Artificers have a lot going for them in the 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. They’re inventive tool savants who can create magic items on a whim, cast spells on a limited basis, and hyper-specialize through their choices of both subclass and infusions.
This article will touch on the many powerful features available for Artificers, as well as how to build an Artificer in 5e and what their gameplay looks like. No matter what hair-brained character idea you’d like to invent, the Artificer has what you’re looking for.
Artificer 5e Features
Artificers get an incredible variety of features, as laid out in the table below:
|Level||Proficiency Bonus||Features||Infusions Known||Infused Items||Cantrips Known||1st||2nd||3rd||4th||5th|
|1st||2||Magical Tinkering, Spellcasting||–||–||2||2||–||–||–||–|
|3rd||2||Artificer Specialist, The Right Tool for the Job||4||2||2||3||–||–||–||–|
|4th||2||Ability Score Improvement||4||2||2||3||–||–||–||–|
|5th||3||Artificer Specialist feature||4||2||2||4||2||–||–||–|
|7th||3||Flash of Genius||6||3||2||4||3||–||–||–|
|8th||3||Ability Score Improvement||6||3||2||4||3||–||–||–|
|9th||4||Artificer Specialist feature||6||3||2||4||3||2||–||–|
|10th||4||Magic Item Adept||8||4||3||4||3||2||–||–|
|12th||4||Ability Score Improvement||8||4||3||4||3||3||–||–|
|14th||5||Magic Item Savant||10||5||4||4||3||3||1||–|
|15th||5||Artificer Specialist feature||10||5||4||4||3||3||2||–|
|16th||5||Ability Score Improvement||10||5||4||4||3||3||2||–|
|18th||6||Magic Item Master||12||6||4||4||3||3||3||1|
|19th||6||Ability Score Improvement||12||6||4||4||3||3||3||2|
|20th||6||Soul of Artifice||12||6||4||4||3||3||3||2|
Artificer gameplay can vary widely depending on subclass. But no matter the subclass, Artificers are always good at:
Damage. Artificers have access to features and spells that deal great damage.
Support. Whether through control, buff, or debuff spells or by handing out magic items to allies for every occasion, an Artificer is a reliable source of support in more ways than one.
Versatility. An Artificer is inventive, and can change their kit more readily than any other class. By changing infusions and prepared spells, Artificers can achieve something close to a subclass swap without great penalty.
Armorers and Battle Smiths can also Tank to some degree, but the above three elements are common across all Artificer subclasses.
Artificers are half casters in the vein of Paladins and Rangers. However, in many ways, they are more versatile and complete spellcasters than either Paladins or Rangers. For now, let’s look at the basics of Artificer spellcasting:
Tools Required. Artificers can use thieves’ or artisan’s tools (any type they’re proficient with) as their spellcasting focus. Additionally, an Artificer can use one of their infused items as a spellcasting focus.
Cantrips. Artificers have access to two cantrips from 1st level, scaling to three at 10th level and four at 14th level. Whenever you gain an Artificer level, you can switch one of these cantrips out for a different Artificer cantrip.
Preparing and Casting Spells. Artificers have full access to their entire spell list when they reach the appropriate level. You prepare spells at the end of a long rest. You can prepare a number of Artificer spells equal to your Intelligence modifier plus half your Artificer level.
Artificers gain access to new level spell slots at half the speed of full casters, capping out at 5th-level spells at 17th level.
Spellcasting Ability. Artificers use Intelligence as their spellcasting ability. Your spell attack rolls are d20 + proficiency bonus + Intelligence modifier, and your spell save DC is 8 + proficiency bonus + Intelligence modifier.
Ritual Casting. Artificers can cast ritual spells as a ritual. This takes an additional ten minutes to do, but doesn’t require a spell slot (PHB 201-2).
