Arcanist Optimization Guide


Advice

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GM DarkLightHitomi wrote:
Chess Pwn wrote:
If you pick up a spell like ability from a school power or exploit then that can count for the pre-req.
Where do they allow SLAs to count as spells? Nothing I've read has the two as interchangeable.

I have a related question about SLAs.

Do SLAs count as spells for the purpose of the Redirect Spell and Resistance drain arcanist exploits?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

SLA in pathfinder are basically just spells beside being able to use them with a mental command instead of somatic and verbal, so yeah they would count.


I think a good discussion point would be the feats question for an arcanist build.

I believe that in a lot of cases (you highlighted them in blue) there are exploits far superior to nearly all feat choices available. I think it can be a very short list for the guide of feats that are actually superior to these exploits, or provide something that you cannot get through exploits (examples: Improved Familiar, additional metamagic feats).


I'm not sure I agree that exploits > feats.

Some of the Exploits are very good but if you want to build a blaster there's a bunch of required feats: Spell Focus(Evocation), Spell Specialization, Varisian Tattoo, Empower Spell, Intensify Spell, Quicken Spell

Similarly if you want to play a god wizard style arcanist there's a bunch of different feats you need: Spell Focus, Greater Spell Focus, Persistent Spell, Dazing Spell, Improved Inituative, Heighten Spell

If you want to buff your summons exploits aren't going to help you with that, you need: Spell Focus (conjuration), Augment Summons, Superior Summons, Evolved Summon Monster, Summon Good/Neutral Monster etc...


dont forget bloatmage initiate (evocation), and spell perfection and elemental spell to get around immune enemies.


AndIMustMask wrote:
dont forget bloatmage initiate (evocation), and spell perfection and elemental spell to get around immune enemies.

Right. In fairness to the exploits Potent Magic and School Understanding (admixture) are good choices too for a blaster.


Again unrelated except for a few moments on the last page. but thought I'd mention in case anyone ever thinks about it..

For an arcanist to go into Dragon Disciple bloodrager, sorcerer, and eldrtich scion (magus) are doable. And all three activate the bloodline exploit so all the levels count for it. Each one gives their own benfeits as well. Eldritch scion looks neat for it. I'm not sure if you can spell combat with other lists.. I know you can't spellstrike without braod study but an blade adept arcanists can already spell strike (but not spell combat).

Bloodrager and eldritch scion's dragon bloodline is lightly different than sorcerer's so you do get a choice which fits your style more. some things you get later some things you get earlier
Gotta be sure you read those different rules.. but you can make some interesting stuff out if it..
but all thats for multiclass stuff not pure arcanist joy


FangDragon wrote:

I'm not sure I agree that exploits > feats.

Some of the Exploits are very good but if you want to build a blaster there's a bunch of required feats: Spell Focus(Evocation), Spell Specialization, Varisian Tattoo, Empower Spell, Intensify Spell, Quicken Spell

Similarly if you want to play a god wizard style arcanist there's a bunch of different feats you need: Spell Focus, Greater Spell Focus, Persistent Spell, Dazing Spell, Improved Inituative, Heighten Spell

If you want to buff your summons exploits aren't going to help you with that, you need: Spell Focus (conjuration), Augment Summons, Superior Summons, Evolved Summon Monster, Summon Good/Neutral Monster etc...

You mostly listed metamagic feats, so I'm not sure why you're disagreeing with me. With access to the Potent Magic Exploit, do you really thing spell/greater spell focus are worth two feat slots?

I agree that if you're building a blockbuster arcanist, then you need to focus on that sort of a build.

I still strongly disagree that focusing your feats only on slightly improving your summons is anywhere near optimization, but I don't think we will ever agree if you think that's a strong build.

Lantern Lodge

Thelemic_Noun wrote:
Secane wrote:

@Thelemic_Noun, what is your rating for Aasimars? Especially with the sub-race that give +2 int and cha?

*I noticed that aasimars are not on your race list in the guide.

Corrected, as of now.

Just as awesome as tieflings, given the potential for +4 Int. I just wish there were a +2 Int +2 Dex subrace.

They do have the +2 Int and Cha subrace that is great for some builds and arcane exploits.

-----

On the White Mage, is that archetype really so bad? Given that it loses little to gain the ability to heal? Not to mention it can cast Breath of Life as needed, a spell noted to be a spell tax for any cleric worth his salt.

Just don't feel it rates a red. Maybe a yellow in most situations, but surely not a red?

