Table of Contents:
Fighter Mage Multiclass
Fighters are flexible martial weapon masters capable of nearly inhuman feats of strength, agility, and skill. Countless classes are capable of powerful spellcasting and any number of these mages can add a magical edge to a fighter’s combat prowess. But what mage? If your goal is both martial and magical exactly what methods mix the best? Grab your sword and your staff as we go through everything you need to know.
Why Play a Fighter Mage Multiclass?
In dungeons and dragons 5th edition fighters are powerful damage dealers, but the fighter class often lacks utility and versatility. Mages vary greatly but usually they sacrifice a lot of their viability in melee or survivability in general for their powerful and versatile spells.
There are several ways you can make the build come together, but ultimately our goal is to have the best of both worlds. We want to use multi classing to be a martial powerhouse and an arcane threat all at the same time while swinging our sword and blasting out spells. What’s not to love?
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What Do We Mean By “Fighter/Mage”?
A lot of the character classes in 5e already blend both martial and magical elements. But when we talk about a Fighter/Mage dual class we aren’t talking about just paladins, or warlocks, we want to take the Fighter class and add some serious magical firepower to its arsenal while remaining a martial character. In short, we want to both be able to swing our sword, and blast arcane spells.
What are the Downsides?
More so than most multiclass builds, we’re trying to essentially have our cake and eat it too by trying to do both typically conflicting strategies. This means we’re going to likely be multiple ability dependent while also needing feats to accomplish a lot of what we want to accomplish.
Our dual class progression for both our martial abilities and our spellcasting are going to take a hit as we split our levels between both disciplines. Each spell per day tends to care about mage levels and dipping lower on that means fewer spells. And we'll be getting fewer attacks than a plain fighter. And as with most multi-class characters, we’re going to sacrifice the top end and capstone features of our respective classes.
When Does a Fighter/Mage “Kick In”?
We’re not looking at one build, we’re looking at a wide range of VERY different builds with similar goals in mind but with different special abilities, so the answer is going to be different for every build. Generally, though you should be looking between levels 5-8 for a “kicked-in” fighter/mage build.
What Class Features Do We Care About?
These builds are about creating a character that is both martial and arcane, so while the different spellcasting classes we can utilize change the builds up quite a bit we still mainly care about our core fighter features and a few key magic elements. We’ll assume we’re building for optimal slashing and blasting even though there are some other possibilities.
Significant Fighter Features
- Hit Points. One of the big advantages that fighters gain over the spellcasting options is just raw hit points. D10s ensure your build keeps a healthily high hit point total.
- Fighting Style. Obtained with only one fighter level, the Archery, Dueling, Two-Weapon Fighting, and Thrown Weapon Fighting options all provide a bit of extra damage in different ways and for different strategies while the new Superior Technique option also provides a way to pick up a maneuver.
- Weapon and Armor Proficiency. Trying a martial strategy with most spellcasting classes runs into weapon restrictions and armor restrictions. By dual classing and taking our first level in fighter we get the fighter's unrestricted access to every armor and melee weapon we could possibly want. Just make sure that during character creation you start with the fighter and not the mage.
- Second Wind. With only one standard fighter level we get even more resilience in the form of second wind. As a bonus action we can heal 1d10 + our fighter level once per short rest. Many characters owe their lives to this simple and quick heal.
- Action Surge. Gained at 2nd level, action surge is powerful normally and downright broken when used right. It breaks the action economy and simply lets you take another action making it one of the most valuable fighter abilities.
- Archetypes. We’ll go into them in more detail in a moment, but a lot of the fighter archetypes and even just the initial 3rd level features of those archetypes can be incredible for the builds.
- Extra Attack. Key to any build that depends on swinging a sword around, extra attack gets you more swings and that makes getting to your 5th level in fighter worth it.
Significant Mage Features
These aren’t specific features but rather they’re the things we’re looking for to add our magical punch and make it work.
- Cantrips. All spells are useful but cantrips in particular don’t use spell slots, and uniquely they scale with our total character level rather than specifically with our spellcasting class levels. This means a cantrip cast from a level 20 wizard will be exactly as powerful as a cantrip cast from a character with 1 wizard level and 19 fighter levels. This makes cantrips invaluable combat spells for the slash and blast style of play we’re shooting for as low of a level dip as possible.
- “Warcasting.” This is more or less a generic term for an “attacking and spellcasting” ability that we can get from a few different sources. Ideally we want to be casting spells and making melee attacks in the same turn which can be tricky to accomplish without the right features. If you’re primarily a fighter with only a dash of rogue, this feature may justify the 2nd level allowing you to dash, disengage, or dodge using a bonus action.
