Magus Archetypes Breakdown – Pathfinder – RPGBOT (2024)

Introduction

The Magus is an arcane Striker, and primarily functions in melee combat. Spellstrike and Spell Combat allow the magus to deliver touch attach spells alongside normal attacks, which can make for some very impressive damage output. The Magus depends on intelligence and gets all knowledge skills, so a Magus can serve as the party’s librarian. Magus archetypes change the feel and play style of Magi, but don’t change their role in the party.

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RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options whichare extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful optionsthat only apply in rare circ*mstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essentialto the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

Archetypes

Bladebound

The Black Blade is a really cool concept. You get a magical, sentient blade with some weird unknown purpose, and you’re stuck with it for life. The blade can be very useful, and the free enhancement bonus will save you a lot of money. Other than giving up the possibility of a familiar, the Bladebound archetype is free. It provides a large number of useful abilities which are frequently more useful for the Magus than what a familiar could offer. And, again, it doesn’t cost anything but the option to have a familiar.

Black Blade (Ex): The Black Blade is verypowerful. While it cuts your arcane pool from 1/2 level to 1/3 level, theblade gradually develops its own arcane pool which the Magus can use to fuelthe blade’s abilities, or the Magus can drain points from the blade’s pool tofill his own. In addition, the blade gets an enhancement bonus for free whichprogresses as you level.

There issome debateabout wether or not you can permanently enhance the Black Blade, but becausethe text does not specify that you can, I would assume that you can’t. Similarabilities which provide items (Arcane Bond) explicitly state that you canenhance the weapon.

Alertness (Ex): Bonuses to Perception aregreat, though you probably don’t have spectacular wisdom, and Perception isn’ta class skill.

Black Blade Strike (Sp): This could benice at high level when the bonus is better than +1 and you get multipleattacks, but at low levels its going to be pitiful and expensive.

Telepathy (Su): Until you reach about level10, you are constantly communicating with a stupid, socially inept piece ofmetal. At high levels you are constantly communicating with ahyper-intelligent piece of metal that probably finds you to be a ridiculoussack of meat. I imagine that these conversations will be hilarious.

Unbreakable (Ex): Good for killing rustmonsters, but very situational.

Energy Attunement (Su): Using energy damageinstead of weapon damage is a fantastic way to bypass DR. I’m not sure whyacid damage is omitted, but you have plenty of options. Force damagecompletely removes the need for Ghost Touch when fighting incorporealenemies.

Teleport Blade (Sp): Situational, but niceto have.

Transfer Arcana (Su): You have many moreuses for arcane pool points than you Black Blade, so sometimes it’s nice tomake the blade share. Keep in mind that the blade will never have an arcanepool bigger than 5.

Spell Defense (Sp): The spell resistance isvery small, and spellcasters of your level will have to roll at most a 5 tobypass your SR. At this level, many spellcasters will have SpellPenetration.

Life Drinker (Su): Finally a way to chargeyour arcane pool on an ongoing basis! If you haven’t traded in Spell Recall,you can use this to cast a theoretically infinite number of spells in aday.

Replaced Features: None

Compatible Archetypes: Any

Eldritch Scion

The Eldritch Scion is to the Magus what the Sorcerer is to the Wizard. Instead of depending on Intelligence, the Eldritch Scion depends on Charisma and casts spells spontaneously. Because spontaneous casters increase the spellcasting time when using metamagic, Eldritch Scions are considerably worse at Spell Combat and Spellstrike, and the introduction of the Eldritch Pool hugely handicaps the Eldritch Scion because it adds another limitation on how much the Magus can do in a given day.

Spells: Because you can’t change yourdaily spell list as easily as a normal Magus, you lose quite a bit ofversatility, but make up for it with additional spells per day. Because theMagus is less of a utility caster than a Wizard, this may be a good tradebecause it allows the Magus to output more spell damage per day, and most Magiwill depend primarily on a small subset of the Magus spell list (ShockingGrasp, Vampiric Touch, Fly, etc.). However, because you are a spontaneouscaster, casting metamagic spells (like Intensified Shocking Grasp) takes afull round action, which means that you can’t use them with SpellCombat/Spellstrike.

Bloodline: Bloodrager bloodlines provide alot of excellent options including spells and bonus feats. For help selectinga bloodline, see myBloodrager Blooodlines Breakdown.

Eldritch Pool (Su): Splitting your EldritchPool points between normal Arcane Pool usage and “Mystic Focus” usage is hard.You simply don’t get enough points.

