still one of the best classes in the tier. What do you think? T2 or T3?

    (I'm probably making the discussion sound a bit better than it actually was. In reality, we had people citing the interaction with the rainbow servant prestige class—this tier list is specifically for 20 levels of the base class, no prestiging—while other people called it T4 because it only does one thing, but does it well—which is not how tiers work, and also factually inaccurate, because the warmage is quite good at several different things. One of the perks of summarizing is you get to cut that nonsense out.)


    Shugenja
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...orcerer-Wu-Jen
    Average rating: 2.83
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    It’s a full caster, but the list you’re casting from is quite bad, and you only have unfettered access to about 40% of the list on any given caster, with another 40% available on a delay and the final 20% being off-limits entirely. To make matters worse, half your spells known have to be from your chosen element, and you don’t get a lot of spells known. Complicating matters further is the fact that several of the better spells on the shugenja list are a level higher than they usually are. So even if you’re a fire shugenja, you aren’t getting fireball until level 8, and if you’re an earth or air shugenja, you can’t get it until level 11. With such scripted choices, shugenja ends up playing a lot like a bad version of a warmage, but with slightly higher skill points. Zaq sums it up:
    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    And don't forget that at the level you get a new spell level (level level level level level), you don't get any non-Order spells that aren't your favored element. Shugenjas are already on the Sorcerer track for learning new spell levels (so one level behind the Wizard and other prepared casters), but then if you want any spells that aren't your favored element, you basically get them a minimum of two character levels behind a Wizard or Cleric. We make fun of Mystic Theurges and other PrCs that sacrifice caster levels because they don't get spells at the earliest possible levels, and we consider it a weakness when a Sorc or another spontaneous caster has to wait for an even character level to learn a new spell level.

    I hope that your favored element is actually the one you want to specialize in and not just the one that doesn't ban the two elements you really care about (e.g., specializing in Water because you like Air and Earth versus because you actually like Water). Otherwise, you're way, way behind the curve when it comes to learning non-favored spells at appropriate levels. Oh, and if you want to pick two spells from a non-favored element, I hope you're prepared to wait five levels to learn your second one (taking the starting point from when you get any spells of level X, though I suppose four levels after you learn your first non-favored spell of level X). So if you want, say, both Silence (Air, spell level 2) and Glitterdust (Earth, spell level 2) on one Shugenja, you have to wait until ECL 5 (two full levels behind a Wizard) to get your first one and ECL 9 to get the second one. That's not exactly overwhelming versatility. In fact, that seems incredibly limiting to the point of being nearly useless when compared to the expected challenge progression of the game.
    Soranar also did a side-by-side comparison of the shugenja and the bard that proved illuminating: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/shows...&postcount=108

    So, yeah, shugenja is a full caster, but it’s very weak for a full caster. Not quite as weak as shadowcaster, but definitely weaker than warmage. If spells as a mechanic weren't so overpowered in this edition, it might even have garnered a lower rating than this.


    Bard
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...otum-and-Jeste
    Average rating: 2.92
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    The bard was seen by many as a benchmark for T3, much like the sorcerer was a benchmark for T2. There was a little bit of argument for it moving up a tier, but it never got any real traction. Bard is a class with a slower spellcasting progression than the sorcerer, but the spell list is still very strong, and to make up for lost casting, you get a bunch of skills (bards are some of the best skill-users in the game) and some actual class features which are not too shabby. All in all, bards completely dominate social situations, provide a strong support role in combat, and have loads of extra utility on top of that.


    Trickster Spellthief
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...onk&p=23439210
    Average rating: 2.95
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    The trickster variant of the spellthief loses some skills and doesn't improve sneak attack beyond 1d6. However, in exchange, you use the bard progression for casting and add all bard spells to your class spell list. That's a clear upgrade, and it basically makes the spellthief into a Bard, But Different. Since bard is T3...


    Jester
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...otum-and-Jeste
    Average rating: 3.07
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Speaking of “Bard, But Different,” the jester! It's a weird, slightly worse bard variant with some odd dysfunctions, like missing class skills (Concentration?) and no ability to ignore the spell failure chance of the armor they're supposed to wear. But once you get past that, their spell list is very similar to the core bard list (see the side-by-side comparison here), which makes the class pretty similar to a core-only bard. Is a core-only bard still good enough for T3? Consensus was yes.


    Totemist
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...lborn-Totemist
    Average rating: 3.08
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    It’s really similar to incarnate. Most people thought it was a little more powerful because while both classes come with strong utility options, the totemist has a better chassis, so it doesn’t have to spend some of its resources compensating for lower base stats. Furthermore, it was argued that its natural weapon strategy scales better with optimization and provides a more obvious direction to the class. The two are close in power level, and if incarnate is right on the edge between 3 and 4, that puts totemist more firmly into 3, along with most of the other gishy melee-types.


    Swordsage
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...e-and-Warblade
    Average rating: 3.09
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Swordsage gives you strong melee abilities combined with a healthy dose of skill points. Of the martial adept classes, it's definitely the one with the widest range of options, but also the most difficult one to work with. With warblade and crusader, you can throw darts at your maneuver list and still end up with a playable character; with swordsage, you probably have to be a bit more thoughtful than that. The upside is that you get access to the most martial disciplines to pick your maneuvers from, and you have a pretty good amount of maneuvers readied at a time and, as previously mentioned, lots of skill points.


    Warlock
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...enamer-Warlock
    Average rating: 3.16
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Warlocks have three main things going for them. The first is their eldritch blast, which provides a weak but reliable source of damage, and can be upgraded to hit multiple targets, apply debuffs, and things like that. This gives them a solid baseline “okay” combat ability. The second thing is their other invocations, which offer various kinds of other effects, from flight to invisibility to large skill bonuses to battlefield control. These compete with the upgrades to eldritch blast, but essentially give you a handful of tricks that you can do really well. And then thirdly, you have some abilities that make you really good with magic items, almost like a wannabe artificer.

    There are some problems with the class. The most common criticism is always the low damage. It’s true that warlocks aren’t primary damage-dealers (despite having a laser blast as a flagship class feature), which can be disappointing, but it’s an at-will touch attack, so it hits very consistently, and if you take blast shape and eldritch essence invocations, you can boost the damage and add rider effects and all that, which makes it plenty respectable. On the other hand, if you don’t spend your invocations upgrading your eldritch blast, you’re getting a whole mess of defensive and/or utility invocations that’ll give you power in other areas. And because all your invocations are usable at will, you’re operating at full power all of the time. So at lower optimization levels, you can easily outperform the low-op rangers and barbarians of T4 and compare well against the bards and duskblades of T3, while at higher optimization levels, you’re doing all that while also abusing Use Magic Device left and right.

    Ultimately, it’s not the best T3 class, but it’s still solidly T3.


    Crusader
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...e-and-Warblade
    Average rating: 3.17
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    A powerhouse in melee, with some of the best tanking abilities in the game combined with a strong, reliable damage output. The crusader can take hits and dish them out in equal measure while also buffing and healing party members—and it does all this without any feat investment needed. The only way you're likely to do better than crusader (or its partner in crime, warblade) as a melee character is by playing a broken full caster as a gish, and even then, you still won't be outmeleeing the crusader until higher levels.

    What holds it back from a higher tier ranking is the problem it shares with the warblade and the warmage: what do you do when fighting isn't the answer? For crusaders, you have a few skills, so you can maybe contribute Diplomacy or Knowledge checks, and you have Mountain Hammer to smash things good—but not much else. You're not a one-trick pony like a lot of the T4 classes often end up being; maneuvers give you a lot of tactical flexibility in combat, so if Plan A goes awry, you have plenty of recourse. But you lack the raw quadratic power of a T2 class.

