Nhym’s Shepherd Druid Guide;
The Shepherd’s Handbook
A quick note before we start: This is not intended to explicitly demean or poop on other classes, I just feel like the Druid doesn’t get nearly the love that it deserves; ESPECIALLY non-moon druids. Therefore, I’m writing this to share how awesome and unique the Shepherd Druid can be.
What it means to be a Shepherd Druid
So watchin’ the Spring flowers and those chipmunks be so darn cute has got you wanting to play a Druid, but furring it up doesn’t suit your fancy, no problem! You may think to yourself “Gee mister, I don’t want to be a Moon Druid, but what option do I have?” And I say, don’t worry Timmy. Let me introduce you to the Circle of the Shepherd! You’ll be throwing more dice than a nursing home playing Yahtzee and bring upon your enemies a sea of cute death. There’s more to being a druid than moon druid acolytes would make you believe.
“But mister, also don’t want to be a generic nature hippie”. Neither do I Timmy, neither do I. Fortunately, there are a multitude of options for flavoring and playing your druid to your heart's content!
First off, it’s OK not to be a moon druid. Yes, Moon Druids may be one ferociously strong sack of HP at their peak levels and functionally immortal at level 20, but there is more to life than being a meat bag. Moon druids may have the ability to perform all the roles that other druids can, but in my opinion where they lose out and get pigeonholed into their niche is that they have basically TOO MUCH choice. All druids can be: Tanks, Buffers, Debuffers, Healers, Infiltrators, Casters, Controllers, Summoners, Utility, etc… BUT because you only have so many resources, you cannot do all this at once. Take moon druids for example; until level 18 they can’t cast in wild shape so to cast any instant-cast spells like to heal, they would have to drop their wild shape to cast them.
Also, the druid has a metric ton of Concentration spells and while moon druids can cast them before wild shaping, they are going to be making Con saves to maintain concentration pretty much constantly while they are doing their job of being up-close and personal with the enemy. Since wild shapes are a precious resource, a moon druid would think twice about using them for utility rather than combat or dropping their shape to cast. This means that while they CAN do all of those roles, they have a very limited capability to do more than one at a time.
So why Circle of the Shepherd over Land, Dreams and Spores? You might ask. I would say druids really have three unique functions that set them apart from other classes. The first is obviously Wild Shape. This is what moon druids are built around; they use it for combat, other circles use it for utility. The second is nature-related control. Druids have unique access to Thorn Whip, Entangle, Bones of the Earth, Tsunami, etc… This is the function that Circle of the Land utilizes with its caster focus. While they may have their fair share of unique control spells, they do suffer from the abundance of concentration spells. The last, and the reason you are here, is their Conjure spells. With only Necromancers coming close, druids are unparallelled in their abundance of conjurations, and Circle of the Shepherd gives them mastery over this niche.
Second, the Flavor. Flower-power hippie not for you, eh? Fear not, a druid has many more options available. Simply all that you need to pass as a druid is a connection to nature in SOME way. Some ideas to get your nature juices flowing are: Apothecary, Agricultural Director, Naturalist (David Attenborough), Nature Priest, Animal Spy, Tribal Native, Disney Princess (personal favorite), Shaman, Elemental Mage, Bender (think avatar), Beastmaster, Survivalist (Bear Grylls), Werewolf, Descendant of the Fey, Evil Druid that uses animals as tools (you are a terrible person), Eco Terrorist, Avenger of Nature (like a Monster Hunter), Sailor that’s a little too “one with the sea”, Farmer, City Druid that cares for strays, Veterinarian, Circus Animal Tamer, etc… Have fun with it, you have tons of options.
Now let’s talk about your role in the party. As I said before, druids have SO many options and oh boy can you nail a whole bunch of them. The only things you won’t be doing is being the Face of the party since your Charisma is probably going to suck, and Bards and Rogues make way better skill-monkeys than you. But enough about that rubbish, let’s talk about what you CAN do:
Tank– You don’t need to BE a tank when you can MAKE a tank! Just summon an army of furry friends to soak up the damage for your squishy caster butt.
Buffer– Concentration does ruin the party for buffs from spells, but drop them bear totems for that sexy temp HP.
Debuffer– Faerie Fire at level 1 but beyond that, the best debuff is death, which you are fluent in providing.
Healer– Unicorn Totem. Besides that, you get plenty of instant cast heals all the way from Cure Wounds and Healing Word to Mass Cure Wounds and Heal. The best part you can heal WHILE carrying your party with your conjured army.
Infiltrator– Turn into a rat. Boom. Nobody cares about your existence and you can get into pretty much anywhere.
Caster– You can cast insta cast spells WHILE concentrating on your summons. Take that, Moon Druid!
Controller– Not even considering the insta cast CC spells like Plant Growth, Tidal Wave, Transmute Rock, etc.. Good luck to your enemy trying to make x8 Strength checks or be knocked prone from an army of wolves or elks. You also have a whole bunch of summoning options for grappling and restraining and all those CC spells you can cast through summoned Fey.
Summoner– This one is pretty obvious.
Utility– With a swarm of Pixies, your only limit is your imagination.
Pretty basic stuff. Also important to note is that these colors are based off of usefulness compared to other choices, not that the choice is bad itself. For stuff like races, spells, etc… if there is a bad choice, I probably won’t even mention it.
Green– Pretty Good
Black– Par for the course
Orange– Underwhelming/Situational compared to other choices
Red– There are better options
Know your Circle and Class
Druidic– Ooo secret messages. Fun flavor but little practical use and basically useless.
Spellcasting– You are a caster, so this is kind of important.
Wild Shape– For you, pure utility. It doesn’t affect concentration so feel free to abuse it any time an opportunity arises. You may be tempted to Wild Shape and charge in with your furry friends, but just don’t do it. That’s for moon druids and you do not want to risk breaking concentration.
Speech of the Woods(Shepherd)– Sylvian is useful for working with Fey and permanent beast speech is awesome. Grab a Goodberry and go make some friends!
Spirit Totem(Shepherd)– Ah, you show your true power. When combined with your summons, Spirit Totem is awesome.
Bear will probably be your go to as it can add a HUGE amount of temp HP to your summons and team. The importance of this totem cannot be overstated as it is a massive buff to your party. The advantage on Strength checks and saves is nice too and helps with reckless Entangles.
Hawk is underwhelming. Advantage on one ally? There are better things to do.
Unicorn can be insane in the right circumstances and you can pump out some serious healing. Just be sure to try to keep your summons alive to get the most out of this.
Mighty Summoner(Shepherd)– Perfect. Magical attacks and more HP for summons? What’s not to like. Without your summons having magical attacks, you would be in some serious trouble later on. The extra HP stacks up more than you’d think as well. Take the Wolf for example: each one only gets an extra 4hp, but since you have 8 of them, that’s an extra 32 HP straight up. Not insignificant.
Guardian Spirit(Shepherd)– The totem radius is quite large so if you are careful about rotating your summons in and out of combat, this healing can be clutch.
Faithful Summons(Shepherd)– It’s not amazing but free summons without concentration are always nice. Unfortunate that it only triggers when you are incapacitated. That being said, you don’t need an “enemy” to incapacitate you, just that it needs to be “against your will”. Also, dropping to 0 hp in Wild Shape also counts to trigger it. So if you are creative, this can be a very useful spell.
Timeless Body– Useless.
Beast Spells– You can perform verbal and somatic spells in wildshape. This doesn’t help you as much as it does moon druids, but it’s definitely useful. Especially so if you change into something with flying speed and just play elusive while your summons wreck stuff.
Archdruid– Being able to ignore verbal, somatic and most material component spells is huge; this means that you can cast in super stealth mode while wildshaped. Pair this with unlimited wild shape and there’s hardly ever a reason now not to be wild shaped. You can literally be the scariest squirrel ever.
Strength– Dump stat. Useless for you. You should never be in melee to make use of this and if you need to make a strength save, you are probably already screwed.
Dexterity– A very good stat, although if you can manage to get non-metal medium armor, you don’t need more than a +2 modifier.
Constitution– Basically your primary stat. The reason I rate it higher than Wis is because it is VERY important for you to maintain concentration, which means Con saves. You need to be generous with your Constitution.
Intelligence– Dump stat. Does help with some skills, but you don’t need this.
Wisdom– Primary caster stat and helps with Perception which is crucial. It’s not AS important as Wisdom for other druids because your Wisdom doesn’t affect your summons, but still important.
Charisma– Helps in social interactions which is why it’s higher than Strength and Intelligence. Otherwise a dump stat.
Really you can pick whatever suits your fancy. “But why?” You may ask. “Doesn’t your race matter?” I’m glad you asked, Timmy. In the grand scheme of things, you can be a sentient potato having tea time with the rest of your party and your beastly battalions aren’t going to give enough of a crap to stop wrecking face. While better stats help, your race and stats have nothing to do with your conjured creatures so be that edgy Half-Orc rage-druid you always wanted. For all those of you min-maxers who want to squeeze all the OP juices out of your race, here you go. Rather than hit you with an extremely long list of a bunch of sub-par races for druids, I'm just going to cover the ones that you should actually consider using. That being said, if something is red or orange doesn’t mean it makes a bad druid, it’s not not as good as other options. Still better than anything that’s not listed. Because new sources have created a bunch of excellent options for races, I’m adding a gold color scheme for this section to differentiate the absolutely amazing options from the excellent options…. There’s a lot of great races….
*With the variable abilities with Tasha’s, you can change any races stat increase to +Con and +Wis. This changes the game for a lot of races and adds a lot more into viability while making it even more a flavor choice. Basically if you use this variant feature, pick what you like. I will keep the same color scheme assuming variant stat changes are not allowed.
Aarakocra– I believe you can fly. Also +2 Dex and +1 Wis. Flying speed with its increased mobility, and thus increased survivability, is always a good option. Also has some fun synergy with Thorn Whip. Trouble is that flying speed is all it really provides, so the undead races straight outclass it.
Custom Lineage– See Variant Human. It’s basically the same thing with slight variation.
Dhampir– The first of the undead races listed. While it’s a melee attack, which doesn’t work well with you, the fact that Vampiric Bite scales with Con is excellent. Spider Climb can also be used for very effective escapes or evasion. As with the other undead races, it’s a strict upgrade to races like Aarakocra that are picked just for their special movement speeds. For all undead races, you will have to account for the fact that druids and undead don’t necessarily get along though, but that’s not a mechanical problem. Dhampir is gold if you pick Aarakocra as your Ancestral Legacy, giving you the best mobility of any class besides Tabaxi in a sprint.
Dwarf (Hill)– +2 Con and +1 Wis is perfect, but for a defensive option, Warforged and Reborn are better.
Elf (Eladrin)– +2 Dex and +1 Int. The stats aren’t good since you don’t need Int, but Fey Step provides you with great escape per short rest.
Elf (Wood)– +2 Dex and +1 Wis. Not perfect stats, but not bad either. The increased speed and stealth in nature makes it very thematic for a druid. Longbow proficiency also makes for a good cantrip alternative, especially since you lack a good long-ranged cantrip unless you multiclass.
Fairy- Basically get to choose your stats, have flying speed, free spells. You are small though, and are basically restricted to light armor.
Firbolg– +2 Wis and +1 Str which is largely wasted. Hidden Step makes this good as it makes for a decent escape once a rest. For a Shepherd, the advantage on Cha checks with beasts and plants can also be well used. Thematically it’s probably the best alongside Wood Elf.
Genasi (Water)– +2 Con and +1 Wis is perfect for you. The other fluff is great for a water-themed Shepherd too. The other Genasi can be good as they all give +2 Con but water is definitely the best.
Goblin– Nimble Escape is why you’d pick this, and it’s all the reason you need. Perfect for a summon-and-run playstyle and an excellent use of your bonus action past your totem.
Gnome (Forest)– +1 Dex and Gnome’s cunning makes this a good choice. Rock Gnomes Con is better, but Minor illusion puts this on-par.
Gnome (Rock)– +1 Con and Gnome’s cunning is better than Forest Gnome, but it’s other features are sub-par.
Halfling (Stout)– +2 Dex and +1 Con. Lucky is amazing and the other features are good too.
Halfling (Ghostwise)– +2 Dex +1 Wis. Same basic features like lucky and brave that made the other halfling good but what pushes this over the top into amazing is the ability to communicate in wild shape.
Harengon– You get to choose stats, but the real power is the crazy movement you have. You get to add proficiency to initiative, get a bonus to Dex rolls, and have a bonus action hop that doesn’t provoke opportunity attacks as an escape button. Not bad.
Hexblood– The Eerie Token feature is useful for turning any animal you come across into a ‘discount familiar’, which coexists really well with Speech of the Woods. You can also use it to communicate with your party in wild shape like the Ghostwise. Hex isn’t great for you, but Disguise Self can be useful. Like Dhampir, this is an undead race.
Human (Variant)– How original… still overpowered. +1 in two attributes (Wisdom and Con), a Skill AND a feat? It’s hard not to pick. Custom Lineage is a little better, but this is still one of the best.
Kalashtar– +2 Wis +1 Cha. Along the same lines as the Ghostwise Halfling, but not AS useful. Psychic damage resistance and advantage on Wis saves is excellent but aren’t as useful as often as the Halfling features. The Kalashtar does have better telepathy though.
Kenku– +2 Dex +1 Wis. Ambusher is good but the main reason to pick this is mimicry, as you can arguably use it in wild shape. Also has Auran as a language so you can feasibly communicate with Air Elementals, some Mephits and Invisible Stalkers if you don’t intend to get Primordial (which I suggest anyway). Since mimicry is limited, if you are looking to communicate in wild shape, Ghostwise Halfling is a superior choice.
Lizardfolk– +2 Con and +1 Wis. Natural armor is awesome given the right circumstances, but bite and hungry jaws are wasted.
Loxodon– +2 Con and +1 Wis with natural armor makes for a nice race. Natural armor scaling off Con makes it better than Lizardfolk.
Reborn– Functionally the same as the Warforged below, but replaces the +1 AC with flying/climbing/swimming speed depending on the race chosen. This is probably the weakest of the undead races for you, but that’s not saying much.
Shifter– Statistically not the best, but it must be said that they make for excellent thematic Druids. Both the Wildhunt and Swiftstride variants provide a useful proficiency and thematic shifting features that can be made quite useful in certain circumstances.
Simic Hybrid– +2 Con and +1 Wis and Carapice for +1 AC is solid. The +1 AC only coming online at level 5 makes Warforged better in that department.
Tortle– +1 Wis is nice and natural armor is awesome. Str is wasted.
Warforged– +2 Con and choice of +1(Wis). “Warforged are formed from a blend of organic and inorganic materials” meaning It’s not specifically stated that they need to be made of metal, so this can make for quite an interesting druid made out of vines, Oak, stone, etc. Aside from the interesting flavor, they get a lot of benefits and a free +1 AC is excellent. It’s a shame it’s not a darkvision race though, but considering all that it offers Warforged is probably the #1 pick.
Requiring its own section, the Dragonmarked races. Adding expanded spell lists alone to a race opens up a lot of possibilities, but some go above and beyond. Most of the dragonmarks are great, so I’ll just highlight some of the best in my opinion. Considering that and the amount of variables associated with the dragonmarked races, I’m not going to color them. The best would be which works best for you, your group and your campaign.
Half-Elf (Mark of Detection)– +2 Wis with a choice of +1 is great for a druid. This is more DM dependent though as it provides a lot of Divination spells which are inherently DM dependant. That being said, with the right DM this could be amazing.
Halfling (Mark of Healing)– +2 Dex +1 Wis isn’t bad but with being a Halfling comes the fantastic Lucky. The perfect healer race, it adds a free Cure Wounds and Lesser Restoration along with some good Cleric healing spells.
Human (Mark of Passage)– +2 Dex with a choice of +1; still good. Misty Step among the other options provides you with excellent mobility and survivability that the druid spell list lacks.
*Special note on the Human (Mark of Handling). It looks perfect at first glance, but the dragonmarks don’t give you the expanded spell list prepared for free, you would still have to prepare the spells so the Mark of Handling spell list is largely redundant and the Speak with Animals per short rest is wasted.