Artificers have the following proficiencies in DnD 5e:
Armor: Light armor, medium armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: Thieves’ tools, tinker’s tools, one type of artisan’s tools of your choice
Saving Throws: Constitution, Intelligence
Skills: Choose two from Arcana, History, Investigation, Medicine, Nature, Perception, Sleight of Hand
Good skill proficiencies are italicized
Infusions are the keystone feature of the Artificer class in DnD 5e. This power turns nonmagical objects into magic items. They offer an incredible variety of magic items that an Artificer can create and use, or even share with their party.
Here are the basics of how Artificer infusions work:
Infusions Known. An Artificer learns their first 4 infusions at 2nd level and cap out at 12 infusions at 18th level.
Infused Items. An Artificer can infuse between 2 and 6 items at a time, capping at 18th level.
Infusing an Item. Items can be infused at the end of a long rest, and the Artificer can attune to a newly-infused item right away. If an Artificer goes over their infusion limit, the infusion on the oldest item ends first.
Infusions end on items after the Artificer dies a number of days equal to their Intelligence modifier after they die.
While your character build and party composition can seriously improve some infusions, below are some of the best general-purpose Artificer infusions in 5e:
Enhanced Arcane Focus. A flat +1 bonus to spell attack rolls is strong, especially at 2nd level. Ignoring half cover for spell ranged attacks is also nice. Scaling to +2 at 10th level means this infusion stays strong in any campaign, unless your DM hands out +3 arcane foci like it’s no biggie.
Enhanced Defense. A flat +1 AC bonus for armor or a shield, increasing to +2 at 10th level. While these flat, small numerical bonuses may seem boring, they’re also incredibly consistent and efficient.
Homunculus Servant. Basically a permanent familiar (like the Find Familiar spell), but tankier and more offensively capable. However, the 100 gp price tag may mean you can’t actually afford this right away at 2nd level.
Spell-Refueling Ring. Recover a 3rd-level or lower spell slot for an action, once per day. A solid and very welcome +33-50% increase in 3rd-level spell slots.
Helm of Awareness. Advantage on initiative and can’t be surprised. This is a supremely good item to give to the nova or control character in your party who can deal big damage or debuff a group of enemies right away, making the rest of the fight much easier.
Replicate Magic Item. The ability to make level-appropriate magic items is incredibly strong, versatile, and fun.
Great options include Bag of Holding (2nd-level), Sending Stones (2nd-level), Cloak of Elvenkind (6th-level), Cloak of Protection (10th-level), Helm of Telepathy (10th-level), Winged Boots (10th-level), Amulet of Health (14th-level), Cloak of the Bat (14th-level), Ring of Protection (14th-level).
There are plenty of other awesome Artificer infusions — these are just some of the ones that are consistently good across character builds and playstyles.
Here’s a bit more detail on each of the Artificer’s features in 5e:
Magical Tinkering. 1st-level feature that basically acts as a Prestidigitation spell. It can create light, play messages, emit sound, or create a static visual effect that appears on a tiny nonmagical object, and you can have several active at once.
A fun feature that offers great utility and helps solidify the Artificer’s archetype and role in the party right from the get-go.
Infusions. 2nd-level feature, described above.
The Right Tool for the Job. 3rd-level feature that allows an Artificer to create any artisan’s tools over a rest. While this isn’t mechanically great, as artisan’s tools are usually cheap anyway, it is a neat little ribbon ability that might come in handy if you find yourself without a tool you need.
Tool Expertise. 6th-level feature that’ doubles your proficiency bonus on tool-based ability checks. The main benefit of this feature is that it greatly improves the consistency of your lock-picking ability.
Flash of Genius. 7th-level feature that lets you take a reaction to add your Intelligence modifier to you or an ally’s ability check or saving throw if they’re within 30 feet. You can use this a number of times equal to your Intelligence modifier per long rest.
This is a fantastic feature — passing an important saving throw is one of the most important moments in a bout of combat, so having the choice to add a consistent +3 to +5 to them is incredibly powerful.
Magic Item Adept. 10th-level feature that increases the number of items you can attune to from 3 to 4. Also lets you craft common or uncommon magic items in 1/4 the normal time for 1/2 the usual gold.