    As with warblade, this is a class where it's very important to note that you come out of the gates strong. At very low levels, crusader is one of the most powerful classes in the game. You're one-shotting enemies while being nigh-unkillable yourself. It balances out at mid- to high-levels, though.


    Binder
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...enamer-Warlock
    Average rating: 3.18
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Binder is a tough class to rank across 20 levels because it has some weird power spikes and plateaus in its progression, which can cause it to fluctuate from underpowered to MVP in the course of just a few levels; and because some of the best vestiges are from obscure sources, so how much weight should they really be given? Also, the class suffers from a lack of a clear focus, which can make it difficult to build for.

    The biggest problem with the class is the limitations that come from having to bind just one vestige at the start of the day for a large portion of your career. Unlike the incarnate, who can pick and choose soulmelds to get the best ones for the situation and can swap them out for situational ones a few times a day, the binder is locked into all of a particular vestige’s abilities and nothing else, with no ability to mix and match. Functionally speaking, this makes you a lot less versatile in practice than you should be in theory. As Zaq put it: “I hope that there's enough useful bits in the one vestige you get to keep you interesting and useful for an entire day, because if you just wanted one trick to get past one set of challenges, well, here we are. Add in the fact that you do have to build the rest of your character (feats, skills, stats, sometimes items) to accommodate your favored vestiges, and you can often end up at a severe disadvantage if you end up stuck with a vestige that you don't usually like much.” This problem is ameliorated somewhat once you can bind multiple vestiges at once, but it's still a real problem.

    The biggest advantage of the class is that there are some nice vestiges. Naberius makes you the ultimate face; Malphas makes you the ultimate scout; Buer makes you an endless font of healing; Astaroth gives you impressive crafting abilities; Other Astaroth gives you blasting; and of course there's Zceryll, who is actually just broken. And that's just a smattering.

    So where do we end up? Basically, somewhere in T3. Some had it low in the tier because of how clunky the class is at mid-levels; others had it higher because of Zceryll and other powerful vestiges.


    Warblade
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...e-and-Warblade
    Average rating: 3.26
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Same story as crusader, basically. One of the best melee classes in the game, with enough power in its maneuvers to keep up with high-tier gishes in combat. It's hard to overstate just how good warblades are at their specialty. Not only do they wreck face, they also do so very consistently and with almost no optimization required whatsoever, giving them a very high floor. Furthermore, their power is concentrated and magnified at low levels, making them one of the best classes for the early game—but they also scale well into higher levels too, because why not?

    Like crusader, the downside of all this is that you don't get many tools for non-combat encounters, and the things you're doing in combat are all powerful, but ultimately fair, even at high levels. In other words, swords are awesome, but if you want to be in the top tiers, you gotta have some sorcery. Warblade has no sorcery. It doesn't even have ranged attacks.

    Great class, very strong in its niche, goes up in value in low-op and low-level games. But a solid T3.


    Dragonfire Adept
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...enamer-Warlock
    Average rating: 3.28
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    It's just Warlock But Different. Dragonfire adept can be largely thought of as an alternative class feature for warlock that makes you a little worse at some things (Use Magic Device, breadth of invocation options) and a little better at other things (AoE damage and battlefield control) without having a substantial effect on the overall power level of the class. Some people argued that the DFA is better; others argued that the warlock is better. Either way, they're so close that to put them in different tiers would be unconscionable.

    On its own merits, dragonfire adept is a fine class that is great at short-range AoE damage and control and also good-to-great at a small handful of other things. It scales well (no pun intended) into higher levels and reliably has useful things to do both in and out of combat. Notably, it has very little variance between builds; most DFAs are likely to be at least like 80% identical, just due to how few options exist for the class. The thing is, those few options are still good options, so you end up with a relatively high floor and a low ceiling, both compared to the warlock and just in general. Anyway, bottom line, T3.


    Healer
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...taneous-Cleric
    Average rating: 3.31
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    The healer's class spell list is pretty bad, but it is at least good for healing. If that were all that the class had going for it, there's a good chance it would have ended up in T4 just as a result of being a one-trick pony whose trick is underwhelming. Two things help it out. The first is the expansion to its spell list in Book of Exalted Deeds (and to a lesser extent Champions of Valor). All sanctified spells are also healer spells. Once those two books are in the mix, it's like a booster shot to the healer's versatility, especially in the crucial mid-level range where healing spells are dropping off a bit in value but the companion hasn't really kicked in yet. And speaking of the companion…that's the second thing. Healers are kind of just durdling around doing their healer thing when all of a sudden, at level 12, a lammasu with access to all cleric spells of 4th level and lower just drops into their lap like “Oh, hey, wanna be buds?” And now they just have this extra cleric. And not only that, but on a daily basis, they can swap their lammasu cleric for a sphinx who can cast free symbol SLAs with an enhanced duration, or a water naga or couatl for sorcerer spells. It's a serious power spike. And then of course at level 17 they get gate, which is broken, but those top levels aren't weighted as highly for tiering.

    The central debate for this class was how much to weigh the sanctified spells. They're on the healer list, but because they were added as “Sanctified” with like a side note saying “Oh btw healers have these too,” they're significantly more obscure than if they had just been listed as healer spells directly, and that means players are less likely to know about them. Additionally, while the companion is hella powerful, it also makes for a very spiky level progression, where there's this sudden sharp power differential between level 11 and level 12. Both of these factors make it difficult to assign a single tier to the class. The consensus seemed to be that with both sanctified spells and the companion, healer is definitely T3, and with neither of the two, it's definitely T4, and on balance, you're more likely to have them than not, which puts it at the low end of T3. Everyone agreed that JaronK’s original rating of T5 was completely absurd.

    It's worth noting that Spell Compendium suggests adding additional spells to the healer list, but is somewhat vague on which ones should be added. I don't think anyone took this into consideration in the discussion, but my personal opinion is that it likely wouldn't affect the tier rating either way.


    Wild Shape Ranger
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-and-WS-Ranger
    Average rating: 3.31
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    You get fast movement and wild shape (Medium and Small forms only). You give up your combat style. That's about it. Wild shape is great, so this is an overall buff to the ranger. Traditionally, it's been considered enough of a buff to boost you up a tier. We reexamined that common wisdom and decided that, yeah, it's a bit overrated, probably, but not an unreasonable assessment, especially if you optimize it with feats like Exalted Wild Shape or Aberration Wild Shape. I'd estimate it as roughly half a tier above the standard ranger, which, if the standard ranger is a benchmark T4, leaves the wild shape ranger kinda on the edge of the two tiers.


    Duskblade
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...hei-Spellthief
    Average rating: 3.34
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Zaq wrote a pretty good summary of this one.
    Quote Originally Posted by Zaq View Post
    This seems like a fairly easy T3. Low T3, mind you, but I think it's on par with the martial adepts. It's got more magic than the average non-caster, but it doesn't have the real gamebreaking power of a full caster. It's mostly good at hitting things, and like the martial adepts, it's got enough way of hitting things in new ways (or of augmenting ways to hit things) that it's got a leg up on the Barbarian and the Rogue (and it's difficult to make it entirely useless).

    Duskblade spells aren't great at solving out-of-combat problems, and they don't have a native equivalent to Advanced Learning (though the old standby tricks of Arcane Disciple—WIS permitting—and similar list-expanders do work). That said, they get short-range teleportation, Dispel Magic (at a late level, but at least they have no baked-in penalty to CL), Disintegrate (aka Make Hole), Spider Climb, and See Invisibility, which is more than many non-casters can say. They also actually get a halfway decent number of spells per day, which is rarer than it has any right to be.

