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Myrrh, Frankincense, and Steel: Kurald Galain's Guide to the Magus


Advice

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Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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The Magus: a hybrid warrior/spellcaster who wields a sword in one hand while weaving magic with the other. A class which can temporarily enchant any weapon just by holding it, gets excellent mobility due to spell support, and is a contender for the highest spike/nova damage in the game. It won't be as good at combat as the fighter, nor as good a caster as the wizard, but gets some of the best parts of both.

A Magus isn't the easiest class to build or to play well, and the original guidebook, Walter's, is several years old and doesn't cover newer spells, feats, and archetypes. So this inspired me to write a new class guide on the Magus to compile a list of good choices and strategies. This guide covers skill unlocks and variant multiclassing from Unchained, str/dex/cha/int primaries, and a variety of weapons including thrown and unarmed. It covers all material up to the Occult Adventures Handbook released in August 2015.

The Guide on Google docs.

Although a lot of material has been written for this guide, it should still be considered under construction. Feedback is welcome, and my thanks go to Walter for writing the earlier guide.


1. The Myrmidarch is not an archer Magus. It's a switch-hitter. Armour Training allows to have more Dex on heavier armours (to allow for higher accuracy), while also unseating your Dodge in melee combat. Weapon Training combines greatly with Gloves of Dueling too. While other Magi have to choose between moving in and using spell combat OR standing at a distance and using Scorching Ray, the Myrmidarch can do the former or draw a bow and unleash a volley of Scorching Ray arrows (post errata).

2. Also, the Finesse build doesn't have higher AC than the normal build except during the first 7 levels. The only benefit of the Dexterity build is higher initiative and accuracy with rays and such.

3. Never recommend 8 STR. Grapples are the Magi killer. You want as much CMD as you can get.

Silver Crusade

Why is the ratings section after the point where other things have already been rated, shouldn't it be one of the first things in the guide?


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The cartomancer archetype does not allow you to use spell combat with your thrown weapons. It's designed for the player who hates action economy.

I also like the whip a little more than you do. The key is being a half orc who gets proficiency for free (city raised trades out proficiencies you won't use for whip proficiency). If you don't want to invest in it then you have a weapon that from levels 2-5 allows you to spell combat from a distance. At low levels concentration checks are tough and fewer opponents have immunity-creating armor bonuses (obviously non-lethal immunity can be an issue). Once you get to higher levels you retire the whip and move on to your preferred weapon.

If you invest in it the whip can be a fantastic debuff delivery service. If you're committed then you can use the half-orc, the half-elf (ancestral arms), or a human (extra feat). Let's take a half-orc with your strength load out, and do this:
Alt racials: Sacred Tattoo, City-raised
Traits: Fate's favored, Magical lineage (frostbite)

Feats:
1: Enforcer
3: Rime spell
5: Weapon focus(whip), Whip mastery

Spell combat with frostbite lets you make two opponents within fifteen feet shaken, fatigued, and entangled. Spell storing on the whip adds to the fun. In general it's nice for the glass cannon to be able to stand back from the action.

If you're looking to deliver damage the whip is underpowered. For debuffs, though, they work great. Just depends on your focus.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Thanks for writing the guide. I enjoyed reading it, and I liked how you divided options by purpose. That gives a good overview of the class's capabilities, which will help me decide whether it's something I want to play.

The section on gaining spells from other lists might have an inaccuracy. It suggests that taking Eldritch Heritage and Improved Eldritch Heritage to gain the Arcane Bloodline's New Arcana ability will allow the Magus to access Wizard spells. However, the FAQ for the Core Rulebook states:

Quote:

If I gain the ability to add a spell that is not on my spell list to my list of spells known, without adding it to my spell list, can I cast it?

No. Adding a spell to your list of spells known does not add it to the spell list of that class unless they are added by a class feature of that same class. For example, sorcerers add their bloodline spells to their sorcerer spell list and oracles add their mystery spells to their oracle spell list. The spell slots of a class can only be used to cast spells that appear on the spell list of that class.

Since New Arcana isn't a Magus class ability, it can't add spells to the Magus spell list. If the spells aren't on the Magus spell list, they can't be cast, so New Arcana does nothing unless the Magus selects spells that are already on his class list. Since normal Magi can learn spells without feats, New Arcana is pointless for them.

Of course, it might be useful for Eldritch Scions or Mindblades who want extra spells known from the Magus class list and like the bloodlines' other abilities. However, I think most players would be better off with Spell Blending, which doesn't cost three feats.


