Artillerist 5E Guide | Artificer Specialist Breakdown

artillerist 5E

In the war-torn region of Eberron, warfare is common. While Eberron: Rising from the Last War is about overcoming the issues that war has caused, you still leave behind soldiers. And some soldiers are designed to take cities. Thus, who better to take the mantle of sieging than the Artificer, magic tinkerers with immense magical power? The Artillerist uses their magical abilities to construct creatures that are useful in your standard war. They are akin to Wizards or Sorcerers, but require much less study and oversight. And, in some situations, the long-lasting nature of their cannons comes in handy! Is a dungeon one of those situations? Read our Artillerist 5E Guide if you’re wanting a basic idea!

Build Your Army: Artillerist 5E

The Artillerist is a pseudo-blaster artificer subclass that uses their bonus actions extremely well. With a cannon in hand, you can become extremely good at area of effect, or just continuously ping a strong enemy. The cannons don’t scale super well, however; you need to spend spell slots if you want more than one free use, and they don’t deal much damage. Thankfully, the archetype is great at adding damage to the limited spell slots of the Artificer class.

Tool Proficiency

To start, you get your free Artificer tool proficiency.

When you adopt this specialization at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with woodcarver’s tools. If you already have this proficiency, you gain proficiency with one other type of artisan’s tools of your choice.

Out of the three Artificer proficiencies, this one seems to be the worst. The Woodcarver’s tools are good for knowing about woodcarvings, knowing about trees, repairing wooden things, and crafting arrows. Your Ranger will likely love you if you make them free arrows, but few GMs really care about ammo. 

Otherwise, the Woodcarver’s tools have set DCs for crafting wooden things, like a figurine or basic pattern. Those are unimportant, unless your character gets extremely bored. I don’t think tossing a wooden figure at a Dragon is gonna stop them from eating you.

It’s good flavor, and far from useless. Try to have an archer of some sort on your team, or consider taking Sharpshooter yourself if you’re so inclined!

Artillerist Spells

The Artillerist gets a small list of artificer spells that are automatically prepared for them. You start getting these at level 3.

Artillerist Spells
Artificer LevelSpells Prepared
3rdShield, Thunderwave
5thScorching Ray, Shatter
9thFireball, Wind Wall
13thIce Storm, Wall of Fire
17thCone of Cold, Wall of Force

Of the spells you get… These aren’t bad! Shield is great to spam during high-pressure situations, and Thunderwave can do… alright area of effect.
Scorching Ray is pretty high damage for it’s level, and scales pretty well if you want to use higher-level slots. Shatter is a bit less powerful, but it’s decent anti-item if you don’t want to Scorching Ray anything.

Fireball is a go-to blaster spell. On an Artificer, it’s… a bit less strong. You get this a little bit too late for it to be anything except fine. Wind Wall, on the other hand, can completely negate a difficult encounter or enemy type by simply blocking them off. Surprisingly strong! Think real hard before you start slinging fireballs willy-nilly.

Ice Storm is pretty awesome guaranteed damage and combat control, and actually a great use of your 4th level slots… Not quite as good as Wall of Fire, though! Few creatures will willingly plow through a massive geyser of flames. If you really want to, these two spells combo together really well. Also, the fact that you can surround a wall of fire with a blizzard is hilarious.

Cone of Cold is pretty weak in terms of damage, but Wall of Force is one of the best combat spells in the game. Completely lock out enemies, potentially kicking them out of combat with no save for a full minute. If they aren’t a caster, you’ll literally stop them from doing anything.

All-in-all, great spell list with great area of effect and combat control. And best of all, none of these are on your basic Artificer list! You get a bunch of free spells!

Eldritch Cannon

Finally, the unique class ability!

At 3rd level, you learn how to create a magical cannon. Using woodcarver’s tools or smith’s tools, you can take an action to magically create a Small or Tiny eldritch cannon in an unoccupied space on a horizontal surface within 5 feet of you. A Small eldritch cannon occupies its space, and a Tiny one can be held in one hand.

