Argent Champion (3.5e Optimized Character Build)
Rate this article |
Discuss this article
It's well known that Abjurant Champion is THE best tool for a gish build. With full BAB and full spellcasting progression, as well as all class abilities it grants that improve Abjuration spells, it makes for a phenomenal defensive warrior. One of its main tricks is to boost the benefit of very specific spells (namely, Abjuration spells that grant armor or shield AC) based on its class level. A Good character has access to Luminous Armor (and its better counterpart, Greater Luminous Armor), which gets boosted as a result of Abjurant Champion and that can be learned by Wizards, though not without some penalties (because of the sanctified penalties).
But, what happens when you can't (or don't want to) be Good-aligned? Mage Armor (and better spells) are explicitly denied, if only because Mage Armor is a conjuration spell. There's another PrC that's short and sweet, grants a decent amount of spellcasting (4/5), and explicitly boosts the AC granted by force spells: Argent Savant. Of course, the main problem is to qualify for both, as Abjurant Champion requires a BAB of 5 and Argent Savant requires having 5th level spellcasting (making it a class to get after 10th level or higher). With poor BAB, how can we make this get as close as full BAB, get a decent amount of spellcasting, and take advantage of high AC AND the best kind of damage in the game (namely, Force damage)?
This build is a variant of the Arcane Warrior build, replacing some of the granted stuff to gain access to Argent Savant.
Game Rule Components
Starting Racial Traits: Based on chosen race.
|Saving Throws||Feats|| Class
|Spells per day|
|1st||Battle Sorcerer 1||+0||+0||+0||+2||Combat Expertise||Immediate metamagicPHB2||4/2|
|2nd||Battle Sorcerer 2||+1||+0||+0||+3||
|3rd||Battle Sorcerer 3||+2||+1||+1||+3||Combat Casting||
|4th||Battle Sorcerer 4||+3||+1||+1||+4||
|5th||Fighter 4||+4||+3||+1||+4||Improved Trip||
|6th||Spellsword 1||+5||+5||+1||+6||Blade of ForceCM||Ignore spell failure 10%||5/5/3|
|7th||Abjurant Champion 1||+6/+1||+6||+1||+7||
||Abjurant armor, extended abjuration||5/5/4/2|
|8th||Abjurant Champion 2||+7/+2||+7||+1||+8||
|9th||Abjurant Champion 3||+8/+3||+7||+2||+8||Invisible NeedleCM||
|10th||Abjurant Champion 4||+9/+4||+8||+2||+9||
|11th||Abjurant Champion 5||+10/+5||+8||+2||+9||
|12th||Eldritch Knight 1||+11/+6/+1||+10||+2||+9||Extra Spell (polymorph), Power Attack||
|13th||Eldritch Knight 2||+12/+7/+2||+11||+2||+9||
|14th||Argent Savant 1||+12/+7/+2||+11||+2||+11||
|15th||Argent Savant 2||+13/+8/+3||+11||+2||+12||Practiced Spellcaster (Battle Sorcerer)||Force armor||5/5/5/5/5/4/2|
|16th||Argent Savant 3||+13/+8/+3||+12||+3||+12||
|17th||Argent Savant 4||+14/+9/+4||+12||+3||+12||
|18th||Argent Savant 5||+14/+9/+4||+12||+3||+13||Minor ShapeshiftCM||Unbind force||5/5/5/5/5/5/5/3|
|19th||Eldritch Knight 3||+15/+10/+5||+12||+4||+14||
|20th||Eldritch Knight 4||+16/+11/+6/+1||+13||+4||+14||
At 20th level:
0--choose any 8
2nd--alter self, heroicsSpC, scintillating scalesSpC, wings of coverRotD, 1 more
4th--polymorph (via Extra Spell), ray deflectionSpC, thunderlanceSpC, wings of flurryRotD
5th--greater blinkSpC, reciprocal gyreSpC, shard stormSpC
6th--greater dispel magic, superior resistanceSpC
7th--bite of the werebearSpC, Mordenkainen's sword
By itself, the Argent Champion is meant to be relatively self-sufficient. Through Alter Self and Polymorph, a great variety of forms may be used to cover things such as flight, defense and natural attacks. Likewise, Displacement, Greater Blink, Ray Deflection, Superior Resistance and Wings of Cover provide a variety of useful defenses whenever necessary. The bulk of buffing relies on Bite of the Werebear and Enlarge Person, with Alter Self/Polymorph also providing some boons. AC is covered through Greater Mage Armor, Shield (and Repelling Shield), plus Scintillating Scales and Alter Self for good measure.
