A Foundation In the Unknown
The evolving guide to Modular Wizardry for Pathfinder 2nd Edition
Last Content Update: 6th, January, 2020
Products included: Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, Lost Omens World Guide, Lost Omens Character Guide,
Hey everyone! Old_Man_Robot here with a very early, and very primitive class guide to the PF2 Wizard! (I’ve also been told to plug that I’m the Powder keg of Justice guy, for some additional nerd-cred)
This is the first class guide I've ever done, but I’m a massive fan of the public service that they provide to all those confused on a class. Since the launch of PF1, I’ve read probably every class guide several times when building characters, and now it’s time to pay it forward. After much popular demand, the name of this guide has been changed to “Principia Arcana: A Foundation in the Unknown”, because everyone hated the old name, and this one is way way more pretentious (and ergo more Wizardly).
The conceit of this guide is that I plan to return to it with each new book that’s released, and add in all the relative sections overtime. I’m hoping that by getting in early and building up from there, this task won’t be nearly as daunting as it seems from the outset. Guess we’ll see! I also enjoy the cute little symmetry of writing a modular guide to a modular system.
Speaking of modularity, get ready to see that word a lot as you play Pathfinder 2nd Edition, especially if, like me, you enjoy digging into the structure of the games design and understanding it from the bottom up. The game has really taken a shift in structure from the previous edition, and moved character creation into a far less formalised space. For players, this is great! More options, more design room, more possibilities, more fun! For guide writers however, it makes the job more expansive, as the list of relevant options and considerations will only grow and grow.
In order to give each part its due, I’ve broken down this guide into several parts which will focus on each part of character creation separately. That said, this is a Wizard guide! And so we’re only going to care about those options are important to Wizard optimisation.
This means that we won’t follow the ABC’s of character creation, instead, we’ll be taking a CAAB model (Class, Archetype, Ancestry, Background). In short, the first part of this guide will be all about the Class Chassis of the Wizard, as it will be lens through which end up judging the other aspects of character creation. It’s also the longest and most complicated part, so, from my end, its best to knock it out of the way first. After that we’ll be looking at Ancestries, then finally Backgrounds, as this is the descending order of importance for character understanding and optimisation.
I’ll take this moment to also say what this guide won’t be! Even though with PF2, we’re technically driving a new car, there isn’t a need to reinvent the wheel. If you are familiar with Treantmonk’s guide to Wizards, much of the class analysis and role breakdown has remained largely unchanged. While everything about the actual options themselves is different, the essence of the Wizard hasn’t changed all that much. The power of certain aspects has moved up and down respectively, but that's to be expected with any new edition. Either way, if you haven’t read it, read the first 10 pages or so, then skim the rest at your leisure!
There exists a possible future where, one day, many years from now, I may remove this image from the guide. When that happens I expect PF 7th edition will be out, but one day it will be removed.
Until that time however, please be aware that this guide is very much a work in progress and is equally under construction.
If you are a returning reader, you may mind substantial differences from time to time.This will reflect one of several things, from new content being added, rules being clarified, the weight of information changing my opinion, or I was just plain wrong.
In any case, nothing here will be “final” until I remove the above image!
Since this guide went live, I’ve got numerous comments on both my style of writing and way certain sections are nested in seemingly unintuitive places. There is a certain amount of truth to that. If I was writing a technical manual, the “top-down” design of the guide would probably be a lot different, as would the style overall. However, this isn’t a technical manual (well, kinda), and as such I took a different creative approach. I decided to focus more on the “conversational” aspect of things, addressing subjects as they would arise naturally in conversation, rather than in a more text booky manner.
To combat this, you’ll find not only a detailed document outline (Left), an equally comprehensive table of contents (Below), but, when needed, I’ll also direct you to various other places of reference throughout the guide. This way, as this thing inevitably balloons to an outrageous size, the devoted reader won’t get too lost in all my side tangents.
Speaking of not reinventing the wheel, here’s the same old colour guide you already know!
New (25/11/19): Someone asked for a colour blind mode to be added to the ratings system which uses Stars instead of colours. That was such a good and simple idea that I’m a little ashamed it wasn’t something I did from the start. It’ll take me some to add the stars (and half-stars) to the whole guide, so please bear with me, but at least it will be underway!
Sky Blue (★★★★★): The best in slot option for the class! Sky Blue options are Blue’s which distinguish themselves from the rest of their ilk by either being just better or are gaming changing / build defining.
Blue (★★★★): A very strong option for the class, does what you need when you need it or sets up a build. If an option is Blue, and you like it, feel free to take it! Sometimes an option has been listed as Blue simply because it competes with a Sky Blue for slot options, and those are hard to beat!
Green (★★★): Greens are reserved for those options which are good at what they do, but are inherently limited or of situational value. If you find yourself in love with a Green option, don’t worry! Many Green options take an uptick in strength within particular builds, but suffer when not part of those said builds.
Orange (★★): Orange (Previously Black) are your neutral or meh options. Many will be take’em or leave’em style, or just plain dull. If it’s not good, but also not expressly bad, then it’s Orange.
Red (★): Red’s suck. If it’s Red, it either does nothing, is a trap, is pointless, or in some rare cases is a direct downgrade. Sometimes it's actually better to not select anything at all over selecting a Red.
Gold (??): Gold is not a grading itself, but rather that given in tables to those options which are too expansive or have too many options to actually include in any single topic-box. Gold ratings will be those options which will end up with their mini-guide or subsections to go through their various options.
[>], [>>] & [>>>]: In keeping with PF2’s new action system, the number of > in the brackets will indicate the number of actions the thing takes. It’s just like in the book, so hopefully it’s pretty obvious!
[F]: Free Actions
[R]: Reactions, Re-Actions?, Reaction Actions? Whatever, they’re great!
It would be dishonest of me to say that all the information presented in this guide is purely the result of my own research or interpretation.
Like many of you reading this, I scour the various places of the “PathfindOSphere”, constantly looking for new builds, new rulings, new interactions, new everything. All with the aim of adding it to this guide.
I will endeavour to provide credit and sourcing where appropriate. As a corollary, not every aspect of this guide will actually agree with my own interpretation of the rules. While I try to present each section in its own context and provide the internal rationale for stated interpretations, these interpretations may not be of the consensus, and in cases where no clear ruling exists, they remain until one does.
Update: Information and material from Playtests will not be included until they are actually released. One of the things that has been an issue with this guide is that material changes drastically between final playtest and actual release. Sometimes leaving entire sections outdated literally the day it should be most useful. So save your emails folks!
As with every RPG system ever invented, there are circumstances where rules are vague, need clarification or simply in need of errata. Sometimes this creates circumstances where particular rulings, option analysis or builds are deemed Contentious by the community and are hotly debated.
As you progress through the guide, you will occasionally come across the following tag:
This is to indicate that there is some level of debate about the validity of the information presented in that section of the guide, and, as the tag suggests, you should talk to your DM about it before showing up to play.
Whenever I place one of these tags in the guide, you can be sure that I have also sent the attached question off to Paizo for clarification. At the time of writing (October 2019), we don’t yet have any official errata for additional clarification (apart from some mentioned in a stream in August).
When items become clarified, the relevant sections become updated and the Contentious tag will be removed or modified as appropriate.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
Please send any and all feedback, requests, or questions to
Chances are I won’t reply to your email directly, but if it's something that gets implemented I'll 100% give you a call out! I’d also ask that you please respect the notes on content as laid out above.
Don’t want to email me directly but want to discuss something in the guide in a more general sense? Feel to leave a comment in the Paizo discussion thread on the guide, found here.
Are you that guy who found my work email and spammed my work inbox with your own work email? Seriously Matt, enough.
As ever, I’d ask that you keep things civil and productive!
The Wizard is the preeminent caster of the Arcane Tradition, and is the only “Fulltime” one presented in the core book. Unlike every other iteration of the D&D to date, Wizards and Sorcerers are no longer, necessarily, book buddies. In any case, the Wizard remains the master of the Arcane Arts, and that’s the way we like it!
Wizards are full 10th level casters, who get their spellcasting cranked all the way to Legendary. Due to the top-down changes in the game, Wizards are no longer as frail or as natively combat averse as in previous editions / gamelines. While, by themselves, Wizards aren’t capable of being true Gishes, it’s much easier than in any edition previous! The removal of Arcane Spell Failure on armour means we’re only limited by our Profiences, and, as we’ll see, those are easy to get. We can now, finally, get decent sword-swing, full-plate-wearing, Wizards without compromising our spellcasting one bit!
Much of the spellcasting in PF2 has been standardised and homogenized across all the caster classes. This is kind of a mixed bag for us, in some cases - like metamagic - we’re the winners, in others we lose out.
Since Part 2: Archetypes will probably be this guides unending chore, holding off on such an important part of the character discussion until it's done is probably foolish. With that in mind, I expect that I may need to rewrite this section in the future, as the weight of new releases crushes the base numbers. But that’s my problem, not yours, so let’s get on with it!
