5E [GUIDE] So art lies hid by its own artifice - an artificer guide

"So art lies hid by its own artifice" - an artificer guide

We have recently had the new artificer version released as Unearthed Arcana for 5th edition. This is the closest we've had to a finished class for the artificer, and so I thought it time for a guide! If/when the current version is updated further, for inclusion in the Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron (WGtE), I will update this guide accordingly.

This is still currently a WIP; comments, corrections and suggestions are all welcomed.

1. Attributes
2. Class features
3. Race options
4. Proficiencies & backgrounds
5. Specialisms
6. Spells
7. Infusions

Colour code

Goldenrod = amazing, almost compulsory.
Turquoise = grade A, often an optimal choice.
Blue = grade B, a solid option.
Black = grade C, a pass mark, but not great.
Purple = situational, usually sub-optimal but can occasionally shine.
Red = probably a poor choice, weaker or less synergistic than other options.

NOTE: in the end this is an RPG, and the most fun is had by playing cool ideas and trying things out. The ratings I give are my subjective opinions on the efficacy, primarily in mechanical terms, of different options. The colours allow an 'at-a-glance' view. Please do not let them stop you playing your planned character idea. This is particularly so in 5e, where no matter which options you pick you are unlikely to find the end result unplayable. You do you.

1. Attributes
Strength: unless you find yourself the front-line fighter of an unorthodox party, you don't need much here. It's perfectly possible to make an artificer with strength as a primary attack stat, but dexterity has a lot more going for it.

Dexterity: for most artificers, this is your primary stat, not intelligence. Intelligence is to most artificers as charisma is to paladins - extremely important, but it's not your primary attack stat. Dexterity also assists with things like Thieves Tools and a host of useful skills. For a Battle Smith it is still great but not primary.

Constitution: we all like hit points.

Intelligence: your spellcasting stat, while also affecting your specialism abilities - you want a reasonable score here. For the Battle Smith, and for some builds of the Archivist or Artillerist, this is the primary stat.

Wisdom: a useful skill stat, with the ubiquitous Perception, as well as being a common save to make.

Charisma: much like Wisdom, except there are probably much better people to be the party face. This might change if you're playing a dragonmarked character in Eberron - you'll garner attention so it's useful to be able to do some of the talking!

2. Class features
Magical Tinkering
: this is effectively extra cantrip effects, but the indefinite duration is worth noting.

Spellcasting: it's good to see the artificer back as a half-caster. You have a delightfully characterful method for preparing new spells (modifying your spell focuses) and some great spells, but remember that you have very limited spell slots so make them count! One point you might not notice on first reading is that the artificer can swap out cantrips as they level up. Your GM might allow you to do this already, but RAW other casters cannot.

A note on Arcane Weapon
I'll go through the spell list as a whole in due course, but it's worth mentioning the new spell here. Arcane weapon is the hunter's mark or hex for the artificer. It's a great damage boost which efficiently makes use of a single spell slot for a whole encounter. It's particularly good in combination with your 5th-level extra attack feature.

Infuse item: what would an artificer be without creating magic items? Again I'll go through the individual infusions later on.

Artificer Specialist: we originally only had two specialisms, the Alchemist and the Artillerist. The Archivist and Battle Smith have been added to those, and the four give a good set of choices.

Tool Expertise: good old expertise. Tools are typically narrower in application than skills, but you have quite a few tool proficiencies to apply it to. Disarming traps will probably be the most frequent use.

Arcane Armament
: this, along with arcane weapon, is why the artificer is really a Dex-primary rather than Int-primary class. You'll probably be using a crossbow as your primary weapon until now, but the loading property is a problem here. The Crossbow Expert feat can fix this – as can Repeating Shot, now it's been added as an infusion – otherwise obtaining proficiency with longbows is a good idea. Barring that, you may have to downgrade to a shortbow to get that extra attack at range.

The Right Cantrip for the Job: a neat bit of flexibility here.

Spell-Storing Item: an interesting variant on the wizard's Spell Mastery. Note that the item can be used by anyone and uses your spellcasting modifier, so hand it to that 1st-level NPC and save the party's actions for greater things.

Soul of Artifice: I'm not usually that interested in capstone abilities, as you're so rarely at the level to be using them, but this is nice enough!

3. Race options

PHB - core
Hill Dwarf: not that great. Neither Dex nor Int, though the base Con bonus isn't bad for any class. Darkvision is always good. In Eberron you'd much prefer a dragonmarked dwarf however.
Mountain Dwarf: Worse than hill dwarf, most of the time. Unless you're building a strength-based artificer, leave this alone. The armour training is wasted either way, as you get those proficiencies as part of the class.
High Elf: not bad at all! One of the best races stat-wise. Longbow proficiency is great come level 5, as is shortsword for your melee finesse weapon. Add darkvision, keen senses, trance, and you can't go wrong.
Wood Elf: not quite as perfect as high elf, and a bit of an odd one flavour-wise. But if it's what you envisage for your character, the base elf stats are solid enough to make it work.
Dark Elf: rapier proficiency is great, but compared to the other elves, it's just not worth the sunlight sensitivity. Better in an underdark/Ravenloft campaign.
Lightfoot Halfling: both halfling subraces are appropriate, with a Dex boost and Lucky. Remember that the small size rules out heavy crossbows.
​Stout Halfling: Con is better than Cha, but generally much the same.
Human: a uniform stat boost is uninteresting, but obviously workable.
Variant Human: if you want a feat, then this is the place to go. Artificers aren't feat-dependant, but there are lots of nice options. Crossbow Expert becomes worthy from level 5, and while it would be an underwhelming start it allows an ASI at level 4.

PHB - alternate
Dragonborn: not the typical artificer, with boosts to Str and Cha. The breath weapon is a nice feature but there is little else going for the race mechanically.
Forest Gnome: weirdly the better gnome subclass, given the Dex boost.
Rock Gnome: they're both good though.
Half-Elf: you're better off fully elf or fully human, Cha isn't your thing. But you do at least get darkvision, and can pick +1/+1 to Dex and Int.
Half-Orc: much like mountain dwarf, unless you're building a strength-based character this isn't much help. At least there's no wasted ability alongside the strength boost.
Tiefling: Int and darkvision, but Cha isn't much use. Not a great choice unless you're the party face.

