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DnD 5e - The Artificer Handbook

Last Updated: December 14th, 2020

TEMPORARY NOTE: RPGBOT is undergoing a massive update for DnD 5e content to accomodate rules changes and new content introduced by Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Please be patient while these changes are made. I maintain this site as a hobby, and I got access to the book on the same day as everyone else and I am rushing to catch up as quickly as I can. Please check "Last Updated" date below the title of each page. If it was updated before November 17th, it has not been updated to include the new content. To see what I still need to complete to catch up with Tasha's, see my To-Do List. To watch for ongoing updates, please follow me on Twitter.

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

Introduction

This guide is for the latest version of the Artificer class. The full version was originally published in Eberron: Rising from the Last War, and updated in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. If you are currently using the version published in Eberron, I recommend checking the Errata document for the latest improvements, as the changes are significiant.

The Artificer has been a popular concept since at least 3rd edition, where the Artificer first appeared as a class unique to the Eberron campaign setting. Since then, the class has reappeared in 4th edition, and was in high demand when 5th edition was released, but didn't see a final release until full 5 years after 5th edition's initial release. The concept of a character who performs magic by binding it to items and who crafted all sorts of technological or magical gadgets is a fun novelty in a game where magic rarely takes those forms.

The Artificer is a class with a tool for every job and a solution to every problem. They excel as a Support character, but make decent Defenders, Healers, and Strikers, too. With the right infusions and spells, they can fill nearly any role in the party, making the Artificer's versatility rival that of the Bard.

However, the Artificer is complicated. This is not a class I would recommend for new players or for players who suffer from analysis paralysis. The Artificer has more decision points than any class to date, including the Wizard. Every time you finish a long rest you can reset your prepared spells, shuffle where you apply all of your infusions, and pick magic items from a list of some 40+ options. While some of these decisions may remain static for long periods of time, the intent of the class is that you will tailor your abilities day-to-day to suit the challenges you expect to face. While that versatility and adaptability is very powerful, it also requires a great deal of micromanagement of your character.

This is the sort of class that can be rewarding for players who enjoy "crunch" and fiddling with their character's build, but which will be absoltuely punishing for players who don't like to spend hours agonizing over the differences between individual character options.

Several of the Artificer's features are related to crafting and to magic items. If your game does not allow item crafting or does not use magic items, you're going to miss out on those features. Of course, you may also be the only source of magic items, which may be worthwhile.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my Artificer Subclasses Breakdown and my Artificer Spells Breakdown.

Artificer Class Features

Hit Points: With d8 hit points and medium armor, the artificer is not a tank by any means. You'll probably want to remain at range, but if you find yourself in melee a lot be sure to pad your hit points with False Life, plenty of Constitution, and as many AC boosts as you can manage.

Saves: Constitution is great, especially since many artificers fight on the front lines where you'll be repeatedly making saves to maintain Concentration. Intelligence saves are exceptionally rare.

Proficiencies: Medium armor and shields will keep you alive in melee, but with only simple weapons your best Finesse option is a dagger. That's fine for most artificers since fighting with ranged spells is your best option, but the Battlesmith will eventually take up martial weapons and use Intelligence for their attacks and damage. The Artificer's skills are mostly Intelligence and Wisdom-based, and most are knowledge skills, but Sleight of Hand is an option. You also get three tool proficiencies, which gives you room to tailor your character to the theme you're going for. Your Artificer Speclialist will grant you proficiency in an additional set of tools relevant to the subclass at 3rd level.

Magical Tinkering: This is very similar to cantrips like Prestidigitation. The effects are interesting and unique, and if you're clever you can come up with all kinds of uses for Magical Tinkering. You can have multiple objects affected at the same time, so consider carrying around a few prepared items which you can quickly produce and use.

Spellcasting: Artificers are a 2/3 caster that prepares and casts spells like a cleric (prepare daily from the full class list). You get ritual casting, which is always great, and the spell list is a combination of options from the cleric and wizard spell lists, allowing to serve as a blaster, a healer, and a support caster. Notably, the Artificer can retrain a cantrip every level. To the best of my knowledge, the Artificer is the only class with the ability to replace cantrips.

The Artificer's spellcasting foci are also unique. Rather than a wand or something, you use Thieves' Tools or a set of Artisan's Tools. You can wave a set of lockpicks around to cast fireball, which I think will inevitably lead to some laughs at the table and countless goofy characters using weird tools to perform magic.

You can also use any item that's the subject of one of your infusions, which means that if you have infused a weapon or a shield you can easily have a focus in hand without dropping your weapon or shield to pull out a wand or something. Your choice of subclass will add additional focus options, but they're typically no better than what the Artificer gets by default, though they'll certainly fit the theme of your subclass.

It's also very important to note that the Artificer must always use a focus when casting spells. Errata and the updated version of the Artificer class explain that this adds a Material component to all of the Artificer's spells. Thanks to the core rules for spell components, this means that you can always use the hand holding your focus to perform somatic components. That makes the Artificer the only spellcaster who can perform every one of their spells with items in both of their hands. (Typically you can't perform somatic components with a focus in your hand unless the spell also requires an inexpensive material component. I complain about this rule frequently.)

For help selecting spells, see my Artificer Spell List Breakdown.

Infuse Item: This may be the Artificer's most iconic ability. You get to start with two infused items chosen from four Infusion known, which is like getting two magic items at 2nd level. For guidane on Infusions, see my Artificer Infusions Breakdown.

Artificer Specialist: Artificer subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Artificer Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.

  • Alchemist: Add new support and healing options, as well as bonus healing and bonus damage with spells which deal certain damage types.
  • Armorer: Don a suit of magic armor and smash or blast your foes in combat.
  • Artillerist: Emphasize the Artificer's abilities as a Blaster, and add the ability to summon magical canons to aid you in combat.
  • Battle Smith: Focus on fighting with weapons alongside your new Iron Defender, a sturdy pet construct designed for combat.

The Right Tool for the Job: You technically never recieve a free set of tools except for the Thieves' Tools included in the Artificer starting equipment. If you're short on gold, you might not be able to afford the tools related to your subclass. Instead, you get this. I think the expectation is that you can use this to craft the tools for your subclass for free, and trade them out for other tools when you need them. Unfortunately, using this ability requires Thieves' Tools or Artisan's Tools, allowing you to purchase Weaver's Tools or Woodcarver's Tools for 1gp then turn them into 50gp Tinker's Tools or whatever else you might need.

Tool Expertise: There's a reason WotC is comfortable granting universal expertise with tools: unless the DM is going out of their way or you are making a truly impressive effort, most tool proficiencies rarely matter beyond the flavor of your character. I can't think of an instance where a character made frequent checks with Brewer's Tools over the course of a campaign, for example. However, the notable exception of Thieves' Tools means that Tool Expertise has at least one important use case in a typical campaign.

