The next step in truly making your magic work for you!
Magic is not a static thing. Each caster had its own potent connection to the powerful eldritch might. That own connection allows them to manipulate magic to ways that can tweak and shift aspects your opponents might not be ready for.
This is Metamagic!
Metamagic can be big and confusing, but when you break it down, it’s where the power of the “Quadratic Wizard” comes into play.
Metamagic allows you to push magic to the limit and do what others would think impossible with regular magic and the cost of having to channel some powerful and taxing energy.
There are so many Metamagic feats though, it is pretty easy to get confused as to which are the more efficient choices for feat slots.
Mechanics of Metamagic
Metamagic works VERY differently for each of the two Pathfinder editions.
Pathfinder 1st Edition
With First edition Pathfinder, each spell empowered is cast at a higher spell slot than its base. In essence, a spell uses a higher slot than normal for an additional effect. This doesn’t change the actual spell level for the purposes of Spell DC for saving throws though.
In order to use a metamagic effect, the caster has to have the requisite feat first.
Let’s look at an example:
Tibalt is a Sorcerer and he thinks now is a good time to pull out all the stops and drop that powerful Fireball he’s been keeping up his sleeve. He uses the Maximize Spell metamagic feat:
Maximize Spell (Metamagic)
Your spells have the maximum possible effect.
Benefit: All variable, numeric effects of a spell modified by this feat are maximized. Saving throws and opposed rolls are not affected, nor are spells without random variables.
Level Increase: +3 (a maximized spell uses up a spell slot three levels higher than the spell’s actual level.)
An empowered, maximized spell gains the separate benefits of each feat: the maximum result plus half the normally rolled result.
Tibalt sees that Fireball is a 3rd level spell, and Maximize Spell adds 3 to the spell level. So that makes this Fireball a 6th level spell.
Tibalt is a 12th level Sorcerer, so that means under normal circumstances he is rolling 10d6 for damage. With the Maximize Metamagic though, Tibalt doesn’t even have to roll.
Anyone caught in his Fireball is going to take 60 damage to the face. Hope they have a good reflex save!
Metamagic works differently for the kinds of casters as well.
Casters who prepare their spells ahead of time (Wizards, Divine Casters) need to take their time to select which spells they want to use metamagic feats on and prepare them that way when they start their normal day.
This means the casters need to plan very far ahead when they prepare their spells even more than normal.
Spontaneous Casters (Sorcerers and Bards) can cast metamagic whenever they want rather than have to think ahead. There is a limitation though. Spells take longer to cast in the moment.
A spell that takes a standard action to cast, now takes a full round action. The only exception to this is the Quicken Spell feat.
Pathfinder 2nd Edition
In Pathfinder 2e, Metamagic works quite differently.
Metamagic is a trait for certain actions. In order to use Metamagic, the caster must take a metamagic action to prepare to cast the spell. Directly afterward, they have to take an action to Cast the Spell. If they don’t, or have to abort it for some reason, the metamagic fails.
As the spell is cast, the metamagic takes effect, tweaking some aspects of the spell. It often adds additional tags and effects.
Let’s take a look at an example:
Ajani needs to treat a patient who has both been wounded and is suffering under the effects of a poison. Lucky for his patient, Ajani has invested in picking up the Purifying Spell Feat.
Concentrate Druid Metamagic Water
Source Secrets of Magic pg. 200
Prerequisites wave order
You purify the water within a creature’s body to cleanse them of illness. If the next action you use is to cast heal targeting a single living creature, you can attempt to counteract a disease or poison affecting the target, in addition to the other benefits of heal. If you do, heal gains the water trait.
An action with this trait requires a degree of mental concentration and discipline.
Actions with the metamagic trait, usually from metamagic feats, tweak the properties of your spells. You must use a metamagic action directly before Casting the Spell you want to alter. If you use any action (including free actions and reactions) other than Cast a Spell directly after, you waste the benefits of the metamagic action. Any additional effects added by a metamagic action are part of the spell’s effect, not of the metamagic action itself.
Effects with the water trait either manipulate or conjure water. Those that manipulate water have no effect in an area without water. Creatures with this trait consist primarily of water or have a magical connection to the element. Planes with this trait are mostly liquid, perhaps with pockets of breathable air.
Ajani takes the time to prepare the spell, and then casts it, making sure to purify that poison seeping through his patient’s serious wounds.
Best in Class: The Best Metamagic Feats
Now that we know how metamagic works, we are going to look at the top metamagic feats for both Pathfinder 1e and 2e.
Feat choices are judged by their applicability (how often they can be used) and their potency.
Pathfinder First Edition
Elemental Spell: Elemental resistances can really hurt most casters, especially if that caster is hoping to sling elements and provide magical artillery for the party. For a simple +1 to the spell level, a caster can hot swap elements. Rather than Fireball, you can throw Iceball!
Extend Spell: A necessity if you are playing a party buff machine. This one can push long term buffs or debuffs, pushing them to last for more than even one encounter. Perhaps a whole day.
Intensified Spell: A must have feat for “blaster casters,” but also a good option for any spellcaster who dabbles in spell damage. This can keep low level damage or healing spells valid even when you are getting into later levels. More dice are always great.
Quicken Spell: Pretty much one of the most powerful Metamagic feats in the books. Quicken spells can give you more options to cast, move, or attack every round. It is the very definition of alpha strike.
Reach Spell: Reach metamagic is something that can both keep you safe and keep you in the fight. Not only can your touch attacks go further, but your touch heals or buffs can go even further as well. This is good for opening up your ability to stay mobile and keep your party members ready for battle.
Pathfinder Second Edition
Bond Conservation: There are a lot of words here, but in essence, this is the equivalent of gaining yet another spell slot for free after taking the Drain Bonded Item action. More spell slots can be the difference between being alive or dead. A Universal option for all casting builds.
Reach Spell: Just like the above notes on Reach Spell for 1e Pathfinder. This one is great for making sure you stay out of melee, but can still bring your touch abilities to bear on your enemies and your allies.
Widen Spell: Expand the size of your fireball, or the range of your bless. This one can be a universal option for every caster type. This one is all about making sure you can get all your targets in one round.
Forcible Energy: This one takes some work to explain. While it is ALWAYS good to grab more damage out of the gate, and an additional 5 every casting is nothing to sneeze at, this truly hits the stride when you work with your party. Work with the party! Play into your strengths by making sure your spells open them up for your other party members to hit them with their brand new vulnerability.
Quickened Casting: Much like the Quick Spell feat from first edition just in new clothing. Though Quickened Casting can only be used a limited number of times per day. It is powerful simply by the fact that it can offer you options to cast more than once in a round. On its own, that is incredibly potent.
Make the Magic Happen, Pathfinders!