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I've seen a lot of builds online that feature shallow dips into Kensai for the INT bonus to Armor Class but upon further reading it seems that those assumptions that you immediately get your entire INT bonus are incorrect. The Duelist's Canny Defense ability reads as

When wearing light or no armor and not using a shield, a duelist adds 1 point of Intelligence bonus (if any) per duelist class level as a dodge bonus to her Armor Class while wielding a melee weapon. If a duelist is caught flat-footed or otherwise denied her Dexterity bonus, she also loses this bonus.

Does this mean that a level 1 Magus can only add 1 point of his intelligence modifier to his Armor Class?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it possible to link to a sample build that says or implies an at-once gain of Int mod to AC via 1 level in kensai magus? (It's useful when answers can address specifics.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Aug 22 '15 at 7:30
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The Kensai ability says

At 1st level, when a kensai is wielding his chosen weapon, he gains the canny defense ability. This is identical to the duelist prestige class ability of the same name, save that his chosen weapon may be of any type. Source.

The only way that the magus's ability is different from the duelist ability is the way specified, the weapon can be different. Otherwise it is identical, meaning that it would indeed limit the bonus the same way it limits the duelist. The builds you see online are likely overlooking the level restriction.

Interestingly, the ability never states that magus levels function as duelist levels for the purposes of that ability; similar language is very often missing from archetypes, however, and the consensus is that magus levels would count as duelist levels for that shared ability.

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