Flash of Genius: A bonus of up to +5 on a save can easily turn a failed save or check into a successful one, and using this up to 5 times a day means that it's a powerful and reliable part of your skillset.

Magic item Adept: Attuning an additional item is typically not a big difference, but considering many Infusions require attunement, this can be very important in campaigns which include magic items. The ability to craft your own magic items faster and for less gold improves this ability further because you can craft items which require attunement with less concern about the limited number of items you can attune.

Spell-Storing Item: It may only be a 1st- or 2nd-level spell, but you can cast it up to 10 times per day at 20 Intelligence. Obvious options include Cure Wounds, False Life, Invisibility, and other restorative or protective spells, buffs, and utility options which you're going to cast repeatedly throughout a normal day of adventuring.

Unfortunately, it appears that you can't choose a 1st-level spell cast with a 2nd-level slot, but that's probably fine.

Remember that any creature can use this, so consider passing this off to an ally (the Homunculus Servant and the Battle Smith's Steel Defender could both suffice if you need more precise control than letting another player use it) if the spell you choose makes more sense coming from someone else, if the spell targets the caster, or if you chose a spell which requires Concentration and someone in your party is a non-spellcaster so their Concentration isn't being utilized.

Strangely, the text of Spell-Storing Item doesn't use the phrase "Cast a Spell" to describe the action, so unlike a wand or similar item, creatures may be able to use this when they normally can't cast spells (like when raging). You also notably don't need to provide components, so you can use spells silently, without moving, and without providing material components (including expensive ones!) so you can get away with all kinds of trickery.

Magic item Savant: One more attuned item, and you can ignore class/race/spell/level requirements on magic items. Those requirements are rare, but maybe you want to use a Holy Avenger or something.

Magic item Master: One more attuned item.

Soul of Artifice: You can (and should) be attuned 6 items, giving you a +6 bonus to all of your saves. Add Flash of Genius to that, and you can add +11 to any save on top of your normal bonus.

Abilities

Artificers live and die by their Intelligence score, but Dexterity and Constitution are just as helpful to the Artificer as they are to everyone else. The Artificer has an impressive three total dump stats, allowing you to dump all of your points into the abilities which we care about and leave the rest at 8. Replicate Magic Item gives you access to ability score boosting items and items which boost all of your saving throws, so you can often offset or override incredibly low ability scores with little effort.

Str: Typically a dump stat. You don't need Strength for anything unless you spend a feat on proficiency with heavy armor, and considering how many AC buffs you can get from your Infusions you really don't need to do that. Only the Battlesmith will invest heavily in fighting with weapons, and they can rely on Intelligence for attack and damage.

Dex: You'll want some Dexterity to fill out your AC and to help with weapons at low levels, but you'll never need more than 14.

Con: Always essential.

Int: Your primary stat. Fuels your spells and all of your class features.

Wis: Technically a dump stat, but it complements many of your skills nicely so it may be helpful to put some points into it.

Cha: Dump stat.

Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 15
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 10

Races

The most important thing you can get from your race is an Intelligence increase. Even martial subclass options like the Armorer and the Battle Smith are almost entirely dependent on Intelligence for their features. You will need a bit of Dexterity to fill out medium armor, but 14 Dexterity is easily achieved by any races so Constitution is typically your best secondary increase.

In addition to ability scores, look for traits that complement the Artificer's limited spellcasting or which complement your intended subclass. Innate spellcasting, natural flight, and similar benefits can reduce strain on your spellcasting so that you can commit limited resources like Infused Items and prepared spells to solving other problems.

Note that setting-specific races like the Changeling and the Satyr are addressed in setting-specific sections, below.

AarakocraEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, and flight in light armor. Flight puts you safely out of range of the majority of enemies, reducing the need for you to dump spells and infusions into items to raise your AC and to get access to flight, but dropping to light armor reduces your AC and adds a frustrating need to invest in Dexterity. Subclasses like the Armorer (especially with Infiltrator armor) and the Alchemist both make sense, but the Battle Smith's pet can't fly and neither can the Artillerist's canons (though they may be small enough that you can carry them while they shoot stuff).

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

AasimarVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 int, +1 Con (each subrace offers a +1 increase), two damage resistances, Darkvision, and Healing Hands and Light Bearer will complement your spellcasting, especially at low levels when your spell options are very limited.

  • Fallen: Necrotic Shroud offers a once daily combat buff, but the short range on the fear effect means that it's most effective in melee. Armorers and Battle Smiths will find it useful, and since you can apply it to one target per turn that you damage with a spell or attack, you can get the most out of it by using AOE damage spells like Sword Burst or Burning Hands. Spells which deal half damage on a successful save will guarantee that you can apply the bonus damage, but keep in mind that it will be halved, too. Try to hit numerous enemies to increase the likelihood that at least one target will fail their save.
  • Protector: Radiant Soul offers a once daily buff which grants flight that words in heavy armor, unlike most racial flight options. The 1-minute duration means that it's primarily useful in combat, but unlike the Fallen Aasimar there's little reason to limit yourself to activating it in melee range. The damage effect works the same way, so follow the same tactics as the Fallen Aasimar (focus on AOE damage against multiple targets). This seems like a great option for the Artillerist, though remember that your canons aren't you, so they won't trigger the effect.
  • Scourge: Tactically similar to the Fallen Aasimar, you want to use Radiant Consumption in melee. Ideally, you want to use this when enemies will have a hard time getting away from you, so effects like Booming Blade can be very effective, though moving away from AOE damage may reduce the total damage you can deal so you'll need to find a way to balance those two tactical concerns.

Default Rules: None of the subrace benefits are good enough to make the ability score increases viable.

  • Fallen: Bad ability spread.
  • Protector: Bad ability spread.
  • Scourge: Bad ability spread.
Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and two damage resistances. The Aasimar also adds some innate spellcasting, but the only new spell is Daylight and you really don't need it.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

BugbearVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Surprise Attack attack works with any attack including spell attacks, but artificers won't have enough Dexterity to reliably go early in combat so you'll find that Surprise Attack may be difficult to use. Long-limbed might combine well with the Armorer's Thunder Gauntlets, but note that Long-limbed won't work with spells like Booming Blade due to their 5-foot range.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Custom LineageTCoE

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Custom Lineage.

Default Rules: +2 Int, a feat, and either a skill or Darkvision. With the right feat you can start with 18 Intelligence. Great for most builds, but you might prefer the Variant Human if you want to increase both Constitution and Intelligence at level one.

DragonbornPHB

The Draconblood and Ravenite subraces are addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, one damage resistance and a breath weapon. The breath weapon will deal comparable damage to Burning Hands, which helps stretch your limited spell slots. But that's all, really. Dragonborn are really cool, they're just not a a strong race.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

DwarfPHB

Customized Origin: +2 Int, Darkvision, and resistance to poison. Retrain the weapon proficiencies into good finesse options like the rapier and the whip (especially if you're going for Battle Smith), and if you have more weapons than you need you can trade them for tool proficiencies. A great start for any character, including the Artificer, and the Battle Smith may enjoy early access to martial weapons.