WGtE - Eberron races
Changeling: +2 Cha isn't a great start for most artificers, but your choice of Dex or Int is a good secondary. The main thing about this race is the Change Appearance ability, which can be of great use, and combined with Divergent Persona is the basis for some excellent character-building.
Kalashtar: similar to the Changeling, this has sub-optimal compulsory stat increases along with an interesting core ability (Mind Link). Choose if you wish.
Shifter: the base class has a Dex boost, darkvision, and the perception skill, all of which are excellent. The subraces are mixed: beasthide or swiftstride shifters are probably the best choices, with neither longtooth or wildhunt being synergistic with your class.
Warforged: some really solid base abilities here. The envoy and skirmisher subraces make excellent artificers in terms of total stats, whereas the strength bonus from the juggernaut is probably not of use to you.

WGtE - dragonmarked race variants
Mostly if selecting one of these race variants you'll have a story-based reason for doing so. But in terms of the stats, some are obviously better than others.
Mark of Detection: much like the original half-elf, as far as the artificer is concerned.
Mark of Finding: not much better than the original half-orc.
Mark of Handling: you have Dex and a stat of your choice, which can be double Dex or Dex/Int, so it can't be that bad - but unless you really like animals, the variant human is probably better.
Mark of Healing: as per the normal halfling; a solid base with an unexceptional addition.
Mark of Hospitality: as above.
Mark of Making: here we go - a premium artificer race for House Cannith, which is known for its artificers. Magecraft becomes a bit redundant come level 10, but before that it's great. Spellsmith is another excellent way to turn on Arcane Armament, or assist another ally.
Mark of Passage: not the archetypal artificer house, but an excellent set of abilities.
Mark of Scribing: these aren't your typical gnomes, and your typical gnomes are better are being an artificer than these are.
Mark of Sentinel: pass.
Mark of Shadow: high elf is much better, but the elf base remains a good starting point. Lack of any bonus weapon proficiency makes it worse than wood elf too, and unless you're the party face it doesn't add anything of substance.
Mark of Storm: given you can get +2 Dex, it's probably the best half-elf subrace for the artificer. Perhaps appropriate, given they would need to maintain their airships when away from the help of Zilargo or House Cannith.
Mark of Warding: this, thankfully, fulfils the spot of the dwarven artificer. I remember thinking this when the WGtE was released, and it holds true with the latest artificer incarnation.

Volo's Guide to Monsters

Aasimar: much like dragonborn, the Aasimar have an interesting single-use effect, but do not have the best stat increases for a typical artificer build.
Firbolg: similarly, some interesting features but poor stat increases. As-written, they are also unlikely to be artificers story-wise, but don't let this stop you if you have an appropriate character idea!
Goliath: similar use to the hill dwarf, but without darkvision. At least you can fix that with goggles. If you want to make a strength-based artificer, then it will work.
Kenku: the main decision as to playing a kenku will be whether you're willing to role-play the Mimicry trait. As far as the artificer goes, the +2 Dex is solid.
Lizardfolk: if your campaign is set in the wilderness then Cunning Artisan is a way of getting targets for your infusions at a pinch, I suppose. +2 Con is ok for most classes, and the proficiencies and Natural Armour don't hurt. It's a shame that the bite attack is via strength.
Tabaxi: it's a +2 Dex race with ok, if not astounding features.

Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes
Eladrin: once again, the elf base is great. While not as tailored to the artificer as the high elf, Fey Step is simply a wonderful ability. If the +1 Cha were something more useful I'd rate the race as gold.
Sea Elf: +1 Con is a good addition to the Dex. The weapon proficiencies here are worse than high/wood elves; trident would be an interesting thrown option, but it's not finesse and as an elf you're definitely better at the standard Dex build. Obviously better in a sea-based campaign.
Shadar-Kai: like Fey Step, you have a bonus action teleportation (with a minor bonus at level 3) which is just amazing. +1 Con is better than +1 Cha. The reason this isn't gold? Your teleportation is every long rest, instead of short rest as per the Eladrin.
Duergar: much like the drow, this is better in an underdark/Ravenloft campaign, but the dwarf base is worse than an elf for most artificers.
Githyanki: strength and intelligence is a rare combination, which makes it perfect if you're building a strength-based artificer - and you also get appropriate weapon proficiencies to go with that.
Githzerai: wisdom and intelligence is also a rare combination, but not the best one for you. I'm just about rating it purple because of the Int bonus.
Deep Gnome: unlike the other 'deep' races, deep gnomes do not have Sunlight Sensitivity! The gnome base is excellent, +1 Dex is good and increased darkvision is probably better than the forest gnome bonuses. Amazing in an underdark campaign.

4. Proficiencies & backgrounds

Armour & weapons
Medium armour + shields is enough, you're likely dexterity based anyway. It's a shame that hand crossbows and heavy crossbows are your only martial weapons.

Predictably you get a good set of tool proficiencies. Thieves' tools will be exceptionally useful, and much like a rogue the artificer makes an excellent 'trap-detector' role. Tinker's tools are probably more fluff than use, as is your choice of artisan's tools. Pick your free tool choice carefully with your spellcasting in mind - how do you imagine creating the focuses for your spells?

Proficiency in constitution and intelligence saving throws. Like most classes you get one primary save (Dex, Con, Wis; roughly corresponding to Reflex, Fortitude and Will from previous editions) and one secondary save (Str, Int, Cha). Constitution is amazing as a primary save for a caster, because you'll have a concentration spell up most of the time and keeping it up is very useful.

Class skills
: part and parcel of your role as a magical 'scientist', it's hard to imagine an artificer without this skill.
History: you likely have a good intelligence stat so you're as good as any at this skill, but it's unlikely to be a priority.
Investigation: you have good intelligence and this is a generally useful skill.
Medicine: if you choose spare the dying as a cantrip, then you don't need this. Otherwise it can be useful when magical healing is sparse.
Nature: another intelligence skill, but not one you're likely to prioritise.
Perception: practically gold. This is an extremely useful skill for anyone, but particularly if your job is to sort traps for the party. Your wisdom score is unlikely to be exceptional, so having proficiency really helps.
Sleight of Hand: you have a high dexterity score, so you'll be good at this. Whether you want to be is a matter for you.

