Grave Cleric 5E Guide | Attributes, Tips, Builds, and More

Grave Cleric 5E

Released simultaneously with the Forge Domain, the Grave Domain came out in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. These clerics are focused on protecting the concept of life, a natural demise, and the destruction of undead. As such, they are primarily spellcasters with a profound hatred of the unnatural, and some pretty unique supportive abilities for the backline role. So now, join us as we cross the River Styx and enter the Grave Cleric 5e Guide.

The Ultimate Grave Cleric 5E Guide

The Grave Cleric is a unique specimen, in that a lot of its abilities focus on supporting their allies or dealing a lot of damage. There are possibilities of a Frontline role through touch attacks – with a Cleric’s natural ability to soak damage. This class may not be as tanky as other options like Tempest Clerics, though. Or you could become a backline supporter with good ranged techniques that the archetype offers. Either way, you’ll find defending the natural cycle of life rewarding.

Grave Domain Spells

The Domain spells of the Grave cleric are situational and, unfortunately, not always in a good way. The domain gets utility outside of the standard Cleric Spells, but some are situational to the point of redundancy.

Grave Cleric Domain Spells
  • 1st Level – Bane, False Life
  • 3rd Level – Gentle Repose, Ray of Enfeeblement
  • 5th Level – Revivify, Vampiric Touch
  • 7th Level – Blight, Death Ward
  • 9th Level – Antilife Shell, Raise Dead

Right from the Domain Spells, it’s clear that this domain’s role is as a support. Bane works into this role well, dealing with low Charisma damage-dealers quite effectively. Ray of Enfeeblement can be a life-saver against high-damage, physical boss characters, provided they fail the save. Death Ward acts as an infinite health shield once per cast.

The other use for these divine spells are for healing and reviving. Gentle Repose combos well with Revivify, allowing for a long buffer if you need to scrounge up diamonds. Vampiric Touch offers good healing opportunities for yourself, at the cost of being melee range. Raise Dead goes somewhat well into the Gentle Repose/Revivify combo, if you were late to the touch.

The odd one out is Blight, which is a high-damage spell that targets living creatures. This works well with the Channel Divinity option that the Grave Cleric gets, which will be shown later. Why anti-undead Clerics get a spell that targets only living creatures is something only the Undying Court can explain. All-in-all, a list of good, situational options for preventing death, reviving, and a good damage option.

Circle of Mortality

The first level 1 ability of the Grave Clerics cements your role as the healer. According to Xanathar’s Guide:

At 1st level, you gain the ability to manipulate the line between life and death. When you would normally roll one or more dice to restore hit points with a spell to a creature at 0 hit points, you instead use the highest number possible for each die.

In addition, you learn the Spare the Dying cantrip, which doesn’t count against the number of cleric cantrips you know. For you, it has a range of 30 feet, and you can cast it as a bonus action.

Putting it bluntly, this ability is primarily to save an ally from having to make Dying rolls. This can be situational compared to other level 1 abilities, but it is, quite literally, a lifesaver. If a primary damage dealer is knocked out, then your healing magic gives them a gigantic buffer for their health. At minimum, they’re standing up at 8 + your Spellcasting Modifier with Cure Wounds, preventing bad rolls and potentially giving them extra hits that they can tank. All Clerics know the pain of low-rolling that so-important heal, and trust me; 12 is so much better than 5. And that’s at level 1. As Cure Wounds gets better, so does this ability.

And even better, you don’t even need to sacrifice your turn to ensure someone doesn’t die. Bonus Actions are important for clerics, for some spells. But, using your Bonus Action to keep someone from making Dying Saves is huge. In addition, the range increase on Spare the Dying upgrades it from a mediocre Medicine replacement into a versatile, stabilizing ability for your backline caster role.

Eyes of the Grave

Replacing bonus proficiencies, the Grave Domain gets a scouting tool;

At 1st level, you gain the ability to occasionally sense the presence of the undead, whose existence is an insult to the natural cycle of life. As an action, you can open your awareness to magically detect undead. Until the end of your next turn, you know the location of any undead within 60 feet of you that isn’t behind total cover and that isn’t protected from divination magic. This sense doesn’t tell you anything about a creature’s capabilities or identity.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

In terms of divination abilities, this one is… Lacking. Compare this to the spell Detect Evil and Good; your targets are reduced, your duration is much decreased, and you can’t penetrate any barriers. The upside is you get multiple uses instead of the extra duration. Even so, this ability does not make the Grave Domain a more enticing option. 

