D&D 5E Zard's Post Tasha's Archetype Tier List

Zardnaar

Legend
Well Tasha's is here and much like Xanathars Guide to Powercreep it's ramped up what one thinks of in terms of power. Also the Artificer got errata, buffed and put in a non Eberron book.

The Dungeon Dudes on youtube are doing this and overall I think they are doing a decent job. I disagree here and there. They tend to over rate heavy armor for example and consider level 10-15 more than I will.

The classes will be rated S to D roughly using these categories.

S. One of the best archetypes in the game. Usually changes the base class in profound ways or is just powerful.

A. Above average archetype that can easily be S tier with the right build or campaign.

B. Run if the mill archetype that might have a very narrow path to a higher tier ranking in the right campaign or very specific build.

C. Below average option that is weaker than other archetypes or doesn't play nice with the base class.

D. Trap option. Probably makes the base class worse and/or fails at what it's trying to do. Best avoided imho.


I've tried this before but will be tweaking the criteria the categories are judged on. Overall I'll be rating them how I suspect people actually play the game vs the designers intent.

1. I will look at mostly level 1-7, then up to ten. 11-14 will be considered a little bit level 15+ will mostly be ignored. Online 70% of games are level 1-7 only 10% reach 11 and 1% are epic levels.

2. Classes that are front loaded will likely score higher than late bloomers. See online stats about high level play. I suspect real life games mirror this and the sweet spot is still 3-7 or so.

3. Assuming point buy or default array. Some classes are more MAD vs SAD and I'll mention this if you roll well. Personally I roll but you need some sort of default.

4. Less encounters than 6-8 and two short rests. Probably more like 4-6 and1-2 short rests. Tasha's seems to realize this And I think the short rest concept is a bit if a failure.

5. Classes that are really good at one thing might be rated a tier higher if that one thing is really important. Eg damage, healing or whatever. If your class is really good at under water basket weaving......

So you may be in a higher level game and disagree that's perfectly for be. Just be aware high level games are probably a minority and I have specifically said I'm eating 1-10 more than 11-20. Feel free to comment if that's unfair, life's unfair.
 

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Zardnaar

Legend
Artificer:

Overall I consider the Artificer to be one of the more complex classes that's easy to mess up if you don't know how to build it.

I'm assuming you know the basics and know what spells are good to pick. Tasha's overall buffed the artificer revamping it's spells and adding the SCAG cantrips to it's spell lists which helps out 2 of the 4 archetypes.

The big problem with the artificer imho is that overall it's a late bloomer. Which means for half of it's career your mostly better off playing a different class with one exception.

Alchemist.

The Alchemist is built around elixirs. Before level 10 you only get a grand total of 3 class abilities.

Experimental elixer looks decent but requires spell slots. And you're a half cast. Additionally most of the effects just duplicate a spell effect. So your major archetype feature is actually worse than just playing a primary caster several of which get more spells as an archetype feature.

The artificer dies lack those spell effects but imho the feature should be divorced from spell slots and one can compare with the other half casters.

Alchemical savant is kind if cute similar to potent cantrip irthe dragon sorcerer. Due to lack of spell slots it's mostly going to be applied to cantrips. Better than a pike in the eye with a sharp stick.

Restorative Regents.

At level 9 you grant temporary hit points with your infusions and can use lesser restoration a number of times equal to your intelligence modifier.

More or less a ribbon ability and even the temporary hit points is laughable compared to another subclass.

In general the Alchemist is supposed to be the support class artificer. The problem is imho it fails hard at it due to insufficient resources and one can easily compare it to a Paladin with its spell list, lay on hands and auras. If one compared it to other primary casters such as clerics and bards it looks even worse.

It's going to be short of resources, it's not going to be able to heal enough when it matters and it can't buff enough either at least compare to any other artificer.

The archetypes is bad and is a complete trap so it's getting a D rating. Avoid, go back to drawing board, do not pick.
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
Artificer: Armorer

The armor is a fairly simple concept. Want to play Ironman from the MCU in D&D?

Unfortunately it's looks cool over effective doubling down on the Artificers late blooming tendencies.

For example Artificers can infuse a magic weapon fairly early on. So can the Armorer but it can't make it's special weapons magical until level 9.

Being the armorer kind of implies tank or some level of fighting ability. With its infusions you can kind if do this as well but once again you're level 9 before you can infuse extra infusions into your armor.

Put simply your archetype is heavily built around reaching level 9. Mechanically I like the way they have designed the class as you can offset the armors strength requirements and key your attacks off intelligence at least using your armors special weapons.

Overall it almost looks like fun and I suspect it's a lot of fun around level 9-11. Unfortunately a lot of games are likely finishing up around then or finished several levels ago.

