Gish Optimized 7: The D&D 5e Artificer-Bladesinger Switch Hitter (aka Linka)

The time has come once more, my friends, to put on our optimization thinking caps and envision yet another fun-to-play and powerful Gish build for our 5e D&D games! This particular iteration of the Gish draws its inspiration from one of the most famous switch-hitters in the computer gaming universe. I’m talking about a little elfish dude who fights like a beast with most of the weapons he picks up — owing to the base magic he uses to enhance his martial prowess. He’s also well known for wearing a dorky green outfit and sporting a cheesy 80s style hairdo. Yep! You guessed it, we’re drawing at least some of our inspiration from Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Link.

Image source: Link’s Facebook Page

Our build is that of a plucky badass who is equally proficient in sword, bow, and spell. And while our little Gish might not fully emulate Link from the computer games, she’s at least going to use the wonderful engine that is the D&D 5e rules set to leverage magic to make her similarly badass as a varied weapon and spell wielder. In particular, we’re going to focus on a fighting style that has become relatively difficult to emulate in 5e — The switch hitter. What is a switch hitter, you ask? Well, a switch hitter has the ability to use two or more fighting styles with almost equal proficiency. And our build is going to aim for just that.

Though we are drawing a boatload of inspiration from Link for our new build, we aren’t going to come anywhere close to perfectly emulating video game Link. For this reason, we’re not going to name our build after the plucky little monster slayer of great fame and renown. Instead, we’ll imagine a female relative of Link… possibly a sister who learned her badass fighting style from her brother before getting warped into the Dungeons and Dragons 5e multiverse…

Bampfff!!!

Introducing Linka — The Artificer-Bladesinger Switch Hitter

Image source: @snow.berrie

Watch out boys, because things are about to get pretty unreal!

So far, for our gishes, we have two straight class builds — the Battle Sorcerer and the Dexadin — along with two one level dips — the Barbarian Hellblade Tank, and the Tempest Cleric/Sorcerer. Our Bladesinger/Artificer Switch Hitter will become the third member of our group that includes three level dips — the Classic Fighter-Mage and the Raven Queen’s Herald.

For our Linka build, we’ll be looking at starting off as a relatively effective bow, sword, and sometimes shield wielder, who will be able enhance her attacks with magic, critters, and feats. Though we won’t be a primary blaster, we’ll present a strong blasting threat by level 5-6. And we’ll often remain a better blaster than most. We’re particularly looking to combine buffs or ongoing magical effects with various fighting styles for maximum impact with weapons in combat. In addition, at level 2 and 9 we gain access to some helpful and friendly critters who also enhance our combat effectiveness. Meanwhile, we gain the ability to add greatsword fighting to our list of options by level 11. By the time we reach levels 14-20, the power of our buffs greatly increases — as our innate magic enables us to transform into a melee and ranged powerhouse on the battlefield.

Though we don’t have a NOVA option outside of critical hits, what we do have is the ability to dole out consistently high damage both in close combat and at range. In addition, those critical hits can become quite potent at later levels.

Sounds pretty amazing, right? Now lets get to it.

Level 1 — Half Elf, Intelligence, Dexterity, Constitution, Artificer

Jumping right in with ability scores, our Linka is nothing if not smart. In fact, her innate Intelligence is what allows her to unlock her amazing magical martial prowess later in-game. This high level of intellect is Linka’s main specialty. So we dump 9 points into Intelligence for a starting score of 15 before we pick our race.

For our next stat, we are looking for both deft speed and nimble agility. Yes, our secondary attribute is Dexterity. This stat does a lot of work on a traditional Bladesinger. Linka is no exception. Dex will pull weight as our primary weapons combat attribute for at least 9 levels. So we don’t want to neglect it. At level 1, we also dump 9 points into Dexterity for a total of 15 before we choose our race.

Our last primary stat is Constitution. Since Linka will be moving to the front line relatively often, we want to have at least a decent base HP. As with most Bladesinger builds, we are seriously vulnerable to critical hit and multi-dice damage attacks due to our lower base HP compared to our typically higher Armor Class. Constitution helps us shore up this weakness. In addition, we want to shore up our ability to concentrate on all the various buff spells that we’ll be using. We dump 5 points into Constitution for a total of 13 before we pick our race.

This leaves us with 4 points remaining. We go ahead and dump Strength at 8 while adding 2 to both our Wisdom and Charisma for 10 in both stats. Our initial ability score spread is 8 Str, 13 Con, 15 Dex, 15 Int, 10 Wis, and 10 Cha. Pretty darn strong.

