Advice on an Unarmed Magus build


Advice


Yes, I know, the concept is not super optimal. It'd be better to go with a high crit weapon so I can Spellstrike crit someone hard. Effective, but I want to build a character that punches someone with lightning or some other spell.

At the moment, there's no campaign to use this character in, so I cannot give definite starting levels or stat deciding factors. However, most campaigns we play in start anywhere between 1 and 3, and either use the 20 point buy system, or a 70 point total system. The basic concept I have so far is to play a Half Elf, using the free Skill Focus on Perception. I plan on taking the Extempresario archetype, listed on the d20pfsrd, to change all my class features that were Int based to be based on Charisma instead, and changes the Magus to a Spontaneous caster instead (I prefer it to prepared, personally.) Being cha based also means Im using my casting stat to qualify for Eldritch Heritage. I would choose the Giant bloodline, (also listed on the pfsrd, there's a couple) whose first level ability is getting Improved Unarmed Strike and a scaling unarmed damage.

General first few levels would be:

1st: Two Weapon Fighting
3rd: Eldritch Heritage:
5th: Dragon Style
Bonus 5th: Intensify

Now, I know there are a few issues with this. First and foremost, Spell Combat and TWF do not work together at all. I believe that the GM I usually play under would allow it to work, though I would need to see if it'd be a -4 in all (-2 from Combat, -2 from twf), or just the -2. Would it just be better to ditch TWF entirely and use Spell Combat, with the main hand delivering the free spell attack and the offhand punching?

Second issue is, by going Spontaneous casting, metamagics suddenly take a full round to cast. Meaning no Spell Combat. This can be fixed with Spontaneous Metafocus, but needing that feat for each spell I'd want to metamagic is a pain. Should I just suck it up and use Spell Recall and Pearls of Power to get my spells back so metamagics don't take so long?

Finally, I've heard a couple people suggest Hexcrafter and Hex Strike. The idea is interesting for sure. Would it work better? Are there any quick dips into other classes that might work better for this? If possible, I'd rather not turn it into a natural attack build. That one I have a far easier time knowing how to build. Has anyone build a good and or fun unarmed Magus? Im sure there's things Im missing. Perfectly open to 3pp stuff, and if it helps make a dip into a class synergize better, there is a 3pp feat that lets you change your casting stat to one of the three mental scores.


Spell Combat + TWF is blatantly disallowed by RAW. There's no "most people", that's the rule. Two weapons cannot possibly be "a melee weapon". If your GM allows it, cool, but that's the actual RAW.

Hexcrafter/Hex Strike is extremely strong. Swift Action Slumber or Evil Eye is solid. If your table uses Unchained, Hex Strike gets even better as its combat trick is awesome (free action instead of swift).

When I built it, I didn't emphasize Spellstrike much (the basic Shocking Grasp setup with Intensify + Lineage, nothing more), and planned to take Hex Strike twice; once for a SoD and once for Evil Eye. That way I'd have a flexible offense that could contribute raw damage, quick kills, and team support in a "pick two" kind of scenario between the Hex Strike and spells.

I also used Hamatulatsu Strike to qualify for Precise Strike, and drove for a Dex-based build because an unarmed guy running around in heavy armor just doesn't sit right with me.


Fair enough on the TWF + Spell Combat. I worded that poorly and will edit that in the main post.

I will have to look into the combat trick for Hex Strike again. It's slipping my mind at the moment. Actually...looking back at my recent posts, it was actually you that did mention Hexcrafter. Small world.

Definitely forgot about the Hamatulatsu Strike feat. That could be a good option as well, and I could work a Dex based build fairly well.

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For punching people with lightning, have you considered kineticist?


Petty Alchemy wrote:
For punching people with lightning, have you considered kineticist?

Despite how excited I am for that class for what I've heard, I have not read a single thing about the class from the playtest at all. So I wouldn't actually know how well that would work.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
DHAnubis wrote:


Second issue is, by going Spontaneous casting, metamagics suddenly take a full round to cast. Meaning no Spell Combat.

What do you mean by this? You can certainly Spell Combat without using metamagic.....


Dave Justus wrote:
DHAnubis wrote:


Second issue is, by going Spontaneous casting, metamagics suddenly take a full round to cast. Meaning no Spell Combat.
What do you mean by this? You can certainly Spell Combat without using metamagic.....