After picking a race, stat up accordingly. Ideally you will want to be able to hit 16 Wis with your choice of race to get the +3 early. Make sure your Dex is +2 but in most cases it doesn’t need to be higher than that since you can get non-metal medium armor so try not to push it above 14. Con needs to start with at least a +2 since it’s so important to you, but anything helps. You can leave the lower stats in Str, Int and Cha. Using point buy and no stat bonuses I would suggest 8, 14, 14, 10, 15, 10. Wis is obviously the highest with your +2 in Dex and Con. If you were to pick a +2 Con +1 Wis, you would get a +3 mod in each which is awesome. I choose to bring Int and Cha to neutral to make saves and skills to not be negative, and wild shape doesn’t help with them. Str is the dump stat in this case because if you really need it, most creatures you can wild shape into have positive Str modifiers so just wild shape into something.
You are going to need to talk to your summons. Because of Speech of the Woods, you get Sylvan for free and can communicate with beasts as well as reasonably possible. Those check the Fey and Beast box, so make sure to pick up Primordial for Elementals to make sure you can communicate with all your summons.
The only creature you would summon that you can’t communicate with using these three languages are the Blink Dog, Giant Eagle, Giant Elk and Giant Owl. All four have their own unique language for speaking but they can understand languages you already know, so feel free to pick one of these only if you think it’s very important to understand them beyond normal gestures and such.
Aberrant Dragonmark– This feat has a LOT going for it. First of all, it provides you with a good choice of cantrips which you wouldn’t have otherwise with a note of the excellent attack cantrips that druids lack. Second, you get a free 1st level spell. Sounds a lot like Magic Initiate, right? Well it’s better in several ways (unless you want a familiar): The 1st level recharges on a SHORT rest rather than a long rest for magic initiate, it gives you a +1 Con which is excellent and Con is the spellcasting ability; your best stat. Though I suggest taking Shield with it. Shield per short rest without a spell slot is amazing. The extra feature of expending hit dice for either temp HP or take damage isn’t worth it because temp HP doesn’t stack with bear spirit and you don’t want to risk a Con save on a summon in combat.
Alert– Disruption is very important to being a proper controller, and going first really improves that end.
Fey Touched– Misty Step alone is worth the feat, but a free level 1 spell such as Command makes this a great choice.
Healer– Nice but your feat is better spent elsewhere.
Lucky– OP provided your DM lets you get away with it.
Magic Initiate– Ritual Caster is generally better if you want a familiar. If you are looking for cleric spells, 1 level in life or twilight cleric is better. Otherwise, there are certain level 1 spells that can make a big difference in play so if you have a specific kind of druid in mind, at least take a look at the options.
Mobile– Extra movement, meh.
Observant– +1 Wisdom is appreciated and some increased paranoia attributed to seeing EVERYTHING
Resilient– Pick Con. Proficiency in Con saves is amazing for maintaining Concentration. This and War Caster are must-haves.
Ritual Caster– Mine as well rename this feat to “Find Familiar” as that is what you are picking it for.
Spell Sniper– Good for playing it safe as to not risk concentration. The extra attack cantrip is ok too. Since none of the cleric cantrips require an attack roll, you are basically just choosing another druid cantrip.
War Caster– Advantage on Con saves to maintain concentration is amazing. If you get the Primal Savagery cantrip, you can potentially make good use out of the 3rd part of this feat as well. While you can make use of the whole feat, 90% of the reason you are picking it is for advantage on concentration. This is also a must-have along with Resilient [Con].
Arcana– Int is a dump stat for you, so this is more for your wizard.
Animal Handling– Proficiency in this and a Goodberry can make you a lot of friends.
Insight– Pairs well with your high Wisdom, and useful for gathering intent.
Medicine– Just buy a medicine kit.
Nature– You are a druid after all. Shame that it’s Int-based. Not taking this can lead to the awkward moments where the wizard knows more about nature than you.
Perception– You can see everything!
Religion– Meh, you aren’t a cleric or paladin.
Survival– Better than nature since it’s Wis and has practical applications.
*Although it’s not a native Druid proficiency, Stealth isn’t a bad choice either.
I’m not going to cover every background as you can obviously make up a backstory to fit any background, so I’ll just provide some quick highlights.
Acolyte– Proficiency in Insight is always helpful, especially with it being Wisdom. Religion is less useful since it’s Int based, but Acolytes work well with Nature God worship flavored Druids.
Criminal– A good go-to for a stealthy Druid. I’d say that an argument can be made that Urchin is better for this, but Criminal is not bad. The criminal contact feature can also be useful as well.
Folk Hero– Good for traveling campaigns where you can make use of rustic hospitality. Its proficiencies in Animal Handling and Survival are very good for you as well. Since you have Speech of the Woods, animal handling can be live your version of persuasion with animals as it’s Wisdom based, and Survival speaks for itself.
Hermit– Discovery can be a hard feature to use practically. The flavor works with the Druid as a lone forest keeper, but the background leaves something to be desired. Medicine and Religion proficiencies aren’t great. While medicine is Wisdom, a Healer's Kit does the same thing and if you are going with a religious basis, Acolyte may be a better fit.
Outlander– Since most Druid use Strength as a dump stat, Athletics isn’t good for you. Survival and the wanderer feature are both good though.
Sailor– As with Outlander, Athletics doesn’t do much for you. Proficiency in Perception is awesome though, as you would most likely be taking it anyway. Sailor Druids can make for awesome maritime adventures as you are basically a god on the sea.
Urchin– Free pet mouse that you can talk to at level 2 makes this good on its own. Sleight of Hand and Stealth are both very good for stealth missions and you are probably going to have a not terrible Dex score. City secrets make this background one of the best for urban campaigns.
Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (SCAG) has some really good options for a Druid including:
Cloistered Scholar– Like a beefed up Sage. Makes for a great professor-like or academic Druid.
Faction Agent– In my opinion the best choice for a Druid. Insight is frequently useful and you get a choice of ANY Int, Wis or Cha skill of your choice. True it says “as appropriate to your faction”, but you can make a case for anything. If you aren’t creating your own faction, the Emerald Enclave is always a good choice as they are basically full of Druids anyway. Safe haven is also quite useful as well.
Far Traveler– Insight and Perception are both excellent. You might stick out more than you’d prefer with this background, but if your character is supposed to be from a distant land, this makes a lot of sense.
It’s also important to take note of the usefulness of tools when choosing backgrounds (or just in general). While there’s always the obvious use (Like making shoes with Cobbler's Tools), Xanathars’ added more creative uses for tool proficiencies. Take Alchemist's Supplies for example; you can obviously use it to create acid or alchemist's fire cheaper, but you can gather more information from Arcana checks involving potions and materials, you can gain additional insight when investigating an area where chemicals or other substances were used, and can make checks for creating thick smoke, identifying poisons and other substances, starting a chemical fire, and neutralize acids. That’s just the stuff that’s explicitly written, but the idea is that the use of tools is only really limited by your imagination and what makes sense to the DM. The extra proficiency bonus can really make a difference.
As thematic as it would be to run around in the buff like your animal companions, your party may not appreciate that. Start with a Quarterstaff since you can use it as a focus, and get a shield for +2 AC. If it suits your fancy, you can use a ranged weapon until your cantrips get the level 5 bump. Try to get either Studded Leather or Hide armor for a total of 16 starting AC with a shield. Later on you will want to get the highest AC non-metal medium armor you can get unless you are dumping points into Dex. Ideally, you will want to aim for Spiked Armor, as it can give you 18 AC with a shield and can be made without metal. Just be aware that you are at a disadvantage to stealth when wearing it; but if you aren’t intending to stealth out of Wild Shape, go for it. Your wishlist should include:
[Uncommon,Rare,Very Rare] Moon Sickle(a)– If you can’t get your hands on a Staff of the Woodlands, this is your next best friend. While it doesn’t help your summons, it improves pretty much all your other druid spells and comes in a variety of rarities.
[common] Pole of Collapsing– What adventure would be complete without a 10ft pole?
[uncommon] Bag of Tricks– Give yourself some more sweet sweet non-concentration summons for a day. They can also benefit from your totems. The only downside is that they don’t benefit from Mighty Summoner, so non-magical attacks will be an issue and will be less useful at later levels. Green is an average because before Mighty Summoner it would be blue, and at later levels it’s mostly only going to be used for utility, so it would be black.
[uncommon] Cloak of Elvenkind(a)– If you don’t have Warcaster and Resilient: Con, hiding is a good way to maintain concentration. This just makes you that much harder to spot/attack.
[uncommon] Cloak of Protection(a)– +1 AC and Saves is great at lower levels and can still be clutch at higher levels.
[uncommon] Goggles of Night– Helpful if you don’t have a darkvision race.
[uncommon] Nature's Mantle(a)– Basically being a Wood Elf in an item. Flavorful and cool, but shame that it requires attunement.
[uncommon] Pearl of Power(a)– Nice little extra Conjure Animals. Very useful at early levels. Less so at later levels.
[uncommon] Sentinel Shield– Good for initiative, and doesn’t require attunement.
[rare] Mantle of Spell Resistance(a)– Advantage on spell saves is very good for your survivability.
[rare] Ring of Spell Storing(a)– This would be amazing if you didn’t have to concentrate on spells cast using it. Alas, you do. Otherwise, if you have an ally caster cast a defensive spell in it, it can be useful.
[rare] Staff of the Woodlands(a)– Excellent for any druid. +2 to attack, damage and spell rolls, free Pass Without Trace among other spells and some extra flavor. You want this.
[very rare] Illusionist’s Bracers(a)– If you aren’t moving your Spirit Totem or casting healing word, this can make your cantrip spam formidable.
[very rare] Ioun Stone(a)– Insight and Fortitude are obviously good, but since these require attunement, the tomes are a better source of stats at this rarity. Reserve can be amazing if you have a friend use it to unleash your Conjure Animals, summon your own and buff them all with Bear Totem. Nonetheless, at the level you get very rare items, that’s good but not amazing.
[very rare] Manual of Bodily Health– +2 Con and increased max Con. Pretty nice.
[very rare] Tome of Understanding– +2 Wis and increased max Wis. For a Shepherd though, I’d prefer a Manual of Bodily Health at later levels.
[legendary] Ring of Invisibility(a)– Basically a Get out of Jail Free card.
Means it needs attunement
So many choices; ah the beauty of the utility wild shape. Realistically other than to compensate for negative Str, stats don’t matter because you would be dumb to try and fight something in wild shape. What you really want to look for are the perks that each give you. No point in coloring these as you can’t really rate utility. Their value depends on the situation. Some good options:
Badger– Burrow speed and darkvision. Your best bet for a burrower.
Cranium Rat– Darkvision, telepathy and mind reading immunity. Creepy but unique.
Horse– Slightly demean yourself by carrying your parties crap.
Raven– Mess around with people with your mimicry.
Spider– Spider climb, darkvision and some decent stealth. Cast Conjure X, turn into a spider, climb into a crack in a wall, Profit. Good luck breaking your concentration.
Weasel– Great stealth, nothing else really special.
Cat– Climb speed and keen smell. Plus, you are a cute wittle kitty.
Octopus– Swim speed, darkvision, great stealth, underwater camo, water breathing, and you will never need to buy ink again. Super utility.
Owl– Fantastic fly speed and darkvision. Paired with flyby and keen hearing/sight, this is your best bet for a flyer along with its giant version.
Bat– Unique blindsight and echolocation. Literally Batman.
Alternatively, just flavor something existing into whatever you want. I’d doubt your DM will care if you turn into a PHB certified eagle or a Red Bellied Rock Warbler. Most DM’s are perfectly fine with creativity anyway. So go, Timmy, be your fabulous Predatory Hawaiian Caterpillar self. The only limit is scientific discovery.
Newly ported from UA (Unearthed Arcana) to Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, making it official. As these are still Variant, your DM still technically needs to sign-off, but the benefits to the Shepherd (and really all non-moon druids as a whole) are just too good to pass up.
This isn’t a druid-specific variant, but it gives some freedom. Basically this allows you to replace the two you chose of Arcana, Animal Handling, Insight, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Religion, and Survival on an ASI level. Chances are that you chose proficiencies around your group at character creation but if you feel that your choice isn’t getting much use, then this is for you.
Oh boy, the possibilities. The very first thing that comes to mind is the wonders of Guidance. An excellent cantrip but since it’s concentration, having it after level 5 interferes with your summons. With Cantrip Versatility you can (and should) take this at level 1, use it constantly until level 4, then swap it out for something that doesn’t need concentration if you want. The elemental cantrips (Control Flames, Gust, Mold Earth and Shape Water) can also benefit. Yes Control Flames and Gust are terrible, but being able to pick them when you are after mischievous arsonists or fighting on an airship high in the air can really expand your possibilities. Mold Earth and Shape Water are always awesome so it’s the same with them to a much larger extent. Shape Water is absolutely essential if you are on a boat and earth is literally everywhere. Shout out to Mending too.
The new variant additions mostly make a lot of sense and I’d say the reasoning for specific spells falls into one of three mindsets: Spells that just make sense for any Druid to have and should have been added in the first place (like Revivify and Flesh to Stone), spell that expand the druid’s elemental repertoire and spells that allows the Druid to play more of a traditional shamanic/Celtic druid role (like Augury).
Protection from Good and Evil– Other than the fact that it requires concentration, not bad if you know you’re fighting against specific types. You probably won’t prepare it except for specific purposes though.
Augury– The quintessential shamanistic spell and the poor man's Divination. Its use is entirely reliant on the DM. It’s a ritual which is always good, but it’s limited by actions within 30 minutes.
Continual Flame– Definitely elementally fitting, but you’d have to try to find a good use for the spell, especially with a 50gp cost. If you want light, mine as well just use Produce Flame and not waste a 2nd level spell slot and 50gp. Its situational nature comes from the fact that it lasts forever until dispelled and can illuminate magical darkness. My advice is to cast it once on a tiny object then keep that in your bag and unprepared the spell forever.
Enlarge/Reduce– Endless possibilities; too bad it’s concentration. I assume the rationale behind it is that Druids are master shapeshifters so they can apply that to specifics such as size, rather than entirely into another creature like Polymorph. Your concentration will still almost entirely be used on summons, so this will be at most utility for you.
Summon Beast– This allows you to get your summons on-line a whole two levels earlier for an excellent quality-of-life update. Though it should be noted that once you have Conjure Animals, this becomes much less useful as the multiple summons keeps it a WAY better spell. Still, it being a second level spell is invaluable.
*Note– the new ‘Summon X’ spells do NOT benefit from Mighty Summoner as they do not use Hit Die.
Aura of Vitality– A 30ft radius is huge, and it provides a very good way to use your bonus action. Regardless, it uses concentration so you won’t see much use of it in combat, but it is great for out-of-combat healing and can function as a less powerful replacement to the old Healing Spirit. One potential caveat, depending on how your DM rules it, is that this spell could have potentially nutty synergy with your Unicorn Spirit.
Elemental Weapon– A really good elemental addition, but for you it’s completely useless. Again, never be in melee range after level 5.
Revivify– At last, a way to revive people other than reincarnation. In difficult campaigns, this spell is worth its weight in gold and it is never a bad idea to have it prepared.
Summon Fey– The power of Conjure Fey comes from the utility of its summons. This spell, however, is more for combat-oriented fey. The downfall is that you get it at the same level as Conjure Animals which will pretty much always be used instead of this.
Divination– Just like Augury, it is perfect for shamanistic druids and is entirely DM dependent. It has a much more forgiving 7 day effective use time making it much more useful than Augury, yet it’s still hit or miss.
Fire Shield– You should not be aiming to be in melee range but since it doesn’t require concentration, it’s not the worst thing to choose. The damage also doesn’t use up your reaction or bonus action which is definitely a plus.
Summon Elemental– Suffers the same fate as Summon Fey where Conjure Animals and Conjure Woodland Beings will pretty much always be used instead of this.
Cone of Cold– Strange to see a blasting spell on a Druid, but it is a great non-concentration spell. With a good non-concentration blasting spell to use, the Shepherd really can now fill every role. The only thing keeping it from blue is that you might find it a bit difficult to weave the large cone between your summons and party.
Flesh to Stone– Speaking of brutal spells, this is one hell of a spell. With a failed Con save the enemy is restrained for a MINIMUM of 3 turns with them not being able to do a damn thing about it short of breaking your concentration. If they fail their checks, petrification is a rather punishing condition. It’s only downside is that it requires concentration and even then considering how strong the CC is, it might be worth it to open up a battle against a single enemy with this first just to see if you can pull it off for the win.