Non-class skills
Athletics: you generally want this or acrobatics if you can. Since you're likely to be primary in dexterity, choose the other one.
Acrobatics: as athletics, but this time tied to your attack stat. Escape grapples with ease.
Stealth: a dexterity-based skill which is useful to have across the party.
Religion: much like history and nature, you'll be good at this, but you don't have many skill choices so probably have better things to pick.
Animal handling: leave it to the ranger - only one person in the party really needs this.
Insight: a useful skill to have on multiple characters, it's the social version of perception. How useful this is in practice depends somewhat on how your GM deals with social encounters.
Survival: see animal handling.
Deception: probably the most useful social skill for someone who isn't focussing on them, because if someone is caught out in a lie then the whole group might be. Still, there are better options for you.
Intimidation: having this or persuasion can't hurt, but you're not the best party face.
Performance: charisma is likely a low stat for you, and it is not an essential skill.
Persuasion: a mirror to intimidation.

DISCLAIMER: I personally believe that backgrounds should be selected primarily based on how you imagine your character's history, not on which option is most mechanically effective. Furthermore, the vast majority of GMs will let you modify a background or create a completely new one to fit your character idea. Be creative!

For this reason I'm putting background ratings under a spoiler. Feel free to ignore.

[sblock]PHB backgrounds
Acolyte: extra languages aren't bad (potentially excellent, depending on your campaign), but the skill choices are definitely suboptimal.
Charlatan: you end up with a wide spread of tool proficiencies, probably more than you need. The skills are ok but not exceptional.
Criminal: thieves' tools duplicates with artificer, which makes it a 'wildcard' tool proficiency. Quite which tool set you want proficiency in over and above the artificer choices is unclear... this ends up being very similar to charlatan for you. The feature can be exceptional or a waste depending on how your GM plays it.
Entertainer: acrobatics is a great skill which you can't get through your class (or any other printed background so far, save through a wildcard duplication), but performance and a musical instrument are unlikely to be paired with a good enough charisma stat for most artificers.
Folk hero: a poor selection of skills and tool proficiencies for you.
Guild artisan: two social skills makes this more appropriate for a party face, and the artisan's tools is duplicative. [NB if you're running an Eberron campaign, there are a number of variants on this for the dragonmarked houses which fit rather better.]
Hermit: similar in utility to the acolyte. The Alchemist gets proficiency in the herbalism kit at level 3, so treat that as a wildcard tool proficiency - which you probably don't need.
Noble: history is a narrow skill but at least you're good at it. Another ok social skill.
Outlander: similar to the folk hero, not a great choice.
Sage: now this is quite appropriate. History again, which isn't amazing, but does suit your stat block. Arcana is a great skill and taking it via background enables you to select a different class skill. Two extra languages can't hurt, though how useful this is will depend on the campaign.
Sailor: perception is amazing, but athletics is sub-par unless you've created an odd strength build.
Soldier: another outlander in effect.
Urchin: two dexterity skills, but two tools is probably unnecessary, even including the wildcard.

WGtE background
House agent: slightly better than the guild artisan as investigation is good for you, but two tool sets is even more duplicative. You might speak to your DM about swapping the skills depending on which House you are part of.

SCAG backgrounds
City watch: similar to the soldier, though two languages are probably more useful than tools (campaign depending). Insight may or may not be better then intimidation for you.
Clan crafter: history is Int-based, and insight is ok. Again, a tool proficiency is duplicative.
Cloistered scholar: this is basically the sage is a different cloak. An excellent choice.
Courtier: two social skills, two languages. If you're somehow the party face then great, otherwise not exceptional.
Faction agent: very flexible depending on the faction-specific proficiency. It can be similar to sage again, except insight rather than history.
Far traveller: perception is great, insight is ok, and a language can't hurt. The tool proficiency is mostly flavour.
Inheritor: the compulsory survival isn't great for you, but you can take arcana which is a key skill for you. Sage or scholar is generally better.
Knight of the Order: as per inheritor, but with persuasion instead of survival. Take your pick.
Mercenary veteran: athletics and persuasion? Pass.
Urban bounty hunter: stealth and a social skill, of which insight is likely best. Again the duplicative tool proficiencies; remember that thieves' tools is a wildcard for you.
Uthgardt tribe member: this time it's the outlander in a different cloak. Not that useful.
Waterdhavian noble: and again with the noble. Nothing new here.[/sblock]

5. Specialisms

The Alchemist
Alchemist spells: some useful crowd-control from the 2nd-level spells onwards. Most of your core spells are utility based, to combine with individual magic weapon attacks. Area combat spells such as web and stinking cloud give much-appreciated versatility. Shame the spells gained at level 3 are so uninteresting.

Alchemical Homunculus: it's great to see this increase in HP, unlike the 5e familiar! Ditto proficiency. Commanding the homunculus is an excellent use of your bonus action after having used arcane weapon on the first turn of combat, for a crossbow user. All three Alchemical Salves look useful in different circumstances.

Alchemical Mastery: the free casting of lesser restoration seems the most interesting part to me. You don't have many spell slots, but adding 2x your Int mod to a cure wounds roll is also very nice.

On careful reading, note that this also applies to arcane weapon when you choose acid or poison damage. You use a spellcasting focus for every spell, regardless of whether they require a material component, so you can still use your alchemist's supplies to cast arcane weapon despite it only having verbal and somatic components.

Chemical Savant: again, greater restoration is pretty cool, but otherwise this is mostly fluff at this level.

The Archivist
Archivist Spells: comprehend languages may be niche but at least it is a ritual. The list is generally a mixture of situational utility spells and a couple of knock-out combat options (dissonant whispers, hypnotic pattern).