PF2 launches with the familiar stat array now common across D20 games. Their roles and importance are mostly unchanged from PF1, apart from in a few respects.
New to PF2 however is the “Boosts” system. Gone now are the days of rolling your stats randomly, accidently getting a book-smart barbarian or brain dead Wizard, instead we now have a system of curated and targeted stat assignment which allows you to craft your character how you like. While some people have complained about this, as someone who has been playing TTRPG’s for a few decades now, after a while the novelty wears off and you just want to play the character you want to play.
If you are planning on going for the Champion Dedication, I would advise swapping the priority of Dex with Strength, apart from that, all we really want Strength for is some additional Bulk and Athletics check.
Dex, nowhere near as powerful as its PF1 version, Dex lost out in many keys ways to Wisdom in this edition, moving it from our 2nd priority to 3rd.
Still important for AC (more than before) and saves, plus dex skills. The power of Wisdom simply knocks it down a step.
Good old Con! Good for saves and staying alive. While I've placed its priority lower than Dex, in almost all circumstances you’ll be boosting them both equally. The lack of con based skills just means it’s technically lower than Dex, but it won’t matter.
Literally our key and most important stat. If you ever find yourself without maximum possible Int, you are either doing it wrong or having more fun RPing a brick-Wizard than an effective one.
Wisdom has moved way up in importance to Wizard’s from PF1. While none of our class abilities draw from it, it is one of the best secondary stats all around.
The structure of spells, and their chance of having effects even on a save, means that critically making the save matters now. So run up those Will save numbers!
Both perception and initiative now key off Wisdom,. These were some of the most important things to Wizards in PF1 and that hasn’t changed now. Going first and being able to spot danger before it squishes us is vital.
Charisma is probably the only genuine dump stat we have in PF2. Archetypes which rely on Charisma are, so far, underwhelming, and it provides little in the way of secondary benefit. If you really really some Charisma based skills, maybe just take Assurance in that skill instead?
The boost system of PF2 is a really nice way of allowing you to curate your characters development all across its career. Boosts however, have some mild awkwardness in their design which annoys me, as a perfectionist, in ways that probably fails to even be noticed by anyone else but power gamers.
What am I talking about?
The Boost system seems to be designed in such a way where it encourages players to focus on their core stats while largely ignoring about 2 less than useful ones. In the table below I’ve put up a standard array for a Human Wizard with their boost progression from 1 to 20.
See the problem?
As with PF1, we only gain a modifier increase on an even number increases. As ever, our goal is to boost our important stats as high as possible. Most important of all being Int. However, at 20th level, when we should be capstoning our character and reaching the heights of power, we find an awkward decision with our boosts.
At each boost stage, we are only able to boost any given ability score once. Topping out our Int at 20th means we have 3 additional boosts which we can disrupt between between 5 ability scores. However, assuming that we have dutifully maximised our scores whenever possible, we are forced to use a boost on a score that will not grant any benefit whatsoever!
Worse yet, in order to maximise our overall boost impact, we kinda have to put 2 of our 3 boosts into our dump stats, which, at 20th level, I’m going to assume we haven’t built around at all.
Even if we then put 2 boosts into our dump stats, we are still left with a boost which puts a +1 into a stat and we then get no mechanical impact.
If you really want, you can use all 3 boosts to gain effect whatsoever, but at the very least get a awkward +1 which does nothing for us.
Coming with the completion of Part 5: General & Skill Feats!
Proficiencies, that thing you never thought about in PF1 unless you wanted to use an exotic weapon, are now super duper important to the whole system. The wizard, as the premier arcane caster for this edition, is, sadly, none too impressive with some pretty vital things. Thankfully the system does give us ways to work around the core weaknesses of the class.
First off, let's look at how our spellcasting advances across our career.
I’m not sure why Piazo chose the levels they did for these advancements, but I’m guessing they’ve crunch their internal design math to ensure levels of competitiveness against average saves. I mean, I sure hope so, cause these level advances - like almost all aspects of magic - has been standardised across all of the caster classes in the core game. If we end up running into bottleneck levels, chances are this is an intentional design choice to keep us on our toes.
This might lead to some systematic feat tax, if need to start taking certain feats at key levels to remain competitive (I’m looking at you Canny Acumen [Perception]). Hopefully this won’t bear out long term, but I haven’t poured through every enemy in the Monster Manual and checked their Level-Save breaks, fingers crossed its a non-issue!
So what’s new with your most important class feature? Well a top down structural re-design for one! I get a bit more into the nitty-gritty of this later in the guide, but for now it's important to know that there now exists an inherent link between the actions required to cast a spell and the components which make it up. This leads to an interesting effect on capstone-level play where the power and utility of the Wizard just fucking explodes - who would have guessed!
Overall, your number of spells per day is dramatically down from PF1, but so is everyone’s. So at least we’re not being picked on alone. This means that things like Blasting, never the Wizard’s strong suit, is an even worse option. Once again, things like summoning (Which got a boost to their duration at lower levels) and battlefield control are your best options for bringing the most impact to the game.
We also jazz things up a bit with some “encounter powers” in the form of your Focus Spells from your specialist school, which bring a new resource to manage along with them.
Your Arcane Bond has changed quite a bit since PF1, and will fluctuate in usefulness from being either something you’ll completely forget you have, to being literally your most important class feature! So watchout for that!
Intelligence, is both less important and more important to the Wizard than in PF1. The contribution of our keystat got a bit of a Nerf with the removal of additional spells with high Int, but is now tied into your spellcasting more than ever before. With the tiered system of save progression, and the design ethos of “a +1 will always matter”, it means that having only a modest Int will hurt more than ever before, but the rewards from maximizing aren’t as dramatic.
All specialist Arcane schools carry with them a pretty powerful bonus, that of an additional spell slot per level. Given the removal of stat based bonus spell slots in PF2, your spells per day are limited to say the least, topping at 3 per level without augmentation. A 25% increase in your spellcasting, across the broad, is enough of a bonus for me to say that, for a lot of people, any school at all is worth it.
The caveat however is that this spell slot if limited to a spell of your chosen school. As with pretty much every edition of D&D ever made, some schools will be more valuable than others and, as such, will influence the power of the options below.
Because I intend to come back to this guide with each new product release, I have opted not to include spellbook considerations into this section of the guide however. It was part of my original intent, but after sitting down to write the section, I realised that future proofing it would be near impossible, with school colour gradings potentially flipping with each new book. Instead, during the Spellbook part of this guide, i’ve included specific call outs to spells which may impact your choice of Arcane School.
An encounter power with an encounter long effect is a solid choice, especially at early levels where the +1 will really matter. The early design of PF2 was intended to make sure a +1 always mattered, but in practical play, that won’t bear out. The team-buff aspect however makes it not half bad!
A Reaction power with Heightening?! I’m in love!
A +1 on ALL checks of a Summon for the duration of that summon is pretty solid. Plus, its once again an encounter power with a potentially encounter long effect. Your mileage will vary, but, since you’ve taken the Conjuration school to get it, I’m going to trust that you’ll be on top of your summoning. More on those later in the guide!
A very solid power. Teleportation effects are always desired, but, sadly, its more limited than its PF1 equivalent. It’s Heightening will be of marginal benefit in most cases, but when it matters it matters. I suspect that you’ll get a lot of mileage out of this while in Exploration mode as well!
A pretty niche little ability, with a bit of a metagame twist. It can be pretty handy, but the scenarios where it shines will be few and far between.
Most of the functionality of this ability can be replicated with a familiar. That is not to say that it is not without its niche uses. The fact that it could, in theory, be day-long, has some utility, however, its limited range undercuts a lot of its potential.
Pretty limited by all accounts. Could really have stood to be a Reaction. The Stun on a critical failure is nice, but it’s duration overlaps with that of the power, giving it almost no additional functionality.
This is a pretty damn solid debuff and ticks a lot of boxes. Requiring >> and Sustain hurts it a bit, but not enough for it not to be something you use every single encounter against opponents with minds.
Oh hey! Magic Missile is back in form if not name. Too bad it’ll deal less damage than most of your cantrips. It’s autohit is also pretty unimpressive given the damage. A poor showing from an old favorite.
A decent AoE addition to your combat spells which goes up in value with the more focus points you have. Not terribly impressive, but if you are trying to be a blaster, it’ll come in handy.
I want to love it… but can’t. I’m way into battlefield control so it definitely appeals to me, and the fact that it's one big action-sink is great for that. Sadly it requires just as much effort from your allies as it does your enemies, but it’s still pretty solid. Stays orange for now, as I haven’t played it yet, I may revisit it once I’ve tried it out a few times.
This is a damn interesting ability once you Heighten it. The chance of perpetual invisibility has a lot of appeal to it, and has tons of utility in Exploration mode. Invest in the Stealth skill if you are going to take the Illusion school, get more bang for your buck.
A strong, if limited, debuff. The fact it’s an Attack rather that a save means you’ll hopefully be able to take out normally Fort-strong meanies.
