Unearthed Arcana: The Artificer Revisited Analysis

The latest update for the Artificer is out!

Before I move into the analysis, I’d like to state that I’m being held hostage by Anastasios from the Random Encounter blog and I’m forced to write this. In other words, we’re just hanging out together and writing this. So this analysis will be a combination of our view on the new Artificer. I hope you enjoy.

Last time we heard about the Artificer it was January of 2017, without counting its DMs Guild release. The first attempt was to create it as a Wizard subclass. The second attempt was a separate class with two subclasses, the Alchemist and the Gunsmith. It appears this approach has been kept for the third version of the class.

Class Features

The flavor of the class kinda promises the ability to create new knowledge and to spark new inventions to life that will make the life of the Artificer richer. We’ll see at the end of the analysis if that is successfully portrayed through the mechanics of the class.

  • Hit Dice. The d8 is a standard choice and hasn’t changed from the previous version.
  • Armor. Proficiency with light and medium armor is the same with the previous version. This one, however, gets proficiency with shields too.
  • Weapons. The previous version’s proficiency with simple weapons has been enhanced with proficiency with hand crossbows and heavy crossbows. Crossbows probably fit the flavor of the class and also provide a good source of damage.
    • Optional Rule: Firearm Proficiency. The Artificer has been separated from firearms (more on that later) but they still get the option to use them, if the setting allows it. We approve this change.
  • Tools. This version limits the number of free choices to one. The second free choice has been replaced by proficiency with tinker’s tools. It fits the flavor better, in my opinion. As I said last time, thieve’s tools are quite helpful as well.
  • Saving Throws. Constitution and Intelligence, like last time.
  • Skills. The number of skill proficiencies has been reduced by one and the list of skills has been slightly altered. I prefer this one because it allows to pick Perception, which is something I like a lot for my characters. The reduction may be the result of having many tool proficiencies.

Magical Tinkering. You can pretty much cast Prestidigitation with infinite duration. You have a few effects you can imprint on tiny objects, and these effects can last forever or end when you want them. The number of those items depends on your Intelligence modifier, and when you exceed that number you lose the oldest one. Just like Prestidigitation, the usefulness of this feature depends on your imagination. Also, it fits the flavor of the class quite well. A note that could be made here is that at higher levels there could be a boost on the amount of objects you can tinker.

Spellcasting. The fact that you have to use tools as your spellcasting focus is a limiting factor. It will make you spend actions to switch between your weapons and your focus. I love this flavor wise though. I’m not sure if going only up to 5th level spell is the correct choice. At least they have access to 5th level spells this time, compared to the previous version. This allows them to cast Animate Objects which was a bit weird to not be available.
Personally, I’d rather have the class to work like the wizard. Finding spells and learning them feels like it would be a good fit flavor wise.

  • You prepare your spells like a Cleric, meaning you have access to all your spells and prepare a number of them each day.
  • Your spellcasting ability is Intelligence.
  • You can cast spells as rituals, as long as they have the ritual tag and you have them prepared.

There is also a new spell, called Arcane Weapon. In my opinion, it’s a better version of the Elemental Weapon spell. It’s a level 1 spell, where Elemental Weapon is a level 3 spell. While Elemental Weapon gives a +1 to attack rolls, Arcane Weapon deals more damage.

Based on the list of the non cantrip spells, it appears that the role of the Artificer is meant to be a supporting one.

Infuse Item. This is the Magical Tinkering feature’s older sibling. You can infuse mundane items with effects, turning them into magic items. You start with 3 infusions known and you know 8 of them at level 20. Also, there’s a specific amount of infused items you can maintain. You choose which items to infuse at the end of a long rest. Moreover, you can probably scam people by selling them “temporary” magic items. Let’s take a look at the infusions now.

