A Magus Arcane Trickster Build from a Newbie


Advice


Hello everyone, I am new to Pathfinder, playing for like 3-4 months and I've only played around a total of mere 20 sessions in two campaigns and some one shots. Magus is a class that has a lovely flavor in my opinion, offering some great character ideas like vengeance seeking duelist or chaotic courtesan rogue or some lawful gambling addict etc. alongside with a unique gameplay so that I love playing and building a Magus. I also am into learning the system as much as I can and see classes' capabilities so try to read guides or do my own builds from time to time with several classes and this is one that I think quite viable. So I wanted to share my latest build with you guys. But if I messed up somewhere with the rules or the build's viability, I would be more than grateful to hear them.

So this one is probably the rogue-est build I've ever created which is an Arcane Trickster one and I find greatly optimal since you can use several movement mechanics like Fly, Greater Invisibility or Dimension Door to deliver a Sneak Attack; it has some hilarious single target damage, but also does not suffer the Magus' greatest weakness of endurance with its focus on Arcane Pool enhancements which last 10 rounds for a single point, also the Frostbite spell which is a multiple-use touch-attack. Well, it does, but not as much of a standard Shocking Grasp one.

The build is built on Kensai Magus and Unchained Rogue using VMC ruleset to become a Sneakmaster Arcane Trickster. The build is utilizing VMC so well in my opinion that you really do not even shed a single drop of tear for the lost feats or arcana. Well, to be honest its combat is unfortunately quite focused on Frostbite, Arcane Pool, Greater Invisibility and Dimension Door and you would use many of your corresponding spell slots for it, which makes its combat kind of a One-Trick-Pony which I'm not actually proud; but it works well and you still have 2, 5 or 6 level spell slots for the utilities you would want to have for combats or social encounters (unless you spam Mirror Image from 2, lol).

The greatest reason I chose Kensai Magus is actually limited to Canny Defense because of I like Intelligence builds and spices, and it gives us a nice combat durability; Weapon Focus since the greatest suffering of the build is low BAB and Iaijutsu in order to successfully deliver Sneak Attacks in the beginning of the combat by catching opponents flat-footed. And the reason of Unchained Rogue was having Finesse Trainings for free alongside with nicely stacking Sneak Attack bonuses.

So the build is:
Race: Elf you may want to take Fleet-Footed alternate trait for additional Initiative since we don't have that much for Improved Initiative.

25-points buy
STR 8
DEX 17
CON 14
INT 18
WIS 10
CHA 10

Traits
Reactionary or Warrior of Old for the standard cheese.
Magical Lineage (Frostbite) for Rime Spell for some nice cozy debuff effect.
Magical Knack
Ancestral Weapon is one of the greatest traits specifically for this build since you really have low BAB and need that additional AR from anywhere you can get. That +2 bonus for a trait is just awesome. If you can only take 1 Trait, then I'd say this one should be your go-to and then Magical Knack/Magical Lineage and then Reactionary/Warrior of Old. Also there are some other great choices but Unchained Rogue Dip gives you many social skills as class skills so you would not need to worry about them. If you can get 4 traits, this 4-set would be your ultimate set imo.

Level Progression
1) 1 Level Kensai Magus + Rime Spell
2) 1 Level Unchained Rogue + Finesse Training (for Rapier)
3) 2 Level Kensai Magus + Finesse Training (for Rapier) [VMC] + Sneak Attack 1d6 [VMC]
4) 3 Level Kensai + Arcana (that would be the only Arcana you'll have until late levels, so choose it wisely but it really is not that gamechanging. I'm open for suggestions here)
5) 4 Level Kensai + Enforcer
6) 1 Level Arcane Trickster
7) 2 Level Arcane Trickster + Sneak Attack 1d6 [VMC]
8) 5 Level Kensai + Elemental Spell or Extend Spell
9) 3 Level Arcane Trickster + Dimensional Agility
10) 4 Level Arcane Trickster
11) 5 Level Arcane Trickster + Finesse Training [VMC] + Sneak Attack 1d6 [VMC]
12) 6 Level Arcane Trickster

I advise Quicken Spell at HD 13 and Spell Perfection for Frostbite at HD 17 but it may differ.

