Eldritch Knight 5e Guide

Eldritch Knight 5e Guide: Swords With a Sprinkling of Spells

Latest posts by Arron Kluz (see all)

Fighters can be a very straightforward class to play in 5e, although they are also useful to nearly any party of players. However, if you want to play a Fighter Class but want to add some ripples to their kit of features and capabilities, the Eldritch Knight introduces some magic to the class to make it one of the strongest Fighter subclasses in the entire system.

I also have recommended it as an introduction to spellcasting for new players because of how simple its mechanics are compared to dedicated spell casters like Wizards, so if you’re looking to dip your toe in some spells for the first time, they’re a great option to consider. Let’s kick off our Eldritch Knight 5e guide by looking at some of the key details you need to know about Eldritch Knights.

Key Info Up Front

  • Book: Player’s Handbook, page 74
  • Level Taken: 3rd
  • Feature Levels: 3rd, 7th, 10th, 15th, 18th
  • Role: Striker

Eldritch Knight Overview

The Eldritch Knight encompasses a Fighter that has learned some of the secrets of the illustrious Wizard and who mixes that knowledge with their professional martial prowess. This allows them to hold their own in melee combat still when it comes to soaking up hits and dealing out the damage, but then have the ability to exploit weaknesses and opportunities through offensive magic options.

When comparing the Eldritch Knight to other subclasses that mix the Martial with the Magical, like the Hexblade Warlock and Bladesinger Wizard, the Eldritch Knight Fighter doesn’t put up as big of damage numbers. However, it does bring a higher level of survivability to the table, helping you get into the thick of battle without worrying about fleeing or running out of hit points constantly.

Eldritch Knight 5e Overview

Because of the Eldritch Knight’s spell options, I highly recommend playing them as a melee Fighter that mostly focuses on the Fighter part rather than their spells. The subclass is built to take advantage of spells here and there but not to rely on them entirely.

So, you’ll be most effective if you still play your character as a Fighter and then use the spells smartly when they fit opportunities. You can run this subclass as a ranged Fighter, but that is much more difficult to do because it forces you to split up your Ability scores to include Dexterity.

Ability Scores

For an Eldritch Knight, your priority Abilities should still be Strength and Constitution. These will boost your health to keep you on your feet and make sure that you can dish out damage with your melee weapon to be a force feared on the battlefield. Keeping these scores high will also ensure that you can take full advantage of the base features that you get with the Fighter class and the more martial-focused features of the subclass.

After those two scores are settled, I recommend focusing on your Intelligence and spellcasting Ability. It may seem odd to make your spellcasting Ability only your third-highest for a subclass with spells, but I have my reasons. You can get a handful of spells for this subclass, which I’ll cover below, that don’t rely on your spellcasting modifier at all.

It may be tempting to want to throw out a Fireball at every opportunity, but that shouldn’t be your focus as an Eldritch Knight. You should be in the thick of the battle, striking enemies and blocking attacks, not standing back casting spells. So, if you manage to get your Intelligence high later on, feel free to take some more Ability-reliant spells, but don’t focus on them right away.

That leaves your Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma to decide yet. How you decide to invest in these Abilities largely depends on your vision for your character and your party’s needs. You may want to take Dexterity to help with saving throws, Wisdom to have a solid Perception to spot threats and happenings before anyone else does, or Charisma to help augment the Face role of your group. I’ve seen Eldritch Knights that emphasize these remaining abilities to different degrees, and they have worked out well, so it is largely up to player preference.

Backgrounds

Eldritch Knight Fighter

An Eldritch Knight character can fit well with any background in 5e, but some particularly stand out from the others as solid options. These are listed below, but feel free to take any other background that makes sense for your character’s backstory.

Cloistered Scholar

Book: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide

This background comes with a big boost to your Knowledge-based skills, which can be helpful when playing an Eldritch Knight. This is especially true because it makes sense for Eldritch Knights to excel at those skills, but investing the points in them isn’t always very smart when building your character’s Abilities.

