Roleplaying

D&D 5th Edition Subclasses: Swords vs Valor Bards

A woman with a guitar standing in front of a burning city.

Only one bard will be left standing. Night City Evening by peter_pyw

The bard has managed to grow beyond the subpar abilities of previous editions to become one of the best classes in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. It is a full caster class boasting a robust spell list and has the ability to steal a total of 6 spells from any other list in the game. As someone who enjoys tinkering with the mechanics of D&D, I love how flexible the bard is. The plethora of combinations never intended by the game’s designers allows for truly powerful results.

That all being said, it’d be easy to assume that the class would focus on those powerful casting features, and usually it does. Most of the bard’s subclasses do that very thing, improving their casting and support abilities. However, there are two major exceptions to this rule: the College of Swords and the College of Valor. These subclasses attempt to supplement the bard’s casting ability with martial options and increased survivability. Out of the two, Swords is by far the stronger option. It has more complete features, higher damage output, and even additional defense. Though neither option is something I’d select for a monoclassed bard, Swords is valuable for some very powerful multiclass builds.

The Controversy

Until recently I had thought this common knowledge: Swords being viewed as Wizards of the Coast’s mulligan* on the Valor subclass. Imagine my surprise when I saw prominent 5E content creators not just ranking Valor as a powerful subclass but also claiming it was by far the superior choice to Swords.

Once I had finished complaining about it on Facebook, I started thinking, What do the numbers say about Swords vs Valor? Though I’ve seen and participated in many conversations on the subject, I’ve never seen someone present the relevant math. Since spending entirely too much time fiddling with WordPress tables and homemade damage calculators has become my Thing here on Mythcreants, I decided to do it myself. So if you’ll indulge me, let’s examine two monoclassed bards and their subclasses: one a member of the College of Swords, the other Valor. I’m looking at these characters level by level, examining their offensive and defensive capabilities in order to crown the best of the worst.

Before we get started, a few ground rules. While both of these subclasses retain the bard’s powerful spell list, it’s their martial capabilities I’m comparing. As such, I’m only examining levels where those capabilities change significantly via feature or spell choice. I am also raising the martial stats of these characters before charisma, although I will also try to keep the casting stat as high as I can. While this might not reflect what most Swords/Valor bards do,* it provides the most interesting comparison and also gives Valor the best shot at proving me wrong. Now with all that out of the way, let the battle of the bards begin!

The Builds

Ancestry 

  • College of Swords
    • Human – Variant: Polearm Master
  • College of Valor
    • Human – Variant: Crossbow Expert

Surprise, surprise, the variant human comes out on top for both characters. While some martial characters can get away without a starting feat, these bards can’t. Their subclass features are simply too weak to support a martial play style without the assistance of feats.

Starting Stats

  • College of Swords
    • Str – 15: This is our main stat. We’re taking a feat at level 4 that grants +1 strength, so we start with a 15.
    • Dex – 8: Dump stat
    • Con – 16: (secondary stat)
    • Int – 8: Dump stat
    • Wis – 8: Dump stat
    • Cha – 16: A requirement I set for myself was to have at least a 16 in charisma; otherwise, people would yell at me for dumping the bard’s casting stat. Joking aside, martial bards still probably want a high charisma, as so many good spells benefit from a high casting stat and it gives us more uses of Bardic Inspiration.
  • College of Valor
    • Str – 8: Dump stat
    • Dex – 16: This is our main martial stat. We eventually raise it to 20.
    • Con – 14: (secondary stat)
    • Int – 8: Dump stat
    • Wis – 10: Wisdom is a good save, and we had the points.
    • Cha – 16: Raised for the same reason as the Swords bard

This is where the builds start to diverge. Our Swords bard is the more unusual of the two, opting for a strength-based build over the more common dex focus. The reason for this is simple: we’re going to be using a one-handed spear combined with Polearm Master and the Dueling Fighting Style as our source of martial damage.

This use of strength over dexterity isn’t without cost. Since our dex modifier is -1, the highest AC we could hope to get is 14 in half plate, which isn’t great as a d8 hit dice bard trying to mix it up in melee. While we can’t fix this at level 1, our level 4 ASI will remedy the issue quite handily. Unfortunately, this build’s poor saving throws are something we’ll just have to live with if we want to be a monoclassed bard that can work as both a martial and caster character.

