Eldritch Knight hits the sweet spot for many roleplayers who want to indulge in the fantasy of a spellsword. They are superb at soaking damage and slinging spells at out-of-reach enemies while buffing themselves and their allies. Of course, there’s a lot more depth to playing an Eldritch Knight, like feats, builds, spells, and backstories, so let’s delve into the good stuff!
The 5E Eldritch Knight is a versatile fighter class that focuses on dealing melee damage while casting magical buffs on themselves and allies or blasting their enemies with magic. You can play them as a STR, DEX, or an Archer-based class, although they shine at soaking damage and being hard to kill.
Eldritch Knight is brimming with different build possibilities due to its spell & feat choices and overall toughness. Let’s look at the fantasy of the class, what feats go well with an Eldritch Knight, and the kind of spells you can expect to use.
We’ll also look at possible back stories, discuss spellcasting with a sword & shield, and look at whether it’s the right fit for you!
What Is An Eldritch Knight?
Eldritch Knight is a subclass of the Fighter that will have you combining thrilling close-range combat with mighty magics wielded by wizards. Unlike Wizards, who have a spellbook to remember their spells, Eldritch Knights commit them to memory. Your spells derive from two of the eight schools of magic: Abjuration and Evocation (both of which we cover further in our DnD Schools of Magic Guide). They are technically considered a Third Caster as opposed to a Half Caster Class.
It’s important to note that Eldritch Knights as they level up can come back and replace those spells with spells from other schools of magic once they hit a high enough level, but those are the two schools to start with.
Since there are plenty of good spells on the Wizard spell list that belong to those two schools, you should be fine. Especially since the fields of Abjuration and Evocation magic are all about combat and defense, making them a natural fit for a spell-wielding fighter.
Abjuration gives you the power to cast protective spells and wards to boost your defense or the defense of your allies. You’ll gain access to spells like Mage Armor and Shield of Faith, plus very handy utility spells like Dispel Magic.
Evocation allows you to harness raw magics to blast, incinerate, freeze, or electrocute your enemies! You may choose spells like Eldritch Blast, Shatter, and Fireball. You’ll also gain access to many great utility spells, like Cure Wounds for healing allies and Daylight to illuminate a dark area.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Eldritch Knight is that despite a relatively small spell list, the choice of spells can result in two Eldritch Fighters who appear and act very different tactically, or even use the ability to change spells at higher levels to indicate a change in character based on in-campaign events – changing your character’s spells can reflect an evocation wielder of destruction changing to healing and support spells, or vice-versa as trauma pushes your Knight to darker places to get the power needed to defeat a growing threat.
How Are Eldritch Knights Different From Other Melee Classes?
Eldritch Knights can use their spells to interact more strategically with people, places, and enemies.
While Fighters and Rogues are equally as lethal as Eldritch Knights in close quarters, your approach with an Eldritch Knight is much more tactical because you have many more tools at your disposal.
Suppose your party wanted to plan a successful ambush as a Fighter. In that case, you may lay in wait until the prime opportunity to start swinging, or you could charge in headstrong and focus on a specific target for the duration of the fight. If your opponent happens to be immune to your weapon damage type – slashing, piercing, bludgeoning – you may need aid from a spellcaster in the party.
As an Eldritch Knight, you have the toolset to make your gameplay more strategic and well-planned, thanks to all the spells at your disposal. If your party wanted to ambush a band of traveling bandits, you could plan to have the Rogue in your party circle around them and use stealth to surprise them.
To ensure your rogue’s safety, you decide to cast Mage Armor on them in case they get discovered, or the enemy chooses to focus them.
Since you plan to draw the attention away from your other party members, you’ll use Shield of Faith on yourself to give yourself AC+2 and initiate combat by blasting a target of your choice with Eldritch Blast.
If you know your ambush target has a magic enchantment on them, you could start your ambush by casting Dispel Magic on them to remove it and improve your chances of a successful ambush.
Not to mention the fact you are straight up a Fighter. You can wear serious armor, charge in, and bring melee hell on top of everything else.
Remember, albeit a small contribution, your spell casts can free up the Wizard in your party to cast something more devastating, giving your Eldritch Knight a significant supportive edge.
