Guide:Gish (Spellblades)

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  • Work in Progress*

Introduction[edit | edit source]

This is a collection of items that I think benefit the Gish (or Spellblade) play style in a way that is stronger than simply having a character that uses spells with occasional weapon attacks, or vice versa. Specifically, these items leverage Arcane Acuity and Arcane Synergy to empower characters that use spells and weapon attacks in tandem with one another. Characters properly built in this style can do quite a bit of damage, but mostly they're just fun.

Overview[edit | edit source]

First of all, are Gish characters good? It... depends. Generally speaking, I find that a more focused character is going to perform better than a character that dabbles in a little bit of everything, so something like a Thief Rogue or a Great Weapons Master character will do better physical damage than a Gish, while a Sorcerer or a Wizard will probably do better spell damage than a Gish. The trick here is that a proper Gish can be extremely flexible, with access to both physical and magical damage in combat. Likewise, a Gish will often have utility that a purely physical character won't, like Longstrider or Minor Illusion, and will be more durable and persistent in combat than a pure spell caster, so there's definitely a trade-off.

There are a couple of different ways you can build a Gish, or a Spellblade, or a Hexblade, whatever you want to call it, which I will go over later. There are two main distinctions between Gish builds, whether you want to do damage, or whether you want to be useful. Not that doing damage isn't useful, but you get the idea. The distinction between damage and utility is important, because different builds will focus on different aspects of a Spellblade's kit, considering things like Eldritch Strike, Shield, or Defensive Flourish as possible options. Whichever roll you want your Gish to fill, you will need to know ahead of time, and prepare for. Obviously, you can have a Gish that does both, but not all Gish will be able to do both, if that makes sense.

As a note, for strength builds in particular, Spellblades can benefit from items like Elixir of Cloud Giant Strength especially well, given that they will be dependent on multiple ability scores to be maximally effective. This will allow you to commit fully to your spellcasting modifier while still having better-than-usual hit rates with your melee attacks.

As a further addendum to that, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on builds that largely just use synergistic items to create a Spellblade character. The items exist, use them if you'd like. Instead, I want to focus on character builds that do interesting things, with items as an extra bonus. I will mention things like Eldritch Knight when it provides an interesting use case, but there are a lot of Gish builds that don't have any real advantage over any other build, so I won't mention them.

Some Build Ideas[edit | edit source]

Primarily Striker Builds (Str or Dex)[edit | edit source]

  • 1. 5 Paladin + 5 Warlock + 2 Fighter: Probably the strongest single target melee build in the game, this build utilizes a possibly unintended interaction between Improved Pact: Pact of the Blade Warlocks and the Extra Attack class feature from other striker classes. Currently, this combination of Improved Pact and Extra Attack allows a character to make a weapon attack three times per action, and naturally scales further with other sources of bonus actions.
    • While you can do this with classes other than Paladin, like Bard, Paladin offers the greatest single target burst damage due to Divine Smite, and also does extra damage to fiends and undead, which happen to be a good number of enemies and bosses in this game.
    • If you use Bind Weapon, you can dump strength and completely focus on Charisma for better spell accuracy.
    • I wanted to include this build just for fun, but it's not a very "good" spellblade.

  • 2. 6 Warlock + 6 Bard / 6 Bard + 5 Warlock + 1 Fighter: The Extra Attack that College of Swords Bards gain synergizes with the extra attack from Deepened Pact the same way that Paladin does, but comes a level later, making this build less flexible. However, the trade-off here is that we are not restricted to melee weapons, can use Slashing Flourish to attack two targets with one attack, and we can still attack three times per action. This effectively gives us more attacks in group encounters when compared to the Paladin version of this build, and does scale better with on-hit, additive bonuses to our damage, but makes us less effective in single-target encounters. Otherwise, the main benefit this build has over the Paladin version is access to much better utility spells, in my opinion.
    • With 6 Bard levels, you will have 4 Bardic Inspiration charges that refresh per Short Rest.
    • Warlock spell slots refresh on Short Rest, rather than Long Rest like other spellcasters.
    • Since we don't have Divine Smite with this build, we can use our spell slots for AoE or Crowd Control instead. Or Misty Step. Or Darkness; Devil's Sight + Darkness is a pretty brutal combo.
    • Same as before, Bind Weapon allows you to use your Charisma for weapon attack and damage rolls.
    • Beguiling Influence is really good for party faces.

Wisdom as your main Spellcasting modifier.[edit | edit source]

Somewhat uniquely to Wisdom builds, you can substitute any Fighter levels for equal Ranger levels, which will still give you Extra Attack at level 5 and a fighting style, but will give you more spell slots in the process. I'm going to include Ranger as the default, but keep in mind that for all of these builds that Fighter is a worthwhile alternative, even if I don't call it out specifically. In case you needed reminding, of course; I think most people know how strong Fighter is at this point.

