Polearm Master is a feat that just sounds badass right out of the gate, and it’s one of those feats that actually lives up to the sound of its name. This is a very popular feat for certain armored melee classes in 5th Edition D&D, especially those clerics who like to be able to load their AC, create a magic blender, and then start hitting everyone who gets close to the front line.
There’s a reason polearm master shows up in our most overpowered feat combos in 5e D&D article. It’s a strong and powerful 5E feat that you’re going to see a lot if you play enough campaigns.
Polearm Master in a nut shell: The polearm master feat is a strong feat in 5E that allows a PC using a glaive, halberd, pike, or quarterstaff to take an opportunity attack every time an enemy moves into their range, as well as giving the option of using a bonus action to get a second melee attack with the weapon using a d4 die to represent the other end.
This can be very strong in and of itself, but it also combines nicely with some other feats to be absolutely devastating.
Let’s dive into this feat to get the full story!
Breaking Down the Polearm Master Feat
Sometimes you just want to throw away the shield and get to hammering enemies with that extra long reach. Or you stick with the quarterstaff but give it some extra oompf that works with how you’ve built your class. When these are your thoughts, it’s time to take a look at polearm master.
Directly from the Player’s Handbook:
You gain the following benefits:
- When you take the Attack action and attack with only a glaive, halberd, or quarterstaff, you can use a bonus action to make a melee attack with the opposite end of the weapon. This attack uses the same ability modifier as the primary attack. The weapon’s damage die for this attack is a d4 and deals bludgeoning damage.
- While you are wielding a glaive, halberd, pike or quarterstaff, other creatures provoke an opportunity attack from you when they enter the reach you have with that weapon.
So there’s a LOT of information there to dissect. Let’s start with an in-depth breakdown of these benefits before reviewing classes that should and should not take the polearm master feat, followed by the three feats that can pair with polearm master to make this feat even more f’ing terrifying.
Benefit #1: You can use a bonus action to attack with the back side of the weapon using a d4 plus your full attack modifier.
This isn’t a bad benefit, but it’s not huge. A d4 isn’t overly exciting although being able to add the attack modifier to damage means at low levels this attack will be as or more effective than most off-hand attacks with no bonus as written in the rules. For classes that don’t have a bonus action, this adds a little extra damage.
Again, nothing special or earth-shattering but it’s a small bonus that adds some value to the feat and to some classes it moves from tiny bonus to okay bonus, so that’s something.
Benefit #2: When wielding a quarterstaff, pike, halberd, or glaive other creatures who enter your range provoke an opportunity attack.
This is insanely powerful. Most opportunity attacks only come when moving past an opponent’s space of control or when trying to move away from an opponent. The ability to provoke an attack of opportunity just because the enemy is moving in is incredibly powerful. And as all power gamers and even casual 5E players know, if polearm master is combined with sentinel
Benefit #3: While not mentioned directly in the feat, the polearm feat combines with any one or two of three other feats to be utterly devastating, offering a synergy few other feats can claim.
Polearm is a “stacker.” If you’re taking this, most of the time it’s because there are other feats in mind and when put together they work very, very well and feed off of each other. This isn’t just two or three good feats, this is a situation where taking all of them makes every single one of those individual feats better, and then the sum of the parts becomes terrifying in its full form (often from a Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, or combination thereof).
5E Classes That Should Take the Polearm Master Feat
Clerics should always take polearm master because of the absolute devastating character builds that can come from their spell combos when using this feat, and paired with the Sentinel feat later. If you want to play a cleric that brings down the the fury of the gods, this is the feat for you.
“But Wait!” I hear the rules lawyers shouting with glee thinking they have me on a technicality most people miss, “Clerics can only use simple weapons and all the weapons that work with polearm master are martial weapons so clerics can’t use this feat without taking another feat or multi-classing!”
All but one weapon that are covered under polearm master are martial weapons, I will give you that. But the quarterstaff is plenty effective in the hands of a cleric or druid because they also should have taken the cantrip Shillelagh. This makes the quarterstaff a magical weapon, allows the spellcasting modifier to be used for attack/damage, and moves the damage from a d6 to a d8.
This brings the quarterstaff up to acceptable damage levels for a full-time weapon, and thematically works fantastically with most clerics and all druids.
For Druids the quarter staff makes sense as a weapon and one of the weapons that doesn’t use metal. While Druids will go to wild shape quite often, sometimes they need to act as healer or cast some support before taking animal form. This feat can be handy while they’re still in bi-pedal form. Extra attacks, the ability to attack as enemies with higher initiative move in, and more.
