What would be the correct sequence of actions on 1st turn, and following turns for an Battle Smith Artificer to Maximize damage?

They are a 3rd level variant human (Dual Wielder feat) with a Strength and Intelligence modifier of +3. We are using the 2019-2 version of the Artificer.

They are armed with

  • 2 Yklwa 1d8 (with throwing property) using TWF

    • One being infused with Enchant Weapon +1,
    • and the second with Returning Weapon +1 (no action on return).

They could cast either

  • Arcane weapon 1d6 (variable) or
  • Searing Smite 1d6 (fire)

And they have the ability to command their Iron Defender as a Bonus Action to attack with a 1d8 + 2 damage attack, or take the Help action.

  • \$\begingroup\$ thank you level 3, with +3 mod on Intel and Strength, not certain what you mean by Artificer Version, as for the Help action I'm not certain how that works, but lets assume that it will be applied to me. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2019 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Another piece of information we need is what feats your character has, if any. Going only by what you've said so far, TWF is not an option with 2 Ylkwa. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2019 at 19:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dual Wielder as human Variant 1st level feat and using DND Beyond version \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2019 at 19:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ Expected damage with advantage is difficult without knowing the chance of hitting the target, but we could generalize to the average monster AC for your level of that's alright \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2019 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ that will be perfectly acceptable, though I am also concerned by order of events. I know Infusion can happen before combat after a rest, but not certain of timing of attacks, and bonus actions, or if melee must happen before or after thrown. or if I can even throw 2 weapons, with one returning and draw another weapon with dual wielder. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 9, 2019 at 19:54

1 Answer 1


I have some experience playing an Artificer. I play an Alchemist, not a Battle Smith, but there's a lot of overlap, and a lot of what I've learned applies equally well to a Battle Smith. (Skip to the summary in the last section if you don't want to read the whole thing.)

The Dual Wielder feat is dead weight and should be avoided

If you are still in the process of character creation, I'd strongly advise you to drop the Dual Wielder feat and wield only a single weapon. (If you've already started playing, your DM might be nice and allow you to swap the feat out for another one when you level up.) This feat will have a minimal impact on your damage output, since you already have a bonus action attack available to you through your Iron Defender. You Iron Defender's attack is +4 to hit and deals d8+2 damage. If you forgo this attack and instead attack with a second +1 ylkwa, you attack with +6 to hit and deal d8+1 damage on a hit (since your bonus attack does not add your strength modifier). That's a slight increase in chance to hit and a slight decrease in damage. I haven't done the exact math, but I think the expected damage per round actually works out to slightly less when using two-weapon fighting compared to using your Iron Defender's attack. But regardless of the exact numbers, the difference in damage per round is going to be tiny. In addition, using TWF means that your Iron Defender is barely making any attacks during combat, because your bonus action isn't available to issue commands to it, which isn't very thematically fun.

And what are you giving up to get and use the Dual Wielder feat? First, wielding two weapons would prevent you from wielding a shield, which reduces your potential AC by 1 relative to Dual Wielder. And if you consider a feat as being equivalent in value to an ability score increase, you're also missing out on a +1 to one of your ability modifiers, e.g. intelligence for increasing your attack bonus or dexterity to further increase your AC. I know the variant human feat isn't directly replacing an ASI, but the overall point still stands, since you could also get different starting scores by choosing a different race without the feat. Alternatively, there are any number of other potentially useful feats you might choose instead if you're really keen on playing a variant human.

So the Dual Wielder costs you a lot, because you forgo another feat or ASI and you can't use a shield, and for all of this cost it provides essentially zero benefit and may even slightly decrease your damage output. In addition, it makes your companion much less involved in combat. Hence, I recommend dropping Dual Wielder in favor of something else.

Also note that if you drop Dual Wielder, you have no need for the 2nd ylkwa, which means you also have no need for the 2nd weapon infusion. This allows you to choose a differnent infusion to gain some additional flexibility.

