Weapon Optimization: Unique Uses and Strategies (5e Optimized Character Build)

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When was the last time you had a good look at the weapon table? Reading through it some of the weapons might seem random or pointless. However, many of these weapons have extremely unique niches that make their inclusion valid. Either to be used with improvised weapon rules or secret mechanical combinations, every weapon is useful and might be the inspiration for your next build. Read along to find out about the unique uses of each weapon!


Simple Melee Weapons[edit]


  • By far the easiest weapon to improvise in the game. Any stick, chair leg, beer bottle can instantly be picked up and used this way.
  • A very specific uses might be possible depending on your DM. If you kill a twig blight or treeant and make two clubs out of its corpse, your DM might allow you to treat these new weapons like creatures. As such, you can Metamagic twin-cast Shillelagh and use two-weapon fighting. Very niche, and requires you to talk with your DM.


  • A finess weapon that can be used in ranged and melee combat.
  • Easy to improvise with a piece of broken glass or some tableware.
  • Semi-easy to conceal
  • can be hidden in the form of a “tool” in cook’s, carpenter’s, or wood carver’s tools.

Great Club

  • Best weapon you can hope to improvise. Pick up that table and beat someone with it. Really only applicable if you're caught without your gear.


  • Great option for those that want to use two-weapon fighting with their strength modifier and don't get the Dual-wielder feat. (DM doesn't use feats or a build doesn't have room)
  • Highest damaging light and thrown weapon combination.


  • like spear but non-versatile.
  • has highest range of thrown melee weapons.

Light Hammer

  • The easiest weapon to convince someone its not a weapon. Hide it in your Smith supplies or tinker tools and few will confiscate it.


  • ????? This the only weapons I have yet to find a use for. Thematic is the only reason to take it


  • Easily improvised weapon that your DM will likely let you use Pole Arm Master with.
  • Can be used as an Arcane or Druidic focus while also being a weapon.


  • a sickle can be used as a climbing sickle, letting you stay on walls and steep surfaces longer, and possibly letting you hide them in a climbing kit.


  • Arguably the best weapon in the game.
  • As of 2018 player handbook errata, spear can now be used with Polearm Master. The fact you can wield a shield with it makes it increadible.
  • Can be used without penalty underwater
  • It's thrown and versatile properties make it superior to so many other weapons that would compete.

Simple Ranged Weapons[edit]

Light Crossbow

  • Due to being substantially cheaper than the martial ranged weapons, people using the Variant Starting Equipment Rules might choose this over others. There is zero penalty for its loading property until at least level 5
  • Has the highest damage of all simple ranged weapons.


  • While ignored by most due to the fact you can't use two-weapon fighting with it, this is secretly one of the best weapons in the game.
  • Only ranged weapon that can be used with a shield since it lacks both the ammunition and loading properties
  • One if the few weapons that can be used underwater without taking disadvantage on the attack roll.
  • Reverse Finesse: While most read finesse and think "that means I can use dexterity", that would be redundant since this is already a ranged weapon. The secret is that because of finesses wording, Darts are the only ranged weapon you can use strength with. As such this is the only weapon that you could make a niche strength based Sharpshooter with.
  • Great for short ranged spell casters/attackers (Arcane Trickster Rogue uses mage hand within 30 ft for example).
  • are the cheapest weapon with the exception of the sling depending on the situation(how often you lose or break your darts)
  • Are a good ranged choice for kensei monks as they deal much more damage due to being monk weapons (for kensei monks) as well as have the previously mentioned features.


  • When you're dealing with flying enemies and you're a non-kensei monk or sword bard.


  • The easiest to improvise ranged weapon. Also the only ranged weapon that can be made quickly (others require lots of time and training to make)
  • Only ranged weapon that deals bludgeoning damage, helpful in the niche situations something has resistance to piercing damage only. Especially given how easy it is to make a sling.

Martial Melee Weapons[edit]

This section marks where we begin to group weapons up due to similarities. Some weapons are only unique because of their damage types, something that won't be covered in depth in this guide.

Longsword, Battleaxe, Warhammer

  • These three are either thematic or damage type variations of one another.
  • Overal the best one-handed weapon you can get in the game

Flail, Morning Star, Warpick

  • Less versatile then the before mentioned weapons, these are for those that are certain they want a shield and a certain damage type.
  • Warpick is unique in that it is a d8 piercing damage weapon that is wielded with one hand. Very niche applications, but worth noting.


  • If you're a Half-orc or using a critical hit based build, this is for you. Largest damage dice in the game.
  • Less consistent then the great sword, it also is more likely to deal larger amounts of damage.

Maul and Great Sword

  • Far more consistent versions of the Greataxe.
  • They're better for GWM builds that don't rely on crit, like a battlemaster fighter or niche ranger build.