  • DuergarSCAG: Numerically great, but Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain if your campaign doesn't take place underground.
  • HillPHB: Put the +1 in Constitution and Dwarven Toughness will give you even more hit points. Great for melee builds, and the extra hp will close the gap between the Artificer's d8 hit dice and the d10 hit dice of classes like the Fighter.
  • MountainPHB: The second +2 is really tempting, but it's not essentialsince the Artificer really only needs to raise Intelligence to 20. Still, starting with two ability scores at 17 makes it easy to get both to 20 if you want to do that, and high Constitution is crucial on melee builds. It also leave lots of room for feats in your build, and makes it easier to start with a second ability at 16 while spending fewer points, which then lets you raise your lower ability scores. Trade the armor proficiencies for two more tool proficiencies.

Default Rules: Dwarves are an all-around good race, but they lack the critical Intelligence increase which the Artificer sorely needs, and they lack a Dexterity increase to fall back on.

  • DuergarSCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • HillPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • MountainPHB: Bad ability spread, and artificers already get medium armor.
ElfPHB

The Palid Elf subrace is addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (Every subrace provides a second +1 which will probably go into Constitution), Darkvision, and proficiency in Perception. Sure, you can replace Perception but it's the best skill in the game so I don't know why you would. .

  • DrowPHB: Drow Weapon training will get you early access to martial weapons for the Battle Smith (or you can trade for tool proficiencies), but the existing proficiencies are already pretty good. Drow Magic complements the Artificer's limited spellcasting. Sunlight Sensitivity is a pain unless your campaign takes place underground.
  • EladrinMToF: Fey Step is a great way to get access to teleportation early and it can save you the trouble of expending spell slots for Misty Step, but the Artificer has numerous ways to solve the same problems so beyond low levels it's going to be less exciting.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Functionally similar to the regular Eladrin, but you give up the rider effect on Fey Step to get 4 weapon proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies.
  • High ElfPHB: An extra cantrip, and early access to martial weapons for the Battle Smith unless you want to trade some or all of the weapon proficiencies for tool proficiencies. Not super flashy, but a great option if you want a simple yet very effective build.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Roughly equivalent to the High Elf, but you give up the cantrip for a swim speed, the ability to breath water, and the ability to communicate with beasts that have swim speeds.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Basically the same as the Eladrin, but only one option for the rider effect on your teleportation and you get resistance to necrotic damage.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Not as appealing as the High Elf. Mask of the Wild is neat, but doesn't cater to the Artificer's capabilities. The extra move speed is nice, too, but it's between those two features they're not as useful as an extra cantrip.

Default Rules: High Elf is the only subrace which gives us an Intelligent increase, but the Elf's base racial traits are great and the Dexterity increase allows us to easily fall back on weapon attacks until your cantrips improve at 5th level or you get Battle Ready for Battlesmiths.

  • DrowPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • EladrinMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Dexterity, Intelligence, and Misty Step once per short rest. You also get some weapon proficiencies which you can trade for tool proficiencies if you don't need more weapons.
  • High ElfPHB: Dexterity, Intelligence, and a free wizard cantrip all nicely complement the Artificer's skillset, especially at lot levels when you don't have many abilities to throw around.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Bad ability spread.
FirbolgVGtM

Customized Origin: Thematically unusual, but some interesting benefits. +2 Int, +1 Con, and Firbolg Magic complements the Artificer's built-in spellcasting. Hidden Step can get you out of melee if you don't want to be there, which is great for ranged builds. Speech of Beast and Leaf is neat, but you likely don't have the Charisma to back it up.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

GenasiEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi's traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: You have an abundance of options to solve both breathing underwater and levitation.
  • Earth: Pass without trace nicely solves the Artificer's typically awful Stealth rolls, but that's really not enough.
  • Fire: Damage resistance and Darkvision are great, and the innate spellcasting is a good way to pad your limited spell slots. Produce Flame is nearly equivalent to Fire Bolt, so you might choose to use Produce Flame and save yourself a cantrip, though the fact that the spellcasting is Constitution-based may be a problem. In some ways, this is very similar to the High Elf, but you give up the weapon, skill, and language proficiencies for resistance to fire and Burning Hands once per day.
  • Water: I would only consider this in an aquatic campaign, and even then the Artificer has abundant options to get access to swim speeds and the ability to breath underwater.

Default Rules: A Constitution increase is always welcome, but the Genasi's traits come primarily from the subrace, and the Fire Genasi is the only option which is truly appealing.

  • Air: The Dexterity increase works, but the Air Genasi's features don't do anything that Artificer couldn't already do.
  • Earth: Bad ability spread.
  • Fire: An intelligence increase and the extra spellcasting and fire resistance are great additions to the Artificer's existing capabilities.
  • Water: Bad ability spread.
GithMToF

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: A good option for melee builds, access to martial weapons early is tempting for the Battle Smith, and Misty Step even once per day is a great option for melee builds. The innate spellcasting will help pad the Artificer's limited spellcasting, but there's nothing here that the Artificer doesn't already get. If you don't need the extra weapon proficiencies (or if you're happy to wait until level 3 to get them on a Battle Smith), trade them for tool proficiencies.
  • Githzerai: Less appealing for the Battle Smith than the Githyanki, but probably better for other subclasses. The condition resistances cover a broad variety of problematic effects, and Shield once per day for free is fantastic at any level. The innate spellcasting is Wisdom-based, but you can do quite a bit with Detect Thoughts before you need to worry about saving throws.

Default Rules: An Intelligence increase is a great start, giving us all that we absolutely need. Githzerai is a great option almost solely based on the innate spellcasting.

  • GithyankiMToF: Strength is mostly useless for the Artificer, and the innate spellcasting isn't as useful as the Githzerai's, but the Strength increase and access to some martial weapons is tempting for a Battlesmith who can't wait for level 3 to start swinging a weapon.
  • GithzeraiMToF: Wisdom works fine, and the extra spellcasting is a great addition.
GnomePHB

Customized Origin: Darkvision and Gnome Cunning are great on any character, and the ability to reassign your ability score increases to support a melee build makes the Gnome a great option for durable front-line builds.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Superior Darkvision is nice, but the stealth doesn't do much for the Artificer. Other gnome subraces have more to offer.
  • ForestPHB: Minor illusions is a great spell that's not on the Artificer's spell list, but Speak with Small Beasts is rarely useful.
  • RockPHB: Thematically excellent. Tinker complements Magical Tinkering nicely, and you get an extra tool proficiency.

