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An artificer must use an appropriate spellcasting focus when casting artificer spells. And they must use costly material components when applicable. Neither can replace the other.

But can they handle their focus and costly material components with the same hand? I know of spells that contain more than one material component, such as Simulacrum involving both snow and powdered rubies. I am not sure whether that applies when there is both a focus and a material component in use.

Does an artificer require two hands to cast spells with a costly material component?

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The November 2020 Errata means only one hand is required.

The Artificer's spellcasting feature now reads (new text in bold):

You must have a spellcasting focus—specifically thieves’ tools or some kind of artisan’s tool—in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature (meaning the spell has an ‘M’ component when you cast it).

This suggests that the Artificer's chosen focus is a material component for every spell the Artificer casts. According to the rules for material components, only one free hand is required to access material components:

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell's material components

Since the usual material components and the chosen focus are material components, it seems that only one free hand is required for casting the spell, and that hand can be the same hand that is holding the spellcasting focus.

Notably, this means that the somatic components of a spell can also be satisfied *by the hand holding the focus:

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell's material components -- or to hold a spellcasting focus -- but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

I will preserve the pre-errata answer below, as it is consistent with older printings of Eberron: Rising from the Last War.


Yes, an artificer requires two hands to cast spells with a costly material component.

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell's material components. The rules for focuses and costly components state:

If a spell states that a material component is consumed by the spell, the caster must provide this component for each casting of the spell. A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell's material components -- or to hold a spellcasting focus -- but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

So the Artificer still needs a free hand to access costly components. If you are holding a focus, that hand is not free, so it could not access material components.

Now, the Artificer's spellcasting feature says:

You must have a spellcasting focus—specifically thieves’ tools or some kind of artisan’s tool—in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature.

Therefore, it does indeed require two hands for an Artificer to cast a spell requiring costly components; one hand to handle the components, and one hand to wield the focus.

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You are technically correct...

Any spellcaster has to have a hand free to handle material components or a focus in order to cast a spell with material components. When using an expensive component, they have to use the actual component and can't substitute a focus such as a staff or wand.

Normally that's no big deal, and only really becomes an issue if a caster who favors a focus, which they have in one hand, has something else in the other hand, and suddenly needs to manipulate a gemstone or some such thing. They need to empty a hand to deal with the expensive component.

However, an artificer is required to always have their focus (a set of tools or an infused item) in hand to in order to do magic, and there's no exception for when they're using an expensive component. So yes, an artificer is going to need both hands to cast certain spells.

...but it probably doesn't really matter...

But on the other hand, is this really significantly different than how your basic focus-using wizard or sorcerer deals with expensive components? Consider the scenario: My wizard has a staff in one hand at all times, because that's his basic spellcasting focus. He decides to cast a spell that requires an expensive component. Is he going to put away his staff in order to pull out a jewel? No, in most cases he keeps his staff in hand while he pulls out a jewel with the other -- he has a focus in one hand and an expensive component in the other, which is effectively the same situation the artificer is in.

If he had a torch in his second hand, he's going to have to drop something to free a hand to fish out that gemstone. Sure, the wizard could drop his focus instead of the torch while the artificer couldn't, but I think the scenario where you're A) in combat, so that the action economy matters, B) have both hands full already, and C) can't or won't put down a non-focus item, is rare enough that this particular Artificer rule doesn't really put them at any serious disadvantage as compared to other spellcasters.

...and it probably wasn't on purpose.

I doubt this was an intentional design decision. It seems more like an accidental interaction of two rules that each were meant to be merely flavorful on their own. I would probably allow an artificer in my game to use an expensive material component without having to also have a focus in hand as well. If I had to justify this from a story perspective, I would say an expensive component is something the artificer has prepared ahead of time, so any "working on it with my tools" has already been done during down-time, and it's fully ready for use.

But again, the distinction is probably not going to actually come up.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Artificers can perform the somatic components of spells even when they have weapons or a shield in one or both hands by using an infusion. Perhaps the intent is a tradeoff. This comes up surprising often with racial spells where another spellcaster could just use their pouch for everything. \$\endgroup\$ – kent Aug 28 '20 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see an infused weapon or shield as particularly different from a tool set or a wizard's wand for the purpose of this question. The answer is the same whether you were holding an infused sword or a calligraphy brush when you decided you need to cast a spell with a costly component. It's an arcane focus that's taking up one hand, whatever other characteristics it may have. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Aug 28 '20 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that is because you chose a focus wielding wizard as your scenario. Rather than a free hand + shield on a bard/cleric. An artificer can infuse their shield, and access costly/racial spell components with the other hand but only at level 2. At level 1, to cast identify they must put down the shield and pick up the calligraphy brush while their free hand grasps the 100g pearl. This is why I am not so certain it wasn't intentional. The requirement to drop something to cast certain spells is similar to clerics/bards having to drop something to cast cure wounds, something artificers don't. \$\endgroup\$ – kent Aug 28 '20 at 21:45
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With the 2020 errata, only 1 hand is required

A recent erratum has clarified that tools an artificer uses to cast their spells do in fact count as a material component, which cleans up a number of weird issues, including this one. With the erratum, the relevant sentence now reads (with the addition highlighted in boldface):

You must have a spellcasting focus — specifically thieves’ tools or some kind of artisan’s tool — in hand when you cast any spell with this Spellcasting feature. (meaning the spell has an ‘M’ component when you cast it).

So, for an artificer spell with a costly material component, such as Identify, you still require both your spellcasting focus and the costly component. However, since they all count as material components, you can manipulate both of them (and provide any somatic components) with one hand:

A spellcaster must have a hand free to access a spell's material components – or to hold a spellcasting focus – but it can be the same hand that he or she uses to perform somatic components.

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