Author Topic: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder  (Read 288223 times)

Offline Power

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Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« on: December 03, 2013, 01:45:35 AM »
You know, I figured, what the heck. I have my own perspective on the Tiers, so I may as well share it.

For those of you unfamiliar with what tiers are about, tiers are not an idle measure of how "awesome" a class is, but rather a measure of its problem-solving capabilities in terms of power and versatility. Consider a wide array of challenges (ie. kill a dragon, rescue a princess, cross a chasm, make your way past a trapped maze, protect a village/fortress from advancing hordes, uncover a spy, find a mystical artifact, solve a murder mystery, assassinate an enemy, make your way through swarms of monsters, make your way to a distant destination in the nick of time, protect/heal a VIP from taking large amounts of damage, uncover/resolve court intrigue, escape prison, and so on). What sets apart the high tiers (tier 1 and tier 2) are their ability to easily solve challenges (any sort of challenge for tier 1) through class abilities and the low tiers (5 or 6) is that they can only seriously contribute to a small variety of challenges and even then can end up performing badly. Spellcasters therefore tend to be higher in the tiers because not only are there extremely powerful spells in PF, but every spell is its own trick, thus providing an incredibly robust arsenal of tools to handle a very large variety of situations while the mundanes are usually stuck barely having any tricks at all beyond full attacking and rolling skills if they have the ranks for it (and even then many spellcasters can outperform mundanes at the mundanes' own job or otherwise render them unnecessary by using the right spells). As such, the major limitation on a spellcaster's problem-solving is whether he can cast the appropriate spells in time (and that includes the usage of partial spell preparation or methods to expand your spells known to hand yourself the appropriate spells as needed). This is why we call Pathfinder spellcaster edition.*

The basic purpose of a tier list is to help people eyeball party balance and what kind of character is in danger of being severely overshadowed, made redundant, or otherwise left feeling useless. Even if you are a low optimization group that avoids the more potent tricks in a class's arsenal, large differences in tiers do tend to assert themselves sooner or later. At the end of the day, you don't want your game to feel like the comedic superhero team-up of the Angel Summoner and the BMX Bandit. This is especially troublesome when you have high tiers and lower tiers covering the same party role, like having a Druid or Summoner in the same party as a Barbarian or Fighter, but even without that, it is easy to end up with high tier classes dominating campaign challenges and encounters in ways that leave low tier characters feeling like a mop-up crew for an already resolved encounter when it should have been their time to shine. Because of this, it is generally recommended to either not have wide gaps in tiers, have the lower tiers perform strongly at their role (and the higher tiers avoid stepping too much into the lower tiers' roles), or that you gift lower tiers unusual rewards and items that make them more flexible than common members of their class, so they are at lower risk of standing around being useless (maybe you give your party archer some neat light armor with shadow property, a fancy +1 ghost touch net, a grappling hook, adamantine pickaxe, hat of disguise, helm of telepathy, ring of invisibility, alchemical items, flying carpet, who knows). Also, although a party of T4s and lower can be quite balanced and fun to play, the difficulty is obviously higher, so you need to check that the basic needs of the party are covered and that the players are approaching combat and other challenges smartly. The benefit of high tier classes, obviously, is that they make the game easier.

Also, just to address some common arguments brought up by people who I am rather certain are just rushing for reasons to act dismissive: No, this tier list is not about level 20 characters, or spellcasters once they have 9th level spells. (At the very least, Summoners and Oracles would be automatic T1 if that were the case, because they have Gate and Miracle.) It is not a 3.5+PF tier list either. The list also assumes no game-breaking intent (as even a Vow of Poverty Monk who keeps his vow can become T1 with the right stunts). It assumes low-op to mid-op, played with a basic degree of competence (ie. you know and employ the basic strengths, tactics, and necessities of your class, so no 100% blaster Wizards, no Bards who act like they're a non-combat class outside of just inspiring courage, no Clerics who think their only job is to heal, no Oracles taking genuinely class-crippling curses without resolving the crippling part somehow, no Alchemists who filled their formula books with formulas that their class has no way of using because paizo is funny that way, no Human Paladins who thought it would be hilarious to put their favored class bonus into positive energy resistance just because they could...). High optimization tends to raise a class by at least a tier, and being bad at your class can easily bring it down one or more tiers.