  • Boots of the Winding Path. This is a very limited Misty Step. The range is half that of the Misty Step spell. Also, in order to use this ability you must have moved this turn. Not my first choice, unless someone in my party would have a hit and run strategy. But in that case, that player would probably have better abilities for their strategy.
  • Enhanced Defense. This is broken, if you consider that bounded accuracy is working. At lower levels this is probably life saving. A 2nd level Fighter can end up with an AC of 23, if they have picked the Defense fighting style and the Artificer infuses both their heavy armor and shield. A Paladin can have an AC of 27 at level 12 if they cast Shield of Faith. Edit: You can’t have the same infusion active multiple times. Thank you for pointing that out to me. Still, I do believe it’s quite powerful.
  • Enhanced Weapon. This can give you a +1 magic weapon at level 2. That’s important depending on the enemies. It’s a good one but not broken like Enhanced Defense.
  • Many-Handed Pouch. This is how cloud storage would work in a fantasy world. You can, also, use it for communication. Depending on your imagination you can find quite a few innovative uses for it.
  • Radiant Weapon. A +1 weapon that lights up and has the ability to blind a target once per short rest. That’s not a bad infusion. While Enhanced Weapon gives a +2 at level 12, having the ability to blind an opponent can be advantageous.
  • Replicate Magic Item. This is 48 infusions marked as one. You can learn this infusion multiple times and each time you learn to replicate a different magic item. The magic items are divided into 3 lists, based on the Artificer level. I believe the magic items available for replication are all quite good.
  • Resistant Armor. I like that you can choose each time the type of resistance, without having to pick the infusion multiple times. Also, this is quite helpful if you have the luxury to plan before heading out on your adventure. This one can be particularly good when combined with races and classes that grant resistances.
  • Returning Weapon. I like this one, and I also managed to convince Anastasios that it’s a good one. It makes a thrown weapon a +1 magic item that returns to your hand after an attack. This means you can use it for your Extra Attacks and you won’t have to scour the battlefield, looking for your +1 daggers.

Artificer Specialist. You choose your subclass at level 3, while in the previous version you chose it at level 1. More on that later.

Tool Expertise. Just for the thieve’s tools this is worth it. For the rest of the tools, the usefulness of this feature depends on how much crafting takes place in your game.

Ability Score Improvement. This is the standard amount classes get. Nothing to see here.

Arcane Armament. I understand the flavor of the feature but it feels limiting. If you’re relying on spells in combat, this feature is a bit useless. If you’re using weapons, you will have another ability score to worry about in order to be effective in combat, while the magic weapon required for the use of the feature could be more useful at the hands of another character. The feature, as I said, feels limiting and a bit incomplete.

The Right Cantrip for the Job. I love this one. Actually, I had posted a question about the option of changing cantrips on social media. I find that it adds a lot of versatility to the Artificer. It allows them to go from a utility toolkit to a more combat oriented one, and also to switch damage types.

Spell-Storing Item. This is an amazing feature and a huge upgrade of the feature Infuse Magic from the previous version of the Artificer. The feature doesn’t cost you spell slots and the spell stored in the item can be cast multiple times, equal to twice your Intelligence modifier. I consider it balanced because you can only use 1st and 2nd level spells. But even with that limitation, it can be useful with the right choice of spell.

Soul of Artifice. This hasn’t changed from the previous version and I still believe it’s insane. I had mentioned that an Artificer with an Intelligence score of 20 and attuned with 6 magic items has a +17 to their Intelligence Saving Throw. That’s mind blowing, or rather not mind blowing at all because with a +17 to your Intelligence Saving Throws there’s no chance you’ll get your mind blown.

Artificer Specialists

Alchemist

Pretty self explanatory. The previous version of the Alchemist had a pretty nifty satchel that provided the materials and the storage space for your concoctions. This concept also found use in our Saboteur subclass, by the way. This version looks like it has changed a lot.

Tools of the Trade. It grants proficiency with the alchemist’s supplies and the herbalism kit, while also providing them. Potion crafting now costs half as much and takes only a quarter of the original time. I appreciate the fact that we get a feature that interacts with crafting. Crafting is problematic but maybe we’ll get something solid in the future. The significance of this feature depends on how crafting is treated in your game.

Alchemist Spells. This one enhances the Artificer’s spell list, by adding 2 extra prepared spells at levels 3, 5, 9, 13, and 17. I believe it’s a good list that fits the flavor of the Alchemist, while also increasing the damage options of the class. Also, Death Ward and Raise Dead seem cool.

