Playtest Experience

Magus Class

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This past weekend, my group played through a short adventure, mostly focusing on combat encounters to test the Magus and Summoner. My character was a Magus. I wanted to share how that went and what I've been thinking since then.

The whole party was 5th level. The other characters who filled out the party were a fighter and a rogue. I made a few decisions during character creation that affected the way I played.

1. I only used cantrips for Spellstrike. I made sure to take cantrip expansion so that I could have the widest variety of energy damage types available, and that they'd always be available.

2. I reserved spell slots primarily for buff spells, with the exception of a heightened Shockwave (3rd). The rest consisted of Longstrider (2nd), Mirror Image (2nd), and Haste (3rd). I rationed them and cast based on what we were facing.

3. Between Fleet and Longstrider, I maximized my movement rate so that I'd need to spend fewer actions getting into position during a fight. I also raised Acrobatics and Athletics to expert, to maximize my ability to get into position.

4. Between Expert Athletics and a reach weapon with the trip and disarm traits, I figured I'd be able to debuff opponents and keep myself out of the range of attacks of opportunity.

Some of that even worked out the way I planned.

Out of six attempted spellstrikes, I landed five of them. The one that I wasn't able to get off was the first one I tried, because the spell attack roll failed. Being able to customize energy types to targets did allow me to exploit weaknesses that other characters couldn't. The only slotted spell that didn't have a noticeable effect was shockwave, but only because the target's turn was right after mine (successful save = flatfooted until the start of their next turn). Moving into position, never took more than two actions. Sadly, the only opponent we faced that had attacks of opportunity also had reach. I did manage at least one successful trip. Despite having Arcane Fists, and +1 Striking Handwraps, I never managed to make an unarmed second or third attack.

In a more prolonged game, I might have tried out making three mundane attacks in a round, or focusing on ranged use of cantrips. The Temporary Hit Points from Sustaining Steel were difficult to keep track of at first, but I think they did help. Also, keeping an oil of potency on hand for use on armor before combat seemed like a good idea. The bonus to AC and Saves didn't prove to be a tipping point on any attack or save, but easily could have. I considered it a very good investment. In fact, I thought about taking a monkey familiar with manual dexterity just so it could apply said oil during an unexpected combat. Don't judge me. :P

As for actual data, I (177 damage over 14 successful attacks, including one trip) was far behind the party's Fighter (266 damage over 19 successful attacks) and the Summoner's Eidolon (282 damage over 14 attacks) in total damage dealt over the span of four fights. If we treat the spell and melee attack as separate, I made about the same number of attacks as the Eidolon and had the same accuracy (~78%). The Fighter's accuracy was better, as you would expect (~86%). I don't have damage data for the Rogue (26 attacks, 13 hits, 50% accuracy). The difference between damage per attack for the Magus and Fighter was less than one point (if I don't include that trip, closer to 1.4 if I do include it). Of course that's if my math is correct. Overall, I think that's favorable. Being within 2 points of damage/attack on average is pretty close. The fighter made more attacks, because OF COURSE the Fighter made more attacks. The magus can also do things in and out of combat that the Fighter can't.

Altogether it was fun and it did feel much different from playing a regular martial or caster. I still have reservations about the class, but playing at a higher level may change that.

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I also ran a session with a Magus play test. There were 4 combats that didn't last long due to the barbarian critting all night. The magus was a level 5 arctic elf and used sustaining steel with a +1 striking scythe(Crono Trigger...). Stats were 19 12 12 18 14 10. Truthfully at level 5 the chance to hit with a spell was equal to our wizards. We fought 3 wasp swarms, 2 level 5 drow fighters, 2 Ettins and a Hill Giant.

Melee the magus was fine. He had low HP due to being an elf. Sustaining Steel helped off set this. He hit with all but one melee attacks. No crits. The one miss was a spellstike. He hit on the next round but still missed with the spell anyway. The other 2 spellstikes used he hit with both attack and spell. Against the swarms he used electric arc. One made their save the other failed.

Overall he felt competent in battle. I was surprised that he didn't have any level 1 spells. I didn't notice it until character creation. For feats he had Combat assessment and spell parry. While playing I was wondering if attacking at -5 would have been better than spellstrike. 2d10+4 (16 average) vs 3d4+4 (11.5 average) at really a minus 2 as spell casting had a worse chance to hit. Though the magus didn't crit I think that would have made up for that relative -2 for hitting with a spell. Also the 6 temp HP from sustaining steel was necessary due to low HP. So it wasn't all about raw damage. I'd like to have a chance to play him more but I don't want to disrupt the campaign further.

EDIT-Sorry spell attack was +11 and melee was +16. It's a difference of 4.

EDIT 2-Wow my math is good. A difference of 5.

I think a playtest between level 7 and 11 might be interesting, where casters have expert casting and magus doesnt.

Interesting that eidolon did so much damage, wow. How did that work? I mean thats a 100 points more damage over the same amount of attacks. And summoner is also a 4slot caster. Doesnt make the magus look very favourable.

And even the argument that magus might deal what looks like a lot less damage than the fighter because they have spells doesnt really help because magus had to burn all those spells for combat and still doesnt even get close and also has less hp and is more MAD.

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The eidolon at that level will have 18str and do 1d8+4/1d4+4 agile with an additional either +2 or +4 per landed strike if the summoner used boost eidolon.

If they have striking rune at that level.

2d8+8/2d4+8 if they used the agile attack.

Vs Magus 2dx+4+3dx+4

So the reason that the eidolon did more damage is probably a combination of better accuracy for secondary attacks, higher minimum with boost eidolon, less setup required to get it's damage and, well, luck as with anything

Liberty's Edge

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I played the summoner in this playtest (I'll be posting my own thread in the other forum on that later). About the damage: I was rolling pretty well on both attacks and damage all day. (It was a nice change, honestly.) It wasn't absurd, but I did notice the string. I didn't crit an unusual number of times, though; three total, across the whole set of encounters.

I was able to boost in all but one turn that I made attacks on, and that one turn was one I didn't land any hits, so basically every strike that got recorded was for either 2d8+8 or 2d4+8 - and in fact in most cases was actually 2d8+9 or 2d4+9, because I was playing an angel summoner and the aligned damage came into play through most of the fights. Across the four encounters - two frost trolls, two winter wolves, two ice golems, and two young white dragons - only the golems were neutral.

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Yeah, the whims of the dice have a lot to do with our Rogue's disappointing accuracy as well.

I didn't mention critical hits. There were two times that critical hits with melee weapons changed the degree of success for a spell. One became a regular hit, the other became a critical hit. That was pretty satisfying.

As for "having to burn all of those spells," I really didn't. They were certainly useful, but it wasn't actually mandatory. I could have gotten through with just cantrips. I also could have memorized damage spells, or battlefield control spells, or de-buff spells. I do feel like Magi are going to end up carrying scrolls for all of their non-combat spell needs. It depends on how you want to play.

If the styles of play suggested by this don't sound good, I also sympathize. It took a lot of thinking to decide which way to go. Ultimately I opted for spells that I knew would have an effect; no chance of failing based on a weapon attack roll. I like forcing saving throws a little better, but having enough variety of spells to target weak saves seemed daunting. On the plus side, the Magus is a prepared caster and you can decide on a daily basis which direction to go. Honestly, that's something that frustrates me about prepared casters: the versatility. Too many options.

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