Unearthed Arcana: Revised Subclasses Analysis

This month we get five revised Unearthed Arcana subclasses.

The Unearthed Arcana schedule is back to being monthly and we’ll be getting it every first or second Monday of the month. This time we are presented with the revised versions of five subclasses that were very popular based on the surveys. These subclasses are the Barbarian’s Path of the Ancestral Guardian, the Bard’s College of Swords, the Fighter’s Arcane Archer, the Monk’s Way of the Kensei, and the Sorcerer’s Favored Soul. Let’s begin.

Barbarian: Path of the Ancestral Guardian (from Unearthed Arcana: Barbarian Primal Paths)

The theme of the Ancestral Guardian hasn’t changed but there have been a few tweaks on its mechanics.

  • Ancestral Protectors. This ability no longer costs your bonus action. It’s automatically activated and targets the first opponent you hit on your turn. Also, the Disengage part has been swapped with granting resistance to the target’s damage to creatures other than you.
    • This fixes the action economy a bit. The last couple of months, we’ve seen quite a few features that require a bonus action. This change tones this down and also in a flavourful way.
    • The Disengage part was a bit too specific, so changing it made this feature more useful. The resistance, combined with the disadvantage, could be considered rather powerful. However, if the abilities of the opponents force saving throws then they pretty much override this feature completely.
  • Spirit Shield.  The name has changed. Also, the resistance transfer has been swapped with granting some damage reduction. I think that’s an acceptable change. You keep your resistances, are able to provide resistance through Ancestral Protectors, and you can also reduce damage. It still requires your reaction so it’s not overpowered.
  • Consult the Spirits.  Advantage to Intelligence and Wisdom checks has been swapped with the ability to cast Clairvoyance once per short or long rest.
    • The complexity has been reduced. Instead of counting how many times you’ve chosen to grant advantage to yourself, you now know you can cast the spell once per short or long rest. Pretty simple.
    • Generally, Barbarians aren’t be that good with Intelligence or Wisdom, so advantage wouldn’t make a big difference anyways. Now, they get a nice spell, which also adds more flavor, in my opinion.
  • Vengeful Ancestors.  Another good change. It no longer requires your reaction, which is required by Spirit Shield. Instead, if a creature hits an ally and you use your Spirit Shield, then the creature also takes damage equal to the reduced amount.
    • You know longer need to choose on which feature you’re going to use your reaction. Instead, you get a nice synergy between the features.
    • Now, the damage of this feature scales thanks to the synergy with Spirit Shield.

This is a very interesting subclass. I like its more tankier focus in contrast with the damage dispensers that the PHB Barbarians are.

Bard: College of Swords (from Unearthed Arcana: Kits of Old)

This is, flavor wise, my favorite College of the ones we’ve seen so far in the Unearthed Arcana series.

  • Bonus Proficiencies. The proficiencies granted are the same. The change is that the Bard can use any melee weapon they’re proficient with as a spellcasting focus. I like this addition because it enhances the flavor of the subclass.
  • Fighting Style. The Dueling fighting style is also available now. Clearly, that’s a great change, mechanic and flavor wise.
  • Blade Flourish. The biggest change is that Blade Flourish now requires an action by its own and is no longer part of the Attack action. Also, it can be used with any melee weapon now. Moreover, two of the three Blade Flourish options have changed and also no longer require a bonus action. Before I talk about the options I’d like to note a possible problem with Two-Weapon Fighting. It seems that you can’t use it to make a second attack with your bonus action because it needs you to take the Attack action in order to be able to do that. I believe reason behind this could be that using one of the Flourish options should be considered as a second attack. The problem is that you must spend Bardic Inspiration to use them.
    • Defensive Flourish. This one hasn’t changed. It’s a pretty nice defensive bonus.
    • Slashing Flourish. This one’s a bit weird. So instead of damaging the creatures you have just hit, you can damage every other creature around you. I guess it could be useful when there are a bunch of enemies surrounding you.
    • Mobile Flourish. You push the target for 5 feet plus your Bardic Inspiration die. You can also follow their movement by spending your reaction. It’s fine I guess. There could be an issue, however, for groups that use a grid for combat.
  • Cunning Flourish. It increases the number of attacks you can use with Blade Flourish by one. It’s a needed upgrade. However, you still can’t use more than one Blade Flourish options each turn.
  • Master’s Flourish. Now, instead of using Bardic Inspiration dice, you can use a d6 when you want to use one of the Blade Flourish options. It’s handy when you don’t want to spend Bardic Inspiration or you’ve already spent all of it. However, the only good use you’d get out of the options with a d6 would be the defensive bonus of Defensive Flourish.

