The history of the Fighter class is as long as role-playing games are themselves. Every RPG game has a Fighter or Warrior class. After decades of evolution, few others in Dungeons & Dragons are as well-rounded in their design as the Fighter. These are the masters of combat and all forms of weapons. When building a Fighter, choosing a subclass (known in the game as a Martial Archetype) depends on what kind of Fighter players want. There are choices that fuel pure combat, and others that allow your fighter to be an effective resource to the party outside of battle as well.

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A quick note on role-playing a fighter is that the class tends to be on the dull side, but it does not have to be. This is to say that Warlocks and Clerics may have a higher power that molds their beliefs and even their playstyle, while Fighters require their players to use their imagination in creating an interesting background. Where has the Fighter picked up their skills? Were they formally trained and employed as guards or soldiers? Do you want to deal damage, or shield your allies? These questions will make the character interesting and unique.

Updated on August 18, 2021, by Kristy Ambrose: A fixture in every MMO or tabletop RPG that exists, that Fighter has never gone out of style. Previously thought to be one of the plain, vintage classes that were created before we could play Warlocks or Artificers, the Fighter has emerged as one of the most versatile and customizable classes in D&D. With the addition of several new Martial Archetypes along with some different options for Feats, a Background, and other miscellaneous skills, this could also be the ideal class when it comes to multiclass options. When it's time to build your own perfect Fighter, here's an updated list of your Fighter's choices for a Martial Archetype.

Arcane Archer

  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit or Ability: Arcane Archer lore, which includes a skill proficiency and a Cantrip, and the Arcane Shot ability.
  • Fighting Styles: Archery, Thrown Weapon Fighting
  • Ideal Feats: Crossbow Expert, Gunner

For those who prefer to specialize their Fighters in ranged combat, the Arcane Archer is a subclass that brings the ability Arcane Shot. However, it should be noted that the power of the ability does not scale very well the higher one levels their Fighter, and as the ability can only be used twice before needing to rest, it becomes inefficient. Unless one wishes to play this subclass for a specific role-play in mind or has a specific build in mind, there are better ranged options in the game.

Eldritch Knight

  • Source: D&D Player's Handbook
  • Main Benefit or Ability: Weapon Bond, Eldritch Strike, and to both effectively wield a sword and cast spells without sacrificing much of their core Fighter character.
  • Fighting Styles: Blind Fighting, Defense
  • Ideal Feats: Artificer Initiate, Fey Touched

The Eldritch Knight is a great choice if you're looking for a melee-spellcasting blend. Of course, this subclass will have far fewer spell slots, prepared spells, and cantrips than a Wizard of the same level, but such restrictions are to be expected in this crossover-type class. Weapon Bond can be useful in niche situations, while Eldritch Strike can be powerful with the right paired spell, and therein lies the crux of an Eldritch Knight.

The overall power and effectiveness of this subclass within battle relies on having an appropriate spell ready for an opponent, and this may not always be the case. For roleplaying, however, the Eldritch Knight can be great fun.

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Cavalier

Pathfinder Cavalier
via.OwlcatGames/Twitter
  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit or Ability: Unwavering Mark, an ability that benefits the whole party, and bonuses to mounted combat.
  • Fighting Styles: Dueling, Great Weapon Fighting
  • Ideal Feats: Crusher, Defensive Duelist

The Cavalier is an interesting subclass that borrows elements from MMORPGs that use the term "Tank" to describe the character that draws the attention of the enemies and takes most of the damage. In D&D this role is the Defender of the party, and it is far easier to make it so that opponents focus on you and not your vulnerable, cloth-wearing allies. Unwavering Mark ensures that they remain the focus of attention, and the mount allows them to move easily and quickly around the battlefield, though it is advisable not to attempt to take on too much at once.

Echo Knight

D&D Party Battling Goblins With Magic
  • Source: Explorer's Guide to Wildemount
  • Main Benefit or Ability: Manifest Echo, which allows the Fighter to be in two places at the same time.
  • Fighting Styles: Defensive Duelist, Dual Wielder
  • Ideal Feats: Durable, Fighting Initiate

A nice start to a Fighter build that focuses on melee damage, the Echo Knight can do twice as much damage as other melee fighters thanks to their signature ability, Manifest Echo. However, there is a drawback here. Using this handy ability requires the use of a Bonus Action, so avoid choosing Feats, Skills, or other features that also use a Bonus Action to make sure it's available. Certain builds here have the potential for a Defender but this is primarily a damage-dealing subclass.