Moving on to race, there are are a few potential choices. We could go with Wood Elf, High Elf, or even Eladrin. But, to my mind, these choices don’t quite seem to fit. We come from an ancient race that mixed both the blood of humans and elves even as they accessed strange magical technologies. I find that, in RP, this origin provides an interesting spin on Half-Elves for D&D 5e. Typically orphans to both elven and human society, Half-Elves are often loners who have to use their innate charm to forge their way. In this case, our Half-Elf is from a unique if ancient separate race that existed for hundreds of years. This gives our Half-Elf heritage, lineage, and real roots. From the stats perspective, we also get to add 2 to one ability score and 1 to two ability scores. We use these to gain a final ability score spread of 8 Str, 14 Con, 16 Dex, 17 Int, 10 Wis, and 10 Cha. We’re super smart, quick, and tough. A potent combination.

Half Elf, in addition to granting Linka Darkvision and Fey Ancestry, also unlocks a key option. We will be spending a good number of levels as Bladesinger early on. And though this Wizard subclass does grant us access to one melee weapon proficiency, we want more. So we use the Half Elf customization option provided by The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide to gain access to High Elf Weapon Training. At level 1, this gives us access to Longsword, Shortsword, Longbow, and Shortbow proficiency. Now we are super-smart, quick, and we wield a variety of weapons.

Last of all, for class, we pick up Artificer. This class provides us with some of our wonderful fluff. Our magic comes from an ancient magical/technological source. We re-fluff our arcane focus to a round, sometimes glowing, sometime music-playing, bauble that functions as Thieves Tools when we tap it against a locking mechanism. With Magical Tinkering, we can make it emit light, sound, or even a recorded message. Artificer also grants us some wonderful crunchy powers and abilities. We start off with proficiency in Constitution and Intelligence saves — with Constitution saves being key to maintaining our Concentration. We gain light armor, medium armor and shield proficiency. And we gain spells.

For our spells we pick up Greenflame Blade, and Guidance as Cantrips. The wonderful and versatile list from Artificer grants us a variety of options that we can rearrange as we choose. At present, we get to pick 3. I’m partial to Cure Wounds, Faerie Fire, and Grease at level 1. But we also find later uses for Longstrider, Absorb Elements, and False Life. In describing how Linka casts spells, we invoke a magi-tech, sprite-like spirit called Zel who, in turn, casts these spells for us.

For our equipment, we pick three light crossbows. Then we sell all of them for 37 gold and 5 silver. We turn around and buy a shortbow, some arrows, and a short sword. We pick up scale mail and a shield. Now our Armor Class is 18 with the shield equipped. Our base HP is 10. We can heal, we’re oddly decent at unlocking doors and chests, and we can throw down some nice area denials and debuffs against our foes. In melee fighting, we use our techno-magic to ignite our weapon with fire to deal 1d6+3 damage to our foe and 3 splash damage to one adjacent foe (if this effect triggers, it gives us about average damage for this level). For ranged combat, we use our bow to deal 1d6+3 damage at a distance. Though we’re not amazing at any one thing, we are rather good at many things. We’re relatively tough, we can do decent consistent damage in melee, we are no slacker with the bow, we can heal, and we have some nice spells to hamper our foes. A good start!

Level 2 — Wizard 1, Owl Familiar, Silvery Barbs, Linka Accuracy

At level 2 we immediately transition to Wizard. Our HP goes up to 16, which isn’t stellar. We are about 2 HP tougher than your average Wizard. And unlike typical level 2 straight class Wizards, we have easy access to 18 base armor class with scale mail and shield. We take the opportunity to upgrade to a Longbow, if it presents itself. For present, we’re happy with our shortsword for melee.

At present, our two modes of fighting are Longbow + spells for ranged. If we are threatened in our ranged mode, we draw our shortsword and lay about with melee cantrips. Mode two is sword and board. In this mode, we often keep our sword hand free to invoke Zel if we need to on round 1 of combat. Then, we draw our shortsword and lay about with melee cantrips. If we need to cast another spell with a somatic component, we use our object interaction to sheathe our shortsword. These two main modes of combat will dominate for most of our early to mid levels. Since we will be using medium armor for consistent higher base AC, we will not be using Bladesong (coming at level 3) in most circumstances.

Level 1 Wizard gives us more spells, a spell book (techno-magic), and Arcane Recovery to get 1 spell slot back on a short rest. Since level 1 Artificer counts as a caster level, we now have 3 base spell slots and possibly 1 more from Arcane Recovery. Our 17 Intelligence is pretty high, so we’re about on par with most Wizards at this level.

