Bladesingers mix swordplay and magic to create a class that provides moderate single target control while having the capability to do nearly striker level damage.
Bladesingers attack with melee basic attacks, but their primary feature is their Bladespells, a set of No-Action attacks that trigger whenever they hit with a melee basic attack during their turn. Bladespells deal automatic damage as well as apply a variety of effects on their targets and they target either the enemy hit by the melee basic attack or any enemy within 10 squares of the Bladesinger. This gives Bladesingers the ability to either focus on a single enemy and get the equivilent of a striker mechanic or send the control where it is most needed, even if they can't get there themselves. The Bladespell mechanic forces Bladesingers to think more tactically than other melee classes because they must consider the optimum use of a slide, slow or knocking a creature prone over a large portion of the battlefield.
Bladesingers are at their best while under the effect of their Bladesong, an encounter utility power which provides a huge boost to attack and damage rolls as well as a defensive bonus until the end of their next turn. While under their Bladesong, they transform into full strikers and attempt to inflict that most potent of status effects: dead.
Because they are an Intelligence/Dexterity class, Bladesingers suffer from two weak non-armor defenses. This is a major concern considering that they are primaraily melee fighters, so they should be prepared to invest in defensive items and feats to shore up these weaknesses.
This Handbook uses the following system for ratings:
Red: An useless or overshadowed option (from 0/10 to 2/10)
Violet: An option insufficient for most needs but that can be worked, with some difficulty, into something good (from 3/10 to 5/10)
Black: An option sufficient for your needs but nothing more (from 6/10 to 7/10)
Blue: A solid choice which should be always taken into account (from 8/10 to 9/10)
Sky Blue: The best choice in a single spot. These choices are never wrong (10/10)
Gold: A rare rating given to specify that if you make another choice, you are probably doing something wrong (mandatory, without rank)
Unranked: sometimes choices are out of rank. I'm reserving this green hue for this strange need, usually for non combat-related powers.
AP - Arcane Power
AV - Adventurer's Vault
AV 2 - Adventurer's Vault 2
D XXX - Dragon Magazine, issue XXX
DMA 2009 - Dragon Magazine Annual 2009
DP - Divine Power
DSCS - Dark Sun Campaign Setting
Du XXX - Dungeon Magazine, issue XXX
E1 - Death's Reach (Adventure)
FRPG - Forgotten Realms Player's Guide
HoFL - Heroes of Fallen Lands
HoFK - Heroes of Forgotten Kingdoms
Homm - Village of Hommlet (Adventure)
HoS - Heroes of Shadow
NCG - Neverwinter Campaign Guide
MOTP - Manual of the Planes
MP - Martial Power
MP2- Martial Power 2
P1 - King of the Trollhaunt Warrens (Adventure)
P2 - Demon Queen Enclave (Adventure)
P3 - Assault on Nightwyrm Fortress (Adventure)
PHB - Player's Handbook
PHB 2 - Player's Handbook 2
PHB 3 - Player's Handbook 3
PHB D - Player's Handbook Races: Dragonborn
PHB T - Player's Handbook Races: Tiefling
PHH 1 - Player's Handbook Heroes: Series 1
PHH 2 - Player's Handbook Heroes: Series 2
PP - Primal Power
PsP - Psionic Power
Special Thanks to:
Nausicaa for The Power of Knowledge - The Wizard's Handbook
LDB for the standard handbook format
Anyone with comments, suggestions, or contributions to make to the guide
Hit Points and Surges: Basic striker HP, which is good for a controller. At least you don’t get the Arcanist and Mage’s abysmal HP.
Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: You get what you need, no more, no less. There’s probably a build that uses hammers or axes, but most builds will use blades. You will probably upgrade to Hide Armor, but it’s hardly a requirement.
Implement Proficiency: It’s a bit awkward, but it gets the job done. You get weapon-as-implement and get to treat your weapon as a Wand.
Blade Magic: It either saves a feat on implement proficiency or gold on another implement. The new expertise feats applicable to Bladesingers are both fairly underwhelming, but they're generally better than Versatile Expertise for Int builds. I hope the final version of the expertise feats has a stronger benefit and doesn't limit the bonus to a specific power source because you're almost better off taking both Light Blade Expertise and Wand Expertise.
Guarded Flourish: +2 shield bonus to AC is great as a class feature. It keeps your AC competitive, but it is a shield bonus so some things won't stack with it. It does let you upgrade to Hide Armor, which you should pick that up at some point.
