The Barbarian Class in 5e is the main tank and damage dealer in most adventuring parties. Their Rage skill allows them to tear up their enemies on the battlefield but what fuels their Rage ability is one of the more interesting aspects of Barbarian character creation.
Today, we’re looking at the Primal Paths or Subclasses for the 5e Barbarian and ranking them by our favorites.
Here is our ranked list of Barbarian Subclasses 5e:
- #8 – Path of the Berserker
- #7 – Path of the Battlerager
- #6 – Path of the Zealot
- #5 – Path of the Beast
- #4 – Path of the Storm Herald
- #3 – Path of the Ancestral Guardian
- #2 – Path of Wild Magic
- #1 – Path of the Totem Warrior
The Berserker Primal Path can be found in the Player’s Handbook.
The Berserker is the iconic Barbarian subclass. It supplements the Rage ability with Frenzy and the Barbarian can throw themselves into battle, focusing entirely on attacking without any regard for their own safety.
Although iconic, the Berserker is generally considered one of the weaker choices for the Barbarian.
Berserker Subclass Feature
The Berserker’s defining feature is their Frenzy ability.
Pros of the Berserker Primal Path Subclass
They can deal out a lot of damage quickly and are immune to being charmed. While in a Rage, the Berserker can go into a Frenzy which gives them the ability to make an additional attack using a bonus action.
Cons of the Berserker Primal Path Subclass
The Berserker’s Frenzy ability stacks exhaustion and can quickly become unmanageable without spells. It’s a great ability, but the Exhaustion can quickly wipe out the character and it can take several long rests to remove them all.
The Battlerager Primal Path can be found in Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.
The Battlerager is a Dwarf-specific Primal path. According to the rules, Dwarves are the only race that is able to take this class unless you house rules otherwise.
Battlerager Subclass Feature
The Battlerager makes use of specifically designed armor. It’s meant to act like a thorns spell where enemies that attack the Battle Rager injure themselves while attacking.
Pros of the Battlerager Primal Path Subclass
It’s a solid damage upgrade. Battleragers make excellent tanks because of their ability to deal damage while being hit. The added damage output lets them run into the middle of a mob of enemies and just soak up hits while simultaneously dealing damage.
Cons of the Battlerager Primal Path Subclass
It’s not that exciting of a subclass. It adds some standard extra damage, but you have to get hit first, and it’s specifically designed for Dwarves.
The Zealot Primal Path can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Zealots are fueled by the power of their chosen god and their champion. As their favored soldier, the god has infused their attacks with magical powers and intervenes to keep them alive even when death should have claimed them long ago.
Zealot Subclass Feature
The Zealot has some interesting abilities. They’re easy to revive and deal extra damage but their defining feature is the ability to continue fighting long after they’ve been killed. When in a Rage, they don’t go down from hitting zero hit points, and if they’re outright killed, they finish their Rage first and are easier to revive.
Pros of the Zealot Primal Path Subclass
The Zealot Primal Path adds a fair bit of extra damage and has some nice buffs to help the rest of the party or their allies in a fight.
Cons of the Zealot Primal Path Subclass
The Zealot’s abilities are really cool, but some of them are really only useful in a few situations. Their final ability sounds really cool, but it hinges on the fact that the Barbarians need to be near death or dying.
The Beast Primal Path can be found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
Barbarians that follow the Beast subclass have some connection with a bestial rage inside them. They could be descendants of lycanthropes, touched by the fey, or have some primordial creature that dwells in their soul.
Beast Subclass Feature
When the Beast Barbarian goes into a Rage they take on physical attributes of their primordial beasts; Bite, Claw, or Tail attacks.
Pros of the Beast Primal Path Subclass
Beasts have a decent balance of buffing other characters and dealing damage. They’re a nice choice if you’re not sure what kind of Barbarian you want to play.
Cons of the Beast Primal Path Subclass
Not too much to complain about really. They’re right in the middle of the pack. The Beast Primordial Path is a nice all-around Primordial Path. There are no true weaknesses, but nothing that makes it truly outstanding.
