5E Arcane Trickster / Wizard: Diviner or Bladesinger? Ranged or Melee?

Esker

Abventuree
My DM had been running two different tables over the summer, and we recently decided to merge to form one big group. We had our first session together over the weekend and RPed out our characters meeting each other, before happening into a big arena battle where we had to defeat a hill giant and a chimera for the entertainment of some cultists (sorry, "followers") of Beshaba. Good times!

My character was a level 4 Moon Elf Arcane Trickster with mainly a scout/ranged profile (expertise in stealth and perception, proficiency in investigation and arcana, among other things), and will be leveling up to 5 for the next session. Because the two tables started at different levels, and because some people were brand new, we're doing a "six months later..." wipe off screen before the next session during which our characters get the opportunity to reconsider their life choices and reemerge with, potentially, different classes, all be at level 5. Basically we have to keep our race, background, and backstory, but can change up anything else. In addition, the DM just opened up any published sources as fair game, whereas my table was previously PHB-only.

My original plan before the merge was to go something like AT 13 / Divination Wizard 7, whose combat MO would be casting a concentration debuff (focusing on spells with only a single save and either using portent for autofail or hiding to impose disadvantage from magical ambush) then sniping from range with a light crossbow. But now I will have access to SCAG and Xanathar's, which makes it seem like there are more options for a melee build to take advantage of, between Booming Blade, Shadow Blade, and Bladesinger.

The rest of the party is (probably) going to be a Half-Orc Totem Barbarian (with Orcish Fury), a Tempest Cleric (with War Caster), a Sorlock (3/2 Draconic/Celestial, planning go go sorc the rest of the way), a Forest Druid (pumping wisdom), and a Bard of some kind (probably valor, as the player has indicated an interest in archery, not sure what feat/ASI).

I am thinking that for now I will go AT 4 / Wizard 1 and keep my options open and see how the group works for a few sessions before committing to a wizard school and combat style, but I'm interested in feedback from the community on these two paths.

Below I've outlined my thoughts about level split and order, ASI/Feat choice, and a few of the more build-defining spells.

Starting Stats (27 point buy, after racial bonuses): 8 17 13 16 12 8

Ranged/Debuffer Build:

L4/AT4: Elven Accuracy (DEX to 18)
L6/Wiz2: Portent
L9/AT7: +Hold Person, +Phantasmal Force
L10/AT8: Resilient CON (CON to 14), +Levitate
L12/AT10: Skulker, +Suggestion
L14/AT12: +2 DEX (to 20)
L15/AT13: +Hypnotic Pattern, +Enemies Abound
L16/DivWiz3: +Web
L17/DivWiz4: +2 INT (to 18)
L18/AT14: +Fireball
L20/AT16: +2 INT (to 20), +Fear

One change with this plan from my original one is that with a sorcerer and a bard in the party, buffs like haste and invisibility become less of a priority, since I can ask them to cast those on me. That also means that if I never get 4th level spells, I'll be less sad about it than I would have otherwise, freeing me to prioritize keeping all my ASIs and feats instead of feeling forced to go to wizard 7 for greater invisibility.

Melee Magical Striker Build:
L4/AT4: Elven Accuracy (DEX to 18)
L6/Bladesinger2: Bladesong
L7/Bladesinger3: +Mirror Image, +Shadow Blade
L8/Bladesinger4: Resilient CON, +Hold Person, +Invisibility
L9/Bladesinger5: +Haste, +Fear
L10/Bladesinger6: Extra Attack
L14/AT8: +2 DEX (to 20)
L16/AT10: Lucky
L18/AT12: +2 INT (to 18)
L19/Bladesinger7: +Greater Invisibility, +Evard's Black Tentacles
L20/Bladesinger8: +2INT (to 20)

Thoughts?
 
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FullCaster

Visitor
Have you considered going full Arcane Trickster and getting the higher level rogue abilities right away instead of delaying/skipping them? Multiclassing is highly overrated and most of the time you just makes your character worse.
 
