Choosing the right domains is one of the most important character creation choices you have for a caster cleric. Domains are basically two free feats that are unique to clerics. Because these feats are taken at creation, they cannot be changed by a simple delevel.
Each domain provides three different benefits: bonus spells not native to the cleric spellbook, a bonus ability, and the ability to take a domain-specific mythic feat. To make the domain choice a bit clearer I have ranked domains in terms of excellent, good, average and bad. An excellent domain is one you will use the domain bonuses constantly. A good domain is one that will provide a benefit very often. An average domain might provide a benefit once in a while, and a bad domain will rarely be useful.
A caster cleric should take their two domains from either the excellent or good domains lists – you can’t really go wrong with any of the domains from these two lists. You can get away with having one average domain if you really want, but should never take a bad domain.
Finally, these rankings are in terms of caster clerics. A fighter cleric may rank the excellent, good and average domains differently. However, the bad domains are just bad no matter which way you slice them.
The Healing domain gives the following bonuses:
- Empowers all low level healing spells (everything below Heal)
- Gives access to the Heal spell in spell level 5 as well as 6.
- Gives access to the Phoenix mythic feat.
The empowered low level healing is pretty forgettable, but the other benefits of the Healing domain are outstanding. Taking Heal in spell level 5 rather than 6 is a dramatic increase to offensive power, since it frees up spell slots for Harm. The Phoenix mythic feat is also a highly useful party buff and damage reflection shield.
The Plant domain gives the following bonuses:
- Can turn vermin with the Turn Undead ability
- Gives access to the Barkskin and Creeping Doom spells
- Gives access to the Tree of Life mythic feat
Being able to turn vermin isn’t that good, though can be useful at very low levels. However, all the other benefits of the Plant domain are excellent. Creeping Doom is a highly useful spell for playing solo that can (eventually) kill almost anything, as well as a good ranged attack if supporting archers in a party. The Tree of Life mythic feat is a decent party buff, and having both Barkskin and Tree of Life available can mean you do not have to wear a natural armour amulet. This can open up some interesting equipment options, such as using a periapt of wisdom.
The War domain gives the following bonuses:
- The Battle Mastery ability
- The Cat’s Grace and Aura of Glory spells
- Access to the Glory mythic feat.
War is mostly viewed as a fighter cleric domain. A caster cleric won’t have the charisma to use the Battle Mastery ability properly, and won’t get much use out of the Cat’s Grace or Aura of Glory spells.
However, the Glory mythic feat is outstanding – adding an extra attack to every party member. This makes War useful as a party buffing domain.
The Earth domain gives the following bonuses:
- Can turn elementals
- The Stoneskin and Energy Buffer spells
- Access to the Earthen Guardian mythic feat
The first two bonuses of Earth aren’t that good. Turning elementals isn’t that useful, and the bonus spells are not very useful either given Stoneskin is readily available from potions and equipment. However, the Earthen Guardian mythic feat is one of the best mythic feats available and is reason enough to take Earth. Earthen Guardian gives your party 50% physical damage immunity and immunity to knockdown, for about 9 minutes duration.
The Trickery domain gives access to the following bonuses:
- The Divine Trickery ability
- The spells Invisibility, Invisibility Sphere, and Improved Invisibility
- The Ethereal Shift mythic feat
The Trickery domain is a favourite of fighter clerics due to the Improved Invisibility spell. However, this is not so directly useful for a caster cleric because a caster cleric can rely more on crowd control spells to avoid getting hurt, rather than just their armour. However, having access to Improved Invisibility is still a good party spell that can be cast on each party member.
The Sun domain gives access to the following bonuses:
- Improved Turn Undead
- Searing Light in spell level 2 as well as 3, and Sunbeam in spell level 7 as well as 8
- The Salvation mythic feat
The Sun domain is a very strong domain for levelling up, due to having Searing Light as a level 2 as well as a level 3 spell, though these benefits will disappear at higher levels. After level 40, the Salvation mythic feat is a good party support spell for hard fights.
The Water domain gives the following bonuses:
- Ability to turn elementals
- The Poison and Ice Storm spells
- Access to the Tidal Wave mythic feat
Turning elementals is not useful for a caster cleric, but the other bonuses are pretty good. Ice Storm is an excellent attack spell, and Tidal Wave sounds like a very strong single cast mythic spell.
The Destruction domain gives the following abilities:
- Able to damage constructs with the Turn Undead ability
- The Stinking Cloud and Acid Fog spells
- Access to the Judgement mythic feat
All the Destruction domain powers, while not bad, are average at best. The ability to damage constructs is OK for giving an option where spells may not work but it not terribly useful as you can just hit them with melee attacks. Acid fog can be a good spell, but other spells in your spellbook can do everything it does better (Storm of Vengeance is Acid Fog’s dad). The Judgement feat, while interesting, is only a one-shot ability.
The Animal domain gives the following abilities:
- Access to the cat’s grace, polymorph self spells
- True Seeing as a level 3 spell instead of level 5
- Access to the Dragonfest mythic feat
You can easily do without any of the Animal domain powers. It would be ranked as a bad domain, except that the Dragonfest mythic feat sounds potentially interesting in a large party. This really depends on how good this proves to be, though, and I have not tested it.
The Strength domain gives access to the following bonuses:
- The Divine Strength special ability
- Divine power as a level 3 spell rather than level 4
- The Stoneskin spell
- Access to the Bigby’s Encore mythic feat
The Strength domain bonus spells and ability are not really that useful for a caster cleric. However, the Bigby’s Encore feat is the only way a cleric can get access to the powerful bigby line of crowd control spells. This does not lift it above average though, because caster clerics already have other, often more powerful crowd control options than bigby spells (such as Storm of Vengeance). If you want a crowd control mythic feat, Water domain’s Tidal Wave would probably be better, because the Water domain comes with Ice Storm as well.
The Magic domain gives access to the following bonuses:
- The Mage Armour, Melf’s Acid Arrow, Negative Energy Burst, Stoneskin and Ice Storm spells
- Access to the Balefire mythic feat
The main benefit of the Magic domain is the Ice Storm spell, which is quite a powerful general attack spell. Balefire is also a powerful mythic spell, though it is only good for one cast. However, Water provides Ice Storm as well, and its mythic feat is better, so it is the better choice for an Ice Storm + mythic spell domain choice.
The following domains are bad choices for a caster cleric and should not be taken. Some provide a useful mythic feat – like Fire provides Phoenix, but Healing domain provides Phoenix as well, along with much better domain powers.
Back to Caster Clerics.