Champion Fighter Build – Think Again in 5e

I hear all the time that Champion Fighters are really only for new players. But that’s wrong. A Champion Fighter build in 5e is outstanding no matter what level D&D player you are.

Is a Champion Fighter too boring?

When I hear, or read, that Champion Fighters are only for beginners, my blood boils. Apparently, the thinking is that – because they are so basic, boring and “easy” – more experienced players have no interest in them. Experienced players want something with lots of abilities, and Champion Fighter can’t compete with other classes? That is not true.

If you think a champion fighter build can’t compete, you clearly don’t know what new players want. You don’t know what seasoned players want either.

To be clear, a Champion Fighter is a subclass that can be chosen at level three in the fighter class.

Beginners Only?

The fighter, as a class, is considered great for new players – especially the Champion Fighter. However, it appears far too many of us think it’s for beginners because they don’t have much to worry about. True, they don’t have a massive list of features a new player has to sift through whenever it’s their turn. That is nice for newbies.

The fighter does one thing. It fights. Getting so many extra attacks, a bit of healing, and buffing saving throws while augmenting their attacks with extra abilities means that a new player can spend their turn understanding all of the other rules of D&D instead of barely understanding their class.

A Champion Fighter is great for players of ALL experience levels.
Image courtesy Carla Bumstead/WOTC

But let’s be real, no matter what, new players still will be sitting there in confusion as they notice any spellcaster at the table flinging spells. They’ll ask “Why don’t I have these crazy abilities? I want to be able to summon a storm from the sky.”

New players will understand what is happening in-game better when they have the abilities in front of them spelled out perfectly. However, I find that, usually, this issue of players having too many things they don’t understand comes more from having too many players and a bad DM.

Fighters are Heroes

What new players actually wants is to be heroes. (Who guessed it?) And they don’t feel that way when all they do is attack less, do less damage, have less health, and less AC then a lot of people at the table.

However, veteran players know what’s up. Most veteran players will tell you fighters are amazing. Why? Because they are both great at combat, having strong DPR (damage per round), AND great roleplaying classes. A fighter is great for role playing because they are blank slates.

Feats!

A fighter’s best ability is their ASI (ability score improvement). They get a whole two more than the average class. Why is this so important? Because of feats! Veteran players quickly start to multiclass and use feats. Fighters are the king of multiclassing. Two levels give you an action surge and one gives you a fighting style. Having so many ASIs means they get so many feats. It’s already a class made to be versatile and have many different kinds of builds. But it also lets you use feats to make your character even more unique. This is a big issue with fighters for new players. If you think they cannot use spells, watch them try to understand all the feats and how to use them.

Champion Fighter Build in 5e – A Boss Blank Slate

So then what about Champion Fighters specifically? The Champion Fighter suffers from the “boring of the boring” problem. It is a fighter fighter – a blank slate, within a blank slate. Improving critical strikes is great but not interesting. Oh, I get another fighting style? It’s pretty bland. New players don’t love this class for its simplicity. They hate it for it. So if new players shouldn’t play this, why is it actually quite good and why should you try it?

A Champion Fighter is much more dangerous than it might look at first glance.
Photo courtesy Carla Bumstead

Maths Matter

A Champion Fighter will destroy many classes in a fight. (Yes, here is the maths section). I use LudicSavant and AureusFulgen’s DPR Calculator (v2.51) to calculate a characters DPR and many other things.

Let’s look at a level 1, 5, 11, and 17 fighter champion versus an assassin rogue. These will not be completely optimized characters and will just be one class – standard human race and no magic items. We are only trying to maximize DPR versus an AC of 14, 16, 18, and 20, respectively, according to the level.

Fighter Level/AC1/145/1611/1817/20
DPR Normal/Adv/Dis7.2/10.33/4.116.47/23.89/9.0527/45.17/14.6528.25/47.36/14.96
Rogue Level/AC1/145/1611/1817/20
DPR Normal/Adv/Dis9.63/12.89/5.7016.50/21.34/10.2127.96/35.47/17.5537.51/46.89/23.79

Now this chart doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. Firstly, advantage is calculated on every attack. The same is done with disadvantage. Which means those numbers should really be lower and higher, respectively. Also, it doesn’t take into account the special critical hit abilities an assassin rogue has. It also doesn’t take into account the action surge ability nor the bonus action attack the champion fighter gets.

When looking at this chart, we need to remember the Champion Fighter is much better than it seems. They get two action surges at level 17 and any crits, I repeat, any crits, allow for a bonus action attack. And you are a class that increases the likelihood of critical hits. You are going to end up with a lot of bonus action attacks.

The assassin rogue, on the other hand, only gets its benefits some of the time. Yes, they do increase the damage by a lot. Having definite critical hits on the first round of combat, or getting to double the damage of those critical hits, does mean that you can quickly end up doing crazy amounts of damage.

But the Champion Fighter Build in 5e seriously deserves much more credit that it gets.

Champion Fighter Build – Better Than Billed

Clearly, the champion fighter build looks really good. Does that make it the “best” class? No. Is it even a top ten class? No, not at all. But it can do some awesome things:

  • Getting 12 attacks at level 20 with two action surges
  • Crit on 18 and, if you crit, you get a bonus action attack
  • Plus, you have all your feats to do this at level 6 – so any ASI after that can be used to increase HP and AC.

It’s insane. The Champion Fighter build has some crazy builds that can quickly do stupid damage. In addition, a veteran player will tell you “blank slates” are the best to build story and conflict within the character.

Fighters can be anything – no baggage. This is the best part about them. But, perhaps, it is also the worst part. If you don’t want to put in the work to develop a character from the ground up, it might not be the best choice.


Staff writer Edwin Holmer is studying philosophy at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. He started playing D&D when he was only five years old, at family gatherings. Since then, for the past 15 years, he has fallen in love with the game. He hopes to one day teach philosophy and bring those ideas into his gaming.

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