True, I could Spell Combat and use a spell not modified by metamagic. But if I wanted to use an Intensified Shocking Grasp, the spell suddenly has a full round casting time, which excludes it from being used during Spell Combat. That's the only thing.


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the only advice i can give is to touch them, touch them in all the right places.


Petty Alchemy wrote:
For punching people with lightning, have you considered kineticist?

The current Kineticist is objectively terrible at punching people with lightning. :P

DHAnubis wrote:

Fair enough on the TWF + Spell Combat. I worded that poorly and will edit that in the main post.

I will have to look into the combat trick for Hex Strike again. It's slipping my mind at the moment. Actually...looking back at my recent posts, it was actually you that did mention Hexcrafter. Small world.

Definitely forgot about the Hamatulatsu Strike feat. That could be a good option as well, and I could work a Dex based build fairly well.

Probably not that small, as it's one of my favorite Magus builds and I will gleefully bring it up if the opportunity presents itself. I built it originally for a couple reasons, but anticipating using it as a way to say "Look, this is a Magus who is not built for Shocking Grasp, you see how he takes these two things and then never touches the spell again? This is why calling the Magus a one-trick pony based around that spell because they made a tiny investment is silly".

And then I've never used it for that and have pitched it to other people because punching somebody and putting them to sleep before backhanding another guy with your lightning fist is just awesome.

Combat Trick for Hex Strike lets you burn 5 (I think?) stamina to use it as a free action. Crazy-awesome for bolstering your action economy. You can't keep it always-on, but you shouldn't need to; it's great for when you get jumped first round and want to magic up your fists but not give up a cornerstone of your offense, or when you really need to target Touch AC to Slumber the guy.

On TWF: I honestly think you're better off without it unless your GM is crazy and lets it work with only a -2. If he makes it -4, Magus really can't support that kind of attack loss so skip it.

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I'd heard that the Kineticist's melee talent was pretty good, but I haven't read it myself.


Can't suli take some archetype that does crazy stuff with their elemental weapons?


Ahh, yeah, that was the one for Hex Strike. I can see how that would be really good. And yeah, if it was -4, I would definitely just skip it then. Even with their arcana to make attacks as touch attacks, that trick only works so many times. That Hamatulatsu idea may very well be the better idea. That to get Precise Strike plus using one of the several ways to get dex to damage.... yeah, that should work. Though, I wonder. Not sure how far out you built that punchy hexcrafter, but would you say it was feasible for it to handle itself fairly well in melee combat, while being to drop back and be a decent ranged support? I imagine having a few hexes and some control Magus spells would be a good option.

I've never been a fan of that Suli archetype, personally. The reflection ability is pretty neat, but that's about all I liked.


In regards of the Hex Strike + Hamatulatsu build, it might be worth noting that unless I'm misunderstanding something (..which is not exactly uncommon, to be honest), a wayfinder + a cracked opalescent white pyramid ioun stone saves you two feats (Improved Unarmed Strike & Weapon Focus) for 2000 gp total. Not something for first level, but starting at third it should be very available.


One of these days, I'll actually sit down and look at the different things that the different wayfinder/ioun stone combos can do. And while I normally prefer to have such things like proficiencies not granted by something that could get stolen or lost.....as my GMs never really steal or sunder our stuff, that could be a very solid idea. Thanks!


I wonder if a Blood Conduit Bloodrager might be a good way to realize your character concept?


kirin style get's a buff with stamina from unchained, might also use that.


I had looked over Blood Conduit before, originally wasn't a fan. It seems I skimmed over it being able to do those things with unarmed strikes as well, and not just with combat maneuvers like I originally thought. It certainly is an option. Even if it doesn't quite work for the full thing, a single level of it at level 1 as a human would allow me to take Weapon Finesse, Deadly Agility (from Path of War to get Dex to damage), and the Blood Conduit would give me IUS. Not a bad idea.

And Bandw2, I do remember that Kirin Style seemed fairly appealing with the stamina trick. Will keep that in mind.


Petty Alchemy wrote:
I'd heard that the Kineticist's melee talent was pretty good, but I haven't read it myself.

Their melee talent is fantastic, and is in fact the easiest way to optimize a playtest-era Kineticist.

Their unarmed melee talent is terrible and shouldn't be touched with a ten foot pole.

