Clerics are one of the most classic classes in Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Despite being classic, until 3rd edition D&D was released, clerics were not particularly popular to play. Clerics in 3rd edition became much more versatile, though still retained the major drawback of being the dedicated healer. Clerics in 4th edition continue to provide the best healing of any class in the game, but are no longer forced to do nothing else. Besides providing the strongest healing in the game, the devoted cleric build also offers great bonuses to attack, defense, and saving throws of allies. The drawback of the build is that it deals very little damage, but the defensive abilities of the build often make up for this drawback. When building your devoted cleric, the following optimizations will serve to make you an effective damage dealing character.
Ability Scores – Devoted clerics use wisdom as their primary attribute and charisma as their secondary attribute. Wisdom both increases the attack bonus of devoted cleric and increases the healing that they provide. This makes the attribute incredibly important, usually significantly more so than charisma. The secondary attribute of charisma increases the secondary effects of many cleric powers and a handful of feats. It is possible to build a devoted cleric in a way that makes charisma mostly meaningless, though that will tend to limit your options on powers. Since devoted clerics usually attack from range, constitution and strength are not particularly meaningful, though strength can allow the cleric to get some armor feats. Dexterity is almost entirely worthless for a devoted cleric since the cleric attacks at range using wisdom. Intelligence provides a bonus to the religion skill and this benefit is enough that it is usually worth having an intelligence of at least a 12.
Race – The best race for a devoted cleric is a race that gives a bonus to wisdom. Nearly half the races give a wisdom bonus, so this provides a lot of choices. The only race that gives a bonus to both wisdom and charisma is the kalashtar, from the Eberron Player’s Guide. If you have access to this race, select it, but you have plenty of good choices even if you don’t. Your best choices are dwarf or elf. Both races provide a bonus to wisdom and both races have powerful racial abilities. Dwarves are especially powerful due to the ability to spend their Second Wind as a minor action. If these races don’t appeal, human, shifter, and a few other races will give you a bonus to wisdom.
Skills – You have three skill choices as a devoted cleric and there are exactly three skills you should choose: heal, insight, and diplomacy. These three skills all use either your primary or your secondary attribute and they are some of the most useful skills in the game to know. Due to your high wisdom, perception is another great skill for you to get, but you shouldn’t be an eladrin just to have access to this skill. But, if you gain access to it from a background, then give up diplomacy for it.
Feats – As a devoted cleric, you will probably be tempted by the additional healing power of Pacifist Healer. During heroic tier this feat is rather useful, but once you reach paragon tier or higher it will become more hindrance than benefit. This is a great time to swap it for Devilbane, which while being a heroic tier feat, isn’t particularly useful until paragon tier, at which point it become excellent. In addition, you should also get Healer’s Implement, Versatile Channeler (for the paladin’s channel divinity), Implement Expertise, Superior Implement Proficiency, Improved Initiative, and any armor proficiency feats you qualify for. The best available feats in paragon tier are Paragon Defenses, Armored by Faith, Saving Grace, Invigorating Critical, Extended Healing, Radiant Vessel, and Uncanny Dodge. Finally, at epic tier you should choose feats like Font of Radiance, Divine Health, Divine Mastery, Glorious Channeler, Beatific Healer, Reactive Healing, and Supreme Healer.
Powers – Only two at-will powers are meaningful to a devoted cleric, which is why human is a poor choice of race. The two at-will powers you want are Astral Seal and Sacred Flame. The first deals no damage, but heals an ally and makes an enemy easier to hit. The second deals light damage and provides either temporary hit points or a saving throw to an ally. One of these options is basically always useful. When choosing encounter powers, you want to choose powers that take advantage of your high wisdom or high charisma. Good choices include Bane, Exacting Utterance, Break the Spirit, and Denunciation. For daily powers, choose powers that last for the duration of the combat. Examples include Weapon of Astral Flame, Guardian of Faith, and Weapon of the Gods. Finally, when choosing utility powers, you should consider powers that provide a bonus to attack or defense. Armor of Faith, Shield of Faith, and Divine Favor are good choices.
Paragon Paths – If you are a kalashtar or otherwise have a good charisma, Holy Emissary is one of the best paragon paths available to your devoted cleric. The path features are all excellent and it greatly increases your healing abilities. For a straight boost to healing, Miracle Worker is the most efficient paragon path in the game. If you aren’t interested in improving your healing, Divine Oracle and Radiant Servant are the best two choices. The former is especially good if your attacks generally target will defense (even better if you are an elf) and the latter actually increases your damage to reasonable levels. With the possible exception of some invoker paragon paths, you will want to avoid the paragon paths of other classes.
Devoted clerics are often nicknamed “laser” clerics, because they tend to stand back and attack with rays of light. Despite some tantalizingly effective burst powers that exist, you should follow this rule and attack from a distance while providing powerful healing and good boosts to your allies. Your hit points and defenses are simply not strong enough to withstand serious attacks and you generally heal allies more efficiently than you heal yourself. Pick feats, powers, and paragon paths based on that understanding and you will build a very effective devoted cleric.