Unearthed Arcana – Martial Archetypes

Ah, the good old fighter. A staple of any adventuring party. Classic and classy. I like the 5e fighter because of the simplicity of it. You’re either an epic champion, a nifty battlemaster or an eldritch knight. Combine these with feats (especially Mike’s weapon mastery feats) and you’ve got an individual, distinctive fighter. If that’s not enough subclasses for you, check out the Kits of Old supplement!

Now we’ve rolled around to F in the alphabet we have an additional 4 archetypes! Some seem promising to me, others not so much, but we’ll dive right in. If you’ve not already read the article, check it out here, because it’s pointless me detailing each ability here as well.

Arcane Archer
Hooray! I think we’ve all been waiting on this for a while. The arcane archer is a classic D&D theme, and until now there has been no official way to mimic it, even through multiclassing etc. you can only get so close!

Arcane Arrow
This sets down a nice base for the archer to be built on. You can create magical arrows which administer extra damage, and can also have abilities stacked onto them called ‘Arcane Shots’ which we’ll look at right now! (it’s also good that they picked up on it requiring a BA, otherwise there would be far too much burst on this subclass!)
Beguiling Arrow. I feel like this should really apply to the shooter rather than a chosen ally, but it’s more powerful that way so I can understand it. A fairly neat protective ability.
Brute Bane Arrow. Very cool ability, everyone loves to turn ogres into whimpering scrubs. I can see this one getting a fair bit of use.
Bursting Arrow. This is pretty damn powerful! 2d6 to everyone else within 10 feet is a potentially huge damage output. Great for use against those gnoll warbands.
Defending Arrow. Meh. I’m not a huge fan of these more defensive arcane shots, as it doesn’t really feel so magical to me. I guess they have their uses but I’d rather smash off a bunch of hitpoints.
Grasping Arrow. I was really hoping that this would come up! In my opinion there’s not much cooler than loosing an arrow at a fleeing target, having it hit and then root them into the ground with magical vines.
Piercing Arrow. This is also a cracking ability, I’m not sure how good it really is in comparison to the bursting arrow, but if you’re down in narrow dungeon corridors a lot it’s a great one to pick up.
Seeking Arrow. This is hilarious. Combine it with Sharpshooter and you’re one of the best assassins out there. Great ability that’s not too damaged focused.
Shadow Arrow. I think this is a little lame. Having the arrow blind the creature for a turn probably wouldn’t be that overpowered, reducing their field of vision to 30 foot just doesn’t seem worth it at all.

Archer’s Lore
I’m not altogether surprised that these skill proficiency options are here. I’m not sure they’re necessary but it’s a decent freebie.

Conjure Arrows
This is also a fairly naff ability. Arrows cost next to nothing, and my guess is a lot of DMs don’t even bother keeping track of ammo. On the plus side you get to pick up another arcane shot.

Ever-Ready Arrow
Again this is not an unexpected ability, I was a little surprised at the 2 per Short Rest limit on the arcane arrow to begin with, and adding another use here makes sense. I still think it’s a little low though, considering that the arcane arrow is supposed to be bread and butter for this class.

Deadly Arrow
Increase the damage to 4d6. Meh.

Overall
I really like the idea behind this class, but I can’t help but feel that it needs something a little more. It’s only real ability is the arcane arrow plus shot, but even at 20th level you can only do this 3 times per short rest, which is 6 times a day. I kinda feel like the typical rogue/ranger archer powerbuild would do more damage.
If I were to take a go at the arcane archer, I’d want less power more often. Give me arcane arrows that do an extra 1d6 but equal to my fighter level. Plus I’d like to see some more original arcane shots. Most of those provided are okay, but I think we could lose the ‘defensive’ shots for more interesting alternatives. I also think the capstone ability should be a polymorph arrow.

Knight
Sounds like a pretty awesome class, although we’ve already had the Purple Dragon Knight in SCAG. We also had Cavalier in Kits of Old. Plus I always though that playing a knight would be more of a roleplay thing, but I’m still intrigued to see what WotC have come up with here.

Born in the Saddle
We’ve seen this before on the cavalier, and it basically just makes playing a mounted combatant that bit easier. Seems like taking the feat will also be a must.

Implacable Mark
We haven’t really seen many ‘taunt’ type abilities in 5e, there a few hanging around but none so powerful as this. It’s pretty crippling for the targeted creature, plus it gives you an extra attack (provided you haven’t already used your reaction that turn). All in all it’s awesome. Not sure how ‘knightly’ it is but no matter.