    Duskblades also have a reasonably high optimization floor. As long as you take Shocking Grasp early on, you've got your combat capabilities more or less covered for the early levels, and it doesn't take much optimization to get in melee with something and cast a channeled touch spell at it. They're never going to rise above the level of extra-flashy beatstick, but they've got damage, minor utility, a decent bit of self-reliance (Swift Fly, f'rinstance), and enough variety to approach problems in more ways than the Scout can. Seems like a fairly textbook low T3.
    There were a couple people who thought it should be T4 because it mostly just does damage and not much else, but when you look more closely at the spell list, you can see that's not really true. There are some decent utility spells there, and even a build that only learns damaging spells is still going to end up with different kinds of damaging spells—scorching ray, for example, is a ranged option, and vampiric touch doubles as a defensive buff. Also, even though a lot of lower-tier classes fit the mold of “Hit with sword, deal damage,” there's no denying that duskblade does it way better than they do.


    Factotum
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...otum-and-Jeste
    Average rating: 3.36
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Factotum has almost the reverse problem of mystic ranger. It's pretty weak at low levels, but then later in its progression it gets 7th level spells off the sorcerer/wizard list. It also has shades of the same problem as incarnate, where it dabbles in a little bit of everything and ends up being difficult to build and pilot because it's not obvious what you should be focusing on. Ultimately, I think the comparison that felt closest to most voters was with bard. Its skillmonkey abilities, combined with a vaguely bard-esque casting progression and some rudimentary weapon proficiencies, make it more like a weirder, less powerful bard than a rogue who sucks at sneak attacks and doesn't do anything in combat.

    There are a lot of potential pitfalls with this class (“doesn't do anything in combat” being the biggest one; you can optimize for tripping with Brains over Brawn, or for nova with Font of Inspiration, but it takes some work). It may be T3, but it is definitely in the lower half of the tier, and there were serious arguments for dropping it to T4.


    Psychic Warrior
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ulknife-Wilder
    Average rating: 3.19
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Here we have a class that is clearly worse than martial adepts because it has to spend its very limited daily resources just to keep up with what the initiators can do at will. At the same time, it's also clearly better than the T4 beatsticks like fighter and barbarian because it can do everything they can do while also having cool psychic powers to buff themselves with. That leaves it either in the lower half of T3 or the upper half of T4. Now compare it with the totemist—they can both play very similarly in combat, but again, psychic warrior has to spend daily resources while the totemist has everything at will. On the other hand, psychic warrior has the potential to outscale the totemist at high levels with manifesting, especially with the ability to gain off-list powers with Expanded Knowledge. On the other other hand, psychic warriors are harder to build and pilot than comparable gishy classes like totemist and duskblade, and more MAD to boot.

    So where do we stand? Well, in T3, apparently, but with some caveats. It's tricky to work with, and will very easily drop to T4 in the hands of an inexperienced player; it really doesn't like having low stat rolls; and it might take a while before it gets enough psionics to reliably outperform a fighter of the same optimization level. And wow, I am not selling this class very well, am I?


    Lurk
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Psychic-Rogue
    Average rating: 3.4
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    While the lurk is presented as a psionic version of a stealthy rogue-type character, mechanically, it’s actually much closer to a psionic version of a bard. It has a slower casting progression than the psion, but faster than a psychic rogue, with lots of mind-affecting and utility powers. Meanwhile, your chassis is similar to the psychic warrior’s, with martial weapon proficiency and medium BAB, but instead of bonus feats, you get a small amount of sneak attack, and instead of gishy self-buff powers, you get lurk augments. That would definitely be a downgrade in a vacuum, but you make up for it by having more options outside of combat.

    So here we are, the middle ground between psychic warrior and psychic rogue. And just like both of them, you’re T3, but low in the tier.


    Psychic Rogue
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-Psychic-Rogue
    Average rating: 3.4
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    The addition of psionic powers is a significant power boost for the rogue, and the cost is slightly lower skill points and slightly delayed sneak attack. Definitely a favorable trade, especially since the psychic rogue's power list is actually legit. So it's for sure better than the base rogue, but is it better enough to break the tier barrier? The short answer is yes, probably. The added versatility is a big deal and goes a long way towards addressing some of the traditional weaknesses of the rogue. You still have the trapfinding and sneak attack and all that, but then you just also have dimension door and freedom of movement and true seeing and scrying and telekinesis and stuff. Plus, a lot of your powers either greatly enhance your skills or replace them completely, with powers like knock, find traps, conceal thoughts, and chameleon, so there’s, like, synergy going there. It's like if a factotum were actually good at the traditional rogue stuff instead of getting constantly distracted by trying to imitate other classes.

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    Default Re: Why each class is in its tier: 2019 update!

    Tier 4

    Wild Monk
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ster-Wild-Monk
    Average rating: 3.51
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    The addition of wild shape is a boon to the monk at high levels, but it takes a while to come online and be useful, especially with the delayed progression. Still, wild shape is a good ability, and one that most people thought was worthy of a tier boost, following the precedent of the wild shape ranger. In fact, it's arguably a bigger boost for the monk than it is for the ranger, since it goes such a long way toward alleviating the monk's usual problem of severe MADness. Just keep in mind that before level 6, this is actually a strict downgrade in power to an already anemic class. That alone was the basis for several lower-tier votes.


    Incarnate
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...lborn-Totemist
    Average rating: 3.66
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    The discussion for incarnate was tricky because not everyone really understood what the class is supposed to do. And to be fair, it is kinda all over the place. Here’s my summary of how to actually play an incarnate:
    Spoiler
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    Quote Originally Posted by Troacctid View Post
    An incarnate can function as a melee brawler, a ranged support, a minion master, or a utility-focused skillmonkey.

    • Key soulmelds for melee include lightning gauntlets and astral vambraces.
    • Key soulmelds for ranged include dissolving spittle.
    • Key soulmelds for minion mastery include necrocarnum circlet and soulspark familiar.
    • Key soulmelds for skillmonkeying include lucky dice, mage's spectacles, theft gloves, silvertongue mask, and truthseeker goggles.
    • Supplementary soulmelds for defense include crystal helm, astral vambraces, lammasu mantle, planar chasuble, planar ward, strongheart vest, flame cincture, impulse boots, incarnate avatar (good), spellward shirt, and vitality belt.
    • Supplementary soulmelds for offense include armguards of disruption, bloodwar gauntlets, lucky dice, sighting gloves, bloodwar gauntlets, bluesteel bracers, incarnate weapon, incarnate avatar (law or evil), and necrocarnum shroud.
    • Supplementary soulmelds for mobility include acrobat boots, airstep sandals, and cerulean sandals.
    • Situational soulmelds include enigma helm, theft gloves, riding bracers, sailor's bracers, psion's eyes, mage's spectacles, pauldrons of health, apparition ribbon, planar chasuble, strongheart vest, flame cincture, truthseeker goggles, and silvertongue mask.

    So basically, you can pick one role and fill it very well by using the key soulmelds for that role plus supplementary ones, or you can fill multiple roles by picking the key soulmelds for both, and every day you can change your loadout depending on what you think will be most useful to the party, including switching to situational picks when the adventure calls for it. This gives you a lot of day-to-day flexibility, as well as level-by-level flexibility—for example, you can use astral vambraces at low levels when the DR is at its most powerful, and then switch it out for vitality belt at higher levels, when the HP boost is more valuable. Additionally, once you hit level 5, you get the ability to swap out soulmelds in the middle of the day, which lets you pull a situational soulmeld out of your back pocket whenever it's needed.

    At higher levels, the more powerful chakra binds can open up new and exciting options, like flight, at-will suggestion, at-will mindlink, 1/week gate, and so on—or they can simply turbocharge the options you already had, like with dissolving spittle or soulspark familiar. This ability to scale up to higher levels is another big advantage over nonmagical counterparts like rogue or fighter.