As for the Valor build, our stat spread is a bit more typical, focusing on dex, con, and cha. Given our average con score and small hit die, we’re going with the hand crossbow, taking the Crossbow Expert feat at level 1. Unfortunately, this means we can’t take advantage of the Valor shield proficiency, but the only way to do that is to make a sword-and-board bard, which is entirely too depressing a character for me to dwell upon for long.

Level by Level

Levels 1-3

Level 1 Breakdown

College of Swords

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • Studded Leather: 12
    • Dex 8: -1
    • Total: 11
  • HP
    • Hit Dice d8: +8
    • Con 16: +3
    • Total: 11
  • Saves
    • Str 15: +2
    • Dex
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +1
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 8: -1
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +5
  • Attack Bonus
    • Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Total: 13
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Str 15: +2
      • Total: +4
  •  Damage Sources
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
    • Spear: 1d6
    • 2x Str 15: +4
    •  Total: 1d6 + 1d4  + 4
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 7.80
      • 15: 5.30
      • 20: 2.80
      • 25: 0.80

College of Valor

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • Studded Leather: 12
    • Dex 16: +3
    • Total: 15
  • HP
    • Hit Dice d8: +8
    • Con 14: +2
    • Total: 10
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +5
    • Con 14: +2
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 10: +0
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +5
  • Attack Bonus
    • Spell Save (Cha)
      • Base: 8
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Cha 16: +3
      • Total: 13
    •  Dex
      • Proficiency: +2
      • 2x Dex 16: +6
      • Total: +5
  •  Damage Sources
    • Crossbow Expert: 1d6
    • Hand Crossbow: 1d6
    • 2x Dex16: +6
    •  Total: 2d6 + 6
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 10.75
      • 15: 7.50
      • 20: 4.25
      • 25: 1.00

 

At these early levels, the winner is clearly the Valor bard. It has a higher relevant stat, higher AC, and better saves. The only relevant stat it is behind in is HP. The math gets even worse for Swords in a real game, as an 11 AC, d8 hit die bard probably doesn’t want to be in melee, meaning their only damaging option would be Vicious Mockery, the saddest damage cantrip. This means the Swords bard would play a more supportive role, similar to a caster-focused bard.

It’s important to note for Swords that the weak early levels are an intentional investment of a build that expects to at least make it into the mid levels*. If your group doesn’t plan to play to those levels, simply switch the Swords bard to a dex-focused dual-rapier or hand-crossbow build, and you’ll have something just as effective as the Valor bard.

Winner levels 1-3: Valor*

Levels 4-5

Level 4 Breakdown

College of Swords

Defense Offense
  • AC: 18
    • Full Plate
  • HP: 35
  • Saves
    • Str 16: +3
    • Dex
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +1
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 8: -1
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +2
      • Total: +5
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Str 16: +3
      • Total: +5
  •  Damage Sources
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
    • 2x Dueling: +4
    • Spear: 1d6
    • 2x Str 16: +6
    •  Total: 1d6 + 1d4  + 6 + 4
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 13.10
      • 15: 9.10
      • 20: 5.10
      • 25: 1.10

 

College of Valor

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • Half Plate: 15
    • Dex 16: +2
    • Total: 17
  • HP: 31
  • Saves
    • No Change
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Dex
      • Proficiency: +2
      • Dex 16: +3
      • Sharpshooter: -5
      • Total
        • w/o Sharpshooter: +5
        • w/ Sharpshooter: 0
  •  Damage Sources
    • Crossbow Expert: 1d6
    • Hand Crossbow: 1d6
    • 2x Dex 16: +6
    • 2x Sharpshooter: +20
    •  Total
      • w/o Sharpshooter: 2d6 + 6
      • w/ Sharpshooter: 2d6 + 6 + 20
  • Average DPR (using whichever damage is higher between Sharpshooter and non-Sharpshooter) vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 18.50
      • 15: 10.25
      • 20: 4.25
      • 25: 2.00

 

Level 4 is where the Swords build starts to come online. For our level 4 ASI we’re taking Heavily Armored, which grants us heavy armor proficiency and increases our strength by +1 to a total of 16. As for the Valor, we’re picking up Sharpshooter, allowing for a much longer effective range and giving us the option of -5 to hit for +10 to damage on each attack.