Unfortunately until then your damage is sub par, you're not that foot at support, and your base class features are argueably inferior to other classes so you're not really good at anything and even as a potential 5th person there's better options.

In conclusion while I don't regard this archetype as a trap it's below par for most of it's likely career. Overall I would give it a C probably creeping up to a B at level 9 or a high B by level 12 or so. It's also outclassed by other Artificer archetypes.
 
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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
It really bothers me that the alchemist is so limited, because it's by far the most "medieval" artificer, i.e. it's the subclass that fits the best with a number of D&D setting (some of the others may be too "high tech").

Can it be rescued?
 

It really bothers me that the alchemist is so limited, because it's by far the most "medieval" artificer, i.e. it's the subclass that fits the best with a number of D&D setting (some of the others may be too "high tech").

Can it be rescued?
Consider the credentials of the person who wrote this - we already know they don't really know how to play artificers.
 

GlassJaw

Hero
Consider the credentials of the person who wrote this - we already know they don't really know how to play artificers.
That's a pretty sassy comment.

Z certainly focuses on combat for is reviews but I have no doubt he has a solid grasp of 5E balance and mechanics. I don't always agree with his assessment or even his review criteria but I always learn something from his posts.

I do agree with his take on the Artificer as a whole: cool concept, fun class with some cool mechanics but the subclasses are underwhelming when you peel back the layers of mechanics. Battle Smith is the clear winner, with Artillerist a respectable second place.
 

That's a pretty sassy comment.

Z certainly focuses on combat for is reviews but I have no doubt he has a solid grasp of 5E balance and mechanics. I don't always agree with his assessment or even his review criteria but I always learn something from his posts.

I do agree with his take on the Artificer as a whole: cool concept, fun class with some cool mechanics but the subclasses are underwhelming when you peel back the layers of mechanics. Battle Smith is the clear winner, with Artillerist a respectable second place.
Unlike others, I don't pretend to expertise in combat mechanics, but I do know that the Artillerist is by far the best at doing what Artificers are intended for - support.
 


Zardnaar

Legend
That's a pretty sassy comment.

Z certainly focuses on combat for is reviews but I have no doubt he has a solid grasp of 5E balance and mechanics. I don't always agree with his assessment or even his review criteria but I always learn something from his posts.

I do agree with his take on the Artificer as a whole: cool concept, fun class with some cool mechanics but the subclasses are underwhelming when you peel back the layers of mechanics. Battle Smith is
That's how it's gonna play out. the clear winner, with Artillerist a respectable second place.
That's a pretty sassy comment.

Z certainly focuses on combat for is reviews but I have no doubt he has a solid grasp of 5E balance and mechanics. I don't always agree with his assessment or even his review criteria but I always learn something from his posts.

I do agree with his take on the Artificer as a whole: cool concept, fun class with some cool mechanics but the subclasses are underwhelming when you peel back the layers of mechanics. Battle Smith is the clear winner, with Artillerist a respectable second place.

That's how it's going to play out.

Alchemist needs a rewrite. It's main problem is it's gestures feed off spell slots and it's already a half caster.

The other subclasses tend to get a few extras layered on top of the Artificers spells.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Best at what? Doing damage, affecting combat encounters, social encounters, exploration, fun to play? What precisely are you measuring, because my definition of best is: "most fun to play." I'm guessing your definition is different.

It's subjective but overall power is roughly the criteria.

Damage is one aspect but a few of my S tiers are beaten at damage easily.
 


Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
My wife, who doesn't play D&D, was curious about the alchemist. She wanted to see if she could make something vaguely similar to Hilda Spellman from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I thought the alchemist might be the trick for that approach.

I'd be curious what the "most optimized" alchemist might look like? Unfortunately I imagine it would need to be multiclassed to really get some zing out of those lower level abilities. For example, the Elixirs are solid, but to choose which one you get you have to expend a first level spell slot. So multiclassing to another class which stacks on the low level spell slots would be critical. Fortunately, the elixir ability doesn't specify that it must be an Artificer spell slot, saying, "You can create additional experimental elixirs by expending a spell slot of 1st level or higher for each one. When you do so, you use your action to create the elixir in an empty flask you touch, and you choose the elixir’s effect from the Experimental Elixir table." I suppose that will also be dependent on short rests.

Though..I just realized an interesting exploit. Elixirs are good until your next short rest, and they essentially store a first level spell for use later. So...wouldn't an alchemist/warlock be able to make a massive number of elixirs when they wake up? Expend their spell slots to make elixirs, short rest to regain warlock spell slots, do it again, short rest, again, etc.. and you can start the day with a whole bunch of elixirs, right?
 