#4. Storm Herald
The Storm Herald Primal Path can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
The Storm Herald’s Rage comes from the elements. Just as a storm rages on, the Barbarian taps into that natural energy and harnesses it to fuel their own Rage abilities.
Storm Herald Subclass Feature
The Storm Herald’s Rage manifests in an aura around the Barbarian and manifests using three different elements; sea, tundra, or desert. Each aura grows in power with the Barbarian and grants different effects based on their chosen form.
Pros of the Storm Herald Primal Path Subclass
The Storm Herald’s aura ability is incredibly powerful and is extremely useful for a Tank.
Cons of the Storm Herald Primal Path Subclass
The Storm Herald’s abilities can only be changed on level up, so the player has to be careful about which one they choose otherwise they may find themselves with some abilities that aren’t optimized.
#3. Ancestral Guardian
The Ancestral Guardian Primal Path can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
The Rage of the Ancestral Guardian comes from the generations of warriors that have come before them. The spirits of heroes past stick around and lend their knowledge and strength to the Ancestral Guardian Barbarian.
Ancestral Guardian Subclass Feature
The Ancestral Guardian can call upon spirits to reduce the damage done to them and ask them for guidance in the form of the Clairvoyance & Augery spells.
Pros of the Ancestral Guardian Primal Path Subclass
The Ancestral Guardian is very good at mitigating damage using its special abilities. As they gain levels they’re able to withstand an insane amount of damage and reduce particularly damaging attacks to almost nothing.
Cons of the Ancestral Guardian Primal Path Subclass
Not the most flashy of the Primal Paths, but it is one of the best for tank characters.
#2. Wild Magic
The Wild Magic Primal Path can be found in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
The Path of Wild Magic infuses the Barbarian with unpredictable magical energies.
Wild Magic Subclass Feature
When going into a Rage, the Wild Magic Barbarian rolls from the Wild Magic Chart and a random effect is given to the Rage. It could deal extra damage, add more defense, or cause any number of other effects.
Pros of the Wild Magic Primal Path Subclass
The Wild Magic skills are pretty powerful and fun to play as a character. Smart and creative characters will be able to make use of all of the different effects, and as the Wild Magic Barbarian levels up, they’ll have more control over their Wild Surges.
Cons of the Wild Magic Primal Path Subclass
Sure the effects might sometimes be something you didn’t want at that exact moment, but I think it’s such a fun effect in terms of RP and gameplay that it’s my #2 spot.
#1. Totem Warrior
The Totem Warrior Primal Path can be found in the Player’s Handbook.
Barbarians on the Totem Warrior Primal Path are a shamanistic bunch. They use the spirit totems of different animal aspects to power their rages with nature energies.
Totem Warrior Subclass Feature
The Totem Warrior chooses an animal spirit that they take on the physical characteristics of and gain supernatural abilities associated with their chosen aspect. Totem Warrior can choose Bear, Eagle, Elk, Tiger, and Wolf as their aspect.
Pros of the Totem Warrior Primal Path Subclass
The Totem Warrior is one of the best Primal Paths for the Barbarian. Each aspect has a slightly different ability that works with almost any type of play style and is more interesting for RP purposes than the usual stereotypes of the dumb Barbarian hitting things.
Cons of the Totem Warrior Primal Path Subclass
I actually don’t have anything bad to say about the Totem Warrior. The only thing that would be negative would be the aesthetic for RP, but that’s entirely up to the player.
We hope you enjoyed our guide to Barbarian Subclasses in 5e! Next, you should check out our Barbarian 5e Class Guide and our DnD Class Guide.
Before starting GameCows with his wife Kendra, he used to teach English Language Arts in the US. He combined his love of gaming with education to create fun game-based learning lessons until he eventually decided to run GameCows with Kendra full-time. He’s known for pouring over rulebooks in his spare time, being the rule master during game night, and as the perma DM in his DnD group. Bryan loves board games, writing, traveling, and above all his wife and partner in crime, Kendra.