Items that may further boost the Argent Champion often boost their ability scores (namely, a cloak of Charisma whenever available, as well as a gloves of Dexterity in order to maximize AC, Reflex, initiative and adding Combat Reflexes to the mix), boost caster levels (particularly if they can boost Wings of Flurry for maximum damage) and enhance the fighting capabilities of the character. Runestaffs (from Spell Compendium) cover those spells that the Argent Champion misses (such as Resist Energy), due in no part because of the lack of spell slots around.
The Argent Champion relies on a series of things: Abjurant Champion provides a needed boost to abjuration spells and provides a way to expend spells for greater effort, alongside full BAB and spellcasting ability. On the other hand, Argent Savant is used to exploit a great deal of force spells, from boosting Shield and Mage Armor, to dealing extra bits of damage with Thunderlance, Shard Storm, Chain Missile, Mordenkainen's Sword and Wings of Flurry, and providing a second extension to spells, this time to those with the [Force] descriptor.
Ideally, the way to go is starting the day with Greater Mage Armor (or Mage Armor during the first few levels, after which it may be replaced with a spell of your choice), being the longest-lasting buff in your arsenal. The first turn in the round should be spent casting Shield (or Repelling Shield after getting 5 levels of Abjurant Champion) as a swift action, then choosing which other spell to cast. If given enough time, casting Alter Self as a standard action should be a secondary priority; if using Alter Self for a high NA form, consider casting Scintillating Scales as a swift action, which makes that NA apply as a deflection bonus (with a Troglodyte or Crucian, that's a +6/+8 to AC that applies in all cases). Likewise, Ray Deflection makes you immune to any ranged touch attack, which saves you from various dangerous spells such as Enervation, and the extension via Abjurant Champion makes it doubly good. Thunderlance should be pre-cast before battle, likely during the first round of action; because of the bonus provided by Extend Force and the Reserve feats, Thunderlance will have a +2 bonus to dispel protective force effects and a +6 against dispelling, plus a 20 ft. reach which can be exploited with Improved Trip (particularly after Bite of the Werebear and Enlarge Person are cast). Once a few buffs are in play, you can choose to set yourself in a nice area and blast away with Wings of Flurry, cast Shard Storm and then keep every enemy near you (with that 20 ft. reach, potentially extended to 25 ft. alongside Enlarge Person), you can keep everyone taking damage from both your spell and your attacks. Mordenkainen's sword should be your second or third round spell, right after you keep enemies on the ground because of the huge threat range, to add even more damage.
The Argent Champion is relatively well-optimized, as it requires various hurdles in order to be effective as both a martial combatant and a spellcaster. The spells chosen are those who might seem some use, but a clever exchange of spells could be effective. For example, a 1st level Battle Sorcerer is well-advised to use Mage Armor, then use the ability to replace spells in order to exchange it once Greater Mage Armor is learned. Likewise, if you get Shield by different means, you can replace your Shield spell (particularly after getting Repelling Shield) and apply that empty spell slot towards a different spell. Enlarge Person, likewise, could be replaced by Greater Enlarge Person (from Spell Compendium), thus allowing a second long-lasting buff. This can be done by choosing Greater Enlarge Person instead of Reciprocal Gyre (as the benefit from Swift Abjuration applies up to 3rd level spells at the very least).
While the bulk of the build is comprised of SRD + Completes + Spell Compendium, some stuff from Races of the Dragon also kick in. Losing that means both little (you only lose 2 spells) and a lot (being those spells lost Wings of Cover and Wings of Flurry) at the same time. Likewise, compared to the Arcane Warrior build, the build loses 9th level spells and uses a variant such as Battle Sorcerer which sacrifices 1 spell slot and 1 spell of each level to grant a higher amount of HP and BAB, so its spellcasting potential is limited. Ideally, the addition of Argent Savant deals with some of that loss.
Another limitation is the staggering amount of good 4th level spells; it is this reason that Extra Spell was required. While Ray Deflection is a possible choice for replacement, Thunderlance and Wings of Flurry are just too good to be replaced, and Polymorph is also a surprisingly good choice. Spells such as Orb of Force or Force Missiles, which can also take advantage of Argent Savant, have to be replaced because of this, and superior defensive measures such as Greater Mirror Image have to be carefully considered. A custom runestaff that requires all spells to be of 4th level coudl work, but this is left to DM fiat and thus shouldn't be considered carefully.
