The Artificer is kind of the forgotten class of 5E. Ignored in most books, the Artificer was in the running to become a relic of the past. However, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything ignored nothing this time around! The Armorer is an artificer that focuses more on the self, and improving their own equipment. Their armor is more than just a piece of metal or leather between themselves and hostile weapons. It’s an extension of their body, and they will make sure that enemies that attempt to mess with them feel the wrath of a smart man. So, if you want to become Fantasy Iron Man, check out our Armorer 5E guide!
See Our Guide to New Subclasses in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
Skin of Steel: Armorer Artificer 5E
The Armorer fills two different roles, depending on your armor augmentation. The Armorer can either be a melee defender, or a ranged damage dealer. They have some additional utility as a self-buffer, and their spells focus a little more on that middle ground; damage dealing and utility.
Tools of the Trade
The Armorer has a little additional proficiency bonus compared to the standard Artificer. At level 3, you get;
… Proficiency with heavy armor. You also gain proficiency with smith’s tools. If you already have this tool proficiency, you gain proficiency with one other type of artisan’s tools of your choice.
Proficiency in heavy armor is great. You no longer need any Dexterity bonus to maximize your AC. You’ll have to deal with below-average AC until now, if you choose to take the Heavy Armor path. But it’ll be well worth it; you can instead invest entirely into Intelligence and Constitution.
Smith’s Tools are… fine, they’re decent. If your DM likes breaking armor or has options to augment or create armor, then you’ll get some mileage. Most towns have a forge as well, so you can make a career out of your proficiency. Of course, you need your tools as a method to enchant armor and cast spells. That’s pretty important, so these are the tools that you get to use.
The spells that you automatically learn range from awesome to fine, which is great! They support your role as a ranged damage dealer and blaster.
|Artificer Level||Spells Prepared|
|3rd||Magic Missile, Thunderwave|
|5th||Mirror Image, Shatter|
|9th||Hypnotic Pattern, Lightning Bolt|
|13th||Fire Shield, Greater Invisibility|
|17th||Passwall, Wall of Force|
If you can guarantee that the creature needs to take one or two damage, then Magic Missile shines. Magic Missile is also great as a way to deal damage, since there is no real way to dodge it (outside of specific spells). If you need some extra peppered damage, then you have it now! Thunderwave is fine if you plan on going the Guardian build, but not great if you’re the ranged variant of this class.
Mirror Image boosts your low hitpoint count by a ton, giving you a relatively high chance to avoid attacks. Once again, great for the Guardian build, less good for the ranged damage dealer. Shatter continues the trend of being a good middle-ground by having good range and decent damage. It’s also one of the best object crushers in the game. So if you really need to break a jewel from a distance, you’ve got options!
Hypnotic Pattern is situational but cool to pull off… Also not really in-theme. That’s a good thing; you get some utility outside of just defense and damage. Speaking of damage, Lightning Bolt usually ends up being a poor man’s Fireball, but it definitely has it’s uses in tight hallways or against specific enemy types.
Fire Shield is a fantastic defensive spell with some damage reflection, and will probably eat up your 4th level spell slots… Or it would, if your other option wasn’t Greater Invisibility of all things! That’s a great spell, guaranteeing advantage on attacks going out, disadvantage on attacks coming in, and making you a top-tier scout!
Passwall is quick door-making, and comes too late to really make an impact. Most dungeons are going to be made of some stupid Astral Plane dirt or something, and thus avoid Passwall’s utility. Wall of Force, however, is the best separation spell in the game. This is what your higher level slots will be used for!
All of these spells are very above-average for your standard Artificer archetype. Armorer’s already got a great start in my eyes!
Unsurprisingly, the Armorer’s mechanics are focused on the suit of armor you are wearing. At level 3, you can do this.
As an action, you can turn a suit of armor you are wearing into Arcane Armor, provided you have smith’s tools in hand.
The armor does not need to be heavy, or even Medium necessarily. We recommend making it as high level as possible, to avoid needing to put points into Dexterity.
You gain 4 benefits while in this armor;
- You ignore the strength requirement of any armor.
- An armorer can use the armor as a spellcasting focus.
- You cannot be forced to lose the armor, the armor covers you entirely, and it replaces any missing limbs.
- You can take off or put on the armor as an action. It doesn’t stop being Arcane Armor until you die, or you put on another suit.
