Sweat falls off a fighter’s brow as he pushes for yet another hour of training at camp, honing his strikes to only the most vicious of hits. The barbarian funnels his rage into a flurry of attacks on an overwhelmed enemy using his years of combat experience to land the most devastating of blows. The savage attacker is famed for their talent for inflicting the most damage with every strike making them feared across the lands of D&D campaigns.
Or does it?
While savage attacker is a feat with an awesome name and a strong reputation, is it really worth the hype of is this one of those feats that is more hype than substance?
Except for very narrow situations the Savage Attacker feat is generally considered a mediocre to poor feat that while sometimes adding a little extra weapon damage, does not move the needle all that much and scales terribly into higher levels.
Let’s dive into this feat it’s pros, it’s cons, and how we might go about homebrewing a fix to make the feat better.
Breaking Down the Savage Attacker Feat
This feat has one of the shortest descriptions of any feat in the entire book. So let’s take a look at the exact wording, which is very important in this particular case.
Directly from the Player’s Handbook:
Once per turn when you roll damage for a melee weapon attack, you can reroll the weapon’s damage dice and use either total.
The Player’s Handbook, p.169 (emphasis added)
Let’s break down these Savage Attacker feats in more detail.
Benefit #1: Once per turn (not attack) you may re-roll the weapon damage dice of an attack and take whichever of the totals you choose.
Simple and to the point. You basically get advantage on the actual weapon damage dice. This is one die for most weapons, but counts for both dice if you’re wielding a great sword or a maul.
Because of the RAW, this is a feat that is going to work better on weapons that have a large range – the type that can do a lot of damage but also have a higher percentage chance of a weak hit. This means that mathematically in order, the 5E Savage Attacker feat works best with weapons whose dice consist of:
- 1 d12
- 1 d10
- 2 d6
- 1 d8
- 1 d6
- 1 d4
While there are technically weird mathematical arguments to be made for 1d4 being better with Savage Attacker than 1d6, getting lost in the weeds like that where you ignore that 50% of the rolls on a d6 or equal or greater than the best of a d4 is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
From a practical standpoint this means the best weapons for Savage Attacker in 5E are:
- Great Axe or Lance
- Great Sword or Maul
- Glaive, Halberd, or Pike
5E Classes That Should Take the Savage Attacker Feat
While this is a feat that can offer some good melee benefits at low levels, it’s just not enough. And at those low levels improvements in ability scores, class-specific feats, or even often (unfairly, IMO) maligned feats like the Tough Feat all make more sense when looking at the benefits they give to low level characters.
This s a feat that gives low-level fighters a little extra, same for low-level rogues, but it seems primarily aimed at low-level paladins and especially barbarians.
While a little martial boost can be a good thing, especially with barbarians, this is one of those 5E feats that just falls short of the mark. While it’s not terrible at low level, it’s not good and it’s never a must-take.
5th Ed Classes that should always take the Savage Attacker Feat:
5E Classes That Could Consider Taking the Savage Attacker Feat
The two classes that are most likely to get decent use out of the Savage Attacker feat are the barbarian and the fighter. The fighter doesn’t have to optimize every spot because they have two more ability score improvements than other classes. They are also generally melee based, as is the barbarian.
The barbarian also has less concern about HP in most cases, as many tables just give the full hit die of points, or even if they roll they are more likely to have high rolls. Not to mention starting with the full 12 at level one and usually sporting a high Constitution. If the campaign is going to mid-level the barbarian’s brutal critical feature is worth noting because that adds an additional weapon die to the damage.
This means on a barbarian critical hit that extra die could be re-rolled as part of the feat, but this will obviously come up a limited number of times.
Fighters and barbarians get the most use out of this feat, so they are the classes that should at least consider it based on build, especially if using a d12 or two d6 weapons but even then I’m of the opinion there are almost always much better options.