Why Would You Want To Play An Eldritch Knight?
The Eldritch Knight is an exciting class that blends the fantasy of in-your-face combat with the raw magical essence of spells. If you enjoy grappling with the enemy up close while mixing in magical buffs and firebolts to incinerate your enemies, this is the class for you!
If swinging a sword sounds dull and uneventful to you, know that Eldritch Knight has a good amount of spells that make combat more engaging and enjoyable, and the versatility to switch between melee and ranged combat feels great. It’s ideal for players who like the fantasy of playing a spellsword.
This class is foremost a Fighter class that deals damage with melee weapons rather than with spells. Your spells won’t be as devastating as the Wizard, Warlock, or Sorcerer in your party, but your potency lies in the ability to use both simultaneously while being respectively tanky and hard to take down.
Great Mix When The DM Doesn’t Allow Multi-Classing
In most games I’ve been in DMs simply allow multi-classing, seeing it as part of a game rather than an optional rule. But there are games where a DM will be very strict about it, require prior approval that he may not give, or want to play a game where the most overpowered and broken part of 5E character building isn’t involved.
In that situation an Eldritch Knight, just like the Arcane Trickster, becomes an especially intriguing class offering all the full benefits of the base class while adding in extra magic that simply isn’t going to be available to other melee classes. Paladins are cool…but they’re not throwing fireballs!
The Melee Brute Who Won’t Fail An Intelligence Save
One of the great tools in a DM’s arsenal to deal with over-buffed melee problems is the intelligence saving throw…because barbarians and fighters won’t make that save. And if a high-level fighter is a problem for the DM, he’s going to be a problem for an adventuring party. Having a fighter walk in with a 16 Int save and potentially proficiency in Int-Saves from taking the War Caster Feat or Resilient Feat means they are likely to walk right through that saving throw to a suddenly very concerned looking caster.
Nothing like an intelligent fighter who can save on an Intelligence saving throw, then counterspell a fireball to let an enemy sorcerer know just how screwed they are.
Also I simply find the idea of playing a high-intelligence fighter very intriguing, as it opens up many roleplaying opportunities that other Fighters might not be able to take advantage of.
How To Play an Eldritch Knight Video – Dungeon Dudes
What Ability Scores Are Most Important For Eldritch Knights?
The recommended ability score priority for Eldritch Knight is Strength, Constitution, Intelligence, Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma.
A typical ability score priority for an Eldritch Knight is:
Remember that you are a fighter class that wields magic, and not a magic class that wields a sword. While you can cast spells, most of your time engaged in combat will involve dealing physical damage, and Strength affects your ability to deal melee damage and wear heavy armor.
Strength determines an Eldritch Knight’s melee attack and damage rolls, allowing them to hit harder and more accurately in close combat. It also determines the amount of weight they can carry and the type of armor they can wear, which is vital for staying protected on the battlefield. Since most Eldritch Knights are going the knight route versus an agile fighter build, you’ll want that heavy plate armor and that means you want that 20 STR score.
Strength is also helpful if you plan to be proficient in Athletics, which determines your ability to climb, hold fast to surfaces, resist getting knocked off an edge, jump, push, pull, or swim out of a whirlpool, drawing you into the center. It’s just the base core D&D stat you want for any Fighter sub-class in 5E, Eldritch Knight included.
Since you’ll have access to a limited number of spells from the wizard spell list, you’ll want to maximize their effectiveness by having a high Intelligence stat. It directly affects the power and effectiveness of all your spells.
As an Eldritch Knight, your spells come from the wizard spell list, meaning your spellcasting ability relies on your Intelligence score, which is also the official spellcasting modifier for your spells.
The higher your Intelligence, the more spells you can cast, and the tougher it will be for enemies to resist your spells. Some spells will require a minimum Intelligence score to cast it, like Shadow Blade, which requires you to have at least 13 Intelligence.
If you are using Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything as a source book, some of those amazing Feats have any learned spells from the feat taking the casting stat of the class, so if you’re grabbing more wizard spells you’ll want that decent Int of at least 16, if not more.
