Knowledge is Power,
The Magus in Pathfinder is a unique character class. They seek to combine the power and versatility of a spell caster with the combat prowess of a front-line warrior. They take the time to master the martial arts and the arcane sorcery, combining them to become nightmares on the battlefield.
They empower their weapons with magic and even wield their spells in their off-hand, becoming a perfect balance of the physical and the ethereal.
But all that power and all those rules can be on the confusing side of things. To that end, the boys and I down in the rules lab crunched some numbers and did some research — the end result of that being this handy guide for you, Pathfinder.
This is for your next character if you decide to portray one of these amalgams of Martial Fighting and Arcane Power.
The Ashen Vault Rating System
To make things more efficient at reading and picking out the good or bad choices available to you, we here at the Ashen Vault have a color-coded system.
Red – Bad Option. Do not take this unless specifically going for a meme build or some kind of alternate flavor. It’s not going to do much, and you may feel like you are lagging behind the rest of the party.
Green – Not a bad choice per se but really situational. You could find better.
Blue – Solid choice. This one is going to be the best in most circumstances.
Purple – Top Tier Choice. This is a must-have.
Magus Class Features Quick Overview
What follows is a quick overview of the options given to you by the Magus class. These aren’t really choices but things you are going to get anyway.
Hit Dice: Not the greatest really. You have a d8, which isn’t marvelous. You aren’t going to be tanking with Hit Points. Keep that AC high.
Base Attack Bonus: Medium progression. You aren’t going to be swinging like a Fighter, but you will be matching the Monk and the Rogue.
Saving Throws: Fort and Will are good ranges. Keep your Dex high to compensate for the abysmal Reflex.
Proficiencies: Great for starting out. You’ve got access to all the weapon options you want. You’ll start with light armor but get Medium and Heavy later. Keep pushing that Dex.
Skills: You are not going to be a skill monkey. You only have a 2+ Int Mod. The good news is your Int Mod should be high for the purposes of magic, so you aren’t completely hosed. Just know that your skill selection is going to be important.
Spells: While your spells per day are not bad, you are not going to be a Full Master like a Wizard. However, your real power is going to come from your later abilities. Spell Choice is going to be an important factor here.
Spellbooks: This is where your versatility shows. You can scribe magic from Wizards, and the Magus Spell list is expansive to say the least. The key here is to collect spells like Pokemon.
Arcane Pool: This is your Magical Fuel. This is going to be the power that gives you your Magus Special abilities. Nominally your best use for this is going to be improving your weapon on the fly.
Cantrips: The Magus doesn’t get very many cantrips, but what they do get is VERY useful. This is especially true when you channel some of these cantrips into your weapon for attacks.
Spell Combat: This is your bread and butter. Weapon in one hand and spell in the off-hand. Damage output here is your most common action. Don’t forget you can take a penalty to your attack rolls to buff your Concentration Checks. This is going to be incredibly useful at early levels.
Spellstrike: Channel your spells through your weapon for Maximum Power! Use your Weapon bonuses to make sure to connect with your most powerful combat spells.
Magus Arcana: Abilities that are Unique to YOU as a Magus. These abilities are sort of like Fighter Feats, only just for the Magus. Standout Options are:
- Accurate Strike: You can’t take this until later levels (9+), but this Arcana is amazingly useful.
- Arcane Accuracy: Not as good as Accurate Strike but much easier to obtain.
- Bane Blade: When you have to kill that ONE GUY!
- Close Range: Use this at later levels to unleash all kinds of hell with your more powerful Ray Spells. Disintegrate is a MUST!
- Critical Strike: This is what Spellstrike is FOR. If you get Criticals often (Scimitar/Keen Weapon), this is a must-have. If you aren’t dishing out many critical hits, you might want to look at something else.
- Devoted Blade: Best way to overcome the DR of any Outsider in your path. Drop this opposing damage on this like a freight train.
- Disruptive: This is one of the few ways Non-Fighters can get the Disruptive combat feat. Get all up in your enemy caster’s face.
- Empowered Magic: This is your alpha-strike ability when you get it. Open a fight with a heavy blow using this.