At this point I’d say the builds are roughly equal, with a slight edge for Valor. However, this has absolutely nothing to do with with abilities granted to the bard by its Valor subclass. Any character capable of using a hand crossbow could acquire the requisite feats, including a Swords bard, and generate the exact same damage numbers.

On the other hand, the Swords bard build cannot be replicated by the Valor bard. Why not? Because Valor is missing both the Duelist Fighting Style and Blade Flourish that pushes the Swords’ movement, damage, and AC ahead of its competitor. I have been leaving them out of damage and AC calculations, as three usages per long rest probably won’t get used every attack, but when needed this boost is hugely valuable.

Winner levels 3-5: Tie*

Levels 6-9

Level 6 Breakdown

College of Swords

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • Full Plate: 18
    • Defensive Flourish average: +4
    • Total: 22
  • HP: 51
  • Saves
    • Str 16: +3
    • Dex
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +3
      • Total: +2
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 8: -1
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +3
      • Total: +6
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +3
      • Str 16: +3
      • Total: +6
  •  Damage Sources
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
    • 2x Spear: 2d6
    • Defensive Flourish: 1d8
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • 3x Str 16: +9
    •  Total: 1d4 + 2d6 + 1d8 + 6 + 9
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 25.35
      • 15: 18.10
      • 20: 10.85
      • 25: 3.60

 

College of Valor

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP: 45
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +3
      • Total: +6
    • Con 14: +2
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 10: +0
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +3
      • Total: +6
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Dex
      • Proficiency: +3
      • Dex 16: +3
      • Sharpshooter: -5
      • Total
        • w/o Sharpshooter: +6
        • w/ Sharpshooter: +1
  •  Damage Sources
    • Crossbow Expert: 1d6
    • 2x Hand Crossbow: 2d6
    • x3 Dex 16: +9
    • 3x Sharpshooter: +30
    •  Total
      • w/o Sharpshooter: 3d6 + 6
      • w/ Sharpshooter: 3d6 + 9 + 30
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 30.23
      • 15: 17.85
      • 20: 7.35
      • 25: 3.00

 

We’re starting to see the Swords bard pull away from the Valor bard. Now that we regain our Bardic Inspiration on short rests, spending on average one per round is not a huge stretch. This increased offense and defense makes our Swords bard a fairly competent frontline martial character.

On the other hand, the Valor bard is beginning to show just how much of a loss it is to not have the Archery Fighting Style. Besides extremely low AC targets, the lack of improved accuracy or extra damage from their subclass puts the Valor bard firmly in second place.

Winner levels 6-9: Swords

Levels 10-13

Level 10 Breakdown

College of Swords

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • Full Plate: 18
    • Defensive Flourish average: +5
    • Total: 23
  • HP: 83
  • Saves
    • Str 18: +4
    • Dex
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +3
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 8: -1
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +7
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +4
      • Str 18: +4
      • Total: +8
  •  Damage Sources
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
    • 2x Spear: 2d6
    • Defensive Flourish: 1d10
    • 2x 5th level Spirit Guardian (assumes average of 2 targets in aura)
      • 10d8
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • 3x Str 18: +12
    • Griffon
      • Beak: 1d8
      • Claws: 2d6
      • 2x Str 18: 8
    • Total: 1d4 + 2d6  + 10d8 + 1d10 + 6 + 12 + 1d8 + 2d6 + 8
  •  Average DPR vs
    •  AC/Wis Save
      • 10/-1: 88.50
      • 15/0: 74.23
      • 20/+1: 59.95
      • 25/+2: 45.68

 

