The new Artificer Unearthed Arcana is here! It’s been a while since we’ve gotten an update on the Artificer class, so I was excited to read through this article.
This version of the Artificer overall seems to have more linear progression and beefier spellcasting abilities. The Alchemist subclass got some major changes, while the previous Gunsmith subclass has been transformed into the Artillerist. The Artificer class now prepares spells from a wider spell list (like the cleric and wizard) instead of knowing spells (like the sorcerer and bard). As well, the new Artificer gets their subclass at 3rd level instead of 1st.
“Well, hey,” I thought, “why don’t I compare the old and new Artificer and post what I find?”
Turns out, there’s a whole lot different!
The new 2019 Artificer has a shorter introductory section than the 2017 Artificer, but both get across similar information. It’s mostly flavor, and not a lot changed. Both documents compare the class to wizards, both point out their natural curiosity. The new Artificer connects the class directly to Eberron, which makes sense since we got Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron last year. The new document also includes an “Artificers in Other Worlds” section that gives information on how the class fits in a couple different settings.
As a whole, the intro section got some tighter editing, and some setting considerations were included now that Eberron has shown up in 5e in an official capacity.
The Core Class
Both documents give the class a d8 for hit points, and both Quick Builds emphasize Intelligence first and Constitution/Dexterity second. The new document adds proficiency with shields, hand crossbows, and heavy crossbows. Saving throw proficiencies remain the same. The 2019 document gets a bit more specific with which tools your artificer can be proficient in from the get-go, it gives you one less skill proficiency, and it cuts Deception and Religion from your skill proficiency options.
Your starting equipment as an artificer is not much different across iterations; the 2019 gives you “any two simple weapons” versus 2017’s “(a) a handaxe and light hammer or (b) any two simple weapons.” This isn’t actually cutting anything, though, since the handaxe and light hammer are simple melee weapons anyways.
2019 Artificer has a note about opting for starting wealth instead of starting equipment like the official classes (look for the “Starting Wealth by Class” near the beginning of Chapter 5 of the PHB). The new Artificer can roll 5d4 x 10 gp to generate this, shared by the Bard, Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, and Ranger classes at the top of the range.
While the 2019 Artificer has done away with the thunder cannon and the Gunsmith subclass, your artificer could, as an option, have firearm proficiency according to the “Optional Rule” box on the document’s second page.
At 1st level, the old Artificer gets their subclass (Alchemist or Gunsmith, which gives them features at 1st, 3rd, 9th, 14th, and 17th level) and Magic Item Analysis, a feature that allows them to cast detect magic and identify, the latter without a material component. The earlier a class gets their subclass, the more integral that subclass is to the character’s identity.
At the same level, the new Artificer gets Magical Tinkering, which allows the character to touch a Tiny nonmagical object and give it a magical property similar to prestidigitation (sheds light, emits a sound, and other effects) that lasts until the artificer ends the effect. They also get Spellcasting, which requires them to have their tools in hand to cast artificer spells. I’ll dive more into the differences between the old and new artificer’s casting abilities later, but you’ve probably already noticed that the new version gets cantrips and, eventually, spell slots of 1st to 5th level, unlike any other class.
At 2nd level, the old Artificer has Tool Expertise and Wondrous Invention. The former doubles the proficiency bonus the character has to the tools they gained proficiency with through this class. The latter gives the character a choice between a few different magic items, and this version gets more Wondrous Inventions at 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th level.
At the same level, the new Artificer gains the Infuse Item class feature. They start with three artificer infusions (from the list near the bottom of the document). They gain a new infusion at 4th, 7th, 11th, 15th, and 19th levels, for a total of 8.
These infusions are formatted like warlock invocations, some have level restrictions while others are available at any level. The artificer can replace one of their infusions with another when they take another level in artificer. These abilities allow artificers to make their own magic items, and one infusion (that can be taken multiple times) allows a character to duplicate a magic item like the alchemy jug or the helm of telepathy. There’s a beefy list of magic items that can be duplicated in this way, and each time an artificer takes this infusion, they have to choose one specific item they can duplicate.
At 3rd level, the old Artificer gets Spellcasting. This document makes sure to note that “the spells you learn are limited in scope, primarily concerned with modifying creatures and objects or creating items.” Characters using this version of the class don’t get cantrips and have spell slots of 1st to 4th level, more comparable to the Eldritch Knight or the Arcane Trickster (though those subclasses get cantrips).
At the same level, the new Artificer chooses their subclass: Alchemist or Artillerist, and they gain subclass features at 3rd, 6th, and 14th level. They also gain Tool Expertise, which is a similar but simplified version of the old version: you double your proficiency bonus with all tools you’re proficient in.