Artificial Mind: creating your own mini sentient weapon or other item seems like a great RP opportunity! The flexibility in skill proficiency provided here is simply excellent. It is not just two extra skills, but two extra skills that can be exchanged every long rest. Manifest Mind is slightly stranger RP-wise, but continues the bonus-action pet theme amongst these archetypes. Information Overload is effectively an attack cantrip substitute, but unless you are primary-Int or you need to enable a rogue's sneak attack, attacking with an Arcane Weapon is probably better. The smite-esque ability can be useful, but much like the Paladin you don't have all that many spell slots at this point – something which changes come level 5.

Mind Network: the bonus to psychic damage is nice, in particular turning your Mind's Information Overload into an excellent cantrip-substitute.

Pure Information: Mind Overload makes using spell slots to 'smite' a lot more interesting, and by this level you have enough slots to burn some at least. Teleportation is always nice.

The Artillerist

Artillerist Spells: damage-dealing spells abound (plus the excellent shield), but with so few spell slots it's the fact that so many are area-effect spells (or walls) that makes these so good. A great complement to the spells already on your list.

Arcane Turret
: an artificer creating a turret makes sense, but 'summoning' it with an action just seems... odd. Mechanically it's a more offensive version of the homunculus, giving you an excellent way to use your bonus action in combat but without the out-of-combat utility. I may have undervalued this due to flavour - so shoot me (with a turret).

Wand Prototype: if you want to create a primary-Int artificer, this is your substitute for Arcane Armament. It also gives you some additional flexibility prior to level 10. This can be great, but I'm marking it purple as it's situational and/or build-dependant.

Fortified position: I still find the magically-summoned turrets a bit weird, but this is undeniably a powerful effect.

The Battle Smith
Battle Smith Spells: lots of concentration required unfortunately. I find this the least inspiring of the spell lists, but it is still extra spells.

Battle Ready: this is what makes you an extremely solid primary-Int character. Apply Arcane Weapon to a martial weapon and enjoy.

Iron Defender: and here is the pet, but a traditional one this time! Very happy to see the Iron Defender return. The combination of bonus action attacks and Defensive Pounce is very solid.

Arcane Jolt: the healing option on this makes your Defender's attack useful in more situations, acting a bit like a repeatable healing word. Note that it applies to your own magical attacks too, not just your pet's, which makes this much more consistent and a really strong ability.

​Improved Defender: not particularly game-changing, but any healing/damage buff is useful.
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6. Spells
Ritual spells will be marked with (R), and spells that require concentration with (C). Expensive components are generally noted.

Most of your spells come from the wizard list, though a number are cleric spells. It feels like more class-specific spells would be appreciated, for levels 2–5, much like the paladin gets - hopefully this will be fixed in time. The two specialisms add a number of offensive spell options to an otherwise largely utility-based spell list.

Cantrips (0 Level)
Acid splash: an ok attack for the level 6+ Alchemist, when you no longer have the slot/concentration for arcane weapon. Otherwise, just use a crossbow.
Create bonfire (C): a great spell when used to block a doorway or similar.
Dancing lights (C): concentration is a shame, and you already have a way of creating light, albeit far more limited.
Fire bolt: perfect for the Artillerist's Wand Protoype, but leave it until then unless you're SAD with Int.
Frostbite: disadvantage is a great effect to add to a cantrip. On the negative side, Con save isn't the best as many enemies will have a high Con, and the damage is low.
Guidance (C): there's a reason this is a staple for clerics.
Light: you have a much smaller, permanent version as part of your Magical Tinkering, so it's unlikely to be worth the cantrip choice.
Mage hand: shame you can't get the Arcane Trickster's version. Still useful.
Magic stone: not that great for yourself, but if you have a weak tag-along ally this is a solid enabler.
Mending: extra utility for you given the homunculus/turrets, and obviously thematic. A solid option. Remember that it has a 1min casting time, so it's not an in-combat heal.
Message: the pointing requirement (i.e., needing to know the direction of your target) can be slightly frustrating.
Poison spray: boosted by Alchemical Mastery, but why get that close in the first place?
Prestidigitation: much like light, some effects are covered by Magical Tinkering. Pass.
Ray of frost: an alternative to fire bolt, but usually worse.
Resistance (C): concentration and a short duration hinder an otherwise useful effect. Unlike guidance, the need for saving throws is less predictable and less likely to occur out of combat.
Shocking grasp: you don't tend to need to escape combat in the same way a wizard would, but another party member might.
Spare the dying: for when you don't trust your medicine skill.
Thorn whip: controlling movement is an interesting option for a cantrip, albeit towards you is the least useful direction normally.
Thunderclap: area effect cantrips are rare but 5ft isn't far, Con save isn't ideal, and it's anything but stealthy!

1st Level
Absorb elements: shield but for elemental attacks. You won't get much use of this at level 1, but later on this is a great spell to have.
Alarm (R): rituals are at a premium, given your small number of spell slots. Only one person in the party needs this, but if you don't have a wizard then it might as well be you.
Arcane weapon (C): a beautiful, thematic and synergistic spell. Take it.
Catapult: better than it seems. Note that it only stops if it hits the target, so if you can get multiple enemies in a line you have extra opportunities to strike. If you're wanting direct damage, this is a very solid option. Be creative with the items you catapult too. Grappling hook? Jar full of caltrops? Talk to your GM about flinging flasks of acid as well.
Cure wounds: you don't have enough spell slots to be a primary healer, but depending on the party line-up this might be an ok backup spell. It gets better for level 6+ Alchemists.
Detect magic (R, C): again a ritual spell, and an extremely useful one at that. The concentration requirement isn't really an issue, given the spell's use.
Disguise self: very situational, but great when it works. Prepare it when necessary.
Expeditious retreat (C): you have enough things that require your bonus action already, and given you'll likely be attacking from range (via an arcane weapon crossbow), you probably don't need this. Needing concentration is another negative.
False life: perhaps use it at level 1? Even then I'd prefer other options.
Grease: great fun when you get an appropriate terrain situation.
Identify (R, 100gp pearl): another ritual spell, but you probably will not have space on your 'default' spell list for it - you can switch-in Identify after finding magic items. Its usefulness will depend on how your DM provides magic item information.
Jump: if you have an otherwise impassable chasm, then go for it. Otherwise pass.
Longstrider: similarly not that great.
Sanctuary: requires a bonus action, and a target that's happy not attacking. Bard, Cleric or squishy NPC might want this.
Shield of faith (C): much like the cleric prefers bless, you'd prefer to use your concentration on arcane weapon.
Snare: in my experience adventuring parties move around too much to make use of this often.