Spell Combat (Ex): Limiting Spell Combat towhen you’re in a “Mystic Focus” severely limits your effectiveness.

Bonus Spells: You learn the spells atconsiderably higher level than you should.

Improved Spell Combat (Ex): 6 levelslate.

Greater Spell Combat (Ex): 4 levelslate.

Replaced Features: Arcane Pool, Greater Spell Combat, Improved Spell Combat, Knowledge Pool, Spell Combat, Spell Recall, Spells

Compatible Archetypes: Bladebound, Spellblade, Staff magus

Hexcrafter

The Hexcrafter is a very easy archetype. You give up Spell Recall, which isn’t a huge loss, and you get access to Witch Hexes. This can add some very cool abilities to the Magus which go beyond tehir weapons and spells.

Hex Magus (Su): May witch hexes arefantastic. See myWitch Hex Breakdownfor more information.

Hex Arcana: You only get one, but it’s pretty good ifyou like curses.

  • Accursed Strike (Sp): Curses are greatdebuffs, and delivering them through Spellstrike is great for a Magus.

Spells: Bestow Curse is probably the onlyspell that you want from this list, but the others don’t hurt to have.

Replaced Features: Spells, Spell Recall

Compatible Archetypes: Bladebound, Spellblade, Staff Magus

Kensai

The Kensai trades some of the Magus’ limited spellcasting and what little armor that the Magus gets for some cool abilities with a specific weapon. While many of these abilities are great by themselves, the archetype as a whole doesn’t really add anything to the Magus. If you want to focus on one specific cool weapon, Bladebound is much more interesting and much more effective.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: Exoticweapons are very rarely notably better than Martial weapons, and losing armorreally hurts the Magus. Be sure to pick up a suit of Haramaki to compensatefor your lack of armor. For weapons, a Katana is likely your bets choice forthe critical threat range. You still get Spell Combat, so you still want tokeep a hand free to cast spells.

Diminished Spellcasting: Magus already get avery small number of spells. Giving up more really hurts.

Canny Defense (Ex): Adding yourintelligence to AC is great for an intelligence-based class, but it’s muchcheaper to enchant a chain shirt than it is to enhance your intelligence. Makesure to get a suit of Haramaki, or your AC is going to be garbage. You mayalso want to commit spells to your AC.

Weapon Focus (Ex): This certainly doesn’thurt to have.

Perfect Strike (Ex): You will get much betterdamage by spending that point to add Flaming to your weapon for a minute.

Fighter Training (Ex): This is great forfeats like Weapon Focus/Specialization.

Iaijutsu (Ex): Initiative bonuses arefantastic, and making attacks of opportunity while flat-footed is a reallycool trick.

Critical Perfection (Ex): The bonus isnice, but critical hit builds are best when two-weapong fighting, which isn’ta thing that the Magus does well.

Superior Reflexes (Ex): Nice, but the Magusis hardly a Defender.

Iaijutsu Focus (Ex): You get one StandardAction in a surprise round, so trading it down to a swift to draw a weapon isno better than trading it down to a move action. Adding your intelligence todamage is a nice touch, but it won’t make much difference.

Iaijutsu Master (Ex): Ruin every surpriseparty anyone ever throws for you. Also, go first in basically every combat.

Weapon Mastery (Ex): This ability isfantastic.

Replaced Features: Armor and Weapon Proficiency, Spellcasting, Magus Arcana
(9th), Spell Recall, Knowledge Pool, Medium Armor, Improved Spell Recall,
Heavy Armor, Greater Spell Access, True Magus

Compatible Archetypes: Bladebound, Spellblade

Myrmidarch

The Arcane Archer wishes it was as cool as the Myrmidarch. The Myrmidarch gives up a big chunk of the Magus’ spellcasting ability to get some fighter abilities, and since its limited to ranged touch spells with Ranged Spellstrike you won’t get as much damage output as a melee magus, but the Magus gets a lot of interesting utility and debuff options from various splat books which most magi can’t use as effectively. In effect, this makes the Myrmidarch a bit like a base class version of the Arcane Archer, with the ability to enhance their weapon and cast spells through it, but also with decent ability to fight without spells. If you want to play an Arcane Archer, I would recommend the Myrmidarch instead.

Diminished Spellcasting: Magus already get avery small number of spells. Giving up more really hurts.