This ability isn’t completely useless, of course. The extra 30 feet of range is very beneficial, and it can still find Undead who are simply disguised or faking death. It also has good flavor potential, if you are playing a paranoid Grave Cleric. However, this is likely not the ability that carries the Grave Domain’s appeal.

Channel Divinity: Path to the Grave

Finally, an ability that really pushes this subclass.

Starting at 2nd level, you can use your Channel Divinity to mark another creature’s life force for termination.

As an action, you choose one creature you can see within 30 feet of you, cursing it until the end of your next turn. The next time you or an ally of yours hits the cursed creature with an attack, the creature has vulnerability to all of that attack’s damage, and then the curse ends.

As an alternative to Turn Undead, this ability is massive. Doubling the damage of an attack is absolutely crazy. Imagine using this ability and then having a Paladin spend a lot of spell power on a Smite attack, or a Sorcerer using Disintegrate. And this ability gives Vulnerability to any type of damage, and all types of damage that specific attack uses.

5e grave cleric
Crossing these clerics could have GRAVE consequences. Get it?

In addition, this curse doesn’t allow your target to save, meaning that it is guaranteed damage… As long as someone hits it. Including yourself.

A final good use is in an intrigue scenario. You curse someone, maybe having to roll a bluff to pretend that it wasn’t you, or the curse is just a bad response to some wine. Then, on your next turn, you cast Blight, or another high-damage spell option, to deal a lot of damage to your intended target to start a fight. 

This ability has a lot of damage potential, and can be used from a safe distance. The downsides are twofold; this is a curse, and it only gives vulnerability. 

Remove Curse is a relatively low-level spell, and if this is identified as a curse, then it can be removed by an enemy cleric or another lackey. There are also some few enemies that are immune to curses, and thus this ability cannot be used on them.

“Only gives vulnerability” is a weird downside, considering how much I hyped it up. However, this is intentionally written not to remove immunities or resistances. That means that if your party member, or yourself, does an attack that they are immune to, the damage is still doubled… To 0. Resistance is still okay, since the damage just equals out, but it still reduces your potential damage by a lot. And if they already had vulnerability to the damage type, nothing happens. Try to make sure you know what your target is immune to before planning to use this ability on a specific type of burst damage.

Sentinel at Death’s Door

The 6th level ability of a lot of Domains are quite impressive, and Sentinel at Death’s Door is quite good;

At 6th level, you gain the ability to impede death’s progress. As a reaction when you or an ally that you can see within 30 feet of you suffers a critical hit, you can turn that attack into a normal hit. Any effects triggered by a critical hit are canceled.

You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of once). You regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

This ability is an insurance policy, pretty similar to Circle of Mortality. Stopping critical hits is quite powerful, in the right situations. This can turn a horrendous and party-ending disaster into just a basic hit. And I have never heard a DM groan louder than when they forgot this ability existed right after rolling a 20.

The range is rather small, but as a “safe distance” backliner, you should have most of your party within 30 ft. The big downside is the Wisdom modifier restriction, but even this shouldn’t be a huge issue. With you being a Cleric and all.

Potent Spellcasting

Now, for the damage-dealing ability that comes in at level 8;

Starting at 8th level, you add your Wisdom modifier to the damage you deal with any cleric cantrip.

Uh oh! This isn’t Divine Strike. But, even so, it’s far from useless.

Unlike a few Domains, the Grave Cleric gains a bonus to damage with Cleric Cantrips, rather than weapons. When this article was written, there were 3 Cleric cantrips that deal damage – Hand of Radiance, Sacred Flame, and Toll the Dead. 

Adding Wisdom modifier to these cantrips is more solid than it seems. Sacred Flame and Toll the Dead both have a 60 ft. range that lets you stay within that 30 ft. range that Grave Clerics like to be in. Toll the Dead can do d12s, if the target is missing health, so adding your Wisdom modifier can improve that damage quite a bit.

