Fighters can be easy to play in 5e, and almost any group of players can benefit from having them.
But if you want to play a Fighter Class but want to add some new features and powers, the Eldritch Knight adds magic to the class and makes it one of the strongest Fighter subclasses in the whole system.
I’ve also suggested it to new players who want to learn how to cast spells because its rules are easier to understand than those of dedicated spellcasters like Wizards.
If you want to try out spells for the first time, they’re a great choice.
Let’s start our Eldritch Knight 5e guide by looking at some of the most important things you need to know about them.
- What is an Eldritch Knight in 5e?
- Eldritch Knight Backgrounds
- Eldritch Knight Skills
- Eldritch Knight Features
- The Basics of Playing an Eldritch Knight
- Eldritch Knight Equipment
- Best Races for Eldritch Knight 5e
- Magic Items
- Playing an Eldritch Knight Fighter
- Playing an Eldritch Knight in Combat
What is an Eldritch Knight in 5e?
Eldritch Knights are fighters who learn how to cast spells in a subtle way. With the Eldritch Knight branch, fighters can cast some spells, like rangers and paladins, because they can get spell slots up to 4th level.
They can only learn spells from the wizard’s spell list. Most of the time, they can only learn abjuration and evocation spells, but sometimes they can learn a few spells from other schools of magic.
The Eldritch Knight can use spells like shield, absorb elements, blur, and mirror image, which are the best defense spells in the game.
All of these are very good ways to keep your heavily protected fighter from getting hit in battle.
Your spells also give you some choices in battle, which can make the character more fun to play and give you more ways to use them.
Fighters need a high CON modifier and a high STR or DEX modifier. This leaves very little room for your INT modifier, which is your spellcasting skill. Eldritch Knights also have access to a small number of spells and places for spells.
Eldritch Knights can make up for these problems by only casting spells that don’t need a spellcasting factor.
Even though this is the “best” way to play an Eldritch Knight, it limits their ability to direct crowds or be useful outside of battle.
The Eldritch Knight is also limited by the fact that they have to use the War Caster feat. This is especially true if they want to use the “sword and board” style of defense that this guide talks about.
If you want to use a shield, you’ll need the War Caster skill so that your spells don’t affect your body.
For an Eldritch Knight, Strength and Constitution should still be your most important skills.
These will give you more health so you can stay on your feet and make sure you can deal damage with your physical weapon so you are feared on the battlefield.
Keeping these scores high will also make sure that you can get the most out of the Fighter class’s base features and the subclass’s more martial-focused features.
Once those two numbers are set, you should work on your Intelligence and your ability to cast spells. For a subclass with magic, making Spellcasting your third-highest Ability may seem strange, but I have my reasons.
You can get a few spells from this subclass that have nothing to do with your spellcasting factor. I’ll talk about them below.
As an Eldritch Knight, you might want to throw a Fireball every time you can, but that shouldn’t be your main goal.
You shouldn’t be standing back and casting magic. Instead, you should be right in the middle of the fight, hitting enemies and blocking their attacks.
So, if you can raise your Intelligence later, you can take more spells that depend on your ability, but don’t focus on them right away.
So, your Dexterity, Wisdom, and Charisma will still decide. How you invest in these Abilities depends a lot on what you want your character to be like and what your party needs.
You might want to take Dexterity to help with saving throws, Wisdom to improve your Perception so you can see threats and events before anyone else, or Charisma to help your group’s Face part.
I’ve seen Eldritch Knights that put different amounts of emphasis on these remaining abilities, and they’ve all worked well, so it’s mostly up to player taste.
Eldritch Knight Backgrounds
In 5e, an Eldritch Knight character can work well with any background, but there are some that stand out as good choices.
These are listed below, but you can use any other setting that makes sense for your character’s story.
Book: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
This background gives you a big boost to your Knowledge-based skills, which can help you as an Eldritch Knight.
This is especially true because it makes sense for Eldritch Knights to be good at those skills, but putting points into them isn’t always the best way to build your character’s Abilities.
So, this setting is a great way to boost your character without using up valuable Ability points.