As much as I love Reaction powers, this one really needed to be a Free action. The utility it provides is pretty limited, as any party worth their salt will have some better means of healing. Decent in a pinch, bit meh all other times. If plan to take Alchemist Dedication, just treat this as red. It doesn’t even have the Metamagic tag!
If only you were a Reaction power! Range hobbles its usefulness into the red.
By its design, it’s situational, but has a lot of situational uses at least. A decent green if taken by itself, red if taken with Alchemist Dedication.
Not strictly a School power, as its completely optional. By itself, it's not half bad, having some extreme range, and the potential for some decent damage. Rating it green simply because if you want to take it, you probably have a build in mind for it.
I’m honestly not 100% sold on this ability, as its gated behind a two-feat requirement and is limited to only the 1st level powers of each school. It’s day to day worth will be tied to whatever school option you’ve selected, but it is only day to day, which is always strong. Wizard prepare for the challenges they’ll face ahead of time, more prep options means more power.
Now, you may have noticed that the Universalist school is the only school I’ve assigned a colour grading, and we’ll get to why in a moment. Let's take a look at what the Universalist school gives us to make up for the lack of an additional spell slot per level:
Oh Wow… that’s amazing. I don’t know how to express just how fundamentally game-changing this ability is. Not only does it grant an additional Wizard Feat, it ups the utility of Arcane Bond to amazing heights.
During the Class Feat discussion of this guide, I’ve marked the Bond Conservation, and Superior Bond feats as Sky Blue and Blue respectively, the Universalist school is why. Whereas the Universalist schools change to Arcane Bond gives them access to a nearly equivalent number of Spells Per Day as a specialist school (*N -1). What happens in-play is actually a remarkable increase. The engine of this increase is Bond Conservation.
In my original draft of this section, I tallied the potential increase in spells per day granted by both Bond Conservation and Superior Bond (along with their interaction together) rather conservatively. At the time, I was operating under an erroneous understanding of the rules regarding the [F] trigger attached to the “Drain Bonded Item” action (See Part 1.5: Understanding Triggers). In actuality, the potential increase in Spells Per Day from Bond Conservation is much greater.
In order to take full advantage of this feat, what we need to do is essentially chain the activation of this feat, turn after turn, each time casting a spell 2 levels lower than the previous spell cast. Because the Universalist may activate their arcane bond once per spell level, and each use of Arcane Bond triggers Bond Conservation, we end up getting a downward chain of casting, from highest to lowest. For example, activating your Arcane Bond for a 10th level spell would trigger Bond Conversation, allowing you to cast an 8th level spell. This 8th level spell with would trigger the Bond again, allowing you to cast a 6th, then a 4th, then a 2nd. The same pattern holds true for each spell level down.
Thanks to Reddit users u/RedGriffyn and u/LanceWindmil for pointing this out, and for coming up with the term “Down-casting” to describe it. (UPDATE: 17/10/19 - I’ve renamed the section and process to “Cascade Casting” in order to fit later publication feat alignment. And its cooler)
In the table below, you will find a comparative tally of the Optimal, Spells Per Day possible of both the Specialist and Universalist Wizard. For this tally, we are assuming that both Wizards are 20th level, and are employing the Archwizards Might, Bond Conservation, and Superior Bond feats. We are omitting the bonus spell slot potentially granted from familiars, items and other miscellaneous sources for the time being, mainly so we can focus on what's at hand. The tally also assumes that we’re casting under ideal conditions, with full action dictation, and that each Wizard is casting tactically in order to maximize their Spells Per Day utilizing “Down-casting”.
Let's take a look at how this shakes out:
As we can see, thanks to Bond Conservation, the Universalist Wizard comes out well ahead of the specialist Wizard in terms of spells per day. The number modulation between the levels is pretty weird looking, but that's mainly the fault of Superior Bond.
However, there are a few catches to be considered here.
Firstly, let's look at the Bond Conservation feat a moment:
The action requirements in order to utilise Bond Conservation to its fullest will probably not be something you can guarantee in actual play. In order to obtain optimal casting, you would need to be incredibly tactical about your allocation across the day. Making sure to have used enough lower level slots when you cast your higher level spells, in order to allow maximum casting down the chain. You also need to cast it before the end of the following turn, which, depending on what you are casting, may be too restrive to employ in practice.
Secondly, while overall spells per day has increased, the canny reader will have noticed that we can only re-prepare spells from the initial 3 slots open to the Universalist, while the Specialist has that slot open to choose from their entire school. So while your number of spells per day is up, your variety of spells is still potentially lower than the Specialist. This issue can, however, be partially addressed if you opt for the Spell Substitution Arcane Thesis.
I’ll leave it up to you if the benefits of the Universalist school outweigh those of a Specialist school plus its associated powers. I honestly can’t say one way or another without a full analysis of spells granted to each school. But, as I said previously, I’m not going to do that to the level needed to make a true judgement, especially since it would make the guide impossible to future proof.
One of the more break out conversations that has emerged from this guide so far has been the effective use of Cascade Casting rather than its theoretical maximum.
Certainly the theory crafting of Cascade Casting is pretty unlikely to happen in any actual play, it would require the Wizard to be standing still, turn after turn, just throwing out [>>] spells, without any interruptions from enemies.
Which, while the above might be the dream, lets face it, no DM is going to ever allow that. So, what we now have to do is instead workout the actual tactical value of Cascade Casting while introducing actual play scenarios.
First off, lets understand the above table a bit better.
This chart represents the slot-level break down of cascading spells as they go from highest to lowest. I’ve colour coded the level breakdowns as you progress down the chart, so, if you wish to see how each one curves, simply follow the colours as they leap-frog over one another. The colour marked AB is the colour for that levels Arcane Bond use and its corresponding levels gained.
AB = Arcane Bond. Paired with the colour, simply shows the cascade curve of each levels use of Bond Conservation.
SB = Superior Bond. It’s separated out from the others simply for the sake of clarity.
<# = The number in the # simply shows which higher spell level the extra spell was gained from.
Colour = A simple coding system to help tell apart the different spell levels as they go down. Sorry colour blind folks, I couldn’t think of a simpler way to show this!
So now that we have this chart, what can we pull out of it that we couldn’t before? Admittedly, not much. It’s main purpose at this juncture is simply to illustrate where and how the use of Bond Conservation breaks down in actual numbers.
While most of my calculations are done working from 20th level backwards, if you are below 20th, simply find your highest spell level, check what colours you have access to, and just use the chart to gage what you can and can’t do. Simple!
Now that we understand where our additional spells some from a bit better, the question still remains, “how best do we utilise our Arcane Bond and spell rotations in order to maximise our Spells per Day (SPD)?”.
Unfortunately this is not a simple thing to answer, and will require not just the tactical use of our spells, but a change in how we think of our spells in general.
Done right, it is a highly rewarding system that allows you flip from a “rationing” mindset to an aggressive one. Where every spell cast now means not just an extra spell later, but potentially several.
Let’s take some time now and work out a play style which best utilises Cascade Casting and allows you to maximise your SPD!
The initial release of PF2 launches without any class Archetypes as we traditionally know them from PF1, it does however grant most classes functional, if lower spec, archetypes in the form of several 1st level class choices. These choices can be pretty impactful on how the class plays, generally granting abilities and powers impossible to fully replicate.
For the Wizard, these are known as their Arcane Thesis. The thesis set up leaves lots of room for creative changes to the Wizard with future books, and I’m super excited to see what can be done with the set up. With PF2 core, we launch with 4 options to choose from, so let's take a look!
We start with perhaps the strongest option of the lot. This thesis grants the Familiar feat for free, and adds career-long value to those familiars, which is fantastic. Familiars are once again the kings of action-economy. Allowing you to trade [>] for [>>] is always going to be a good deal, even if your familiar can’t attack on its own. The value of your familiar just also keeps going up and up with level. Familiar’s also gain a huge tactical boost with the Alchemist Dedication feat, pushing this option to sky-blue.
I love free feats! In a system which uses feats as its base for modularity, a class option which gives you two feats, one of which can change daily, is going to be strong. Wizard’s won bigtime with this editions change to metamagic. Being able to apply them on the fly instead of having to prepare your spells with them ahead of time adds greater tactical value than ever before. Given that your spell slots are also at more of a premium than ever, this change is a win-win for Wizards.
So far, of the 7 Metamagic feats open to Wizards in the core book, none of them are particularly game-changing. I’ll talk more about the feats themselves in the relevant section, however, part of the rating for this Thesis is for future proofing. As the gameline goes on, being able to select a daily rotating feat will hopefully have increasing value. I’ll also throw a shout to the capstone feat Metamagic Mastery, which utterly changes how you interact with metamagic feats. It is, in my opinion, well worth an additional 10th level spell slot (I am, however, prepared to eat those words with future 10th level spells).
I really want to like this ability, but the numbers simply don’t bear out. Between the very limited number of spell slots open to you, and this Thesis’ in-built limitation of only 1 bonus slot per level, it means your Cost To Benefit is marginal at best. Once we factor in things like Scroll Savant and feats which augment Arcane Bond, I feel like the aim of this Thesis can be achieved in other, more cost effective, ways. That said, check out Part 2.2: The Cleric: Traditions in a Blender for an interesting interaction between this Thesis and your multiclass spell slots.