Secret Wizard wrote:
1. The Myrmidarch is not an archer Magus. It's a switch-hitter... the Myrmidarch can do the former or draw a bow and unleash a volley of Scorching Ray arrows (post errata).

...once he reaches level 11. Using his normal iterative attacks. Against full AC. Not impressed.

Secret Wizard wrote:


3. Never recommend 8 STR. Grapples are the Magi killer. You want as much CMD as you can get.

Gonna have to disagree there. Investing a lot of stat points to get +2 or 3 CMD is going to move you from terrible to mediocre, and that's just not a good deal, especially not for a class with actual defenses.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Thanks for the feedback!

@N.Jolly, good point about the section ordering; I've fixed that.

@Chuffster: ok, I've moved the whip's rating up to green. The card caster should probably be seen as giving you a ranged backup option, not letting you use thrown weapons for all your attacks.

@Thaliak: hm, that FAQ seems specifically aimed at killing eldritch heritage for the arcane bloodline. I'll have to unlist that.

@Secret Wizard: Well, I've been told before that the Myrmidarch a switch hitter, but the baseline Magus is already a switch hitter, and I don't see this archetype adding much to it. Indeed, you get diminished spellcasting, lose melee spellstrike, spell recall, and several arcana slots; if anything the myrmidarch appears to make you worse at switch hitting.

And I agree with Viking that while defending against grapples is useful, this is better accomplished by casting e.g. Mirror Image than by boosting your strength from 8 to 12.


Will you be covering Words of Power or Firearms as options for the Magus?

Is Sorcerer VMC worth it for Eldritch Scions?


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There is a very, very specific combo that gives Dex based magi the ability to add Dex to Damage right out of the gate:

1. Be a human. The extra feat is essential.
2. Be a kensai. It will give you two free feats, Weapon Focus and EWP, which are essential.
3. Take Weapon Finesse.
4. Use your free EWP for the aldori dueling sword, allowing you to use finesse with it.
5. Use your Weapon Focus for the dueling sword, and your human feat for Slashing Grace (it technically qualifies, since I believe it is a one-handed slashing weapon.)
6. Rejoice, Dex to Damage.

ADDENDUM: I would also suggest getting Flamboyant Arcana and Extra Arcana: Arcane Deed (Precise Strike) at 3rd level to help bridge the damage gap and give the magus more combat capability and help bridge the damage gap. Plus, it opens the door for the classic fantasy hero who uses magic, is excellent at swordplay, and constantly quips.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Backlash3906 wrote:
Will you be covering Words of Power or Firearms as options for the Magus?

Words of power? If I get convinced that they're commonly used in campaigns, then yes.

Firearms? Unless I'm missing a specific combo here, the Magus doesn't particularly benefit from those, seeing as they don't work with spell combat or spellstrike.

Quote:
Is Sorcerer VMC worth it for Eldritch Scions?

Well, what you'd really want from the sorcerer is its bloodline arcana; and the VMC doesn't give you that. Then again, since the Magus has bonus feats, it's not a bad deal to spare a couple for a flavorful bloodline.

The Doomkitten wrote:


I would also suggest getting Flamboyant Arcana and Extra Arcana: Arcane Deed (Precise Strike)

Unfortunately, that combo got errata'ed and no longer works.


What? Dang it! Where is that errata, perchance?


Under Dipping other Classes, I think you forgot one class: the Dawnflower Bard.

One level of this bard archetype gets Dervish Dance for free. The bad side is that your BAB is 0 for a couple of levels. If you decide not to dump CHA and put 11 into it, you can at least have some bard spells. I wouldn't count on the Inspire Courage. But then, when I built my magus/Bard I wasn't doing it for that.


^With Pathfinder Unchained Fractional Bonus Progression, Level 1 in each of Bard and Magus gives you BAB +1.5, which is effectively +1.

By the way, weren't the Eldritch Scion and Myrmidarch supposed to get Errata? I looked on both d20pfsrd.com and Archives of Nethys yesterday and saw no sign of this. Also, the Mindblade NEEDS Errata (or at least a FAQ), because it is a spontaneous caster, but the archetype description says nothing about number of spells known. I would assume same as a Bard of equal level, but that's just a guess . . .

Anyway, thanks for the much needed up to date guide.

Edit: @Whip proficiency: Half-Orc actually has *3* ways to get this: Beastmaster (which DOESN'T replace Weapon Familiarity, instead replacing Orc Ferocity) as well as the above-mentioned City-Raised, and finally the Race Trait Caravan Drover (which doesn't replace either one, and actually lets you treat Whips as martial weapons rather than giving them to you outright).