For our Spellbook we pick up Find Familiar, Silvery Barbs, Shield, Magic Missile, Thunderwave (or Magnify Gravity, if available), and Detect Magic. As Wizard Cantrips, we select Booming Blade, Light, and Firebolt (for instances when we don’t have the bow equipped).

Between both Artificer and Wizard, we gain 7 choices for the spells we have access to during an adventuring day, making us extraordinarily versatile at this level. We pick Silvery Barbs, Shield, Magnify Gravity/Thunderwave, Magic Missile, Cure Wounds, Grease, and False Life. That’s a boatload of options. We can drop blasts, focus fire with Magic Missile, heal, buff ourselves with THP, make an enemy re-roll and gain advantage for ourselves, create some nice area denial, and use our reaction to add +5 to our AC. Choose wisely!

This combination of spells and the ability to use Find Familiar to summon a helpful critter in the form of our majestic snowy owl Elsie also unlocks a cool and rather signature feature that I’m calling Linka Accuracy. How does this work? Here’s one example:

We are on patrol with our longbow equipped. An orc pops up in the distance. We lift our bow to shoot and as we do we have our snowy owl flyby the orc to use her Help Action to distract him, granting us advantage on our attack with the bow. Our average damage for this attack against the orc is 7.02. Higher, in large part, due to our accuracy gain. And we haven’t used a spell slot for the day assuming we summoned our owl previously. This simple combo grants us the ability to save our spell slots for a rainy day while still doing consistent damage. If we want to safeguard our owl while still gaining accuracy, we use Silvery Barbs to nerf an enemy attack and then gain advantage on our next turn. These multiple options to gain advantage can really stack up. One final point about Silvery Barbs — the only component is verbal. So unlike the Shield spell, you can use it while wearing a shield and holding a weapon.

Level 3 — Wizard 2, Bladesinger, Rapier, Upcast False Life

By level 3, we pick up another level of Wizard and gain access to the Bladesinger subclass. Our HP jumps up to 22. We keep our scalemail and maybe even upgrade it to Half Plate by this level for a base AC of 17 and 19 with the Shield. This keeps us from using Bladesong. But we’re not too worried as we already have Constitution save proficiency and we want to access consistently higher Armor Class rather than brief bursts of high AC. Making us more Linkish…

Bladesinger also gives us proficiency with a one handed melee weapon. We pick Rapier, trading in our trusty short sword for a longer blade. Our melee damage now goes up to 1d8+3 plus any effect from Booming Blade or Greenflame Blade.

For our Spell Book, we go for more utility and pick up Identify as well as Absorb Elements. We can gain access to Absorb Elements through Artificer. But I like the added versatility granted by putting this spell in our book.

Our spell slots have now greatly expanded to 4 level 1 slots and 2 level 2 slots. We don’t have level 2 spells. But we can get a lot of traction out of a higher cast Thunderwave, Magnify Gravity, Cure Wounds, and False Life. During games where we expect to take a lot of heat, we probably upcast False life to gain an average of 12.5 Temporary Hit Points — buffing our effective HP to 34.5 prior to entering a dungeon or other threatening environment. With our high AC and access to Silvery Barbs, this makes us relatively tankish. For the spells we take into battle, we go ahead and add Absorb Elements for a rainy day when we take a boatload of elemental damage (also potentially adding some extra punch to our weapon attacks).

At level 3 we are surprisingly tough (when we load some False Life), we’re versatile, we’re a mean debuffer, and we’re accurate. This is a good level for us.

Level 4 — Dragon’s Breath

By level 4, we pick up level 3 in Bladesinger and thus gain access to level 2 Wizard spells. For our first 3 levels, we’ve contented ourselves with doing relatively average damage in exchange for high accuracy, high versatility, and surprising toughness when we choose to expend resources for it. Now, with access to the wonderful spell that is Dragon’s Breath, we can begin to do some high, consistent DPR.

So for our Spell Book, we pick up Dragon’s Breath and Misty Step. We want the wonderful mobility afforded by Misty Step in our back pocket. Though we are starved for second level spell slots. So we only whip out Misty Step for a real emergency.

Dragon’s Breath, on the other hand, provides us with a 15 foot cone in which we do 3d6 fire, acid, lightning, cold, or poison damage. Since we’re Linka, perhaps we refluff this spell as a techno-magical attack that emanates from our sword or bow. I kinda like this refluff feel. But it can also be cool to simply decide to breathe fire. So you do you.

