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Pathfinder: Kingmaker – Basic Magus Builds

A basic overview of a couple functional single-classed Magus builds, and recommendations to modify them for other archetypes.

Magus Basics

This guide is mostly going to focus on the “vanilla” Magus, and not the Archetypes, but I’ll point out a few important distinctions here and there.

There are a couple of things to know about getting into playing a Magus.

Level 1

Spell Combat
When a Magus casts a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, they can also make all of their weapon attacks at a -2 penalty. The Magus must have 1 hand free to use this ability. This counts as a Full-Round Action.

Arcane Pool
Your Arcane Pool gives you points equal to (1/2 your level) + (your casting modifier), so you might be a bit starved at first but you’ll have plenty of points for most maps by mid-game.
These points can be used to enchant your weapon. At level 1, you can give your weapon 1 Enchantment point, giving it a +1. This stacks with other enchantments up to +5.
Eventually, you can apply up to 5 Enchantment points to your weapon, and use them to grant other properties to your weapon. For example, if you have 3 points, you can add +1 to hit and damage, +1d6 Fire, and Keen (doubled critical range), or simply +3 to hit and damage.

Level 2

Spellstrike
This is a Magus’ bread and butter. This allows you to cast a Touch spell and make a weapon attack to deliver the effect of the spell. This interacts with Spell Combat, meaning that you can cast Shocking Grasp, make a weapon attack to deliver the spell, and make all of your regular weapon attacks that round (at a -2 penalty). The spell stays charged until you actually hit, so it’s not wasted unless you cast another spell. Because you have Touch of Fatigue as a cantrip, you can (and should) do this every round, even when you’re out of spell slots.
Notably, this also gives the Touch spell the ability to crit when your weapon crits, not only on a natural 20. This means that weapons with a high Crit range are even better for you than they are for most other classes. You’ll probably want one with 18-20, but 19-20 is passable.

Level 4

Spell Recall
As a Swift Action, a Magus can recall a spell that they have already cast, by expending Arcane Pool Points equal to the level of the spell.
At level 11, this improves, and a Magus only has to expend Arcane Pool Points equal to 1/2 the level of the spell (rounded down, minimum 1).
Sword Saint and Eldritch Scion get alternate abilities instead of Spell Recall.

Additionally, a Magus gains Medium Armor proficiency at level 7, and Heavy Armor proficiency at level 13. Unlike other classes, you don’t have to worry about Arcane Spell Failure in armor when you gain these proficiencies in this way.

Attribute Selection

As a Magus, you have two basic options available: Strength-based or Dex-based. Either is perfectly viable, but you’ll need 1 or 2 extra feats as a Dex-based Magus. You also limit your weapon selection a bit by going Dex, because you’ll always want Agile weapons for at least the Early game. Luckily there are some good ones.

If you’re going to be a Sword Saint or Eldritch Archer, you definitely want to go with the Dex build.

Based on Human for race selection:

STR-based Magus:

  • Str 15+2 (Racial Bonus)
  • Dex 14
  • Con 14 (13 if Eldritch Scion, bump at level 8)
  • Int 16 (13 if Eldritch Scion)
  • Wis 10
  • Cha 8 (16 if Eldritch Scion)
  • Increase Str every 4th level.

If you don’t want to dump Cha, leave it at 10 and drop Int to 15, then bump it at level 16.

Dex-based Magus:

  • Str 8
  • Dex 18+2 (Racial Bonus)
  • Dex 14
  • Con 14
  • Int 15 (12 if Eldritch Scion)
  • Wis 10
  • Cha 8 (16 if Eldritch Scion)

Increase Dex at levels 4 and 8, bump Int at level 12.
If you don’t want to dump Str or Cha, leave them at 10, leave Dex at 17+2, and wait until level 16 to bump Int.

Spell Selection

Int-based Magi are able to copy scrolls into their spellbook the same as a Wizard, so you aren’t limited to your spells selected on level-up. Regardless, these are all good picks:

1. Shield, Shocking Grasp, Grease, Enlarge Person, True Strike, Magic Missile, Snowball
2. Mirror Image, Blur, Glitterdust, Effortless Armor (if Str-based, and you don’t need it until level 7+)
3. Fireball, Displacement, Haste, Vampiric Touch, Slow
4. Shield of Dawn, Stoneskin, Dimension Door, Greater Invisibility
5. Cone of Cold, Vampiric Shadow Shield, Cloudkill, Baleful Polymorph
6. Disintegrate, Scirocco, True Sight

You don’t have a lot of poor high-level choices. Vanish and Invisibility can be very handy for you, too, if you have the slots for them.

Arcana Selection

In general, you’ll want to go:
3. Arcane Accuracy
6. Enduring Blade
9. Dimension Strike
12. Devoted Blade
15. Bane Blade
18. Ghost Blade

Arcane Accuracy is always useful. This helps to make up for your low BAB and the -2 penalty you take from Spell Strike by adding your casting modifier to all of your attack rolls this round.

Because you’ll be saving more Pool points for Spell Recall, Enduring Blade is good to help conserve points for a vanilla Magus. This makes your weapon enchantments last 1 minute per level, instead of just 1 minute, at the cost of 1 additional Pool point when you enchant your weapon.

Other archetypes will have fewer uses for their Pool points, though, and might want to take Wand Wielder instead, to get an expanded spell selection for their Spell Combat swift action. This is particularly good for an Eldritch Scion, who will be better at Use Magic Device thanks to their high Charisma.

Dimension Strike makes all of your attacks this round target Touch AC (TAC). This is a little costlier, at 2 pool points per use, but lots of very tough enemies can have 40+ AC and 8-10 TAC, which makes this a great nova ability.

