The Exhaustive Guide
to the Kensai Magus
~A FrodoOf9Fingers Production
In DnD, a class that acted as a blend between physical damage and magical ability was called a gish class. They evolved from being simply fighters who could self-buff to wizards that could deliver their spells through their weapons. Pathfinder built on the idea and developed one of the best gish classes: The Magus. The Kensai is an archetype of the magus that focuses a little bit more on physical damage than on the magic. This does not make them weaker in any way though, as we will discuss, and while it may close some doors, the Kensai opens many others.
In this guide, everything in The Player’s Handbook, Advanced Player’s Guide, Advanced Race Guide, Ultimate Combat, Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Equipment, and Ultimate Campaign is talked about as if it was available to you. References to any other resources of note include the source of said resource. I don’t look through any other books for stuff, so if you see something good for the Kensai, share what you know and make a post on the thread :).
For this guide in printable format, click HERE, and for this guide in a web layout (which I find easier to read) click HERE. Finally, if you find any errors, know of any good builds to mention, or otherwise have other input, please, share it with me (and by extension, many others) by dropping a line HERE. The community has been helping out a lot with this guide, so I want to send a shout out to all of the people adding suggestions and making corrections as necessary :).
RED: Either traps or otherwise terrible options, avoid these like the plague.
ORANGE: A generally bad option, even though it may look good.
GREEN: A pretty good option, worth considering.
BLUE: A great option!
PURPLE: The options that you better have a GREAT reason for not choosing, these are the best.
1. Class and Ability Overview
Weapon and Armor Proficiency: You can use any one weapon you want to, but you can’t really make use of any other weapon. Also, you lose all armor proficiency, but there are ways to get past this. Remember that bow you always get for your characters? Say goodbye to that. There are some ways around this, such as using a ranged cantrip or using a sling.
Canny Defense: Instead of armor, you add your intelligence bonus to your AC (limit one per level). Note that this is NOT limited by armor, but in all other ways acts like a dexterity bonus to AC.
Weapon Focus: A free feat is a free feat, especially if it’s a feat that you probably would have gotten anyways.
Spells/Spell Book: Your spell list is largely focused on evocation spells, which is right up your alley. The usual note about spell books: Always have a second spell book handy, it sucks when your first one is stolen by a rogue.
Arcane Pool: Essentially a Ki pool focused for your class. This is another great reason to have high intelligence, especially when you start gaining various arcana’s.
Spell Combat: The essence of your class, this allows you to cast a spell while full attacking. Since it’s a full action, however, there are some useful combinations that become more difficult, as will be discussed later.
Spell Strike: Gain free weapon attacks as you cast touch spells, once again, pretty sweet. But another great addition is that the spells that hit through your weapon inherit the same critical threat range as your weapon. Using keen or similar ability, you can get a weapon with a 15-20 critical range. That’s 30% of ALL weapon strikes, unless you need a 16 or greater to hit your target. If you need a 10 to hit your target, 50% of your successful hits will be critical threats… And later with critical perfection failing to confirm a critical threat will be a thing of the past.
Magus Arcana: In addition to feats, Arcana allows your Kensai to become exactly what you want it to be. There are a LOT of great options here, and since most of them don’t have feat/other arcana prerequisites you can be flexible with your choices.
Perfect Strike: “Eh” ability. I would have preferred Spell Recall over this, but considering all of the free stuff we’ve gotten thus far (Canny Defense, Weapon Focus, any weapon we want…) we’ll take it. The critical multiplier increase can have some good utility with the right things (such as the Bursting weapon enchantments and the Spell Stealing weapon enchantment).
Fighter Training: A “nice thing to have”, this allows you to pick up things like weapon specialization and greater weapon focus.
Iaijutus: Your initiative just increased by a lot. As everyone knows, the person who goes first wins. Essentially a better version of improved initiative (If you make intelligence a high stat) that stacks with improved initiative.
Improved Spell Combat: Concentration checks just became a little bit easier… as if they were hard to begin with?
Critical Perfection: Awesome, just awesome. You can now eventually get any critical feat in existence. With a high intelligence, your bonus to critical confirmation rolls will be 9 or more. After this point, you will rarely fail to confirm a critical hit.
Superior Reflexes: If you have combat reflexes, you’ll have more AoO’s than anyone else. The only downside is that you probably won't be able to use all of them.
Iaijutsu Focus: Can you start to see the ninja inside of you now? Always getting to act in the surprise round is awesome, and the bonus damage to flat footed opponents is a nice thing to have. This really counts in ambushes you set up: Standard action to charge, roll and win initiative, then full attack all while they are flat footed.
Greater Spell Combat: Sacrificing your attack to make sure your spell succeeds is now a little more bearable, but honestly, defensive casting by this point is pretty easy.
Counterstrike: Punish other spell casters, even if they successfully cast a spell defensively. In addition, your touch AC is through the roof, so no nasty touch attacks are going to hit you :).
Iaijutsu Master: With this, you will go first 99% of the time. The downside is that you lose out on greater spell access, which brings in a lot of spells that you would have liked to have.
Weapon Master: A good, natural capstone… kind of… At first glance, this is pretty good, automatically confirming critical hits and increasing the multiplier. But it’s not that great once you realize that A. Critical Perfection already made confirming a critical hit a cake walk and B. Most of your damage comes from spells, which don’t benefit from the increase in critical damage multiplication. But hey, spend two arcane points and your katana or scimitar is dealing 4x damage on a critical hit.
There are several different party roles in a DnD group, and even sub roles of those groups. I’ve heard them called many different things, but they all perform some needed task in a successful group. A single character can, and often does fulfill several roles. Here’s a good list of what those are and how good a Kensai can fill that role:
*The colors in this specific section is not a reflection of what you should do, but rather a reflection of how good you could be in this role when geared towards it.
In my opinion, if any one character can only do one of these things listed above, he is deemed as a waste of space. Hence, a wizard could focus on being a battlefield controller, but should still able to be a damage dealer and/or a Party Supporter, while a fighter may be a damage dealer and a meat shield. A rogue could be a scout, skill monkey, and damage dealer. Even if a character isn’t the best at a particular party role, as long as he doesn’t suck at it he’s contributing to the team.
You have many options. A Kensai can fill many of these roles effectively.
There are several really good builds that you can follow when considering the Kensai. Of course, there’s always the most straight forward deal as much damage as possible in as little time as possible concept. But one of the Kensai’s strength’s is his diversity. He can make a great debuffer, a great bodyguard, does wonderful with area lockdown and trip builds, in addition to his ability to deal damage. You can also mingle several builds together, to take advantage of each other’s strengths. One important thing to remember is to NOT be a one trick pony. If you can only do one thing, you’ll suck and be a hinderance to the party when you can’t do that one thing.
As a quick note, I have listed what stats best complement each build. Generally, however, dexterity builds outshine strength builds. Another consideration is how high you want your intelligence. Here’s a table with what each attribute contributes to:
Can you see why dexterity and intelligence are often your two most important stats? They simply do more for you. The following information is a little bit more geared towards dexterity and intelligence based characters, but there are always options for those wanting to be strength based.
The Standard SG Build:
1. Intensified Spell metamagic feat
2. Magical Lineage trait: Shocking Grasp
Of course I have to mention the classic concept of using shocking grasp as your primary damage dealing spell. This isn’t so much of a build as it is an understanding of one of the best methods to deal damage. Shocking Grasp deals 1d6 * CL in damage, up to 5d6. Intensified (+1 spell level) increase this to up to 10d6. Magical Lineage keeps shocking grasp as a first level spell, allowing you to have quite a few castings of it (Throw in some pearls of power for 1k a piece and you could have 10+ first level spells available). Shocking grasp also adds 3 to your attack roll, even when using spell strike. A great combination to add to any build (except maybe the Frostbite build, since it focuses on using a different spell).
The “Frostbite” Build:
Stats: Charisma or Intelligence with the bruising intellect trait
The “Frostbite” build focuses on debuffing enemies rather than tons of damage. Frostbite deals 1d6 + CL (Caster Level) nonlethal damage, and can be used a number of times up to your CL for each cast. Compared to shocking grasp, you actually end up doing more damage (Caster Level squared more damage to be precise), but its non-lethal damage (which means your damage is affected by healing spells two times over). It also takes more time to deliver that damage.
The real advantage is the debuffing it provides. Frostbite makes them fatigued, Enforcer allows a free intimidate check to add shaken (on a critical it becomes frightened), cruel makes a shaken (or frightened/panicked) opponent sickened, and Rime Spell makes them entangled. Daze Spell introduces a save effect based off of your intelligence to daze them, which they have to make every time they are hit. Shatter Defenses makes them flat footed to your attacks, allowing you to add your intelligence modifier to your damage at level 13. So, all together:
Fatigued (-2 strength and dexterity, cannot run or charge)
Shaken (-2 attack rolls, saving throws, skill and ability checks)
Sickened (-2 attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, skill and ability checks)
Entangled (Half speed, cannot run or charge, -2 attack rolls, -4 dexterity, and casters need concentration checks)
Dazed (Can take no actions next round)
Shatter Defenses (Cannot make attacks of opportunity [to your attacks], loses dexterity bonus to AC[to your attacks])
TOTAL: -6 attack rolls (not including ability damages here), -2 damage rolls, -2 strength, -6 dexterity, -4 saving throws, -4 skill and ability checks (think acrobatics, intimidate and bluff), 2x cannot run or charge, cannot make AoOs, loss of dexterity bonus to AC (apply dexterity damage before this) and unable to take any actions.
This is all from two attacks… so go ahead and hit every enemy you can, it’ll really start to turn the tide of battle.
There are a few major downsides to this however. For one, enemies immune to non-lethal damage are almost completely immune to this combination (Undead and Constructs). Chill Touch can replace Frostbite a little bit, Chill Touch the dazed condition via dazing spell, though you are probably better off using shocking grasp in those circumstances (And have a weapon handy made specifically to deal with undead and/or constructs). The next involves enemies immune to fear effects (Undead, Constructs, Behemoths, Kami, Qlippoth, Oozes, Plants, Vermin, and Paladins). Finally, there’s enemies resistant or immune to frost damage. This can be completely bypassed by a the elemental spell feat or a metamagic rod of the same name.
With all of those weaknesses, it may be wise to not completely devout all of your resources to this build. Many people people leave off Dazzling Display and Shatter Defenses to make other options more viable in times of need.
Fairly feat intensive
Deals non-lethal damage, which is healed by magic at the same time as lethal damage
Not as much burst as a shocking grasp maniac
Vulnerable to Undead and Constructs
Partially negated by Behemoths, Kami, Qlippoth, Oozes, Plants, Vermin, and Paladins
Debuffs involve lots of paperwork
The Bodyguard Build:
Stats: Dexterity and Intelligence
A very straight forward build that can be added to many others since it has so few feat requirements. The idea is to take advantage of a high dexterity and intelligence for massive amounts of AoOs and AC. Then, use those AoOs to add AC to your allies. The way to gain armor will be explained later, but Benevolent allows you to add your armor’s enhancement bonus to your aid another bonuses. Gloves of Arcane Striking adds your Arcane Strike damage bonus to aid another as well. So, the math is as follows for the bonus your adding to your allies AC:
Base (2) + Benevolent Armor (up to 5) + Gloves of Arcane Striking (up to 5).
For up to 12 AC that you’re giving your ally for one attack (useable to as many times as you have AoOs). Naturally, since you’re preventing your opponents from hitting their intended targets, you’ll be the next person they attack. That makes having good defenses for yourself important, which thankfully you’ll have a good amount of.
If used you WILL be targeted by intelligent monsters.
The Whip Master Build:
Stats: Dexterity (And intelligence if you need more AoO’s per round)
Typically you mix the whip build with other builds, like using frostbite or trip. You can attack targets 15 ft away (20 when enlarged) and you threaten out to 10 ft (15 enlarged) instead of 5. Because of that large range, and if you threw in frostbite and/or trip, you can keep enemies away from yourself and your allies, not to mention that defensive casting becomes a worry of the past. The downside to the build is how feat intensive it is, so combining it with other builds or simply adding other feat staples becomes a challenge. Whips are the only option for reach for the Magus too… Unless you decide to take a dip into either Titan Mauler Barbarian (2 levels) or Phalanx Solider Fighter (3 levels, and you have to be using a buckler, which means no Intelligence to AC). If you take either of those two classes, know that there’s no options for finessable weapons.
VERY feat intensive
Whips don’t do all that much damage, and have a small critical range
The Trip Build:
Stats: Strength or Dexterity (Get weapon finesse for Dexterity builds) Intelligence is nice, but not necessary.
Once again, fairly straight forward. Trip people. A few things of note, however, is how good tripping strike is for you. With a 15-20 crit range you’ll be threatening a critical once every four attacks. Instead of using the normal CMB math, you can use your critical confirmation roll instead. This actually INCREASES your odds of tripping. Here’s the math (highlight only the differences):
Normal trip attempt = Magus Level + Size Modifier (up to +1ish) + 4(greater/improved trip)
Confirmation Roll Attempt = BaB + Int Modifier + 4 (Critical Focus)
The difference between your BaB and magus level only gets up to 5, add another 1 for your enlarge person spell (or 2 for some other polymorph spell that makes you huge) and you max out the difference at 7. So, you need an intelligence modifier of +7 to break even. Add in the spell “Unerring Weapon” and your critical confirmation roll just went through the roof. If you decide you won’t trip anything except on a critical hit, you can drop the Maneuver Magus arcana.
Lots of enemies are unaffected by trip
Monster CMD rises at a faster rate than your CMB
I think is also a good place to mention combat maneuvers in general. Combat maneuvers can provide that extra oomph needed to turn the tides of war. While many people plan on specializing in them, taking 3 to 4 feats to get the most out of performing a specific combat maneuver, using a combat maneuver without the feats can still be effective. I'm going to talk about them in both trains of thought: getting feats for them and not getting feats for them.
Falls prone, and if they stand up, they provoke an attack of opportunity.
Probably the best one to specialize in, greater trip gives you and your allies AoO’s. Doesn’t work against creatures without legs, have a lot of legs, or flying creatures.
IF they have weapons, taking those away is typically a wonderful idea, and might even be worth the AoO. If you exceed thier CMD by ten or more, you disarm both hands.
A bad idea to specialize in, since a large majority of the creatures you fight don’t use manufactured weapons.
