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…


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!

Robertscribbler’s Gish Optimized: Tenser’s Transformation and Elven Accuracy on A Bladesinger in D&D 5e

In this 25-minute video on the Robertscribbler YouTube channel, I explore the powerful synergy between Elven Accuracy and Tenser’s Transformation on a level 11-15 Bladesinger in 5e D&D. Casting this powerful buff spell can result in a clutch move that could save your bacon during a tough combat. But have a care. You can end up sacrificing a great deal if you cast this spell at the wrong time. So choosing the right moment to deploy this powerful and amazing spell is crucial. The above mini-guide provides you with some helpful tricks for using Tenser’s Transformation effectively in-game.

Gish Optimized 3 — A Classic Fighter-Mage for 5e (Gaelya the Ghost)

Guess what time it is? Yes!! It’s Dungeons and Dragons character building time! In this third episode of the Gish Optimized series we’re going to jump into the way-back machine. We’ll harken to the time of D&D’s origins in the 1970s and 80s as we re-create that good, old Fighter-Mage from Basic and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons using the D&D 5e rules set.

Deedlit from Record of the Lodoss War was modeled after the Basic Dungeons and Dragons Elf. Elves, in turn, were the proto-typical Fighter-Mages in Dungeons and Dragons. Image source: Record of the Lodoss War Fandom. Artwork by: Artwork by Yutaka Izubuchi.

Now this particular build is one that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve been playing Fighter-Mage types of various sorts for the better part of 41 years. Crazy, right? In fact, my first AD&D character was, you guessed it, a Fighter-Mage. This classic combo has seen many iterations over the years. It’s well represented in fiction and game-related anime. Early fantasy anime series like Record of the Lodoss War featured the Fighter-Mage prominently in Deedlit who was modeled after a Basic Dungeons and Dragons Elf. The Basic D&D Elf, in turn, mixed classic sword and sorcery. It represented the prototype for the Gish. In this build, we give homage to that fantastic origin.

Gaelya the Ghost as Classic Fighter-Mage

For our first Gish Optimized post, we explored a stab and smite style Dexadin. For our second post, we took a deep dive into the spank and flank Hexblade-Fighter or Chex-Fighter. We’re going to simply call our third Gish Optimized build the Classic (or Classic Fighter-Mage). And in this Classic build we’ll chiefly be looking for some serious versatility. More specifically — we want to be both a dangerous threat in melee combat and in slinging down various spells for devastating effect.

Unlike many combat specializations (our Dexadin was an example of a pretty specialized focus on mobile melee combat), we’re going to go wide with this build. We’re going to keep options open. Why? Because we want to be able to pick up such varied weapons as rapiers, scimitars, daggers, shortswords, longbows, crossbows, shortbows and employ each decisively. In addition, we want to really throw the heat down with our powerful magics both in NOVA bursts and over the long-term by slugging our way through big encounters. Last of all, we’ll open ourselves up to the wonderful arsenal of wands, staves, tomes, and scrolls available to mages. We’re going to have so much stuff to choose from! Which is part of the major fun involved in playing this build. So as we approach our Fighter-Mage, let’s keep in mind this generalist attitude we’re adopting to give us a crapload of tricks with which to confront the bads. This guide will help you to do all that and more.

Gaelya the Ghost’s Token for Icewind Dale

I’m playing this build now as Gaelya the Ghost in Ted Burgess’s classic Icewind Dale Dungeons and Dragons Campaign. You can watch this game on Twitch Saturday nights about once a month. I’ll also be building a video archive of these games in the Gaming Studio if you wish to find some examples of our Fighter-Mage build in action.

Level 1 — Dexterity, Intelligence, an Elf, Wizard

Alright! So let’s get started with ability score stats from point buy! Right off at first level, we are going to dump a crap-load of points, nine in all, into our most important ability — Dexterity. We are, after all, a fey wielder of sword and wizardry. As such, we want to be graceful, lithe, fast on the draw, and quick, quick, quick! DEX is so, so vital to this build for a number of reasons. The first is that we want to be tough to hit. Our HP is going to be relatively low. So we need to mitigate that vulnerability by layering in other defenses. DEX provides us with our first defensive line by bumping up our AC. It also gives us a big offensive edge by empowering both our melee and ranged attacks. Perhaps as important, DEX gives us better initiative. As a semi-squishy, we really like this extra burst of speed at the start of combat because higher initiative means we can get out of trouble if we need to. Last of all, a high Dexterity delivers the lithe, swift, mobile feel we want with this build — providing us with RP mojo in spades. Nine points in DEX starts us off with a maximum score of 15 before we pick our race.