2nd Level
Aid: concentration-free and stacks with your homunculus (it's an increase to HP, not temporary HP).
Alter self (C): you have better ways of getting a magic weapon... Aquatic Adaptation will, very infrequently, be useful.
Arcane lock (25gp gold dust consumed): a very thematic spell. I would rate this higher because it's permanent and can be used to great effect, but realistically you're not going to have it prepared every day.
Blur (C): the concentration kills this, otherwise it would be an ok defensive spell.
Continual flame (50gp ruby dust consumed): another permanent spell, but expensive for an effect which is not that impressive.
Darkvision: thankfully this is not concentration and lasts a while. Darkvision is an excellent ability, but you don't have many 2nd level spells and there are better ways to solve darkness.
enhance ability enlarge/reduce
Heat metal (C): another thematic spell. Disadvantage without a save for those in metal armour.
Invisibility (C): amazing in certain circumstances, particularly scouting.
Lesser restoration: great when you need it, but prepare it to order.
Levitate (C): an interesting variation on hold person against enemies without ranged attacks? It's mainly a situational utility spell.
Magic mouth (R, 10gp jade dust and honeycomb consumed): Magical Tinkering combined with graffiti saying "TAP THIS" gives you a budget version without preparing a spell or spending jade.
Magic weapon (C): you have much better ways of doing this.
Protection from poison: situationally useful.
Pyrotechnics: this spell has some great, if situational uses. Needing a fire there already is what prohibits this from being amazing. Create bonfire can get around this, albeit using a second action.
Rope trick: a guaranteed short rest if you need it. Depending on campaign and party composition this might be great, but generally your spell slots are too hard to come by.
See invisibility: extremely useful for specific enemies later on.
Skywrite (R): a ritual, but a very situational one.
Spider climb (C): much like alter self, it may occasionally come in handy.

3rd Level
Blink: a cool spell, and a no-concentration defensive buff. The only issue with blinking onto the ethereal plane is that your enemies can just attack someone else in the party. Shame you didn't get mirror image at level 2.
Catnap: campaign-dependant. If your GM is flexible with short rests, then this may be of no use at all.
Dispel magic: not as frequently useful as counterspell, but still great.
Elemental weapon (C): quite simply not worth the level 3 slot when you can case arcane weapon at level 1. This just demonstrates once again how good arcane weapon is.
Flame arrows (C): a thematic addition to the artificer spell list, but much like elemental weapon this is not worth your concentration. Stick to arcane weapon at two levels below. If you have two archers in the party and your GM allows two people to draw from the same quiver, it might be more interesting.
Fly (C): the ability to fly is great, but by the time you get 3rd level spells this might not be so impressive. What can be encounter-breaking at level 5 (i.e. for a full caster) probably isn't at level 9.
Gaseous form: if you're stuck in jail but still have a spellcasting focus on you, then great. Generally fly does the job better.
Glyph of warding (200gp powdered diamond consumed): another permanent spell. Expensive but effective. Prepare when necessary.
Haste (C): only good if you have a good target.
Protection from energy (C): shame it requires concentration.
Revivify (300gp diamonds consumed): if you have enough spell choices to keep this prepared then great. Better left to the cleric if you have one.
Tiny servant: no concentration and a long duration, but do you really need a second pet? Probably not worth it by this level.
Water breathing (R): very situational, but encounter-breaking when you need it.
Water walk (R): as above.

4th Level
Arcane eye (C): if only it could open doors (the gaps probably aren't 1" wide), it would be amazing. It still gives a unique scouting effect.
Elemental bane (C): extremely situational. Very powerful if your party is dependant on an elemental type and come across a creature resistant to it, but your party should probably diversify its attacks.
Fabricate: you'll likely have the tool proficiencies to create a variety of things with this spell. Note the long casting time, despite it not being a ritual.
Freedom of movement: I'm unsure how to rate this. It's very situational, but can be amazing when required.
Leomund’s secret chest (5,000+50gp chests): if you have the ridiculously expensive material component then sure, but there are better uses for 5,000gp.
Mordenkainen’s faithful hound: an interesting spell, but 5ft range isn't great and unfortunately it can't move. I would be much better were it a ritual.
Mordenkainen’s private sanctum: you don't get Leomund's Tiny Hut at 3rd level for some reason, so this will do.
Otiluke’s resilient sphere (C): 4th level feels too high for this effect.
Stone shape: somewhat situational, but in multiple ways. Note the permanent duration!
Stoneskin (C, 100gp diamond dust consumed): a useful effect, but not worth the cost and concentration in my opinion.
Vitriolic sphere: most artificers have little access to area damage spells, so if your party as a whole is light on them this might be a fair pick.

5th Level
Animate objects (C): you will want to carry a bag of 10 tiny objects for this spell.
Bigby’s hand (C): a powerful use of bonus actions when you get to this level, if you don't mind using up your concentration on it. Animate objects is better if you just want damage.
Creation: well, it's certainly on-theme.
Greater restoration (100gp diamond dust consumed): great when you need it, but prepare it to order.
Skill empowerment (C): need to persuade your way through the court in a way that suggestion and their ilk cannot fix? Well, a 5th level spell is still a high cost for this effect.
Transmute rock: the flexibility of this spell is interesting, and will depend slightly on how expansive your GM's definition of 'rock' is, re buildings.
Wall of stone: I'd prefer wall of force, but all wall spells have potential.
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7. Infusions
A variety of magical items can be made, though the 4th and 8th levels are looking rather sparse at the moment!

Most items are extremely campaign-specific in terms of their usefulness. Significant variables include the make-up of your party, the challenges you regularly face, and the magic items you acquire naturally. For this reason, the ratings in this section are extremely subjective.

