Quick-Draw Samurai (5e Optimized Character Build)
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Your hand rests on the hilt of your blade as you take a deep breath and focus your energy. Your weight slowly shifts forward toward the enemy, and in the blink of an eye you are behind your foe, blade extended. A drop of blood gradually rolls off the tip of your sword as the top of your victim's body begins to slide off the bottom. You flick the rest of the blood off of your blade and sheathe it calmly. You are a Master of the Blade.
The goal of this build is to deal an absurd amount of damage in a single hit, focusing on using martial rather than magical skills. That means sneak attacks, and even better is a critical hit sneak attack. However, if you don't mind adding some magic to your quick-draw, check out the variations listed bellow and the Mage blade. Things get a bit excessive.
The three best race options are a High Elf, Variant Human, or Half-Elf(variant). Each allow you to get the True Strike cantrip, a great tool if you can get it off before initiative begins. Grants automatic advantage (read: boost crit chance) against a single target next round. Visually this can be akin to taking your stance and preparing for your Quick-draw attack.
- High Elves can take true strike as their natural cantrip and take the Elven Accuracy Feat from Xanthar's Guide to everything, dramatically boosting your chance to crit with advantage.
- Variant Humans can boost both their DEX and CON scores while taking the Magic Initiative feat at level 1. Their cantrips should be True Strike and either Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade to make your attacks sting a little more. Also take Find Familiar as your first level spell so your new companion can use the help action every turn to give you advantage on attacks.
- Half-Elf(High Elf Parantage) combine a bit of both, being able to increase DEX and CON while also letting you get True Strike at level 1. Later on you can still take Elven Accuracy, though since you can't get up to 17 DEX at level 1 you might want to take the Resilient (Dexterity) Feat to reach a DEX of 18 and gain proficiency on Dexterity Saving Throws for Rogue Evasion.
- Sea Elf: Helps you get to 16 Con, but you can't get true strike this way. While the cantrip is weak, it is a huge part of the thematics of this build.
Your choice. Have fun.
Levels 1-3: Fighter For your fighting style, choose Dueling. Duh. For your archetype, choose Champion. Now you can crit on a 19 or 20. Now you have a 10% chance to crit, increased to 19% when you have advantage or increased to 27% if you have Elven Accuracy! You can add a 4th level of fighter to get an ASI or Elven Accuracy early, an arguably better strategy that helps the build come online sooner.
Levels 4-20: Rogue Start enjoying sneak attack crits. By level 20 you'll have a sneak attack of 9d6 + 2 (dueling) + DEX on your first hit every turn with a rapier, and a 19%+ chance to double all those dice. Now get yourself a magic weapon. You have a few options for your subclass
- Assassins may be less honorable, but still a very cool way of pulling this off. Their guaranteed crit can get followed up by even more heavy attacks using this build
- Swashbucklers from Xanthar's Guide to Everything can let you sneak attack a creature as long as it is the only creature within 5 feet of you. This can be useful on turns you can't get advantage and you want a more front line play style, letting you use the Hide action less often. Even without advantage you will have a 10% chance to crit.
Best Feat Options
There are quite a few feats you could consider depending on the flavor and race you choose.
- Elven Accuracy: this feat allows you to roll a third dice whenever you have advantage and would normally roll 2. This bumps the chance of a crit from 19% per attack all the way up to 27%. Not only that, but it can also let you increase your Dexterity score by 1!
- Magic Initiate: giving 2 cantrips and a 1st level spell, this is arguably the best feat. Taking True strike and a Blade cantrip (Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade) lets your attacks hurt just that little bit more than they would otherwise, and might add a bit of extra flavor as special sword techniques your character has mastered. You can also take Find Familiar as your first level spell, giving you a familiar that can use the Help action every turn and give you advantage. If you choose to make your familiar appear as an owl, they can swoop in, use the help action, then fly out of range without procing an opportunity attack thanks to their Flyby ability.
- Resilient(Dexterity): One notable weakness in this build is that you don't have proficiency in dexterity saving throws despite later getting the evasion feat. This subverts that weakness and can be combined with the Elven Accuracy Feat to give a total of a +2 to your Dexterity Score.
- Defensive Feats: If your looking to be a front line style character, having the Tough feat or Sentinel feat can offer you some utility and durability that you might otherwise not have. If you don't mind wielding a shield with your Rapier, the Shield Master feat can also be a viable option, though strictly inferior to the Magic Initiate Feat.
These are mechanical alterations to the above build. Some hold onto the thematic but change everything while others are minor tweaks that enable a different approach.
Relying on flanking rules or situational bonuses to gain advantage is unreliable to say the least. Especially for those looking to play this character like a duelist it can be unacceptable to struggle with it like this. To solve this issue, we turn towards the Barbarian
- Level 1-5 Rogue: Quickly building up your sneak attack damage, you rappidly unlock the Swashbuckler subclass and the Elven Accuracy feat.
- Level 6-7 Barbarian: To use elven accuracy, you can't use your strength score. That means no rage damage modifier but every other benefit still remains.
- Level 8-11 Rogue: Your up to a 11% chance to crit, but before you get fighter levels to increase it farther you need to get more sneak attack damage.
- Level 12 Barbarian: You can pick up a barbarian subclass for a dramatic increase in power. Totem Warrior is generally the best for this.
- Level 13-16 Fighter: This is designed to completely unlock the build by level 15, the highest level for many campaigns. Level 16 is just a free feat or ASI for your build
- Level 17-20 Rogue: Get that sneack attack up just a little more and unlock another Swashbuckler feature.