For the Melee Grave Cleric, Hand of Radiance offers a decent area of effect option in melee range, increasing the d6s by quite a lot. Try not to use a cantrip on Path to the Grave, though. There are (hopefully) better damage options than these to double.

Keeper of Souls

The final, capstone ability for the Grave Domain is… Underwhelming, to be honest.

At 17th level, you can seize a trace of vitality from a parting soul and use it to heal the living. When an enemy you can see dies within 30 feet of you, you or one ally of your choice that is within 30 feet of you regains hit points equal to the enemy’s number of Hit Dice. You can use this feature only if you aren’t incapacitated. Once you use it, you can’t do so again until the start of your next turn.

So, the Grave Cleric can use the life forces of others to embolden their allies. This can be nice in certain situations. Picking someone off the ground with a small heal is useful. Capping off health with a small heal is useful. Healing for no actions? Useful. But the heal is minor. Hit Dice are not really a tall pool for most monsters. At this point, when you see something die, you heal an ally for an average of 17 health. This can be significant, but it’s locked at once per round and will often be for less than a single hit.

Fantastic flavor, fantastic for picking people off the ground… And probably will not be the reason you pick up Grave Domain. Especially compared to the level 17 abilities of other Domains.

Best Race for Grave Clerics

Keep in mind, when asking “what is the best race” for a Grave Cleric, that there is no “best” race. A race should fit into the background of what you want your character to act like. If you’re looking for mechanical abilities that augment the class, however, you should consider;

Wood Elf

This class really likes keeping their distance. Choosing a Wood Elf grants you that Wisdom this class so desperately wants. It’ll also get you movement speed for positioning and Dexterity to boost your AC – since you have no Heavy Armor. It’s probably the best option in the Core Rulebook.


If your GM allows you to use the options in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, the Firbolg gives you something that the Grave Domain is based off of; +2 Wisdom. Boosting Wisdom is important for this Domain because of how many abilities Wisdom is based off of. In addition, Firbolgs have abilities that keep the Grave Domain safe with their ability to briefly go invisible and carry much more weight.

Races to Avoid

There are no truly awful races to avoid with this subclass. As long as your Wisdom is high enough, any race would make a fantastic keeper of the Cycle. However, I would tend to avoid options that reduce movement speed. That can make it tricky to keep people within your 30-feet “safe zone” if combat becomes mobile.

Otherwise, I would heavily incentivize finding races (that your GM allows) that increase the Wisdom score. This domain has a lot of abilities that rely on it; preventing crits, increasing damage, and scouting. If you’re having trouble deciding on a race, any of them that increase Wisdom is huge for this subclass.

Grave Domain Gods

Grave Clerics are commonly under the priesthood of gods of the Dead and funerals. They also can worship gods that are dedicated to fighting undead at all costs. Here are some examples of Grave domain deities for your game.

Anubis (Egyptian)

When one dies, they are sent down to the domain of the dog-headed god. Before his throne sits a massive, gilded scale. On one side sits the soul of the creature under scrutiny. On the other, a single feather. One’s purity means much to Anubis, Egyptian God of the Underworld. For, at the end of the road, nothing matters more to him.

Anubis is the Lawful Neutral god of death and judgment. He is seen as ruthless but fair, a stubborn god who brutally punished any who disrespected the dead. His visage is placed in both courtrooms and mortuaries, a fitting relation to any who worship him. However, many can see his judgment as old-fashioned, a damning end to any who sinned beyond the ideals of a single group.

Few clerics worship Anubis. Those that do are the officiates for funerals and other macabre enterprises. They are generally untrusted by the communities they serve, seen as omens of the damned future for many individuals.

A Grave Cleric of Anubis knows all of the funeral rights of the god. They serve as a watchdog of the dead, striking down necromancers and undead hordes wherever they might spring. These clerics may also serve as judges and police officers, interrogators and guardsmen. They are guides of life as much as they are guides of death.