See? Iron Man.
These are great benefits. You don’t need to increase your Strength to wear heavy armor, which is a rare commodity at best. This is a huge boost to movement speed and durability for a low-Strength Artificer.
You also no longer need one hand on your Smith’s tools, which is nice. You can have both hands empty for combat, as long as you’re in the suit of armor, that cannot be forcibly removed from you. The other two parts of the third benefit are more cosmetic, but if your character is coming in at level 3, they can have a tragic backstory of losing a leg with no mechanical downside. That’s… pretty cool, actually! Though don’t get caught outside of your armor, or no DM will have much mercy on you.
Being able to put on plate armor as an action is hilarious, and strong. Even if you get surprised by an ambush, it only takes one round for you to be ready for combat. Just, make sure you’re nearby it so you can jump in immediately. Snuggle that armor like a teddy bear!
If that wasn’t quite enough, your Armor also gains an enchantment based on your Model. There are two right now; Guardian and Infiltrator.
The Thunder Gauntlet and Lightning Launcher weapons use Intelligence for attack and damage rolls. You can change their model whenever you finish any type of rest.
- Thunder Gauntlets. Deals 1d8 thunder damage on a hit. A creature hit by the gauntlet has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you until the start of your next turn, as the armor magically emits a distracting pulse when the creature attacks someone else.
- Defensive Field. As a bonus action, you can gain temporary hit points equal to your level in this class, replacing any temporary hit points you already have. You lose these temporary hit points if you doff the armor. You can use this bonus action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
So, the Guardian is your defender build. Perhaps not unexpected!
Thunder Gauntlets deal fine damage; 1d8 is a longsword, and Thunder is a pretty unique damage type. It also forces disadvantage on attacks other than you, allowing you to become a fairly good tank. Just make sure you have ways to boost AC, avoid attacks, or increase your health; d8 is not a lot of health to work with!
Defensive Field is a great use of your bonus action, and the temporary hit points last all day. Pop it once at the start of your day, and pop it whenever you lose your temp HP! Might as well keep your healer’s resources as high as possible. You can, of course, save your charges for important fights, but I tend to like to just keep my HP as high as I can.
- Lightning Launcher. It counts as a simple ranged weapon, with a normal range of 90 feet and a long range of 300 feet, and it deals 1d6 lightning damage on a hit. Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with it, you can deal an extra 1d6 lightning damage to that target.
- Powered Steps. Your walking speed increases by 5 feet.
- Dampening Field. You have advantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks. If the armor normally imposes disadvantage on such checks, the advantage and disadvantage cancel each other, as normal.
The Infiltrator has three benefits, though two are minor. The Lightning Launcher is fantastic, dealing 2d6 + Intelligence damage to someone once per turn with crazy range. You’ll be out of the most dangerous attacks by a solid 30 feet! Make sure you coordinate with your party, in case you miss any buffs by being so far away. And do keep in mind that only one attack does 2d6; cantrips might slowly deal more damage than this weapon can, though this weapon has much better range than them.
A 5 feet boost to walking speed is exactly as good as it sounds; yay? You get the extra square of movement, which might let you outrun a melee opponent. But, in general, this does very little to improve your chances of sprinting after someone.
Dampening Field is pretty solid, allowing you to become a good scout in most cases. Not even rogues can say they have advantage on Stealth! However, most heavy armors give disadvantage to stealth, and then you’re back at a net 0. If you want the best armor, this might not be the Model type for you; being able to scout with advantage is tight.
Overall, both models are different enough to fill two different roles in a party. There is no better one, though I find the Guardian’s extra health to be a little bit more useful than the Powered Steps and Field. You and your party will have to see if you need a melee or ranged caster in the moment.
Phew! That was a lot. Now for a quick one for your level 5.
You can attack twice, rather than once, whenever you take the Attack action on your turn.
Woo! Extra Attack!
This lets you use your special weapon attacks for every turn that you attack twice. For Thunder Gauntlets, that’s one more character that feels inclined to focus on you. That’s great, and makes tanking hits a lot easier (but you’ll also tank hits more often!).
The Lightning Launcher is less happy, since it’s subsequent hits deal 1d6 + Intelligence… not great. However, it still makes attacking with the weapon worthwhile, and probably barely edges out casting a 4d6 cantrip.
Great for you, since you’re inclined to use your weapon often.
