champion fighter subclass review D&D 5e

The Champion Fighter Subclass: D&D 5e Review

D&D 5e Champion Fighter image by Henry Hustava at
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The Archetype of the Champion Fighter was introduced in the Player’s Handbook. It’s the simplest, ‘vanilla’ Fighter archetype, with straightforward features that require little to no resource management.

In this review, we’ll have a closer look at the Champion features and how these synergize with the Fighter class features, then assess suitable feats, races, and multiclass options and finally combine these into some build concepts.

As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about the Champion please let me know in the comments below!

Improved Critical – 3rd Level

Your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20 (instead of just on a 20). 

This is a super-simple feature that increases your damage output by roughly 5%. Unlike the Hexblade version, this is always on and will work with any weapon you pick up. 

This works particularly well if you can pick up a reliable source of gaining advantage, to further increase your chances of gaining a critical hit. Kicking an enemy prone (using the Shove action) with your first attack is one reliable way to get advantage for your subsequent melee attacks in a round, synergizing with Action Surge.

Remarkable Athlete – 7th Level

  • You add half your proficiency bonus (round up) to any Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution check you make that doesn’t already include your proficiency bonus
    • This only helps your checks, not your saves. 
    • It gives you a flat bonus to initiative rolls (Dexterity check), helping with Stealth, Sleight of Hand, Acrobatics, or Athletics checks if you have no proficiency in any of these. 
    • Your DM may ask you to make Constitution checks to ward off exhaustion after lengthy travel, or prolonged exposure to extreme heat or cold.
  • Your running long jumps increase in length by a number of feet equal to your Strength modifier.
    • You normally cover a number of feet equal to your Strength score, following a 10-foot running start, so this will add up to 5 feet extra.
    • This is a bit of a ribbon feature, especially if you’re a Dexterity-focused Champion. 

None of this is a huge benefit, although a bonus to initiative rolls is always welcome.

Additional Fighting Style – 10th Level

Choose a second Fighting Style. Again, super simple. You can go for something that complements what you already have or pick something that will allow you to get a bonus with a completely different weapon type for more flexibility. 

Adding the Defense Fighting Style is always nice for a boost to AC.

Superior Critical – 15th Level

Your weapon attacks score a critical hit on a roll of 18, 19, or 20 (instead of just on a 20). Another 5% boost to your critical hit rate.

While the concept sounds fun, the Champion doesn’t have ways to increase its critical hit damage to make those critical hits worthwhile. They can’t Divine Smite like a Paladin or Sneak Attack like a Rogue for heaps of dice added to crits. Also, rolling a 19 or 18 would almost certainly result in a successful attack; overall, making them critical hits isn’t as cool for this subclass

Survivor – 18th Level

If you have less than half your hit points remaining at the start of your turn (but more than 0), you regain 5 + Constitution modifier hit points.

All of a sudden you get an amazing feature and become an incredible damage soak. Unfortunately, it’s taken 18 levels to get here!

Subclass Summary

The Champion features are very simple and largely passive.

The Fighter’s damage scales well to higher levels of play with the extra attacks that the Fighter gets and the Champion does about 10% more damage than the base Fighter. You don’t get to choose when this extra damage will occur, so that limits your tactical flexibility somewhat.

Ranged weapons, thrown weapons, sword and board, polearms, great weapons, two-weapon fighting, unarmed fighting – any and all of these work well for a Champion.

The Champion doesn’t get any specifically defensive or tank features until you get to level 18, and most campaigns don’t get that far. While you can still build an effective defensive/controller Champion, some of the other Fighter classes have features that more suit this play style. The 18th-level feature feels like it favors melee over ranged combat. There are not that many Fighting Style options for ranged combatants, but this is a minor quibble.

So the role that best seems to suit the Champion is a ranged or melee striker.

Feat Options

Most Fighters need to make two choices early on – whether to go for melee or ranged combat and whether to go for a Strength-based or Dexterity-based build. Your choice of feats should reflect the choices you have made.

Fighters get more ASIs and can potentially get more feats than any other class, and the Champion doesn’t push you towards a particular playstyle, so there’s tons of flexibility.

As always, Polearm Master, Great Weapon Master, and Sentinel are a great combination for Strength-based melee Champion.

Alternatively, you could pair Polearm Master with Shield Master and wield a spear or quarterstaff, another extremely effective Strength-based melee build, with a slightly more defensive focus. You could add Sentinel here as well.

For Dexterity-based melee builds you can wield a rapier and add the Defensive Duelist and Shield Master feats.

Sharpshooter is always great for ranged builds and can be combined with Crossbow Expert for an extra bonus action attack and/or Piercer.

Skill Expert or Prodigy could provide expertise in Athletics for grapples without needing a multiclass dip, and could be paired with the Unarmed Fighting style for a grapple-based build, or just used for the Shove action on your first attack, to give a melee-based Champion advantage vs a prone target.

Race Options

Pretty much every race will work well with the Champion. Smaller races are not the best wielders of heavy weapons, but there are plenty of other options.

As always, Custom Lineage and Variant Human are great choices with yet another feat.


The Champion often figures in ‘crit fishing’ builds, where the goal is to land as many critical hits as possible.

One level of Rogue or Ranger could provide expertise in Athletics for grapples.

Barbarian is a fun multiclass, Reckless Attack provides unlimited attacks with advantage and Brutal Critical provides bonus damage dice on critical hits, both of which work great with the Champion’s expanded critical hit range, and Rage can be used to mitigate damage taken due to the advantage granted to enemies from Reckless Attack.

Build Ideas

There are so many builds that will work out just fine with the Champion.

A Half-Orc with Great Weapon Master and Polearm Master, plus 2 levels of Barbarian for Rage and Reckless Attack. Loads of high damage attacks with advantage for lots of extra critical hits. Simple, brutal, and very, very effective.

A Halfling with Sharpshooter using a shortbow, with some Rogue levels for expertise in Stealth and a bit of extra Sneak Attack damage. Using Stealth (or Steady Aim) to gain advantage and offset the ‘to hit’ penalty of the Sharpshooter extra damage.

A Goliath grappler, using Unarmed Fighting and talking Skill Expert for expertise in Athletics.

A Gnome defender with Shield Master and Defensive Duelist, wielding a rapier and shield.

A Tabaxi dual-wielding shortswords, with Dual Wielder and Two-Weapon Fighting style.

Basically, anything will work, and work well.


That wraps up my review of the Champion! In summary, it’s a simple and very effective subclass that offers mainly passive features. It’s a great choice for beginners but will probably need some multiclassing to make it more interesting for experienced players.

Note that Flutes and I have collaborated on an improved Champion Fighter article and video – if you fancy spicing up your Champion with more active things to do in combat!

Please cast Message in the comments either here or on YouTube if you have any questions or suggestions! You can explore our other content about Fighters here.

2 thoughts on “<b>The Champion Fighter Subclass</b>: D&D 5e Review”

  1. Playing a Champion Fighter Feral winged Tiefling currently.
    Went the Piercer/Sharpshooter route.
    Pretty fun so far, and flight at 1st is pretty fun.

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