Symbol– Another shamanistic spell. With a 1 minute cast time, Symbol can’t be used for combat and a cost of 1000gp means you likely won’t be able to spam it. This means that this spell is subjected to either be in defense of a keep or ambushing a dangerous and predictable bad guy. It can be amazing when used well, but it really is situational.
Incendiary Cloud– As a beefy version of Cloudkill, this is not a bad spell. It has a huge range, obscures the area and does respectable damage on a Dex save. Again, it’s concentration which is a detractor for a Shepherd Druid. Still not a bad option.
A gift from the D&D gods to non-moon Druids. As a Shepherd Druid, your Wild Shape is almost always going to be used for out of combat utility anyway and this is basically just the same thing except with so many benefits I need to make a list!
Since it is the Find Familiar spell, you can do all the things the spell entails such as using the familiar’s senses WHILE being able to communicate with your party without being a Ghostwise Halfling.
It also works with Mighty Summoner since you are technically casting the Find Familiar spell, and they still can be buffed by your totems.
You aren’t putting yourself in any danger like you would be if you Wild Shaped yourself.
You can temporarily dismiss it without using up the Wild Shape as you would if you transformed out of your Wild Shape so unless it’s killed, there is no time loss.
The Familiar isn’t bound to your flying/swimming speed limitations that you would have if Wild Shaped
You can cast touch spells at range using it: Guidance, Mending, Cure Wounds, Goodberry, Contagion (This particular combination is HUGE. Think about the possibilities), Awaken, Greater Restoration, Regenerate, Foresight and that’s not even all of them.
No seriously, you can make a plague rat with Contagion that can absolutely mess creatures up with 0 risk.
Even if you do get in combat with the familiar, it’s still a free advantage for you, your summons or your party with the help action. If you aren’t familiar with the help action, that includes advantage with ability checks (including initiative), and both weapon and spell attacks.
None of this requires concentration, so they don’t interrupt any summons.
The only downsides are if you need a very specific creature that a familiar can’t turn into or if you need your familiar to go more than 100ft away from you. Even then you can have your familiar go more than 100ft away, you just can’t communicate with it or cast spells through it so it’s really just the “downside” of if you specifically need to be something that you can’t get as a familiar (Like a mount for example. Even then you can also Conjure Animals a bunch of mounts too). So basically unless you yourself need to escape a situation stealthily, you should ALWAYS be choosing this variant for your Wild Shape.
Here we go, now for the meat and potatoes. This is the reason you chose to be a Circle of the Shepherd Druid, and your enemies will fear you for it. Martial classes get their Extra Attack, Wizards get their Fireball, and you get to unleash the Fuzzy Fury.
I’m not going to cover every single possibility, just highling what I think are some of the best. If you want a more expansive list, I’d suggest https://donjon.bin.sh/5e/monsters/.
*Note– It is important to note that technically, while you choose the CR, your DM chooses the summoned creatures for most Conjure spells. RAW you choose one of the options listed in the spell (“Eight beasts of challenge rating 1/4 or lower”… etc.) while your DM gets to choose the specific creatures summoned. However, you can certainly say “I summon 8 CR ? creatures, and I’d like to summon wolves”. The vast majority of DMs will let you summon what you want within reason and will only restrict potentially game-breaking summons like pixies, so this shouldn’t be too much of an obstacle for most.
The best of the best. This is what you live for, and it definitely deserves the hype. For anyone doubting the power of a Druid, let me throw some numbers at you. For the sake of simplicity, let’s take Fireball; your one-size fits all blaster spell. At Level 5 Wizards and the like get access to this baby with a substantial 20ft. Radius and a sweet instant duration 8d6 fire damage. That’s on average for a failed save 28 fire damage per target.
Now let’s look at the Conjure Animals you get at level 5. Also for the sake of simplicity, let’s go with the tried and true CR ? Wolf. You get 8 of them. Each one of those bad mammas can deal a nice 7 piercing damage AND the enemy has to roll for a DC 11 Str check or be knocked prone. DC 11 might not seem like a lot, but let’s see you make EIGHT of them. If they all hit their target that’s 56 freaking pierce damage turn one. Oh did I mention Mighty Summoner makes it Magical Pierce damage at level 6… There aren’t many enemies who can shrug that off. Still not convinced? Lets upcast these babies. A level 9 Fireball will do 14d6 (averaged 49) fire damage. The way Conjure Animals works is with increasing upcasting, they give you more friends. A level 9 upcast gives you FOUR TIMES as many animals… Thats 32, yes thirty two violently inclined wolves. Each one does a PHB approved average of 7 pierce damage on hit (magical pierce), and that pesky Str check. That’s 224 damage if they all attack.
That’s a lot of numbers. A fireball would have to hit 5 enemies AND have all of them fail their saves to unleash that kind of destruction. Also all those Strength checks to prone b**ches. Up until this point, I forgot to mention one tiny little detail…. It’s Concentration spell which means those howevermany Wolves aren’t going anywhere for an hour unless they are killed or your Concentration is broken (get War Caster). That means for one cast you and your party can have a freaking picnic while your squad feasts on the flesh of those who wronged you. This also means that you can Cast things while doing it (Take that again Moon Druids). So that damage isn’t even inclusive of the damage you are doing with your actual action. Yes I know there are other differences which make each of their uses more unique like Fireball can hit more enemies that are grouped, Conjure Animals requires more rolls to hit, Fireball can toast allies, Conjure Animals give much better options for damage type, etc… but regardless of all that, them dice. So go forth, my children, and show them the power of the summons.
CR <= ?. As a note, more is generally better, so it’s hard to beat the 8 CR ? option.
Constrictor Snake– Automatic grapple is very good.
Deep Rothe– Stench Kows are better in pretty much every way, but these are worth a mention because, unlike the other cows, these are a medium instead of a large beast so they function better in smaller spaces.
Elk– If you can abuse charge, the Elk is blue. Charge does amazing damage.
Fastieth– As the name suggests, they are fast, can take the dodge action as a bonus action on a recharge, and have a good + to hit and single attack damage for the CR along with being medium. If you can’t take advantage of the wolves Pack Tactics and you want a medium creature, these aren’t bad.
Flying Snake– Flyby with poison damage and a good + to hit. If you want a flier and the enemy isn’t resistant or immune to poison, this is the go-to.
Giant Badger– Multiattack and keen smell is quite good, it can deal respectable damage. Since it has burrow speed you can try to undermine structures with it.
Giant Frog– If you are looking for a restrainer, Constrictor Snake is better in most cases as it auto-grapples instead of a DC 11. Against small creatures it becomes amazing though because it can swallow them.
Giant Owl– 120ft Darkvision. Great flier. Also has Flyby, Stealth and Keen hearing/sight. Terrible + to hit though but make excellent mounts.
Giant Poisonous Snake– Good AC and excellent damage provided the enemy is affected by poison. If it’s not, a solid beast. Against non-poison immune or resistant enemies, this is an excellent go-to.
Giant Wolf Spider– Its main draw is utility by its Blindsight, Spider Climb, Websense and Web Walker.
Stench Kow– Relatively squishy but has resistances and a very unique poisoned on failed DC 12 Con save in a radius around the cow. Very good damage if you can charge.
Stirge– An alternative flier to the Flying Snake, the Stirge has very little health but acts as a great distraction as if it hits with its blood drain, it attaches to its target and drains blood for at least 2 rounds. It would be very difficult for an enemy to ignore the blood sucking bat thing attached to its face and hit an ally.
Velociraptor– Pack Tactics + Multiattack= tiny death. Fantastic alternative to the Wolf if you do Dinosaurs.
Wolf– Pack Tactics, 40ft speed and keen hearing and smell is all good. The Elk and Giant Poisonous Snake give better damage, but pack tactics is huge against stronger enemies and the chance to prone on each hit is awesome. Though other creatures can pull better numbers for straight damage, wolves can certainly be your go-to unless you can get Velociraptors.
CR ?. The options here aren’t the best, so it’s generally just better to get 8 CR 1/4th’s.
Ape– +5 to Athletics and climb speed is unique, but you would mostly be summoning this for its sub-par ranged attack.
Crocodile– It’s not bad, but I’d say the Constrictor Snake performs the auto-grapple function better.
Giant Wasp– Basically a flying Giant Poisonous Snake.
Reef Shark– Pack Tactics and Blindsight makes for a good go-to aquatic summon. Its damage isn’t great though.
Warhorse– Free mounts for the party and with the plate variant, 19 AC makes them tanky as hell.
CR 1. Better for more constricted areas as you get 2, and the options are better than CR ?.
Brown Bear– They make decent meat bags with their 34 HP and they get Multiattack for great damage. Your best bet for damage at this tier.
Dire Wolf– Basically a buffed up Wolf. Can make for good tanks too with 14 AC and 37 HP. Still has the prone save on-hit. Shame you only get 2 so Pack Tactics is limited.
Giant Eagle– Yet another multi-attacker. 80ft fly speed makes for great party mounts to ditch your jewelry. Though since you only get 2 and they don’t have flyby, Giant Owls would still probably be better for combat.
Giant Octopus– These things are fantastic. Other than them being excellent at underwater stealth, they have a 15 FEET range auto-grapple with a DC 16 escape. That and having 8 hit dice means Mighty Summoner brings them to a beefy 68 HP.
Giant Spider– Insane +7 Stealth and Blindsight is alright but what makes this great is its free Web that auto-restrains and make the enemy waste a turn on a Str check to free. Yes please. The web can be destroyed though. Also they have the creep factor.
Giant Vulture– If you can’t use its Pack tactics well, best to just use
CR 2. Quality over quantity with this one. Getting a Huge beast is pretty nifty, though it is usually better to go with more of the smaller guys.
Cave Bear– Improved version of the Brown Bear and has Darkvision. Pretty good damage option.
Giant Constrictor Snake– Improved version of the Constrictor Snake. If you only need to restrain one big bad guy, this is your best bet. Otherwise, stick with 8 of the regular.
Giant Elk– If you can knock an enemy prone with the charge, this does amazing damage. IF.
Conjure Woodland Beings:
Why cast spells when you can have your summons do it for you? Fantastic alternative to Conjure Animals, you probably won’t see the numbers of Conjure Animals but you can pull quite the shenanigans. Requires a bit of creativity to get the most out of.
CR <= ?.
Boggle– They can’t compare to Pixies, but their Boggle Oil can be a useful preparation CC and you can have out of combat fun with their Sleight of Hand+6 and Stealth+6. Other than that they can create a Dimensional Rift to teleport short distances.
Pixie– Get ready to make your DM cry. Conjuring these invisible flying little buggers provides you with 8 uses of *deep breath* Confusion, Dancing Lights, Detect Good and Evil, Detect Thoughts, Dispel Magic, Entangle, Fly, Phantasmal Force, Polymorph and Sleep. Just Polymorph is enough to be blue. Also it’s been done to death, but how could you not enjoy the badassness of flying T-Rexes at least once. Oh AND they have magic resistance, because ya know, they need more.
Sprite– A unique Shortbow attack to poison and potentially render an enemy unconscious is nothing to sneeze at. It is only a DC 10 Con check, but there are at least 8 of them. Pixies are still better.
Reflection– A bunch of damage resistances and condition immunities but the thing that makes them absolutely terrifying is their strength drain attack. Four of these, minus d4 strength on hit, target dies if its strength gets to 0… that’s extremely strong.
Satyr Pipes– You specifically want the Pipes version with their Panpipes for a DC 13 Wis save to Frighten/Charm/Sleep everything is a large radius. Yes I did say everything, make sure to plug your ears. The effect is still fantastic. Has magic resistance too.
Dryad– Magic resistance and an impressive spell list of entangle, goodberry, barkskin, pass without trace and shillelagh. The two you can summon make for some pretty great casters.
Quickling– SUPER fast as the name suggest, that’s 120ft per round. That speed gives it some really good perks too. Enemies have disadvantage on attack rolls against it for the most part, and it takes no damage on a successful dex save. That combined with a 3x ranged multiattack makes it something to be feared. Most Fey you choose because of their spell utility, but this is a great go-to damage Fey.
Darkling Elder– Kind of a strange creature. Has a massive 120ft darkvision, can cast Darkness, does decent damage only when it has advantage and has a mediocre on-death ability. For only getting one, it’s not great.
Sea Hag– Pretty nifty. It’s amphibious and on its own, humanoids within SIGHT are frightened on a failed Wis save and they can straight up 0hp frightened things. Only problem if you can get frightened as well. Upcast to create your own Hag Coven. Give that grandma a sewing circle.
Conjure Minor Elementals:
1 minute cast time so combat casting is out, boo. Though it is nice that the Mephit Variant abilities let them summon more of themselves.
CR <= ?.
Mephit (Mud)– Its breath and death burst can restrain, so it’s probably best to use its breath and suicide into the enemies.
Mephit (Smoke)– Can cast Dancing Lights and its breath can blind.
Mephit (Steam)– Its only use is casting Blur.
Mephit (Dust)– Basically the same as the Smoke Mephit except it can cast the significantly more useful Sleep.
Mephit (Magma)– Heat Metal is a VERY good spell, so that’s going to be the main use of summoning these buggers.
Gargoyle– Damage sucks but it has 15 AC, 52 HP and non-magical/ non-adamantine weapon damage resistance makes it a great tank.
Most of what this spell provides can be provided by Conjure Animals, so this spell should be renamed “Literally Giant Scorpion”. At the level you get it, it’s a raid boss. Blindsight, multiattack with a 2 claw auto-grapple and massive poison damage stinger. Unfortunately it’s very limited by you needing to have a scorpion on you willingly and it doesn’t count as a “Summoned Creature”
Rather than summoning multiple less powerful creatures, through this you can only get one Elemental. What makes Elementals largely good is that they have a bevy of resistances and immunities to make use of. Just be VERY careful about breaking concentration because they will straight up kill you. Intelligent beings don’t like being controlled.
Flail Snail– Only good against spellcasters. Very hit or miss.
Xorn– For those of you who are greedy. Treasure Sense is unique, but other than that, just get an Earth Elemental.
Salamander– Provided the enemy doesn’t resist fire, does good damage and auto-restrains with its tail attack.
Elemental (Air)– Directly less useful than either the Fire or Water Elemental. Its only saving grace is that since you need a 10ft cube of the elemental material to summon, it’s easier to summon one of these than Fire or Water generally.
Elemental (Earth)– The best tank you can summon out of all of your Conjure spells. 17 AC, 126 HP along with the elemental resistances and immunities makes this thing a proverbial mountain. It’s no slouch with attacks too as it has multiattack and does double damage to structures. Vulnerable to thunder though. Earth glide is pretty neat too.
Elemental (Fire)– You can literally walk into things and they burst into flames. Good damage as well, but the flavor game is top notch.
Elemental (Water)– Other than Whelm, it’s worse than the Fire Elemental. If it’s in the same space as an enemy, a failed DC 15 Str check restrains and starts drowning its target. The recharge is nice at 4-6, but you need to be standing IN the enemy to Whelm.
CR 6. (Upcast).
Galeb Duhr– It’s a Geodude. It can animate two more if itself and with its rolling attack, can do quite a bit of damage. It pretty much needs those clones though to be good, so it’s situational.
Invisible Stalker– It pretty much does two things, but it can do those two thing very well. It stalks…. Invisibly… no but really it always knows the location of its target and is permanently invisible. It’s like an invisible Nazgul.
CR 7. (Upcast). I’d suggest sticking with the stock elementals. You can upcast better spells.
Elemental Myrmidon (Air)– Fly speed and a Lightning attack that can stun. Not terrible.
Elemental Myrmidon (Earth)– Air is pretty much better.
Elemental Myrmidon (Fire)– Fiery Strike attack; otherwise nothing too special. The water one is better because of speed reduction.
Elemental Myrmidon (Water)– freezing Strikes make it better than the
Fire variant because of the speed reduction.
Like Conjure Elemental, you are limited to one strong Fey/ Beast fey, and they will murder you if you lose concentration. Your best bet is to upcast to get the CR 7 Fey, though they all offer something unique.