College of Valor

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • Half Plate: 15
    • Dex 18: +2
    • Haste: +2
    • Total: 19
  • HP: 73
  • Saves
    • Str 8: -1
    • Dex
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +7
    • Con 14: +2
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 10: +0
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +4
      • Total: +7
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Dex
      • Proficiency: +4
      • Dex 18: +4
      • Sharpshooter: -5
      • Total
        • w/o Sharpshooter: +8
        • w/ Sharpshooter: +3
  •  Damage Sources
    • Crossbow Expert: 1d6
    • 3x Hand Crossbow: 3d6
    • 4x Dex 18: +16
    • 4x Sharpshooter: +40
    • Griffon
      • Beak: 1d8
      • 2x Claws: 4d6
      • 3x Str 18: +12
    •  Total
      • w/o Sharpshooter: 4d6 +16 + 1d8 + 4d6 + 12
      • w/ Sharpshooter: 4d6 + 16 + 40 + 1d8 + 4d6 + 12
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 76.55
      • 15: 51.43
      • 20: 26.30
      • 25: 10.67

 

This is where the Swords bard blows the Valor build out of the water. Both builds take Find Greater Steed as one of their Magical Secrets, as the spell gives permanent flying and a powerful combat companion. However, the second selection is quite different. For Valor we take Haste since it improves almost every combat aspect of both our bard and our mount. Swords, on the other hand, is a melee build and takes Spirit Guardians.*

As much as I love Haste, it simply can’t compete with the damage of Spirit Guardians. While the Valor bard could also opt for Spirit Guardians, their lower hit points and concentration saves make them poorly suited for melee combat. Swords bard is ahead by a mile.

Winner levels 10-13: Swords

Levels 14-20

Level 14 Breakdown

College of Swords

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • No Change
  • HP: 115
  • Saves
    • Str 20: +5
    • Dex
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +4
    • Con 16: +3
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 8: -1
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +8
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Str
      • Proficiency: +5
      • Str 20: +5
      • Total: +10
  •  Damage Sources
    • Polearm Master: 1d4
    • 2x Spear: 2d6
    • Defensive Flourish: 1d10
    • 2x 7th level Spirit Guardian (assumes average of 2 targets in aura)
      • 14d8
    • 3x Dueling: +6
    • 3x Str 20: +15
    • Griffon
      • Beak: 1d8
      • Claws: 2d6
      • 2x Str 18: 8
    • Total: 1d4 + 2d6 + 10d8 + 1d10 + 6 + 15 + 1d8 + 2d6 + 8
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC/Wis Save
      • 10/-1: 108.70
      • 15/0: 96.83
      • 20/+1: 81.35
      • 25/+2: 65.88

 

College of Valor

Defense Offense
  • AC
    • Half plate: 15
    • Dex 20: +2
    • Total: 17
  • HP
    • Current HP: 101
    • Tenser temp HP:  50
    • Total: 151
  • Saves
    • Str
      • Stat 8: -1
      • Tenser Proficiency
        • +5
      • Total: +4
    • Dex
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +8
    • Con 14: +2
      • Stat 14: +2
      • Tenser Proficiency
        • +5
      • Total: +7
    • Int 8: -1
    • Wis 10: +0
    • Cha
      • Stat 16: +3
      • Prof: +5
      • Total: +8
  • Attack Bonus
    •  Dex
      • Proficiency: +5
      • Dex 20: +5
      • Sharpshooter: -5
      • Total
        • w/o Sharpshooter: +10
        • w/ Sharpshooter: +5
  • Damage Sources
    • Crossbow Expert: 1d6
    • 2x Hand Crossbow: 2d6
    • 3x Dex 20: +15
    • 3x Sharpshooter: +30
    • 3x Tenser’s Transformation: 6d12
    • Griffon
      • 2x Claws: 4d6
      • 3x Str 18: +12
      • x2 Tenser’s Transformation
    • Total
      • w/o Sharpshooter
        • 3d6 +15 + 6d12 + 4d6 + 6d12 + 12
      • w/ Sharpshooter
        • 3d6 +15 + 6d12 + 40 + 4d6 + 6d12 + 12
  • Average DPR vs
    •  AC
      • 10: 143.83
      • 15: 121.87
      • 20: 85.35
      • 25: 24.53

 

With another round of Magical Secrets, we see the Valor bard gain the incredibly powerful Tenser’s Transformation, buffing themselves and their griffon for a huge single-target damage boost. On the other hand, the Swords bard simply up-casts their Spirit Guardians for even higher group damage.