The mileage of this ability will vary depending on how much rest your DM gives between encounters. It’s a fine pressure-valve if you find yourself really in need of a situational spell which you wouldn't ordinarily prepare. The fact that you can swap back later also gives the ability a ‘no harm no foul’ feel to it. The ability is merely green however simply because, by its nature, its of situational value.
There is, however, the need for greater discussion of this Thesis beyond what I’m mentioning here. While I will get into this later on in the guide, if you are reading this, chances are you have been reading some other sources as well. A lot of people online are heavily touting this Thesis as the flat out best, and a “must take” compared to the others.
While I hate to tell people they are wrong in how they approach the game, in this case they flat out are. A lot of the discussion in this vein centres on comparisons between Wizards and Arcane Sorcerers (With Arcane Evolution). In Part 8: Builds; Putting it all together, I will discuss this at some length, and so I won’t get too much into it here, just know: Don’t buy the hype. Judge a Wizard as a Wizard and not as a Sorcerer, their strengths are not the same.
With our first patches of class options out of the way, it’s time to get to the meat of the PF2 modular system, the feats! Feats have gone through a bit of a transformation between the editions, now working somewhere between their previous and optional class features, feats are the spokes on your magical wheels.
As time goes on, this will probably become the single longest part of the guide, but unlike spells, because this is part of the chassis of class, I’ll endeavor to keep this updated as much as possible.
Feat sources are going to become an ever more important topic for Wizards as the game line goes on. Class feats not only drive your own class features, but serve as the resource that you’ll spend when taking archetypes, be they multi-class or intra-class. This means that class feats are always going to be the bottleneck to our optimisation dreams.
Cracking open the shell of the class, we see that the Wizard gets the standard slew of class feats at every even level, plus access to a couple of extras depending on their choices. The table below doesn’t reflect those granted by Thesis options, unless in the future a Thesis option grants access to a general class feat instead of a specific one.
Natural Ambition, from the human ancestry, has also been included on the list because just about everyone has some means of access to it and trading an ancestry feat for a class one is a solid swap!
Apparently the class feat granted to Wizards at 1st level was a mistake… not a design mistake, which honestly it kinda of was, but they literally did not mean to print it! So when your fancy physical book says
“At 1st level and every even level thereafter”
Or when describing the Universalist
“You gain an extra Wizard class feat”
Or when it was added to the reference tables
All of these mistakes have now been removed from this guide! They’ll probably be removed from online sources soon as well. But for you folks, like me, who bought the first print run of the core? Get a sharpie I guess? Post-it notes?
Now, what does this mean for us? Basically it amounts to the rich getting richer and the poor getting less access to famailars. Our two Thesis topics rated Blue and Sky Blue are now actually more valuable for utility, and the Natural Ambition feat for Humans is even stronger. Good for them I guess!
The other important thing that we need to understand when looking at class feats is how we can retrain them. The table above shows that we can get an awful lot of feats at 1st level, but of our options, choices open to us at 1st aren’t going to be things we necessarily want career long.
When it comes to class feats, thankfully, retraining is pretty simple and quick! Let's take a look!
Simple! We have a type for type replacement system with little invest or bother. There, however, a few restrictions on howe can retrain which need to be paid attention to, and will have an impact on the value of a few of our feat sourcing options.
This does rain on our parade somewhat. Having to stick to options generally open to you at the time of original selection means that our handful of 1st level feats will remain as some of our lowest tier choices. Hopefully this is an issue which will lessen with time. More products means more feats, and more feats in that 1st level slot hopefully.
At the moment, it means that there is no good reason not to pick up a familiar. Even without investing in any of the possible upgrades, the added utility for a 1st level feat is will worth it.
But enough foreplay! Onto the feats!
Counterspell (prepared) (★★★)
I’ll more than likely revisit this rating in the future. The move to a Reaction makes it a competitive choice if you build around it, and that’s why I’m tentative. In previous editions, counterspells were generally pretty poor uses of a turn, but not so much now. Green is honestly probably too high for this feat, especially since Clever Counterspell is all the way at 12th and has an additional feat tax. Might be good to retrain into though, so green for now.
Eschew Materials (★)
Why is this still even a thing? Its either an entirely lateral move, or, in some circumstances, a direct downgrade due to free hand requirements. The problems that this feat are designed to address are so situational that I feel it’s more an issue with your DM hating you, than anything else.
See Part 1.6: Familiars! if you are on the fence. If you have a 1st level feat though, you should probably just take it.
Hand of the Apprentice (★★★)
The power itself is pretty meh, but it’s got the longest range of anything at 1st level and starts your access to focus powers.
Cantrip Expansion (★★★)
I don’t mind it! Cantrips in PF2 got the 5e treatment and will now provide career-long damage. Having access to more of the damage dealing ones just means you can rotate damage against enemy resistances. As ever, you’ll never be as good a blaster as a sorcerer, and honestly you shouldn’t try, but having some utility cantrips doesn’t hurt either.
Enhanced Familiar (★★★★)
Bit torn on this one honestly. I feel like if you want it, and didn’t pick Improved Familiar attunement, you’ve made a mistake. But, at the same time, if that's your Thesis you don’t really need it. Honestly, nothing at 2nd (in the CRB anyhow, this will hopefully change as time goes on) competes with Alchemist Dedication, which I'll cover later. The power of this feat even goes up with Alchemist Dedication, so do with that what you will!
Bespell Weapon (★★)
A fun little ability that I honestly can see getting some love from gishier Wizards. However, its non-cantrip, once per turn restrictions pretty much killed it for me. Might go up to green with a good Universalist build, or with Champion Dedication
Interestingly, this feat sees more play with a Fighter MC Wizard than vice versa.
Linked Focus (★★)
Before I realised it was a once a day power, I almost had a full build focused around it, now I’m not sure I can rate it higher than Orange. You hurt me Linked Focus, hurt me bad.
Spell Penetration (★★★)
If it was a 1st level feat, I’d rate it blue, but its not, so I won’t. You’ll still get life-long use of it though!
Steady Spellcasting (★★★)
Honestly, a 25% chance to keep a spell you would otherwise lose is worth it! Pick it up to round your build at later levels.
Advanced School Spell (See Text)
Refer to the Arcane school section of the guide for a closer understanding of how good this feat is/isn’t. 8th level slot is crowded with good options though.
Universal Versatility (★★★)
Has its uses and will be as useful whatever ability you’ve swapped into. Honestly though, since you’re a Universalist, your 8th level feat is Bond Conservation and that's that!
Scroll Savant (★★★★)
Up to 4 bonus variable spells per day?! Yes please!
Clever Counterspell (★★★)
If you like counterspelling, this makes it possible to do effectively. Has the highest feat requirements of anything on this list and I can’t honestly say it’s worth it.
Magic Sense (★★)
Nifty! Not worth a 12th level feat though.
Bonded Focus (★★★)
If you’ve been loving your Advanced School Spell for the last 6 levels, then this is probably right up your ally. Reliability turning your encounter powers into twice per encounter power is certainly a huge boon.
Reflect Spell (★★★)
This is honestly a very solid upgrade. If you’ve taken Clever Counterspell already, then this is 100% your next feat.
Superior Bond (★★★★)
Bond Conservation but for the poor-man Specialist wizard. I still really like, and would recommend picking it up even if you are already running Bond Conservation as their interaction is great!
Effortless Concentration (★★★★★)
A straight up boost to your action economy that impact multiple fronts, it’s honestly just great. Invest!
Spell Tinker (★★★★)
Spell Immunity and Polymorph effects make this feat seriously interesting. I’m rating this blue for the possibilities, and the very real chance of it being broken after a few additional books are printed.
Strong contender for later level builds with The Druid archetype.
Infinite Possibilities (★★★)
A once a day spontaneous spell is interesting, if not game breaking. I do like options though, and if PF2 ever gets its version of Emergency Force Sphere then I’m all the way sold!
Re-Prepare Spell (★★★★)
Turn a spell of 4th level or lower into an encounter power?! Change that spell with the Spell Substitution Thesis? Even with its limitations, it’s still going to be a solid choice.
Some light theorycraft puts the possible output of this between 96-144 spells per day, but don’t count on that in play.
Suggestion: Sleep, Heightened to 4th level, seems like one of the strongest choices currently available.
Oh, also; Super Niche interaction: 4 free charges on a staff!
Archwizard’s Might (★★★★)
Oddly, this isn’t our most powerful capstone, but powerful it is. Take that extra 10th level slot to the bank. Also, just FYI, nothing stops you recharging these slots with Arcane Bond!
Metamagic Mastery (★★★★.5)
With the death of the Component-Action link, so to does Metamagic Mastery take a hit. No longer a class-defining kingmaker, instead MMM retains its core value as increasing your action economy overall.
