In many Dungeons & Dragons versions over the year’s players have asked me what the best class for being a tank was. This is something I have pondered about 5th edition came out. So I decided to create article about the best tank classes in D&D 5th edition.

Defining the Terminology

What is a tank? A tank in this case is a character that can take a lot of attacks and damage without going down. There are a few ways of handling this. High health, armor class (AC), the ability to reduce damage and the ability to heal damage.

Note: ability score increases will not be considered. In addition I’ll be sticking with official rules so UA is out

Now that we know what a tank is let’s go over the classes I believe could make the best tanks.

The All the Health Barbarian

Barbarians are mostly thought of as damage sponges since they have the highest hit die out of all the classes. However that’s not all they can do if you’re trying to turn one into a tank. They can get ridiculously high armor class even without wearing armor. With a 18 in dex and con can give them a 18 AC and that’s before you add a shield because unarmored defense works of shields. The benefit of unarmored defense is that it uses Constitution which also gives you a high health.

Besides the high health and the unarmored defense here’s what else barbarians give you as a tank.

  • Rage gives you resistance to piercing, slashing, and bludgeoning damage.
  • This can be increased by selecting the bear from that totem warrior archetype

While core abilities are strong what gives barbarians their tanking power is from their archetypes. This was mentioned above but it’s the only ability from the totem warrior that helps. The storm herald is where the tank abilities are.

  • Tundra to temporary points
  • storm soul gives you resistance to fire, lightning or cold damage depending on what you choose

The best choice for a tank barbarian is a tundra storm herald. You get the health and resistance to piercing, bludgeoning and slashing damage along with a strong AC in great health.

Most people don’t think of barbarians as being good tanks. However with a very easy way to gain high AC, natural resistance to damage, and two archetypes that can increase your tanking ability makes barbarians a great choice.

Fighter tank

The Everyman Fighter

Fighters are often considered good tanks because they get good health can wear any armor or shield. However that’s when they start to fall off.

Other things fighters give you for tanking abilities are

  • second wind which lets you heal health in combat
  • the defense fighting style gives you one additional AC
  • indomitable lets you reroll an additional save

Fighters also have a few archetypes that can help you out.

Battle Master

  • Evasive footwork gives you a bonus to AC based on your superiority die roll while you are moving
  • Parry lets you reduce damage based on your superiority die roll + dexterity

Cavalier

  • Warding Maneuver lets you add a d8 to you or an allies AC or  resistance to the damage if the attack still goes through.

The fighter’s abilities have a decent job of tanking and looking at the class you can understand why. The archetypes that have tanking abilities  have them reliably and are great if you are in a pinch and need to survive the hit. Just remember that most of them use a reaction and have limited uses per day. The one thing I do not like is the RNG of these abilities.

The Noble Paladin

The Paladin class is the most people think of when talking about tanks. They have a lot in common with the fighter class. For example a D10 hit die and access to all armor and shields however that’s where the similarities die off.

Paladins also get

  • the defense fighting style giving you + 1 to your AC
  • lay on hands which lets you heal yourself
  • cleansing touch to remove the debuffs on yourself
  • access to the cure wounds spell

However, unlike with fighters paladins get  archetype support.

  • Oath of Conquest gives you the level 20 ability invincible conqueror. This amongst other things gives you resistance to all damage
  • Oath of Ancients gives the ability to gain resistance to spell damage, the ability to go to 1 HP instead of 0, and the ability to regain 10 HP a turn

Paladins seem like a great choice for a tank and they are. Despite having archetype support that takes a while to get going, having access to the best armor fighting styles and healing abilities makes this class a good tank.

Paladin tank

Clerics Aren’t Just for Healing they’re for Tanking

Most people consider clerics as squishy healers that can’t take a lot of damage. Those people are wrong. While clerics get less health than paladins or fighters with a D8 hit die, their other abilities more than make up for.