Likewise, Shillelagh allows you to use your wisdom modifier for attack rolls, but does seem to significantly limit the amount of damage you do, restricting damage rolls to 1d8, instead of whatever modifiers it would normally have. It can be a nice option to have in a pinch, especially if you have other additive, on-hit effects, but it's going to pale in comparison to more focused weapon or MAD builds, especially anything with Great Weapon Master. I wouldn't lean on Shillelagh if you don't have to. That being said, most AoE spells work off of Spell Saves rather than Attack Rolls, so you can still hit relatively consistently even with less than optimal Wisdom investment. Not always ideal, but something to think about.

  • 11 Monk + 1 Druid: To give a quick example of what I'm talking about here, Way of the Four Elements Monk often feels a bit clunky, or overly reliant on its spells to kill things quickly. Shillelagh gives you the ability to kill stuff with whatever weapon you have equipped, which can make finishing off low health enemies less of a chore. Since Way of the Four Elements Monks get pretty sizable improvements to their spells at level 9 and level 11, you don't want to spend a lot of levels in other classes.

5-6 Ranger or Fighter + 5-6 Cleric + 0-1 Druid: Use your bonus actions to heal yourself and just start swinging. This is a really interesting build, because it feels more like just... a really tanky fighter? There are just enough spells from the Cleric spell list that can be cast as bonus actions to feel meaningful, but you're mostly going to be relying on weapon attacks to fill the vast majority of your action economy. Still, it's a very effective build in a straight up brawl. Ranger will offer different utility compared to Fighter.

  • Druid is not at all necessary if you choose to invest in Strength or Dexterity, or if you use an Elixir of Hill/Cloud Giant Strength. However, if you do want to use Shillelagh and invest in Wisdom for better healing, Ironwood Club and Ironvine Shield can be a really interesting way of bolstering your damage with a single handed weapon, while still benefiting from the extra AC of a shield.
  • This build in particular pairs well with Broodmother's Revenge for even more bonus damage, or Shattered Flail / Sword of Chaos for extra healing.

6 Druid + 6 Monk: As a martial class, Monk gains extra attack at level 5. Circle of Spores Druid gives you temporary hit points and bonus damage on melee hits. In addition, you can use a reaction to do spell damage or raise a corpse. While you can definitely run Way of the Four Elements for spells, I find that Way of the Open Fist is just better (big surprise), and the Druid component gives you enough options to feel like more than just a pure striker class.

  • While its almost obligatory to mention a single fighter level, I do feel like the bonuses you get from that sixth level of Monk is more useful.

5 Monk + 3 Rogue + 2 Druid + 2 Fighter: This is basically a pure striker in all but name only, but I wanted to mention it anyway. Extra Attack + Fast Hands + Symbiotic Entity + Action Surge combines persistent on-hit damage with multiple attacks per turn. Use your reaction to ping an enemy with Halo of Spores. I don't know if it's good, but it's a build. Just don't get hit, I guess.

Intelligence as your main Spellcasting modifier[edit | edit source]

1. 11 Fighter + 1 Wizard / 5-7 Fighter + 5-7 Wizard: Almost certainly the two versions of Eldritch Knight that I've had the most success with, you have two main distinctions here. Taking 11 Fighter levels gives you a 3rd attack per action, while splitting your levels between Fighter and Wizard will give you much more spell slots. As of making this list, a single level of Wizard is enough to learn spells from scrolls for any level spell slot.

  • Eldritch Knight gains it's maximum spell slots at level 10, capping out at 4 level 1 spell slots and 3 level 2 spell slots. The single level of Wizard will not be enough to grant you access to level 3 spells, unfortunately. You could drop to 10 levels of Fighter, but you'd lose out on your third attack, which doesn't feel worth it for this build specifically. HOWEVER, the big advantage this version of the build has is Eldritch Strike, which can be extremely strong.
  • At +- 6 Fighter and 6 Wizard, you will have up to 2 level 4 spell slots, which I would argue is enough to feel worth it, plus whatever bonuses from your Wizard subclass, like Enchantment. Since you lose out on Eldritch Strike, you'll lean more on Arcane Acuity (Condition) to land your big spells, but you will have more of them per long rest due to the aforementioned spell slots.

2. 8 Rogue + 1-4 Wizard + 0-3 Bard / 10 Rogue + 2 Wizard / 9 Rogue + 1-2 Wizard + 1-2 Fighter: This is my attempt to make an Arcane Trickster that actually made sense. I made this. Is it good? I have no idea. 9 Rogue gives you Magical Ambush, which feels like the only reason you would take Arcane Trickster in the first place.

  • 2 levels of Wizard give you access to either the Abjuration or Divination subclass. Alternatively, you can take Evocation and use Cunning Action: Hide multiple time throughout a fight to nuke groups of enemies.
  • 2 levels of Fighter gives you Action Surge. You know this.

