The Magus’s subclass, Hybrid Study, is hugely influential on your tactics, your build options, and your play style. While every magus is built around Spellstrike, your subclass will determine how you employ spellstrike and what other tactics you might use in combat.

Table of Contents


RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

Magus Hybrid Studies

Inexorable Iron

This is the one that likes two-handed weapons.

Two-handed weapons trade the defense of a shield for extra damage output from a bigger damage die. Inexorable Iron helps compensate for relatively poor durability by giving you a pool of temporary hit points which refreshes every round while you’re in Arcane Cascade. This pool will make you very durable, and if you need a little extra defense you can still cast Shield. Taken as a whole, Inexorable Iron creates a magus that feels a lot like a fighter with a two-handed weapon.

While they are in the minority, there are some two-handed Finesse Weapons including the Elven Curve Blade and the Fencing Spear, so you can build around Dexterity. These weapons typically deal less damage than mechanically simpler weapons like greatswords, but that may be worth the trade.

Inexorable Iron does a good job straddling the line between the offensive effectiveness of a two-handed weapon and durability, making you enough of a threat that enemies can’t ignore you but also durable enough that you’re not going to die immediately when an enemy looks at you funny. The feats exclusive to Inexorable Iron aren’t amazing, but you don’t need to take them, and the rest of the subclass is good.

  • Arcane Cascade: Temporary hit points every round in every fight. This will give you more effective hit points than basically anyone. However, you’re still vulnerable if you’re hit by multiple attacks between turns, so don’t cocky. Take Toughness and don’t get swarmed.
  • Conflux Spell: Thunderous Strike: A strike and a tiny bit of extra damage.

    See Magus Focus Spells for more.

  • Studious Spells: Starts with a solid buff, then adds some magical counters to annoying enemies. Consistently useful, but not amazing.
    1. Enlarge: Improved reach, a little bit of extra damage, and a nice 5-minute duration so it’s sure to last through all but the most absurdly-long fights. The fact that the spell raises a creature directly to Large size also means that you can cast it on small creatures like halflings and they still get the full benefits in combat. Be sure to pick up Attack of Opportunity to maximize the benefits, and remember that once your Studious Spells slots hit 4th level, Enlarge will make you Huge instead.
    2. Earthbind: An excellent counter to flight since the target falls 120 feet even on a success. After that you may need to improvise. Consider Grabbing them.
    3. Dimensional Anchor: Only situationally useful, but I’ve kicked myself for not bringing this into many fights with enemy spellcasters only to see them teleport away before we could subdue them.

Laughing Shadow

This is the one that likes to fight one-handed.

The Laughing Shadow is offense-focused and unusually mobile thanks to Dimensional Assault. With one hand perpetually empty, you don’t get to Raise a Shield or hold other items (thought the Shield spell still works), so you need to pile as much damage as you can behind a one-handed weapon, hit hard, hit fast, and end fights before enemies turn their attention back to you. You’ll need to invest in Deception to support Feint and Distracting Spellstrike.

Unlike most magi, the Laughing Shadow may benefit from making multiple strikes rather than constantly working to use and recharge Spellstrike. Thanks to the greatly improved damage bonus from Arcane Cascade, you have a hefty, scaling damage bonus which you can apply repeatedly on each hit. With access to Dimensional Assault to move and attack in one Action and Haste (and eventually Hasted Assault) for extra actions you can easily make more attacks per turn than most characters. This would be an extremely unusual build for the Magus, but it’s possible and it might even be good.

With emphasis on damage and mobility, Laughing Shadow emphasizes the Magus’s capacity as a Striker. You’ll need to avoid being swarmed by multiple enemies and you’ll want to hit fast and hard before enemies can hit you back too much, though once you pick up Dimensional Disappearance that becomes less of a problem. You’re going to be very reliant on Dimensional Assault, so be sure to expand your Focus Pool where you can. Laughing Shadow’s only low point is its Scholarly Spells options, and that’s not enough of a problem to bring down what is clearly an excellent subclass for a Striker.

  • Arcane Cascade: With something in your hand, the speed bonus is modest, but even just raising your speed from 25 ft to 30 ft. will get you an extra square of movement from Dimensional Assault. You’re expected to fight primarily with one hand empty, which both improves the speed bonus and improves the damage bonus provided by Arcane Cascade. The additional damage bonus easily makes up for using a one-handed weapon compared to a two-handed weapon with a larger damage die, and since making multiple Strikes suddenly makes sense, you should consider an Agile weapon.
  • Conflux Spell: Dimensional Assault: Look for ways to improve your movement speed. Fleet, magic items, and potentially spells. The better your speed is, the more you get from Dimensional Assault.

    See Magus Focus Spells for more.

  • Studious Spells: Nothing amazing.
  • Mirror Image: A decent defensive buff that works at any level, but the fact that even a failed attack can still destroy one of the images means that the images will disappear almost immediately if even a small number of weak foes focus their attacks on you for a round or two. Try to focus on engaging single foes and teleport away if you get swarmed.
  • Shift Blame: Weird, situational, and extremely subjective. You need to be clever and your GM needs play along for this to work at all.
  • Dimension Door: Teleportation is always good, but Dimensional Assault is frequently enough to do the job and it’s much less costly.