Book: Player’s Handbook
As an Eldritch Knight, it makes a lot of sense for the Sage to give you skills in Arcana and History.
It also gives you fun things to use in roleplaying, and it gives your character a goal that isn’t related to the main goals of your game.
This can be very helpful when building a character’s story and personality.
Book: Player’s Handbook
I would only suggest this setting if I knew that your party would be sailing a lot during the game.
It gives you proficiency in two pretty good skills for a Fighter, and its sailing skills can be very important to a group in the right situation.
But if your Dungeon Master doesn’t want you to see a boat during the game, you might as well choose a better background that you can use all of.
Book: Player’s Handbook
This is the most common setting for a Fighter, and it makes sense why.
It helps fill out your Fighter skill proficiencies list, gives you some fun tool proficiencies that you’ll probably use a few times, and fits with the story.
This is true for the Eldritch Knight, but you might want to explain how your character learned all this fancy magic.
Eldritch Knight Skills
When you make your Fighter for the first time, you can choose two Skills to be good at.
These Skills include Acrobatics, Animal Handling, Athletics, History, Insight, Intimidation, Perception, Survival, and more.
This list is pretty good, but some of the skills aren’t as useful as others. If you can, try to get Arcana or Religion through your background.
I think this is the best order for the Skills, but you can choose more than just the top two based on your character’s personality and what your party needs.
- Athletics is the only Strength Skill in 5e. It lets you grapple and push enemies, so it gives you a lot more choices in combat.
- Perception is a great Skill for any character to have, and you need it to make sure you don’t miss anything or get surprised by enemies who attack you.
- History: If your Dungeon Master likes setting details, he or she will love it if you use your History Skill. This one is very useful for getting information during your travels, and it goes well with an Eldritch Knight.
- Survival: You’ll probably spend a lot of time in the wilderness during your journey, and the Survival Skill will help you stay alive.
- Intimidation: This choice isn’t bad if you want to be part of your party’s Face, but if you don’t, there’s not much reason to pick it.
- Insight: Insight can be useful to see if NPCs are lying to the party’s faces, but it may not come up very often, especially if you aren’t the party’s Face.
- Acrobatics: This Skill can be useful for a Fighter based on Dexterity, but I wouldn’t suggest that for an Eldritch Knight, so you can skip it.
- Animal Handling: I think this Skill is on the Fighter’s list in case they want a pet to ride often, but Eldritch Knights don’t need mounts, so this Skill probably won’t come up very often for you.
Eldritch Knight Features
Casting magic: At level 3, Eldritch Knights can use a small number of wizard spells. These spells come from the Evocation and Abjuration schools of magic, which means that they are mostly about doing damage or protecting yourself.
Eldritch Knights are a strong and fun class to play because they can cast spells. When you combine a fighter’s martial skills with the flexibility of spellcasting, you can make a number of possible class builds (discussed below) that are different from anything else the fighter class can offer. In the Spells part below, we’ll talk about which spells your Eldritch Knight should grab.
Weapon Bond: At 3rd level, Eldritch Knights can also bond with a weapon, which lets them call it to their hand as a free action.
Even when you’re not in battle, it’s good to never be without your tool. It can be used to make sure you have access to the gear you need, even if you’ve been disarmed or caught, so you can surprise your enemies.
At 7th level, Eldritch Knights can cast a cantrip as an action and attack with a weapon as a bonus action on the same turn.
This makes booming blade and green-flame blade work again because you can use your action to cast the cantrip that gives you your first attack, then use your bonus action to attack again.
Depending on the situation on the fight, this choice can be even better than your three attacks at 11th level.
Eldritch Strike: At level 10, an Eldritch Knight’s weapon hits can break a target’s magical defenses, letting you cast spells on them. This is a great way for Eldritch Knights to make up for their low INT rating.
Disadvantage makes the average result of a roll go down by -5. So, if you hit a creature with your weapon last turn, you now have a +5 bonus to your INT for the purpose of casting a spell that requires a saving throw. This makes magic like “banishment” a lot more useful at this level and beyond.