Sundering can be good, though your teammates might get mad if you destroy your opponents gear, since when he dies, it will be their gear.
Not so great to specialize in, since sundering doesn’t really get better as you get more feats.
It’s typically a bad situation when you're resorting to grappling, and even then truestrike only helps you start the grapple, not maintain it.
Grappling just isn’t that good for a magus, it means no spell combat. Sorry.
To steal something like a cloak or quiver (hehehe, No Archery!), it’s +5 to thier CMD.
Highly situational, this doesn’t help out that much in fights (unless they NEED to have that item, like a spell component pouch or quiver), so even more situational than disarm.
Uses your bluff skill, not your attack roll, so no truestrike. Wait, what bluff skill?
Your charisma will probably be low, so you won’t have that good of a bluff skill. Making them lose their dexterity bonus isn’t that great either.
You can blind, dazzle, deafen, entangle, shaken or sicken an opponent. Extra round per 5 you exceed their CMD, though they can always remove the condition with a move action and still attack.
Making the effect last longer and require a standard action to remove is nice, but is it worth three feats?
Need to get past someone blocking a hallway? This is how. If they try to stop you, and you exceed their CMD by 5 or more, they fall prone.
Overrunning isn’t that useful except for those few circumstances.
Repositioning an enemy into a flanked position can be nice, but it’s a standard action at this point. Extra 5 feet of movement for every 5 ft you excced thier CMD.
Reposition can be nice to give your allies AoO’s, but to really make it worth it you’d need 4 feats (Greater Reposition and Quick Reposition plus their prerequisites).
This doesn’t really help you in any real way, though there might a situation where it’s needed. Extra 5 ft of movement for every 5 you exceed their CMD
Same as reposition.
Moving creatures away from your allies can be important, but pushing someone off a cliff is just awesome. By every 5 you exceed, they move 5 more feet.
In addition to giving your allies AoO’s, you can end up pushing them off a cliff!
*You can use this maneuver with your weapon, adding it’s enhancement bonus to the combat maneuver roll. Also, if you have weapon finesse and you're using a finessable weapon, you can use your dexterity instead of your strength for those rolls.
**If your weapon has the trip special property, you can use your weapon for these maneuvers. See asterisk #1.
Choosing a race is a touchy subject for me. On one hand, stats are important, but on the other hand, playing a fun character is more fun than having good stats. With so many choices of races, there are multiple good options, even if their stats are not the best. Always choose what you want to play, and remember that roleplaying is an essential part of the game. I base my ratings on their combat potential, including any extra’s that the race might provide.
Human: One of the first options to consider, humans give an extra feat and a +2 that’ll go into strength, dexterity, or intelligence. The downside is that they don’t have +2 in two stats that they like… but they are a great choice for those feat starved builds. At level 14 you qualify for Critical Versatility, which makes waiting to spend a feat on a critical feat that you want obsolete. Just take this at level 15, and when you can, switch it to the critical feat you want. This is a very common choice for strength based magi.
Elf: +2 intelligence and +2 dexterity is awesome, though the -2 to con hurts. There are quite a few other benefits to being an elf as well. If you plan on using stealth a lot, they have a decent first level spell to help you get around without the use of invisibility (This bonus works against the spell “see invisibility”, but not against Truesight). In addition, their favored class bonus for the Magus is nice, an extra arcana every 6 levels. As a great side bonus, you gain weapon proficiency with some of the most common weapons around. This is especially cool for the longbow, the traditional backup for out of reach opponents.
Goblin: +4 dexterity, -2 charisma, - 2 strength is really good for the Kensai Magus who has dexterity to damage. In addition, you’re small sized, adding to your attack and AC, though your CMB goes down making combat maneuver builds a little less effective. The vomit twin spell can make for some very good combat mobility, though it sounds cooler than it actually is. Having really high stealth is fun to play around with too.
Monkey Goblin (Inner Sea Bestiary): +4 dexterity, -2 wisdom and charisma. Very similar to the regular goblin, monkey goblins can be an interesting choice. They are small size with a slower speed, but the -2 to strength is swapped for wisdom, which is a slight improvement. The main kicker is that they have a prehensile tail, allowing them to hold those rods for you (holding rods can be debated, check the rules forums for the full reasoning). Well worth considering.
Ratfolk: +2 dexterity, +2 intelligence, -2 Strength. Good stats for the Dexterity Magus, though -2 to strength will hurt until you get the necessary feats. Unless you have another ratfolk in your party, you’ll be getting cornered fury, a situational ability that can be a life saver. I REALLY like the spell that you can get with a 3rd level spell slot. By the time you get it, it’ll last at least half the fight, and the duration of the debuff is great. Not to mention that you have many attempts to land the disease, so if they do make the save you can just try again.
Tiefling - +2 intelligence, +2 dexterity, and -2 charisma. The best possible stats for a dexterity based magus (excluding possibly the goblin). In addition, Tieflings have some great resistances. They also come with a +2 bonus to stealth, and potentially a prehensile tail to grab those wands for you AND hold rods for use when casting spells (holding rods can be debated, check the rules forums for the full reasoning). A VERY solid choice, assuming you can role play a race that’s typically looked down upon.
Samsaran: +2 intelligence, +2 wisdom, -2 Constitution. While they don’t have the best of stats for a dexterity magus (Considering the other options for strength magi Samsarans have pretty good stats) it’s their alternative racial trait that makes them awesome. You could get 4-5 spells added to your spell list as long as those spells are arcane based (If it’s on the wizard’s, sorcerer's, summoner’s, bard’s, or witch’s spell list, it’s arcane). A few ideas include Cure Critical Wounds (Bard’s list), Inflict Wounds (Witch’s spell list), Contingency, Heroism or Greater Heroism, Permanency, Touch of Fatigue, Touch of idiocy, Juxtaposition, Protection from Energy, False Life, Mage Armor, Dance of a Hundred Cuts, Haste (From the Summoner’s spell list, making it a level 2 spell) and Bestow Curse. This is a very solid choice if you had planned on getting spell blending later on.
Lashunta (Inner Sea Bestiary): +2 intelligence (Male +2 strength, -2 wisdom). Male Lashunta’s are the only playable creatures I know of that have +2 intelligence and strength, making them an excellent choice for strength magi. They don’t have much else, except for telepathy, which can be helpful in some circumstances.
Fetchling: +2 dexterity, -2 wisdom, +2 charisma really isn’t that great for you. What you will like, however, is extras the race has. In dim light, you have an equivalent miss chance to total concealment. At 9th level, you can get displacement as a SLA, and with a few feats you can see in magical darkness, allowing you to keep your high AC in those pesky magical darkness encounters.
Hobgoblin: +2 dexterity, +2 constitution. Solid stats, +4 bonus to stealth or intimidate, and a possible +1 natural armor. There’s not much else to them though.
Strix: +2 dexterity, -2 Charisma. Around the same level as a race with +2 to any ability score, the real benefit here is that Strix can fly… starting at level 1… Yeah, awesome right? Too bad you need to be in melee though.
Oread: +2 strength, +2 wisdom, -2 charisma. Not a bad choice for the strength magus in terms of stats. They also have a few extras that are really good. With “Stone in the Blood” and the Cantrip “Acid Splash” prepared, you can heal yourself for twice your HD per day outside of combat. The spell Stone Shield looks and sounds tempting (I’m the Avatar!), but not quite worth a 2nd level spell slot. With Ferrous Growth you can grow yourself a new weapon if all of your spares becomes broken or lost. There is a feat chain that can be fun to play with too that gives you a burrow speed.
Slyph: +2 dexterity, +2 intelligence, -2 constitution. Same stats as an elf, but I feel the elf has more benefits to add. In exchange for feather fall you could get a +4 bonus to stealth, and for a feat you can see through mists, fogs, and clouds, which can be quite helpful when used with obscuring mist and other such spells.
Half-Elf: +2 to any stat is good. The spell Paragon Surge, while perhaps a little high level for what it does, essentially gives you a feat for a spell slot, and if your group moves fast through a dungeon, it will can last for a couple battles. Resilient Reservoir can be nice if you are taking a lot of weaker hits. It’s short duration and higher spell level make a “eh” spell though. Many Magi go half-elf for the Ancestral Arms feature, but since you already have proficiency with a weapon of choice, half elves just are not that great.
Orcs: +4 strength, -2 intelligence, wisdom, and charisma. The +4 strength rocks (for a strength magus), but the -2 to both intelligence and wisdom hurts quite a bit. Beyond stats, the only other thing worth mentioning is ferocity, allowing you to be staggered instead of dying when at negative hit points (which isn’t always a good thing…). Other than that, not a good option, though worth talking about.
Merfolk: +2 Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma. Pretty good stats for you, though the 5 foot land speed sucks. That can be raised to 15 foot, and then haste and other effects will make it even less noticeable. They also come with +2 natural armor… Not that great of a choice.
Half-Orc: +2 any ability score, though there isn’t much more to their race that is really great for you. Being conscience while at negative HP can be nice, since most of your AC fails when your unconscious, but that also means that your enemies will still target you. The spell, Savage Maw, isn’t really that great, though it does allow one swift action intimidate check against everyone within 30 ft.
All other races are considered red, though remember that it’s not always about being the best race, but having fun (especially while role playing).
Arcane Accuracy: Swift Action, 1 arcane point to give yourself a bonus to attack rolls equal to your intelligence modifier until the beginning of your next turn. Very good, at the top of most Magi’s lists, though not set in stone.
Accurate Strike: Swift Action, 2 arcane points to resolves all attacks as melee touch attacks until the end of your turn. I don’t really like this as much as arcane accuracy because you have to wait to get it, and it doesn’t last for your attacks of opportunity. It does, however, come in handy against those larger foes with low tough AC.
Arcane Cloak: Intelligence to stealth and bluff to hide, I guess if you’re REALLY into the scouting concept, but then again, you can get vanish at level one. Not that good of an ability.
Arcane Edge: Immediate action to deal your intelligence bonus as bleed damage. I’d prefer the critical feat that makes people bleed more, since it stacks and doesn’t use resources. But if you're not going for critical feats, this can be a good option.
Arcane Deed (Advanced Class Guide): There are a couple awesome deeds that swashbucklers have. The three that stick out to me are Precise Strike (Add magus level to melee damage… Awesome!) Evasive (One arcana for evasion, uncanny dodge, and improved uncanny dodge? Hmm…) and the level 19 Deadly Stab, a death attack who’s save is based on your dexterity bonus. There are a few others that you might like, go take a look, but remember that you’ve had to spend two arcana to get to this point that you could have spent on other things.
Arcane Redoubt: Swift action your shield bonus now adds to your touch AC. Didn’t really need this… touch AC is already high.
Arcane Redoubt, Greater: Being able to get evasion or improved evasion is cool, but the amount of arcane points it expends is way too high. Pass.
Bane Blade: Really awesome. Now you can have bane against whatever you're fighting. Not to mention, because of the wording of the ability, you give bane on top of the bonuses you normally give with your arcane pool, meaning if you wanted to you could have weapons only be +4 and still get the awesomeness of a +10 weapon.
Broad Study: If you multiclass between spell casting classes, this is a good idea. If not, then don’t bother.
Close Range: People get this so that they don’t have to use a cheesy method of using spell strike every turn (That is, using arcane mark as a touch attack). There’s a couple better ways, such as spell blending.
Concentrate: Reroll a concentration check, though concentration checks rarely fail for you.
Critical Strike: Awesome, really, really awesome. Essentially free quickened spells after critical hits. The downside is that you have to plan ahead, because if you use arcane accuracy or arcane strike this won’t be useable that round. Also, only 1/day. Awesome, but not the best.
Devoted Blade: Might have been good, if it didn’t have to match your alignment.
Disruptive: As the feat, why trade an arcana for a feat? Especially one like this… though it can be an idea for the mage hunter concept.
Dispelling Strike: Sounds good, but it’s not, since you have to expend 1 arcane point per spell level of the spell you want to dispel. Pass.
Empowered Magic: Free metamagic once per day? A decent choice, especially if nothing else at 6th level nothing else really stands out to you. Can be interesting when mixed with a spell storing weapon.
Enduring Blade: No… why would you spend an arcana to save an occasional swift action, and more often than not, waste an arcane point. Waste of an arcana.
Familiar: An interesting option for action economy breaking, consider getting improved familiar, giving it a wand of Cure Light Wounds, and have it auto heal you in combat. Or a wand of truestrike have it have disarm people. Or, pass it a rod that it can hand to you when you want it and take it back afterwards. Lots of utility here, though these options are for an improved familiar… Gaining the Alertness feat and a bonus to a skill check or initiative is really nice to have. Not to mention roleplaying opportunities.
Flamboyant Arcana (Advanced Class Guide): Gain the first level swashbuckler deeds, and your arcane pool doubles as panache points (though without the regeneration feature). I personally like two of them: Derring-Do, which allows you to add a bonus to some skill checks, and Opportune Parry and Riposte, which allows you to parry attacks, both of which use an arcane point per use. Not too terrible an arcana, but not my first choice. I’d only get this because it’s a prerequisite for arcane deed.
Ghost Blade: Ghost touch is great against ghosts, and brilliance is great against armored opponents. On first glance, I thought brilliance was awesome, but then it was pointed out that it doesn’t affect most creatures, and you fight non-humanoid creatures more often than anything else later on… Both are situational, so I’d pass and just grab a +1 ghost touch weapon.
Hasted Assault: By the time you can get this arcana, you can already get haste several times a day, and it affects your allies too. Or you can get boots of speed if you want something that helps just you. Just saying.
Lingering Pain: An anti-caster ability, can, and often will make a caster fail at casting a spell (The CL check they need to make is 10 + ½ the damage dealt). With that in mind, this is pretty effective at negating casters. It is an immediate action however, which translates to a swift action. Beyond that, a great ability.
Maneuver Mastery: If you are going for a trip build, this can be nice, depending if you plan on trying to trip them or just wait for critical strikes to trip. If you wait for the critical strikes, pass on this. Otherwise it’s a good investment.
