What is Polearm master in 5e DnD?
The Polearm Master is a feat that helps you keep enemies away from you with long-reach weapons.
The polearm works with the glaive, halberd, and quarterstaff. When you use one of these D&D weapons and perform an attack action, you get a bonus action. This additional action allows you to make another attack with the other end of the weapon you are using.
This additional attack deals bludgeoning damage and does little damage. You roll a d4 to determine how much extra damage your bonus attack deals. Of course, you can add your attribute modifiers like any other (melee) attack you perform.
The second benefit of having the Polearm master feat in your arsenal is that it gives you the ability to provoke an opportunity from you when creatures enter your reach. Again this is only when you are wielding weapons like the pike, a halberd, a glaive, or the quarterstaff. This does not work with, for example, the long sword.
How to Get the Most out of a Polearm Fighter
Not a lot of people use polearm weapons to fight. Most of the warriors you see are running around with swords, hammers, and even axes. Using a polearm to fight your battles gives you a pretty unique experience regarding melee battles.
I think most people regard polearm weapons like the halberd and quarterstaff to be decent weapons, but nowhere near great. When you look at pure damage output, it is pretty clear that they aren’t top of the pack.
The big thing to take into account when you are making a good – and even more so when you want a great – polearm fighter is how actions work in 5e DnD. Being able to fight with and use the polearm master is one of the best ways to optimize the action economy. You get your action, a bonus action, and movement action.
However, to get this optimal build, you need to think about where you will spend your ability points, what race you are going to choose and what is the optimal class. If you have no idea how this all works, you are in luck, as I am going to tell you in detail how to make a strong polearm master and fighter in 5e.
What is the Best Race to Use as a Polearm Master?
I think there are two races that are great to use for this purpose. The first is the all-arounder of DnD, the human race, and the other is the fearsome half-orcs. The variant human is a good pick for the feat, or you can pick the half-orc because there is some additional damage when you have a critical hit due to Savage Attacks. They also are quite the tank due to the Relentless Endurance ability. When going for the optimal polearm build that makes the best use of the Polearm master ability, I recommend you to use the Half-Orc race.
When you pick the half-orc race, you have the additional benefit of getting the dark vision perk. This is pretty helpful when fighting with a polearm. The Savage Attack is also very nice due to the number of attack actions you are going to perform.
The main problem is that half-orcs need to wait a little longer until they have access to the Polearm Master feat and the additional feats that are a good combination with this one.
Why the polearm master is the best first feat
So you have decided on your race, and let’s imagine you have picked either a human or a half-orc. Since this is a polearm master guide, it seems useful to explain when you have to pick this feat and how to make the most use of it.
When you are making a polearm fighter, it seems like a given that you are going to use the polearm master feat. I recommend you to pick this feat from the very moment you can. It is going to help us increase the damage we deal per turn, and this is going to stack quite a lot.
If you have picked the human race to start, you are going to be able to access this feat right away at the first level. If you have picked the half-orc, you will have to wait until level four until you have access to polearm master as a feat.
I strongly recommend you to pick a polearm fighter as soon as you can. It is a great feat to have when you are wielding either a glaive or a halberd.
These both have a pretty nice base damage output – a d10 die – and the bonus attack action adds another d4 to this. Both of these benefit from your strength modifier, which further adds to the damage you deal. This means that you effectively do on average 40% more damage per attack due to the polearm master feat.
At the beginning levels, an extra d4 damage, increased with your strength modifier, is pretty strong. If we look at the damage output the bonus action does in battle, it means that every two and a half turns, you effectively deal the damage to a full-blown attack if you add up all those bonus attacks over those turns.
What are the best feats to combine with Polearm master?
Without a doubt in my mind, I think Sentinel is the best feat that works with Polearm Master. Sentinel is fantastic if you are making a melee build that has some martial elements to it.
So what is so good about the Polearm Master and Sentinel combination? Well, it gets pretty clear when you look at what sentinel does exactly. When you hit an enemy with either a glaive or a halberd, and they are in a 10-foot reach, you stop them. Stopping them means that their movement gets 0.
This helps your party to avoid some close-range melee attacks pretty effectively. Of course, you too benefit from being out of harm’s way for a lot of attacks that enemies, and definitely at the lower levels, are able to throw at you.