You will likely have a higher or lower Intelligence score depending on the type of character you want to play. Still, in terms of gameplay, many players consider playing a low-intelligence Eldritch Knight sub-optimal. This can also vary depending on if you go stat buy for basic stats starting out or if you rolled for stats and just killed it.
If it was the former, you might still need to play a slightly duller fighter and pick spells that don’t require an INT modifier to get around it. If it was the latter and you rolled a lot of high stats, genius IQ Eldritch Fighter it is!
Dexterity can be a helpful ability score for an Eldritch Knight, depending on your preferred fighting style and weapon choice. Dexterity affects your initiative, armor class, and saving throws against some spells and effects.
It also determines your attack and damage rolls with finesse and ranged weapons, such as daggers, rapiers, short bows, and crossbows.
If you want to play an Eldritch Knight who relies on speed and agility rather than brute force, you can use Dexterity as your primary physical ability and wear light or medium armor. This can give you more mobility and stealth in combat, as well as a higher initiative to act before your enemies.
You must sacrifice some damage potential and durability compared to a Strength-based Eldritch Knight.
If you want to play an Eldritch Knight who wears heavy armor and wields a sword and shield or a two-handed weapon, you can use Strength as your primary physical ability and ignore Dexterity.
This can give you more damage output and protection in combat and the ability to grapple and shove your enemies. However, you may have to sacrifice some initiative and saving throws compared to a Dexterity-based Eldritch Knight.
Ultimately, the choice between Strength and Dexterity depends on your personal preference and playstyle. You can also choose to have a balanced mix of both abilities, but this may come at the cost of other abilities such as Constitution or Intelligence.
There aren’t many builds where the Eldritch Knight makes sense, but a ranged Fighter who has spells that supplement those ranged attacks could work in this case but that’s a pretty advanced build.
Wisdom is valuable as it affects your saving throws against some of the most devastating enemy spells that target your mind, such as Charm Person, Fear, or Confusion. A high Wisdom stat can help you resist these effects and stay focused in combat.
Wisdom affects your perception and insight skills, which can help you spot hidden enemies, traps, or clues in your adventures. This is just one of those ability scores that should never be a dump stat because it’s so useful in so many ways. A decent Wisdom score with a decent to good Intelligence score can also make your Fighter a nightmare for a DM used to being able to easily deal with brutes with these traditional methods.
While Charisma is a fantastic ability score to have from a roleplay perspective, it is not a very helpful ability for an Eldritch Knight, as it does not affect their combat or spellcasting abilities.
Charisma is mainly used for social skills, such as persuasion, deception, intimidation, and performance. Unless you want your Eldritch Knight to be a charismatic leader or a charming diplomat, you can safely ignore Charisma and focus on other abilities.
What Backstories Are Interesting For Eldritch Knights?
While creating a backstory for your character is often the most exciting part of character creation, it can be challenging for some players, which is completely understandable! Eldritch Knights are incredibly interesting because they combine two classes that usually don’t go together with around 2/3 fighter and 1/3 wizard.
Here’s a little inspiration to get you started with three potential back stories:
- You were a soldier in a war-torn land where magic was a rare and feared weapon. You learned to wield a blade and a shield with skill and courage, but you also had a natural talent for the arcane arts. You secretly studied the spells of your enemies and allies and used them to turn the tide of battle. You became known as an Eldritch Knight, a warrior who could strike with steel and magic.
- You were a prodigy at the academy of magic, where you excelled in the study of abjuration and evocation. You had a passion for learning and experimenting with new spells, but you also had a rebellious streak from a lack of concentration needed for full mastery of wizardry, and it wasn’t long before you snuck out of the academy to explore the world and seek adventure. You found that you enjoyed the thrill of combat and that your magic was more effective when combined with martial prowess, leading to your emergence as a Fighter first, but one with the knowledge and patience to dash in magic to become all the more effective.
- You were a gladiator, a slave forced to fight to please the masses. You survived by your strength and cunning, but you also had a hidden gift: you could cast spells without any formal training or study. You used your magic to enhance your performance and to escape from your captors. You became an Eldritch Knight, a rebel who could dazzle and defy with both magic and muscle.
What Are Some Useful Spells As An Eldritch Knight?
