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Unearthed Arcana: The Artificer Returns Breakdown

Welcome back, Unearthed Arcana, we’ve missed you! Now, we’ve known for a few months that UA was going to bring more artificer content when it came back, and that it might be a few months because they’re moving away from steady, or even scheduled, UAs. This time out, we get two new subclasses, three new infusions, and some other minor changes.

Artificer | Artificer Revised | Artificer Returns



Readers who know me personally are in no way surprised that I sat up and took notice at this subclass name. Its concept is incredibly weird, though – it’s niche-of-a-niche concept for Eberron or Ravnica, while I’d be hard-pressed to say that it has any place at all for other official settings. This is an artificial-intelligence builder, which… is quite a leap from the concept the name implies. You’re actually making things more like Bob the skull from the Dresden Files.

  • Every artificer subclass starts with Tools of the Trade, and in this case that’s calligraphy and forgery tools; you also get a set of these tools for free. You craft magic scrolls in 25% of the time, at 50% of the cost.
  • The Archivist spells emphasize thought manipulation and information gathering, especially communication.
  • Artificial Mind is your centerpiece feature, and it does enough that this one feature is almost a full page of text. The material you use as the base for the item determines which skill proficiencies you gain from it. Two extra proficiencies doesn’t hurt, but making them changeable every long rest across a broad list is incredible.
    • You can manifest the artificial mind. It is a light source, a scouting sensor, and the origin point for spells you cast a few times per day (equal to your Int modifier).
    • You gain Information Overload, a new at-will cantrip-like effect that DDoSes your target, dealing psychic damage and granting advantage to the next attack roll against that creature on a failed Int save. You can further boost that damage with a spell slot, as if Divine Smiting. (In addition to the similarity to Divine Smite, I suspect that the next mystic/psion will have something similar – cantrips that you can inflate with spell slots.)
    • Huh, it would be creepy-cool (and possibly overpowered?) if you tattooed yourself with the glyphs that make the magic item, and thus just gained a spectral extension of your own mind.
  • Mind Network at 6th level sets up your interplanar(!) telepathic text messaging (as long as they have one of your infused items) and adds your Int modifier to damage with artificer spells and Information Overload.
  • Pure Information at 14th level adds a potential stun to your Information Overload, when you spend a spell slot to boost it; your spectral mind can also beam you up once a day, and you can spend spell slots of 2nd level or higher to teleport to it again.
    • I am alarmed by significant proliferation of stun effects, because the monk’s Stunning Strike is a problem in so many groups that I hear about.
    • It took me a few times reading it to get that you have to have your magic item on you to use the teleport, and you go to where the spectral mind is. Otherwise you could just send yourself through the mail, and that sounded amazing. It can still do a lot, but over a much shorter range (since the spectral mind can’t go more than 300 feet from the magic item).

I like the little bit of an Eberron story here, but I’m surprised that it sticks with “artificer = Cannith” rather than “calligraphy/forgery = Sivis.” I choose to believe that at least one of the people responsible for this is listening to The Magnus Archives, and that this whole subclass is a love letter to that Archivist. The subclass has a clearer and more readily manageable playstyle than the Alchemist or Artillerist. I like that there is a calligraphy artificer, but going from that idea to cutting-edge Library Sciences researcher seems like quite a leap.


Battle Smith

The Alchemist and Artillerist both offer pet-class artificers (too many A-words, guys – they get harder to call up when writing all of them repeatedly), but the Battle Smith is our first melee pet class. It’s just a story of a girl and her huge metal dog, so I’m positively inclined toward it.

  • Tools of the Trade grants leatherworking and smith’s tools, and cuts down the time and cost of making magic armor.
  • The Battle Smith spells set them up as smiting paladins, which… fits with the melee thing, but it’s strange to see a list borrow this heavily from paladins.
  • Battle Ready grants proficiency in martial weapons, and your attacks with a magic weapon can Int as the attack stat. That’s a big fixer for multiple attribute dependency, to be sure.
  • Iron Defender grants you a four-legged robo-friend. Without you spending any of your turn, it can move, Dodge, and use its reaction to attack or to defend another creature. You spend your bonus action to make it attack, or to heal itself or an adjacent creature.
    • Beast Master rangers and Pact of the Chain warlocks look on in helpless envy. Edit: Alert Reader @GarrettKP has correctly pointed out that the November 2018 errata gave Beast Master companions magic damage at 7th level.
    • As you’d expect, there are a lot of fiddly parts to the iron defender, like its hit point scaling, difficulty of replacement, and difficulty of healing. I’m pretty sure it comes out looking better in most metrics than other pet-class options.
  • Arcane Jolt makes your iron defender’s bite attack magic damage (another Beast Master issue getting addressed), and gives you extra boosts per day equal to your Int modifier that you can use for +2d4 damage or 2d4 healing. An extra 10d4 healing or damage per day is nice to have, anyway.
  • Improved Arcane Jolt boosts that +2d4 damage/healing to +4d4 (so a total of 20d4 per day, probably). Also, your iron defender deals a little damage back to an attacker that it imposes disadvantage on with its Defensive Pounce. The damage is small enough to not matter a whole lot, but a lot of the artificer’s power (well, everyone but the Archivist) revolves around a lot of smallish things adding up.

Overall I like what I see here. Because you’re not highly reliant on bonus actions as an artificer, your pet gets to attack consistently without competing with you for actions. To put that another way, your pet is a reasonably reliable 1d8 + proficiency bonus damage add. Don’t try to be a two-weapon-fighting or Polearm Master-ing Battle Smith, and you should be okay. It doesn’t put a lot of burden on your spell slots.


Xanathar’s Artificer

There are a bunch of XGTE spells added to the baseline artificer spell list. I don’t have a lot to say about them here, except that I’m happy to see XGTE get integrated into the body of work more fully. I have to wonder about DDAL PH + 1 rules, but I don’t actually follow the AL (the designated hitter rule is an abomination upon the sport) so maybe that’s cleared up already. Not my circus.


New Infusions

There are three new infusions in this document.

Enhanced Wand (I am having a goddamn aneurysm trying to pick just one joke for this) improves spell attack rolls (base +1, +2 at 12th) and lets your spell attacks ignore half cover.

Repeating Shot makes a weapon +1, turns off the Loading property, and provides the ammunition. I’m super happy to see substantial support for crossbows and firearms – 4e’s crossbow-caster artificers were very popular in my corner of the gaming world, and not infrequently reskinned as shotguns or muskets. I know Eberron doesn’t do guns (unless you really, really want it to), but for non-Eberron artificers, I think not having a clear gunslinging option is an unforced error.

Repulsion Shield grants a shield a +1 AC bonus, and 1/short rest, after the wielder gets hit, they can push the attacker 15 feet away – used right, that could disrupt a devastating Multiattack sequence.


Multiclassing Tweak

There’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it change to the artificer multiclassing sidebar: artificer levels are half-rounded-up for determining spell slots when multiclassing. It would be one of the only cases of rounding a fraction up in all of 5e! I have to wonder if this is an experiment before extending the same to all partial-progression caster classes. If so, I’m all about it.



I like what I see in this document. The Archivist and Battle Smith are both more straightforward playstyles than their predecessor subclasses, even if the Archivist isn’t a subclass concept that anyone was beating down WotC’s door to see. (Maybe I’m wrong and there are more people saying “I need a subclass that is about Big Data” than I realize.) It does look like a lot of fun to play, all the same. The new infusions look round out the options, and the extra spells on the spell list and multiclassing tweak are fine and good.