A Guide to Building Pathfinder’s Only* Viable Counterspeller
By platinumCheesecake, /u/eeveerulz55
*Options presented for slight variation, your mileage may vary, some restrictions may apply
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The Only Viable Counterspelling Build: Preface
Yes you read that right. There is only one build in Pathfinder that will let you counterspell with any reasonable level of success. And before you ask, no this is not The Best Build You’ll Ever See?. The Counter Savant build will impress you with how reasonable it makes counterspelling seem. This build stretches as high as it can to attain the vaunted status it gets, namely the ability to actually compete with a properly-built spellcaster.
By its very nature, counterspelling in Pathfinder is inefficient in almost every regard. This guide is meant to demonstrate that the Counterspell is not entirely doomed to eternal ridicule, and that a build centered around it has actual potential. I still must stress you must understand before you read any further that counterspelling is bad, and this build is not so much “good” as it is “making the absolute best of something not great.”
So how bad can it be?
Every time it seems that the concept of counterspelling comes up in a forum thread everyone ubiquitously condemns it for being a horrible idea. And this is not without good reason. Normal counterspelling is a bad strategy at best, and literally useless at worst. Many casters don’t even properly know how the ability works because it so rarely matters. In my five years GMing Pathfinder I have never seen a single spellcaster ever attempt a counterspell. Why is that, you ask? It’s because counterspelling uses too much of your action economy when there are so many better ways to deny a caster his spell. Just to name a few, here’s a short list of all the common ways to negate enemy spellcasting:
Effects that cause vigorous motion (strong winds, most combat maneuvers, etc.)
Effects that blind (blindness-deafness, glitterdust)
Effects that deafen (shout, thunderstones)
Effects that silence (silence, suffocation, etc.)
Immediate action spells (emergency force sphere, stone shield, etc.)
You could devote builds exclusively devoted to any of these concepts and likely see more success than this build will ever see at its primary function. Nothing displayed above wastes one of your spell slots and a standard action just to succeed at blocking a spell. Not to mention, any build focused on options above has the added benefit of actually being effective against non-casters; a department in which the Counter Savant falls very short. The Counter Savant is very much a niche build and you should attempt playing one fully understanding this.
Now with all that said, is building a Counter Savant really that bad? No. This build is not bad, and in fact is pretty solidly in the “good” category from all the tricks we do to remedy the problems with counterspelling. I just needed to make sure that everyone understands in no uncertain terms that the Counter Savant is not going to be the awe-inspiring spectacle that the hexcrafter is, or the have the insane flexibility as the God Wizard does. Besides, the true savant of spell duels doesn’t fight with flashy flair, but with a reserved, calculating poise. The Counter Savant excels the most when facing an enemy caster, but falls short in pretty much every other regard. Basically what I’m saying is you’re never going to be “amazing” and you’re going to have to live with that.
Why play a Counterspeller, then?
Counterspelling is at its most fun when you are able to completely and utterly shut down every possible option your opposing caster has. There’s nothing quite like seeing the look on your GM’s face after his Big Bad has lost his fourth spell in a row to your magical shenanigans, knowing full well there is nothing he can do about it. Playing a Counter Savant also gives you the unique opportunity to be a caster that can impart a noticeable impact on an encounter even when it is not your turn. You will be able to watch every spell as it is cast and play God, constantly deciding if the incoming spell is even worth your time. When you’re around, spells are only cast because you allow them to be.
Counterspelling also has a fair bit of risk to it, as you are depleting your resources much faster than a normal caster would. Instead of casting just one spell per round, the Counter Savant must carefully manage the use of his daily counter abilities in addition to having to manage a daily spell pool decreasing at twice the normal rate. Playing a suboptimal build like a counterspeller presents a unique challenge no other spellcasting classes don’t offer. This tight management of spells and daily abilities makes you really consider if a spell is worth countering or not, and often your judgement in this regard will completely change how a given encounter plays out.
How Counterspelling Works
As a refresher, normal counterspelling has three parts to it, broken up as follows:
You must ready a standard action to counterspell. You may use your move action however you wish. You must specify a target that you wish to attempt to counterspell.