Grand Lodge

Good work =D


I should note the one glaring thing about Spell Disruption: it suppresses Wall spells. Imagine the party running into a Wall of Force separating them from the big bad. Yeah, you could use other spells to delete the wall entirely. But the Arcanist can strut over to that wall, touch it, and blithely pass through it like it was nothing. It allows you to bypass obstacles with swagger, and without using up valuable spell slots/scrolls.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Starfinder Maps Subscriber

First off, thanks for starting to make an Arcanist guide. I've been looking for one for ages. But I'm confused as to why Charisma is a dump stat when so many of the exploits key off it. Can you add an explanation for this into the guide, or provide the math as to why you would want to do this?

I was fiddling around with the arcanist and was thinking of going dual talent human to get both int and cha high before looking at this guide. I guess my problem is that I'm not sure why charisma is a trap for the arcanist.

BTW, thanks for pointing out the Linguistics feat earlier. So far, all my characters have been Charisma monsters (sorcerers, oradins, bards...) but I was thinking of creating something more int-based in the future and I *love* linguistics as a skill.

Hmm


I think the Charisma dump stat is partly the result of pressure from other posters in the thread. Charisma isn't a trap for the arcanist, but he is right in that you don't want to give up your survival stats for it. The effect of Charisma is sadly a bit lacking in the exploit department. You see, most of the times Charisma shows up is in either adding damage or determining the number of rounds an effect lasts. Spell disruption has rounds involved, but the greater version also uses charisma as a bonus to the check. That's actually an improvement, but it doesn't matter if they consider the base version a piece of junk.


They say charisma is a trap because it's not doing much. Having a 7 is the same as a 12 for the exploits that use rounds = cha min 1. So you'd need a 14 to get 1 extra round from it. And most those exploits aren't needed to be used or needed for many rounds.
Then they don't like the blast exploits, and cha just adds a little damage to them, and personally, I feel a +1 or +2 damage isn't worth the investment of CHA.
And if you're giving up CON or DEX for it, there's the trap. Losing out on better living for something that doesn't actually give much reward.


Precisely.


Cha is a green stat for blasters who want a 1 level sorcerer dip to pick up +2 dmg per dice.


Quiznab wrote:
Cha is a green stat for blasters who want a 1 level sorcerer dip to pick up +2 dmg per dice.

Well...considering the arcana does not even require you to have a positive CHA mod to function...I'm not so sure. You could have 7 CHA and still have the arcana. You just don't get your 1st level sorc spells.


Ah, but unless Im mistaken (good chance as Im not a munchkin) doesn't sorcerer have an archtype that changes from cha to int? Then you could still gain those spells.

Dark Archive

Isn't bloodline development with arcane bloodline and a bonded object pretty good, especially at 1st 1evel when it has no arcane point cost?

Or don't we rate bonded objects?

Richard

Dark Archive

A couple more points I'd like to raise:

Doesn't the unlettered arcanist work better with Quick Study?

Isn't the halfling's favoured class bonus effectively the equivalent of 1/6 feat, (assuming we agree exploits equal feats), and isn't that actually pretty good?

Richard


GM DarkLightHitomi wrote:
Ah, but unless Im mistaken (good chance as Im not a munchkin) doesn't sorcerer have an archtype that changes from cha to int? Then you could still gain those spells.

The Sage Wildbooded Bloodline does this. But that doesn't help if you want to dip Crossblooded Orc/Dragon.


richard develyn wrote:

Isn't bloodline development with arcane bloodline and a bonded object pretty good, especially at 1st 1evel when it has no arcane point cost?

Or don't we rate bonded objects?

Richard

The problem is, it's only good for the first three levels.

After that, it becomes: "Once per day, expend an arcane pool point to cast one spell of your highest level available."

The question is, should that be worth an exploit? Especially since most archetypes lock out your class-progression based exploits until level 5, requiring you to spend a feat to get them.

Dark Archive

Thelemic_Noun wrote:
richard develyn wrote:

Isn't bloodline development with arcane bloodline and a bonded object pretty good, especially at 1st 1evel when it has no arcane point cost?

Or don't we rate bonded objects?

Richard

The problem is, it's only good for the first three levels.

After that, it becomes: "Once per day, expend an arcane pool point to cast one spell of your highest level available."

The question is, should that be worth an exploit? Especially since most archetypes lock out your class-progression based exploits until level 5, requiring you to spend a feat to get them.

I must admit I would have thought it was a good exploit at 4th level and beyond.

IMO

Incidentally, I didn't think you could use a feat to get an extra arcane exploit until you had at least one. Somewhere I've read that if you archetype away some feature of your class until a later level, you don't count as having that feature (in this case, Arcane Exploits) until that later level. Herolab certainly enforces that.