The .5 rating comes from its still very potent addition to the use of Bond Conservation
Spell Combination (★★★/★★★★)
This is a really interesting ability, and honestly, I’m not sure how to really categorie it. Like several aspects of the Wizard, once the spell list develops its potential will only grow. I feel like Sorcerers would get more out of it, but this is for Wizard’s only baby!
Spell Mastery (★★★)
“Hey OMR, why is this green but Scroll Savant is Blue? They do mostly the same thing but 10 levels apart”
I’m cleaving off feats with the metamagic tag from the main body of class feats. While metamagic isn’t as niche for the Wizard as in previous additions, given the power of the metamagic thesis and the Metamagic Mastery capstone feat, metamagic deserves its own space. If you aren’t convinced, see the section right after this one for why!.
Reach Spell (★★★)
A fine bit of MM to kick us off. My only real problem with Reach Spell is that, after pouring through the spellbook, wizards don’t have an awful lot of touch spells to pick from, giving it somewhat limited functionality. That said, gotta love Chill Touching from 30ft away at level 1.
With some additional play under my belt I feel like Reach Spell really should be the pick of every young Wizard with a feat to cash in. It really helps in those early levels.
Widen Spell (★★★)
Niche by design, but I keep finding more and more uses for it.
Conceal Spell (★★)
One of the few cases of feat tax we’ll encounter in this guide. By itself, this ability is pretty meh, as it requires too many other things to go right and has marginal value. It’s not baaaad but I would probably rate it lower if we didn’t need for Silent Spell.
Silent Spell (★★★)
With our new understanding of Spell Anatomy (See ), Silent Spell goes from a Must Have to a Meh.
Like all Greens, it’s a situationally useful and is good at what it does. In spite of the feat tax, being able to bake in Conceal Spell is handy.
Bond Conservation (★★★★★)
A great feat for any Wizard and a must for the Universalist. If you are a Universalist and not taking this feat, what are you even doing? The 8th level feat slot is packed with great choices, and if you are a Specialist you’ll probably be grabbing Advanced School Spell over this. Definitely come back get it later though, see Part 1.2: Cascade Casting
Overwhelming Energy (★★★★)
Super nifty for your blasting options! An honestly strong option with little drawback that will allow you get extra mileage even from your cantrips.
Quickened Casting (★)
Once a day?! By 1 action?! And it has to be 2 levels lower than your max?! This guy got hit with the Nerf bat super hard. This was too harsh. While it may have its uses, fuck it, Red because i’m bitter.
Under Construction! Please mind the mess!
Portions of this section of the guide are due to be archived and replaced with more accurate and up to date information. Please bear with me during this transition.
As consistent readers of this guide will know, by far and away the biggest controversy to emerge from its writing was the discussion around the former contents of this section. (Archived for posterity in Part 12: Archived & Historical Information: Archived - 18/12/19: Anatomy of a Spell)
After months of waiting, we finally received some direct information about the “Spell Components = Actions” Debate.
Hands up, I was flat wrong.
As you’ll read in a moment, my rationale for believing what I did was sound, and you can see the echoes of the former system literally all over the structure of spells. It appears that rather than rework the spell system between Playtest and Official Release, Paizo instead decided to leave it as it was but weaken the necessary verbiage and thus break the link between components and actions.
Obviously this wasn’t as explicit as it could have been, and indeed wasn’t even clear to all of us who didn’t even realise that the verbiage change was intended to break the link. But, in any case, it’s now confirmed and we can all move on.
What did this confirmation look like you ask? Once again, Mark Seifter (Who has been on a Q&A tear recently!) jumped into the discussion thread on the Paizo forums regarding the interaction of Silent Spell, Metamagic Mastery, and spell components, and set us straight.
So yeah! That is pretty explicit.
The Component-Action link is dead, long live Arbitrary Cast Times.
As a side note, you won’t be able to cast most spells off a ready action without Metamagic Mastery’s capstone interaction.
For me, this is a super disappointing inclusion. Since most offensive / utility spells are at least [>>], and the Ready action is [>>] by itself, AND stipulates that the readied action can only be [>] or Free, it makes it a fairly limited tactic for wizards for most of their career.
Once you have access to Metamagic Mastery however, then the Ready action opens up its full potential. You have to jump through some hoops, and accept only marginal gain, but it's a little extra mileage out of an already great capstone. Just in case you weren’t sold on this feat already.
Contentious - The following section has been deemed contentious and submitted for FAQ or is in need of additional developer clarification. please speak with your DM before bringing it to the table.
If you have looking over your spellbook, you may have noticed that some spells either have a duration of “sustained” or have some option which kicks in when you sustain a spell.
Sustaining a spell has actually changed a fair deal since PF1, and now it has more versatility than ever. Lets brush on just how this works.
So sustaining a spell is basically a single [>] we take on our turns in order to keep a spell effect from a previous turn going. That’s obvious! Why bother talking about such an obvious thing and why does it have the Contentious tag? Well my friends, you may have missed something in the sustain action, or, rather, missed the lack of something.
As presented, there is no limit on how many times a spell can be sustained a turn, bar the number of actions you have open to you. Think about that for a moment, then go back to your spell lists.
When you sustain the spell, comma.
One might assume that a spell can only be maintained once in a round, and that the effects of said spell, once maintained, only occur once in the following rounds.
This is not, however, so. While not true for all sustainable spells, many of them are worded in such a way that, as long as you are willing to spend [>] using the “Sustain A Spell” action, then you get their effects multiple times in the round.
So what does this mean for us?
At present, not an awful lot. At the time of writing, not many Arcane spells have overly exciting effects when sustained multiple times in a round. This will naturally change over time, but, at present, it’s not anything to get too excited about.
Unless you’ve decided to take a Divine casting multiclass Dedication that is! While they, as a whole, will be discussed in more detail in Part 2.2: Multiclass Archetypes, for now, all you need to know is that they grant limited access to some Divine spells.
Divine spells like Spiritual Weapon and Spiritual Guardian, both of which are pretty nifty little spells. While both are too hard to screenshot here, effectively, each time they are sustained you get a strike action with one of the most favorable modifiers open to you in the whole game! Treated as spell attacks, adding your stat mod to damage, and having decent base damage in their own right, they allow you to play at being a melee combat like the big boys, without having to get too close.
What’s more, you can actually a little additional mileage from the Effortless Concentration feat! Even more reasons to like it!
In a discussion thread on the Paizo forums, Mark Seifter graced us with some information about this very issue
“We have it coming in the next errata batch. Sustain a given spell once per round only, unless the spell specifically encourages you to do so more than once like spiritual weapon.“
That’s some solid information in regards to rules as intended! It looks like the days of the Flaming Sphere debate may already becoming to a close. Sadly, Mark was not more forthcoming about the details at this time, nor even a timescale.
“We'll let you guys know, but there's other steps along the way to deciding that go through multiple departments before we ourselves know for sure, and then we need to make sure it's all set and we're sure we can hit it. The last thing we want to do is give a timeframe and then have it be inaccurate.
So what can we pull out of this? Not very much sadly. We know that something will change, and we know that a new “rule of thumb” in terms of sustained spells is coming. We don’t yet know the shape of it or which spells will be affected.
It’s a good shout that Flaming Sphere will not exist in its current form (See below why), but other spells like Spiritual Weapon will in fact encourage it.
Until its out, guess we’ll just have to wait. For the time being, remember to consult your GM on how you folks think the spell should work for your table.
For canny readers of their spellbook, as we went over the previous section, you may have been wondering about the Flaming Sphere spell and why it was omitted. On a surface read, Flaming Sphere would look to be one of the spells who gains the most from the Sustain rules. However, a debate has started due to the spells particular wording, which calls this into question.
Let’s take a quick look at the spell’s text to get ourselves up to speed.
The particular verbiage of issue here is “On Subsequent Rounds” and what that means for the intended workings of the spell.
Some camps argue that wording means that Flaming Sphere is designed to only be usable once per round, and that additional sustaining of the spell does nothing of worth. Meaning that the spell is an additional 3d6 (without heightning) on top of your other [>>] casts. In terms of numbers, this seems more in line with overall damage trends we see at lower levels.
Other camps argue that the wording merely prevents you from sustaining the spell on the same round the spell is cast, preventing a 6d6 fireball in a single turn. This interpretation however would mean that, for the following 9 turns, the spell would deal upto 9d6 per round. At 3rd level.
Both arguments have some merit to them, and it think it will take an FAQ to clear it up. Until that time however, it will be your DM’s decision.
Personally, the second interpretation looks to be correct as per Rules as Written. This makes Flaming Sphere one of the most efficient damaging spells in the game. Being flexible in the number of times you can sustain it each turn, is relatively light on your actions, allowing you to move and cast other spells as needed, while pumping up the damage on turns when you can stay still.
For some context; Cast as an 8th level spell, with the help of the Effortless Concentration feat, the spell can have a potential damage output of 36d6 per round (9d6 per sustain x4 sustains), for up to 9 rounds, with an additional weaker first round. This means that, for a single spell slot, Flaming Sphere has the potential to deal 333d6 damage. Averaging this, we get the result of 1165 points of fire damage! Needless to say this is well above the damage potential of any other spell yet printed, and makes it the most efficient damaging spell in the entire game by a wide, vast, expansive, margin.
