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


Advice

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There's multitouch spells like frostbite where you're not casting spells every round, and a magus going for stick-fighting maneuver might actually pick up combat expertise rather than using fight defensively - dirty fighting's not the only feat you can use as a prereq for improved maneuver...


For a Strength magus, Apron of the Careful Chemist is worth a note as an item. 5200 for +1 to (touch) AC, ranged attack rolls (you've got a few ranged debuffs), reflex saves, initiative, acrobatics, fly, stealth (you might not have ranks but you have invisibility), and number of attacks of opportunity is pretty nice. Increasing the bonus on antitoxin/antiplague by one is a thing too I guess (the other sources of alchemical bonus are alchemist only or have side effects).


avr wrote:
There's multitouch spells like frostbite where you're not casting spells every round, and a magus going for stick-fighting maneuver might actually pick up combat expertise rather than using fight defensively - dirty fighting's not the only feat you can use as a prereq for improved maneuver...

I didn't see any mention of Combat Expertise in the Stick-Fighting feat chain -- I think only Fighting Defensively works with http://aonprd.com/FeatDisplay.aspx?ItemName=Stick-Fighting%20Counter]Stick- Fighting Counter[/url]. Fighting Defensively always imposes a flat -4 penalty, which is going to be pretty hard to mitigate (you have to get caster level 15 for Blade Tutor's Spirit to finish the job, and I don't know off the top of my head of anything else that mitigates this penalty).

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avr wrote:
There's multitouch spells like frostbite where you're not casting spells every round

Even with Frostbite, it's beneficial to cast a spell each round. Round one, frostbite + four attacks; round two, three attacks, then cast e.g. Frigid Touch or a buff spell.

Quote:
and a magus going for stick-fighting maneuver might actually pick up combat expertise rather than using fight defensively - dirty fighting's not the only feat you can use as a prereq for improved maneuver...

You don't need improved maneuver feats if you've got Mirror Image up...

UnArcaneElection wrote:
Fighting Defensively always imposes a flat -4 penalty, which is going to be pretty hard to mitigate (you have to get caster level 15 for Blade Tutor's Spirit to finish the job, and I don't know off the top of my head of anything else that mitigates this penalty).

The only one I can think of is Crane Style, but that's highly impractical. I suppose you could make an int-Magus with a few of those halfling feats that boost defensive fighting, and primarily care about spellcasting and drawing enemy fire, instead of making attacks yourself. Of course, that makes the third feat in the chain pretty useless...

deuxhero wrote:
For a Strength magus, Apron of the Careful Chemist is worth a note as an item.

Well there's not a lot of good chest-items in the game, so an off-slot dex bonus is certainly useful for numerous classes.


Indeed. The biggest lover is summoner (since they can't have a belt if their eidolon has one), but any strength based melee class (and kinetist, the sole con based class in the game) makes good use of it. It seems to have completely fallen under the radar for some reason.


A dancing/animated madu might be able to reduce fighting defensively penalty to -2. All other bonus where giving it a shield/dodge bonus, or changing its dodge bonus.

I say +4 dodge (Cautious Warrior & >3 ranks acrobatics), +1 shield (blocking), and the progressive elimination of the penalty is not half bad: Considering it has no further feat investment.

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Temperans wrote:
A dancing/animated madu might be able to reduce fighting defensively penalty to -2.

You can't use Stick-Fighting Style with a madu.


Kurald Galain wrote:
Temperans wrote:
A dancing/animated madu might be able to reduce fighting defensively penalty to -2.

You can't use Stick-Fighting Style with a madu.

If I may ask why not? Stick-fighting style never says you can only use the listed weapons, just that you get a benefit while using them. If its about having a free hand, well thats why I said animated/dancing. All the listed weapons are 1-h (besides the quaterstaff) so you can definetly wield a shield if you don't care about a free hand.

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Updated the guide based on the new PFS legality. Notably, Jistkan Artificer is now allowed, obviating the need for either esoteric or iron-ring archetype. Authoritative Spell is predictably not legal.

Temperans wrote:
If I may ask why not? Stick-fighting style never says you can only use the listed weapons, just that you get a benefit while using them. If its about having a free hand, well thats why I said animated/dancing. All the listed weapons are 1-h (besides the quaterstaff) so you can definetly wield a shield if you don't care about a free hand.

