Craft yourself into the ultimate warrior with the battle smith subclass for artificers
Battle Smiths are artificers trained as martial specialists allowing them to fight on the front lines alongside the likes of barbarians, paladins and fighters. They supplement their combat prowess with magic and technology to both protect themselves and maim their enemies. This technology includes a steel defender, a robotic support companion that can help deal out damage and protect you from attacks.
Battle Smiths get all sorts of combat goodies alongside their standard artificer features such as proficiency with martial weapons (for bigger damage) an extra attack and arcane jolts (also for bigger damage)! There’s loads to love about the battle smith and they’re not only pretty effective in combat (more-so than some other partial martial subclasses), but also loads of fun to play as well. Fair warning though, all artificers are tricky to play due to option overload so they’re generally a better pick for experienced players.
What is a battle smith?
Battle Smiths are an artificer subclass. They use magic and technology to supplement their fairly impressive martial skills. They are not only solid frontline warriors (if a little weaker and less hardy than fighters, barbarians and paladins for example), but also make solid utility characters with a decent suite of spells (and some of the best of all artificers) and some unique abilities that allow them to enhance and create equipment. The best example of a battle smith is probably Kvothe from the Kingkiller Chronicles, but Batman also fits the mould a fair bit too with his combat prowess and reliance on gadgets (if not magic).
Playing a battle smith can be a little tricky. Not only do you need to balance a large number of abilities, determining which is best suited to a situation, but you will also find you’re less hardy than most frontline warriors meaning you’ll need to pick your fights carefully. Fortunately, Battle Smiths have abilities to compensate for their lower hit points. Between the likes of the steel defender, shield spell and your infusions, you’ve got a large suite of protective abilities, but be warned it’s not nearly as straightforward as taking a barbarian and raging for half damage.
If you like your characters to have lots of options and tools for almost anything that comes up, then a battle smith is likely for you. If you prefer your character options to be a bit more straightforward, we suggest trying a different character.
Battle smith subclass features
|Party Role||Utility, Support Caster, Control|
|Saving Throws||Constitution, Intelligence|
|Hit Dice||1d8 + Consitution modifier per level|
|HP at 1st Level||8 + Constitution Modifier|
|Spell Casting Ability||Intelligence|
|Armour Proficiency||Light armour, medium armour, shields|
|Weapon Proficiency||Simple weapons, firearms (if agreed by your Dungeon Master)|
A battle smith receives 1d8 hit die which puts them on the same footing as rogues and bards who can fill a similar role of utility character that can fight. While it’s not a lot for a front line fighter, it is enough, especially when you make sure your AC is maximised and you utilise protective spells and abilities like shield and your steel defender. To keep you safe, constitution proficiency is a useful one as is proficiency with medium armor and shields. Constitution proficiency is particularly important for a caster, especially if you’re planning on casting any concentration spells.
|Level||Cantrips Known||Spells Known||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||5th|
Battle smiths have access to a range of spells but are not full spellcasters like wizards and clerics, operating more as half-casters like rangers and paladins. For starters, artificers max out at 5th level spells meaning none of the meaty spells a full spellcaster might get in the later levels. On top of this, even 5th level spells are locked out of reach until the lofty heights of level 17. If you’re hoping for a spellcaster that can lay waste to enemies with terrifying spells, a battle smith probably isn’t the class you’re looking for. On the plus side, battle smiths do get cantrips which rangers and paladins don’t get making them more of a 2/3 spellcaster.
Battle smiths have available to them all the usual artificer spells along with some extra spells granted by their subclass which don’t count towards your known spells. We’ve outlined these in the table below:
|Artificer Level||Battle Smith Spells|
|5th||Branding Smite, Warding Bond|
|9th||Aura of Vitality, Conjure Barrage|
|13th||Aura of Purity, Fire Shield|
|17th||Banishing Smite, Mass Cure Wounds|
The battle smith picks up a bunch of paladin spells which suits a melee-focused half-caster well. You’ll start with shield and heroism, shield being hugely beneficial in the thick of battle and heroism being a good buff that adds temporary hit points and immunity to fear. Smite is also an excellent option for the extra damage you gain for your hits (plus it’s a bonus action so your action is preserved). You’ll also get some decent buff spells, especially aura of purity and fire shield which are particularly good in the thick of battle.