And you end up on 1 level Unchained Rogue + 9 level Kensai Magus + 10 level Arcane Trickster at HD 20.

At level 12, you get the 2nd attack from BAB and by using Arcane Pool for two enhancements like Flaming and Frost for 2d6 damage, use Frostbite for 1d6+12 damage, get 6d6 of Sneak Attack damage for weapon and added to 1d6+5 (Dexterity mod.) weapon damage you get average of 52 damage per hit, allowing you to deliver 104 damage/round and if you cast a Frostbite as part of Spell Combat it makes 156 damage/round.

When you reach level 20, you get 10d6 Sneak Attack bonus both for weapon and spell so it turns out to be 20d6 Sneak Attack + 3d6 Arcane Pool + 1d6+20 Frostbite + 1d6+7 Weapon = 25d6+27 (115 damage) per hit, also your BAB is 11 which grants you 3 hits and if you use spellstrike also that makes a 460 damage/round with a sneak attack which you can get via many spells.

As for the ability scores, I would say all-in to Dexterity after 1st level.

Also as for the items, my advices would be:
Pearl of Power, many, for obvious reasons,
Gloves of Spellstrike for some nice Dimension Door shenanigans,
Mithral Shirt as an early-mid game lifesaver with Spell Storing for some nice dirty tricks,
Rapier with Spell Storing as initial for flashy entrances, especially when combined with Dimension Door + Gloves of Spellstriking, Cruel as a nice addition since why would you want to just kill people when you can both sicken and kill them, lol. Keen is not that much of a necessity as for other Kensais since the build is not working around high crits but Sneak Attacks and they do not crit. So I'd say anything else for Attack Roll bonuses since we really need them. In the end, we cannot kill the ones we cannot hit unfortunately.

I hope that I'm not mistaken with the ruleset and the build is a useful for Magus players out there seeking a place in endgame or some nice abstract for suitable character types. As I said in the beginning, I would appreciate any feedback/criticism on my understanding of rules and build idea. ^^


Firstly, 2 things.

1) Keep in mind that Variant Multiclassing and regular multiclassing aren't really intended to be used together by default, so it would be very much up to the GM or the group whether that would fly at all.

2) Going Kensai only for Canny defence seems a bit... ehh.. I'd rather stay a regular magus and just... wear armor if I wasn't looking to go for the full package of abilities and/or flavour.

Other than that...

I kinda like the idea of using Magus as a caster base for a more martially focused Arcane Trickster, limiting arcana and pool points by ~10 levels or more is a bit iffy to me unless I'm going specifically Eldritch Knight as a more straight martially focused character. Or using the Magus as more of a dip class or something.

I'm not sure if I'm understanding this correctly, but if you think the base magus has a problem with keeping it going I think you have some to learn about the game's pace.

Most combats I've ever been in hardly lasted 5 rounds, and going more than 10 is a rare occasion. And for spells, like most caster classes, once you get out of the early levels you most often have enough to last you the day, especially with recall shenanigans and the focus on lower gaining value out of lower spell slots you usually can get.

Of course Kensai have fewer spells to go around than the regular Magus, and I have no idea how their unique pool abilities pace themselves. But I wouldn't really be too worried as a Magus about running out of steam being a frequent issue.


NorthernDruid wrote:

Firstly, 2 things.

1) Keep in mind that Variant Multiclassing and regular multiclassing aren't really intended to be used together by default, so it would be very much up to the GM or the group whether that would fly at all.

2) Going Kensai only for Canny defence seems a bit... ehh.. I'd rather stay a regular magus and just... wear armor if I wasn't looking to go for the full package of abilities and/or flavour.

Other than that...

I kinda like the idea of using Magus as a caster base for a more martially focused Arcane Trickster, limiting arcana and pool points by ~10 levels or more is a bit iffy to me unless I'm going specifically Eldritch Knight as a more straight martially focused character. Or using the Magus as more of a dip class or something.

I'm not sure if I'm understanding this correctly, but if you think the base magus has a problem with keeping it going I think you have some to learn about the game's pace.

Most combats I've ever been in hardly lasted 5 rounds, and going more than 10 is a rare occasion. And for spells, like most caster classes, once you get out of the early levels you most often have enough to last you the day, especially with recall shenanigans and the focus on lower gaining value out of lower spell slots you usually can get.