For our next stat, we’re going to pick something that’s also really necessary for us. We’re a wizard so, you guessed it, we are also dumping a full nine points into Intelligence. INT is also crazy important for this build. So important that I hesitate to call it a secondary stat. It’s only secondary in that we’re going to be bumping INT just behind DEX as we level our Fighter-Mage. INT is of close-to-equal importance at low level and starts to really become pivotal for this build as we get into higher levels. Our Classic Fighter-Mage is thus pretty much a DAD — or dual attribute dependency — character. So we start off with a maximum score of 15 in INT as well.

Our #3 stat comes in with Constitution. With Wizard for our core class, we’re by no means a tank. That 1d6 HP for most of our levels really kinda hurts us. In fact we are more than a little squishy. This squishiness is a problem we want to mitigate. So we toss 7 points into CON. CON gives us so much! A higher score adds to our saves and, more importantly, to our concentration checks. And we are really, really going to want to maintain concentration on a good number of buff spells (more on this later). To make our Gish work, we really need at least a halfway decent CON. And with 7 points we end up with 14 CON at start of game.

After blasting through our ability score points like a teenage gamer blowing through ammo in Fortnight, we are left with just 2 points remaining for Charisma, Wisdom, and Strength. For my Fighter-Mage, I really want some Wisdom. So I spend my last two points there. I’m going to go ahead and dump both Strength and Charisma. A lot of old AD&D Fighter Mage builds also dumped Charisma. Continuing in this grand old tradition just feels right to me. But those 2 points could go anywhere. So you do you. Ultimately, these choices provide us with a spread of 8 STR, 10 WIS and 8 CHA for our dump stats. From an RP-perspective, I play Gaelya into her low Charisma. She’s a bit of a quirky loud-mouth who’s awkward in social situations and comes across as having weird obsessions (particularly with cheese).

Gish Optimized Discussion of the Fighter-Mage

Now that our Fighter-Mage ability scores are set, we move on to race. And it’s pretty obvious that we are going with the Elf. This race gives us a variety of great RP in addition to wonderful mechanical benefits. First off, we are the Classic Fighter-Mage race. Since we’re going for a classic feel, we would be remiss to overlook the elf. In addition, elves are, well, magical. Choosing High Elf, we lean into the magic even more — gaining an extra cantrip. This choice gives us a bit more wizardly oomph to add to our arsenal. High elf grants Darkvision, extra weapon proficiencies (pretty key to our Fighter-Mage feel), immunity to magical sleep, a bonus Perception skill proficiency, and the ability to shake off ghoul paralysis. The long life and catnap elf sleep provides us with even more of that lovely mojo.

With our choice of elf we also get two lovely stat bonuses. The +2 we go ahead and throw into Dexterity for a total score of 17 at start. Wof! This is huge for us! We also toss the +1 into Intelligence bumping that to 16. Now our full array is S 8 C 14 D 17 INT 16 WIS 10 CHA 8. Pretty badass.

Moving on to Class, we’re starting out as a Wizard. This limits us somewhat at level 1 on equipment. Wizard gives us a dagger, a wand, a scholar’s pack (which we might sell to buy a short sword), and the all-important Spellbook. We gain the wonderful Wizard Spellcasting and Arcane Recovery abilities. For elf, we use Tasha’s to switch our longsword proficiency for rapier and we keep the short sword, short bow, and longbow. From jump, we’re already capable of a little Fighter-Mage(ing). But let’s build on that, shall we? For cantrips, we pick Greenflame Blade and Booming Blade — both excellent gish spells. Firebolt gives us a ranged option. And because we’re a high elf we get one extra cantrip to choose. I’m picking Light. I like the RP feel of this spell and its potential major benefit for non-darkvision allies. But you do you. For our Spellbook we take Shield, Magic Missile, Magnify Gravity (If Wildemount is available for your campaign. If not, we go with Thunderwave.), Feather Fall, Detect Magic, and Absorb Elements. I find this spell load-out provides a great combination of offense, defense, and utility. If you don’t like these spells, you do you. But I’ve gotten great mileage out of them. Also, you may wonder why I’m not picking Mage Armor. In short, it’s an awesome spell that’s really useful. But I’m leaning more toward saving my spells for offense at this level and getting my armor defense at level 2.

