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If you take a look at the PRD it states this about sunder, disarm, and trip maneuvers:

You can attempt [this maneuver] ... as part of an attack action in place of a melee attack. Source

Now, the magus Spellstrike feature states this:

Instead of the free melee touch attack normally allowed to deliver the spell, a magus can make one free melee attack with his weapon. Source

So my question, then, is this:
Can you deliver a Magus spell through a sunder, disarm, or trip maneuver by substituting it for the free melee attack?

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3 Answers 3

I don't think so

Though you can substitute a maneuver for a melee attack, it's not a melee attack and may notably lack many features thereof (such as, say, weapon damage).

But...

You might have some ways to combine this anyway. The Felling Smash feat, for example, which causes your Trip to trigger after you Power Attack. If you have an option that lets you make a melee attack right before or right after the maneuver you can probably sneak the Spellstrike into that.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

After reading this question here about maneuvers within attacks of opportunity and its chosen answer, as well as this rule from the prd:

When performing a combat maneuver, you must use an action appropriate to the maneuver you are attempting to perform. While many combat maneuvers can be performed as part of an attack action, full-attack action, or attack of opportunity (in place of a melee attack), others require a specific action. Source (Emphasis mine)

as well as the rules quotes within this question, I have concluded that it is okay, by RAW (and perhaps even RAI), to deliver a spell through these specific combat maneuvers when using the Spellstrike class feature.

In short I have come to this conclusion because of the specific wording of both the rules for these maneuvers as well as the bolded text in the above quote. Spellstrike grants a free attack (read: a free attack action) and all three questioned maneuvers allow you to perform them in place of an attack action. They do not specify that they take their own action (i.e. their own standard action) and indeed do the opposite, being made in place of the attack. Therefore these maneuvers may be made in place of the attack action granted by Spellstrike and used to deliver touch spells.


There is also this post on the official FAQ from a designer on the Pathfinder team:

Disarm, sunder, and trip are normally the only kinds of combat maneuvers in which you’re actually using a weapon (natural weapons and unarmed strikes are considered weapons for this purpose) to perform the maneuver, and therefore the weapon’s bonuses (enhancement bonuses, feats such as Weapon Focus, fighter weapon training, and so on) apply to the roll. Source

Therefore if you are applying the bonus from the weapon to the roll, you are using it in the maneuver. This is further evidence that one should be allowed to use these maneuvers within Spellstrike.

Another post from the Core Rulebook FAQ says this about Sunder attempts:

The text is a little unclear here. Instead of saying "as part of an attack action in place of a melee attack", the text should read "in place of a melee attack" Source

Even though the question within the FAQ is about multiple sunder attempts during a full-round attack action, it erratas the ambiguous wording of sunder RAW which in turn supports swapping it for any melee attack, not just those that are part of (previously ill-defined) 'attack actions.'

And this thread on the Paizo forums discusses how many players build a Magus this way.


As to breaking the action economy of the game, I used to think that this was not allowable as well. Technically, though, this is exactly what Spellstrike, and the Magus, are designed to do.

Normally when a caster casts a spell with the range of touch, the caster is granted a free melee touch attack with which to deliver the spell. This is a free attack action granted by the casting, as is evidenced by this rule:

In the same round that you cast the spell, you may also touch (or attempt to touch) as a free action.

Touch Attacks: Touching an opponent with a touch spell is considered to be an armed attack

Source

The touch attack as performed by a normal caster (i.e Wizard or Sorcerer) doesn't do any extra damage. It is simply there to deliver the spell. A caster could also hold the charge.

Enter the Magus, with Spellstrike.

The Spellstrike class feature is designed to add an extra effect to the casting of a spell, namely weapon damage. This is a, no the, key feature of the Magus; it is designed to combine attacking with spell delivery. So if you are already getting an extra effect on your action economy for the turn (weapon damage and all its modifiers, including feats like power-attack if you so choose), there is absolutely no break in the economy to allow one of the three combat maneuvers above instead of the weapon damage.

For the Magus, Spellstrike makes touch spells look either like this:

Weapon damage (+plus all modifers and/or feats applicable) + Spell effect (not necessarily damage)

or like this, as I am proposing:

Maneuver effect (Trip, Sunder, Disarm) + Spell effect

Spellstrike is designed to combine both actions and is a purposeful exception to the normal rules governing touch attacks.


Note: Dispelling a charge using a sunder maneuver treats the object as the target of the spell, while trip and disarm would target the creature as normal.

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No

If you want to deliver a touch spell you need to spend one attack to make a touch attack. Any attack that happens to involve touching your opponent is not enough to deliver the spell. This is proven by the rules explicitly talking about using natural attacks or unarmed strikes to deliver spells, but never talking about combat maneuvers being able to do so.

So, if you substitute any attack - including the free one granted by your Spellstrike feature, which I'm not even sure counts as an attack action - you don't get to make the spell-delivering attack.
While you're using the weapon, and you get its to-hit bonus, you're not making the kind of attack that is required to discharge the touch spell. As an analogy, when you're making a touch attack to trip someone with a flaming weapon, you don't roll damage, because nowhere in the description of trip you're allowed to deal damage.

Of course you can think it's more realistic if that happens instead and house-rule your game, I've just explained you the reasoning that, rules-wise, would say otherwise.

I personally would not change how this works, because letting your character potentially apply two effects with the same action seems a little too powerful to me.

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1  
Except the Spellstrike feature allows you to deliver through a melee weapon attack instead of a melee touch attack. And touch spells that require you to "spend" an attack grant you one for free as part of the casting. Technically, if thats not good enough as you describe, you could just hold the charge until next turn and spend an entire standard on it. And its not broken at all. Instead of melee damage you get a trip, sunder, or disarm. Spellstrike already grants that combined effect that you say breaks the economy; its what it is designed to do and the key feature of the Magus. –  Jason_c_o Apr 9 at 14:31
    
And Spellstrike doesnt grant any actions. RAW its the casting of the touch spell that grants a melee touch attack, which is an attack action. What Spellstrike does is swap the melee touch for a melee weapon attack instead. –  Jason_c_o Apr 9 at 14:36

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