And now, to make your armor worthwhile, we added some parts! This is at level 9.
That armor now counts as separate items for the purposes of your Infuse Items feature: armor (the chest piece), boots, helmet, and the armor’s special weapon. Each of those items can bear one of your infusions, and the infusions transfer over if you change your armor’s model with the Armor Model feature. In addition, the maximum number of items you can infuse at once increases by 2, but those extra items must be part of your Arcane Armor.
That’s pretty neat! Two more slots to enchant your armor with. Without DM approval, this is the only way to apply an enchantment bonus to your Armor’s special weapon. Unfortuantely, that does mean that your armor only gets a maximum of a +2; Infusion doesn’t get higher than that. You’ll be 1 behind all of the other casters and martials, but they probably don’t get Intelligence to attack, right? Right…?
At least you get these for free! You can then make your armor or pieces of equipment as fancy as you want. These can increase your durability (such as with the Armor of Magical Strength), utility (Armor of Tools), movement speed (Boots of the Winding Path), etc. You have so many options! We recommend enhancing your weapon, and then either getting the teleportation boots or replicating a magic item of your choice.
We’re not done with your armor quite yet! At level 15, both sets of armor get 2 more benefits. Both of them are actually crazy!
Guardian. When a Huge or smaller creature you can see ends its turn within 30 feet of you, you can use your reaction to magically force the creature to make a Strength saving throw against your spell save DC, pulling the creature up to 30 feet toward you to an unoccupied space. If you pull the target to a space within 5 feet of you, you can make a melee weapon attack against it as part of this reaction.
This reaction may be used a number of times per Long Rest equal to your Proficiency Bonus.
Is an enemy trying to get away, or fly just out of the party’s reach to let loose arrows? Well, grab them again! A lot of enemies have problems with Strength saves, and this actually does a ton to close the gap between you and an enemy. Unfortunately, you can’t access this ability on your turn, or else you’d basically have a Godly Lasso!
This is incredibly good for a defender! So many enemies just try to run past you, or run away from you. You can quite literally yoink them away from your Sorcerer. That fixes one of the biggest problems of a standard tank in 5E.
Infiltrator. Any creature that takes lightning damage from your Lightning Launcher glimmers with magical light until the start of your next turn. The glimmering creature sheds dim light in a 5-foot radius, and it has disadvantage on attack rolls against you, as the light jolts it if it attacks you. In addition, the next attack roll against it has advantage, and if that attack hits, the target takes an extra 1d6 lightning damage.
Now your Lightning Launcher is good! You can target the same creature twice in a turn; the first shot does 2d6 and applies advantage. Then the second hit does 2d6… and applies advantage. That’s amazing! You basically have a permanent Guiding Bolt as an auto attack. That’s a huge accuracy improvement, somewhat making up for the fact that you can only get a +2 to attack rolls, with some extra Support utility to boot.
Best Race for Armorer Artificers
The Armorer discards Strength and Dexterity, instead only needing Intelligence to get by. The Guardian likely needs Constitution to boost their HP and make them a better tank. The Infiltrator should consider getting Constitution, but can also use Dexterity and wear Medium Armor for better stealth.
Hobgoblins aren’t necessarily perfect, but they have a ton of qualities that work well for this class. These Volo’s Guide buggers are +2 Con, +1 Int, which is as perfect a statline as one could ask for. Darkvision is good for you, and the Saving Face ability is one of the best racial abilities in the game, giving you a +3 to attack rolls, ability checks, or saving throws if you failed. That’s pretty awesome! Hobgoblins make great tanks, and your serious upbringing makes sense for the militant armorer.
Gnomes of all types can be useful for this class! All gnomes gain +2 Intelligence, a rare boost to have. Gnomes have Darkvision (great for dungeon crawling) and Gnome Cunning, which gives advantage for mental stats against magic. Considering you’ll be targeted with magic a lot, this is a wonderful buffer! Deep Gnomes and Forest Gnomes are great options for Infiltrators, and Rock gnomes can be great Guardians. And all gnomes are tinkerers at heart, so they might like the armor that you can throw together!
Conclusion – Our Take on the Armorer Artificer
Armorer is really good. It might not be the best Artificer, but the extra utility that this class brings to the table makes the Artificer good by themselves, rather than needing cannons or a pet to carry them. If you want to be a fantasy Iron Man in one way or another, then the Armorer is an easy choice!