Unearthed Arcana: Artificer Analysis

The new year begins with the D&D team giving us the Artificer class.

EDIT: The Artificer class is now also available at the DMs Guild.

Mike Mearls mentioned that many may have been expecting a new update on the Ranger. Personally, I was expecting the Mystic but this surprise was a pleasant one. The Artificer represents my favorite D&D setting, Eberron. By the way, the Mystic may take a while to make its appearance.

The first Unearthed Arcana article, almost two years ago, was about Eberron. It contained three of its races, Dragonmarks, and the Artificer as a Wizard Arcane Tradition, which wasn’t liked by many. Now, finally, we get an update on it and I’m very excited. But enough of me rambling. Let’s get to the good stuff.

We get a full page that talks about the flavor of the class. Artificers value discovery and novelty. And that makes them want to invent new masterpieces as well as uncovering ancient ones. And if uncovering a long lost magic item means going against another Artificer, they’ll probably will. This part gives off an Indiana Jones vibe which I find quite interesting.

Class Features

The Artificer seems to be one of the classes whose flavor lies on its Archetypes. So while the class features add a good base to the class, the best parts can be found later in the Specialist section.

  • Hit Dice. The d8 is a safe choice. Half of the PHB classes have the d8 as their hit die.
  • Armor. Light and medium armor. No shield proficiency.
  • Weapons. Simple weapons. Too bad the rapier and the whip are martial weapons. Especially the whip would add more flavor to the rogue-ish sage.
  • Tools. The thieve’s tools are quite helpful and you can also choose two more. I like the tools and they should play a bigger role in the game. Again, the thieve’s tools proficiency add to the flavor of the class.
  • Saving Throws. Constitution and Intelligence. Okay, nothing bad here.
  • Skills. You can choose three skills from a very good list. Also they fit the flavor of the class perfectly.
  • Artificer Specialist. At 1st level you choose your specialty. The available ones at the moment are the Alchemist and the Gunsmith. I like how they leave space for more Archetypes, saying that Gunsmiths and Alchemists are just the most common kinds of Artificers.
  • Magic Item Analysis. You can cast the Identify and Detect Magic spells as rituals without using material components. Both of them are very helpful spells and fit the flavor of the Artificer perfectly.
  • Tool Expertise. You double the proficiency bonus with the three tools you’re proficient with in this class. Reminds me of the Expertise class feature of the Rogue which makes me believe it’s a very flavorful addition to the class.
  • Wondrous Invention. Now that’s an interesting one. At levels 2, 5, 10, 15, and 20 you create a magic item. Flavor wise, you work on them in your free time and you finish them when you reach the appropriate level. The list is comprised of 32 items, out of which the 27 are wondrous. They grant utility instead of combat power, which feels right flavor wise, in my opinion. My only problem is that there are no rules included in the feature in case the items are destroyed or lost in any way. Finally, a question I’ve got is what’s going to happen when new magic items are released in an official book? Will the list change? Are there going to be notes on which items can be used by this feature?
  • Spellcasting. Artificers get Spellcasting at level 3, like the Arcane Trickster and the Eldritch Knight, and can have up to 4th level spell slots. Also, there’s a specific number of spells the Artificer knows which increases as they level up. The spell list contains mostly utility spells. Again with the utility instead of combat power. I believe that’s because the way the Artificer deals damage depends greatly on what  kind of Specialist they are. Personally, I don’t mind this at all. Oh, and the spellcasting ability is Intelligence.
  • Infuse Magic. This one lets you store spells in items for up to 8 hours. Your allies can use the items, as well, which makes it a cool feature, especially since the spell still uses your spellcasting ability. The number of items that can be infused with your spells at the same time are equal to your Intelligence modifier. My only note is that, while various rules are included about the spells stored, nothing is mentioned about whose concentration is used when one of these spells are used.
  • Ability Score Improvement. Nothing special here. Five ability score improvements, or feat slots, is the standard number.
  • Superior Attunement. You can attune to an extra magic item at level 5. At level 15 you can attune up to five magic items. The Wondrous Invention feature makes sure that you’ll have a number of magic items which makes this feature kinda useful. However, if a player decides to play as an Artificer, doesn’t that make the DM have to provide some magic items in order for the class to be fully utilized? In my opinion, this creates a weird connection between the class and the way magic items are managed by each DM and in each campaign.
  • Mechanical Servant. At level 6 you get a mechanical pet! It has to be a Large beast of CR 2 or lower. Also, it gets some good bonuses from being a Construct. Not bad, right? Well, not exactly. It has its own turn and doesn’t use any actions from the Artificer, which makes it quite good. However, it doesn’t scale with level so after some time it stops being that useful, at least combat wise.
  • Soul of Artifice. You can attune with up to 6 magic items. Also, you get an extra bonus to saving throws equal to the number of magic items you’re attuned with. This can get crazy, especially with Constitution and Intelligence saving throws. An Artificer with 20 Intelligence, who is also attuned with 6 magic items, has a +17 to their Intelligence Saving Throw. That’s quite a lot, especially if you keep in mind that, technically, the highest DC in 5th Edition is 30.