Richard


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I think bloodline development depends very heavily on what you want to do actually and which bloodline you take.
Depending on that, it might even be worth to take a level in sorcerer.

I´m playing a crossblooded impossible/air sorcerer 1 atm and will advance in arcanist, going into technomancer eventually.
This build is heavily tailored to the Iron God´s AP.
There it should hopefully be very usefull, even i do loose out on two casting levels overall and can take technomancer one level later as normally.
The clue is though, i´ll be advancing impossible bloodline as if i were a sorcerer, levels stacking, which will give me craft wondrous item and a spell focus.
Also i did take the level 1 air ability to change damage spells to electricity. Quite usefull in a robot heavy campaign, just as the arcanist electric lance would be though.
On the first levels i can also daze robot´s pretty fine for free, which is always a good combat contribution.

Things like that make for best builds in my eyes and provide a lot more flavor than just the most maximized damage.

For PFS play, best orient yourself to be able to contribute as much as possible on several fields, having answers for diverse situations and specializing in one or two things.


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Based on the pregen Arcanist, we know one thing: School Understanding does indeed also count the subschools. This means that School Savant's only advantage is in bonus prepared spells. That isn't worth the cost, honestly. Not only do you give up 3 levels worth of exploits for the arcane school, you gain the two opposed schools of a wizard without the wizard's ability to take a discovery to reduce that to one.

Speaking of other things we've learned from the pregen, it might not be a bad idea to pick up Bloodline Development (Arcane). So long as you don't advertise the bonded item, it's unlikely that you'd have to worry about it. With the right item to bond to, you can make it seem like you are simply relying on the magic item instead of your own powers. Roleplay it out as if you've run out of juice, and then hit them with a whammy when it would best suit you.


FiddlersGreen wrote:
Quiznab wrote:
Cha is a green stat for blasters who want a 1 level sorcerer dip to pick up +2 dmg per dice.
Well...considering the arcana does not even require you to have a positive CHA mod to function...I'm not so sure. You could have 7 CHA and still have the arcana. You just don't get your 1st level sorc spells.

Well you need enough charisma to cast first level spells if you dip sorcerer...

Dark Archive

Yes, but first level casting will gain you so little that you need to balance it with other stats. On other casters considering the dip, I would just flat out not do it, but as the arcanist gains more from charisma it might make it slightly worth it if you think you will get enough use out of some extra level 1 spells and various arcana.


+2 DMG per dice is HUGE for a blaster.


I think I have to disagree with the low rating to bloodline development. For one exploit, you can get arcane bond from the arcane bloodline. Since it scales, it seems slightly better than even Expanded Preparation, if you ask me.


It's nice, but you lose out on the ridiculous power of a familiar!


Assuming you're being sarcastic again, I reply that the familiar powers are in fact quite good, especially when you take all the various spells and abilities built around them (plus a free commune each week; at 500 gp, having the cleric do it once per week is a bit of a drain). Not to mention the fact that you can turn it into an air elemental and give it a nasty touch spell to deliver.

It can also act as an Improved Initiative that stacks with Improved Initiative.

And as to the arcane bloodline development; you have to spend a swift action to get access to the spell.


Fair enough, but it's not as big an issue at first level anyhow. You'd get the spell without the cost. The swift action only starts to apply at later levels, when you might want to cast 2nd level and higher spells. Or if you want to cast one more shot of Burning Hands at max capacity. Mostly, you could treat it as a 1st level scroll of whatever scroll you want from your actual spellbook.

And when you think about it, that makes it more brilliant. Who'd think a staff/wand/ring/amulet of what appears to be a 1st level magic mook would belong to a 14th level arcanist? That's a great mind game to play with a GM.

By the way, I am now inspired to make an arcanist styled in the manner of a Halfling Dr. Doom. Yes, you heard that right. Halfling Dr. Doom. And for PFS at that.

Dark Archive

I must admit I think the combination unlettered + quick study + familiar + spells such as delay poison, cure blindness, death ward provides an excellent insurance caster.

Richard


richard develyn wrote:

I must admit I think the combination unlettered + quick study + familiar + spells such as delay poison, cure blindness, death ward provides an excellent insurance caster.

Richard

How is Quick Study a marked improvement over having scrolls for those once-in-a-while spells, and maybe getting the Consume Magic Items exploit instead? With a haversack you can get the scrolls out as a move rather than QS's full round - & if you need to increase your arcane reservoir for something you will have the scrolls to do so.

