Screen Rant recently posted their list of 5 Most Bad Ass Classes (& the 5 Weakest) D&D Classes. While I completely agree with the 5 best list, I have to argue with the weak list, especially with the bottom of the list: the Ranger. Yes, I’ve heard this time and again from many people, many of whom have never played a ranger before, only read the class, felt they were weak, and decided to pass.
As someone that enjoys the ranger, I can say that those that read the class and pass frequently overlook half the class: the spells. This is what makes the class earn its bad ass status. Let me share with you the 5 spells (6 actually) that no ranger should be without (and yes, I am sticking to the core book for these spells).
1. Hunter’s Mark
From 2nd level on, there shouldn’t be a ranger that doesn’t have hunter’s mark. Cast as a bonus action, this spell let’s the ranger add 1d6 damage to all attacks against a single target. When the target dies, the ranger can switch it to a new target. And this lasts for an hour. So it gets extra damage like sneak attack but doesn’t require the ranger to set it up (needing to have a friend be in melee or have the target be at a disadvantage). You go from room to room in a dungeon quickly and it will only require one casting. That is a boatload of extra damage for a single first level spell. Even better, using a 3rd or 4th level spell slot lets you have this spell for 8 hours. Now you don’t have a to move through a dungeon quickly. You can maintain this through a short rest while the warlock is getting their spells back. As a 5th level version, it lasts 24 hours. So you cast it as soon as you wake up and you still have it active on when you are on guard duty that night. That is a pretty sweet spell.
2. Ensnaring Strike
Another 1st level spell, ensnaring strike is a valuable ranger spell. You cast the spell as a bonus action and the next time you hit a creature (note: not necessarily your next attack, you can miss and the spell is still active) the target is restrained. That is a single target out of the fight until you want to deal with them. Sure there’s a Strength saving throw involved, but let’s see the enemy wizard make that.
3. Hail of Thorns/Conjure Barrage
I am lumping these two spells together because they are very similar. In my mind, these are the ranger’s fireball. For hail of thorns, you fire an arrow (dealing the arrow’s normal damage) and then the target and all target’s within 5 feet have to make Dexterity saves against 1d10 piercing damage (half on a successful save). Sure the radius is small and the damage is small compared to fireball, but you can cast it at 2nd level as compared to the wizard’s 5th level.
The higher-level version of hail of thorns is conjure barrage. As a 3rd level spell you can do a freaking 60-foot cone of thrown weapons or ammunition. Start your combat off with conjure barrage when they’re all clumped together and you can deal 3d8 damage to all your enemies. Less damage than a fireball but that is a freaking 60-foot cone. Plus, you can change up the damage type. Going up against several oozes and skeletons, pull out a light hammer and this spell deals bludgeoning damage. Have a handaxe to deal slashing damage.
4. Cordon of Arrows
Have an extra guard at night. You place some arrows in the ground and cast cordon of arrows. The spell watches for 8 solid hours. When someone other than the party enters the protected area, an arrow flies up and attacks. No Perception checks. It ignores invisibility or any number of other things that can trip players up.
5. Swift Quiver
Now for the 5th level spell we’ve all been waiting for: the machine gun archer spell. Swift quiver lets you use your bonus action for two (yes, two) bow shots. Combine that with the class extra attack and that is four bow attacks per round, three levels before the fighter can. Have a GM that makes you count your arrows? Well swift quiver just produces arrows for those two bonus attacks each round. So yea, for the next minute, you just fire again and again.
In my opinion, rangers are a resource management version of the fighter. Fighter’s choose when to use their action surge or second wind; rangers choose when to cast their spells which level to cast them, what am I using my bonus action for (moving the hunter’s mark to a new target or getting two extra attacks with swift quiver), and even which kind of damage do I want this spell to do. Rangers are a bad ass class.