This is part 3 of an ongoing discussion about playing a Pathfinder 2e version of the warlock class. You can read the general ideas in part 1 and the first example character in part 2.
The second pseudo-warlock character I’ll be sharing uses Pathfinder’s Magus class. Magus is all about combining spells and martial prowess, perfect for a Blade Warlock. Their signature ability Spellstrike has you attack a foe with a weapon and unleash a spell against them all at once. Not only is this objectively amazing and cool but it gives Magus a significant mathematical advantage by effectively attacking twice at your full bonus. You usually wind up only dealing damage once a turn, but that damage is really two hits combined. Simultaneous swordplay and spellcasting for fun and profit! Magus has a few more moving parts than Witch does though, so let’s go over the big 3 mechanics.
To start, every Magus picks a Hybrid Study that gives some unique blend of magic and combat. Each one focuses on one kind of weapon choice, like sword-and-shield, staff, bows, etc., and you get a Focus Spell related to that combat style. The Hybrid Study I am going to use here is Inexorable Iron, which focuses on survivability while wielding a two-handed weapon. The aim here is to make a Pact of the Blade substitute able to stride into melee with a big ol’ weapon while still blasting away. If you want to use a different kind of weapon, all you need to do is switch your Hybrid Study.
A small but very important part of Magus gameplay is their Arcane Cascade stance. Once you cast a spell, you enter this stance to deal a small amount of extra damage with all your Strikes. More importantly, being in Arcane Cascade triggers parts of your Hybrid Study. In our case, it gives us some temporary HP every turn for extra bulk.
Then, we get to Spellstrike. Here’s a quick and dirty rundown of how it works: you cast a spell, but you make a weapon Strike to deliver it. On a hit, you deal weapon damage and finish the spell. You then need to “recharge” Spellstrike by using an action or by casting one of your Conflux Spells (which I’ll explain shortly). There are some extra rules about it you can read here, but that’s the short version.
I’ve decided to use Orc as the ancestry here because there are several ways to get more temporary HP or stay fighting. Any ancestry can work just fine for any class you pick, so feel free to replace it without changing anything other than ancestry feats. For skills and general feats, there are lots of good “tanky” picks. Maxing out Athletics and Intimidation are usually good. Athletics lets you Trip, Grapple, Shove, or Disarm targets, while Intimidation lets you Demoralize an enemy to give it a small penalty to basically everything for a turn. Things like Toughness and Diehard are always helpful for tankiness, and Incredible Initiative might get you into Arcane Cascade faster.
As I mentioned before, you need to recharge Spellstrike each time you use it. You can just spend an action to do this, but if you have Focus Points, you can cast Magus Focus Spells – called Conflux Spells – to recharge it and get some effect on top. Inexorable Iron Magi get thundering strike, where you Strike and deal sonic damage in an area with the shockwave. You can also pick up more Conflux Spells with certain feats. Always use these when your Spellstrike is down to get the best effect.
The class feats I’ve chosen for the example character are all centered around getting there most out of Spellstrike. First and foremost, getting more Conflux Spells lets you recharge more efficiently. Force fang acts like a melee version of magic missile, and runic impression lets you buff your weapon. Conflux Focus and Conflux Wellspring give you back all your Focus Points instead of only one. Attack of Opportunity combines well with Athletics, since a Tripped target triggers it when they Stand. You can also use a reach weapon like a guisarme to get Attacks of Opportunity when a creature approaches you.
Magus is one of two classes in PF2e that use a system called ‘bounded casting’ for spells. This is actually pretty similar to how Warlock worked in that you only have spells in your two highest levels (with a couple extras), but you get very few each day. Unlike Warlock, you only recharge them with a full night’s rest. Luckily, Pathfinder’s Focus Spell system recharges in only 10 minutes of rest (and every spellcaster gets some). Further, you still get cantrips that work just fine with Spellstrike.
The arcane spell list has a wide array of damaging cantrips, so learning a spread of damage types can ensure you remain effective. My recommendations are:
- Telekinetic projectile is your highest damage (technically gouging claw is better on crits, but I prefer having the option of range just in case).
- Ray of frost has the longest range, which is helpful for when you aren’t able to Spellstrike.
- Produce flame can deal persistent damage on a crit, plus lots of things immune to cold are weak to fire (and vice versa).
- Gale blast hits everything around you and can push them back, which is perfect with Attack of Opportunity and a reach weapon.
- Shield is a one action bonus to AC and can save you from some damage.
You can always switch up which cantrips you prepare each day, so play around and find your favorites. For your leveled spells, you can choose whatever appeals to you the most, but I recommend picking one or two non-damage spells. You can always Spellstrike with cantrips, so taking spells like energy aegis, stoneskin, or dimension door can be more helpful than a bigger explosion. Again, you can switch them around each day, so play around.
So with all this, you have a spellcaster that can stay in melee and take some hits, delivering spells through their weapon while they do it. AC, saves, and weapon proficiencies are all on par with other martial classes, and the potential damage from Spellstrike is very high. HP is a bit lower than a tank might want, but the amount of temporary HP possible more than makes up for it. While pools of temp HP typically do not stack, having multiple sources means they can quite possibly refresh them throughout the turn.
Witch was our familiar-focused spellcaster with a patron to emulate Chain or Tome pacts. Magus was our spellsword Blade representative. The last of the Warlock replacements will be the cantrip master endless spellcaster, the Psychic. Others might see cantrips as backup options for when you run out of spell slots, but with Psychic you customize and specialize them to be useful all day long.
- Filling in the BlanksI went over a method you can use to “mathematically” categorize a character concept or class. However, the class pyramid isn’t limited to this use. It can be a very versatile tool if you know how to use it.
- Make Love, Not WarlockLast in our trio of pseudo-warlocks uses the Psychic class. While there’s no exact copy of eldritch blast, Psychics are the superstars of cantrips and adding bonus effects on your spells.
- I CAST SWORD!Magus is all about combining spells and martial prowess, perfect for a Blade Warlock. Their signature ability Spellstrike has you attack a foe with a weapon and unleash a spell against them all at once.
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