I like the flavor of this subclass but I have to admit that it needs a lot of work. I have found two problems here. The first one is that Blade Flourish doesn’t allow throwing weapons anymore. The previous wording allowed throwing daggers which, in my opinion, would be really badass for a Bard. The second problem is the one I mentioned about Two-Weapon Fighting. The way the rules work make Dueling be the best choice hands down.

Fighter: Arcane Archer (from Unearthed Arcana: Fighter Martial Archetypes)

This is one of the Fighter subclasses that I liked a lot. It has been changed quite a bit.

  • Magic Arrow. Arcane Arrow got split in two and this is its first half. It pretty much makes every non-magical arrow you shoot a +1 arrow. This can be useful at lower levels, as well as in campaigns where magic items are rare.
  • Arcane Shot. That’s the second half of Arcane arrow. It got wording fixes as well as an action economy fix. Also, the 2d6 force damage has been moved into each individual shot and the damage type changes from shot to shot.
  • Arcane Archer’s Lore. I don’t understand the need to tone this feature down. You don’t only get proficiency in one skill but also the list you pick from has been narrowed down to two skills, Arcana and Nature. There are classes with a lot more skill proficiencies. Could this be a change that has the Unearthed Arcana’s feats(this set and also this set) in mind?
  • Curving Shot. You no longer conjure arrows. Instead, now you can change the direction of an arrow that missed and make an attack against another opponent. This one is definitely an upgrade. It’s an interesting idea which is going to lead to players making all kinds of trick shots.
  • Ever-Ready Shot. It has replaced Ever-Ready Arrow and now is activated by rolling initiative. Technically, this doesn’t affect combat. Whenever you get yourself into a fight, there’s going to be an Arcane Shot available.
  • Deadly Arrows isn’t needed anymore. As I said, the damage of the Arcane Shots has been moved into every shot. Also, at level 18 their damage is upgraded anyways.
  • Let’s take a look at the Arcane Shots.
    • Banishing Arrow. That’s an impressive shot. It doesn’t deal a lot of damage but, if it hits and the target fails the Charisma saving throw, the target is sent into the Feywild until the end of their turn. That’s really good. At 18th level it gets a 2d6 force damage boost. It looks like a replacement of the Defensive Shot.
    • Brute Bane Arrow. Now it deals necrotic damage that goes from 2d6 to 4d6, at level 18. Also, I think that it now halves any kind of damage instead of the bludgeoning, piercing, or slashing it mentioned in the previous version. Moreover, a Constitution saving throw is required in order for the effect to take place.
    • Bursting Arrow. It’s pretty much the same, with some wording changes to make things clear. It deals 2d6 force damage that scales to 4d6 at level 18.
    • Grasping Arrow. It’s pretty much the same with only a couple of changes. The DC of the check required to free someone is now based on your Arcane Shot DC and, also, you can’t have two brambles grasping someone at the same time. When you use it a second time, the first target is freed.
    • Mind-Scrambling Arrow. It’s an upgraded Beguiling Arrow. It deals 2d6 psychic damage and is no longer stopped by Charm immunity. It now requires a Wisdom saving throw.
    • Piercing Arrow. This is a good change to the Piercing Arrow. Instead of making attacks, the targets now make a Dexterity saving throw. The damage is now the damage of a normal bow attack plus 1d6 piercing damage, which is upgraded to 2d6 at level 18. A very important note is that it ignores cover completely.
    • Seeking Arrow. It no longer requires an action and also you don’t make an attack. Instead, the target makes a Dexterity saving throw and, if it fails it takes damage equal to a normal bow attack plus 1d6 and you learn its position. On a successful save it takes half damage and you don’t learn its position. I really like the part about learning its position. It adds a lot of flavor.

I believe the changes in this subclass are good. Most of them are great improvements and others make the rules clearer.