DHAnubis wrote:

Ahh, yeah, that was the one for Hex Strike. I can see how that would be really good. And yeah, if it was -4, I would definitely just skip it then. Even with their arcana to make attacks as touch attacks, that trick only works so many times. That Hamatulatsu idea may very well be the better idea. That to get Precise Strike plus using one of the several ways to get dex to damage.... yeah, that should work. Though, I wonder. Not sure how far out you built that punchy hexcrafter, but would you say it was feasible for it to handle itself fairly well in melee combat, while being to drop back and be a decent ranged support? I imagine having a few hexes and some control Magus spells would be a good option.

I've never been a fan of that Suli archetype, personally. The reflection ability is pretty neat, but that's about all I liked.

Ranged support works fine for it.

I mean, I'd rather be in their face punching things, but that Magus is about as good at ranged support as a Witch-- and certainly nobody complains about them. Load the spellbook up with Ice Storm and Black Tentacles and have at it.

It does have a bit of the traditional Magus issue here that they don't get a lot of low-level control spells (though they are one of the better users of Color Spray), but there they can just focus on their Hexes so no big deal.

The other thing I liked is that it really let a Magus keep up better with an end-level Wizard's offense. A Magus with a 5th level SoD can go Spell Combat Punch -> Evil Eye targeting saves -> Use the SoD, which is targeting their save at -4... same number an equal-Int Wizard would have targeting the creature with a 9th level spell.

Scarab Sages

I haven't read the stamina trick for kirin style, but if you are not using the stamina system, or stamina is fighter-only, do not take kirin style. It is a massive trap option due to action economy.

Scarab Sages

kestral287 wrote:
Petty Alchemy wrote:
I'd heard that the Kineticist's melee talent was pretty good, but I haven't read it myself.

Their melee talent is fantastic, and is in fact the easiest way to optimize a playtest-era Kineticist.

Their unarmed melee talent is terrible and shouldn't be touched with a ten foot pole.

This is because Kinetic blade/whip is very good, but kinetic fist is terrible.

Hopefully, there will a buff for kinetic fist in the release version.

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Could Blade/Whip be easily reflavored as unarmed? Like, is it an energy shaped weapon, or is it shaping the energy around an actual weapon?


Petty Alchemy wrote:
Could Blade/Whip be easily reflavored as unarmed? Like, is it an energy shaped weapon, or is it shaping the energy around an actual weapon?

Energy shaped weapon.

Blade, the basic talent, can be-- shape it as a spiked gauntlet or cestus or the like and you're good.

Whip, which has reach... not so much. And whip is so much better that it'd be really hard to justify skipping it.


Imbicatus wrote:
I haven't read the stamina trick for kirin style, but if you are not using the stamina system, or stamina is fighter-only, do not take kirin style. It is a massive trap option due to action economy.

it's "if you have at least 1 stamina point, apply your int mod to damage" basically, it's kirin strike or what ever obviously.

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If I wanted to play a magus that punches people (which I do), I'd take a completely different approach. I'd use a close weapon like a cestus. The damage dice isn't very high, but I could make it do decent damage by stacking arcane pool and maybe Arcane Strike on it. I wouldn't need TWF because I can combine spell combat and spellstrike with a cantrip to get an extra attack. Since I'd only need one cestus and am not using normal unarmed strikes, this makes getting magical enhancements much cheaper. If my GM allows Deadly Agility, I could go a Dex build. Power Attack is also still a good feat to get, even if I'm not using a two-handed weapon.


Cyrad wrote:
If I wanted to play a magus that punches people (which I do), I'd take a completely different approach. I'd use a close weapon like a cestus. The damage dice isn't very high, but I could make it do decent damage by stacking arcane pool and maybe Arcane Strike on it. I wouldn't need TWF because I can combine spell combat and spellstrike with a cantrip to get an extra attack. Since I'd only need one cestus and am not using normal unarmed strikes, this makes getting magical enhancements much cheaper. If my GM allows Deadly Agility, I could go a Dex build. Power Attack is also still a good feat to get, even if I'm not using a two-handed weapon.

This may just honestly be easier than doing the two weapon fighting route. Granted, I'd try to find a piercing weapon to try and get the Precise Strike (I think Emei Peircer or something like that would work), or go with Hamatulatsu strike. Weapon may just be easier though, less feats needed than Hamatualtsu. Could possibly go Hexcrafter + Cabalist to get Hexes and access to a bloodline, and be spontaneous.

Also, thank you to everyone for the ideas. Its been a big help.