We’re already setting up in Classic Fighter-Mage style to be very versatile. The upshot, though, is also classicly predictable — we’re a bit squishy. Our HP is 8. Our AC is 13. A vulnerability that pushes us to the back line most of the time at level 1. We can boost this AC to 18 in a pinch with shield. But we really want to be using our spell slots to lay down the Magic Missiles and Magnify Gravities (or Thunderwaves) instead. For melee, when we decide to take the risk, we rely more on Greenflame Blade for added splash damage. Don’t forget to upgrade your weapons to swords and bows when you get the opportunity.

So, right out the gate, at lvl 1 we have a magically versatile character who’s able to pick up and use various weapons with skill and who has access to one of the broadest spell selections in the game. Also pretty darn fun to play as we lean into the old adage — a strong offense is the best defense. Our Fighter-Mage does get better, though — and fast!

Level 2 — Bladesinger Wizard

Now that we’ve established ourselves as a Wizard with a smattering of fighting ability, let’s continue our growth into a Classic Fighter-Mage. As we enter level 2 we take a big step on that path by picking Bladesinger Wizard for our subclass. Now this subclass provides us with a boatload of benefits. Namely — Training in War and Song and Bladesong.

Ah! This is so exciting! Now let’s get into it!

Training in War and Song gives us a number of goodies. The first is light armor proficiency. And, as soon as possible, we pick up Studded Leather Armor to boost our base AC to 15. Nice! But it gets better. This Bladesinger training also gives us another martial weapon proficiency. Since we’re a Dexterity-based Fighter-Mage, we take scimitar. Now we have access to all the major DEX-based melee weapons. Sweet! Last of all we get Performance. This doesn’t work too great for us given our low Charisma. But it might make for some fun moments in taverns.

An elven tradition blending magic with swordplay, the Bladesinger adds both melee and defensive capability to the already-powerful Wizard base class.

Now, for the real reason we came — Bladesong. And, oh man do we get some tasty benefits when we pop this major buff in combat by expending a bonus action. First off, the magical song of our blade ripping through the air grants us the ability to add our Intelligence modifier to our AC. Immediately, this bumps our AC to 18 (if we’ve managed to pick up Studded Leather). Now we’re up there with the sword and board types when we pop this bad boy. In addition, our speed increases by 10 feet to 40. Fanfriggintastic! Remember that Dexterity? Yeah. Well, with Bladesong active we also have advantage on all Acrobatics skill checks. If we trained Acrobatics as one of our DEX skills, we can now pull off some cool stunts like walking across tightropes, door tops, or tumbling out of grapples in combat with confidence. Finally, the uber buff that is Bladesong adds our INT mod to our CON mod when we make a saving throw to concentrate on a spell. This ability pre-sets us for the major buffs we’re going to employ as we level.

With Bladesinger coming in so strong, it’s easy to neglect our other Wizarding powers. We gain two new spells for our Spellbook. We choose Find Familiar and Identify. Find Familiar gives us a nice scout and flank buddy to help enable us, our allies, and to keep us alive by providing an extra set of eyes. For Gaelya, I chose the Bat for its blindsight. However, Hawk and Owl also make for excellent choices. Identify is pretty self explanatory. It’s a utility spell you really want later on when trying to figure out what magic items do. But the 100 gold cost of the component is a bit prohibitive at this time. So we back-pocket it for later.

Level 3 — Shadow Blade

The main reason we’re here for this level is the spells. We’re a wizard after all. Since we picked up Bladesong, our melee ability has really started to shine. Sure, we’re still a squishy Wizard with just 20 hit points. For this reason, we’re not standing in front to take hits. We’re letting the real tanks like Fighters, Barbarians, Moon Druids, Paladins, Battle Engineer Artificers, and some Monks and Rangers do that. What we’re doing is playing the role of skirmisher. We hang back and lob spells when it’s called for. Then, when our opportunity to melee arrives, we come in at the flanks, hit hard, then get out.

