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5E Bellator Arcana - The Eldritch Knight Guide

LightningArrow

First Post
(originally posted by me under the alias Specter in the GitP forums)

I've been interested in this subclass for a while now, and since the other guides on the subject seemed lackluster, I decided to make one myself.

Summary
STYLE
STATS
RACES
SKILLS
BACKGROUNDS
CLASS FEATURES
FEATS
SPELLS
MULTICLASSING
MISC. STRATEGY
SAMPLE BUILDS


Colors:
Gold: Mandatory for optimization.
Blue: Very good.
Black: Good, but there are better options out there.
Purple: Too situational or lackluster.
Red: Don't even.


So...


WHY GO FOR THE ELDRITCH KNIGHT?
• Coolness: If you enjoy ripping heads, the Fighter class is good for you. If you enjoy ripping heads in a cool, arcane, Blade-of-Fire way, the Eldritch Knight (EK, henceforth) is for you.
• Versatility: Magic furthers your roles both in combat (with more protection and area options) and out of it. Some of us get tired of just swinging weapons.
• Prowess: The low-levels spells of the EK may seem lackluster (especially at high levels), but when used appropriately with their class abilities, they make for an awesome combatant.


WHEN SHOULD YOU NOT PLAY AN ELDRITCH KNIGHT?
• If you want to focus on magic: In that case, go for a Valor Bard, or a Bladesinger Wizard.
• If you want the maximum raw damage: While the EK has some combos going for that, other archetypes (and classes, for that matter) will usually deal more damage than him.


STYLE
Here you must make a choice, which will define your entire career:
• STR-based melee EK: By going Strenght, you can shove and grapple enemies, use reach weapons and also have a higher AC. It will make you a little more MAD on overall, though.
Go for chain mail, and upgrade to full plate ASAP. If you plan for optimal AC, take a d8 weapon and a shield. If you plan for Great Weapon Master and reach, take a halberd or a pike.
• DEX-based melee EK: With a rapier as your main weapon, you will be less MAD, better at the important DEX saves and more efficient at the occasional ranged warfare. Important if you want to use Stealth, too.
Go for leather armor, upgranding to studded leather ASAP. The rapier is the weapon of choice out there, and not using a shield would be disgraceful.
• Archer: Yes, it's entirely possible, and not lacking at all. An EK archer is tougher and more versatile than those from other archetypes, as far as I can speculate (never seen one). Leather and bow, of course. Crossbows are viable, but will require Crossbow Expert for max efficiency.


STATS
Strenght: If you went the STR way, it must obviously be your highest stat; otherwise it can be freely dumped.
Dexterity: For DEX-melee and archers this is top priority; STR guys can leave this low but not dump it, since it governs Initiative, DEX saves, some skills and (sometimes) AC.
Constitution: Being a Fighter, taking hits is part of your portfolio. Archers can start with a 14 without much trouble; others need higher values to get in the fray consistently.
Intelligence: This determines the efficiency of your spells, both when attacking and determining save DCs. As such, it’s essential. Start with a number similar to CON, if possible. Note that it's possible to have an EK that dumps INT and focus on no-save, no-attack spells, but that will limit your spell selection and versatility, and make Eldritch Strike less awesome. If you're interested in that, check out the last sample build for an example.
Wisdom: You're no cleric, but important skills are keyed off this, and failing a Wisdom save can take you out of the fight in a second, so dumping this is not an option. Go for 10 on a tight build, or 12 if you have a few points to spare. If you already plan on multiclassing to another class that requires Wisdom, leave it at 12 and take Resilient (WIS) later on.
Charisma: if you want a charismatic combatant, go for a Paladin, or a Valor Bard. That said, if you're going for a CHA multiclass (probably Sorcerer) you will have to raise this to at least 13 and dump INT.

RACES
Aarakocra (EE): Well, +2DEX and at-will flight sell this easily… if your DM approves it, that is.


Aasimar: CHA and WIS? Not cool at all.


• Dragonborn: Viable for for STR EKs; according to my intel, the breath weapon is more useful than it seems. The resistance to a certain energy (when in doubt, choose fire) and darkvision are also very handy. It's a shame the CHA goes to waste.


Dwarves: With a solid CON, protection from poison and stonecunning, dwarves make great EKs.
Hill: The +1 to Wisdom is not optimal, but it's hard to say no to more hp.
Mountain: +2 to STR? Sign me up! For STR builds, of course.
Duergar: Unless you're in an Underdark campaign, sunlight sensitivity will wreck you. A shame, since the other abilities are nice.


Elves: Focus on DEX melee or archery here. +2DEX, trance, darkvision and Perception proficiency are great for any EK.
High Elf: Well, I bet these guys were the first of our kind. +1 int and a free cantrip are more valuable to an EK than to most classes.
Wood Elf: Leave him to the ranger; the bonus speed is the only good thing here.
Drow: +1 CHA and sunlight sensitivity kill this subrace.
Eladrin: Pretty much like the High Elf, except for Misty Step 1/day which is timelessly good.