Infact, pulling out some examples from the current Monster Manual, if we take the 5 currently highest levels enemies in print we see the following:
The Grim Reaper
Resistance: all damage (15)
Resistance: Acid 20, all (except sonic) 10
Immune to Fire, so okay, I’ll give you this one.
Resistance: Acid 20, cold 15, fire 15, physical 20
Apart from Tor Linnorm and perhaps Treerazer, we see that a single 8th level Flaming Sphere can (in theory), handily kill all the most powerful enemies currently in the game.
So that’s why there is a debate!
Speaking of Effortless Concentration and why it's amazing, did you know that it allows an even more direct and powerful boost to your action economy than is immediately obvious? If you did, good for you! If not, let's learn some more about Summon minions and how you control them.
That’s right! A minion that comes about due to a spell or magical item effect counts as a Summoned Minion, and with Summoned Minions the action you use to command them is the Sustain a Spell action.
For most of your career, this won’t have too much of an impact on your use of Summons. Unlike with other sustained abilities as noted above, commanding a minion is explicitly restricted to a Once Per Turn ability. So sadly we can’t trade 3 actions for 6 (not that you would really want to). What we do get, however, with Effortless Concentration is an effective 2 additional actions per turn on those turns where we have a Summoned Minion up.
The value of this will depend on what you have summoned, and the utility of summoned monsters has changed somewhat from PF1. I’m going to discuss this further in Part 6: Spells, however, for now, even if we just consider them as an Animal Companion (See Part 2.2: The Druid: The Animal Order - Animal Companions). This alone is a pretty solid upgrade on your actions per turn.
Having your full 3 actions each turn, plus 2 addition from a Summons is huge. As we’ll see when we deep dive into Summons later on, this will end up turning into many more spells per day being thrown around.
I just wish something like this existed for Familiars… Speaking of!
Familiars have changed a lot between the editions, their role in boosting your action economy, however, remains the same!
Firstly, getting a familiar is no longer a free or inherent part of the class. You want one? Going to have to select for it. Thankfully a familiar can be obtained with a simple 1st level feat which any Wizard can grab, or comes for free with the Improved Familiar Attunement Thesis.
Much like everything in PF, your familiar is now as modular as you are, minus all of the commitment. Whereas in PF1 your familiar was a well ordered and structured bestie, with particular inherent traits depending on what it is and your level, instead PF2 gives us a system for crafting bespoke familiars from a host of options.
Split between Familiar Abilities and Master Abilities, by default, your familiar gets to pick a mere 2 per day. Thankfully there are a number of ways to augment the number of these abilities you have access, and, best of all, you aren’t stuck with any of your choices. Each day, during spell preparation, you can reselect any of your familiars abilities just like your spells.
Let’s take at our options, shall we?
Playing an aquatic campaign? Want a goldfish as a buddy? Then this is the ability for you!
Burrowing is more limited than I’d like considering we’re dealing with magic here, bit it’s great for finding buried treasure I guess!
Why Climb when for the same cost you can fly at the same speed. Climb might have a few edge cases over flight, but generally it's the worse of the two.
Damage Avoidance (★★★)
Green by default, but I actually really like. If you know you are sending your Bud into a combat zone, it pays to throw this on him.
Have Darkvision yourself? Then its orange. Don’t have Darkvision? Well you (kinda) do now!
Fast Movement (★★★★/★★)
Almost always Blue if you intend to use your familiar to its max. Some folks may wish their familiars to be home-bodies, but this is great for maximising fluff-bros usefulness.
3 Dimensional movement is amazing. Straight boost to utility, helps them avoid danger, marginal additional value with the Enlarge spell. Great all round!
Personally, I have a soft spot in my heart for abilities like this. If it was just a little bit less restrictive, I’d probably go Green.
Lab Assistant (★ / ★★★★)
Prerequisite: Manual Dexterity
Helps solve some action economy issues with the Alchemist and its Dedication. Goes up to Blue if you feel like picking up the Quick Alchemy feat as well.
Manual Dexterity (★★★★★)
This is like 40% of the entire reason familiars are so good. Extra manipulation actions at a low-low cost!
If you need it you need it. Abilities like this really benefit being able to mix and match now.
Someone is about to get ALL the treats. Oh, and your familiar is now one of the best scouts possible. Plus, now you get bonus RP chances!
Freeze Mask (★★★)
Magaambyan Attendant Dedication
It’s cool, it’s flavourful, it’s fun.
It’s a little useless a lot of the time, but for those worried about the safety of their familiar, this can go a long way to help.
Cantrip Connection (★★/★★★)
Must be able to prepare Cantrips
Honestly, you probably don’t need this. You get enough cantrips to cover your bases, but if you are investing in your familiars ability count, can’t hurt I suppose.
Extra Reagents (★/★★★★)
Must have the Infused Reagents class feature.
Did you take the Alchemist Dedication? Then you’re taking this.
Familiar Focus (★★)
Must have a Focus Pool
This ability will really be as strong as your School Spell, however, being once a day is a real kick in the teeth.
Look to the section on combat familiars below, and in Part 2.2: The Alchemist: Pokemon, but on Meth to see why this might be Blue. If you aren’t thinking of using your furball to bite things, you can take or leave it.
Spell Battery (★★★★)
Must be able to cast 4th level spells
Yep, it's good! Note, I decided not to include this in the Spells per Day table because it’s kinda awkward to factor in there.
Spell Delivery (★★/★★★)
Can have it uses, more so if you are going to throw fluffbutt into combat. That said, I’d rather just use Reach spell.
A lot of the value we can derive from these abilities will also come from our ability to several of them at a time.
If you aren’t planning on taking the Improved Familiar Attunement Thesis, which grants an additional 4 abilities across your career (for a total of 6), then I highly recommend taking Enhanced Familiar for an additional 2 (or take both, for 8!). Simply put, two abilities is not enough. If you like the idea of using your familiar to attack (see below), then you’ll definitely need at least one of those options.
So how do Familiars actually work and what is their role in enhancing your action economy? Familiars, much like Summons, now operate using something known as the minion trait. It’s a new, and somewhat universal system to help govern any other being under the wizards direct control.
You can have any number of minions at one time, however, you are limited in your ability to command them. The system is basically a direct 2-1 trade in your favour. By spending [>], you can order a being with the minion trait to use up to [>>]. If you ever decide to become a big, scary, necromancer, with a horde of undead, it means you’ll only ever be able to directly command 3 of them in any given round. This does mean that you’re effective actions in that turn double to 6, which is a pretty sweet deal.
Your familiar works just the same way. By using [>] to issue it a command, your familiar can take any [>>] that it would be capable of. There is, however, a bit of ambiguity in what a minion can do without a direct command, as the system does recognise that sentient beings won’t just drool in the corner without your word. Let’s take a look!
See what I mean? “Act how they please” is vague at best. In practical terms, I imagine when not in Encounter mode, your familiar will be able to act without limitations and you won’t have to consider your action delegation. But it’s what happens in Encounter mode that bears some FAQ / Errata clarification. The additional question of will your familiar count as just an animal or get the upgrade to full sapience due to its connection to you. If it can talk does that mean it can think? Who knows!
Natively, Familiars can’t attack. Nothing expressly prevents them from doing so, but, by themselves, they simply lack any means of making an attack action. In order to take the Strike action, its required that you have some means of attack.
All we need to do then, in order to get a tiny combat pal, is to find a way to give your familiar an attack. As the gameline goes on, the number of ways to do so will probably grow, however, as of right now, your options are limited.
Part 2 of this guide will deal with archetypes, which is a massive discussion in and of itself, however, by taking the Alchemist Dedication we open up the possibility of combat familiars from level 2. Our main vector for doing do is the Bestial Mutagen. Normally not so great, the fact that mutagens can now be taken by anyone means our famailars can now enjoy their benefits.
I’ll talk about this more in depth, however, at the end of the Alchemist Dedication discussion, where I'll break down the numerous benefits and interactions opened up by this feat.
Under Construction! Please mind the mess!
Part 2 of this guide is a vast and roving beast which grows more complex each day. This section may forever be under some form of review, so please don’t hold formatting issues against me.
Archetypes take a massive departure from their PF1 equivalents in terms of both form and function. Almost unrecognisable from the original, anyone who experienced “Variant Multiclassing” last edition will be immediately familiar with what's going on here.
PF1 Variant Multiclassing was a really innovative switch up to the way by which characters have multiclassed since the multiclassing has been a thing. From 2e to 5e, players have literally just stacked classes on top of each other, operating as their respective class levels for the features offered. For many, partially martial classes, this system worked great and allowed some unique - if awkward to RP - characters to arise. The method was, however, horrible for full casters. Losing class levels in your primary caster class always meant taking a steep power cut. For prepared casters, even a 1-level dip, could seriously put you behind the curve. Spontaneous casters getting an even worse deal and perhaps losing out on access to whole spell levels.