The first reason why counterspelling normally sucks is the requirement to ready an action. You not only put yourself later in the initiative order (which, as a caster, you very much don’t want to do), but you also use up your standard action for the turn. Unless you’re casting Quickened spells, or have a spell that uses your move action, you don’t get to do the one thing your class usually does. Additionally, having to specify just one target means that in the case where you have multiple casters, you might not need to/be able to counterspell the correct target. After all, if the enemy doesn’t cast a spell, you’ve essentially wasted your entire turn.
You must make a Spellcraft check equal to 15+the spell level.
This is pretty easy-peasy, and with even a small amount of focus will be trivial in no time. Making a Spellcraft check was never why people didn’t counterspell.
Use Spell Slot
You must use a spell slot containing the same spell, or a specific diametrically-opposed counter.
This, in case you couldn’t tell, is insanely restrictive. Maybe back when the Core Rulebook had maybe 4 spells per school per level (of arcane spells) you might happen to have the same spell a bit more often, but now that you have literal thousands of spells to work through you’re simply never going to realistically be able to rely on this.
Improved Counterspell helps a lot with this, making the same-spell requirement into a same-school requirement. With this feat, you can reasonably carry a spell from most schools and have a decent chance of having a spell slot to burn. But as mentioned before, those are spell slots you normally would be casting to help the battle anyway, and likely could have just been used as readied actions to force a concentration check.
OK, so 3 steps, got it. What about dispel magic?
Dispel magic is a bit of a different case, and one that the Counter Savant makes heavy use of.
The first two steps to countering a spell with dispel magic are the same. The difference is after you identify the spell, you make a dispel check instead of simply using a spell slot. Your dispel check is equal to 1d20+your caster level+any bonuses that increase caster level. The DC is 11+the spell’s caster level. What this means in essence is that you’re only using a 3rd level slot (or 6th in the case of greater dispel magic), in exchange for having a chance to fail. Assuming you’ll usually be facing a caster of roughly your level, you’ll usually have approximately a 50% chance to pass any given dispel check. Usually.
Ok that’s definitely enough exposition. Onto the build with you.
I will be using the standard color-convention for this guide.
Light Blue options are practically required.
Blue options are very good.
Green options are good.
Orange options are situationally good.
Red options are bad.
I will only be covering one class for the Counter Savant, as it is the class from where he gets his name. All of the blue classes besides the main one below share a lot of overlap, so they’ll mostly apply to this guide as well. Note that a lot of what class option is best lies entirely in your GM. Both their interpretation of certain munchkinry and their expected character progression rate should be factors to consider when choosing a class for your Counter Savant.
School Savant Arcanist– The School Savant Arcanist is going to be the focus for this build. Most of the reasoning for this is explained in the next section, but the gist of the build is that we will be using the Counterspell subschool in addition to the counterspelling chain of exploits to get as many immediate-action counterspells as possible, and we need as many of those as we can get. The draw to this particular combination of features is in the access to Greater Exploits, free Improved Counterspell, extra spells prepared, and the abusable Counterspell Mastery class feature. This class is best for GMs who don’t allow Fiendish Proboscis, but do allow the Heighten Spell trick. You wanted a counterspeller, so why not go all the way?
Exploiter Wizard– Exploiter is kind of nuts, to be frank. I’ve been seeing this idea floating around about people suggesting an exploiter wizard over abjurer for a counterspelling build and honestly, as much as it pains me to say, I can sort of see why. The pros are you’re going to be a full level of casting ahead and you get a whopping 5 feats for free, including access to arcane discoveries. The cons are that you lose your familiar, school, and a daily school spell slot in exchange for your version of Arcanist’s exploits. But the real kicker is that RAW the exploiter wizard does not get access to the Greater Exploits, which include some of the best tools in the counterspeller’s arsenal. Instead of playing around with nifty Greater Exploits, you’ll be straight up maxing out your dispel magics to be as absurdly strong as you possibly can. Exploiter Wizards are greatly benefitted by permissive GMs allowing the Fiendish Proboscis cheese and are benefited by having more spells per day than any arcanist will. Exploiters with adequate points in their reservoir will hardly miss the Counterspell Mastery class feature.