No pre-requisite
Enhanced Defense: an extremely solid option, if uninteresting.
Enhanced Wand: as above, although finding someone who will be using spell-attack rolls is less common. If you have a caster blasting with scorching ray, then this .
Enhanced Weapon: as above, but ever so slightly more useful than AC or the wand as it likely gives someone a magic attack who wouldn't have it otherwise.
Repeating Shot: a strictly better Enhanced Weapon until level 12 if you're using a crossbow. A solid option.
Replicate Magic Item (NB none of these require attunement):
  • Alchemy jug: mostly a ribbon ability.
  • Bag of holding: these are normally easily obtainable for parties in game, but if not then sure.
  • Cap of water breathing: useful, but normally the cloak is better.
  • Cloak of the manta ray: in most circumstances this is simply better than the cap.
  • Goggles of night: particularly important for those without darkvision.
  • Lantern of revealing: you have see invisibility on your spell list, and can exchange spells on a long rest rather than just on level up. Obviously this works for the whole party, so is better, but it's probably not worth the infusion slot.
  • Rope of climbing: the fly option for the Alchemist's homunculus will create most of this effect with a normal rope, without using up an infusion slot.
  • Sending stones: a nice piece of utility, particularly if your campaign moves around a lot.
  • Wand of magic detection: this is quite useful. You have detect magic as a ritual spell, but sometimes you really want to check an area quickly.
  • Wand of secrets: the range is a bit too small with only 3 charges to cover most dungeons.
Returning weapon: a nice variant for thrown weapons. Probably best to give to your strength-based companions who have few other ranged options.

4th level infusions
Boots of the Winding Path (requires attunement): far less useful than it could be due to the destination restriction, but teleportation is teleportation. It allows you to hit and run whilst avoiding opportunity attacks should you wish to do so.
Many-Handed Pouch: this is interesting. It allows party-wide access to small items. A good place for healing potions if you only have a couple, for example. Note that RAW, you can be as far away as you like from each other if the pouches are travelling in pairs.

8th level infusions
Radiant Weapon: a nice little upgrade on Enhanced Weapon until level 12, or a way of infusing two magic weapons at once.
Repulsion Shield: a similar upgrade on Enhanced Defence until level 12, if you're using a shield. A 15ft push can be particularly interesting in certain combat scenarios (rooftop fights anyone...?).
Resistant Armour: if you're spending a lot of time fighting predictable foes, then this may be quite good, but otherwise it's too narrow.

12th level infusions
Replicate Magic Item (all require attunement unless marked "NA"):

  • Boots of elvenkind (NA): useful for scouting. In of itself sight is a bigger issue than sound, but you probably have access to invisibility by now, so this is an ok counterpoint.
  • Boots of striding and springing: by 12th level you want access to flight, not extra jumping.
  • Boots of the winterlands: aside from resistance to cold damage, these effects are only really useful if you can provide them to the whole party. As a single item, not that useful.
  • Bracers of archery: a solid item for an archer. Use yourself if a high elf (or resorting to a shortbow); give to another party member otherwise.
  • Brooch of shielding: defence to force damage is hard to come by, but then force damage is quite rare in of itself.
  • Cloak of elvenkind: better than the boots if you don't have easy access to invisibility, otherwise worse.
  • Cloak of protection: you really can't go wrong with this. Boosts to AC and saving throws will be useful your entire career.
  • Eyes of charming: a situational 1st level spell at DC 13 isn't worth it by this point.
  • Eyes of the eagle: you probably don't have the best of Wisdom scores, but someone in your party will. Give this to them.
  • Gauntlets of ogre power: the problem with these stat-changing items is that by level 12 you already have your primary stats up to 18 or 20. Strength isn't always very useful unless it's an attack stat for you (although it does at least give you grapple options), but nevertheless fixing a stat at 19 is change in power can be significant.
  • Gloves of missile snaring: who needs decades of training as a monk, when you can just put on some gloves? You're probably a Dex-based class yourself. These are useful and cool.
  • Gloves of swimming and climbing: useful, but it feels like you should get more at level 12.
  • Gloves of thievery (NA): just get the knock spell somehow... again, useful but not quite enough power.
  • Hat of disguise: disguise self can be very useful, but you don't need it that often, and it's on your spell list. Not worth an infusion slot.
  • Headband of intellect: much like the gauntlets of ogre power. Changing a stat to 19 is undeniably powerful, but you may not have need for this effect. Intelligence is limited in use, like strength is.
  • Helm of telepathy: this is a pretty cool item. It's a shame the DC is so low, but you'll get some use out of it just by sending telepathic messages between you and the party.
  • Medallion of thoughts: strictly worse version of the helm of telepathy (save for how visually prominent a helm is by comparison to a medallion).
  • Periapt of wound closure: depends entirely on the amount of healing available to you and your party, but this is probably underwhelming at this level.
  • Pipes of haunting (NA): not bad - if you have the proficiency in wind instruments. Does your bard?
  • Pipes of the sewers: swarms of rats aren't really strong enough to be worth your attention at this point. Unless your campaign will provide a strong diplomatic bonus for you ridding the town of an infestation in a non-violent fashion...
  • Quiver of Ehlonna (NA): this is a cool variant on items of holding, but most builds don't need that many weapons on hand.
  • Ring of jumping: see the boots above. If flight isn't available to you then this gets better.
  • Ring of mind shielding: an excellent item for campaigns where the NPCs intelligently utilise magic like real people would.
  • Ring of water walking (NA): this will certainly look impressive, but it's not an effect you'll use often.
  • Slippers of spider climbing: this is far more interesting than the other jump/climb items, but I would still prefer flight.
  • Winged boots: and here we are. This is just better than many of the other 'movement' items. Be your best Hermes and put on those boots.