If we’re able to take Magnify Gravity at level 1, our blasting is already well on line. In this instance, we decide to go ahead and take False Life to help boost our hit points a bit. If we do not have access to Magnify Gravity, we take Shatter instead. It’s a nice blast that will help us lay down the heat without getting mixed up with the nasties. As an AOE, it will also remove some pressure from our buddies on the front line.

Now, the second spell we’re going to take is a pure Gish boon in the form of Shadow Blade. Armed with this piece of magical brutality we now do 2d8+3 psychic damage on our attacks. Since Shadow Blade is light, we can off hand a short sword or scimitar for another 1d6. Shadow Blade also gives us advantage if we attack a creature in dim light or darkness — providing a pretty amazing accuracy boost. Using Shadow Blade in this way gives us 15.5 average damage if all hits land. That’s rather strong. We’re not a major NOVA type. We’re edged out a bit by focused DPR builds as well. But we are doing strong consistent damage in melee… as a freaking wizard. And, don’t forget, we can still use the rest of our spells to blow stuff up or do all sorts of other cool stuff. Nice.

Level 4 — Elven Accuracy

By level 4 our build gets another big step up. We’re not yet where we want to be as a Classic Fighter-Mage. But we are both happy and comfortable as a full class Wizard with some respectable melee chops. These improve when we use our ASI to take Elven Accuracy. This boosts our DEX to 18, our base AC to 16, our Bladesong AC to 19 and our Shielded AC to 24. Woah. Yeah. Those Bladesingers can achieve some of the highest AC numbers in the game. But let’s not get too cocky. We’re pretty squishy with your 26 HP (31 if you cast False Life or 36 if we upcast) which means we’re really vulnerable to those crits and other high-damage attacks. All the more reason to think of ourselves as a quick skirmisher who moves in and out of melee as opportunities and dangers arise.

Our offensive ability also gets a bump. Now we’re rocking 2d8+4+1d6 if we’re casting Shadow Blade and drawing an off-hand shortsword or scimitar.

To top it all off, we get that juicy triple advantage when we achieve combat advantage against a foe. This turns us into a tiny crit fisher. And we like those crits with the Shadow Blade at 22 average damage +3.5 if we hit with the off-hand. This crit capability of 25.5 in a round is pretty substantial. Not what your Polearm Masters, Paladins optimized for melee, or Great Weapon Fighters are able to achieve. However, our combined accuracy, consistent damage and crit fishing make us a respectable threat. Especially when we’re adding in our Wizard ability to lay down some blasts.

For spells, we pick up Mirror Image (because we really want that second layer of defense during mob situations or in instances when we may take heavy damage from a single hit) and Misty Step (because we love the mobility).

Level 5 — Fireball and Haste

Hitting level 5 we take another level in Wizard and gain access to all the gloriousness that is Fireball. This one spell is a crown jewel of awesome that we can use to blast our way through even the worst things we’ll typically face at this level. Worth noting that YMMV depending on campaign. Toting a Fireball spell around in Hell is a lot less awesome than using it to blow up undead in a dungeon. However, we still have some fall-backs in the form of our melee capability which also just got a big boost because we chose Haste. With Haste active we get an extra attack and we can use our primary action to cast Booming Blade or Greenflame Blade. When Haste combines with Bladesong we end up with a 21 base AC and a 26 AC when we Shield. If we layer this with Mirror Image, we can reliably tank in some situations. Shatter, Magnify Gravity and Magic Missile each give us some damage types that are tough to resist as a fallback. Overall, we’re looking pretty healthy. But we are really, really looking forward to next level.

Level 6 — Extra Attack, Cantrip, Spirit Shroud, Counterspell

Ah. Now here we come the delicious level of 6. And this is where our Fighter-Mage really starts to come on line. Thus far, we’ve relied a lot on our blasty magic to take care of sticky situations and to supplement our melee capability which, though strong, can sometimes feel a bit lacking. This situation starts to change in a big way at level 6.

First off, we get extra attack — putting us on par with Fighters, Paladins, Barbarians, and Pact of the Blade Warlocks with base attack numbers at this level. Nice. But then we also get the amazing Bladesinger ability to cast a cantrip for one of our attack actions. So if we use a rapier, for example, we now do 3d8+8 damage if we attack with Booming Blade or Greenflame Blade. Plus we get the rider of 1d8+3 splash damage or 2d8 damage if we meet these spells conditions. Not bad. But it gets better.