The seat of the Underworld is hotly contested. Gods like Hades in the Greek pantheon are also great choices, if your DM allows you to use them. Osiris is also a god of the dead, though he is also in charge of the harvest of food.

Kelemvor (Forgotten Realms)

To become synonymous with death is a difficult task for even the greatest of deities. And yet, every now and then, a pantheon finds a being so important to the concept of death that all who know his name understand death a little bit more. He bears the crown of three deities before him, and works tirelessly to ensure that death is seen as natural and gentle.

Kelemvor is the Lawful Neutral god of the dead and death. He guides the natural process of death, decay, and the afterlife. He ensures that the cycle continues smoothly and without issue, and that those who perish understand what will happen next. His empathy can be attributed to covering a cold, calculating want to spread his religion, or a genuine want to make death less painful.

Worshippers of Kelemvor are the bastions of the dead. They tend to last wills and the deathbeds of those who passed. They’re also the defenders of the living; those who do not deserve to die yet. They are the executioners of the undead.

A Grave Cleric of Kelemvor is focused purely on the end of someone’s life. They walk through deathbed procedures, prepare the body, and hold the funeral. They act as a counselor to the grieving family, someone to trust during a hard time. These clerics are also responsible for remembering the legacy of the dead.

The Undying Court (Eberron)

It is time to reflect on the past. Rather than worshiping a single god, why not worship those who passed? Many ancestors of adventurers were adventurers themselves, and they may offer clues and advice that still matter to modern day. The elves of Aerenal understand the importance of the dead, and worship the Undying Court as a result.

The Undying Court is a Neutral Good series of entities that represent the elven afterlife. They are an administrative force in the Elven world that uses many different generations of knowledge to inform their decisions. They serve many different roles in their community, though that group is sheltered away from much of the world.

Worshippers of the Undying Court serve more as servants than true clergy. They serve as the conduits for the Undying Court’s divine power while also serving administrative roles. They may even turn worthy outsiders into members of the Deathless, so they too may join the Undying Court.

A Grave Cleric of the Undying Court is likely to be a devout member of the community. They may be traveling the world as a Soungraloi or Mordraloi, looking for the next person to become a deathless guide. They are defenders of the Court and even provide recommendations to the Counsel, who would never consider the advice of a living being without the mantle of the Undying Court.

Grave Clerics can serve undead masters, and the Undying Court is a perfect example of how this works.

Wee Jas (Greyhawk)

Few hold as many titles as the Ruby Sorceress. The one who calls down Arcane Magic. The goddess who grants Hags their strength. The one who takes. All of these and more are the domain of Wee Jas, Greyhawk’s goddess of death, vanity, and law. Necromancers call to her, as do wizards who have just opened her spellbook. A noble might call to her at a funeral or in front of a mirror.

Wee Jas is the Lawful Neutral goddess of death, law, magic, and vanity. She is crucial to Wizards, and embodies every single aspect of what makes them powerful and valuable. She depicts herself as a gorgeous woman capable of miraculous feats. Finally, she cares not for undead, as long as they were animated correctly. 

Worshippers of Wee Jas listen to her doctrines closely. They are capable mages who are obsessed with self-beautification. Despite her friendship with Boccob, her worshippers are expected to pester the Lord of Magic. Her worshippers serve as magical aides and magical bombards, as well as keepers of the dead.

Grave Clerics of Wee Jas serve as funeral aides and lawyers. They ensure that a body’s rights are handled dutifully and respectfully. If an undead is made, it is up to the Grave Cleric to ensure that it was resurrected with consent. Their god may have many different domains, but they are expected to be hyper-fixated on the concepts of the dead.

Example Feats for Grave Domain Clerics

Grave Clerics are interested in improving their spellcasting repertoire and surviving. You have okay spells, but the ones you get for free are situational at best. We want to use feats to improve your everyday options while also ensuring you’re the last one standing during a fight. The Cleric must stay alive for as long as possible!

Fey Touched

This is my favorite feat in the game! You get a +1 to Wisdom, which is fine for a Grave Cleric. You do want to get to 20 Wisdom, so this gets you there eventually.