5th Ed Classes that should consider taking the Savage Attacker Feat:
5E Classes That Should NEVER Take the Savage Attacker Feat
At the end of the day the Savage Attacker feat doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s only for melee units using actual weapons, it gives some additional damage (potentially) but has nothing for ranged, magic, or additional damage that most classes get. Because of that, virtually no classes should view the Savage Attacker feat as a “must have” feat and most classes shouldn’t even give it a second glance.
5th Ed classes that should never take the Savage Attacker Feat:
Homebrew Ideas to Fix Savage Attacker Feat
The common complaint with a homebrew version of Savage Attacker I saw was that getting advantage on rolling all dice with a melee attack was too strong (look at a melee-ranger or rogue with sneak attack for obvious reasons why). Also adding it to all attacks makes the already dangerous high-level fighter even more broken.
So is that it? Is Savage Attacker a feat that is just broken either way?
Nope. Why not just add extra damage dice and then level the feat up? It’s a way to add damage, make the feat better at high levels, and not necessarily overpower or power creep it.
One example for a fixed Savage Attacker feat suggested while brainstorming with the Meeples was this:
- Add one extra die to the weapon damage based on what it currently does
- Allow one re-roll on damage dice and take whichever you prefer
I also thought just scaling damage for the Savage Attacker feat could work well
- Add 1d6 to weapon damage when the feat is taken
- Improve to a 1d8 at level 12
- Improve to a 1d12 or 2d6 at level 16
- Improve to 2d6 + 1d4 at level 20
Or I suppose you could hybrid it in this Savage Attacker homebrew if you don’t mind more math:
- Add 1 d6 damage die that can be re-rolled as part of the feat when taken
- Upgrade to d8 damage die that can be re-rolled at level 8
- Upgrade to d10 damage die that can be re-rolled at level 12
- Upgrade to d12 damage die that can be re-rolled at level 16
- Upgrade to 2 d6 + d4 damage die that can be re-rolled at level 20
Any of those are homebrew solutions to the problems that the Savage Attacker feat currently experiences in 5th Edition.
Final Feat Grade for 5E Savage Attacker
Savage Attacker Feat Grade: D
Is the 5E Savage Attacker Feat Worth It?
For most players the savage attacker feat is going to be disappointing at best. For low-level campaigns that are starting, running, and finishing in levels 1-6 or something like that then it might have some use. Is it as much as an ability score increase, additional hit points, or what so many other feats offer?
No. As written this just isn’t a great feat. It’s not complete trash, but it’s not very good and outside of the barbarian and maybe fighter it just isn’t going to find much of a home in most builds.
Feel free to skip this feat to look for another that has more to offer.
Savage Attacker Feat FAQ
Does the Savage Attacker feat work with sneak attack damage?
No. The rules as written clearly state that the savage attacker feat only applies to the weapon’s damage, so sneak attack damage dice can not be re-rolled with the Savage Attacker feat.
Can you use the Savage Attacker feat with Divine Smite?
Nope. That damage comes from the spell and not the weapon itself so even though the spell infuses power into the weapon strike, only the weapon’s original damage die can be re-rolled. The same applies to any spell that affects the damage a weapon inflicts.
What’s better Savage Attacker Vs Great Weapon Master?
5E’s Great Weapon Master feat is the much better feat out of the two. Savage Attacker offers what half the time or more amounts to nothing, and the other half of the time a nominal improvement in damage. With Great Weapon Master you not only get the chance to strike with an entirely extra melee attack, but you can add +10 damage, which blows away the improvement Savage Attacker can give for almost every weapon. Even in the situations where Savage Attacker could mathematically beat that, it requires a terrible 1 in 12 roll by the GWM feat roller, then two 1 in 12 rolls by the Savage Attacker.
So while technically possible…no. The math, the utility, and the benefits of Great Weapon Master are clearly superior to what the Savage Attacker feat has to offer. If you’re going to pick one, pick GWM.
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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.