- Arcane Recovery. Specifically arcane recovery is a 1st level wizard feature that lets you recover some spell slots once per day on a short rest. But more generically we just need some feature that can reliably refill
- Archetypes. We’ll need to go into the relevant options in more detail but several of the archetypes for different spellcasting classes can give us an edge here.
Why Not Eldritch Knight?
You may be asking yourself, there’s already a fighter archetype that grants access to wizard spells, why not just use that? Eldritch knight sadly just doesn’t hold up when you do the math when compared to a fighter/mage multiclass. Let’s compare 2 builds: one that is purely 8 levels of eldritch knight, and one that has 5 levels of fighter and 3 levels of wizard.
Pure Eldritch Knight:
- 2 Cantrips
- 6 Spells Known
- 4 1st Level Spell Slots
- 2 2nd Level Spell Slots
- War Magic
5 Levels Fighter and 3 Levels Wizard:
- 3 Cantrips
- 6 Spells Known (assuming Int 16)
- 4 1st Level Spell Slots
- 2 2nd Level Spell Slots
- Arcane Recovery
- Another Fighter Archetype
- A Wizard Archetype
The spells are nearly identical here, and with eldritch knight you DO get war magic which lets us cast a cantrip and make a melee attack as a bonus action at 7th level. The problem here is that for our war magic, we are losing out on arcane recovery and two entire archetypes and their features for just war magic. Granted, war magic does what we want, it's just very inefficient at it.
As a full fighter we want to make use of all our weapon attacks, war magic lets us make one weapon attack in addition to a cantrip, and only a cantrip. This means on a turn we make use of war magic, we’re not only ignoring our other potential melee attacks, but we’re also not casting higher level spells.
Eldritch knight isn’t the worst build in the world but let’s see what we can do that’s a bit more efficient and makes better use of our class levels.
Putting the Fighter / Mage Together
Each of the following combination of classes is very different from the other but work to reach similar goals, blasting and casting.
Let’s start with the easiest and simplest build, it’s also a bit of a cheat because we’re just running a bladesinger wizard with a couple levels of fighter. Bladesinger is already a strong spellcasting and martial combination but with just 2 levels of fighter added to the remaining 18 levels of bladesinger wizard we elevate what the bladesinger is already trying to do. We’re also casting spells mainly as part of our melee attacks rather than making both melee attacks and also casting spells, so it’s a bit of a cheat that way.
So how does this work? Bladesinger is a very strange wizard archetype that encourages us to get into melee with a two-weapon style using bladesong. As a bonus action you can enter a minute-long bladesong, which grants us a bonus to our AC and concentration checks equal to our Intelligence modifier, gives us a 10-foot walking speed increase, and advantage on Dexterity saves. In order to gain these benefits, we can’t be wearing medium or heavy armor, and we can’t be using a shield or two-handed weapon.
This puts us squarely in the two-weapon fighting camp. Starting with 2 levels of fighter gives us more hit points in the early game to work with, healing from second wind, action surge and importantly the two-weapon fighting style. Bladesinger already gets the extra attack feature, so we don’t need to push any further into fighter levels (though if you want to go just a bit further for a fighter archetype that’s a valid play).
For our statistics we care most about Intelligence and Dexterity and want them to be as high as possible. With studded leather and an 18 in both Int and Dex we can rock 20 AC in our bladesong which is downright impressive for what is mostly a wizard. Past that we want Constitution as our 3rd highest score for more hit points and better concentration checks. Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma can all be dump stats for us.
The trick here is that we can use the infamous shadow blade with all the spell slots to essentially be a full spellcaster while working as a magical swordsman. Shadow blade conjures a magical sword in your hand that deals 2d8 psychic damage and gets advantage on attacks so long as you’re in dim or dark light. And considering we can also be attacking for full value with our off-hand weapon we can become a magical meat grinder of attacks.
With 2 levels of fighter and 6 levels of bladesinger wizard, making our attacks using a shadow blade cast with a 3rd spell level slot and an offhand shortsword we should be able to deal an average 43 damage (6d8 + 8 psychic damage and 1d6 + 4 piercing damage) a round. And all of this you can do with 20 AC and while making most attacks at advantage assuming you’ve got some darkness to work with (or cast yourself).
Quickened Squid Sorcerer
Let’s get a bit more technical and start swinging our sword AND casting a spell every turn. This build takes advantage of the sorcerer metamagic quickened spell. At the cost of 2 sorcery points, we can change the casting time of one of our sorcerer spells from an action to a bonus action. So if we quicken a spell, we’re free to make our attack action, then use our bonus action for our spell.