What’s more important are the two spells you get. Misty Step is an absolutely absurd spell that lets you zip around the battlefield as a bonus action. Repositioning is very good, as is the ability to move 60 feet in a round! Teleportation is hard to come by for Clerics, so this’ll catch your DM off guard all the time. The 1st-level spell has a few options, but we recommend Silvery Barbs. It’s an insanely useful spell that’ll come up often, lets you use your Reaction, and provides a massive buff afterwards. You can also play around with Hex to make your vulnerability damage even greater!

Heavily Armored

If your Cleric is going to be very low Dexterity, you can work with this. Plate Armor is the highest AC you can get, at 18. So, this is your best option for becoming a tank. This’ll improve your Strength, which might help you be able to wear Plate Armor without penalty.

Alternatively, if you have high Dexterity, you can get Medium Armor Master. That feat does not give you a stat bonus, but you can get to 18 AC with a Breastplate. That’s definitely worth consideration!

Metamagic Adept

This feat will not come up in every single fight, like some other feats on this list. As a Cleric, you only get 2 Metamagic options and 2 points to spend them on. For the whole day. That doesn’t sound great, does it? But, Metamagic Adept allows you to warp your spells. In some situations, you’ll turn from useless to fight-endingly strong. A Distant Spell Harm, for instance, can surprise an enemy with a gigantic blast of Necrotic damage. Or an Extended Spell Shield of Faith can let it last for several fights. 

This feat is only recommended for pros, since it is a lot of commitment for something that’ll only activate once or twice per day. But, it can really swing things into your advantage!


One of the more simple feats on this list, Resilient (Constitution) is a pretty solid defensive option for Clerics. Clerics will roll Constitution saving throws a lot, since that is what you need to roll for Concentration checks. Being proficient in it, while bumping your own Constitution by 1, can be handy.

Shadow Touched

Shadow Touched gives a +1 to Wisdom and a few spells, just like Fey Touched. Unfortunately, we don’t recommend Shadow Touched nearly as much.

Don’t get us wrong; invisibility is actually solid on clerics. We have good attack spells like Guiding Light and Sunbeam that require attack rolls, and being able to leave a fight stealthily will always be nice. But, your free level 1 spell is not great. Cause Fear, Color Spray, Ray of Sickness, and Silent Image are the best options here, and they’re all situational. Not exactly a list of magic that you’re guaranteed to use over the course of any given day! Still, good spell list improvement.


Okay, if Resilient was simple, Tough is childsplay. You get 2 HP per level. Presto! You’re fantastically tanky. This feat is like getting a +4 to Constitution… But, without getting any bonuses to Saving Throws. Still, the health is very, very important. As long as you’re on your feet, you can keep picking up party members using your magic. Stay far from the grave!

War Caster

War Caster is often used for Heavy Armor and Weapon clerics, but we can use it here. Advantage on Concentration checks will always be useful, since Clerics have fantastic, Concentration-based buffs. Then, you can hold a shield and a utility item, such as a wand, while still being able to cast spells. Finally, you can cast Harm as an attack of opportunity. What fun!

Seriously, this feat is primarily useful for your Concentration checks and keeping items in your hands, so you’re always ready for combat. If your goal is to go heavy armor and wade into the frontlines, you could do worse than this feat.

Multiclassing for Grave Clerics

Clerics have some of the best spellcasting in the game, and we’d be remiss to lose it. We recommend only multiclassing at the end of your career, and only by three levels at max! However, there are a handful of classes that you can look into that won’t make your Cleric underpowered.


It’s the circle of life! Druids make for passable Cleric multiclasses. You lose some AC with the no-metal restriction, but make up for it with Wild Shape. Being able to apply a health overshield before combat is very nice. Set up a Concentration spell beforehand and walk confidently into battle. If you choose Circle of the Moon, you can make Wildshaping after a spellcast into a common fighting tactic. Or, you can go Land or Shepherd for impressive support synergies.

The Druid Spell list is by no means the strongest in the game, but they have good 1st and 2nd level spells that we can steal. For instance, we can grab Absorb Elements, Entangle, and Barkskin!