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Zardnaar

Legend
Artificer: Artillerist

The artillerist gets an interesting spell list that looks good at first glance. Then you remember they're a half caster and there's a big difference from casting fireball at level 5 vs 9. Shields another one as without the warcaster feat you may not be able to cast it. Still overall it's a decent list and feeds into the theme of artillerist.

Your key class feature is the Eldritch cannon. Basically you get a flamethrower, force ballista, or temporary hit points. Whatever ability you pick you can use it as a bonus action.

At level 5 you get an extra d8 damage and your cannon damage scales again at level 9 and you can detonate your cannon for a token amount of damage.

At some levels you can deal a reasonable amount of damage. For example at level 5 you can cast a cantrip for 3d8 or 2d10+1d8 damage plus have you cannon deal another 2d8. That's not to shabby.

A lack of cantrips however may be a problem. You likely want mending, and probably a cantrip such as Green Flame Blade or a ranged cantrip so you can benefit from arcane firearm.

With reasonable damage and the inherent utility of the base artificer you've got a solid package here.

Additionally the cannon can be used to spam temporary hit points at well to multiple allies. That's nifty but you are trading off damage to do it and it's not a lot of hit points and scales badly. In D&D all editoonskilling stuff faster is also another way if reducing damage and you can't switch between temporary hp and dealing damage.

Without the cannon your damage is fairly marginal similar to a primary caster with potent cantrip or another bonus damage sourse. Even worse is if the cannon gets destroyed which will likely happen at some point although it's reasonably easy to replace.

Overall I would give this archetype a B. You probably won't deal as much damage ad a dedicated blaster but you have the option to spam temporary hit points at well. Probably doesn't make much sense due to the name of the class but there you go.

You're reading that extra damage for the utility of the rest of the artificer class. At higher levels this also looks like a fun class. It may not excel at anything special but the overall package adds up to a bit.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Artificer: Battlesmith

The battlesmith is the warrior build for Artificers. The clue is in the name really.

It adds a few warrior type spells you can pick from. Nothing to exciting but solid.

It gives you proficiency in martial weapons and let's you key the attacks off intelligence. This effectively reduces MAD and turns the battlesmith into SAD class. Hint key everything off intelligence, 14 dex+con medium armor.

You also get the steel defender. Pre That's this made you a better beastmaster than the actual beastmaster. It's roughly equivilent to a living spiritual weapon that can impose disadvantage using it's reaction. The defender can be used as a bonus action.

At level 5 you get an extra attack. This usually isn't to exciting on classes that don't get a bit of cream on top (eg Valor Bard) but you have your magic items and steel defender instead so yeah a bit of cream. The only real problem is that's about the peak of your damage dealing due to poor scaling.

At level 9 you get arcane jolt. This is mostly a ribbon ability due to the fact you can only use it a relative handful of times.

Overall the Battlesmith is quite good and I would put it in the A tier. One could perhaps argue for S tier but you are kind of pigeonholed into melee damage and the steel defender can die so there's other classes that do similar things but are more versatile.
 
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It really bothers me that the alchemist is so limited, because it's by far the most "medieval" artificer, i.e. it's the subclass that fits the best with a number of D&D setting (some of the others may be too "high tech").

Can it be rescued?
I have found that the Alchemist really shines in groups with a lot of other spellcasters in. The elixirs really come into their own when you have a lot of other buffs in use.
Though..I just realized an interesting exploit. Elixirs are good until your next short rest, and they essentially store a first level spell for use later. So...wouldn't an alchemist/warlock be able to make a massive number of elixirs when they wake up? Expend their spell slots to make elixirs, short rest to regain warlock spell slots, do it again, short rest, again, etc.. and you can start the day with a whole bunch of elixirs, right?
What is the rest of your party doing while you are spending hours napping?
 

Zardnaar

Legend
My wife, who doesn't play D&D, was curious about the alchemist. She wanted to see if she could make something vaguely similar to Hilda Spellman from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. I thought the alchemist might be the trick for that approach.

I'd be curious what the "most optimized" alchemist might look like? Unfortunately I imagine it would need to be multiclassed to really get some zing out of those lower level abilities. For example, the Elixirs are solid, but to choose which one you get you have to expend a first level spell slot. So multiclassing to another class which stacks on the low level spell slots would be critical. Fortunately, the elixir ability doesn't specify that it must be an Artificer spell slot, saying, "You can create additional experimental elixirs by expending a spell slot of 1st level or higher for each one. When you do so, you use your action to create the elixir in an empty flask you touch, and you choose the elixir’s effect from the Experimental Elixir table." I suppose that will also be dependent on short rests.