At this point, the builds’ offensive martial capabilities are fairly equal in my eyes. Valor does better against individual targets, but Swords runs away with the prize if three or more enemies are involved. I’d probably give a slight lead to Swords as they can cast Spirit Guardians much more often than the Valor bard can cast Tenser’s, making the numbers shown above for Valor something reserved for 1 encounter per long rest, whereas the Swords bard simply takes a small damage dip by casting Spirit Guardians with a lower spell level.

This is the final snapshot I’m examining since the subclass features end at 14. From here both builds would pick up feats like War Caster and Resilient Constitution to make sure they don’t lose concentration, but for this article’s purposes, this is far enough to prove my point.

Winner levels 10-13: Tie*

The Final Analysis

Setting aside all the math I spent hours working on, the point of this demonstration was to show that there is nothing of value that the Valor bard brings to the table that the Swords bard doesn’t. Yes, there were points where the archery build surpassed the spear build, but that had nothing to do with being a Valor bard. If I had wanted to, I could have had the Swords bard copy the Valor build completely, the only difference being that the Swords bard gains a passive movement buff and is able to use its Bardic Inspiration dice* to increase both damage and AC.

Speaking of Bardic Inspiration, let’s compare the special ways that Valor and Swords bards can use their inspiration dice, beginning with the Valor bard’s Combat Inspiration. In short, it allows the Valor bard’s inspiration to be added to weapon damage rolls or used as a reaction by the bard to increase a target’s AC for one attack. The reason I haven’t mentioned this previously is because it does literally nothing for the bard. Unlike Swords bard’s Blade Flourish, Valor’s Combat Inspiration is still limited to targets other than the bard, meaning it would never factor into the example builds. On the other hand, the Swords bard’s Blade Flourish passively increases movement speed by 10ft with an attack and lets the bard add one of their inspiration dice to both their attack’s damage and their AC until their next turn.

For personal use, there is a clear winner, but what about for helping others? One argument I see against Swords bards is that they’re “selfish,” so let’s say both our Swords and Valor bards only use their inspiration to help others. Unfortunately for the Valor bards, I’d say that they are equally good in this situation, simply because the options afforded by Combat Inspiration are worse than what base bards get access to. Adding to damage is nice, but the bounded accuracy philosophy of 5E means that bonuses to hit rolls are much harder to come by, and any inspiration dice involved in an attack should be used on hit rolls instead of damage.

The story is the same for defense. Monsters in 5E usually have multiple attacks, while powerful spells usually require a single passed save to escape. Increasing AC against a single attack at the cost of a reaction is nowhere near as good as increasing a saving throw. I’d even argue that these expanded options make Valor bard’s inspiration dice worse, as the additional options trick inexperienced players into wasting their dice for minor benefits.

Next let’s look at each subclass’s level 14 feature. Swords bards gain Master’s Flourish, granting them unlimited uses of Blade Flourish with the disadvantage that it only uses a d6. This is great, granting an average of 3 damage and, more importantly, AC while leaving the Swords bard’s inspiration dice intact to help their party. As for Valor bards, they gain Battle Magic, allowing them to take an attack as a bonus action after casting a spell. This feature has the problem that it pulls the bard in two different directions. If you cast a lot of spells you probably haven’t invested feats, stat boosts, or Magical Secrets into having good martial attacks. On the other hand, if you’ve invested heavily in martial abilities you’ll probably net 1 attack per fight on the first round you cast whatever buff spell you choose.* If you find yourself casting a lot of spells, then you’re wasting all those resources you invested in martial abilities. Either way, you’re losing out.