Genasi (EE): +2 to CON? Good start. Let’s look at the rest:
Air: +1 DEX and Levitate make this a gold for archers, who usually want to avoid melee.
• Earth: +1 to STR and avoiding rocky difficult terrain is great, but chances are if you’re going for STR, Pass Without Trace won’t be of much use.
Fire: Good for all builds with the bonus to INT, resistance to the most common elemental damage and some bonus evocation.
Water: The bonus to WIS and the spells are lackluster for a Fighter.


Gnomes: +2INT, darkvision and advantage on 3 magic saves? Works for me.
Forest: More DEX is good for DEX guys; the rest is purely thematical. Up to you.
Rock: More CON is good for all builds; the rest; as above.
Deep: Gets blue in a campaign with a lot of dungeoneering, due to their superior darkvision and stealth bonus in rocky terrain.


Goliath: Amazing for those STR builds, especially for the small damage reduction. A bonus proficiency in Athletics is dandy, too.


Halfling: +2DEX, rerolling 1’s and advantage against fear effects are good, but they lack darkvision unlike most small races.
Lightfoot: More CHA? Bleh.
Stout: More like DEX dwarves, huh? More CON and advantage against poison are nice.


Half-Elf: The CHA bonus is a waste for you, and you’re not starving for skills either. This still gives you darkvision and charm resistance, so it's not red.


Half-Orc: For STR builds who want to go full retard on the battlefield, negating death once per rest and critting harder will help you do that. Besides, you'll be an orc... casting spells!


• Human: +1 to all stats is, well... meh.


Human (Variant): Now we're talking. A bonus skill is always good, and a feat is perfect for the EK, which usually boosts 3 attributes instead of 2 like the usual fighter.


Tiefling: I like Tieflings, but the Charisma bonus and most of the spells (based on CHA) are a waste for EKs.
• Feral Tiefling (SCAG): This variant gives you +2DEX instead of +2CHA; if you really want to play a Tiefling, that’s the way to go. If you also manage to get the Winged variant, do it.
 
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LightningArrow

First Post
SKILLS
Class skills:
Acrobatics: For DEX builds this is mandatory, since it will help you avoid grapples and shoves effectively. Balancing on difficult terrain and tumbling for coolness are also nice.
Animal Handling: Plan to be mounted often? Take it. Otherwise, leave it.
Athletics: Mandatory for STR builds for the same reasons as Acrobatics, except this time you can grapple and shove yourself. Swimming, jumping and climbing are also governed by it, which makes this interesting even for DEX builds.
History: You have the intelligence for it, but leave it to another party member if possible; we don’t have many skills as is.
Insight: You’re no dumb barbarian, and thus you shouldn’t be fooled by petty lies. I always take this with my characters, but it’s not mandatory.
Intimidation: Leave it to the (insert party member of high CHA here).
Perception: Probably the most used skill in the game; you don’t have a high WIS, but for group checks and avoiding enemy bad Stealth rolls this helps, a lot.
Survival: If there’s no ranger/druid in the group, there still should be someone with a higher WIS than you to take it.


Non-class skills:
Arcana: Since this is your trade, proficiency in it is almost mandatory; problem is, if you’re not a Variant Human, it will be harder to obtain it. See Backgrounds, below.
Deception/Persuasion: See Intimidation, above.
Investigation: Seeing through illusions and playing detective? I like it. You have the intelligence for it, anyway.
Nature/Religion: See History, above.
Medicine/Performance: No.
• Sleight of Hand: I believe you need Expertise to really rock this.
Stealth: A great one for DEX builds. Teaming up with the rogue on an ambush is always nice.

BACKGROUNDS
I won’t say much about backgrounds, because they should reflect your character’s story, and no guide should help you with that. But if you want a specific skill (namely Arcana), you can, by default, create a custom background. I can see an ‘Arcane Soldier’ background with Athletics and Arcana as skills, for example. Talk to your DM.


CLASS FEATURES
Fighting Style
Archery: If you want to make a living out of a bow, take it immediately.
Defense: EK’s should have more protection than any other Fighter due to their spells. If you want to focus on this strength, instead of dealing more damage, take it.
Dueling: For shield users who want to deal more damage consistently, as opposed to having more AC.
• Great Weapon Fighting: This is more viable for Battlemasters and Champions than you, but nothing’s stopping you from shoving that arcane halberd up their stomachs.
• Protection: It’s been said that having a high AC is worth nothing if enemies are not targeting you, and I kinda agree; note that this competes with your spells for your reaction, though.
Two-Weapon Fighting: No. You must use the Attack action to use the off-hand attack (no casting spells and attacking with it), you give up a shield for it and it doesn’t scale well with your myriad of attacks. Run.


• Second Wind: Minor healing. Save it for when you really need it.