Monk: Way of the Kensei (from Unearthed Arcana: Monk Monastic Traditions)

Let’s see what changed in the weapon wielding Monk.

  • Path of the Kensei. Some changes that make things clearer.
    • You now get to pick a melee and a ranged weapon, and at later levels you get to choose more. These weapons are considered kensei weapons, which also make them Monk weapons. The fact that are considered Monk weapon allows you to use Strength or Dexterity when you use them. There’s a restriction to the weapons you can choose. They can’t have the Heavy or Special property, with the longbow being an exception.
    •  Making an unarmed strike while holding a kensei melee weapon gives you a +2 bonus to your AC, until the start of your next turn. This hasn’t changed.
    • The 1d4 damage part has been changed and now applies to ranged attacks. The wording is clear as well. I like that they try to support melee and ranged focused Monks.
  • One with the Blade. The Magic Weapons part hasn’t changed but the Precise Strike has. Now you spend ki to deal extra damage. This fixes the action economy of the subclass, since previously it required a bonus action which is also required by some Path of the Kensei abilities.
  • Sharpen the Blade. It’s more or less unchanged, with the added rule that this only applies to kensei weapons. A tiny note here. The Arcane Archer’s Magic Arrow turns a normal arrow into a +1 magic arrow. This feature just adds a +1 to +3 bonus to a kensei weapon. This means that this bonus stacks on top of any bonus a magic item has to the attack and damage rolls. This could get interesting.
  • Unerring Accuracy. There are no changes here.

The Kensei definitely got some needed changes. I believe wording was a problem in the first version and also there could have been problems with Heavy weapons. Now it’s a bit clearer and also less prone to breaking the game. However, I believe another revision would do this subclass good.

Sorcerer: Favored Soul (from Unearthed Arcana: Modifying Classes and Unearthed Arcana: Sorcerer)

  • Divine Magic. This one got only one simple change. You learn the spell Cure Wounds for free. Sweet.
  • Supernatural Resilience. It has been removed. It provided a bit more survivability to the Sorcerer but it didn’t really fit the flavor.
  • Favored by the Gods. It hasn’t changed and, to be honest, there was no need to do anything to it. It’s just right.
  • Empowered Healing. That’s a Sorcerer flavored feature. You can spend sorcery points to reroll any dice from a healing spell. It’s similar to the Empowered Spell Metamagic option. The difference that Empowered Healing rerolls any amount of dice.
  • Divine Purity. It’s gone. Abilities that grant immunities are a sensitive matter, as I’ve said before. I believe the decision to take it out was the right one.
  • Angelic Form. This is the changed version of Blessed Countenance. It no longer doubles your proficiency in Charisma checks, which is something I’m glad about. I think I’ve seen enough of this mechanic. Instead, it lets you sprout spectral wings, using a bonus action, that give you a flying speed of 30 feet. Being able to fly at 14th level isn’t that broken, in my opinion, so all is good. Also, it’s a nice addition to the flavor of the subclass.
  • Unearthly Recovery. It hasn’t changed.

This is the third appearance of the Favored Soul in Unearthed Arcana. The changes made this time made it much better.

This week we revisited five subclasses. Overall, I believe the D&D team did well. However, out of the five subclasses I believe that only, the Favored Souls, is ready. In the second place we have the Barbarian and the Fighter, in the third place the Bard, and the last place goes to the Monk .

You can read the full article here and download the PDF here. And don’t forget, the survey about the the racial feats can be found here.

2 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: Revised Subclasses Analysis

  1. I agree. Favored Soul looks very good. Ancestral Guardian looks fun as well. I’m still waiting for some Druid and Cleric tweaks.

    Druids would benefit from a Circle Of Spirits (Spirit Shaman) and a Circle Of Storms (Stormlord) option. Clerics, well I like the Domains, but some feel a bit flat compared to the mechanics other classes get.

    Liked by 1 person

    • For now I’d like to see more revisions on existing content. Unless the community didn’t like any of the options for a class, we’ve got a fair amount for each one.
      Also, this is a personal preference, I’d really like to see the Shaman as a class.
      As for the Clerics, I haven’t noticed that but I haven’t played one and my players rarely play one.


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