The Artificer Returns: The Unearthening

You can’t keep a good Artificer down, especially when there’s Arcana being Unearthed. That’s right, this very day we’ve got a new version of Eberron’s magical mechanical manufacturer for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons to check out, including a pair of completely new builds for the class! So prepare your infusions, craft your gear, and get ready to see what new frontiers of magic-as-science are being explored!

 Here’s one thing right off the bat: very little has changed in regards to the material that was present in the last versionCore class features remain the same, and the Alchemist and Artillerist builds have not been altered, so you can check out the last article for all of those. Not going to lie, that’s a bit disappointing given the amount of time that’s passed, but I’d wager they want to do everything in batches. Now that we’ve got two more builds, they should be taking all four and the core class all together and starting to revise where necessary. Unless there are even more builds, but I’ll guess we’ll see.

What has changed is the following, and they list them right on the page of the article:

  • They’ve tinkered with the spell list, including adding spells from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
  • There are three new Infusions.
  • You now round up when determining spell slots for the purposes of muticlassing.

I approve of the first and the third! XGtE spells are great (absorb elements saved my wizard’s life more than once in Aaron’s campaign), and at a glance the ones they’ve ported in fit into the artificer’s kit quite well. I’m not a mutliclasser by trade, but actually getting a spell slot for multiclassing into artificer seems like a good idea. As for the second, as there are only three of them I think we can take a closer look.

Enhanced Wand grants a +1 bonus to attack rolls (+12 at Level 12) when using said wand, and lets the user ignore half cover. Fits right in with the other ‘Enhanced’ infusions, solid addition. Repeating Shot gives a +1 attack roll bonus to any simple or martial weapon with the ammunition property, while also ignoring the loading property if it had it and no longer needing ammo, producing it as you use it. Automatic, auto-loading crossbow, an excellent choice.  Repulsion Shield gives a +1 AC bonus to the wielder of said shield, while also providing a once-per-rest reaction that can push a melee attacker 15′.  Simple, but effective. Your paladin will thank you.

Now, let’s get into the real meat of the Artificer Mk. IV: the new builds.

Archivist

Aha, something entirely new, not just in mechanics but in concept! The lack of subtlety in naming artificer builds continues, as the Archivist is all about the gathering of knowledge. There’s that little saying about power, of course, and in this case the Archivist has turned it into a weapon.

Level 3 continues to grant Tools of the Trade. The Archivist’s version grants proficiency with calligrapher’s tools and the forgery kit, and creates one of each for you if you didn’t already have them. Second, it boosts your crafting, specifically of scrolls: creating them takes a quarter of the time and half as much gold.

Second, you also gain Archivist Spells: a pair of always-prepared and known-despite-not-being-on-the-Artificer-list spells at 3rd, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels. These are all about information or other expressions of mental power, either gathering it or using it. Comprehend languages and detect thoughts are examples of the utility spells at your beck and call, but then you’ve got phantasmal killer and modify memory.

You get your own version of a companion cube with the last bit of the Level 3 package thanks to Artificial Mind, The Archivist writes mystical symbols using their calligrapher’s tools on a Tiny, non-magical object to awaken a mind within it, which manifests in three ways. First, for as long as they’ve got the item on their person the Archivist gains proficiency in two out of four skills, depending on the type of material they used. A stone item, for instance, lets the Archivist choose from Deception, Intimidation, Persuasion, and Performance. Second, the mind can manifest as a spectral figure that the Archivist can spend an action to use as the source of their senses for as long as Concentration can be held, and any time the Archivist casts an artificer spell it can originate from the mind’s location.

Capable of hovering and passing through creatures [but not objects, thank you reader ‘drikararz’] the mind is effectively invulnerable. Finally, the Archivist can attempt an Information Overload on a creature within 5′ of the manifested mind; on failing an Intelligence saving throw the target takes 1d8 psychic damage and the next attack roll against it has advantage. That damages increases +1d8 at 5th, 11th, and 17th level, and when you successfully deal damage with it you can expend a spells slot for even more d8s, +2d8 for a first level spell slot and +1 for each higher level.

At Level 6 the Archivist has developed their informational artifice enough to create a Mind Network. First, the Archivist can communicate telepathically with anyone who is in possession of one of their artificer infusions, and vice versa. This communication is explicitly noted to be able to cross planar boundaries. Second, the Archivist can now add their Intelligence modifier to psychic damage rolls, including Information Overload.

The build’s cap at Level 14 is Pure Information. First, when you expend a spell slot on Information Overload, the target has to make an Intelligence saving throw or be Stunned until the end of the Archivist’s next turn. Second, they can use Infoportation – as an action while the Archivist has their Artificial Mind on their person they can turn themselves into pure information and teleport to their manifested spectral mind or one of their infusions. This is usually once per long rest, although the Archivist can expend a 2nd Level or higher spell slot to use it again.

