You’ve probably heard the Eldritch Knight sucks.
It doesn’t get that many spells. It’s too reliant on multiple ability scores. There are better options for both in both a Fighter and a Wizard.
But, our manic, martial, magic mortal can be a reckoning force when played the correct way.
So, without further ado; yes, the Eldritch Knight is good in D&D 5e. But, you need to know how they work to get there.
What is An Eldritch Knight?
First off, if you’re new to Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition, you need to know what an Eldritch Knight is.
The Eldritch Knight is one of the Fighter Archetypes, or subclasses. It is the only outright magical option for Fighters. That is, they’re the only Archetype that gets access to spells.
Eldritch Knights are what’s called a gish. Basically, they’re a character who uses both martial prowess and spell casting in combat.
Starting at 3rd level, when you choose your Archetype and if you select this option, you get the Spellcasting feature. With this, you gain access to the Wizard spell list (albeit, a limited version) in the Player’s Handbook.
You get a few other features like bonding to two of your weapons and never losing them again. Which is pretty cool. Later, you learn to teleport (because magic) and cast and then attack on your turn.
In a nutshell, the Eldritch Knight is a martial fighter who learns magic.
I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty sweet deal to me.
So now, to get to the real question; does the Eldritch Knight suck? And, the answer; not at all.
Let’s jump in.
Is the Eldritch Knight Good?
It comes down to this: the Eldritch Knight can be sub-optimal if not handled the right way. But, that’s true of any class or sub-class.
The truth is the Eldritch Knight is good. It can be a little prickly is all.
The catch is, it’s one of the sub-classes that suffers from MAD or Multiple Ability Score Dependent. I don’t know why it isn’t MASD, but I that’s beside the point.
Here’s what it means.
Your typical Fighter relies on two out of three Ability Scores; Constitution and Strength or Dexterity. Being the martial class they are, most players focus around these statistics.
How many Fighters do you see shooting arrows or swinging swords like it’s going out of style?
Probably most of them. It’s what they’re good at, after all.
But here’s the thing; once you introduce another Ability Score to the mix, things get complicated. The Eldritch Knight relies on their Intelligence modifier for casting spells. So, you can imagine how muddled everything gets.
Which Ability Score is more important? Is my character more martial or magical? What is the purpose of Eldritch Knights?
But, guess what? It’s actually pretty easy. What I suggest is think about how you want your Eldritch Knight to play.
Because listen, like literally every other character you make, it’s all in how you want to play them.
How Do You Build Eldritch Knight in 5e?
So, here’s the deal: if you build it wrong, the Eldritch Knight will cause you a headache. Personally, I think there are two ways to make one; the Mage Tank and the Spell Slinger.
Now, naturally there are loads a ways to be an effective Eldritch Knight. And, any character is viable so long as 1) you’re having fun, 2) your table is having fun, and 3) your party doesn’t suffer. The last point may be subjective. But if you’re playing with the right people, you’re not a jerk, and you’re not sabotaging the party’s schemes, you should be fine.
Anyway, let’s get into the builds.
The Mage Tank
First things first, let’s look at the front line Fighter with special stardust in their back pocket.
When you’re making a tanky Eldritch Knight there are a few things to remember.
- 1. You’re gonna want to focus on your physical Ability Scores still
- Depending on your weapon, you’ll have Constitution and Strength or Dexterity as your highest stats. Constitution to buff your hit points and Strength or Dexterity for your fighting style. This build depends on your Fighter relying on their martial prowess. You won’t choose spells that trigger Saving Throws or attack spells.
- 2. Your Intelligence doesn’t need to be great
- You see, since your spells won’t rely on saves or attacks, you don’t need a high Intelligence score.
- 3. You need to be careful with your spell selection.
- This is the big one. Remember, your Intelligence modifier won’t be as high. So, your Spell Save DC and Spell Attack Modifier will follow suit.