I find that interpretation dubious and unlikely to be allowed by numerous GMs. Aside from that, you're taking an EWP feat and a trait and an expensive enchanted madu, all in order to reduce a -4 penalty to -2. There are cheaper ways to get the same result.


You are right the EWP is costly. I however, just wanted to show there is one more way to reduce the penalty, as someone said they didnt remember any besides blade tutor.

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Faiths of Golarion and the Construct Handbook are now up on Archivesofnethys. As the former is primarily setting lore and the latter is mainly aimed at golem crafting, neither of these books contain options pertinent to the Magus. Considering Pathfinder 2.0 is coming out this year, I believe that covers every first-party book printed or planned for the Magus.

Happy new year!


Magus will definitely have some stuff in forthcoming PF 1 player companions before July ends the line. One is giving a new capstone option to every single Paizo class.

Scarab Sages

Clay skin seems worth a mention as a lower level, no cost alternative to stoneskin.

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Xenocrat wrote:
Magus will definitely have some stuff in forthcoming PF 1 player companions before July ends the line. One is giving a new capstone option to every single Paizo class.

Sounds good; what book is that?

Ferious Thune wrote:
Clay skin seems worth a mention as a lower level, no cost alternative to stoneskin.

Yes. It's currently not listed because it has some stiff competition among L3 defensive spells, and because it overlaps with Defending Bone at L2.

Scarab Sages

Defending bone is a great spell as well, but clay skin is going to apply much more often. Defending bone is DR/bludgeoning, which means in practice, it’s not going to be useful against most creatures, because bites, claws, and slams deal bludgeoning damage. It’s mostly good against sword/spear wielding humanoids/outsiders. Clay skin, on the other hand, is going to apply in alll but the most extreme situations. And as a 10 min/level cast, it’s definitely worth considering even over something like displacement for its ability to pre-buff and impact multiple fights. 40-50 extra hit points (essentially) for a 3rd level slot is pretty good.


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Kurald Galain wrote:
Xenocrat wrote:
Magus will definitely have some stuff in forthcoming PF 1 player companions before July ends the line. One is giving a new capstone option to every single Paizo class.

Sounds good; what book is that?

Chronicle of Legends.

Scarab Sages

As a side note, I feel like ablative barrier is the better 2nd level buff than defending bone. It doesn’t actually prevent damage, but it applies to everything. And it will keep you from dying since you’ll have some nonlethal. Plus if you’ve got any healing in combat, you get to double up on some of it. Or at the very least, you need less time to let infernal healing work after the fight.

If you know what you’re going to be fighting and that they won’t have bludgeoning, defending bone is fantastic. Or if you need the hour/level duration. For random dungeon crawls, I’ve found myself going entire PFS scenarios without defending bone applying once, due to fighting monsters who pretty much all have bludgeoning.


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question about the SIGILUS MAGUS archetype: why is abjuration such a bad fit?

i have a really cool character who i would love to be built around envy/abjuration, and yet, i'm advised that abjuration magic wouldn't be a good fit and i should pick another school of magic to base it around... yet i can't figure out why!

i'm not looking for a min/maxed build, but i want to have a good character who isn't penalized from the start.

can anyone provide me some guidance why abjuration wouldn't work for this archetype?

Scarab Sages

I'm guessing it's a lack of offensive spells in the abjuration school.


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Ferious Thune wrote:
I'm guessing it's a lack of offensive spells in the abjuration school.

if that's the only thing?

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Yakman wrote:
question about the SIGILUS MAGUS archetype: why is abjuration such a bad fit?

It's not just about abjuration, but sigilus is one of the worst archetypes ever printed for the Magus. I mean seriously, you lose spellstrike in exchange for getting +1 to hit with one school only; that's a really bad tradeoff. So with this archetype, you ARE penalized from the start.

That said, abjuration is not great because there's very few abjuration spells on the Magus list: the only ones I'd actually use are Shield, Dispel, Stoneskin, and Ward Shield. You'd rarely cast more than one of those per combat (and will often cast none of them), meaning you'll take an additional -2 to hit almost all the time. So the archetype loses spellstrike in exchange for getting a sizeable to-hit penalty.