Cantrips: Suggestion is very good and is probably a must take if you dump Charisma. The others are all great if your DM lets you use them creatively.
Bladesong: Pretty much the reason for the class existing at all. It provides a huge bonus to damage for two turns and includes a +2 bonus to attack rolls and defenses as an added advantage. You should try and make as many attacks as possible while under its effects. It grants additional benefits as you level up.
Instinctive Attack: You might end up ignoring this completely, but for most Bladesingers it's a welcome boo. Swordmages and Battleminds have to burn a feat to attack with their primary stat, so it's nice to get it for free.
Bladesinger Daily Powers: Daily powers are where the Bladesinger is really lacking. Wizards have some very good encounter powers, but they are simply not at the level of Wizard daily powers in terms of control or damage. You won’t be able to bring the same amount of raw power to bear as a standard Wizard and lack the more potent status effects they can inflict.
Spellbook: The spellbook is good for some added versatility, but unfortunately you’ll rarely know when your spellbook spell will be better than your prepared spell until it’s too late.
Arcane Strike: This helps with the daily power issue a little bit. What are you doing with your minor actions? Nothing? Well then you effectively get a free attack when you use your daily powers. Honestly, this is the only feature that makes the daily powers worth using for most characters. It’s a lot more effective to boost your melee basic attacks than your daily powers and every round you don’t make a basic attack is a round where that investment is wasted.
Steely Retort: Free attacks are always good, even if you can't trigger Bladespells off of them. You are under Bladesong, so at least your attacks will hit harder.
Unerring Bladespell: The ability to guarantee the application of your primary control feature should be great, but the requirement to by under Bladesong makes this almost worthless. Bladesong is when you will be using Heroic Effort, Elven Accuracy, Stone of Earth, your Harper Pin, etc to make sure your attacks hit. If you trigger this with any regularity, you're in bad shape.
Bladespell Burst: This would have been fantastic at heroic, pretty good at paragon, but this is epic, so I expect more. Once per encounter you can Bladespell in a burst 1 centered on a creature. The centering requirement limits the number of targets it can hit and burst 1 is pathetically small at epic.
Strength: Strength is tricky to evaluate because hypothetically, you could just make your melee basic attacks with it which makes it your primary. Have I mentioned that you’ll want to qualify for Hide Armor? You’ll probably want a couple points here to hit that magic 13 you need.
Constitution: As a melee combatant, you can’t afford to ignore it. Half-Elves can get a melee basic attack from it, which is wonderful for boosting Fortitude and getting some much needed HP and healing surges. You also need it to qualify for Hide Armor, which is important.
Dexterity: This will be an important stat for every build. Start it as high as you can afford and boost it often. Your Bladespells rely on it and it supports a wide variety of skills. If you decide to ignore Intelligence, it will also determine your Reflex and AC.
Intelligence: Hypothetically this is your primary stat. Realistically, many builds will ignore this in favor of another attack stat. It’s not even required for your daily powers as there are plenty of “No Attack” powers available, but it does increase the variety of powers you can choose significantly. It’s also tied to Arcana, which you are automatically trained in and is a generally useful skill. It will also determine the AC and Reflex for most Bladesingers. Start it as high as reasonable and keep pumping it.
Wisdom: Your will needs to come from somewhere and this should probably be it unless you have a way of getting a Charisma melee basic attack or get a racial bonus to Charisma, in which case this becomes a likely dump stat. Perception is the best skill in the game and you get it as a class skill so I’d recommend keeping this at least decent.
Charisma: One of the likely dump stats. For Tieflings and Half-Elves this can become the primary stat. For other races, you can expect that someone else will likely be better at the social skills, so unless there’s a Charisma based multiclass you want or you get a racial Charisma boost, Wisdom is generally better.
The default Bladesinger build.
Eladrin: The quintessential Bladesinger. Perfect stats, a strong racial power, and very good racial support. Quite simply, one of the best races for the class.
Elf: Another archetypal Bladesinger. Ideal stats, increased speed, and a very strong racial power.
Human: Humans are generally good for most classes and this is no exceptions. Humans have the very important option of taking a proper Wizard at-will power. You can pick up an area attack (Beguiling Strands and Winged Horde make good picks) to shore up a big weakness of the class. A bonus to non-armor defenses is also great on Dex/Int class and an extra feat is nothing to scoff at.
Tiefling: A bonus to intelligence if you want it, but you can also multi-class paladin and get a melee basic attack keyed off Charisma. Tieflings have creat racial support which makes up for their lack of Dexterity boost.