Default Rules: An Intelligence increase, Darkvision, and Cunning all make the gnome a fantastic option. Any of the gnome subraces work well with the shared gnome traits as a basis, allowing you to plenty of flexibility.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: A Dexterity increase, Superior Darkvision, and Stone Camouflage. Stealth generally isn't something the Artificer does, but it's definitely a possibility.
  • ForestPHB: Dexterity will help with weapons until your cantrips become more effective, but minor illusion is partially redundant with Magical Tinkering, and honestly how often does Speak With Small Beasts apply?
  • RockPHB: Probably the most obvious option, the Rock gnome seems tailor-made to be an artificer. The Rock Gnome's Tinker trait complements Magical Tinkering nicely, allowing you to produce numerous baubles to address challenges in strange an unexpected ways.
GoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, Darkvision. Fury of the Small works with spells, including AOE damage spells (though it only affects one of the targets), and Nimble Escape is excellent for keeping out of melee and for hit-and-run tactics with Booming Blade or if you're built for range and accidently find yourself in melee.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

GoliathEEPC

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, a skill, and damage resistance. Stone's Endurance is great for front-line artificer builds and will help compensate for your relatively small hit die.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Half-ElfPHB

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, +1 whatever else you want, Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry. Excellent, versatile, and it works for any subclass. Other races may work for specific subclasses better, but the Half-Elf works well for everything.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign, and even then there are better options.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: A nice complement to the Artificer's spellcasting, but it's Charisma-based so Faerie Fire will be useless.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: A wizard cantrip is a nice complement to the Artificer's spellcasting, but Custom Lineage or Variant Human with Magic Initiate would be more effective.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two skills are very useful. Unfortunately, Darkvision and two skills are very common with customized origins, so the standard half-elf doesn't stand out unless you desperately need that third increase.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: If you want more tool proficiencies on the half-elf, this is the way to get them. Trade some or all of the four granted weapon proficiencies for new tool proficiencies. Maybe not as reliably effective as the two skills from the standard half-elf, but still very appealing. The Artificer doesn't need the speed boost of Mask of the Wild.

Default Rules: You can get the ability score increases that you care about, but you'll get more from the Variant Human since Charisma is useless for the Artificer.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign, and even then there are better options.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: A nice complement to the Artificer's spellcasting, but it's Charisma-based so Faerie Fire will be useless.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: A wizard cantrip is a nice complement to the Artificer's spellcasting, but at this point Custom Lineage or Variant Human with Magic Initiate would be more effective.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: The skill/tool proficiencies complement the Artificer nicely. You can trade one or both for weapon proficiencies, but I don't recommend it.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: If you want weapons, go for Standard and trade one skill down to a weapon. The Artificer doesn't need the speed boost of Mask of the Wild.
Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, a skill, Darkvision, and Relentless Endurance. Savage Attacks is neat, but not especially impactful since artificers rarely use weapons with hit dice larger than a d8. Relentless Endurance will save you in a pinch, but if you want durability the Goliath may be a better fit.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2 int, and Brave and Lucky are good on literally any character. Each subrace will provide another +1 increase which will almost certainly go into Constitution.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech is great, but since the Artificer so rarely builds for stealth it's not a great fit.
  • LightfootPHB: Naturally stealthy is only useful if you're planning to rely on stealth, especially in combat.
  • StoutPHB: Stout Resilience is really great, providing some of the Dwarf's durability.

Default Rules: No options to get the crucial Intelligence increase.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • LightfootPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • StoutPHB: Bad ability spread.
HobgoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: The Hobgoblin is a great choice without the Customizing Your Origin optional rule, but when everyone can get Int/Con increases and numerous races provide martial weapon proficiencies the Hobgoblin loses a lot of what makes it special. Its remaining distinguishing trait is Saving Face, which is good but not amazing. Trade the weapon proficiencies for tool proficiencies unless you're desperate to get martial weapons early.

Default Rules: Perfect ability score increases, darkvision, access to two martial weapons starting at first level, and Saving Face is fantastic. This is a spectacular option for the Battlesmith, though you may still want to stick to a rapier or a whip until you get Battle Ready because your Strength is probably still garbage.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

  • Default: The Artificer really only needs two ability scores, but a +1 to all of your scores can be helpful if you use the point buy ability generation method to give yourself low, odd-numbered base ability scores to save points. But ability scores alone don't make the Default Human an interesting choice.
  • Variant: You still get crucial bonuses to your Constitution and Intelligence, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1.
KenkuVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, and two skills from Kenku Training. Expert Forgery is neat and could make for a fun artificer who uses calligrapher's tools or something similar. Mimicry won't see much use since artificers typically dump Charisma and don't make great Face characters.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

KoboldVGtM

Customized Origin: Play a Battle Smith. +2 Int, Darkvision, and you can use Pack Tactics with your Steel Defender. Sunlight Sentivity is obviously a pain, unfortunately, but you can use Pack Tactics to offset it whenever necessary.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread, but Pack Tactics may be enough to make up for the lack of an Intelligence increase. If you stick to offensive spells which rely on attacks instead of saves, having an ally (such as a Steel Defender) adjacent to your target is an easy source of Advantage, and that may be enough to make your average damage output match characters with better Intelligence.

LizardfolkVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, two skills, and several other unique features. Bite is hard for the Artificer because they tend to dump Strength, and Natural Armor doesn't help much compared to medium armor. Cunning Artisan is neat thematically, but it's not actually all that useful. Lizardfolk works, but you're basically guaranteeing that you'll ignore half of your class features.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, two skills. Limited Amphibiousness can be difficult in land-locked campaigns, but in campaigns where you're at least water-adjacent it's manageable. But those benefits are fairly scant and you can get the increases and skills from numerous other races. The Locathah's distinguishing trait is Leviathan Will, which provides resistance to an impressive list of conditions. This would be a difficult choice of race in most campaigns, but in the right game this could be an interesting choice for a front-line Defender build.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

OrcVGtM

Note that errata has corrected the multiple versions of the Orc to all provide the same traits. The Intelligence decrease has been removed, and the Primal Intuition now allows selecting two skills from a list. The Orc of Exandria entry from Explorer's Guide to Wildemount omits the Powerful Build trait, but it's not clear if that was an intentional change.