16th level infusions
Replicate Magic Item (all require attunement unless marked "NA"):

  • Amulet of health: setting a stat to 19, but constitution is probably a much better stat to do this with, it being helpful to everyone but not a primary stat so probably not 20 through ASIs. That's no doubt the reason why this comes at level 16 instead of level 12. A solid choice to give to the party member with the lowest Con score.
  • Belt of hill giant strength: a strict upgrade to the gauntlets of ogre power.
  • Boots of levitation: if you need to fly at short notice (e.g. in combat) then using an action makes this worse than the winged boots. This is still effectively flight though, with no 4h limit like the boots.
  • Boots of speed: I would choose the winged boots over these, but the effect is ok.
  • Bracers of defence: an excellent item if you have a monk, or similar unarmoured companion. Monks are probably the only such that will be in the front line, hence the 'situational' general rating.
  • Cloak of the bat: this is a fun item. Advantage on stealth checks is an ok bonus for a scout. Polymorph into a bat is the most interesting feature. The non-bat fly speed would be great in places such as the underdark, save the need to use both hands.
  • Dimensional shackles (NA): this is campaign-dependent, but is an amazingly useful and unique effect if you need it.
  • Gem of seeing: true-seeing is very powerful, but the combination of needing an action and a 10min duration stops this item being perfect.
  • Horn of blasting (NA): for me the 1/5 chance of blowing yourself up is too high, considering the effect is a level of damage that can be replicated by most full spellcasters at this level. The loss of the item isn't a problem, because you could make another, but 10d6 damage during combat is dangerous.
  • Ring of free action: how often does your GM use the paralysed or restrained conditions on you? If regularly then you may well want this.
  • Ring of protection: another copy of the cloak you obtained at level 12, albeit a ring is more convenient.
  • Ring of the ram: this is interesting as an attack, as a) force damage is rarely resisted, and b) the push provides battlefield control. 6d10 damage + a 15ft push isn't bad, though at level 16 the +7 roll to hit leaves much to be desired.
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Orcus on a bad hair day
EDIT: This was written with the Feb 2019 version, with only Alchemist and Artillerist as options

You know, with a dip for the Archery fighting style, the Artificer makes a pretty good Hand Crossbow expert as a way to stretch it's limited spell slots and feature uses. Their Arcane Weapon spell grants Hex/Hunter's Mark like bonus damage but without the need to spend a bonus action to move it. They effectively get Extra Attack, with the option of Infusing their own weapon if they don't find a magical one.

More attacks with more riders should bypass even growing cantrip damage with a +INT boost.

An Alchemist can lay down Web and maintain concentration while attacking once they reach sufficient 5th level to get 2nd level spells. Gives judicious use of spell slots and then an at-will resource.

Only problem is overload of bonus actions - while you don't need it to change targets, you do need it to start Arcane Weapon, and to use you Homunculus - though many of it's actions can be done between combats.
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Orcus on a bad hair day
I'm torn how to rate the turret. The damage never scales, so while it seems like it's potent it soon gets reduced to a spiritual weapon-type category - nice extra damage but nothing amazing. Except for the gobs of temporary HPs it can give out (assuming foes are attacking multiple members of the party so they aren't wasted). Heck, just spending a 1st level spell to bring out the Defender turret between combats is more efficient then False Life or other 1st level spells because it can target everyone.
One quick thing to note. I'm pretty sure the Alchemist's +int to damage works with Arcane Weapon RAW. If it does its a slight boost to damage for the first attack hit after casting it. Worth noting I feel.


Orcus on a bad hair day
One quick thing to note. I'm pretty sure the Alchemist's +int to damage works with Arcane Weapon RAW. If it does its a slight boost to damage for the first attack hit after casting it. Worth noting I feel.
Agreed, as long as that attack is of the allowed types (acid or poison), it should add. Good catch.
One quick thing to note. I'm pretty sure the Alchemist's +int to damage works with Arcane Weapon RAW. If it does its a slight boost to damage for the first attack hit after casting it. Worth noting I feel.
Agreed, as long as that attack is of the allowed types (acid or poison), it should add. Good catch.
Yes, good catch! I had to re-read the wording quite carefully to come to that conclusion, to make sure it was the spell doing the damage rather than the weapon attack per se. Also note that all your spellcasting uses a focus, whether or not the spell has a material component. Arcane weapon has only verbal and somatic components, but you can still use your alchemist's supplies to get the Alchemical Mastery bonus.


Orcus on a bad hair day
EDIT: This was written with the Feb 2019 version, with only Alchemist and Artillerist as options

This is to get an idea of what they can do without weapons. To give a bench-line for comparing to Arcane Weapon, Arcane Armament, and Infusion, perhaps even investing in Crossbow Expert, martial weapons, Booming Blade/Green Flame Blade cantrips, etc.

Alchemist Native at-will potential damage per round (assuming ASIs to INT)
Will be reduced by: saves (cantrip), misses (homunculus), switching to different cantrip for acid instead of poison damage / greater range.

Level 1-2: Poison spray (d12 CON save, 10' range) avg 6.5
Level 3-4: Poison spray + bonus action acid spittle (d6+2) = 6.5 + 5.5 = 12 w/ bonus action
Level 5: Cantrips improve, prof improves (better homunculus): 2d12 / 1d6+3 = 13 + 6.5 = 19.5 w/ bonus action
Level 6-7: Alchemical Mastery: 2d12+Int(4), 1d6+3 = 17 + 6.5 = 23.5 w/ bonus action
Level 8: ASI: 2d12+5 / 1d6+3 = 18 + 6.5 = 24.5 w/bonus action
Level 9-10: Prof inc: 2d12+5 / 1d6 + 4 = 18 + 7.5 = 25.5 w/BA
Level 11-12: Cantrips improve: 3d12+5 / 1d6 +4 = 24.5 + 7.5 = 32 w/BA
Level 13-16: Prof inc: 3d12+5 / 1d6 +5 = 24.5 + 8.5 = 33 w/BA
Level 17: Cantrips & prof improves: 4d12+5 / 1d6 + 6 = 31 + 9.5 = 40.5 w/ BA

(I'm breaking out bonus action, because it still can add to normal weapon attacks, but needs to be considered vs. the extra attack of Crossbow Expert.)

Artillerist is like the non-hounculous damage from Alchemist, but assuming using a Wand Prototype for +Int to damage instead of a poison/acid cantrip.

The turret can add in cone fire damage and single target force damage for a bonus action, but cant' be assumed to be available for every encounter. The single target bonus action damage would be 9 for comparison to the Alchemist, doubling to 18 at 14th level. (Though I like the other Arcane Turrets more, this is the most apples-to-apples.)

As a small note, Warlock 2 is often seen as a "cantrip power" dip that grows without more Warlock levels. Because of how these are written, neither helps Eldritch Blast (which is good). Also, you need 6 levels of Artificer to get the features so that the rest is just based off advancement in other classes. So it's not as cherry-pick-able. That's good in my book.
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39th lv DM
Dragonborn: not the typical artificer.