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Obliza

Villager
Ranged/Debuffer Build:

L4/AT4: Elven Accuracy (DEX to 18)
L6/Wiz2: Portent
L9/AT7: +Hold Person, +Phantasmal Force
L10/AT8: Resilient CON (CON to 14), +Levitate
L12/AT10: Skulker, +Suggestion
L14/AT12: +2 DEX (to 20)
L15/AT13: +Hypnotic Pattern, +Enemies Abound
L16/DivWiz3: +Web
L17/DivWiz4: +2 INT (to 18)
L18/AT14: +Fireball
L20/AT16: +2 INT (to 20), +Fear

Melee Magical Striker Build:
L4/AT4: Elven Accuracy (DEX to 18)
L6/Bladesinger2: Bladesong
L7/Bladesinger3: +Mirror Image, +Shadow Blade
L8/Bladesinger4: Resilient CON, +Hold Person, +Invisibility
L9/Bladesinger5: +Haste, +Fear
L10/Bladesinger6: Extra Attack
L14/AT8: +2 DEX (to 20)
L16/AT10: Lucky
L18/AT12: +2 INT (to 18)
L19/Bladesinger7: +Greater Invisibility, +Evard's Black Tentacles
L20/Bladesinger8: +2INT (to 20)

Thoughts?
With your current plan your bladesinger is doing
6d6+2d8+16 | 46 average damage a round at max level
your ranged/debuffer is doing
output 8d6+1d10+8 | 41.5 average damage a round at max level

This is fine considering your utility from your spellcasting ability
except you only reach
3rd level arcane trickster spells & 2nd level wizard spells (Ranged/Debuffer)
or
2nd level arcane trickster spells & 4th level wizard spells (Meele Magical Striker)
You also don't boost your intellect until level 17-18 meaning using your spell slots for control is less likely to work.

Your build suffers from Gish to quite an extent, in other words you are a jack of two trades but a master of neither.

You will need to decide, are you caster? meele? ranged? What are you building for?
A pure bladesinger for example could cast high level shadow blades, a plethora of control spells, gets intellect bonus to damage rolls.
A pure rogue is unfortunately not that great, arcane trickster is among the best but not having access to extra attack really hurts, miss your 1-2 attacks and no sneak attack damage for an entire round is brutal.

Feats
Elven Accuracy and rogue stealth/sneak attack is great but with low damage potential and low spell slots you can't really make it shine. Taking elven accuracy should mean you are planning to focus on a physical combat build.

Other feats worth considering would be
Warcaster | Advantage on Con Saves & Booming Blade Reactions
Sharpshooter | If you want to be a skulker and attack from stealth constantly, +10 damage to attacks for -5 to hit is fantastic.

Suggestions
Your levels in rogue and elven accuracy plan I would think lead you towards either meele or ranged, meaning you are building to take advantage of elven accuracy.

Provided you build for meele/ranged you will want extra attack which means Bladesinger 6 or another extra attack class as fast as possible. Its not just for the damage of the extra attack but it is another chance to hit procing your sneak attack.

If you are attacking from ranged you will also want extra attack, consider sharpshooter / crossbow expert for the bonus action attack and +10 damage, giving you +30dpr.

Warcaster allows you to booming blade as an opportunity attack reaction in addition to advantage on concentration checks.
 

Esker

Abventuree
Thanks, Obliza! This is much appreciated!

With your current plan your bladesinger is doing
6d6+2d8+16 | 46 average damage a round at max level
your ranged/debuffer is doing
output 8d6+1d10+8 | 41.5 average damage a round at max level
Not sure I follow all of this calculation... For the bladesinger, assuming both attacks hit and no shadow blade or booming blade, you get 6d6 once from sneak attack, 1d8 per attack for the rapier, and +5 per attack from DEX bonus, for 40 damage without any magic. What's the other +6?