- Enduring Blade: If and when fights start to drag on and on, this Arcana will have your back. This is almost a Must.
- Familiar: Who doesn’t want a small animal friend? The real power of this Arcana is that it allows you to use your damaging touch spells at range.
- Hasted Assault: I AM SPEEEEEED! You wanna know how good Haste is? Check out our article on How & When to Use Haste in Pathfinder.
- Lingering Pain: Another good way to disrupt enemy casters. This one is a bit situational but is great when you want to shut down enemy spells.
- Maximized Magic: Metamagic is amazing, and this Arcana is going to be a free Maximized Spell. Unleash your most powerful spells with this one.
- Quickened Magic: Extra Action to bring on the pain!
- Reflection: Defense is good, and once spells start flying, you are going to be a prime target. Keep your Defenses up!
- Spellbreaker: This can go along with the Disruptive Arcana and the Linger Pain Arcana to shut down enemy spellcasters (Filthy Blue Mage).
- Wand Wielder: Wands are not the best option overall, but at low levels, this can let you sling your more powerful spells more often with Spell Combat.
Spell Recall: This is an Arcane Point sink and not a very good one. I would not invest in this ability. There are better uses for your points.
Bonus Feats: This is going to be a major part of your character. Much like a Fighter, your feat selection is part of what makes you a force to be reckoned with. This also helps out the Non-Humans who will be hurting for feats at early levels.
Knowledge Pool: This is…kind of useless honestly. If you are able, you should be doing everything in your power to get scrolls or glances at other spellcaster’s spell books.
Medium Armor: A strict upgrade. You are on the front lines and need that protection.
Improved Spell Combat: Concentration gets better! This should make it to where you are almost never failing when jumping into melee and spellcasting.
Fighter Training: At this point, you aren’t really interested in Fighter feats. Metamagic is going to be more important to your build.
Improved Spell Recall: Now is when Spell Recall starts getting serious. Now it is worth it to start spending points. Use this to get back some of your heavy-hitting spells like Shocking Grasp.
Heavy Armor: Now you are going to get your serious AC bonus. Unless you have a HUGE Dex bonus, find yourself some Mithril Armor.
Greater Spell Combat: Limited Gains at this point. Your build should have plenty of Concentration bonuses now, so this is at a point of diminishing returns on the bonus offered by this ability. It’s really going to be good if you have someone using the Disruptive Feat in melee with you.
Counterstrike: Pretty situational but great if you are engaging in melee to shut down your target from casting.
Greater Spell Access: MOAR SPELLS! This is never a bad thing. The Wizard spell list can offer you even more versatility.
True Magus: The Capstone is not as good as it could be. At this point, you are already acing your Concentration Checks, though the ability to make your spells harder to resist is really nice.
One of the major downsides of playing a Magus is that you are not purely a fighter or a spellcaster. You are a pseudo-mishmash of both. This can be limiting to a degree as you sacrifice the versatility of a true caster for the extra melee damage. However, you aren’t going to be a full-on tank of a fighter.
Your true role in your party is going to be a damage-dealer. You will wade into combat and start being flashy with spells and unique abilities. The best way to think of yourself is sort of like the Jedi in the Clone Wars series.
Multiclassing With Magus
Maguses (Magi?) really do not need to multiclass. They are fully functional out of the box. There really isn’t anything to splash into either.
Your spell level is where your power comes from, and that is dependent on your Magus Class Level. It’s just more efficient to build a full Magus rather than jump around to other jobs.
Now we are going to get down to the nitty-gritty of character creation. This next category is going to be about the options your character can take, and what the best investments are.
Remember, these are all recommendations. If you want to build your character in a completely different way, the Pathfinder Police are not going to kick down your door and arrest you.
Strength: Strength is NOT going to be your main combat stat as a Magus. Your damage is mostly going to come from the spells you cast.
Dexterity: THIS is your combat stat. This is one of the two stats you want to prioritize over the others. You start with light armor and have a low base save for Reflex, so this option will keep you alive longer. Combine this with a Finesse Weapon and the Weapon Finesse Feat to never not hit your opponent.