So, this background is an excellent way to give your character a boost without wasting precious Ability points.

Sage

Book: Player’s Handbook

The Sage gives you proficiency with Arcana and History, which make a lot of sense for an Eldritch Knight. It also gives you some fun material to roleplay with and gives your character a personal goal outside of the main goals of your campaign, which can be very useful when building a character’s personality and story.

Sailor

Sailor Eldritch Knight
Image from Forgotten Realms Wiki
  • Book: Player’s Handbook

I recommend this background only if you know that your campaign will frequently see your party sailing. The two skills that it grants you proficiency with are pretty solid for any Fighter, and its abilities when it comes to sailing can be indispensable to a party in the right setting. However, if your Dungeon Master doesn’t plan on you seeing a boat during the campaign, you might as well pick a better background that you can use all of.

Soldier

  • Book: Player’s Handbook

This background is the standard Fighter choice, and it makes sense why. It helps round out your Fighter skill proficiency list, gives you some fun tool proficiencies that you’ll likely use a few times, and thematically makes sense. This applies to the Eldritch Knight, although you may want to explain how your character got to figuring out all this fancy magic stuff.

Skills

When you first make your Fighter, you get to pick two Skills to be proficient with from a list that includes Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, and Survival. This is a pretty solid list, but some aren’t as useful as others, and you may want to try getting Arcana or Religion through your background if you can.

I recommend this order of importance for the Skills, although feel free to not just pick the top two depending on your character’s personality and the needs of your party.

  • Athletics: The only Strength Skill in 5e, and it’s used for grappling and pushing enemies, so this one can help expand your options in combat considerably.
  • Perception: An excellent Skill for any character and necessary to ensure you don’t miss anything or get caught off guard by ambushing enemies.
  • History: If you have a Dungeon Master who likes having a detailed setting, they will love you for using your History Skill. This one is very useful for getting information throughout your adventures, and it fits right in with an Eldritch Knight.
  • Survival: You’ll be traveling through the wilderness a ton throughout your campaign, most likely, and the Survival Skill is a lifesaver in those situations.
  • Intimidation: This option isn’t bad if you want to act as a partial Face for your party, but there isn’t much reason to take this one if you aren’t.
  • Insight: Insight can be useful to see if NPCs are lying to the party’s faces, but it also may not come up very often, especially if you aren’t the party’s Face.
  • Acrobatics: This Skill can be useful if you’re going for a Dexterity-based Fighter, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that for an Eldritch Knight so that you can skip over this one.
  • Animal Handling: I think this Skill is in the Fighter’s list in case they want a mount to ride frequently, but that doesn’t apply for Eldritch Knights, so this one will hardly ever come up for you most likely.

Eldritch Knight Features

Spellcasting

Eldritch knight

  • Level: 3

This is likely what you came to the Eldritch Knight for, and it gives it to you right off the bat with two cantrips, three known spells, and two 1st-level spell slots. The Eldritch Knight functionally works as a low-level Wizard, with an Intelligence spellcasting Ability and only regaining spent spell slots on completing a long rest.

As you continue to level up your Eldritch Knight Fighter, you’ll learn more spells and gain more spell slots, although not at the rate that other spellcasters do. The table of what you can expect from your spells as you level up is below:

Level Cantrips Spells Known 1st 2nd 3rd 4th
3 2 3 2
4 2 4 3
5 2 4 3
6 2 4 3
7 2 5 4 2
8 2 6 4 2
9 2 6 4 2
10 3 7 4 3
11 3 8 4 3
12 3 8 4 3
13 3 9 4 3 2
14 3 10 4 3 2
15 3 10 4 3 2
16 3 11 4 3 3
17 3 11 4 3 3
18 3 11 4 3 3
19 3 12 4 3 3 1
20 3 13 4 3 3 1

However, when choosing your spells, you get the entire catalog of Wizard spells to choose from. This means that Eldritch Knight Fighters can have an incredible variety in their spell list, especially for not being dedicated spellcasters. It also allows you to personalize exactly how your character would use their magic to make it match your backstory or flavor your character.