Alchemical Homunculus. You get an upgraded Homonculus. Contrary to the Mechanical Servant of the previous version, this one get a little bit of scaling, based on your proficiency bonus or your Intelligence modifier. It acts right after your turn, and you can command it using a bonus action. It also has the potential of surpassing you in hit points, since it uses your Intelligence modifier. You can heal it using the Mending cantrip and revive it using your tools and a level 1 spell slot. As I mentioned, you can command it using a bonus action. Apart from the Dash, Disengage, or Help actions, you also have these options:

  • Acidic Spittle. This is not bad for a bonus action damage option. It deals acid damage and scales from 1d6+2 up to 1d6+6. The only reason this isn’t the best option is because of the next one.
  • Alchemical Salve. You can use it 3 times per day in order to generate one of the following effects:
    • Buoyancy. A target gains a flying speed of 10 feet for 10 minutes. It’s not fast enough to use in combat so it has more of a utility purpose. Though, you could give it to a ranged character and turn them into an orbital laser.
    • Inspiration. This is the reason you can call the Alchemical Homonculus an inspiration vending machine. This one pretty much grants up to 5 inspiration to 3 characters. The only restriction is that it only affects ability checks.
    • Resilience. This one grants a hefty amount of temporary hit point. It’s not bad at all, considering you get this option at 3rd level. Too bad it doesn’t scale.

I’d like to note here that having the Homonculus use the Help action, is pretty much an advantage generator, even for attack rolls. Of course, it may take some damage, since it needs to be next to your target in order to use the Help action, but you can heal it with a cantrip and revive it with a level 1 spell slot.

Alchemical Mastery. This feature boosts your healing spells and your spells that deal poison or acid damage. This bonus is equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of +1). You can also cast Lesser Restoration without expending a spell slot for a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of once). Thanks to the Alchemist Spells feature, the Artificer has a couple more damaging spells that benefit from this. However, there aren’t enough healing spells for me to say the bonuses from this feature are going to have a huge impact.

Chemical Savant. You gain resistance to acid and poison damage, and you are immune to the poisoned condition. You can also cast Greater Restoration once for free every long rest. Poison damage is quite common so this has some potential. I would argue about the power of this feature if it were granted at lower levels but I’ve seen much worse at level 14. Also, Greater Restoration is a nice bonus.

The Alchemist seems like a good support option. You can create and distribute potions before combat, help others with their skill checks, and deal an acceptable amount of damage. Personally, I consider it better than the previous version.

Artilerist

This one requires some explanation. The Artilerist is the more combat oriented specialization of the Artificer. They provide damage and defensive options and they love wands.

Tools of the Trade. It grants proficiency with the smith’s tools and woodcarver’s tools, while also providing them. Moreover, you can use rods, staffs, and wands as a spellcasting focus, and you get a nonmagical wand. Finally, crafting wands costs half as much and takes only a quarter of the original time. If you like wands, this is the subclass for you.

Artillerist Spells. Following its flavor, this spell list is packed with damaging spells and sprinkled with a couple of defensive ones. This would have been an amazing spell list, if the class had enough spell slots.

Arcane Turret. You can use an action to summon your turret. It is considered an object, so it is immune to poison and psychic damage, as well as all conditions. That, combined with its AC of 18 makes it a bit tanky, though it can’t have as many hit point as the Alchemical Homonculus. You can summon it for free once per long rest. After that, you must use a level 1 spell slot. That’s an issue because Artificers don’t get that many spells lots. This means you have to assess the situation and decide whether it requires “big guns”. The turret can move and you can also detonate it for some damage. You can choose between three types of turret:

  • Flamethrower. I’m not happy with the damage, but at least it can target multiple creatures and pretty much deal guaranteed damage.
  • Force Ballista. It has long range and can push the target on a successful hit. The damage is okay as well. This appears to be the default option out of the three.
  • Defender. Compared to the Alchemical Homonculus, it grants less temporary hit points per person, but if placed strategically, it can keep the party alive for a long time, especially at lower levels. The short range can be tricky, but at least the turret can move.