My advice is to build your envy/sin magus as either a Bladebound (all Runelords are known for their intelligent weapons), Eldritch Scion (arcane bloodline is fitting and lets you swift-cast abjuration buffs), or Hexcrafter (taking protective hexes). HTH!

Ferious Thune wrote:
As a side note, I feel like ablative barrier is the better 2nd level buff than defending bone. It doesn’t actually prevent damage, but it applies to everything.

I don't see what's so good about a protective spell that only lets you fall unconscious but not die, really. But it's a fair point that Clay Skin is good since bludgeoning damage is very common; I should add that one.


I could have sworn that either in a guide or somewhere on these boards, you could get partial immunity (resistance?) to non-lethal damage(*), which would make Ablative Barrier really good(**), but I can't remember what it is.

(*)By some means other than being Undead or a Construct, that is. Now, for a GM wanting to make a really tough Magus villain, these are options.

(**)This may have been an oversight, but Ablative Barrier doesn't have the text that Rubber Skin does, that makes Rubber Skin ineffective on a target that is immune to non-lethal damage.

* * * * * * * *

While trying to find the above non-Undead/non-Construct resistance or immunity to non-lethal damage, I thought it might be from a Cavalier/Samurai Order, and stumbled on this: If you are an Eldritch Scion Magus and go VMC Cavalier (Order of the Blossom), you get to make it harder for targets of your Challenge to save against your spells, and then you get some Sneak Attack, and then you get some spell-like abilities. Unfortunately Eldritch Scion doesn't stack with Hexcrafter or Puppetmaster, and the Tactician part of VMC Cavalier sort of shoots itself in the foot due to feat starvation (even with Magus bonus feats); however, if you manage to squeeze in some Teamwork feats anyway, it could be useful.


Maybe you are thinking of invulnerable barbarian.

Only true immunity I remember is from high lv Unarmed Fighter.

Scarab Sages

Kurald Galain wrote:
Ferious Thune wrote:
As a side note, I feel like ablative barrier is the better 2nd level buff than defending bone. It doesn’t actually prevent damage, but it applies to everything.
I don't see what's so good about a protective spell that only lets you fall unconscious but not die, really. But it's a fair point that Clay Skin is good since bludgeoning damage is very common; I should add that one.

It’s the double healing. If you have a healer in the group, when they channel/cast a healing spell on you you’ll heal the nonlethal as well as lethal. That’s more valuable than 5 points off an occasional attack. It all depends on what you’re fighting, though. If you know that defending bone is going to apply, it’s a better option. If you know it won’t or don’t know what you’re going to be fighting, ablative barrier is more likely to actually matter. It’s definitely not an automatic choice, either. I’m looking at defending bone’s shortcomings more than anything.


UnArcaneElection wrote:

I could have sworn that either in a guide or somewhere on these boards, you could get partial immunity (resistance?) to non-lethal damage(*), which would make Ablative Barrier really good(**), but I can't remember what it is.

There's the Ready for Pain mesmerist feat that gives a small amount of DR/- for nonlethal damage if a mesmerist trick is implanted in you.

There's also a mesmerist trick that grants DR 15/- against nonlethal for one hit.

Scarab Sages

Yeah, if you have some other way to reduce nonlethal, it becomes really good. I wish there was a way to easily get it on my Life Oracle. On a class like that, or Paladin, that does a lot of self healing, it would be fantastic. Which is probably why it’s arcane/psychic/alchemical only.

Something else that’s very situational, but good in the niche situation, is that it’s a force effect. So if you have it active, you get to count the armor bonus against incorporeals. If you’re not already using mage armor through some means, that’s a helpful bonus.

Anyway, it’s just a more useful spell than it appears at first glance, and defending bone is less useful than it appears at a glance. I wouldn’t consider it an automatic buff for everyone. I find it improves the tankiness of my Kapenia Dancer, as when I do manage to get hit (past a pretty good AC and mirror image), or even go unconscious, when my familiar or the party healer heals me I’m not as likely to go unconscious again.

I’m definitely going to be adding clay skin to my spellbook, though, as taking 5 points off and then converting 5 to nonlethal is even better. I won’t even have access to stoneskin until next level, and with diminished spellcasting I’ll only have 1 4th level slot. I’d rather save that for dimension door.


