A Guide to the Hexcrafter Magus (Pathfinder)
Overview of the Hexcrafter
At first glance, the hexcrafter archetype (Ultimate Magic 48) looks like an attempt to recreate the hexblade core class from 3.5’s Complete Warrior for Pathfinder. Certainly, in terms of general flavor, the two classes share a lot, but the hexcrafter really sets itself apart because access to witch hexes can allow you to customize your magus in new and interesting ways. In addition to that, with the right hex choices, you can end up with greater versatility all around, which is never a bad thing.
As an added bonus, your hexes will likely have higher saving throw DCs than your actual spells, which gives you more ability to debilitate your foes. That having been said, let’s look at what you’re gaining from hexcrafter and the trade-offs that you have to make to take the archetype.
At 1st level, you add every spell (of 6th level or lower) with the curse descriptor to your spell list, allowing you to learn bestow curse and other spells. The magus already has a strong spell list, so these additions aren’t incredibly substantial, but you don’t have to give up any spells to have these added to your spell list. Additionally, you do gain access to a few divine spells in this way that even witches don’t have access to.
One notable spell is the brand orison, normally an inquisitor spell. This is one of the only 0-level touch attack spells you can get access to as a magus. If you use spell combat to cast brand and then use your spellstrike ability to deliver the spell not with a touch attack, but with your weapon, you’re effectively giving yourself another attack without having to spend precious spell slots. This can be useful if you’re facing a string of encounters but anticipate a more difficult one later, as it allows you to save your real power for tougher battles and maintain some of your effectiveness in less pressing engagements.
Once you have access to magus arcana at 3rd level, you gain the ability to choose a witch hex in place of an arcana thanks to the hex arcana ability. You also gain special access to the accursed strike arcana, which allows you to use curse spells (like bestow curse) with spellstrike, even though they aren’t touch spells. Gaining access to these witch hexes doesn’t have a direct cost, but every witch hex you choose does mean you get one less magus arcana.
Starting at 12th level, you gain access to major hexes. You also gain access to grand hexes at 18th level. We’ll look at good hex choices after we handle the hexcrafter’s last ability.
At 4th level, the magus gives up the spell recall ability to gain the hex magus ability. This ability grants him a single hex choice for free. Spell recall is a difficult ability to give up, and if you imagine you can’t live without it, you probably won’t want to play a hexcrafter. However, there are two things that can make the loss of spell recall bearable:
- First, the hexcrafter still gains spell recall at 11th level in place of improved spell recall (though this is somewhat hidden in the section on archetypes).
- Secondly, if you choose your hex wisely at this level, you may find that the loss of spell recall is less painful.
You can do this by choosing a hex that substitutes for a spell you find yourself casting often (or that you expect to cast often later), thus saving you spell slots in the long run. The flight hex is one example, as it means you no longer have to spend spell slots to cast fly.
Notable Witch Hexes
There are a lot of witch hexes to choose from, and as usual for my guides, I won’t go through each one in a line-by-line sense. I do, however, have some favorites and others I think could be interesting in other ways. When building a hexcrafter, be sure to take a good look at the hexes available to you and decide which ones complement your character’s abilities. As a good starting point, though, many of the hexes that follow will work well for many characters.
Magi don’t have much in the way of social skills, making them less useful in situations that require them. The charm hex gives them a decent way to contribute when they might otherwise be hamstrung. In games that skew toward social interaction, this is a solid hex choice, but obviously won’t be as useful in combat-heavy games.
Like the charm hex, the disguise hex will be most useful outside of combat, and so you should consider it for games where you would normally be using disguise self a lot. Magi don’t normally gain access to that spell, so this is one way to increase your versatility slightly. It’s worth noting that a hat of disguise works just as well as this hex, but if money or item slots are a concern, the hex still has a place.
Evil eye is one of the best witch hexes, and this holds true for hexcrafters as well. For the magus, evil eye may not be a major part of their combat routine, but it does give them something useful to do with any stray standard actions they have. As a melee-oriented class, magi will often run into situations where they’re waiting to close with the enemy, and rather than expending a spell slot on those turns, they can give themselves an edge once the melee really begins. Evil eye is also notable in that it automatically improves with your level, meaning it should stay relevant throughout your career.
This is my personal choice for the free hex gained in place of spell combat. Having a flight speed is a huge combat advantage, and so many magi will be casting fly regularly. 3rd level spells are pretty good overall, though, so you might find yourself conflicted or running out of spell slots too quickly.