Artificer Specialists

Up until now, the class features of the Artificer provide some good defensive and utility options. The Specialist now comes to add the combat power to the class.


An alchemist mixes various components to produce various effects.

  • Alchemist’s Satchel. This is how the magic happens. This magic satchel makes sure that you will always pick the right components and at the correct amount. When you’ve used your creation, the components magically reappear in the satchel. That’s pretty straightforward and cuts down a lot of time and micromanaging. This can be good or bad, depending the player. Personally, I like it but I’d be nice if a little micromanaging was involved.
  • Alchemical Formula. Now let’s see what kinds of effects you can create with your Alchemical Satchel. There are seven possible Alchemical Formulas(or Formulae if you prefer) you can create. At level 1 you get Alchemical Fire, Alchemical Acid, and one more of your choice. You get more as you gain more levels. Also, the effects of the Formulas scale up with your level. And that’s all the features you get. Let’s take a look at the Formulas now.
    • Alchemical Fire. You can throw this vial up to 30 feet and then it detonates in a 5-foot radius. Anyone in there must succeed on a Dexterity Saving Throw or take 1d6 fire damage. This scales up to 7d6 damage.
    • Alchemical Acid. This is like Alchemical Fire but with some differences. It doesn’t have a radius, you just throw it to a target. Also it does acid damage which scales up to 10d6 damage. Lastly, it’s easier to deal damage to items, due to the type of the damage.
    • Healing Draught.As an action, can create a liquid that heals for 1d8 hit points. A character can use an action to drink this, but only once per long rest. The healing it does scales up to 10d8 hit points. This makes the Artificer a pretty capable healer, especially if you keep in mind that the spells Cure Wounds, Lesser Restoration, and Revivify are available to them. Also, its duration is 1 hour so you can have a Healing Draught always ready.
    • Smoke Stick. This is a stick that can either be held or thrown up to 30 feet. It produces thick smoke in a 10-foot radius which blocks vision, including darkvision. The effect’s duration is 1 minute and you can use this feature once per 1 minute.
    • Swift Step Draught. Recently I’ve been looking for ways you can increase a character’s speed. This one is like the Longstrider spell but it increases the speed by 20 feet instead of 10. Its duration is 1 minute and you can only use it once per 1 minute.
    • Tanglefoot Bag. This one creates a sticky area in a 5-foot radius which is difficult terrain for 1 minute. Also, any creature starting its turn in the area has its speed halved. Again, only once per minute.
    • Thunderstone. It’s a crystal which you can throw up to 30 feet. It creates a blast radius of 10 feet. Any creature inside the area rolls a Constitution Saving Throw. If they fail they fall prone and are pushed 10 feet away from the point of impact.

The Alchemist can create a variety of neat effects. The damage is good, the healing is good, and the other four utility effects can be quite helpful if used correctly.


Guns! Magic guns!

Master Smith. At 1st level you gain proficiency with smith’s tools and you also learn the Mending cantrip. A gunsmith probably will probably need both of them. Guns can get damage pretty easily.

