Unearthed Arcana: The Artificer Returns Analysis

The more Artificer the better.

The latest Unearthed Arcana installment is an update on the Artificer. I like this because it could mean we may be seeing more Eberron soon-ish.

So, what’s new this time? Before I answer this question, I’m going to answer another.

What has changed?

A quick answer is not much. You can check out the previous analysis here, as it covers content that hasn’t changed in this installment.

Spell List. The Artificer spell list has been enriched with spells from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. That was a good call. Moreover, Faerie Fire was added and Shield of Faith was removed. Does it have to do with the fact that it’s a divine spell? More on that later.

Multiclassing. One word has changed. Seriously. But it’s important because it’s rare to see this in 5e. The artificer adds half their levels rounded UP when it comes to determining spell slots. Could this be a test for further errata? We’ll see.

Alchemist. No changes. I don’t believe there was a need for major changes anyway.

Artilerist. No changes, unfortunately. I would like to see some changes to how the turrets work.

What’s new?

This part will take more time.

Archivist

The power of Big Data comes to D&D. The description of the Archivist reminded me a bit of the mentants of the Dune series.

Tools of the Trade. It grants proficiency with the calligrapher’s supplies and the forgery kit, while also providing them. Moreover, crafting scrolls costs you one quarter of the time and half the gold. I find the proficiencies quite in flavor. Also, the scroll crafting part sounds interesting. Maybe scroll crafting could become more viable.

Archivist Spells. The idea is the same. The Artificer spell list is boosted with extra spells and they also don’t count towards your spells prepared. The spells themselves are good and in flavor.

Artificial Mind. This is the main feature of the subclass. At the end of a long rest you can ” magically rouse a keen mind” in a tiny item. It’s considered magical and grants you a lot of cool options:

  • Telepathic Advisor. Depending on the material the item is made of (you can choose among three options; animal, mineral, plant), you get a list of 5 skill and you can choose to gain proficiency in two of them. The skills don’t feel evenly distributed. For example, 4 out of 5 the skills plant lets you pick from are already available from the Artificer’s initial proficiency list. The mineral skills are all related with social interaction. This could be helpful when you know a session will be social interaction heavy. This could be covered by another party member but it’s nice to be able to contribute as well.
  • Manifest Mind. As a bonus action you get something similar to a familiar that is intangible and invulnerable. It can travel up to 300 feet away from you and, as an action, you can see and hear from it. It has darkvision but it also sheds dim light, making its reconnaissance abilities questionable. Finally, you can use this familiar as the source of your spells. This, if used strategically, can lead to fun stuff. For example, you can extend the range of your spell, based on the location of the familiar. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier.
  • Information Overload. This is like an overloaded cantrip. It imposes an Intelligence saving throw and deals psychic damage. Both the saving throw and the damage type are rare so that’s a bonus. Moreover, if the target fails the saving throw the next attack against it, before the end of your next turn, has advantage. But wait, there’s more. The damage of the cantrip scales with level and you can boost it with spell slots, Paladin Divine Smite style. I like this a lot, both mechanic and flavor wise.

Mind Network. This feature gives a utility option and boosts your damage a bit.

  • Magical Telephony. You become a mobile command center. You can communicate telepathically with anyone carrying one of your infusions. This also works across planes, which is awesome. It would be more fun if the people carrying infusions could also communicate with each other.
  • Psychic Damage. You can add you Intelligence modifier to the psychic damage rolls of your Artificer spells and Information Overload. That’s a nice boost. The Archivist’s spell list has a few spells that deal psychic damage and, of course, Information Overload is pretty much your main weapon.

Pure Information. This is where things go from fun to insane.

  • Mind Overload. This is another upgrade to Information Overload. Whenever you use a spell slot to boost its damage, the target must make an additional Intelligence saving throw or become stunned until the end of your next turn. That’s a pretty cheap stun you can use all the time.
  • Infoportation. This is one of the strongest teleportation granting features we’ve seen so far, in my opinion. You can use your action to teleport either next to the spectral mind OR an item bearing one of your infusions. So, if I’m reading this correctly, if you use the Many-Handed Pouch infusion and send it to your friends all over the world, you end up with a really handy traveling ability. The first use of the feature each day is free and after that it requires a 2nd level spell slot. My only question is whether you can use this to hop planes.