I could have sworn that Humans also had a way to get Whip proficiency without needing to spend a feat or a dip, but now I can't find it. Maybe it is buried somewhere in Human Race Traits -- I could have sworn it was something similar to Caravan Drover for Half-Orc, above.


While it's not my style to pat shoulders without adding constructive criticism I have to say this is a really good guide! Well structured, concisely written and not as opinionated as many other guides come across.


Just realized that the version linked above (on Google Docs) is not the same as the one that the Zenith Games Guide to the Guides points to (on a forum).

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

UnArcaneElection wrote:

Just realized that the version linked above (on Google Docs) is not the same as the one that the Zenith Games Guide to the Guides points to (on a forum).

The content of both is the same. Use whichever one you find prettier :)


Are both updated? I thought the thread version couldn't be updated.

Speaking of updates, have you determined whether errata for the Eldritch Scion and Myrmidarch actually make these any better? (I have heard of errata, but they do not seem to have made it onto d20pfsrd.com or Archives of Nethys yet, and I haven't seen anyone post a link to the errata, so I haven't seen the actual errata.)

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Yes, they are both updated.

And did you mean this errata? If so, then the current handbook (which means, yes, both versions) already reflects that.


What were the changes for the Eldritch Scion?


Kurald Galain wrote:

Yes, they are both updated.

And did you mean this errata? If so, then the current handbook (which means, yes, both versions) already reflects that.

That link points to the general Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Resources page rather than a specific errata page.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Precisely. Because that's where you find all the recent errata.


I guess Acrobat's search function is a piece of junk (no surprise actually) -- I managed to find the Myrmidarch errata in the Ultimate Combat Errata PDF (although it claims to find 2 additional instances of Myrmidarch that are not actually visible), but I couldn't find the Eldritch Scion errata in the Advanced Class Guide Errata PDF.


By the way, for extra input on making the Myrmidarch Magus good, check out this post of Gisher's.


The Doomkitten wrote:

There is a very, very specific combo that gives Dex based magi the ability to add Dex to Damage right out of the gate:

1. Be a human. The extra feat is essential.
2. Be a kensai. It will give you two free feats, Weapon Focus and EWP, which are essential.
3. Take Weapon Finesse.
4. Use your free EWP for the aldori dueling sword, allowing you to use finesse with it.
5. Use your Weapon Focus for the dueling sword, and your human feat for Slashing Grace (it technically qualifies, since I believe it is a one-handed slashing weapon.)
6. Rejoice, Dex to Damage.

Since Slashing Grace doesn't work with Spell Combat anymore, this isn't a great path for any Magus. The better way for a Kensai to get Dex to damage at 1st level is to be human and use your two 1st level feats for Weapon Finesse and Fencing Grace.


UnArcaneElection wrote:

I guess Acrobat's search function is a piece of junk (no surprise actually) -- I managed to find the Myrmidarch errata in the Ultimate Combat Errata PDF (although it claims to find 2 additional instances of Myrmidarch that are not actually visible), but I couldn't find the Eldritch Scion errata in the Advanced Class Guide Errata PDF.

The Myrmidarch's higher level Ranged Spellstrike ability got fixed in the latest UC errata, but Eldritch Scion wasn't changed in any way in the ACG errata. But this FAQ is nice for an Eldritch Scion with the Draconic Bloodrager Bloodline who wants to take levels in Dragon Disciple.

UnArcaneElection wrote:

By the way, for extra input on making the Myrmidarch Magus good, check out this post of Gisher's.

I'm glad you found it informative. If I get a chance these next two weeks, I'll try to post a few sample builds.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

All right, time for some updates. Added Body Double, Crusader’s Edge, Martyr’s Bargain, Sense Vitals spells; climber's kit item; Tireless Logic, Favored Champion, Magaambyan Arcana, and Cunning Liar traits.

More additions to come as I work through the recent set of splatbooks (Inner Sea Races, Heroes of the Street, and Occult).


It would be very helpful if you listed which books things came from, especially considering how many books you are pulling from.

Thanks for putting this together.


Quote:
Well, I've been told before that the Myrmidarch a switch hitter, but the baseline Magus is already a switch hitter, and I don't see this archetype adding much to it. Indeed, you get diminished spellcasting, lose melee spellstrike, spell recall, and several arcana slots; if anything the myrmidarch appears to make you worse at switch hitting.

if you look closely, none of the abilities replace base spellstrike. The myrmidarch actually gains ranged spellstrike at level 4, and it replaces both spell recall abilities, not touching base spellstrike.