Constitution: Hit points are important, so Con is going to be a Tertiary stat for most Magi. You are going to be on the front line, so make sure you have every hit point you can get.
Intelligence: This is our second priority stat. Intelligence is your spellcasting stat, which also fuels almost all of your powers. It will also help your skill points, which already start kinda low.
Wisdom: Helpful in the case of your Will Saves but not really a priority. Like Strength, it would be nice to have more, but it isn’t necessary.
Charisma: Your Dump Stat. Magi don’t talk to people. You are not the party face.
Elf: One of the best options for a Magus build. The Elf gives you a bonus to both Dexterity and Intelligence, but the minus to Constitution is going to hurt a bit. Consider taking Toughness to offset the negative and get more hit points. If you are using Alternative Racial Traits, also consider taking Arcane Focus. Magus already gets proficiency with all the weapons you need, and a +2 bonus to Concentration is going to be great at low levels.
Half-Elf: Not a bad option. The +2 bonus to any one Stat is good, but a full Elf is going to be much more efficient in the long run.
Halfling: Also a good choice. Small size means you are getting a bonus to AC and your attack rolls. The bonus to Dex is great, and the penalty to Strength is negligible as it isn’t a priority.
Human: The other superior choice along with Elf. The bonus feat is always great, and you can put the +2 bonus to either Dex or Intelligence.
Traits are a great way to offer more customization to a character and tie them closer to the setting. For a full discussion on traits, check out our article here.
For the purpose of the Magus class, there are a few standouts.
- Nature’s Mimic: The fact that you have a high Intelligence means you can be a walking lore-keeper. This just adds more options for that kind of build.
- Child of the Temple: Same as above, just for Nobility or Religion.
- Devotee of the Green: Third Verse same as the first!
- Arcane Revitalization: More Arcane Points are never a bad thing. This is great if you are building into Critical Damage.
- Bladed Magic: A good replacement for Enduring Blade if you didn’t take it. The Craft bonus is not going to help you really, but extra time on to your Enhancements is always good.
- Cross-Disciplined: Magus and Wizard spell lists overlap a great deal as do their most powerful spells. Use this to get your heavy hitters back after using them up.
- Magical Lineage: The go-to option that stands out above the rest. Throw this on your most powerful signature spell (Shocking Grasp is often recommended), and let the metamagic fly!
- Malleable Magic: Good when you need a boost. Combine this with a Pearl of Power to get a spell back, and then use that spell to get your Arcane Points back.
- Pragmatic Activator: The ONE reason to invest in Charisma? Yeah, this negates that.
Your superior Intelligence score means you are going to get at least a decent number of skill points. While having a great deal of skills is always a benefit, there are some skills you should probably invest in.
Remember to stick with skills focused in Dex and Int, and definitely shy away from anything Charisma related (with one exception).
- Knowledge (arcana): As a spellcaster, this is a gimme. You will need it. Your Int score will also keep it high.
- Knowledge (dungeoneering): An important Knowledge skill for picking out certain monsters and their abilities.
- Knowledge (the planes): Another potent Knowledge skill that will yield great results once you get to higher levels.
- Spellcraft: No caster should be without this skill. Scroll use, identifying enemy spells, and useful if you want to start crafting magical items.
- Use Magic Device: The one exception to the rule. This is a Cha-based skill, unless you take the Pragmatic Activator trait. This is useful for Magi who want to use Wands with Wand Wielder Arcana.
Feats are probably one of the most important parts of a character build. They can make or break any character (or setting) with good feat combos.
For our recommendations here, Metamagic feats have been separated into their own category.
- Combat Casting: This is a must-have option. Almost all your spellcasting is going to be while you are tangling in Melee. Casting Defensively is your modus operandi.
- Dimensional Agility: Not a bad choice for your Magus. This can help you do some serious Alpha-strike damage. Don’t follow on with the rest of this tree of feats though; they are a waste for you.
- Extra Arcane Pool: More Arcane Power is never a bad thing.