*For the curious, other reasons why we regard Pathfinder to be spellcaster edition are that martials have to invest large amounts of resources (feats & money) just to stay useful at their primary role while spellcasters need much less to get going and are free to invest those resources into adding whatever they like to their characters (a problem inherited from 3.5, and also a major factor why doing a campaign without access to magical items just makes the martial/caster disparity even worse) and because Pathfinder significantly buffed spellcasters (ie. tons of extra spells known for spont casters; Wizards now get to cast their bannedopposition schools, can now choose familiars at lvl 1 that provide a +4 initiative bonus, and get much better hp; Clerics gained automatic proficiency with their deity's favored weapon, superior healing, and access to stronger domain powers like Druid animal companions; etc.) while martials are more disadvantaged (new feat taxes, "realism taxes," a combat maneuver system that requires investment and does not work without extreme optimization at higher levels, difficulty with full attacking if they have to move (esp. below level 10), and the new inability to Quick Draw alchemical weapons (what you did in 3.5 if you felt like doing something useful with full attacks other than attack for damage)). PF did nerf a number of crazy spells, but it also retained and added plenty of other crazy spells to make up for it.


The Tiers


Anything in red is weak for its tier. Anything in blue is strong for its tier. Not sure if there's a point to color-coding Tier 1s or Tier 6s, but I marked the vow of poverty monk in red for Tier 6 since it's so stupid it's usually in a league of its own.

Tier 1: Capable of doing absolutely everything, often better than classes that specialize in that thing. Often capable of solving encounters with a single mechanical ability and little thought from the player. Has world changing powers at high levels. These guys, if played with skill, can easily break a campaign and can be very hard to challenge without extreme DM fiat or plenty of house rules, especially if Tier 3s and below are in the party.

Wizard, Druid, Cleric, Witch, Sorcerer (Razmiran Priest archetype, Paragon Surge spell, Mongrel Mage archetype, Mnemonic Vestment robe), Oracle (Paragon Surge spell, Mnemonic Vestment robe, Dreamed Secrets feat, Spirit Guide with Versatile Spontaneity + Magical Epiphany feats, etc.), Psychic (Mnemonic Esoterica discipline power, Mnemonic Vestment robe, Amnesiac archetype), Shaman, Arcanist, Bard/Skald (Music Beyond the Spheres masterpiece)

Tier 2: Has as much raw power as the Tier 1 classes, but can't pull off nearly as many tricks, and while the class itself is capable of anything, no one build can actually do nearly as much as the Tier 1 classes. Still potentially campaign smashers by using the right abilities, but at the same time are more predictable and can't always have the right tool for the job. If the Tier 1 classes are countries with 10,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenal, these guys are countries with 10 nukes. Still dangerous and easily world shattering, but not in quite so many ways.  Note that the Tier 2 classes are often less flexible than Tier 3 classes... it's just that their incredible potential power overwhelms their lack in flexibility.

Oracle, Psychic, Sorcerer, Summoner, Unchained Summoner, Monster Tactician Inquisitor

Tier 3: Capable of doing one thing quite well, while still being useful when that one thing is inappropriate, or capable of doing all things, but not as well as classes that specialize in that area. Occasionally has a mechanical ability that can solve an encounter, but this is relatively rare and easy to deal with. Can be game breaking only with specific intent to do so. Challenging such a character takes some thought from the DM, but isn't too difficult. Will outshine any Tier 5s in the party much of the time.

Alchemist, Bard, Skald, Inquisitor, Magus, Investigator, Warpriest, Eldritch Scoundrel Rogue, Vigilante w/ spellcasting archetype, Occultist, Mesmerist, Medium (when it can seance its spirits easily), Spiritualist, Hunter, Paladin (Sacred Servant+Oath of Vengeance, or Torag patron spells), Fiendish Bond Antipaladin with Succubus or Shadow Demon

Tier 4: Capable of doing one thing quite well, but often useless when encounters require other areas of expertise, or capable of doing many things to a reasonable degree of competence without truly shining. Rarely has any abilities that can outright handle an encounter unless that encounter plays directly to the class's main strength. DMs may sometimes need to work to make sure Tier 4s can contribute to an encounter, as their abilities may sometimes leave them useless. Won't outshine anyone except Tier 6s except in specific circumstances that play to their strengths. Cannot compete effectively with Tier 1s that are played well.