These cannons can be made with or without legs, though you will want to carry a Tiny one. You get a free one once per long rest, and then can sacrifice a spell slot to make more. You can’t make a cannon while you already have one. It has very basic construct immunities, 18 AC, 5 x Level hit points, and +0 to any ability check or saving throw. It heals for 2d6 with the Mending cantrip, but disappears if it ever reaches 0 hit points. 

Cannon Options

There are 3 cannons to choose from, each of which are activated on a bonus action. They can move or climb 15 feet if it has legs.

  • Flamethrower: 15-foot cone with a Dexterity save. It deals 2d8 damage and ignites flammable, unattended objects. Short range, and can make things a bit cramped. If your Fighter only uses one hand to battle, they can theoretically hold this for you. Or maybe your GM will let a Tiny cannon climb onto your Barbarian’s head.
  • Force Ballista: This is your go-to cannon. 2d8 force damage on a basic attack roll, and it pushes creatures with no DC. Good for pinging an enemy to death, and it’s much easier to use in the midst of combat.
  • Protector: The Force Ballista might take an enemy down faster, but the Protector can save your party. d8+Intelligence isn’t much, but when you can quite literally use it every turn, you can almost halve the damage that your allies take. If you’re willing to be a pseudo-tank for your frontliners, this is a wonderful bonus action.

The Eldritch Cannon is a decent tank, thanks to its relatively high AC and its extremely high replaceability. It’s like a summon that lasts for an hour and has the tankiness of a relatively highly armored Fighter.

This is a really strong ability, but remember that you only have one free one per day. Otherwise, you’re burning casts of great magic like Shield. This ability is probably worth more than a 1st or 2nd level spell slot, thanks to how long these last. And over time, these cannons will get upgraded.

All three of these can work (though the Flamethrower might be hard to use consistently), so choose based on what your party needs and what type of combat you’re expecting.

Arcane Firearm

After 2 levels, you’re ready to enhance your spellcasting potential. You get this wooden gun at level 5.

When you finish a long rest, you can use woodcarvers’ tools to carve special sigils into a wand, staff or rod and thereby turn it into your arcane firearm…

You can use your arcane firearm as a spellcasting focus for your artificer spells. When you cast an artificer spell through the firearm, roll a d8, and you gain a bonus to one of the spell’s damage rolls equal to the number rolled. If the spell affects multiple creatures, one creature of your choice takes the bonus damage.

This is basically like adding your Intelligence mod to your spells. But sometimes you roll a 1. And sometimes an 8. Upsides, downsides.

This basically “upgrades” your basic blasting spells by 1d8, which isn’t much. And it doesn’t affect area of effects spells too well… which is basically all of your Artillerist spells. Thankfully, this will help you keep up with casters who can heighten magic (just a little) and it’ll push your Cantrips above the normal damage threshold.

It’s not extremely powerful, but it helps your magic out, and makes your cantrips a go-to option for damage. Not bad, not extremely good. It’s just fine! Although now you’re basically just holding a wooden gun and a box of woodcarving tools. That’s an interesting loadout for dungeoneering, eh?

Explosive Cannon

Your cannons are finally scaling, just a touch!

Starting at 9th level, every eldritch cannon you create is more destructive:

  • The cannon’s damage rolls all increase by 1d8.
  • As an action, you can command the cannon to detonate if you are within 60 feet of it. Doing so destroys the cannon and forces each creature within 20 feet of it to make a Dexterity saving throw against your spell save DC, taking 3d8 force damage on a failed save or half as much damage on a successful one.

So, sadly, your Protector is completely untouched by this ability (other than blowing it up). That’s because it’s so crazy as-is.

Flamethrower getting a damage increase is wonderful if you’re doing your standard, crazy-tight dungeon hallway. It’ll literally burn swarms to cinders, and zombie encounters will be nothing… If they last a few turns, at least.

The Gun dealing 3d8 and 5 feet of pushback helps your boss-killing capabilities by a pretty good margin. The gun can also theoretically critically hit, so having that extra damage dice is pretty nice; arguably more impressive than a weapon critical hit!

Being able to bomb your enemies with your cannon sounds good, but… wow, that’s unimpressive. You spend an action to do as much damage as your Flamethrower in a Fireball sized area of effect… That’s not what you want. By now, you can toss out a Fireball pretty easily, and then use your Cannon’s action.

