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Pathfinder - Arcanist Exploits Breakdown

Last Updated: May 18, 2017


I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

  • 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.


Arcanist Exploits give the Arcanist some addition abilities on which they can rely when their spells run short. If you want to rely entirely on your spells, pick up exploits like Item Creation and Metamagic Knowledge.

Acid Jet (Su): Simple and reliable damage. Sickened inflicts -2 to saving throws, which makes the target more susceptible to your spells.

Arcane Barrier (Su): Excellent defensive option. Turn it on when enemies start getting too close.

Arcane Weapon (Su): You are not a Magus. Unless you're using the Blade Adept archetype, skip this. If you are using Blade Adept, this is absolutely required. The explout caps at +4, unlike the Magus' ability to enhance their weapons, but Arcane Weapon's duration is measured in minutes, while the Magus' is only measure in rounds. On top of that, the Arcanist's Arcane Reservoir grows 4 times fast than the Magus' Arcane Pool, so you can afford to lean on this constantly while a Magus must typically enhance their weapon in short bursts when they really need the help.

Bloodline Development: This is only good if you plan to multiclass with Sorcerer, and I'm not sure why you would do that.

Consume Magic Items (Su): Hugely expensive.

Counterspell (Su): Finally a way to counterspell that doesn't require you to waste your turn staring down the enemy caster.

Dimensional Slide (Su): Fantastic for getting out of bad positions in combat, and removes the need for short-range teleportation spells like Dimension Door.

Energy Shield (Su): Resist Energy is a 2nd-level spell, and this won't surpass Resist Energy until level 15.

Familiar (Ex): Familiars are fantastic if you put them to good use.

Flame Arc (Su): Flame Arc is a line effect, which means that you can hit multiple targets. Your spells will do more damage, but this is a nice option when you run low on spells, and at low levels it may be your best line option until you get Lightning Bolt.

Force Strike (Su): Less damage than the other offensive Exploits, but it's force damage and hits automatically with no save.

Ice Missile (Su): Simple and reliable damage. Staggered is a good condition for disabling melee enemies who depend on full attacks.

Item Crafting: Item crafting is extremely powerful, and in many campaigns an Arcanist or Wizard will be the best item crafter in the party.

Lightning Lance (Su): Simple and reliable damage. The vision impairment is weird, but it could be a good way to hit someone and let your Rogue hide.

Metamagic Knowledge: Metamagic is fantastic, especially because Arcanists can cast spells spontaneously. Each metamagic feat hugely expands the Arcanists options.

Metamixing (Su): Situational.

Potent Magic (Su): Caster level gets you more duration and damage, and increased DC is fantastic for save-or-suck spells.

Quick Study (Ex): This makes the Arcanist even more versatile because you can prepare highly situational spells when you require them instead of guessing at the beginning of the day.

School Understanding: This is only good if you plan to multiclass with Wizard, and I'm not sure why you would do that.

See Magic (Su): You can do all of this with Detect Magic and a bit of patience.

Spell Disruption (Su): Just cast Dispel Magic.

Spell Resistance (Su): The duration is bad and the resistance isn't very high.

Spell Tinkerer (Su): You can use this extend the duration of high level buffs with short durations.

Swift Consume(Ex): You can usually just wait until you are out of combat to start consuming spells, or your can just stand still for the round.

Greater Exploits

Many Greater Exploits improve on regular exploits, but unfortunately most of them aren't very good.

Alter Enhancements (Su): This is great for supporting your party's martial characters. When ghosts show up, turn the fighters +1 flaming weapon into a flaming ghost touch weapon.

Burning Flame (Su): The "On Fire" condition is usually a minor annoyance because the damage is so low, but 3d6 damage per round will eat through hit points very quickly. If the target is prevented from taking a full round action (such as by being staggered, grappled, or otherwise disrupted), this could outright kill people.

Counter Drain (Su): Situational, and you could get more Arcane Reservoir points by using Consume Spells.

Dancing Electricity (Su): This amounts to 1d6 damage per 4 Arcanist levels, with a reflex save for half. That's awful.

Energy Absorption (Su): Very situational, and you need 4 other exploits to make it worthwhile.

Greater Counterspell (Su): Barely improved Countserspell.

Greater Metamagic Knowledge: This is certainly better than Metamagic Knowledge, but if you select a metamagic feat you probably intend to use it. At this level you might consider using Great Metamagic Knowledge to switch between Extend Spell and some other metamagic feat, then use Extend Spell the night before an adventure to cast hours per level duration buffs so that they will last through the following day.

Greater Spell Resistance (Su): The resistance is finally decent, but the duration is still going to be poor.

Greater Spell Disruption (Su): Cast Greater Dispel Magic.

Icy Tomb (Su): Entangle the target and inflict Dexterity damage. This likely won't be lethal, but it can be very helpful for your melee allies.

Lingering Acid (Su): This can add up to quite a bit of damage, and it's a great way to force concentration checks.

Redirect Spell (Su): Awful use of s standard action. Just cast your own spells.

Resistance Drain (Su): Very situational, and the points expire very quickly.

Siphon Spell (Su): Very situational, and hard to rely on.

Spell Thief (Su): This requires you to be close enough to make a melee touch attack, and that is not where you should be.

Suffering Knowledge (Su): Very situational, and the benefit isn't all that great.