So, you want to play a tank in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition but want to know which class works best.
Honestly, most of the classes in D&D 5e work as tanks in some way. But, each comes with their own pros and cons. Also, while a couple might work, they’re not ideal.
Today, I’m going to cover the best D&D tank classes and what makes them good for this party role.
Be sure to check out my other guides on building a D&D tank.
Let’s take a look at the best D&D tank classes.
D&D Tank Classes
There are several class options for tanks in D&D. I’d say almost (and I mean almost) any class could tank in some way, shape, or form.
Does that mean they’d be good tanks?
Not necessarily. But, each of them come with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The main things we’re looking for in a tank class are survivability, ability to direct enemy attention, and damage output. Remember: the whole point of the tank role is to pose as a barrier between hostile creatures and your allies. So, the best D&D tank classes can take a hit and protect their party mates.
First off, let’s see what the best D&D tank class is.
Best D&D Tank Class
The best tank class in D&D is probably the Barbarian. With their damage resistances and ability to have decent hit points, it’s hard to beat them when it comes to tanking.
That said, they lack certain things that other classes have. For example, they lack the healing capabilities of Cleric and Paladin tanks. Also, they don’t have the battlefield control of the Battle Master Fighter.
Honestly, it really comes down to your personal preference.
I’d rank the top 5 best tank classes in 5e as such:
Now, there are other options. But, let’s break down why each of these classes make great tanks.
Of course, the major benefit of playing a Barbarian tank is Rage. While raging, you have resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage. This effectively doubles your hit points as you halve those damage types.
While that’s huge, Barbarians also gain Danger Sense at 3rd level which grants advantage on Dexterity saving throws against effects they can see. Then, at 5th level, they get Fast Movement which increases their movement speed meaning they can engage enemies sooner. And, later at 7th level, they gain Feral Instinct which gives them advantage on initiative rolls.
Barbarian basically check all the boxes of a good D&D tank.
Best Barbarian Tank Subclasses
The 5e Barbarian subclasses have some great options for fill the tank role in your D&D party.
Obviously, the Path of the Totem Warrior with the Bear Totem Spirit is the original go-to. At 3rd level, these Barbarians have resistance to all damage except psychic while raging. Huge for tanking and damage mitigation.
If you have Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (XGtE), the Path of the Ancestral Guardian subclass is also great for Barbarian tanks. They gain a couple features that encourage hostile creatures into attacking you and reducing damage done to your allies.
Clerics are one of the most versatile classes in D&D 5e. Several of the Cleric subclasses give you proficiency in heavy armor. And, being full casters, they have a wide range of spells that make them pretty solid tanks.
Now, Clerics don’t get much in the way of tank features on their own. You really need to go into their Divine Domains to find the best Cleric tanks.
That said, they have quite a few spell options, like shield of faith, that assist their tanking prowess which I’ll go into a bit later.
Also, playing a Cleric in 5e as the Tank character does often depend on your subclass choice. Clerics on their own don’t get Proficiency in Heavy Armor, so choosing a subclass that does is usually the best way to start.
Best Cleric Tank Subclasses
Any Divine Domain that gives you proficiency in Heavy Armor is a good choice for a tank.
- Forge Domain (XGtE)
- Life Domain
- Nature Domain
- Order Domain (TCoE)
- Tempest Domain
- War Domain
That said, the Forge and Nature Domains are the best Cleric tank subclasses.
Forge gives you the ability to improve your Armor Class at 1st level and then permanently while wearing armor in the higher levels. The Nature Domain grant resistance to certain damage types as a reaction.
Druids make for interesting tanks in D&D 5e by virtue of using their Wild Shape class feature as a hit point sponge.
So, Wild Shape basically adds the hit points of the beast you transform into to your current hit points. When you reach zero hit points in beast form, you revert back into your true form at the amount of hit points you had when you used this feature.
This means you’re always adding hit points onto whatever your health was add whenever you use Wild Shape.
That’s how you play a Druid tank. You transform into creatures with the most hit points possible and take the hits.
Best Druid Tank Subclasses
Honestly, if you’re playing a Druid tank, you should choose Circle of the Moon. That’s where all the hit points are.
Also, they get the Combat Wild Shape feature which lets you use your spell slots to heal. Something I think a lot of Moon Druid players forget.
The next classic tank class in D&D is the Fighter.
Fighters are the most versatile of the martial classes in 5e. And, their proficiencies in all armor types and shields mean they can have a pretty solid AC even at the early levels. Furthermore, they get the Fighting Style feature with options for Defense (bonus to AC), Protection (helping an adjacent ally), and Interception (TCoE, reducing damage against another creature).
Also, Fighters are one of the three classes with a d10 hit die. So, they (usually) have a pretty good number of hit points.
Now, playing a Fighter in 5e as a Tank means engaging in non-magical combat with your enemies. Some Fighter subclasses get access to magic, but for the most part, Fighters rely on their martial prowess to protect themselves and their allies. So, keep that in mind.
Best Fighter Tank Subclasses
Honestly, the best Fighter tank subclass is the Battle Master. The large selection of Maneuver Options gives you versatility in moving endangered allies, improving your or an ally’s AC, and provoking enemies into attacking you.
That said, the Cavalier Fighter Archetype in TCoE is a pretty solid tank also. Cavaliers get a couple features like Warding Maneuver and Hold the Line that let them protect their allies and prevent enemies from moving.