Paladin is a gimmick build alongside Grave Cleric, but it is funny. If you can afford the Charisma tax, you’re digging for exactly Smite. Smite lets you spend a 4th level spell slot to deal a ton of damage to your target. You can save up defensive spells, then explode into a Smite that deals double damage, alongside your Channel Divinity. Not the strongest for your spellcasting, but offers defensive and healing utility that the Cleric doesn’t necessarily have.

Best Grave Cleric Backgrounds

Grave Clerics are worshippers of gods of the dead, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re locked into being a funeral agent. Let’s talk about how backgrounds can benefit your character, both in a mechanical and story sense.


This is an easy one. All Grave Clerics are acolytes of some god. Acolytes get Insight – a really good skill for you – and Religion – a good skill that we aren’t going to have the Intelligence to make use of. What’s neat about Acolyte is that it comes with two languages. These are completely free, so talk to your DM about what would make the most sense for your campaign. Maybe you can learn Undercommon and be an undercover cop! Or get a generally good language, such as Giant or Elven!

The starting equipment isn’t necessarily required for a Cleric. Make sure you get your money back for the holy symbol, if you’re going for basic starting equipment rules. However, things like a prayer book and incense make a lot of sense for a Grave Cleric. And Shelter the Faithful means you get to hang out in funeral homes. Which… I mean, it’s a bit macabre, but most villages have a place to bury their dead!


Investigator is part of the Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, so make sure your DM is okay with you selecting the background. If they accept, then you’ve got a great background for yourself! You can get Insight and Perception – two very commonly rolled skills. You also get Disguise Kit and Thieves’ Tools proficiencies. Thieves’ Tools are nuts, so this is a great opportunity to expand your out-of-combat utility. The equipment is fun, though nothing impactful.

You will have to talk with your DM about Official Inquiry. That’s a hard feature. You’ll also need to talk with them about your Crime. As a Grave Cleric, common crimes include bodysnatching, grave robbing, and necromancy.


Urchins see death all the time. They watch as someone starves to death, someone else catches a disease that is incurable to them. As a Grave Cleric, you can tell a really powerful story with this background.

Sleight of Hand and Stealth are very weird abilities for a Cleric to have… But, you can make them work. Stealth plays havoc with Medium Armor, though, so make sure you have the Dexterity to support this background! You get Theives’ Tools proficiency as well, making you an extremely good out-of-combat character.

City Secrets is a fun feature for urban campaigns. Make sure you remember that you have this! Double speed can be useful.

How to Play Grave Clerics

Out of Combat

  • Use Magic. Magic does not have to be restricted to combat. Try to find uses for your magic to ease the pains of travel. A Dispel Magic on a door might swing it open while disarming a trap. Gentle Repose on a corpse might ease the pain of a grieving villager, making them more likely to talk to you. Check your spells and get information about where you’re going, because your magic can save lives… And time!
  • Remember Your Skills. While we say to use your magic, you can also use your impressive skills, like Insight, to reveal secrets. Remember to ask your DM if a specific skill might help in a situation. Clerics don’t just heal and hurt!
  • Eyes of the Grave exists! Use this ability! Undead can be relatively hard to find in specific scenarios, since several of them can become invisible. You can use this ability quite a few times per day, so feel free to throw it out if you’re expecting.

In Combat

  • Circle of Mortality. Circle of Mortality asks you to play a funny playstyle; wait for people to pass out. You can heal a ton with Healing Word and Cure Wounds if someone is unconscious. And that’s a good thing! You can try to heal someone to full, but if they take a ton of damage, it might just hurt your resources. As long as you can heal them from 0, you can really keep everyone alive for a long time!
  • Use Path to the Grave before combat starts. This action is incredibly strong. Using it before a fight starts and having someone immediately follow it up with a strong attack can put enemies on the back foot immediately. If you can’t use it before a fight starts, try to plan with a teammate so you can maximize this ability’s damage.
  • Don’t forget about Sentinel at Death’s Door. Turn every crit you see into a normal hit. Crits are very uncommon, so just lessen the damage that your party takes whenever possible. Get those guaranteed, life-saving reactions off!
  • Potent Spellcasting is Powerful. Adding Wisdom to cantrips is nuts. Dealing +4 to +5 extra damage per cantrip is like adding another d8 or d10 to them. Once you get this ability, there is no reason to not sit back and cast cantrips whenever possible. Unless you need something dead, don’t spend spell slots on damaging spells.
  • Keeper of Souls… This feature is so weak. But, you get to use it every round. So use it every single round. You can wait to see if you can pick up an ally, or you can get that guaranteed healing. Choose very wisely. And choose based on how many enemies are actually scattered about in a fight.

