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Pathfinder - Wizard Archetypes Breakdown

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Archetypes

Wizards have very few archetypes because they are more commonly defined by their Arcane School, but archetypes provide another level of customization.

Arcane Bomber

The Arcane Bomber looks at Fireball, and decides that the Alchemist's bombs are better despite scaling half as fast, having the same maximum damage, have half the area of effect, and a tiny fraction of the range.

Bomb (Su): As the Alchemist class ability, but you get to pick the energy type. Hint: don't pick fire.

Spellblast Bombs (Su): You give up cantrips, which are amazing, for the ability to give up spells (which are amazing) to add a very small bonus to your attack and damage with bombs.

School of the Bomb: You give up four schools. Four. And you don't get to select an actual school, so you don't get any cool school powers. Instead you get bombs. Isn't that exciting?

Replaced Features: Arcane Bond, Arcane School

Compatible Archetypes: None

Exploiter Wizard

The Exploiter Wizard merges the raw power of the Wizard with Arcanist Exploits's and Arcane Reservoir. Both of these abilities are fantastic for any spellcaster, but the Exploiter Wizard gets very few Exploits to play with.

Arcane Reservoir (Su): The ability to temporarily boost your caster level and spell DC can be very powerful for a lot of spells.

Exploiter Exploit: You don't get nearly as many exploits as an Arcanist, so be very careful about your selections. For help selecting exploits, see my Arcanist Exploits Breakdown. The Exploiter Wizard gets a total of 5 exploits (1, 5, 9, 14, 19), and never gets access to Greater Exploits.

Replaced Features: Arcane Bond, Arcane School

Compatible Archetypes: None

Scrollmaster

The Scrollmaster is a very weird archetype. You can use scrolls as disposable weapons and shields, and at level 10 you can use scrolls like you use staves. The Scroll Shield ability gives you a way to get a relatively cheap shield bonus to AC, and if you add the Defending ability to your scroll blade, you can actually manage a decent AC on a wizard. You will always want to have the Mending cantrip handy to keep from ruining your expensive scrolls. If you plan to prestige class into Eldritch Knight, the Scrollmaster might offer you some interesting options. Otherwise, you may find yourself hard pressed to make use of the archetype's abilities.

Scroll Blade (Su): Right away things get weird. You can wield a scroll as if it were a short sword. Hitting with the scroll deals a point of damage to the scroll, which very quickly destroys it. So your scrolls are very expensive disposable shortswords. Eventually you can drop the enhancement bonus to give it reach or one of several weapon abilities. This replaces Arcane bond, which is a fairly fantastic ability. Most Wizards won't be running around with swords, and you aren't a Magus. If you insist on using this, keep Mending prepared to repair your "weapons." Also note that this ability doesn't scale past 5th level, which can make it useful for those planning to multiclass into Eldritch Knight.

Scroll Shield (Su): Similar to scroll blade. Only successful attacks against the wizard reduce the scrolls hit points, so the better the scroll, the less likely it is to take damage. Even so, these are very expensive disposable shields. If you keep Mending handy, you can keep a scroll around for a good long time and get some much-need AC. Also note that this ability doesn't scale past 5th level, which can make it useful for those planning to multiclass into Eldritch Knight.

Improved Scroll Casting (Su): This is actually pretty great. Similar to the "Staff-like Wand" arcane discovery, this allows the wizard to use scrolls like a wand, thereby greatly improving the usefulness of scrolls with caster-level dependent effects and scrolls which require a saving throw.

Replaced Features: Arcane Bond, Bonus Feat (10th)

Compatible Archetypes: Siege mage, Spirit Whisperer

Siege Mage

This is an archetype for NPCs in war campaigns. There are very few cases where a wizard is not strictly better than a catapult, and almost none of those cases will come up in a Pathfinder game.

Siege Engineer: Proficiency with all siege engines is pretty nice, assuming you want to sit behind a catapult all day.

Siege Engine Bond (Su): If you want to fire a siege engine without getting your hands dirty, this is the way to do it. Not very exiting, but cool flavor.

Empower Siege Engine (Su): If you don't have a good use for your spells (and you always should), this is a good ability.

Siege School: You give up three schools of insanely powerful arcane magic in exchange for some lousy abilities to launch rocks out of giant slings.

Replaced Features: Arcane School

Compatible Archetypes: Scrollmaster

Spell Sage

The Spell Sage is helpful if you really need access to spells on another class's spell list and don't have any other spellcasters in the party. However, if you need to cover both Divine and Arcane spells, other classes like the Witch will get you a better mix without such strict limitations.

Focused Spells (Su): This can dramatically improve the effectiveness of a handful of spells per day.

Spell Study (Su): This grants you access to a huge number of spells not normally available to the Wizard, but because they take so long to cast you generally can't expect to use them in combat. Instead, focus on using low-level buffs which sacrifice spell slots which you don't frequently use, and try to use buffs with long durations. You can only use this a few times per day, so be very thoughtful about what spells you intend to use this with.

Replaced Features: Arcane Bond, Arcane School

Compatible Archetypes: None

Spellslinger

This could have been called gunmage, but then a really cool name would be wasted on a really disappointing archetype. To play this class, every turn you must ask yourself if you should be firing a gun or casting a spell. 90% of the time, casting a spell will be the answer. Arcane Gun lets you increase your attacks rolls and DCs a bit for some spells, but you get very little else, and you have to sacrifice 4 schools of magic for a shiny toy.

Arcane Gun (Su): You can use guns to aim ranged spells which require ranged attack rolls, as well as cones and lines. Adding the enhancement bonus to the attack roll or DC makes these spells much more reliable. You need to choose if you want to use two guns (two-weapon fighting) or one gun.

Gunsmith: You get the ability to craft and repair firearms, and you start with a broken gun just like a gunslinger.

Mage Bullets (Su): You give up cantrips for the ability to add some weapon enhancements to your gun on the fly, and you have to sacrifice spells. The list of abilities is pretty nice, and the duration is respectable, but you have to give up spells to do it, and you have to spend time shooting things to use the abilities.

School of the Gun: You give up 4 schools in exchange for a shiny toy and some cute tricks.

Replaced Features: Arcane Bond, Arcane School, Scribe Scroll

Compatible Archetypes: None

Spirit Whisperer

The Spirit Whisperer introduces Shaman Spirits to the Wizard. Shaman Spirits are a very interesting mechanic, but they introduce a depended on Charisma to the Wizard, which is otherwise a very SAD class. The Spirit Whisperer doesn't get all of the abilities provided by the Shaman Spirit, and gets at most 3 Hexes.

Arcane Bond (Ex): Familiars are fantastic, but the Spirit Animal abilities provided by Shaman Spirits generally aren't very impressive.

Spirit Link (Su): For some reason you never gain the "True Spirit" ability of your chosen Spirit. Many Spirit abilities depend on Charisma, which is a dump stat for Wizards. For help selecting a Shaman Spirit, see my Shaman Spirit Breakdown.

Spirit Hex: The Spirit Whisperer can get at most 3 hexes, which severely limits your options. Many Shaman Hexes also depend on Charisma.

Replaced Features: Spellbook, Arcane School, Bonus Feat (20th)

Compatible Archetypes: Scrollmaster