Your "basic attack" sequence is to attack with 1 weapon and your Iron Defender

So, with that out of the way, your "basic attack" sequence becomes clear: use your action to attack with your ylkwa either as a melee attack or by throwing it, and then use your bonus action to command your Iron Defender to attack. There's no dependency between these attacks, so you can make these two attacks in any order. Beyond just choosing targets for attacks, make sure to position your Iron Defender to best use its Defensive Pounce reaction, and try to use positioning to force enemies to attack the Defender rather than you or your party, since you can heal it outside of battle for free using Mending and even revive it for the low cost of a single spell slot.

You probably shouldn't cast Arcane Weapon or Searing Smite during combat

Now, we need to answer the question of when should you should use your bonus action to cast a buff spell like Arcane Weapon or Searing Smite on the first turn of combat instead of attacking with your Defender. By skipping a Defender attack, you lose out on potentially 1d8+2 damage, an average of 6.5. Arcane Weapon and Searing Smite both have the potential to deal an additional d6 damage per round, an average of 3.5. So, at a very rough calculation, you need to get 2 rounds worth of damage out of that spell for it to increase your damage output. However, if you only get 2 rounds worth of damage from the spell, you are barely better than breaking even on damage output, and that damage output is somewhat delayed due to skipping the attack on turn 1. So in that case you've used a spell slot in order to deal almost the same amount of damage over 2 rounds that you would have if you didn't cast the spell. So really, combat must last a minimum of 3 rounds in order for you to get any significant value by casting one of your suggested spells on turn 1. And even over 3 rounds the additional value is pretty marginal. In my experience, most combats don't last longer than 2 or 3 rounds, or at least the outcome is a foregone conclusion by the end of the 3rd round. What this means in practice is that you are actually very unlikely to get any value at all by casting these spells during a typical combat. Most of the time, they will be a waste of a spell slot for no real effect.

Casting either spell before combat is a good idea

On the other hand, if you know that a battle is about to start but hasn't started yet, you can cast either of these spells before the first round of combat and have them already active. In this case, you don't miss out on your first turn bonus action attack, so either spell is a decent option for getting in additional damage starting on turn 1. Arcane Weapon in particular has a duration of 1 hour, so you don't even need to wait until right before the battle to cast it, and you can potentially maintain concentration on it after one battle ends long enough to start the next battle with the spell still active, giving you even more value from the same spell slot.

Note that if you want to get maximum value out of these spells, you will need to maintain concentration on them, which means you want a high constitution modifier. If you decide to drop the Dual Wielder feat, you might consider switching to another race that provides a bonus to constitution to improve your ability to maintain concentration when taking damage, or you could look at the War Caster feat, which gives you advantage on saving throws to maintain concentration.

Also consider Faerie Fire on turn 1

Note that there are several other 1st level Artificer spells with the potential for even greater value in combat. Probably the most relevant is Faerie Fire, which can hit several enemy creatures and give you, your Iron Defender, and all your allies advantage on every attack against the affected creatures. In the right situation, that's potentially a lot more value from a 1st level spell slot than the damage output of either Arcane Weapon or Searing Smite. (The damage increase comes from the increased probability of hitting with advantage, as well as the nearly doubled chance of landing critical hits.)

Putting it all together

So, to summarize:

  1. Drop the useless Dual Wielder feat, and either take a more useful feat like War Caster or switch to a race with better starting ability scores than variant human. Instead of dual wielding 2 ylkwa, wield 1 ylkwa and a shield, or switch a suitable 2-handed weapon with even higher damage.
  2. Without Dual Wielder, your 2nd weapon infusion is mostly useless to you. Either swap it out for another infusion, or use it to infuse an ally's weapon to increase their damage output.
  3. Your basic attack sequence is 1 attack with your ylkwa and one attack with your Iron Defender. You can make these attacks in any order.
  4. If you find yourself in combat unexpectedly, don't bother with either weapon buff spell, unless the combat is likely to last 4 or more rounds. Just do your basic attack sequence of 1 ylkwa attack and one attack from your Iron Defender.
  5. If you have time to prepare for combat, consider casting one of your weapon buff spells before combat begins, then use your basic attack sequence and get the increased damage from the spell.
  6. Look for opportunities to use support spells like Faerie Fire to increase the damage output of your entire party.

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