Essentially, the archetype is giving up a lot of magical ability for a much greater focus on the melee portion of the magus. Weapon training, Armor training, switch hitting.

Now, I'm not actually going to play it because I personally feel it gives up a bit too much magic, but the archetype is most certainly a switch hitter, since it has both the spell combat/spellstrike combo and ranged spellstrike. Play eldritch archer for an archer magus!


Yeah, if you're looking for a purely archery-based magus, go look at Eldritch Archer from Heroes of the Streets.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

I've updated the guide with the new archetypes from Occult Adventures and from Heroes of the Street,


  • Mindblade, which is a solid choice primarily because of some gems on the psychic spell list
  • Esoteric, which is surprisingly bad considering a normal Magus can already use all his class features with unarmed combat anyway
  • Eldritch Archer, which is very powerful and already banned in PFS for that reason.

Here you go. Feedback welcome, as always.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Added arcana: Distant Spellstrike and Reach Spellstrike.
Feats: Arcane Armor Training, Combat Reflexes, Destructive Dispel, Elemental Spell, Intimidating Prowess, Maximized Spellstrike, Outflank, and Spontaneous Metafocus.
Traits: Cunning Liar, Favored Champion, Magaambyan Arcana, and Tireless Logic.
Spells: Ablative Barrier, Bear's Endurance, Body Double, Burst of Adrenaline, Crusader’s Edge, Dimensional Anchor, Dragon's Breath, Elemental Touch, Fallback Strategy, Fire's Friend, Floating Disc, Hydro Push, Ill Omen, Inflict Pain, Mage Armor, Martyr’s Bargain, Mindshock, Sense Vitals, Sleet Storm, Solid Fog, Symbol of Striking, Twilight Knife, and Water Breathing.
Weapon enchants: Agile, Conductive, Heartseeker, Nimble Shot, and Sapping.
Equipment: Corset of the Vishkanya, Dweomer’s Essence, Familiar Satchel, Maiden’s Helm, Polymorphic Pouch, Sandals of Quick Reaction, Sipping Jacket, bardiche, fauchard, and climber's kit.
And dips / prestige: Fighter, Shaman, Arcane Trickster, and Dragon Disciple.


Kurald Galain wrote:

...

  • Eldritch Archer, which is very powerful and already banned in PFS for that reason.

Has anyone found out why it was banned for PFS? or reasons why it is considered "very powerful"?

I'm playing one in a RotRL campaign, and so far, I haven't found anything overly powerful (currently 4th level), in fact, probably the opposite (have yet to land a critical spellstrike) - but it does seem to be safer.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Well, I think the point is that archers in general are very powerful, because they can do a full attack pretty much every round (with rapid shot, which stacks with haste). The EA is basically an archer that does all this and also casts a spell each round, and gets a free flaming/shock bow by level 5. All you need is the standard point blank/precise/rapid shot feats.

That said, as far as I know the PFS team doesn't share their reasons for banning things.


Is this guide still being updated with new stuff? Ive been referring to it for a while and I like it and would prefer it not pass on. But if it's become too time consuming then I understand as well.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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Yes, absolutely. The items and feats from Arcane Anthologies are already there, I'll add the archetypes this week.


Kurald, are you still satisfied with your example build of a bladebound? Someone in my campaign had their warpriest die and is building a half orc bladebound magus to replace them and is using that as a template.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Grond wrote:
Kurald, are you still satisfied with your example build of a bladebound? Someone in my campaign had their warpriest die and is building a half orc bladebound magus to replace them and is using that as a template.

Yes, I am. If you use it for a character, please let me know what your experiences are.


It is a buddy of mine but he needs it for Mummy's Mask. He wants to do more frontline melee damage and you can't beat a bladebound magus for that.


Kurald Galain wrote:
Yes, absolutely. The items and feats from Arcane Anthologies are already there, I'll add the archetypes this week.

I just had noticed this thread hadn't had any posts in a few months and wasn't sure.