• Action Surge: Oh yeah. Now you can not only double your number of attacks once per rest, but also attack and cast a spell. Make it count.
A few uses of this for an EK include: Using a ranged spell after killing everyone in your vicinity, casting two spells in the same round, and doubling your speed to chase foes. Two uses per rest on level 17. We’ll talk more about this later.


• Weapon Bond: The main use of this feature is for those without the War Caster feat; drop your weapon, perform the spell with somatic components and then conjure it back to your hand with your bonus action. Another less mentioned use is for situations where you can’t have weapons with you (parties, royal meetings, etc.). If hell breaks loose there, you’re not a sitting duck.


• Spellcasting: Discussed later.


• Ability Score Improvement: You get 7 of those in your career without multiclassing; which is good, since we also have to boost our intelligence. Max out your attacking stat first, taking care of Constitution and Intelligence later (at level 20, Constitution should be 18 to 20, while Intelligence should be 16 to 18). Choose feats intermittently.


• Extra Attack: The main reason we’re on this ride and not other gishes. 1 at 5, 2 at 11, 3 at 20.


• War Magic: Offensively, it’s almost always better to attack more rather than using a cantrip and one attack. The magic (!) of this is the special effects of certain cantrips: Chill Touch prevents healing and stalls undead, Frostbite gives attack disadvantage, and so on. Strategize according to your foes. (Action Surging, you can now cast a spell, a cantrip and attack on the same turn.) It's worth noting that with the SCAG cantrips, you can attack twice and still get their benefit.


• Indomitable: People underestimate this feature, but it remedies one of the fighter’s main problems in earlier editions: being vulnerable to magic. One use at 9, two uses at level 13, three at 17. Save it for the effects that would KO or dominate you.


• Eldritch Strike: Remember that time in the tavern when the sorcerer made fun of you for your crappy save DCs? No more of that. Now enemies you hit have disadvantage on the next save against your spells, and boy oh boy is it profitable. Action Surging, you can use your full attack routine, then cast a spell which your enemy (or enemies, according to how many you attacked) will probably fail. More minicombos on this later.


• Arcane Charge: The main use of this will be to spread out your attacks more efficiently when Action Surging, since it can double your speed (you can move, act, teleport and act again). Other uses include getting out of harm’s way for casting spells or attacking at range, chasing bad guys and reaching higher/lower places without effort.


• Improved War Magic: This comes too late to be optimal in my opinion, but it’s still solid. With Action Surge, you can cast two spells and attack once, or use all your attacks, cast a spell and attack once more.


FEATS
As mentioned before, you need to buff 3 stats, so you probably won’t have room for as many feats as other fighters. Only noteworthy mentions; if you think something else should be here let us know.


Alert: Initiative is cool, not being surprised is cooler and negating advantage from invisible creatures is ice cold.
• Great Weapon Master: Makes True Strike a bit better. Especially good with Hold Person (heard you like crits, so you get another crit on top of all those crits). If you went for reach weapons, there's no reason not to.
• Heavy Armor Master: Increases your tankiness at early levels, but should get almost obsolete later on.
Lucky: Is there a character that wouldn’t make good use of this feat? If you're taking levels as a Diviner wizard, this makes you the ultimate fatespinner.
Mage Slayer: Thanks to their defensive capabilities, EKs make some of the best mage slayers out there (losing only to Ancient Paladins).
Magic Initiate: One of the (many) uses of this is to become a Panzer tank: pick up Shield of Faith from the cleric’s list and boost your AC even further. Two extra cantrips for the cantrip-starved EK don't hurt either. I’ve actually made an entire thread on this feat, if you’re interested.
• Mobile: Good for small races, and any other EK who wants to get to the baddest villain in the field more easily.
• Resilient (DEX): For DEX builds who really want to make those area saves.
Resilient (WIS): Since you can handle attack damage and area damage well, the obvious next step is to reinforce your mental defenses. Without this, expect the DM throwing a lot of fear and charm your way.
Sentinel: If you feel the bad guys are avoiding you and targeting your fragile companions, take this to show them some respect.
Sharpshooter: A must for archers. Also makes True Strike a bit better.
• Shield Master: You should be using a shield, so take this if you want to make the most of it.
War Caster: EKs don’t need this as fast as clerics and Valor Bards because of Weapon Bond, but this makes your concentration virtually unbreakable, and frees your bonus action, which you will need later on. If you're not using a shield, this isn't mandatory, but still good.
 
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LightningArrow

First Post
SPELLS
Rules of the class:
- Your spell list is the wizard spell list.
- You may only choose evocation and abjuration spells for most of your spells (except for cantrips, those can come from any school).
- Whenever you get a Fighter level, you can swap one spell you know for another. So if a given spell is not working in your campaign, go for something else.
- One spell you pick at level 3, 8, 14 and 20 can come from any school (and can be exchanged later on for higher-level spells too). Choose them wisely, Padawan.


