The Arcane Archer seems to be pretty underwhelming, mostly because of its limited uses of the Arcane Shot feature. Would it be imbalanced to increase its number of uses per rest to match the number of Arcane Shot options known? The feature would read something like this:
At 3rd level, you learn to unleash special magical effects with some of your shots. When you gain this feature, you learn two Arcane Shot options of your choice (see "Arcane Shot Options" below).
Once per turn when you fire an arrow from a shortbow or longbow as part of the Attack action, you can apply one of your Arcane Shot options to that arrow. You decide to use the option when the arrow hits a creature, unless the option doesn't involve an attack roll. You have two uses of this ability, and you regain all expended uses of it when you finish a short or long rest.
You gain an additional Arcane Shot option of your choice, as well as an addition use of the feature, when you reach certain levels in this class: 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th level. Each option also improves when you become an 18th-level fighter.
Compared to other "pick X of Y" subclasses for the Fighter, Arcane Archer is the most limiting:
- Battle Master gets 4 uses per rest, and has (after Tasha's) 23 options, as compared to the Archer's 2 uses per rest, and 8 options; the Battle Master can also further increase the uses by taking the Superior Technique Fighting Style or Martial Adept feat.
- Rune Knight starts with 2 uses per rest, and has only 6 options to choose from, but that number increases to 5 runes to use, which sets a precedent for an increasing number of uses as the class grows in strength.
- Eldritch Knight starts with 3 spells known (of 14 1st level spells in the Abjuration and Evocation schools), and 2 uses, but the number of spells known and spell slots grows frequently, nearly every second level.
I think increasing the number of uses of Arcane Shot would at least bring the Arcane Archer closer to some of the more powerful Fighter subclasses, without overpowering this subclass.
The 7th level feature seems balanced, if not strong, and I don't think needs any changing.
The 10th level feature is weak compared to other fighter 10th level abilities, so I propose adding the Close Quarters Shooting feature, from the UA Sharpshooter subclass:
Close Quarter's Shooting
At 10th level, you learn to handle yourself in close combat. Making a ranged attack roll while within 5 feet of an enemy doesn't impose disadvantage on your roll.
In addition, if you hit a creature within 5 feet of you with a ranged attack on your turn, that creature can't take reactions until the end of this turn.
This feature is relatively situational, and adds a bit of defense to the repertoire of the arcane archer without forcing them to pick one shot over another. Because of the situational nature of this feature I don't believe it would increase the strength of the class too much, but would still improve things.
The increase to number of uses of Arcane Shot does make the Ever-Ready Shot feature rather underwhelming, So is should be replaced with another feature from the UA Sharpshooter, Rapid Shot:
Starting at 15th level, you learn to trade accuracy for swift strikes. If you have advantage on a weapon attack against a target on your turn, you can forgo that advantage to immediately make an additional weapon attack against the same target as a bonus action. You may not use an Arcane Shot on this additional attack.
This matches the Samurai 15th level feature, and I don't think adding that feature to this subclass is unfair. As it uses a bonus action, it limits the feature to once per turn, and only on the characters turn. Not allowing an Arcane Shot mostly clarifies that if you split advantage on a use of Arcane Shot, it does not make both attacks have the Arcane Shot.
The 18th level feature I don't think needs changing, as the increased uses of the Arcane Shot improves the value of the 1d6 or 2d6 extra damage.
What are your thoughts? Is there any change that stacks aggressively in some way I'm missing? Would this be balanced with one feature out?