One of the members of our PFS party is Ash, a blaster mage. Her player’s requirement for the character was “I WANT TO BURN”, so I googled and found this build. However, I decided to push this build further, trying to get maximum damage.
I am willing to accept advice on how to push this build’s damage as high as possible, how to increase its utility and endurance. Note that the player has never tried Pathfinder before using this build, this is their first character, with which they have currently played one session (The Confirmation).
Human. We need a lot of feats as quickly as possible, and the variable bonus is also nice. Being an Elf or a Half-Elf, sadly, costs us Constitution points and a feat.
Magical Lineage (Fireball) and Wayang Spellhunter (Fireball).
- If the campaign is going to continue to higher levels, specialize on Fire Snake instead. Reactionary and Pragmatic Activator are cool but ain't blasty.
- Even though E6 is not the primary focus of this answer, if aiming for 6ish levels, specialize on Burning Hands or Scorching Ray, your choice.
INT: 20 (18+2 for being a Human)
At level 1, be a normal Arcanist. Choose the Potent Magic Exploit. Take Spell Specialization (Burning Hands) to boost our caster level and Spell Focus (Evocation) as a feat tax. This allows you to cast Burning Hands at CL 5 (max for the spell) a couple of times per day, dealing 5d4 points of damage (avg. 12.5) Respec right before you go to level 2 and become a School Savant (Admixture), trading Exploits for an ability to change damage type to Acid, Cold or Electricity. In a non-PFS game, just start as an Evocation (Admixture) Arcanist, dealing 4d4+1 (11) points of damage.
Take a level in Crossblooded Sorcerer (Orc and Draconic Bloodlines). This gives us +2 damage per damage die. We trade one whole level of spellcasting, and it is a big deal, but this will be discussed later in the build description. Burning Hands deal 4d4+8+1 (avg 19) n points of damage with Arcane Reservoir usage now, or 3d4+6+1 (14.5) without (the extra +1 comes from being an Evocation specialist). We cannot cast Sorcerer spells because we dumped Charisma, so we only took it for Bloodline Arcana (hey, Survival and Perception are also class skills now!). Were we not in PFS, we could take the Blood Havoc mutation, but we are in PFS, and it’s not allowed.
From now on, continue taking levels in the Arcanist class. Our feat of choice is Mage’s Tatoo (Evocation), or Varisian Tattoo in PFS (the same trait, actually, just named differently). We top Burning Hands’ damage until getting 2nd level spell slots, it is 5d4+10+1 (23.5) now. We can use our Reservoir to increase its save DC from 17 to 18, though. Our Burning Hands CL without spending resources is 5.
Nothing changes, we can just cast one more spell. Our CL without spending Arcane Reservoir is now 6, though.
We get 2nd level spells and take the Intensified Spell feat. We now get +2 damage from the Evocation school. Intensified Burning Hands deal 8d4+16+2 (38) points of damage when empowered by Arcane Reservoir, and the same 5d4+10+2 (24.5) from a level 1 slot. Alternatively: respec to Scorching Ray. At CL 7 (without spending the Reservoir!), we deal 8d6+16+2 (46) points of damage. Lvl 1 BH damage is 3d4+6+2 (15.5), or 4d4+8+2 (20) if spending Arcane Reservoir points.
We get our first Exploit, Potent Magic. Damage increases to 10d4+20+2 (47) when using the Arcane Reservoir and casting from a 2nd level slot. Lvl 1 damage is still 5d4+10+2 (24.5). If you respecced to Scorching Ray, its damage doesn’t change, but BH at level 1 becomes a bit better: 5d4+10+2 (24.5) with Reservoir, or 4d4+8+2 (20).
Take Empower Spell, since we can add it to Fireball for free, and respec to Fireball. Our no-Reservoir CL for Fireball is 9, so it’s possibly better to spend Reservoir on increasing its save DC, making it 21. An Empowered Fireball deals 13d6+26+3 (74.5) points of damage.
We do not get an Exploit now, because we play a School Savant. However, our Fireball deals 15d6+30+3 (85.5) points of damage (when you spend Arcane Reservoir), which is not bad. Our non-Fireball CL is 8, and our Fireball CL is 10.
Take Dazing Spell. You can begin combat with a Dazing Fireball which dazes opponents who fail their DC 21 saves for 3 rounds. It deals 10d6+20+4 (59) points of damage. Alternatively, an Empowered Intensified Fireball deals 19d6+38+4 (108.5) if spending Arcane Reservoir to increase Caster Level. If you don’t care about extra utility, just take Improved Initiative instead of Dazing Spell.
21d6+42+4 (119.5) damage on an Empowered Intensified Fireball. Dazing Fireball doesn’t change. You get another Exploit, it’s your choice what you take. Quick Study is an iconic choice which is going to allow you to cast more utility spells and start actually being an Arcanist. Bloodline Development will give you a bonus feat (take Toughness or Improved Initiative).
Fireball damage tops. An Empowered Intensified Fireball deals 22d6+44+5 (126) points of damage from a level 4 slot. Not exactly sure about the feat yet, though. Maybe, take Spell Penetration.
- Playable and relatively powerful since level 1.
- We are definitely not a one-trick pony, even though we specialize on one spell a lot. We have lots of spell slots to burn for utility spells when we are past the earliest levels, and, even at the earlies levels, we don't have to spend all of our spell slots on blasting.
- Admixture subschool allows us to change energy types of Fire spells that we use, overcoming Energy Resistance or Immunity unless the target is immune and/or highly resistant to Fire, Cold, Acid, and Electricity at the same moment. Such monsters do exist, though.
- We get a lot of skill ranks, as any Arcanist or Wizard does.
- Pushing Caster Level and stacking metamagic allows us to deal damage comparable to HP of creatures of our CR. Sadly, on average, our damage grows slower than their HP does.
- Unusually high Caster Level allows us to be better at overcoming Spell Resistance.
- Touch AC is usually low enough for us to hit foes that have high saves using spells like Scorching Ray. In desperate cases, use True Strike, though it will lower damage per round.
- We can use our highest damaging spell around 3-4 times per day, but, past the earliest levels, have something to do even after that.
- Cool theme: a Sorcerer who has forgone developing their innate spells for actual education in a Wizard Academy, but still prefers the old reliable ways of turning enemies into ash piles instead of disabling.
- Fully PFS-legal.
- Outside of PFS, can be even more powerful with the Blood Havoc mutation and the Fireflume Rage feat.
- Synergizes very well with metamagic rods.
- Even with our high Caster Level, we can still fail rolls to overcome Spell Resistance, and some creatures are just not very vulnerable to blasting, e.g. due to high Energy Resistance to multiple elements.
- Initiative. It’s pretty low. Fireballing is cool when the enemies are packed together nicely, and not cool when they are already engaged in melee with your allies.
- Survivability. We are a glass cannon, and we cannot do much about it.
- Hell, we are a full spell level behind a normal Wizard, and we still fall behind a normal Sorcerer or the build linked at the beginning of this post. Not a big problem for dealing damage (we usually hit harder than the linked build, and we don't rely on higher-level spells to deal damage for most of the time), but it actually hurts utility quite significantly.
- Being a Crossblooded Sorcerer, we take a permanent -2 penalty to Will saves. Combined with our low Initiative, that's not great.
- What can I do to overcome the potential problems of this build listed above?
- What can be done to improve its damage and utility further?
- How big are the problems imposed by being one spell level behind everyone?