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DnD Arcane Archer 5e subclass guide

We’ve got our eye on the target – that being a Dungeons and Dragons character build that makes the most of the 5e Arcane Archer subclass.

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Arcane Archer 5e

The DnD Arcane Archer tries to be a ranged answer to the 5e Battlemaster. This Dungeons and Dragons subclass offers a range (get it) of magical archery options, all designed to deal some extra damage. Every choice matters when building a character with multiple options, so we’ve put together an Arcane Archer 5e subclass guide to help you get started.

If you’re not yet married to the idea of this particular Fighter 5e, be sure to check out our guides to DnD classes and DnD Fighter subclasses. Otherwise, read on for a full subclass lowdown, including which DnD races and 5e feats would best complement your DnD character build.

Here are the key details about the DnD Arcane Archer 5e subclass:

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Arcane Archer 5e Elf

Arcane Archer 5e features

Here’s the subclass feature an Arcane Archer gets with each DnD level up:

Arcane Archer Lore

Level: Three

At level three, your Fighter gains proficiency in Arcana or Nature (your choice). You also learn one of two DnD cantrips: Druidcraft or Prestidigitation 5e.

Arcane Shot

Level: Three, Seven, 10, 15, 18

You’re called an ‘Arcane Archer’ for a reason, and this is the feature that gives your bow and arrow that magical edge. Once per turn, when you attack and hit a target, you can add an Arcane Shot effect to your arrow. This can be done twice before you need a short or long rest 5e to replenish the feature’s uses.

You start out with two Arcane Shot options, and you’ll learn additional ones at levels seven, 10, 15, and 18. Here are the Arcane Shots you can choose from:

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Arcane Archer 5e firing an arrow

Banishing Arrow

When a creature is hit by your arrow, it must pass a Charisma saving throw or be banished to the Feywild. Banishment incapacitates a creature and gives it a speed of zero, but it isn’t otherwise harmed. The target then reappears in its old space (or the nearest available one) at the end of its next turn.

Once you reach level 18, Banishing Arrow also deals 2d6 force damage when it hits.

Beguiling Arrow

A creature hit by your Beguiling Arrow takes an additional 2d6 psychic damage. After a successful strike, you can choose an ally within 30 feet of your target to potentially charm that enemy. If the foe passes a Wisdom save, they can resist the charm. Otherwise, they’re charmed by the ally until the start of your next turn – or until your friend attacks or damages them.

At level 18, the arrow’s damage increases to 4d6.

Bursting Arrow

When your arrow hits a creature, it and any others within ten feet each take 2d6 force damage. This increases to 4d6 at level 18.

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Arcane Archer 5e and two allise fighting sea monsters on a boat

Enfeebling Arrow

A creature struck by this arrow will take an extra 2d6 necrotic damage. On a failed Constitution saving throw, the target’s DnD weapon attacks have their damage halved until the start of your next turn.

At level 18, the necrotic damage increases to 4d6.

Grasping Arrow

Your Grasping Arrow deals an additional 2d6 poison damage to a target as poisonous plants sprout around it. These reduce its speed by ten feet, and if it moves more than a single foot without teleporting, it takes 2d6 slashing damage the first time it moves on its turn. The plants stay in place for one minute or until a successful Athletics check removes them.

Both poison and slashing damage become 4d6 at level 18.

DnD Arcane Archer 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of Lae'zel the Githyanki

Piercing Arrow

You don’t make an attack roll when firing a Piercing Arrow. Instead, it automatically fires 30 feet in a line one foot wide, passing through any obstacles. Any creature in that line must pass a Dexterity save or take the regular damage of the arrow – plus 1d6 piercing damage. They take half the damage on a successful save.

At level 18, that piercing damage becomes 2d6.

Seeking Arrow

Seeking Arrows also don’t require attack rolls. For this attack, you choose a creature you have seen in the past minute, and your arrow automatically shoots towards them. If they’re in range and the arrow can reach them, the target must pass a Dexterity saving throw or take the arrow’s regular damage – as well as an extra 1d6 force damage. You also learn your target’s location. They take half damage on a successful safe, and you don’t get to learn where it is.

At level 18, the additional force damage increases to 2d6.

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Arcane Archer 5e

Shadow Arrow

This arrow deals an extra 2d6 psychic damage to a target. If that creature then fails a Wisdom saving throw, they won’t be able to see beyond five feet until the start of your next turn.

At level 18, the psychic damage increases to 4d6.

Magic Arrow

Level: Seven

When you fire a non-magical arrow from a shortbow or longbow, you can activate your Magic Arrow feature. This allows the attack to overcome any resistance or immunity to non-magical damage.

Curving Shot

Level: Seven

When one of your Magic Arrow attacks misses, you can use a bonus action to reroll the attack roll and attempt to hit a different creature. Your new target must be within 60 feet of the original.

Ever-Ready Shot

Level: 15

If you roll Initiative and you have no Arcane Shot uses left, you automatically replenish one use.

Wizards of the Coast art of a DnD Arcane Archer 5e Elf

Building a DnD Arcane Archer

First, let’s talk DnD stats. An Arcane Archer needs high Dexterity to make sure their shots are on target, but they also rely on Intelligence for their more magical abilities. Buffing these should be priority numero uno.

After that, a decent Constitution score will come in handy. A decent Wisdom score is always handy for saving throws, but it’s not a huge concern. Charisma and Strength can be dumped.

Arcane Archers benefit from any D&D race that naturally suits an archery build. If you’ve only got the Player’s Handbook to work with, we recommend a High Elf for their useful stat boosts, bow proficiencies, and extra DnD Wizard cantrip.

Maybe you don’t want to play the stereotypical DnD Elf Archer. That’s fine – in that case, pick the Variant DnD Human, boost your Dexterity and Intelligence, and pick up the Sharpshooter feat. This makes you more effective in close range and adds a nice damage boost to your arrow shots.

DnD Arcane Archer 5e - Wizards of the Coast art of an Aarakocra

Of course, there are a range of rare races in other DnD books. If you want to go further afield, we recommend choosing a race that offers extra agility. Think flying characters like the Aarakocra or the Owlin. Another personal favorite of ours is the DnD Harengon, who gets buffed Initiative rolls and a beefy bunny hop as a bonus action.

Before you reach level three and pick a Fighter subclass, you’ll need to choose a Fighting Style. Unsurprisingly, Archery is the best option for an Arcane Archer.

Since Fighters get an extra ability score improvement compared with other classes, we recommend picking up one more feat on your journeys. If you don’t already have Sharpshooter, what are you waiting for? If you do, Piercer is a neat way to boost your arrow damage, and Lucky is never a bad feat to choose.

For more Fighter subclasses, here’s everything you need to know about the Eldritch Knight 5e and the DnD Rune Knight.