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IMO ablative barrier is for alchemists more than magi. Spontaneous healing, and even straight cure spells make it good. Not so much infernal healing.

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Wilderness Origins appears to be on d20pfsrd now. It doesn't have a lot of material for the Magus in particular, but there's a new hex that gives a flat +2 AC that may be worth it for Hexcrafters. And I suppose I should write up (kurald) Gathlains at some point because they fly.


Some of the familiar options are worth using, though hardly Magi specific. Cherry Blossom Spell gives a damage spell 2 points of ability damage to all physical or mental scores, no save, but at +3 levels cost I'm not sure it's worth it on Magus.

As mentioned above, for Hexcrafter Magi Ice Plant hex (+2 natural armor and Endure Elements constant effect for you and familiar) seems OK.

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deuxhero wrote:
Some of the familiar options are worth using, though hardly Magi specific. Cherry Blossom Spell gives a damage spell 2 points of ability damage to all physical or mental scores, no save, but at +3 levels cost I'm not sure it's worth it on Magus.

I'd say this compares poorly to Frostbite + Rime spell + Enforcer + Cruel weapon.


Kurald Galain wrote:
deuxhero wrote:
Some of the familiar options are worth using, though hardly Magi specific. Cherry Blossom Spell gives a damage spell 2 points of ability damage to all physical or mental scores, no save, but at +3 levels cost I'm not sure it's worth it on Magus.
I'd say this compares poorly to Frostbite + Rime spell + Enforcer + Cruel weapon.

With metamagic reducing traits Frostbite + named stuff + cherry blossom spell becomes a 3rd level spell. Why compare when you can combine?

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avr wrote:
With metamagic reducing traits Frostbite + named stuff + cherry blossom spell becomes a 3rd level spell. Why compare when you can combine?

Well, if you're going to combine things further, I'd take Authoritative and Dazing and Blissful spell, as well as Chilling Amp, before considering Cherry Blossom. CB has just way too big a level increase compared to similar feats.


Kurald Galain wrote:
avr wrote:
With metamagic reducing traits Frostbite + named stuff + cherry blossom spell becomes a 3rd level spell. Why compare when you can combine?
Well, if you're going to combine things further, I'd take Authoritative and Dazing and Blissful spell, as well as Chilling Amp, before considering Cherry Blossom. CB has just way too big a level increase compared to similar feats.

cherry blossom seems like it has a solid niche where you think the target is going to make its saves anyway (vs dazing). Blossom looks like it would fit cleanly in the same build - it goes on the same spells you would put dazing on, so it would take advantage of your existing Metamagic reduction and single spell CL boosts, as well as spontaneous cast feats (preferred spell of greater spell specialization). Authoritative Prefers a different kind of spell entirely, and runs into a lot of mind affecting immunity.


In regards to Cherry Blossom, I’ve had it pointed out to me that it pairs especially well with Trial of Acid and Fire, since the spell procs the feat regardless of whether the target saves or not. I’d also argue for combining it with Excruciating Deformation; although a fort save can negate the nonlethal damage, it’d help stack up the Dex and Con damage faster.

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Added Gathlain race, Erutaki Sky Reader and Inspired traits, Clay Skin spell; and a section comparing the Magus to Eldritch Knight builds; it turns out that numerically, Magus is way more ahead of EK than you'd think.

The new Heroes of Golarion book appears to have no material especially fitting for the Magus.


I really dont see much use for EK except you really want your wizard to hit. Always get confused when people compare it to Magus as if they have similar abilities.

(Maybe Sword Binder or Spellslinger?)


Your comparison between a Magus and Eldritch Knight was illuminating. Thank you for the great work you do with this guide.


Btw, what about Shocking Amplification? I didn't find it on the guide, but couldn't it be useful against most things. Specially at low level when there are few ways to remove fatigue.


So I'm curious this was never brought up. Why no love for the occultist dip? I mean getting bane for a min, roughly 3x per day seems a pretty nice sacrifice at level 3. Especially since you can hit at least 2x per round to make good use of the bane.


It's nice but a magus has so many things to advance that at any given level there's always something you regret not having. The next spell level, +1 on your weapon enhancement, a magus arcana, another casting of bladed dash, whatever.