Increasing your maximum attuned items by 33% is very strong, especially with how many options you have available to you. And being able to make even more magic items for your party outside of your infusion kit makes you even better as a support character.
Spell-Storing Item. 11th-level feature that lets you store a 1st- or 2nd-level Artificer spell in a weapon or spellcasting focus. The object holder can then use the Use an Object action to produce the spell’s effect (SAC 3) — so a Raging Barbarian can use it, and it can’t be Counterspelled.
The spell stays in the object until it’s been used your Intelligence modifier X 2 times. This is an incredibly strong feature, as it’s essentially worth 6-10 extra 1st- or 2nd-level spells per day that can also be distributed among your party.
Magic Item Savant. 14th-level feature that lets you attune to one additional magic item (5 total) and lets you ignore class, race, spell, and level requirements on attuning or using a magic item. A little boring, but strong in that it allows for even greater versatility.
Magic Item Master. 18th-level feature +1 max magic item attunement (6 total). Definitely boring, but magic items are strong, so this feature is strong.
Soul of Artifice. 20th-level feature that gives a flat +1 to all saving throws per magic item you’re attuned to — so essentially a flat +6 bonus. Also allows you “cheat death” by ending one item infusion in order to fall to 1 hit point instead of 0.
A really strong capstone feature, as this, combined with Flash of Genius, means you’ll almost never fail a saving throw. Since most of the most potent abilities in the game are saving throw-based, this does a lot to improve your survivability. This is further strengthened by the “cheat death” element of the feature.
Artificers can choose which spells to prepare each day, so they never have to commit to a certain number of spells known. This allows you to freely swap around spells that make sense for the day’s adventure.
That said, Artificers are also quite limited in their spell slots, so they do have to be conscientious about how they use them.
Some of the best Artificer spells by level are:
Cantrips. Booming Blade (Armorer/Battle Smith), Create Bonfire, Fire Bolt, Guidance, Mage Hand, Mending (construct-healing), Sword Burst (Armorer/Battle Smith)
1st-level. Absorb Elements, Catapult, Cure Wounds, Detect Magic, Faerie Fire, Sanctuary
2nd-level. Aid, Continual Flame, Invisibility, Web
3rd-level. Dispel Magic, Fly, Haste, Revivify
4th-level. Arcane Eye, Freedom of Movement, Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere, Stone Shape
5th-level. Bigby’s Hand, Creation, Greater Restoration, Wall of Stone
Artificers should focus on maxing out their Intelligence ability score as fast as possible. Once that’s achieved, there are some really great feats to help complement the class’s strengths.
Some of the best feats for Artificers in 5e include:
Lucky. Reroll up to 3 d20 tests (ability checks, attack rolls, saving throws) per day. Extraordinarily good on any character, including Artificers.
Resilient (Wisdom). Resilient (Constitution) is often used to add proficiency to your concentration checks, but Artificers are blessed with that as a class feature. However, becoming proficient in Wisdom saving throws as well makes Artifiers even more defensively sound, as many of the most devastating abilities in 5e force Wisdom saves.
War Caster. Advantage on concentration checks is always nice, and being able to cast a spell as an opportunity attack might come in handy, especially if you’re a Battle Smith.
Fey Touched (TCoE). +1 Intelligence, the Misty Step spell, and a 1st-level divination or enchantment spell of your choice. Both spells can be cast without a spell slot once per long rest. Artificers lack a teleportation ability, and more free 1st-level spells is always nice.
Metamagic Adept (TCoE). Metamagic options can be powerful on any spellcaster, Artificers included.
There are other good playstyle-specific feats for Artificers, but these are generally good options no matter your character build.
Here’s a bit about the low-level features and general playstyles of each of the Artificer’s four subclasses:
Alchemist. Proficiency with alchemist’s supplies, the great Healing Word spell, and the ability to create an experimental elixir at the end of a long rest at 3rd level. 5th-level feature improves the consistency of your healing and elemental damage abilities and grants the nice Flaming Sphere spell.
This playstyle leans into the support side of the Artificer class. However, it’s also considered the weakest, as all Artificer subclasses are able to support better than the Alchemist, while also excelling in other areas.