Great Weapon Master
This was kind of a hard one to pick and to figure out how to combine it with a polearm master. Great weapon master, has the ability to make an attack action a bonus action if you get your enemies hit points down to zero or score a critical hit. While this sounds kind of like it would not benefit you too much if you have the d4 bonus from Polearm master to fall back on. However, the great weapon master feat can oftentimes change that d4 into a d10 due to its ability.
It has another very interesting perk, namely that you can choose to take a -5 to attack and deal another +10 damage. This is great for when you have your d4 attack and miss by a narrow margin. When everything goes as planned, the combination of the Great Weapon Master feat, the feat of Polearm Master, and this precision attack can deal around 35 hit points of damage extra every round.
Disadvantages of a Polearm (master) built in 5e
The main disadvantage comes from the length of your weapon. The thing with this is, this really depends on your Dungeon Master. If you have me as your Dungeon Master, you have bad luck, as I will call you out when you use the weapon in tight spaces. Sometimes the length of the weapon is a big disadvantage. You can not put it away like you can with a dagger or even a bow. It is horrible when you have to go over a wall or need your two hands-free.
Another disadvantage with using polearm weapons as your main weapon is that there aren’t a lot of them that are imbued with magic. Looking at the weapon list of Dungeons and Dragons in the books, there is a real shortage of glaives and halberds with magical properties.
Nobody is stopping you from making a Homebrew weapon, so that would be a great plan B if you need a cool weapon to use. You do need to look out that you still have a balanced weapon, as the polearm build is pretty strong already when you use it well.
Some Extra Tips to Make the Most out of the Polearm Master Feat
- Combine it – To make the most use of Polearm Master, you will always have to combine it with at least a reach weapon and Sentinel. Having a Great Weapon Master is a bonus that makes it even stronger.
- Bonus actions matter – The bonus action that Polearm Master gives you is the main benefit of this feat. Optimizing the damage by investing in strength or by making sure you have a critical hit multiplayer is going to add a lot of damage to every time you attack.
- Inform your DM – Polearm weapons aren’t used a lot. There are some things that he will need your help with. The combinations of the weapons can get quite complex, and the monsters that he sends your way might just be nuisances due to the polearm master, sentinel, and great weapon master combination. Make sure he understands the drawbacks and disadvantages polearm master, and polearms as a whole, have. It is more fun that way for everyone.
- Consider your weapon – some weapons are two-handed, meaning you don’t have a shield to boost your AC higher. You will either have to kill your enemies before they can kill you, or you have to keep them away, so they can not reach you. The second option is great when you have a halberd.
- Fight defensively – When you have the Polearm master feat combined with sentinel, it really pays off to be defensive. Going on the attack negates your tactical advantage of being able to keep the distance. If you do not have a sentinel, there is less need to be on the defensive as your tanking ability is noticeably lower.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Polearm Master feat in 5e DnD
Question: Do you need to be a melee built to make use of the polearm master feat?
Answer: Yes! There is a very niche option for certain magic casters to use this as a defense. If you have Polearm Master and the Warcaster feat, you are able to hit an enemy with a spell-like Vicious mockery or chill touch and slow them down just before they get into melee range.
Question: What is the best weapon to use when having the polearm master feat?
Answer: I think the halberd is the best of them all, with the glaive as a very close second choice. It deals a lot of damage that will kill anything that comes at you quicker. If your enemy dies quicker, that means they can’t deal as much damage to you.
Question: What is the best class and race for polearm master use?
The fighter class is the best of all. I do not think there is any real discussion about that.
If we are talking about race, then you have a couple of options. The human variant is very good too. It is the best pick for the first 3 to 4 levels, but after that, it balances out. I think the half-orc is the best one overall. You have the disadvantage of not being able to use polearm master until level four, but your additional bonuses and feats make up for it in the long run.
Conclusion: The polearm master is great if you plan strategically
While polearm weapons don’t excite a lot of people, and most that enjoy melee are going to go for the classics like a sword or an axe, polearms give unique gameplay. You will deal some serious additional damage due to the bonus attack you get every single time you attack. Another amazing feature is that you will be able to keep some enemies at a distance from you.
As seen from our Polearm master 5e guide, You do need to plan accordingly. Only two races really make viable polearm masters. These are the half-orc and the human. If you do not pick one of those two, you lose a lot of the raw power this feat has.
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