Wand Prototype. This feature lets you load a cantrip on your wand, while it charges it to deal extra damage equal to your Intelligence modifier (minimum of a +1). At level 14 you can load two cantrips. As I see it, this feature has two effects. It makes your cantrips stronger, which is important since you don’t have a lot of spell slots. Also, it gives you room to have utility cantrips prepared, while your combat ones are loaded in the wand.

Fortified Position. You turrets now provide half cover, if a creature is 10 feet from them. Half cover is a nice +2 to your AC so it’s not that bad. Moreover, you can now summon a second turret along with the first one for free. This turret can be of any type you want and both turrets are commanded with one bonus action. However, you can summon a second turret only once per long rest. The half cover is quite nice. The second turret is nice as well, but you will have to make the right call on when to summon it.

The Artilerist is more damage oriented than the Alchemist, but it feels like it’s lacking. The turret is more liming compared to the Alchemical Homonculus and also there aren’t enough turret options, in my opinion.

Ultimately, I consider this an improvement. The Mechanical Servant has been moved to the subclasses and has been given flavor based on them. The black powder weapons have been turned into a variant option, which gives more freedom of play. I consider the Alchemist at a much better state than the Artilerist. The turrets need more option and some scaling on their damage. Also, the turret summoning economy is something that needs work.

What do you think? Is this an improvement on the previous version? Which subclass do you like and which one needs more work?

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

P.S: The Unearthed Arcana schedule has been changed. New ones will pop up when they’re ready. Also, the next one will probably be about the Artificer again. That’s a good thing because I need that hardcover Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron in my bookshelf.

11 thoughts on “Unearthed Arcana: The Artificer Revisited Analysis

  1. I believe the wording for the infusions prohibits you from making more than one of each of your infusions at a time. This makes it impossible to give Enhanced Defense to both armor and a shield.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are correct. Thank you for pointing that out. I’ll correct it right away. This makes the Enhanced Defense not completely broken, but a 2nd level character with an AC over 20 is still quite powerful.

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    • I believe the wording actually refers to not being able to put multiple infusions into the same item. If you couldn’t have more than one of the same infusion active, Many-Handed Pouch wouldn’t be able to work as intended.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The Many-Handed Pouch is a single infusion used on multiple pouches simultaneously, just like an Infusion on a pair of boots or gloves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s how I understood it the first time I read it. However, if you check the third paragraph of “Infusing an Item”, the sentence “…and each of your infusions can be in only one object at a time”. I’m fairly sure this means you can’t have the same infusion active at the same time on different items.

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    • (wasn’t able to reply to your replies)
      To Zenferno: That’s my point exactly. If you couldn’t put the Enhance Defense on more than one different item, that means you wouldn’t be able to with Multi-Handed Pouch either.
      To both: If you look under Multi-Handed Pouch, it gives you the option of infusing 2-5 pouches, which just so happens to be the amount of infused items you can have active when you’re first able to learn it all the way to the maximum number of active infusions you can ever have. So you would be using multiple uses of the same infusion on multiple items at the same time. Which brings me to my original point, I believe the wording is actually there to clarify that you can’t have more than one infusion on the same item. Example: Boots of the Winding Path on the same boots used to infuse Boots of Elvenkind. I admit, the wording could be clearer but, from the evidence I presented, I do believe my interpretation is the correct one. Hopefully Jeremy Crawford will clarify this the next time he’s on Dragon+.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Each infusion has a specific target item. That can be one item but in some cases, in order for the infusion to be useful, it has to be multiple. I doubt an Artificer would want to spend all their infusions in order to use the Multi-Handed Pouch. The same goes for having to use 2 infusions for a set of boots. The 2-5 number, in my opinion, is coincidental and wants to cover parties a bit smaller or larger than the usual 3-4 person parties.

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      • I’m happy to say that I was wrong, because the Many-Handed Pouch is definitely looking a lot more appealing now. And sorry for the confusion, but I didn’t mean you’d have to use multiple infusions on boots, but I guess that it doesn’t really matter now anyway. That being said, I do hope they make the wording a bit more clear in future versions in order to avoid this confusion.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Glad you found the tweet. I asked Jeremy yesterday and I was about to share the answer. Yeah, sometimes the UA wording is lacking. That’s why it’s playtest.

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