Since the beginning of Dungeons and Dragons and by extension Pathfinder, The Fighter has always had a reputation as being the most vanilla, white bread, boring class of them all.
I’m here to tell you that is wrong! All Wrong!
Trevor Belmont? Fighter
John Snow? Fighter
Xena, warrior Princess? Fighter
Indiana Jones? Fighter (though you could argue he splashed in some Rogue levels)
If these characters can be compelling with good stories, so can every Fighter!
Making the Best Fighter is like cooking. To cook the best meal, you need the best spices. Too little spice and your gumbo is going to be bland watery mush. Too much spice and the gumbo is overpowering and unfocused.
The Secret to playing a fun and entertaining fighter comes down to one very important thing: FEATS! Feats are the spice for our Fighter gumbo to truly make this class shine on the tabletop.
“Conan, What is Best In Life?”
Before we get into the meat of the issue, we should do what all good philosophers and theory crafters do first and define some terms.
What do we mean by Best?
I break this down in 3 different ways:
Applicability is generally defined as how often that feat can be applied to a situation. Most often this can be expressed as how often the ability or bonus comes up when rolling dice. Other times in how a feat can be a foundation for building into other Combat Feats.
Availability is more about how soon or how easy it is for a character to gain the feat. While some feats might be powerful and afford some incredible bonuses, they might not become available until much later or have some very steep prerequisites.
Therefore it might be more efficient to select something else for that feat slot or hold off and make the more powerful feat a lower priority.
Last is Flavor, by which I mean a Feat taken less for the mechanical benefits and more for the flavor or cool factor of the feat.
There is nothing wrong about taking a feat to flesh out a character for the purpose of being cool or adding to Role-Playing potential, but if we are attempting to be efficient with a limited number of Feat Slots it is worth noting what might be mechanically better for a Fighter Bonus Feat choice or a normal feat gained every three levels.
10 Best Fighter Feats in Pathfinder
Let’s look at some of the ten best Feats we find to be the most efficient or best for any Fighter to take!
No self-respecting Fighter should be without Weapon Focus. A guaranteed +1 Bonus to hit at all times with your weapon of choice is nothing to ever sneeze at.
While it might not seem like much at first, at lower levels this can mean the difference between a near miss and a hard hit. Weapon Focus is also a foundational feat for many other Fighter feats that open up much later down the line.
The second feat in our one-two combo with Weapon Focus, Weapon Specialization provides +2 to damage rolls made with the weapon you selected Weapon Focus with.
This should be taken immediately at level 4, when it comes available to get the most out of the damage bump. Like Weapon Focus, it is the bedrock for even more feats that build on it.
Now we are getting to the fun stuff. Power Attack allows the character to trade in some accuracy for the chance of hitting harder. This is mildly situational as you would really want to save this for targets you KNOW you can hit easily and need that extra damage boost on.
Therefore it loses some points in the Applicability department. However, it is powerful in the hands of a knowledgeable Fighter who knows when to throw in that Knock Out Punch.
Also of note, the bonus damage gets even better as the character levels, making sure this stays relevant in later levels.
This Feat is a straight-up upgrade to Power Attack, limiting the penalty from the Power Attack Feat, but still allowing the bonuses to go through. For a Damage Focused Fighter, this is a straight line improvement providing the character is using a two-handed weapon or they are wielding a one-handed weapon with both hands.
It is limiting in a way, but very much something damage-focused characters should look into.
Here is where we start courting with controversy and hot-takes. Most “Best Feat” lists would not use Improved Initiative at all. Truly, dear reader, I say to thee, Improved Initiative is a must-have for my combat classes. One of the major aspects of combat in Pathfinder is the Alpha Strike or who gets to go first.
The First Strike can decide who has the momentum and gets to set the pace of an entire combat encounter. A flat +4 to your Initiative Rolls means you get to start swinging faster than most, and you can bring damage to bear quickly. You also have less of a chance to be caught flat-footed when the fighting breaks out.
For all those Blue Mages who like to masquerade as Melee Fighters (you know who you are), this feat can seriously shut down almost any opponent who is attempting to get into what might be a more advantageous position against the party.
This would be more valuable for a fighter with a reach weapon and a good Dexterity Modifier, so it would be more situational than most. THough when that situation comes up, it has a surprising amount of utility.
Power Attack’s older brother. This Feat is not just good for Fighters, it is absolutely great. After all, we all like to see those high numbers, and the dopamine kick from rolling a critical hit is a damage dealer’s drug of choice.
Like Weapon Focus and Weapon Specialization, this feat is specifically for one weapon type (Battleaxe, Longsword, Longbow). This feat would be best used with a weapon that by its nature has an expanded crit range (Falchions, Kukri, Rapiers) to maximize efficient damage, but can go for any weapon a character would like.
If Improved Critical is Power Attack’s Older Brother, then Combat Expertise is its Fraternal Twin. This one is the opposite, sacrificing attack power for more defense, and like Power Attack improving as a character levels and increases their Base Attack Bonus.
This Feat works well for Fighters who are more focused on defense and tanking damage rather than dishing it out, or want to focus on Dexterity rather than Strength.
Never a bad choice! Toughness can provide a much needed boost to Hit Point totals at any point in a character’s adventuring career. Though this is much more impactful to a character at lower levels (specifically 1st through 3rd) than at higher levels.
This is a must-have for frontline tank fighters, and can do nothing but help damage-focused fighters.
Our Final Feat we will address here is not actually a part of the Combat Feats, meaning fighters would have to take this feat with one of their regular feats every three levels.
This does not mean it isn’t worth consideration, especially if your DM is throwing some pretty powerful encounters your way. Diehard can mean the difference between just going down and just going down for the count.
But Wait, There’s More!
These ten feats above are simply the most universally applicable and available feats a fighter can take, and even then these are just suggestions and not set in stone.
While they are more situational, there are options in the Armor Mastery Feats and Shield Mastery Feats we didn’t touch on that could be very powerful for characters willing to specialize even further away from the feat trees opened by Power Attack and Combat Expertise.
There is only one rule set in stone in Pathfinder and that is to make sure you and your group are having fun. If that means an “inefficient” feat choice, then so be it.
As long as the character and their story means something to you, then that is all any player could ask for.
Happy Hunting Pathfinder!