I'd probably try for a more controll-y approach, since your damage will be kinda not amazing. Rime metamagic'd frostbite on a hexcrafter with hex-strike, for example.


Damage is as impressive as you make it.

If you can kit up Precise Strike, you still get level to damage, and you have the same Spellstrike tricks as a normal Magus. Damage is a bit lower because of the reduced crit range, sure, but Shocking Grasp crits lead to overkill pretty easily anyway.

And heck-- later on the crit range issue even goes away, if the GM will let you combine Pummeling Style and Spell Combat


That requires some setup, unless he also lets you combine it with spell combat/spellstrike somehow. You'll also have harder time with having to use AoMF instead of a weapon. And smaller base die, but like, who cares.

If you want to one-punch people with crit-charge shocking grasp, I think you should go Blood Conduit instead; since it can deliver the spell as a swift after the hit, you'll be always guaranteed to not waste it. It also doesn't have a restriction on the spell's cast time like spell combat does, so you can metamagic away even as a spont class.


Yeah, meant Spell Combat, not Shocking Grasp. Edited it just a little too slow though.

The advantage of the Magus unarmed is, I think, the flexibility that Hex Strike brings to the table. It's able to launch buff spells for your party while simultaneously inflicting a save or die that also does damage if they make the save. Or instead of buff spells that can be debuffing, or area control, or layering a second save or die, or just straight damage, and the save or die can be swapped for other forms of debuffing. Blood Conduit makes the raw damage smoother but lacks the flexibility of the Hexcrafter. Combat endurance matters too; a Hexcrafter with Hex Strike has a solid form of offense with zero resource dependency while the Blood Conduit is very restricted in its spell slots.


Meh, if you are using the usual tricked out shocking grasp stuff, it'll be a level 1 slot, and you can just grab a few runes of power to fuel it (though it is more expensive than pearls, admittedly).

Also, you are only supposed to do it when you crit anyway, maximizing the/slot effectiveness.


So, thinking about it a little bit. Will probably go with the hexcrafter idea for the Hex Strike and Precise Strike effects. Question is, would a dip in Blood Conduit be a good idea? Assuming I'm human, I could take Weapon Finesses, Deadly Agility, and would get IUS from Blood Conduit. From there, I could get an Emei Piercer, which if I'm reading the description right, does basically nothing but change my unarmed damage to piercing? That would be easier to enchant than waiting for an AoMF, though I'd have to use a feat for the Exotic proficiency.

I'll definitely keep the Blood Conduit in mind though. That sounds like it could be a different kind of unarmed build, where the Hexcrafter is more mobile and precise, the Blood Conduit sounds like a build where I just walk up and Falcon Punch people. And both sound fun.


As soon as I read the Esoteric Magus description, I thought of this thread. Punching someone in the face with lightning? Check.

Scarab Sages

Gisher wrote:
As soon as I read the Esoteric Magus description, I thought of this thread. Punching someone in the face with lightning? Check.

Yes, it's the unarmed magus I always wanted.


Still doesn't have anything to up his critical with fists. Would have been a good replacement for the monk damage bonus he gets. I like spell tattoo, and the AC bonus is needed since he just lost somewhere around the vicinity of 7 extra AC from not being able to wear heavier armor, but the only worthwhile things he gets are the monk damage bonus (meh) and the ki pool. And now he has no spell recall. Would have made the archetype infinitely better if he gained the ability to grab UCMonk powers for arcanas. If Unchained Ninja existed, it'd make an interesting build option, maybe.


Seven lost AC? You aren't losing nearly that much AC from the armor limitation. Even a chain shirt (+4) is only lagging behind full plate (+9) by 5 for the armor bonus, and there is no reason to limit yourself to a chain shirt. With the Armor Expert trait you can wear a mithral breastplate (+6) without needing medium armor proficiency. The Esoteric's AC Bonus ability will eventually bring you to +8, which is only one less than a standard Magus in mithral full plate. That's reasonably competitive in my book. And the breastplate has a higher maximum dexterity limit, so an Esoteric theoretically could have a slightly higher AC because he can't wear the heavier armor types.

This is basically how things work with my Staff Magus, except he makes up for the lack of heavy armor by means of his staff's shield bonus rather than a dodge bonus. And I haven't really noticed any AC problems.

As for offense, I am curious how you might build a character using Improved Unarmed Strikes. I've never tried to build a fist-fighting character in Pathfinder.

