Do you know what’s a pretty good mechanic? Magic. The authors of Player’s Handbook got that down pretty well when they gave the Fighter and Rogue some. The Eldritch Knight are practitioners of magic. While the Champion and Battlemaster honed their bodies to master the battlefield, the Eldritch Knight was doing their homework. They’ve decided to study the schools of magic dedicated to protection and damage to better master warfare. Did that end up being a good decision? Or should the magic users be the only ones dedicated to magic? Let’s find out in our Eldritch Knight 5e Guide.
Best of Both Worlds: Eldritch Knight Fighter 5E
Like most magic-slinging archetypes, the Eldritch Knight is a pretty great choice. Unlike earlier editions, the Eldritch Knight can mostly only learn Abjuration and Evocation, limiting their problem solving capabilities. However, that doesn’t mean the Eldritch Knight doesn’t do a superb job dishing out damage, especially in a frontline role.
As perhaps expected, the Eldritch Knight can cast spells. Eldritch Knights are known as 1/3rd casters (Wizards are full casters, Paladins/Rangers are ½ casters). That means they only gain up to 4th level spells, and acquire a very limited amount of cantrips and spells known.
Their cantrips are not limited by any school, but they only get 3 by 10th level. Choose wisely!
Unlike Wizards, whose spells they take from, Eldritch Knights don’t have a spellbook. They commit spells to memory, like most spontaneous casters. Eldritch Knights actually get a similar number of spells known to Sorcerers, funny enough. However, their spells known are school-limited. You get a total of 4 spells known from any school. All 9 other spells must be from Abjuration or Evocation. You are able to replace some spells, but the school limitation applies.
Also, you’re an Intelligence caster. So that’s nice.
The Eldritch Knight suffers just a bit here. Let’s start with Cantrips. Your choices are incredibly limited. In terms of what spells to pick up, you’re going to want at least one offensive cantrip to synergize with later class abilities. If you’re a Melee Wizard, Booming Blade and Green Flame Blade are stellar choices. They use your weapon damage, and have some area of effect. If you’re using a Greatsword, these two are simply stellar. A ranged build could realistically use any other cantrip, from Acid Splash to Toll the Dead.
Your spells are pretty limited. You get a good pool of 1st to 3rd level slots, but only one 4th. Keep that in mind when you pick up scaling spells, like Fireball. Also keep in mind that you’re probably wanting a lot of Strength/Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence. Not exactly easy stats to keep increasing at the same levels!
Even so, your Abjuration spells are going to be pretty simple to pick out. Eldritch Knights keep their armor proficiencies, so you won’t need Mage Armor or anything like that. Consider picking up spells that protect you, like Protection from Evil and Good or Protection from Energy. Remove Curse can be effective, but a Cleric or Wizard might be able to use it better. Shield is great early on, boosting your frontliner’s AC to a ridiculous degree. Most other casters can use the Dispel and Counterspell abilities a bit better than you, but having another chance to negate magic is always nice. Synergize with your party; Abjuration is incredibly versatile.
Evocation is… less cool. The issue is that you don’t have the spell slots to keep up with damage. You’ll want to take really good area of effect spells (a la Fireball or Burning hands) that you only use in many-creature combats. Otherwise, your ability to swing your weapon 3-4 times will outdamage most single-target abilities you can pick up.
You just got a crazy strong ability! I hope you weren’t expecting too much out of a second level 3 feature.
…you learn a ritual that creates a magical bond between yourself and one weapon. You perform the ritual over the course of 1 hour, which can be done during a short rest. The weapon must be within your reach throughout the ritual, at the conclusion of which you touch the weapon and forge the bond.
Once you have bonded a weapon to yourself, you can’t be disarmed of that weapon unless you are incapacitated. If it is on the same plane of existence, you can summon that weapon as a bonus action on your turn, causing it to teleport instantly to your hand.
Left out is that you can bond with two weapons, but only summon one at a time. A third bonded weapon causes one of the other two bonds to dissipate.
This has wonderful flavor and is reminiscent of the archetype’s past. The issue is that it’s essentially only anti-disarm. If you find yourself imprisoned, you have a great way to arm yourself for the prison break..? But that’s kinda it.
Theoretically, this is one of the few ways in 5E to get a thrown weapons build going, but reclaiming a weapon as a bonus action doesn’t give you enough attack speed to actually do anything. There are aspects of this class that make thrown weapons viable, but they all require your Bonus Action. Dang it.
You should bond with your primary weapon and then just kinda ignore that this exists. If you’re ever captured or put into an unarmed situation, whipping this out can save your party.
At level 5, the Fighter can make 2 attacks with every Attack action. Cantrips have fallen to the wayside as a useless commodity, especially since they’ve only scaled to two damage dice. Luckily, there’s another addition to your toolkit!
Beginning at 7th level, when you use your action to cast a cantrip, you can make one weapon attack as a bonus action.
As long as you’re not a Two-Weapon Fighter, this is gonna work out great!
The ability to attack after a cantrip leads to a ton of damage. For a Melee build, that’s strictly the case. Green Flame Blade is a weapon attack that deals a lot of extra damage if there’s two enemies. Hit someone, deal bonus damage, hit them again! Fantastic for a Greatsword or Greataxe build!
More questionable is a ranged build. If you have good Dexterity, then Toll the Dead’s 2d12 might not make too much sense. Especially since ranged builds are so accurate for Fighters! Theoretically, you could use this opportunity to cast True Strike before every ranged attack for Advantage, but attacking twice is just as good. In general, 2d12 will probably roll better than d8+5, so run the Cantrip path if you’re looking for damage.