At max level the bladesinger is a 12th level caster, so has 2 5th and 1 6th level spell slots per day, which could be used to upcast shadow blade, granting another 2d8 per attack, for a total of 6d6+8d8+10, averaging 67 damage per round (when both attacks hit) for three encounters per day (not factoring in any AoOs that may occur, or the option of an off-hand bonus action attack). Supposing you just used all available spell slots on shadow blade, you could cast it another 6 times upcast to 3rd or 4th level, giving you 58 damage, and 3 more at 2nd level, for 49 (or you could just do a single booming blade attack with your 2nd level shadow blade for 48.5 plus the rider).

A single class arcane trickster at 20th level using a single booming blade attack with a 3rd or 4th level shadow blade (four slots per day) does 10d6 + 6d8 + 5 = 67 damage. Same max damage for one more encounter than the multiclass, if they never cast any other 3rd or 4th level spells. They get more cool rogue abilities, but 5 fewer high level spell slots, way fewer spells known, and are less likely to land their sneak attack.

A single class bladesinger... is a different animal, since they get to cast up through 9th level spells, and by max level aren't going to be in melee very often.

This is fine considering your utility from your spellcasting ability
except you only reach
3rd level arcane trickster spells & 2nd level wizard spells (Ranged/Debuffer)
or
2nd level arcane trickster spells & 4th level wizard spells (Meele Magical Striker)
You also don't boost your intellect until level 17-18 meaning using your spell slots for control is less likely to work.
In terms of control effectiveness, we have to take into account the magical ambush feature. My thinking in delaying INT boosts in favor of Skulker was that since disadvantage on saves is typically worth more than +1 (or even +2) in DC, it made sense to invest in making it easier to hide. Having run some numbers on it, I might have been wrong about that; although hiding certainly is more valuable than +1 DC, it seems like you have to assume that at least 1/3 or so of encounters take place in environments where the skulker can hide but the non-skulker can't for the average effective DC to be higher with skulker than +2 INT, which is probably unrealistic (though certainly in those environments, skulker can be worth as much as +5 DC, and compared to a single class wizard with INT 20, the AT with INT 16 has a leg up on landing control spells any time they can hide, though of course they don't get the high level ones).

You will need to decide, are you caster? meele? ranged? What are you building for?
A pure bladesinger for example could cast high level shadow blades, a plethora of control spells, gets intellect bonus to damage rolls.
The INT bonus to damage is not as valuable as 6d6 in sneak attack, though. Even if they want to spend 7th and higher level spell slots upcasting shadow blade (which would be nuts), they only get an extra 2d8+10=19 per turn between the extra upcast (compared to 5th or 6th level shadow blade) and the INT bonus, vs. 21 per turn from sneak attack. And of course, they get higher level control spells, but if the AT multiclass can hide, they have an easier time landing the lower level ones. The bladesinger can use spell slots to negate damage and cast shield at will, but the AT can halve damage at will, and has cunning action, evasion, and skills for days.

Feats
Elven Accuracy and rogue stealth/sneak attack is great but with low damage potential and low spell slots you can't really make it shine. Taking elven accuracy should mean you are planning to focus on a physical combat build.
I was viewing elven accuracy as more or less a free feat, since it also bumps my DEX mod (I sacrificed a point of CON to get starting DEX up to 17 since I was planning on taking Resilient CON, so I'd get it "back" later), more than necessarily a build defining choice. My DM so far has not been inclined to attack my owl familiar when it's doing its flyby cheese, so getting advantage has been relatively easy, but we'll see if that lasts. The alternative seems to be trading the starting DEX point for a point of CON and then just taking a straight
+2 DEX at level 4, which gives me a few more HP up front, but if taking resilient CON then I'm in the same place after I get that feat that I would have been, but without the super-advantage. It seems hard to justify not bumping DEX at the first opportunity, since it buys a rogue so much, and I won't have enough spell slots to do much other than try to sneak attack. Maybe crossbow expert, but then my skill checks, initiative, damage per hit and AC suffer a bit, and I can't use cunning action.

