“Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.”
William Shakespeare, the Scottish Play
“You command powerful magic, not through study or devotion to any ideal, but as a vessel or agent for a mysterious, otherworldly patron that even you don’t entirely understand.
This entity might be a covert divinity, a powerful fey, a manifestation of natural energies, an ancient spirit, or any other mighty supernatural being—but its nature is likely as much a mystery to you as it is to anyone else.
Through a special familiar, your patron grants you versatile spells and powerful hexes to use as you see fit, though you’re never certain if these gifts will end up serving your patron’s larger plan.”
The Witch in folklore is often seen as an old wise woman who lives apart from the world. Through experience and sometimes making pacts with non-human entities, Witches of old would cast spells and weave magic to hurt or harm. Many would have spirit familiars, also known as pets, who would seem to be magical themselves.
Because of (or maybe despite this) dubious nature, there were vast parts of history where Witches and their craft were considered evil, and hundreds were hunted for even the suspicion of being a Witch.
Times have changed in the modern-day, one would say the Witch has become an iconic horror emblem, and is often seen all over the place in American Halloween celebrations.
In Pathfinder they are similar to their folkloric counterpart, but without the hundred years of genocidal garbage that comes with the epithet. They are spellcasters who make pacts with ancient and powerful beings, and those beings grant them a portion of their power to weave Magic and their own powerful Hexes.
The power of the Witch class shines in their spell selection, and that dear reader is what we have in store today.
An Effective Witch
To be effective as a Witch PC, you need to know where your power sits and where your wheelhouse is. Effective in this portion being defined as making a meaningful contribution to the party during combat, roleplay, and downtime.
As a Witch, you use Intelligence as your primary Casting Stat. From Intelligence you are going to get your Spell Attack Rolls and your Spell Save DCs. Pushing Intelligence early on is going to be your best option to be effective.
Also, your Witch Focus Spells or Hexes are going to be your primary spells used often. The vast majority of these spells are not *BANG BOOM EXPLOSIONS* but are more debilitating curses and powerful buffs to your allies.
In short, Witches are not going to rain fire from the sky. However, they will force opponents to be blind so they never see the fire coming, or bind them in place to make sure they can’t escape.
When you start a level 1 in the Witch Class, you swear an oath to a powerful being from beyond the kin of most mortals. This entity is your Patron, and they grant you your powers and a few other boons:
Spell List: What Tradition your spellcasting comes from (Arcane, Divine, Occult, and Primal).
Patron Skill: Training in one specific skill.
Hex Cantrip: A Special Cantrip from your Patron. You can cast these as often as you like, so their choice is important.
Granted Spell: A spell granted to your Familiar.
The interesting thing about this is the potential for a Witch to have access to any of the traditions of magic, and therefore almost any spell. Though certain ones will synergize better with the Witch playstyle.
Pathfinder 2e presents these Patrons in a “Setting Agnostic” way, meaning you choose what the “Theme” of your patron is, and you and the GM can flesh out the details on your own.
We won’t go over all the Patrons here, but there are a few to highlight. It’s important to work with your GM to determine the details of your Patron, and make sure your GM is using that Patron in their game.
In our world, Baba Yaga is most likely the most famous Witch in Folklore. Famously known to live in a house that moved around on Chicken (or Crab) legs.
The Baba Yaga Patron is good for really leaning into the Witch Archetype. It gives you access to the Occult list, which has limited healing and direct damage.
However, Occult is great for activating debuffs on your enemies and setting them up for a huge hit. The Hex Cantrip and Granted Spells can be very situational though.
The ‘Plus Plus’ version of Baba Yaga! This one is all about putting curses on your enemies and pushing them to make poor decisions.
This one also gives you the Occult tradition, but also comes with a great Cantrip: Evil Eye, which is a direct attack against someone’s Will Save (a notoriously weak save on average).
Ray of Enfeeblement isn’t that great as a granted spell though, as you already have access to it from Occult, and is BOTH an attack roll and a Fort Save on behalf of the target.
Why mess with an opponent directly when you can just mess with their dice rolls!
Like the above, this one gives access to the Occult tradition. Nudge Fate isn’t the greatest of spells in your arsenal, especially with the Occult tradition available to you, but it’s really good outside of combat when a Skill roll is on the line.
Everyone hates True Strike, but I actually enjoy having it in the back pocket if I need it.
This is an interesting one! I like to think of it as the classic bog witch with the added insect element to it.
The Mosquito Witch gives you access to the Primal Tradition, and which has some real potential if you are wanting more Damaging spells. Buzzing Bites is a great spell for dealing a good DoT and debuffing your enemies, and Pest Form is your option to be a powerful and stealthy scout for the party.
This Patron is the night sky itself, or part of it. It’s also one of the best on this list for going pure shut down on your opponents.
The Night Patron gives access to Occult magic. The Hex Shroud of Night can be somewhat situational, as it really only affects one party member and requires that party member to have darkvision.
Sleep is a god amongst curse spells though. This spell will save you and make a fight go that much quicker.
Not the most powerful patron, but this one warrants consideration for the simple fact that it gives your character access to the Arcane tradition. The Arcane tradition being very much a swiss army knife of spell lists. You can do almost anything with it.
The Hex Cantrip, Discern Secrets, is particularly situational. It’s useful for when you need to detect something, but as a sustain spell it would be more useful outside of combat and in RP situations.
Magic Weapon is a bit more useful overall, but kind of useless when your party gets their own magic weapons.
Lastly we have Winter, which is very much like skipping over the Russian ties to Baba Yaga and going straight for Siberia.
Winter gives access to Primal like the Mosquito Witch, but its Hex Cantrip, Clinging Ice, and the Granted Spell, Gust of Wind, are much more in your face and direct damage related. Winter is very much the Direct Damage witch build.
While normally a Witch only gains 1 Hex Cantrip from their Patron, certain feats (Basic Lesson, Greater Lesson, and Major Lesson) allow you to gain more powerful Hexes from your Patron. They are almost universally good spells, but there are some standouts.
1st Level Hexes
Life Boost: Drop this on a party member who is losing hit points too fast to help out your healer. This regeneration can help keep someone on their feet just a little longer.
Needle of Vengeance: Probably one of your most useful spells for keeping yourself and your allies safe. Channel damage right where you want it to go, or keep it off you for as long as you can.
3rd Level Hexes
Malicious Shadow: Literally turn your enemy’s shadow against them. This spell is great from a flavor/RP perspective as well as from a useful perspective. The only downside is if you are fighting in a bright white room.
5th Level Hexes
Curse of Death: The Ultimate Witch Spell! This one can kill your opponents with a look. Granted, they still get a Fortitude save, but the curse is powerful. Even if they manage to save versus the spell effect, they are taking 4d6 damage.
Glacial Heart: Become Jadis the White Witch! This spell can put enemies out of the fight completely, even if you don’t kill them with it. Freeze them to their very bone and let your allies finish them off!
Stay Witchy Pathfinder!