At 4th level, the old Artificer gets their Ability Score Improvement (also at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 18th level) and Infuse Magic. Infuse Magic allows an artificer to store certain spells inside an object so that any (INT greater or less than 6) creature holding that object can trigger the spell effect within the next 8 hours.
At the same level, the new Artificer also gains an Ability Score Improvement (also at 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level).
At 5th level, the old Artificer gets Superior Attunement, granting them an extra attunement slot (4 instead of 3). They get another shot of this feature at 15th level, so the old Artificer ends up with two extra magic item attunement slots.
At the same level, the new Artificer receives the Arcane Armament feature, allowing them to make two attacks with their Attack action so long as one of the weapons they’re using is magical.
At 6th level, the old Artificer
makes a friend has the Mechanical Servant feature, allowing them to craft a construct. This construct assists the character in battle and uses a modified version of a Large beast (CR less than or equal to 2) stat block. The construct rolls its own initiative during combat but will follow its creator’s orders.
At 10th level, the new Artificer gains the feature called The Right Cantrip for the Job. Whenever an artificer finishes a rest (short or long), they can swap out one of their artificer cantrips for another on the same list.
At 18th level, the new Artificer gets access to Spell-Storing Item, which is a modified version of the old Artificer’s Infuse Magic. The new version doesn’t require the expenditure of spell slots but requires the spell to be a 1st or 2nd level artificer spell that require 1 action to cast. The spell doesn’t have to be one that the user has prepared, as well. Instead of a time limit, the spell effect can be triggered a number of times equal to twice the artificer’s Intelligence modifier (or until that artificer uses the feature again).
At 20th level, both the old and new Artificers get Soul of Artifice, bumping their attunement slots up to 6 and granting them a +1 to saves per magic item they’re attuned to.
So, that’s the core class progression. Let’s get into the subclasses!
Both documents refer to artificer subclasses as “artificer specialists.” While the old Artificer gains their subclass at 1st level, the new one gains it at 3rd. The old Artificer gains subclass features at 1st, 3rd, 9th, 14th, and 17th level, and the new Artificer gains subclass features at 3rd, 6th, and 14th.
Both Artificers have the Alchemist as a specialization, though the old and new Alchemists are quite different from each other. The old Artificer’s second subclass is the Gunsmith, which the new document has changed into the Artillerist.
At 1st level, the old version of the Alchemist specialization receives an Alchemist’s Satchel and Alchemical Formula. The first feature is a magical bag with ingredients an alchemist needs to create their Alchemical Formula concoctions. The second gives the starting alchemist three of the list of options: Alchemical Fire, Alchemical Acid, and a choice from the rest of the list.
These options give the character certain actions or bonus actions they can take so long as they have their Alchemist’s Satchel on them. These concoctions can cause damage, heal, or otherwise assist the party. The options that heal or damage scale with the character’s level.
At 3rd, 9th, 14th, and 17th level, the old version of the Alchemist can select another Alchemical Formula. The list has seven options, so the character will have access to all options on the list once they reach 17th level.
At 3rd level, the new Alchemist specialization gains Tools of the Trade, Alchemist Spells, and an Alchemical Homunculus. The first feature grants proficiency with alchemist’s supplies and the herbalism kit and adds those tools to the character’s equipment. This feature also cuts down on the amount of time and gold it takes for this character to craft a magic item that’s in the potion category.
Since the new Artificer prepares spells, their subclasses give them a list of spells that they always have prepared (once they reach the appropriate levels). The Alchemist Spells include spells like blight, purify food and drink, and raise dead.
The Alchemical Homunculus allows a character to, well, create a special homunculus at the end of a long rest (you can only have one at a time). The homunculus is made of alchemical equipment and is a Tiny construct that obeys you. Its stats are included in the document. The alchemist uses their bonus action to command the homunculus to take one of its special actions to support the party (or spit acid); otherwise it takes the Dodge action in combat.
At 6th level, the new Alchemist gets access to Alchemical Mastery, giving them a bonus to their acid/poison damage and healing, and allowing them to cast lesser restoration without a spell slot (a number of times per day equal to their INT modifier).
At 14th level, the new Alchemist gets Chemical Savant, granting them resistance (!) to acid and poison damage and immunity (!!) to the poisoned condition. With this feature, the character can also use their alchemist’s tools to cast greater restoration without expending a spell slot once a day.
The Gunsmith and the Artillerist
While the old and new Alchemist were similar in name and flavor (if not mechanics), the Gunsmith (old Artificer) and the Artillerist (new Artificer) diverge from the very beginning. Both subclasses are more offensive-focused than the Alchemist, but that focus manifests differently in both of them.