We can cast Dragon’s Breath on ourselves, our owl familiar Elsie, or later on our Steel Defender Ambi.

In any case, with our longbow or rapier combined with Dragon’s Breath, and with Linka accuracy active, we do an average of 17.02 damage to a single target and 10.5 damage to multiple targets, assuming failed saves. Even counting saves, we are now doing significantly above average damage to one foe, and average damage to a potential number of additional foes for up to 10 rounds. If Greenflame Blade triggers its splash damage, we’re doing above average damage to two foes. Not too shabby.

With so many spells to choose from, with our sword, shield, bow, high armor class, potentially high HP+THP, and 4 first + 3 second level spell slots along with Arcane Recovery, we retain our amazing versatility.

Level 5 — Sharpshooter, Gish Cantrip Upgrades

At level 5 we gain our fourth level of Bladesinger. Now we’ve just unlocked a wonderful set of ASI and feat feat options. We’ve also just upgraded our Greenflame Blade and Booming Blade cantrips. And though we don’t yet have access to the level 3 spell list, we do have access to level 3 slots. Glorious Linkishness!

Before we go into our ASI choices or look at our DPR potential, let’s first manage our Spell Book. Last level we picked up Dragon’s Breath and Misty Step. At this level, we look to shore up our blasting with Shatter and we pick the wonderful defensive gish spell that is Mirror Image. Our defensive suite, combining Silvery Barbs, Shield, Absorb Elements, Mirror Image, and False Life, is now quite extensive. We’re also likely casting Longstrider at day start now to increase our base movement speed to 40. Our snowy owl familiar is still giving us consistent advantage when we are not using Silvery Barbs. We’ve got a deep well of various buffs and tricks working for our advantage at this point.

Our spell slots increase to 4 first level spells, 3 second level spells, and 2 third level spells. We don’t know third level spells. But can now upcast Dragon’s Breath, Cure Wounds, Shatter, False Life, and Magnify Gravity/Thunderwave. Dragon’s Breath, particularly, becomes quite potent when upcast using a third level spell slot.

At level 5 our Booming Blade and Greenflame Blade Cantrips now do an extra 1d8 thunder or fire damage when we hit in melee. With Linkish Accuracy, we do a bit of crit fishing in melee. For ranged attacks with our bow, we go ahead and pick up the Sharpshooter Feat. Now we shoot at up to a rather long range and we can do an additional +10 damage. Due to Silvery Barbs our our owl, we can set up advantage to make those attacks land far more often.

If we upcast Dragon’s Breath to level 3 and attack with Greenflame Blade we do up to 4d6+2d8+3 (26 average) damage to a single target, up to 4d6+1d8+3 (21.5 average) damage to a second target and potentially 14 damage to a number of additional targets. If we maintain concentration, we can do this for ten rounds. Taking into account Linka Accuracy and an average monster AC, that’s 21.9 average damage against a single opponent and 10.5 average damage to multiple opponents assuming a cluttered battlefield. So we are doing above average damage to a single target on top of an AOE. If we use a bow with Sharpshooter (adding in combat advantage) instead of a blade, we do 22.6 average damage against a moderate AC opponent if we can shoot them with an arrow and blast them with Dragon’s Breath. On a crit with this attack and assuming a failed save, we do 4d6+2d8+13 or 36. This is rather high DPR, even if our NOVA + crit is a bit underweight.

Level 6 — Fireball, Haste

By level 6, we are now a level 5 Bladesinger and we gain access to 3rd level known spells. Adding both Fireball and Haste to our Spell Book adds a suite of wonderful options. If we cast Haste and add Sharpshooter with Linka accuracy (using our owl familiar and Silvery Barbs), we up our DPR to 23.28 against a moderately armored foe. Not a huge gain, but more significant against low AC foes. Casting Fireball with Haste active and shooting a foe with advantage generates our new NOVA critical which is 8d6+2d8+13 or 49 — much more substantial in addition to the large AOE that is Fireball.

Leveraging Fireball in this way might not feel very Linkish. However, if we ignore Fireball, we’re hurting our potential in D&D 5e. We are Linka after all… It is worth noting that many of our spell and weapon combinations can be refluffed as using various forms of techno-magic or as activating powers from our weapons. And our invocations to Zel to produce these effects provides a more Linkish feel. That said, our next level swings us back to more of a weapon focus.