Remember that this uses your Bonus action. If you’re needing to Second Wind, you can’t use this. Action Surge also works weirdly with this, since you don’t get another bonus action with it.
Consider a Great Weapon build if you’re looking for significant damage by level 7.
You’ve gotten 3 levels to really get used to casting cantrips and then stabbing someone; a joyful task. Now, you get some really fun synergy.
At 10th level, you learn how to make your weapon strikes undercut a creature’s resistance to your spells. When you hit a creature with a weapon attack, that creature has disadvantage on the next saving throw it makes against a spell you cast before the end of your next turn.
Weapon attacks are, shockingly, what a Fighter is good at. A Ranged Build has a ridiculously high chance to hit a Weapon attack – especially if your plan is to do that True Strike idea.
At minimum, you are in a strange loop here. On your turn, you cast a Cantrip, then make a Weapon Attack. Then, on your next turn, your enemy has disadvantage against your Cantrip… and then you make a Weapon Attack. It’s a cycle that potentially ends pretty fast, since they can’t save against Toll the Dead anymore! Well, they can’t save easily, at least.
More importantly, you have a much better time using spells like Banishment to make an enemy’s life painful. Since your Weapon Attack leads into disadvantage, your burst spells suddenly deal a heck of a lot more damage.
Unfortunately, these are only spells you cast. That means your Wizard can’t actually benefit much from this.
Still, use this so you can keep your Intelligence relatively low while still being a good spellcaster. And finally, you get significant Action Surge synergy!
Most of these abilities have been strictly aggressive. Now, you can get some utility!
At 15th level, you gain the ability to teleport up to 30 feet to an unoccupied space you can see when you use your Action Surge. You can teleport before or after the additional action.
The Fighter’s Action Surge is between 30 – 70% of the reason to take the class. It’s the main reason to multiclass, and resets on any short rest. That means that, up to twice per short rest, you gain a free cast of Misty Step.
That’s… pretty whatever.
At least it’s flexible. You could dump all your damage into someone, Action Surge, deal more damage, and then teleport and Move to your next enemy. That’s not nothing! It also means you have much greater incentive to use Action Surge to finish off an enemy, since you get to move to your next enemy basically guaranteed.
It also means you won’t be wasting your Action Surge if you, say, take out the enemy with your follow-up Cantrip. Then, you can teleport 30 feet, move 30 feet, and almost always be next to someone for your weapon swing. Extremely good, in like, that specific situation.
Not bad; make sure you remember to use this whenever you Action Surge! But, its Action Surge limitation is the thing that holds it back.
Improved War Magic
It took literally 11 levels, but you’re finally better at casting a spell and then stabbing someone.
Starting at 18th level, when you use your action to cast a spell, you can make one weapon attack as a bonus action.
That’s right! Now cantrips aren’t the only thing that have a pretty significant bonus action!
Admittedly, this is a pretty light addition to a spellcast. But a level 3 spell is likely more effective than 3 extra weapon swings… in specific situations.
This lets you Banish, and then get a headstart on dealing with another foe. Or destroy all but one enemy with a Fireball, and then walk up and poke them.
This is relatively perfect timing for this ability. The only cantrip that could possibly beat out 4 weapon swings in damage is Green Flame Blade with another enemy sitting next to the target. So you’ve probably not been using War Magic in combats for one whole level now. Improved War Magic takes the relative weakness of War Magic and turns it into bonus damage for your actual spells! Evocation has never looked so painful!
Make a good decision on whether or not it’s time to cast your spells, and remember that Action Surge now can mean 2 Fireballs with a Greatsword slam!
Best Race for Eldritch Knight Fighters
Because of the spellcasting requirement, the Eldritch Knight pulls you in 3 directions. First off, despite your spellcasting, please boost either Strength or Dexterity as high as you can. That’s your weapon attacks, primary source of damage, and what defines you as a Fighter. If you’re in melee, consider raising your Constitution to a point where you’re comfortable taking damage. And, of course, raise your Intelligence where you can.
Coming from the Mordekainen’s Tome of Foes are the Githyanki. These psychic creatures might be perfect for Eldritch Knights. You gain a +2 to Strength and +1 to Intelligence (so make sure to get good Constitution!). You get some proficiencies and some free spells that let you solve some problems. Not bad, since your spell selection is so limited at the time you get your racial spells. You do waste Martial Prodigy, but… who really cares? You get so much other good stuff! These magical warriors are perfect for you.
If you’re looking for a ranged build, the Feral Tiefling from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide might be for you. Coming in at +2 Dexterity, +1 Intelligence, the Feral Tiefling is perfect if you want to boost your spells at the cost of relative squishiness. Darkvision and Hellish Resistance is astounding for you; you’ll be trading Fireballs at some points in the game! Finally, if your GM allows you to take Winged over the basic tiefling spells, please do! Free flight is always nice; if you can position yourself well. you can take potshots all over the battlefield.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Eldritch Knight
The Eldritch Knight is absolutely fantastic. Spellcasting is extremely nice, and you actually get fantastic damage potential. Unlike most Fighters, you’re not amazing at swinging that sword, but you’ve got magic to back you up. If you’re missing an Arcane Caster, and just so happen to need a Weapon Fighter, then this is perfect! It’s also perfect if you’re just wanting a fancy Fighter, but perhaps not with a Wizard in the party.