Ranged Spellstrike (Su): It’s important tonote that you can only use ranged touch attack spells here. Goingfrom the Magus’ original spell list in Ultimate Magic that doesn’t give you aton of options for spells which you can cast repeatedly like a normal magususes Shocking Grasp. Advanced Race Guide adds mudball, touch of combustion,and web bolt as 1st-level options, so you’ll have some great utility optionsbut your damage will likely lage behind a melee magus.

Weapon Training (Ex): This is really greatfor the Magus due to their 2/3 BAB, and the additional damage really helps tocompensate when you can’t use Spell Combat.

Fighter Training (Ex): This is great forfeats like Weapon Focus/Specialization, and for things like Point Blank Masterif you choose to focus on archery.

Armor Training (Ex): improved and Greaterspell comba are no great loss, and Armor Training is really great for theMagus. The improved max dex bonus allows you to depend on high dexterity atlow levels, and continue to benefit from it at high levels as you gain accessto better armor. This also allows you to use heavier armor while stillremaining an effective archer.

Armor Mastery (Ex): 5/- is a lot of DR.

Replaced Features: Spellcasting, Magus Arcana (6th, 12th, 18th), Spell Recall, Knowledge Pool, Improved Spell Combat, Improved Spell Recall, Greater Spell Combat, True Magus

Compatible Archetypes: Bladebound, Spellblade, Staff Magus

Skirnir

The Skirnir is a shield build for the Magus. Typically shield builds on Strikers involve two-weapon fighting, but the Magus needs to keep a hand free to cast spells. You can either use a buckler and a weapon, or you can use a heavy spiked shield and a spiked gauntlet. The difference in AC is important for a lightly armored character like a Magus, and you can’t bash with a buckler, so the heavy shield is likely your best bet. Because your damage output depends on your spells and the use of Spell Combat (which you get at level 8), the Skirnir will have slightly better AC, but will have problems dealing damage.

The Skirnir is a great concept, but the execution us poor. Carrying a shield improves the Magus’ AC, which is great, but the Skirnir completely handicaps the Magus’ damage output, which essentially makes the Magus a bad wizard with mediocre AC. If you really want a shield on a Magus, a mithral buckler costs 1165 GP and won’t interfere with any Magus abilities.

Diminished Spellcasting: Magus already get avery small number of spells. Giving up more really hurts.

Arcane Bond (Su): Arcane Bond is a greatability, and the additional spell slot helps to compensate for your DiminishedSpellcasting. A shield is a weird choice, and it costs half as much to enchantas a weapon, so the ability to enchant it without a feat isn’t as helpful asit normally is..

Arcane Pool: You can enhance a weapon anda shield at the same time. This can become expensive if you let it, so becareful to manage your Arcane Pool points.

  • animated: 2 points. Costly, but it freesyour other hand for casting spells or for using a weapon two-handed.
  • arrow catching: 1 points. Awful, even inthe rare situations where it would be useful.
  • arrow deflection: 2 points. A DC 20 reflexsave is very steep for a class without a high base reflex save.
  • bashing: 1 points. Useful at low levelsbefore you can permanently enhance the shield. It’s somewhat confusing howthis works with Spiked Shield because you enhance the spikes as a weapon,and Bashing is an Armor property.This threadhas some isnight on the designers’ intent, but there isn’t an officialruling. Check with your GM for the exact effects.
  • blinding: 1 points. Great at low levelswhen most enemies won’t easily pass a DC 14 reflex save.
  • fortification (any): 1/3/5 points. Niceif you ever fight a rogue.
  • reflecting: 5 points. Very situational,but this is proably the best use of this enhancement becuase you only needto turn it on when you run into a spellcaster.
  • spell resistance (any): 2/3/4/5 points. Toocostly for how low the spell resistance is.

Sorcerous Shield (Ex): The Magus is a lightarmor melee class, which is always a dangerous concept. Adding the ability touse shields really helps to compensate for the Magus’ low AC.

Spellstrike (Su): Cool, and makes sense forthe Archetype.

Shield Pool (Ex): There are much betterways to improve your Concentration checks, there are much better uses of yourArcane Pool points, and Pool Strike is terrible.

Spellshield (Su): Put your biggest, scariestdamage spell in your shield a few days ahead of time to help compensate foryour Diminished Spellcasting.

Shielded Spell Combat (Su): If you used abuckler, you can’t bash. If you use Spell Combat to deal damage, you lose yourshield bonus to AC, so you might as well not have a shield. This abilitydoesn’t really become useful until level 19.

Greater Spellshield (Su): Auto-hit withVampiric Strike to recover the hit points which you just lost.