Cantrips
• Acid Splash - d6 damage, but you can target 2 close foes with it.
Blade Ward - There are niche situations where this can be good, but usually the Dodge action (or getting the hell out of the way) are better.
Booming Blade - Very nice if you're playing a defender, since this damages foes who move. If you have the Mobile feat or a rogue multiclass this goes to gold, due to practically forcing the damage on the enemy. With War Magic, you're the best user of this. From SCAG.
Chill Touch - d8 damage, good range, and no healing for the target for 1 round. It gets better when used against undead, especially with War Magic.
Control Flames - Mostly for roleplaying purposes. As for all cantrips in this category, only take it if you find it really cool.
Create Bonfire - A little battlefield control paired with convenience.
Dancing Lights - A bit fancier than Light, but requiring concentration. I'll take Light over this any day.
• Fire Bolt - A staple for the pyromaniac in all of us.
Friends – You have the Charisma of a chair. Pass.
Frostbite - A CON save for d6 damage, giving disadvantage on the foe’s next attack. I like it. With War Magic, you can effectively stall folks who only have one attack, such as Assassins.
Green Flame Blade - Basically you attack as part of casting the cantrip, and another foe close to the target gets some damage (equal to your spellcasting modifier). You have better ways of dealing with grouped enemies, but this one doesn't cost you a spell slot, and War Magic is always around the corner. From SCAG.
Gust - Minor pushing, object-throwing and fluff. Pass.
• Light - The utility of this over a torch is that a torch needs a free hand, while this can be cast at anything, anywhere. Still, you have few cantrips, so this is better left to other casters (BLTOC, from now on).
Lightning Lure - Minor damage while pulling the enemy closer. You're already fast with spells, so I'm not feeling it. From SCAG.
• Mage Hand - 30 feet of distance between yourself and what you're handling is the difference between life or death, sometimes. BLTOC, though.
Mending - Has its uses in breaking and entering, or if the DM insists on tearing the party's equipment. BLTOC
• Message - Silent, precise and tactical communication, with good range.
Minor Illusion - It seems 5e is really about rewarding creative players, since free illusions forever is probably as good as a cantrip gets. There are many threads with uses of this, with alley screams and a chest of treasure being my favorites.
• Mold Earth - Some good uses of this include hiding treasure, bringing down walls and creating foxholes. BLTOC
Poison Spray - The d12 damage looks pretty neat, until you realize it targets Constitution, those who succeed on it take no damage, and poison is the most resisted damage type in the game.
• Prestidigitation – BLTOC.
• Ray of Frost - If you prefer to attack from range, this is better than Fire Bolt because it slows the enemy. Might be worth a look for archers.
Shape Water - Mostly a thematical cantrip, which has the same flavor of Control Flames and a bit more utility. Iced drinks, baby! BLTOC
• Shocking Grasp - I'm really not into damage cantrips if there's no utility involved, and this one is a bit better because it removes reactions from the enemy.
• Sword Burst – If you’re surrounded by more than 3 enemies, this is good, but that’s not your everyday situation. From SCAG.
• Thunderclap - For this to be optimal, you need to be surrounded. Very similar to Sword Burst.
True Strike – With War Magic you’re actually the only guy who can pull this off, but it’s still niche. For targets who give you constant disadvantage on attacks. Becomes better if you’re going for Sharpshooter/Great Weapon Master, since advantage compensates for the -5 to hit.


Level 1
Absorb Elements – A must for any EK. Halve the damage from five kinds of energy, and add 1d6 of that energy to your next attack. What can you say about a spell that mitigates most of your worries from the omnipresent area spells?
Alarm – For a sound night of sleep? Unless you’re in a solo campaign, there should be a nightwatch going on.
Burning Hands – A bit of crowd damage at early levels. It’s a shame the cone isn’t bigger.
Chromatic Orb – The fact that you can choose from six different energy types for this spell makes it good for exploiting vulnerabilities, and 3d8 is no joke, especially at early levels. Note the material component is not consumed.
• Earth Tremor – Up to 16 creatures make saves. If they fail, they take damage and fall. Good for giving advantage and setting up difficult terrain.
• Mage Armor – DEX builds can get more AC from this than from studded leather. However, it lasts for 8 hours, and spell slots are a thing.
Magic Missile – Ah, the old classics. The damage from this is pretty lame, but with your low Intelligence at first, you can benefit from something that hits your target no matter what.
Protection from Evil and Good – This is a very situational spell, but when the situation arises, accept no substitute.
Shield – Another must for any self-respecting EK, +5AC is huge, and it lasts until your next turn. With your great AC, few things should be hitting you with this in effect. Furthermore, this spell is fun: turning a killing blow against you into nothing is a warm and tender feeling.
• Thunderwave – So, up to 9 guys make saves and failing take damage and are moved; this is obviously oriented towards crowd control, and can be good in these situations. Also, never underestimate a noise that reaches out to 300 feet.
Witch Bolt – Bad range and bad action economy are all that’s going for this spell.