Adept, Barbarian, Unchained Barbarian, Bloodrager, Paladin, Ranger, Slayer, Medium (when it can't seance well), Kineticist, Shifter, Antipaladin, Sohei Monk (preferably with Qinggong Monk powers), Fighter, Cavalier, Samurai

Tier 5: Capable of doing only one thing, and not necessarily all that well, or so unfocused that they have trouble mastering anything, and in many types of encounters the character cannot contribute. In some cases, can do one thing very well, but that one thing is very often not needed. Has trouble shining in any encounter unless the encounter matches their strengths. DMs may have to work to avoid the player feeling that their character is worthless unless the entire party is Tier 4 and below. Characters in this tier will often feel like one trick ponies if they do well, or just feel like they have no tricks at all if they build the class poorly.

Brawler, Vigilante, Ninja, Rogue, Unchained Rogue, Gunslinger*, Swashbuckler, Archetyped Monks, Unchained Monk

*Admittedly firearm builds, once they have their kinks worked out, tend to be T4, but that is overwhelmingly a result of feats and items. The Gunslinger class itself does precious little for the build, and is really only used for the dex to damage class feature, after which just about everyone multiclasses out of Gunslinger. Hard to say whether it should be marked T4 due to firearm builds being strong or T5 because the actual class is bad and outperformed by many T5 and higher classes if you develop them as firearm builds, so I am making a special note of this.

Tier 6: Not even capable of shining in their own area of expertise. DMs will need to work hard to make encounters that this sort of character can contribute in with their mechanical abilities. Will often feel worthless unless the character is seriously powergamed beyond belief, and even then won't be terribly impressive. Needs to fight enemies of lower than normal CR. Class is often completely unsynergized or with almost no abilities of merit. Avoid allowing PCs to play these characters.

Vanilla Monk, Aristocrat, Expert, Warrior, Commoner, Vow of Poverty Monk
« Last Edit: December 11, 2023, 12:46:09 PM by Power »

Offline TiaC

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2013, 02:00:49 AM »
Is Brawler really T4? The changing feats is nice, but you can't really do much with it. I'd also doubt whether Hexcrafter really moves Magus up a tier.

Do you have rankings for DSP Pathfinder Psionics?

Offline Wrex

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2013, 02:30:34 AM »
You may want to take into acount the revised version of Arcanist (buffed from it's original inception)

New Arcanist


Offline Power

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2013, 11:30:43 AM »
Is Brawler really T4? The changing feats is nice, but you can't really do much with it.
The spontaneous feats doesn't make the Brawler amazing, but in a pinch for instance the Brawler could use his spontaneous feats pick up a whip and hand himself proficiency and turn into a trip build. So a Brawler falls into "capable of doing many things to a reasonable degree of competence without truly shining" to me.

I'd also doubt whether Hexcrafter really moves Magus up a tier.
Hexes like Deep Slumber and Ice Tomb are some ridiculous SoL. Handing options like that to the Magus coupled with his access to the Wizard spell list gives him the "nukes" to be a low but aggravating Tier 2 I think.

Do you have rankings for DSP Pathfinder Psionics?
Nope.

You may want to take into acount the revised version of Arcanist (buffed from it's original inception)
It's still a Tier 1. The MAD approach of Arcanist Exploit saving throws means nothing because you just dump Charisma and ditch those shitty saving throw exploits anyway. The ability to hand himself a bonus to DC and caster level to any spell on demand is just stupid and Dimensional Slide is retarded because it lets him make AOO immune move actions that give no fucks about terrain as long as he can see point B in 10 feet plus move an extra 5 feet of distance and do all this without even expending an additional action.
« Last Edit: December 23, 2013, 04:28:47 PM by Power »

Offline veekie

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2013, 06:35:54 AM »
And really the casting mechanic does all the heavy lifting already.

You might want to flag low and high on borderline cases though.
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Offline Power

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2013, 02:08:14 AM »
Moved Hexcrafter Magus off of Tier 2. It's strong but I'm not sure if it's worth its own listing. I guess it's probably just internal tier movement.

As for marking low tiers, I just marked Summoner, Magus, and Ninja as low tiers. Any comments?
« Last Edit: December 17, 2013, 11:41:06 PM by Power »

Offline veekie

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2013, 02:43:25 AM »
Looks about right, though Ninja is somewhat debatable, they have the kind of output to match their T4 position, though probably without as much overkill as a Paladin might dish out, I peg the Ninja at around the Ranger personally.
Everything is edible. Just that there are things only edible once per lifetime.
It's a god-eat-god world.