Weapon Bond

Eldritch Knight Weapons

  • Level: 3

Your second feature right at the start of the subclass, Weapon Bond, allows you to perform a ritual to form a bond with a weapon of your choice. The ritual takes an entire hour to complete, but it allows you to summon that weapon to yourself with the use of bonus action as long as it is on the same plane of existence as you. You can also have two weapons bonded to you at once.

This feature is cool, but it doesn’t bring much practical utility to your character. It is handy to re-arm yourself if you ever get captured or imprisoned or have a Javelin that will always return to you, but outside of that, this feature is mostly a fun bit of flavor to incorporate when it comes up.

War Magic

  • Level: 7

This feature makes it so that when you use your action to cast a Cantrip, you can use a bonus action to make an attack. This is an excellent tool for Eldritch Knights as it allows them to use Cantrips effectively every turn without interrupting their steady flow of martial attacks that are their bread and butter.

Eldritch Strike

Eldritch Strike

  • Level: 10

This feature buffs your regular weapon attacks by making the target have a disadvantage on their next saving throw against a spell cast by you. This feature opens up the possibilities for your spell list as it can make your spells that require saves hit more frequently without having to invest heavily into Intelligence.

Arcane Charge

  • Level: 15

Arcane Charge is a great feature that brings some cool flavor to your Eldritch Knight and is also very useful mechanically. It allows you to teleport up to 30 feet after using your Action Surge feature that comes with being a Fighter.

You can even do this before taking your additional action, meaning that this feature effectively gives you an entire second turn, just without an additional bonus action.

Improved War Magic

eldritch knight war magic

  • Level: 18

War Magic is great, but Improved War Magic is even more significant. It does the same thing as regular War Magic but makes it so that you can use your bonus action to attack after you cast any spell with your action, opening up the possibilities of what you can accomplish during your turn.

This means that your Eldritch Knight will be able to drop a massive spell for damage and use your weapon immediately after, imposing Eldritch Strike on the enemy and setting up for another big spell on your next turn.

Eldritch Knight Races

Centaur

Image from Forgotten Realms Wiki
  • Book: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse

The Centaur is an excellent option for an Eldritch Knight who doesn’t want to stand still and take damage simply. Make your character a Centaur and grab the Mobile feat if you want to be dashing around the battlefield, striking vulnerable enemies, and taking full advantage of your full kit of spells and gear.

Gem Dragonborn

  • Book: Player’s Handbook

All types of Dragonborn work well for an Eldritch Knight because of their innate breath weapon, but the Gem Dragonborn, in particular, is slightly better because of how rarely the damage type of its breath weapons tends to be. It also gives you a short flight movement option that can help you get in a perfect position before each of your attacks or spells to get as much out of them as possible.

Duergar

  • Book: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse

The Duergar’s Enlarge/Reduce feature is a great tool to give Fighters a boost to their Strength and damage, especially in those moments where you need to grapple an enemy or want to shove one over a precarious ledge. For Eldritch Knights, you’ll even have the option of using up a spell slot or two for subsequent castings, making it a perfect fit for this race.

Githyanki

Image from Forgotten Realms Wiki
  • Book: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse

Playing a Githyanki comes with the spells Misty Step and Jump for free, which are both great tools for navigating obstacles and tricky battlefields. As an Eldritch Knight, you can also cast these repeatedly using spell slots, so they effectively expand your spell list, which is always a good thing.

Goliath

  • Books: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse/Elemental Evil Player’s Companion

Goliaths are all about shelling out big damage numbers through their immense Strength and soaking up damage with their Stone’s Endurance feature. They are an excellent option for any Strength-based melee build, and an Eldritch Knight is no different. If you want to make sure your character would be intimidating even without their spells, this is the race option for you.