Arcanist– If the idea of giving up exploits until your fifth level makes you uncomfortable, I’m with you. Going without an archetype is arguably comparable in power, as you’re trading more versatility with your exploits in exchange for a spell per day and the Counterspelling wizarding school. Not to mention you don’t have to pick two whole opposition schools. And let’s be honest, straight Arcanist probably strictly a better build power-wise than the School Savant since it doesn’t put every chicken it has into the counterspelling basket. But if you’re here to counterspell you may as well just go with the option above. I’d only recommend straight arcanist if you fear that your campaign is going to die out before you get to 8th level or so. And in that case, just go Exploiter.
Spell Warrior Skald– So ok, this class gets a bunch of features for counterspelling. And I’ll be damned if they really do look nice. You’re getting two incredible feats for free, and by level 10 you’re also getting immediate action casting. The big downside is your spell progression is only 6th level, meaning you’re going to be letting a lot of spells by, and at low levels the number of spells you have to work with is drastically diminished. Build a Spell Warrior if you want to be able to be effective in combat and out of combat like any normal character, with the added benefit of being able to counterspell every once in awhile. The Spell Warrior is basically the Counter Savant with a ton of extra class features to play around with, but at the end of the day it is not a pure counterspeller. I’d suggest looking to another guide if you are interested in playing a Spell Warrior.
Abjurer Wizard– You elect to completely forego exploits in favor of just sticking with your Counterspelling school. Really, you’re just getting into the territory where you’re a wizard specializing in one of the worst schools, who happens to be able to counterspell every once in awhile. This is like dipping your toes in the water and saying you’re swimming. I mean yeah you’re going to be safe there on the pier, but can you really call yourself an athlete?
Sorcerer– Actually not strictly worse than the abjurer wizard, funnily enough. Having access to more spells per day and spells known instead of prepared means you won't be depleting your counterspelling resources quite like the other builds would. Plus you don’t have an opposition school to worry about. Just pick the Arcane bloodline, pray your GM allows the Heighten Spell trick with Metamagic Adept, get Improved Counterspell for free and pretend you’re Michael Phelps along with the Abjurer up there.
Anything else– I don’t want to hear it. Whatever weird bard-song spamming, half-druid/half-witch stuff you’re trying to pull will not work, and does not count as you being a counterspeller. As far as I know, no divine caster has any class feature that deals with counterspelling, and anything not a 9th-level caster will never be able to effectively counter the most important spells it needs to. There’s some bard and warpriest archetypes that sort of feel like counterspellers, but really they’re just glorified debuffers with the Improved Counterspell feat slapped on. Counterspelling for them is a side gig. You want to be the main event. And anything else that you could want to do with another class would just be done better by something listed above.
The Big Idea
So remember how I said counterspelling normally sucks because it wastes your standard action? The Counter Savant doesn’t care about standard actions. The entire premise of the Counter Savant build revolves around two things: Your counterspell exploit and your Counterspell Mastery school power. Both of these abilities are used as immediate actions, at the cost of spells of one level higher than the spell you are countering (until you get your Greater Counterspell exploit). Counterspell Mastery is important for later because of some truly weird stuff you can do with Heighten Spell. The rest of the build is centered around buffing your dispel magic (or greater dispel magic if you plan on playing high-level) to increase the chance of success of your counterspell exploit, to be useful with its native counterspelling option, and to be used as an all-rounder support spell that can lower saves and stun.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Yes, it seems pretty pricey constantly having to give up higher slots when your class is already one spell level behind, but that's the price you have to pay. The benefit of having multiple counterspells per day as immediate actions means you don’t have to delay your action every time you want to counter, allowing you to cast like normal (or even ready a second counterspell!) and just letting the counterspells happen on the enemy’s turn. Additionally, when done this way, you can be sure you’re only countering the spells that are going to hurt the most. If the effectiveness of this seems dubious, think of it this way: Quicken Spell makes your spell four levels higher so it’s cast as a swift action. By using a slot one spell level higher to counter as an immediate action is like getting your normal standard action spellcasting in addition to a quickened dispel magic every time you’re faced with a spell that concerns you.
At low levels, the Counter Savant is about as viable as a wizard with no feats or traits. The Counter Savant build starts to come online formally at level 6 when dispel magic is first acquired, after which it’s effectiveness only grows. It is most viable at mid-to-high-level play, around levels 13-17. The level of your campaign and personal preference will determine whether you focus on dispel magic or greater dispel magic.