You can use plenty of handy spells as an Eldritch Knight to conquer the battlefield. Here are a few to consider when starting your Eldritch Knight:
- Booming Blade – This spell may quickly become a staple in your arsenal of weaponry. It’s a cantrip that allows you to make a melee weapon attack with extra thunder damage and the potential to deal more damage if the target moves willingly.
It’s good when you want to deal more damage with a single attack, especially if you can trigger a sneak attack or other effects. It is also good when you want to deter enemies from moving or chasing you, such as when you are retreating or protecting an ally.
Booming Blade is less effective when you face enemies that are immune or resistant to thunder damage or enemies that do not need to move or can teleport.
- Shield – This brilliant 1st-level abjuration spell allows you to react to being hit by an attack or targeted by a magic missile spell. You can cast it as a reaction to add +5 to your AC until the start of your next turn1. This can help you avoid taking damage from attacks that would otherwise hit you.
Shield can help them survive longer and avoid critical hits, plus, it’s one of the few spells that Eldritch Knight can cast without needing a high intelligence modifier or a free hand since it has no material or verbal components.
Remember, it does not protect you from effects that do not involve an attack roll, such as saving throws or area-of-effect spells.
- Misty Step – It’s a 2nd-level conjuration spell that allows you to teleport up to 30 feet to a visible, unoccupied space. It can help you escape from grapples, restraints, or difficult terrain.
It can also help you bypass obstacles, reach high places, or flank enemies. It can also help you avoid opportunity attacks since teleporting does not provoke them.
It’s not part of the Abjuration or Evocation schools of magic; learning it means choosing it as an exception or replacing one of your existing spells at level 2. You can also use a Ring of Spell Storing or a Wand of Misty Step. Or, even better, use one of your extra Feats to take one of my favorite feats from Tasha’s: The Fey Touched Feat.
What Races Go Well With Eldritch Knight?
A good number of races can benefit your Eldritch Knight, although ultimately, you should pursue your own fantasy. If you’re one for min-maxing, you might consider a Mountain Dwarf, High Elf, or Githyanki, unless you’re using modern race rules for 5E (aka the One DnD rules) in which case you can choose any race since you get to mix and match stats as you see fit – though I don’t know many DMs who use this rule versus traditional so that all depends on your DM and gaming table.
This race grants a +2 bonus to both Strength and Constitution, which are essential for Eldritch Knight’s melee combat and durability. Mountain Dwarves also have proficiency in light and medium armor and battleaxes, hand axes, throwing hammers, and war hammers.
They also have resistance to poison damage and an advantage on saving throws against poison. These traits make Mountain Dwarves an excellent choice for a heavily armored, great sword-wielding tank.
This race grants a +2 bonus to Dexterity and a +1 bonus to Intelligence, which are helpful for Eldritch Knight’s spellcasting and finesse weapons. High Elves also have proficiency in longsword, short sword, short bow, and longbow, as well as one cantrip of their choice from the wizard spell list.
They also have an advantage on saving throws against being charmed and immunity to magical sleep. High Elves are a good choice for a lithe, nimble, rapier-wielding duelist.
This race grants a +2 bonus to Strength and a +1 bonus to Intelligence, which are both critical for Eldritch Knight’s melee attacks and spells. Githyanki also has proficiency in light and medium armor and short swords, long swords, and great swords.
They also have access to some innate psionic spells, such as Mage Hand, Jump, Misty Step, and Nondetection. These traits make Githyanki a versatile choice for a martial protector and a magical damage dealer.
What Are Some Possible Builds For Eldritch Knight?
You can enjoy several exciting builds as an Eldritch Knight, from STR-based melee builds to DEX-melee, Archer-ranged, Fey Touched, and Shadow Touched builds.
Playing A STR-Based Melee Eldritch Knight
By investing most of your points into Strength, you can grapple, throw, and shove your enemies and ragdoll them around the field! You’ll also have higher AC when you first create your character.
Remember, it will likely make you MAD (Multiple Ability Score Dependent) because you shouldn’t ignore Dexterity altogether.
You also have the option to disregard your shield to gain more damage with a two-hander. A shield does offer AC+2, so you might need to play more defensively if you’re squishier.