The way I read Cherry Blossom Spell, it only lets you save against the ability damage if the spell DOESN'T allow a saving throw of its own. I wonder if that is a mistake, given that the old Dazing Spell (also costs +3 levels) effect is negated if the target saves against the spell's own save or a separate save allowed for the Dazing Spell effect on spells that have no save of their own.


I know Avr, the dangers of multiclassing :) But for one level you get bane..which unless you are spending a lot of gold for a couple rounds or you're 15th level. The minor magic enhancement item can be str in the beginning but there seems to be no rule you can't change it when you get a +4 belt. Not to mention it lasts a minute and appears you can stack your magus ability with it, I'm a bit impressed. Granted it isn't perfect..I'm leaning towards conjuration as my second implement just so I can use wands of cure without UMD checks. Perhaps it is from a PFS perspective but it seems like a worthy dip.

Scarab Sages

I took an Occultist dip on my Kapenia dancer. She’s a trip build with a low crit range weapon and no magical lineage/wayang spellhunter, so I was looking for a quick way to boost damage. Delaying stuff wasn’t fantastic, but legacy Weapon is. Bane is the obvious use, yes. Ghost Touch is also nice to be able to add. And I’ve added Merciful before when the situation called for it. Outside of PFS the Training enhancement means it’s effectively Martial Flexibility as a standard action instead of a move.

Since that character was meant more as a controller/support character, I often end up using legacy weapon to give someone else Bane. There’s no restriction in the ability on who has to wield the weapon. Archers and Barbarians are my favorites to hand it out to.

I don’t know if I’d suggest the dip on a crit fishing pure melee build. On a less conventional Magus it’s got a lot of benefits.

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Temperans wrote:
Btw, what about Shocking Amplification? I didn't find it on the guide, but couldn't it be useful against most things. Specially at low level when there are few ways to remove fatigue.

Shocking Amp only lasts one round. So you'd take -1 to hit with shocking grasp in order to give its target -1 to hit and AC for one round, if it isn't dead yet. I find that pretty unimpressive and not worth spending a feat on; at low level you have some stiff competition for feats.

ekibus wrote:
So I'm curious this was never brought up. Why no love for the occultist dip? I mean getting bane for a min, roughly 3x per day seems a pretty nice sacrifice at level 3.

Bane is nice to have, but the issue here is action economy. Legacy Weapon is a standard action; given how the Magus works, it's much nicer to find a spell that has more-or-less the same effect, and use that in spell combat. For instance, the Frostbite spell deals more-or-less the same damage as bane.

If you want more of a support role, you can actually get a lot of mileage out of casting touch-range buffs on your teammates using a whip. For instance, Bull's Strength or Displacement or even Vanish.

UnArcaneElection wrote:
The way I read Cherry Blossom Spell, it only lets you save against the ability damage if the spell DOESN'T allow a saving throw of its own. I wonder if that is a mistake

That's likely a mistake, yes; but as written, CB's effect is automatic when paired with any spell that deals half damage on a save. Even so, the effect is still way too weak to warrant a +3 level increase.


Agreed frostbite is a fun spell... but it is sub damage and no bonus to hit. /just saying +2 hit and +2d6+2 damage is not a small amount. Granted as you mentioned the standard action stinks. But it allows you to use the spell a few times a day for a longer duration and without consuming a spell.. Also nothing to stop you from doing frostbite or shocking grasp and making it a fire/or keen weapon etc. Not to mention you get a minor magic item and if you go say conjuration you can use a wand of cure right away giving yourself some time to get umd up to a healthy level.


Spell Cartridges seems fun on an Eldritch Archer Magus. Bonded Weapon takes care of getting a gun ("Wizards who select a bonded object begin play with one at no cost."), mending takes care of any misfires and hitting touch AC makes your spell combat much deadlier. Doesn't take off till level five though.

Needing to hold a bonded object to cast sucks, though the weapon version of Glamered will take care of that eventually (it's just a cane, honest!).


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Kurald, I think you should add a note to the Phantom Blade assessment. If VMC multiclassing is allowed VMC magus opens a LOT of options to the phantom blade making it a very effective choice.