Level 3 spell - suggestions
• Charm Person - Good for social situations, and a few combat ones.
• Disguise Self - This is not your trade, but I have yet to see a campaign where this is not good.
• Expeditious Retreat - If you want to really rack up that speed.
• Find Familiar - Scouting? Yes. Advantage on one attack per turn? Yes. Flavor? Yes. Archers must remember the familiar can cast touch spells for you.


Level 2
• Aganazzar’s Scorcher – For those of you waiting for Fireball. A bit better than Burning Hands, but not great either.
Arcane Lock – It’s a shame to see that the only 2nd-level abjuration spell is for locking doors. BLTOC.
Continual Flame – I can’t think of many situations where this would be useful.
• Darkness – Think of this as a panic button against melee and ranged attacks; if they can’t see you or know where you are, they can’t hit you either, and meanwhile you can drink potions or otherwise prepare yourself. If you’re going for some insane warlock multiclass, this goes up in rating.
• Gust of Wind – Good for control in corridors and tight spaces, but frankly not much else.
• Melf’s Acid Arrow – Decent damage against one target, who then takes mediocre damage on its next turn. The brightside is that it gives some damage even if you miss.
• Scorching Ray – Good damage to one foe, or decent damage to three foes? The fact that you can choose makes it decent.
Shatter – The best in terms of area damage you can have at this point.
• Snilloc’s Snowball Swarm – Shatter is better.
(If most level 2 spells look a little meh, it’s because they are. But once you get third level spells, you can start swapping them for those.)


Level 8 spell – suggestions
• Hold Person – Discussed on strategies.
• Blur/Mirror Image – If you want even more dodginess, that’s the way to go. Mirror Image requires no concentration, but Blur shuts down rogues completely. Up to you.
• Blindness/Deafness – Solid debuffing. With Eldritch Strike coming in two levels, you can attack them and Action Surge to give them disadvantage on the save.
• Levitate – For archers to avoid melee. If you reach lvl14, swap it for Fly.
• Misty Step – For extra mobility.
• See Invisibility – When you need it, you really need it.


Level 3
• Counterspell – This is a great spell, but unfortunately not so much for you. You should be using your reaction often, and full casters should be using level 7 spells at this point (which would require a DC17INT check to counter). But still, it’s nice.
• Dispel Magic – Very similar to the former, but it can end a magical effect that’s already cast. I would choose only one of the two.
Fireball – Oh yeah. Even at level 13, 8d6 is a lot of damage to be spread out (optimally) to a lot of foes. Plus, it’s a classic.
Lightning Bolt – I find this one cooler than Fireball, and also easier to avoid friendly fire. Pick your favorite.
• Glyph of Warding – With this, you can become a trapmaster. Whether that’s useful in your campaign or not, you tell me.
Leomund’s Tiny Hut – I like it, but it’s very BLTOC.
Magic Circle – Think of it as ‘Protection from Evil and Good 2.0’. If you found the first one useful, take this one as well.
Melf’s Minute Meteors – On the turn you cast it, you may be let down by it, but on the next two you will be performing all your attacks AND still damaging them in area. Definitely a damage booster.
Nondetection – Why?
Protection from Energy – This was meant to be ‘Absorb Elements 2.0’, but it requires concentration, uses an action and protects against only one kind of energy. Unless you know what you’re going to face, pass.
Remove Curse – Pretty sure the cleric can prepare this when needed.
Sending – Kinda situational, kinda cool, kinda BLTOC.
• Wall of Sand – An efficient way to shut down archers and slow the enemy down when escaping (in spaces smaller than 30 feet).
• Wall of Water – Use this to stall archers and to protect your group from flamy creatures (you don’t care about them, you absorb the fire and give it back as damage).


Level 14 spell – Suggestions
• Haste: An extra attack and +2AC is hard to turn down. If you didn’t go for my Magic Initiate strategy (covered on feats), take it.
• Flame Arrows – Archers may find it nice. Would be better if the casting time were a bonus action.
• Fly – Archers will profit from it. If you already know Levitate, swap that for this instead.
• Slow – If you prefer some debuffing instead of buffing yourself. Especially useful with Eldritch Strike (attack many foes, use this and watch them cry on the save).


Level 4 (most of us won’t get this far, but still…)
• Banishment – A good spell, but I would leave it to other casters. Oh wait, they’ve had this for 12 levels now? OK.
Fire Shield – The fact that this doesn’t require concentration makes it all worthwhile.
Ice Storm – A bit less damage than Fireball with more battlefield control.
Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum – What?
Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere – The ultimate panic button. Or, the ultimate panic prison.
Storm Sphere – So, difficult terrain where chumps take damage along with bonus action lightning attacks? Bring it on!
• Vitriolic Sphere – Good range on this one, but the damage is obsolete by now, I guess.
• Wall of Fire – Damage and battlefield control paired together. Feel free.


Level 20 spell – suggestions
Mobility? Dimension Door. Dodging/advantage on attacks? Greater Invisibility. Control? Evard’s. Why am I telling you this? If you’re a level 20 character, do whatever you like!
 