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, Darkvision, and two skills. The Orc's signature trait is Aggressive, which allows you to quickly get into melee with your enemies. Appealing for the Armorer, but other subclasses may have trouble using it. The Battle Smith works in melee, but Aggressive won't help your Steel Defender.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

TabaxiVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, Darkvision, two skills. Feline Agility and Cat's Claws are the Tabaxi's signature traits, but the claws are useless. Feline Agility is a great speed boost, and it's pretty common in combat to need to rush into position then stand still for several turns.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, Darkvision, and fire resistance. Most subraces/variants offer innate spellcasting of some kind. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so anything which requires an attack or a save is largely worthless.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: The innate spellcasting is fine, but Hellish Rebuke is the only part that you'll be able to use consistently.
  • BaalzebulMToF: The leveled spells are both offensive and require saving throws.
  • DispaterMToF: The leveled spells are only situationally useful, but they're spells which work for the Artificer.
  • FiernaMToF: All three spells require saves.
  • GlasyaMToF: All illusions, but still great additons to the Artificer's spellcasting.
  • LevistusMToF: Armor of Agathys is tempting, but it'll only last for one hit because the spell ends when the temporary hit points go away.
  • MammonMToF: Not super flashy, but three solid utility options that will save you some of your limited prepared spells.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Tries to split the difference between Asmodeus's fire stuff and Mammons utility stuff, but the offensive stuff ends up just being worse.
  • ZarielMToF: Some interesting options borrowed from the Paladin's spell list, but Searing Smite allows a saving throw and Thaumaturgy is barely useful.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: All three spells require saves.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Hellish Rebuke is better for the Artificer, though not by much.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: A great way to get flight without relying on Winged Boots. The Aarakocra is faster, but the Tiefling gets Darkvision and fire resistance and can fly in medium armor so your AC will be better with less effort.

Default Rules: Many Tiefling subraces offer an Intelligence increase, and with so many variants and subraces you can easily find an option that will suit your play style. The Flames of Phlegethos feat is tempting for Artillerists looking to boost the numerous fire damage spells on the Artillerist's spell list.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Charisma is wasted on the Artificer, but you get an Intelligence bonus and the Tiefling's other core racial traits are great.
  • BaalzebulMToF: The same ability score increases as the Asmodeus tiefling, but a different set of racial spells.
  • DispaterMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • FiernaMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • GlasyaMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • LevistusMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • MammonMToF: The same ability score increases as the Asmodeus Tiefling, but with different racial spells. The Mammon Tiefling's racial spells focus more on utility than those of the Asmodeus Tiefling.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Again, the same ability score increases as the Asmodeus Tiefling, but with a different set of racial spells. The leveled spells are purely offensive, focusing on new ways to deal fire damage. This makes a nice complement to the Artillerist, especially with Flames of Phlegethos piled on top.
  • ZarielMToF: Bad ability spread.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: If you're happy with the Asmodeus Tiefling's spell list but you want different ability score increases, the Feral variant is great. Dexterity is more useful for the Artificer than Charisma, though you don't actually need more than 14 so it's not a massive improvement.

    According to the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants.

  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: If you were consider learning Frostbite, Vicious Mockery is a better cantrip with a similar effect. Otherwise, I would look elsewhere.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: A very tiny change to the Asmodeus Tiefling. Burning Hands is often a safer option for the Artificer because you can use it without getting hit.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: A great way to get flight without relying on Winged Boots.
TortleTP

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con. Hold Breath rarely matters, Natural Armor isn't as good as infusing a suit of half-plate, and Shell Defense is very rarely useful. Your also only get one skill. There is a long list of races which provide much more relevant benefits for the Artificer.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

TritonVGtM

Customized Origin: +1 to three abilities, Amphibious, Darkvision, cold resistance, and some innate spellcasting. The innate spellcasting isn't amazing, but it has some interesting utility options. Emissary of the Sea won't make you a Face, but it's neat.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, one skill. Black Blood Healing helps manage your limited healing resources, especially if you're playing a front-line build, but a race which can prevent damage like the Goliath will enjoy more consistent ability to mitigate damage. Limited Telepathy is neat, but may be hard for the Artificer to use due to their typically poor Charisma.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, Darkvision, immunity to poison, magic resistance, and some innate spellcasting. The innate spellcasting is borderline useless, but magic resistance and immunity to poison are extremely helpful for front-line builds which will attract a lot of attacks. Infusions and spells can make your AC nearly unbeatable, and Magic Resistance will protect you from one of the most common ways to get around high AC. You still need to watch out for breath weapons and similar problems, but even then with the right items you'll be very difficult to hurt.

Default Rules: A crucial Intelligence increase, Darkvision, and some innate spellcasting. The spellcasting isn't great, but you're also immune to poison, and Magic Resistance is insanely powerful.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.

Races of Eberron

BugbearERLW: See above under the general Races section.

ChangelingERLW

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, two skills. The Changeling's signature trait is Shapechanger, but it's not especially useful since the Artificer is rarely a subtle character, and if you need to disguise yourself you have both spells and Infusions which will do the job.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

GoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

HobgoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcERLW: See above under the general Races section.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, but that's where the normal stuff ends. Dual Mind and Mental Discipline make the Kalasthar very resilient against mental attack, especially combined with the Artificer's high Intelligence saves. Mind Link is helpful, but the range is short enough that you're only going to use to coordinate in combat or to communicate when verbal communication isn't an option, but with dumped Charisma you're likely not doing much talking to NPCs.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

ShifterERLW

Customized Origin: Each subrace will give you a +2 increase (put it into Int), a +1 increase (put it into Con, generally), Darkvision, and one skill. You also get Shifting, which is the Shifter's signature feature. It's a decent combat buff on its own, and your subrace will offer additional effects.

  • Beasthide: More temporary HP and +1 AC. Perfect for front-line subclasses like the Armorer and the Battle Smith.
  • Longtooth: An extra attack as a Bonus Action is normally great for a melee build, but it's Strength-based and the Artificer typically dumps Strength.
  • Swiftstride: Hit-and-run tactics aren't common for the Artificer, but Booming Blade would work great in conjunction with the shifting feature in encounters with few enemies.
  • Wildhunt: Too situational.

Default Rules: No Intelligence increase to be found.

  • Beasthide: Bad ability spread.
  • Longtooth: Bad ability spread.
  • Swiftstride: Bad ability spread.
  • Wildhunt: Bad ability spread.
WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Constitution and a flexible increase which goes into Intelligence. The resistances and extra AC make you incredibly durable, and if you pile on Infusions which boost your AC, you can be nearly invulnerable. A warforged battlesmith can wade comfortably into combat alongside even the most durable fighters, boasting an exceptionally high AC, a laundry list of spells and immunities, and options like Flash of Genius and Absorb Elements to protect them from spells and special abilities.

Dragonmarks

While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: Warder's Intuition helps with thieves' tools, which is a crucial proficiency for your party even if you don't have a ton of Dexterity. The innate spellcasting isn't great, but the dragonmark spells add several new options to the Artificer's spell list, but nothing is particularly exciting except maybe Armor of Agathys for the Armorer and the Battle Smith.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: The Intelligence increase is crucial, and the Dwarf's base traits are great. Warder's Intuition helps with thieves' tools, which is a crucial proficiency for your party even if you don't have a ton of Dexterity. The innate spellcasting isn't great, but the dragonmark spells add several new options to the Artificer's spell list, but nothing is particularly exciting except maybe Armor of Agathys for the Armorer and the Battle Smith.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: This is an unusual but certainly viable and unique build choice if you want to play against the usual "I'm a spellcaster in a big pile of armor" stereotype of the Artificer. Cunning Intuition helps with skills that the Artificer usually has no business using, but a cleverly-built Armorer in Infiltrator Armor or a Cloak of Elvenkind could be an exceptionally effective Scout.