Maximized Magic: YES! More damage! 1/day spell deals max damage, no change in spell level. Good, especially for that back-up vampiric touch you keep around in case of emergency. This is not to just use willy nilly though, use it when you need something drop dead FAST. Also, another thing of note is that since it doesn’t increase the spell level of the spell, it can placed on spells going into a spell storing weapon. Very nifty ability
Pool Strike: Much less than desirable, a standard action (so no full attacking or using spell combat) to deal 2d6 damage + 1d6 every three levels more. Also, you’re burning up arcane points by using this. The only situation where this could be good is if your enemies were resistant to every spell to had (you should have at least two different damage spells prepared every day, including at level 1. Level 8 and beyond you should have at least 3). In that case, which should be rare, you won’t be entirely useless because you’re still dealing physical damage. It’s not worth an arcana, it is an ability that I would have expected to come free.
Pool Strike, Arcing: A waste… but a little bit better considering the possibility of facing crowds of monsters. But two arcana’s? Nah.
Pool Strike, Clinging: A waste
Pool Strike, Thunderous: A waste
Prescient Attack: An interesting ability, if you’re fighting a dexterity based character this can be useful, since it lasts longer than arcane strike. But otherwise, this is not as good as many other options.
Prescient Defense: Defense is not as important as killing what’s trying to kill you. Just not good enough.
Quickened Magic: Amazing, 1/day free quickened spell. Take this, no matter the build, just take it (when you can, level 15).
Reflection: Can be good for the mage hunter concept, but for this to be as effective as you want it, you’ll be spending a LOT of arcane points to get it to work. So, go with something else.
Rod Mastery: If you plan on using a lot of rods as weapons (Low crit range, don’t do it!) this can be helpful.
Rod Wielder: See above.
Silent Magic: Good for when you are silenced, the next thing you’ll do is cast a silent dispel magic.
Spell Blending: An alternative to abusing Arcane Mark. With this you can get a wizard’s cantrip that is meant to be used as a touch attack (Touch of Fatigue), allowing you to use spell strike constantly. If you get this at level 3 (the earliest you can), you can get that cantrip along with any first level wizard spell you don’t already have (perhaps something like mage armor?). At later levels, there’s a lot of spells on the wizard’s list that you would want, including heroism, permanency, and even contingency at the highest levels. Poke around and see what you like.
Spell Breaker: Arcana for a feat? No, but thanks.
Spell Shield: If you are using a wand or potions of shield, this won’t be adding much to your AC.
Still Magic: Not as useful as silent magic, it can still help you get out of some sticky situations.
Wand Mastery: Not so great, since you are not using save spells anyways. Though this can be useful for a few select wands, such as grease.
Wand Wielder: A really good option, you can now use wands instead of spells for spell combat (but not spellstrike). A favorite of mine is using truestrike every round to take out the hard to hit opponents.
Feats are what really make your character’s build unique. There are so many options that I’m not going to go through every single feat in existence, but I will mention and rate feats of note:
COMBAT FEATS (Of Note):
Greater Weapon Focus: Hitting people is important. End of discussion.
Agile Maneuvers: This is important for Bull Rush/Reposition/grapple/feint/Dirty Trick. But since you want to use Trip (or disarm/sunder) more, Weapon Finesse does what you want (unless you really want to bull rush/feint/grapple/reposition/perform dirty tricks). Pass.
Arcane Armor Training/Mastery: You don’t need to wear good armor so bad that you burn feats and swift actions every round just to be able to cast spells. You’re already suffering from having too many swift actions to do.
Arcane Strike: up to +5 damage per hit. Not the best, but it doesn’t take away from your chance to hit like power attack. It’s a swift action though, so you can’t mix it with arcane accuracy and the likes. If you decide to take the Bodyguard feat, grab the gloves of arcane striking and you’ll be an even better body guard.
Armor Proficiencies: If you really want armor that bad, play a traditional magus.
Combat Casting: +4 to concentration checks. If you’re playing a low level game, this can be helpful for those early defensive casting checks. But later on it diminishes severely in value.
Combat Expertise: A sucky prerequisite for the trip build. All well…
Combat Patrol: At first thought, this feat kinda sucks, even for area lockdown builds. But then I realized that there is several situations where this can be great. Refer to the Special Tactics section for more information. It does have a couple prerequisites though, making this not as nice.
Improved Trip: Required for the trip build, this means no provoking for trying to trip someone.
Greater Trip: The point of the trip build, this makes tripping people produce AoO’s
Tripping Strike: See the trip build.
Combat Reflexes: Needed for body guard, it is nice to have early on. Once you get Superior Reflexes at level 11 Combat Reflex’s importance dies out.
Body Guard: If you get the items to improve Aid Another, this can be life saving for your allies. See the build for more info.
In Harm's Way: Increasing the chance to avoid an attack entirely is good, taking the damage for your ally isn’t so good. You’re a d8 character, remember?
Disruptive: “eh”, not really needed, though it can add flavor for the mage hunter type.
Spellbreaker: More “eh”, now if they fail to cast a spell, they get hit for even trying. Just casting defensively by the time you get this isn’t too hard anyways.
Spell Penetration + Greater: For the most part, you don’t rely on spells with saves. The only line of defense left to your opponents left is spell resistance. These feats help you overcome that… Therefore you should get these if you have some room.
Spell Focus + Greater: You don’t really use spell or die spells, so these can be wasteful. But if there’s some save effect that you want to improve really badly, go for it.
Dodge: +1 AC. Not too bad of an idea… but there are better ways to increase AC. Trading feats for money = bad. Only get this if you NEED it as a prerequisite.
Endurance: Bad feat.
Diehard: My two bits: If you are reduced to negative hit points, your almost dead. Don’t you want your enemies to think you died? So they don’t try to hit you more? Trap right here.
Improved Saves: This includes Great Fortitude, Lighting Reflexes, and Iron Will. If you have spare feats, these are good options, since failing saves sucks. A lot. Remember this saying: “If you fail a reflex save, your hurt. If you fail a fortitude save, your dead. If you fail a will save, you just killed your allies.”
Improved Familiar: This can be an interesting choice, since several of the improved familiars can wield wands. This allows you to break the action economy, being able to do things that you normally wouldn’t be able to do. It requires an arcana to get a familiar in the first place, so you have to ask yourself if you really, really need/want this.
Improved Initiative: +4 to initiative. This is really nice, but later on it becomes less important for you, since you have several class abilities that help you with initiative.
Intimidating Prowess: If you’re going to go with the Frostbite build, and you want to be strength based, this is worth looking at.
Power Attack: A pretty good feat, trading attack for damage on a 1:2 ratio helps for those weaker foes. Though to be honest, unless I could two hand my weapon, I wouldn’t get power attack unless I knew for sure that I was going to have a really high rate of successful attacks.
Piranha Strike(Sargava, the Lost Colony): Essentially power attack without the strength requirement, and useable with only finessable weapons.
Quick Draw: This can be bad to good depending on your GM’s decision. If he allows you to draw metamagic rods as a free action with this feat, then it’s worth a look (see the items: metamagic rod section for details). If not, this only lets you get out a spare weapon faster. But typically, it okay to spend a move action doing that, and it won’t hurt that much.
Maximized Spellstrike: Interesting... The 3 arcane points to activate it can be a hefty price tag, although you can use it as many times per day as you want. It also does require the target to have their dexterity bonus to AC removed (which is one of the debuffs listed in the frostbite build). The part I like is that you don’t have to decide to use it until after you find out whether or not you are going to critically hit your target. Critical Maximized Intensified Shocking Grasps deal 120, not including the weapon swing itself. So, IF you know your enemies will be without their dexterity bonus to AC fairly frequently, give this a look.
Step Up: Staying close to enemies can be nice, especially if that enemy is a caster trying to cast a spell.
Following Step: 10 feet versus 5 feet isn’t much of a difference… but still being able to 5 foot step on your next turn is nice improvement to step up.
Step up and strike: Another great way to get an AoO, though it takes three feats to get here…
Toughness: A great way to boost your HP, effectively giving you +1 to your con modifier.
Dazzling Display: A prerequisite, it doesn’t have much value on it’s own. Being able to intimidate a bunch of people all at once can be nice, but with enforcer you can apply it to single targets as free actions. So, a “meh” feat in and of itself.
Shatter Defenses: Really, really good for the frostbite build after level 13 when you start to add your intelligence modifier to flat footed opponents. Before level 13 though, it’s not really worth it.
Disheartening Display(Advanced Class Guide): I really, really like this feat, and can make Dazzling Display worthwhile to use. Used twice in a row and any enemies within 30 ft not immune to fear run away.
Deadly Stroke: Times two damage on one attack. This can sound nifty, but it really doesn’t add to your damage by the time you can get this. Only situationally helpful, kinda like Vital Strike.
Weapon Specialization: +2 damage per hit, there are better things you could get… but it can be nice if there’s nothing else that suits you (though there should be by level 7).
Greater Weapon Specialization: More +2 damage per hit. By this point, at level 15, there’s a lot of better options for a feat. Pass.
Bloody Assault: 1d4 bleed damage that doesn’t stack. And you take a -5 penalty. PASS!
Dazing Assault: -5 to attacks to have a chance to daze your opponents (BaB + 10 fort save), this can be quite good… dazed means they can’t take any actions. Combine this will casting true strike and a single enemy will be locked down fairly well.
Stunning Assault: You can’t qualify for this… Sorry!
Enforcer: Essential to the frostbite build, this allows you a free intimidate check when you hit someone with nonlethal damage.
Extra Arcana: Arcana can be better than feats, if you have spare feats, invest in arcana!
Extra Arcane Pool: I’m not so sure about this one. Since you will be pumping intelligence really, really high, you won’t be needing more arcane pool points that often.
Destructive Dispel: If you successfully cast dispel magic, they are stunned (If they fail a save versus the spell). With dispelling critical or a dispelling weapon, you can get dispels off fairly often, though I wouldn’t really bother with it personally.
Dispel Synergy: Not really worth a feat, because it only lasts one turn and it’s situational.
Pin Down: You can get this at level 15, but if you are trying to find a way to keep enemies close without using your own 5-foot step, this is great. This can also be vicious when used with reach. If they try to charge you, trip them with your AoO. If they try to 5-foot step to get closer, use an AoO to prevent them from moving. Especially wonderful for your area lockdown build involving trip and/or daze, literally preventing anything from moving.
Stage Combatant: I put this here for the DM’s who don’t allow enforcer to work with frostbite (though they should be few and far between). Makes it possible to deal nonlethal damage without worrying about the -4 to hit.
Lunge: A wonderful feat, this allows you to spell combat without having to cast defensively. Reach is awesome to have, and the -2 to AC isn’t too big of a deal. Though this reach doesn’t last for attacks of opportunities.
Weapon Finesse: If your dexterity based, YES! Get this.
Dervish Dance (The Inner Sea World Guide): You deal more damage. Actually a lot more damage. Assuming your dexterity gets up to around 30, it’s +10 more damage per hit, assuming you have 10 strength. But if your campaign allows the agile weapon enchantment (Pathfinder Society Field Guide), like in PFS, I’d rate this a little lower. Feats are more important than gold. Only for scimitars, and unless you're human you have to wait until level 3.
Slashing Grace (Advanced Class Guide): An oddball. Note that it only adds dexterity to damage, not dexterity to attack, and so if you want the full benefits of dexterity with a one handed slashing weapon you’d have to take a 1 level dip into swashbuckler (Not a bad decision overall, actually). Would be purple if there wasn’t a dip requirement to get full mileage. But note: if you take the dip, you can get this at first level.
Improved Critical: It’s either this or getting Keen on your weapons. Exchanging feats for money = bad. There are other better feat options available.
Critical Focus: +4 to critical confirmation rolls is nice to have, but what you really, really want is the stuff that follows. Note that I rate the stuff with saves lower, because they have a chance to fail. The save for any of these (unless noted otherwise) is BaB + 10 fortitude save.
Critical Mastery: Yes, you can qualify for this now as a Kensai, allowing you to have two critical effects on your enemies.
*Accursed Critical: Requires a spell to critically hit, which is easier for you than any other class. Though you don’t have the spell curse, so don’t bother with this.
*Bleeding Critical: No save, 2d6 (7 average) bleed damage that stacks with itself. This is a really good one in my opinion, it always works, and unless they want to spend an action to stop the bleeding or have someone magically heal them it’s gonna hurt. And it stacks… Just wow on that part. It’s quite possible to be dealing 6d6 bleed after a round or two. This does NOT stack with other bleed effects though, so choose either this or the Arcane Edge arcana.
*Blighted Critical: Since you’ll be having spells critical hit, these are worth talking about. The lesser blights are not that good generally, and it’s chosen randomly. So, “eh”. The best one I see for mid combat potential is Ritualistic Obsession, increasing casting times even for quickened spells. Overall, I feel that spell blights are too situational.
*Blighted Critical Mastery: Choose what spell blight to apply. If you want to spend two feats getting spell blights, I’d rather choose Greater Blighted Critical and roll to see what they get than having to choose what minor spell blight to apply.
*Greater Blighted Critical: Any one of these can really mess over a caster. I personally like Spell Sap, which involves a fortitude save or be dazed, which is traditionally low for casters.
*Blinding Critical: A decent option, blind is a VERY good debuff, especially if you have a rogue in your party who can now get sneak attacks off on the blinded target without any flanking. Not to mention that your target now has a 50% chance to miss. The downside is, once again, the save. If they succeed, your target gets a -1 to attack rolls, which is alright…
*Crippling Critical: Halve a target’s speed. This could be good for the frostbite build if you think about it: Half their speed and halve it again. But honestly, I don’t like this one so much, since you WANT to be in melee, and the other uses are for fleeing characters.
*Deafening Critical: Being deafened isn’t too good… I can see it being useful for spell casters but not for anything else. Pass.
*Dispelling Critical: I’m kind of “eh” on this one. Its saves some time to get a dispel out, but you can also cast dispel magic with spell combat. So it doesn’t help you that much, I’d prefer a greater dispelling weapon, because it increase your odds of the dispel working, and it doesn’t require a swift action.
*Impaling Critical: This sounds cool, but takes away from your ability to use spell strike. Not to mention that it requires a piercing weapon… There are other, better options.
*Improved Impaling Critical: Not much of an upgrade for a feat we didn’t really want to begin with. Pass.
*Sickening Critical: Not for the frostbite build, since sickening your enemies is already on that list. This will automatically debuff the enemy, for a -2 to attack rolls and damage. I’d personally get something else.
*Staggering Critical: A great option. It has a save… but the least that happens is that they are staggered for one round instead of 1d4+1 rounds. Staggered is a powerful debuff, and since you’ll be landing critical hits often, this is a great choice.