These abilities are

  • access to all armor and shields
  • access to healing in defensive magic

In addition to these core abilities clerics have quite a few archetypes that offer abilities in the ways of being a tank.

  • The Forge domain lets you enchant your armor for free
  • The grave domain lets you cancel critical hits and heal when enemies die
  • the life domain buffs your healing letting you take more damage than should be allowed
  • light domain can impose disadvantage on enemies attacking you
  • the nature domain can grant resistance to acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder damage

That’s quite a few archetypes that give you bonuses to tanking.

While there health may only be at a D8, clerics make a great tank. This is because of their defensive and healing magic along with their archetypes the makes it harder for people to hit you, damage you, or crit you.

Can’t Touch this Monk

Monk is a class most people think of when thinking of high AC without equipment. However their unarmored defense is a little bit weaker than barbarians in terms of being a tank. That being said maxing out dexterity and wisdom will still give you a high AC.

Most of the monk’s tank abilities come from its core abilities such as

  • being able to take the Dodge action as a bonus action
  • deflecting projectiles
  • evasion
  • immunity to disease and poison
  • proficiency in all saving throws in the ability to reroll a failed saving throw

As you can see monks get the most core abilities that help with them being a tank.

In addition the open hand monastic tradition can let you heal.

Because of all the base abilities to help you become a tank monks make a decent tank. Their average health and AC that takes some work to get up there are the only limiting factors.

The Tank Rogue

Anyone who looks at the row class makeup to the same conclusion I did. Rogues could make interesting tanks. While their hit die is a D8 and can only wear light armor they have some other abilities I can help them out.

  • Uncanny Dodge lets you half physical damage
  • evasion that you take no damage if you succeed the check
  • Slippery mind give you proficiency to wisdom saves
  • elusive make sure you can’t get attacked with advantage

These are some great abilities that only need a high AC.

In addition to the core abilities the mastermind archetype that you redirect attacks to things next to you.

Rogues would make a decent tank if you could do something about their low AC. With that being said as a standalone class they are not the best but could be if you multiclass correctly.

The Verdict

So after going over the classes I believe make the best tanks what are my thoughts?

But before I get to them there is another class I want to talk about just in case you’re wondering. I considered adding the war magic wizard to this list however even though you can get their AC ridiculously high their HP still way too low to make it viable.

Now that’s taken care of here is my best to worst classes for tanking.

suit of armor

Cleric

This is a great class. As mentioned before in the ability to wear heavy armor, heal yourself, along with some other tricks to take less damage makes them a great class become a tank. If you’re looking for a tank with some magical properties cleric is a great way to go.

Barbarian

Quite early on you can get a barbarian to the high AC combined with his high health. Just those two alone make a good composition a tank. Throw in piercing, bludgeoning, slashing resistance along with other resistances of your choice give you one burly character that will be a challenge for enemies to take down.

Those are the top two. The next three classes are decent tanks but can struggle to be the damage sponges like the two above.

Paladin

This class a good runner up. With good health, armor, and healing abilities the only thing I wish it had would be earlier archetype support, although if you are in a campaign that starts or will go to high levels this is a good choice.

Monk

While it may take a little work to get the AC high enough the rest of the core abilities the monk will keep you in the fight until long after the enemies have fallen. Proficiency to all saves, evasion, dodging as a bonus action, and ignoring projectiles make this class very durable.

Fighter

This is the class you look at when thinking about making a combat class. The tanking abilities are reactionary and heavily based on dice RNG which can leave a bad taste in you mouth when your roll comes up short. Its ability to self heal can be great when you are trying to be the last line of defense. All around it is a solid choice.

The last one seems like it may be good choice but there just isn’t enough there to support it.

Rogue

At a glance rogues have a great assortment of abilities to keep them alive their struggle for high AC along with an average health makes them not the best when trying to create a pure tank. However, the possiblity interested me so much I created my version of a tank rogue in the article How to Build a Tank Rogue.

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