Paladin’s make for great heavy armor tanks in D&D.
Now, the biggest benefit for tanking as a Paladin is blending spellcasting with martial prowess. While they’re only considered a ⅓ caster, the few spells Paladins get are great for buffing their tanking capabilities.
A Paladin’s survivability is on par if not better than a Fighter’s with their Lay on Hands feature that lets them heal an increasing number of hit points. Also, early on, they get a Fighting Style from a more limited choice pool. But, they have the option for the more tanky styles in Defense and Protection. And later, their Aura of Protection feature is awesome for aiding in saving throws.
The biggest drawback to Paladins is their lack of versatility. And, their damage output, while amazing in single blows with their Divine Smite, can’t keep up with the likes of the Barbarian or Fighter.
Overall, Paladins make pretty great tanks in D&D 5e.
Best Paladin Tank Subclasses
The Oaths of the Ancients, Conquest (XGtE), and Glory (TCoE) are all good subclasses for a Paladin tank. But, the best Paladin tank subclass is the Oath of Redemption.
Redemption Paladins are all about damage reduction or moving damage away from other creatures. The second part of that is the big one for tanks and only a few abilities in D&D 5e let you do it. These Paladins also get some additional self-healing capabilities. And, they get a couple features that cause creatures to take radiant damage when they deal damage to another target.
Overall, Oath of Redemption Paladins are all about moving damage around, preventing damage to their allies, and punishing enemies for dealing damage.
That said, Oath of the Ancients Paladins get a little bit of battlefield control with their Channel Divinity and their Aura of Warding is great for helping your allies against spell damage. Conquest Paladins don’t really help their allies, but their features help lockdown enemies through the frightened condition. And, Glory Paladins get a couple features that grant temporary hit points to yourself or other creatures and allow you to boost an ally’s AC against an attack.
Honestly, almost any Paladin subclass makes a good tank in some way.
Other D&D 5e Tank Options
Now, those were the best D&D tank classes in my opinion. But, there are other viable options.
These are good tanks classes but maybe not quite as good as the ones mentioned above.
Artificer Tanks (Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything)
The Artificer has the Armorer subclass option that makes them pretty decent tanks.
Basically, they can wear any armor type (including heavy armor) and use it as their spellcasting focus. This means no need to fiddle with wands, rods, staves, or whatever for casting spells. And, one of their options lets you get temporary hit points as a bonus action.
Their choice in spells is a little lacking. But, and Armorer Artificer tank would be fun to try.
Monk tanks are the definition of Dex Tank.
Honestly, I almost put them as one of the top D&D tank classes but decided against it because the others are just that good.
The main draws to playing a Monk as a tank is their build-in reliance on Dexterity, making your AC decent, and their Ki feature. For a Monk tank, you’ll mostly use Ki for Patient Defense which lets you take the Dodge action as a bonus action.
Other great tank features that Monks get are Deflect Missiles which mitigates some damage from ranged attacks and Evasion which makes surviving Dexterity saving throws easier.
You don’t get much in the way of Monk tank subclasses except for the Way of the Drunken Master. Even then, you only get Tipsy Sway and Drunkard’s Luck as okay tank features. The former lets you redirect an attack when they miss you with a melee attack. And, the latter lets you cancel disadvantage on certain checks. Both pretty cool features, but not really tank abilities.
Honestly, Rangers make okay tanks based on their d10 hit die and a couple of mid- to late-game features. Even then, only Rangers of the Hunter Archetype get them.
Hunter Rangers get the Defensive Tactics and Superior Hunter’s Defense features. The former comes with an option called Multiattack Defense that increases your AC depending on whether a creature has already hit you or not. And, the latter lets you take Evasion or Uncanny Dodge both of which are pretty good for mitigating damage.
…The problem with Superior Hunter’s Defense is other classes get either Evasion or Uncanny Dodge earlier.
Rogues make for okay Dex Tanks.
With their Uncanny Dodge and Evasion features, they’re fairly sturdy all things considered. Also, since most Rogues rely on Dexterity for their weapons, they’ll have an okay Armor Class.
The biggest mark against playing a Rogue tank is their lack of decent armor since they only have proficiency in light armor.
Wizard tanks rely almost exclusively on spells.
That said, Wizard tanks can get pretty decent AC between the mage armor and shield spells.
Mage armor gives you an AC of 13 + your Dexterity modifier. Shield gives you a bonus +5 to your AC as a reaction to an attack. Even at a Dexterity modifier of +0, that means your Wizard could have an AC of 18 for a turn.
Pair this with the Bladesinging Arcane Tradition and you’ll have a pretty dang good armor class. Bladesingers gain a bonus to their AC based on their Intelligence modifier while using their Bladesong feature. They also get Song of Defense later on that lets them mitigate some incoming damage based on spending a spell slot.
Summary of D&D Tank Classes
If you’re looking for a solid D&D tank, Barbarians are an easy choice. But, the other four options are also really good picks for your D&D character.
You can think outside of the box. Just know that you’re gonna have a rougher time with classes like the Monk, Ranger, or Rogue.
That said, if you want to try a Rogue tank, go for it.
Play what you want to play. Now, you might have a harder time taking damage or manipulating the battlefield. But, with proper positioning and understanding what you character is capable of, you might pull off a sub-optimal tank class.
What is your favorite class to play as a tank? Have you made a non-traditional tank class? Leave a comment below!