*Stunning Critical: Also a good option, being stunned means you can’t do ANYTHING. If they succeed, they are staggered for 1d4 rounds. In and of itself, a very good feat, but you would already have staggering critical, and I often find that’s good enough. Not to mention you have to wait until level 17 to get this…
*Tiring Critical: Fatigued isn’t that great of a debuff. Pass.
*Exhausting Critical: Exhausted is pretty good, but not worth two feats. Pass.
*Only one feat with an asterisk can be used on any one critical hit, unless you have critical mastery, then you can apply two of these.
METAMAGIC feats (of note):
Quick note here, you don’t want to be getting tons of metamagic feats, you’re not a full caster, you don’t have the spell slots to justify that. Instead, get one or two that’ll you will use often, and then get the rest as metamagic rods. You have to be holding a metamagic rod to use it though… we’ll talk about how that works in a bit in the items section. Since you are limited so much on spell slots, I’ll be rating metamagic feats with more than a +1 to the spell level a little more harshly.
Intensified Spell: Ummm… yes? This will turn your shocking grasp from your number one damage spell for 5 levels to number one damage spell for 10 levels, if not more.
Rime Spell: A really good choice if you plan on using frostbite a lot. Even though it only lasts one round (with frostbite), it does add more to the debuffing. And since frostbite lasts multiple rounds worth of combat, you will be able to entangle multiple enemies. If you're not going to be using frostbite a lot, don’t get this.
Quicken Spell: It’s a classic… but really not that great for you. +4 spell levels… that hurts a lot for someone who doesn’t have a lot of spell slots to begin with. There are better options out there. If you really want this, consider it’s metamagic rod equivalent, or get spell perfection.
Elemental Spell: Being a one trick pony can suck sometimes, relying on shocking grasp or frostbite only means that you can have a bad day against enemies immune to electrical or cold damage. Elemental Spell can make it not suck so bad, especially if you know you will be fighting those kinds of enemies that day.
Penetrating Spell: Bypassing SR is great, this gives you +5 spell penetration for +1 spell level. If you are having trouble conquering Spell Resistance, take it, there’s not many melee touch spells level 4 and beyond anyways.
Empower Spell: Increases spell variables by 50%. So, a 4th level shocking grasp would deal 6d6 damage. My issue with it is that it’s a +2 to the spell level. So… bleh, good for a metamagic rod. Average damage increase with CL 10 shocking grasp is 17.5.
Maximize Spell: Spell variables automatically deal 100% damage. So a 5th level shocking grasp now automatically deals 30 damage. Pretty sweet, though I’d get this as the arcana, since it doesn’t increase the spell level that way (though it is only once per day…). Average damage increase to a CL 10 shocking grasp is 25
Dazing Spell: I really like this one. Traditional Magi try to avoid save effects, since they know their intelligence won’t be too terribly high. Kensai want high intelligence, and so the saves on this can become fairly difficult to resist. A great choice for a metamagic rod, use it on frostbite before battle and for the first few rounds you’ll be dazing foes right and left. Great for area lockdown builds too. Using it on frostbite does diminish effectiveness later in levels though.
Spell Perfection: This can be great for use with those bursty touch attack spells. Quicken Spell is a natural line up to use as your free metamagic, and shocking grasp makes a great spell to focus on to. The feat does have some lengthy prerequisites, making you have to choose between Critical feats or this, but if want to focus more on spell casting, this is what you should aim for (If your game is campaign is going to make it into the higher levels).
Heighten Spell: Make a spell a higher level for the sake of making it a higher level… Hmmm, it only really helps out with save spells, or for other metamagic that have varying effects based on spell level (such as Dazing Spell and Rime Spell). In most cases, this is just a prerequisite.
Preferred Spell: Since you don’t have spell recall, this can be –very- good, allowing you to choose between those utility spells you don’t need today and you’re in combat spells of choice (probably shocking grasp, it really is that good). Green because of the prerequisite.
The Dimensional Feats:
Just wanted to take a side note here and mention these. They are awesome, though it’s quite feat intensive and requires a 4th level spell per use… That’s a 16k pearl of power for an extra use every day. So it’s quite expensive, but it can be very effective. It is late game use too, because of the requirements, so it would be replacing critical feats. After looking at them, they are more suited for the traditional magus, who has spell recall and can trade two arcane points for a dimension door. But, if you want to see what they are…
Dimensional Agility: This feat lets you use your move action and swift action after you cast dimension door. So a quickened spell for a free weapon attack would work. Though you still could full attack, and then use dimension door via spell combat, then use your quickened spell. So this feat doesn’t add too much.
Dimensional Assault: This one I could care less for, it just allows you to charge through rough terrain. Or you could just teleport next to them and full attack after you get the next feat, just saying.
Dimensional Dervish: Officially, you can full attack and cast this spell as a swift action. Awesome! And… if you want to teleport between attacks you can without expending anymore uses of dimension door! If you don’t use all of your teleportation distance, you can give yourself the space you want away from your enemies. This is the feat that you really want.
Dimensional Savant: Give yourself flanking, an extra +2 to hit. Sounds good to me!
Naturally, you won’t be able to get every good item you want right off the bat, so when reading through these choices and considering what you want, do some comparison and ask yourself what is more important. I made this section with the thought that you could reach level 20 with your character, which has a WBL of 880,000 gold, which is a TON. Hence why there are so many items listed, I bring up a good option for every slot of gear you can wear.
Choosing what weapon you will use is a very important decision. Normally, flat damage is the leading factor, but because of Spell Strike, your weapon’s critical threat range now applies to the spells it delivers. Therefore, having a high critical range is very important. I will not list all of the weapons available, just the few best and most commonly used.
Wakashaszi 1d6 18-20x2 light weapon: This is one of the first options to consider when deciding to go with a dexterity build. It can be weapon finessed immediately, but it requires the agile enchantment to get dexterity to damage.
Scimitar 1d6 18-20x2 one hand weapon: Very common weapon of choice for magi, simply because of the dervish dance feat. Same stats as the wakizashi, though note that you cannot get the benefits of the dueling enchantment with this weapon.
Rapier 1d6 18-20x2 one hand weapon: The go to weapon for dueling flavor. Technically, this is better than a Wakizashi because it’s more common and it has a few more HP, unless you plan on using quick draw to duel wield every other round, then this falls behind.
Katana 1d8 18-20x2 one hand weapon: Weapon of choice for most Kensai magi, both strength and dexterity (When Slashing Grace is available). As a reminder to strength magi, when you don’t cast a spell wield your weapon with both hands to apply extra damage from strength and power attack. Other identical choices include the Urumi and the Rhoka Sword, though most prefer the Katana for flavor.
Whip 1d3 20x2 one hand weapon: Used in a few rare cases of Kensai who want to focus on area lockdown. See the whip build above. The weapon itself is really not that good at all, the only reason is it is the only one handed weapon that has reach, though it takes feats to get it to threaten.
Bardiche 1d10 19-20x2 reach: This is possibly the only weapon I could see someone dipping two levels into barbarian or three levels into fighter for (From the sources mentioned at the beginning at least). It gains reach like a whip without requiring feats. It has the best critical threat range for any reach weapon, and deals quite a bit of damage. Though it’s not finessable, so strength magi only.
Fauchard (Classic Horrors Revisited) 1d10 18-20x2 reach and trip: An improved version of the Bardiche, if you can get this weapon and you are planning on using a 2 hander, take this. In a bit of an out of the way book though.
Elven Curve Blade/Spiked Chain: I mention these two for those who wish to take a two level dip into Titan Mauler (Barbarian archetype) For the Elven Curve Blade, you dipped two levels for a -2 penalty just to get an extra 1 damage on average per hit? No thank you. The spiked chain has the same concept, though it’s even worse when you consider that it only has a 20x2 threat range.
You can also use a small weapon with reach. Technically, a two handed weapon becomes a one handed weapon when it’s one size category smaller. If you got a small Bardiche (or Fauchard) as a medium character, you would technically have reach. But that’s cheesy. Try to avoid cheese, ok?
As a note, you should be carrying multiple weapons, so situational abilities are worth looking at for those extra weapons. When it comes to weapons, you really shouldn’t pay for a weapon with a total of bonuses higher than +5, because your arcane pool will add +5 (at level 17) and it cannot exceed the +10 limit. Therefore, you’ll be spending 50,000 gold for magic enchantments for your endgame weapon, while your teammates will be spending 200,000. You can effectively get 4 times as many weapons as your teammates. I would carry at least two weapons with you.
Allying: You’re the one attacking right? Not for you.
Anchoring: Can provide some really, really useful utility, especially since you will have multiple weapons. Good for one of those backup weapons that you may be willing to lose. The only issue I see is that it uses a swift action to use, and you already have a TON of swift actions that you're using. But imagine using this with reach. Prevent them from moving, step back, and stab at them until they either move the weapon (DC 30 strength, very hard to do) or sunder it (if they don’t have improved sunder, they are provoking attacks of opportunity).
Holy/Unholy/Anarchic/Axiomatic: “Eh”, 2d6 (7) is twice as good as flaming, but it only works against certain opponents. Utility and consistency is what you’re looking for, pass.
Repositioning/Countering/Advancing: More “eh”. These correspond to reposition, disarm, and taking a 5ft step as a swift action respectively, none of which are that great of combat maneuvers for the Kensai.
Bane: Situational, so maybe it’s good for that spare weapon you have with ghost touch for those pesky undead. But if you plan on getting the bane arcana, pass this.
Benevolent: You’re the one attacking right? Pass.
Brilliant Energy: This one can be great against heavily armored fighters, but otherwise it’s fairly useless. But when it is useful… It’s amazing. Put it on a spare weapon though, or if you want, get it as the arcana.
Called: Teleport your weapon back to your hand, and uses a swift action. If they disarmed you, you should’ve had a weapon chain on so no need for this. The other situations could be: item is removed from your possession due to storyline, or you want your anchoring weapon back without walking to it to retrieve it. Orange unless you know you will be using it.
Conductive: You don’t have of those abilities, so not for you. Pass.
Corrosive/*Frosting/*Flaming/*Shocking: You can get these with your class feature, except for corrosive. What is the main purpose of your weapon? First: To hit your target (Landing your spells is most important!). Second: To deal damage. They each add 1d6 damage to each weapon hit, an average of 3.5 damage per successful hit. If you need a 10 to hit, then that’s 1.75 more damage on average per swing, this is important when comparing to the burst enchantments…
Corrosive Burst/*Frosting Burst/ *Flaming Burst/*Shocking Burst: Once again you can get most of these with your arcane pool. In addition to granting the base 1d6 (3.5) extra damage, you also get a 1d10 (5.5) on a crit. Is it worth it? Assuming you need a 10 to hit, a 15 to threat, and a 2 to confirm (With critical perfection and critical focus with 5 intelligence) you’ll be adding 1.5675 damage per swing. Slightly worse than just their base enchantments. At level 20 though, that number doubles, making it very worth it. Also you can spend 2 arcane points to increase your weapons critical multiplier by 1 when you confirm a critical hit. The second option isn’t that great unless you had multiple of these enchantments on your weapon, or you have tons of arcane pool to spend.
Courageous: Situational, but it can be EXTREMELY valuable if you are getting moral bonuses… It can also be good if you have a cleric casting bless on everyone. That +1 to attacks rolls just became +3. There’s a LOT of synergy that can happen with this weapon enchantment and the wide list of spells available. So talk with your party and find out what buffs they’ll be passing out. If you have random groups, keep this on a secondary weapon.
Cruel: Very nice to have if you go with the frostbite route. A target with any form of fear is now sickened as well. Very nice. If you don’t have a way to make opponents shakened, don’t get it.
Cunning: A trap, since you don’t need any more critical threat confirmation addition, not to mention it’s not that great of a bonus.
Dancing: An interesting option. Because you only need to pay for the equivalent of a +5 weapon (you get the rest through arcane pool, and you can’t exceed 10), you’ll have some extra cash flowing around in the weapon department. Also since you almost have a free hand to grab it, you’ll be able to retrieve this as a free action and stow it away as a move action… Yet it doesn’t get the benefits of your strength or dexterity modifier, or your feats to hit, so unless you have A TON of money flowing around, pass on this one, and even then, really consider if you want to spend a standard action to get a weapon fighting for you that hits rather rarely.
Deadly: You are not really going to have issues with non-lethal weapons. If you use a whip, Whip Mastery makes your attacks deal lethal damage (And you’ll probably be getting that feat if you use whips)
Defending: Can be good at times, but armor costs half as much as weapons… so why bother? This is really a good option for a backup weapon, and only if you feel like you’ll be getting attacked a lot.
Defiant: Not worth it, unless you get an improved save feat (such as improved great fortitude), then this bumps up quite a bit for those planning on taking the bodyguard feat (If your AC high, they’ll try to aim for your saves…).
Dispelling: Exchange a +1 bonus for a situational action economy saver? Nah, no thanks, if you need dispel magic that bad, just cast it, since the spell is more versatile than the weapon.
Greater Dispelling: Same as dispelling, can but can hold greater dispel magic, and it can add your weapon’s enhancement bonus twice over if you use its ability on a critical hit. This makes it a little more worth it, since caster level checks are the issue with dispel magic. Yet… it’s now a +2 bonus. A good idea for one of your secondary weapons (You know, the one to kill mages).
Disruption: I’m going to voice my dislike of saves on items: they just don’t get high enough. Pass them all.
Dueling: Doesn’t use a bonus, gives a +4 bonus on initiative checks when it’s drawn… This is up your alley. Take it when you can afford it (level 13+). Note that there’s another Dueling weapon enchantment from the Pathfinder Society Field Guide which is extremely good for combat maneuvers. Also a blue enchantment
Furious: Not for you… unless you have rage spells casted on you a lot or you dipped barbarian, and then it’s quite good for it’s cost (as long as you think you’ll be raging 100% of combat).
Furyborn: You have to hit the same target 5 times or more (you spent 2 on it, so 0+1+2+3+4 = 10, where you could have had 2+2+2+2+2 = 10) to make this break even, and you cannot attack other enemies, so say goodbye to using all of your AoO’s on the enemies passing you. Or you could just get something else…
Ghost Touch: Situational, good for that spare weapon you keep around, for the occasional ghost encounter. Though if you have the ghost touch arcana, this becomes a lot less valuable.
Glammered: Flat cost helps keep your weapon from being stolen or taken from you during a frisking, have this on at least of your weapons late game.