    So, that’s the basics. Actually, the incarnate is not too bad at what it does, assuming you have some idea of what you’re doing. On the downside, with poor BAB, a d6 hit die, and only 2 + Int skill points, some of those soulmelds are going to be stuck just making up the lost ground from your weak base stats. The good news is that you’re typically relying mainly on touch attacks and minions, so you can easily get away with poor BAB.

    Where does it land tier-wise? Well, there were two main schools of thought. Some people rated it pretty close to the binder and totemist, in the lower half of T3, on account of having good stuff plus extra magic and whatever, and being better than psychic warrior, which was the lowest-ranked T3 at the time. Others contended that the power level of the incarnate's soulmelds is low enough to pull the class down to high T4. I definitely disagree with that. Your soulmelds are very good at low levels while still scaling reasonably well into high levels, and you get enough of them at a time to do good work—plus, the ability to swap out soulmelds on the fly does wonders for your versatility. Nevertheless, the 4 votes outnumbered the 3 votes, so here we are. Do you have any thoughts?


    Shadowcaster
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...enamer-Warlock
    Average rating: 3.82
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    A combination of restrictive limitations on mysteries known, harshly limited mysteries per day, and a dearth of actual good mysteries combined to make shadowcaster the lowest-ranked class with 9th level casting. The Path mechanic makes for really clunky builds where in order to get one good mystery, you have to learn two crappy ones. Shadowcasters also struggle a lot in the early game, especially before 7th level, when all their mysteries are limited to 1/day, and unlike other casters, they don't get bonus spells for high ability scores. Like, okay, once you get rolling? You're probably fine? Even with just 4th or 5th level mysteries, you can at least function okay, probably, and when you hit 7ths, that's when you’re really in business and can start being actively awesome. But getting there is rough. And I realize that's true of most arcane casters to some extent, but shadowcasters feel it even more, and what do they get in return? A weaker spell list, lower save DCs, fewer spells known, fewer spells per day, and a small handful of spells that have a minor advantage over the non-shadow counterpart. Oof.


    Rogue
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ogue-and-Scout
    Average rating: 3.85
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Rogue is a benchmark T4 class. Clearly worse than all the T3 classes, clearly better than all the T5 classes, performs well enough in and out of combat but has some glaring weaknesses that keep it from breaking the tier barrier. Sneak attack can make you a glass cannon, dealing lots of damage in melee without giving you a good way to survive the counterattack, but it’s a finicky ability that won’t always work, and when it doesn’t, you’re more like a glass slingshot: all the fragility with none of the deadliness. Meanwhile, skills are great, but they’re not revolutionary or anything. Anyway, like I said, benchmark for the tier.


    Barbarian
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...nd-Samurai-(OA)
    Average rating: 4
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Barbarian was considered another benchmark T4. It has a solid niche in Strength-based melee combat with rage as the baseline and some very good ACFs at higher optimization levels, but it’s extremely frontloaded and drops off quickly in the lategame. It also comes with a surprisingly okay skill list. Without any alternative class features, it loses a fair bit of power and probably drops to the lower border of the tier. For my part, I'm concerned that people may have overestimated the percentage of single-class barbarians taking those good ACFs, and I personally would have placed the class a little lower in T4, but I also don’t think even the core-only barbarian necessarily falls all the way to T5, so it's close enough.


    Generic Expert
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...eneric-Warrior
    Average rating: 4
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    The generic expert is basically another rogue variant that doesn’t do much to break the mold. It’s maybe a little more powerful than the rogue due to its modularity (and getting 2d6 sneak attack immediately at level 1), but not by much.


    Generic Warrior
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...eneric-Warrior
    Average rating: 4
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    The generic warrior is straight-up just a better version of the fighter. Nobody cares about tower shield proficiency anyway, and being able to choose any feats is a big advantage, particularly at later levels when the best fighter feats have dried up. Choosing your class skills is also a pretty big deal. So it's obviously better, but by how much? The consensus, I think, was “Better enough to be a clear T4 instead of a borderline T4/T5,” or about half a tier better.


    Scout
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ogue-and-Scout
    Average rating: 4.08
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    It’s Rogue, But Different. It has some upsides and some downsides compared to rogue, but nothing that represents a radical change in power level either way, and so it gets the same tier rating.


    Spellthief
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...hei-Spellthief
    Average rating: 4.13
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Another rogue variant, this time losing some skills and some sneak attack dice to get spell-stealing and minor spellcasting. It’s a pretty fair trade, all things considered, and probably a net positive for the spellthief—but if it is, it's by a small enough margin to be debatable, and not enough to go up a tier (at least not without the trickster variant, which is tiered separately). Unlike the factotum and psychic rogue, your spell progression is really, really slow, and your caster level is cut in half, so you don’t really have the magical oomph to break the tier barrier. And when you're not able to use your steal spells ability, it's easy to feel like you're just a rogue with less damage and fewer skills.


    Paladin
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...hei-Spellthief
    Average rating: 4.18
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    It's funny, actually, near the start of the thread I said I thought paladin is underrated, and then a bunch of people came along and just casually rated it higher than I did, lol. The discussion here centered mainly on ACFs and splat support, because the paladin has tons of really great stuff in books like Complete Champion, Champions of Valor, and even the good old Dungeon Master’s Guide, which expands the range of available special mounts. Most people thought that with all the supplemental sources taken into account, you could hit T4 without too much trouble, but with only the PHB, you'd be relegated to T5. However, because it wasn't a single variant providing the boost but rather a confluence of multiple feats and ACFs, we couldn't really tier it separately. So we had to decide how much to factor in those optimization vectors. I think the eventual rating of T4 was on the generous side, but still within the realm of reason. (Monk, incidentally, had a similar discussion, but fell the other way.) Even for the core-only paladin, you've still got some nice abilities, particularly the special mount, which is legit. Just be aware that it's very easy—easier than usual—for a low-op paladin to drop a tier.


    Ranger
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...hei-Spellthief
    Average rating: 4.19
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Along with rogue and barbarian, this was considered another benchmark for the tier. The mix of skill points, martial ability, and minor spellcasting gives the ranger a taste of everything without really excelling in any one area. Ranger spells are super slow, but they're actually not bad, even just in core. Meanwhile, as a core class, it has lots of splat support with ACFs and spells and stuff, raising its optimization ceiling. Of course, archery and dual wielding are both underpowered in this edition, which hurts, and like two bonus feats plus full BAB and a half-strength animal companion isn't exactly the strongest combat resume. Anyway, it ended up being fairly uncontroversial.


    Ninja
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ogue-and-Scout
    Average rating: 4.36
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Another rogue variant that's a bit worse than the original, but still close enough to be in the same tier. Ninja trades sneak attack for sudden strike, which is a strict downgrade, and has fewer skills than the rogue. However, it also has supernatural ki abilities that allow it to turn invisible and stuff, so it's not just spewing away those advantages for no value. With limited ki points per day, it's not a great trade, but it's, like, fine or whatever, and the basic play patterns still hold.


    Adept
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ht-and-Warrior
    Average rating: 4.13
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    I’m probably the wrong person to explain why the adept ended up in T4 because I don't really understand it myself. It's true that it has spells, but those spells are also kiiinda crappy, and it has so few spell slots that it's likely to run out of steam in the first encounter and be a glorified commoner for the rest of the day. Maybe on the strength of animate dead minionmancy, if you're being generous? But that seems questionable to me considering how late it comes online. You've got the shadowcaster problem of not enough spell slots, but unlike the shadowcaster, you never grow out of it and you have a delayed progression. I think it's a clear T5 alongside the magewright; the two are not too far from each other power-wise.