And when you toss in popular low level Druid spells like Thunderwave, Spike Growth, or Plant Growth once the Druid also takes the Sentinel feat to not only hit incoming enemies, but stop them in their tracks before casting with glee, and suddenly these are all working in
Why should Clerics always take this feat? If you haven’t seen it from another post, let me tell you the summary story of Erik the Cleric who started with Shillelagh and also went one level of fighter later to also be able to use a halberd.
- Action: Cast Spirit Guardians
- Bonus Action: Cast Spiritual Weapon
- Use Polearm Master + Sentinel to attack everything that came close. Their speed was already at 1/2 because of spirit guardians. If the enemy was hit, they were at an immediate 0 movement speed.
Then Spirit Guardians acted like a blender to the increasing number of enemies who couldn’t move…many of whom only had 5 feet of reach as opposed to 10 meaning they never had a chance. Erik would then move five feet, attack any enemies not stopped in their tracks, use the bonus action for the Spiritual Weapon to attack, and then on their turn enemies were sliced, diced, and tormented by Spirit Guardians over and over again.
It was a nasty, nasty setup that was frankly capable of taking out entire enemy parties. Polearm Master + Sentinel + 10 foot reach weapon + Spirit Guardians + Spiritual Weapon equals a very, very bad time for any and everything on the other side of that onslaught.
5th Ed Classes that should always take the Polearm Master Feat:
5E Classes That Should Consider Taking the Polearm Master Feat
There are multiple classes that can make the polearm master feat work very well for them, depending on the stylistic player choices they want to use. While glaive or halberd or pike might not be the first weapons that come to mind for the pious paladin, the raging barbarian, or the trained fighter – these can be incredibly effective.
While monks need so many stats they tend to go light on feats not called Mobile or Fey Touched, a polearm master build with Sentinel allows the monk to be even more of a troublemaker with their extra mobility. Monks use their bonus action a lot, so that part doesn’t help but monks tend to be one of the most targeted martial classes.
So allowing them to attack anyone coming for them is huge, especially if Sentinel is in play to paralyze in the incoming attackers.
With paladins the image is of the holy warrior with shield and hammer, but imagine a paladin using a reach weapon like a halberd, and being able to attack anyone moving into their space, who they then smite when they crit. Paladins using the same classic polearm maser + sentinel build that clerics and fighters often use are devastating and there’s no reason they can’t work that way.
Barbarians can tank and they can hit. Generally they don’t take as many feats because they need two maxed out stats for Level 20 campaigns and barbarians are, well barbarians, so why complicate things, but there is a world where this can be made to work.
Fighters can be anything you want them to be and they have the extra feat spaces to pull it off, too. They’re the versatile fighting class for a reason and can combine Polearm Master + Sentinel + Slasher/Piercer to get the absolute most of this potentially devastating tri-feat combination.
This is also a feat that can work with some very intentional melee builds for Rangers and Warlocks.
5th Ed Classes that should consider taking the Polearm Master Feat:
- Monks (quarterstaff)
- Rangers (melee builds)
- Warlocks (melee builds)
5E Classes That Should Almost NEVER Take the Polearm Master Feat
There are no big surprises here. Generally speaking some classes just don’t take melee feats and while the image of a sorcerer or wizard quarter staff attacking anyone who comes close is really funny, there are a limited number of spaces for the stats and feats they need…and if your squishy magic casters are forced to frequently defend themselves with a quarterstaff then there’s a problem.
Some classes just aren’t designed for the type of combat that this feat caters to. With that in mind the spellcasters, the rogue, and the artificer can all look elsewhere for the ability score improvements and feats that will help them reach their full potential while other party members go ahead and strike enemies at arm’s length.
5th Ed classes that should never take the Polearm Master Feat:
- Warlocks (conventional blaster builds)
Why the Polearm Master Feat Is So Deadly with Other Feats
The polearm master feat is quite solid by itself, it becomes especially deadly when combined with one or more other feats. In fact, the classic polearm master + sentinel was arguably the first obvious overpowered feat combo that players figured out en masse. The ability to hit an approaching enemy with an opportunity attack is one thing – but to stop them in their tracks?
It was a feat combo made in Min-Max heaven!
While it seems obvious that the initial design intent of Polearm Maser meant for the extra strong bonus action attack, but it didn’t take long to see that the opportunity attack from enemies approaching was where the real gold was at. Especially with most enemies’ reach being 5 feet.