Shadar-kai: A perfect stat match is always good, but a very strong racial power (especially for a melee semi-squishy) is enough to push them up to light blue.
Gnome: Perfect stats, but the size and speed penalties as well as a lackluster racial power mean you are better off taking a different race in most cases.
Deva: It gets an Intelligence boost and Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes is great for making that crucial save or landing that key attack. Damage resistance to a common damage type is big plus as well.
Shade: Too bad you can’t take both Int and Dex, but you get your choice of either which is still pretty good. The healing surge penalty is a bummer, but Stealth training is a welcome addition and significantly increases your utility out of combat.
Githzerai: Intelligence boost is a good starting point and Githzerai Blade Mastery is one of the only reasons to use a Bastard Sword over a Rapier. Iron Mind is very strong and if you pop it while under Bladesong, you should be very difficult to hit.
Shardmind: I love the features but hate the fluff. It gets an Int boost and it’s racial utility is great during your Bladesong turns. Shard Swarm also has a lot of strong additional features that you can add with feats to improve it’s already considerable utility.
These builds ignore your Wizard aspect almost completely, but Stength can still be used for a melee basic attack, so Str/Dex races are pretty good choices. You limit your daily power selection, but gain a decent Fortitude defense.
Thri-Kreen: Thri-Kreen are very mobile and their racial power is great under Bladesong, which makes them a solid choice for non-Int builds.
Half-Orc: Half-Orcs are a generally good Str/Dex race. Furious Assault is a bit wasted on your low [W] value but Half-Orcs include some built in resilience and make great chargers. Charging is very well supported and works with Bladespells, so any bonuses to it should be strongly considered.
Dragonborn: Dragonbreath and Bladesong are a powerful combination. It's one of the best supported racial powers and makes a very stong addition to your Bladesong turns.
These races allow you to use a power from another class that counts as a melee basic attack. There are several good options and they allow you to use things like White Lotus feats that are otherwise useless for Bladesingers.
Half-Elf: Dilettante…er…Half-Elf makes a great race for Bladesingers. Eldritch Strike, Solinor’s Hammer, or any other attack that can be used as a melee basic attack will let you benefit from better support and still use your Bladespells. They don’t get a Dex boost, but Dilettante opens so many options it’s hard not to give them a good grade.
Revenant: Sadly, this is probably the best race for Bladesingers. You get to be a Half-Elf and you get a Dex boost, too. Unnatural Vitality is also extremely powerful so it's probably better than half-elf for most builds. It’s a great way to gain some added durability and if you’re like me, you hate losing a turn because you happen to be unconscious.
Any race with a Dexterity bonus is at least Black. Melee training will let any race be proficient as a Bladesinger, so if there is some other race you are set on playing, go ahead. You will be fine as long as you can muster a post-racial 18 in your attack stat and 14 in Dexterity, which luckily every race can do. Let me know if I’ve left out a race that has some particularly strong racial features or feats that bump it up to at least Blue and they will get their own write up. I'll add write ups for the Black races soon.
Acrobatics (Dex): It keys off your secondary stat, so you’ll be decent at it even without training. It has some good skill powers associate with it and it’s required by some paragon paths if you end up multi-classing into Rogue. Training will also let you reduce falling damage, which is always good to have when that situation comes up.
Arcana (Int): A fantastic skill and you get it for free. Often applicable in skill challenges, covers a wide range of monster knowledge, grants access to the most rituals if you take Ritual Caster. It keys off your likely primary stat, so you should be as good as anyone else in the party.
Athletics (Str): It keys off a possible primary stat and is hugely useful for a melee character. Some of the skill powers are pretty good and nothing is more embarrassing than failing a jump or climb check and falling onto your face.
Diplomacy (Cha): Diplomacy: You get a cantrip that lets you replace this with Arcana once per encounter. Your arcana will be higher than your diplomacy even if you train both, so pick something else and appreciate the fact that you can make an awesome diplomacy check without any training.
History (Int): It keys off of your primary stat and has some interesting skill powers.
Intimidate (Cha): Someone else should be better at this that you.
Nature (Wis): It’s an important knowledge skill to have. Hopefully someone else in the party has it covered as a lot of classes get it for free, but it might come down to you. I wouldn’t let the party go without at least someone trained it in.
Perception (Wis): Perception is probably the most useful skill in the game. Take it.
Bastard Sword: The best heavy blade you can use one handed but it's not worth the feat unless your Githzerai.
Broadsword: The increased proficiency bonus of the longsword makes this an inferior heavy blade.
