The concept of the Arcane Archer Fighter was introduced in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. This archetype embodies the essential characteristics of a ranged Fighter while seamlessly incorporating magical elements into ranged combat. A heady mix of skills indeed.
This article will explore the various attributes of the Arcane Archer and look at how their specific skills harmonies and stack with the broader capabilities of the Fighter. We will examine race, potential feats, multiclassing options, and character build strategies that complement this path.
Table of Contents
Arcane Archer 5e Subclass Abilities
Arcane Archer Lore
Upon reaching the 3rd level, you can delve into the mystical lore of the Arcane Archer, tapping into either magical theory or the secrets of the natural world, both customary for practitioners of this elven martial tradition. A choice awaits you. You can gain expertise in the Arcana or Nature skills and master either the Prestidigitation or Druidcraft cantrip, respectively.
Upon attaining the 3rd level, you unlock the art of unleashing specialized magical effects through your arrows, the signature ability of the Arcane Archer. As you embrace this feature, you must select two preferred Arcane Shot options from those available (outlined in Arcane Shot Options below).
Once during your turn, when you fire an arrow from a short or longbow as part of your Attack action, you can imbue that arrow with one of your chosen Arcane Shot effects. The decision to employ this option only needs to be made when the arrow hits the target unless the desired effect doesn’t involve an attack roll. You can use this twice before completing a long or short rest period. After completing the rest, you regain all expended uses.
As you progress in this class, additional Arcane Shot options of your choice become accessible — at the 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th levels. Furthermore, each option’s potency amplifies once you attain 18th-level status as a fighter.
Upon reaching the 7th level, you gain the aptitude to infuse your arrows with magic. Whenever you fire a nonmagical arrow from a shortbow or longbow, you can temporarily render it magical, bypassing any resistance and immunity that the target might have against nonmagical attacks and damage. The magical essence fades from the arrow immediately after it strikes its intended target or misses. The magical status is temporal and connected to the action rather than the physical object.
Upon attaining the 7th level, you also gain the ability to redirect errant arrows toward new targets. Should your attack roll with a magic arrow result in a miss, you can use a bonus action to reroll the attack against a different target located within 60 feet of the original one.
Starting at the 15th level, your mastery of magical archery means that you are always prepared to fire as soon as the clamor of battle erupts and melee is about to ensue. If you roll initiative but find no more Arcane Shot uses available, you promptly regain a single use of this ability.
Arcane Shot Options
The Arcane Shot feature is an umbrella term for a range of abilities, so several secondary choices also need your consideration when you choose this option. The following options are presented alphabetically, each aligning with a distinct magic school.
If the option to take requires a saving throw, then your Arcane Shot save DC equals 8 + (your proficiency bonus( + (your Intelligence modifier.)
By invoking abjuration magic, you can momentarily exile your target to a non-hazardous location within the Feywild. The creature struck by the arrow must also succeed in a Charisma saving throw, or the banishment will be successful. While banished this way, its movement ceases, and it becomes incapacitated. After its next turn concludes, the target reappears in the space it previously occupied or in the nearest unoccupied space if its prior location is now blocked in some way.
Once you reach the 18th level in this class, the struck target also sustains 2d6 force damage upon arrow impact, whether or not the banishment is successful.
Your enchantment magic causes the arrow to beguile the target temporarily, and the creature struck sustains an extra 2d6 psychic damage. Furthermore, at the moment of impact, you must choose one of your allies within 30 feet of the target. If the target fails a Wisdom saving throw, it becomes charmed by the selected ally until the start of your subsequent turn. This effect ends early if the chosen ally attacks the charmed target, deals it damage, or forces it to make a saving throw for whatever reason.
The psychic damage increases to 4d6 upon reaching the 18th level in this class.
With this option, you fill your arrow with force energy drawn from the realm of evocation. Immediately after the arrow hits the target creature, it explodes, and the target, and any other creatures within 10 feet of it, suffer 2d6 force damage each.
Upon reaching the 18th level in this class, the force damage rises to 4d6.
By weaving necromantic magic into your arrow, you inflict an extra 2d6 necrotic damage on the target creature with a successful hit. Moreover, the target must also make a Constitution saving throw; otherwise, it is magically enfeebled, weakened so that any damage it administers through weapon-based attacks is halved until the commencement of your following turn.
The necrotic damage increases to 4d6 once you achieve the 18th level in this class.
Upon a successful hit on the target, the arrow summons conjuration magic to create poisonous and ensnaring brambles that coil around the creature. The struck target experiences an additional 2d6 poison damage, its movement dwindles by 10 feet, and it endures 2d6 slashing damage the first time it moves 1 foot or more during a turn, excluding teleportation.
The target or any ally of theirs within reach can use an action to disentangle the brambles and free their friend via a successful Strength (Athletics) check against your Arcane Shot save DC. If no friend is forthcoming or an attempt to free them fails, the brambles persist for 1 minute or until you deploy this option anew.
Upon achieving the 18th level in this class, both poison and slashing damage increase to 4d6.