Overall, I consider the Archivist quite powerful. The psychic damage isn’t easy to counter and Inforpotation looks pretty good to me. The rest of the utility options are good as well, especially the scroll making bonuses which I hope will make crafting a bit more fun. I would like to see more clarity on how this mind works lore wise. Is it sentient and, if yes, how sentient is it?

Battle Smith

The Battle Smith feels like a Ranger deciding to become a combat medic.

Tools of the Trade. It grants proficiency with the leatherworker’s tools and smith’s tools, while also providing them. Moreover, crafting magic armor costs you one quarter of the time and half the gold. The tool proficiencies make sense, especially when you take the second part of the feature into consideration.

Battle Smith Spells. The spell list is a smite galore. I have no problem with it but I want to note something connected with the changes in the general spell list. Shield of Faith would be a good spell for the Battle Smith because they are called a protector in their description. Since they already get a ton of Paladin spells that wouldn’t be an issue. My guess is they maybe forgot they removed the spell from the general spell list.

Battle Ready. This one makes the Battle Smith a viable melee subclass for the Artificer. Especially the second part that allows you to swap the modifier you add to your weapon attacks with Intelligence is pretty liberating. Just remember this works only with magical weapons but I highly doubt that’s a problem for the Artificer.

Iron Defender. And here’s the key feature of the subclass. You gain a four-legged iron companion. It resembles the Homunculus on how it works, but it’s tankier and has less options. It acts right after you and it has two modes of operation. On its own, it can move, use the Dodge action and use its reaction. If you spend a bonus action, it can use any of it actions found in its stat block, as well as the Dash, Disengage, or Help action. Seems fair. Also, the Defensive Pounce can be used each round and looks good.

Arcane Jolt. This is an upgrade to your iron friend. It makes its bite attack magical. Also, when it hits with a magical attack you can choose whether it will deal an extra 2d4 damage or heal a nearby ally for 2d4 hit points. You can use this option a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier. That’s not bad at all. The D&D team has learned from the Ranger and they are implementing similar ideas here. Also the extra damage/heal is always good.

Improved Defender. Another upgrade for the Iron Defender. This time, the extra damage or healing are upgraded to 4d4 and the Defensive Pounce gets to deal damage equal to 1d4 + INT. While it isn’t bad, this feels like a filler feature. For example, the damage of Arcane Jolt could simply scale with the level.

Overall, the Battle Smith feels like a Ranger a bit. This isn’t a complaint because they work differently. Out of the two new subclasses, however, I believe this is the one that needs a bit more work.

Infusions

There are a few new infusions so we should take a look at them as well.

Enhanced Wand. This was missing, since other weapons got an infusion. This one gives a boost to spell attack rolls. It also lets you ignore half cover with your spell attacks. Nothing you wouldn’t expect, but welcome nonetheless.

Repeating Shot. A nice upgrade for people who like ammunition weapons, such as crossbows. Apart from the +1 to attack and damage rolls, it makes you ignore the loading property and gives you infinite ammunition. Not bad at all, though I doubt a lot of people actively track ammunition.

Repulsion Shield. This is a fun one. Apart from the +1 to the AC, it lets you push (aka boop) an enemy 15 feet away. However, this can be used only once per short or long rest. I could argue that giving a number of uses per long rest equal to the Artificer’s Intelligence modifier wouldn’t be that game breaking.

And that’s all. I like the additions to the Artificer, but I would have liked to see some tweaks in the existing subclasses. I believe we’re one installment away before its final version, which could be in September.

What do you think? Do you like the new subclasses? Which one do you think is closer to its final version?

You can read the full article here and download the PDF here.

P.S. 1: I’m a bit late but I’ve been so busy with university stuff. The exam season is 2 weeks away and that means even more work and stress for me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the time to make a video to accompany the written analysis. Hopefully next time. Sorry for that.

P.S. 2: I want to thank my friend and patron Anastasios for asking to take part in the writing of the analysis. That was fun and having a second brain was very helpful. And I should mention my Patreon here if you want to support me.

3 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: The Artificer Returns Analysis

    • The way it’s written leaves it open to interpretation.
      Since it’s an infusion for 8th level Artificers and because +1 shields are uncommon, I think the +1 is an additional bonus to the AC.

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