Let's Play...A Low Wisdom Cleric
We continue the Let's Play series today, looking at playing a low Wisdom cleric. This is a tricky one as your number of prepared spells is tied to your spellcasting stat, and on top of that the spellcasting stat is Wisdom which comes up quite a bit in any adventure, so this is going to be hard. Good news though: you're still pretty good at doing damage and supporting the party with this build, ironically.
We will first look at the character concept, and then we will walk through the mechanical side of building out the character.
I. Character Concept
Not every cleric is a perceptive, streetwise person, and not all clerics are in tune with the divine. Our cleric is a former thief who "found God" and has given his or her life to the ministry now.
You can also adjust the background based on which entity you want to serve. Perhaps the character is a former blacksmith who now serves a forge god, or a former soldier who now serves a war god. Find a fitting background, and use that to guide your choice of stats.
Of course, a cool concept isn't going to keep the party alive, so we still need effective choices to accompany your cool backstory, and that's what brings us to the build.
II. Character Build
First, you play as a Trickery Domain Cleric, because you actually don't use your modifier much for the abilities of this subclass. Plus it's surprisingly powerful in combat (I hadn't noticed this), as you will soon see.
This subclass plays best as a high Dexterity subclass (as you probably take Stealth and other related skills), so your access to Scale Mail and a shield, combined with a +2 or +3 Dexterity, will give you an AC16-8 at the start (depending on whether you want two daggers or a dagger and a shield). If you select a race that gets shortsword, scimitar, or rapier proficiency (a wood elf or eladrin elf, for example) you increase your melee damage, though you can also use a Crossbow as your primary weapon if you'd like (if you're okay with an AC16).
Your channel divinity is interesting, as it basically gives you an illusory duplicate at 2nd level, and then at 6th level you can turn invisible for 1 minute. The latter is the reason why we are using this subclass, so more on that when we reach 3rd level spell selections.
For your spells, here's your best choices at each level. First, you select either Sacred Flame or Toll the Dead for your cantrips, because you need an attack spell and these target Dexterity and Wisdom, stats that a creature on the table might be weak to resist, as your spell save DC is going to be low. After that I'd choose a utility spell like Guidance or Thaumaturgy, as they don't require rolls, so you're just as effective as a high-Wisdom cleric. Other standout choices are Light and Mending for the same reasons.
At 1st level you are rewarded for taking spells that don't require your spellcasting modifier, so good news: you get to tell the party, "I'm no healbot: go get your own heals." No, this cleric is built for damage and, ironically, control magic, as you actually have a lot of good choices at this level.
If you don't want to die, Shield of Faith is a great choice as you can increase your AC to 20 as a 1st level character (DEX14 + Scale Mail Armor + Shield + Shield of Faith). If you take the Dodge action on a turn, low level characters will not be able to hit you unless they are very lucky. You also get access to Bless and Bane, and while the latter does require a saving throw for it to work, it's a Charisma saving throw, which is not an easy one for your average monster to pass (even if it's at a DC9). All of these require your concentration, so choose one and use that one (as, ironically, you'll only get to prep one spell in addition to your domain spells).
If you want other options you also get access to Protection from Evil and Good and Detect Magic, the latter of which I definitely recommend you prepare as it's a ritual so you can cast it without expending a resource most of the times you use it.
At 2nd level you get primarily support spells as a cleric, and you have several good options at this level. Keep in mind that you have basically no prepared spells (2 by this level), so while we have good options for you the number you will actually have on hand is...basically none. In addition to Mirror Image and Pass without Trace (both of which suffer no penalty for a low Wisdom score - see why we're taking this subclass?) you have access to Aid, Lesser Restoration, and Spiritual Weapon, which is not great (as you're getting a +1 to your Attack rolls and 1d8-1 for damage), but it will play well once you hit 5th-6th level. I think you can wait to take Spiritual Weapon until you reach 5th level, but if you want it as early as 3rd level it's there. You might do better with two daggers than you will with a dagger and a Spiritual Weapon for damage, so just a thing to consider.
At 3rd level you get the heart of this build: combining Spirit Guardians with your 6th level Channel Divinity ability + your Spiritual Weapon, assuming that your DM agrees that the spiritual weapon is doing the attacks and not you. So the setup is this: Turn 1 casts Spirit Guardians, Turn 2 casts Spiritual Weapon and then use your action to use your Channel Divinity to turn invisible for 1 minute (or wait 1 more turn and cast Mirror Image on Turn 2 if you want to make it even harder to hit you). Each turn targets near you are taking damage from the guardians, one of them is being struck by the weapon, and you can use your action to Disengage, Dodge, or the Help action to aid an ally, all while inflicting disadvantage on targets that do not have truesight or blindsight (which is the vast majority of creatures).
At higher levels, you just use these same spells, or add some of the ones you get at higher levels. You get access to Dimension Door from your subclass (plus Dispel Magic and Blink at 5th level, both of which don't suffer from your low Wisdom), but your best bet for combat is probably just upcasting Spirit Guardians, as it's reliable multi-target damage with a good damage type. Sure, your spell save DC is not great, but the damage is still good all around. For other spells you get access to Remove Curse and Revivify, but there's not a lot of useful stuff here for low Wisdom clerics.
At 4th level you get Dimension Door automatically and it's good - very good, as it gives you teleportation which clerics don't generally get (sans the Nature Cleric). You also get access to Guardian of Faith, and I know that it requires a Dexterity save to take half damage, but since the guardian disappears after you deal 60 points of damage, dealing half damage just keeps it around longer, so that's no big deal. Death Ward is also useful here, as is Divination if you like doing foresight stuff.
At 5th level you get access to Greater Restoration, but as we mentioned before, you are probably best served by just upcasting Spirit Guardians with your 5th level slots. In truth, this level isn't great for clerics all around from a spell perspective, but you don't need to use on-level spells if you don't want to.
At 6th level you get Heal, Heroes' Feast, and True Seeing, all of which help you and the party immensely. And, if you don't need high impact healing or assistance with saving throws, you can always upcast a lower level spell.
At 7th level you get Regeneration and Resurrection, but you don't get a lot of good options at this level, so I'd take one of these as a contingency, but otherwise just skip this level.
At 8th level I'm going to just level with you: you only get 4 options, and none of them are good for this build. You can take Antimagic Field if you really want to, but since it requires your concentration it's taking away from the rest of what you're doing with the build.
And at 9th level you can take any of these spells and they'll work for you; I personally prefer Mass Heal, but select one of them for contingencies and keep them on hand for a rainy day. Alternatively, you can just cast Spirit Guardians dealing 9d8 radiant damage (or half as much on a failed save, which is still decent damage to anyone in the radius that you don't like).
And since we are not prioritizing Wisdom we can afford to have a high Dexterity and Constitution, more so than your average cleric. We can also have decent Intelligence and Charisma for skill checks, and you can still have decent Strength for avoiding being knocked prone.
Is this character going to be the most powerful cleric ever? No. Will it give a person who plays clerics regularly a different experience? Absolutely. And it's still effective in dealing damage with stealth options to give you advantage on your attacks from hiding. So if you want some rogue-like abilities with area damage from the cleric list, consider playing a low Wisdom cleric.
Until next time,