Level 7 — Extra Attack, Cantrip Attack Action

Hitting level 7 overall and level 6 in Bladesinger we finally gain access to the Extra Attack feature. We also breach level four spell slots which add to our ability to NOVA. Using our bow, Haste, Sharpshooter and Linka Accuracy on the first two attacks, we now do 30.5 average damage against a moderately armored foe. This is about 70 percent above the average base damage for this level. With advantage on just the first attack, this DPR drops to a still respectable 25 — or nearly 50 percent above average. Our NOVA is now Haste+a level 4 Fireball+advantage+bow and Sharpshooter for 52.5 on a critical and a failed save or simply three hits and one crit with Sharpshooter and Haste active for 57 damage. With our sword, with Haste active, and using Booming Blade for one of the attacks along with our Bladesinger special attack action ability, the average damage is about 22 with advantage on the first attack and about 25.5 damage with advantage on the first two attacks. Also strong DPR.

On the defensive side, sword and board plus Haste grants us a 21 AC. Adding Mirror Image generates even more resiliency. Silvery Barbs saves both us and our Mirror Images. Our base hit points are relatively low at 46. However, we’ve likely added about 11 THP by pre-casting False Life using a level 2 slot, giving us 57 effective HP (comparable to the 60 average HP for Fighter, Paladin, and Ranger at this level). Absorb Elements gives us the ability to reduce the damage of a good number of typically high damage area attacks. If we’ve added Blink (new to our spellbook at this level), we are absent on 50 percent of our off turns (preventing damage but also preventing us from defending our allies when we’ve blinked out). A newly added Counterspell access grants us the ability to suppress enemy casters at admittedly high cost for this level.

Level 8 — Artificer 2, Infusions

By level 8 we return to our Artificer roots and pick up a second level in the class. We gain some decent benefits in the form of two magical Infusions. These Infusions are straight out of our magi-tech background — providing our RP basis for how Linka accesses this magic.

The two magical Infusions we’ve gained can do work for us now even as the provide a key benefit at high level. If we don’t yet have a magical bow and rapier, we go ahead and use our Infusions to enchant both weapons. If we do have a magical bow and rapier, we infuse our shield to +1 and our half plate to +1. For damage calculation purposes, we’ll assume that the bow and rapier are infused. However, it is relatively likely that we have a magical bow and sword by level 8. If we do, we instead infuse our shield and half plate to gain a 21 base AC which jumps to 23 AC when we cast Haste.

Though these Infusions are both powerful and flavorful, we’ve set our sights on level 3 Artificer for a key feature.

Level 9 — Artificer 3, Battlesmith, Battle Ready, Steel Defender, Greatsword

Level 9 grants us that sought-for third level of Artificer. Now, we unlock our Artificer subclass option and we immediately jump all over the Battlesmith. Battlesmith grants us a key feature in the form of Battle Ready. With Battle Ready, we can use our Intelligence instead of both Strength and Dexterity when we wield a magical weapon. In addition, we gain proficiency in all martial weapons. With Intelligence now serving as our main stat for magical weapon attacks and as we gain proficiency in all martial weapons, our eyes drift over to the Greatsword.

Now, we gain three modes of fighting. Our main mode remains Bow + Spell given Sharpshooter, our relatively lower HP, and our increasing ability to gain advantage on attacks by various means. However, if enemies close in, we can now draw our Greatsword, use Intelligence for our ability modifier with this potent weapon, and employ it for our melee option. Sword+Shield becomes somewhat more niche as we reserve it for combats when we need higher defense.

If these benefits weren’t enough, we gain another cool critter in the form of our Steel Defender. We flavor this Steel Defender as a wolf made of iridescent blue and violet metal named Ambi. Ambi isn’t very tough at 20 HP. However, he is another presence on the battlefield. At this level, he provides aid in combination with our snowy owl Elsie and Silvery Barbs to grant us advantage on up to three attacks. We achieve this by using our bonus action to have Ambi move adjacent to an enemy and then use his ready action to prepare to distract the foe at the start of Linka’s next turn. This tactic may have varied effectiveness. But it is worth noting that if Ambi forces a foe to move, then we’ve disrupted the enemy’s maneuver. In addition, any attacks made on Ambi are attacks that aren’t made on Linka or her allies. If we use the optional flanking rules, Ambi becomes far more useful as a flank buddy. Otherwise, his ability to attack for 1d8+4 force damage is also helpful.

