Optimizing an Archer

jgsugden

Adventurer
In light of the new UA article, what would be your build for an optimized archer? I'm talking about efficiency at every level from 1 to 20.
 

Gladius Legis

Adventurer
If considering Lv. 20, I'd still say a straight Fighter 20 (Battle Master). Archery Fighting Style; maneuvers Snipe, Precision Attack, Menacing Attack, Trip Attack and whatever else; feat Sharpshooter. With the Snipe maneuver, Crossbow Expert is no longer necessary and the longbow may actually be better now.

Honorable mentions to Rangers (Gloom Stalker or Horizon Walker) with all of their new replacement and enhancement features.

And then there's Ranger 3 (Gloom Stalker)/Fighter X (Battle Master) with all of the above. You'll have a first round with 3 attacks at Lv. 8 and 4 attacks at Lv. 14, 3 and 6 levels before the straight Fighter gets 3 and 4 attacks, respectively.
 

Esker

Explorer
Ranger 1 / Battlemaster X must also be worthy of consideration now, with the new Hunter's Mark ability granted at 1st level. I would probably take the ranger level around 7th, after getting extra attack and a couple of ASIs/feats, and still take Crossbow Expert, since with Sharpshooter I expect to be using Precision attack a lot, and I don't want to have to spend a die on Snipe to make a bonus action attack.

Of course once you hit Fighter 12 or so, the returns from Fighter are diminishing, so you probably may as well pick up a couple more levels of ranger at that point, since the 3rd level abilities of Gloomstalker are quite nice. You may also want to mix in some rogue, or take ranger higher for the spells.
 

jgsugden

Adventurer
I've been looking at it from the perspective of an alpha strike - how do you get the insanely good alpha strike as early as possible? From that perspective, I think Gloomstalker 5, then Battlemaster 4, then Assassin 4, then Sorcerer (many options for which type) 7. Human Variant makes sense for that early feat...
 

Esker

Explorer
I've been looking at it from the perspective of an alpha strike - how do you get the insanely good alpha strike as early as possible? From that perspective, I think Gloomstalker 5, then Battlemaster 4, then Assassin 4, then Sorcerer (many options for which type) 7. Human Variant makes sense for that early feat...
So, Human w/ Sharpshooter, Gloomstalker to 3, using a longbow. Assuming an enemy AC around 14:

1st round: Bonus action Hunter's Mark, 2x attacks for a total of (2d6+3d8+26) * (0.45 to hit) = 20.9 avg dmg
Later rounds: 1x attack at (1d8 + 1d6 +13) * 0.45 = 9.5 avg dmg

Compared to Crossbow Expert, you give up a little damage in the 1st round, but get more back in following rounds:

1st: BA HM, 2x attacks for (4d6+1d8+6) * 0.70 = 17.1 avg dmg
2nd+: 2x attacks for (4d6+6) * 0.70 = 14 avg dmg

If you think the combat is going to last two rounds, you're better off with sharpshooter since you don't get the redundancy of bonus action in the 1st round.

Compare to Battlemaster 3 with Sharpshooter and Precision attack, using a longbow and action surge in round 1:

1st round: 2x attacks at (1d8+13) each, with a base to-hit chance of 0.45, but boosted to 0.675 with the help of precision attack: (2d8+26) * 0.675 = 18.2 damage
2nd+: 1x attack at (1d8+13) with 0.675 to hit: 11.8 dmg

So your instinct is right that starting gloomstalker puts you a bit ahead when you first get your subclass.

How about at level 5? I'll just show the 1st round damage, since you're prioritizing the alpha strike:

Gloomstalker Sharpshooter + ASI to DEX, Hunter's Mark in 1st round:

1st: (4d8+3d6+42) * 0.50 = 35.3

Battlemaster Sharpshooter + Crossbow Expert, Action Surge, Precision Attack:

1st: (5d6+65) * 0.675 = 55.7*

*strictly speaking it will be a little bit different from this, since there's a chance you'll blow through all your superiority dice in the first four attacks. But it's not a big chance, and it's also partially offset by you never missing by more than 8 in those first four rolls.

So the Battlemaster can blow the Gloomstalker out of the water in the first round once per short rest at level 5; whereas the Gloomstalker will be ahead the rest of the time. Pick your definition of alpha.
 
I've been looking at it from the perspective of an alpha strike - how do you get the insanely good alpha strike as early as possible? From that perspective, I think Gloomstalker 5, then Battlemaster 4, then Assassin 4, then Sorcerer (many options for which type) 7. Human Variant makes sense for that early feat...
Be a fighter - splash in either hex or hunters mark
 

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