Going without a shield lets you pick up the Great Weapon Master feat or Polearm Master feat. Since you have a lot of strength, you’ll benefit greatly from wearing plate armor. You may not be able to start the game with plate armor, but aim to upgrade as soon as possible!
Playing A DEX-Based Melee Eldritch Knight
As a DEX-based Eldritch Knight, you’ll likely use a rapier in your main hand and a shield in your off-hand and be less dependent on other stats. You’ll also have an easier time when you have to roll Dexterity saving throws and be more proficient at ranged combat.
Your high DEX also gives you the option for deadly stealth attacks. Since you can’t wear heavy armor, you must settle for leather or studded leather armor.
Playing An Archer Eldritch Knight
It’s surprisingly viable to play an Eldritch Knight as an arrow-plucking mini-gun. Although you’ll still wear leather armor, your Eldritch Knight Archer will be much tougher than other archer classes.
The feats you choose will differ slightly depending on the type of character and build you want to pursue. Here are some thought-inducing feats to consider when creating your Eldritch Knight:
- Magic Initiate – this feat allows you to learn two cantrips and one 1st-level spell from a class of your choice. You can cast the 1st-level spell once per long rest without using a spell slot. This is very useful for Eldritch Knights who want to expand their spell repertoire and gain access to spells that are not ordinarily available to them.
For example, you could choose Warlock as your class and learn hex and eldritch blast as your cantrips and Armor of Agathys as your 1st-level spell.
- Fey Touched – allows you to increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score by 1 and learn Misty Step and one 1st-level spell of your choice, either the enchantment or divination magic schools. You can cast these without a spell slot, but only once every long rest.
Improved Intelligence and access to Misty Step are an excellent boon for any Eldritch Knight. It makes your spellcasting more effective and harder to resist, plus it significantly improves your mobility and allows you to get to hard-to-reach places.
- Shadow Touched – you can increase your Wisdom, Charisma, or Intelligence by 1, plus you gain the Invisibility spell and one 1st-level spell from either the Necromancy or Illusion school of magic. You may cast these spells without using a spell slot, but you can only do so once every long rest. These spells are also castable with the appropriate level spell slot.
The ability to turn invisible is an immense advantage, especially if you want to set up a surprise attack or escape from a dangerous enemy. It also has multiple uses for roleplaying and makes for some interesting approaches to solving problems!
The 5E War Caster Feat is another must-have feat for Eldritch Knights who plan to wield a sword and shield and it is the type of feat that is just custom made for an Eldritch Knight. We’ll go more in-depth on this one a little later when we get to spellcasting.
Can Eldritch Knights Learn Any Wizard Spell?
Eldritch Knights can learn any Wizard spell given it is on the Wizard spell list; they have the level requirement and a high enough intelligence stat to cast it.
While Eldritch Knights will want to focus primarily on the magic schools of Abjuration and Evocation for their combat benefits, they also choose to learn spells from other schools of magic schools as long as those spells are also on the Wizard spell list.
Eldritch Knights use the Wizard spell list as the basis for their spellcasting, but they have a limited number of spells known and spell slots compared to a full spellcasting class like the Wizard.
They gain access to magic spells at level 3 and can cast up to a maximum of 4th circle magic by the time they reach level 19. They must meet the level requirement for the spell and have a high enough Intelligence score to cast it.
Can You Cast Spells While Wielding A Sword & Shield?
You can only cast spells while wielding a sword & shield if the spell contains only a verbal component, you have the War Caster feat, or by using an item called Ruby of The War Mage (from Xanathar’s) on your weapon.
Spells may require you to speak them out verbally, hold a component in your hand to cast it or use somatic movements like hand gestures to cast them. You can view the requirements for each spell under the components section of a spell; V is Verbal, S is Somatic, and M is Material.
Spells like Light require fireflies or phosphorescent moss to cast, meaning your character must have a free hand to hold the component by either putting away or dropping your weapon or shield.
Let’s be honest; there are better ways to guarantee you walk out alive than disregarding your sword & shield during combat. You have two options available to get around this dilemma: pick up the War Caster feat or get your hands on a Ruby of The War Mage as a spellcasting focus.