A third limitation is the lack of proper Dexterity to make Combat Reflexes a utility. This is because of the Intelligence requirement for Combat Expertise, which otherwise wouldn't be a necessity. As Thunderlance requires a 3rd level spell and the Battle Sorcerer should be effective right from 1st level, not to mention that a decent amount of Strength is required to make proper use of the trip maneuver, this leaves Dexterity as a dump stat, which hurts the build by inducing MAD. Eventually Alter Self (and Polymorph) coupled with Bite of the Werebear can provide enough Strength to use a two-handed weapon with little effort and gain a good trip modifier even against Giants, but in the meanwhile, a decent Strength score is necessary for the first few levels, particularly those where combat is a necessity. Thus, it should be a priority to find ways to boost Dexterity and find Combat Reflexes through different means (such as the Heroics spell) in order to properly set up battlefield control.
- Much like the Arcane Warrior build, part of the build can be replaced. A Wizard (particularly an Abjurer, if using the Unearthed Arcana variants) coupled with 2 levels of Warblade nets a few maneuvers (such as Action without Thought, for that poor Reflex save), with a side dish of various traits. Coupling, for example, the ability to replace Scribe Scroll for a Fighter bonus feat (thus netting Combat Expertise freely), the ability to spontaneously cast (Greater) Dispel Magic, and something to replace the familiar makes for a surprisingly good build.
- If on the Eberron campaign setting, Knight Phantom can replace Eldritch Knight. Most likely, this means replacing one spell for Phantom Steed, and the decision to replace a few levels to get the 4th and 7th level benefits.
- If deciding to go a bit further, you may replace one of the reserve feats and become human to gain the Draconic Heritage feat. Choosing the Force (or Tarterian) dragon and Draconic Power adds a +1 to your CL and +1 to the save DC of your force spells, yet another boost to your main method of spellcasting (though the loss of a +1 to CL can hurt if replacing Blade of Force or Minor Shapeshift). With some shifting (losing Reciprocal Gyre, Extra Spell, Minor Shapeshift and 1 more feat) towards draconic feats, you can get Draconic Legacy and the spells associated with those (which means having Shield essentially for free to replace a 1st level spell, plus either Blur or Freedom of Movement). Going Tarterian dragon grants Escape Artist as a class skill, meaning synergy with Shadow Form (from Spell Compendium). If using a dragonblooded race, the first level of Dragonblooded Sorcerer can help immensely in saving one feat for Draconic Heritage.
- You can use the core Sorcerer if you wish. You'll need to fit an extra level of Sorcerer or Fighter to pull through (thus, one less level of Eldritch Knight and hence no 16 BAB), but if done so, you get your full spellcasting potential in exchange (one spell of each level, plus one spell known of each level).
- If Bite of the Werebear can be applied most of the time, there's little need for Power Attack, so you may choose a different 1st level feat, drop Combat Expertise to 5th level (when you get your Fighter level) and Improved Trip to 12th level. This delays quite a bit the access to Power Attack, and requires Heroics to pull off in the meanwhile. It's best for more experienced characters that may pull off buffing more effectively, as you'll end up with a free Fighter bonus feat and Power Attack via Bite of the Werebear, thus allowing for more benefits.
- If you're willing to sacrifice one more level of spellcasting (which can still be covered via Practiced Spellcaster), you can substitute one level of Eldritch Knight and the Fighter level for two Monk levels. This opens up the Ascetic Monk feat from Complete Adventurer, which adds your Charisma to Armor Class alongside Dexterity, further increasing the amount of AC (and particularly touch AC), two bonus feats (which can be used cleverly to gain Combat Expertise and Improved Trip for free, hence freeing two general feat slots), gaining Flurry of Blows and a decent unarmed strike (hence essentially being capable of fighting without equipment other than a spell component pouch) and Evasion as a further defensive measure (or Invisible Fist from Exemplars of Evil for nifty invisibility tricks as swift actions). The loss of BAB (and specifically the extra attack) makes it less of a gish, but it can work surprisingly well as a skirmisher type of character.
<- Any other side notes that don't fit in the above sections. ->