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LightningArrow

First Post
MULTICLASSING
Two things are worth noting: first, there is nothing wrong with going pure EK, mainly because you will get four attacks, more ASIs than anyone and extra Action Surge. Second, I would suggest taking at least 12 EK levels to build one, since three attacks and extra ASIs speak volume. That being said...


Barbarian: Not casting spells while in a rage? Forget it.


Bard: You don't have the CHA for it. Go Wizard instead.


• Cleric: If you happen to have 13 WIS, a few War Cleric levels gets you nice offensive features, along with good spells and extra spell slots.


Druid: What? The spells aren't bad, but... nothing's very good either.


Monk: Nothing of value to you going on here.


Paladin: CHA and STR required. The only good thing I can see going on for it is Divine Smite.


• Ranger: For archer builds who can bother with a 13 WIS, this will give you another fighting style, spell slots that progress at every two levels and some more DPR. No more than 4 levels.


Rogue: Viable for DEX builds not only for Sneak Attack, but also due to their extra defensive abilities. It's worth noting that by going Arcane Trickster, you can get spell slots as if you were taking one-third of your level in the wizard class.


• Sorcerer: With Quickened Spell/Twinned Spell and Action Surge, you can completely destroy the action economy of the game, but that would require boosting CHA and forget INT. Up to you.


Warlock: More CHA, this time without much use to anything.


Wizard: Extra slots and extra spell selection based on any school are good enough by themselves, and the school features make it better. If you're not an elf you should choose between the schools of divination and evocation, but if you are...
Bladesinger: Gents, throw your shields away. You're now adding INT to your AC. Oh yeah! The bonus on speed and concentration is also aces. Don't take more than five levels, though, since Extra Attack goes to waste.


GENERAL STRATEGY


- Armor class: As you’ve noticed, EKs are the best defensive Fighters out there. I have mentioned the use of two-handed weapons, but they really shine with a shield in hand. Here’s how AC can work for a STR build (DEX builds should be one point behind with max DEX):
Full plate + shield: 20
Full plate + shield + Defense fighting style: 21
Full plate + shield + Defense fighting style + Shield (spell): 26
Full plate + shield + Defense fighting style + Shield (spell) + Shield of Faith (obtained through Magic Initiate): 28


I'm not aware of any other build with this much AC.


If you have Blur instead of Shield of Faith, it makes them attack you with disadvantage. If you have Mirror Image, they have to gamble to hit you and not one of your three copies. Both spells are available at level 8, or maybe even earlier if you multiclass with Wizard.


- Damage: In some high-level fights you will prefer to concentrate on damaging spells rather than defensive ones. The best of those will be the ones that use your bonus action to deal damage (such as Melf’s Minute Meteors and Storm Sphere).


- Diversification: As you might have noticed, 90% of your saves target DEX, and you need to add diversity to that. Shatter is a good start, since it targets CON. When possible, also grab one that requires a WIS save (good example below). That way, you won’t be extremely pigeonholed. The same goes for energy types, too.


- Hold Person + Eldritch Strike + Action Surge: On the first round, attack a humanoid in any fashion you like. On the second one, cast Hold Person (they will save with disadvantage). On that same round, Action Surge to perform your regular attack routine, except this time with advantage… and critting on every hit. Who needs a Champion?


- Teamwork: Your job is very simple, kill all enemies without getting killed, and if possible protect your comrades. Really, that’s it.
EKs enjoy being buffed. A lot. Some of the things they enjoy are Bless, Warding Bond (if the cleric is not taking damage too), Haste, Greater Invisibility and of course, Bardic Inspiration.
It’s also important to note that they require less healing than the average combatant, simply because they take less damage. For this same reason, healing spells are more valuable on them than say, a Ranger or a Paladin. Whenever possible, show love to your EK neighbor, and they shall reward you.


SAMPLE BUILDS


Tank
Variant Human EK20
ST16, DX8, CO16, IN15, WI10, CH8 (racial stats on ST and CO)
Starting feat: Magic Initiate (for Shield of Faith; if starting close to level 14, take Resilient [WI] and grab Haste instead)
ASI's (4): ST+4, CO+2, IN+1 WI+1
Feats (3): Resilient (WI), War Caster, Alert/Mage Slayer (if starting close to level 14, pick both)
Spells: C - booming blade, green flame blade, frostbite; 1 - shield, absorb elements, mage armor; 2 - shatter, mirror image, hold person; 3 - lightning bolt, haste, melf's minute meteors; 4 - fire shield, ice storm, greater invisibility


Defense fighting style, full plate ASAP and shield. I'd go for a Warhammer. Mad AC. Alert makes up for the bad DX. Spells to deal with hundreds of situations. Simple and fun.