The one good thing the Valor bard gets that Swords doesn’t is shield proficiency. However, even this doesn’t mean much. Both myself and the community at large have agreed that sword-and-board Valor bards are terrible, most positing that archery is the best build for the subclass. If that’s the case, then Valor bards aren’t even using this proficiency. Even if a Valor build did opt for a sword-and-board build, the AC granted by Sword’s Defensive Flourish will on average grant more AC than a shield. Yes, prior to 14 that flourish is a limited resource, but it is usually fairly clear when enemies are about to do a lot of damage, allowing the Swords bard time to trigger their increased defenses. Even conceding that Valor’s shield allows for a better sword-and-board build, taking an entire subclass for a single proficiency is an egregious cost. For anyone who wants to live the bad bard-tank experience, just be a Swords bard, pick up the Moderately Armored feat, and save yourself a subclass of disappointments.

Finally, I’d like to circle back to the “selfish” comment I made earlier. This is a common type of critique that I’ve seen crop up time after time, especially regarding bards. There is this notion that a bard player who wants to make themselves powerful is “playing the class wrong” or something of that nature. No one gets mad at the wizard for Fireballing the enemy instead of Hasting the fighter, because there’s no weird stigma around the wizard class demanding it prioritize helping others instead of themselves. Boxing players into specific class-based roles and chastising them for not playing the way you want is childish at best.

This type of thinking also breeds a very unhealthy type of discussion in the fandom. I’ve even seen this behavior on multiple 5E YouTube channels, places that players go to for advice on how to play the game, justifying their low opinions of certain features or subclasses because it’s “not what the class is for.” People take these messages to heart, and I have received a number of angry comments when I dared to make a bard archer build.

New and interesting ways of playing a class should be encouraged, especially by players who claim to be in favor of optimization and innovation in builds. Bards players don’t owe the party support any more than clerics do healing. The sooner we cut that kind of thinking out, the better this hobby will be.

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Comments

  1. Sam Gruenberg

    Very interesting article and perspective.

    Before reading this, I definitely would have described the Swords bard as a “selfish” subclass. You’ve changed my mind, however, to think that a class shouldn’t be defined from the outside.

    The breakdown of each bard’s martial ability was quite interesting because I am one of those players who see all bards as spellcasters first, not martial characters.

    In fact, when reading your description of what the Swords bard would do in a combat with Spirit Guardians, supplemented by weapon attacks, and the mount’s attacks, I thought it sounds like what a cleric does in combat, and no one’s calling them selfish.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Thanks for giving it a read =). I’d say 90% of the time looking at the bard as a full caster will yield stronger results, but it’s always good to remember everything a class is capable of. Two of my strongest martial builds are primarily bard.

  2. Gwen

    Although not entirely convinced that the swords bard always triumphs over a valor there were excellent points. What I liked most was your defense of classes not being forced into a particular role due to tradition. I one of my favorite things 5e did was broadening the cleric class. So often clerics were forced to play a very specific role of healbot, often criticized for attacking or buffing and now they are some of the more versatile play styles. I think the game stagnates if traditions are held too tightly, whether that is bards only allowed to support, or only drunk bearded Scottish dwarves, creativity is at the heart of tabletop and needs encouragement.

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      I’m glad you liked some of my points =). In what areas do you prefer the Valor bard? I’m interested in hearing points from that side of the discussion, as my playgroup mostly aligns with my own thoughts.

      • Gwen

        I agree as a pure combat character Swords is better, but the free attack after casting a spell is very useful and not to be ignored. I also would not make a valor bard range but use a rapier, picking spirit guardian over Haste, and a different starting racial feat would even them up much more, probably war caster. Another secret might be Armor of Agathys, so you have a tough bard that can fight front lines and keep up concentration spells with plenty temporary HP to keep.

        • Ari Ashkenazi

          I assume this rapier valor bard would also be using a shield?

          • Gwen

            Only with a lenient DM when it comes to free actions

          • Ari Ashkenazi

            why would the GM need to be lenient?

          • Gwen

            Under current rules, you only have 1 free action, so you can not sheath a weapon and grab an instrument the same turn, while war caster takes care of somatic elements, it does not get rid of the need for a spellcasting focus for component spells.

            This is actually a great argument for a swords bard because I believe their weapon can count as their spellcasting component

  3. Teg

    Your Valor Bard don’t use swift quiver ? Why ? He really get the edge LVL 10
    to 20 with that

    • Ari Ashkenazi

      Haste actually adds more damage than swift quiver, continuing the sadness that is the ranger spell list.

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