With the close of February, Wizards unveils a new iteration of the long-awaited revised Artificer class for Unearthed Arcana. You can read my previous thoughts about the first version of the Artificer here. I have personally played the class, and it was even featured for a limited time on the first campaign of Critical Role with Sam Riegal taking on the persona of Taryon Darrington. After going through the motions and even have the luxury to use the class at level 20 for a one-shot, I can safely say that the class definitely had some areas were it felt underwhelming and other aspects were surprisingly good, if not better than its peers. Upon initial glance of the revised Artificer, many elements automatically had me singing praises for the changes, but I want to write this article to accurately assess the class and present some of my points based on my own experiences with the previous incarnation.
You can check out the Revised Artificer here.
More Arcane Science!
There is more lore for Eberron in this Unearthed Arcana variant, which makes sense given the class’ heritage with the magicpunk-noir setting. This is an important distinction, as the mundane nature of the Artificer being able to replicate magical effects may have implications for future class designs.
Magical Tinkering is a class feature that feels like it would have been written as a great cantrip but also pays a lot of homage to the rock gnome’s Tinker racial feature but with the ability to create multiple trinkets to be handed out to allies. I feel the static visual effect will come in real handy for maps, charts, and even some puzzle solving.
In regards to spellcasting, the Artificer now prepares their spells through the entire suite from their spell list. This would make the Artificer the second class to be an Intelligence-based caster that prepares their spells. Additionally, as a spellcasting focus, an Artificer can use their various tools (such as smith’s tools, alchemist’s tools, tinker’s tools, etc.). This grants a mechanical benefit for players to possess multiple tools, besides using them for skills checks. After 2nd level, an Artificer can use any of their Infused Items as a spellcasting focus. I feel this is a much better flavor adaptation while providing both roleplaying and mechanical boons for characters to be proficient in tools. At character creation, the class has three tools proficiencies to start.
Speaking of spell lists, the updated Artificer spell list from 1st to 4th-level is identical mainly from the original draft except for the new addition of elemental weapon and arcane weapon (a new spell) and the omission of death ward. The most significant additions would have to be the inclusion of 5th level spells, something I personally found to be a worthwhile idea after my own experiences. With access to 5th level spells such as animate objects, Bigby’s hand, and creation; this Artificer feels much more complete and also opens up additional design space with the subclasses as I will discuss further down below.
Oh, surprise! The Artificer is a half-caster (having access to 5th-level spells) and cantrips, which is a first for the overall D&D 5e design philosophy. Out of the two half-caster classes, the Paladin and Ranger, neither one has a cantrip progression. However, it should be noted that because the martial nature of the two previously mentioned class, it made sense to grant them the Extra Attack feature. But the Arcane Armament feature presents a unique condition to the traditional Extra Attack formula by requiring the attack to be made with a magic weapon. But due to the more magical nature of the class, it makes more sense to present cantrips as well. I am always a fan of a class with more options, and the Artificer in its D&D 3.5e version had plenty of them.
The Right Cantrip for the Job feature provides great utility and versatility for the Artificer with their cantrip spell choices.
I personally love the idea behind the Spell-Storing Item feature. It can be applied to a weapon or an item that can serve as a spellcasting focus for the Artificer. The best part is that it can be used by a creature (besides the Artificer) and they can produce the effect a number of times up to twice the Artificer’s Intelligence modifier. Interestingly, the subclasses offer a lot more offensive options which make this feature become a great tool to grant non-spellcasters the ability to cast spells besides just buff spells when compared to the previous incarnation.
So one of the significant synergies that I enjoy from this second revision of the class would have to be Soul of Artifice, which has remained unchanged from the original draft, with the new Infuse Item feature. Infuse Item has a lot of callbacks to the legacy of the Artificer class from D&D Eberron 3.5 Edition. This iteration takes mundane gear and bestows similar properties akin to magical items. Some of these infusions require the Artificer to sacrifice one of their attunement slots, and others do not. To infuse an item, the Artificer would need to have a nonmagical object and turns it into a magic item. You can choose to attune to the item either immediately upon creation or later following the standard attunement rules. When you die, the infusion vanishes after a number of days, and the same goes if you choose to replace it with another infusion. Upon further reading, the Infusions provide a lot of variety and customization, especially the ability through the Replicate Magic Item infusion. The ability to have a Gauntlet of Ogre Power and Belt of Hill Giant’s Strength by 16th level; now you just need a Hammer of Thunderbolts, and you have a nice Battleficer build to work from. The Enhanced Weapon and Enhanced Defense infusions can grant up to a +2 bonus by 12th level, and I can respect that it doesn’t build up further to a +3 bonus, leaving that sort of exclusivity to real magic items. I can see the possibility of more infusions by the time the proper release of the class in a most likely, soon-to-be-released Eberron book. Overall, I’m incredibly pleased with Artificer Infusions, it brings back plenty of the nostalgia without completely making it backbreaking on the mechanics as its predecessor.
A Chemist’s Misadventures – the Alchemist Specialization
Both subclasses for the Artificer went through radical changes from the previous draft, changing substantially how they function and their presentation as well. This subclass grants proficiency in alchemist’s supplies and herbalism kits, and even gives them to the character for free.