Ambi — a Wolf Steel Defender

Given Haste, Sharpshooter, a +1 Longbow and advantage from three sources, our ranged DPR has now jumped to 40 — or 110 percent higher than average. At this point, we are a DPR machine. Our NOVA+crit damage has also increased to 60 (68.5 if we use our bonus action to attack with our Steel Defender). Again, we are more solid as a DPR type than a NOVA type (our more NOVA-focused builds hit in the range of 90+ at this level). But we knew this coming into the build.

It’s worth noting that we are now effectively a single attribute dependent (SAD) build. Which makes us very happy and not sad at all. Another point is that a Headband of Intellect has now become a highly desirable magic item for us. Keep a lookout for it as it’ll help us with our spells, ranged, and melee attacks through level 15.

Last of all, our spell slots have gained a bump. Now we access 4 first, 3 second, 3 third and 2 fourth level spell slots. Notably, we’ve only sacrificed one effective caster level through our multi-classing. Our Artificer spell pool for any given day has also grown to four — adding still more versatility. Given access to Fireball and the five spell slots we can use for it, we are still a substantial blaster as well as a consistent threat as a weapon wielder.

Level 10 — Bladesinger 7, Fireshield, Spirit Shroud

At level 10 we return to Bladesinger and never look back. Here, we gain access to level four spells for our spell book. We pick up Fireshield and Spirit Shroud. Both are strong gish options for Linka. Fireshield provides us with a non-concentration ability to gain either cold or fire resistance on top of 2d8 reactive cold or fire damage when we are hit. This effect lasts for ten minutes. So we can cast it prior to entering combat. Spirit Shroud, if upcast to level 5, gives us a ten round 2d8 radiant, necrotic, or cold damage buff to our attacks that hit a foe within a ten foot radius. In addition, it slows our foes’ movement within 10 feet. Spirit Shroud does not yet replace Haste for us in most cases. But having the option to cast Spirit Shroud adds to our quiver of gish spells.

Our new fifth level slot provides various upcast options. An upcast fireball does 10d6 damage. If we need resiliency, False Life at level 5 gives us an average of 26.5 THP. Spirit Shroud, discussed above, provides another option.

Level 11 — Bladesinger 8, Great Weapon Master, Vitriolic Sphere, Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere

At level 11 we gain our second ASI or Feat as we hit level 8 in Bladesinger. Now that we have various ways to achieve combat advantage on the battlefield and now that we can use our Intelligence to wield a greatsword, we go ahead and pick up our second main switch-hitter option. You guessed it, we’re taking the amazing feat that is Great Weapon Master. Now, when foes close with us, we can devastate them with our Greatsword and with our ability to gain Linka Accuracy.

With Haste active, our ranged DPR of about 40 (without non-infusion magic item support) is now supplemented by a melee DPR with the greatsword of 61.65 (don’t forget, we’re adding 2d8 damage from Greenflame Blade or Booming Blade). Greatsword also provides us with a potential NOVA+crit round of 10d6+4d8+56 or 109. If we add in 2d8 off turn damage from Fire Shield, our NOVA+crit round jumps to 118. The greatsword-based DPR is approx 120 percent higher than average. The NOVA+crit enabled by the greatsword+GWM edges into the lower boundary of some of our more NOVA focused builds — owing to Haste, the explosive nature of Greatsword criticals by providing a bonus action attack, and adding in the ability of the Bladesinger to mix a melee cantrip into the attack sequence. We have now matured into a full-on Switch Hitter. It only gets better from here. Wof!

This higher melee damage potential creates a draw for us to focus on melee. But we should still play as a Switch Hitter. Our ranged attacks are still quite potent — allowing us to soften foes before they reach us or to target squishier caster or skirmish type foes with focus fire. Our multiple AOEs and ranged spell options further facilitate this style. When foes enter melee range, we choose our moment to pounce on them with our greatsword.

At level 11 we also pick up another AOE option in the form of Vitriolic Sphere or Gravity Sinkhole along with the wonderful defensive spell that is Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere.

Level 12 — Bladesinger 9, Steel Wind Strike, Cone of Cold

At level 12 we reach Bladesinger 9. We pick up the wonderfully gish and anime spell that is Steel Wind Strike. Now we can vanish, make a melee spell attack dealing 6d10 force damage to multiple foes and then teleport adjacent to one foe within 30 feet. Paired with Haste or Spirit Shroud, Steel Wind Strike becomes even more potent. In addition, due to Linka Accuracy, we have the option to crit fish against up to three of these foes.

For our second spell, we pick up the blast beast that is Cone of Cold for 8d8 cold damage in a 60 foot cone.