Yeth Hound– Mixed bag. This pooch can fly, has telepathy and is straight up immune to non-magic non-silver weapons which makes it an invincible tank in the right circumstances. It has the significant downside of being banished to the Ethereal Plane in sunlight though. Still makes for a sturdy scout at night or indoors.
Giant Crocodile– Multiattack for an auto-restrain and a DC 16 prone. Decent option but the higher CR’s are better.
Annis Hag– Bite, Claw, Claw, Grapple. Simple, yet effective.
Dusk Hag– Magic Resistance and some unique interactions with unconscious creatures as well as several ways to get them there. Her Innate spellcasting is excellent for information gathering/subtlety and intrigue quests that can be amazing if used correctly.
Mammoth– Like the Elk’s big brother. Has a hefty sum of 126 HP and a nasty charge with a DC 18 prone. Its damage is significant too.
CR 7. (Upcast).
Bheur Hag– This is twisted Frozen fanfiction gone wrong. Probably the best caster you can summon and she comes with her own fancy flying magic staff. Before even getting to her spells, she is immune to cold damage, can fly with her staff and can frighten enemies in a 60ft radius. Her spellcasting is what makes her insane though. Wither her staff she can cast hold person and ray of frost AT WILL, cone of cold, ice storm and wall of ice 3 times and control weather once. She is a pocket blaster.
Korred– It’s really hard to top the Bheur Hag but this thing manages. It’s pretty much a dude with nasty dreads but it has non-magic resistance, 120ft darkvision and tremorsense, stealth advantage in rocks, bonus action DC 13 Dex restrain, Spellcasting for commune with nature, meld into stone and stoneshape at will, 6th level Conjure Elemental for ITS OWN Galeb Duhr, Gargoyle, Earth Elemental or Xorn, Otto’s Irresistible Dance *takes a breath* AND does great damage with a melee or ranged multiattack. If you can keep in grounded, this thing wrecks.
CR 8. (Upcast).
Tyrannosaurus Rex– It’s a freaking T-Rex. Has very strong damage thanks to its substantial multiattack with an auto-grapple. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have any special abilities to keep it in line with the CR 7 Fey. Still, it’s a T-Rex.
CR 9. (Upcast).
Conclave Dryad– Pretty steep for a 9th level spell slot. It does basically act like a second druid though with its spell list of druidcraft, dispel magic, entangle, plant growth, spike growth, moonbeam, grasping vine and wall of thorns and with a summonable mount, magic resistance and a restraining vine attack. Is what it is.
Special shoutout to Find Familar*. Still counts.
Unfortunately, your DM might want to stifle your greatness and if so, will most likely claim that “summons slow down combat”; meanwhile everyone else at the table is glued to Twitterbook. Don’t worry, young Timmy, I will give you the tools you need to appease even the mighty DM.
The name of the game is “Preparation”. Put your table mates to shame as you are going to know EXACTLY what to do on your turn. Yes, you have homework. Don’t complain, it’s a small price for carrying your weak-ass party with your furry friends.
***Helpful Hint: A whiteboard that you can get at any craft store can really help you in this department. If you have labelled tokens, you can put the labels on the whiteboard along with the summoned creature's health, used spells, rolled attack/damage, etc…
Step 1. Make a Cheat Sheet.
This is going to contain all of the useful Wild Shapes and Summons that are relevant to you. You need Beasts for Wild shape, Conjure Animals and Conjure Fey, Fey for Conjure Woodland Beings and Conjure Fey and Elementals for Conjure Minor Elemental and Conjure Elemental. You can’t be searching through the books for the perfect summon.
Below are examples of sortable cheat sheets, but I still highly recommend you make your own so you can be familiar with it.
You should also keep a list of all Non-Concentration spells available.
Step 2. Get Tokens Ready.
All the stuff you can summon will range from Tiny to Huge in size, so get size appropriate. These can be as Janky as cut out pieces of paper or cardboard, to coins for lots of Medium sized tokens, to even oven-baked clay that you round into the appropriately sized token.
Step 3. Manage Your Dice.
If you literally start rolling 32 dice for an upcast Conjure Animal, your party will be justified in strangling you. There are so many Dice Rolling Apps for Android and iPhone and Dice Roller websites, just pick one and get familiar with it. Any good dice roller will let you roll multiple dice instantly. Another possibility is to preroll attack dice for your creatures. If you go lower in initiative and your DM trusts you not to fudge and obscure rolls, you can roll to attack while your party does their thing so that when it comes to your turn, all you need to do is find out what hit and roll for damage.
***Creature Grouping: Alternatively, just bundle your creatures into groups. This is essential when upcasting Conjure Animals. Have 16 Wolves? Now you have 8 groups of two, or 4 groups of 4. Bundle roll for the whole group to hit or miss. If the enemy does more damage than 1 wolves HP to a group, reduce their number and damage accordingly. (DMG pg 250 also has a Mob Rule reference)
Using bundled groups, you can also divide your summons amongst your party so they control a set number of summons. This can provide a lot of player engagement for everyone in your party.
Step 4. Pay Attention.
You aren’t some mindless Barbarian that just herp derp and rages on their turn, you need to pay super close attention to everything that is going on so you can act accordingly. As the situation or combat changes, you need to have an idea in mind on what you want to do, and use your cheat sheet to find the right summon. Like I've said before, you have a f*ck ton of options, so it’s going to be really hard to find the right one, especially if you don’t pay attention.
Step 5. ???
Step 6. Profit. You are now a Nature God.
Be aware that Shepherd Druids are quite game breaking in combat if your DM is not prepared, so by all means conjure 8 creatures in your first combat at level 5, but if you don’t want to trivialize every encounter then consider limiting yourself by what you cast. While you can summon 8 wolves, you can certainly summon less if you feel 8 would be too overwhelming for the fight.
Adapting to an Online World
With play today transitioning to an online world, there is an ever-increasing presence of games switching to platforms like roll20. As lords of adaptation, we too must adapt. While it may seem daunting to try and control multiple summons online, preparation combined with knowledge of the platform actually makes it relatively easy. If you are going to play on roll20, I suggest you make a free account and create a game to familiarize yourself with it. Obviously this is a Shepherd Druid guide, not a guide for Roll20, so I will just cover what is important for you to know in relation to the Shepherd Druid.
Note that the macros and tokens you create in one game will not transfer to another, so you will have to recreate them if you play in multiple games (I mean games, not sessions).
On the top-right part of the UI, you will see the below sections:
The Journal tab (circled in red) is where your DM can add a generic icon for your summons and, with proper permissions, you can just drag and drop the icon into play as many times as you want to keep up with the number of summons you have. Reference the below picture for what that looks like. As long as your DM gives you full control of them, you can change the name, add an HP bar, etc to make managing your summons much easier.
The Collection tab (circled in blue) is where you can make macros to make rolling for all your critters super easy. If you aren’t familiar with the term ‘macro’, basically you can make a button that when you click it, it performs a special roll for you. Under the connections tab, click on +Add next to the macro to get a popup that looks like this:
Now say you wanted to make a macro for a Wolf; by typing in “/roll” then what you want to roll, you can literally do everything you need with one click. After you type a line, you can press Enter to a second roll to the same macro.
Once you save the macro and click the checkbox to add it in the bar, it will show up on the bottom of the screen as a button:
Click the button and you roll all at once. Eight attack and damage rolls in less than a second; meaning it’s easier than ever to destroy your enemies virtually.
You don’t by any means need to create a macro for every beast and fey in the Monster Manual after after you create a few macros, it will be easy to create them as needed. I suggest creating macros of summons you use most often and go from there.
An additional suggestion for the sake of preparation involves working with your DM to create an area of the map you can use to prepare tokens. The maps on Roll20 have a confined area that you can do stuff in, but more often than not you won’t need to use the whole area. With the OK of your DM, you can set aside a small area of the map where you can place and get tokens ready before you use them. That means when you choose your summons, you can place tokens, rename them and add health bars to them while you wait for your turn. Really it’s just another way to save time, but any time saved will be appreciated by everyone at your virtual table.
Up until level 5, you are going to feel a lot like other Druids when you aren’t using your totem. Druids still have a lot of good options for spells though. I’m splitting their spell list into Concentration Spells and Non-Concentration Spells because after level 5, your Concentration is going to be used on your Summons.
Control Flames– Limited utility cantrip. You need a non-magical flame to use it though which makes it situational.
Druidcraft– Fantastic flavor cantrip for a druid. The ability to light objects is really neat too. A great choice for anyone wanting to be more druid-y. Can be used by Pixies and Dryads.
Frostbite– Like Vicious Mockery, disadvantage on the enemies next attack roll is really nice. Unfortunately, it’s on a Con save which makes it extremely unreliable. Its one saving grace is that it has a 60ft range compared to 30 for Produce Flame which makes a big difference if you are trying to be safe.
Gust– Pushing 5ft on a Str save is peanuts. Just take Druidcraft if you want the flavor.
Infestation– Con save, poison damage and 5ft movement that you can’t even control makes this terrible.
Magic Stone– The damage isn’t bad and can be a solid 60ft range option. It doesn’t scale at higher levels though. It’s like a ranged Shillelagh.
Mending– Use is heavily situational. Some groups will get amazing use out of it, while in others it will never be used.
Mold Earth– You are an earthbender. If you can prepare where you fight, this can be a game breaking cantrip. In combat, you can make your own cover for a nice boost to AC. You can also leave messages in stone and create quick out-of-combat walls. Utility uses are excellent, but require a bit of creativity.
Poison Spray– Good damage but bad damage type and a Con save to take 0 damage. The range is also basically melee which is where you don’t want to be.
Primal Savagery– Your best melee cantrip because it scales well and has fantastic acid typing. It is melee though, so hopefully you wouldn’t get close enough to use it in the first place. It’s black overall just because you should ever be in melee, but if you do find yourself in melee, it’d be blue past level 5.
Produce Flame– Your go-to ranged damage cantrip. You will be casting this a lot. Shame it’s just fire damage, a d8 and has only a 30ft range. It sucks, but you don’t have better for its purpose.
Shape Water– You are a waterbender. The best utility of the elementally flavored cantrips because turning water into ice can be extremely useful. Just remember, water expands when it turns into ice.
Shillelagh– Does great damage at lower levels, but it not scaling means it’s not good past level 5 and you shouldn’t be in melee anyway. Past low level only campaigns, Primal Savagery is a better melee cantrip. Can also be cast by a Dryad.
Thorn Whip– I will always recommend taking this. The damage is pitiful but the 10ft pull is fantastic utility. Want something closer to you? Just pull it! Does minor damage to them but you can pull allies for no-opportunity attack shenanigans. Also note that you don’t HAVE to pull stuff. The spell says “you pull the creature up to 10 feet”, just pull it 0 feet. Also works well when combined with Spike Growth.
Thunderclap– Again, melee range, Con save for 0 damage, blah blah. It is an AOE if you are surrounded, but it’s VERY loud.
Absorb Elements– The type damage melee attack is useless to you, but damage resistance on a reaction is VERY good. Once you get your summons, you should be preparing this always.
Animal Friendship– You can literally talk to animals. Just give them a goodberry and they’ll love you. Can be situationally useful in combat if you have an animal you don’t want to fight against.
Charm Person– Good for social encounters but even then, since they know you charmed then, probably best to find other means.
Create or Destroy Water– Destroying fog is niche, but other than that it’s situational.
Cure Wounds– A good go-to heal spell. If you have a familiar, use it to deliver this since it’s a touch spell. Healing Word is generally better unless you have a familiar.
Earth Tremor– Melee range and high chance of friendly fire kill the use of this.
Goodberry– Fantastic spell. 10 HP worth of healing out of every cast and can be used to bribe animals you can talk to. Should always be prepared for you. Can be cast by a Dryad too. If you ever summon a Dryad, immediately have it cast all its Goodberries because they last 24 hours. **On that same note, you can and should also convert all of your spell slots into goodberries for the next day if you are taking a long rest.
Healing Word– If you don’t have a familiar, the go-to in combat healing spell to bring your party back from 0hp. If you have a familiar, just give it a goodberry and it performs the same role.
Ice Knife– Your blaster spell of choice for the time being. Requires an attack roll and save for full damage, but you don’t have better yet. Green until you get Erupting Earth at which point this becomes obsolete.
Longstrider– Good for Dwarves and Gnomes I guess.
Purify Food and Drink– Ritual is always a plus. Very campaign dependant though.
Snare– If you can set it up properly, it’s not terrible. There are better uses of your spell slots though.
Speak with Animals– You can already to this. Useless spell to you.
Thunderwave– AOE push back is nice, but like earth tremor it suffers from short range and high change of friendly fire. Black because it still is a pretty good “oh shit” spell.
Animal Messenger– Give them a goodberry and save yourself a spell slot.
Darkvision– Mine as well use the produce flame cantrip for light or turn into something with darkvision. Not red because you can cast it on someone else.
Find Traps– It doesn’t even tell you where the trap is? Why? This is worse than red.
Lesser Restoration– Good if you are fighting condition-heavy encounters, but dispel magic is generally better. The benefit of this is that it works with natural effects too.
Locate Plants or Animals– Deceptively good if you are looking for a specific creature to help you. Still situational though. Does help that it’s a ritual.
Protection from Poison– Resistance to poison is good if you can prepare for it. If you can’t, Lesser Restoration might serve you better.
Daylight– This doesn’t create sunlight, so it’s bad. Just use produce flame.
Dispel Magic– Fantastic spell and upcasts really well. Can also be cast by a Pixie and a Conclave Dryad.
Erupting Earth– This is what replaces ice knife and it will remain your go-to blasting spell. Less damage and smaller radius than fireball, but who cares, you can cast this while concentrating on summons. Never a bad idea to prepare it.
Feign Death– Extremely situational. Borders on useless. It’s a ritual I guess.
Meld into Stone– Free and safe short or long rest for yourself. The fact that it’s only for you though makes it limited. Most used as a concentration-free panic button. Can also be cast by a Korred.
Plant Growth– Double difficult terrain that STACKS with difficult terrain. Excellent CC spell that doesn’t require concentration. Can be cast by a Conclave Dryad.
Speak with Plants– Mostly useful for information gathering.
Tidal Wave– Doesn’t scale at all, but it is very good for proning a lot of creatures at once. Also has the benefit of being able to prone flying creatures making them fall. At higher levels think of it less as a damage spell and more utility to give your friends advantage on a bunch of things without needing pack tactics.
Water Breathing– If you have even a chance of ending up in water, this can be priceless; more for your team than yourself. It being a ritual is huge. Also can allow for underwater rests.
Water Walk– Pretend to be jesus. At least it’s a ritual. Not very useful.
Blight– A good blasting spell with damage similar to erupting earth. Only problems are it’s a Con save, has a short range and is single-target. If you are fighting plants for some reason, the damage is maxed though, so it’s awesome then.
Charm Monster– Alright CC in combat if you can land it provided your party doesn’t stupidly attack the creature. Against a single enemy, it’s useless though. Enemies fighting you also get advantage on the save.
Freedom of Movement– Protects against paralysis, restrained and grappled and can help your party deal with your own created difficult terrain. It acts as a concentration-less ‘get out of jail free’ card when needed most. Especially since your survivability is paramount.
Hallucinatory Terrain– Pretty great multi-use spell. Either use it offensively by hiding pitfalls and the like and making them look like flowerbeds, or use it defensively and take rests inside the illusion while creatures outside it may think that it’s the side of a mountain or something.
Ice Storm– Good multi-damage type spell with a HUGE range. If you are looking for damage though, upcasting erupting earth is still better. Can be cast by a Bheur Hag.
Stone Shape– Since you can’t make a passage through stone more than 5ft thick, this is highly situational. Can be cast by a Korred.
Awaken– 1000gp is a steep cost for what it does. You really need to get lucky finding a good beast to make it work. The cost is just too much to make it worth using on a plant.
Commune with Nature– It being a ritual is really good, and it’s probably your best bet to get a lay of the land. Can also be cast by a Korred.
Contagion– This spell is awesome. The best non-concentration debuff you have and can last 7 days! This makes it perfect for a hit and run. In combat if you make the attack roll, it’s at least poisoned for 3 turns as well. In addition to being poisoned, if it fails its saves, it has disadvantage on a save of your choice and can also be blinded, confused, vulnerable to all damage and can be stunned whenever it takes damage. You can only choose one, but that’s a pretty nice choice list. The cherry on top is that since it’s a touch spell, your familiar can deliver it. Think of a plague-bringing rat.