Procrastination is the thief of time; Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves; The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

Offline Power

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2013, 02:55:06 AM »
Looks about right, though Ninja is somewhat debatable, they have the kind of output to match their T4 position, though probably without as much overkill as a Paladin might dish out, I peg the Ninja at around the Ranger personally.
The ninja is too reliant on Sneak Attack for my tastes which means that for a Tier 4 he is too vulnerable to getting blown out of his niche. As the levels go up this becomes more and more dramatically apparent, unlike other tier 4s which maintain their usefulness. I suppose his Charisma + UMD will let him stay useful as a party member, but he becomes awfully reliant on various items and scrolls to carry his weight then, rather than class features. Thoughts?
« Last Edit: September 18, 2022, 03:47:24 PM by Power »

Offline veekie

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2013, 03:06:37 AM »
The list of creatures which are actually immune to sneak attacks is pretty small now though. It's just Elementals, Oozes and Protean creatures(incorporeals are trivially bypassed with ghost touch), of which only Proteans are really dangerous(but uncommon encounters), and the other two are common but mostly harmless to fight.

I dare say decent charisma and UMD should round out those, the Ninja already has on demand invisibility to power sneak attacks with.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2013, 03:09:30 AM by veekie »
Everything is edible. Just that there are things only edible once per lifetime.
It's a god-eat-god world.

Procrastination is the thief of time; Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves; The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

Offline Power

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2013, 03:28:40 AM »
The list of creatures which are actually immune to sneak attacks is pretty small now though. It's just Elementals, Oozes and Protean creatures(incorporeals are trivially bypassed with ghost touch), of which only Proteans are really dangerous(but uncommon encounters), and the other two are common but mostly harmless to fight.

I dare say decent charisma and UMD should round out those, the Ninja already has on demand invisibility to power sneak attacks with.
There's also the list of creatures which cannot be reliably invis'd against (true seeing, blindsight, scent?, etc.) to set up sneak attacks, shit with fortification or uncanny dodge, and that's on top of encounters where you can't use your build's weapon and are forced to use another (if you were smart enough to carry one).

By the way, I think Sacred Servant Paladin might be a low tier 3 between the domain and planar ally.

Offline veekie

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2013, 03:50:09 AM »
That's where UMD comes in, but where invisibility doesn't work there's usually flanking at least. Unless your Ninja is primary melee for your party, in which case you poor sod.
Everything is edible. Just that there are things only edible once per lifetime.
It's a god-eat-god world.

Procrastination is the thief of time; Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves; The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

Offline StreamOfTheSky

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2013, 06:04:54 PM »
Rogue and Ninja are both tier 5.  Maybe Ninja is high tier 5.  But they're not NEARLY as different in power and capability as everyone claims.  Ninja may be just plain better than rogue, but it's not much better.  It's the same shitty class chassis and shtick with less worthless talents.  But a smart rogue just burns as many of his talents on feats as possible (if you want either Finesse or Weapon Focus, you can easily pull this off through at least 12th level), making that kind of moot.

Ninja is also pretty cripplingly MAD, I think the most MAD class in general in the game (you can easily make specific builds that use every single stat and are more MAD, of course).  It basically wants everything a monk does, except charisma instead of wisdom... but oh wait, can't dump wisdom like a monk would charisma because you have a horrible set of base saves that includes poor will.

The only Ninja build that is remotely possible of being a full tier above rogue is the Bewildering Koan build, since that lets you spend swift actions to rob foes of their whole turns, though you'd burn through ki crazy fast, and if you actually make a Gnome (as opposed to burning a feat on Racial Heritage), your stats will be pretty bad and your physical attack capability quite gimpy.

Rogue or Ninja that takes the Terrain Mastery talent repeatedly and goes full Horizon Walker is also a very strong build, though the HW part is doing the heavy lifting there.  Terrain Dominance is just insane.