Glorious: Dazzled isn’t that great, and the save is so low that by the time you get this, nobody will be blinded. Not worth a +2 bonus.
Grayflame: Not for you.
Grounding: Too situational.
Guardian: Killing an enemy is more important than defending against attacks, so don’t sacrifice your ability to hit them to raise your saves.
Heartseeker: Ignore concealment? That’s really good, since landing blows is what you really need to do. Though this can be situational though… At least spare weapon worthy.
Huntsman: Not for you.
Igniting: Catching on fire deals 1d6 of damage, and an additional 1d6 damage for every round they don’t save. Not as good as a bursting weapon, since the save to put out flames is 15 reflex.
Impact: Not worth it unless your weapon deals 1d8 or more before this bonus. A 1d6 (3.5) becoming a 1d8 (4.5) is an average increase of 1 damage… where you could get a +2 bonus to your weapon. A 1d8 (4.5) becomes a 2d6 (7), an average increase of 2.5, a little better… Probably better for the strength magus who uses polymorph effects to increase in size. Note that this damage does increase on a critical hit.
Impervious: Flat cost to make your weapon harder to break, awesome. Get this when you have cash pouring out of your pockets (literally, do you know how much 100,000 gold weighs?). Also good for your anchoring weapon…
Invigorating: Just not good enough to justify a +2 bonus cost.
Jurist: Not for you.
*Keen: YES!!!!! This cries out “PICK ME! OH PICK ME!” Your 18-20 critical threat range just became a 15-20. Unless you are using a whip or going for a reach weapon, you should ALWAYS get keen (or the improved critical feat). Always!
Ki Focus: Not for you. Unless you decided to get stunning fist (or any of those other monk feats), but then I would have to ask you why you got a feat with a save based on your wisdom while not being a monk…
Ki Intensifying: Not for you.
Lifesurge: Situational, it does synergize well with vampiric touch, although it doesn’t add that much. I’d consider it for my back-up weapon that has ghost touch on it, call it my anti-undead blade.
Limning: Too situational, pass.
Menacing: Situational, if an ally NEEDS flanking, they should be the one to get this.
Merciful: An interesting option for the frostbite build, but really not that great.
Mighty Cleaving: I guess if you got cleave this could be interesting… but why get cleave? You don’t want a lot of enemies near you, you’re not the meat shield.
Mimetic: Situational again… Elementals don’t deal their type in regular damage unless they are casting a spell, though a dragon does do its type in damage. It only lasts for 1 round though, so pass on it even for the spare blades.
Negating: Doesn’t really help much, since those types of damage reduction can be bypassed with a +5 enhancement bonus on your weapon, which you can get easily by the time you consider this.
Neutralizing/Quenching/Thawing: WAY too situational.
Nullifying: Decent because the main thing blocking your spells is sell resistance… but not good enough to justify a +3 bonus.
Ominous: Once again, too low of a save. The bonus on intimidate checks can be helpful for the frostbite build, but succeeding on intimidate checks is already easy.
Phase Locking: VERY situational, but if your campaign involves a lot of teleporting bad guys, then it is a *decent* option, since you have to hit them every single round. The spell itself is MUCH better.
Planar: Situational again. And remember that a lot of outsider damage reductions can be bypassed with weapon materials.
Seaborne: Situational, but worth considering for a water based campaign.
Speed: You can cast haste yourself, or get boots of speed. Not worth a +3.
Spell Storing: Mediocre to good, depending on what your DM says about its interaction with spells like frostbite and chill touch. If he says it can hold charges, allowing you to get the full effect of those spells from this weapon, AWESOME! Take this! (Essentially, it lets you have your weapon use frostbite for you, while you cast your own spells) If not, then it’s useful for storing vamparic touch for the extra boost to HP when you need it. This also synergizes well with the empowered and maximized arcana’s. Because they don’t increase the spell’s level, they’d still fit inside of a spell storing weapon, making that emergency vampiric touch even more powerful. Or a shocking grasp.
Spellstealing: I personally really like this ability, although it is fairly situational. By the time you get it, it can be really good. It affects SLA (Spell Like Abilities) and Spells, so very anti caster, and the further you get in levels, the more and more you will be fighting creatures with magic. Secondly, you can spend 2 points from your arcane pool and increase the critical multiplier by +1, so you could potentially steal 2 spells. I give it a green. If you have an anti mage blade, this should be on it.
Stalking: Only lasts one hit, and is situational. Pass.
Throwing: … Please don’t throw your weapon…
Thundering: The save isn’t that good, but since it’s a +1 bonus you can get it fairly early on when it might work, though deafened isn’t the best debuff (making an enemy deafened permanently can have interesting role play potential…), and the additional damage is not as good as the burst enhancements. BUT if you want to make a weapon with ALL of the critical hit procs, this could is an option to top it off (though… why? You’d spend ALL of your 10 bonuses slots for those, and you’d be missing Keen ).
Transformative: I don’t really see the point in this for a class that focuses on using only ONE kind of weapon.
Valiant: Not for you;
Vicious: If you had about 5 Damage Reduction, this would be worth it. But you don’t.
Vorpal: Most of the DM’s I’ve had have banned this, but if it’s not, it is an option… I’d keep it as a side weapon personally, and take it out for those fights that have really hard to take down opponents that die if they lose their heads... Since your critical confirmation rolls will be amazing by this point, when you do get a 20 on your roll the confirmation should be pretty easy. Synergizes well with a luck domain cleric (makes the odds of a 20 a 9.75% chance instead of 5%).
WONDROUS ITEMS (Just a few of note):
Belt of Constitution and Dexterity/Strength: Best belt slot choice, start off with a belt of dexterity or a belt of strength and then when you have the money get the belt that gives +6 to two stats so you can also have +6 to constitution (For the HP and fortitude saves).
Otherworldly Kimono (67,000): Are you man enough to wear a Kimono with blossoms on it? As it turns out, this is insanely good, it can replace the need for a cloak of resistance (which only gets up to +5), adds +4 (or 6) to caster level checks (such as when dispelling or overcoming spell resistance) and it can cast maze, a no save spell that can hold a stupid character trapped for a long time (10 mins). The Kimono does cost a bit, so more worth it at later levels, like 15+.
Robe of the Archmage (75,000): Mentioning this because it’s a little bit of a trap. First, the AC bonus doesn’t stack with the Silken Ceremonial Armor that you’ll be enchanting. Second, Spell Resistance is a double edged sword, it makes it harder for your allies to buff you too. The bonus to saves can be covered by a cloak or Kimono, and the enhancement bonus to caster level checks is the only thing that’s of any good on this. Pass.
Boots of Speed (12,000): A good back-up plan for when you or the party wizard can’t cast haste, or would prefer to be doing other things. But that should be a rare enough occurrence.
Sandals of Quick Reaction (4,000): Since you automatically get to act in the surprise round at level 13, and also since you’ll have great initiative, might as well get a full attack off on your opponents before they ever realized you were there.
Gloves of Arcane Striking (5,000): Really, really good for the bodyguard build.
Glove of Storing (10,000): One way to use metamagic rods. See that section for a full description.
Gauntlets of the Skilled Maneuver (4,000): If you are going with a trip build, these can help you get more trips off, +2 bonus. Though it doesn’t apply to tripping strike…
Jingasa of the Fortunate Soldier (5,000): +1 AC and the ability to avoid a critical hit on you once per day. A good, cheaper item for your head slot.
Crown of Conquests (24,600): This item, while expensive, can be a nice boon if you need more skill in intimidate. It’s also nice for prayer, which both aids your allies and hinders your foes with each critical strike. More debuffs, yay!
Tunic of Careful Casting (5,000): Add 2 to your concentration checks, or you can get spell guard bracers.
Sipping Jacket (5,000): Swift action use a potion, not a bad thing, but it does require prep work. Look at the ideas for wands to see if there’s any potions you’d like to have mid combat.
Quick Runners Shirt (1,000): Good, cheap, and very powerful, this will allow you to get into position and still full attack 3 times a day. Does use a swift though.
Headband of Intelligence/Wisdom: As with the belt, start with intelligence and when you have the spare gold get the headband that gives +6 to two stats so you can also have +6 to wisdom (For the will saves)
Cloak of Resistance (bonus ^ 2 * 1000): An excellent back slot item, it’s cheap and helps you not lose against spell casters.
Cloak of Displacement, Minor (24,000): I actually prefer the minor one, since it’s a constant effect blur (20% concealment), whereas the major one only allows 15 rounds a day of its effect, and since it doesn’t mention what action it takes, it’s defaults to a standard action(though it was probably intended to be a free action). A good choice.
Spell guard Bracers (5,000): +2 to casting defensively, and you can reroll defensive casting checks 3 times a day. Sweet deal.
Ring of Deflection (bonus ^ 2 * 2000): Deflection bonus to AC, better than natural armor since it also increases both touch and flat footed AC.
Ring of Arcane Mastery (20,000): I like this ring just for the idea of storing arcane pool. 4 arcane points can really turn things around. Late game item though.
Rings of Wizardry: Just wanted to note on these, they are NOT worth it. Here’s why: For you, a ring of wizardry adds at most 4 more spell slots since you’re a Kensai Magus. Pearls of Power are cheaper. The table below is the price differences. The ONLY benefits is that you don’t have to spend miniscule amounts of time between combats recalling your spells, and you can prepare a large variety of spells (though not any more).
Ring of Wizardry
Four Pearls of Power of equivelant level
Silken Ceremonial Armor/Haramaki: No arcane spell failure chance or armor check penalty, either of these will be what you will be wearing. +1 AC, but more importantly, it can be enchanted without the restrictions of bracers of armor. Also consider Mage Armor potions and wands, although Mage Armor is not on your spell list so you do have to make a UMD check of 20. But it lasts for an hour, so you wont have to make that check often. Between the Haramaki and Silken Ceremonial Armor, I use the Ceremonial armor more, it seems more flavorful :P.
Mithril Buckler: BAD IDEA. Magi’s use mithril bucklers to add +1 ac to their armor, but since you as a kensai lose your intelligence modifier to AC when you use a shield or wear anything more than light armor, this is a terrible idea.
Metamagic rods are… hard to use. To use a rod, you have to be holding it, and that can be a very rough thing to accomplish. The simplest approach is to be a tiefling with the prehensile tail racial trait. You can hold a rod with your tail and continue fighting with no extra effort, though this is debatable, so check with your GM before making decisions based off of that.
When it comes to actually having another arm, there are a couple ways to do this. First, and probably easiest, is polymorph spells. Monstrous Physique has a couple forms with four arms, those would work. It’s questionable as to whether or not Elemental Body can assume a form with four arms, but since Elemental Body is already really good for you, I wouldn’t push it. Dipping 2 levels into Alchemist and taking the Vestigal Arm discovery gives you another arm.
Another option involves gloves of storing. Free action take out a rod, free action store your weapon, cast your spell, free action take out your weapon, free action put away your rod. Lots of free actions, which can limited by your GM (not to mention you still need a free action for spell strike!)
The last option involves using quick draw to pull out your weapon after using and dropping your metamagic rod. An improved familiar or unseen servant can then pick up the rod. The downside of this is that handing a rod back to you is technically a move action on your part (I’d argue that it’s a standard action on your familiar’s part, considering the feat “Deceitful exchange”). So another method could involve having your familiar or unseen servant place the rod into an efficient quiver for you. Either A. Players say that handing an item to another creature requires that creature to spend a move action (A strict RAW interpretation, probably not RAI), or B. they say that putting a weapon or rod into your sheath requires some sort of check (A non RAW concept, mostly RAI). If none of these options work for you, then consider metamagic rods only for outside of combat situations.
Quicken Metamagic Rod (35,000; 75,500): This can be really awesome. Spewing out a couple spells in a single round can deal TONS of damage and will drop foes quickly. Also, one of easiest ones to use since your not modifying the spell cast during spell combat. Only green because of its high price.
Extend Metamagic Rod (3,000; 11,000): Great for buffing, this will make the spells you like most (like haste or stoneskin) stay around longer. Not to mention that this rod is rather cheap in comparison to the others.
Dazing Metamagic Rod (14,000; 54,000): I really like the idea of this and frostbite, since frostbite will give you many chances to daze your opponent. If you are not using the frostbite build, consider this an orange. Daze is one of the best debuffs, by the way.
Maximize Metamagic Rod (14,000; 54,000): Automatically deal full damage, a maximized shocking grasp will deal 30 damage at level 5. A great spell to use this with is Vampiric Touch, since the more damage you deal you more temporary hit points you gain (up to a limit of how much it takes to kill the character).
Empower Metamagic Rod (9,000; 32,500): Spell variables are increased by 50%, this can add a little bit more damage to your Shocking Grasp or Vampiric Touch, though I’d personally go with a different rod like maximize (though maximize does cost more).
Intensified Metamagic Rod (3,000; 11,000): If you want to use this, get it as a feat. It only adds 1 to the spell level, and you’ll be using it quite frequently.
Echoing Metamagic Rod (14,000; 54,000): Metamagic rods work three times a day, and a pearl of power costs (spell level^2) * 1000. So, a 3rd level spell costs you 9,000 for a pearl (27,000 for three pearls) or 14,000 for a rod (3 times a day). So, when deciding to purchase 3rd, 5th or 6th level pearls of power, consider a metamagic rod of Echoing instead, you’ll save some gold (though it’s a bit more of a hassle working with metamagic rods)
Unfortunately, without the Arcana “Wand Wielder”, you can’t use spell combat with a wand. Furthermore, since using a wand doesn’t count as a casting a spell, you don’t get spell strike with them either. There are some benefits to that though.
Take, for example, how the frostbite build tends to have an active touch spell charge on almost constantly. If you by chance have access to the Weapon Wand spell from the Inner Sea Magic book, or more than two hands, you can use wands even while holding the charge.
With that combination in mind, consider the following:
Truestrike: +20 to your next attack, this will almost guarantee that your next will hit. Especially good for trip builds.
Shield: +4 AC for one minute, this frees up a spell slot or two.
Vanish: Good for getting into battles without provoking and scouting.
Grease: Grease is just a good spell, ok?
Unseen Servant: Excellent for disarms and when purposefully dropping weapons or rods.
Expeditious Retreat: You still get experience for running away from battles, so why not?
Knock: Open trapped doors without exposing yourself.