Devoted Blade is great – depending on your alignment. This ability gives you the ability to enchant your weapon with properties that match your alignment:

  • Lawful: +2d6 Axiomatic
  • Good: +2d6 Holy
  • Chaotic: +2d6 Anarchic
  • Evil: +2d6 Unholy

A Lawful Good Magus will probably get the most out of this ability, since most enemies are Evil and/or Chaotic. It’s still worth it unless you’re True Neutral, in which case you get nothing.

Bane Blade costs an extra Pool point for enchanting your weapon, but it’s worth it. This adds +2d6 Force damage against everything you attack for the duration.

Ghost Touch allows you to deal full damage to ghost enemies, instead of half damage.
This Arcana also lets you enchant your weapon with Brilliant Energy, which bypasses armor and shields. This is fine, but it consumes 4 of your Enchantment points, which is almost never worth it.

Minor Spoiler: You might not make it to level 18, depending on how much side content you do, but there are a lot of ghost enemies right around the point that you’ll hit level 18, making the Ghost Touch feature handy.

Feat Selection

The Str and Dex builds aren’t that different, really. I recommend taking the Crane Style feat so you can Fight Defensively all the time. I initially had the Crane Wing and Crane Riposte feats in this build, too, but Crane Wing has been patched not to work with Spell Combat, so it’s not worth it anymore.

I recommend you take Outflank on all of your melee fighters. When they’re attacking the same target, they’ll each get +2 to hit, and a free Attack of Opportunity (AoO) when one of them crits.

Combat Reflexes gives you extra AoOs to capitalize on this, and helps you fight spellcasters, as you have a chance to get 2 AoOs on them when they’re casting spells (once when they start casting, and once when they release the spell).

Blind Fight makes you immune to Gaze attacks and helps you deal with concealment, which are both big problems later in the game.

Similarly, Spell Resistance is a big problem at certain points of the game. Spell Penetration will be extremely helpful with this.

Power Attack isn’t that good for you early on because you don’t have full BAB, plus you’ll be incurring an extra -2 penalty from Spell Combat, but once you get Dimension Strike you can basically guarantee a full round of hits by targeting Touch AC, so this will be a good damage boost later in the game.

Str Build
1. Dodge, Improved Unarmed Strike
3. Crane Style
5. Spell Penetration, Weapon Focus (Scimitar)
7. Outflank
9. Combat Reflexes
11. Improved Critical (Scimitar), Seize the Moment
13. Blind Fight
15. Power Attack
17. Greater Spell Penetration, Critical Focus

Take whatever weapon you want, but I recommend Scimitar. You should be able to get a +1 around level 5, and you get access to progressively better ones fairly regularly. The best ones for you are probably the ones with the “Runic Mageblade” property, because these will cancel the -2 Attack penalty that you incur when using Spell Combat.

Dex Build
1. Dodge, Weapon Finesse
3. Improved Unarmed Strike
5. Crane Style, Spell Penetration
7. Outflank
9. Fencing Grace or Slashing Grace
11. Weapon Focus, Combat Reflexes
13. Improved Critical
15. Blind Fight
17. Seize the Moment, Greater Spell Penetration

Use whatever Finesse weapon you want, but I recommend using Rapiers or Scimitars. If you only plan to use Agile weapons, you don’t need Fencing Grace or Slashing Grace; there are a number of good Agile weapons, especially Rapiers. You can replace this feat with Crane Wing, and replace Crane Wing with whatever Weapon Focus feat you want.

Minor Spoiler/Metagame Builds:

Dueling Swords are Finessable and there is an excellent endgame +5 Agile Dueling Sword with 18-20 Crit range called Bloodhound. You can take advantage of this by replacing the Weapon Focus in the Str build with Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Dueling Sword), and obviously taking Improved Critical (Dueling Sword) instead of (Scimitar). There are a lot of other good non-Agile Dueling Swords throughout the game, starting at level 5.

For the Dex build, you can go:

1. Dodge, Weapon Finesse
3. Improved Unarmed Strike
5. Crane Style, Spell Penetration
7. Outflank
9. Crane Wing
11. Crane Riposte, Combat Reflexes
13. Blind Fight
15. Exotic Weapon Proficiency: Dueling Sword
17. Improved Critical (Dueling Sword), Greater Spell Penetration

Equipment

Here’s a brief summary of what equipment your characters should be using around Endgame:

Str
Lawbringer (+8 Str Mithral Plate) – Dragn’s Masterpiece Item
Steady Hand (+4 Dex, True Strike 3/Day) or Lightest Touch (+6 Dex, infinite Reduce Person) – Artisan items, ask for “something to increase speed”
Hat of Mental Perfection +8
Manticore Skin Boots (+4 Nat Armor, +10 Move)
Greater Belt of Perfect Components (All level 1, 2, 3 spells are Extended and Empowered) – Pitax Tournament
Maximize Metamagic Rod
Thundering Scimitar of the Bear God (+4, +1d6 Sonic, +1d6 Lightning, +5d6 Lightning (save for half, DC 24 Reflex) on crit), or
Jolt (+5 Scimitar, Runic Mageblade, +1d6 Lightning)

Dex
Leviathan’s Gift (Robe, Maximize Metamagic 6/day) – Artisan Item
Belt of Physical Perfection +8
Hat of Mental Perfection +8
Empower Metamagic Rod
Thundering Scimitar of the Bear God, or
Jolt, or
Black Salt (+5 Rapier, 2 points of damage to a random ability on hit, cannot reduce an ability below 7)

Written by CBAnaesthesia

1 thought on “Pathfinder: Kingmaker – Basic Magus Builds”

  1. This is great! just picked up the game and Magus is what I wanted to try.
    Although why did you take improved unarmed strike? If I understood how feats work, you only need dodge to get the crane style.

    Reply

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