Of course Kensai have fewer spells to go around than the regular Magus, and I have no idea how their unique pool abilities pace themselves. But I wouldn't really be too worried as a Magus about running out of steam being a frequent issue.

Oh, I thought that 1 level dip was necessary in order to VMC, that's why I went for that 1 dip. Also that made things easier in terms of Finesse Training but I'll review it in an available time.

I meant Canny Defence & Weapon Focus & Iaijutsu, not only Canny Defence actually. In order to deliver a sneak easily Initiative & AR is also important, as thought. As you said, armor is only a purchasable item and spending feats/abilities for item replacable things aren't that worth, like many Maguses just taking Keen enhancement and leaving Improved Critical if they are not hardcore critter builds.

Actually I really like cantrips probably more than anything, they are just many and sytlish and reasonable to use but maybe since because I've not seen enough; but I'm usually running out of spells if I see two long encounters or three encounters a day with my Mythic 1 Level 12 Vanilla Counterspell Magus, probably because of I need to use all my level 1s for SG, level 3s for Dispel Magic and level 4s to Dimension Doors (mostly) it is a non-optimal but fun to play build which runs out of steam quickly especially enemy casters are usually strong because we are a 6-man party.

But since I started to think on this build, I've also seen smaller fights more frequently as you mentioned and it may not be an issue especially with enough Pearl of Powers and Improved Spell Recall (also that broken Mythic Archmage thingie, lol).

But thanks for your opinions, I appreciate it. I would like to review the build over time with comments like you did and my further experience. ^^


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While it might not be quite what you're looking for, I played a straight Magus in a "Thieves guild" 1-shot that worked exceptionally well.

I went DEX based (Weapon Finesse + Dervish Dance) and took Extra Traits as a feat so that I could have all the Rogue-ey skills at a decent number. I also took HEIGHTEN SPELL as my free 5th level feat so that I could take PREFERRED SPELL - Shocking Grasp.

This was less so that I could kill everything in 1 shot, and more so that I could start the day without preparing any offensive spells. I had almost entirely utility spells prepared in order to "rogue" my way through the sewers, and when I needed to I could spontaneously cast Shocking Grasp. Spell Recall meant that if I needed to re-cast a spell I could do so for the cost of a swift action.

(For the record this was 1-shot adventure for a level 7 with "some" PVP elements. I wasn't the highest DPR character, but I was the most useful by far out of combat.)

EDIT: Also for the record I was a Tiefling, and I took the BLADEBOUND archetype. I like the Bladebound, but it's not my favourite.


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A couple things:

1) Kensai are not proficient with armor so a Mithril Shirt means you're taking a 10% arcane spell failure chance every time you cast until your Mage Armor lasts long enough to be reliable all day. And be aware that the most you'll get out of Canny Defense is +5 before level 13.

2) You are missing getting Trapfinding at level 3 for VMC Rogue. Finesse Training and SA comes at total level 2. Also, you are missing the other class abilities from VMC like Evasion. Not sure if it matters to you but just for clarity since perhaps you're missing more than that but I didn't catch it.

3) It's not huge, but you forgot to factor in needing an Agile enchantment to get your Rapier to do dex to damage. Which is honestly a minor bump compared to everything else.

4) I think you're taking too much of a hit to your attack bonus (at least three points) to make the extra sneak attack dice worth it. Plus, as the creatures you fight become larger, getting flanking becomes much more difficult. At level 12 you'll have essentially the same AB as a straight wizard that polymorphs to go into melee. That's not great, and Spell Combat gives further -2s to your attacks. So if your plan is to cast Frostbite from afar, then Attack, Wand of True Strike, then 2nd Attack, you could hit somewhat reliably, but I can't see any way your iterative attack, which is effectively at a net -1, is going to hit ~CR9+ foes reliably. Without sneak attack, you're looking at ~30 damage per hit at level 12, which isn't great.