    Shape Shadows complements the Artificer's limite spellcasting nicely, and almost every dragonmark spell is new to the Artificer's spell list. Illusions are one of the biggest gaps in the Artificer's spell list, and Mark of Shadow fills that gap nicely.

    I wouldn't suggest this as a go-to option, but it could be fun to explore in a very stealthy party.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: Nearly every one of the dragonmark spells is new to the Artificer, but none of them are necessary and you can typically solve the same problems with infusions.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: The Gnome's base intelligence increase is a great start, but any of the other gnome subraces is a better option for the Artificer than Mark of Scribing. Nearly every one of the dragonmark spells is new t othe Artificer's spell list, but that may not be enough.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: The changes to ability score increases don't matter much since you can still get +2 Int. The innate spellcasting and expanded spells add a lot of divination options which the Artificer otherwise lacks.
  • Mark of Storm: +2 Int, +1 con, damage resistance, and some innate spellcasting. It's a lot of very situational spells, so don't expect to get much use out of them.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: The ability increases don't lose anything that you care about, and you can still get an Intelligence increase. The innate spellcasting and expanded spells add a lot of divination options which the Artificer otherwise lacks.
  • Mark of Storm: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: +2 Int, +1 Con, but the remaining traits are less useful. The innate spellcasting doesn't work especially well for the Artificer. The early dragonmark spells are already on the Artificer's spell list, and the rest are situational divination options. Hunter's Intuition isn't a great fit for the Artificer.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: The innate spellcasting will help complement the Artificer's spells, but all of the important healing spells from the dragonmark spell list are already on the Artificer's spell list.
  • Mark of Hospitality: Several interesting utility options and buffs among the innate spellcasting and the dragonmark spells, though some of the higher-level options are very situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: Bad ability spread.
  • Mark of Hospitality: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Workable, and you get a bunch of stuff from the Druid and Ranger's spell lists, but beasts stop being scary very quickly. Unless your DM will let you tame beasts beyond your class features you won't get much use out of these traits beyond low levels. The innate spellcasting works on Monstrosities, but it's Wisdom-based.
  • Mark of Making: The most obvious dragonmark for the Artificer, both thematically and mechanically. The ability scores are perfect. Mending is a staple option for most artificers, and Magic Weapon is a great option for the Battlesmith who can't spare an Infusion for Enhance Weapon. Unfortunately, only two spells are new to the Artificer's spell list and they're not great.
  • Mark of Passage: Extra speed and access to teleportation are great.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Excellent defensive options that go beyond just passive defenses. Compelled Duel is a great taunt mechanic usually exclusive to the paladin, and staple options like Counterspell allow front-line artificers to defend their allies in numerous new ways.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Workable, and you get a bunch of stuff from the Druid and Ranger's spell lists, but beasts stop being scary very quickly and unless your DM will let you tame beasts beyond your class features you won't get much use out of these traits beyond low levels.
  • Mark of Making: The most obvious dragonmark for the Artificer, both thematically and mechanically. The ability scores are perfect. Mending is a staple option for most artificers, and Magic Weapon is a great option for the Battlesmith who can't spare an Infusion for Enhance Weapon. Unfortunately, only two spells are new to the Artificer's spell list and they're not great.
  • Mark of Passage: Extra speed and access to teleportation are great.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Bad ability spread.

Races of Ravnica

CentaurGGTR

Customized Origin: The Centaur's natural weapons are all Strength-based, which is a hard prospect for the Artificer.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

GoblinGGTR: See above under the general Races section.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, and a bunch of unique stuff. Loxodon Serenity covers some very common status conditions, and trunk offers some utility for a class that often needs to juggle numerous items. Keen Smell is neat, but most such checks involve sight and sound more than smell.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

MinotaurGGTR

Customized Origin: The Minotaur's natural weapons and related traits are all Strength-based, which is a hard prospect for the Artificer.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Great ability increases, and and the adaptations offer great ways to customize your character to fit your subclass and your play style.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: Shift the Wisdom increase into Constitution, but otherwise the Vedalken was already a perfect fit for the Artificer.

Default Rules: Good ability score increases, Advantage on half of all saving throws, two free proficiencies, and you can get a bonus d4 in checks with the free proficiencies, which can include things like Thieves' Tools or some other tool that you use frequently.

Races of Theros

CentaurMOoT: See above under the Races of Ravnica section.

HumanMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, Darkvision, and two skills. The Leonin's claws won't help you since they're Strength-based. Daunting Roar is neat, especially for front-line builds, but the DC is Constitution-based so you may have trouble keeping the DC high enough to matter.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

MinotaurMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

SatyrMOoT

Customized Origin: +2 Int, +1 Con, 2 skills, and an instrument. Magic Resistance is great if you expect to draw a lot of attention (the Armorer and the Battle Smith come to mind), and Mirthful Leaps might help get through difficult terrain.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

TritonMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

Races of Wildemount

AarakocraEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

AasimarEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

BugbearEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

DragonbornPHB

Wildemount presents two new Dragonborn variants, each replacing the standard Dragonborn's ability score increases and damage resistance.

Customized Origin:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: +2 Int, +1 Con, Darkvision. Forceful Presence is largely wasted on the Artificer.
  • RaveniteEGtW: +2 Int, +1 Con, Darkvision. Vengeful Assault is great for front-line artificers, especially the Armorer who is so adept at forcing enemies to attack them instead of your allies.
  • StandardPHB: See above under the general Races section.

Default Rules:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: An Intelligence increase, Darkvision, and a breath weapon. Forceful Presence is neat, but you're probably going to dump Charisma.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • StandardPHB: See above under the general Races section.
Elf

Wildemount elves share the core traits of PHB elves, but Wildemount adds two new subraces. See above for more information on other elf subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The innate spellcasting is a nice complement to the Artificer's spellcasting, but Sleep is obsolete the moment that you get it. Incisive Sense is helpful, provided that you have the skill proficiencies to support it.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

Default Rules:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

FirbolgsEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GenasiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

HalflingPHB

Wildemount halflings share the core traits of PHB halflings, but Wildemount adds a new subrace. See above for information on other halfling subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • LotusdenEGtW: The innate spellcasting is neat, but it's all Wisdom-based and beyond the cantrip it's offensive options which allow saving throws so it will never be reliable for the Artificer.

Default Rules:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Bad ability spread.

HobgoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoliathEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

KenkuEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcEGtW: See above, under "Races of Eberron". Wildemount uses the updated Orc racial traits rather than the original traits published in Volo's Guide to Monsters.

TabaxiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

TortleEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

Skills

  • Arcana (Int): Among the most important knowledge skills, and you have the intelligence to back it up.
  • History (Int): Situational, and how usreful it is is heavily dependent on your GM and the campaign you're in.
  • Investigation (Int): With high Intelligence, you're a great candidate to use Investigation.
  • Medicine (Wis): Medicine is best done magically.
  • Nature (Int): Good knowledge skill, but not as crucial as Arcana or Religion.
  • Perception (Wis): The most-rolled skill in the game.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Sleight of hand is neat, but it's not especially useful in most campaigns.

Background

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

Look for backgrounds which provide additional Intelligence-based skills. Proficiency with more tools fits the theme of the class very well, but you'll get at least 4 tool proficiencies from class featues alone so you may not need more.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • Clan CrafterSCAG: Basically an improved version of Guild Artisan, you still get one Face skill and one language which you won't benefit from very much, but History is a good skill and the starting gear works great for the Artificer.
  • Guild ArtisanPHB: The Artificer is not a good Face, and getting two Face skills doesn't change that. Thematically, this makes sense, but mechanically it doesn't.
  • SagePHB: Two Intelligence-based skills and two Languages.

Feats

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

  • Defensive DuelistPHB: A good way to boost your survivability in melee, but a dagger is the only thing you're proficient with that works with the feat. Also, you can cast Shield.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Acid for Alchemist and fire for Artillerist. Sure, you've got ways to deal damage with other elements, but those are the easiest elements fort the subclasses so it makes sense to minimize their weaknesses and maximize their value.
  • HealerPHB: Without a real cleric in the party you may find it helpful to complement your magical healing with this.
  • Heavily ArmoredPHB: Strength doesn't help the Artificer, and +1 AC relative to 14 Dex and Half Plate is not enough for a feat when you have several Infusion options that provide the same amount of extra AC.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on any character.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: With the additions to the Artificer made by Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, there is very little for the Artificer to gain from Magic Initiate. Any spellcasting which you might want from the Wizard is already on the Artificer's spell list, and there aren't any great combinations with spells from other classes.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: Many races like elves and halflings could easily end up with 16 Dexterity without cutting into your Intelligence. If you have 16 Dexterity, this will make Stealth easier and give you a nice +1 AC bonus. Not essential unless you're playing your party's Scout, but still good.
  • ResilientPHB: More saving throw proficiencies never hurt, but the Artificer already gets proficiency in Constitution saving throws.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: Artificers can already cast rituals, provided that they have the spell prepared. Ritual Caster will broaden your ritual options, but that's probably not enough to justify a feat.
  • SkilledPHB: In a small party you need to wear many hats to fill gaps in your party's skillset. More proficiencies help you do just that.
  • Spell SniperPHB: Many artificers rely on cantrips for their primary damage source, and this can make crucial spells like Fire Bolt more useful. Unfortunately the Alchemist's reliance on Acid Splash and Poison Spray (neither of which uses attack rolls) won't benefit much, so this isn't as useful as it is for other artificers.
  • War CasterPHB: If you're a Battlesmith, you want this. Juggling your weapon to cast spells is annoying, but the ability to maintain Concentration even more reliably when you take damage means that you can reliably maintain spells even while drawing a lot of attacks.

Weapons

  • Crossbow, Hand: Use the Repeating Shot infusion and grab a shield.
  • Crossbow, Light: Until 5th level the damage will technically beat Cantrip damage, but unless you have 16 Dexterity yout cantrips will be more reliable.
  • Dagger: Your go-to melee weapon (unless you're a Battlesmith). It works in melee and at range, and since it's a finesse weapon you can use it with Dexterity. The damage isn't as good as a bow or crossbow, but you can't make opportunity attacks with ranged weapons.
  • Longbow: A great option for a ranged Battlesmith. Your attacks are all made with Intelligence.

Weapons for Battlesmiths

The Battlesmith's weapon selection resembles that of the Fighter more than that of the Artificer. If you want to use a shield (and you should since you have d8 hit dice) and fight in melee, go for a longsword or something. If you're fighting at range, go for a Longbow.

If you spend on Infusion on Repeating Shot, a heavy rossbow will deal very slightly more damage, but at level 12 Enhance Weapon will improve to +2 and a +2 Longbow will match the average damage of a +1 Heavy Crossbow and will have +1 higher attack bonus. On top of that, you can get Bracers of Archery, and they don't apply to crossbows.

However, that doesn't mean that crossbows are a bad option: you can use a hand crossbow with Repeating Shot while also using a shield. Since you don't need to reload your crossbow you don't need a free hand. Cantrips will deal similar damage, but 1d6+Int+1 damage (Repeating Shot adds +1 to attack and damage) with Extra Attack will outdo your cantrip damage for a long time. If you have 20 Intelligence, two attacks at 1d6+5+1 (avg. 19 total) will exceed Firebolt (avg. 5.5, 11, 16.5, and 22 depending on your level) until your cantrips improve for the last time at 17th level. If you instead us a pistol, you'll average 23 damage instead, and at that point there's no reason to learn Fire Bolt.

Firearms

The Artificer is the first class to be published with reference to firearms, but firearms canonically do notexist in the Eberron setting from which the Artificer originates. Many groups do not choose to include firearms in their games, but your group might still choose to do so.

Generally groups which choose to use firearms will use the "Renaissance" weapons, as they were historically used in time periods where using a sword or a crossbow still made sense, so you can include these weapons without significantly changing the fantasy, medieval feel of a typical Dungeons and Dragons setting. These weapons also come the closest to existing weapons mechanically, so you can include them without worrying about unbalancing your game because every adventurer suddenly has a revolver.

If your group chooses to use firearms, the Artificer can be proficient with them if your character "has been exposed to the operation of such weapons". Check with your DM to see if they'll let you be proficient. If you're fortunate enough to have access to firearms, compare the pistol to the hand crossbow and the musket to the light crossbow. In both cases, the firearm uses a damage die two sizes larger, but has diminished range. If the range isn't a problem, these firearms will deal more damage than bows or crossbows.

  • Musket: Basically a better light crossbow. The damage compared to the Pistol isn't much better, so personally I recommend using a Pistol with the Repeating Shot infusion so that you can use a shield at the same time.
  • Pistol: Basically a better hand crossbow. Use the Repeating Shot infusion and grab a shield.

Armor

  • Studded Leather: Bad choice for starting armor.
  • Scale Mail: Starting armor.
  • Half Plate: Your ideal armor.
  • Shield: You can hold your spellcasting focus in one hand and a shield in the other, but if you're using a bow or crossbow you won't have a hand free for a shield, and it takes an action to don/doff a shield so it's difficult to switch mid-combat.