Because high-level play is much less common, for the remainder of this guide I will be assuming you choose the infinitely-more accessible dispel magic as your focal spell. Focusing on a 6th level spell is really not possible for the vast majority of most campaigns. But if you’re given the chance to just whip up a 13th+ level Counter Savant, by all means devote yourself to greater dispel magic in its place.
Intelligence is the most important both for your extra spells per day and for your Spellcraft checks. Your level-up bonus should always go here.
Constitution is obvious, as living is nice, not-living is not-so-nice.
Dexterity is important for going first, which can be the difference between the fighter getting dominated or not. You cannot take immediate actions when flat-footed, which is important to remember coming up.
Charisma is usually pretty nice for Arcanists, but in our case we’re going to be too exploit-starved to really use it. Extra uses of Consume Spells is nice, but as a counterspeller you’re going to be burning through spells more than most. If you want to branch out and use a few exploits that need Cha it’s not going to kill you. Aim to keep at 12 or 14.
Wisdom is basically the don’t-get-charmed stat. Of all the saves in the game, the Will saves are almost always the ones you don’t want to be failing. Good thing they’re a good save for you, cause we’re dumping Wisdom.
Strength should be at 7. Your build is bad enough, don’t make it worse by trying to gish.
Sample ability scores for given point buy values:
Low Fantasy (10 points)
Str 7; Dex 12; Con 13; Int 16; Wis 8; Cha 11
Standard Fantasy (15 points)
Str 7; Dex 12; Con 14; Int 17; Wis 8; Cha 11
Str 7; Dex 14; Con 12; Int 17; Wis 9; Cha 10
High Fantasy (20 points)
Str 7; Dex 14; Con 14; Int 17; Wis 10; Cha 12
Str 7; Dex 12; Con 14; Int 17; Wis 9; Cha 14
Str 7; Dex 16; Con 12; Int 17; Wis 8; Cha 11
Epic Fantasy (25 points)
Str 7; Dex 14; Con 14; Int 18; Wis 11; Cha 12
Str 7; Dex 14; Con 14; Int 17; Wis 12; Cha 14
Str 8; Dex 15; Con 14; Int 17; Wis 13; Cha 13
I’m only going to go over the relevant races. There’s no point to choosing an already challenging build like this and further crippling yourself with poor or bad races. You could honestly just skip this section because the only races I’m recommending have a bonus to Int and you should only choose from those anyway.
Elf– Near-perfect stat array. Losing Con sucks but it’s well worth it. Amazing abilities, bonuses to the two best skills in the game, and low-light vision. Trade out Weapon Familiarity for Fleet-Footed (which is seriously powerful) or Arcane Focus and you have a winning race.
Human– Human is always good. You’re especially taxed on feats, so consider the level 1 feat your only real luxury to branch out if you want to.
Aasimar– Only good if you go Variant and get a bonus to Int. I can’t say too much about Variant Aasimars since they can do pretty much anything. Talk to your GM.
Half-Elf– Skill Focus is great for early-game Spellcraft boosts. I might rank it higher if Eldritch Heritage didn’t take too many feats. Swap Multitalented for Arcane Training if you can.
Half-Orc– I guess? You still get +2 to int, though beyond that all you’re really getting is darkvision and orc ferocity. Shadowplay or Shaman Enhancement could be fun to play with. Also don’t overlook Smog sight, yes losing darkvision hurts, but you have lots of fun opportunities opened up. Sacred Tattoo is good too, but you should ideally be aiming to counter spells before you need to save.
Tiefling– Tieflings also can do pretty much anything. You get lots of fun toys here, just nothing that explicitly helps you. Still green for the +2 Int.
Anything else Int-boosting– You really can’t go wrong as long as you’re getting a +2 to Intelligence.