Of the generally available spells for all artificers, we’ve also picked out the best options for a battle smith in the table below:
Best battle smith spells
|Spell Level||Best battle smith spells|
|Cantrip||Guidance, Mage Hand, Mending, Prestidigitation, Sword Burst, Thorn Whip|
|1st Level||Cure Wounds, Detect Magic, Faerie Fire, Feather Fall, Sanctuary, Tasha’s Caustic Brew|
|2nd Level||Aid, Continual Flame, Darkvision, Enhance Ability, Enlarge/Reduce, Invisibility, Lesser Restoration, Levitate, See Invisibility, Spider Climb, Vortex Warp, Web|
|3rd Level||Haste, Intellect Fortress, Revivify|
|4th Level||Arcane Eye, Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere, Stone Shape|
|5th Level||Bigby’s Hand, Creation, Greater Restoration, Skill Empowerment, Wall of Stone|
Battle smith features
|Level||Proficiency Bonus||Infusions Known||Infused Items||Features|
|1st||+2||–||–||Magical Tinkering, Spellcasting|
|3rd||+2||4||2||Battle Ready, Steel Defender, The Right Tools for the Job|
|4th||+2||4||2||Ability Score Improvement|
|7th||+3||6||3||Flash of Genius|
|8th||+3||6||3||Ability Score Improvement|
|10th||+4||8||4||Magic Item Adept|
|11th||+4||8||4||Spell Storing Item|
|12th||+4||8||4||Ability Score Improvement|
|14th||+5||10||5||Magic Item Savant|
|16th||+5||10||5||Ability Score Improvement|
|18th||+6||12||6||Magic Item Master|
|19th||+6||12||6||Ability Score Improvement|
|20th||+6||12||6||Soul of Artifice|
As you gain levels, you’ll gain access to a bunch of different abilities. Above are the features you gain access to over time including the artificer features. To learn more about these, check out our artificer 5e class guide. Below you’ll find the features unique to a battle smith and how these features work.
|Artificer Level||Battle Smith Abilities|
|3rd||Battle Ready, Steel Defender|
- Battle Ready (3rd): At level 3, the battle smith is ready to go toe to toe on the front-lines with the other melee specialists. They gain proficiency with martial weapons and can use their intelligence modifier for attack and damage rolls meaning you don’t need to worry about beefing out on strength and dexterity (though you might want high dexterity for the AC benefits).
- Steel Defender (3rd): You also get a steel defender at level 3, a robotic assistant that can deal out small amounts of damage, but more importantly, uses its reaction to deflect attacks, imposing disadvantage on an attack each turn. It also has decent, scalable hit points making it a useful companion. As a squishier melee subclass, you’ll definitely want the benefit of the steel defender in the thick of battle.
- Extra Attack (5th): At 5th level, you get an extra attack which is obviously beneficial for a front-line fighter.
- Arcane Jolt (9th): Arcane jolt is a great, 9th level ability that costs no extra actions, but allows you to both add extra damage to a hit and heal an ally simultaneously making it an excellent ability.
- Improved Defender (15th): At 15th level, some of your current abilities will get more powerful with arcane jolt getting stronger and the steel defender increasing its armour class and its deflect reaction adding some damage when it’s used.
Optimising a battle smith
We’ve gone into a load of detail below about how to optimise a battle smith with a bunch of options to choose from. This doesn’t mean this is the only way to play a battle smith though. You might want to go for a flavour build or have a particular setup in mind. This is of course fine and there can be many ways to optimise a character.
Best battle smith ability scores
For battle smiths, your spellcasting ability is intelligence so you’ll want to make sure this is enhanced as much as possible. Intelligence gets even more important for a battle smith as you use it for weapon attacks too so it’s crucial tog et this as high as possible (20 as soon as you can).
You won’t be using dexterity for weapon attacks once you reach 3rd level, but you can still use it for the AC boost (and you’ll need it). Cap it at 14 for the +2 AC bonus then wear medium armour (you might as well, you’re proficient in it) and you can save your ability score points for other things.
Constitution will also be important as a front line warrior and only d8 hit points, getting as much in here as possible will be hugely helpful, especially for those constitution saving throws.
On the other hand, strength is an obvious ability score to dump as you’ll get very little use out of it. Charisma has little purpose unless you intend to be the face of the party (and for the odd saving throw). Wisdom also has less purpose for an artificer though many saving throws are linked to it and so are a bunch of important skills.
We’d prioritise ability scores for a battle smith roughly in this order:
Best battle smith races
Typically, you’ll want to make sure you take a race that adds to your intelligence ability score with dexterity and constitution as a secondary option. With the customised origins rules outlined in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, you can technically take any race and choose how the ability scores are distributed. Also, many more recently released races, particularly those released in Monsters of the Multiverse, have these rules already baked into them.