Minotaur

  • Books: Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse/Guildmasters’ Guide to Ravnica

The Minotaur is another powerful race for any Strength-based class, especially thanks to its racial features that take some of the best aspects of feats like Shield Master and Charger.

Warforged

Warforged Eldritch Knight

  • Book: Eberron: Rising from the Last War

The Warforged were created to fight on the frontlines of a massive conflict that sprawled the entire plane of Eberron, so it is no surprise that they are such a powerful option for any Fighter.

They can achieve the highest Armor Classes in the game, have great Ability buffs for Eldritch Knights, and a handful of useful resistances to effects that usually get in the way of a Fighter’s good time.

Eldritch Knight Feats

Artificer Initiate

  • Book: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

This feat gives you access to the Artificer spell list, which will expand your options with some standout spells like Healing Word or Thorn Whip. It isn’t a perfect fit, as using a tool as your spell focus is useless for an Eldritch Knight, but more spells to pick from is almost always a good thing.

Eldritch Knight Feats

Crusher

  • Book: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything

This feat takes a little bit of work to make work well, but when paired with an Eldritch Knight casting Booming Blade, it can be a great way to catch your breath or give yourself some space in the heat of combat.

It can send enemies much further away than even a powerful shove, so if you want to help your party out with crowd control, consider taking this one early on.

Durable

  • Book: Player’s Handbook

This feat can help keep you on your feet without eating up all of the spell slots your party’s healer has for yourself. While it still consumes your Hit Dice, it is a solid method of freeing up your healer and taking your health under your control a bit more. I would recommend taking this one if you find yourself acting as the party’s tank more often than not.

Lucky

  • Book: Player’s Handbook

This feat is generally good on any character if you can spare it, but it can be particularly useful on Eldritch Knights to help ensure that the spell attacks you need to hit do so. The feat gives you three Luck points that can be spent to gain an advantage on any d20 roll, so this one can come in handy frequently.

War Caster

  • Book: Player’s Handbook

War Caster is a necessity for Eldritch Knights. I can vouch for how much more fun you will have as an Eldritch Knight after you pick up War Caster. It allows you to use spells like Boom Blade during Attacks of Opportunity and will help you maintain your concentration on sustained spells so that you can start dealing in serious buffs and debuffs on the battlefield.

Eldritch Knight Equipment

For your Eldritch Knight’s equipment, you want to focus on heavy armor that offsets your low Dexterity and a weapon that will allow you to dish out solid damage consistently. You should pick up Chain Mail for your starting armor and upgrade to Full Plate as quickly as possible. Once you have Full Plate, you’re good to go on armor until you start picking up magic items on your adventures.

Your weapon of choice will depend a lot more on your personal preference as a player and your character’s backstory. There are a lot of great options here, but avoid taking any ranged weapons other than a Javelin, as your low Dexterity will make a crossbow or bow almost useless. Taking a javelin instead also works excellent with your Weapon Bond feature as it will keep you from having to waste money restocking on ammunition.

Magic Items

Every adventure starts picking up once the players start getting their hands on the hundreds of magical items available in 5e. There are so many to choose from that it can be hard to decide which ones work the best for a class, but there are some that do manage to stand out from the rest, so here are the magic items I think you’ll want to keep an eye out for while playing an Eldritch Knight.

Moon-Touched Sword

Image from Forgotten Realms Wiki
  • Book: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
  • Rarity: Common

This weapon is an excellent tool as it allows you to see in the dark if your race doesn’t come with dark vision, and it also helps your regular attacks avoid resistance to nonmagical attacks. This will help you save your spell slots for when they’re needed most against enemies with this resistance, which can be a big help later in the game.