Sadly, for whatever reason, it’s easier in Pathfinder to get caster level bonuses through traits than it is through feats. Most of these traits do things that require twice as many feats to achieve, and we’re so feat-taxed as it is we need to lighten the load wherever we can. Which is a shame because traits usually add a lot of depth to your character’s backstory, and it seems kinda lame that almost every Counter Savant has to be adopted by Dwarves from Erages. And this is something I’m especially sad about, because I think traits are a wonderful addition to Pathfinder that too often just get used explicitly to min-max instead of being used for their original intent. I guess I have to be a hypocrite here…
So yeah, there are a lot of traits that are really good out there that would be fine additions to any build, but again you just don’t really have the room for any of them. The traits below in particular all directly impact your build and as such you should only be choosing from traits listed here. Only consider one of the orange “maybe-traits” if you elect to get Additional Traits later on. In fact, traits are so good for the Counter Savant, you might want to consider taking a drawback if you’re allowed. If you are allowed and are so inclined, take something like Betrayed that gives a penalty to a stat you don’t care about. Traits are good.
Adopted (social)– Basically gives you Warrior of Old or Strength of the Land at the cost of a social trait instead of a racial trait.
Elven Reflexes (race)– +2 on initiative is amazing. Good for Half-elves.
Paragon of Speed (combat)– +2 on initiative is amazing.
Reactionary (combat)– +2 on initiative is amazing.
Warrior of Old (race)– +2 on initiative is amazing. Good for Elves.
Chance Savior (campaign, CC)– +2 on initiative is amazing.
Gifted Adept (magic)– You want to buff your dispel checks, and these traits are the best ways to do it. Choose either dispel magic, or greater dispel magic. I recommend going with dispel magic if you’re starting the campaign at levels 1-9, and greater dispel magic if you’re starting at levels 10-20. Maybe your GM will be kind and let you change it for the greater version at 11. Feel free to double up on the +1 CL traits.
Inspired by greatness (campaign, CC)– see Gifted Adept.
Secret of the Impossible Kingdom (regional)– see Gifted Adept.
Secret of the Impossible Kingdom (regional)– see Gifted Adept.
Magical Lineage (magic)– Whaaaat? Magical Lineage? ORANGE? Yep. Don’t get me wrong, Magical Lineage is an absurdly powerful trait on just about any spellcaster that has access to metamagic. And while this build certainly can sacrifice a little for a metamagic feat or two, you have bigger fish to fry here. Any spell will work for this, but your Spell Perfection would go on one of the dispel magic spells anyway (a spell this trait really shouldn’t be applied to), so you may as well choose the opposition spell you’re going to choose to be Preferred.
Outlander [Lore Seeker] (campaign, RotR)– Get a +1 CL and DC to 3 spells of your choosing, plus a +1 on Knowledge (arcana). Wow, that is incredible! If you play in Rise of the Runelords, slap this baby on the two different dispel magics and any other spell you feel like (spellcrash could be fun).
Scorned By Magic (magic)– Really just seems like a worse Secret of the Impossible Kingdom since your dispel magic CL boost also affects targeted dispels. But i guess if you happened to choose a race that gets Spell Resistance it would be 1 higher for practically everything. That’s fun I guess.
Strength of the Land (race)– +1 to all CL checks as long as you’re touching the ground. Sure you’ll have to be careful about flying, but a higher CL to everything is just bonkers. You could also deliberately abuse this feat by always holding a rock. Since you’re a smart player who’s not playing a Dwarf, you’ll need to have Dwarf parents and take Adopted.
Spell Duel Prodigy (regional)– Holy hell is this trait amazing. +2 on dispel checks is the same as putting Secret of the Impossible Kingdom AND Gifted Adept on dispel magic, and that's just in addition to the +2 you get on Spellcraft checks to identify spells as they’re cast. While not required, you’d be kicking yourself if you passed this trait up.
Defensive Strategist (religion)– Pretty solid option for when you can’t win initiative. If you’re not flat-footed in the surprise round, you still get to use your immediate action counterspells. This trait is a sleeper pick that will surely save your butt not only with counterspells, but against rogues and pretty much any time your flat-footed AC would matter.
Class Features Run-down
Not like you really can trade anything out, but it helps to know what is working for you and what isn’t as necessary.
Weapon and Armor Proficiencies– You get no armor and cannot cast in armor. You’re also limited to simple weapons, which at low levels is going to be a bit more of a problem than most other casters. Pick up a light crossbow and try your best.
Spellcasting– You have the best spell list in the game at your disposal, plus all the joys of being both a prepared and a spontaneous caster. The cool thing here is you can switch which spells you know each day, but since they are never consumed, as long as you prepare spells from most schools of magic your counterspelling will never be limited by the number of times you prepared fireball.