Geas– Has an extremely long 30 day duration, but its uses are limited since if it chooses to take the 5d10 psychic damage, it can pretty much do what it wants for a day.
Greater Restoration– 100gp isn’t terrible for removal of charm, petrify, exhaustion, curse, etc…
Mass Cure Wounds– Party heal. Can be used to heal your minions if you want too, which is a very nice deal for an instant cast.
Planar Binding– Again, 1000gp is quite expensive, but it can give you an elemental or fey slave for a long time. Since the price doesn’t go up, this is best upcast as much as possible. Also be sure to choose a good recipient, you don’t want to be stuck with a Mephit.
Reincarnate– Boo race change. Can ruin a well built character.
Transmute Rock– Fantastic concentration-less control spell. Very good 120ft range and provides double difficult terrain and forces restrain saves in a 40ft cube. The best use of the spell is to transmute rock to mud.
Bones of the Earth– Really good targeted CC, and can also make a barrier. You can also use it to lift your party to safety if need be.
Druid Grove– Looks fancy but it’s a 10 minute cast making it useless for combat. Unless you can force enemies to go into the area, it won’t be of much use.
Heal– What you see is what you get. Very good.
Heroes’ Feast– One of the better buffs in the game. Has a large 1000gp cost but if you can prepare it before an important boss fight it gives you: Immunity to poison and fear, advantage on Wisdom saves and HP max is increased by 2d10 for 24hr. Also, your summons can partake.
Transport Via Plants– Situational as it needs a large plant, but can be a great escape and you can use it to travel massive distances.
Wind Walk– This is not a combat spell as it takes 1 min to cast and you need 1 min to reform after, but it lasting 8hr and affecting up to 10 creatures means it can be an excellent utility and infiltration tool.
Fire Storm– The fact that you can mold the area of this spell is really nice, but if you are looking for damage, upcasting erupting earth is better.
Mirage Arcane– A beefed up version of Hallucinatory terrain. Unless you need the terrain to be more convincing, Hallucinatory terrain is better.
Plane Shift– Banish that big baddie to the elemental plane of fire, or drown it in the elemental plane of water. Works on a Charisma save which is very nice.
Regenerate– Better used to keep your beef tank from dying for an hour than for the actual healing since it’s a 1 min cast time, but it does do a great job at that if you can cast it before you go into combat.
Antipathy/Sympathy– This can be a really fun spell to use if you can prepare it. Since its range is 60ft or sight, a creature you pick will pretty much always be having to make Wisdom saves against fear while fighting you. You can use Sympathy to gather up an army of forest animals too, and it can have hilarious results if used in social circumstances.
Feeblemind– This is a hilariously devastating spell. Use it against a barbarian or fighter to make an easy instant potato or chance to cast it against any caster and completely neuter them. The craziest part about this is the creature can repeat the save once every THIRTY DAYS.
Sunburst– Decent that it’s not concentration, but the Con save makes it less desirable and upcasting erupting earth still does more damage. Best used against undead.
Foresight– 8 hour duration advantage on attack rolls, ability checks, and saving throws and enemies have disadvantage on attack rolls against them, yes please. An excellent buff for a 9th level spell slot.
True Resurrection– 25,000gp??? It is resurrection though…
Create Bonfire– Concentration means that you won’t get much use of it past level 5. Produce flame is better anyway.
Guidance– An excellent cantrip that can provide a d4 on any ability check, including skill checks. You can, and should even use it on initiative. The only downside is that it is concentration, so you shouldn’t be using it in combat or when you have summons out. With cantrip versatility, you should be taking this at character creation and only swap it out if you start to not use it because of your summons. Still, I suggest using it before combat if you can to get some extra initiative, which will always be useful.
Resistance– You have to plan for a saving throw? Guidance is better than this if you are looking for a support cantrip.
Beast Bond– Not really worth the spell slot and concentration. Telepathy is nice, but your beasts and you can understand each other well enough anyway. The beast does get advantage attacking something in melee range to you, but you shouldn’t be there anyway.
Detect Magic– Great spell, try to always use it as a ritual.
Detect Poison and Disease– It’s a ritual which is something I guess, but most things that remove poison or disease remove it regardless of the specifics, so this is pretty useless unless your DM is extremely specific.
Entangle– Fantastic CC spell for a 1st level spell slot. Since it’s concentration though, it might be better to Conjure Pixies or Dryads and have them cast it for you if you have the means. Definitely a good spell though, especially against low Str casters. Can be cast by a Pixie or a Dryad.
Faerie Fire– Excellent debuff, especially against invisible enemies. Everything having advantage against the affected is very good.
Fog Cloud– More limited for CC than other hard CC’s, but it can be crippling against ranged attackers. Can be cast by an Ice Mephit and Annis Hag.
Barkskin– A very nice early buff. 16 AC doesn’t take you very far in later levels but early on it can be a large buff on squishies. Can be cast by a Dryad, and should provided it’s not concentrating on pass without trace or entangle.
Beast Sense– The beast can just tell you what it sees, or you can use a familiar for the same thing.
Dust Devil– Pretty all around terrible. You are better off casting Moonbeam or Call Lightning.
Earthbind– Fantastic in the right circumstances. Got a floaty beholder? Make that baby drop to your paladin.
Enhance Ability– An excellent buff if you are preparing for a specific check. Most likely used on the Bard to give him advantage on Charisma checks. It’s only black because since its concentration, you wouldn’t be preparing it unless you have a purpose in mind for it. If you didn’t need to concentrate on summons, this would be higher.
Flame Blade– Useless on you.
Flaming Sphere– Good earlier levels as you can move it to damage as a bonus action, which is unique for you. Best use of it is to cast instant duration spells while using your bonus action to ram this for maximum DPR until you get summons.
Gust of Wind– Only good if you can push enemies off something high.
Healing Spirit– Pre-Errata: The best out-of-combat healing spell in the game. You can basically full heal your party out of combat. One of the few very good reasons to break your concentration. Post-Errata: Worthless. Out of combat healing should now be done with Goodberries.
Heat Metal– Excellent debuff/CC that’s without a save if you cast it on armor and gives them disadvantage on attacks and saves. Very worth a spell slot to cast it via Magma Mephits. Can be cast by a Magma Mephit.
Hold Person– Wisdom save for paralysis is a good save for a great condition, and upcasting lets you affect more than one person. Unfortunately, the target needs to be a humanoid. Can be cast by a Bheur Hag.
Locate Object– Useful if you lose things often. Or for scavenger hunts. Probably not worth the concentration.
Moonbeam– Bad Con save, decent damage, AOE denial and can move it as an action. Similar to Call Lightning in that it’s good for spell slot conservation, but if you can cast Call Lightning, that’s usually better. Can be cast by a Conclave Dryad.
Pass without Trace– Must have stealth buff for infiltration. +10 to stealth is huge. Can be cast by a Dryad, and probably should should you need the spell.
Skywrite– it’s a ritual, otherwise bad/extremely situational. Especially for your precious concentration.
Spike Growth– Good when combined with Thorn Whip. The damage falls off at higher levels, but it’s very good if you are being chased by lots of little guys. Concentration makes it less useful for you. Can be cast by a Conclave Dryad.
Warding Wind– Only useful if you are only being attacked at range and don’t need concentration for other things. (which is never).
Call Lightning– Needs to either be cast outdoors or in a massive indoor area, which makes it unfortunately situational. Other than that, it’s a good spell slot conservation blasting spell.
Conjure Animals– You should know all about this by now. If this is ever not prepared, you are doing it wrong.
Flame Arrows– Even if you used a bow, there are better things for your concentration.
Protection from Energy– You shouldn’t be wasting your combat potential using your concentration to give resistance to a party member. Still has situational use.
Sleet Storm– Another great CC spell. It’s perfect against other casters because it forces concentration saves and causes prone on a failed Dex save.
Wall of Water– You have much better choices for walls. Even wind wall is better than this.
Wind Wall– Not great but better than wall of water in that gas, projectiles and small fliers can’t pass. Still just better to create a wall of furry animals.
Confusion– Unfortunate that there is a chance the enemy can still move normally. The best option is a 40% chance to do nothing. Still it can be cast by Pixies and probably should be relegated to that, since you should be using your concentration and spell slot for Conjure Woodland Being.
Conjure Minor Elementals– You need to cast this outside of combat, but the Mephits can provide some really nice spells.
Conjure Woodland Beings– The only real alternative to Conjure Animals. Excellent spell.
Control Water– Unless you are at sea, isn’t worth much. If you are at sea, you become Aquaman (but useful).
Dominate Beast– Terrible concentration spell. You will have better luck trying to talk down the animal. Also goodberries.
Elemental Bane– Way too situational. It would be better if it affected immunities as well.
Giant Insect– You mean Giant Scorpion? Good for a one-trick, but remember that you do need an actual scorpion. It doesn’t Conjure one, you essentially make it grow.
Grasping Vine– Its best use is to pull enemies into hazards. Unfortunately, since it’s concentration, you can’t really use your own hazards and have to rely on natural hazards or ones created by a party member. Nice flavor and utility though. Can be cast by a Conclave Dryad.
Guardian of Nature– Really neat flavor but it being concentration ruins any nice synergies the great tree for may have with your other spells and primal beast is more of a melee thing.
Locate Creature– If you want to track, turn into a wolf and track properly.
Polymorph– This amazing spell can either be a buff or debuff. Buff your allies by turning them into a Mammoth, or debuff your enemies by turning them into a seahorse. Can be cast by a Pixie, and probably should because you can have 8 Pixies each cast polymorph on you and your allies or have one of the Pixies turn an enemy into a slug, turn into a bird, pick up the slug, fly it straight up and drop it. Splat.
Stoneskin– 100gp isn’t worth what it does. Again, concentration is better spent elsewhere.
Wall of Fire– Creatures can just walk through the wall. Sure they take damage, but that’s not really the point of a wall. It can work well against a lot of weaker creatures though.
Watery Sphere– Ok CC that can gather restrained enemies for other purposes. One of the few spells that can concentrate enemies. Release on Strength success is a downside though
Antilife Shell– Perfect spell to keep melee enemies away. Fairly simple in practice, and does exactly what it says it does.
Conjure Elemental– Earth Elementals make the perfect tank. Elementals in general are quite resilient due to their bevy of resistances and immunities. Just DON’T lose concentration. An earth-only version can be cast by a Korred.
Control Winds– The effects are all highly situational.
Insect Plague– 300ft range is fantastic. Ok damage on a Con save is not.
Maelstrom– Another spell with a similar function to watery sphere in that it gathers enemies. If you have another player that can make use of the effect, it can be a pretty good combo.
Scrying– You can now be omniscient. Gamebreaking if used well.
Tree Stride– Unfortunate that it has to be concentration. In that way transport via plants is a better spell for transportation. This spell can be fun for messing with a melee enemy while hopping around then through the trees.
Wall of Stone– Functions as a wall should. The nice part is it becomes permanent if you concentrate on it for 10 min. I would say stick with your wall of furry friends for combat, but out of combat, especially if you have days to fortify, go nuts.
Wrath of Nature– Really fun little spell, and provided you use it in a forest-y area can really mess up enemies. In a 60ft cube it can: create difficult terrain, do 4d6 slashing to all enemies in the area, restrain one creature and do 3d8 and prone another. This is what Druid Grove should have been more like.
Conjure Fey– This spell can create some pretty insane casters. If you want blasting power, Conjure one of the CR 7’s and go to town.
Find the Path– GPS. Just ask a bird for directions.
Investiture of Flame– The immunity and resistance is nice if planned for. Everything else is garbage.
Investiture of Ice– The immunity and resistance is nice if planned for. Everything else is garbage.
Investiture of Stone– The resistance is nice if planned for. The earthquake is better than the other investitures, but it being a short ranged AOE means you shouldn’t be using it.
Investiture of Wind– You can already turn into a bird and fly.
Move Earth– It doesn’t affect stone, which is unfortunate. If you didn’t choose the mold earth cantrip, this is basically the same.
Primordial Ward– Absorb elements is generally better to always keep on your spell list, but this can be crucial if you are fighting something like a dragon.
Sunbeam– Does good damage in a line, and can be devastating against undead. Unfortunate that it’s a Con save.
Wall of Thorns– Double difficult terrain and decent damage makes for a better version of wall of fire. Can be cast by a Conclave Dryad.
Reverse Gravity– An insta-win button if you are outside. Auto failed save if they have nothing to grab on to and they just float up to 100ft before plummeting and taking huge fall damage.
Whirlwind– A really good use of a spell for conserving spell slots. Does decent damage, restrains on a failed Strength save, pulls enemies into the air if they fail the save AND if they succeed on any following saves, they get flung 3d6x10 feet away. That’s a max 180 feet that they can get flung. This spell can lead to some pretty hilarious results.
Animal Shapes– Note the “any number”. Find an army, turn them into Giant Elks. Easiest win ever.
Control Weather– Takes forever to actually implement decent changes. If you can get it to work well, good for you. Can be cast by a Bheur Hag.
Earthquake– 500ft range is substantial and can devastate casters and structures. Casters are forced to make Con saves, does huge damage to structures and if you can get lucky with the fissures, can be pretty nifty.
Tsunami– Range of SIGHT. Devastate that army before they even get to you. Also the save DC is just for the damage, creatures get moved regardless.
Shapechange– The power of this spell pretty much depends on how nice your DM is willing to be.
Storm of Vengeance– Definitely not a bad spell but it is situational. It’s not meant to be cast in-combat but instead, its use is in devastating an entire army while you laugh at them on a tower far away.
Spells to Always Prepare
There are obviously going to be spells you should have on you at all times (other than the Conjure Spells that is). Here are a few of the absolute essentials, once you have the spell slots.
Guidance– Though concentration, its uses are limitless to help you and your party. Your skill monkey will appreciate the help and you can even use it on yourself for a bonus to initiative. While produce flame is the best cantrip you have for damage, this is your best utility cantrip which makes it essential for a utility caster. It was rated lower before cantrip versatility, but since it can be swapped out if it interfered too much with your summons, it is a must-have.
Absorb Elements– This spell is more useful at later levels, but it is amazing. It’s the only spell you have that can be used with your reaction and the ability to have resistance to some very common damage types is HUGE. You won’t always use this spell but it’s essential to have to save your skin. The melee attack damage does not matter to you.
Goodberry– A goodberry combined with Speech of the Woods is basically animal friendship, animal messenger, beast bond and a Familiar all rolled into one. Just one berry offers you enough nourishment for a whole day so you can imagine how enticing that is for a tiny animal. Most animals spend a substantial amount of their time finding and consuming food so if some Druid walks up who not only can talk to them but offers them a delicious goodberry, any animal would do anything for you for a day worth of sustenance and saved energy, as long as they aren’t harming themselves. The uses are limitless, not even counting the healing it can provide.
Healing Word– Your primary use of Bonus Action provided you aren’t casting or moving your Spirit Totem. It may not provide much healing, but it’s your best spell for saving an unconscious ally. That makes it essential, and the lack of healing power is offset not only by the unicorn spirit, but the next spell as well.
Aura of Vitality– The spiritual successor to the old Healing Spirit in that it lets you heal a huge amount of HP out-of-combat. 1 minute duration, 2d6 healing per bonus action means you can pump out a whopping 20d6 healing amongst your party for a 3rd level slot. Essential if you are your party's only healer. It does share a slot with Conjure Animals, but when you need it, you need it.
Revivify– As with Aura of Vitality the vast majority of the time this will just sit on your prepared spell list while you use the slots for Conjure Animals, but it’s priceless when you need it the most.
Panic Button Spells:
As concentration is paramount, your safety is paramount. That being said, you will be put into positions where crap hits the fan and you just have to GTFO. In those cases, you need to have spells that can increase your survivability, get you out of harm or reduce damage taken. Absorb Elements is one you should always prepare as mentioned above, but you should keep another on hand just in-case. As these are more situational, you should pick one or two at higher levels, but the specifics are up to your situation.
Level 1: Thunder Wave- Not good, but if you know you are fighting in close-contact with nothing else, it has its uses. Mostly for escaping opportunity attacks.
