Rangers have an interesting history when it comes to the fantasy genre. The class was inspired by the characters of the same name in the Lord of the Rings novels, the mysterious company that covertly guarded the wild borders of Gondor and trained none other than Aragorn son of Arathorn. Rangers have had a rough time in Dungeons & Dragons, as they're similar to a Druid but without the same cool powers and fewer healing options. In the original Player’s Handbook, they were underpowered and underappreciated, a jack of all trades but master of none.

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The further development of D&D and new subclasses have made the Ranger a much more viable class in their own right. That means that you still have to choose your subclass wisely. There's a Fighting Style that Rangers can choose in addition to a number of Feats, Skills, and their Ranger Conclave, or subclass. They often function as damage in a party but can also be a support healer and defender, so we've changed our list accordingly and ranked them from worst to best.

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Updated December 24, 2021 by Kristy Ambrose: The list of Ranger subclasses has grown longer with homebrews and supplemental D&D resources. Creative players are re-discovering the versatile Ranger and the class is getting more attention than ever before. Any class that has the ability to heal party members, keep an animal companion, and deal ample damage is going to have a lot of fans. With high scores in Wisdom and Dexterity, the Ranger is also showing a lot of promise as a multiclass option. Rogues, Monks, and Clerics fare especially well in this regard since they share the same primary ability scores, and if you're playing a Human, there's also the dual-class option to consider. Sometimes just a few extra spells and abilities can vastly improve a Ranger and their role in the party.

Hunter Conclave

ranger of eos
  • Source: The Player's Handbook
  • Main Benefit: Includes: High damage output and extra weapon skills.
  • Fighting Styles: Defense, Dueling
  • Ideal Race: Human, Elf, Dwarf

The Hunter Archetype is pretty much the vanilla Ranger and was one of the earliest subclasses. You still have some decent fighting options, plus it is highly customizable and multiple options are available at each level.

The customizability means that often options are situational or are only decent if you build your Ranger a certain way. Possibly the most underpowered abilities are the ones at level 17, where the better options are Evasion, which Rogues and Monks get at a lower level. Uncanny Dodge is another ability that Rogues get at a much lower level.

Dragon Master Conclave

Flaming dragon art
via: dnd.wizards.com
  • Source: Homebrew, based on Unearthed Arcana (The Ranger, Revised)
  • Main Benefit: A dragon companion that the character has from level one.
  • Fighting Styles: Two-Weapon Fighting, Defense
  • Ideal Race: Dragonborn

This subclass is based heavily on the Beast Conclave, but in this case, the beasts in question are dragons. Considering this is D&D, it's surprising that the Dragon Master isn't an official subclass. On the other hand, the DM might opt to exclude the subclass from their game since it can be overpowered, but that could be part of the fun.

Depending on the module or the character's race, it can work out well in the plot and backstory. The dragon companion can develop in a variety of ways, from being a pet that increases your stats to a combat companion that you can ride into battle.

Beast Master Conclave

Elf holding bird art
  • Source: D&D Player's Handbook
  • Main Benefit: This subclass gets an animal companion.
  • Fighting Styles: Archery, Druidic Warrior
  • Ideal Race: Half-Elf, Human, Elf

Rangers of the Beast Master Conclave get to choose from any animal of challenge rating ¼ or lower and size medium or smaller, which means you have a lot of options. Unfortunately, only a few of them are good. If your favorite animal is a flying snake, giant badger, giant frog, giant poisonous snake, giant wolf spider, Pteranodon, or wolf, you’re in luck. Blood hawks are also useful if you want the utility of a good aerial scout, and ponies can serve as mounts if you are a small creature like a halfling or goblin.

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Most of your abilities are centered around making your pet stronger, so unlike a Wizard’s familiar, it becomes an extra mini party member. Unlike a wizard’s familiar, it can really die. You can get a new one if you have enough time. It's important to remember that you have a very special animal companion that shares a supernatural link to you and is also 100% killable.

Fey Wanderer Conclave

D&D Shifters, racial traits
  • Source: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
  • Main Benefit: Access to several spells from the schools of Enchantment and Illusion.
  • Fighting Styles: Archery, Thrown Weapon Fighting, Druidic Warrior
  • Ideal Race: Human, Half-Elf

For those that want to play a Ranger with a higher range of spellcasting options, consider the Fey Wanderer subclass. These kinds of Rangers can do psychic damage with their weapons and can cast spells like Charm Person and Dimension Door. Your choices of Fighting Skills will vary widely depending on the nuances of your specific build, so if you're Ranger isn't intended to be a ranged Fighter, there are other choices that would suit your build. Druidic Warrior is one example if you'd like access to an even wider array of spells.

Drakewarden Conclave

drakewarden d&d feature dragon riders
  • Source: Fizban's Treasury Of Dragons
  • Main Benefit: One of the strongest Ranger pets available in D&D.
  • Fighting Styles: Defense
  • Ideal Race: Elf, Dragonborn

This is one of the few Ranger builds that can take some serious damage and even lead the party into battle, and it's the newest addition to the official list of D&D Ranger Conclaves. This is mostly due to the Drake pet connected with this Ranger Conclave, a creature with bonuses to movement, an impressive AC, and immunities to any kind of draconic magic.