Infernal Healing (From the Inner Sea World Guide): The fast healing here will heal you more per charge than a wand of CLW will, but takes longer to gain it’s full benefits.
Invisibility: While a level 2 spell, this can help you scout, or to help your entire party sneak around.
With Weapon Wand (and wand wielder):
Mirror Strike: Only really worth it with weapon wand or multiple limbs, and only if your GM rules that hitting two targets with the same attack either releases two charges of frostbite or the conditions related to frostbite affect both targets.
Shocking Grasp: While you can’t spell strike with it, you can “use your weapon” to deliver it effects while using weapon wand. The weapon itself doesn’t do any damage with this hit though, but it begs the question as to if one of your frostbite charges will go off when the weapon hits.
Also, if you have ranks in UMD, consider these:
Mage Armor: Your armor bonus will be lower than +4 for awhile, this can be a good, cheap alternative for the low levels.
Cure Light Wounds: The standard healing wand, this is actually a little bit worse than infernal healing. It is good to give to a familiar who hides near you and heals every round.
Polymorphic Pouch (5,000): If you are planning on using polymorph spells, this can help a lot, keeping your important combat items accessible. If you get this, put your spell component pouch in here.
Pearls of Power (Spell Level ^ 2 * 1000): These little buggers are AWESOME. More spells = more damage. Get these, though they begin to be extremely pricey after the first few levels of spells.
Spell casting is at the heart of the Magus, but with so many spells available, it can become hard to choose which spells to learn and use. At the same time, it is a mistake to only have one spell that you rely on. You should have a least 2 different damage spells prepared in addition to your preferred spell (such as shocking grasp or frostbite). This will ensure that you are not useless in any situation.
Here’s a rundown of every spell available to the Kensai:
Adjuring Step: You can't attack while using this, so pass.
Blend(Elf): A good idea for scouting, since it makes it so you can use the stealth skill anywhere even when a monster is using see invisibility. Does not bypass Truesight though. Also, too situational to have prepared everyday.
Burning Hands: A great low level AoE damage spell, though your party might get mad at you for destroying items they would prefer to sell.
Chill Touch: A great way to deal with undead, this can be a good backup spell that will last you for several rounds when you face enemies immune to your other spells.
Color Spray: A -very- good low level spell. This can, as others have said, make GM’s cry. It of course loses effectiveness as you face tougher enemies. Every magus below level 3 should have one of these prepared. After level 5-6, stop preparing it.
Corrosive Touch: Inferior to shocking grasp, but it can serve as a “back-up” spell for facing enemies immune to electricity.
Enlarge Person: A decent low level buff, if you want reach this is the way to go. It is a full round cast time, so no spell combat, and the stat adjustments is geared for strength based magus’.
Expeditious Retreat: Utility spells are nice to have. This is one of those wand candidates though, since you probably won’t use this every day.
Feather Fall: Are you afraid of heights? It’s good to have one of when doing a dungeon crawl (pit traps beware!) or adventuring on a mountain. If not, then don’t prepare it.
Flare Burst: Dazzled isn’t that good of a debuff to give your enemies. Pass.
Floating Disk: This can have some good utility, though you don’t have that many spell slots to begin with. A wand of floating disk will get the same job done effectively.
Frostbite: The spell itself is decent, 1d6+CL non-lethal damage plus fatigued. The real sweetness is the debuffs you can stack onto it, and the fact that you get multiple touches per casting. That’s only if you invest in it though.
Grease: A good low level crowd control spell. I personally don’t care for it too much since there’s color spray, though having a wand of it on back-up for grappling is a good idea.
Hydraulic Push: Bull rush from a distance, or avoid an AoO. I personally prefer using a wand of truestrike and then pushing them, because it works more effectively. At later levels though, this can be an idea if you want to bull rush without losing all of your attacks.
Illusion of Calm: Defensive casting becomes really easy later, but at low levels it can be a challenge. Though I don’t think it’s worth a spell slot to prepare to cast another spell with a lesser chance of failure, especially since you can take a 5 foot step back.
Ironbeard(Drawf): The extra armor might have been helpful, but having a 20% chance to fail a large list of spells makes this a bad choice.
Jump: You can’t jump farther than your speed, so this is limited to out of combat uses.
Jury-Rig: Temporary fixer-uper. Nah, no thanks.
Linebreaker(Orc): American Football is now a sport among the orcs! Regardless, this only really helps if you plan on bull rushing.
Lock Gaze: Can be nice if you want to be a tank, but typically you don't want to be a tank. Will save ends it too.
Longshot: You don't use bows.
Magic Missle: Doesn’t do all that much damage, and your in melee, so this spell isn’t quite for you.
Magic Weapon: Doesn’t last long, and it doesn’t stack with masterwork weapons, which you’ll have by level 2. Pass.
Mirror Strike: This can be a good way to spread damage across several weaker foes, but then again it only works for one attack. It does present questions about status effects. If you are using frostbite, for example, do both targets become fatigued? But even in that situation it’s not that good as a spell (as a wand, maybe)
Mount: Good utility for traveling long distances, consider having it in your spellbook but not on your daily list.
Mudball (Goblin): With spell combat at lower levels, this isn’t a half bad spell at lower levels. Blind is a very effective debuff, especially if you have a rogue in the party.
Negative Reaction: An out of combat spell that can have some utility in some rare circumstance. Pass.
Obscuring Mist: Can you see through mist? You’ll be giving you and your enemies in melee combat higher chances to miss. If you are alone and surrounded by several enemies, or are being targeted by foes at range this is a good idea. Otherwise, you won’t really want to use it.
Ray of Enfeeblement: A good ranged touch attack, though you won’t be using rays all that often.
Reduce Person: A so-so buff even for dexterity magus’s. You’ll get +1 to attack, but you’ll lose 1 - 2 points of damage along with it.
Recharge Innate Magic(Gnome): Yay, you get one more use of your gnome spell like abilities… Not for you :P
Reinforce Armaments: Temporarily get rid of the fragile quality or you can give your weapon the masterwork quality for ten minutes. For normal use, this only helps out at level one when you don’t have a masterwork weapon. But if you decide that your weapons are prone to being sundered (such as when using the Anchoring weapon enchantment, see the special tactics section of this guide) then this becomes a very useful spell.
Returning Weapon: You shouldn't be throwing your weapons O.o.
Shield: Umm.. yes? Until you get a wand of shield, this is a great idea to have. Automatic +4 AC is golden for a melee character.
Shock Shield: Not as powerful as the shield spell for AC, and it's damage also effects you, pass.
Shocking Grasp: Your go to damage spell. Damage from this is really bursty (deals damage all at once) meaning you’ll have a better chance at living (since your foe will be dead at your feet). The +3 to hit is amazing, and it DOES affect your spellstrike attempt.
Silent Image: Great utility, it can lure enemies in closer to you while your party lies in ambush. Also great potential outside of combat when interacting with NPC’s.
Stone Fist: You can’t choose unarmed strikes as your chosen weapon, so there’s no reason for this spell for you.
True Strike: As a spell, it’s alright, though I’d prefer to do more damage. Later on though, a wand of truestrike is amazing to have against those hard to hit opponets.
Unerring Weapon: If you want a better chance for confirming critical hits, this will help, though it has to be cast in the middle of combat to be effective... I would say pass, but this can really help out the odds of having tripping strike work, and you will be threatening frequently.
Unseen Servant: Unseen servants will allow you to drop weapons and rods without the worry of enemies picking them up. If they can put stuff into your bags and sheaths while you're fighting, they are golden. If you plan on doing that, then get a wand of Unseen Servant instead of preparing a spell slot when you can afford it.
Vanish: Your get out of jail card for scouting, and getting into and out of position. Only rounds per level though, so it’s quite limited. Good to have a wand of this out and ready while scouting.
Warding Weapon: A round/level no longer need to make defensive casting checks. That can be nice, though casting a spell for defensive casting is just like not casting a spell for a round so you don’t risk wasting a spell, but worse...
Ablative Barrier: At first I thought this spell wasn’t that great, since there are other buffs you’d rather have. But then I realized that it’s duration was measured in hours. So, this becomes a decent defensive buff that you cast when you enter the dungeon. Converting 50 points of damage into non-lethal damage is pretty good for a level 2 spell, especially if you have a lot of spell slots.
Acid Arrow: I honestly don’t care for this spell, you specialize in being in melee and the damage isn’t that great. At higher levels this *might* be a an orange instead of a red.
Alter Self: Polymorph spells are only really good if they grant amazing stats or some utility (such as reach). This can provide some early darkvision, but you give up your own racials for it’s duration. Pass.
Animal Aspect: The only buff that stands out here is the Raptor Aspect, in those situations where you need a continuous +20 to your speed. I find that not good enough to warrant a level 2 spell though, as a 3rd level spell you'll get haste anyways and at level 1 you have expeditious retreat.
Bear’s Endurance: It’ll probably be awhile before you get a belt with constitution on it, so this is a great buff.
Bestow Weapon Proficiency: You’re the one that's supposed to hit things, right? Might be decent for a familiar...
Bladed Dash (Inner Sea Magic): This can be useful for getting in and out of combat. This will allow you to full attack and run away or close the gap and then full attack. This makes for great early level, mid combat mobility options. The movement doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity either.
Blood Transcription: IF YOU ARE EVIL, this is a good spell to have in your spellbook, but in your spell slots on a daily basis. This will allow you to get more spells into your spell book without having to pay gold.
Blur: I find this spell inferior to mirror image, but it can do more good if you are fighting 3 or 4 back to back encounters and the duration lasts the entire time. Otherwise, go with mirror image :).
Brow Gasher: If your opponents have no healers, this can be pretty nice, if they live past 3 rounds. After 5 rounds they're blind and now contributing very little to combat.
Bull’s Strength: +4 bonus to strength, meh. Might be good at first, but if you really need strength you’ll be getting a belt with it.
Burning Gaze: Uses a standard to give you a standard action attack. Not for you.
Cat’s Grace: Same as bull’s strength, but for dexterity. Good until you get a belt of dexterity, which isn’t far off by this point.
Darkness: In dim light this will give everyone some form of concealment to those without darkvision. Only helps if your entire party has darkvision though.
Defensive Shock: Only works if your hit, and you want to avoid that...
Effortless Armor: With this spell, you can wear some armors without taking a penalty to your attack roll, though you'd still suffer the arcane spell failure chance. I'd pass.
Elemental Touch: This is actually really nice, giving you a spell that can target a creature’s elemental weakness. It has the lasting effect like Chill Touch and Frostbite, so preparing 1/day for those monsters immune to your other touch spells is a good idea. The electrical version of this spell offers a stagger effect on a fortitude save too, which is very nice for low levels. It doesn’t scale at all, so it diminishes in effectiveness as you gain levels.
Escaping Ward (Halfing): You want to be in melee, not get out.
Fire Breath: A standard action to give yourself a standard action attack. Again, pass.
Flaming Sphere: Not the best, only really efficient if the targets stay still the entire duration and fail their reflex saves (Reflex COMPLETELY negates this).
Fog Cloud: As obscuring mist, but at range. Might be useful to prevent archers form shooting you, but obscuring mist can do that to.
Frigid Touch: No save, 4d6 damage and staggered. If it’s a critical hit (which you get a lot of) they are staggered for 1 min. Win spell. At least have one of these :)
Glitterdust: This can be excellent battlefield control, and allows for a rogue in the party to take advantage of sneak attacks. It stays as a great way to deal with invisible creatures throughout all levels, but you need to know where they are first. If you're okay with the thought of blinding yourself, cast it in your own square to make sure you get those invisible melee attackers :).
Ground Swell (Dwarf): There’s better spells than this, all it really seems to do it prevent flanking. Pass.
Gusting Wind (Slyph): As flaming sphere, but attempts bull rushes and only deals 1d6 nonlethal damage.
Gust of Wind: This has some good utility, though it’s not a prepare every day spell. Could be good to have in your spellbook however.
Imbue with Elemental Might (Sulis): Might be useful if you had a monk in the party, but the chances of that AND you being a Sulis is pretty low...
Invisibility: Vanish can get most jobs done, making invisibility less important. But invisibility is not limited to just yourself, so this is worth considering once you have a lot of spell slots.
Levitate: Since you rely on attack rolls, this doesn’t help you at all in combat. Not to mention you want to be in melee… But outside of combat it can have some utility.
Minor Image: Silent image with sound! Silent image will take care of get any job you need done, making minor images and it’s improved versions somewhat useless.
Mirror Image: Umm… Yes? This gives you better chances to escape a hit than any other form of concealment. I cannot tell you how many times this has saved my characters life.
Mount, Communal: Pretty nice if your party has no mounts and you're trying to get from point A to point B. I wouldn't prepare it everyday, but it's worth knowing.
Pilfering Hand: This spell can actually work for disarm and steal combat maneuvers, but a situation I’d prefer it in is trying to disable a trap from a distance. If you're the party scout, get this. If not, then well… I personally wouldn’t get it.
Pyrotechnics: For debuffing, this is great, though it doesn’t provide too much utility. You’ll be in melee too, so the fire would have to be perfectly placed to not affect you while affecting the creature you're engaging.
Reinforce Armaments, Communal: As it's single target version, but by this point almost everybody has masterwork or better weapons, so pass.
Reloading Hands: You're not going to be using ranged weapons...
Returning Weapon, Communal: Throwing things is rude!
Savage Maul(Half-Orc): Not for you, since your attacks during spell combat are limited to your weapon.
Scorching Ray: If you're prevented from being in melee, this is a good spell to have. Otherwise, pass.
Shatter: Not really that useful. Also, you won't’ be fighting crystalline creatures that often, and it’s not any better than shocking grasp in that regard. Pass.
Spider Climb: Not that useful for you, you want to be in melee, and if you need it later, there’s fly.
Stone Call: A good way to create difficult terrain, and it causes some damage. Decent battlefield control.
Stone Shield (Oread): I’M THE AVATAR! This spell always reminds me of earthbenders from “Avater: The Last Airbender”. It should be a level 1 spell though, so this becomes not so great.
Tactical Acumen: Not really for you, since it doesn't stack with arcane accuracy. Not to mention it's duration is really short.
Telekinetic Assembly: Nice to have, if you’re planning on using siege engines a lot. This is only worth looking at for those campaigns with lots of siege engines.
Twisted Space: I find that this is quite situational. Not to mention that it has a save, yuck.