Now, all that is gone (For now anyhow), and has been replaced with what is perhaps the most elegant means of multiclassing ever brought to the table.
For those who never used Variant Multiclassing in PF1, and are new to the archetypes of PF2, never fear, cause I’m about to break this down.
Quite frankly, multiclassing has never been easier, at least in terms of the current system of taking dedication feats to do so. Unlike in previous editions, where stacking class levels on top of each other could create awkward and messy characters, the new design is an extremely elegant method and one I’m a massive fan of.
However, this does not mean that there are not things that we need to be aware of before jumping in!
Much like everything is PF2, Mutliclassing is now as modular as everything else. Letting you decide just how much investment you want in your secondary class.Investment is also a key term here, because, unlike with PF1, where you could in theory have a character made up of 20 1st level dips, Mutliclassing is more about resource allocation rather than just dipping in and out at key levels. Let’s take a look!
Your class feats are now the resources by which we obtain and drive multiclassing! All aspects of your multiclass experience are now driven by which, and how many, of your class feats you have traded in for Multiclass feats instead.
While not wholly standardised, both your class feat allocation and the number of Multiclass feats open to you, are in a rough alignment. Which means we can start talking about various multiclass options just from the perspective of how good they are, but how resource intensive they are as well.
By default, every character you will ever play in PF2 will have access to at least 10 class feats across their career. Most classes will have access to more than this base 10 in various ways, and i’ve already broken down the Wizards options in Part 1.4: Wizard Feats: Feat Sources. What also matters, however, is not just the number of feats we have, but the level at which we get them, as all Multiclassing feats bring with them a level requirement. Below is a table which breaks down the various level intersections the Wizard will experience with both class feats and a broad swath of the Mutliclass options.
Class Feature / Focus Spell / Resiliency
Secondary Class Feature
“Monk’s Flurry” (Monk) /
“Uncanny Dodge” (Rogue)
Final Class Feature
“Diverse Armour Expertise” (Champion)
I imagine that, once new class get added to the multiclass table, that “Outlier” column will have to be renamed to some sort of emergent trend. Given that the only real outliers belong to the Monk, Rogue and Champion, I’m tempted to call it “tricky martial” as it is, but I’ll leave it as is for now.
So what does this table tell us? It tells us that multiclassing is actually going to be a matter of strategic resource allocation more than anything else, but it also tells us that this will not be the same across the broad.
Given that martial and spellcasting multiclasses tend have slightly different feat placements, it means we’ll have slightly different power spikes depending on which option you go for. It also means we’ll need to some build plotting to in order to maximise our investment at key levels.
For example, if we wish to choose a spellcasting multiclass option (More about that in Part 2.2: Multiclass Archetypes: The Bard: Multiclass Spellcasting and you!) we may find ourselves very tempted at 8th level to take one of the various “Breadth” feats that comes with them. However, 8th level is also the level that Bond Conservation comes online. Bond Conservation is such a huge power spike, that it can be hard to justify really taking anything else. Thankfully, however, we aren’t hard-locked into taking the Multiclass feats at these levels, and we can simply delay until the next time we get a class feat to take them.
Source: Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rule Book
We start off the archetypes list with the, hands down, strongest option on the list for Wizard. I cannot express just how strong of an option is, especially right at level 2! It’s like going up an additional level. The power spike this greats at 2nd is amazing. Let’s break this all down!
This is, honestly, one of the strongest 2nd level feats you could ever ask for. The number of goodies we get from such a small investment is insane. We’ll walk through it in this section, but I’m just blown away by how good this is for Wizards.
Trading a 4th level class feat for a 1st / 2nd level one isn’t a great trade for me. The options are also pretty so-so for is. Too bad we’re only allowed one Familiar at a time, or else this would be Sky Blue for that alone!
Personally, due to the much more limited access to reagents that wizards get vs alchemists, I’m not overly fussed on this feat. However, I can recognise its power, and usefulness.
Definitely better than the basic version, and best taken at later levels than at 6th. It’s got some decent options that can fit a variety of styles.
Expert in Crafting
Did you take Alchemist Dedication at 2nd? Feel like its power is starting to drop off around level 4 or 5? Good news! This is your 6th level feat!
Master in Crafting
This will take Advanced Alchemy all the way up to level 15 eventually, which is damn strong. We get an awful lot of mileage and utility out of the 3 Sky Blue feats in this list. All 3 are worth taking asap!
Okay, wow! There is an awful lot to unpack here, as this feat comes LOADED with features right off the bat! Let’s go through this step by step, as it will also serve as a good way to talk about the new alchemy system before Part 7. Before we get into the knitty-gritty however, lets go over some of the basic stuff that comes with the feat.
First up, Proficiencies! The standout here is becoming Trained in Crafting. Crafting has changed from a specific skill to a general skill, in that it now governs your general ability to build or create just about anything. Given how limited our skill increases are, this is a god send if you ever want to craft more than one type of thing. Crafting plays to our strengths, as an Int skill, and is key to both using archetype well, and taking the later feats. It’s a handy skill to have, and getting it for free here is just a nice little bonus. Our other Proficiencies aren’t so great. If you are playing a game which you think isn’t going to go beyond level 5, and you like throwing bombs, then go ahead and treat both Trained in Alchemical Bombs & Alchemist Class DC’s as solid Blue’s. The problem is that never get anything above Trained and so they will rapidly begin to lag behind saves. At low levels, tossing a few bombs is a great boost to what you can bring to combat, however, the true value of alchemical items, at least for Wizards, is pretty much everything besides the bombs.
The flip side to the crafting skill now being generalised is that you now need specific feats to craft just about everything. This is pretty similar to PF1, and in some cases better, so I’m pretty cool with that.
Let’s take a look Alchemical Crafting for a moment!
Not an awful lot to unpack there, except that we can now also craft permanent alchemical items in our downtime, in addition to those temporary ones gained from infused reagents. So we gain some extra utility, the ability to make some extra cash between adventures, and we also gain our first patch of formulas. Pretty damn solid!
Alchemy, as a system, has changed quite a bit since PF1 and thankfully for the Wizard, to our benefit.
Our interaction with alchemical items will come in two main forms;
Both of those are pretty great in their own way, however, the more mundane crafting will be saved for later. Right now it's time to break down what we get from the infused reagents feature, and why the Alchemist Dedication is worth investing in. Let’s take a look at the Infused Reagents feature and see that this gives us!
Of note, we only get a number of reagents per day equal to our level (plus an additional one with one of our familiar features). This takes a bit of the wind out of our sails and means that our early alchemy is going to be far more limited than an actual alchemist, but, you know, that’s pretty fair. Given that as we level up, this disparity will matter less and less, I’m also not that broken up about it. This does also lead into part of my reasoning for not overly loving Quick Alchemy - since it is far more resource intensive than simply using Advanced Alchemy.
Plus, we’re wizards! Preparation is what we’re all about! None of this “by the seat of your pants”, “making it up as you go along”, spontaneous nonsense.
Back to the matter at hand though! Next up is the Advanced Alchemy feature, as it will be the actual driver of what we can do with our infused reagents.
Okay, so this is fantastic! Basically, every morning, while pouring over our spellbook and munching some kibble with the doggo, we also magic up some infused alchemical items. Coming at literally no time and no cost is amazing to boot!
Some limitations however. Unlike actual Alchemists, our Advanced Alchemy is hard set to 1, and it doesn’t advance naturally. This means that the items we can create will be capped at those we can get from 1st level formulas. At levels 2-3, this won’t even be a concern, as the actual Alchemist doesn’t any upgrades to these formulas either. Between 4-5 you’ll start to feel the drop off in your items effectiveness.
Thankfully, at 6th we upgrade our Advanced Alchemy level to 3 with the Expert Alchemy feat. Then it upgrades itself at 10th to 5. Once we hit 12th and take the Master Alchemy feat, our Advanced Alchemy hits 7, and raises every level thereafter.
Here’s a quick table to illustrate:
It’s important to note that our number of reagents isn’t affected by our Advanced Alchemy level, simply what we can do with it! This means that, even at the levels where our alchemical potency lags, we can still make up in quantity what we lack in quality.
Speaking of quantity, did I mention that, when using Advanced Alchemy, we create 2 items per 1 reagent spent?! This contrasts with Quick Alchemy, which is a straight 1 for 1 swap. Which means it literally pays to be prepared!
Let’s take a moment to look at what this actually means for a low level Wizard.
Meet Wizzie McAlchoface, he enjoys brewing up a cold one with the lads while studying the arcane mysteries of the universe.
Currently he is a 3rd level Human Wizard with the Alchemist Dedication feat. He’s a specialised Conjurationist with a Familiar, and likes to be useful.
At this level Wizzie has the following spell slots:
He also has access to his Arcane Bond, which I’ve added to his tally for 2nd level spells, as denoted by the *
Now let’s add Alchemy!
To reach 8 alchemical items we can make per day, we take our level in reagents, add 1 from the Extra Reagents familiar ability, for a total of 4. We then infuse those reagents with Advanced Alchemy to get 8 first level items.