Arcane Archer
Eladrin EK12/Diviner Wizard 8
ST8, DX17, CO14, IN16, WI10, CH8
ASI's (3): DX+2, IN+2, CO+2
Feats (3): Sharpshooter, Resilient (DX), Lucky/Mobile
EK spells: C - ray of frost, shocking grasp, thunderclap; 1 - absorb elements, shield, mage armor, expeditious retreat, protection from evil and good; 2 - hold person, gust of wind
Wizard spells: C - light, message, mage hand, frostbite; 1 - detect magic, tasha's hideous laughter; 2 - blindness/deafness, darkvision, magic weapon, mirror image, see invisibility; 3 - fly, fireball, haste; 4 - greater invisibility, polymorph


Sharpshooter and five fighter levels ASAP, the rest of the progression is up to you. The wizard school is just a suggestion, but Portent and Lucky save all your bad rolls and almost assure enemies will fail your saves. Arcane Recovery and Expert Divination also help you to recover spell slots, making longer days easier. If you don't care too much about a third feat, go for Wizard 9 and grab 5th-level spells.


Dumb Eldritch Sorcerer
Mountain Dwarf EK11/Wild Magic Sorcerer 9
ST17, DX8, CO17, IN8, WI10, CH14
ASI's (3): ST+2, ST+1 CO+1, CH+2
Feats (2): Resilient (WI), Great Weapon Master/Sentinel
EK spells: C - booming blade, green flame blade; 1 - absorb elements, find familiar, protection from evil and good, shield; 2 - darkness, see invisibility
Sorcerer spells: C - frostbite, fire bolt, light, minor illusion, shocking grasp; 1 - charm person, expeditious retreat; 2 - blindness/deafness, mirror image; 3 - fear, lightning bolt; 4 - banishment, watery sphere; 5 - dominate person, hold monster


For those who plan on dumping INT. Quicken/Heighten Spell and Eldritch Strike go hand in hand, and Action Surge makes you a behemoth (casting a spell and doubling your attacks). Obviously don't take EK spells that require saves or attack rolls. Two-handed weapon recommended to forgo War Caster.


Thank you for your time.
 
Last edited:


Giant2005

First Post
This is quite an amazing guide!
Most people seem to discount the Blur spell, or the strength of having incredible defense at all really. It is good to see someone acknowledge the true strength of the EK.
 

LightningArrow

First Post

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Hello

I had assumed that the EK (and Arcane Trickster) didn't get cantrips since the "half casters" (rangers, paladin) didn't, but I see that it's not the case! I am not sure if that compensates for not having access to higher level spells, but it sure is nice.

I do have a question though. MAD? BLOTC?
 

LightningArrow

First Post
MAD is multiple stat dependence, when a given character has to invest in too many attributes to be effective.
BLTOC means 'Better left to other casters', in other words, people who have more spells than you.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Thanks.

Good guide, I like it. I suspected that the EK could pull his own if well designed. That being said, a question:

If I play a very "vanilla" 5e (no feats, no multiclassing, core books only) is the EK still viable?
 

LightningArrow

First Post
Thanks.

Good guide, I like it. I suspected that the EK could pull his own if well designed. That being said, a question:

If I play a very "vanilla" 5e (no feats, no multiclassing, core books only) is the EK still viable?

For a shielded EK, the main things you'd be missing are Absorb Elements (from Elemental Evil, to avoid area), War Caster and Resilient (Wisdom). It's doable, but losing a lot of potential.

Still, I don't know why any DM would ban feats, or even multiclassing for that matter.
 

Prism

Explorer
I don't rate War Caster for an eldritch knight.

Firstly, fighters get a pretty decent con saving throw anyway so the advantage on concentration checks is not really needed. Secondly it doesn't remove the requirement for material components and so you still need to sheath your weapon if you are using a shield. This probably effects about 50% of the spells, especially the evocations. A two weapon fighting sword and staff combo might work if you rule that a staff (component) is the same as a quarterstaff (weapon). The spell on opportunity attacks is nice but I find it doesn't come up that often.

Except for the fact that you can't make decent opportunity attacks sheathing your weapon to cast a spell isn't to bad. However I still think two handed weapons are the way to go since these allow easy combat and casting
 


feartheminotaur

First Post
I'd second the two-handed weapon suggestion (unless your house rules allow casting with your shield hand) and recommend making the ubiquitous Great Weapon Master as higher than black. On a fighter with multiple attacks it's great; on an EK who can get advantage via magic or auto-crit via Hold Person, it's awesome.

Nice guide.
 

famousringo

First Post
This guide really undersells War Magic with the new melee cantrips.

At 7-10, you're basically getting both of your normal attacks, plus add the effects of the cantrip (at least 1d8 damage, plus boom or cleave damage).

At 11-15, you trade one attack (avg ~13 damage for great weapon style) to get 2d8 (average 9 damage plus cleave or boom effect). A worthy trade in almost all situations, IMO.

16-19 trade one attack for 3d8 (13.5 avg) + bonus effects. Simply a no-brainer.