Spellbooks– The ability to add new spells to your repertoire helps immensely with covering as many schools as possible. Your dependence on having a book with you isn’t too much of a problem, as you have access to a plethora of ways to keep your trusty spellbook safely in your possession. Most GMs don’t target a wizard’s book, though.
School Focus– The Counter Savant hinges on this level 1 School Savant archetype ability. It gives some awesome powers at the cost of very noticeable downsides. You get school abilities, and an extra spell prepared per level of that school, at the cost of having to choose two opposition schools and losing three of your early exploits. The opposition schools aren’t too much of a problem, as later discussed in the Opposition Schools section, but the loss of exploits can feel like a lot. Especially considering that you can’t take Extra Exploits until you acquire the class ability at 5th level. As far as the positives, the Counterspelling subschool is the reason the Counter Savant chooses this archetype. While abjuration isn’t necessarily the best school to get an extra spell of per day from, the 6th level Counterspell Mastery power makes it all worth it. Plus, you can usually find at least something in Abjuration that you can reliably count on preparing each day. Having an extra spell prepared makes it all the more easier to have as many schools of magic represented, though again, Abjuration isn’t usually the school you’re going to be countering very often.
Cantrips– Cantrips are good.
Arcane Reservoir– Your Arcanist’s bread-and-butter ability. For the Counter Savant, these points will mostly determine how many Counterspell exploits you can use. The +1 CL/DC is nothing to be scoffed at either, allowing you extra time for your abjurations, a higher success chance on dispel checks, or a higher DC for your auxiliary spells. Just be careful you don’t burn through these quickly, as you never want to be left high and dry on your reservoir when you really need to counter an important spell.
Consume Spells– While using spell slots to power your Reservoir is nice in theory, you don’t want to get in the habit of needing to use this all that much. Your Charisma isn’t going to allow for more than one or two uses anyway, and your higher level slots are all but required to be used as counter fodder for incoming spells. Still, it’s a nice trick to have when you desperately need to fill your pool. Just don’t expect Consume Spells to be all that impactful for you.
Arcanist Exploits– I’m going over these a little later on, but for now just know that Arcanist exploits are rad as hell. These are why you chose Arcanist in the first place. It’s a shame you don’t get any exploits until 5th level, otherwise you could take Extra Exploit to make up for the Savant’s early-game shortcomings. Because you’re out three of ‘em, your Counter Savant is going to be pretty tight in terms of the exploits he can take.
Resistance (Abjuration School)– A boring but nice little ability. Usually you’re going to want to just pick fire and be done with it, but if your party has other strategies (like a lightning-happy blast sorcerer) feel free to choose whatever best suits your situation. You do get the fun addition of being able to switch resistances, so if you know a white dragon is in your future you can feel safe knowing those 5 points of cold resistance will save the day. (Just kidding, that's resist energy’s job.)
Disruption (Counterspell Subschool)– Melee touch attack? Rounds per every two levels duration? Bleh. Now in all actuality, should you actually manage to get this ability off, it does give a pretty handy debuff to casters. The higher level spells have a larger chance to fail, which is good because the lower level ones are easier to counter. This would be much better if you could spectral hand it; longarm just isn’t the same. You might be able to see some success with this by using a conductive weapon, but at that point why not delay your attack until the enemy starts casting a spell?
Counterspell Mastery (Counterspell Subschool)– Maybe I see too much in this ability, cause I’m telling you to slog through two pretty forgettable abilities AND focus on Abjuration to get it. And at first glance, it doesn’t really give you that sense of awe that a lot of the other arcane schools give. The important thing as I’ve mentioned before is that you get more uses of immediate action dispels. Remember, the biggest reason counterspelling sucks is that it constantly requires you to use your standard actions with potentially no benefit. The ability to selectively and reactionarily inhibit enemy spellcasting saves both on your own action economy and daily spell pool. You probably don’t need to counterspell a magic missile, but a hold person is a lot bigger a priority. Getting Improved Counterspell is just icing on the cake here.