Other feats worth considering would be
Warcaster | Advantage on Con Saves & Booming Blade Reactions
Yeah, I'd love to fit that in, though I don't know if I'd be looking to stick around next to threats to proc AoOs, as opposed to swooping in, attacking, disengaging, and swooping out. I dunno, depends on the rest of the party, I guess. What would you give up for it? Maybe some INT, in the striker build, since saves are less important there.

Sharpshooter | If you want to be a skulker and attack from stealth constantly, +10 damage to attacks for -5 to hit is fantastic.
Yeah, at least, conditional on not missing out on sneak attack. Which means crossbow expert too... which is two more feats, and no cunning action. Again, what would you sacrifice? I guess in a ranged build that is relegating the save spells to a minor feature you could just leave INT at 16, and take Crossbow Expert, then Elven Accuracy, then Sharpshooter, then Resilient (CON), then +2 DEX.
 
With your current plan your bladesinger is doing
6d6+2d8+16 | 46 average damage a round at max level
your ranged/debuffer is doing
output 8d6+1d10+8 | 41.5 average damage a round at max level

This is fine considering your utility from your spellcasting ability
except you only reach
3rd level arcane trickster spells & 2nd level wizard spells (Ranged/Debuffer)
or
2nd level arcane trickster spells & 4th level wizard spells (Meele Magical Striker)
You also don't boost your intellect until level 17-18 meaning using your spell slots for control is less likely to work.

Your build suffers from Gish to quite an extent, in other words you are a jack of two trades but a master of neither.

You will need to decide, are you caster? meele? ranged? What are you building for?
A pure bladesinger for example could cast high level shadow blades, a plethora of control spells, gets intellect bonus to damage rolls.
A pure rogue is unfortunately not that great, arcane trickster is among the best but not having access to extra attack really hurts, miss your 1-2 attacks and no sneak attack damage for an entire round is brutal.

Feats
Elven Accuracy and rogue stealth/sneak attack is great but with low damage potential and low spell slots you can't really make it shine. Taking elven accuracy should mean you are planning to focus on a physical combat build.

Other feats worth considering would be
Warcaster | Advantage on Con Saves & Booming Blade Reactions
Sharpshooter | If you want to be a skulker and attack from stealth constantly, +10 damage to attacks for -5 to hit is fantastic.

Suggestions
Your levels in rogue and elven accuracy plan I would think lead you towards either meele or ranged, meaning you are building to take advantage of elven accuracy.

Provided you build for meele/ranged you will want extra attack which means Bladesinger 6 or another extra attack class as fast as possible. Its not just for the damage of the extra attack but it is another chance to hit procing your sneak attack.

If you are attacking from ranged you will also want extra attack, consider sharpshooter / crossbow expert for the bonus action attack and +10 damage, giving you +30dpr.

Warcaster allows you to booming blade as an opportunity attack reaction in addition to advantage on concentration checks.
Do you know what DPR is? Do you know how to calculate it?
 

Obliza

Villager
Didn't realize you modified your post.

What's the other +6?
+3 Weapon, just assumed by level 20.

At max level the bladesinger is a 12th level caster, so has 2 5th and 1 6th level spell slots
Upcasting Shadowblade is a fair point, but the 2 5th and 6th level spell slots would be your last four levels, the 3d8 from 3rd and 4th is not too shabby with extra attack.

A single class arcane trickster at 20th level using a single booming blade attack with a 3rd or 4th level shadow blade (four slots per day) does 10d6 + 6d8 + 5 = 67 damage. Same max damage for one more encounter than the multiclass, if they never cast any other 3rd or 4th level spells. They get more cool rogue abilities, but 5 fewer high level spell slots, way fewer spells known, and are less likely to land their sneak attack.
The damage is good but the fear of missing your attack still stands.