5) Your arcane pool scales with your Magus level, so it'll be 6 points from CL5 all the way to CL13, and you're suggesting you're going to be using two points per combat, meaning you'll have three combats per day where you're throwing that extra 2d6 onto your weapon, which leads me onto

6) I went and looked at Arcane Trickster, and I couldn't see anything which told me why you didn't get 5 levels of Kensai before jumping to Arcane Trickster, other than gaining an extra d6 of sneak attack at 7th level instead of 8th. You can't even add frost or flaming to your weapon until you're a 5th level Magus, so you're actually giving up 2d6 of potential damage in order to gain +1d6 of highly situational damage.

7) You give up Spell Recall/Improved Spell Recall (which you wouldn't have gotten until level 18!) with Kensai.

I'm sure there's more, but gotta get back to work. This is definitely an interesting idea; don't take my comments as criticisms but just things you need to balance in order to have what I think would be a more well-rounded character. Good luck!

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32

I see a couple of improvements for this build.

First off, if you're worried about running out of spells, you should avoid archetypes with diminished spellcasting, such as the kensai. Related is that kensai is not great at low level; it really shines at around level 10, but if you're multiclassing then that doesn't apply. At lower levels, it has more drawbacks than benefits.

Second, arcane trickster is not great on a Magus, mainly because it is a low-BAB prestige class and you lose a lot of class features in the exchange. And frankly, the Magus has enough damage by itself that it doesn't need a lot of sneak attack dice.

What I would suggest is the following: take one level of rogue (unchained), the Accomplished Sneak Attacker feat, and the Sense Vitals spell (via spell blending). Then take all your other levels in Magus; and take the Hexcrafter archetype (which gets infinite-use hexes) to solve your endurance issue.

Magus guide, at your service.


Also, most prestige classes (including Arcane Trickster) that progress spellcasting are bad when progressing a 6/9 caster, because their balance of spellcasting progression and other class features was supposed to be balanced around progressing a 9/9 caster. If you go in with a 6/9 caster, you are losing other class features, but still have the slower spellcasting progression (because whatever spellcasting progression speed the prestige class has is effectively a multiplier for the spellcasting progression of the base class, and the maximum value of this multiplier is 1.00). Very few prestige classes are designed for progressing the spellcasting of something other than a 9/9 spellcaster, because if you find one (like Hinterlander) that is, somebody (like me) will figure out a way to shoehorn a 9/9 caster onto it and make something really brokenly overpowered;. Even fewer prestige classes (Inheritor's Crusader and Evangelist are the only ones I can think of) are designed to work properly with base classes having different spellcasting progression (and Evangelist is a bit iffy on the "work properly" part).


JiaYou wrote:

A couple things:

1) Kensai are not proficient with armor so a Mithril Shirt means you're taking a 10% arcane spell failure chance every time you cast until your Mage Armor lasts long enough to be reliable all day. And be aware that the most you'll get out of Canny Defense is +5 before level 13.

2) You are missing getting Trapfinding at level 3 for VMC Rogue. Finesse Training and SA comes at total level 2. Also, you are missing the other class abilities from VMC like Evasion. Not sure if it matters to you but just for clarity since perhaps you're missing more than that but I didn't catch it.

3) It's not huge, but you forgot to factor in needing an Agile enchantment to get your Rapier to do dex to damage. Which is honestly a minor bump compared to everything else.

4) I think you're taking too much of a hit to your attack bonus (at least three points) to make the extra sneak attack dice worth it. Plus, as the creatures you fight become larger, getting flanking becomes much more difficult. At level 12 you'll have essentially the same AB as a straight wizard that polymorphs to go into melee. That's not great, and Spell Combat gives further -2s to your attacks. So if your plan is to cast Frostbite from afar, then Attack, Wand of True Strike, then 2nd Attack, you could hit somewhat reliably, but I can't see any way your iterative attack, which is effectively at a net -1, is going to hit ~CR9+ foes reliably. Without sneak attack, you're looking at ~30 damage per hit at level 12, which isn't great.

5) Your arcane pool scales with your Magus level, so it'll be 6 points from CL5 all the way to CL13, and you're suggesting you're going to be using two points per combat, meaning you'll have three combats per day where you're throwing that extra 2d6 onto your weapon, which leads me onto

6) I went and looked at Arcane Trickster, and I couldn't see anything which told me why you didn't get 5 levels of Kensai before jumping to Arcane Trickster, other than gaining an extra d6 of sneak attack at 7th...

