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For a long time I have been under the impression that, as the Internet says, clerics (and druids) are better fighters than the fighter.

They have a plethora of spells they can use to buff themselves, and on the defensive side they're pretty good, I must admit, but offensively? I'm now under the impression that there are some feats that are so good despite requiring almost useless prerequisite feats that no spell can make the cleric a better fighter than someone who's not feat starved.

I am talking about Leap Attack and Shock Trooper mainly, but Combat Brute also seems to be a staple for melee builds I see in my games.

Sure, I can persist or quicken Visage of the Deity, greater, and Divine Power plus Righteous Might and Divine Favor, I can even gain access to Shapechange and turn into an arcane giant or a pouncing leonal, but... without their damage multipliers, how am I better at being a fighter than a raging barbarian with a few fighter levels (only 2 Str below my arcane giant form) or a fighter with a lot of feats?

Sure, they need to have contingent spells of air walk to be able to charge where they otherwise couldn't and some even use contingent spells of wraith touch to avoid taking Shock Trooper, but that's just because our characters usually face only a single big encounter each day... which should favour the caster, shouldn't it?

So I've been looking into it and the sources I've found (admittedly just a few, seeing how GitP forums are down right now) say that CoDzilla, for the cleric part, is just two persisted spells: divine power and righteous might.

Wait, what?

Well, the only thing that was suggested other than that was a full-fledged Twice Betrayer of Shar (a completely theoretical build where enemy goddesses Shar and Mystra grant the cleric the power to keep their magic buffs in both antimagic fields and dead magic zones), and thinking about it I have seen people in my games build clerics surrounded by a selective1 antimagic field in order to debuff their enemies but not themselves.

I don't like the idea. It looks like cheese to me so my question is, is it the only real way to make a melee cleric effective, when measured against ubercharger builds? Is it even enough?


1) yes I know they are still vulnerable to a lot of magic attacks with that literal hole in their defenses but both the cleric and the fighter will die to a maximized empowered twinned force orb and its quickened sister, so it's a moot point.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Double Betrayer of Mystra" - I think you're confusing two builds that, to my knowledge, are completely real: The Twice Betrayer of Shar and The Cheater of Mystra. \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Feb 17, 2020 at 21:20

2 Answers 2

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Überchargers deal vastly more damage than will ever be necessary—having more overkill damage doesn’t make you “better at being a fighter,” it’s just theoretical optimization. Statements that CoDzilla is better at being a fighter than a fighter are simply saying that both are capable of one-round kills against anything they can full-attack—and thanks to spells, clerics are more likely to be able to make a full-attack.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know, I've been in 5-round battles against a titan where in the end he ran away, still alive, but i guess it was more because I was not able to enter his threatened area and I had to shapechange into a weaponless titan to gain his same reach, rather than me doing low damage because of my lack of feats. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Feb 16, 2020 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ "both are capable of one-round kills" - without any feat, or is there a bare minimum of feats that are needed, like, I don't know, power attack? \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Feb 16, 2020 at 23:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Zachiel Depends on the target, but by the time you get to a point where the cleric doesn't have enough feats, you are talking about a target so vastly over your level that the comparison is meaningless. Or epic, where everything is meaningless. It’s not like a fighter would have had any hope of closing with that titan. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 16, 2020 at 23:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kryan It definitely would be helpful to outline basic feat build at this point. But I also realize, it may be a bit opinion based, hard to do, or both, so it is up to you to expand on this. I also don't see why titan would be so hard to approach, but that is out of scope if this question, so that is just my five cents. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 18, 2020 at 9:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @annoyingimp just for ytour information, a titan has a feat that lets them push away people when making attacks. A titan has reach and clerics don't usually run enough tumble to avoid opportunity attacks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Sep 5, 2021 at 14:56
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The trouble with Fighters is that competent opposition can make them stop counting as Fighters. Refer to any Wizard's handbook for plenty of tricks for this. If the enemy has a DR that you can't bypass, means to get well out of your range (e.g. Flight when you don't have it, or any sort of teleportation), ways to plain and simply take you out of the fight (Solid Fog, Forcecage, etc), methods of nerfing you to the point irrelevance (e.g. any good spell in the Necromancy or Transmutation schools, particularly Enervation, Baleful Polymorph, or Reverse Gravity) or ways to make the terrain unmanageable for you (cf. almost the entire Conjuration school), then your massive damage counts for nothing.

Enter the Cleric. KRyan's answer is correct to say that a Fighter will outdamage him, but if the Cleric wants to be a Fighter, then his magic will always make him able to play that game. A Cleric can align his weapons to bypass DR, will almost certainly have various forms of movement (summon something useful or just take the Travel Domain), and has the majority of the Core spells for removing/blocking enemy debuffs (Death Ward comes to mind) and countering their battlefield control (Freedom of Movement is the big one). The Fighter, even an optimised Fighter, has little to none of this.

In short, the Fighter deals much more damage, but the Cleric's spells mean that nothing will ever stop him being able to fight like a Fighter. The Fighter is only ever the better fighter when his extra damage counts, and that's a rarity because of just how much damage a buffed Cleric can do, whereas the Cleric is the better fighter whenever you're up against anything that counters Fighters, which should be most of the time if we're already at a stage where all of the feats in the question have come in to play.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this too many brackets? \$\endgroup\$
    – J. Mini
    Mar 1, 2020 at 13:00

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