Thunder Cannon. At 1st level you construct your weapon which is called Thunder Cannon. Basically, it’s a greatsword with a range of 150 feet. It’s also mentioned that it needs to be reloaded once it’s been fired. Did they mean that it has the Loading property or did they word it this way so that the loading of the weapon can’t be avoided? Also, in case the Thunder Cannon is destroyed or otherwise lost, rules are provided so you can create a new one.

Arcane Magazine. This is for level 1 as well. It’s sort of like the Alchemical Satchel but this makes ammo for the Thunder Cannon. At the end of a long rest you can create 40 rounds and at the end of a short one you can create 10. This, again, takes care of most of the micromanaging. However, they don’t vanish after a specific amount of time like the Formulas of the Alchemical Satchel. Finally, you can create a new one if you lose it, with the right components of course.

Thunder Monger. From the 3rd level onward, as an action you can make a special attack that deals extra thunder damage. It deals 1d6 extra thunder damage which scales up to 9d6. Like all the following features, this is a special attack which requires an action and it’s not just part of an Attack action.

Blast Wave. At 9th level you can make a special that pretty much turns your gun into a blunderbuss. You don’t make an attack roll, but any creature in a 15-foot cone in front of your gun has to make a Strength Saving Throw. On a failed save they take 2d6 force damage and they are pushed 10 feet. The damage scales up to 4d6. It does okay damage but it’s main purpose is crowd control.

Piercing Round. This one lets you shoot lightning! At level 14 you can shoot a 30-foot long and 5-foot wide lightning and any creature in that area must make a Dexterity Saving Throw. On a failed save they take 4d6 lightning damage which scales up to 6d6. It’s another area of effect attack with a different type of damage.

Explosive Round. This special attack, which is gained at level 17, shoots an explosive round which detonates in a 30-foot radius. Anyone inside the radius must make a Dexterity saving throw and on a failed save they take 4d8 fire damage. The feature mentions that the shot detonates at a point within range. If it means the range of the Thunder Cannon then that’s a very good range.

The Gunsmith is an interesting Archetype. It’s different than how I had imagined a gun using class would be but that definitely doesn’t mean it’s bad. I’d also like to mention that Mike Mearls mentioned on Twitter that they decided to make the Gunsmith an Archetype instead of a class in order to minimize the content that would be unusable in a setting where no guns exist.

Ultimately, the Artificer is very interesting and I’m very happy we got it. I believe I wasn’t as strict as I wanted to be and that’s because an Unearthed Arcana about the Artificer possibly means we’re a step closer to official Eberron content. It clearly needs more work but it’s much better than the last implementation.

You can read the full article here and download the PDF here. And don’t forget, the survey about the Sacred Oaths for the Paladin can be found here. Taking the survey is one of the best things you can do in order to make future content as awesome as possible.


9 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: Artificer Analysis

  1. This class seems completely borked to me. Acid flasks and fire flasks have different damages at different levels. Also, the flasks don’t adhere to the rules for throwing weapons as per the PhB – the target gets a reflex save vs. you have to make a ranged touched attack. But more ridiculously – there doesn’t appear to be any limiting factor on how many alchemical things you can actually make. So, in your spare time you could craft enough healing draughts to heal the King’s entire army if you want to. That’s absolutely insane! Yea, this one is going through some serious revision in my campaign.


    • I don’t consider a bad thing that the acid and fire flasks get their damage upgraded on different levels. Also, they are different from the Player’s Handbook items. I believe they decided to use Saving Throws so that the Artificer can use their Proficiency to the attacks. The other choice was giving them proficiency to improvised weapons or vials, which I would find rather weird.

      As for the amount of formulas, I believe you haven’t read the rules correctly. The formulas must be used inside a specific time window. For example, the Alchemical Fire has to be used the turn you create it, the Healing Draught lasts for 1 hour before disappearing, and the Smoke Stick lasts for 1 minute. Also, there are other limitations. For example, you can’t create another Healing Draught when you already have one and you have to wait 1 minute after creating a Smoke Stick in order to make another one. So yes, as long as you have the Alchemist’s Satchel on you, you can create as many Healing Draughts as you want in order to heal the King’s entire army but you can’t create a bunch of them beforehand.