- 4. You get a limited number of spells
- While you have access to the largest spell list in the game, you are still only a One-Third Caster. In short, you get about a third of the spell slots as a full caster.
- Also, Eldritch Knights only progress up to 4th level spells.
What I suggest is to take the following spells and cantrips for your Eldritch Knight Fighter:
- Booming Blade (SCAG)
- Green-Flame Blade (SCAG)
- Mage Hand
- 1st Level
- Detect Magic
- Expeditious Retreat
- False Life
- Feather Fall
- Find Familiar
- Fog Cloud
- Magic Missile
- Protection from Evil and Good
- Unseen Servant
- 2nd Level
- Magic Weapon
- Mirror Image
- Misty Step
- Shadow Blade (XGtE)
- Spider Climb
- 3rd Level
- Animate Dead
- Catnap (XGtE)
- Gaseous Form
- Leomund’s Tiny Hut
- Life Transference (XGtE)
- Magic Circle
- Phantom Steed
- Protection from Energy
- Thunder Step (XGtE)
- Water Breathing
- 4th Level
- Dimension Door
- Fire Shield
- Greater Invisibility
- Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound
- Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum
*For reference; SCAG is the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and XGtE is Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
It all boils down to spells that affect you or your allies and don’t require rolling dice. Many of these spells increase your capabilities. A few force a save, like Thunder Step, but they have a use outside of that.
Also, many of these spells your Eldritch Knight options outside of combat. So, you’re not just the meathead combatant. You can actually do things between killing monsters with math.
The truth is, I really like the concept of a blending magic with a front line Fighter.
Something about taking and dealing damage while casting a spell is cool to me. The best part is, that’s possible with the Mage Tank. You get to be in your enemies’ faces and making yourself better at it by augmenting yourself or altering the environment.
The purpose of this kind of Eldritch Knight is to stand between your enemies and the rest of your party.
Your magic bolsters your defenses or evens the playing field. Even better, if you stack these with other spellcasters in your party.
Now, how in the world do we make an Eldritch Knight that uses their magic?
The Spell Slinger
So here’s the deal: this build isn’t all that different from how I’d make an Arcane Archer from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
It comes down to prioritizing Intelligence and Dexterity with Constitution right behind. Your character isn’t as tough as the Mage Tank. But, they have more options in their magic.
Personally, I’d build an archer type Fighter.
- Make Dexterity their highest Ability Score
- Make Intelligence the second highest
- Make Constitution the third
- Take the Archery Fighting Style
With this set-up, your Eldritch Knight has the full breadth of the Wizard spell list available to them. And, the best part is, they’ll be pretty good with them to boot. Which means you can take any spell available to you without fear. With they’re higher Intelligence score, Spell Slinger Eldritch Knights will be more effective with offensive spells or spells that force a save.
Their Concentration checks probably won’t be as good. But, guess what? That’s why they’re an archer.
This Eldritch Knight build focuses on staying out of direct combat. Your character can stay as far back as they like to prevent as many Concentration checks as possible.
So, is the Eldritch Knight Good?
The point is that yes, the Eldritch Knight is a good Fighter Archetype.
Because listen, when it comes down to it, any class can suck. But, more important, every class can be a ton of fun.
Remember to check with your table before you play. While D&D 5e doesn’t require a well-rounded party, it becomes difficult for your Dungeon Master to balance if they aren’t expecting it.
At the end of the day, there are a few things that make your Eldritch Knight good:
- They’re an easy way to make a martial character with magic
- Even though they only get up to 4th level spells, they have the widest available options for those levels
- They’re flexible in either taking damage or dealing it out
Remember: it’s all in how you play. And, one last tip, just have fun with it. Any character can be optimized, but if you’re not having fun, is it worth it?
I’ll let you decide on that one.
Leave a comment with your thoughts. Are you going to try a Mage Tank or a Spell Slinger?
Let me know. I’d love to hear if you enjoy them.