Grave Cleric FAQ

What Book Has the Grave Domain?

The Grave Domain can be found in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. It is located on Page 19. You’ll find all of the features you need there.

Should a Grave Domain Cleric Deal Damage or Support?

Grave Domain Clerics specialize in utility and defensive tactics. You get a lot of free healing and buffs on your spell list. We recommend kitting out your spells and magical item slots with damage-dealing or buffing abilities. Improve your party, and keep them alive with features like Circle of Mortality and Sentinel at Death’s Door. Then, you can use spells to deal large damage and heal when the fight is over.

It’s a very gentle balance, and it honestly depends on your party. Grave Clerics benefit quite a lot from having okay damage options and really solid supportive ones.

Do Grave Clerics Have To Hate Undead?

No! Grave Clerics can even worship undead, like the Undying Court. However, many gods of Death prefer undead to stay in the ground. You should talk to your DM about your god’s doctrine. Most gods are quite okay with neutral, intelligent Undead. But few care for the servants of necromancers.

Our Grave Cleric Build

Let’s play a Wood Elf. This one is going to be allowed to use the Investigator background, thanks to our wonderful Game Master! Be sure to ask your DM about backgrounds so you can use the really cool options that are otherwise locked behind campaigns. They’ll often come in handy!

Wood Elves gain a +2 to Dexterity and a +1 to Wisdom. This works well with our long-ranged Caster build, but it will mean our Wisdom will be a bit behind the curve. That’s okay! With feats and Ability Score Improvements, we can get to 20 Wisdom by level 12, or level 8 if we don’t care about Wisdom feats!

