What are the Best Feats? Round 1, Vote Now!

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on July 18, 2011

As we so often do, Wimwick and I were recently talking about our characters. It began as a discussion on the ones we are running, but quickly encompassed the other characters we’ve run in the past as well as those run by the other members of our gaming group. We realized that almost all of the characters we looked at shared about half of the same feats. It didn’t matter what class or race they were, some feats kept appearing over and over again on everyone’s character sheet.

Our only explanation for this phenomenon was that some feats are clearly superior. Not just better, but far better. The result being that everyone chooses these feats. In fact, characters that don’t have these feats seemed considerably less powerful than those that do. It lead us to conclude that if there are some feats that are practically required for all character why do we have to waste a feat slot choosing them? Why aren’t these feats free to all character?

So we decided that moving forward for our home game we were going to allow all characters to take a few of these “superior” feats for free during character creation and see how things worked out. The challenge now was to narrow down the list and determine which feats should be included in the list of the best feats.

The solution we came up with was a head-to-head comparison of the best of the-best in order to cull the list and identify the top feats. Over the next few weeks were going to ask you, the readers, to vote. We’ve arrange feats into groups of four. All you have to do is to pick the two from each group that you think are the best of that bunch. Every round will cut the list in half and eventually we’ll have our winner.

The 32 feats competing in this competition were selected from a list of over 3,000. We only considered feats that were available at level 1 (so heroic tier feats). Most of these will likely be very familiar to anyone who plays 4e D&D, but just in case they’re not we’ve provided a brief summary of all the feats in our competition below the polls. It’s interesting to note that almost all of these feats are from the D&D Essentials books.

The voting will be open for two weeks. If you think we overlooked a really interesting, powerful, or popular feat, please let us know in the comments below. Which feats do you think will make it to the final round? What one feat do you think will win the voting? Let the discussion and debate begin!

Update: Voting for Round 1 is now closed. Be sure to vote in Round 2.

What are the Best Feats?
Round 1

Choose the 2 Best Feats (Round 1, Group 1)

  • Weapon Expertise (and variations) (39%, 100 Votes)
  • Master At Arms (23%, 60 Votes)
  • Weapon Focus (and variations) (20%, 52 Votes)
  • Staff Expertise (17%, 44 Votes)

Total Voters: 167

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Choose the 2 Best Feats (Round 1, Group 2)

  • Multi-class feat (47%, 121 Votes)
  • Jack of All Trades (35%, 90 Votes)
  • Skill Focus (9%, 24 Votes)
  • Skill Training (9%, 23 Votes)

Total Voters: 161

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Choose the 2 Best Feats (Round 1, Group 3)

  • Improved Defenses (44%, 117 Votes)
  • Superior Will (31%, 82 Votes)
  • Superior Reflexes (13%, 36 Votes)
  • Superior Fortitude (12%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 161

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Choose the 2 Best Feats (Round 1, Group 4)

  • Improved Initiative (43%, 103 Votes)
  • Resilient Focus (24%, 57 Votes)
  • Action Surge (23%, 55 Votes)
  • Unfailing Vigor (11%, 27 Votes)

Total Voters: 144

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Choose the 2 Best Feats (Round 1, Group 5)

  • Backstabber / Killing Curse / Lethal Hunter (36%, 93 Votes)
  • Versatile Expertise (24%, 62 Votes)
  • Weapon Proficiency (21%, 55 Votes)
  • Melee Training (20%, 51 Votes)

Total Voters: 150

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Choose the 2 Best Feats (Round 1, Group 6)

  • Toughness (41%, 107 Votes)
  • Durable (26%, 68 Votes)
  • Swift Recovery (20%, 53 Votes)
  • Disciple of Stone (12%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 148

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Choose the 2 Best Feats (Round 1, Group 7)

  • Dwarven Weapon Training (40%, 100 Votes)
  • Enlarged Dragon Breath (26%, 64 Votes)
  • Eladrin Soldier (21%, 52 Votes)
  • Improved Warforged Resolve (13%, 32 Votes)

Total Voters: 138

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Choose the 2 Best Feats (Round 1, Group 8)

  • Unarmored Agility (39%, 101 Votes)
  • Armor / Shield Proficiency (27%, 70 Votes)
  • Stoneroot's Endurance (18%, 47 Votes)
  • Cold / Heat Adaptation (16%, 40 Votes)