With this in mind though, we’ll take into consideration the rules as they’re presented in their most recent release for each race and consider features that complement a battle smith well. In particular, we’d say that Autognomes, Goliaths, Goblins and Warforged are very well suited to a battle smith’s capabilities though we’ve listed a bunch of other good options below too:
- Astral Elf – Teleport as a bonus action is great for battle smiths who often need to get out of danger. Proficiency in perception is useful and sacred flame ensures you always have a damage dealing cantrip.
- Autognome – 2 extra tool proficiencies, easy healing outside of combat, resistance to poison, immunity to disease, advantage against paralyzed and built for success stacks nicely with flash of genius. Autognomes feel almost built for battle smiths (literally) and their abilities work nicely together.
- Eladrin – Fey step is very handy for teleporting away from danger while trance gives you a couple of extra proficiencies which you can change according to the needs of the party, all very handy for an battle smith.
- High Elf – +2 to dexterity and +1 to intelligence suit an battle smith quite nicely. Proficiency in perception is always useful and a free cantrip from the wizard’s spell list is very useful as you get minimal spell options.
- Goblin – Nimble escape is great for keeping a battle smith safe with disengage or hide as a bonus action. Fury of the small is also great as you get extra damage on attacks or spells when attacking something of a size larger than yourself (which most creatures are).
- Goliath – The main appeal here is stone’s endurance as you can reduce damage you receive as a reaction by d12 + your constitution modifier. Goliath’s are a particularly strong option for battle smiths as they help compensate for that d8 hit die.
- Shadar-Kai – Blessing of the Raven Queen lets you teleport out of trouble and gives you resistance to all damage for a turn. Great for getting out of trouble and even better for getting into trouble. Proficiency in perception and a different weapon or tool proficiency each day are handy too.
- Shifter – Choose Beasthide for your shifting form and get lots of extra temporary hit points and an increase to your AC which will be very helpful to complement your relatively low hit points for a melee class.
- Warforged – +1 AC is very helpful for battle smiths. You also get a free skill and tool proficiency and a few nice resistances. +2 to constitution and +1 to any ability score (which you’ll want to chuck at intelligence) are great for abattle smith too.
- Yuan-Ti Pureblood – Magic resistance is always excellent, as is poison resilience for making you tougher. A couple of decent innate spells in poison spray and suggestion too.
Best battle smith backgrounds
Backgrounds are great for adding a bit of flavour to a character and providing some small skill perks, gear and minor abilities. Generally for a battle smith, you’ll want to focus on intelligence based skills and extra tool proficiencies (as the tool king). With that in mind, below are some of the better background options for an artificer:
- Acolyte – Decent skill proficiencies in insights and religion, 2 languages and perks at temples (like free healing).
- Clan Crafter – History and insight are good skill options for an artificer. You’ll also get proficiency in a type of artisan’s tools and you get an extra language. Plus it’s very thematically appropriate.
- Faction Agent – Insight and the choice of another skill make a great choice of proficiencies. You also get 2 languages and affiliation with a powerful organisation.
- Far Traveler – Insight, perception and a language are decent for an artificer, though you’ll likely rarely use persuasion as battle smiths are rarely the best option for a party spokesman. You get proficiency in an instrument too for what it’s worth.
- Sage – Arcana and history are good skill proficiencies for a battle smith and you get 2 languages too.
Best battle smith feats
When taking an ability score increase or using a variant Human, you can gain access to feats, taking one instead of the ability score increase. Some DMs will also give you a feat when you create your character for added flavour. Just check with your DM that they allow feats.
Feats can add powerful options to a character, but it’s important you pick feats that will complement an battle smith’s skillset nicely. We’ve pulled out some of the best options below:
- Chef – Gain 1 constitution, get some healing powers and temporary hit points. Pretty good for a utility class.
- Elemental Adept – A little more power for some of your spells (just make sure you theme some of your spells around the element you choose), plus it cancels out resistance to this element so fire and acid are good options (lots of creatures have resistance to these elements and lots of spells use them too).
- Fey Touched – Increase your intelligence by +1 and get misty step and another 1st level spell with a free use every long rest. Misty step is a great spell for battle smiths to get out of danger (and isn’t on the artificer spell list).
- Fighting Initiate – Gain a fighting style to add to your weapon capabilities. Especially useful for a battle smith.
- Healer – Stabilise creatures and give them 1 hit point lets them get back into action without using a healing spell, plus you can sometimes heal them with more hit points too.