Dagger: They are light blades, but the d4 weapon die means that unless you want to use a Superior Implement Dagger, you're better off with another weapon.
Khoposh: It opens up Axe support, which can be a big deal, but light blades are generally better.
Longsword: The heavy blade of choice. There's some heavy blade only enhancements that make this worth considering over a rapier.
Rapier: The weapon of choice for most Bladesingers. Light blade support is fantastic and a d8 weapon die makes this the biggest light blade you can get.
Scimitar: Like the broadsword, High Crit is not enough to compensate for its -1 to attack rolls compared to a longsword.
Short Sword: Obsoleted by Rapier's downgrade from Superior to Military weapon.
Drow Long Knife: Heavy thrown is situationally useful, but rarely worth the feat.
Katar: High crit is potentially worth a feat and smaller damage die compared to a rapier, but probably not for most people.
Spiked Shield: Probably not worth the feat but some feats and features require a shield, and this is the only way to get it without giving up Bladespells and Bladesong (which is basically the entire class).
Wrist Razors: Not for attacking, but you can get some fun properties. You're generally better off with a proper arm slot item. Might I recomend Bracers of Mighty Striking.
Melee Basic Attack: It’s your bread and butter. It triggers your Bladespells and uses your primary stat. You should be making one every turn, sometimes twice a turn and sometimes on other people’s turn.
Magic Missile: It's pretty lackluster but at least you get it for free. It’s a ranged basic attack with range 20, so you can always rely on it if you can’t get into melee range. I would pick up a +1 Master's Want of Magic Missile to get the automatic push 1 on it. It's trivially cheap after early heroic.
Shadow Sever: Prone is a pretty strong condition, especially at-will and especially in heroic. It forces enemies to charge, it makes them grant combat advantage, and take a -2 penalty to attacks untill they use a move action to stand. The one downside is that it deals necrotic damage, which is commonly resisted.
Dancing Fire: Fire is commonly resisted and combat advantage isn’t very strong control. Probably pass unless your Tiefling.
Dazzling Sunray: -2 to attacks is an effective debuff in most circumstances. Radiant damage is great and has a lot of support. In the Forgotten Realms, Morninglords are all over the place and having one in the party makes this pretty much mandatory.
Frost Bite: Slow can be very good in the right circumstances and cold damage has fantastic item and feat support. Two minor gripes: The slow ends before your next turn, so you can’t use World Serpent’s Grasp to knock them prone (although your allies can, depending on the initiative order), and by the time you can hit monsters with melee basic attacks, slow has lost a lot of its utility. This gets better in paragon when you can use it to exploit frost vulnerability.
Lightning Ring: This power is weak for a couple reasons. First, it’s soft control, so the monster gets to decide if it want to be controlled or not. Second, the punishment damage is so low that it doesn’t provide enough incentive to stay where it is nor enough to turn you into a striker when they move anyways. If you’re building your Bladesinger as a striker, it improves significantly, but you’re still better off using a Bladespell that can benefit from vulnerability.
Unseen Hand: Force damage is rarely resisted and slide 3 can be extremely powerful. Slide 3 on someone you didn’t even hit can be downright unfair. It combines very well with other control and prone, slow, and immobilize all get much better if you can move the target out of melee or charge range and if you have someone making zones, this can trigger it twice. It’s a power that favors tactical thinking and if used right can destroy monster positioning. You can also slide people off cliffs, so there’s that.
Level 11: Spellstorm Mage (PHB) feature "Storm Spell". Once per day, make a Wisdom check and recover a power based on your result. You are gaurenteed at least an encounter utility power, so you're set.
Level 11: Wizard of the Spiral Tower (PHB) Action point feature "Spiral Tower Action". Spend an action point to recover an expended encounter power (doesn't specify attack or utility, so presumably either) instead of taking an extra action. Harsh, but repeatable.
Level 12: Blood Mage (PHB) utility power "Soul Burn". Daily power, minor action, spend a healing surge and regain an expended encounter power instead of hit points.
Level 14+: Battlemaster Weapon (AV): Item daily power, minor action, recovers any encounter power.
Level 16: Spellscarred Savant (FRPG) feature "Spellfire Mastery". Expend a Spellscarred encounter power to recover an arcane encounter power. Requires Student of the Plage multiclass feat.
Level 21: Ring of Wizardry (PHB): Item daily power, minor action, recovers an arcane encounter utility power.
Level 29: Opal Ring of Rememberance (AV): Item daily power, minor action, recovers an arcane encounter utility power.