In addition, we pick some sweet spells for our Spellbook in the form of Counterspell and Spirit Shroud. Counterspell is something we really want because when we need to shut down those enemy spellcasters, this is our go-to. With 3 level 3 slots we’ve got the juice to throw it when necessary. Spirit Shroud however, provides a big buff to our melee and short range offensive oomf. Using the above mentioned combo with the rapier we do 5d8+8 damage or 30.5 average plus the riders for Greenflame Blade and Booming Blade should they trigger. It’s also worth noting that Haste is only 1 point on average behind this damage curve. With Haste and Bladesong both active, our speed is a stunning 80 feet, our armor class is 2 higher and we have advantage on Dexterity saves. We can also cast Shadow Blade at level 3 for 6d8+8 damage (35 average damage) and be a lovely crit fisher with Elven Accuracy if the Shadow Blade advantage comes on line. With a short sword in our off hand, our consistent damage increases to 38.5 per round if all hits land. On a crit, we do +13.5 for 52. Overall this is high consistent damage with a relatively low ceiling for the NOVA.

I hope you’re starting to see what I mean by versatility. We’re starting to gain access to a ton of options. We have numerous arrows in our metaphorical quiver for melee, blast, and utility magic. With Bladesinger, these magics provide potent synergies they wouldn’t otherwise.

Level 7 — First Level of Fighter

Now we could take our Bladesinger build all the way to level 20. And Bladesinger works out fantastic as a straight class. But since we are going for a classic Fighter-Mage feel, we’ll sacrifice a little wizardry to gain some martial fighting chops.

Adding a little Fighter to our Bladesinger for classic D&D flavor.

Our wizard class is now very well established. We have a good store of spell slots. We have two attacks. We have Bladesong. We have Fireball and numerous strong buffs. Adding a level of Fighter gives us some extra hit points, a fighting style, and second wind. Plus we now have access to all martial weapons. Our HP bumps to a still modest 46. But we can buff it with False Life. Second Wind gives us a little healing when we really need it. So our resiliency gets a minor boost. For fighting style, we pick Dueling. There are some potential major advantages that come from Two Weapon Fighting. But if we choose it, we really want to take Warcaster. On our build, that’s too intensive as we’re looking to max both our DEX and INT. Later on, some very nice bonus action attacks become available. So, long term, we get the most mileage out of Duelist.

As an example, Duelist bumps us to 6d8+12 damage with our level 3 Shadow Blade active for a total of 39 average DPR. Solid.

Level 8 — Back to Wizard for 4th Level Spells

At level 8 we go back to Wizard. We do really want our NOVA. But as a Fighter-Mage, we also want more spells. We decide to bite the bullet and wait. For our efforts, we gain access to 4th level spells and we gain one additional spell slot. If we have access to Wildemount, we take Gravity Sinkhole for a serious spell NOVA setup we want at level 9. By itself, Gravity Sinkhole is like a Fireball made of force that pulls our enemies toward a central point if they fail their spell save. Amazing control that we can use to enable our allies and hamper our foes in various clever ways. If Wildemount is not available, we instead take Vitriolic Sphere. For our second spell we take the relatively long-lasting Gish spell — Fire Shield. This provides us with a nice defensive buff in the form resistance to cold or fire damage on top of some reactive damage if we do get hit.

Level 9 — Fighter 2 and Action Surge

By level 9 we’re really coming into our own as a Fighter-Mage. In two words, level 2 Fighter grants us the glorious action economy benefit that is Action Surge. Now we can NOVA both with our Shadow Blade or by throwing two heavy AOE spells. With Shadow Blade active, our NOVA critical strike is pretty respectable — doing 15d8+24 or 91.5 total damage if all strikes land. This is a solid mid-range NOVA capability. We’re not hitting as hard as our Dexadin or Chex-Fighter. But we have quite a bit more AOE oomph than either of those builds.

So a little demonstration of what we may do with our new AOE NOVA capability… First, we drop Gravity Sinkhole — gathering as many foes as we can together. Then we Action Surge and cast Fireball. In total, that’s 5d10+8d6 damage to multiple targets assuming no save. Average damage on no-save is 55.5. If we catch 5 foes, with two making their saves, that’s 222 total damage over the entire strike. Now, if we’re Hasted, we can attack one additional time for 1d8+6 for 66 to a single target. Sweetness!