Arcane Charge: At level 15, an Eldritch Knight can use their Action Surge to move up to 30 feet. This lets them close in on an enemy or get away from danger.
This free misty step gives your Action Surge a lot of usefulness by letting you move around and get in a better position to attack (or get away from danger after hitting).
Improved War Magic: At 18th level, an Eldritch Knight can make one weapon attack as an extra action when they cast a spell as an action on the same turn.
At this point, your Eldritch Knight’s four close-range hits will do a lot of damage. But if you can hit them with a spell like fireball and keep striking, you can easily do more damage than if you only used your weapon.
The Basics of Playing an Eldritch Knight
When you make your fighter an unstoppable war mage, it can be fun and satisfying to play Eldritch Knights. Still, they have to be built and played with more strategy than other fighter types, like the Champion, to feel as powerful.
First, it’s important to pick spells that fit your skills. You might think you don’t need the shield spell if you already have a physical shield, but the Eldritch Knight’s biggest strength is in its ability to defend.
You can have almost the highest AC of any 5e build if you can wear heavy armor and a shield and then cast shield as a response to boost your AC by +5 for a whole round.
Still, Eldritch Knights are still fighters at the end of the day. Their magic is meant to help them fight, not take the place of it.
Eldritch Knights may disappoint you if you want to focus more on casting magic than on getting hit by multiple weapons in the same round.
Eldritch Knight Equipment
For your Eldritch Knight’s gear, you should focus on heavy armor that makes up for your low Dexterity and a weapon that lets you regularly deal solid damage.
As your starting armor, you should get Chain Mail and quickly improve to Full Plate. Once you have Full Plate, you don’t need any more armor until you find some magic things on your travels.
Your choice of tool will depend a lot more on how you like to play and what your character’s story is. There are a lot of good choices here, but don’t take any other long weapons than a javelin.
Your low Dexterity will make a crossbow or bow almost useless. If you take a javelin instead, you won’t have to spend money on more ammo, which is a great use of your Weapon Bond ability.
Best Races for Eldritch Knight 5e
If you’re making your Eldritch Knight with the Player’s Handbook, consider the following:
Dwarfs get +2 CON and free poison protection. This is very interesting to Eldritch Knights.
Mountain: With a +2 to STR that can’t be beat and a +2 to CON, mountain dwarves have the best race bonuses.
Dragonborn: The +2 to STR is good for Eldritch Knight, but the +1 to CHA is lost. Breath Weapon is another good AoE move that gets better as your character gets stronger.
Half-Elf: Taking Half-Elf for your Eldritch Knight is a good choice. You have good starting ability scores if you can improve your STR and CON, and the ability to avoid being charmed or put to sleep and the ability to see in the dark are both very useful.
Half-Orc: Being a half-orc gives you +1 CON and +2 STR. Darkvision is nice, being good at Intimidation will help you in social situations, Relentless Endurance will keep you going when things get rough, and Savage Attacks is, well, just mean.
Humans Variant: You can boost your STR and CON, and at 1st level, you can choose any of the many cool feats that Eldritch Knights can get. You can’t take War Caster if you choose Variant Human because you need to be able to cast at least one spell before you can take the feat.
If you want more choices for your Eldritch Knight than what’s in the Player’s Handbook or if you’re using the optional rule from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything called “Customize Your Origins,” here are some good ones:
Chromatic: This is a great way to make your Eldritch Knight more tanky and a good way to deal AoE damage.
When your enemies are in the right place, being able to use the breath weapon instead of one of your extra attacks will give you a big damage boost.
Eladrin: The free misty steps are great for Eldritch Knights. A free action teleport is very helpful whether they need to get closer to an enemy or get out of the fight to get healed.
Now add the different rider effects that come with the different seasons of the Fey Step, and it’s even better.
The Summer ability will be the Eldritch Knight’s favorite, since they are most likely to teleport into a big group of enemies to do the most damage.
Still, the Winter ability would be nice because it would let them focus their fire on an enemy without putting themselves in too much danger.