5E Grave Cleric Build
Race: Wood Elf
Ability Scores: STR (8) DEX (12 + 2) CON (14) INT (13) WIS (15 + 1) CHA (10)
Proficiencies: Disguise Kit, Insight, Investigation, Medicine, Perception, Religion, Thieves’ Tools
Starting Equipment: Mace, scale mail, light crossbow and 20 bolts, a priest’s pack, a shield, a holy symbol, magnifying glass, evidence from a past case, set of common clothes, 10 gp
Languages: Common, Elvish
LevelsNew FeaturesChoices To Make
1-Spellcasting-Divine Domain (Grave)- Grave Domain Spells (1st Level)-Circle of Mortality-Eyes of the GraveSee the above table for our Racial and Background choices. It also includes our basic Equipment Choices. At this level, you take Divine Domain.
Ability Scores: We need a ton of Wisdom, but not necessarily Dexterity. We’re going to stick with Medium Armor, which caps out at a +2 Dexterity Modifier. So, 14 is all the Dexterity we need!
Starting Gear: For our Starting Equipment, we used the basic Cleric kit. The Grave Cleric, and this build, benefit from the 5d4 x 10 gold pieces! You don’t need to have a crossbow, necessarily. So, see if your DM will let you get additional gear, like more rope or a shovel.
Spellcasting: Try to keep useful spells like Healing Word on your list. These can really make or break a fight, even at level 1!
Cantrips: You should use Cantrips as your aggressive spells. Get Toll the Dead for a really hard-hitting option, and then something like Guidance to allow for buffing in-and-out of combat.
2-Channel Divinity (1/rest)-Channel Divinity: Path to the GraveNo choices here! Try to practice adjusting spells for each level. Also, try your great combo of using Path to the Grave with a strong, level 1 spell, like Guiding Bolt.
3-2nd Level Spells-Grave Domain Spells (3rd Level)Grave Clerics get okay spells here, but you should supplement Ray of Enfeeblement with defensive options. Lesser Restoration is a great option.
4-Ability Score ImprovementWe’re going to take +2 Wisdom here. We need our spells to have a high DC and we want to gain additional uses of our good defensive options.
5-3rd Level Spells-Grave Domain Spells (5th Level)-Destroy Undead (CR ½)3rd level spells are huge. Try to keep Dispel Magic on your list. In addition, look at spells like Mass Healing Word and Spirit Guardians to rule combat.
6-Channel Divinity (2/Rest)-Sentinel at Death’s DoorNothing crazy here, though Sentinel at Death’s Door is a very important defensive option. Spam that sucker!
7-4th Level Spells-Grave Domain Spells (7th Level)4th level spells are situationally powerful, but can win fights by themselves. Check out magic like Banishment and Stone Shape.
8-Ability Score Improvement-Destroy Undead (CR 1)-Potent SpellcastingWe have two paths here. We can take a feat, like Fey Touched, to improve our spell list’s versatility. Or, we can take +2 Wisdom to get to 20 Wisdom. Both options are very valid.For our build, however, we’ll get that feat. Misty Step and Silvery Barbs are just that good. We’re at 19 Wisdom now.
9-5th Level Spells-Grave Domain Spells (9th Level)Greater Restoration will be useful, and we get Raise Dead for free! This is a big level for clerics.
10-Divine InterventionNo big choices here. Keep looking at spells.
11-Destroy Undead (CR 2)-6th Level Spells6th level spells continue to raise the ante! Harm can combo well with our Channel Divinity, but Heal can save someone’s life.
12-Ability Score ImprovementSince we took that 19 Wisdom, we’re in a bit of a pickle. But… We can solve it by taking Shadow Touched! This is a greedy line, but it’ll let us have Misty Step and Invisibility as free spells! How fun! Unfortunately, we didn’t really need Cause Fear… But, it could come up!
13-7th Level SpellsThese spells are pretty weird. Keep things like Regenerate and Conjure Celestial in mind.
14-Destroy Undead (CR 3)We’re getting to ridiculous spell levels. Keep learning new spells!
15-8th Level SpellsAntimagic field, Holy Aura, Sunburst… We just keep getting stronger!
16-Ability Score Improvement+2 Constitution, Resilient, and Tough are all very, very good here. So is War Caster! Let’s grab Tough for now. 32 HP is a ton, and it gets better as we level!
17-9th Level Spells-Destroy Undead (CR 4)-Keeper of SoulsYou only get 1 9th level spell. Make it something crazy, like Gate, that you’ll only pull out if the fight is going badly!
18-Channel Divinity (3/rest)Our magic continues to improve. Make sure all of your spell slots are prepared!
Multiclassing: We won’t multiclass here, but it isn’t a terrible option. Druid wouldn’t ruin our spell lists, and neither would Ranger. We don’t have the Dexterity to play Monk, unfortunately.
19-Ability Score ImprovementThis is a feat fiesta! Take whatever feat you’d like. For our build, we’re going with War Caster! This lets us roll twice for Concentration, which is nice here.
20-Divine Intervention ImprovementNo optional features here, other than your always-improving spell slots!

Conclusion – Our Take on the Grave Cleric

And so, our Grave Cleric 5E Guide comes to its natural end. This subclass is quite specific, and is often considered to be weak compared to a lot of the options available for Cleric. However, it boasts one of the most explosive Channel Divinity options in the game when used correctly. Circle of Mortality is extremely good at keeping allies alive – or at least “not dead” – in the early stages. Sentinel at Death’s Door can keep sessions running for longer than the Dice foretell. And having reviving spells always prepared is always useful. If you have a good idea for a backstory, and want to try out a support with a lot of potential, then the Grave Cleric is a fantastic option. Want to see your other Cleric options or how to optimize your character in general? Check out our Comprehensive Cleric 5E Guide!


  1. can you explain how circle of mortality works a little more? is it always just 8 + what the spell would normally heal? or is it 8 + spellcasting mod + what the spell would normally heal?

    • It doesn’t add anything extra to the roll. Instead, it just guarantees the highest roll possible if the spell calls for rolling a die and adding HP to an incapacitated character. So if your spell heals 1d6 + 2 HP and you cast it on a person that is at 0 HP, you will automatically give them 8 HP each time.

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