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A Guide to the Merciful Healer Cleric (Pathfinder)
Clerics in Pathfinder have generally lost their status as the kings of healing ever since the oracle of life (Advanced Player’s Guide 42) came onto the scene. Through a number of beneficial healing abilities, the oracle of life heals for more and is generally safer while doing so than a cleric could ever be. The merciful healer archetype (Ultimate Combat 41) is an attempt to level the playing field somewhat, making the cleric much more specialized at healing than he would be otherwise. The nice thing about it is that the archetype doesn’t simply duplicate the oracle of life’s abilities—it offers a different, unique strength that makes the cleric better than oracles at solving some problems, but he’s not always better.
Merciful healers only gain one domain (which must be the Healing domain), and they must choose to channel positive energy, though they cannot use the ability to harm undead (but this shouldn’t be surprising). In exchange, they don’t provoke attacks of opportunity for using the Heal skill to stabilize dying creatures, nor do they provoke attacks of opportunity when casting healing spells. The oracle of life gains a similar ability (though it doesn’t also apply to the Heel skill).
The real difference comes in at 3rd level, with the merciful healer’s namesake ability, merciful healing. At 3rd level, the merciful healer can choose one harmful condition, such as fatigued or shaken, and whenever she uses her channel energy ability, she can remove that condition from one creature affected by the ability’s healing. Every three levels after that (up through 12th level), she can choose another condition (and gains an expanded list of conditions she can choose, like the paladin’s mercy ability). At 6th and 12th levels, she can affect one additional target with merciful healing, up to 3 total targets. Other than traditional spells like remove disease, the oracle of life doesn’t have any special way to remove conditions, and the ability to remove them from multiple targets at once is completely unique to the merciful healer. As an added bonus, the merciful healer can take feats that affect a paladin’s mercy ability for merciful healing.
Starting at 8th level, with the true healing ability, the merciful cleric can choose to reroll 1s on the d6s she rolls for channel energy instead of using merciful healing. Considering that clerics have two more uses of channel energy per day, the merciful healer can compete quite well with the oracle of life in terms of healing output.
Compared to the oracle of life, the merciful healer still has full access to the cleric spell list and can prepare any spells on it each day, giving him a substantial edge over his spontaneously casting brethren. This makes the archetype a worthy choice to consider over an oracle of life.
The following sample build assumes that if you’re taking the merciful healer archetype you want to be a truly dedicated healer. Gnome isn’t the best choice for a cleric that’s planning on doing any sort of melee, but as a channel energy-focused cleric, the extra Charisma is nice, as is the Constitution bonus for survivability.
Gnome Cleric (Merciful Healer) 5
Ability Scores (15 Point Buy): Str 6, Dex 12, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 15, Cha 17
1 Selective Channeling
3 Extra Channel
5 Extra Mercy
With all of that, the merciful healer can definitely rival the oracle of life for “best healer” in a Pathfinder game. If your group is in an incredibly deadly campaign, you definitely can’t go wrong choosing this archetype, and even in one that’s not so deadly, your party members are going to love you.