The Drakewarden also has a lot of unique melee abilities connected to their draconic leanings, and what they are specifically is determined by the kind of Drake you have as a companion. General skills for all Rangers of this subclass include flight at level 7, provided the character is of a medium-size or smaller.

Monster Slayer Conclave

Fantasy character holding two swords

  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit: Similar to the original Hunter build but with more spells and specialized abilities.
  • Fighting Styles: Defense, Blind Fighting
  • Ideal Race: Human, Dwarf

Monster Slayer takes the vanilla Ranger theme of the Hunter and makes it better. It’s less customizable, but you get some extra spells, the ability to takes an action to analyze your enemies’ strengths and weaknesses, and many abilities centered around a feature called Slayer’s Prey.

Slayer’s Prey grants extra damage that stacks with Hunter’s Mark, bonuses to saving throws and escaping grapples, and counterattacks that can result in automatic saves. You also get an ability that is basically a worse counterspell, which is still useful for a mostly martial character.

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The downside of this subclass is that your extra spell options are situational or dependent on saving throws that you probably don’t have the Wisdom score to back up. In addition, most of your abilities are only able to be used once every short rest, which means you might be joining your party’s Warlock or Wizard in begging the DM to let you take a break.

Gloom Stalker Conclave

D&D Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Alternate Cover

  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit: Darkvision, regardless of your race.
  • Fighting Styles: Blind Fighting, Two-Weapon Fighting
  • Ideal Race: Human, Halfling

There are a number of subclasses that try to make classes into Rogue-equivalents, each more terrible than the last. Gloom Stalker breaks the trend by turning the Ranger class into an actually pretty good option for sneaky players, so if you want a Ranger and a Rogue but not a multiclass, this is your ideal Conclave.

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Bonus saving throw proficiencies, free or improved Darkvision, and imposing disadvantage on enemies are all solid features of this subclass. The Dread Ambusher feature makes sure that you can actually utilize your stealth to start a fight, something that a lot of other Rogue-equivalent builds lack. The fact that other creatures with Darkvision cannot see you in the dark ties it all together. It makes you an absolute monster in caves and dungeons, especially with an all-Darkvision party that doesn’t need light sources.

Swarm Keeper Conclave

golgari art mtg

  • Source: Tasha's Cauldron of Everything
  • Main Benefit: The ability to summon intangible spirits of nature into an obedient swarm and cast some arcane spells.
  • Fighting Styles: Archery, Druidic Warrior
  • Ideal Race: Human, Elf, Halfling

The advantages of being a Ranger of the Swarm Keeper Conclave might not be obvious at first. Although you might be thinking of insects, the swarm can literally be anything you want, and that includes fairies, raccoons, or any other critter your Dungeon Master permits. The spellcasting options are another interesting ability you get from this subclass, and if you want even more diverse magic-user options there's the Druidic Warrior Fighting Style to consider.

Ranger Of The North Conclave

Drizzt Do'urden in Dungeons & Dragons
  • Source: Homebrew, based on 5e Player's Handbook
  • Main Benefit: A "John Snow meets Aragorn" build, with a variety of ice-related powers and immunities along with strict adherence to a shadowy order of Rangers.
  • Fighting Styles: Dueling
  • Ideal Race: Dwarf, Goliath, or any race from a cold climate.

The ideal build for a keen survivalist who prefers to brave the frozen wastes as opposed to a steaming jungle or a misty forest can choose the Ranger of the North subclass. A deep understanding of local nature and lore, along with an animal companion that can be a polar bear, a mountain lion, or a bird of prey, define this mysterious subclass.

This Ranger often takes a scouting or tracking role in the party, and they are often armed with a single longsword or dual blades, putting them firmly in the damage-per-second role. They can be equally fearsome with a bow, depending on the build.

Horizon Walker Conclave

High elf druid from Dungeons & Dragons

  • Source: Xanathar's Guide to Everything
  • Main Benefit: Teleportation abilities for both combat and transportation.
  • Fighting Styles: Defense, Two-Weapon Fighting
  • Ideal Race: Human, Halfling, Elf

From a purely strategic standpoint, Horizon Walker is similar to Gloom Stalker in terms of effectiveness. However, Horizon Walker is a better subclass because teleporting is cool, and characters that can teleport a lot are really really cool.

The Horizon Walker subclass gives you some useful spells, lets you jump into the Ethereal Plane for a turn, and gives you the ability to blink around the battlefield while making attack after attack against your enemies. If you have a decent AC, you can even reduce most of the damage you might take in a turn by using your reaction to give yourself resistance to an attack that gets through your armor. This subclass works best in a planar campaign, but it will still be plenty of fun anywhere.

NEXT: Dungeons & Dragons: The Best Weapons For Ranger, Ranked

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