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Piranha strike vs. Dervish Dancer


Hello all,

I am building a bladebound/kensai magus and would like to ask your opinion on the following:

- We all know that the dervish dance feat coupled with a scimitar on a 18Dex character will put out a flat +4 to damage, but as far as I understand this would be the best bonus I would ever have to damage (not counting spells, etc.);

- In the long haul, wouldn't using say... a short sword (for the crit range), with weapon finesse AND Piranha Strike be a better deal? As I see it, from 4th level onwards it matches the +4 from 18dex, at 8 it is already over it, and at 12 it seems to be clearly ahead.

Now, I have never played a high level character so I do not know much about the stat progression - for example, what dex bonus can one expect from stat raises and magic items at levels, 4, 8, 12 etc? (to compare it to the piranha strike pluses to damage)

Additionally, I can also understand that the dervish dance has the added benefit of not actually taking anything away from your to hit bonus, which seems suitable to the 2/3 progression for a magus.

Last but not least, both of thew feats are only available to the Magus at level... 3 I believe, so just one level before piranha strike catches up with Dervish Dance.

All in all, I would like to hear your opinion on this.

Thank you in advance.


a) Dervish dance gets better if your Dex gets higher

b) a short sword doesn't have a better crit range than the scimitar...

c) Piranha strike adds more damage but reduces your chance to hit. A missed attack does no damage at all.

d) You could get Power Attack and use that with your dervish-dancing scimitar.

e) It's not 4th and 8th level it's BAB 4 and BAB 8, for a magus thats level 6 and 11.

Personally I'd not use power attack or piranha strike on a 3/4 BAB char unless fighting mooks with low AC. You have trouble hitting already, shouldn't make it worse.

4th and 8th level you get a +1 to stats, you can get a +4 Dex belt by that time too, so thats a +6 already. Theres many more munchkiny things you can do, like take a level in Urban Barbarian to get a +4 Dex while raging, or a level in Alchemist for mutagens, but those are the easiest.

Also a lot of your damage comes from the spells too, and you don't deliver those spells if you don't hit with your blade.

Thank you Quatar for pointing the BAB question out, I was totally forgetting it.

I only mentioned the short sword because it is "finesse able" unlike the scimitar.

What you said about the to hit also makes perfect sense and I think you are right, piranha may not be the best option in this case.

Do you think it worth it to take fears revolving around combat expertise and/ or criticals?

Yes, but a scimitar with dervish dance uses dex for attack and damage and has a 18-20 crit. Shortsword with finesse uses dex only for attack and has 19-20 crit. Kukri is a light weapon with 18-20 crit range so you could use that.
Or of course the Rapier, but unfortunatly that doesn't work with Piranha strike either.
But thats only really options if you want to use PS.

Getting either Keen weapon enchantment or Improved Critical feat will be a priority for a magus with a 18-20 weapon, I think, since that also means a critical hit with your spell. (or at 5th level you can spend a arcane point to give it Keen)

But I have barely any experience with magus at higher than 2nd level, so I can't really tell you more, but I know most critical feats have a high BAB requirement, so you wouldn't get most of them before level 13 or higher anyway.

Agile kukri.

Yeah, I don't have the same aversion to power attacking on a 3/4 BAB class that Quatar has, but the dpr of Dervish Dance with a high Dex will always beat regular type Weapon Finesse and Piranha Strike, unless you can guarantee you'll get an Agile Weapon.

I think it's a lot easier just to make sure you have a 13 Str and get Power Attack.

Of course, another question comes to mind--when are you taking this feat exactly? Weapon Finesse + Dervish Dance are first. You want Arcane Strike before you take a penalty giving feat. I assume you'd rather have Weapon Focus, too, and you certainly want Improved Critical. I'm just not seeing a lot of room in a Dervish Dancer Magus build for either feat.

PS/PA has its place and can be useful, but if you fight something with a high AC then you just cripple yourself by using it.

He could take a level in Dawnflower Dervish bard, which gives Dervish Dance as bonus feat without needing weapon finesse.
He sacrifices 1 BAB there though and 1 level of magus spell progression, but gains some bard spells too, which might actually be nice.

Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm building an Human Arcane Duelist Bard and taking the Dervish Dance feat. I had originally built a Dawnflower Dervish, but without the ability to Inspire Courage in my allies, it just wasn't a Bard to me. Despite the fact that it will cost me a caster level, I had to splash a level of Lorewarden to get Scimitar Proficiency to take DD at level 2.

1st level Bard (Arcane Duelist) Feat Weapon Finess
2nd level Fighter (Lore Warden) Feat Dervish Dance

3rd level and all subsequent will be Bard. I'm waffling between weapon focus and Spellsong or maybe lingering performance.

Slim, I think you'd be better off taking the Fighter level first. Max out a higher HD, start the game with +1 BAB, etc...

Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I thought about that, but I can't get Dervish Dance at second level that way, because you need Perform(Dance)2 and don't get a feat at 2 as well as not being able to cast at all at first.

The Exchange

Since a Kensai is proficient in a single martial or exotic weapon of choice I'd suggest a wakizashi: a light weapon with 1d6 damage, a 18-20 threat range, and the deadly quality (if you happen to be into beheading prisoners or something...). Very 'kensai' thematically as well.

A Magus is a bit of a 'pseudo-3/4 BAB' character, in that he's got some standard ways to up his to-hit chance: spells (such as Magic Weapon and Greater Magic Weapon, not to mention Bull's Strength or Cat's Grace and the like), and his arcane pool. If he just applies his maximum arcane pool bonus to his weapon as a naked 'plus' then his actual to-hit chance (although not his amount of iterative attacks) matches full BAB; although chances are he'll be upping his base weapon bonus with Magic Weapon spells and using the arcane pool for extra damage as soon as he's able. He only really starts to fall behind when the game gets to the sort of level where everyone is totting +5 weapons around - then the plus cap works against the Magus (in comparison to the full BAB boys that is).

The only real benefit to going Piranha Strike over Power Attack is it allows you to ignore (or even dump) Strength. Thanks to the Agile magic weapon quality there's no longer a seeming need for all Magus characters to be Dervish Dancing scimitar guys (although it does mean the Magus wil need to spend 8,000gp+ on a +1 Agile weapon whereas he can usually ignore buying a magic weapon completely and spend the ca$h elsewhere). Of course this does make the Bladebound archetype terrible for a Magus built this way (unless the GM lets you add extra magic weapon qualities to your black blade). Bladebound is statistically pretty terrible anyway (although thematically wonderful!), but that's fodder for different threads... ;)

Of course, there's the question of how much your Magus really cares about the damage his weapon is putting out anyway. Some Magi generally just use the thing as a touch-spell delivery system, and whatever damage it does above the spell effect is just gravy. Kensai are going to generally be more concerned with base damage though, I imagine, seeing as they're more martially focused than a 'vanilla' Magus.

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