    *Sigh* Okay, fine, here's a quote from Dondasch arguing for T4.
    Spoiler
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dondasch View Post
    Adept: Bad chassis, familiar and nerfed divine casting. Your class skills are adequate for a caster, but your skill points suck. The base familiar isn't going to amount for much, and you need an Arcane Spellcaster Level for the feats that give you good options. So if you're to get anywhere, the casting must carry the day. So let's take a look:
    0th (level 1): These are largely the standard cleric fare. Ghost Sound stands out as the best option, though Create Water is a fun one. While 0th level spells are generally not huge, you at least get a few that can be useful.
    1st (level 1): Now we're talking. Sleep and Cause Fear can both end low-level encounters, and Obscuring Mist is your BFC option. On the buff side of things, you get the Protection from [Alignment] series. For utility, you have Comprehend Languages and Endure Elements. At this point, you are reasonably competitive with full casters, having options for a variety of situations.
    2nd (level 4): Your get these at the same time as the Sorcerer, but with fewer spells/day. That said, Web is a solid BFC option, Mirror Image is a good defensive option, and Invisibility is both a defense and utility. Bull's Strength and Cat's Grace are still good buffs at this point, and Resist Energy is useful if you expect a certain energy type.
    3rd (level 8): At this point, your stunted progression is really hurting. Thankfully, Animate Dead doesn't care. Unfortunately, you don't get any good combat options here; Bestow Curse would be good if it wasn't touch-range. Deeper Darkness is okay. Your best spell here is Lightning Bolt, and you never even have to cast it. Because you get it as a divine spell, you can get into Hexer, which is a huge upgrade. Probably not that important for tiering because it's a 3.0 PrC, but still fantastic.
    4th (level 12): Late Polymorph is still Polymorph. Stoneskin remains as a defensive buff against melee, and Minor Creation is another abusable spell.
    5th (level 16): Other prepared casters are getting 9ths next level. This level, you're getting Heal, True Seeing, Major Creation, Raise Dead, Wall of Stone, and Commune. It still doesn't really compare, but those are all potentially worth casting.

    Verdict: I'm going to say T4. The progression hurts a lot, but you get quite a few spells worth casting.



    Savant
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...tum-and-Jester
    Average rating: 4.37
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Yet another rogue variant. (Yeesh, how many of these are there? Spoiler alert, at least one more.) Or is it a factotum variant? Yes, factotum is probably the more apt comparison, with all skills as class skills and abilities that want you to be doing everything at once, but badly. You get like one or two dice of sneak attack, a couple bonus feats, a bardic knowledge ability, and a crappy spell progression for both arcane and divine spells. Unfortunately for the savant, it's much worse at factotuming than the factotum (primarily in the spellcasting department). The class tries to do a little of everything and ends up not doing much of anything. The biggest upside is that by sticking your fingers in a lot of pies, you can gain access to feats and prestige classes that interact with all those different subsystems—1d6 sneak attack is enough to take Craven, crappy arcane casting is enough to take Obtain Familiar, crappy utility casting in general lets you use wands without UMD, etc.

    Votes were a mix of 4s and 5s, and the final verdict was low T4.


    Fighter
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...nd-Samurai-(OA)
    Average rating: 4.48
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Fighter is ultimately very close to barbarian in power level. The bonus feats match up well enough to barbarian class features, the overall gameplay of the two classes is pretty similar, they're both heavily frontloaded with relatively powerful features at level 1 and jack-all at higher levels, and they both scale well enough with optimization due to strong splat support through ACFs and the like (in the fighter’s case, the good ACFs include thug, dungeoncrasher, hit and run, Zhentarim substitution levels, and exoticist). What makes fighter weaker is mainly the lack of skills and the greater likelihood of falling into trap options. But once the barbarian was established as a benchmark for T4, it only made sense that fighter would end up in the same tier—they're not that far apart, after all.


    Marshal
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...an-and-Marshal
    Average rating: 4.59
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Marshal has an aristocrat-like chassis with a bunch of auras that allow you to add your Charisma modifier as a bonus to...basically anything, for the whole party. This makes marshal an okay support class and a very good party face. Some people, myself included, argued that the sheer breadth of auras a single-class marshal gets has to be worth enough versatility for T4. Others argued that the class is extremely passive and boring and doesn't really do enough—like, what even are you spending your actions on? The counterargument was that they can also apply their Charisma to their own attacks and combat maneuver checks as well as everyone else's. It ended up right at the line. Also, Zaq voted for T6 for some reason, and I gotta say, I have no idea what he was thinking there, sorry Zaq, but that's clearly absurd and you should feel bad.

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    Default Re: Why each class is in its tier: 2019 update!

    Tier 5

    Truenamer
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...enamer-Warlock
    Average rating: 4.56
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Contrary to popular memes, the truenamer class is not completely dysfunctional as written. It's just very dependent on the amulet of the silver tongue to function, and once you get it functioning, the powers it has access to are unreliable and underwhelming. There's no way around it—utterances kinda suck. There are a few decent ones, but for the most part, you have some mediocre support spells, and you have to dump build resources into optimizing your skill checks just to be able to cast them at all. If you build right, you can make it up to T4, but that's the best case.


    Sohei
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...hei-Spellthief
    Average rating: 4.58
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    It's a weird class that most people haven't played with much, so there wasn't a ton of discussion, but it mostly boiled down to a weird cross between barbarian, monk, and paladin, with no splat support or anything. Kind of hexblade-esque I guess? I pegged it at T5, others disagreed, few people seemed to have strong feelings one way or the other.


    Hexblade
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...hei-Spellthief
    Average rating: 4.72
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Like a paladin, but nerfed. No heavy armor, no special mount, no turning, no lay on hands, a divine grace equivalent that only works against spells, and a flagship ability that is somehow even less exciting than smite evil. The only reasonable trade is aura of courage for mettle, and even then, it’s not like it’s a slam-dunk or anything. In summary, it’s not a very good class. Paladin was already considered borderline by more than a few people, so a nerfed version of it is definitely going directly to T5, do not pass Go, do not collect 200 gp.


    Monk
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-and-Soulknife
    Average rating: 4.7
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Like barbarian, monk is a frontloaded class with some very good ACFs that allow it to scale reasonably well with optimization. Unlike barbarian, the fail-case scenario in low-op games is...very bad.

    So, why is monk a bad class? I’d say that its failings are well-documented and I don’t want to rehash them, but considering that it’s literally the purpose of this thread, fine, let’s do some floccinaucinihilipilification. First off, unarmed strikes are glorified shortswords that deal crappy damage. Second, flurry of blows only works on a full attack and is generally unreliable. Thirdly, you’re meant to be a melee fighter, but your damage output sucks and you can’t tank worth beans either, so what are you even doing? Disabling enemies with Stunning Fist? Good luck with that—half the Monster Manual is immune to it, and the other half will probably just make the save. Grappling? Tripping? Maybe, except for our fourth problem: MADness. You need Dexterity and Wisdom because you won’t have any AC without them (and even with them, your AC is still worse than any schmoe in armor), but you also need Strength in order for your attacks to matter at all, since you don’t have any source of bonus damage, and 1d6+2 is not going to cut it in the big leagues. So your ability scores end up being split multiple ways just to almost keep pace with the other melee characters. Finally, to top it all off, your class features kinda suck. You get some bonus feats at the early levels, sure, but it drops off hard after that, so you struggle in the early game and then struggle in the midgame and eventually struggle even harder in the lategame. Yeah, you have good saves or whatever, but that doesn’t matter if you can’t do anything.

    Okay, so we got that over with. Now, why Tier 5? Well, an optimized monk can definitely push into T4 with good feat selection, intelligent use of skills, and abilities like invisible fist and shadow blend—but it’s just as easy for an unoptimized monk to fall down to T6, struggling to keep up with the NPC aristocrats and warriors due to poor build decisions and trap options. We expect the majority of monks to end up here instead, in the land of Classes Who Are Bad At Their Jobs.