Our quiver for higher level spells is now rather deep as we have 1 sixth level slot, 2 fifth level slots, 3 fourth level slots, and 3 third level slots. This spell quiver totals 11 and we can draw from it for a number of wonderful buffs and powerful blasts as the need arises.

Level 13 — Bladesinger 10, Dimension Door, Summon Draconic Spirit

Level 13 gives us the opportunity to shore up some of our gish versatility. I like taking mobility options such as Dimension Door and the very versatile summoning spell that is Summon Draconic Spirit — giving us mounted flight and a powerful companion for up to 1 hour.

Level 14 — Bladesinger 11, Tenser’s Transformation, Chain Lightning

Reaching level 14 provides another major boost to our weapon-fighting ability. This comes in the form of Tenser’s Transformation — a powerful buff spell that sacrifices our spellcasting ability in favor of turning us into a vicious melee and ranged fighter. Tenser’s is a clutch spell that requires good timing to be used effectively. Typically, we will want to unload our other spells before tapping Tenser’s. We may also want to hold this spell in reserve for a moment when we need to swing the tide of battle by stepping in to join the front line and/or provide more powerful ranged support.

Our Linka Build is all about Going Full Gandalf on a Balrog

With Tenser’s Transformation active, we gain advantage on all our attacks with a weapon, we gain 50 Temporary Hit Points, and we add 2d12 force damage to each of our weapon attacks. Using a bow and Sharpshooter, our DPR jumps to 47.35. With our greatsword and Great Weapon Master, our DPR is 64.16 (about 125 percent above average). These are boosts beyond our previous peak. Our NOVA+Crit with a bow is now 6d12+3d8+28 or 80.5. With a greatsword, our NOVA+Crit is 8d12+8d6+42 or 120. If we have Fire Shield active and are hit once, the total NOVA round damage is approx 129. The combined high DPR and ability to NOVA when we crit is potent — particularly when we add the resiliency given by 50 THP. For best effect we pre-cast non concentration buff spells like Longstrider, Fireshield, Mirror Image and Blink. If we prep in this way, then cast Tenser’s our combination of offense from greatsword and bow switch hitting and defense in the form of resistances, 50 THP, passive damage, mirror images, and blinking out on our off turn is brutally effective.

For our second spell, we pick up the wonderful blast that is Chain Lightning. Our blast ability remains quite potent even as we gain a seventh level spell slot for up-casting our blasts, summons, and various buffs like Spirit Shroud. It’s worth noting that with Spirit Shroud upcast to 7 and with advantage our greatsword DPR jumps to 72.1 with the NOVA jumping to 138/147. This gives us an option outside of Tenser’s for a damage boost. Though the other benefits from Tenser’s including better support for our ranged option, granting us 50 THP along with continuous advantage, and lasting for up to ten minutes (vs 1 minute for Spirit Shroud), may make it a stronger choice for a long term buff in a pinch.

This level feels really strong for our Linka build. I’m adding a little * here and a note that we probably don’t want to take this build for campaigns that remain in the level 1-10 range. We’re no slacker at low to mid levels. But this build really shines at 11-16 and then again at 20. If we only play Linka in lower level campaigns, we miss out on her amazing potential.

Level 15 — Bladesinger 12, Elven Accuracy, Intelligence 18, Contingency, Drawmij’s Instant Summons

Now our boosts are coming hard and fast. At level 15, we hit 12 in Bladesinger. Gaining an ASI we pick the wonderful feat that is Elven Accuracy. Now our Linka Accuracy and Tenser’s Transformation grant us triple advantage. With Tenser’s constant advantage our DPR with the bow jumps to 61.8 (more than double average DPR at this level) while our DPR with the Greatsword leaps to 83.6 (about triple average DPR). Elven Accuracy also bumps our Intelligence from 17 to 18 which adds a bonus to, well, everything.

For spells, we pick up Contingency and Drawmij’s Instant Summons. Contingency provides us with some clutch action economy in a pinch. Drawmij’s lets us conjure one item we need that we don’t have — which can be useful for us in certain situations.

Level 16 — Bladesinger 13, Crown of Stars, Simulacrum

At level 13 we pick up more spells that further enhance our potential. At the top of this list is Crown of Stars. Now, we can use our bonus action to hurl a star that deals 4d12 radiant damage to a foe within 120 feet. This increases our peak ranged DPR to 81.3 and our ranged NOVA+crit to 12d12+3d8+28 or 119.5. Even when we hop into melee, the Crown of Stars may provide us with an option for our bonus action if we play our cards right. We should also mention that Crown of Stars has a nice, point blank synergy with Spirit Shroud. This becomes a clutch option for us at level 18 (below).