Transmutation magic lends an ethereal quality to your arrow. Upon taking this option, no attack roll is required as the arrow propels itself forward in a straight line, with the area of effect spanning 1 foot in width and 30 feet in length before vanishing. The arrow passes harmlessly through any objects in its path, ignoring cover, but each creature in that line must make a Dexterity saving throw. On a fail, the creature takes damage as if the arrow hit it, plus an extra 1d6 piercing damage. On a successful save, a target takes half as much damage.
The piercing damage escalates to 2d6 upon reaching the 18th level in this class.
By employing divination magic, you confer upon your arrow the power to seek out your designated target, enabling the arrow to veer and twist its trajectory in pursuit of its prey—the medieval-fantasy equivalent of a heat-seeking missile.
When choosing this option, no attack roll is needed. Instead, you can select any creature you have observed within the last minute as the target for the arrow. The arrow propels itself toward this creature, maneuvering around corners if necessary and disregarding three-quarters and half cover.
Should the target fall within the weapon’s range and a suitable path exists for the arrow to journey to the target, the target must attempt a Dexterity saving throw. A failure results in the target enduring damage akin to being struck by the arrow, plus an extra 1d6 force damage.
Additionally, you gain knowledge of the target’s present whereabouts, even if they are out of your direct sight when the arrow strikes them. This makes Seeking Arrow a great attacking option and a great way of finding enemies who may have gone to ground or are escaping from the area of melee.
Successful saves halve the damage, and the target’s location remains undisclosed. The force damage escalates to 2d6 upon reaching the 18th level in this class.
You call on the power of illusionary magic and draw down shadows into your arrow, causing it to obscure your foe’s vision with magical darkness if it strikes its target. The creature hit by the arrow takes an extra 2d6 psychic damage, and it must make a successful Wisdom saving throw, or it will be unable to see anything farther than 5 feet away until the start of your next turn.
The psychic damage increases to 4d6 when you reach the 18th level in this class.
Arcane Archer 5e Feat Options
Taking the path of the Arcane Archer invariably leads you towards constructing a Dexterity-centric approach, with Intelligence securing its place as your secondary priority. Using bows requires exceptional agility, and the magical components will need no small amount of intellect to master.
There are some obvious feats that combine well with the character’s skill set.
It goes without saying that Sharpshooter is a must. Given your character’s nature, we don’t need to dwell on the pros and cons of this feat.
By taking the Telekinetic feat, you enhance your Intelligence and acquire an invisible Mage Hand, enabling you to execute a bonus action shove. This shove means that you can aid an ally’s escape from a grapple, sidestep an opportunity attack, propel an adversary off a bridge, or even trigger the supplementary damage of Grasping Arrow on your turn. All of this is limited to a 30-foot range.
Again, given your character’s melee style, the Piercer feat is an obvious choice and extremely useful for those times when you have already maximized your Dexterity and Intelligence attributes.
The Fey Touched feat allows you to perform Misty Step once daily while also allowing you either Hex or Hunter’s Mark, giving you 1d6 damage with every shot. Because you often find yourself fighting at range and Fighters get proficiency towards their Constitution-based saving throws, this helps to get the most out of the limited uses of the spell.
If you use Shadow Arrow a lot, the Elven Accuracy feat significantly enhances the disadvantage the target will get if it fails its Wisdom save.
Arcane Archer 5e Race Options
Virtually every race works well with the Arcane Archer archetype. However, small and tiny races will find themselves limited to using a short bow, which might be a bit of a setback regarding range and damage. High Elves and Wood Elves seamlessly align with this path; it is, after all, based on their cultures, ancient traditions, and magical skills.
Custom Lineage and Variant Human are exceptional selections, each granting an additional feat to enhance your character’s capabilities further.
Multiclassing with Arcane Archer
Multiclassing the Arcane Archer can open up many exciting possibilities to enhance your character’s capabilities. Here are some potential multiclass options and their benefits:
Rogue (Assassin or Scout)
One level of Rogue can grant you access to Sneak Attack, allowing you to deal extra damage under certain conditions. Cunning Action can significantly improve mobility by allowing you to Dash, Disengage, or Hide as a bonus action. Scout Rogues can provide additional mobility and expertise in nature and survival skills.
Sneak Attack requires finesse or ranged weapons, perfectly matching the Arcane Archer’s ranged focus. However, the Rogue’s emphasis on Dexterity might conflict with the Arcane Archer’s need for Intelligence.
Ranger (Hunter or Gloom Stalker)
Ranger levels can offer Hunter’s Mark for extra damage on each hit and other utility spells from the Ranger magical list. Gloom Stalkers can provide darkvision and additional damage in the first round of combat.
Both Hunter’s Mark and Gloom Stalker abilities can synergize well with the Arcane Archer’s ranged attacks and can complement your character’s role as a versatile ranged combatant.