- Lunge (Combat): This is great if you are using things like Disruptive. Reaching and Threatening a larger area makes you an area denial weapon.
- Preferred Spell: That one spell that you love to cast? That one that nukes everyone? This is it. Make it your signature.
- Spell Perfection: See Preferred Spell. This is an amazing Feat for the Magi. Choose a specific spell, and you can metamagic the spell all the way up to level 9.
- Spell Penetration: A must-have, especially at high levels. You will be running into Spell Resistance pretty often at higher levels. This will help you get through it.
- Greater Spell Penetration: See above.
- Toughness: With a d8 Hit Die, you are going to need as many Hit Points as you can spare.
- Weapon Finesse (Combat): With your focus on Dex rather than Str, you want to make sure you are swinging with your best combat stat.
- Weapon Focus (Combat): Not the best option, but it does offer some serious benefit and opens up some other feats for later.
- Dazing Spell (Metamagic): Not the best option for Metamagic with the three-level increase, but Daze can be a really powerful option for locking down opponents.
- Elemental Spell (Metamagic): For the low, low price of one level, you can change the elemental aspect of your spell. This can make it easier for you to capitalize on elemental weaknesses.
- Empower Spell (Metamagic): Somewhat costly for just pushing the numbers higher.
- Intensified Spell (Metamagic): Your best metamagic spell. For one level bump, you can get more powerful spells and a potential for more damage.
The coup de grace on any character build is the equipment choice. Magus has a large selection of weaponry from the start and slowly starts to get more options for armor. So, we can boil it down to some serious options.
Remember when it comes to weapon choice, you really want to have a one-handed weapon with a decent crit range.
- Falcata: Good damage with an improved critical range but requires a feat to get to. The x3 is awesome, but feats are already rare.
- Longsword: Decent Crit range, but you can do much better.
- Rapier: Your best option overall. It has a decent crit range and works best with Weapon Finesse.
- Scimitar: Speaking of Crit Range, scimitars capitalize on being able to hit that crit more often than not.
- Whip: Damage isn’t great, but the reach and finesse options mean you are going to really be reaching out to touch someone. Once again though, if you want to deal real damage, you need to have a good number of feats.
Dexterity is your combat stat, so you need to make sure to worry about Armor Check Penalties. Also, be aware of the ever-present Arcane Spell Failure Chance. Remember that Mithral is your wonder element for a Magus.
- Studded Leather: This is going to be what you want to be in right out of the gate. You’ll want this because it is sturdy enough to help you survive without putting too much penalty on your high dex.
- Mithral Buckler: Amazing for an off-hand caster. This is going to help you to keep your AC up without costing too much.
- Mithral Shirt: Your first direct upgrade from the Studded Leather. This one will last you for most of the early to mid-game life of your character.
- Kikko Armor: When you unlock Medium armor, get a Mithral set of this. The enhanced protection is going to help you absorb more punishment.
- Tatami-Do: Final top-tier version of your armor. Again, go for the Mithral option on this when you gain Heavy Armor Training. You’ll be losing some speed, but that is what the Haste Spell is for.
Potential upgrades in the form of magic are going to be varied. Just remember that you can often empower your weapon on the fly, so don’t go overboard with weapon enhancements.
Armor and AC are always going to be your sticking point because you are basically a squishy wizard on the front line.
- Spell Storing: Probably THE best option for your weapon, this lets you “load” your favorite spell into your melee weapon to expend when you are ready. You can also have Spell Storing on your armor as well, meaning you can have your favorite buff ready at the drop of a hat.
- Celestial Armor: Expensive but worth it. This magical armor is the best option you have if your Dex Mod is below +5.
- Ring of Arcane Mastery: An item tailor-made for the Magus, this ring can give you a larger pool of Arcane Points to wield as well as offer you more options in combat. The high cost almost makes it prohibitive though.
- Boots of Speed: Get Hasted without using a spell. Speed kills, and you will need every bit of speed to be on the offense.
- Cloak of Resistance: Every build needs this.
- Headband of Vast Intelligence: No brainer (ironically). This is going to improve your spellcasting considerably.
Keep it magical, Pathfinder!