In terms of control effectiveness, we have to take into account the magical ambush feature. My thinking in delaying INT boosts in favor of Skulker was that since disadvantage on saves is typically worth more than +1 (or even +2) in DC, it made sense to invest in making it easier to hide. Having run some numbers on it, I might have been wrong about that; although hiding certainly is more valuable than +1 DC, it seems like you have to assume that at least 1/3 or so of encounters take place in environments where the skulker can hide but the non-skulker can't for the average effective DC to be higher with skulker than +2 INT, which is probably unrealistic (though certainly in those environments, skulker can be worth as much as +5 DC, and compared to a single class wizard with INT 20, the AT with INT 16 has a leg up on landing control spells any time they can hide, though of course they don't get the high level ones).
Good point, I agree with you, disadvantage is superior. (Disadvantage is -3.33, over 4 intellects +2)

The INT bonus to damage is not as valuable as 6d6 in sneak attack, though. Even if they want to spend 7th and higher level spell slots upcasting shadow blade (which would be nuts), they only get an extra 2d8+10=19 per turn between the extra upcast (compared to 5th or 6th level shadow blade) and the INT bonus, vs. 21 per turn from sneak attack. And of course, they get higher level control spells, but if the AT multiclass can hide, they have an easier time landing the lower level ones. The bladesinger can use spell slots to negate damage and cast shield at will, but the AT can halve damage at will, and has cunning action, evasion, and skills for days.
It works out to +12.5 for the pure bladesinger (Attack, Extra Attack, Bonus Action 1d8+8(+3Weapon)), I would agree that obtaining cunning action and evasion is worth it.


I was viewing elven accuracy as more or less a free feat,
Fair Call

Crossbow Expert, then Elven Accuracy, then Sharpshooter, then Resilient (CON), then +2 DEX.
When considerations of sharpshooter are taken I would consider Archery Fighting Style mandatory. Take a look at 5-7 levels of gloomstalker (UA Ranger preferably), or 2-5-11 levels of Fighter.

On second glance I do like your build, if skulking and shadow blades are your main consideration I think it works well enough.
 

RCanine

Visitor
FWIW I had a similar rogue/caster concept and I went with a Dragon Sorc / Swashbuckler build. First four levels were Rogue 3/Sorcerer 1; I plan on being mostly rogue but taking at least one more level for sorcery points.

Dragon Sorcerer and Swashbuckler has a ton of synergy: Draconic Resilience gives you studded leather + 1 for free, and since Sorcerers get four cantrips at level 1, you can take booming blade, something ranged (to compliment Elemental Affinity if you plan to go that far) and can focus on noncombat pillars for the other two (mage hand + minor illusion, e.g.).

Both classes want Dex & Cha, and there's just something amazing about a taking a bonus action dash, running into melee, casting booming blade and then walking away without a scratch.

Doing this with Half-Elf, I ended up with a ton of skill proficiencies combined with a good charisma.

What I love about this build is that it's strong in all three pillars of the game. It's an uncompromising build that's got a lot of tools in its toolbox and is really fun to play.
 

Esker

Abventuree
That's a cool build, RCanine! It's not for me since my character has already been established as bookish and socially awkward, not to mention a high elf (and there's a bard and a sorcerer in the party who have CHA stuff well covered), but I agree that sounds like a great synergy. Fancy footwork is great. I definitely plan to do some of that sort of thing with the extra speed from bladesinger, using bonus action to disengage. Not quite a full dash, but still lets me put some distance in. The mobile feat (fancy footwork in feat form, essentially) would be cool on this character, though I doubt I'll have room for it.
 

Esker

Abventuree
So it turns out the bard has decided to be a lore bard and focus on CC/debuffs, which swings me more to the striker role. Also, between the bard, the tempest cleric, and maybe the druid to an extent, it seems like there will be some nice opportunities for booming blade related combos: spirit guardians, cloud of daggers, etc. (I was thinking that Booming Blade + Dissonant Whispers would be a great go-to combo, but evidently Crawford has said that movement from DW is not considered "willing", so does not trigger the BB rider, though it does provoke AoOs. Seems weird to me. Might ask my DM what she thinks.)