    Battle Dancer
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-and-Soulknife
    Average rating: 4.73
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    It’s like monk, except it has full BAB, but all the other class features are worse and there's no splat support for it. It takes a standard action to use your version of ki strike, FFS. Anyway, it's pretty bad.


    Divine Mind
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...an-and-Marshal
    Average rating: 4.75
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    This is a rare example of a class where we didn't split off a major variant to tier separately, but we probably should have. The variant in question is the Mind’s Eye variant with Hidden Talent and Ectopic Ally, granting manifesting at an earlier level and astral construct as a psi-like ability. The astral construct is always fully-augmented automatically, and can be augmented even more by spending multiple daily uses of the ability rather than one. It's a major boost in power and it's practically free; several voters, myself included, considered this variant to be an easy boost of at least half a tier or more. With Ectopic Ally, the divine mind is definitely T4.

    What about without it? Well, then you're a lot like a psionic paladin, except weirder, and instead of splat support, you have better scaling, with eventual access to 5th and 6th level powers (at very high levels). The auras kinda suck, mainly because switching between them is such a pain, but they can at least cancel out your lack of full BAB, sort of, mostly. The real problem is you just don't do very much. Your manifesting comes at a -4 penalty and is too anemic to reliably augment your fighting in a meaningful way until very late in the game; your auras are too teeny-tiny to reliably augment your allies’ fighting until very late in the game; and your own fighting abilities are fairly barebones. Top it off with some MADness (you need physical stats for fighting, Wis for manifesting, and Cha for divine grace) and you have a class that probably lands somewhere in the 4.5 to 5.0 range, all things considered.


    Mountebank
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-and-Soulknife
    Average rating: 4.84
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Yet another rogue variant, except this one has no sneak attack and no spellcasting, except for alter self and a couple of high-level teleportation spells. But for the most part, if you imagine taking the rogue and removing almost every single class feature from it in exchange for alter self, you won't be far from the mark. Don't get me wrong, alter self is great, but it does not a class make. Even without losing skill points and splat support, it would be a highly questionable trade. With the other drawbacks, it just feels bad.

    Votes here were primarily a mix of 5s and 4.5s, so pretty much everyone agreed it was somewhere in the upper T5 range.


    Samurai (OA)
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...nd-Samurai-(OA)
    Average rating: 4.85
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    It’s like fighter, except with more skill points and you save money on weapons! ...But you get fewer feats, and you have to pick them from a smaller, crappier list. Some voters thought the upside made up for the downside, while others argued that it didn't. Of course, even some of the people who felt the two were about equal still thought the fighter was also T5. Anyway, when the votes were tallied, the 5s had it.


    Dragon Shaman
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...an-and-Marshal
    Average rating: 4.86
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Dragon shaman is a frontloaded class with poor scaling. I mean...they grow scales, but they don’t...look, you know what I mean. It’s just disappointing. The energy shield, toughness, and vigor auras are all fantastic in the early levels, but they start to lose their luster once you level up a bit. What else do you have? Bonus feats, but they have to be Skill Focus. A breath weapon, but its damage is below par for the level you get it. A draconic adaptation ability, but it’s extremely niche. A lay on hands ability that’s better than the paladin’s, but is still just okay. Wings, but not until 19th level. An ACF that gives them a draconic invocation, but it’s only a single least invocation. An ostensibly melee-focused kit, but with only simple weapons and medium BAB. There isn’t really anything that the dragon shaman does well, only a few things that it can do kind of okay. It also doesn’t really offer a lot of avenues for optimization, so it has a low ceiling, even if its floor is higher than some of the other T5 classes (you’re still constantly healing the party back to half health for free, after all).

    There were a couple of stray 4 votes, but they were substantially outnumbered by the 5s.


    Magewright
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ht-and-Warrior
    Average rating: 4.94
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    An NPC caster like adept, but somehow with even less relevance in combat. Casting as a mechanic is arguably good enough to keep it out of T6, but it's bad.


    Swashbuckler
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...le-Swashbuckle
    Average rating: 4.98
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    You get Weapon Finesse and Int to damage with finesse weapons, but you have no other Int synergy, so that's just a fancy way of saying you can be more MAD in order to deal less damage than if you had just used Strength in the first place. Best-case, it's a glorified Weapon Specialization. Your other class features are essentially Dodge and Mobility as bonus feats; a bonus to Reflex saves that's worse than if you just used the good progression in the first place; the ability to Jump and Tumble during a charge like literally every character already can because that's just how those skills work; and some so-so high-level abilities that come online way too late to be relevant. If you didn't at least get a couple extra skills, you would literally be worse than an NPC warrior with a greatsword. As is, you're like a gestalt of warrior and aristocrat with a couple of bad bonus feats. Is that enough to break out of T6? I guess. Does the swashbuckler still rival the soulknife for the title of Worst Standard Class in D&D 3.5? Yes.


    Soulborn
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...lborn-Totemist
    Average rating: 5.05
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    This is a class that’s ostensibly supposed to be an incarnum fighter-paladin type. So where’s the incarnum? You get stiffed on soulmelds, essentia, and chakra binds with a painfully slow progression, preventing you from making good use of the system. As for your other class features, they’re kinda bland and low-impact. It all comes together to make soulborn into a much worse version of the paladin, and the class was voted unanimously into T5.


    Noble
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...le-Swashbuckle
    Average rating: 5.05
    Spoiler: Explanation
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    Noble is supposed to be to aristocrat what fighter is to warrior and rogue is to expert. Unfortunately, it does a pretty poor job of it. You can inspire your team, but on a 1-turn delay, and with fewer daily uses than a bard. You can call in favors from your house, but only if those favors are relatively inconsequential to the plot. And you get a bonus to aid another. At high levels, you can inspire greatness like a bard, but slightly worse. Medium BAB, two good saves, 4 + Int skill points (with decent class skills at least), martial weapons, light armor and shields (even aristocrats get heavy armor!), d8 hit die. That's it, that's the whole class. It's very bad.


    Knight
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...le-Swashbuckle
    Average rating: 5.09
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    You can see what this class is trying to do with its tanky, aggro-pulling mechanics, but it doesn’t really get there. The problem is there’s so many finicky restrictions that prevent any of your abilities from working reliably. Bulwark of Defense only works if the enemy is already in your threatened area when they start their turn. Test of Mettle has harsh targeting restrictions, can be negated with a Will save, and doesn’t allow your allies to help you with the enemies you just pulled to yourself. Vigilant Defender makes it harder for enemies to Tumble past you, but doesn’t prevent it completely. Shield Ally takes your immediate action and only works if you’re directly next to the ally you’re protecting. And on top of it all, your code of conduct has some seriously punitive rules in there—you don’t gain a bonus for flanking, and you can’t attack flat-footed enemies at all.

    They’re little things, but they all add up to a class that just doesn’t quite live up to what it promises. And so it lands here in T5, home of the classes that are Bad At Their Jobs.


    Soulknife
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...-and-Soulknife
    Average rating: 5.22
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    There was some pretty good discussion on this one, even though almost everyone agreed it was one of the worst classes in the game. Why is it so bad? Well, primarily because its main class feature is “saving some money on a weapon.” Not that there’s anything wrong with saving money, it’s just that the weapon you get out of it is kinda so-so, and your combat capabilities with it are similar to those of a rogue with no sneak attack. Or I suppose with psychic strike, it’s closer to a mountebank with Improved Feint? Either way, it’s not a favorable comparison, and 4 + Int skill points aren’t enough to save soulknife from a seat next to the rest of the lowest-ranking T5s.