Dark Archive

avr wrote:
richard develyn wrote:

I must admit I think the combination unlettered + quick study + familiar + spells such as delay poison, cure blindness, death ward provides an excellent insurance caster.

Richard

How is Quick Study a marked improvement over having scrolls for those once-in-a-while spells, and maybe getting the Consume Magic Items exploit instead? With a haversack you can get the scrolls out as a move rather than QS's full round - & if you need to increase your arcane reservoir for something you will have the scrolls to do so.

If you haven't gone Unlettered then you couldn't use the scrolls anyway however otherwise it just comes down to the cost.

One scroll of Death Ward = 700 gp, and it protects one person.

If you're non PFS and have scribe scroll it costs 1 feat and still it's 350gp.

And although it's a level higher both Raise Dead and Heal are good options to be able to swap in in an emergency.

Unlettered Arcanist is the only class I can think of that allows you to rapidly learn cleric spells such as these.

Richard


Good guide!

But i think you underrated the Blood Arcanist. For some builds this can have a huge impact.

For example a caster specilised in enchantment (compulsion). The fix +2 to DC is realy powerfull. At 5th level this caster could take Potent Magic.

With a 18 Int and Spell Focus/Greater Spell Focus and a Headband of Vast Intelligence +2. This resulsts in huge DCs...

DC for compulsion spells
10 Base
+ 5 Int
+ 1 Spell Focus
+ 1 Greater Spell Focus
+ 2 Fey
+ 2 Potent Magic
+ X Spell level
_____________
21 + Spell level

Clear anyone playing such a thing must hate his GM but it is still nice in theory ;)

Breiti

Dark Archive

Good point - worth looking at all those bloodlines a bit more. 5 powers + an ability in exchange for 4 exploits could be good value.

Force Strike, BTW, is as good as magic missile at 15th level and better afterwards, so it might be worth taking as a late exploit.

Richard


a note on accessing spell-things with action-efficiency:
due to size equivalence, a caster can store up to 60 wands (arrow-sized), 18 rods or scroll cases (javelin-sized), and 6 staves (bow-sized) in an efficient quiver, which is only 1800g.

these are all in reach for yourself, a familiar, or an unseen servant to grab and pass to you (or in the familiar's case, use it itself).

usually 'drawing' an arrow from a quiver is a free action, but i'm unsure how that works with wands in a quiver.


Most likely drawing arows is free due to being already included in the attack action of the bow. Also, there is no need to choose one arrow over another. Wands on the other hand, do need to be chosen carefully (unless all the same one) and no idea if the quiver is even capable of revealing the desired wand, it might simply reveal random ones.


You know, honestly, for a lot of players, Unlettered Arcanist's only downside is it's spell-list, if that's not in fact what they want.(A little hard to imagine since Unlettered Arcanists can't get patron spells unless they copy from another familiar... Can you even copy patron spells between familiars?.. Anyways.) A lot of GMs actually never target a Wizard's Spellbook, and unless the Unlettered lets their familiar into combat all the time, their familiar might never be targeted. Keeping a backup of your spells isn't necessary with many games, so it shouldn't matter that you can copy spellbooks and put more protections on them.

Really, it's a matter of whether or not the Arcanists REALLY REALLY REALLY wants to use the Witch spell list with the Arcanist's casting.

I'd actually have it Orange/Kinda-Green depending on whether or not the GM ever targets spellbooks and familiars. And I guess on whether they're cool with sacrificing so much versatility of spell list... Which isn't optimal.


Are there any rules on unlettered and blade adept? Blade adept makes your black blade a familiar like thing.. and prevents any familiars from any ohter way.

So could you use a black blade as your familiar to commune with for spells?
(i'm in a home game so I was gonna sk my gm anyway, and he likely won't mind).
because witch spell list combined with spellstrike and say eldritch knight can make a debuff version of a magus. Witch has some really really amusing touch attacks that cause various fun effects.

and how cool is it having to meditate with a blade every morning?

and like the familiar, quick study would be way easier and safer.

The one I'm making is dragon disciple but.. Eldritch knight or arcane trickster with it is pretty amusing. Getting enough to hit is a real concern though.


I'm not sure why you have the counterspell exploit so low ranked. Your argument about the party archer just doesn't hold water. The archer readying does NOT help kill the guy faster...it slows the kill down by a ton.

Situation 1 -
Party archer readies an action to shoot if they cast a spell. Enemy caster obviously notices this and either casts from behind something to stop line of effect, uses a magic item, or something else that is effective. Archer thus never fires as ready trigger never happens. Archer wasted primary attack, iteratives, rapid shot, and manyshot...massive damage wasted. Even best case where they do fire they wasted iteratives, rapidshot and manyshot.