By level 9 we’ve really come into our own. We’ve mastered both the arts of sword and spell. We are a serious power and a force to be reckoned with. All it took was 7 levels of Bladesinger Wizard and two levels of Fighter. Over the next two levels, it gets even better.

Level 10 -13 — Wizard 8, 18 Intelligence, Steel Wind Strike, Song of Defense, Tenser’s Transformation

Now that we have Action Surge, we’re going to stick with Wizard for a while. We’re aiming both for cinematic flare and some serious smack down. At level 10 (8 Wizard and 2 Fighter) we bump Intelligence to 18. This increases our AC (bumping our max to 27 without magic item support) and it gives us a total of +6 to our concentration checks while Bladesong is active. We also get two more 4th level spells for our Spellbook. I’m partial to taking Otiluke’s Resilient Sphere and Fly from third level.

At level 11, we reach 9 in Wizard. This gives us 5th level spells. We jump all over Steel Wind Strike. Then we pick Scorching Ray (which we might’ve picked up earlier with a spell purchase). Steel Wind Strike has Gish written all over it. When we attack with this spell, we flourish our sword and then we vanish. We then choose five targets within 30 feet and make a melee spell attack against each. If we hit, we deal 6d10 damage. If we score a critical hit, this damage doubles.

Now our NOVA round looks amazing. It has pure Gish written all over it. And we have so, so many NOVA options. In one example, we cast Spirit Shroud adding +1d8 damage to our attacks. We choose radiant because we want to be shiny for this. For an AOE NOVA we cast Gravity Sinkhole for 5d10, move into position, and then we cast Steel Wind Strike for 6d10+1d8 for all targets within 10 feet and 6d10 to all other targets. Average damage against a single target is 65 and we can probably get between 4-5 if we’re smart and foes are numerous. If we crit against a single target, the total damage is 98. Brutal. Now, for a single target NOVA, we cast Spirit Shroud at level 5 for +2d8 damage. Then we focus fire two action surged Scorching Rays at level 4 for 20d6+20d8. If all strikes hit, we do 160 damage on this NOVA. If one of these attacks crit, we do 176. Now that’s some serious NOVA potential — both as AOE and as focus fire. We have more to come.

At level 12, we go to level 10 in Wizard. We get a second 5th level slot and we decide to pick up Dimension Door and Animate Objects. We’ve got great uses for our concentration in the form of Spirit Shroud, Shadow Blade, and Haste. But Animate Objects even at this level is pretty amazing. With 3 4th level slots, Dimension Door also now becomes quite useful. Having two level 5 slots lets us cast Steel Wind Strike twice if we are well positioned to unload 12d10+2d8 (75) against five targets. On a crit, one of these targets takes 117. Pretty brutal combination of focus fire and AOE. In addition, we gain access to Song of Defense which lets us use a reaction to trade spells for damage reduction at 5 HP per spell level. Song of Defense competes with our other reactions like Shield, Absorb Elements, and Counterspell. But if we take a heavy hit, it provides us with a good option to both radically reduce the damage and to save our concentration.

By level 13 we’re accessing 6th level spells. We pick Tenser’s Transformation and Gravity Fissure. Our Gish-NOVA, which was already strong, takes another step up. We can achieve this NOVA a number of ways. In one example, as a bonus action, we cast Spirit Shroud at level 5. Then we cast Steel Wind Strike twice using Action Surge for 12d10+4d8 or 84 average damage per target and 135 against a single target on a crit. Meanwhile, our focus fire NOVA with Scorching Ray has jumped to 26D6+26D8 or 208 if all attacks land, 224 if one of these is a crit. We’re also doing substantial consistent damage with our rapier while level 5 Spirit Shroud is active at 8d8+12 or 48 plus around 13 if Booming Blade or Greenflame Blade trigger. This without magic item support. On the hit point side, we’re more than a bit squishy at 84. But our AC is 20 with Bladesong Active and goes to 25 when we cast Shield (up to 27 with Haste).

