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Best DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e

Wizards of the Coast offers eight beefy DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e, but which of them bashes things best? Our TTRPG loving team has ranked them.

DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a D&D Barbarian woman

Each of the DnD Barbarian subclasses gives a fresh flavour to the beefy, rage-filled 5e class. Barbarians of all kinds live in D&D’s various sourcebooks and supplements. Whether you prefer your Tank characters to be crunchy, chaotic, flavourful, or simply fun, there’s an option for you. But which of the Barbarian subclasses 5e offers are worth rolling up characters for? We’ve ranked the best Barbarians to help you decide.

While we’ll be talking about each of the Barbarian subclasses 5e offers in a fair amount of detail, you’re better off heading to our Barbarian 5e class guide if you’re looking for tips on actually creating a specific DnD character build for your next Barbarian. Our DnD classes guide also gives you a solid overview of how the Barbarian stands up against the other player options available – we can even recommend the right DnD races to choose to maximise your character’s fun factor.

These are the best DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e offers, ranked from worst to best:

  • Path of the Berserker
  • Path of the Battlerager
  • Path of the Storm Herald
  • Path of Wild Magic
  • Path of the Zealot
  • Path of the Beast
  • Path of the Ancestral Guardian
  • Path of the Totem Warrior

DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a D&D Barbarian in a bar fight

Path of the Berserker

Found in: Player’s Handbook

In real life, a Berserker was an Old Norse warrior who fought in a furious, out-of-control rage. It’s the very trope Barbarians in popular culture are based upon, so it’s unsurprising players learning how to play Dungeons and Dragons for the first time would lean towards the subclass with such iconic flavour. But beware: the Path of the Berserker asks a heavier price than any other Barbarian 5e subclass.

The subclass’ major problem is its Frenzy feature. Every time you use it, you gain a level of exhaustion 5e. You’re likely going to carry that exhaustion around until your next long rest, which means Frenzy will start harming your Barbarian more than it helps before long.

The subclass’ other features are all interesting and useful. Mindless rage gives you solid condition immunities, and Intimidating Presence can be used to frighten foes if your Charisma is in the right place. Plus, Retaliation lets you perform another melee attack as a bonus action – which is always nice in today’s action economy. Sadly, the price of Frenzy is just too high, totally marring what should be a celebrated subclass.

DnD Barbarian 5e subclasses - Wizards of the Coast art of a dwarf in golden armour

Path of the Battlerager

Found in: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

The Path of the Battlerager is a Barbarian subclass with a lot of limitations. Firstly, if you’re playing in the Forgotten Realms DnD setting, you’re only supposed to choose this path if your Barbarian is a DnD Dwarf. Secondly, its major features require you to be wearing spiked DnD armor. It’s rare, and it’s only made by dwarves – and if you ever find yourself without it, this subclass becomes kind of useless.

Even without all these restrictions, there’s not an awful lot about a Battlerager Barbarian that makes them stand out. The spiked armour can only deal small doses of damage that won’t scale as you level, and the other features focus on providing temporary hit points and a more accessible Dash action – both practical, but lacking in flavour and excitement, too.

DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a warrior raising a weapon to control rocks

Path of the Storm Herald

Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

The Path of the Storm Herald is a DnD Barbarian subclass with plenty of flavour. No longer does your Barbarian simply harness the rage within; now they can channel the rage found in nature, too.

Storm Herald Barbarians are, however, let down by two things: specificity and inconsistency. First, specificity: you can only change the element you chose with a DnD level up, and certain features in this subclass are only useful in very distinct scenarios. This means, for example, you might wind up stuck with resistances to elements you never see in your DnD campaign.

Secondly, while it’s nice to have options to choose from when levelling your Barbarian, the power of the different elements is wildly inconsistent. For example, the sea choices deal minimal damage compared to the other two elements. They also provide uncommon resistances and abilities that won’t see much use outside of an aquatic campaign. It seems superfluous to offer options when some are more obvious winners than others.

DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a halfling Barbarian swinging an axe

Path of Wild Magic

Found in: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

The Path of Wild Magic is the subclass for someone who likes the idea of a DnD Sorcerer but doesn’t want to play a squishy spellcaster. These Barbarians get their own Wild Magic tables to roll on when they rage (or, later on, when they take damage or fail a saving throw).

Pretty much all of these are great in a combat situation; the challenge is managing your turns when you don’t know exactly what result you’re going to get. You do get more control over the Wild Magic at later levels, but there’s still a lot of randomness involved that may put off some players.

Wild Magic Barbarians also get some party support features and their own version of Detect Magic 5e, but these aren’t the real reason anyone chooses the subclass. They’re good to have, but this isn’t a subclass that’s at maximum optimisation all the time.

DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a D&D Barbarian intimidating a guard

Path of the Zealot

Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

The Path of the Zealot allows a Barbarian to literally defy death. When they hit 0 hit points, they can carry on raging even as they make their death saving throws. Should they die, they can be restored to life without needing material components for the 5e spells doing the resurrecting.

This last one is as powerful as it sounds – but it’s not guaranteed to be a feature you’ll need often. In the end, it takes up a valuable feature slot for the subclass that could have been put to more consistent use.

While you might not get the best value-for-money from that feature, a Path of the Zealot Barbarian can also reroll saving throws while raging, and they can deal extra damage (that scales!) with the Divine Fury feature. If you want to feel powerful, unstoppable, and nigh-unkillable, this is a grand choice.

DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a D&D Barbarian family fending off a wolf

Path of the Beast

Found in: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

Path of the Beast is a fantastic subclass choice for players who want flexibility. Most of its features offer you a choice, and you can make them often (every time you rage, or every time you rest, for example). Want to change the type of damage you deal to anticipate your enemy’s weaknesses? Need to climb a mountain, then jump a chasm, then go for a swim? Your Barbarian is talented in many areas, and you can regularly switch up how they play.

Beast Barbarians also make excellent Tanks, as they have easy access to temporary hit points. They can buff their allies and even control the actions of an enemy. It takes a bit more thought and management than a subclass with static features, but at the end of the day, this is one of those classes that has it all.

DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of a D&D Barbarian holding an axe

Path of the Ancestral Guardian

Found in: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

While most Barbarians focus on dealing as much frenzied damage as possible, the Path of the Ancestral Guardian is the closest the Barbarian gets to playing a support role. This Barbarian subclass allows you to summon spectral ancestors when you rage. The first creature you hit gains disadvantage on any attack roll against party members except you, and your allies will have resistance even if the foe does manage to land a hit.

Later subclass features allow you to directly reduce the damage done to an ally, or cast Augury or Clairvoyance for free. It’s not until level 14 that you actually gain any features that let your spirit buddies deal damage.

The Path of the Ancestral Guardian redefines what it means to be the party Tank. While its focus on defence may disappoint any players looking for the ‘Hulk Smash’ experience, it’s one of the most useful and interesting Barbarian subclasses 5e offers regardless.

DnD Barbarian subclasses 5e- Wizards of the Coast art of a D&D Barbarian woman and a bear

Path of the Totem Warrior

Found in: Player’s Handbook

That’s right, the very best Barbarian subclass was with us all along, hidden in the core DnD books. The Path of the Totem Warrior lets you choose powers based around a range of animal totems as you level up.

Each offers a slightly different kind of build. The Bear is all about strength, the Eagle focuses on agility, the Elk is all about moving with super swiftness, the Tiger turns you into a powerful hunter, and the wolf means you become a formidable pack hunter. You can mix and match different animal totems as you go, and while some have obvious (and silly) levels of utility, there are very few bad choices here.

The downside is that, once you’ve locked in a totem choice, you can’t change it later on. This is a Barbarian subclass with a little more complexity that may crit its Intimidation roll for new players, but if you can get over that initial hump, it’s so satisfying to play around with.