Thanks for the hard work though!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

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Added:

Feats/discoveries: Avid Spellbook Reader, Creative Destruction, Knowledge Is Power, and Elven Battle Style (which is poor choice for a Magus, unfortunately)
Spells: Shadow Endurance, Find Fault, Force Sword, and Splinter Spell Resistance
Traits: Bitter Heart and Stabbing Spells
Preparation rituals: Guardian Grimoire, Tome of the Transmuter, Arrowsong's Sorrow, Book of Harms, Guide's Analects, and Six and Nine Warriors Edition
And a note on void wizard VMC, and on using a whip to buff your allies.

Finally, added Puppetmaster (great debuffer, although he'll need the bard list a lot since the Magus is lacking in enchantment spells), and Deep Marshal (which is a major downgrade of your spell list, frankly; there's only a few interesting abjuration spells not already on your list, and you can just grab those with Spell Blending. Losing illusion is a big deal for a Magus!)

So now we have all material up to February 2016, including Arcane Anthologies, Occult Adventures, and the Weapon Master's Handbook. Yay!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

Added Shadowform, Shadow Trap, Touch of Blindness, Siphon Magic, Molten Orb, and Improved Familiar. Also marked all feats with * if they can be taken as Magus bonus feats.

That covers Blood of Shadows, which doesn't have all that much Magus material since it's mainly aimed at rogues and such.


You have shadow endurance listed as a 5th level spell. It's a 6th level for wizards... But 5th for a bard. Shouldn't it be listed as a 6th? I didnt think Magus could take bard spells by RAW

Grand Lodge

Solid guide, well done. And thanks for keeping it up to date.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

C4M3R0N wrote:
You have shadow endurance listed as a 5th level spell. It's a 6th level for wizards... But 5th for a bard. Shouldn't it be listed as a 6th? I didnt think Magus could take bard spells by RAW

The Puppetmaster archetype can. But this spell should be at 6th, yes, so I've moved it.


Kurald Galain wrote:
C4M3R0N wrote:
You have shadow endurance listed as a 5th level spell. It's a 6th level for wizards... But 5th for a bard. Shouldn't it be listed as a 6th? I didnt think Magus could take bard spells by RAW
The Puppetmaster archetype can. But this spell should be at 6th, yes, so I've moved it.

Well thank you for clearing that up. I didn't realize the puppetmaster archetype was a thing.

Grand Lodge

Just a note, for tieflings you say they can use metamagic rods with their tails. While I agree with this, I would not allow it without the Grasping Tail feat which specifically removes the size limit and includes "you can hold such objects with your tail."


It seems to me that the 1st level spell Long arm is much superior to the Lunge feat in that:

1) You save a feat slot
2) No penalty to AC
3) Your extra reach will increase your threat range for AoOs, unlike lunge

and all of that for only a 1st level spell. Not sure why you recommend using lunge at higher levels, nor why long arm isn't blue.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

claudekennilol wrote:
Just a note, for tieflings you say they can use metamagic rods with their tails. While I agree with this, I would not allow it without the Grasping Tail feat which specifically removes the size limit and includes "you can hold such objects with your tail."

The racial tail ability already states that these tieflings have "long, flexible tails that can be used to carry items". The feat lets you grab things from 5' away.

_Ozy_ wrote:
Not sure why you recommend using lunge at higher levels, nor why long arm isn't blue.

Because of its short duration. Long Arm doesn't reliably last for more than one combat, and unless you know exactly when combat is coming, you'd have to cast it during the fight instead of other spells.

Replacing a short-duration spell with a permanent feat is overall an improvement. Note that the handbook also includes several ways of wielding a reach weapon, which is a solid alternative.


Well, except it's not a direct replacement. You don't get reach for AoOs, and it penalizes your AC.

I guess the trade off is going to be very build dependent. A dex-based scimitar user isn't going to be using a reach weapon, plus will benefit a lot more from combat reflexes and the increased reach from this spell.

Personally, the extra AC (compared to lunge) and AoOs seem well worth using an action to buff with this spell. Especially since feats are valuable. Furthermore, if the enemy is closing, this spell will give you an extra attack from the AoO which lunge will not, so in some situations, you don't really even lose action economy.

And, of course, anytime you have a round or two of prep time, longarm wins hands down. I just know that for my build, I wouldn't even consider the lunge feat given the existence of longarm.

But hey, it's your guide. ;)

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

While feats are valuable, so are actions and spell slots.

The Magus gets bonus feats, and frankly there's not a lot of feats that are better for a Magus than getting reach on all your attacks. And there are numerous spells that are better than getting reach. For example, Mirror Image or Greater Invis (which also solve your issue with armor class).

Regardless, Long Arm is still a good spell; it's just not ranked as a must-have since it has numerous alternatives.

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