Really? Not being the typical artificer (whatever that even means) is you're criteria & whole explanation to rate this as "Avoid at all costs"?
Avoid because....? What, the 1st image in your head isn't of a dragon-man making things/brewing potions? It has a poor stat set up for the class? Something else?

Provide an explanation. Mechanics based preferably. Setting based if plausible (I don't know anything about Ebberon, maybe there's a story reason to avoid that race/class combo there?)

I'm sorry, but if you're writing a guide, write something useful. Or at least reasoned. You're DB rating isn't. And when I run across non-useful stuff in guides? It automatically devalues everything else you've written.
At least you've avoided the useless + snide commentary often seen in Treantmonks stuff....

Worse yet? You're writing a guide based on PLAYTEST material. You're discouraging playtesting with your ratings.

*I care not one wit about Dragonborn themselves.
Really? Not being the typical artificer (whatever that even means) is you're criteria & whole explanation to rate this as "Avoid at all costs"?
Avoid because....? What, the 1st image in your head isn't of a dragon-man making things/brewing potions? It has a poor stat set up for the class? Something else?

Provide an explanation. Mechanics based preferably. Setting based if plausible (I don't know anything about Ebberon, maybe there's a story reason to avoid that race/class combo there?)

I'm sorry, but if you're writing a guide, write something useful. Or at least reasoned. You're DB rating isn't. And when I run across non-useful stuff in guides? It automatically devalues everything else you've written.
At least you've avoided the useless + snide commentary often seen in Treantmonks stuff....

Worse yet? You're writing a guide based on PLAYTEST material. You're discouraging playtesting with your ratings.

*I care not one wit about Dragonborn themselves.
1. I meant mechanics, but I accept it was sloppy wording. As noted at the start of the document, this is still WIP (work in progress). I'm adding to it and modifying it as I go along. A number of things are lacking in detailed or indeed any proper comment. I intend to change this.

2. It was CERTAINLY not my intention to dissuade people from playing ANY combination if that's what they want to play. This is my subjective opinion on the efficacy, primarily in mechanical terms, of the options available. This is a RPG, and the most important part is to have fun. I apologise for giving an impression that different in any way from that, and will make that clear at the start of the first post.

3. To that end, I will change the red criterion from "avoid at all costs" (wording taken from other guides) to a different descriptor. On reflection that is horrendously negative wording.

4. There are undoubtedly other parts of the guide which are currently deficient. Hopefully I will address these parts in due course, but in the meantime do feel free to continue to identify them. But could you perhaps start with the assumption that I am creating this in good faith? While I fully and truly appreciate the content of your critique, it was posted in what came across as quite an acerbic tone. Apologies if I have misread that.

[MENTION=20564]Blue[/MENTION]: thank you for the continued commentary/additions! I don't have time (/energy, long day!) to go through those numbers at the moment, but it's always good to get some quantitative analysis for those who like comparing that way :)
Say what're your thoughts on a SAD V Human Artificer who takes Magical Secrets to get Green Flame Blade and Booming Blade? I was thinking Artillerist for a combination blaster/tank build utilizing the Temp HP from the turret and the shield spell for tankiness and taking advantage of having 2 good saves. Medium Armor and Shields would get a pretty respectable AC
The only problem is having so limited spell slots and not really any other class features means you might run dry fairly quickly. Thoughts?

Edit: Nevermind, this wouldn't work. My first 5e character was a Hexblade with Green Flame Blade so I got thrown off from using Cha for the attack back then. I guess this build could still technically work, though you'd have to invest in Dex for attack rolls. Though upon reflection it really strikes me as discount Hexblade/Sorcerer multiclass.
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Green-Flame Blade and Booming Blade are both on the Wizards spell list, so taking Magic Initiate: Wizard grants 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell. I would recommend other cantrips such as Shocking Grasp, and Minor Illusion 1st level spell Find Familiar this actually really compliments the Alchemist as the pet they have is not a Familiar granting you 2 little friends one of which allows you to cast touch range spells through. Which is why I put shocking grasp there for incase you have someone that needs to get away from someone without risking an attack of oppurtunity.
Yeah I'm actually going to be playing a Feral Winged Tiefling Artificer soon, level 8. Going Alchemist because the more I look at them, the more I think Alchemist is ultimately the stronger build. Artillerist is just too strapped for spell slots. Having to summon the turret and spent spell slots over and over really hurts it, and even though individually the turrets are stronger than the homunculus, the homunculus is a lot more versatile in what it can do turn to turn. Once you summon a turret, that's it. That's all the benefit you get from it. Plus the homunculus can act as a scout, and has the almighty help action.


If you could create the turret as a bonus action and fire it in the same turn, I could see playing an artillerist. However, for a role such as an artillerist, spending my first 1-2 turns setting up a weak turret doesn't seem like the best thing I could be doing with my turns. It would be more productive to just forget the turret ability during combat altogether and do something else like crossbow expert with Arcane Weapon enhanced damage or casting Fireball.
So discussing this with one of my players who has an artificer, Alchemical Mastery shouldn't be able to trigger on Arcane Weapon (poison) because Arcane Weapon doesn't require material components, so you could not use a spell focus to cast it.
So discussing this with one of my players who has an artificer, Alchemical Mastery shouldn't be able to trigger on Arcane Weapon (poison) because Arcane Weapon doesn't require material components, so you could not use a spell focus to cast it.
Unusually, the Artificer uses a spellcasting focus for every spell - whether or not it requires material components. See the "Tools Required" paragraph of Spellcasting in the UA class. Alchemical Mastery can therefore trigger on spells without material components.
So looking at the tool required section and that last sentence about the infused items, I assume having your armour infused would not count, as it is not "in hand". but enchanting a shield would much like a cleric.
So looking at the tool required section and that last sentence about the infused items, I assume having your armour infused would not count, as it is not "in hand". but enchanting a shield would much like a cleric.
I agree with your reading of it, at least RAW. I'm not sure whether or not that was an intended consequence, but it quite probably was.