This hex does become less useful once you have access to overland flight, but it does give you a free way to get flight back should your overland flight be dispelled in the course of a battle. If taken at 3rd or 4th level, this hex also gets you access to a flight speed at 5th level, when you normally have to wait until 7th level to gain the actual spell.
Misfortune is one of the better witch hexes, but I mention it here because it’s overall less useful for a hexcrafter. Misfortune is at its best when combined with cackle, meaning it costs a move action every round to keep it rolling. As a magus, you probably don’t want to be spending your move action to keep misfortune rolling—you’re better off in most cases using that move action to get closer to your enemy.
This hex is notable primarily because it allows you to get around the problem of needing an open hand to use spell combat. With prehensile hair, you can use your extra “limb” to use magical items, like metamagic rods, that you wouldn’t be able to easily use otherwise. You can also use it to wield a shield if you have proficiency and aren’t concerned about arcane spell failure.
As it is with the witch, slumber is a strong hex choice for the hexcrafter. Because it functions on creatures of any Hit Dice, you can use it to give yourself a chance to regroup when facing a single, difficult enemy. Slumber also has applications outside of combat (like knocking out a lone guard so your rogue can safely sneak by). Do be weary of the fact that a failed save means you can’t use slumber against that target again for an entire day. If you want this hex, I’d really recommend having a higher Intelligence than you otherwise might as a magus.
This hex is great because it doesn’t get of the way of your abilities in combat. You can use it on an ally at the beginning of the day and refresh it between combats as necessary. It doesn’t particularly save you spell slots, but it does increase your versatility somewhat, making it a useful choice for the right parties.
This major hex is a great way to hit someone with a slow death. Constitution damage can be very debilitating to “squishy” targets like rogues and wizards (and they have a low Fortitude save, too!). Hoarfrost isn’t a strong combat power, though, as it only deals Constitution damage once per minute and most fights don’t even hit the 1 minute mark. Its best applications are probably in more social campaigns, where outright combat is downplayed but stealth or assassination are more valid tactics.
Being able to lock down one opponent is always handy. Combined with the slumber hex, ice tomb gives you a crowd-control ability that targets Fortitude and one that targets Will, meaning you’ll be able to remove a large number of targets from a fight. The ice tomb is breakable, but even if it’s broken, the target still remains staggered for a couple rounds afterwards.
This grand hex is notable for the hexcrafter because magi don't normally gain 7th level spells. In particularly deadly campaigns, being able to cast resurrection without a material component should also be welcome.
Like the life giver hex, natural disaster gives your hexcrafter access (in a way, anyway) to a spell that's higher level than a magus can normally cast. In this case, it's storm of vengeance and earthquake. This hex does require concentration, though, which is a notable downside.
Though regularly using this hex could be expensive, it does give you another way to access high level spells. If the ghost you summon using this hex has all of its Hit Dice in a full casting class like wizard, it will have access to ninth level spells, which means that you can greatly increase your overhead power by choosing this hex. Since the spirit is an NPC, though, your mileage may vary based on your GM.
Other Useful Hexes
As noted above, there are still a lot of hexes to take into consideration, but these are some of the strongest choices. Others (like the healing hexes) might be useful to patch weaknesses in a group that’s lacking a strong devotee to one area of the game. Of special note are the various familiar-related hexes which you can still make use of if you take the familiar magus arcana.
When it comes to grand hexes especially, the choice you make at 18th level will probably depend on on the sorts of hexes you already have and how high your Intelligence score is (as some of them allow saving throws).
When it comes to your feat choices, as a hexcrafter, you’ll probably be a lot like a standard magus. You’ll likely want to use a scimitar or other weapon with an expanded critical range, and you’ll probably either focus on Strength or Dexterity (using Weapon Finesse and the Dervish Dance feat from Inner Sea World Guide ).
Since my last magus guide went with the Strength route, this one goes for Dervish Dance instead. Because Arcane Accuracy is such a powerful arcana, I don’t recommend giving it up for a hex at 3rd level, and instead suggest relying on the hex you gain at 4th level instead for your first choice.
Elven Magus (Hexcrafter) 5
Ability Scores (15 Point Buy): Str 10, Dex 17, Con 11, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 8
1 Weapon Finesse
3 Dervish Dance, Arcane Accuracy
4 Flight (hex)
5 Weapon Focus (scimitar)
With the wide range of choices you can make drawing from the huge list of arcana and hexes you have access to, there’s a lot you can do with your hexcrafter going forward. Accursed strike lets you focus less on damage and more on debilitating your enemies, as one example, but don’t forget about great magus arcana like spell critical, either.