Scarab Sages

Well, you want to stick with the chain shirt instead of Mithral breastplate for the brawling armor enchantment.


Imbicatus wrote:
Well, you want to stick with the chain shirt instead of Mithral breastplate for the brawling armor enchantment.

That is good to know. I'll look it up. Thanks!


Wow! Is that an untyped +2 bonus? That does sound worth giving up +2 AC.


Yep, untyped. And with a high enough Dex, it's only +1 AC. Plus you don't have to use a trait.

Scarab Sages

Speaking of traits, there is one that gives you a +1 damage on unarmed strikes.


If you're referring to Heavy Hitter, I'm not sure that works. It gives a +1 bonus to damage for unarmed attacks, not unarmed strikes. I was under the impression that using Improved Unarmed Strike meant that your unarmed strikes count as armed attacks. Is that incorrect?


Half so. If you have IUS it's both.


Not gonna lie, I was surprised to see this came up while scrolling through the pages.

Yeah, the Esoteric was actually one reason I bought OA (the kineticist being the other). My original plan was to take a single level of Unarmed Fighter to pick up IUS and a style feat for free. Was going to take Boar style so that my unarmed strikes could deal piercing damage. As a human, first level feats would have been Weapon Finesse and Deadly Agility (from DSP's Path of War, dex to damage). Was then going to build up to Hex Strike and use my Arcana to get Precise Strike.

Now, I know that the Magus can no longer really use Precise Strike. That's an issue for another thread. So I've been wondering. Is a Dex-based punch magus still worth it? Or would it be easier/decently viable to build it more strength based. I'd still like to keep the Hexcrafter idea (partially for the idea of hex punching someone, partially because of backstory from a previous campaign), but if going strength, my first instinct is to try and get heavier armor faster to make up for lower dex.


Going spontaneous caster loses you access to pearls of power. Quite a big blow for a magi.


This is true, it would probably be easier if I went with the normal prepared magus archetypes....but I am just not a fan of prepared casting at all. It's a personal thing. I know the flexibility is arguably better, but Im just not too keen on it. Though I may have to. It would save me a feat or two as I wont have to get Spontaneous Metafocus for the spells I know I will almost always metamagic anyways.

Now, what I'm wondering is this: Like I said, I was originally going to go with Unarmed Fighter 1 for IUS and Boar style, then using its BAB and human bonus feat to get Weapon Finesse and Deadly Agility. If I decided instead to try more of a strength focused build, would there be better dips? Go straight Magus? If I went more strength, I wouldnt need the bonus human feat for DA, but I would need 1 bab for Power attack. I know, PA isn't usually too worth it on a Magus, but with the spell Blade Tutor's Spirit, it helps negate the accuracy penalty.


I like spontaneous 10 times more myself. But anything in the rules is made to screw it up.


Bandw2 wrote:
Imbicatus wrote:
I haven't read the stamina trick for kirin style, but if you are not using the stamina system, or stamina is fighter-only, do not take kirin style. It is a massive trap option due to action economy.
it's "if you have at least 1 stamina point, apply your int mod to damage" basically, it's kirin strike or what ever obviously.

Correction: Kirin strike grants that under the stamina system, while granting 2xINT to damage as a swift action to one attack without it.

Kirin style lets you boost the pre-requisite knowledge check by spending double said boost in stamina (to a maximum of +2 on the check).

Not much else to add (people have covered other thoughts already) but the extra feat needed is worth considering.


It might also be worth working in a level of Brawler. Free IUS, and martial flexibility lets you retool your hex strike every time you use it. Punching misfortune onto sleep-proof foes should be satisfying.


I hadnt considered that. I originally wanted Unarmed Fighter to get IUS and Boar Style for piercing for Precise Strike. I suppose now I don't really need Boar Style. Dragon Style could be nice, but at a certain point, I'd either be Blade Dashing or Force Hook Charging to an opponent, so rough terrain shouldn't be an issue too often. The ability to get a different Hex Strike may be indeed come up more often.

So what do people think about taking Piranha Strike? I know the accuracy loss is usually a pain for a Magus, but with Blade Tutor's Spirit, it will go pretty far to negate the penalties. Also, does anybody know of any good fist-style weapons? Right now, I have it so that she'd be using a cestus on the main hand, and keeping the other hand free (which bugs my desire for symmetrical weapon design, but I know that a cestus, which I do believe leaves your hand free to cast spells, would not count as a free hand for Spell Combat).

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