Last Updated: May 2, 2022
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 significant.
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.
Table of Contents
- Artificer Class Features
- Ability Scores
- Artificer Races
- Artificer Skills
- Artificer Backgrounds
- Artificer Feats
- Artificer Weapons
- Artificer Armor
- Artificer Magic Items
- Example Artificer Build – Rock Gnome Alchemist Artificer
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.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
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.
RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Artificer Class Features
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
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 Steel Defender, a sturdy pet construct designed for combat.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: 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.
: One more attuned item.
: 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.
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.
: 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.
: 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. Armorer artificers planning to go all-in on Guardian armor can survive with 8 Dexterity, though getting to level 3 will require a great deal of caution if you’re starting at level 1.
: Always essential.
: Your primary stat. Fuels your spells and all of your class features.
: Technically a dump stat, but it complements many of your skills nicely so it may be helpful to put some points into it.
: Dump stat.
|Ranged Artificer||Melee Artificer|
|Point Buy||Standard Array||Point Buy||Standard Array|
The most important thing you can get from your race is an Intelligence increase. Even front-line subclass options like the Armorer and the Battle Smith are almost entirely dependent on Intelligence for their features. Ranged artificers 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. Also look for options which complement the Artificer’s limited spellcasting and for additional tool proficiencies.
For help selecting a race, see our Artificer Races Breakdown.
For a classic wizard feel, consider the Rock Gnome. For a sturdy front-line artificer, the Hill Dwarf and the Goliath (MMoM version) both work very well. For a ranged artificer, consider the High Elf or the Fairy.
- (Int): Among the most important knowledge skills, and you have the intelligence to back it up.
- (Int): Situational, and how usreful it is is heavily dependent on your GM and the campaign you’re in.
- (Int): With high Intelligence, you’re a great candidate to use Investigation.
- (Wis): This skill is useless. Medicine is best done magically.
- (Int): Good knowledge skill, but not as crucial as Arcana or Religion.
- (Wis): The most-rolled skill in the game.
- (Dex): Sleight of hand is neat, but it’s not especially useful in most campaigns.
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:
- SCAG: 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.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: Two Intelligence-based skills and two Languages.
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.
- TCoE: You already get an abundance of everything offered by Artificer Initiate. If you want more spellcasting, consider Magic Initiate since it gets you an extra cantrip instead of yet another tool proficiency.
- : Great for front-line builds to pad their hit points, and easy for back-line builds to turn into a support ability. Once you hit 20 Intelligence, this is a good choice, especially if you have an odd-numbered Constitution score.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: Acid or fire for Alchemist and fire for Artillerist. Sure, you’ve got ways to deal damage with other elements, but those are the easiest elements for the subclasses so it makes sense to minimize their weaknesses and maximize their value.
- TCoE: Misty step is fantastic on any character, and the Artificer gets
alarmingly few Divination spell options. Fey Touched provides some easy
access to some great spells like Bless and Compelled Duel. Back-row
artificers will find that Bless is a powerful buff at any level, while
front-row artificers will find that Compelled Duel makes them an
exceptionally effective Defender.
For more advice on Fey Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- TCoE: Many artificers use weapons, and something like Fighting Style (Archery) can do a lot to improve your damage output.
- FToD: The Reactive Resistance portion of the feat replicates the important parts of Absorb Elements, which makes this a tempting option for front-line artificers who are frequently targeted by spells, breath weapons, and other common sources of the affected damage types. Of course, you can already cast Absorb Elements, so this is just more of what you can already do. Regardless, wait to take this feat until your Proficiency Bonus is higher than +2.
- FToD: Great for melee artificers. You get +1 increase to put into Intelligence, and when you’re hit with an attack despite your insane AC you can push enemies out of reach, potentially stopping them from hitting you again if they have multiple attacks. If you’ve hit the target with Booming Blade on your previous turn, they might be stuck in place unless they’re willing to take the extra damage to attack you again. Of course, if that’s the combo you want you should just take Crusher.
- FToD: Protective Wings is similar to Shield, but you can also protect allies. Not essential, but it means that you can prevent many attacks from hitting without cutting into precious spell slots.