Oh... I forgot that they didn't have Light Armor Proficiency... Thought it was only med+heavy, yeah that's a blunder of me.

I would even want to go until level 4 for Uncanny Dodge and Debiliating Injury, lol. But yeah, what I was aiming was even not all, getting some of Rogue goodies and Sneak Attack dice. Actually a hit with a spell storing sword's frostbite with Dimension Door + Gloves of Spellstrike would bring us a +4 on hit because of flanking from backside and also since they are most-likely flat footed we hit to a reduced AC. So my aim was to get some + to AR and even if BAB is not too high, our positioning and initiative would provide us the lacking Attack Roll. So wasn't planning to use True Strike because as you said, it would cause inefficiency on attack counts also action economy. But the example I gave is just for the first round. It is more of a "glass cannon" play. Arcane Pool is becoming issue as you said, but 3 combats a day is kind of an average in my experience, also it may not be used as well since it's only 7 of 52 damage/hit so not a must to have but rather a nice to have. But indeed it contains some flaws in longer combats so I can work on it.


Kurald Galain wrote:

I see a couple of improvements for this build.

First off, if you're worried about running out of spells, you should avoid archetypes with diminished spellcasting, such as the kensai. Related is that kensai is not great at low level; it really shines at around level 10, but if you're multiclassing then that doesn't apply. At lower levels, it has more drawbacks than benefits.

Second, arcane trickster is not great on a Magus, mainly because it is a low-BAB prestige class and you lose a lot of class features in the exchange. And frankly, the Magus has enough damage by itself that it doesn't need a lot of sneak attack dice.

What I would suggest is the following: take one level of rogue (unchained), the Accomplished Sneak Attacker feat, and the Sense Vitals spell (via spell blending). Then take all your other levels in Magus; and take the Hexcrafter archetype (which gets infinite-use hexes) to solve your endurance issue.

Magus guide, at your service.

I have probably spent more than 7 or 8 hours reading your guide and thinking on it. :D That guide was one of the main reasons I started playing Magus in the beginning and which was the motivation for me to share my thoughts on classes/builds with other people. ^^

Actually I like the vanilla Magus the most and in my 2nd Magus I did a Freeze + Hexcrafter Magus with slight changes mentioned in your guide and I really appreciate the Hexcrafer's infinite value. But I'm just not quite fond of Witch unfortunately (although they are natural cc machines and I love cc) and I was thinking I'll certainly play it but thought of it as a kind of endurance combatant and felt my Rogue-ish character needed something more rogue-ish since she is an old-Courtesan currently corrupt Investigator Chaotic Neutral Magus and at that point your Accomplished Sneak Attack+Unchained Rogue+Sense Vitals combo seems just awesome both in terms of efficiency and character-fitting spice. That's probably what I'll retrain to if my GM allows (probably would be no problem since I'm just level 2 and archaetypes haven't affected gameplay much).

Thanks a lot for the enlightment. ^^


UnArcaneElection wrote:

Also, most prestige classes (including Arcane Trickster) that progress spellcasting are bad when progressing a 6/9 caster, because their balance of spellcasting progression and other class features was supposed to be balanced around progressing a 9/9 caster. If you go in with a 6/9 caster, you are losing other class features, but still have the slower spellcasting progression (because whatever spellcasting progression speed the prestige class has is effectively a multiplier for the spellcasting progression of the base class, and the maximum value of this multiplier is 1.00). Very few prestige classes are designed for progressing the spellcasting of something other than a 9/9 spellcaster, because if you find one (like Hinterlander) that is, somebody (like me) will figure out a way to shoehorn a 9/9 caster onto it and make something really brokenly overpowered;. Even fewer prestige classes (Inheritor's Crusader and Evangelist are the only ones I can think of) are designed to work properly with base classes having different spellcasting progression (and Evangelist is a bit iffy on the "work properly" part).

Indeed, that 6/9 vs 9/9 casting is a point I didn't realize while building and just noticed with you telling it. It is really causing a lot of inefficiency on the character. I'll definitely reconsider it. Kurald has suggested a quite efficient way to do what I was trying to accomplish and the 9/9 caster point you've made shown me my main point of mistake. So probably this build would be hard to update but I definitely will if I can as I gain more experience through games as it's my first one. :D Thanks for the insight. ^^

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