On top of that, it’s nice to have the passive skills of the eladrin, especially Fey Ancestry, which can help you resist bad effects that control your mind.
Goliath: The Goliath is perfect for an Eldritch Knight whose stat is STR. With the traits of the Goliath, your attacker will deal a lot of damage and be able to protect the rest of the group.
Beasthide Shifter: Use your bonus action to get +1 to your AC for a minute. This can make your already crazy AC even higher.
Once the players start using some of the hundreds of magical things available in 5e, the adventures start to get more interesting.
There are so many to choose from that it can be hard to figure out which ones work best for a class.
However, there are a few that stand out, so here are the magic things I think you should look out for as an Eldritch Knight.
This weapon is a great tool because it lets you see in the dark even if your race doesn’t have dark vision, and it also makes it harder for people to defend against your usual attacks.
This will help you save your skill slots for when you need them most against enemies with this resistance, which can be very helpful later in the game.
Ruby of the War Mage
This magic item isn’t great for Eldritch Knights, but it can make it easier to use a weapon and a spell focus at the same time. This can save you from having to juggle your gear in the middle of a fight.
You should try to get this improved full plate armor as soon as possible if you are in a martial arts class.
It’s interesting that it’s supposed to cost less than regular full plate armor, so hopefully your Dungeon Master will be nice and let you find this one early.
Belt of Giant Strength
There are different kinds of special belts, but they all give a big boost to your character’s Strength, which can even go above the normal limit of 20.
Ring of Spell Storing
With this ring, you can save magic to use later. This is a great tool for Eldritch Knights, whether you load it up with your own spells or those of a party member who can cast spells. It gives you more choices and ways to use spells in the very difficult battles.
Manual of Bodily Health
If you read this special book, it will permanently raise your Constitution score above 20. This will give you the much-desired +6 bonus to your health rolls whenever you level up.
Blood Fury Tattoo
This tattoo gives you a good boost to your harm and makes it so that your attacks can heal you, which can help you stay on your feet.
The damage it does is also called bonus damage, which means that when you get a critical hit, it goes up.
The Vorpal Sword is a +3 weapon that helps you hit more and hit harder. It also makes your critical hits kill, and since you can attack four times a turn as a Fighter, you have the best chance of getting a critical hit.
Playing an Eldritch Knight Fighter
When playing the part of an Eldritch Knight, you should pay special attention to how your martial and magical skills work together.
Even if you know your way around a spellbook now, you knew your way around a fight long before that, so when you play your Eldritch Knight, don’t forget that.
Beyond that, though, your character’s personality and past will depend a lot on their background and backstory. You should think about why they chose to learn magic, though.
Maybe they had a teacher who helped them, or they did it to move up in their army’s ranks, or they did it because they were jealous of a powerful mage they saw on the battlefield.
Eldritch Knights are rare for whatever reason, so you should describe why they chose that path.
Playing an Eldritch Knight in Combat
Your Eldritch Knight Fighter will be at its best in fights. You should almost always be in the front lines of a fight, unless you have two or three other players who are better at it.
No matter what, your job on the battlefield will probably be that of a striker, which means you are in charge of doing damage.
You should mostly do this with the weapon in your hand, but your spells can also be used to take advantage of your enemies’ flaws and mistakes.
This can be done by using a spell to hit multiple foes close together, teleporting to attack weaker enemies away from the crowd, or just putting more and more damage on an enemy with a lot of hit points.
What is the best class to multiclass with as an Eldritch Knight in 5e?
As an Eldritch Knight, you should choose either a Warlock or a Wizard as your second class. Both will give you more spells to choose from and add to what makes your Fighter different from a normal soldier.
Is the Eldritch Knight good in 5e?
Yes, the Eldritch Knight mixes the strong martial skills of the Fighter with the light spellcasting skills of the Spellcaster to make a warrior who can handle any situation and always bring something useful to fights.
Can an Eldritch Knight use Weapon Bond on a shield?
Yes, you can use a shield as a makeshift weapon, so you can use Weapon Bond on it if you want to.