Only at level 20 does four attacks definitively pull ahead of War Magic, but only really for a single target whose movement you don't want to control.

War Magic also has crazy synergy with Sorcerer and Warlock multiclass, which is very viable because EKs can easily dump Int and grab buff spells to focus on Cha as an attack stat.

A level 11 dex fighter gets 3 bow attacks for 1d8 + Dex, while an EK/warlock multiclass gets 3 attacks for 1d10 + Cha plus 1 bow attack for 1d8 + Dex, each with 1d6 bonus damage if Hex is up. It's probably the most dangerous ranged attacker short of Swift Quiver plus Sharpshooter, and it doesn't cost any feats or high level spell slots.

An EK/Sorcerer multiclass can twin Booming Blade + War Magic to get just as many attacks as a straight fighter, but with a bonus 4d8 damage plus boom effects. Requires two adjacent foes, but it does great damage and controls two foes!

I'd also quibble with some of your spell recommendations too, but I think I've done enough damage for one post. ;)
 

Giant2005

First Post
If I play a very "vanilla" 5e (no feats, no multiclassing, core books only) is the EK still viable?

That is when the EK is the most viable. You can get all of the EK's defensive tools by multiclassing or taking feats, but being an EK is the only way to have them all in a vanilla game.
 

It's worth bringing up that you can simply drop your weapon, cast you spell, and then pick your weapon back up again as your free item interaction. The only time you'd need to worry about it is if you are in a bad situation to be dropping your weapon (like hanging on a ledge, etc). But for an eldritch knight...you can summon it back again.

So there is almost no downside for using a shield, and you don't need the War Caster feat.

(...says the guy who plays a Strength-based half-elf eldritch knight with high Charisma in medium armor using a longsword and no shield for the cool factor.)
 

LightningArrow

First Post
This guide really undersells War Magic with the new melee cantrips.

At 7-10, you're basically getting both of your normal attacks, plus add the effects of the cantrip (at least 1d8 damage, plus boom or cleave damage).

At 11-15, you trade one attack (avg ~13 damage for great weapon style) to get 2d8 (average 9 damage plus cleave or boom effect). A worthy trade in almost all situations, IMO.

16-19 trade one attack for 3d8 (13.5 avg) + bonus effects. Simply a no-brainer.

Only at level 20 does four attacks definitively pull ahead of War Magic, but only really for a single target whose movement you don't want to control.

War Magic also has crazy synergy with Sorcerer and Warlock multiclass, which is very viable because EKs can easily dump Int and grab buff spells to focus on Cha as an attack stat.

A level 11 dex fighter gets 3 bow attacks for 1d8 + Dex, while an EK/warlock multiclass gets 3 attacks for 1d10 + Cha plus 1 bow attack for 1d8 + Dex, each with 1d6 bonus damage if Hex is up. It's probably the most dangerous ranged attacker short of Swift Quiver plus Sharpshooter, and it doesn't cost any feats or high level spell slots.

An EK/Sorcerer multiclass can twin Booming Blade + War Magic to get just as many attacks as a straight fighter, but with a bonus 4d8 damage plus boom effects. Requires two adjacent foes, but it does great damage and controls two foes!

I'd also quibble with some of your spell recommendations too, but I think I've done enough damage for one post. ;)

The attack cantrips become gold when their specific situations arise (defending/hitting two foes), otherwise they're blue. At 7-10, using them is very good. At 11-16, trading 2d8 for 1d8 or higher + STR/DEX is kind of an even trade, but an extra attack means another chance to hit, too (another foe or the same). From level 17 to 19 it really is better to use them. All of this assuming the EK is taking his two cantrips on melee cantrips (which would reduce melee-ranged versatility) and also using up their bonus action every turn.

There's plenty of debate whether Agonizing Blast would work on multiple beams. Since the Evoker can't apply his INT to every magic missile dart they fire, I would definitely rule that out.

Good call on the Twinning.
 

LightningArrow

First Post
It's worth bringing up that you can simply drop your weapon, cast you spell, and then pick your weapon back up again as your free item interaction. The only time you'd need to worry about it is if you are in a bad situation to be dropping your weapon (like hanging on a ledge, etc). But for an eldritch knight...you can summon it back again.

So there is almost no downside for using a shield, and you don't need the War Caster feat.

(...says the guy who plays a Strength-based half-elf eldritch knight with high Charisma in medium armor using a longsword and no shield for the cool factor.)

You're right, but the feat helps with material components: since you can use the same hand for them as the one for somatic components and the feat removes the necessity for a hand, I'm assuming you can hold the component pouch with your shield.

Also, cool >>>>>>>> optimized.
 

EzekielRaiden

Adventurer
The guide seems solid to me. My biggest problem is the name--my Latin training makes me twitch at the conflicting declensions. :p

("Bellator" is nominative masculine singular, "arcana" is either nominative feminine singular, or nominative neuter plural. The "proper" title would be Bellator Arcanus, or possibly Bellatores Arcani.)
 

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