5 Cantrips, 8 Spells, 8 Items! Sweet! Assuming that those items are actually worth anything, we’ve potentially doubled our expendable daily utility! At the cost of single feat! Sadly for Wizzie, as time goes on he never becomes more than Trained in bombs or DC’s, so those features have a sharp drop off as he levels. His utility items however? Good all the way!
Let’s take a quick look at some of these alchemical items. While I'll go into detail about all the alchemical items that will be open to us by endgame in Part 7, it’ll be worth our time to pull out some of things which Wizzie will be able to do with his 8 daily alchemical items and if they were worth the investment after all.
At present, with our level 1 Advanced Alchemy, we have access to the following things:
Acid Flask (Lesser)
Alchemist's Fire (Lesser)
Giant Centipede Venom
Bottled Lightning (Lesser)
Cheetahs Elixir (Lesser)
Frost Vial (Lesser)
Elixir of Life (Minor)
Tanglefoot Bag (Lesser)
Leapers Elixir (Lesser)
Beastial Mutagen * (Lesser)
Cognitive Mutagen (Lesser)
Eagle-Eye Elixir (Lesser)
Energy Mutagen (Lesser)
Juggernaut Mutagen * (Lesser)
Quicksilver Mutagen (Lesser)
Serene Mutagen (Lesser)
Silvertongue Mutagen (Lesser)
I’ll let you read up on the details of each of these for yourself, but I’ve included a quick colour code for each item to give you an idea of overall value. Those Mutagens that I’ve marked with a * denote those which take an uptick in quality when used on a familiar.
Unlike in PF1, Mutagens are now for everyone! Feel free to pass them around as party buffs, or empower your familiar with Bestial Mutagen to let it nip at some heels. Additionally, since Wizzie is a Conjurationist, his Summons can also benefit from any of these as well, for additional value.
Elixir of Life will be a solid amount of healing across your career, allowing you to take pity on your poor Clerics spell slots / get yourself out a deadly jam.
If Wizzie wants to deal a bit more damage, Alchemist’s Fire is decent single target damage, with Frost Vial having some good early, if minor, battlefield control. We have some additional utilities abilities which can really help out in a variety of circumstances.
We also have poisons, which remain largely garbage.
So far, I’ve made a few mentions of using Alchemy to turn your familiars into combatants. It's a fun and interesting edge-case thats possible under a system where familiars were never intended for this function. As we’ll see below, familiars, honestly, aren’t all that great at combat and never will be. They have their moments in the sun however, mostly between levels 2-4, and then never again. So why even talk about it? Well, firstly, I want this guide to be at least somewhat comprehensive in its reflection of the Wizard’s abilities, but, more importantly, it’s also a gateway into a larger discussion which comes a bit later.
Putting that aside for a moment, let’s look at what happens when we give Bathsalts to furrets.
Okay, so as we can see, familiars are pretty much stripped down versions of PC’s, but which also have some very notable drawbacks in terms of their access to bonuses.
Let’s also take a look at a few Mutagens which have particular interest if we wish to send our fluff-pals into a fight
Okay! So this is pretty interesting, if not great for us. Since our familiar can’t ever make use of an item bonus, it means that they are going into the fray with an attack modifier of (N = Master’s Level) plus whatever Circumstance or Status bonuses you can find. This isn’t great...
So why bother? Flanking, basically…
Your familiar is a tiny sized, highly mobile, flanking machine. It can get up there and nip at the heels of larger enemies already engaged by your allies. Rendering an enemy flat footed has a range of benefits for your team to exploit, depending on party composition. We also get some additional mileage out of the Rogue Dedication feat if that’s your thing.
It also helps make your familiar at least somewhat effective! Between levels 2-4, it’s going to be rare to come against an enemy which will have an effective bonus higher than Trained (+2), slapping them with a -2 penalty, and, if you’ve picked your targets right, you could hopefully be facing an effective defence of (N = Level) vs an attack of (N = Level).
Now that’s more competitive!
Source: Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rule Book
Initially, I was pretty ready to write off the Barbarian but reddior u/aaa1e2r3 pointed out a few things that made me take another look. The Barbarian doesn’t give us too much on the surface, but does have a handful of useful things which might add some roidy-grumpy spice to your Wizard.
Strength 14, Constitution 14
It’s okay. Getting access to Rage opens up some fun options, however, compared to some other Dedication feats give at 2nd, the barbarian is actually very frugal. It comes with two required stats, one being a tertiary for the Wizard, the other a traditional dump. If you are considering this dedication, I assume you want a gish, so it's not a total waste. If you don’t it's a waste. Plus, without additional feat investment, Anathema is all downside…
I’m always a soft touch for things like this. Between PF2’s standardisation of HP and the weakening of the Toughness feat, things which straight add scaling HP can give you an oddly competitive edge went up against fellow squishies.
There are actually a few really cool options there, however, realistically, you are forced into Moment of Clarity if you want to remain fully functional while using rage. Other standouts are Sudden Charge, which is super nifty, and Second Wind, which is a great means of limitation removal.
With Advanced Fury we get access to up to 10th level feats, and with it we get to see what the actual value of the barbarian can be for the Wizard. I’ll talk about in detail below, but some standouts are Animal Rage, Animal Skin, Share Rage, & Renewed Vigor
As strong as your personal choice of Instinct. Animal has some of my favorite feats, but Fury is solid if you want to gobble up feats and not worry about RPing up the barbarian aspects of your dedication.
Barbarian Dedication, Expert in Fort Saves
Yep, it's good!
The Barbarian is actually a pretty interesting choice for a Wizard dedication and serves a function almost opposite to what you think of when thinking about barbarians.
This is Rage, it’s pretty neat and does some interesting things for the Wizard. Firstly, and perhaps most important, it gives us a whole mess of temporary HP. This temp HP is actually the best part of Rage for us, and shows what the Barbarian dedication is all about; DEFENSE!
Screw attempting to smash folks with your willowy Wizard muscles, without additional proficiencies or increases in our access to weapons or attacks, the Barbarian doesn’t actually provide the Wizard with a means of being an effective combat gish. What we do get is a whole mess of assorted defensive effects which can really add some staying power.
Abilities like Wounded Rage & Renewed Vigor give a lot of inexpensive and consistent access to temp HP, which is a great little force field effect, and really extends the Wizards somewhat merger health pot. While I'm not a fan of the action it takes to use, the Moment of Clarity feat gives us full access to our spellcasting while Raging.
Speaking of Moment of Clarity, even without it, we aren’t fully locked our spell casting! Going back to our spell anatomy, you’ll see that the thing that adds the concentration trait is the Verbal Spell component. This means, that while Raging, as long as the spell doesn’t require a verbal component, you’re free to cast it!
The Arcane spell list also does have a few spells which we can use to pre-buff before entering a rage, and gaining some actual use of those damage buffs, but we’ll talk about those some more in Part 6.
Source: Pathfinder 2nd Edition Core Rule Book
I’ll be returning to this soon, I want to play around with it a bit more.
The Bard introduces our first archetype which potentially grants another tradition of spellcasting into the mix. As a whole, I really like the Bard, and the access to separate pools of spells / spell lists is a very exciting prospect, one we’ll get to explore a few times in this section.
Since this is our first port of call into the multi-tradition caster options, let’s take a quick look at the system, see what advantage it has and how it can impact us as Wizards.
Once again, PF2 breaks a long held tradition of the D&D world, and introduces the option of potentially high-level casting to pretty much everyone. The new multiclass system also really shows its strength and robustness with these options. For the low-cost of 3 feats, full martial classes can now have limited access of up to 8th level spells, and with various options to expand that access.
In terms of party configurations and class dynamics, it really takes the pressure off the “mandatory roles” which have developed over the years. In theory, a party full of Fighter / Clerics could operate just as efficiently as if each role was dedicated to a particular party member. Tactically, I’m also a huge fan of planned-redundancy. If several members of a party are each able to augment or add to the role of another, then the party won’t be vulnerable to an unlucky crit wrecking the whole session.
But, beyond all that, it's just a really cool new aspect to the game that I’m super excited to see develop. As PF1 was getting on in years, it started to introduce more and more ways for Wizards to get access to other spell lists / moving spells over to the Wiz/Sorc book. Now this access is an inherent part of the system, and it's just super neat!
Let's start by taking a look at the basics
All caster Archetypes grant access to their specific version of these 3 feats. They have early, mid and late game power spikes which grant very limited casting options. Importantly they come with proficiencies baked in, so, unlike a lot of the martial Archetypes, you can remain somewhat competitive as a core function of the option without additional investment.
Each spellcasting archetype also has a version of a “Breadth” feat. Which marginally increases the spell slots open to you, up to a max of 6th level spells.
In practice, then, we’ll never be a true dual caster. At best we’ll have a couple of tricks per day, drawn from another tradition, and which is best used to shore up holes in the Wizard list, or grant us access to a handful of key spells or tricks which are otherwise lacking for us.
So, with an investment of 4 of our handful of potential class feats, we can get the following casting options from any of the caster multiclasses