Noble Cavalry
We got enough with the mark to make a few proficiency choices at this level alright. It’s not really anything to look forward to, but it does make thematic sense. Cavalier gets it at 3rd level though.

Hold the Line
Lots of things bumping off reaction attacks in this class. I like this ability, it’s clean and simple as well as powerful. You can stop a dragon flying away from you if you land a hit. No save. I like it.

Rapid Strike
Forgoing advantage to make another attack. Against I’m not sure how ‘knightly’ this is, I think they’d rather have the martial advantage, but it’s a cool ability nonetheless. As I mentioned earlier, playing a knight seems more of an RP thing to me anyway.

Defender’s Blade
Basically just lets you make even more attacks a round by giving you another opportunity attack. I’m not really sure how useful that is as creature’s don’t often just leave your space. Could be powerful combined with Fear spells or that other one that bards get and use all the time. The name evades me. Something like Nathan’s Nasty Whispering.
+ 1 to AC is nice.

Overall
I think I do like this class. It doesn’t really have a knight feel just on it’s own, but combined with some heavy armour, a warhorse and some good RP I think it works well. It’s also markedly different to the existing archetypes and the Cavalier, which I appreciate.

Samurai
Lots of people already play samurai by dipping barbarian and calling rage ‘focus’, so this will have to be significantly better than that to make it worthwhile. Having said that I do think it’s an awesome style of fighter, even if this particular subclass doesn’t work people will always play the barbarian samurai.

Fighting Spirit
This is basically reflavoured rage. I’m actually quite glad. Rather than trying to make something super awesome and different they’ve seen what the community already does and tweak it to make it more relevant!
However, advantage on all attack rolls seems mad.

Elegant Courtier
This ability is so niche that I can see why they made fighting spirit as good as it is. I like the flavour behind this ability though so I can forgive it. Plus you get the regular proficiency options so it’s no worse than the other archetypes.

Unbreakable Will
This is a cool thematic ability too. This is shaping up to be a pretty decent subclass in my opinion. That early level ability is super strong offensively, now they’re balancing the scales a little.

Rapid Strike
Seen it before and I like it. Works just as well here as it does for the Knight.

Strength Before Death
This is kinda similar to the Zealot barbarian from week 1 of the new UA schedule, but it’s different enough to have its own feel. I’m rewatching Heroes (the TV series) at the moment and I can’t help but think of Hiro Nakamora stopping time just on the brink of death to make a miraculous escape. For that reason alone I love this ability.

Overall
Yeah, I’m pretty happy with what’s been done here for the Samurai. I think the fighter/barbarian subclass will still see a lot of love, but this is a pretty awesome rework of that idea which does, in my opinion, make more sense.

Sharpshooter
I was actually hoping this wouldn’t come up. As far as I’m concerned the rogue/ranger is already an awesome sharpshooter, and we don’t really need another version. I can’t even think of a way to make it different from what exists, so we’ll I’m not expecting much here.

Steady Aim
This is basically like Hunter’s Mark. It’s a good ability but basically exists already.

Careful Eyes
This is thematically quite cool, but I think most people playing a sharpshooter probably want the DPR of more attacking with a BA than the ability to Search.

Close-Quarters Shooting
This is a very good ability and is excellent flavour too. I’d say that so far this is the only real difference between this archeype and the rogue/ranger sharpshooter, so it’s good to see a new ability. It alone won’t be enough to convert people though.

Rapid Strike
Yep, clocked it. People would rather dip levels in rogue and keep the advantage for sneak attack would be my guess.

Snap Shot
Again I think this is falls a bit flat. Another attack is nice, but it’s nothing to shout about.

Overall
Unlike Samurai, which I think provides a viable alternative to multiclassing, I really don’t think this does. People might drop a few levels into fighter to pick up the Steady Aim to stack with Hunter’s Mark, but I highly doubt it. Nor do I think people will see this archetype all the way to 20 when they can make a more powerful sharpshooter with cooler abilities from ranger/rogue.

Conclusion
Whilst Sharpshooter is kinda redundant, and Arcane Archer fell a little flat in my opinion, I’d say that in general the archetypes and abilities presented here are good.
The arcane archer does work, I’d just rather it could do cool things a little more often. That said I’d probably play it anyway.
The knight has a lot of awesome abilities, focusing play on reaction fighting (almost like creature legendary actions) which we’ve not seen before and works well.
The samurai is a great alternative to the typical barbarian/fighter version which is known and loved. It’s just as strong (probably) and makes more sense thematically.
The sharpshooter is lame. But the others are good enough for me to forgive it.

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