Perhaps the biggest appeal of playing a druid in Dungeons & Dragons is Wild Shape. This class feature gives druids the ability to transform into any beast they have seen before. There is a long list of beast creatures in the standard Monster Manual and other resources like Xanathar's Guide to Everything, but some of these forms are just plain better than others. Today, we'll take a look at which shapes you should be turning into for the greatest impact on combat at your table.

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All of the following options for Wild Shapes are ranked according to their Challenge Rating (CR). going from the lowest to the highest. The first six beasts on this list are available to all druid players, but the best forms are reserved for druids who take the Circle of the Moon subclass. If Wild Shaping is your primary reason for playing druid, Circle of the Moon is a necessity. Circle of the Moon druids should ignore the first two options on this list. Your progression will be different since you gain access to Challenge Rating (CR) 1 forms at level 2.

Updated February 1st, 2021 by Kristy Ambrose: The universe of D&D keeps adding new lore, and that includes new creatures and monsters to befriend, enslave, or destroy. For those that play a Druid, it's more about being one with these creatures, literally. Depending on what kind of DM you have and the module you're using, there are even more critters to choose from when it comes to Wild Shapes.  

13 Tressym (CR 0)

Tressym, D&D monster, familiar, Druid Wild Shape

Sure, you can take the ordinary cat form, but why not an equally adorable and useful little monster that also has wings and can see invisible creatures? If you happen to be playing the Storm King's Thunder Adventure Pack you can take the form of a Tressym, provided your DM gives the Wild Shape their blessing. This is an Exploration beast, very handy for spying and reconnaissance, but not great in combat.

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12 Velociraptor (CR 1/4)

Depending on your DM's world, this Combat form may or may not be an option. If velociraptors aren't an option at your table, the wolf or giant wolf spider are great alternatives. All that being said, the velociraptor yields the highest damage of all CR 1/4  forms. Couple that with its pack tactics, which provide advantages on any attack made against a creature that is standing next to one of your allies, and you'll be slashing open bellies as early as level 2.

11 Giant Toad (CR 1/4)

Circle of the Moon druids will want to start here when it comes to Combat shapes. The giant toad form is a better version of the crocodile. It has the same grappling feature attached to its attack, deals twice as much damage, and has 20 more hit points. On top of that, it provides better single target crowd control, as you are able to swallow medium-sized or smaller enemies whole.

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A swallowed target takes 3d6 acid damage at the start of each of your turns and remains restrained. There is no way for the swallowed creature to escape your belly besides dealing enough damage to break your giant toad form. While somewhat sickening to think about too literally, the giant toad's swallow ability is incredibly strong.

10 Draft Horse (CR 1/4)

draft horse, D&D 5e

We've got critters for outright fighting and others for espionage, but what about more practical beasts for shipping and travel? As one of the more ordinary Exploration options, the Draft Horse gets overlooked, but it's one of the most useful choices a Druid can make. A standard draft horse can carry up to 540 pounds or two average-sized companions, and despite the size, a draft horse actually has a high movement speed. It's quicker than the elephant but not as useful in combat.

9 Dire Wolf (CR 1/4)

Phaidryn Dire Wolf D&D 5e

While the giant toad provides amazing crowd control in Combat situations, the dire wolf is a better all-purpose form. It has a much higher AC of 14, skill bonuses in stealth as well as perception, a speed of 50 feet, and an attack that may deal less damage but is more reliable due to the wolf's pack tactics.

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The wolf's bite attack also has a chance of knocking the target prone granted they fail a DC 13 strength save. Lastly, the dire wolf's keen hearing and smell give it an advantage on most perception checks. This is your go-to Wild Shape form until level 6 for Circle of the Moon druids or level 8 for druids of other subclasses.

8 Giant Vulture (CR 1/4)

As a Combat form, the giant vulture is much more fragile than the dire wolf and giant toad forms, but it makes up for this with its flying speed of 60 feet, pack tactics, and multi-attack. When fighting opponents relying on melee, the vulture can swoop in and out of combat though it will provoke opportunity attacks.

The giant vulture's biggest downfall is its low AC of 10. However, you can negate this drawback by casting Barkskin on yourself before Wild Shaping. According to the game's designers, Barkskin still applies to your Wild Shape forms.