EDIT: I also don't think Summoner is low tier 2, they are pretty brutal with action economy, they have almost as good casting as a 9-level caster (can't apply metamagic feats as easily, but they DO get to use significantly cheaper MM rods), and the eidolon on its own is arguably a tier 3.  It can fly, pounce, reach whore, chain maneuvers off its attacks for free, and be a skill monkey, among other options.  And can easily do several of those things with the evo points.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2013, 06:09:37 PM by StreamOfTheSky »

Offline Power

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2013, 11:02:35 PM »
Sure, but a Sorcerer can easily pick up an animal companion (Sylvan bloodline) or familiar (Arcane bloodline or Tattooed Sorcerer) himself. Compared to a Sorcerer, the Summoner's abilities are still on the weak end.

As for Ninja, not sure. He does have forgotten trick, self-invis, and an extra attack through his ki pool. It might be internal tier movement or a low tier 4.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2013, 11:37:00 PM by Power »

Offline Power

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #13 on: December 12, 2013, 03:35:36 PM »
Added some color-coding, moved Ninja to Tier 5. Added Zen Archer Monk as a low Tier 4.

Offline StreamOfTheSky

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #14 on: December 12, 2013, 07:26:10 PM »
Sure, but a Sorcerer can easily pick up an animal companion (Sylvan bloodline) or familiar (Arcane bloodline or Tattooed Sorcerer) himself. Compared to a Sorcerer, the Summoner's abilities are still on the weak end.

Well, Summoner can easily get a familiar, too.  Via Eldritch Heritage.  On top of the eidolon.  And IMO, Eidolons are leagues better than animal companions.

But yeah, Sorcerer is a stronger class.  Just not sure it's that much stronger.

Offline Power

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #15 on: December 12, 2013, 08:04:12 PM »
Sure, but a Sorcerer can easily pick up an animal companion (Sylvan bloodline) or familiar (Arcane bloodline or Tattooed Sorcerer) himself. Compared to a Sorcerer, the Summoner's abilities are still on the weak end.

Well, Summoner can easily get a familiar, too.  Via Eldritch Heritage.  On top of the eidolon.  And IMO, Eidolons are leagues better than animal companions.

A Sorcerer can cast buffs like polymorphs or Transformation on his familiar or animal companion. And unlike Eidolons, animal companions do not share magic item slots with their owners.

Offline PsyBomb

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #16 on: December 12, 2013, 10:15:25 PM »
On the flip side, a Master Summoner variant Summoner can have as many SLA casts as he wants and has capacity for up at once, and some of the alternate summon lists get crazy (not much can argue with a couple dozen opposed-alignment Template Tigers). They come online at level 5, and have access to any Su, SLA, and spell anything they can summon can cast. it's a long list, and I'd argue for them being at least a high T2, if not a low 1.

Offline veekie

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #17 on: December 13, 2013, 07:55:24 AM »
Having been playing a Summoner for a while now I'd say it really pays hard when you can crank the summons repeatedly. The Eidolon looks important, but it's just another fighter, whereas you have enough summon uses to literally summon a creature into a pouncing charge every turn and never run out.
Everything is edible. Just that there are things only edible once per lifetime.
It's a god-eat-god world.

Procrastination is the thief of time; Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves; The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

Offline Power

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #18 on: December 17, 2013, 11:31:51 PM »
I'm not inclined to make a note of the Master Summoner just for internal tier movement. It's definitely a step up, but it's not Tier 1. Also, I put the Hexcrafter Magus back on Tier 2 since a Hexcrafter Magus can go through encounters with just his Hexes alone.

Also, fun note: Expert dropped from Tier 5 to Tier 6 due to Pathfinder's new skill system and ridiculous traits. Rogue class has suffered from this too.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2013, 12:17:32 AM by Power »

Offline StreamOfTheSky

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Re: Power's Tier List for Pathfinder
« Reply #19 on: December 18, 2013, 02:17:22 AM »
What hexes?  He can't really afford to cackle because he's a martial class unlike the pure-caster witch w/ plenty of spells to lob around.  So that removes most of the offensive options.  And he doesn't even get hexes till 4th level.  IMO, the only good hexes for a Hexcrafter are Slumber, Flight, and Prehensile Hair (for using touch spells w/o provoking).  Only one of those is offensive, and being able to spam a single mind-affecting save-or-lose really doesn't seem like tier 2 material to me.  Definitely buffs it up in the tier 3 range quite a bit, though.

It's especially egregious if you continue to insist that Summoner is *also* "low" tier 2.  You think Summoner, including Master Summoner, and Hexcrafter are remotely comparable?  I can't even take that seriously.