Charisma as your main Spellcasting modifier[edit | edit source]

1. 8 Paladin + 4 Sorcerer / 6 Paladin + 6 Sorceror / 5 Paladin + 4 Sorceror + 3 Fighter: An evolution of the Divine Smite build listed earlier, the inclusion of Sorceror levels instead of Warlock levels reduces the number of attacks we can make in a single turn, but allows us to cast spells as a bonus action using Quicken Magic. 5 levels of Paladin give us two attacks per action, while 3 levels of Sorceror is mandatory for a single use of Quicken Magic per Long Rest, at baseline. Alternatively, 8 levels of Paladin give us another feat, as well as Auras depending on your Oath. At level 6 Sorceror, we can use Quicken Magic twice per Long Rest at baseline. 2 levels of Fighter give Action Surge, while 3 levels of Fighter allow us to take Battlemaster or Champion for better Striking.

  • This build is very linear, but allows for enough spell slots to have meaningful choices in how we approach combat scenarios. Typically you will want to spend your spell slots on Divine Smite or Hold Person for very reliable, self-sufficient damage, but you will have access to spells like Haste, Fireball, or Counterspell with 5 levels of Sorcerer or higher.
  • At 6 Paladin and 6 Sorcerer, you will have 4/3/3/3/1 spell slots, respectively.
  • At 5 Paladin and 4 Sorcerer, you will have 4/3/3, but will have access to 3 Superiority Die through the Battlemaster subclass.
  • If you use Potion of Hill/Cloud Giant Strength, you can dump Strength as a stat and run something like 14 Dex, 16 Con, 17 Cha at base.

2. 6 Paladin + 6 Bard / 6 Bard + 2-4 Paladin + 2-4 Fighter: If you've ever wanted to have multiple fighting styles that don't synergize, this build is for you. Of the two, I believe Bard spikes much harder at level 6 than Paladin does, due to Improved Bardic Inspiration refreshing charges on every Short Rest instead of Long Rest, and the two Extra Attacks don't stack, unlike with Warlock.

  • The main advantage I see of this build is specifically being able to use Slashing Flourish + Inquisitor's Might or Hunter's Mark from Oath of Vengeance. I don't know if I think that's worth it.
  • 4 levels in Paladin give you spell slots and immunity to disease, which is nice. 3 levels of Fighter gives you Battlemaster, or I guess Eldritch Knight if you take purely utility spells like Shield.

3. 6 Bard + 6 Sorcerer / 6 Bard + 4 Sorcerer + 2 Fighter / 6 Bard + 3 Sorcerer + 3 Fighter / 8 Bard + 4 Sorcerer: Bard can be substituted for Paladin in any Gish build I can think of, trading Divine Smite for, typically, Slashing Flourish. Like the "Sorcadin," a, uh, "Sord" build allows you to combo flexible crowd control with good physical hits, usually through Hold Person, and so the same rules apply. However, as noted in other parts of this guide, the extra level you need to gain extra attack as a Bard does limit your build flexibility. That being said, because both Bard and Sorcerer are full spellcasters, you will have significantly more spell slots, making spell combat a bigger part of your turn-by-turn strategy. To help even out your physical options, 2 levels into Fighter will net you Action Surge or, if you want less Metamagic, you can take 3 levels of Fighter for Battlemaster maneuvers. The specific breakdown for your character levels will change depending on how many feats you want.

  • Highly recommend to take 6 levels of Bard, at bare minimum, for the Extra Attack. There's some niche for a 4-6 College of Lore Bard + 6-8 Sorcerer, just because of Cutting Words, but that is much more of a pure support build, and doesn't really utilize weapon attacks at all.

4. 6 Bard + 4-5 Rogue + 1-2 Wizard: A better version of Arcane Trickster, in my opinion, uses Charisma as it's Spellcasting Modifier, and only uses Wizard spells for utility. Compared to the version of this build listed earlier, this build will have more spell slots and more uses of Bardic Inspiration. You can actually skip Arcane Trickster entirely for Thief or Assassin, depending on your preferences. I created this build to be very tanky while still being able to deal good damage. Like Eldritch Knight, it is primarily a striker class that uses spells for utility rather than damage.

  • Defensive Flourish + Shield gives you 9 bonus Armor Class in a single turn. A shield gives you another +2 AC, minimum.
  • The main advantage of pulling from the Wizard spell list is the ability to learn spells from scrolls. Plus Misty Step for crazy mobility.
  • 2 levels of Wizard gives you access to either Abjuration or Divination, both increase your survivability.
  • Thief is probably still the best Rogue subclass for this build, as usual. A build that improves Arcane Trickster by not picking Arcane Trickster at all.
  • This is maybe my favorite Spellblade build out of this entire list, because it really allows you to play the game in a completely different way.

5. 12 levels of Paladin or Pact of the Blade Warlock: Very simple, but these are technically Gish in the sense that they have spells and have blades. Good for a first playthrough, since these classes will still allow you to utilize the Arcane Acuity and Arcane Synergy items without really having to know how character builds work.

  • Take Lifedrinker at level 12 to pump up your Warlock's melee attacks.

Equipment[edit | edit source]

Helmets[edit | edit source]

Gloves[edit | edit source]

Armor[edit | edit source]

Boots[edit | edit source]

Accessories[edit | edit source]

Cloaks[edit | edit source]

Weapons (and Shields)[edit | edit source]