7 Giant Constrictor Snake (CR 2/4)

This is a CR 2 Combat beast. As a result, the form is only available to Circle of the Moon druids of at least 6th level. Druids of other subclasses will never gain access to this form, and, subsequently, any other form in this list. These are the forms that put the power of the Circle of the Moon's Wild Shape on full display.

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The giant constrictor snake is your best combat form until level 9. An upgraded version of the giant toad, your constrict attack automatically grapples and restrains a target with a nasty escape DC of 16. Your hit points also increase to 60 and you retain a swim speed.

6 Giant Scorpion (CR 3/4)

At level 9, you can now transform into CR 3 beasts. The strongest Combat form among them is the giant scorpion. Not only is it capable of grappling two creatures with each of its claws, but the scorpion also has a nasty stinger attack that deals 4d10 poison damage if your target fails a DC 12 Constitution saving throw.

That's a total of three attacks each turn. And, while poison might not be the most reliable type of damage, it's still a powerful tool. Furthermore, the scorpion has blindsight. This feature prevents you from being blinded and allows you to see invisible targets, enemies obscured by darkness, and so forth. Altogether, the giant scorpion doesn't leave much to be desired.

5 Orca Or Killer Whale, (CR 3/4)

Orca, Killer Whale, jumping

This particular Wild Shape is handy in combat but situational because it can only be used underwater. However, the Killer Whale has a wicked blindsight ability with a range of 120 feet, along with a bonus to Wisdom and Perception checks which rely on its enhanced hearing ability. Maybe you and your party are headed out to sea anyway, or playing with the Nautical Adventures supplement, so this shape could be utilized for transportation or exploration along with Combat.

4 Fire Elemental (CR 5/6)

The fire elemental's form makes it so that you can run across the battlefield with your 50-foot speed and set all your enemies ablaze along the way. We're not sure if that counts as Combat, but we'll take it. Victims take 1d10 fire damage as they pass through and are set on fire. At the beginning of each of their turns, they will take an additional 1d10 fire damage. This continues until the creature uses an action to douse the flames.

It's a lose-lose situation for the opponent, as they must choose between taking fire damage for the rest of the combat or losing an action to douse the flames. Even if they do extinguish the fire, assuming you're still in fire elemental form, you can ignite them again. While it's a bit of a gambit to use all your Wild Shapes on one combat, you won't be disappointed with the results.

3 Giant Crocodile (CR 5/6)

If you're taking on a single target, there's no better form than the crocodile. Once you land an attack with the crocodile's bite, your target is automatically grappled. They don't even get a chance to save against the effect.

Furthermore, while grappled in this manner, the target is restrained, granting you and your allies advantages on your attacks. The only way for your target to escape this grapple is by spending one action to make a strength check, and all of this for simply landing a hit. The crocodile also has a swim speed of 30 feet. Depending on the battlefield, a good swim speed can make a huge difference.

2 Water Elemental (CR 5/6)

Circle of the Moon Druids don't unlock the mammoth form until level 18, so you may be surprised to learn that they have even better options available as early as level 10. The Elemental Wild Shape trait druids unlock at 10 allows them to expend both of their uses of Wild Shape to take on the form of an air, earth, water, or fire elemental. These elementals have resistance to bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage, effectively doubling their over 100 hit point pools against most enemies.

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Water Elementals are also immune to all conditions besides Frightened. The water elemental specifically has the whelm ability, which grapples creatures in the elemental's space on a failed DC 15 Strength saving throw. As long as they remain grappled, the creatures take 2d8 + 4 bludgeoning at the start of your turn.

1 Mammoth (CR 6)

That being said, there are always bigger and better options. Sadly, CR 4 forms don't offer anything better than the giant scorpion from an attacking perspective. CR 5 forms have the giant crocodile, which you'll use at level 15 as an upgraded version of the giant constrictor snake.

Finally, at level 18, you'll unlock CR 6 forms. At this point, the mammoth becomes your best wild shape option. It has 126 hit points, a +7 strength modifier, and multi-attack on two powerful strikes (granted you move at least 20 feet and your target fails a DC 18 Strength saving throw). As with the velociraptor, it may be best to double-check with your DM before you take on this form.

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