- Lucky – Making 3 rerolls a day is powerful for any class!
- Magic Initiate – Get 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell from any spell list. Great for getting top cantrips from other classes like booming blade.
- Metamagic Adept – Enhance your spells with the metamagic ability from the sorceror class.
- Medium Armor Master – +1 AC if you have at least 16 dexterity (when wearing medium armor) and no disadvantage on stealth checks when in medium armor. A great option for a class that relies heavily on medium armor to make sure they’re not too vulnerable.
- Skill Expert – Better at even more skills is great.
- Skilled – 3 more skills to be proficient in is also great.
Best battle smith skills
Battle smiths should focus on intelligence, and with only wizards occupying the dedicated intelligence space, it means battle smiths are capable of being very good at some skills almost everyone else isn’t good at. There are a few fairly important intelligence skills in arcana and investigation too that you’ll want to make sure your party is pretty capable at.
We’d recommend the following as a rough order of importance for the most important battle smith skills. As always though, you’ll want to make sure your party has a complementary set of skills available to them:
- Investigation – Really important intelligence based skill that you’ll likely use often.
- Arcana – Another really important intelligence based skill that comes up often.
- Nature – Not quite as common, but nature skill checks are not unusual and work well for high intelligence characters.
- Perception – Important for everyone, though your wisdom likely won’t be that high, but proficiency will help compensate a little for that.
- Stealth – Stealth is always important and you’ll likely want decent dexterity. Only issue is you may be wearing medium armor. The medium armor master feat can compensate for that though.
- History – The importance of history will likely depend on your DM, but if anyone is going to be good at history, it’s probably going to be an artificer.
- Acrobatics – It’s worth having decent acrobatics or athletics and as you’re likely decent at dexterity, acrobatics is the one to go for.
Best battle smith weapons
While battle smiths are spellcasters, and may get decent mileage out of their cantrips, they tend to do more damage with their weapon attacks, especially when extra attacks and arcane jolt kick in as well as if you complement attacks with something like booming blade.
As you have proficiency in martial weapons and shields (and you’ll need the extra durability of having a shield), we’d suggest a shield and longsword combo for d8 damage. Fortunately, battle smiths can cast spells while wielding a sword and shield combo too so you don’t lose your spellcasting prowess. If you’re dedicated to a shield, then a hand crossbow or pistol is your best option paired with the repeating shot infusion.
Best battle smith armor
As you have proficiency in medium armor, and you won’t want to invest so heavily in dexterity that light armor is worthwhile, you’ll probably want to start with scale mail and upgrade to half plate once you’re able to. Battle smiths don’t have that many hit points, but can often get stuck in the fray so having a shield (even if it occupies one of your hands) is often worthwhile at the sacrifice of a little damage output.
Best battle smith multiclass options
Multiclassing can be a powerful way of getting extra abilities from another class and when used right, can really optimise a character. Getting it wrong though, can leave you with abilities that don’t complement each other well.
The main thing to think about is your ability scores. Typically, as a battle smith, you’ll have high intelligence and solid dexterity and constitution so you’ll want to learn into classes that utilise these ability scores (though it is possible to be competent in other ability scores too and this may change which multiclass options are best for you). We’ll focus on a typical battle smith build though, like the type we’ve described so far.
With that in mind, some classes just don’t work well for a battle smith. For example, Spellcasters using wisdom or charisma tend not to work so well like bards, sorcerors, warlocks, paladins, clerics and druids as you’ll likely dump these ability scores (though there is a case for at least decent wisdom on a battle smith), even if they do grant access to some better spells. Barbarians also offer a poor choice as rage is difficult to recommend on a class that will be casting spells (and rage is the main reason to multiclass in barbarian).
However, there are some great classes for battle smiths to multiclass into which include:
- Fighter – Fighter will give you proficiency in heavy armor, removing the need to worry about dexterity. It also means that you can get some fighting styles and magical subclasses at level 3 like the psi warrior and rune knight add great additional benefits in combat. The psi warrior also uses intelligence for their casting which works well for battle smiths.
- Rogue – Rogue gives you a load of skills which is decent plus sneak attack will add a bit more punch to some of your attacks. The main thing to consider with rogues though is at 3rd level, you can become a thief and get fast hands allowing you to more easily use loads of different objects. A little fiddly to make work completely, but ideal for a battle smith.
- Wizard – Wizards are intelligence based which works in your favour as an intelligence based characters. The main thing you’ll want from a wizard is their subclass options at level 2. War magic, divination and blade singing are all great for battle smiths.