So now what I'm thinking is to start AT 3 / Bladesinger 2, then:
* L6/AT4 (elven accuracy)
* L7/BS3 (shadow blade)
* L8/BS4 (resilient (CON) or war caster, two 3rd level slots)
* L9/AT5 (uncanny dodge, 3d6 SA)
------- Then, either Option 1 (focus on ASI/rogue features):
* L10/AT6 (expertise, a third 3rd level slot)
* L11/AT7 (evasion, 4d6 SA)
* L12/AT8 (warcaster, resilient (CON), or +2 DEX)
* L13/AT9 (magical ambush, 5d6 SA, 4th level slot)
* L14/BS5 (3rd level spells, a second 4th level slot)
* L15/BS6 (extra attack, a 5th level slot)
----- or Option 2 (focus on extra attack, 3rd level spells):
* L10/BS5 (3rd level spells, a third 3rd level slot)
* L11/BS6 (extra attack, a 4th level slot)
* L12/AT6 (expertise, a second 4th level slot)
* L13/AT7 (evasion, 4d6 SA)
* L14/AT8 (warcaster, resilient (CON) or +2 DEX)
* L15/AT9 (magical ambush, 5th level slot)
----- Either way, targeting AT9/BS6 at L15

Option 1 is probably better if I'm getting a lot of mileage out of booming blade (either activating the movement rider or setting up no-win situations), if I have more concerns about survivability, or if I'm often relying on sources of advantage that only work for one attack. Option 2 is probably better if I'm consistently able to get whole-turn advantage, BB is not often yielding the extra damage, and I'm not as worried about survival.

Either way, I think that 9/6 combination is a big power jump. At that point it has:

Offense:
* Two attacks with a 4d8 psychic weapon for one encounter a day, and up to 6 more with 3d8, with superadvantage on both attacks when not in bright light.
* 5d6 sneak attack

Defense:
* An AC of 19
* Concentration saves at +5 or +9 with advantage (depending on the third ASI/feat)
* Some of the best of defensive rogue abilities (cunning action disengage, uncanny dodge, evasion), plus shield and absorb elements

Casting and Utility:
* Familiar cast as a ritual
* 3rd level spells buffed by magical ambush with seven slots to use them with, four of which are at higher levels
* Expertise in 4 skills

From there there are several directions I could go: AT 13 / BS 7 taking DEX to 20 and INT to 18, AT 11 / BS 9 for 5th level spells, probably leaving DEX at 18 and taking INT to 20, AT 12 / BS 8 to get both stats to 20, or even AT 9 / BS 11 for 6th level spells and a 7th level slot. You can only get DEX and INT to 18 in this scenario, but if you only cast while hiding you're still more effective at landing those two 6th level spells than a 20th level bladesinger.

Compared to a single class AT, here's what I get and give up...

Pros:
* Higher AC and concentration bonus
* Higher DPR when using shadow blade at its highest available level and can get advantage for the full turn (any time in dim lighting, against prone/restrained enemies, etc).
* 3rd and 4th level spells several levels earlier
* A lot more (and more powerful) spell slots at any given level

Cons:
* Behind by an ASI from level 10 on, and depending on path, maybe 2 for levels 12 and 13
* Delay nice abilities like uncanny dodge, expertise, evasion, magical ambush, reliable talent
* Miss out on slippery mind, and maybe versatile trickster

Compared to a single class Bladesinger...

Pros:
* Better survivability due to cunning action, uncanny dodge, evasion
* More effective in late game at landing 3rd-4th level save spells when hidden
* More and better skills and at will non-combat abilities

Cons:
* Not a full caster
* Behind by one ASI for levels 12 and 13.
* Lags in DPR from levels 6-10 when full turn advantage is available

One thing I'm wondering is which class to take as the starting class. Rogue gives DEX saves, an extra skill and hand crossbow proficiency. Wizard gives WIS saves. As an elf I'll have advantage against charm effects, giving some limited protection against WIS effects, but on the other hand my WIS will never go above +1, at some point I'll get evasion, and absorb elements can be applied to many DEX saves, so going rogue first leaves me fairly vulnerable to WIS effects that aren't charms. Would you rather shrug off DEX saves almost completely and be vulnerable on non-charm WIS saves, or be decently good at both?
 
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