I am not a particular fan of Alchemist Spells as a substitute for Alchemical Formulas, while I understand the design implications and reasoning. That is, since the extra spells that are prepared for free and act as domain spells for the Artificer, it expands their utility with their spellcasting focus items (which for the alchemist will be their newfound alchemist’s supplies and herbalism kits). For me, this removes a lot of the creative design elements from the original draft and results in a “nicely wrapped up package” that relies on design conventions than ingenuity. If they wanted to fix or empower the unique design, there certainly could have been class features sprinkled along the progression of formula acquisition. Granted, due to the loss of a fourth feature, the subclass design becomes drastically limited. This, of course, is a personal opinion on the matter, as for the mechanical aspects side of things, for the most part, it provides some of the battlefield control elements that the Alchemical Formulas in the previous version presented.
The Alchemical Homunculus feature provides a powerful familiar pet for the Artificer. Not only does it act after the player’s turn, but it can also perform unique actions if the Artificer spends a bonus action to command it. Primarily, this feature provides the class with a small DPS buff, but ultimately, I feel this is just another feature being tested for viability by community feedback. It feels awkwardly placed here, and eventually, any sort of pet build should be confined to its own subclass now. MAKE IT THE RANGER WE NEVER GOT. Alchemical Mastery shows some promise with the ability to boost any damage or healing Artificer spell (so long as it uses Alchemist’s supplies as the spellcasting focus) which is equal to the Artificer’s Intelligence modifier. Seems solid. I love the caveat of granting lesser restoration by expending a spell slot but only a number of times per day equal to your Intelligence modifier. Say what now? I feel that the cost here is already redundant. Either expend spell slots or make it limited to a number of times per day, not both. This latter portion of the feature gets somewhat overshadowed once the Artificer gains access to greater restoration though it’s not a bad thing to have in a pinch. Chemical Savant feels like a standard capstone for the Alchemist Specialization, granting resistance to acid and poison damage, and immunity to the poisoned condition. A free casting of greater restoration between long rests, it does it all. If we went back to the old Alchemical Formula design, I feel that this would have been a great capstone to grant the Alchemist the ability to mix different potion effects together.
Ultimately, I feel that this Alchemist iteration seems a bit uninspired compared to the potential the first draft presented and draws too many inspirations from the Pathfinder Alchemist class. The real difference between these two classes? The lack of options and the ability to tailor the playstyle.
If you really to salvage the Alchemical Formula feature from the previous draft, consider the following amendments:
- Alchemical Admxiture. At 9th level, instead of gaining another Alchemical Formula, the Alchemist Artificer gains the ability to combine two formulas together. Formulas that require a creature to drink or hurl it must correspond with each other. For example, healing draught and swift-step draught may be used in the same Alchemical Admixture.
- Double Dose. At 14th level, you can create two vials of an Alchemical Formula. This feature does not stack with Alchemical Admixture. You can use this feature a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier, you regain any expended uses after completing a long rest.
Please understand that these features are just some thoughts and examples of a design path, and not fully implemented mechanics. There would need to be some additional beneficial formulas written to utilize the full range of Alchemical Admixture to be viable. But it enhances the original creativity and grants options.
Time to throw in some Swedish Design or Turrets deserve love too – Artillerist Specialization
So the Gunsmith specialization got stripped down and reassembled into a much more mobile platform, and I believe this might be a greater improvement compared to its predecessor. Just like the Alchemist, the Artillerist gains additional tool proficiencies and can also use rods, staffs, and wands as a spellcasting focus.
Continuing with the design convention, the Artillerist also has their slew of spells and ranging from iconic elemental evocations such as fireball, ice storm, and cone of cold. The Arcane Turret feature grants an Artificer the ability to throw down a medium turret that has three distinct functions. Functionally, the turret is a hyped-up spiritual weapon but with much more versatility, especially with the option to detonate and deal damage (always useful). If you’re a fan of the online multiplayer Overwatch, this aesthetically is very reminiscent of one of the playable character: Torbjorn. My one criticism with the turret is mainly for the Flamethrower turret option, as none of the two damage-dealing turret scales in damage. I feel the Flamethrower should still 2d8 damage considering that its current incarnation deals less damage than a burning hands spell.
Wand Prototype is an empowering feature that expands the number of cantrips available for the Artificer, along with the versatility that The Right Cantrip for the Job and by 14th level, this feature grants an additional cantrip to the wand and expands the Artificer’s options again. Fortified Position grants the ability to have two turrets for a limited time but the turrets now provide half-cover benefits to allies within 10 feet of them; which honestly, feels like a great capstone feature for this specialization.
Barring some damage scaling issues, this specialization is a great successor to the Gunsmith incarnation.
TIme for some Arcane Weaponry
Besides the new Infusions or Specialization rewrites, we have the new Arcane Weapon spell. It functions very much like hunter’s mark or hex but for the Artificer and elemental damage. I enjoy that the spell grants the ability to change elemental type for the damage as a bonus action. Honestly, I feel that this has some excellent potential for the Wizard’s spell list, which would work wonders for the Eldritch Knight Fighter. I can see this spell working great for Hexblade Warlocks as well. I would like to see this spell become include in other spell lists, but we won’t know the answer to that until after the class is properly released in the most likely, upcoming Eberron sourcebook.
Optimistically, the Artificer rewrite has great potential and looks much more comparable to the other half-casters while still fulfill its role. While I am not a fan of the design choices for the Alchemist subclass, I can understand the decision for why it went that direction, but I would also challenge the concept and if the original concept could not be adopted more than just simply relying on spells as the “alchemical formulas” for the class. The Artillerist is possibly the best upgrades for the class, the new infusions bring back nostalgia while remaining functional, and the implementations for tools as spellcasting focuses are definitely welcome sights. But like with any playtest material, there needs to be some use of the design on the tabletop to really find the weak spots and areas for where the design needs to be adjusted.
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