Ruby of the War Mage

  • Book: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything
  • Rarity: Common

This magic item isn’t an excellent fit for Eldritch Knights but can make it easier to balance using a weapon and a spell focus at once, which can help save you from juggling your gear around in the middle of a fight.

Adamantine Armor

Image from Drakkenheim Wiki
  • Book: Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Rarity: Uncommon

This upgraded full plate armor is a must for any martial class, and you should try to get your hands on it as early as possible. Interestingly, it is recommended even to cost less than regular full plate armor, so hopefully, your Dungeon Master will be nice and let you track this one down early.

Belt of Giant Strength

Belt of Giant Strength

  • Book: Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Rarity: Rare-Legendary

These magical belts come in various types, but they all give a serious boost to your character’s Strength and can even raise it above the natural limit of 20.

Ring of Spell Storing

Image from Forgotten Realms Wiki
  • Book: Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Rarity: Rare

This ring will let you store spells in it to use later on. This is an excellent tool for Eldritch Knights, whether you load it up with your spells or those of a spellcasting party member, to give you more options and uses for the incredibly challenging battles.

Manual of Bodily Health

manual of bodily health

  • Book: Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Rarity: Very Rare

This magical book can be read for a permanent increase to your Constitution score and raise it above 20, giving you the highly coveted +6 modifier to your health rolls whenever you level up.

Blood Fury Tattoo

  • Book: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
  • Rarity: Legendary

This tattoo gives you a solid damage boost and allows your attacks to heal you, which can be great for keeping you on your feet. The damage deals with is also considered bonus damage, meaning that it is increased whenever you get a critical hit.

Vorpal Sword

Image from Forgotten Realms Wiki
  • Book: Dungeon Master’s Guide
  • Rarity: Legendary

Not only is the Vorpal Sword a +3 weapon that will help you hit more and hit harder, but it also makes your critical hits lethal, and as a Fighter, you have the highest chance of getting a critical hit since you can attack four times a turn.

Playing an Eldritch Knight Fighter

How to Play Eldritch Knight

When it comes to roleplaying an Eldritch Knight, you want to give special attention to balancing your martial and arcane knowledge. Even if you know your way around a spellbook now, you knew your way around a battlefield well before that, so make sure to not forget that when playing your Eldritch Knight.

The remainder of your character’s personality and history beyond that, however, largely depends on your character’s background and backstory. However, you should consider why they decided to learn magic.

Perhaps they had a mentor that helped them, did it to advance through their army’s ranks, or did it out of jealousy toward a powerful mage that they witnessed on the battlefield. Whatever their reason, Eldritch Knights are rare, so you should explain why they went down that route.

Playing an Eldritch Knight in Combat

Combat encounters are where your Eldritch Knight Fighter will shine. You should almost always find yourself on the frontlines of any combat unless your party has two or three other comfortable characters. Either way, your role on the battlefield will most likely be that of a striker, meaning that you are responsible for dealing damage.

You should mainly focus on doing this with the weapon in your hand, but the spells in your arsenal are also useful for exploiting the weaknesses and mistakes of enemies. This can take the form of hitting multiple enemies in close quarters with a spell, teleporting to attack weaker enemies away from the crowd, or just stacking damage on an enemy with a massive pool of hit points to get through.

FAQs

Question: What is the best class to multiclass with as an Eldritch Knight in 5e?

Answer: The two best options for multiclassing as an Eldritch Knight are a Warlock or a Wizard. Both will expand your available spells and help increase what makes your Fighter unique from a standard soldier.

Question: Is the Eldritch Knight good in 5e?

Answer: Yes, the Eldritch Knight combines the strong martial aspects of the Fighter with the light aspects of a spellcaster to create a warrior that can handle any situation and always bring something useful to combat encounters.

Question: Can an Eldritch Knight use Weapon Bond on a shield?

Answer: Yes, shields can be used as improvised weapons, so you can use Weapon Bond on them if you want to for some reason.

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