The damage increase by itself is good enough to justify this ability. Causing the cannon to blow up is just a bonus; maybe if your gun gets captured you can blow it up to get a distraction.

Fortified Position

The final upgrade that this subclass gives you is… pretty great!

By 15th level, you’re a master at forming well-defended emplacements using Eldritch Cannon:

  • You and your allies have half cover while within 10 feet of a cannon you create with Eldritch Cannon, as a result of a shimmering field of magical protection that the cannon emits.
  • You can now have two cannons at the same time. What’s more, you can create two with the same action (but not the same spell slot), and you can activate both of them with the same bonus action. You determine whether the cannons are identical to each other or different. You can’t create a third cannon while you have two.

Giving all allies +2 AC while even close to your cannon is quite significant. That’s a 10% chance to cause misses, and all you need to do is have your cannon waddle on up. The area of effect is a little small, so try and keep either just the frontline or just the backline safe; having them both in the shimmering field will be just asking for fireballs and stuff.

Incredibly powerful is that you spit out two cannons on your first time per day! That’s awesome! You can leave your Force Ballista in the backline, protecting your casters, while you’re up front with a Protector, giving temp HP! Alternatively, you can have two cannons on the wall and just light up an enemy with 3d8 twice per bonus action. Like a flurry of guns!

What works best is entirely dependant on what your allies need. If you need to take out an enemy, make two of the guns. Expecting some hordes of zombies? 6d8 in a 15 foot cone sounds alright. Need some protection? Choose a gun and a protector. Any combination will be huge for most combats!

Best Race for Artillerist Artificers

The Artillerist can be good as both a melee defender and ranged blaster. Either way, making sure your Spell DCs and attack rolls land should be priority one. Intelligence first, and then either Constitution or Dexterity, depending on what kind of armor you want to wear. Medium armor is pretty great!

High Elf

The High Elf might be one of the most basic player races, but it’s one of the Player’s Handbook’s best choices for the Artificer. +2 Dexterity, +1 Intelligence isn’t quite perfect, but it’s good for your defenses. You can also use weapons until level 5 with good enough dex! The Elf is packaged with a crazy amount of small utility boosts, from better sleeping to sight to immunities to even a free proficiency. If that wasn’t enough, the High Elf gets a free cantrip (good for your Arcane Firearm) and you can use a bow for a while, if you’d like! Not bad at all, for your non-frontlining self!

Fire Genasi

Alternatively, you might want to consider the Elemental Evil Player’s Companion’s half-Fire Elemental. Constitution and Intelligence is perfect, since they’re super defensive. Darkvision is always nice, and fire damage is the most common source of damage in the game, making resistance useful. Produce Flame is a really effective damage cantrip, and Burning Hands is… whatever. Not bad! At least it’s free. Burn the world down with your giant cannons.

Artillerist 5E FAQ

Is Eldritch Cannon a Bonus Action?

No, eldritch cannon requires your action to use.

Does Eldritch Cannon only last an hour?

Once created, your eldritch cannot disappears after one hour or when it is reduced to 0 hp – whichever comes first.

How Many Times Can You Use Eldritch Cannon?

You can use Eldritch Cannon any time as an action. Once you have created an Eldritch Cannon, you cannot do so again until you finish a long rest or expend a spell slot.

Can You Ride an Eldritch Cannon in 5E?

This is a decision that is not covered in the rules as written, and it should be discussed with your dungeon master. However, it is reasonable to assume that a small size creature or smaller might be able to ride on a small cannon.

Does Eldritch Cannon Break Invisibility?

according to the rules as written, firing your Eldritch Cannon would not break your invisibility as you are not casting a spell or making an attack. However, the cannon would not be invisible.

Does Arcane Firearm Work With Eldritch Cannon?

No, Arcane Firearm does not work with Eldritch Cannon, as your eldritch cannon is not a wand, staff, or rod.

Conclusion – Our Take on the Artillerist Artificers

The Artillerist is actually a crazy effective blaster, and arguably the best damage option the Artificer gets. With how useful it’s bonus action really is, you’ll be keeping up with full-casters, no sweat! This is a really fun way to try out a caster, so it’s a fantastic choice if you’re wanting a new way to destroy your opponents.

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