Level 3: Meld into Stone- If you are hidden when you cast it, you mine as well have disappeared. It leaves your party to fend for themselves, but that’s kind of the nature of panic buttons anyway. Even if they do know what happened to you, being submerged in rock makes you pretty protected from most things short of dispel magic and explosions.
Level 4: Freedom of Movement- Pretty much one of the best non-teleportation panic button spells. Cast it and run; almost nothing can stop you. It shares a slot with Conjure Woodland Beings, but Freedom of Movement is still probably the best non-teleport escape spell to prepare.
Stone Shape- Extremely situational as you need to escape through a stone wall less than 5ft thick, so it’s not as versatile as Meld into Stone. Though if you can make it work, it’s a better version of that and your whole party can go with you.
Level 5: Tree Stride- An excellent spell if you are in an area with a lot of trees. It does require concentration but since you can basically remove yourself from combat, it’s extremely strong as a panic button. It does share slots with Transmute Rock, but since you get it much earlier than Plane Shift and there are a ton of great 6th level spells, Tree Stride is arguably the best panic teleport to prepare.
Level 6: Transport via Plants- An improved version of Tree Stride that doesn’t need concentration. It's only downside is that enemies can follow you through it if you don’t end it before their turn, so coordination is required if you want your party to come.
Level 7: Plane Shift- A further functional improvement to Transport via Plants with the only down-side this time being that your party needs to link hands in a circle, so coordination is still required if you plan on using it with your whole party.
Level 8: Animal Shapes- The party-version of Wild-Shaping into a Giant Owl and GTFOing. Requires concentration and it’s better used as an offensive spell but if you need it, you need it.
*Special mention to Fog Cloud, Antilife Shell and Primordial Ward for these purposes. Requires concentration but is still functional for the role situationally. Antilife Shell; extremely so but when it works, it works really well.
Choosing the Right Summons
I decided to make things a bit easier by creating a spreadsheet of most of the below relevant information:
*NOTE this is NOT meant to replace the sourcebooks; this is only to be used as a reference.
Conjured Creature by Spell
This is useful for me so I figure I’d share it. Why cast spells when you can make your minions cast them for you?
Aid- CR 3 Forlarren.
Barkskin– CR 1 Dryad.
Bestow Curse– Hag Coven.
Blur– CR ? Steam Mephit.
Burning Hands- CR 4 Oread.
Calm Emotions- CR 1 Alseid.
Charm Person- CR 1 Alseid.
Chill Touch- CR 3 Lampad.
Commune with Nature– CR 7 Korred.
Cone of Cold– CR 7 Bheur Hag.
Confusion– CR ? Pixie.
Conjure Elemental– CR 7 Korred.
Contact Other Plane– Hag Coven.
Control Weather– CR 7 Bheur Hag.
Counterspell– Hag Coven.
Cure Wounds- CR 1 Alseid.
Dancing Lights– CR ? Deep Rothe. CR ? Pixie. CR ? Smoke Mephit. CR 3 Green Hag.
Darkness– CR 2 Darkling Elder.
Detect Good and Evil– CR ? Pixie.
Detect Magic– CR 6 Dusk Hag.
Detect Thoughts– CR ? Pixie.
Disguise Self– CR 6 Annis Hag. CR 6 Dusk Hag.
Dispel Magic– CR ? Pixie. CR 9 Conclave Dryad.
Dream– CR 6 Dusk Hag.
Druidcraft– CR 0 Chwinga. CR ? Pixie. CR 1 Dryad. CR 9 Conclave Dryad.
Entangle– CR ? Pixie. CR 1 Dryad.
Expeditious Retreat– CR 3 Forlarren.
Eyebite– Hag Coven.
False Life- CR 3 Forlarren.
Fire Bolt- CR 4 Oread.
Fly– CR ? Pixie. CR 2 Naiad.
Fog Cloud– CR ? Ice Mephit. CR 6 Annis Hag.
Gentle Repose- CR 3 Lampad.
Goodberry– CR 1 Dryad.
Grasping Vine– CR 9 Conclave Dryad.
Guidance- CR 0 Chwinga.
Heal- CR 3 Forlarren.
Heat Metal– CR ? Magma Mephit. CR 3 Forlarren.
Hellish Rebuke- CR 4 Oread.
Hold Person– CR 7 Bheur Hag. Hag Coven.
Hypnotic Pattern– CR 2 Naiad. CR 6 Dusk Hag.
Ice Storm– CR 7 Bheur Hag.
Identify– Hag Coven.
Legend Lore– CR 6 Dusk Hag.
Lesser Restoration- CR 1 Alseid.
Lightning Bolt– Hag Coven.
Locate Object– Hag Coven.
Meld into Stone– CR 7 Korred.
Minor Illusion– CR 2 Naiad. CR 3 Forlarren. CR 3 Green Hag.
Mirror Image- CR 3 Forlarren.
Misty Step- CR 3 Forlarren.
Moonbeam– CR 9 Conclave Dryad.
Otto’s Irresistible Dance– CR 7 Korred.
Pass without a Trace– CR 0 Chwinga. CR 1 Dryad.
Phantasmal Force– CR ? Pixie. CR 2 Naiad.
Phantasmal Killer– Hag Coven.
Plant Growth– CR 1 Alseid. CR 9 Conclave Dryad.
Polymorph– CR ? Pixie. Hag Coven.
Prestidigitation- CR 3 Forlarren.
Ray of Frost– CR 7 Bheur Hag.
Ray of Sickness– Hag Coven.
Resistance- CR 0 Chwinga.
Scorching Ray- CR 4 Oread.
Scrying– CR 6 Dusk Hag. Hag Coven.
Shillelagh– CR 1 Dryad.
Sleep– CR ? Pixie. CR ? Dust Mephit. CR 1 Alseid. CR 6 Dusk Hag.
Spike Growth– CR 9 Conclave Dryad.
Stone Shape– CR 7 Korred.
Tasha’s Hideous Laughter- CR 3 Forlarren.
Vicious Mockery– CR 3 Green Hag.
Wall of Ice– CR 7 Bheur Hag.
Wall of Thorns– CR 9 Conclave Dryad.
Conjured Creature by Condition
CC wins fights. Use it frequently and well. I’m not counting very specific and conditional CC like the Giant Centipede’s paralyzed and poisoned only if it reduces an enemy to 0hp or any death burst effects.
Blinded– CR ? Giant Frog. CR ? Smoke Mephit. CR ? Dust Mephit. CR 1 Giant Toad. CR 1 Old Croaker.
Charmed– CR ? Satyr Pipes. CR 1 Dryad.
Feared– CR ? Satyr Pipes. CR 2 Meenlock. CR 2 Sea Hag. CR 4 Yeth Hound. CR 7 Bheur Hag.
Grapple– CR ? Giant Crab. CR ? Constrictor Snake. CR ? Giant Frog. CR ? Crocodile. CR 1 Giant Octopus. CR 1 Giant Toad. CR 1 Old Croaker. CR 2 Giant Constrictor Snake. CR 3 Giant Scorpion. CR 3 Water Weird. CR 5 Giant Crocodile. CR 5 Salamander. CR 5 Water Elemental. CR 6 Annis Hag. CR 7 Korred. CR 8 Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Incapacitated– CR 7 Bheur Hag.
Paralyzed– CR 2 Meenlock.
Poisoned– CR ? Sprite. CR ? Stench Kow.
Prone– CR ? Boggle. CR ? Mastiff. CR ? Mountain Goat. CR ? Boar. CR ? Elk. CR ? Panther. CR ? Reindeer. CR ? Wolf. CR ? Giant Goat. CR ? Giant Sea Horse. CR ? Warhorse. CR 1 Deinonychus. CR 1 Dire Wolf. CR 1 Lion. CR 1 Tiger. CR 2 Allosaurus. CR 2 Auroch. CR 2 Giant Boar. CR 2 Giant Elk. CR 2 Rhinoceros. CR 2 Saber-Toothed Tiger. CR 3 Ankylosaurus. CR 3 Awakened White Moose. CR 3 Redcap. CR 4 Elephant. CR 5 Air Elemental. CR 5 Brontosaurus. CR 5 Giant Crocodile. CR 5 Triceratops. CR 6 Galeb Duhr. CR 6 Mammoth. CR 7 Earth Elemental Myrmidon.
Restrained– CR ? Boggle. CR ? Constrictor Snake. CR ? Giant Frog. CR ? Mud Mephit. CR ? Crocodile. CR 1 Giant Octopus. CR 1 Giant Spider. CR 1 Giant Toad. CR 2 Giant Constrictor Snake. CR 3 Water Weird. CR 5 Giant Crocodile. CR 5 Salamander. CR 5 Water Elemental. CR 7 Korred. CR 8 Tyrannosaurus Rex. CR 9 Conclave Dryad.
Strength Drain– CR ? Reflection.
Stunned– CR 3 Flail Snail. CR 7 Air Elemental Myrmidon.
Unconscious– CR ? Satyr Pipes.
Conjured Creature by Resistance, Immunity and Vulnerability
Non-Magic blg, prc, sls: CR ? Reflection (*vuln to blg), CR 2 Gargoyle, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Earth), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water), CR 5 Salamander, CR 6 Annis Hag, CR 7 Korred
Acid: CR ? Reflection
Cold: CR ? Stench Kow, CR ? Reflection, CR 6 Annis Hag
Fire: CR ? Boggle, CR ? Stench Kow, CR ? Reflection
Lightning: CR ? Reflection, CR 5 Elemental (Air)
Necrotic: CR 3 Lampad
Poison: CR ? Stench Kow
Psychic: CR 2 Naiad
Radiant: CR 1 Alseid
Thunder: CR ? Reflection, CR 5 Elemental (Air)
Non-Magic blg, prc, sls: CR 4 Yeth Hound
Cold: CR 1 Old Croaker, CR 7 Bheur Hag
Fire: CR ? Mephit (Smoke), CR ? Mephit (Dust), CR ? Mephit (Magma), CR 4 Oread, CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Salamander
Necrotic: CR ? Reflection
Poison: CR ? Mephit (Mud), CR ? Mephit (Smoke), CR ? Mephit (Dust), CR ? Mephit (Magma), CR ? Reflection, CR 1 Alseid, CR 2 Gargoyle, CR 2 Naiad, CR 3 Lampad, CR 4 Oread, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Earth), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Blind: CR 6 Dusk Hag
Charm: CR 1 Alseid, CR 2 Naiad, CR 3 Lampad, CR 4 Oread, CR 4 Yeth Hound, CR 6 Dusk Hag
Exhaust: CR ? Reflection, CR 2 Gargoyle, CR 4 Yeth Hound, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Earth), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Frighten: CR ? Reflection, CR 1 Alseid, CR 2 Naiad, CR 3 Lampad, CR 4 Oread, CR 4 Yeth Hound, CR 6 Dusk Hag
Grapple: CR ? Reflection, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Paralyze: CR ? Reflection, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Earth), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Petrify: CR ? Reflection, CR 2 Gargoyle, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Earth), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Poison: CR ? Mephit (Mud), CR ? Mephit (Smoke), CR ? Mephit (Dust), CR ? Mephit (Magma), CR ? Reflection, CR 1 Alseid, CR 2 Gargoyle, CR 2 Naiad, CR 3 Lampad, CR 4 Oread, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Earth), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Prone: CR ? Reflection, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Restrained: CR ? Reflection, CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Unconscious: CR 5 Elemental (Air), CR 5 Elemental (Earth), CR 5 Elemental (Fire), CR 5 Elemental (Water)
Bludgeoning: CR ? Reflection
Cold: CR ? Mephit (Magma), CR 5 Salamander
Thunder: CR 5 Elemental (Earth)
Conjured Creature by Specialty
Burrow Speed (>5ft): 10ft. CR ? Giant Badger 20ft. CR 5 Xorn 30ft. CR 5 Earth Elemental, CR 7 Korred, 40ft. CR 9 Frost Salamander
Climb Speed (>20ft): 30ft. CR 0 Baboon, CR 0 Cat, CR ? Boggle, CR ? Mountain Goat, CR ? Giant Centipede, CR ? Giant Lizard, CR ? Giant Ape, CR ? Black Bear, CR 1 Brown Bear, CR 1 Giant Spider 40ft. CR ? Giant Wolf Spider, CR ? Panther, CR 7 Giant Ape, CR 9 Frost Salamander
Fly Speed (>60ft): 80ft. CR 1 Giant Eagle, CR 2 Quetzalcoatlus 90ft. CR 5 Air Elemental
Speed (>50ft): 60ft. CR ? Riding Horse, CR ? Warhorse, CR 2 Allosaurus, CR 2 Aurochs, CR 2 Giant Elk, CR 9 Frost Salamander 70ft. CR 1 Moorbounder, CR 3 Bristled Moorbounder 120ft. CR 1 Quickling
Swim Speed (>40ft): 50ft. CR 5 Giant Crocodile, CR 5 Giant Shark 60ft. CR ? Dolphin, CR 1 Giant Octopus, CR 3 Killer Whale, CR 3 Water Weird, CR 8 Sperm Whale 90ft. CR 5 Water Elemental
Blindsight (>30ft): 60ft. CR 0 Bat, CR 0 Chwinga, CR ? Giant Bat, CR ? Giant Centipede, CR ? Darkling, CR 3 Giant Scorpion, CR 5 Giant Shark, CR 6 Dusk Hag 120ft. CR 3 Killer Whale, CR 8 Sperm Whale
Darkvision (>60ft): 120ft. CR 0 Owl, CR ? Giant Owl, CR ? Darkling, CR 2 Darkling Elder, CR 2 Meenlock, CR 7 Korred
Iron Scent: 30ft. CR ? Khargra
Telepathy: 30ft. CR 0 Cranium Rat 120ft. CR 2 Meenlock
Tremorsense: 60ft. CR 3 Flail Snail, CR 5 Earth Elemental, CR 5 Xorn, CR 6 Galeb Duhr, CR 9 Frost Salamander 120ft. CR 7 Korred
Amorphous: CR ? Reflection
Amphibious: CR 0 Crab, CR 0 Frog, CR ? Giant Frog, CR 1 Giant Toad, CR 1 Old Croaker, CR 2 Naiad, CR 2 Sea Hag, CR 3 Green Hag
Flyby: CR 0 Owl, CR ? Flying Snake, CR ? Giant Owl, CR ? Pteranodon, CR 2 Quetzalcoatlus
Magic Resistance: CR ? Pixie, CR ? Satyr, CR 1 Alseid, CR 1 Dryad, CR 1 Satyr Reveler, CR 2 Naiad, CR 2 Satyr Thornbearer, CR 3 Forlarren, CR 3 Lampad, CR 6 Dusk Hag
Magical Charm: CR 0 Chwinga
Mimicry: CR 0 Raven
Pack Tactics: CR ? Blood Hawk, CR ? Giant Rat, CR ? Velociraptor, CR ? Wolf, CR ? Reef Shark, CR 1 Dire Wolf, CR 1 Giant Raven, CR 1 Giant Vulture, CR 1 Lion
Conjured Creature by Skills
Acrobatics: +5. CR ? Darkling, CR 1 Satyr Reveler, CR 2 Darkling Elder, CR 3 Forlarren +7. CR 0 Chwinga +8. CR 1 Quickling +9. CR 7 Giant Ape, CR 7 Korred
Arcana: +3. CR 3 Green Hag
Athletics: +5. CR ? Ape +6. CR 3 Redcap
Deception: +2. CR ? Darkling +3. CR 2 Darkling Elder +4. CR 3 Green Hag +5. CR 5 Annis Hag +6. CR 3 Lampad. +7. CR 6 Dusk Hag +8. CR 3 Forlarren
Insight: +6. CR 6 Dusk Hag.
Intimidation: +6. CR 3 Lampad.
