5e Basics – First Five – Level 2

Level two is where some classes really start to shine. For some, it’s not a huge improvement, but for others, the second level is really what you’re waiting for. I think this is going to be one of the most popular of amounts for splashes. Let’s take a look at exactly why.

1. Paladin

Gets you: Fighting style, divine smite, spellcasting

Paladins aren’t slouches at level 1, either. They aren’t the strongest class, not by far. At the very least, they get heavy armor and weapons, as well as a pool of 5 hit points to restore through lay on hands. At level 2, their efficacy essentially doubles. Not only do they have access to healing spells and bless, they can use their spell slots to smite, increasing their damage output immensely. Not only that, but they have access to a fighting style, which has implications no matter what they choose. Add to that another 5 points to their pool to lay on hands and this is a fantastic level for paladins.

2. Fighter

Gets you: Action surge

Fighter already has one of the best first levels, but your follow up to it is to get action surge. That is great for pretty much any class. You can cast another leveled spell. You can make another set of attacks. In theory, it’s not the most impactful ability at second level, but as a splash, it’s fantastic. There are few builds that would go terribly wrong with a second level of fighter.

3. Warlock

Gets you: Eldritch invocations, a spell slot

The second level of warlock doesn’t look like that much on paper. You get eldritch invocations and a second spell slot. Well, first of all, that is a spell slot that regenerates after a short rest. That makes it better than most in itself already. Sure, you have to settle for 2, while other full casters have 3 to start with and some have an extra slot to get back, but after that first rest, there’s no one that can compete with you for slots anymore, at least for level 1 slots. But wait, there’s more. Eldritch invocations are some of the most powerful level 2 abilities out there. A few, like repelling blast and devil’s sight, give you access to options no other class can replicate. Agonizing blast gives you more damage potential than any other cantrip can hope to provide. Beyond that, there are plenty of utility invocations which have a number of various uses, all for just 2 levels. Fantastic splash for any CHA-based class.

4. Wizard (Abjuration, Divination, Evocation, Bladesinging)

Gets you: Wizard school abilities, a spell slot

Each of these wizard schools has a very strong ability at level 2. Abjuration gets a shield, divination gets the portent rolls, evocation can exclude allies from their abilities and bladesingers can bladesing. Of these, the level 2 evocation ability is probably the weakest at this level, but all of them are quite powerful.

 

5. Cleric (Life, Light, Tempest, War)

Gets you: Channel divinity, turn undead, domain divinity ability, a spell slot

Many of these abilities are quite exciting. Life gives you a pool of 10 hit points which you can use to heal up to half hit points in an area. Light gets you a nuke in an area. Tempest allows you to maximize the damage of either a thunder or lightning spell. War gets you a +10 bonus on an attack. All of these are very valuable, though some of these scale better than others. For a splash, I’d say tempest and war are the best, but light and life are both fairly strong as well. I think the ideal splash of the life domain is just 1 level, but for tempest and war, 2 levels are more worthwhile. Overall, great stuff here.

6. Ranger

Gets you: Fighting style, spellcasting

Finally, rangers get something. And, it’s not all that bad. In fact, if rangers got their fighting style at level 1 and one of their level 1 abilities at this level instead, they wouldn’t look that bad. Their spells are not bad, getting access to goodberries is great and hunter’s mark is solid as well. Overall, a good level, though obviously having to slog through a level with no combat abilities sort of diminishes a little.

7. Monk

Gets you: Ki abilities, unarmored movement

Unarmored movement isn’t the most impressive thing in the world, but it’s not worthless, either, especially when combined with your ki abilities. You can use your step of the wind ability to kite enemies, so they can’t make it to you. You can use your patient defense ability and defend against all incoming attacks. I think the most important, however, is the flurry of blows ability. With that, you can make two unarmed attacks at the cost of a single ki point. There isn’t much to say about it other than that. Good level for monks.

 

8. Barbarian

Gets you: Reckless attack, danger sense

I would consider both these abilities to be quite good. Advantage in certain cases is always pretty welcome, and while going reckless effectively lowers your defensive options, rage mitigates that a bit. Any STR based melee class looking for advantage has a pretty clear destination, and that’s 2 levels in Barbarian.

9. Druid

Gets you: Wild shape, druid circle abilities, a spell slot

Let’s talk about something other than a splash for once. Let’s talk about level two. I would argue that in actually playing 2nd level characters, there isn’t much better than a level 2 moon druid. As a level 2 moon druid, you can use a bonus action to wild shape into a brown bear, which in essence gives you a 34 hit point cushion and two attacks per round. Not only that, but you can do that twice per short rest. However, beast forms don’t really scale that well, and as a splash, while wild shaping is great, your forms scale with your druid level and not character level, so at two levels of druid, you’re stuck wild shaping into the same somewhat unimpressive creatures. Not the most inspiring. As a circle druid, you get extra spells and the ability to recover 1 level worth of spell slots, which is fine but a little underwhelming.

10. Rogue

Gets you: Cunning action

Even though this seems to rank low on this list, the second level of rogue isn’t that bad. The ability to dash, disengage or hide as a bonus action is something that is highly desirable. It’s a great ability, but having only that one ability and not advancing spellcasting is the only reason this level isn’t higher on the list.

11. Bard

Gets you: Jack of all trades, song of rest, a spell slot

Like most full caster classes, what you get from higher levels is mostly spellcasting scaling. You get the song of rest, which is a welcome addition to most parties, and jack of all trades, which at most levels adds +1 or +2 to skills you aren’t proficient in. Not the strongest, but gaining a full caster level is always welcome as a splash.

12. Wizard (Conjuration, Enchantment, Illusion, Necromancy, Transmutation)

Gets you: Wizard school abilities, a spell slot

Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with these wizard schools. Some of them have powerful abilities, but all of those are locked away behind higher levels. At level 2, the abilities that these schools get just aren’t worth the splash.

 

13. Cleric (Knowledge, Nature, Trickery, Arcana)

Gets you: Channel divinity, turn undead, domain divinity ability, a spell slot

The reason that these archetypes are grouped this way is that their domains’ channel divinities are not quite as good as those of the other archetypes. Of these, I would say that the trickery domain’s invoke duplicity ability is the most interesting, but it counts as your concentration slot, which is less than ideal. It’s certainly interesting, but taking up your concentration stops some of the more interesting potential uses. As for knowledge, nature and arcana, all of the channel divinity uses aren’t that great.

14. Sorcerer

Gets you: Font of magic, a spell slot

Sorcery points are great, but at second level, the only thing you can do with them is get back a level 1 slot. Nothing else to say, really.

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