Multiclassing

The Artificer has an interesting note in its Multiclassing rules: when you multiclass as an Artificer, you round your Artificer levels up for determining spell slots instead of rounding them down like every other class with Spellcasting.

  • Fighter: Starting with a level in fighter gets you proficiency in heavy armor so that you can ignore Dexterity and in Constitution saves, which the Artificer gets by default and it would be hard to sacrifice that proficiency for better armor. Keep in mind that you don't get heavy armor if you multiclass into fighter after first level.
  • Rogue: It's a hard build to play, but three levels of Rogue can get you the Thief archetype and the Fast Hands ability. The ability to use items as a Bonus Action offers a lot of possibilities, though you'll need to spend a lot of time researching items, studying the rules for using items (especially magic items), and managing your inventory to make it worth three levels.
  • Wizard: Most of the wizard's spells are already on the Artificer's spell list, but two levels gets you access to an Arcane Tradition. Many traditions have great initial features, and Bladesinging is incredibly tempting for battlesmith artificers.

Example Build - Rock Gnome Alchemist Artificer

I like making things. Mostly trouble.

This is a "Staple Build". This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.

The Rock Gnome doubles down on the Artificer's theme by adding the Rock Gnome's Tinker trait. Beyond the complexity of using Tinker in addition to the Artificer's class features, this is a very simple build.

This build is available to copy on D&D Beyond.

Abilities

We will assume the point buy abilities suggested above.

Race

Rock Gnome. The Intelligence increase brings us to 17, and the Constitution increase brings us to 15. That will make our 4th-level Ability Score Increase very exciting. Tinker is the Rock Gnome's only particularly complicated trait, but it offers a fun way to embrace the Artificer's theme.

Skills and Tools

The Artificer gets two skills from their class list, one type of Artisan's tools, and two fixed tools. Guild Artisan will add Insight, Persuasion, an extra set of artisan's tools. Pick whatever artisan's tools sound like fun.

Background

Guild Artisan. The skill proficiencies aren't fantastic for the artificer, but there are few backgrounds which are setting-agnostic and work well. The Failed Merchant out of Acquisitions Incorporated works well, and starts you with some very expensive starting equipment.

Feats

This build doesn't require feats. At high levels you might consider feats once you reach 20 Intelligence, but it's not strictly necessary.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1
  • Magical Tinkering
  • Spellcasting

For your starting gear, take two daggers, a light crossbow and 20 bolts, scale mail, theives' tools, and a dungeoneering pack. The crossbow is useful when enemies are outside of your cantrip range, but you'll have better results if you sell it and use the gold to but a shield.

At this level your options are really limited. You'll feel more like a weird wizard than like an actual artificer. Keep your shield out, prepare spells that will keep you alive, and just try to make it to 2nd level. Fire Bolt will deal enough damage to make you useful in combat, and you long list of proficiencies, Tinker, and Magical Tinkering give you plenty of utility options outside of combat. Bring Cure Wounds to help your allies in combat, but try to avoid using it until you absolutely need to do so; you only have two spell slots.

2
  • Infuse Item
  • Infused Items: 2
  • Infusions Known
    • Enhanced Arcane Focus
    • Enhanced Defense
    • Enhanced Weapon
    • Replicate Magic Item (Bag of Holding)

Level 2 is where the Artificer really starts to feel like they should. You don't get any more spell slots, but 2 magic items can be a massive improvement to your capabilities.

If you need nothing else, use Enhanced Arcane Focus and Enhanced Defense to boost your spell attacks and your AC. +1 to AC will bring you up to 19 AC, giving you nearly as much AC as a fighter in full plate. If you have allies to defend you, consider sharing Enhanced Defense and/or Enhanced Weapon.

3
  • Artificer Specialist: Alchemist
  • The Right Tool for the Job
  • Tool Proficiency: Any
  • Alchemist Spells
  • Experimental Elixir (1)

Third level brings a lot of good things. You get another 1st-level spell slot just in time to get an expanded spell list, including the absolutely essential Healing Word. You can stop preparing Cure Wounds, and instead rely on Healing Word for emergency healing in combat.

The Alchemist gains proficiency with Alchemist's Supplies, but we got that at first level, so you get to replace it with any other tool proficiency.

The Right Tool for the Job doesn't change much, but it's basically a free set of tools.

This level also brings Experimental Elixir. The free elixir won't reliably be something that you can count on, but you can turn spells itno elixirs to get a bunch of useful buffs.

4
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 15 -> 16, Intelligence 17 -> 18)

A bunch of extra hit points, and your spell attacks, DC's, and a bunch of other things improve.

5
  • Alchemical Savant

At this level, Alchemical Savant is a +4 bonus to one roll per spell. Your cantrips also improve at this spell, so you go from 1d10 with Fire Bolt to 2d10+4, which is a massive increase. Your leveled spells benefit too: Healing Word is now 1d4+8 instead of 1d4+4.

5th level also brings 2nd-level spells. The Alchemist's spell list offers two offensive options, so be sure to prepare something else that will make good use of your 2nd-level spell slots.

6
  • Tool Expertise
  • Infused Items: 3
  • New Infusions Known
    • Resistant Armor
    • Replicate Magic Item (Lantern of Revealing)
  • Experimental Elixir (2)

Several things improve incrementally at this level. You get access to the second group of Infusions and the second group of options for Replicate Magic Item, and you get a third Infused Item per day.

You have plenty of options for infusions. Resistant Armor (fire) is a great defensive option, but feel free to experiment. You get to retrain one option at every level (including this one), so you could trade out low-level Infusions for new options as you gain levels if you find that you're not using older options.

You also gain Tool Expertise at this level, doubling your proficiency bonus with all five of your tool proficiencies.

7
  • Flash of Genius

It's hard to understate how good Flash of Genius is. +4 can turn a failure into a success very easily. +4 covers 20% of the range over which a d20 can roll, and when your Intelligence improves again at 8th level it gets even better.

8
  • Ability Score Improvement (Intelligence 18 -> 20)

It may not feel exciting, but this improves a lot about your character. The Artificer is massively dependent on Intelligence, so any improvement is significant.

9
  • Restorative Reagents

By now you get two doses of Experimental Elixir per day, but the free elixirs are still not reliably useful. This adds some Temporary Hit points to their effects, so even if you don't roll a useful effect you can still get some Temporary Hit Points out of the extra elixirs. You also get to cast Lesser Restoration 5 times per day for free, which allows you to use your limited spell slots for anything else.

10
  • Magic Item Adept
  • Infused Items: 4
  • New Infusions Known
    • Replicate Magic Item (Cloak of Protection)
    • Replicate Magic Item (Winged Boots)

Allowing you to attune four magic items is very useful at this point. Now that you can create four Infused Items per day, you could easily make four that require Attunement. That's probably not a good idea, but it's possible.