Wizard (War Magic or Bladesinger)
A couple of levels in Wizard can grant you access to various spells that confer utility and control. Bladesinger Wizards can add extra AC and mobility, while War Magic Wizards can get defensive and offensive bonuses.
While Wizards typically rely on Intelligence, adding their spells can provide versatile options that complement the Arcane Archer’s abilities. However, spellcasting might draw focus away from your ranged combat prowess. You chose this path so that you could master the use of bows. If the magical aspect is more appealing, your path lies elsewhere.
Artificer (Artillerist or Battle Smith)
Artificers bring much that will complement the Arcane Archer. Artillerists can provide additional ranged damage and utility through their Arcane Turrets, while Battle Smiths can enhance their attacks using Intelligence instead of Dexterity and bring a whole set of mechanical skills with them.
Artificers blend well with the Arcane Archer’s Intelligence focus and can enhance your versatility in both combat and utility.
Fighter (Eldritch Knight):
Staying within the Fighter class, you might consider taking a few levels in Eldritch Knight. This Fighter archetype also combines martial prowess with spellcasting, allowing you to further weave magic and combat seamlessly.
While Eldritch Knights gain access to spells, their progression is slower than dedicated spellcasting classes. However, this option could provide a middle ground between martial and magical abilities, which is also where you find Arcane Archer on the spectrum.
Building your Arcane Archer
The Arcane Archer archetype doesn’t offer a lot of variation within the build template. The prime factor is the race you choose to play, which in turn will, through size, determine whether you opt for the longbow or shortbow.
One straightforward yet effective eventual build idea centers on a High Elf equipped with the Minor Illusion cantrip (which could enable you to create a neat place to hide). Sharpshooter can be picked up at level 4 and Elven Accuracy at level 6, and then you can concentrate on boosting your Dexterity and then your Intelligence as far as they go. Shadow Arrow should become your go-to choice for that ranged ‘triple advantage.’
Alternatively, consider taking the Rock Gnome race option. Begin by investing three levels in Artificer/Battle Smith, then transition into the Arcane Archer specialization while riding your trusty Steel Defender. You can create a distinctive character by integrating Sharpshooter, Fey Touched (augmenting Intelligence and introducing Hex), and Mounted Combatant (ensuring your Steel Defender’s safety).
Final Thoughts on Arcane Archer 5e Fighter Subclass
When everything is considered, The Arcane Archer makes for an exciting and fun Fighter archetype, one that can impose their will on the battlefield from a distance using ranged combat augmented by lots of brilliant magical enhancements.
The signature feature, Arcane Shot, can transform regular, non-magical arrows into a magical attack with options for all manner of diverse effects to choose from, meaning that they can respond to any situation and a wide variety of creatures and adversaries. They can banish foes to a parallel dimension, charm and beguile their targets or even trap them in a magical briar growth. These abilities are not just fun to play but also very effective in terms of tactical and strategic prowess.
As the Arcane Archer rises through the levels, their powers, particularly the amount of damage they can deliver with Arcane Shot, rise steadily, meaning that they keep in line with the development of the campaign.
The Arcane Archer also has some neat character development options, particularly when multiclassing, providing many exciting and powerful combinations. Whether you opt to blend your inherent arcane power with the Rogue’s natural finesse, the Ranger’s close affinity with nature, or the Artificer’s skills with gadgetry and mechanics, such combinations make for some very unique and fun-to-play character builds.
Some might argue that many of the features that make the Arcane Archer attractive can be achieved by customizing the Battlemaster into a ranged weapon expert, and waiting until you reach the 18th level before gaining the additional damage bonuses make things a bit frustrating. But DnD isn’t all about only playing the strongest and most able character you can; the game is about role-playing, and if that means sacrificing some power for flair, some martial prowess for color and uniqueness, then embrace it.
Arcane Archer 5e FAQs
What is an Arcane Archer in D&D 5e?
The Arcane Archer is a subclass for the Fighter class in Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. It focuses on combining ranged combat with magical effects, allowing characters to imbue their arrows with arcane powers.
What weapons can an Arcane Archer use?
An Arcane Archer can use any weapon proficient with the Fighter class, but their subclass abilities are mainly designed for bows, including shortbows and longbows.
What are Arcane Shot options?
Arcane Shot options are special magical effects that an Arcane Archer can apply to their arrows. These effects offer diverse benefits, such as extra damage, control, or utility. The Archer learns these options as they gain levels in the subclass.
Can an Arcane Archer choose Arcane Shot effects each turn?
No, Arcane Archers select a limited number of Arcane Shot options upon gaining levels in the subclass. Once chosen, these options become available during combat but cannot be changed on a per-turn basis.
Kendra has always been a hardcore fantasy nerd. Growing up in the worlds of Tolkien, Sanderson, Jordan, and Abercrombie, DnD & board games just came naturally. She and her husband, Bryan, started GameCows.com in 2018 as a fun passion project that just took over their lives. An avid board gamer since childhood and chronic DnD chronicler for more than two decades, she loves to play, write, travel, and learn dead languages. She is also a professional content writer at SlashGear.com