The problem with this concept is that it burns through sorcery points fast and we can suffer due to a lack of spells. That’s where the “squid” part of the build comes in. By taking the aberrant mind sorcerer archetype we can pick up their 6th level feature psionic sorcery. Psionic sorcery does two very powerful things for us, firstly it allows us to cast any of the spells on the psionic spells list using a number of sorcery points equal to its level, which is the same number of points you can gain by sacrificing the spell slots in the first place. This essentially gains spell slots back so long as they’re for psionic spells, and we can feel much more confident in melting our spell slots down for full sorcery points whenever it’s convenient. The second thing it lets us do is cast our psionic spells without verbal or somatic components so long as we cast them using sorcery points. No somatic components means we can cast our psionic spells while holding a two-handed weapon or a weapon and shield with no worries.
So, what does all this accomplish? Imagine running in and swinging a long sword, a big war hammer or a battle ax covered in green flames and then quickening a psionic spell and making somebody’s brain explode!
To put this together I recommend starting with 2 levels of fighter, then 6 levels of sorcerer, then 3 levels of fighter for minimum totals of 5 fighter levels and 6 fighter levels. That will get you all the key features you’ll need. It’s important to start with fighter to gain all the armor and weapon proficiencies, but past that 5 / 6 split you can finish out the class with levels of either depending on if you feel the extra spell slots or extra hit points are more valuable.
For this build we want to prioritize Charisma and Strength making both ability scores as high as possible, followed by a secondary consideration for Constitution. Dexterity, Wisdom, and Intelligence are all dump stats for us.
For the fighter archetype I like to take the psi warrior here mainly on flavor points alone, it doesn’t particularly synergize with the build, but the psi dice are useful and there aren’t many other archetypes we can get value from without using up our bonus actions. Champion and battle master are also nice generic options if you want to go that way for a powerful choice.
For the sorcerer archetype we take the aforementioned aberrant mind archetype, we wear heavy armor and wield a great big two-handed weapon (likely taking the great weapon master fighting style). For at least one of our cantrips we take a melee cantrip like green-fire blade or booming blade.
So long as you focus on the psionic spells (which is an excellent bunch of spells by the way) you’ll be able to siphon each spell slot into sorcery points and back whenever you need. Every turn you can slam in with your warhammer and depending on the situation you’ll be able to just make multiple attacks with it and then quicken a spell, or make a green-fire blade attack and then quicken a cantrip. Smash and blast!
Gravity Echo Knight
Finally let’s get into the most complicated build here which combines the echo knight fighter, the graviturgy wizard, and the war caster feat. Together we want to essentially cast an "extra spell" each round by casting or attacking on our own turn but also casting a cantrip each round as an attack of opportunity.
War caster allows us to cast cantrips in place of melee attacks whenever we would be able to make attacks of opportunity. It also lets us cast spells even when our hands are full, and we get advantage on saving throws for concentration checks, but the opportunity attack aspect is what we want to abuse here.
As before we want to start with 2 levels of fighter and then get up to 6 levels of wizard, then take another 3 levels of fighter to get us up to an extra attack. Past that we're good to take any levels of either to taste.
Intelligence and Dexterity should be our highest ability scores, with a secondary consideration for Constitution. Strength, Wisdom, and Charisma should all be dump stats for us.
This build also requires a feat, specifically war caster. If your DM allows it you may want to take variant human for the 1st level bonus feat. Otherwise, you'll be stuck waiting until you get to an ASI for one.
The idea is to use both the echo knight and the graviturgy wizard’s amazing position control abilities to essentially force our enemies to provoke our attacks of opportunity and therefore our spells.
Echo knights get some of the most interesting fighter abilities with the power to manifest an “echo” of themselves. This echo poofs away if it takes damage, but you get to make attacks as if you were them, and critically you can make attacks of opportunity as if you were them.
The graviturgy wizard gets the adjust density feature at 2nd level that can let us increase our own speed or decrease the speed of a target, and if we get to 6th level, we can shunt creatures 5 feet whenever we hit them with a spell.
Put all this glorious board control together and you can practically guarantee that you’ll force an attack of opportunity on your turn as they attempt to trudge between you and your echo. So you spend your turn hacking away with melee attacks as normal, or cast spells from your distant echo while they’re up on you or vice versa, but you also get to regularly fire off cantrips as a reaction as well!
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Last updated: January 27, 2019
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