      • I see that now, but there are a still a ton of other problems with this class. Yea, I’m still bothered by the throwing mechanic. The PhB already has rules for tossing alchemical fire and acid (pg. 148). Why they chose to reinvent that mechanic makes no sense to me. And there’s no limit to the amount of times they can do this! I could conceivable reach into my bag and produce a flask of acid at 5th level that does 3d6 damage, and hurl them indefinitely – at no cost whatsoever. I could, in the middle of the night, continuously hurl acid at a castle wall, and penetrate said wall once it is sufficiently dissolved. Or, I could burn an entire city to the ground while using expeditious retreat with impunity. At least a wizard would have to concentrate on the spell in order to cast a burning hands – no such requirement for the artificer! And speaking of concentration, an artificer can also infuse a concentration spell into an item and then give said item to someone else, essentially bypassing the concentration mechanic altogether. Or, even better, I could put disguise self (A self only spell) onto an infused item, and now the entire party can join in on the fun! And they can do it freely, forever, without incurring any cost whatsoever. No problem.

        I also have a problem with the mechanical servant piece. There are also decent rules for mechanical objects in the animate objects spell. Why did they need to reinvent that piece? And why up to large size? And then it doesn’t scale at all – so you’re still stuck with a CR 2 size large whatever at level 20. Bizarre.

        And thunderstones are broken. Everyone in a 10′ radius con saves or is prone? Good lord, there goes your coven of hags. So much for that battle. And if they succeed on their pathetic con saves, the artificer can just do it again and again every round to ensure they’re always prone. And it’s free! At least in 3.5, thunderstones cost 30gp – but those only deafened things. And a tanglefoot bag is also free, whereas they used to cost 50gp – but they were actually useful in 3.5. This one is just completely worthless.

        No, it’s a badly designed class, in dire need of a polish.


    • Again, they probably had to make different rules for the formulas in order to incorporate the Artificer’s proficiency to their attacks.
      Moreover, I find no problem with the limitless uses of the formulas. There are many limitations to them that don’t make them broken. Also, there are other classes, that are not playtest material, that can be quite powerful at level 5. For example, the Warlock can cast Eldrtitch Blast dealing 2d10 Force damage from 600 feet at no cost.
      As for the Infuse Magic feature, I don’t mind it at all. In fact, it lets characters use the concentration mechanic that otherwise wouldn’t be able to, giving them more options. It has its limitations and cost, as well, so it’s not broken.
      Now, about the Mechanical Servant, I too found it weird that it doesn’t scale. Again, they probably had to use different mechanics so that it doesn’t take the Artificer’s bonus action.
      The prone status isn’t one of the worst and is very easy to get up. Also, since you mentioned a scenario, if a DM has their whole coven of hags so close to each other they may need to improve their tactics. That also goes to letting a character throw acid to a wall for a whole night.
      I do not believe this is a badly designed class but it needs polishing because it is playtest material.
      Finally, when reviewing content for an edition, you should compare it with content from that edition. While 3.5 and 5e may have some similarities, they also have very big differences.


      • Tunneling through a wall with vials of acid? If this is even plausible (which I don’t think it is), I can’t imagine that being easier than using a pick as a dwarf proficient with mason’s tools. And acid splash is already a cantrip for sorcerers and wizards, so nothing has changed.

        Burning a city down? Burning hands isn’t a concentration spell, and there are a half dozen fire cantrips that could easily do the same thing anyway.

        In both these scenarios, any decent DM will be able to think up some decent consequences for your actions.

        Thunderstone OP? Does no damage. Knock your hags prone all day. They’ll stand up and blast you. Have melee allies? Now you’re knocking them prone too. And if all the hags are clumped up perfectly for your aoe to work, chances are it will send them flying 10ft in different directions anyway, so the second attempt probably won’t work as well.

        Disguise self on an infused item? Maybe if your party is small. You’re limited by your int modifier and spell slots. Until level 7, you can do this on you and two other people, max. And of course that blows all your spells for the day. Is it game breaking to disguise 3 people? I don’t think so.

        Liked by 1 person

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