Total Voters: 143

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Feat Summary

  • Action Surge (+3 to attacks with action point)
  • Armor / Shield Proficiency
  • Backstabber / Lethal Hunter / Killing Curse (increase extra damage to d8s)
  • Cold / Heat Adaptation (resist 5 cold / 5 heat)
  • Disciple of Stone (gain 5 temp hp with healing surge)
  • Durable (gain 2 healing surges)
  • Dwarven Weapon Training (proficiency with all axes & hammers, +2 damage rolls)
  • Eladrin Soldier (proficiency with all spears, +2 damage with longswords & spears)
  • Enlarged Dragon Breath (increase to blast 5)
  • Improved Defenses (+1 fort, ref, will)
  • Improved Initiative (+4 initiative)
  • Improved Warforged Resolve (+5 additional temp hp)
  • Jack of All Trades (+2 to untrained skills)
  • Master At Arms (+1 to attack, minor action to sheath/draw weapon)
  • Melee Training (choose an ability other than Str to make basic attacks)
  • Multi-class feat (skill training & power)
  • Resilient Focus (+2 to saving throws)
  • Skill Focus (+3 to trained skill)
  • Skill Training (training in untrained skill)
  • Staff Expertise (+1 to attacks, no opportunity attacks, increase reach for melee by 1)
  • Stoneroot’s Endurance (A roll of 10 or more negates a crit)
  • Superior Fortitude (+2 to fort, resist 3 ongoing damage)
  • Superior Reflexes (+2 ref, combat advantage first round)
  • Superior Will (+2 will, save vs daze, stun at beginning of turn)
  • Swift Recovery (+3 to healing surge value)
  • Toughness (+5 hit points)
  • Unarmored Agility (+2 AC with no armor or cloth armor)
  • Unfailing Vigor (roll an 18+ on a death save, spend a healing surge)
  • Versatile Expertise (+1 to attack with a weapon group and an implement type)
  • Weapon Expertise (and variations) (+1 to attack)
  • Weapon Focus (and variations) (+1 to damage)
  • Weapon Proficiency

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1 Morpho July 18, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I wouldn’t give them away, though. One extra feat from the list only.

If everyone is special, then no one is.

2 JR July 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Many of these are excellent for a particular class but useless to others. I expect that the general-purpose feats (Improved Defenses in particular) are going to win out. Remember also that low-level PCs will absolutely shred a typical Lvl1 or Lvl2 encounter if they have the mechanical bonus of an extra feat.

Jack of All Trades makes you roll like a PC of Lvl+4 for purposes of skill challenges or in-combat skill checks. Your JoAT will be more resilient against poisons and diseases, find traps 10% more often, climb over obstacles more readily, jump ~1 square further, and suss out a liar about 10% more often than his peers. If your players like living in a world where heroes really are exceptional, JoAT is a good free feat.

3 Rabbit is wise July 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm

its an epic tier feat I know… not included in this type of conversation, but the one that lets dwarves use their second wind for free is awesome…

4 brc July 18, 2011 at 10:45 pm

The ‘math fix’ feats (weapon/implement expertise, improved defenses, melee training for applicable classes) are the only ones that are universally mandatory, and should be free, both in the interest of balance (they fix bad math and flawed design) and fun (none of these feats give characters new or interesting capabilities.)

5 Naz July 18, 2011 at 11:01 pm

While I’ll certainly vote, I have to say that giving away a free “Feat” at 1st level seems like Fixing Something that Wasn’t Broken in the first place.

The reason that players take these feats most often above all others is because they are, for the most part, truly the best options that you have at that level, for a particular class or race. I suspect that if you looked at 100 different warlock builds, you would find that 70% or better of them Contain one particular at-will, encounter, and or Daily power, regardless of the “build”. And I’m sure that if you did the same for every other class, you’d see the same thing. Not to be redundent, but if you look at the ability scores of 100 different characters, nearly ALL of them are going to have an 18 or 20 in the prime stat, and so on down the line.

The bottom line is that These really are THE BEST Feats, and because 4e is such a numbers game (every +1 makes a difference, especially in the early going) any player that wants to keep up with the player next to him or her, is going to do everything they can to press that advantage.

To finish, a story to drive home the point. In my regular game, I have a player who used feats, skills, at-wills, and such to really try and solidify the role playing aspects of his character. As far as I can remember, I don’t think he had a single one of these feats. While it may not be completely related, I’ll say this, his character struggles way more with hitting, causing damage, and not getting hurt, than any other character at the table. Bad playing? Coincidence? Fair or Not, You be the judge.

6 Sunyaku July 18, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I was glad to see improved initiative doing well on that list… seems like hardly anyone takes that feat in public play encounters… but I most definitely plan to take it (or battlewise, as appropriate) for Lair Assault!

7 monty July 18, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Improved Defenses, and “weapon/implement expertise for everything you can use” are sufficient to “math fix” the game.

Personally, I think D&D could take a page out of World of Warcraft’s talent tree change: axe all the numbers-only feats and bake them into every character. Strikers who don’t take enough DPS-boosting feats are flat-out worse than those that do, for example. Defenders that can’t punish marks effectively or take enough hits are strictly worse that those who can. Controllers with more persistent, accurate, and debilitating effects are better than those without, and leaders who grant better buffs are restore more HP are better than those without. There’s plenty of variation in the how, why, and style, and the interesting trade-offs can come in off-specializations (i.e. charming rogue v.s. athletic/wilderness rogue, bows or daggers, fireballs or frostbolts, ect is an interesting choice — but both should be able to bring the pain)

8 Captain DM July 19, 2011 at 12:58 am

It’s always fun to see what everyone feels are the best feats. I, for one, think the numbers game is really for powergaming more than anything else. It can make a big difference in battles, though, and I guess it might make more sense to have those as inherent leveling bonuses for characters, but isn’t that what feats are already?