- TCoE: Minimal benefit for the Artificer. The only thing that the Artificer can’t already replicate is ignoring adjacent enemies.
- PHB: Without a real cleric in the party you may find it helpful to complement your magical healing with this.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: Good on any character.
- PHB: 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.
For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- TCoE: Excellent on any spellcaster, even with the Artificer’s 2/3 spellcasting you can still do a lot with metamagic. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: Tempting for artificers built to use weapons (crossbow+shield is a great combo), but the Strength or Dexterity increase isn’t helpful. Consider Crossbow Expert instead.
- PHB: More saving throw proficiencies never hurt, but the Artificer already gets proficiency in Constitution saving throws.
- PHB: 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.
- TCoE: This is a good feat, but there are few spell options that appeal to the
Artificer. Silent Image is likely your best option.
For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- PHB: For the Armorer in Infiltrator armor, you can use your first attack to hit a target and grant yourself Advantage on the next attack against the target. At that point, use Sharpshooter’s option to take an attack penalty in exchange for more damage and the Advantage will mostly offset the penalty to your attack roll.
- TCoE: Expertise is really nice, but it’s hard to decide what skill to put it into. Keep in mind that artificers already get to add double their Proficiency bonus with tools thanks to Tool Expertise, so the expertise from Skill Expert should definitely go into a skill.
- PHB: 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. But if you’re looking at tool proficiencies, consider getting them from your race instead since you can trade racial armor/weapon proficiencies for tool proficiencies.
- TCoE: Potentially helpful for front-line battlesmiths.
- PHB: 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.
- PHB: 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.
- : Use the Repeating Shot infusion and grab a shield.
- : Until 5th level the damage will technically beat Cantrip damage, but unless you have 16 Dexterity yout cantrips will be more reliable.
- : 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.
- : 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.
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.
- : 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.
- : Basically a better hand crossbow. Use the Repeating Shot infusion and grab a shield.
- : Bad choice for starting armor.
- : Starting armor.
- : Your ideal armor.
- : 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.
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.
- : 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.
- : 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.
- : 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.
Artificer Magic Items
Common Magic Items
- XGtE: Artificers need to use a tool or an infused item to cast their spells, and the Ruby of the War Mage doesn’t remove that requirement. Weirdly, if you replicate a Ruby of the War Mage using Infuse Item it will work, (though using an infused weapon or shield is probably a better choice) but if you just find a Ruby of the War Mage it’s useless for you.
Uncommon Magic Items
- DMG: Use the Enhanced Defense Infusion instead.
- TCoE: +1 to your spell attacks and spell DC’s, you can turn it into any other tool (including really heavy ones), and as an Action you can give yourself access to a cantrip from any class as an artificer cantrip. For melee artificers, consider Swordburst or Word of Radiance. For ranged artificers, consider Eldritch Blast unless you have an effect like Alchemical Savant which boosts specific damage types.
- DMG: Single-use and expensive. Use the Enhanced Weapon Infusion.
- DMG: Easily overlooked, but one of the best ways to get flight for any character. It doesn’t require attunement, and has a fly speed of 50 feet, though many medium characters will exceed the 200 pound limit to reduce the speed to 30 feet, but even then 30 feet fly speed with no duration cap and requiring no action after speaking the command word is absolutely incredible. The only drawback is that you’re using the item’s speed rather than giving yourself a fly speed, so things that improve your speed won’t make the broom move faster, and you can’t Dash with the broom. Even so, I honestly can’t justify why this is only Uncommon considering how exceptionally good it is.
- DMG: Excellent in dungeon crawls. Investigation is typically used for finding things like traps, and even if you’re not proficient you almosy certainly have the highest Intelligence in the party.
- : By the time you can get this, you probably already have 18 Intelligence so there’s little benefit. Give it to the least-intelligent person in the party.
- DMG: Use the Enhanced Defense infusion on a Breastplate.
- DMG: Useful on any spellcaster.
- DMG: Advantage on Initiative rolls is really nice so you can get a buff or and are control effect running before everyone else starts moving.
- DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. You can use the Enhanced Defense infusion, but at low levels an Uncommon item replacing an Infusion can save you a powerful asset.
