A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Fey are not everyone's cup of tea, but I'm a big fan of the Feywild and its descendants, so this subclass definitely drew my interest, particularly as it's not all that long since we saw the Swarmkeeper Ranger make an appearance in Unearthed Arcana. Acting as an ambassador between, and guardian of, the Feywild and the Prime Material Plane, the Fey Wanderer looks like it will be a master of charm. But will it follow in the footsteps of the Gloomstalker, and prove to be a subclass that tempts people to put their doubts aside and roll themselves up a ranger?
Before we get to the class features, I wanted to mention that the table that comes with this subclass gives some cool prompts for how the Feywild has touched your character – some of them just subtle things like smelling of welcoming spices, down to outright plonking a pair of antlers on your head. This makes me want to see if I can make a Tiefling Ranger work, just to see if there's room for horns and antlers both on the same head!
The subclass features below have short summaries of the rules they relate to. You can download the full rules for this subclass for free from the Wizards of the Coast website, here.
Fey Wanderer Magic - 3nd Level - 17th Level
The spells on this list are not necessarily show stopping (Banishment always has its uses) but they are certainly flavourful. My first thought reading through them was that if you were to decide to choose an Eladrin from Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes for your Fey Wanderer, you would be doubling down on the charm / teleport features very nicely. Nothing says Feywild like grinning alluringly at someone and then suddenly vanishing, after all!
Cunning Will- 3rd Level
You have advantage on saving throws against being charmed or frightened. You gain proficiency in Deception, Performance or Persuasion.
Free skill proficiencies are always handy, even if you're relying mostly on your proficiency bonus rather than having a decent modifier in the related ability. That said, the choice of skills here does encourage you not to completely neglect your character's Charisma score when you create them, and to find a different stat to dump. If you really can't spare any additional points, though, it's actually still possible to benefit from these proficiencies once you hit level 7, thanks to Blessings of the Courts...
An increased ability to resist being charmed or frightened is good, but it does make me a little sad that if you chose an elf or a halfling for your character, you already have half of this bonus already. Oh well.
Dreadful Strikes - 3rd Level
Use a bonus action to cause your weapon/weapons to deal 1d6 additional psychic damage on a hit. A creature can only take this bonus damage once per turn.
Whether you're a Ranger that prefers attacking at range or in close combat, this ability is always going to be useful. Sometimes even just a small amount of additional damage can be clutch, and when that damage is Psychic damage, which is not something you would immediately associate with a Ranger, you're definitely on to something.
If you dual wield, you can incorporate the use of this feature into the same bonus action as you would use to attack with your off-handed weapon (remember, you can take your bonus action before your action if you so choose). This is essential – otherwise the feature would have shut down attacking with a second weapon through using up the bonus action every turn.
One thing that does immediately spring to mind here, no matter the weapon you're attacking with – you won't be using this on the turn you cast Hunter's Mark. However, that doesn't really take away from the way that Rangers work (you always need that set-up turn), and after that you'll be getting 2 bonuses to your damage!
Blessings of the Courts - 7th Level
You can use a spell slot to deal 3d6 additional psychic damage on a successful hit with a weapon attack. They must pass a Wisdom save or be frightened of you until the beginning of your next turn. Add your Wisdom modifier, as well as your Charisma modifier, to Charisma checks.
And then we hit pay dirt. You're a half caster, but you have the same number of spell slots as a Paladin of the same level. Now, sure, they can burst up to 5d8 damage if they spend their top spell slot on a smite but, let's bear in mind that you've more than likely cast Hunter's Mark and you also have Dreadful Strikes. This means that, even though you can't upscale your damage from this feature if you use a higher spell slot, you can cap out at 5d6 damage. That's not massively worse than 5d8, especially when you realise that you can add your maximum number of dice even by spending a 1st level slot!
That's before we take into consideration the fact you're going to be forcing a saving throw on whatever you hit or they're frightened of you. That can be significant, even in some boss fights. Adult Red Dragons, for example, are not immune to the frightened condition, so if you know their breath weapon is on recharge and they really won't want to be at disadvantage when attacking with their bite, claws and tail, force them to make a save. If they fail, you'll create a real dilemma for the DM about whether or not they should burn a legendary resistance on something that can so easily be used against them on a subsequent turn.
Oh and by the way, you also now get to add your Wisdom modifier to all of your Charisma checks, on top of whatever you happen to have in Charisma. Look at that!
Beguiling Twist - 11th Level
If a creature you can see within 120 feet passes a saving throw against being charmed or frightened, you can force another creature you can see within the same range to make a saving throw or be charmed, frightened or take 3d10 psychic damage.
Sometimes when I read these Unearthed Arcana subclasses for Rangers, I think about the prevailing opinion of the Ranger in the D&D fan base and I wonder if Wizards are making a conscious effort to apologise for the way the class was originally presented by forking over liberal amounts of good stuff. I had no massive problem with the original Ranger – yes, it's easy for the animal companions to die, but only if you're expecting to use them like a Wild Shaped Druid and have them attempt to tank for you on 30-odd HP. There are plenty of other reasons why Rangers can be good (even if some of them are situational to begin with if you didn't have a Session Zero to find out what the campaign setting was likely to be) – but still, having a very strong subclass for Rangers in particular does feel encouraging to me.
Why that particular ramble? Because by now, we're in awesome territory. This is not a situational spell. You force a saving throw against being frightened every time you choose to use a spell slot for Blessings of the Courts when you make a weapon attack. Effectively, this means that if your original target has the audacity to pass that saving throw, you can throw the same thing at another enemy, or charm it, or deal 3d10 damage on top of the weapon damage + 5d6 you already just did with your weapon attack.
Of course, there's a chance that the second enemy you pick will just go right ahead and pass the save, giving you 0 bonus damage, but still – should they fail, that is a lot of damage for a ranged/melee attacker to be pumping out, and you're definitely in with a shot of becoming known as the Paladin of Rangers.
Misty Presence - 15th Level
Use your bonus action to force a creature to make a Wisdom saving throw. If they fail, they can't see or hear you for 24 hours.
And now we add the coup de grace and the inevitable feature that will tempt many a player to multiclass into Rogue and throw a few more bonus dice into their damage pool. Sure, the target gets a chance for another save to end the effect if you hit them with an attack or force them to make a save, but by then it could very well be too late. If the worst comes to the worst and smacking them with a sizeable sneak attack helps them remember what you look and sound like, you can just use the feature again with a spell slot of 4th level or higher.
The duration on this spell also makes it potentially handy in various roleplaying situations as well. If you've somehow ended up in a cell and the guard's about to cart you off for execution, it's probably better that they can't see you...
The amount of damage this subclass can pump out in comparison to many of the other ranger subclasses is ridiculous, but instead of flagging it as potentially overpowered, I'm going to shamelessly declare that I'm OK with it. I don't think having a subclass like this that absolutely gives the Ranger a chance to shine in combat is a bad thing at all, and I can see this becoming a popular attraction if it makes it from UA to the pages of a book.
On top of all that, it's yet another subclass that's strong in flavour, much as all of the 2020 Unearthed Arcana releases so far have been. I'm excited to throw one of these into a campaign, and it may just be my favourite of the new subclasses so far!