At 1st level, the Gunsmith gains the features Master Smith, Thunder Cannon, and Arcane Magazine. Master Smith grants the character the mending cantrip and proficiency with smith’s tools. Thunder Cannon grants the character, well, a gun two-handed ranged firearm. It deals 2d6 piercing damage, needs a bonus action to reload, and has a range of 150 / 500. The Arcane Magazine provides ammunition for the firearm as well as the means to craft more of it.
At 3rd, 9th, 14th, and 17th level, the Gunsmith gains features that allow the character to make different attacks with the firearm. The 3rd level feature is Thunder Monger, an attack that deals extra thunder damage on a hit that increases as the character levels up. The three other features impose saving throws on the target (instead of having the character make an attack roll) to deal different kinds of damage in different areas of effect.
At 3rd level, the Artillerist gets Tools of the Trade, Artillerist Spells, and the Arcane Turret, mirroring the other new Artificer’s subclass. The Artillerist’s Tools of the Trade feature grants proficiency with and access to smith’s and woodcarver’s tools, as well as decreased crafting time/gold for wand-type magic items.
The Artillerist subclass spells include shield and a number of offensive elemental spells, like thunderwave and fireball.
The Arcane Turret feature allows an artificer character to use their action to summon a Medium-sized magical turret. This can be done once for free (per long rest) or by expending a spell slot. The turret can detonate (destroying it but dealing damage to surrounding creatures) on command. There are three types of turrets, two with offensive capabilities and one that grants the party temporary hit points.
At 6th level, the Artillerist has access to Wand Prototype, which allows a character to temporarily grant a wand the ability to cast one artificer cantrip. It only works when that artificer uses it (you can’t pass it to other characters), it’s limited to artificer cantrips with a casting time of 1 action, but it doesn’t have to be a cantrip you know. (Once at 14th level, the wand can hold two artificer cantrips).
At 14th level, the Artillerist gains Fortified Position. This feature means that the Arcane Turret grants half cover to its summoner and allies who are within 10 feet of it. A second turret can be summoned for free, and the artificer character can have two turrets summoned at the same time, commanding both with a single bonus action.
The old Artificer document doesn’t contain any guidance on multiclassing into the class. The new one does, requiring an Intelligence score of at least 13 to multiclass into Artificer. The section “Optional Rule: Multiclassing” on page 10 of the new document provides direction on proficiencies and spell slots, as well as instruction on how the Arcane Armament feature meshes with Extra Attack. A character with Arcane Armament and Extra Attack doesn’t gain an additional attack from Arcane Armament, they only benefit from Extra Attack.
Both the old and new Artificers are a bit weird with spellcasting. Both versions of the document note that an artificer’s “spells” are, flavor-wise, not magical effects like a wizard’s or a sorcerer’s. The new Artificer document encourages players to flavor their artificer’s spells like some sort of machine or concoction is causing the effect.
The old Artificer learns spells like bards and sorcerers. They can use arcane focuses for their spells. But they only get spells and spell slots from levels 1st to 4th, like the Arcane Trickster and Eldritch Knight subclasses. Unlike those subclasses, though, the old Artificer doesn’t have access to cantrips.
The new Artificer prepares spells like wizards and clerics. They use tools as their focuses for their spells. They gain spell slots from 1st to 5th levels, like paladins and rangers (half-casters). Unlike those classes, they also have access to cantrips, and gain Spellcasting at 1st level. While they learn cantrips at a slower pace than most classes, they gain the ability to switch out a cantrip for another every rest at 10th level.
The old and new Artificer spell lists are similar, with the new document beefing up the spell list and only cutting one spell from the old list. The list seems to be a mix of wizard and cleric spells.
The new Artificer document added arcane weapon, a new spell for the artificer that allows them to augment their weapon attacks with elemental energy.
1st level spells that were added to the new Artifier’s list are detect magic, grease, and identify.
2nd level spells that were added to the new Artificer’s list are heat metal and magic mouth.
3rd level spells that were added to the new Artificer’s list are dispel magic and elemental weapon.
No 4th level spells were added to the new Artificer that were not present in the old Artificer. However, the new Artificer cut death ward from the general spell list and placed it in the Alchemist’s subclass spells.
Since the old Artificer didn’t have access to 5th level spells, the new Artificer’s 5th level spells are all new to the class.
And hey, that’s all the changes to the new Artificer document! You can read the old version here and the new version here. Unearthed Arcana is always liable to change, so I’m excited to see where the class goes from here.
If you noticed something wrong or missing in this post, let me know and I’ll fix the post!
What do you think of the new UA? What are your thoughts on the changes? Have you played any version of the class before?