Halberd and Glaive

  • Combine with Great Weapon Master, Sentinel, and Polearm Master for a extremely potent build.


  • Combine with Great Weapon Master, Sentinel, and Polearm Master for a extremely potent build.
  • Gets the unique distinction of piercing damage and also possibly being able to improvise or easily made in survival campaigns.


  • It's specifically made for those that want to use a mount.
  • Weirdly can be used with two-weapon fighting if you have the Dual Wielder feat.
  • Like a lance but it deals more damage but has disadvantage on attack rolls against adjacent targets.


  • highest damaging finesse weapon.
  • Dual Wielder lets this be the best two-weapon fighting build. Arguably not worth the feat however.

Scimitar and Shortsword

  • For those that want to dual wield with dexterity.
  • Pair this strategy with a Hex or Hunter's mark to actually stay relevant in damage, one of the only ways to use two-weapon fighting effectively.


  • It's a clone of a spear. Except can't be used with Polearm Master. I struggled on this one.
  • Its unique 3 point head, something that might be able to stick into a wooden surface better and hold some weight.
  • Ceremonial tridents can sometimes be completely metal, possibly giving it a little more wear and tear resistance.

Whip This weapon is one of the most weird and unique weapons in the game.

  • only reach weapon that is one handed or finesse.
  • could be used to as a impromptu rope to climb, tie, and restrain.
  • is the only reach weapon that is Kensei monk available.
  • being a one handed reach weapon, this would be useful for a “Hit-and-Run” style character.

Martial Ranged Weapons[edit]


  • For delivering wound based poisons, it decreases the chance they seek help before the poison takes effect. You need a high stealth check for that though.
  • possibly easy to improvise from man-made items such as pipes.

Hand Crossbow

  • The best weapon for munchkin players.
  • Take the Crossbow Expert feat. Due to its wording, you can use your action to attack with a hand crossbow then also use your bonus action to make an attack with the same weapon. Pair this with Sharpshooter for some really high damage.

Heavy Crossbow

  • For those that want to use Crossbow Expert + Sharpshooter but have their bonus action spoken for (Battle Smith Artificers or Rogues for example)
  • Highest damage dice of ranged weapons, if you come up with a range based crit build.


  • more durable than crossbows, and has the longest range of all weapons.
  • Samurai can use their bonus action to give the same effect as Crossbow expert, though gaining consistent advantage from range is difficult.
  • Pairs well with the Bracers of Archery magic item, which doesn't quite compensate for the lack of an extra attack but tries.
  • Arcane Archer Fighter subclass relies only longbows


  • For "catch-don't-kill" missions.
  • Only weapon that inherently applies a status condition.
  • although these can break, they are very cheap.

Weapon Based Builds[edit]

Greataxe Crit Build[edit]

Weapon: Greataxe

Race: Half-Orc

Class: Barbarian Berserker 17/Fighter Champion 3

  • This maxes out Brutal Critical
  • Champion doubles your odds to crit (19-20 rather than just natural 20's)
  • If you use Reckless attack and Frenzy Rage, There is a 47% chance you will crit at least once each turn, and a 10% chance you will crit twice

Because you’re adding on 4 additional weapon dice to a crit, the difference between what a Greataxe and any other weapon produces is actually noticable.

Front-Line Spearman[edit]

Weapon: Spear, Shield

Race: Any (recommend Human Variant for Polearm Master)

Class: Fighter is probably the best, paladin or other melee capable classes work though.

  • Get the Polearm Master and Sentinel feat as soon as possible
  • Use the combo to halt enemy movement while dealing pretty substantial damage.

The main benefit of this build is you can wield a shield, dramatically increasing your AC, while also using polearm master for easy bonus action attacks.

magic weapon compatibility[edit]

This section is less for wielding weapons, and more of the weapon proficiencies themselves.

Any weapon

  • vicious weapons
  • +1, +2, and +3 weapons
  • warning weapons

Any sword

This includes long swords, short swords, scimitars, great swords, and rapiers.

  • dancing sword
  • defender
  • dragon slayer
  • flame tongue
  • frost brand
  • giant slayer
  • Holy avenger
  • luck blade
  • moon-touched sword
  • nine lives stealer
  • sun blade
  • sword of answering
  • sword of life stealing
  • sword of vengeance
  • sword of wounding


  • mace of disruption
  • mace of smiting
  • mace of terror

Any axe

This includes great axes, battle axes, and hand axes.

  • berserker axe
  • giant slayer


  • Vorpal sword and sword of sharpness - scimitars, longswords, great-swords.
  • javelin of lightning - javelin
  • trident of fish command - trident

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