Nature: +4. CR 7 Bheur Hag
Perception (>+4): +5. CR ? Giant Owl, CR ? Darkling, CR 1 Quickling, CR 2 Allosaurus, CR 2 Satyr Thornbearer, CR 6 Annis Hag, CR 7 Korred +6. CR 2 Darkling Elder, CR 5 Xorn, CR 6 Dusk Hag +7. CR 0 Chwinga +8. CR 6 Invisible Stalker
Performance: +6. CR ? Satyr, CR 2 Satyr Thornbearer +7. CR 1 Satyr Reveler
Persuasion: +6. CR 1 Alseid, CR 2 Naiad
Sleight of Hand: +6. CR ? Boggle +8. CR 1 Quickling
Stealth (>+6): +7. CR 0 Chwinga, CR ? Giant Wolf Spider, CR ? Pixie, CR ? Darkling, CR 1 Giant Spider, CR 2 Darkling Elder +8. CR ? Sprite, CR 1 Quickling +10. CR 6 Invisible Stalker
Survival: +2. CR 2 Meenlock +4. CR 7 Bheur Hag
Constitution Saves: +4. CR 2 Azer +5. CR 6 Annis Hag +6. CR 5 Brontosaurus +8. CR 9 Frost Salamander
Wisdom Saves: +4. CR 7 Bheur Hag, CR 9 Frost Salamander
Conjured Creature by Size
Tiny: CR 0 Chwinga, CR ? Flying Snake, CR ? Poisonous Snake, CR ? Stirge, CR ? Pixie, CR ? Sprite, CR ? Velociraptor, CR 1 Quickling
Small: CR ? Blood Hawk, CR ? Boggle, CR ? Giant Rat, CR ? Giant Centipede, CR ? Mud Mephit, CR ? Smoke Mephit, CR ? Steam Mephit, CR ? Darkling, CR ? Dust Mephit, CR ? Ice Mephit, CR ? Magma Mephit, CR ? Magmin, CR 2 Meenlock, CR 3 Redcap, CR 7 Korred
Medium and Large: The vast majority of summoned creatures are medium and large size, so it wouldn’t be very useful listing them all. Size is generally more important in enclosed spaces; therefore being medium is more useful than large creatures in those instances. When you can’t make use of the wolves Pack Tactics or the giant poisonous snakes poison, some worthwhile medium mentions are the CR ? Deep Rothé and the CR ? Fastieth. The Deep Rothé is the weaker cow cousin of the Stench Kow, but it is the only cow to be medium and it shares the attack and charge of its cow brethren with added darkvision and the Dancing Lights spell at will making it great for caves. The Fastieth has a good +6 to hit and 8 average damage making it a decent go-to if you can’t use pack tactics or poison. They are quite frail, but their quickness makes them difficult to hit.
Huge: CR 2 Giant Constrictor Snake, CR 2 Giant Elk, CR 2 Quetzalcoatlus, CR 3 Ankylosaurus, CR 3 Killer Whale, CR 4 Elephant, CR 4 Giant Walrus, CR 4 Stegosaurus, CR 5 Giant Crocodile, CR 5 Giant Shark, CR 5 Triceratops, CR 6 Mammoth, CR 7 Giant Ape, CR 8 Tyrannosaurus Rex, CR 9 Frost Salamander
Gargantuan: CR 5 Brontosaurus, CR 8 Sperm Whale
Conjured Creature by Damage
Assuming average damage and all attacks hit or saves fail. This is per-creature so obviously the lower CR’s will end up multiplicative in practical application. Remember that with Mighty Summoner, all summoned creature attacks are magical. Attacks requiring specific circumstances (Like the enemy needing to be prone) are not added. Also, summoned creature by spell has its own section so spells are not taken into account. Special note that while it doesn’t deal enough damage to be on this list, the CR ? Reflection is special in that it can kill outright if it saps strength to 0.
M=Multiattack prc=Piercing Damage blg=Bludgeoning Damage sls=Slashing Damage poi=Poison Damage C=Charge Added *=Attack has CC component +#=To Hit bonus PT=Pack Tactics(Much easier hits)
DPR (Damage Per Round) by CR, Multi-Summons
CR ?: Flying Snake (+6, 1prc 7poi), Mountain Goat (+4, 8 blg C*)
CR ?: Draft Horse (+6, 9blg), Giant Badger (+3, 4prc 6sls M), Velociraptor (+4, 5prc 4sls M PT), Giant Centipede (+4, 4prc 10poi), Elk (+5, 13blg C*), Cow/Rothe/Ox/Deep Rothe/Stench Kow (+6, 14prc C), Giant Poisonous Snake (+6, 6prc 10poi), Reindeer (+5, 13blg C*)
CR ?: Ape (+5, 12blg M), Giant Goat (+5, 13blg C*), Giant Wasp (+4, 5prc 10poi)
CR 1: Giant Vulture (+4, 7prc 9sls M PT), Deinonychus (+4, 6prc 12sls M), Brown Bear (+6, 8prc 11sls M), Quickling (+8, 24prc M)
CR 2: Quetzalcoatlus (+4, 22prc C), Satyr Thornbearer (+6, 21prc M), Cave Bear/Polar Bear (+7, 9prc 12sls M), Aurochs (+7, 23prc C*), Rhinoceros (+7, 23blg C*)
Honorable mention to the Goat for being the most damaging CR 0 creature with +3, 5blg C*.
DPR by CR, Single Summons
CR 3: Giant Scorpion (+4, 12blg* 7prc 22poi M), Awakened White Moose (+6, 13 prc 18 blg C*M)
CR 5: Brontosaurus (+8, 32blg), Salamander (+7, 13prc 11blg* 10fir M), Giant Crocodile (+8, 21prc* 14blg* M)
CR 6: Annis Hag (+8, 15prc 30sls M)
CR 7(Upcast): Giant Ape (+9, 44blg), Korred (+9, 48blg)
Conjured Creature by Tankiness
Summoned creatures by AC (Tanky) and HP (Beefy). If you have to put something between the enemy and you, by all means, but generally it’s better to CC enemies if you can. (I’m not counting creatures with good AC but terrible HP and vice versa)
*= Creatures with applicable resistances or immunities
14: CR ? Boggle*, CR ? Flying Snake, CR ? Stirge, CR ? Fastieth, CR ? Giant Poisonous Snake, CR ? Darkling, CR ? Satyr*, CR 1 Dire Wolf, CR 1 Fire Snake*, CR 1 Giant Spider, CR 2 Giant Elk, CR 2 Sea Hag
15: CR ? Giant Crab, CR 1 Alseid*, CR 2 Darkling Elder, CR 2 Gargoyle*, CR 2 Meenlock, CR 2 Naiad*, CR 2 Satyr Thornbearer
16: CR 1 Dryad* (with Barkskin), CR 1 Quickling (Its HP is very low but its Blurred Movement makes up for it)
17: CR 2 Azer*
Mention: The CR ? Warhorse variant, Warhorse Armor can increase its AC to between 12-18.
AC>16, Single Summons
17: CR 3 Green Hag, CR 5 Earth Elemental*, CR 6 Annis Hag*, CR 7 Bheur Hag*
18: CR 7 Elemental Myrmidons*
19: CR 5 Xorn*
HP by CR (HP/HP with Mighty Summoner), Multi-Summons
CR <=?: Boggle* (18/26), Dimetrodon (19/25), Giant Lizard (19/25), Giant Owl (19/25), Mud Mephit* (27), Blink Dog (22/30), Giant Bat (22/30)
CR ?: Ape (19/25), Crocodile (19/25), Reef Shark (22/30), Satyr* (31/45)
CR 1: Dire Wolf (37/47), Tiger (37/47), Giant Eagle (45/57), Giant Octopus (52/68, yes I know it has low AC but it’s so beefy)
CR 2: Gargoyle* (52), Hunter Shark (45/57), Allosaurus (51/63), Sabre-Toothed Tiger (52/66), Sea Hag (52/66), Giant Constrictor Snake (60/76), Plesiosaurus (68/84)
HP by CR (HP/HP with Mighty Summoner), Single Summons
CR 3: Green Hag (82/104), Killer Whale (90/114)
CR 5: Earth Elemental* (126), Brontosaurus (121/139), Giant Shark (126/148)
CR 6: Mammoth (126/148)
CR 7(Upcast): Water Elemental Myrmidon* (127)
CR 8(Upcast): Sperm Whale (189/217), Tyrannosaurus Rex (136/162)
Conjured Creatures by Language
Speech of the Woods and taking Primordial allows you and your summons to communicate, but quite a few summons can communicate in other languages as well, meaning they can basically be translators for you and your group if need be. (I’m not going to list languages you will know inherently or Aquan, Auran, Terran or Ignan because knowing Primordial covers each of those.)
Blink Dog: CR ? Blink Dog
Draconic: CR 3 Green Hag
Druidic: CR 3 Awakened White Moose
Dwarvish: CR 7 Korred
Elvish: CR ? Valenar Hawk, CR ? Giant Owl, CR ? Sprite, CR ? Darkling, CR ? Satyr, CR ? Valenar Hound, CR ? Valenar Steed, CR 1 Dryad, CR 2 Darkling Elder, CR 2 Giant Elk, CR 2 Nereid, CR 4 Yeth Hound, CR 9 Conclave Dryad
Giant: CR 2 Sea Hag, CR 6 Annis Hag, CR 6 Dusk Hag, CR 7 Bheur Hag
Giant Eagle: CR 1 Giant Eagle
Giant Elk: CR 2 Giant Elk
Giant Owl: CR ? Giant Owl
Gnomish: CR 7 Korred
Infernal: CR 6 Dusk Hag
Undercommon: CR ? Mite, CR 7 Korred
“One language of its creator's choice”: The CR 7 Elemental Myrmidons
Telepathy: (Yes not really a language and I covered it in the “Conjured Creatures by Specialty” section, but no harm in duplication) CR 0 Cranium Rat, CR 2 Meenlock
I will use this section to include any additional information I may want to add that doesn’t fit neatly into the other sections (ex. multiclassing). Work in progress.
An advanced option for building your character that offers even more customization possibilities. I wouldn’t recommend multiclassing for a newer player and I personally prefer not to multiclass, but there are certainly some interesting things you can do with multiclassing. Shepherd Druids really benefit from their levels so it’s difficult to justify sparing levels to another class barring Life Cleric, so in most cases avoid multiclassing early or deeply with another class. Classes that get a lot out of one or two levels are better choices for this reason. That is, of course, unless you want to. As this is first a Shepherd Druid guide, I will cover multiclassing from the perspective of a character that will primarily build into Druid. There are really so many intricacies with multiclassing, I can’t possibly cover everything, so I’m going to try to stick to generalization. Also, while I may say certain options are better or worse, you do you. If you want to try and make a barbarian shepherd work, enjoy the heck out of that.
Artificer– The Int requirement doesn’t work well with Shepherd, but infusions can be very strong and a Shepherd can certainly benefit from some of the artificer spell list (Catapult, Grease, Web amongst others). Not the best but you could do worse; if only for the fact that you could get infusions (especially the Mind Sharpener infusion).
Barbarian– The Str requirement and no concentration or spellcasting while raging makes barb a terrible multiclass choice for a Shepherd. The only benefit would be unarmored defense.
Bard– The Cha requirement is largely wasted unless you want to make a very smooth-talking bard/shepherd. You’d really only choose to multiclass bard for Jack of all Trades and Expertise to make a more skill-focused Shepherd. Some bard spells like Dissonant Whispers also can work well with the Shepherd kit.
Cleric– Hands down the best option to multiclass. With wisdom as the ability requirement and domains being generally front-loaded to level one means that just a level 1 dip into cleric gives you a LOT of added utility. You don’t really get added proficiencies but the Cleric spell list gives you a lot of good options like Command and Inflict Wounds (with animal companion). Two subclasses really shine: Life and Peace. Life Cleric 1/Shepherd Druid x is the best healer in the game. With only one level investment, Goodberries heal 4hp each (as ruled in Sage Advice). 40hp restored with a 1st level spell slot is quite broken. Peace, on the other hand, is more of a combat multiclass that benefits more from more level investment. Its level 1-6 features both provide you with more survivability and improves the combat capabilities of your summons. Twilight can be pretty good as an endgame option too.
Fighter– You won’t have 13 Str, but 13 Dex as the requirement is certainly serviceable. The highlights of fighter multiclassing are martial-focused. The most efficient fighter synergy would probably be a range-focused character with longbow or crossbows from the martial proficiency and class features allowing you to be able to support your summons from range. Unfortunately Action Surge doesn’t really synergize with summons and you need significant investment away from Shepherd to take advantage of the multiple attacks offered by the class. That being said, they are still a strong multiclass option.
Monk– 13 Dex and Wis are easy requirements to get. Unarmored and melee attacks are pretty much wasted but unarmored defense is certainly appealing. Other than that, a ki point for essentially cunning action is useful, but at that point it would just be better to go rogue. Quite underwhelming for the level dips compared to others.
Paladin– The ability score requirements are bad and its spell list is full of concentration spells. If you decide to start as a paladin you even get chainmail which you can’t use as a druid (unless you don’t care about the druid caveat that they can’t wear metal armor). The best synergy for paladin multiclassing are the auras which work super well with summons, but you have to commit so deep into paladin with little other benefit, it’s infinitely better to have a party member go paladin. Even the fighter makes for a better martial dip, and cleric makes for a better dip for similar flavor and spell list.
Ranger– 13 Dex and Wis, same as the monk, are easy to get. Poor ranger though. The spell list shares most of its spells with the druid that you would get anyway, and if you wanted a range-focused martial multiclass, fighter is just better. The flavor you can get from the ranger though can be top notch. Thematically, Beast Master and Swarmkeeper, for example, can make for a really cool and unique Shepherd Druid. The new primal companion giving you an interactive bonus action with martial weapons does make it better than the monk though, and it doesn’t have conflicting stat requirements making it better than the paladin in that sense.
Rogue– Dex is an easy requirement. Rogues make great multi-classers with Shepherds. Expertise, your summons helping to proc Sneak Attack, Cunning Action giving you an excellent Bonus Attack use each turn for free, and that’s not even considering what the subclasses can offer. Unfortunately, you don’t get built-in martial weapons for longbows but that’s the only real downside. A ranged rogue is very easy to make work as a multiclass for a Shepherd, and is probably the best martial multiclass unless you are getting the extra attacks with fighter.
Sorcerer– Cha isn’t a good stat requirement for you. You do get some nice attribute-free spell options like Shield, Mirror Image, and Misty Step. The main acquisition though, is metamagic. You need to invest a bit more into sorcerer to get more than one fight out of metamagic, but it does offer a lot of possibility. The impact of metamagic for you does depend a lot on the game you are in because most of the metamagic options don’t function particularly well with Conjure Animals. Special mention to Divine Soul. Additional spells and cantrips that you want and its level 1 helps with maintaining concentration.
Warlock– Same with bard and sorcerer, you don’t need Charisma. Same with cleric, warlock is front loaded to get a lot of value out of level 1. Unfortunately you don't really benefit a lot from the features granted barring shenanigans involving the Genie patron. You do, however, work well with some pact boons and invocations that warlocks get at earlier levels. Namely the Pact of the Chain, Pact of the Talisman, and the Eldritch Mind invocation among others. While most of those options and metamagic are independent from charisma, pact boons and invocations fit Shepherds better than metamagic, making Warlocks a bit better.
Wizard– Intelligence is a dump stat. Nevertheless if you decide to multiclass wizard, you get access to a massive spell list with Find Familiar, Shield, Mage Armor, Mirror Image, Misty Step…. You do need to invest in the multiclass a bit more than you would for a warlock, but the amount of versatility you get from wizards makes them just a bit better while on the other hand charisma is more useful than intelligence.
While you can’t control your friends, there are some party options that work super well with you and your summons and thus deserve special mention.
Frightened Condition (with movement)– There are multiple sources of the frightened condition (like the Fear spell) that force movement out of an enemy that triggers an opportunity attack from all your summons. This basically doubles your DPR and it's very good.
Command– Much like Fear, Command can force an enemy to move and trigger opportunity attacks from all your surrounding summons.
Aura of Warding– All supportive paladin auras are great since they can affect any number of your summons in the area, but the Oath of the Ancients’ Aura of Warding is particularly nutty. Any number of your summons in the area having resistance to damage from spells (like fireball) makes them WAY harder to kill and basically resolves their best counter.
Now that you have an idea of the capabilities of your conjured cuddlies and know WHAT to summon, you are also going to need to know WHEN to summon. Resource conservation is something that will definitely take time to master, but since you are playing a Druid and have copious amounts of concentration spells, it’s a little easier for you. Still, don’t just blow your payload the second you see a soft breeze. I’m going to go through how you might want to pace yourself on a combat-by-combat basis for spells and such per tier of play (tier 1= lvl 1-4, t2=5-10, t3=11-15, t4=16-20). **NOTE– Every DM is different, this won’t apply for everyone and should be treated for what it is, as a very general guide.