Level 14-16 Dexterity 20, Reverse Gravity, and Song of Victory

At level 14, we are level 12 in Wizard. This means we get another ASI. We choose to boost our Dexterity to 20. Along down the line, we get a 21 AC with Bladesong active, we do a total of +7 damage with our rapier (without magic item enhancement), we’re +12 to hit with our weapon attacks now (unmodified), and our initiative mod goes up to 5. For our two spells, I’m thinking Chain Lightning and Wall of Force.

At level 15 we access 7th level spells. Now we achieve another major boost on our focus fire spell NOVA in the form of Crown of Stars — adding 4d12+2d8 as a bonus action (or 170 and 259 respectively). For our second spell in our book we take Reverse Gravity. I love the effect of Reverse Gravity so much that it’s tough for me to pick between the two. For my play, I’ll probably keep the slot open for both and use as the situation dictates.

Often over-looked, Reverse Gravity can really ruin the day for team monster.

At level 16 we gain Song of Victory. This amazing rider to our Bladesong adds our intelligence modifier to our damage rolls. At this point, it’s worth assessing our average damage again since we’ve added so many goodies. If we’re going for high consistent damage, we’re casting Spirit Shroud at level 5, we’re also activating Bladesong and Song of Victory and we’ve cast Crown of Stars. This gives us 8D8+22 damage from our direct attacks for 58 average. If we’re able to hit with one of our stars, we do an additional 4d12+2D8 for another 35. Total is 93 which is pretty brutal. We add about another 13 if Booming Blade or Greenflame Blade trigger. And if we crit, we do up to another 35 damage for a total of 128. This is pretty substantial consistent damage. All without magic item support. Although we may suffer if we can’t organize our attacks so we can make a ranged strike with Crown of Stars while not adjacent to someone who threatens us in melee.

For spells, we do some back-filling and take Contingency and Simulacrum. Simulacrum can be a game-breaking spell, so use with caution and consult your GM before pulling it out. It’s possible we may want to save it for a big final battle when our companions will tend to appreciate the help more than being annoyed with us effectively playing two characters. In some campaigns, we may just want to avoid Simulacrum entirely. If you’re in a high-powered game, if the other players are optimized, and if the chips are down, then trot out your Simulacrum and double your NOVAs in a clutch moment. But be careful. Your snowman duplicate is even squishier than you. It’s also vulnerable to Dispel Magic.

Level 17-20 Dark Star, Meteor Swarm, Battlemaster

At Level 17, we are a level 15 Wizard. We now have 8th level spells and we take Dark Star. This brutal spell creates a 40 foot radius area of dark, deafening, silencing, crushing magical force. It does 8d10 damage per turn and is a major lock-down against enemy spellcasters particularly. This makes it one of the best area denial spells in the game. It’s concentration. So we don’t drop it unless it’s a clutch moment. But if we pick our moment and concentrate our foes, we could produce a devastating effect. Of course this is a Wildemount spell, so we may not get it. If not, we probably pick Incendiary Cloud. Our second spell, regardless, is Sun Burst.

Level 18 gives us 16 Wizard and our last ASI. We drop it into Intelligence. Now with both DEX and INT at 20, we’re at 22 base AC with Bladesong active. Shield pushes us to 27. Haste gets us to 29. All without magic item support. We’ve basically added 3 since level 5. So enemy hits do land a bit more often. However, it’s also likely we’ve picked up at least some form of protective magic item. If not, it’s very easy for us to cast Mage Armor and get to 23, 28, and 30 AC respectively. Our Bladesong now also adds 5 to our damage rolls with our blade and 5 to our concentration checks along with all the other goodies.

Our Bladesinger/Fighter build is just one of many possible Fighter-Mage combinations. Bladesinger artwork by Midnight Crows.

Since this is our last level before 9th level spells, it might be fun to do a basic NOVA example using only spell buffs, weapons, and a tiny bit of extra something to demonstrate our versatility. So activating Spirit Shroud using a 7th level slot we add 3d8 to each attack against a target within 10 feet. We’re using our rapier for 1d8+12 damage. We add in Booming Blade or Greenflame Blade for another 3d8 on two of our melee attacks with action surge. And we have Crown of Stars active for our devastating bonus action attack. If we Action Surge and manage a ranged attack with Crown of Stars we do 25D8+4d12+48 for a total of 186 or 225.5 if we crit. Not too shabby. Our damage per round in this set-up is 14D8+4d12+24 or 113 which is pretty freaky. All without magic item support. It’s worth noting that we are burning a 5th, a 7th, and an 8th level slot to achieve this level of melee destruction. But it may be worth it.