Using The War Caster Feat For Weaving Spells In Combat
The War Caster feat is a superb addition for Eldritch Knight that gives them the ability to perform the somatic part of a spell without having to unequip their weapon or shield.
Many useful spells have V-S (Verbal-Somatic) or S (Somatic) requirements, so this feat is a must-have for any Eldritch Knight seeking to cast them without being concerned with empty hands. These spells include:
- Mirror Image
- Absorb Elements
- Mass Heal
- Fog Cloud
- Dominate Monster
- Magic Missile
- Greater Invisibility
- Psychic Scream
There are plenty of other perks to picking up this feat, too, like gaining an advantage on your Constitution saving throws when you must resist having your spell disrupted by the enemy. It’s invaluable for getting off an emergency heal or dispelling a magical effect during a timed event.
When you gain an attack of opportunity because an enemy walked by you, you may use a reaction to cast a spell on that enemy instead of physically attacking them with your weapon. You may only target the creature that triggered an attack of opportunity, and the spell must have a cast time of 1 action.
It presents many exciting opportunities for game-changing moments like using Command and saving your cleric from a flank, preventing the enemy from any further action with Hold Monster or Hold Person, or casting Banishment to reel a pesky archer or mage in the backlines.
Overall, War Caster is an excellent feat that grants you a lot of protection against Constitution saving throws, makes it easier to cast spells during combat or when taking damage, plus it has a handy offensive component that allows you to blast your enemies when you gain an attack of opportunity on them.
Using A Ruby Of The War Mage As A Spellcasting Focus
You can attach a Ruby of The War Mage to your weapon, which allows it to act as your spellcasting focus. You must use an action to detach the ruby, which will not detach with Antimagic Field. You can also remove the ruby by destroying your weapon or if the attunement between you and the ruby ends.
A spellcasting focus is an item available to certain classes like Wizards, Clerics, or Paladins that permit them to cast spells with component and somatic requirements without putting away their current weapons or shields.
Wizards can use an Orb as a spellcasting focus with spells with a material component, like Lightning Bolt. The orb becomes the spell’s material component, plus they can use the hand wielding the orb for the somatic requirement of the spell.
Paladins and Clerics can emblaze the Holy Symbol used for their spells onto their shields. It allows them to wield a mace & shield while using their shield as their spellcasting focus. They must have their shields in their hand when casting a spell with a material component.
If they want to cast spells that also include a somatic requirement, like Cure Wounds or Banishment, they can make the gesture with their shield hand because it acts as their spellcasting focus. Some spells do not have material components, but their somatic parts require that you put away your sword & shield. Such spells include touching allies with Cure Wounds or enemies with Inflict Wounds.
Remember that having the War Caster feat helps you to ignore this restriction.
In truth, the discussion on whether the War Caster feat allows Eldritch Knights to ignore the requirement of needing a free hand, and cast a spell that requires a material component, is highly debated, as seen on the official dndbeyond forum (warning, it’s pretty long!).
Ultimately, the final decision lies with your DM, who will use their discretion to determine the effects of the War Caster feat. As such, you should run it past them and get their take on what you can and cannot do.
Eldritch Knight is a fun class with enough flexibility to fit many playstyles. Sure, it won’t ever be a full-fledged Wizard of destruction, but its strength lies in its versatile mix of melee and magic. Feats like Fey Touched and Shadow Touched help with mobility and boost vital stats like Intelligence, which will add to your unique experience as an Eldritch Knight!
Other DnD Articles You May Love
- 5E Arcane Trickster Class Guide
- Chaotic Good Alignment Guide
- Best 5E Feats for Fighters
- Best 5E Feats for Wizards
- Lawful Good Alignment Guide
Proud to embrace the locally created moniker of “Corrupt Overlord” from one of the all time great Lords of Waterdeep runs, Shane is one member of the Assorted Meeples crew and will be hard at work creating awesome content for the website. He is a long-time player of board games, one time semi-professional poker player, and tends to run to the quirky or RPG side of things when it comes to playing video games. He loves tabletop roleplaying systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Werewolf, Fate, and others, and not only has been a player but has run games as DM for years. You can find his other work in publications like Level Skip or Hobby Lark.