Psi Warrior

teleport art d&d magic
  • Source: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
  • Main Benefit or Ability: Psionic Power, which requires the use of your pool of Psionic Energy Dice.
  • Fighting Styles: Interception, Blind Fighting
  • Ideal Feats: Crusher, Charger

You're a Fighter, with all the weapon proficiencies and AC of the class, but you can use your mind to perform feats of telekinesis. This Martial Archetype has a lot in common with other "casting" subclasses like the Eldritch Knight, but the Psi Warrior's powers aren't technically considered magic, which is a major advantage when dealing with creatures who are resistant to it. The powers of the Psi Warrior also mean you don't need to memorize these abilities the same way conventional casters do with spells.

Rune Knight

For Honor Knights
  • Source: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
  • Main Benefit or Ability: This depends on which Runes are chosen by your Knight; Cloud, Fire, Stone, Frost, Hill, or Stone.
  • Fighting Styles: Fey Touched, Durable
  • Ideal Feats: Artificer Initiate, Dual Wielder

What makes this subclass unique is the use of Runes for passive abilities and buffs, which includes Bonus proficiencies with Smith's tools. As early as 3rd level, your Fighter learns how to craft and use two different runes. The combinations are vastly different, and even though this subclass was inspired by a tradition inherited from Giants, Rogues and Rangers can also use some of these abilities.

Banneret

Warforged race, with human spellcaster, D&D 5e
  • Source: Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide
  • Main Benefit or Ability: Allows a party member to take your Second Wind or Action Surge, a great way to synergize with your team.
  • Fighting Styles: Durable, Interception
  • Ideal Feats: Charger, Duelist

For players who want to support their party and protect their allies, the Bannert is well equipped to do just that. Outside of combat, this subclass can be useful thanks to the Royal Envoy Feature, which allows for the doubling of persuasion proficiency. For those that prefer diplomatic solutions, this is often useful in campaigns where players do not simply want to bash their way out of every problem.

Samurai

  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit or Ability: Fighting Spirit, which increases the damage you deal and also helps with survivability.
  • Fighting Styles: Durable, Great Weapon Master
  • Ideal Feats: Defensive Duelist, Charger

Of the newer subclass options, Samurai can do some of the highest single target damage among all other Fighter subclasses. Not only are Samurai difficult to kill thanks to these features, later on at higher levels they can sometimes gain a free turn is reduced to zero hit points. This turn can be used to heal up and continue fighting. For these reasons, the Samurai is a great choice for newer players as well.

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Champion

Sunless Citadel, D&D module
  • Source: D&D Player's Handbook
  • Main Benefit or Ability: The ability to land a critical hit on a natural roll of 19 at lower levels and 18 at higher levels.
  • Fighting Styles: Interception, Duelist
  • Ideal Feats: Crusher,

Champions can often feel incredible in any battle, with the bonus to your dice rolls making you feel like an unstoppable juggernaut of pain and destruction. However, most of the strongest bonuses for the Champion come at later levels, which can make the decision to choose this Martial Archetype a bit bland until later on in the game.

At level 10 for example your Champion may choose an additional Fighting Style, which is a great way to provide further combat specialization or defense. At level 18 Survivor makes it difficult for your Champion to die. The question for a player is whether they want to be powerful and useful at the beginning, or more towards the end of the campaign.

Battle Master

Via: dungeonsolvers.com
  • Source: D&D Player's Handbook
  • Main Benefit or Ability: Battle Maneuvers and Superiority Dice make the Battle Master a monster in any battle.
  • Fighting Styles: Dueling, Grand Weapon Fighting
  • Ideal Feats: Martial Adept, Durable

Within this subclass, players can tailor their experience greatly by selecting from the 16 total maneuvers available, choosing three at first, and getting two more each at levels seven, ten, and fifteen. This means that as a story evolves or the types of opponents become specialized, maneuvers can be strategically chosen to maximize efficiency.

More importantly, not only does the Battle Master provide utility for the party early on, but they also receive their bonus dice back after only a short rest, which is a low requirement for such power at low levels. Since the subclass is powerful early on, but slightly less so at higher levels, the Battle Master and the Champion subclasses tend to be the most common chosen for Fighters.

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