Situation 2 -
Party relies on Arcanist to counterspell. Every party member has a normal full action. Arcanist uses 1 AR and 1 spell.

I just don't see how it's more of a waste of party resources to skip all that damage. Optimized archers do piles of damage. Standing around wasting turns will cost you at the very least some extra cure spells after the fight when it takes an extra couple rounds due to the loss of damage.


Under Blade Adept you say "Dervish Dance is sometimes preferable to Slashing Grace"...this is wrong.

DD is always preferable to SG unless you are a swashbuckler. Only the whip and elven curve blade are non-light slashing finesse-able weapons and curve blade is 2 handed so SG doesn't work with it. Whip is certainly not worth the exotic proficiency feat...it's terrible.

So while yes you could run a scimitar and SG you would get your DEX to dmg but no DEX to hit...so...yeah...that's bad.

I suppose you could use a light slashing weapon like a kurki. But they are all terrible.


DirkSJ,
You forgot the rapier. It is also a non-light, finesse-able weapon.

The ability to ready an action is less for a straight up combat and more for unusual circumstances where you are waiting for something specific, like the classic "waiting for them to come around the corner" trick.

Honestly, no matter you look at it, I really hate their counterspell rules. Doesn't make one iota of sense.


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DirkSJ - Don't forget about the Aldori Dueling Sword.


GM DarkLightHitomi wrote:

DirkSJ,

You forgot the rapier. It is also a non-light, finesse-able weapon.

The ability to ready an action is less for a straight up combat and more for unusual circumstances where you are waiting for something specific, like the classic "waiting for them to come around the corner" trick.

Honestly, no matter you look at it, I really hate their counterspell rules. Doesn't make one iota of sense.

Rapier is not slashing therefore Slashing Grace doesn't work.

The rapier is not great for a blade adept as they have a Black Blade and will not be able to exchange a +1 for Agile. I suppose at 11th level they could use alter enhancements but that's a big draw on resources and doesn't last that long.

You hate their counterspell because it's OP, UP, or you hate them for thematic reasons? Being able to counterspell at a moments notice in any situation seems amazing to me.

Saint Bernard wrote:
DirkSJ - Don't forget about the Aldori Dueling Sword.

Sure, I guess, but that will cost you an extra exotic prof feat to allow finesse on the dueling sword. So you spend one extra feat just to be the same as a Dervish Dance scimitar.

No matter how you slice it DD always works out better than SG if you are not a swashbuckler.


Arcanist seems prestigable...after a bit you don't really NEED any more exploits. If you are willing to lose a bit of your AR pool and shore it up with eating magic it seems viable.

Loremaster and Bloatmage look like options. Thoughts? Other prestiges?

I'm not big on any caster prestige that loses any casting levels...especially since you are already behind by 1 level because you are spontaneous.


DirkSJ wrote:

...

You hate their counterspell because it's OP, UP, or you hate them for thematic reasons? Being able to counterspell at a moments notice in any situation seems amazing to me.

...

Mostly I don't like how the counterspell functions. It doesn't make sense to basically wait around doing nothing hoping an enemy will cast a spell so you can try to disrupt it.

Further, when countering a spell as it's being cast, it doesn't make sense to need as much power as the spell being countered, as to counterspell you really only need to disrupt it enough that it doesn't have the desired effect, to basically make magical interference.

And additionally, counterspelling really should be a reaction to the casting of a spell, basically to in-character go "she's casting a spell, I need to stop her!"

Personally I think a caster should be able to use an AOO to counterspell, unless the spell takes takes a round or more to cast, then a standard action to make a counterspell attempt.


That's what the counterspell version of dispel magic is for. It gives you a chance to stop another spell of higher than 3rd level, but with no guarantee.

Counterspelling works on a principle essentially equivalent to Newton's Third Law: equal and opposite reaction.

If the wizard 9/bloatmage 4 is throwing 7 spell level's worth of necromancy magic at you, you need to provide 7 levels of magic tailored to oppose it in order to cancel it out.

Otherwise, there's a chance the effect might still get through.

And if counterspelling only required an AOO, casters of all stripes would be forced to run through their spells per day very very quickly, as counterspelling would become too easy, and everyone would do it.

Counterspelling would become the D&D equivalent of the Blue Shell from Mario Kart.


Arcanist counterspelling is basically an AOO. It's an immediate action without needing to ready. That's why I think it's very underrated in this guide.

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