Web: A great spell to have if you are going to be adventuring into a cave. Out in the open, it sucks. Good to know, and good to prepare when you know you’ll need it.
Animal Aspect, Greater: The improved boons are really no good, especially when compared to something like haste.
Aqueous Orb: Better for wizards who traditionally have move actions available to move the orb around. Not so good for you, since you use most of your move actions. This spell is thematically awesome however, I wonder if there’s a way to freeze the water while there are creatures in it...
Arcane Sight: Good for scouting, it allows you to know almost exactly what you're going to be fighting in the next room. Too bad it’s a level 3 spell though, it would have been nice as a level 2. If you scout a lot, consider making it permanent.
Beast Shape I: See polymorphing section for why this sucks.
Blink: Outnumbered? A 20% miss chance won’t hurt one character as much as 20% miss chance on several creatures. This spell also allows you to walk through walls...
Burst of Speed: If you really need to get by someone... use fly instead.
Cloak of Winds: Only really worth it if you're fighting tiny or smaller creatures including swarms.
Daylight: Has some utility, though I wouldn’t get it as a third level spell.
Dispel Magic: I honestly don’t like Dispel Magic too much, since it has a good chance of failure without offering too much reward. It does become better if you have a dispelling weapon though. It also has good utility use when dealing with magical effects outside of combat.
Displacement: This is nice, much better than blink for avoid attacks, though it’s not as good as mirror image in my opinion.
Elemental Aura: Elemental Touch is better since it doesn’t involve a save and doesn’t hurt allies...
Fireball: Raw AOE damage at range. It deals as much damage as shocking grasp, but as AOE damage. Reflex save for half though. MAYBE have one of these prepared a day, for when you catch a group of enemies sitting next to each other while scouting :).
Flame Arrow: Note that this spell doesn’t not give the flaming enchantment, meaning it stacks with it. If you have an archer/gunslinger in the group, they will love you for this.
Fire Trail (Goblin): Typically, you aren't moving during combat… Though this does have some good synergy with Kirin Path, the last feat in the Kirin Style feat chain.
FireStream (Ifrit): Not that good, it requires concentration (So no Spell Combat) and only deals 2d6 per round AoE damage, with a reflex save for half. Pass.
Fly: Yes? Flying around at 60ft/rd is great. Intelligent creatures will try to stay away from you and take you out from range. This makes getting to them much easier. When you can get overland flight, use your spell slots for something else.
Force Hook Charge: A little more situational than other gap closing spells, this will get you to your target and still allow you to full attack. It is pounce, though it ignores difficult terrain, chasms, etc… It also makes me think of the hook shot from Zelda.
Force Punch: Damage is not the reason you should use this spell. If you think your opponents will fail their saves, this will act like a quick bull rush. There’s already a lot of great level 3 spells competing for your attention though.
Gaseous Form: Utility spell for getting into or out of areas, not an everyday spell in my opinion.
Gloomblind Bolts (Fetchlings): Essentially scorching ray with a blinding effect and a level higher. The blinding effect has a reflex save, so “eh”.
Haste: Yes? Probably the best buff spell in the game, it affects multiple targets, grants an extra attack, bonus to attack rolls, AC and reflex saves. The other great thing is that it counters and dispels slow, one of the effects you ought to fear most.
Hydraulic Torrent: There’s more important spells to get at this level, though it’s better at bull rushing than Force Punch (Until monster CMD gets to be VERY high).
Keen Edge: Don’t have keen on your weapon and you don’t have improved critical? This can help. Though honestly it’s better to get the feat or the weapon enchantment.
Lightning Bolt: I like the imagery of this, though realistically it’s more common that they will be clumped together than in a straight line.
Locate Weakness: Doesn't add hardly anything to your damage, and it's a 3rd level spell. Don't get this.
Magic Weapon (Greater): The great thing about this spell is that lasts the entire adventuring day. As far as I can tell, it stacks with the weapon’s current magical enchantments (and with your arcane pool), giving you a flat bonus that lasts all day!
Major Image: Images just are not your specialty, so silent image will take care of all, if not most, of your tactical needs.
Monstrous Physique I: See polymorph section.
Phantom Steed: A good to have in your spellbook, not prepared every day spell. Essentially mount, but better (and eventually gets flying).
Prehensile Pilfer (Vanaras): Doesn’t stack with haste, and affects the steal and dirty trick maneuvers, meaning you’d need Agile Maneuvers (for dex builds), or do you? Since the target’s tail becomes a natural weapon, it’s affected by weapon finesse. Not really worth it though, because of the reach and you’d need a feat in order to not provoke an AoO.
Ray of Exhaustion: Very nice spell, one spell can exhaust or fatigue on a save, a second casting automatically exhausts them. Though there are better debuffs you can give with you level 3 spell slots.
Resilient Reservoir (Half Elf): Requires you to be hit, which you don’t want to have happen. If you know you're going to be taking a ton of damage, or you plan on being a masochist and hurt yourself before charging into battle then this can be nice (Your GM may not like that though).
Sickening Strike (Ratfolk): An effect that stacks with any other spell you cast, forcing your opponent to make a fort save every time you hit them or be sickened. Nice because you get a lot of attempts to land it’s effects.
Sleet Storm: Moderate battlefield control, not really worth a third level spell slot.
Slow: Against targets with multiple attacks per round this is amazing. One of the best debuffs in the game for that situation.
Stinking Cloud: One of the best battlefield control spells up to this level. As Fog Cloud, but it adds a nauseated effect to it. If they fail their saves, they are out of the fight for 2 rounds at least.
Undead Anatomy I: See polymorph section for details.
Vampiric Touch: One of the reasons you can be a tank. When you need more HP, cast this instead of shocking grasp and you get to essentially ignore damage for a little bit. Very nifty.
Versatile Weapon: This appears to be better than greater magic weapon, but it only lasts minutes instead of hours, making this a situational “I need to bypass DR” spell.
Vomit Twin (Goblin): Interesting… Do you need to scout into a room with a door that closes behind you? Cast the spell, run in, have the door lock you in, teleport out, and let the monsters or traps kill your twin. Or in the middle of battle, keep a “just in case” clone away from the actual fighting. When in trouble, teleport out. Useful utility here.
Water Breathing: A good spell to have in your spellbook, only prepare it if you know you’ll be around water a lot.
Wind Wall: If your GM loves throwing archers at you, grab this. Otherwise let your party wizard grab it, it’s not too terribly important.
Arcana Theft: Dispel Magic as a touch attack and you get the spell instead of it disappearing. Hmm… Too bad you can’t put it into a dispelling weapon, but there’s the spell stealing weapon enchantment which allows you to do the same thing, but you get to choose which spell the target has.
Ball Lightning: Another addition to the sphere spells, this one does even more damage, but once again is totally negated by reflex saves and it requires a move action to take full advantage of. Pass.
Beast Shape II: See polymorph section.
Black Tentacles: Walter in his guide referenced Order of the Stick, which demonstrated the amazingness of this spell. It’s good, it’s very good. I’ll leave it at that.
Detonate: Kinda like explosion and self-destruct from Pokemon. You take damage to deal that damage to others, but they get a save. If you gained resistance to an element, it reduces the damage. A really powerful nova if you had 40 resist to one element (Greater Energy Resistance armor only blocks up to 30, so tough luck).
Dimension Door: Great teleport spell, it has a short range but it short casting time makes it applicable to combat situations. Need to get to a target? Done.
Dragon’s Breath: AoE damage that can change to whatever element you need, and can change into whatever shape you need.. Deals decent damage, about as much as a fireball. In my opinion, a very respectful AoE attack.
Elemental Body I: See polymorph section, but just so you have it here, Elemental Body can be the best form you can take.
Enlarge Person (Mass): Enlarge Person wasn’t really that great to begin with, making everyone larger isn’t worth it.
Fire Shield: Not that great of a spell. Doesn’t do that much damage, and it might even require that you be hit by an attack (The spell is vague on this point). Looks dang cool though, if you want your magus to be surrounded by red, blue, or green flames, give this a second thought :).
Firefall: Supped up pyrotechnics, increasing the area of effect doesn’t really help you in dungeons, but if you are dealing with an army or navy… well this can put a serious hole in their forces.
Ice Storm: Moderate battlefield control again, but with some damage. Meh.
Invisibility (Greater): Invisibility in the middle of combat that stays even when you attack. Awesome. By the time you can get this, you’ll be facing enemies with see invisibility and truesight, so don’t rely on it and be wise about when to use it.
Monstrous Physique II: See polymorph section
Pellet Blast: There's other, better spells to do AOE effects, like black tentacles.
Paragon Surge (Half-elf): By the time you can cast this, you already have permanent enhancement bonuses to both dexterity and intelligence (Or strength, then you really don't care about the dexterity). The only benefit is the feat it grants, but a 4th level spell to do that? Pass.
Phantasmal Killer: If they succeed on their save and have telepathy, you could die. HECK NO.
Reduce Person (Mass): Same as Enlarge Person(Mass).
River of Wind: Situational, but it can be effective for putting pressure on enemy spell casters. I personally wouldn’t get it.
Shout: 5d6 sonic damage (not that great) and possibly deafened. 4th level spell, really?
Solid Fog: This is fairly good, it has no saves, shuts down archers, and hampers melee. Good battlefield control.
Stoneskin: Want DR? Here you go! You may want a rod of extend for this, to make it last for your entire exploration of a cave. Does cost 250 gold a casting though...
Vermin Shape I: See polymorph section.
Wall of Fire: The main purpose of wall spells are to separate enemies, allowing you to kill off a couple of them and then later fight the others. This doesn’t do that...
Wall of Ice: The first wall spell you can get that enemies can’t step through, though it’s pretty easy to bypass. It’ll work until we get better.
Wall of Sound: See wall of fire.
Wreath of Blades: This can be a fun spell, especially if you have TONS of money flowing out of your pockets for the foci. 6d4 averages to about 15 damage, so it really isn't that great… but the no need for defensive casting can be useful in some circumstances. Once again, a “fun” spell.
Acidic Spray: If this wasn’t a line effect, it would be more worthwhile. Go with Cone of Cold instead of this if you want some high-end AoE.
Baleful Polymorph: By the time you get level 5 spells, your wizard friend has level 7 spells. His spells have another +2 to their saves in other words. Save or suck spells, such as this one, are that much more ineffective.
Beast Shape III: See polymorph section.
Cloudkill: Automatic constitution damage (at least one) every round, thats nice. It moves though, so I don’t like it as much.
Cone of Cold: A classic AoE damage spell, always deals damage, and if there’s two or more targets in the area it deals more damage than shocking grasp.
Corrosive Consumption: The last touch attack you get. It’s decent, you use it once per enemy and allow it to reach it’s final stage of damage. Well worth the action.
Elemental Body II: See the polymorph section.
Fire Snake: Better than Cone of Cold if your opponents are spread out, this allows you to customize 12 consecutive squares that you’ll be dealing your damage to.
Geyser: Not enough damage to justify a level 5 spell.
Interposing Hand: You want to be in melee, remember?
Monstrous Physique III: See the Polymorph section.
Overland Flight: A little slower than fly, but it lasts a LOT longer. Cast this once and you’ll be flying the entire day.
Symbol of Striking: A material component of 300 gold to essentially double the effects of getting an AoO. It last your level in strikes, but it doesn’t do too much damage (the weapon's base damage + your intelligence modifier). It can add up though, since it lasts awhile.
Telekinesis: You have to concentrate to use this. Which means no spell combat. Which means it has to be absolutely amazing to be worth considering, and it’s not. Might have some out of combat utility.
Teleport: Remember those mount spells you had in your spellbook for long distance travels? You can forget them now :).
Undead Anatomy II: See the polymorph section.
Vermin Shape II: See the polymorph section.
Wall of Force: Yay! Good wall spells, this is possibly the best one for mid combat use.
Wall of Stone: Ever wanted to build a castle? One month, you got it. On a serious note, this spell is up there with Wall of Force, it’s not as strong, but it stays there for forever.
Wind Blades (Sylph): Doesn’t do that much damage, really only useful if the target is going to be running around a lot (such as in a chase scenario). Too situational to be of any use.
Acid Fog: An improvement to the solid fog spell, which was an improvement to the fog cloud spell. On top of debuffing the enemy with no saves, this will deal some damage every round too.
Bear’s Endurance, Mass: If there’s several people in your group that have to get Belts with constitution on them, this is worthwhile.
Beast Shape IV: See polymorph section.
Bull’s Strength, Mass: Everyone who needs strength should already have belts of strength.
Cat’s Grace, Mass: Same as Bull’s Strength, Mass, but for Dexterity.
Chains of Fire: Same as Chain Lightning, but instead of electricity it’s fire and it has a quarter the range.
Chain Lightning: Your final AoE damage spell. On average, it deals just as much damage to your primary target as a shocking grasp would even if they save (at level 20). Now, it also has the benefit of being ranged, and hitting everything else within 30 of the target (but you can have it avoid targets). Awesome.
Contagious Flame: Imagine Scorching Rays on steroids, but if there’s more than one enemy, it’s damage can be up to three times the original amount. Awesome!
Disintegrate: 2d6 per CL damage is great, but reducing it to 5d6 damage on a save isn’t. Could be good for utility though.
Dispel Magic, Greater: You get this fairly late, and it requires a spell level higher for you to cast than anyone else. Sad day, since it’s so nice to use on enemy spell casters. Of course, what you can do is get a greater dispelling weapon and stick this into it.
Elemental Body III: See polymorph section.
Flesh to Stone: Save or Suck spell, by this time your wizard friend has a +3 bonus on his spells than you.
Forceful Hand: You want to be in melee, having enemies push back away from you constantly is not in your best interests. You want them close so you can kill them.
Form of the Dragon I: See the polymorph section.
Freezing Sphere: Not as good as chain lightning, which deals more damage and ignores your allies.
Mislead: Greater Invisibility with a decoy, it’s nice, and since it’s greater invisibility, go ahead and back stab all of the mooks standing behind the general as your image keeps them occupied. Beyond that this spell doesn’t have too many uses.
Monstrous Physique IV: See the polymorph section.
Sirocco: An interesting battlefield control spell, it deals damage(save for half), knocks prone(save), and fatigues then exhausts creatures inside(no save). There’s other things I’d rather have at this level.
Stone to Flesh: Reverse petrification. Pretty nice, good to have in your spellbook, but unless you know you're going to be fighting against medusa’s, I wouldn’t prepare it every day.