Armorer. Proficiency with heavy armor, smith’s tools, Magic Missile and Thunderwave, and the ability to make Arcane Armor at 3rd level. This armor acts as your spellcasting focus, so your hands don’t need to be free to spellcasting. It can also be customized to be Guardian (tank and support focused) or Infiltrator (stealth and damage focused). The 5th-level feature is Extra Attack and access to Mirror Image and Shatter.
Great additional spells and another fun way to customize magic items for different combat advantages. The Armorer leans into tanky, “Iron Man” playstyle of the Artificer archetype.
Artillerist. Proficiency with woodcarver’s tools, Shield and Thunderwave, and an Eldritch Cannon at 3rd level. The cannon can either be a short-ranged AoE flamethrower, a long-ranged force ballista, or a short-range temporary hit point-provider for allies. 5th-level feature allows the creation of a firearm or other conduit of spells that adds 1d8 damage to any spell the Artificer casts with it, as well as the Shatter spell.
This is the long-ranged, blaster playstyle of Artificer, and it excels at it. The extra spells are all great, especially Shield, and the customizable cannon adds exceptional damage and utility. At low levels especially, the temporary hit points it provides will far outshine any healer or support in the group, as its effect is far superior to any 1st- or even 2nd-level spells.
Battle Smith. Proficiency with smith’s tools and martial weapons, the Shield spell, the ability to use Intelligence as your ability modifier with magic weapon attacks, and a Steel Defender companion at 3rd level. Extra Attack at 5th-level.
The Battle Smith leans into the fighter playstyle of the Artificer. The play style is similar to other gish-type characters like a Hexblade Warlock or Eldritch Knight Fighter, but with the benefit of a permanent pet in the Steel Defender. This guy is much harder to kill than a normal familiar and offensively stronger as well.
I play on writing a more detailed guide/ranking of Artificer subclasses at some point — this is just to give an idea of what each one offers. In the meantime, I’d recommend checking out Treantmonk Temple’s tier list of Artificer subclasses.
What Race Is Best for Artificer in 5e?
The best race for Artificer is one that comes with an Intelligence bonus and useful racial traits for the Artificer playstyle.
With concern for ability score bonuses, here are the best races for Artificers in 5e:
Vedalken (Guildemasters’ Guide to Ravnica)
Without regard for racial ability score bonuses, the best races for Artificers in 5e include:
Rock Gnome. Thematically a great fit. Double expertise on History checks relating to tech and the natural ability to make clockwork gadgets.
High Elf. One free Wizard cantrip and an extra language. Great for low levels when you don’t have many cantrip options, and Wizards have so many cantrip options to choose from.
Eladrin. Free Misty Step once per rest — very useful on any class, especially an Artificer who lacks a comparable power.
Kobold (VGtM). Pack Tactics with Steel Defender is great for Battle Smiths, but Sunlight Sensitivity can be annoying.
Warforged (ERftLW). Great for Battle Smiths — like slapping Iron Man’s armor on The Thing from the Fantastic Four.
The best Artificer backgrounds complement their playstyle and grant useful skill proficiencies that an Artificer doesn’t otherwise have access to. With that in mind, here are a few good options:
Sage. Arcana and History proficiencies (both Intelligence-based) and two extra languages of your choice.
Clan Crafter (SCAG). History and Insight proficiencies, +1 artisan’s tools proficiency, +Dwarvish language. Good and thematically relevant for Artificers.
Cloistered Scholar (SCAG). Proficiencies in History and one of your choice (Arcana, Nature, or Religion), and two extra languages of your choice.
Faction Agent (SCAG). Insight and one Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma skill of your choice proficiencies and two extra languages.
Are Artificers a Good Class in 5e?
Yes, Artificers are a good class in 5e. They’re not the best spellcasters, the best burst damage, or the best tanks — but they are a great mix of all three. They’re endlessly versatile, incredibly hard to pin down, and a real blast to play.
Sign up for Artificer school today if you like your magic to have some basis in the scientific method.