    Samurai (CW)
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...nd-Samurai-(OA)
    Average rating: 5.27
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    It's like a fighter, except instead of bonus feats, you get a code of conduct and a crappy smite ability! The class features for the samurai are so bad that several people actually voted to put it in T6 with the NPC classes.


    Expert
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ht-and-Warrior
    Average rating: 5.26
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    Like the other non-casting NPC classes, the expert is a clear T6. It can pick any skills, but as nice as Use Magic Device is, it's far from sufficient to boost the expert into the realm of PC classes, especially since experts are almost completely useless in combat. After all, anyone can get the expert’s class skills with feats, but hardly anyone does, which should tell you something; and furthermore, the aristocrat has all the good class skills automatically while also having relevant combat proficiencies, and it's still T6, so the expert can't…

    ...What? What do you mean people voted it into T5? Why? ...They cited Iaijutsu Focus? Are you messing with me? That's absurd. I'm not putting it there. Ugh, okay, fine, fine, whatever, but under protest.

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    Tier 6

    Aristocrat
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ht-and-Warrior
    Average rating: 5.76
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    The best of the non-casting NPC classes, IMO, because it's the most versatile, with a mix of both fighting ability and skills, as well as a high starting gp. There's even an ACF that gives them energy resistance. Still clearly T6.


    Warrior
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ht-and-Warrior
    Average rating: 5.8
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    Full BAB and no class features make for a baseline 6.


    Commoner
    Original thread: http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showt...ht-and-Warrior
    Average rating: 6
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    Hopefully not much explanation is needed as to why this is the worst class in the game. It has no class features and the lowest possible base stats. So, yeah.

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    Default Re: Why each class is in its tier: 2019 update!

    Right, that's it. There's your tiers. What do you think? Anything in the wrong place? Let us know! Again, you can vote in this thread, but do post a rationale for your votes, and don't vote for like a bazillion classes all in one post. Also, please indicate your votes in boldface so that I can find them more easily. Thanks!

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    Reserved just in case.

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    Reserved just in case.

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    Great list and really well-organized too. Good work.

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    You seem to have forgotten to mention problem-solving capacity in most as your write-ups. "...problem solving capacity is what's being measured here." seems to imply that problem solving capacity should be at least mentioned in at least a few of these. Is there any particular reason problem solving capacity was omitted?
    "Movement speed is the most important statistic in this game."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Karl Aegis View Post
    You seem to have forgotten to mention problem-solving capacity in most as your write-ups. "...problem solving capacity is what's being measured here." seems to imply that problem solving capacity should be at least mentioned in at least a few of these. Is there any particular reason problem solving capacity was omitted?
    I'm not sure what you mean.

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    "Flexibility" in the OG tier definitions is clearly alluding to spells known/limited spell list vs an open spell list. That could be clarified, but overall I find these new descriptions...not very informative, to the point where you might as well abandon tiers and just numerically rank them.

    The fact that the dread necro's casting is being compared to the sorcerer on the basis that its restricted spell list contains "solid mid-op picks" is problematic, because the sorcerer's curve is much wider. Seems like weasel wording to avoid the fact that dread necro's casting is much worse than a sorcerer's and has a much lower ceiling.

    I'll vote expert: 5.75 to help heal your frustration.

    Also voting sorcerer: 2 because sorcerer should remain the exemplar of T2.
    Last edited by Elves; 2019-10-15 at 07:58 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elves View Post
    The fact that the dread necro's casting is being compared to the sorcerer on the basis that its restricted spell list contains "solid mid-op picks" is problematic, because the sorcerer's curve is much wider. Seems like weasel wording to avoid the fact that dread necro's casting is much worse than a sorcerer's and has a much lower ceiling.
    The problem with all the fixed list casters, as you can read ad nauseum in the tiering threads, is that we have to compare mid op sorcs with mid op dns and beguiler and high ops to high ops. By the time you get sorcerers approaching the top of their power the fixed list casters can use one of several methods to expand their lists to do most of the same tricks. Spell list to spell list the Sorcerer is better. But the sorcerer using high op tricks gets compared with a DN which has acquired extra spells.

    Also, you are comparing over the entire level range. Some of the most powerful sorc tricks are very high level and the fixed list casters have an advantage at low levels.
    Last edited by Gnaeus; 2019-10-15 at 08:07 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elves View Post
    "

    Also voting sorcerer: 2 because sorcerer should remain the exemplar of T2.
    While I understand your feeling on the matter, that isn't exactly an argument for why sorcerer should score 2. I could say "fighter is 4 because it fights." Ok, great. That isn't an argument though, it is just a statement that is generally true.
    Sorcerer is typically regarded as the prototype for tier 2 or the ruler to measure other possible tier 2 entries. However, it could be supported more with the fact that arcane casting via the sorcerer spell list is quite capable. The downsides being the obvious limit on spells known and lack of both class features and splat support (compared to its rival, the wizard). So, I agree with you, but I just want to hear more about why you think it should be tier 2. I may have rambled a lot in making my point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elves View Post
    "Flexibility" in the OG tier definitions is clearly alluding to spells known/limited spell list vs an open spell list. That could be clarified, but overall I find these new descriptions...not very informative, to the point where you might as well abandon tiers and rank them from 0 to 5.
    It's just a straightforward ranking of power level.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elves View Post
    The fact that the dread necro's casting is being compared to the sorcerer on the basis that its restricted spell list contains "solid mid-op picks" is problematic, because the sorcerer's curve is much wider. Seems like weasel wording to avoid the fact that dread necro's casting is much worse than a sorcerer's and has a much lower ceiling.
    I mean, what would a sorcerer list look like that's better than the dread necro list? It seems like you have to work pretty hard to pull it off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Troacctid View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean.
    Problem solving capacity was omitted. Problem solving capacity is what's being measured here. That is line 2 of "What are the tiers?"
    "Movement speed is the most important statistic in this game."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Miller View Post
    While I understand your feeling on the matter, that isn't exactly an argument for why sorcerer should score 2. I could say "fighter is 4 because it fights." Ok, great. That isn't an argument though, it is just a statement that is generally true.
    Sorcerer is typically regarded as the prototype for tier 2 or the ruler to measure other possible tier 2 entries. However, it could be supported more with the fact that arcane casting via the sorcerer spell list is quite capable. The downsides being the obvious limit on spells known and lack of both class features and splat support (compared to its rival, the wizard). So, I agree with you, but I just want to hear more about why you think it should be tier 2. I may have rambled a lot in making my point.
    My vote's exactly based on category standards and not a long argument. Wizard is the prototypical tier 1 because it can do anything. Sorcerers are the prototypical tier 2 because they get the same powers as a wizard but in a more limited dole.

    In light of Troacctid's post though, it seems the point of this thread is a fully relativistic power ranking, so I'll retract my vote because I don't think the concept of tiers or tier benchmarks has any relevance in that case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Troacctid View Post
    It's just a straightforward ranking of power level.
    In that case maybe the word tier should be omitted. Might also be more straightforward if rankings are inverted to be 0 to 5 with 5=t1.

    I'm not saying it's bad, just different and that should be evinced.