Our second spell at this level is Simulacrum. We’ve discussed this spell in previous build guides. It’s extraordinarily powerful and may not be a wise choice if we are playing at less optimized tables. Talk with your DM before using this spell. However, if we do create a Simulacrum of Linka, we can double our action economy or have our snowman version of Linka do some wonderful things like cast Haste on us right after we cast Tenser’s Transformation. Using a contingent spell to summon your Simulacrum in a pinch might prove clutch in a difficult battle.

Last of all, we now have an 8th level spell slot for upcasting. Wof!

Level 17, 18, 19 — Teleport, Forecage, Clone, Sunburst, Maze, Mighty Fortress, Intelligence 20

At level 17 we pick up the wonderful spells that are Teleport and Forcecage. Here we gain some more versatility — including the option to trap one or more foes in a Forecage. Fun!

Level 18 gives us Clone and Sunburst. The magi-tech Clone can save us from death. Sunburst is yet one more powerful AOE option for our quiver. At level 18, we also gain 9th level spell slots. This grants us a unique option to cast Spirit Shroud at 9th level while also casting Crown of Stars. If we can manage to pull off an effective greatsword+Crown of Stars attack sequence with Linka Accuracy, we do 124 DPR. If we NOVA+Crit with this sequence, we net 8d12+19d8+4d6+30 or 176.5 (185.5 with Fire Shield). Pretty darn deadly.

At level 19 we gain our final ASI and immediately use it to boost our Intelligence to 20. Maze and Mighty Fortress round out our spell selection. Zel’s magi-tech has grown into an extraordinary power. It’s also worth noting that as an effective 18th level caster, we now have 3 level five spell slots. Nice!

Level 20 — Shapechange…

Coming to level 20 really feels like gaining a capstone for our Linka. We gain access to the superlative list of 9th level spells. For our choices we pick Shapechange and something else we desire (I like Foresight, Meteor Swarm, or Blade of Disaster, but you do you). Shapechange by itself is pretty key to capping off the amazing D&D character that is Linka.

Linka can now Shapechange into a Planetar aka Angel of the Holy Sword — to devastating effect. Image source: Forgotten Realms Wiki.)

When we take Shapechange, we might consider renaming it to Angel of the Holy Sword or something similar that fits with our Linka mojo. When we cast this extraordinary spell, we use it to transform into a Planetar. This boosts our HP to 200, gives us 24 Strength and provides us with a boatload of other benefits. Here our Artificer infusions provide a key benefit. We commission the forging of a large greatsword as well as the crafting of large longbow crafted. We then infuse these items to each be +1 weapons. Placing them in our Bag of Holding (I hope we have one by now), we save them for when we cast Shapechange, then have our Planetar form draw both from the bag. Now we are a Planetar switch hitter. Boom!

With our bow in our Planetar form, we do 5d8+2d6+16 owing to the radiant damage we add to weapon attacks, our magic bow, our 20 Intelligence and Sharpshooter. With Crown of Stars active and with Linka advantage, we now do 117 DPR with our ranged attacks. Our Greatsword now deals 5d8+4d6+18 for a devastating DPR of 152 if we achieve Linka advantage on 2-3 attacks and adding in Booming Blade or Greenflame Blade on one attack. Our Greatsword NOVA+Crit round is now 26d8+8d6+54 or 198 (207 with Fireshield). If we have a Simulacrum available to cast Haste on our Planetar form, it gets even better.

Overall, our Bladesinger 17/ Artificer 3 build as Linka is a DPR powerhouse that really shines in the level 11-20 range. She’s an able spellcaster with great access to buffs, blasts, summons and spell utility. Her ability to gain advantage from numerous spell and ally options gives her a potent additional sting. And her critical strikes are often powerful enough to hit the lower range of builds specifically optimized to NOVA. Though her hit points are on the lower end, her ability to cast multiple defensive spells, to wear medium armor, and to transform into powerful forms makes her remarkably tough. A very strong build. One which I’ll be testing out in an upcoming one-shot in which my friends and I take on Vecna as level 20 characters! Stay tuned for dates and times as we’ll be livestreaming the devastation on Twitch!

Wow! This was quite a fun and enjoyable ride! I hope those of you who love Link and Zelda can make great use of the Linka build. Until next time — warmest regards and best wishes to you all!

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  1. Some edits and updates to follow. Video blog pending…

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  2. First edit and update. New slides added…

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