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Magic Fighter Comparison: Eldritch Knight vs Arcane Archer vs Rune Knight

Content of the article: "Magic Fighter Comparison: Eldritch Knight vs Arcane Archer vs Rune Knight"



There's a lot of talk on "Rune Knight is OP" or "Rune Knight is perfectly balanced". Well, I want to compare it to old subclasses and see how it holds up.

Now, each of these subclasses has the same general concept: you are a fighter who casts spells. But mechanically they all work somewhat differently.

EK: You are a third caster, having cantrips as well as a limited number of spell slots per long rest.



Arcane Archer: You have two instances of arcane shots per short rest to improve your attacks.

Rune Knight: You have two runes, each of which provides a passive buff as well as an ability which can be used once per short rest, and you get more of them as you level up.

It's clear that Rune Knight seems to have a lot more going on than the arcane archer in terms of core mechanics. Additionally, the Rune Knight arguably has stronger runes than the arcane archer has arcane shots. Consider the fire rune: It works just like an arcane shot. It even adds exactly 2d6 damage. However, the rider effect, restrained, is stronger than anything the arcane archer has, it has the potential to work for multiple turns and deal additional damage. This isn't getting into how it works on CON instead of INT. The Rune Knight also has a lot of other very powerful effects. Add onto this the passive effects, which are NOT insignificant. Advantage on skill checks throughout the day is very useful utility.

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The Rune Knight also has two other features, which are comparatively tame. Each are proficiency per long rest. One effectively gives a slight bonus to damage every turn for a fight alongside some other small buffs related to your size, and the other helps you defend allies for a single attack.

What in the world does the arcane archer have to compete? Well, let's take a look: For one thing, it starts with a cantrip, which does offer some utility. Additionally, where it differs from the Rune Knight is that it is much more focused. All of its arcane shots are offensive/debuff related in nature. The Arcane Archer is arguably better at that one thing than the Rune Knight is, and it has more flexibility in how it does it. Even at 15th level, when the Rune Knight can use its debuffs more often, the Arcane Archer gets an arcane shot back on initiative. Finally, it has its 7th level features. All your ammunition is magical, which is neat, but more importantly you get curving shot. With how many attacks the fighter makes, this is a bigger damage buff than Giant's might, and it's always on.

So, the conclusion I reached: Arcane Archer is a fair bit weaker than Rune Knight, however not enough to be completely outclassed. At best, Rune Knight is an Arcane Archer with far greater out of combat utility and additional options to defend allies. It's not absurdly better than the Arcane Archer at doing what the Arcane Archer is built to do, even if it's arguably just as good. And the Arcane Archer does get a number of things the Rune Knight does not. So, while definitely weaker, it's still usable if you think it looks more fun or more fitting, and I think that's good enough.



What about the Eldritch Knight? Well, looking at the options it gets it clearly excels in places the Rune Knight does not. I'd argue there are a good number of 3rd and 4th level spells which outclass any of the runes, and they will get a decent number of those per long rest starting at 13th level. Before that, the fact they need to use an action on many of them is rough, but out of combat this is less of an issue, and they are far more versatile than the rune knight in this case. The ability to give disadvantage on saving throws is huge and honestly one of the main reasons to pick the eldritch knight over a FULLCASTER. The Rune Knight can do that with storm rune, but it lacks the spells to make good use of that without teamwork. I'd say the Rune Knight is a stronger here too, since none of its features eat up its action, but they excel in different areas. The Rune Knight isn't going to be ending half an encounter with Fear or giving someone disadvantage on saving throws before throwing a hold person on them and action surging for a bunch of crits.

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The Rune Knight does a shit ton, but none of it is broken. It lets you do a ton of different things at once and a lot of them are very strong, but none of what it lets you do is outright busted. That's why it feels more balanced in play than you'd think (I've played with one). It's probably the strongest Fighter subclass, but it's not broken.

Source: reddit.com

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