For 8th level spells we take Clone and Teleport. One spell will literally give us a second shot at life when we’re killed. The other will give us a lot of potentially life-saving mobility options.

Level 19…. Ahhh…. 9th level spells and 17th level Wizard. Sweetness! We’ve waited a long time for these. Early on, we made a major trade-off by taking two levels of Fighter. This gave us the option of both melee and spell NOVA type attacks for numerous levels. But, at level 17, we paid for it when we missed out on the gloriousness that is Meteor Swarm and other 9th level spells. Now, after going without for two levels, we finally catch up. Taking Meteor Swarm gives us an enormous spell NOVA. In addition, Shape Change provides access to some truly amazing alternate forms such as the Planetar and the Adult Silver Dragon.

Coming at last to level 20, we take our final level as a Fighter. We’ve mostly maxed out our potential as a Wizard. Now, we add some serious martial prowess to our arsenal in the form of Battlemaster maneuvers. For these, we pick quick toss, riposte, and brace. Now we have four dice we can use to add various forms of extra attacks as either bonus actions or reactions. These additions really expand our options in combat. They also make our short rests a lot sweeter as we recharge these maneuvers, 9 levels of spell slots, our Action Surge and our Second Wind. Our NOVA crit round also just got a big boost. Right now, we have so many options for this. So let’s give another example of what we’re capable of. Assuming we cast Shadow Blade at level 7, we can cast Meteor Swarm for 140 average damage if the target fails its save, then Action Surge for another 16d8+36 (108) +6d8 (27) when we attack twice more and then quick toss and crit for a total of 275. If we draw another weapon after we threw the Shadow Blade we can Brace or Riposte off-turn for another 2d8+12 (21) bumping our single turn damage to 226-296 to a single target and 70-140 to multiple others. Severe devastation.

Action Economy, 9th Level Spellcasting, Powerful NOVA — All in One Admittedly Fragile Package

In closing, this build has so many options available to it, I could write multiple build guides just talking about the various spell and combat combos to choose from. For example, at level 16 with Tenser’s Transformation, a hand crossbow, and Crown of Stars active we can do 2d6+8d12+22 (81) damage per round to a medium range target with Bladesong active. Due to Tenser’s, our weapon attacks are at triple advantage. This without expending any feat cost for Sharpshooter or sacrificing accuracy to get a +10 to our damage rolls. Plus we have 50 temporary hit points for when we decide to wade into battle. And when we switch to rapier we do 2d8+8d12+22 (83) damage per round if all hits land while also maintaining our triple advantage on 2 attacks. Our crits on these rounds push us to 96.5 and 98.5 respectively. And this is just combat. Another guide could be built around the various utility spells and combos you could muster.

It’s worth noting that we’re rather squishy and rely on spells for a second line of defense. At level 20, we only have 128 HP (6×16 + 8×4) without magic item support. In comparison, our Hex-Fighter has 205 base HP at the same level and our Dexadin has 164. Thus, Tenser’s, Contingency, Shapechange, False Life, Song of Defense and other protective magics are often necessary fallbacks. An Amulet of Health is something we really desirable. We may also want to invest in the Clone spell in the event of tragedy. This low HP is the chink in our armor throughout our career. But we do have the massive power of a near-full spellcaster along with the extra defenses of the Bladesinger to throw down to help us survive. We’ll probably need it. If we’re playing this build right, we’re going to draw some serious aggro from team monster.

Overall, this build runs fast and powerful. It does not hit as hard in melee as the top line direct damage focused builds. But it comes close. And it is one of the best builds in the game for controlling the battlefield, shaping reality, and dealing mass damage to multiple foes. For more than half of your career through level 20 you’ll have access to Action Surge to pull some clutch moves by casting two spells in the same round, casting a spell and then attacking with a melee or ranged weapon, or going full NOVA with your weapon of choice. This combination of martial prowess, spell power, and action economy will make you a serious force to recon with on the battlefield, particularly if you’re a strategic thinker.

Our Classic Fighter Mage build has thus captured much of the original flavor of earlier incarnations and is overall an amazingly fun build to play. I hope our enjoy!

%d bloggers like this: