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I've been arguing with someone about the feat smash from the air. This feat allows a character to make an attack of opportunity against an incoming attack (giant boulders, hostile ray spells, arrows, ...) and if the AoO is better than the ranged attack roll, it's deflected and causes no damage.

I've been arguing that this ability can't be all-powerful and that there must be ways to bypass it. Currently the only ways I have been able to think of (without using True Strike) is a ranged attack with brilliant energy or a specific magic item called phase arrows.

Now as long as the AoO isn't made with an organic weapon (say, their fist), their weapon should be unable to make contact with a brilliant energy arrow.

A phase arrow is ethereal until it reaches the target's space. So unless the weapon blocking it is a force effect (possibly ghost touch?) they can only react when the arrow reaches their square (making the assumption that it appears in the square) or once it hits them (closer to the blink spell effect which it's based on) and should deny the possibility of blocking it.

They feel that because it's able to cut down spells and everything else that it should also be able to affect these arrows, and I disagree. I feel that the feat only allows you to affect things on the plane(s) of existence that you can affect.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That's a ridiculous feat... \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Mar 21 '17 at 4:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ It does have some high requirements, and when you add mythic combat reflexes (no limit on AOO's) then spell casters get shutdown pretty hard, even archers. So I very much agree which is why Im looking for ways to overcome it. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Mar 21 '17 at 4:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't apply to arrows as they are not "unusually massive" or "generated by a spell effect." It also doesn't apply to the other 90% of spells that aren't rays. Really, it only shuts down ballistas and arcane trickers. \$\endgroup\$ – Jared Goguen Mar 21 '17 at 5:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JaredGoguen Smash From The Air lets you use Cut From The Air against additional attack types. CFTA could be argued to not work against these magical ammunition types, but SFTA specifically allows spells as well. \$\endgroup\$ – Adeptus Mar 21 '17 at 5:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Adeptus Whoops, didn't read the prerequisite. \$\endgroup\$ – Jared Goguen Mar 21 '17 at 5:07
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What's happening here is you're asking us to issue a house rule for you. Unfortunately we can't do that: we're not your DM.

Rules As Written, the brilliant energy and phase arrows don't say they ignore smash from the air, so they don't ignore this feat.

A reasonable DM might make a house rule regarding this interaction. The DM would need to think about game balance (is it okay for the fighter to get a 50% chance to negate your attacks by spending a few feats? is it okay for you to negate the fighter's arrow-stopping technique by spending some money on fancy arrows?) and would need to think about common sense (can the fighter just punch your brilliant energy arrows out of the air? can the fighter chop your phase arrows once they de-phase? should there be an attack penalty for doing so?)

But, again, we're not your DM, and we can't make that house rule for you. :)

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The way I read it, Brilliant energy weapons would still be affected - it says deflection bonuses to AC still apply, and the feat says you can deflect attacks.

Phase arrows are less straightforward. They become ethereal until they enter the target's space (ie, the 5' square they occupy, in the case of a medium creature). It depends whether the deflection happens within that space or outside it, which is not specified by the feat. But, since you can deflect attacks made against adjacent creatures, it suggests that it may be outside the space.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Since blink and other ethereal spells allow you to come back into the material plane in objects, I would rather that happen then at the start of their square. In one case its blockable, in the other its not. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Mar 21 '17 at 4:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fering Since Phase Arrows clearly say they are only ethereal until they enter the square, that is a wish made in vain. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Mar 21 '17 at 5:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Phase arrows state space, not square. Its vague enough to be that it warranted the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Mar 21 '17 at 5:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Deflection bonus to AC is a specific game-mechanical thing. Deflecting an attack does not grant a deflection bonus to AC; the same word just happens to be used in both cases. \$\endgroup\$ – Thanuir Mar 21 '17 at 5:33
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RAW, I think you can use this on phase arrows. The text for phase arrows says they ignores cover of all kinds. This feat is not cover.

The question implied that you wanted to know if it makes sense for phase arrows to bypass this feat. Phase arrows come back to the material plane when they enter your "space." Space can have two meanings, the space your PC physically occupies, and the square he is in. Pathfinder rules occasionally use the second meaning of space. For example under attacks of opportunity, you threaten "everything in all squares adjacent to your space."

Using this interpretation, phase arrows would appear less than 5 feet away from the PC and he would have a very small fraction of a second to deflect them. The requirement for this feat is 13 dex, which seems super low for such a superhuman feat. If my DM house ruled that I cannot use this feat against phase arrows, I would play along.

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By RAW, Cut from the Air and Smash from the Air allow you to deflect the exact categories of attacks that they say they can deflect.

  • Ranged attacks in the form or weapons or ammunition.
  • Unusually massive ranged attacks such as boulders or ballista bolts.
  • Ranged attacks generated by spell effects.

Both Brilliant energy bows firing arrows and phase arrows fall into the first category above and would therefore be affected by Cut from the Air. Everything else you suggest is an interpretation or house ruling (personally I feel Brilliant Energy has more merit than phase arrows, because of its "ignores non-living material" line) and therefore is up to an individual GM to adjudicate.

As a GM, I would allow Smash from the Air to affect all attacks in the three categories above without attempting to implement some kind of loophole that ignores it. The ability is gained relatively late and is a non-negligible investment in terms of feats while only protecting from a small portion of attacks. It requires successful attack rolls to function and provides no protection against the large majority of magic effects. Most Bestiary creatures do not have any attacks that fit in the categories above.

In most situations, these feats are dead weight. Its important to allow them to be good when they're supposed to be good!

That said, if these feats are causing problems in your games the easiest solution is to mix in some magical AoE or directly targeted magic (with no attack roll). Trying to defang Smash from the Air with rules interpretations is only going to generate negative reactions from the players that invested in the feats.

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Brilliant Energy

A brilliant energy weapon has its significant portion transformed into light, although this does not modify the item’s weight.

A brilliant energy weapon is not purely made of energy or anything like that, it simply turns the part of the weapon that deals damage into energy (to be honest, the fluff is up to your GM). So, for a sword, that would turn the blade into energy, while the handle is physical. For an axe, the haft would still be physical and maybe it´s connection to the blade. For an arrow, this would most likely mean that the tip is made of energy. And so on.

Without such a connection, you couldnt possibly drop the weapon without it going through the floor.

A brilliant energy weapon ignores nonliving matter. Armor and shield bonuses to AC (including any enhancement bonuses to that armor) do not count against it because the weapon passes through armor. (Dexterity, deflection, dodge, natural armor, and other such bonuses still apply.) A brilliant energy weapon cannot harm undead, constructs, or objects.

The bolded part is what has merit here, since cut from the air clearly says that you use your weapon to cause this. But this is simply fluff text. Nothing really prohibits the character from using cut from the air with his bare hands, if he is able to make attacks of opportunity with them. And if he does use his barehands (or barefeet for kickers), he completely negates that text from brilliant energy weapons.

Also, the text goes on to clarify what exactly means to ignore nonliving matter, explaining that regular armor and shields offer no protection against brilliant energy weapons. But that's it, trying to stretch this too far is asking to break the rules and walk straight into house ruling.

And to prove that, we can see that it doesnt ignore AC bonus from cover, meaning that regular cover, be it a low wall or another character in front of you, still offers an AC bonus, even if this bonus comes from a source made of nonliving matter.

Phase Arrows

When this translucent +2 arrow is fired, it becomes ethereal until it enters the target’s space. A phase arrow ignores cover of all kinds, including total cover, and can be fired at a target even if the wielder doesn’t have line of effect.

Well, this one is simple, since this has been asked on this site before. We know for a fact that a creature can threaten and attack on their own space.

You can attack into your own square if you need to, so you can attack such creatures normally.

Since the arrow is no longer ethereal, it can be deflected just fine.

Does Smash From the Air work against Brilliant Energy or Phase arrows?

Yes, but cut from the air is actually enough against both types of arrows, as none are transformed into spell effects. They are still real weapons/ammunition that are transformed and enhanced by magic.

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