    I mean, what would a sorcerer list look like that's better than the dread necro list? It seems like you have to work pretty hard to pull it off.
    Dread necro's only native 8ths are create greater undead, horrid wilting, inflict critical wounds and symbol of death. Their only 9ths are energy drain, mass harm, imprison soul, plague of undead, and wail of the banshee. Limiting their spells known to those would be severely suboptimal for a sorcerer, not even "solid mid-op", though the create undead spells are obviously better for DN.
    Last edited by Elves; 2019-10-15 at 09:03 PM.
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    I still think knight is punchy enough to be T4, right around fighter. At it's core, you can even disregard the test of mettle and just be a mounted charger that uses the basic fighting challenges for scaling will saves, attack, and damage (not good, but its there). Dump Dex, dont go first in combat, ride a pegasus/gryphon/hippogryph and spirited charge the crap out of bad guys. Load up on strength and con (d12 HD helps) and keep your charisma like... 12... the passive bonuses are good for survivability against single target foes, fighting challenge is a single target buff. Pick the biggest nasty and charge it. Repeat till combat ends. You're doing exactly what the fighter and barbarian are, why is it so much lower? It isn't bad at it's job any more than fighter and barbarian are bad at theirs.

    Edit: also, that freaking capstone. That is the capstone literally every martial character wants. The capstone of "oh, you reduced my hit points to -11... I dont care." That is what barbarian wet dreams are made of! Take your diehard into the corner and cry with it because this is a flex on DEATH!

    Edit 2: AND you cover one of the early weaknesses of the stereotypical martial character, you get GOOD will save progression. All the stuff that normally threatens fighters and barbarians, sleep, color spray, etc, are less threatening to an early knight, and the fighting challenge only improves that.
    Last edited by AnimeTheCat; 2019-10-15 at 09:15 PM.

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    Amazing post, Troacctid!

    Will definitely express some opinions later

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    Reading through.
    1. It seems odd to have Wu Jen only 0.01 below Wizard. The list seems more notably weaker than that. Yes, this is fun although I'm unclear how much it should be taken into account.
    2. I'm skeptical that there should be such a large gap between Spontaneous Druid and Spontaneous Cleric. To me, they both seem generally worse than the non-spontaneous version and generally better than a Sorcerer.
    3. Spellthief seems a bit underrated to me, particularly compared to a rogue. In a party with cooperating spellcasters (which is reasonably common) they can be a force multiplier for unloading spells. Similarly, they are a great buffing target. Overall, it's easy to see them functioning at a T3 level as a member of a group since they synergize so well.
    4. It's somewhat tempting to extend this exercise to Blackguard and Maho-Tsukai, both of which can trade in levels or spellcasting to effectively become a base class.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthrowhale View Post
    Reading through.
    1. It seems odd to have Wu Jen only 0.01 below Wizard. The list seems more notably weaker than that. Yes, this is fun although I'm unclear how much it should be taken into account.
    2. I'm skeptical that there should be such a large gap between Spontaneous Druid and Spontaneous Cleric. To me, they both seem generally worse than the non-spontaneous version and generally better than a Sorcerer.
    @Wizard x Wu Jen

    This is because of how the voting worked. Very few people voted classes as "Tier 1.3" or some other non-natural number. So both classes got a bunch of "Tier 1" votes, and Wu Jen got a few "Tier 2" votes more than the Wizard. So despite it having a weaker spell list, it's still a clear Tier 1 class, and was voted as such.

    @Spont Cleric x Spont Druid

    Druid's wildshape was one the biggest reasons for this discrepancy. It's a ridiculously strong class feature, especially when taking into account things like Aberation Wild Shape. Personally, I'd also say that the Druid's spell list has fewer strong spells, but these spells are stronger than the Cleric's strongest spells (as in, the druid has a few five stars spells, and a bunch of three stars, while the cleric has mostly four stars spells). So picking spells known for a druid is easier than picking them for a cleric. The regular cleric loses one of its biggest appeals, which is knowing every spell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elves View Post
    Dread necro's only native 8ths are create greater undead, horrid wilting, inflict critical wounds and symbol of death. Their only 9ths are energy drain, mass harm, imprison soul, plague of undead, and wail of the banshee. Limiting their spells known to those would be severely suboptimal for a sorcerer, not even "solid mid-op", though the create undead spells are obviously better for DN.
    True, but at level 10 when we get 5th level spells Lesser Planar Binding is probably the highest op trick a sorcerer gets. Assuming that he is willing to use his only spell known on a spell with a 10 minute casting time. DN gets LPB, magic jar, greater dispel magic, slay living, cloudkill and more, before expanding his list. It’s not all about high level play.

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    Quote Originally Posted by heavyfuel View Post
    @Wizard x Wu Jen

    This is because of how the voting worked.
    That makes sense, even though the outcome is a bit odd.

    Quote Originally Posted by heavyfuel View Post
    @Spont Cleric x Spont Druid

    Druid's wildshape was one the biggest reasons for this discrepancy. It's a ridiculously strong class feature, especially when taking into account things like Aberation Wild Shape. Personally, I'd also say that the Druid's spell list has fewer strong spells, but these spells are stronger than the Cleric's strongest spells (as in, the druid has a few five stars spells, and a bunch of three stars, while the cleric has mostly four stars spells). So picking spells known for a druid is easier than picking them for a cleric. The regular cleric loses one of its biggest appeals, which is knowing every spell.
    I'm still not convinced. Clerics get access to the Transformation domain which is at least comparable to wildshape.

    The only way I can make sense of this is by looking at the floor.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Anthrowhale View Post
    I'm still not convinced. Clerics get access to the Transformation domain which is at least comparable to wildshape.

    The only way I can make sense of this is by looking at the floor.
    Transformation domain isn't even close to what can be accomplished with Wild Shape.

    On its basest level of OP, WS gives you access to pretty much every movement speed all day long (12hrs/day at lv 6, 21hrs at lv 7). You also get to ignore your physical ability scores.

    Then you get to the crazy stuff. I'm definitely not the best person to tell you about them, though. Eggynack is. The druid's encyclopaedia guide Eggy wrote has some really nasty tricks you can pull with WS.

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    I hope this doesn't devolve into another argument about the Wizard being T2.

    That was entertaining but ultimately unhelpful, in my opinion.

    If anyone would like to discuss that, I believe the best idea would be to open a new thread about it. I would be willing to if there is still interest.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Elves View Post
    In that case maybe the word tier should be omitted. Might also be more straightforward if rankings are inverted to be 0 to 5 with 5=t1.

    I'm not saying it's bad, just different and that should be evinced.
    Clearly I should have also included a summary of this argument from the original thread too.

    I don't want to rehash this argument, so if you take issue with the basic definitions, read the old threads and come back with a quote from there to reply to.

    Quote Originally Posted by Elves View Post
    Dread necro's only native 8ths are create greater undead, horrid wilting, inflict critical wounds and symbol of death. Their only 9ths are energy drain, mass harm, imprison soul, plague of undead, and wail of the banshee. Limiting their spells known to those would be severely suboptimal for a sorcerer, not even "solid mid-op", though the create undead spells are obviously better for DN.
    If dread necromancer is better than sorcerer for the first 15 levels and then the sorcerer overtakes it, that's not really a pro-sorcerer argument, is it?

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    Having just built an Incarnate for Iron Chef E6, I gotta say, I was kinda blown away by how flexible they really are. I've skimmed through MoI before, of course, but I never really put together that they can essentia-lly change their build completely every day, and to a lesser extent every round.

    I'd want to play one properly before submitting a vote, but I suspect they're Tier 3 worthy, if only on the basis of sheer versatility. It looks to me like they have kind of the same relationship with the rogue as the spells prepared/spells known thing - "I can do anything you can do, but you have to decide what you're doing on a permanent basis, where I can wake up in the morning and be a completely different character".

    Oof, that got lengthy.

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    Default Re: Why each class is in its tier: 2019 update!

    Hm, I thought I had voted in the Incarnum thread, but maybe I decided not to because the common ratings of Totemist 3, Incarnate 4, Soulborn 5 were what I agreed with and I didn't have much else to say about them.
    I would like to add now that I'd change my vote for Incarnate to 3, as I've been working with them more as of late and appreciating what they have to offer a bit more.
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