Replaced Features: Spellcasting, Arcane Pool, Spell Combat, Spellstrike, Spell Recall, Knowledge Pool, Improved Spell Combat, Greater Spell Combat, Counterstrike, Greater Spell Access

Compatible Archetypes: Bladebound, Staff Magus

Soul Forger

The Soul Forger trades in a considerable amount of the Magus’s spellcasting ability for an Arcane Bond weapon and some abilities to craft and repair items. The Magus already has the ability to temporarily enhance weapons, but enhancing the item with abilities which you commonly need (A Keen Rapier/Scimitar is the Magus’ best friend) combines really well with Arcane Pool enhancements. If you like to craft items, this can be a decent archetype. However, with a spell list more limited than a full caster, the enhancements available to you may be limited.

Diminished Spellcasting: Magus already get avery small number of spells. Giving up more really hurts.

Arcane Bond (Su): A free spell per day thatyou don’t need to prepare, and you can enchant your weapon for free.

Spell Combat (Su): Ocasionally annoying,but why would you willingly use anything else?

Spellstrike (Su): See “Spell Combat”.

Master Smith (Ex): With one or two ranksyour Craft skill will exceed your Spellcraft skill, even if you max outSpellcraft. Remember that you need to make Craft or Spellcraft checks toenchant items, including your Arcane Bond weapon. The time limitations arenice, but very few campaigns keep strict track of time, so they won’t mattermost of the time.

Fortify Bond (Su): If you’re about tofight rust monsters or something that likes to Sunder thing, use this.Otherwise, it’s useless.

Reforge (Su): How often do you encounterbroken items? Unless your party likes to Sunder things, you will probablynever use this.

Destructive Counterstrike (Su): Verysituational, but a free attack of opportunity never hurts.

Instantaneous Reconstruction (Su): Unless youfight a lot of rust monsters, you will probably never need this.

Replaced Features: Spellcasting, Spell Combat, Spellstrike, Spell Recall, Knowledge Pool, Improved Spell Recall, Counterstrike, Greater Spell Access

Compatible Archetypes: Bladebound, Staff Magus

Spellblade

Spellstrike is one of the Magus’ best abilities, and giving it up for a lousy dagger is not a good trade.

Force Athame (Sp): Two-Weapon fighting isnot something that the Magus is good at. Dealing force damage is pretty great,but you can jsut cast Magic Missile instead.

Spellblade Arcana: Pool-Sourced Athameshould be part of the normal Athame ability, and the other two arcana areworthless.

  • Pool-Sourced Athame (Su): A much betterway to get your Athame.
  • Spellblade Parry (Su): Very expensive, andthe bonus is small.
  • Throw Athame (Su): Remember all of thosepoints that you put into getting a good Athame? How would you like throwthose away for a single dagger attack? This ability is awful.

Replaced Features: Spellstrike

Compatible Archetypes: Bladebound, Eldritch Scion, Hexcrafter, Kensai, Myrmidarch, Spell Dancer (Elf), Staff Magus

Staff Magus

Despite the Quarterstaff’s general lack of flair, the Staff Magus is fantastic. My first thought when I read the Magus was “this would be really cool with a staff”, and I was completely right. The Staff Magus makes the Quarterstaff a viable one-handed weapon for use with spell combat, and Quarterstaff Defense fixes the issue of high dexterity Magi not being able to switch to medium/heavy armor at high levels. Staff Weapon, the archetype’s 10th level ability, is absolutely fantastic, and really adds a lot of flair to archetype at high levels where magic staves are available.

3.5 players will want to note that staves in Pathfinder have only 10 charges, but can be recharged, making them a permanent resource instead of an over-priced wand.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: All you needis a long stick and a chain shirt.

Quarterstaff Master (Ex): Skipping theprerequisites on this is nice, and using the staff one-handed allows you touse Spell Combat with it.

Quarterstaff Defense (Ex): This makes theenhancement bonus on your staff just as important defensively as offensively.The free +3 bonus at level 13 is a really nice boost, and doesn’t require youto change armor.

Staff Weapon (Su): You no longer need tospend money to enhance magic staves as weapons, and you can spend your extrapoints at the end of the day to recharge your favorite staff much more quicklythan other characters who are typically limited to recharging one charge perday.

Replaced Features: Weapon Proficiency, Medium Armor, Heavy Armor, Fighter Training

Compatible Archetypes: Bladebound, Eldritch Scion, Hexcrafter, Myrmidarch, Skirnir, Soul Forger, Spellblade

Magus Archetypes Breakdown – Pathfinder – RPGBOT (2024)
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