Benefits You can at will use a reckless attack to gain advantage. This is huge, since it means you can easily get sneak attacks when you wouldn't otherwise and double your crit chance thanks to elven accuraccy. When you combine that with the champion fighter you get an amazing 27% on demand crit chance. Another massive benefit is that while you don't get the rage damage boost, you do get the tankiness boost. Resistance to bludgeoning, slashing and piercing damage can be very thematic for some characters while also huge for a character that doesn't get very much health for a melee class.
Reader Variant: The Grave Blade
If you didn't like swashbucklers or assassins, or the idea of dodging/running away from attacks bothers you, perhaps this magic heavy variation is for you.
Race: half-elf (+2 CHA, +1 Str, +1 CON). A good option is to take the wood elf variant for some movement speed.
Attributes Using Point-buy and your racial bonuses, you should have 14 Str, 8 Dex, 14 Con, 9 Int, 14 Wis, 17 Cha. This is ideal for later.
Leveling Guide (this is to make sure you can stay relevant throughout a campaign)
- Level 1-2 Paladin. Dueling Fighting style. You get to use heavy armor and a shield, which is nice since you have -1 in dexterity.
- Level 3-4 Hexblade Warlock. This is huge since it lets us attack with charisma now. It also lets you crit on an 19-20, which is important. Also pick up the Improved Pact Weapon invocation if your DM doesn't give out magic items frequently.
- Level 5 Wildmagic Sorcerer. Get Booming Blade and take the Wildmagic subclass. You can now at-will gain advantage on an attack rolls, indirectly boosting your chance to critically strike. It can feel like a detor and your putting off an ASI, but without the "extra attack" you need the cantrip to stay relevant in damage.
- Level 6-8 Warlock: You should get the Elven accuracy feat at level 7 and Eldritch Smite at level 8. You are now online.
- Level 9-11 Sorcerer: Your getting Metamagic and Quicken spell, which aren't useful yet but are about to be. Grab the Lucky feat at level 11.
- Level 12-13 Grave Cleric: your here for their ability to make an enemy vulnerable for a single attack using chanel divinity.
- Level 14-20 Warlock: You can only eldritch smite using warlock spell slots, so you need to get them up to level 5. Also, you want to get the lifedrinker invocation for even more damage. (Note, has been changed. Sage advice has confirmed that eldritch smite can be used with all slots, and that paladin smite behaves similarly.)
Strategy: Your first turn, use Hexblade's curse on the bigest enemy. Use your action as you need, probably a booming blade. Round two, probably another attack. After you've used your action, your going to prepare for the big attack: Cast Banishing Smite (Visually sheathing your blade). It's turn 3 and time to put this build to work. Use your action to channel divinity - path to the grave. This makes it so the next attack to hit the enemy is treated like they are vulnerable. Use your bonus action by Quickening a Booming Blade cantrip.
There is a 34.3% chance your going to critically hit this attack, thanks to rolling 4 times with Elven Accuracy and Luck. The damage formula is an absolute mess: 2(Path to the grave)x [1(Improved pact weapon)+ 2(Duelist style)+ 5(Hex warrior)+ 5(lifedrinker)+ 6(Hexblade's Curse)+ 2(CriticalHit)x[1d8(longsword)+ 3d8(booming blade)+ 5d8(Divine Smite)+ 5d8(Eldritch Smite)+ 5d10(Banishing Smite)]]
What that mess is equal to is an average attack of 400 damage!?! The maximum you can get is 686 damage!!! Even without a crit, the average is a wopping 213 damage, still pretty good. This is truely the strongest single attack possible in the game currently. You will almost certainly get to describe sheathing your weapon then splitting them in half before the eye registers what happened. The build is playable at early levels, the guide walking you through the best path to
Hope you enjoy it ^^
Feel like True Stike is inconsitent at best? Well, your right. This is a variant that helps you act like a tank, halting enemy movemnts to keep your backline safe from attacks. You'll need some DM aproval though, since it relies on Improvised Weapons, a rule that is intentionally vague.
- Race: High Elf (True Strike Cantrip)
- Ability Scores: 12 Str, 17 Dex, 14 Con, 10 Int, 10 Wis, 12 Cha
- Level 1-4 Fighter: Take the Champion subclass. Next take the Elven Accuracy feat at level 4.
- Level 5-20 Rogue: Get expertise in Athletics. Take the Swashbuckler subclass. At level 8 take the Tavern Brawler feat and increase your strength to 13. At level 12 take Grappler.
Tavern Brawler: this feat gives you proficiency in improvised weapons and lets you make a grapple attack as a bonus action if you attack with one. If your DM allows it, something like a butter knife, fire poker, or piece of broken glass can be an improvised weapon, allowing you to trigger the second half of the ability. This feeds nicely into the grappler feat
Grappler: The most important feature of this is that it gives us advantage against enemies we grapple. With our high crit chance and sneack attack, this is really powerful. Thanks to expertise in athletics, you'll have a +5-13 based on level to grapple checks.
A Unique Weapon: to grapple you need an open hand, meaning your giving up your shield or getting creative. A shield is commonly improvised as a club, but since it doesn't have finess there is an issue. However, the rules around Improvised Weapons are extremely vague. With DM permision, a small buckler or perhaps a spiked shield can be improvised to have the finess property. This lets you keep your shield and still grapple your target.