Polearm Master + Sentinel
This is the one that everyone knows and everyone uses. Polearm Master and Sentinel are both crazy strong feats on their own, but when combined they become devastating in a way that all too many DMs know at this point. As do the much happier players taking advantage of this combo 🙂
What does a player get when these two feats are combined?
- May take an opportunity attack whenever an enemy moves into range
- Creatures who take the disengage action still provoke an opportunity attack
- When a creature within 5 feet of you attacks another target you may use your reaction to make an opportunity attack on it
- An enemy hit by an attack of opportunity has its speed immediately reduced to 0 for the rest of the turn
- You may use a bonus action on your turn to attack with the other side of the weapon using a d4 + full modifier
In other words you have so many opportunity attack chances, and then a hit stops them from moving for their turn. Sucks to be them.
Polearm Master + Slasher
Can stack with: Glaives and Halberds
When you add 5th Edition’s Slasher feat into this mix for the glaive and halberd wielders, aside from the +1 to STR of DEX, on a crit you “grievously wound it” which means the target has disadvantage on ALL attack rolls until the start of your next turn. The other bonus to this feat involves slowing a target…which doesn’t matter if the target’s movement is already at zero though it does still work on non-opportunity attack hits which gives this combo some pretty insane battlefield control just for holding the frontline.
Polearm Master + Piercer
Can stack with: Pikes
When you add 5th Edition’s Piercer feat into this mix for the pike wielders, it adds some extra bonuses. Aside from the +1 DEX or STR, when you hit a creature with that attack you can reroll one of the damage dice and then must use the new roll. On a crit, you can roll one additional damage die when determining the extra piercing damage.
So more pain, more damage – good deal!
Polearm Master + Crusher
Can stack with: Quarterstaffs
When you add 5th Edition’s Crusher feat into this mix for the quarterstaff users, you can forcibly move that creature 5 feet to an unoccupied space, but assuming there’s no cliff close by you might be more interested in the fact that aside from a +1 to STR or CON any critical hit results in every single attack against that creature being made at advantage until the start of your next turn.
That’s even more misery for an enemy already in serious trouble due to your polearm mastery!
Final Feat Grade for 5E Polearm Master
Polearm Master Feat Grade: B+
Is the 5E Polearm Master Feat Worth It?
For builds planning to use the polearm master feat, this grade bumps up to a solid A. Why the controversially low grade of a B+? Because standing alone this is a very good feat. It’s when it’s combined with Sentinel, and to a lesser extent Slasher and Piercer, that this feat becomes absolutely devastating. So since it takes a pair of feats to make polearm shine at its fullest, it doesn’t quite make the A-tier of feats.
But is the polearm master feat worth it? Absolutely! This is a very strong feat in and of itself, and when paired up with other feats it works to push them both up to an A-grade.
Polearm Master Feat FAQ
Which are the best classes for taking the polearm master feat in 5E?
Druids and Clerics thrive with the polearm master feat in most builds, but monks, fighters, barbarians, and paladins can all be devastating with this feat, especially once it’s combined with a few others that stack synergistically with it.
What feat should I take to get the most out of polearm master?
There’s no question that the Sentinel feat is the one you want to combine with polearm master. There are some additional benefits that can come from Piercer, Slasher, or Crusher, but without question Sentinel is the one that you really want.
Is Polearm Master Sentinel OP?
No. While it is super powerful, the natural limitation is one reaction per round. If the polearm master hits didn’t use a reaction then that would be another story. Besides, while this combo is super powerful and some would say overpowered, sometimes players deserve something nice to cause all the havoc.
That’s half the fun of D&D!
Does polearm master use your reaction?
Yes. Polearm master is all about using your reaction for an attack of opportunity, which always uses your reaction.
What is the difference between a glaive and a halberd in 5E?
In 5th Edition, there is no difference between these two weapons. They do the same damage, have the same reach, are worth the same amount, have the same characteristics. Historically, if you want to know the difference this Quora answer outlines the differences very well.
How does Shillelagh polearm master work?
The quarterstaff becomes a magical weapon. It doesn’t gain any additional reach, but it gets all the benefits of the feat.
Other DnD Articles You Might Enjoy
- 5E Martial Adept Feat
- Fighting Initiate 5E
- Fey Touched Feat 5th Edition
- Tasha’s Slasher Feat 5E
- 5E Sentinel Feat Guide
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.