9 Ameron July 19, 2011 at 9:54 am

Although this discussion/exercise began because we were toying with the possibility of giving away common feats for free, now I’m just more interested in seeing which feats people think are the best of the best. But you’re right that if we do end up house ruling free feats it’ll likely be only one from a very short list.

I disagree. Most of the feats included in this poll were picked specifically because they were applicable to any character. The only ones that are obvious exceptions are the four racial feats and the increased damage feats for strikers. But I suspect as we narrow the list down these will drop off for exactly this reason.

Good point about increased power, especially at low levels. I’ll have to keep that in mind if we do house rule free feats into our game.

Believe it or not, Jack of All Trades is not as popular at my table as it once was. I suspect that it’s mainly because the power gamers in my group don’t meet the Int 13 prerequisite. I on the other hand give this feel to almost every character I make for the reasons you so eloquently spelled out.

@Rabbit is wise
One of the reasons I had to limit this to heroic tier feats was because even by paragon there are a lot of really awesome feats. It would have been too difficult to narrow it down to just 32. By epic almost all of the feats are great so it’s unlikely that everyone will pick the same ones (like they do at heroic tier).

From discussions I’ve had with other DMs, these feats are very often house ruled across the board. It almost begs the questions that if these feats are practically mandatory for PCs to compete, why aren’t they free to all characters?

Rather than give these feats away for free what about taking the opposite route and limiting choices. What if we listed the 10 best feats and said that PC can only ever choose 3 or 4 from the list? That would force players to a) decide which of these benefits they feel is most important, and b) choose other feats to make their character different than his neighbour’s. I’m not wild about imposing any restrictions, but it’s an interesting scenario to explore. What do you think?

Personally I’m not a big fan of Improved Initiative unless I’m playing a striker and attacking early makes a significant difference. Maybe I’ve just been jaded by players running Rangers and Rogues with extremely high Dex scores who take Improved Initiative and Danger Sense, roll two d20s and always seem to go first. Why compete if they’re always going to win the initiative? I’ll just take Jack of All Trades and be happier for it.

I think that feats that provide a +1 to attacks, defense and damage have become so integrated into D&D that removing them would result in public outcry. I agree that it would likely fix some of the problems, but I’d be amazed if it actually came to be. Giving everyone the “math fix” feats for free would certainly level the playing field.

@Captain DM
I to am really looking forward to seeing the results of this little experiment. Wimwick and I made some predictions before the voting started. We’re already seeing some trending that wasn’t what we were expecting. Let’s see if the feats that give those +1s make it to the top of the list.

10 Toldain July 19, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Master at Arms gives you a +1 feat bonus to attack with all weapons, which increases at 11th and 21st levels. Weapon Expertise gives you the same bonus for only one class of weapons, and it increases at 15th and 25th.

Yet Master at Arms is losing in the poll to Weapon Expertise. What am I missing?

11 Naz July 20, 2011 at 12:42 am


Truthfully I like that approach better from an “Experiment” stand point. A few of my friends are looking to start up another game in the very near future. The DM is already imposing a couple of limitations on the players for story reasons, and I think I’m going to approach him about doing just what you said. I’ll watch and see which 10 win out here, then we can see what happens when they are limited to 3 or 4 of them. Depending on the result, I’ll try and leave an update at a later time. Thanks for the reply!

12 Random July 20, 2011 at 7:01 am

Interesting Topic!

Another Twist to ensure that not every PC in the group has the same feats would be to impose a “limited supply” on them. Like each feat can only be taken by one PC – could lead to some fun discussion. 😉

Of course you would have to think about what happens when a PC dies and so on, but could be well worth to think about.

13 monty July 23, 2011 at 12:16 am

@ limiting the the feats

Frankly, it’s just better to give them out free, or ban them all (I favor giving them out). Veteran power-gamers call them them “mandatory” or “feat taxes” (in some cases, only to each class)

The +1 feats are boring anyways.

Frankly, if a feat doesn’t have prerequisites or conditions, it’s probably going to be a boring “math feat”.

Feats should have prerequisites and conditions (like 13+, 15+ or 17+ in an ability score, require training in a skill, or restricted to a certain class). They should always drive you towards specialization, not make you “generally better at the stuff you do all the time”. Superficially specializing in a weapon or elemental type just to get a +1 or a higher damage mod isn’t good enough either. I’d love to see more robust feat options that the how and what of your character, not the how good.

14 Ameron July 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

Thanks to everyone who voted in round 1. The top 16 feats chosen by you have advanced to the next round. Be sure to vote in round 2.

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