I’m also not going to literally list spell combinations since I’d be here all day if I did that, so this will be more of a general strategy and some ways how a Shepherd Druid might differ in playstyle.
Tier 1– You aren’t going to have Conjure spells at this point past a familiar if you get Ritual Caster, so past Spirit Totem you are pretty much going to play like a normal druid. Past giving a buffed rogue advantage in combat, Hawk Spirit probably should be saved as an afterthought. Since you don’t have summons yet, Bear Spirit isn’t going to be as broken as the amount of hitpoints you are generating is going to be much less than if you had summons out. Though it is important to note that since the totem recharges on short rest, if you are about to rest and haven’t used your totem yet, ALWAYS cast it since the temp HP doesn’t go away until a long rest. Unicorn will probably be the totem used more often than not at this level.
Since without your furry meat shield, you are going to be playing more reactive than proactive with your totems, so it’d generally be best to hang on to it until you need it; either for unicorn heals or right before a short rest for temp HP from the bear. Just make sure to always have Goodberry prepared.
Tier 2– Now this is where you start to get really OP. You gain access to the Conjure spells so you can start to really abuse your class features.
Good news is other than out of combat Healing Spirit, Conjure Animals is just so good at these levels, if you have it cast there isn’t much that’s going to force you to need to drop your concentration. Definitely do not worry about concentration damage spells; some are obviously very useful but your Conjure Animals is going to blow any other damage spell out of the water.
Bad news is you don’t have a lot of spell slots to work with for utility spells. Level 6 you are going to get your 3rd 3rd level spell slot and more often than not those are all going into Conjure Animals, so you aren’t going to be able to spam Erupting Earth or Sleet Storm. Though since most of your damage is coming from your 3rd level slots, feel free to use your 1st and 2nd level spots to support and heal your team to your heart's content; Conjure Animals means that YOUR turns are going to be mostly free after all. That being said, you will need to use your totems.
Unless you have a grappler on your team or expect to be making strength checks, pop that bear Spirit as soon as you summon your furry friends. The bear totem gets its most use when it hits the most things so you don’t want to risk one of your animals dying before getting it off, and since the temp HP lasts until a long rest, if it isn’t burned through in the encounter you cast them in, oh well. More HP for the next fight. The impact of all of your animals and your entire party getting such a large amount of temp HP really cannot be overstated.
But when do you cast your Conjure spells? If you think you can get by a fight without using more than a 2nd level spell slot, by all means save your spell slots. But the MOMENT you think you may be in some trouble, don’t wait. Your summons are there not only to end the fight faster, but to be a meat wall for your party. It’s much better to use a 3rd level spell slot than to risk one of your party dying. (Just don’t use it if you are conjuring Elementals with their death bursts or non-defensible Fey like pixies.
Once you get 4th level spell slots, you can now conjure Fey and Elementals. For combat, you are probably still going to be using beasts primarily. Fey and Elementals offer a lot of utility, but you are mostly going to be using them for specific purposes: like if you need the specific elemental immunities of the Elementals or if you need a spell from the Fey. This is where your creativity comes in as you have just so much choice, but when in doubt, Conjure Animals. As a side note: Boggles are fantastic at defending fortifications. It’s worth a slot for them if you are defending a town or something.
Tier 3– You get access to the single-creature summons. Damage-wise, your best bet is to still go for Conjure Animals (upcast if needed) and work on keeping them alive. Because of the low hit bonus that the lower CR beasts have, Pack Tactics becomes a much bigger deal in actually getting that damage out. Conjure Elemental does give you the best tank in the Earth Elemental and its summons generally have quite a few immunities so they are great defensively, and Conjure Fey is best upcast for one of the amazing CR 7 fey that can basically fight in-place of you.
Guardian Spirit is again going to change how you are going to play with your totems. Since for 1 min its going to give a substantial heal to all your summons, you shouldn’t immediately pop it instantly on conjure anymore. It then becomes a balancing act of having your summons have taken damage to make use of the heal, yet having them not die to also make use of the bear totem’s temp HP. This means that you shouldn’t waste a totem for an out-of-combat use unless you are in a more RP group anyway or, as I said, you are about to take a short rest.
You also have more spell slots to work with, so you can be much more liberal with your summons. Every combat you should have some sort of summons out. This will let you be more liberal with your other spell slots as well as summons still last an hour, so one cast can potentially last multiple encounters lending you the freedom to use non-concentration spells at your leisure. I’d suggest prioritizing spells counter to the type of summons you have out to cover your bases. For example, if you Conjure Animals, you have damage covered by them so you can focus on CC and control spells like Plant Growth and Transmute Rock while if you are summoning Pixies, they have a lot of control potential so you can cast Erupting Earth and other damage spells.
Tier 4– You can now become the most terrifying mouse ever. Archdruid allowing you to IGNORE verbal, somatic and most material components always means you can cast ANY of your Conjure spells completely silently and while in wild shape, meaning you can literally be a fly on the wall and as far as your enemies know, suddenly wolves out of nowhere. Or even funnier, a literal Hag Coven by upcasting Conjure Woodland Beings. Sure you aren’t the invincible tank of the Moon Druid, but you become an unstoppable Druid.
The highest levels are a bit strange because your party is basically gods and casters rule all. Fortunately, you are amongst the fortunate few full casters that break the game.
Subclass lines tend to blend at the highest of levels as importance is put on the spells themselves. That means each Druid, regardless of subclass, is probably going to play similarly: casting spells from wild shape. Moons will be elementals to be interactive in fights while casting, but you and the other classes will use discretion and blend into the environment instead. You will be the squirrel in the tree, or the beetle between the rocks so while you cast freely, it’s as though the environment itself is taking revenge on those petty interlopers.
Unfortunately, as subclass features become less important, so do your summons who will probably never hit things at this level unless you are using them for utility or Conjure Fey. The good part is that your summons are still much beefier than any other Druid’s, so while they won’t be hitting much, they can certainly annoy enemies enough to soak a hit or two which is a very good thing. Think about Conjure Animals at this level as Conjure Fuzzy Wall, because it’s basically the same thing.
The difficult part about playing a Druid is that nobody can really tell you exactly what to do on every turn in combat like you may do with other classes because Druids just have SO many options their choice is highly situationally dependent. You just need to play a Druid enough to have the experience to know when to use what spell, or how to react to certain situations. While you are a Shepherd Druid so summons are your go-to, there are many situations where it is actually better to use your concentration on another spell (Like Earthbind against a flying enemy). Just use your best judgement and learn from your mistakes or successes.
When you Conjure creatures, you are a general commanding your troops. As Sun Tzu said “The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops.” Therefore, wield your troops to great efficiency to achieve victory. This will be a more incremental and Conjure-focused look at combat compared to the previous section.
In all serious though, I recommend reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. It’s free online just by googling and generals have used it for thousands of years to wage war successfully.
Tier 1– A short section but important section. You don’t have any true summons yet, but you still have access to animal friends if your DM lets you and Familiars if you chose Ritual Caster or Magic Initiate. Though not fighters per say, they can perform the ever important duty of being spies. If you are going into dangerous territory, always use Speech of the Woods to try and coax animals to scout ahead for you. Local animals won’t provoke much suspicion, yet not being surprised by a fight can be the difference between a TPK or not.
In regards to Familiars, the same applies that a good spy and scout is invaluable. In combat, always have your familiar use the Help Action on its turn if no other action need be taken by it. Refrain from “Helping” allies with multi-attack as the advantage only lasts one attack; instead, choose the ally that hits the hardest with a single attack.
Tier 2– When you finally get access to Conjure Animals, Woodland Beings, etc…, you can employ much more granular tactics.
Sun Tzu says “the skillful leader subdues the enemy's troops without any fighting.” If the enemy may be susceptible to CC, try to CC them. The best enemy is one that you and your allies can attack without reprisal.
With the Conjure spells comes the possibility of numerical advantage. Sun Tzu says “It is the rule in war, if our forces are ten to the enemy's one, to surround him; if five to one, to attack him; if twice as numerous, to divide our army into two.” The same principles apply here; use your numerical advantage. The Conjure Spells state the summoned creatures “appear in unoccupied spaces that you can see within range” with no other specifications, so it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume you can choose where to summon creatures provided the space is unoccupied. The first and most straightforward example is to surround the enemy.
This can be done easily with 4 summons or as much as 8.
While Flanking is merely an optional rule, this either forces the enemy to be stationary or take multiple opportunity attacks to gain a more advantageous position. If you are able to summon your creatures in such a way, they may get 8 possible attacks on the target and if it moves, 8 more in less than a turn.
If the numerical advantage is less severe, seek to force the enemy on multiple fronts as indicative of dividing your army. This presupposed enemies of equivalent strength to each other as non-equivalent can be addressed in a different manner.
Sun Tzu says “If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them.” Your summons can act as a wall; do not be afraid to use them in such a way and target a weakness in the enemy. Sun Tzu says “So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.” Target the healer or caster first. In this way, think of your summons less as a fielded army and more as a tactical unit: surgically removing the threat. In reference to the graph, you may isolate the caster from the group so that may either flee or be destroyed, weakening the enemy as a unit.
When unable to summon your friends right on top of the enemy as shown above, more care needs to be taken into consideration when approaching. Avoid the front of the enemy unless you need to separate yourself as most likely your parties front line such as a barbarian or paladin will choose to face the enemy head-on. Instead, perform a “pincer” movement to surround and flank your enemy; preventing them from fleeing easily as their front line succumbs to your party.
When you are able to choose the initiation of a battle (as often as you can), seek to force the enemy into an advantageous position for you. Sun Tzu says “Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him.” As he says, “All warfare is based on deception”, and that is true with this as well. Use illusions, a weak or deceptive party member or any other form of trickery to draw the enemy in, and then surround them. In this sense, use bottlenecks such as narrow streets or mountain passes to your advantage. You may even choose to engage with an enemy, fake retreat and lead them into an ambush. Never waste an opportunity to use every advantage against an enemy.
Tier 3+– As the levels get higher, so does the strength of the enemies. Past the simple combat maneuvers above, you will need to be creative in dealing with singular, strong foes. Now of course at lower levels these can apply as well, but the higher you go the more apparent these are which is why I’m putting them in this tier.
Sun Tzu says “If he is in superior strength, evade him.” Say you are fighting a dragon; you need to defeat it but if you collate your forces such as in the above examples, its breath wipes all your furry friends out. This is when you evade. As shown, attack and retreat. Never let a stronger enemy pin you down, or you will be destroyed. Similarly, never give them the chance to use their AOE’s to great effect. The example was a dragon but this is true with any enemy with dangerous AOE. True one of your conjures will get railed with an opportunity attack, but creatures only get one of those so the rest of your army will be spared and gain a much more advantageous position. Remember that you can break up your movement so all of your summons can move-attack-move. Side note: Giant Owls gain particular effectiveness in this case as not only can they fly, but they also have Flyby which prevents it from being opportunity attacked.
Always remember that using proper tactics with a larger force, there are few victories you cannot achieve.
Know your flaws
As awesome as you are, you aren’t without faults. With all the options that the Shepherd Druid provides, you will have the tools to handle basically every situation, but some you need to be EXTRA careful with.
AOE: Definitely your biggest counter. If you aren’t careful, a dragon’s breath can decimate your minions. Fortunately, the tactician you are can work around this problem in a couple of ways. The first thing you can do is the obvious one; summon fewer, stronger summons that will be able to tank an AOE or two. The second, is using tactics against your enemy. You need to think like a general and command your troops accordingly as shown in the previous section. It’s all about positioning when it comes to AOE. When enemies have damage auras such as the Balor, you will need to rely on Fey with ranged attacks or spells for such cases.
Flying Enemies: This one can be a pain as well, but not as much as AOE attacks. Fortunately, you can summon flying creatures as well. If you see wings poised on that baddie, summon some Flying Snakes or Giant Owls instead of wolves. Or you can go the Fey route and use Pixies or Sprites to help you out. You won’t be as optimal as if you were against non-fliers, but you are going to be FAR from useless still. ALSO don’t forget you are still a full caster with Earthbind, so if you trust your team you can pull the support role and use your concentration to ground that flier while your fighter wails on it.
Necromancers: This applies to anything that can make its own minions out of your dead ones. Other than rotating your summons in and out of combat to heal so they don’t die, your best bet would be to summon fewer, stronger summons. Fortunately, in most games enemies that can do stuff like that aren’t very common so you shouldn’t have to worry too much about it. That being said, because of the nature of your summoned creatures, they don’t produce corpses when they die and just simply poof out of existence, so necromancers that need corpses to revive rather than reviving on creature kill are actually quite vulnerable to you.
Damage-on-hit: Can be quite annoying. Because the damage can eat through Bear Spirit’s temp HP quite quickly, I suggest using Unicorn Spirit for this one, as you can go ham and just heal up any damage your summons take each turn.
Action and Bonus Action uses
Summoning beasties to fight for you frees up basically your whole turn to be able to do whatever you want provided you maintain concentration. But what can you do with your new-found freedom? Here are a few options that might help you fill out your own turn while your summons are going to town on the baddie.
-Any Non-Concentration Spell. All these spells are listed in the “Non-Concentration Spells” section.
-Non-Attack actions: Dash, Disengage, Dodge, Help, Hide, Ready, Search or Use an Object(few suggestions listed below).
-Reposition enemies or your allies with Thorn Whip. (Yes your allies will take damage but the minor damage is often better than an opportunity attack by the enemy, or pulling them out of a hazard).
-Cast an attack cantrip
-Feed an ally a Goodberry
-Dismiss and Reappear a Familiar
-See through your familiar’s eyes (Very useful if your familiar has senses you do not).
Some examples of Object Use:
–Use a Potion or throw a poison/acid vial.
-Scatter Caltrops or Ball Bearings
-Stabilize an ally with a Healer’s Kit
-Use an oil flask and next turn set the enemy on fire with Produce Flame
-Cast a net
Bonus Action Uses:
-Cast Healing Word
-Summon or move your Spirit Totem
-Revert from Wild Shape
-Command your Bag of Tricks animals
Now go, little Timmy, go into the world and tell the tales of the power of the Circle of the Shepherd Druid. Bathe your furry friends in the blood of your enemies. I will continue to grow and improve this guide as a druid tends to a sprouting sapling.
Questions and Comments can be directed to my original forum post here.
Credits: I’d like to attribute the inspiration for making this guide to Treantmonk’s God Wizard Guide (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IeOXWvbkmQ3nEyM2P3lS8TU4rsK6QJP0oH7HE_v67QY/edit) and Merudo’s more broad and extremely informative non-moon Druid Guide (http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?584818-5e-Druid-Guide-Dreams-Land-Shepherd-and-Spores)
Treantmonk also has a good video on Summons.
Other related guides: Merudo’s Moon Druid Guide, if you are interested in playing a moon druid. http://www.giantitp.com/forums/showthread.php?583036-Unleash-Your-Inner-Beast-A-Moon-Druid-Guide-(5e)
I pull mostly from the Monster Manual, Volo’s Guide to Monsters for creatures, but here are some other options. If you can’t get the books, most of their stat blocks are available at https://5etools.com/bestiary.html
*If you aren’t familiar, Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes:
Has more elementals, including Elemental Myrmidons, which are essentially beefed up elementals for upcasting Conjure Elemental.
*Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica:
Has the awesome CR 9 Conclave Dryad and some options for elementals.
*Tomb of Annihilation:
Several small beasts for conjuring and wild shape. Also has the Chwinga, which is a CR 0 elemental with massive blindsight and innate spellcasting.
***Beasts of the Jungle Rot:
If you need to choose an additional resource, choose this one. I’m not entirely partial to dinosaurs but if you and your DM are cool with it, the dinos in this book can be a huge threat. Notably there is the Titanosaurus; which has legendary actions and can be upcast with Conjure Fey.
Xanathar’s Lost Notes to Everything Else:
Minor Elementals called “Gen” and fantastic Conjure Fey options in the Urban Dryad and Elder Dryad.
Tales from the Yawning Portal:
Multiple summonable creatures. Some notable being the Four-Armed Gargoyle and Nereid.
Storm King’s Thunder:
Several beast options for Conjure Animals.
Out of the Abyss:
Several more good options for Conjure Animals and some variants.