Because you have both spell strike and spell combat there are many magus arcana that are normally useless to a VMC magus that the phantom blade gets full use from. The pool helps with the limitation on the phantom blades normal enhancement bonus progression. Also because you can take the extra arcana you can grab more awesome options.

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ekibus wrote:
/just saying +2 hit and +2d6+2 damage is not a small amount. Granted as you mentioned the standard action stinks. But it allows you to use the spell a few times a day for a longer duration and without consuming a spell.

I agree that standard-action-bane is a very good dip for any melee class that doesn't get swift-action-bane.

deuxhero wrote:
Spell Cartridges seems fun on an Eldritch Archer Magus.

EA works very well with guns, yes. Spell Carts have the downside that they eat all your swift actions though.

baggageboy wrote:
Kurald, I think you should add a note to the Phantom Blade assessment. If VMC multiclassing is allowed VMC magus opens a LOT of options to the phantom blade making it a very effective choice.

Could you elaborate on what these options are, and how this is better than just going full Magus with the Bladebound archetype? It's not like the PB gets a lot of Spiritualist abilities...


^If you have a Wisdom bonus but not an Intelligence or Charisma bonus (for instance, Dwarf), Phantom Blade Spiritualist might be for you.


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Sure, but I'm not trying to say that Phantom Blade is better than bladebound, just that if VMC multiclassing is allowed phantom blade is improved greatly. Being able to access both a second pool and magus arcana greatly improve a Phantom Blade. Spellstrike at level 11 is redundant, but it does mean that you can now Spellstrike with a weapon other than your phantom weapon. That's probably will never come up though so it ends up being a lost feat. Still the overall improvement is huge

This is not an exhaustive breakdown of phantom blade vs bladebound, but here goes.

Advantages of a Phantom Blade:

  • Very good will saves and perception due to wisdom casting vs inteligence
  • Conversely can be charisma based of combined with the fractured mind archetype
  • Very good skill list
  • Starts with the phantom weapon with ghost touch at level 1
  • the phantom weapon can be any type of weapon, and at level 7 can even change which type of weapon. At level 13 this can be done during a combat by spending a pool point.
  • Phantom weapon is very hard to lose, it can be harbored as a full round action when one needs to conceal it and at 5th level a phantom weapon can be harbored as a free action by spending a pool point and manifested as a free action by doing the same. (note:I don't see a distance limitation to harboring so in theory this can be done at any distance)
  • Starts with medium armor proficiency at level 1.
  • Ethiric focus changes the action to focus to concentration penalty for thought components from a move action to a swift action. At level 12 this becomes a free action which means effectively all of the Phantom blade's spells are intuitive spells for free. This is huge.
  • Nice spiritualist features that are retained: detect undead, see invisibility, calm spirit, call spirit

    Disadvantages of a Phantom Blade:

  • Terrible starting wealth (this is a small disadvantage but painful at level 1)
  • Cannot be combined with magus archetypes
  • Spell combat is hard to utilize before level 4 when you get enteric focus.
  • Spontaneous casting, some people prefer this, but it makes metamagic very hard to use in conjunction with spell combat
  • Never recieves heavy armor proficency
  • Less feats and effective magus arcana, those granted by the class are locked in.
  • Still restricted to 1 handed weapon and free hand for spell combat
  • The class is poorly written. There are a lot of fuzzy areas where a player and GM need to be in the same place. On the plus side the Twitter frequently answers questions, but they are not official FAQ's

    Tradeoffs

  • Psychic casting vs arcane. Free still and silent spell, but shutdown by intimidate and other emotion effects. Though components are mostly removed once you get a third focus
  • Spell list. This is probably an advantage to the bladebound, but the spiritualist has healing spells while still having enough attack spells with a range of touch to remain viable.

    Takeaways:
    The Phantom Blade is slightly weaker than a bladebound magus. It trades away striking ability for tankyness. It is one of the few ways to make a spontaneous "magus" and allows wisdom or charisma based casting. The progression is more linear, less exponential. You don't have to worry as much about low AC at low levels of strength based, but this is wasted if going dex based.

    If you'd like to discuss the Phantom Blade more I'd love to but that's a overview. Here's a link to a Phantom Blade specific guide. I don't agree with everything in it, but it does do a decent job of looking at the class.

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