Sparkling Targe

This is the one with the shield.

The only magus subclass to get an additional feat, Sparkling Targe gives you Shield Block. Your shield is absolutely central to the subclass, so expect to spend a lot of time raising a shield despite how much that exacerbates the Magus’s action economy challenges. Shielding Strike mitigates this so long as you Focus Pool has points, but once you’re out of Focus Points you’ll need to make some more difficult tactical decisions about your Actions.

The Sparkling targe is fantastic defensively, but only defensively, so you’re in danger of falling into the Tank Fallacy. Be sure to focus on offense with other resources, and consider building around Shove and Grab to give yourself more offensive options beyond just hitting stuff and absorbing damage.

  • Arcane Cascade: Only useful against hostile spellcasters, but those are common enough that this will see use. The fact that you can use Shield Block against things like Fireball makes it really useful.
  • Conflux Spell: Shielding Strike: Considering the persistent tax that Raise a Shield places on your action economy, this is absolutely central to the subclass.

    See Magus Focus Spells for more.

  • Studious Spells: Good staple defenses and also Warding Aggression.
    1. Resist Energy: A staple defensive option, and once your Studious Spells slot level increases to 4 you’ll both double the effect and you’ll be able to share it with an ally.
    2. Warding Aggression: Only useful against large single foes which you’ll be attacking repeatedly for several rounds, and even then the fact that you need to hit the same target on each of your turns makes this hard to use with Spellstrike since you’re usually gambling on one big attack every turn.
    3. Stoneskin: An easy go-to defense at any level.

Starlit Span

This is the one that fights at range.

The simple advantage of being able to use Spellstrike at range is massively helpful. Since it takes 2 Actions to use Spellstrike and another to recharge it, moving is a persistent problem for the Magus which you need to worry about much less. While none of Starlit Span’s individual features or exclusive feats are amazing, the simplifaction of the Magus’s action economy is extremely powerful.

  • Arcane Cascade: No change. Arcane Cascade’s damage bonus is small, so you might choose to ignore it. Instead, consider taking some Fighter multiclass feats to get Point-Blank Shot so that you can use a longbow, thereby extending the range at which you can use Spellstrike.
  • Conflux Spell: Shooting Star: Since this makes a Strike, you likely want to use it before Spellstrike if you’re going to use both on the same turn.

    See Magus Focus Spells for more.

  • Studious Spells: Nothing that you’ll need consistently.
    1. Darkvision: Not very exciting, but consistently useful if you don’t get Darkvision from you ancestry/heritage.
    2. Wall of Wind: Only useful to counter low-flying enemies. Blocking ranged projectile attacks only rarely matters defensively, but it will certainly keep you from shooting through the wall.
    3. Freedom of Movement: Only situationally useful. This notably doesn’t help against difficult terrain.

Twisting Tree

This is the one that likes to fight with a staff.

The appeal of using a staff as a weapon is significant for the Magus. With so few spell slots, the ability to cast leveled spells from a staff adds a ton of potential power to the Magus. Normally this is difficult to accomplish without the Fused Staff feat, but since your weapon of choice is already a staff you get that benefit for free. Nice! You can also get the Critical Specialization Effect of staffs, which no other magus can do without ancestry feats.

Twisting Tree’s damage die is small, so at early levels you won’t be as effective offensively as other magus subclasses. Your staff can have Parry if you use it two-handed, but that’s not as good as a shield so you won’t as durable as some magus subclasses. Twisting Tree definitely seems more complex to play than other subclasses, but it rewards deep understanding of the class and related mechanics.

You will be locked into a few build choices. Obviously you’ll be using a staff. You’ll need to take Student of the Staff at 4th level so that you can put Property Runes onto your staf, but it’s a great feat so that’s fine. You’ll also need to find (or craft) a really good magic staff and keep it upgraded so that te spells stay relevant. If you hit those goals, you’ll do great. You’ll start slow at low levels, but you’ll ramp up quickly.

  • Arcane Cascade: The ability to change your grip as a free action means that it’s easy to switch from your cool two-handed staff with reach to a one-handed staff with Agile when you want to use Spinning Staff. This won’t always matter, but it’s a nice convenience.
  • Conflux Spell: Spinning Staff: The action economy here is excellent, much like the Monk’s Flurry of Blows, but you do need to target two creatures. When you use your staff one-handed it has the Agil property, and since you can change grip as part of a Strike while you’re in Arcane Cascase stance, you can change your grip to get Agile when you need it or Reach when you need that instead. Keep in mind that Spellstrike counts as two attacks, so if you use this during the same turn you’re likely attacking at the maximum Multiple Attack Penalty.

    See Magus Focus Spells for more.

  • Studious Spells: Starts slow, but gets really good. Kinda like the subclass as a whole.
    1. Magic Mouth: A fun novelty, but it’s not amazingly useful.
    2. Slow: A great single-target debuff at any level.
    3. Blink: A great defensive option, and the ability to teleport in a random direction can get you out of grapples or small area damage effects.