The Archivist seems pretty potent! More skills, remote viewing and spellcasting, teleportation (which, now that I think of it, doesn’t seem to have a range limit), a very unique list of always-prepared spells, and telepathic links between party members no matter the distance would be a good kit to bring along in any case. But Information Overload is a doozy. First, it improves quite a bit, the lack of which is one of the problems I have with the Alchemist and Artillerist ‘companions’. Second, it’s basically a better-than-average combat cantrip, freeing up a cantrip slot for another utility one. Then it tops off at 10d8 psychic damage (not a commonly resisted damage type either) that grants advantage on an attack and potentially stuns the target. Coming from a remote platform that could be up to 300′ feet away from the Archivist, can hover, and can’t be destroyed unless you get to said Archivist.

Might actually be too good. Maybe they should reconsider the invulnerable part a bit.

Thematically the Archivist feels kind of weird. If you put in the time to reword all the abilities, you’d have a pretty solid Mystic or Psion concept on your hands. But artificers study magic, so why wouldn’t some of them study mind magic and information itself? The article also has a sidebar that does a nice job of tying into the Eberron setting, pointing out that there are rumors that warforged sentience, presented to the world at large as a happy accident, might have actually been the work of an Archivist Cannith.

Battle Smith

This is the combat medic artificer build, the tinkerer who charges into battle alongside their companions, keeps their defensive gear in top top shape, and heals their wounds while also weaponizing magic.

The Battle Smith’s Level 3 Tools of the Trade grants proficiency with leatherworker’s tools and the smith’s tools, and creates one of each for you if you didn’t already have them. Second, it boosts your crafting, specifically of armor: creating them takes a quarter of the time and half as much gold.

Second, you also gain Battle Smith Spells: a pair of always-prepared and known-despite-not-being-on-the-Artificer-list spells at 3rd, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels. These are an even split between hurting your enemies, consisting of a wide variety of the smite class of spells, and helping your allies with spells ranging from heroism to mass cure wounds.

The Battle Smith Level 3 package is a little heftier than its counterparts’; they also get Battle Ready, which grants proficiency with martial weapons and let the Battle Smith use Intelligence for the attack and damage roll bonuses instead of Strength/Dexterity when attacking with a magical weapon.

Finally, the Battle Smith’s Level 3 artifice friend is the Iron Defender. In combat the Defender shares the Battle Smith’s initiative slot but takes its turn immediately after the Smith’s. It can move and use a Reaction by itself, but the only Action it takes on its turn is Dodge unless the Smith spent a bonus action. It’s decently tough, can be healed with mend or revived with smith’s tools, can’t be surprised, has a bite attack, has a 3/day Repair action that can heal itself or another construct, and improves over time relative to your level/proficiency bonus. Its Reaction, though, is the star: Defensive Pounce imposes disadvantage on the attack roll of one creature within 5′ of it, so long as the attack roll is not targeting the defender in the first place.

At Level 6 the Battle Smith turns things up a bit with an Arcane Jolt. This makes the Iron Defender’s bite attack count as a magical weapon, and when the Smith or their Defender attack with a  magical weapon they can now channel magic to do one of two things: inflict an extra 2d4 force damage, or restore 2d4 hit points to a creature or object within 30′ of the attack’s target. This can be done once a turn, and a total number of times per long rest equal to the Smith’s Intelligence modifier.

The Battle Smith spends Level 14 souping up the Iron Defender and Arcane Jolt with Improved Defender. The extra force damage and healing from Arcane Jolt both increase to 4d4. Additionally, when the Iron Defender uses Defensive Pounce the attacker it’s imposing disadvantage on takes 1d4 + Intelligence modifier force damage.

The Battle Smith isn’t particularly flashy outside of its spell list, which can provide some dramatic moments. Its simplicity doesn’t strike me as a bad thing, though. Splicing in a little 4e Defender role with Defensive Pounce, along with some free healing and extra damage, is universal useful. The Smith is also less multiple attribute dependent thanks to Battle Ready, and likely hits more accurately and harder with their weapons as a result. This is the in-the-mud artificer that fought on the front lines of Eberron’s, and it shows. If I had to suggest any improvements, I think it’d settle on just a smidge more healing capability, whether in the spell list or via the Defender.


Well, last time I was hoping for more builds for the artificer, and I got them. Overall I’d say the Battle Smith and Archivist are pretty solid additions, and they look fun to play. Still, it should be high time the artificer starts getting revised and moving towards a final product, so hopefully this return to the class kickstarts that process. What do you think? Which build is your favorite? What needs to be tweaked? Is the artificer missing anything, or is it time to start polishing? Let us know your initial thoughts, then get out there and start stress-testing it!

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