Transformation: You lose spell casting, but you gain full BaB, higher AC, and fortitude saves. I would instantly write this off as a horrible spell for you, but if you have a familiar that you wanted to have trip people or other such things...
True Seeing: Very helpful, a great utility spell to have prepared for the “just in case” scenarios that the spell itself lists. Having one casting of this prepared daily is a good idea.
Undead Anatomy III: See the polymorph section.
Walk Through Space: This spell allows you to teleport instead of walk for its duration. In all honesty, there’s not many situations where this is useful, especially since it’s a 6th level spell.
Wall of Iron: Essentially Wall of Stone, but stronger and with a material cost of 50g.
Here’s a list of touch attacks and rays available to you without multiclassing.
Touch spells on the magus spell list:
Touch spells on other arcane spell casters lists, up to level 6:
Touch of Idiocy
Touch of Gracelessness
Sands of Time
Touch of Slime
Touch of Combustion
Touch of Mercy
Film of Filth
Ray spells on the Magus spell list:
Ray of Enfeeblement
Ray of Frost
Ray of Exhaustion
Ray spells on other arcane spell casters lists, up to level 6:
Ray of Sickening
Polymorph effects can be great buffs to you, though you have to understand the implications of using them. The main issue is spell casting while in a polymorphic form. Here’s the rules on that:
Core Rulebook: “When you cast a polymorph spell that changes you into a creature of the animal, dragon, elemental, magical beast, plant, or vermin type, all of your gear melds into your body. Items that provide constant bonuses and do not need to be activated continue to function while melded in this way (with the exception of armor and shield bonuses, which cease to function). Items that require activation cannot be used while you maintain that form. While in such a form, you cannot cast any spells that require material components (unless you have the Eschew Materials or Natural Spell feat), and can only cast spells with somatic or verbal components if the form you choose has the capability to make such movements or speak, such as a dragon. Other polymorph spells might be subject to this restriction as well, if they change you into a form that is unlike your original form (subject to GM discretion). If your new form does not cause your equipment to meld into your form, the equipment resizes to match your new size.”
To summarize, in order to be able to cast any spell, the form you assume needs to:
I suggest you read the full entry if you decide to use polymorph effects other than enlarge and reduce person. The only other forms you can take is Undead and Monstrous Humanoid, which is are great forms if you want to be able to use spells with material components, metamagic rods and use activated items without any hassling.
All other forms make it difficult to use metamagic rods, wands, and weapons. There are three ways to overcome this: Drop all the things you may want onto the ground before you change and then pick them up, give all your items to teammates, unseen servants, of a familiar, or wear a Polymorphic Pouch (5,000), which holds up to 40 pounds of items that won’t meld into your body. Use activated magic items you are wearing still won’t do anything while you are in a polymorphic form though. Here’s some notes on the various polymorphic spells and a few suggestions on what forms to take:
Elemental Body (I, II, and III): Looking at the bestiary entry to the elementals, all elementals have languages (so they can speak), and can take humanoid form (so they can cast spells with somatic components and wield weapons). The elemental forms you can assume give you great, no, wonderful stat and armor bonuses, and as a 6th level spell, give you reach (and still even buff your dexterity as an Air or Fire Elemental). Also, when looking in the bestiary at the elemental subtype definition, if an elemental is humanoid in form it can use weapons. I would be careful about being a fire elemental and holding items vulnerable to fire though. Overall, Elemental Body is probably the best polymorphic spell set for the Magus.
Monstrous Physique (I, II, III, and IV): The stats involved with these are not nearly as nice as Elemental Body, especially since you may want to be large sized to get reach while still gaining a bonus to your dexterity. The beauty of Monstrous Physique is that you don’t lose all of your items when you change form, they stay around. So spells with material components, metamagic rods, wands, use activated items etc… are still useable. Also, there a couple forms available (one in the first three bestiaries is called the Witchwyrd) that have four arms, allowing you to hold metamagic rods and or wands while still using spell combat.
Undead Anatomy (I, II, III): Same as Monstrous Physique, though there are a few different abilities you can get that are different. The main downside is that there’s no forms that have multiple limbs that can hold things, which is the one of the main reasons why you’d take Monstrous Physique over Elemental Body.
Form of the Dragon: Dragons can’t hold weapons, so not a good choice. Sorry!
Beast Shape: Can’t hold items, and can’t even cast spells without outside help. Not a good idea.
Vermin Shape: Same issues as Beast Shape, though if your DM allows milking poisons off of creatures (and allows poisons milked from a polymorphic form to last forever), Vermin have the best poisons around (and the DC’s for poisons while in a polymorphic form is calculated just like spell’s save DC’s, so use your intelligence. If you want to look at a particularly nasty poison [and I think the worst…] check out the jellyfish).
This section is just a collection of some interesting battle tactics that you might pursue that didn’t make it into the rest of the guide (typically because of rules legality issues). I hope to be able to constantly add new and unique ideas to this section, so if you have anything you want to add, send a message on the message boards!
While this is already a well known and frequently used tactic, it is still valid and perfectly rules savvy. Arcane Mark is a cantrip, it has a range of touch, and therefore you can spell combat / spell strike with it, essentially giving you the effects of TWF, just with a defensive casting check. It’s considered cheesy by some, while others are happy to markup their enemies. Someday, one of their victims is going to hunt them down…
Just thought I’d share some thoughts about this, since it is a legitimate tactic that deserves a paragraph on it’s own. If you hit a target with an anchoring weapon, you can activate it’s ability to force an opponent to stay still. Then, take a step back, laugh, pull out your reach weapon or cast enlarge person and hack away. It requires a DC 30 strength check to move (They have to have a strength of 30 or higher to even have a chance at this, provokes an AoO) or they have to sunder your weapon, which also provokes an AoO. Or they pull out a ranged weapon, which provokes AoO. The only thing they can really do is cast spells or use other abilities.
The main weakness of this is that your weapon isn’t the most durable thing in the world, with a base hardness of 10 and 3 hp (For a wakizashi). But you can increase that easily! Start off by making it adamantium, giving it hardness 20 and 4 hp. Then use the spell reinforce armaments, which doubles it’s hardness, giving it hardness 40 and 4 hp. At this point, even CR 20 creatures would need to critically hit with a sunder attack to damage the weapon, but once they start damaging it it’s over. Wait, there’s more! Every +1 bonus adds 2 hardness and 10 hp. Hmm, you have an ability to give your weapons bonuses. A +5 anchoring weapon with reinforce armaments casted on it will have 60 hardness and 54 HP. Finally, add in the Impervious enchantment and your weapon will cap out at 80 hardness and 104 HP. Very respectful, and probably not going to be destroyed anytime soon. If it does bite the dust, a scroll of Make Whole (CL 20) costs 1k gold, and it will repair your weapon so long as you don’t let your weapon exceed CL 10 (so watch what other enchantments you place on it).
This weapon would cost you: 3,000 (adamantium) + 18,000 (+1 and Anchoring) + 3,000 (Impervious) = 24,000 gold. A hefty price for a hefty ability.
Spell Storing Abuse:
Have a single, very tough opponent you know you’ll be fighting in a few days? Buy a couple Spell Storing weapons, and load them up with your most powerful spells (If you have the maximized and empowered arcanas, you can load one weapon a day with an intensified, maximized, empowered shocking grasp [90 damage]). Then in combat, after each successive hit, expend that weapon’s stored spell, drop your weapon and quick draw a new one. A hasted level 20 magus can pump out up to 5 hits with weapons, up to 450 damage from stored spells alone.
Fun, but not without costs and legality issues. Because of gunslingers abusing this type of thing, free actions have their own FAQ reminding GMs that they can limit free actions, and at one point even suggesting a limit of 5ish (that has been removed from the FAQ). The combo listed above uses 15 free actions. Not to mention that spell storing weapons are not cheap.
There are two ways to accomplish this, both require the Quick Draw feat. Neither of them allow you to use spell combat that round though, so this is better for a Frostbite (or Chill Touch) centered build.
The first method seems to be the most natural, using a weapon (typically the same kind of weapon that you got weapon focus as). The sequence goes: free action draw weapon, Two Weapon Fight with your weapons, free action stow your weapon away. This has an issue when it comes to rules, however, since the rules never mention that you can stow a weapon as a free action. I personally feel it should be allowed, but PFS probably would not allow it.
The second method is a little bit more rules friendly. It involves using a quick draw light shield, which explicitly states that it can be stowed as a free action via quick draw. There are two weak spots in this concept though. First, you lose your intelligence bonus to AC while -using- a shield, but if you put the shield away at the end of your turn you should be fine with that. The second is that you discharge your spell if you touch anything other than a weapon. But if you're planning on using your shield as a weapon and nothing else I don’t think GM’s would be too upset with that.
Both options have their merits. The first requires less feats (Both use Two Weapon Fighting and Quickdraw), both the weapon cost goes up. The second one requires more feats (Martial Weapon Proficiency: Shield Bash [Or dip a level in fighter], Shield Proficiency [or dip a level in fighter]), but if you're willing to spend a LOT of feats on this, shields can be more cost effective (Shield Master cuts the magic item costs essentially in half) and more damaging (Bashing Finish). Heck, if you invested in the Bull Rush feats, you could be dealing TONS of damage every other turn (gotta use one turn to use spell combat, remember?).
There are a few different classes that are well worth looking at for dipping, and even two prestige classes worth mentioning. I find that multiclassing is a double edged sword, multiclassing towards the beginning can be amazing, but later you may find that you are weaker than other, pure class, characters. Kensai hurt a little more than others in this category too, since you can only gain up to your Kensai level of AC from your intelligence modifier. Also know that dipping can drop your BaB and hamper your spell progression, and also remember that spells gained from other classes cannot be used with spell combat and spell strike (unless you get the Broad Study arcana). Regardless, it’s not always about how powerful you are, just as long as you have fun with your character!
Swashbuckler: Because of slashing grace alone, this instantly becomes a green. There are many other great reasons for a 1 level dip though. You gain a free feat (weapon finesse), access to level 1 deeds, 1 BaB, and proficiency with martial weapons and light armor. A great choice for a dip.
Fighter: Dipping into fighter can bring in a lot of feats. Two levels of fighter brings two feats, three if you're dipping into lore warden(Pathfinder Society Field Guide, the best fighter dip choice for trip builds) or some other archetype. You don’t lose any BaB either for dipping here. You do lose spell progression, which you are already hurting in, and your AC will drop for a little bit too.
Barbarian: Two levels of Titan Mauler nets you a reach weapon that threatens without spending any more feats. Great idea for a strength character, not so much for a dexterity based character. You also get access to raging, and a single rage power. Raging brings in some good stat buffs, but you can’t cast spells while raging (ouch) and you lose some AC (double ouch).
Monk: Someone’s gotta be asking “Why the heck is monk here?” Well, as it turns out, flurry of blows meshes well with Frostbite, so long as you have a weapon that can be flurried (Temple Sword, or take a dip into cleric, find a deity that uses your selected weapon, and then get Crusader’s Flurry). Beyond the flurry of blows, there’s the extra feat (along with stunning fist, and Improved Unarmed Strike which can be useful if you want to get a style feat) and the +2 to all saves. Monks are not a full BaB class, so you lose some of that…
White Haired Witch (Dragon Empires Primer): This is kind of an odd ball, but I thought I’d mention it. A 1 level dip gets you prehensile hair, a very nifty ability. Whenever you full attack (which is NOT when you use spell combat, mind you) you can add in a 1d4 plus intelligence natural attack. The hair can hold metamagic rods for you, and has the grab monster ability. If you dip into this 4 levels (really not that good), your hair begins to gain reach… There might be a few witch spells worth having, though you cannot use them with spell combat without an arcana.
Alchemist: Two levels of alchemist and you can get a discovery (most often, Magi want the vestigial arm discovery so they can use rods easily). If you're going with the frostbite route, the best archetype here is the Vivisectionist, for the sneak attack die. Another ability of note form the alchemist is the mutagen, which gives +4 to any one physical stat and -2 to a corresponding mental stat (+4 dexterity, -2 wisdom).
Wizard: Going with the Admixture school can net you another way to bypass monsters immune to your favorite spells, and you can get a familiar, though remember that you’ll be losing BaB, spell progression and caster level. Also note that the spells you get from here cannot be used with spell combat or spell strike.
Eldritch Knight: This class look PHAT (pretty hot and tempting). You get more feats than you would as a magus, and it’s tenth level ability seems to mesh well… until you realize it uses a swift action. So, you have to try and predict when not to use things like arcane strike, arcane accuracy, quickened spells, etc… Not to mention that it requires proficiency in ALL martial weapons, requiring a dip into some other martial class. Not really worth it, it’s an inferior version of what you already are. It can be worth it beyond level 20 though…
Duelist: A non-spell casting version of yourself, this can be another option to look at, though it’s not too terribly great. It does have a lot of unique mechanics.
Mystic Theurge: Now here’s an awesome idea for a prestige class. Cleric 3, Magus 7. Not an original idea of mine, but it can look scary. There are a few issues with it though, such as it being a ½ BaB progression (ouch). The final ability is great, but only once per day. I’d stay away from this for the most part, you're more physical than magical (You rely on attack rolls to deliver spells).
There are only three archetypes that can blend with the Kensai, the Spell Blade, the Bladebound, and the Fiend Flayer.
Spell Blade: This replaces the spellstrike class feature… Making it a horrible archetype. Spell strike is one of the best abilities the magus has!
BladeBound: This is an interesting choice, you give up your third level arcana and up to 4 arcane pool points to get a special blade. It ends up being a completely free end game weapon that gives you some special powers. Not to mention that you can always carry other weapons with you. Note, however, that you cannot enchant a black blade.
Fiend Flayer: This is an archetype that comes from the tiefling race. You don’t give up any abilities to take this, so there’s no point in not taking this archetype if you’re a tiefling. I honestly don’t know if I’d ever end up using its ability though. The arcana is nice too.
12. Sample Builds
Because of the sheer number of various builds and ideas that come to mind, I won’t be posting individual builds inside this document, it’s already long enough. However, if you’re curious, I will be posting builds in another document. Here’s a link. The stuff you find in this document will be highly unpolished until I finished my personal project: Creating a Build Builder application to aid in the creation and distribution of build ideas. Until then, treat these builds more as a place for my brain to barf. Cheers!