Though..I just realized an interesting exploit. Elixirs are good until your next short rest, and they essentially store a first level spell for use later. So...wouldn't an alchemist/warlock be able to make a massive number of elixirs when they wake up? Expend their spell slots to make elixirs, short rest to regain warlock spell slots, do it again, short rest, again, etc.. and you can start the day with a whole bunch of elixirs, right?

Seems to be yes.

By now I think we all know about MC Warlock cheese.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Artificer: Conclusion

Very mixed bag with the 4 artificer archetypes. Ones a trap, another is underpowered and two are good.

They all suffer from the late blooming of the artificer core class that kind of blooms late as all of the Artificers get a lot better around level 9-11.

That however is to late as a lot of games probably won't reach those levels and some other classes are front loaded and/or switch on around level two and are still plenty good around level 9-11.
 

Alchemist.

The Alchemist is built around elixirs. Before level 10 you only get a grand total of 3 class abilities.

Experimental elixer looks decent but requires spell slots. And you're a half cast. Additionally most of the effects just duplicate a spell effect. So your major archetype feature is actually worse than just playing a primary caster several of which get more spells as an archetype feature.
They do, however, work extremely well alongside those other primary caster spells. Particularly in situations where there are only going to be a few, difficult encounters that day.

Alchemical savant is kind if cute similar to potent cantrip irthe dragon sorcerer. Due to lack of spell slots it's mostly going to be applied to cantrips. Better than a pike in the eye with a sharp stick.
This feature, alongside the homunculus, allows the alchemist to deal fairly respectable at-will damage. Its not going to compete with a primary caster going nova, but little does.

Restorative Regents.

At level 9 you grant temporary hit points with your infusions and can use lesser restoration a number of times equal to your intelligence modifier.

More or less a ribbon ability and even the temporary hit points is laughable compared to another subclass.
Multiple free casts of one of the most versatile support spells around. Plus a hit point buffer greater than an actual healing spell of that level, self-applied alongside another buff.

. . . is considered a ribbon . . . 🤨


Artificer: Armorer

The armor is a fairly simple concept. Want to play Ironman from the MCU in D&D?

Unfortunately it's looks cool over effective doubling down on the Artificers late blooming tendencies.

For example Artificers can infuse a magic weapon fairly early on. So can the Armorer but it can't make it's special weapons magical until level 9.
So; you lose out on a whole +1 to hit and damage?

Artificer: Artillerist

Additionally the cannon can be used to spam temporary hit points at well to multiple allies. That's nifty but you are trading off damage to do it and it's not a lot of hit points and scales badly. In D&D all editoonskilling stuff faster is also another way if reducing damage and you can't switch between temporary hp and dealing damage.
Depends on your 'role'. Giving multiple people in your party a hit point buffer that replenishes every round is often more effective than an extra d8 damage, particularly at the lower levels that you are focusing on.

Artificer: Battlesmith
Overall the Battlesmith is quite good and I would put it in the A tier. One could perhaps argue for S tier but you are kind of pigeonholed into melee damage and the steel defender can die so there's other classes that do similar things but are more versatile.
Why are you pigeonholed into melee damage?
 

Zardnaar

Legend
They do, however, work extremely well alongside those other primary caster spells. Particularly in situations where there are only going to be a few, difficult encounters that day.


This feature, alongside the homunculus, allows the alchemist to deal fairly respectable at-will damage. Its not going to compete with a primary caster going nova, but little does.


Multiple free casts of one of the most versatile support spells around. Plus a hit point buffer greater than an actual healing spell of that level, self-applied alongside another buff.

. . . is considered a ribbon . . . 🤨


So; you lose out on a whole +1 to hit and damage?

Depends on your 'role'. Giving multiple people in your party a hit point buffer that replenishes every round is often more effective than an extra d8 damage, particularly at the lower levels that you are focusing on.

Why are you pigeonholed into melee damage?

Because if it's ranged and the steel defender can't attack your damage probably isn't much better than a valor Bard.

You don't get the extra damage at range a ranger does, you don't get action surge, you don't even get a weapon style.

Even if you build it as a rapid fire magical crossbow with sharpshooter you're nothing special compared with something like a ranger doing the same thing with a bow instead.

No matter what and how you build it you're always inferior to a dedicated Archer or melee character or primary caster etc.

You do gain some versatility and later on a lot but other classes can also do similar things in different ways.

If the encounters are reduced even below my already reduced assumptions (as I suspect a lot of games are running like) yeah.....

The class will shine a bit more with DMs being stingy or those adventures with few magic items but that should be obvious and is hard to quantify anyway.
 

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