- DMG: The next-best thing to flight. Walking up a wall has all the benefits of flying out of reach.
- DMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Stone of Good Luck shines if you’re heavily reliant on skills and ability checks.
- DMG: Helpful if you’re heavily reliant on cantrips like Fire Bolt, but an All-Purpose Tool will be considerably more useful.
- DMG: Excellent for the Battle Smith, but you have the Enhance Weapon infusion to provide the same benefit.
- DMG: A Broom of Flying is better, and you can created Winged Boots with an infusion if you still want them.
Rare Magic Items
- TCoE: +2 to your spell attacks and spell DC’s. See All-Purpose Tool under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
- DMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don’t need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you’re really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI’s into Constitution means more room for feats.
- DMG: Use the Enhanced Defense infusion.
- DMG: Excellent, but unpredictable in most games since you can’t perfectly predict what sort of damage you’ll face. Fire and poison are safe choices.
- DMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
- DMG: Poison damage is very common across the full level range, so immunity to it is a significant improvement in your durability.
- DMG: A great way to mitigate damage from AOE spells and things like breath weapons which can often be problems from front-line martial characters, especially if you’re not built around Dexterity.
- DMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
- DMG: A fine item in a vaccuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
- DMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield and recharge it whenever possible and this is a spectacular defensive asset on almost any character.
- DMG: Use the Enhanced Defense infusion.
- DMG: Excellent for the Battle Smith, but you have the Enhance Weapon infusion to provide the same benefit.
Very Rare Magic Items
- TCoE: +3 to your spell attacks and spell DC’s. See All-Purpose Tool under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
- : Plane Shift for free, and since it’s an Intelligence check you’ll be able to pass it without too much trouble. If you do fail, you can use it again the next round so long as you don’t end up somewhere which would prevent you from doing so.
- DMG: Tempting for anyone not fighting with a one-handed weapon, but a Cloak of Protection is two rarities lower, works persistently, and arguably provides a better numeric bonus.
- DMG: Use the Enhanced Defense infusion.
- DMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you’re using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
- DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Enhanced Defense doesn’t go this high.
- DMG: Permanent Intelligence bonus and raises your cap by 2.
- DMG: Enhanced Weapon doesn’t go this high.
Legendary Magic Items
- DMG: Resistance (immunity sometimes) to non-magical damage may protect you from most weapon attacks. At high enough level that you might have this item there will definitely be enemies with access to magic attacks (spellcasters, magic weapons, natural weapons which count as magical, etc.), but in many encounters this will still provide a great deal of protection.
- DMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. Unless you’re playing a Defender and actively trying to draw attacks away from your allies, this is absolutely amazing.
- DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. Attacks, saves, skills, etc. all benefit.
- DMG: Given the choice, I would much rather haqve a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn’t provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to .
- DMG: Use this to do one of the things that risks permanently removing the
ability to cast Wish, such as granting 10 creatures permanent resistance to
once damage type. If you lose the ability to cast Wish, pass this off to
another ally who will never be able to cast Wish by any other means. Repeat
until the last charge is used.
For more help with Wish, see my Practical Guide to Wish.
- FToD: Artificers don’t get many spells that require an expensive material component, but you can cast Glyph of Warding, Stoneskin, and Restoration, so the gold savings isn’t totally wasted. The ability to borrow a spell from any spell list for a day is more apprealing, but since your spells stop at 6th level it’s good but not amazing. You can combine the two benefits to get access to other spells that require expensive material components and cast them at a discount, such as Raise Dead and Revivify.
- DMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn’t take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.
Example Artificer 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.
We will assume the point buy abilities suggested above, but we’ll reverse the Constitution and Intelligence scores to work better with our race.
Rock Gnome. The Intelligence increase brings us to 16, and the Constitution increase brings us to 16, which makes us effective with your class features and reasonably durable.
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.
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.
This build doesn’t require feats. At high levels you might consider feats once you reach 20 Intelligence, but it’s not strictly necessary.
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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.
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.
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.
A bunch of extra hit points, and your spell attacks, DC’s, and a bunch of other things improve.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.