Greater Exploits– And this is why you didn’t go exploiter wizard. Once you hit 11th level a whole new world opens up to you. You get two incredible options perfectly suited to counterspelling that turn you from a street magician with some fancy tricks to the most potent magical duelist the world has ever known. Counter Drain and Greater Counterspell allow you even more counters per day, by not consuming higher-level slots and by replenishing the reservoir points used to activate the ability
Magical Supremacy– A truly kickass capstone for the whole three of you who will ever get to play at level 20. With your Counter Drain exploit, you’ll be slowly accumulating reservoir points, which you can then use to “refuel” your lost spell levels ad nauseum. You should aim to do as much of your normal spellcasting as you can using this ability, as the points sadly don’t actually add back a spell per day. Still though, a rockin cool trick.
Because your aim is to nullify as many harmful effects as possible, you ideally want your opposition schools to reflect spells that you can stand to allow past.
Abjuration– Man, wouldn’t it be great if you could get the counterspelling subschool without being forced to focus Abjuration? There’s not even many Abjuration spells you’d want to counter. If for whatever reason you find yourself making a counterspeller without Counterspell Mastery and are still forced to get opposition schools, then Abjuration is ironically one of the best choices here. So few spells on this school list present real dangers that you’d want to always be ready for them. That said, you have to prepare dispel magic in two spots each day, which is still definitely worth it since you’re (hopefully) choosing a much stronger school of magic, with a staff of it to boot.
Conjuration– You want to be a Counter Savant who can’t use or defend against the most versatile school in the game? What?
Divination– For most Counter Savants, Divination is going to be a given as an opposition school, as you really don’t need to counter them. The few divination combat spells are mostly preparatory/buffs that you can just dispel right off your enemies anyway. Your biggest loss here is having to prepare detect magic in two slots instead of one. Good thing you get a bunch of cantrips!
Enchantment– Enchantments suck. Not getting hit by enchantments does not suck. Granted, the school tends to be pretty weak for player characters due to the large amount of mind-affecting immune targets you’re likely to fight. But to be a Counter Savant requires you be prepared for the worst the enemy has to offer. Pick Enchantment as an opposition only if you can readily foresee lots of undead in your campaign. And even then, there is a much better option.
Evocation– Evocation? Blue…? B..but… MUH BLASTS!!11!!!1! Yeah. Chill out for a second. Evocation is a pretty linear school of magic. You just pick an energy type and roll some d6. You know what counters evocation spells? Energy resistance. Put another way, you just have to acquire some sort of magical resistance to energy and the biggest problem Evocation poses to you is now gone. Good thing you’re an abjurer with no better use for a 2nd level abjuration slot.
Blast spells generally have much less punishing of effects than other schools anyway. Fail a Reflex save (very often high for most PCs) and take some damage. Fail a Will save and you’re now out of the fight. If you really want to roll dice for blast spells, Conjuration has enough for you to work with. You’re not equipped to deal large amounts of damage anyway, you should be focused on making sure no spell ever gets in the way of stopping your Big Stupid Fighter from continuing to do what is his job anyway.
Illusion– Illusion is the only other remotely reasonable choice here, mostly for the blast-happy indecisive sorcerer-wannabes who can’t stomach losing their precious fireballs. Illusion has some great spells, but for a lot of them the way to “counterspell” is really to just see the opponent casting an illusion. Most illusions will probably already be cast by the time a fight begins. The spells that do threaten you are mostly annoyances like mirror image and invisibility with the occasional threat like phantasmal killer. Choosing Illusion does mean you can’t detect magic as easily, which is a real loss for the Spellcraft-machine.
Necromancy– Necromancy does two things. Make undead, and throw around nasty debuffs. The making of undead usually isn’t an in-combat concern to you, but the threat of a blindness-deafness is always looming at large. You’d only really take Necromancy as an opposition school if your character (or paladin friend) has some weird moral issue with it. Still not red because Necromancy isn’t as great a school as some of the others, so losing it isn’t the worst thing you could do.
Transmutation– You want to be a Counter Savant who can’t use or defend against the largest school in the game? What?
For the most part, your skills are going to be up to you. You have a lot of Int so there’s plenty of room for you to put skills in suboptimal places. For a full run-down, I suggest looking into a dedicated Arcanist or Wizard guide, these are going to be pretty much the same. I’m only including the notable skills for the Counter Savant.
Acrobatics– Definitely put points in Acrobatics. Among other things, it allows you to move around squares without threatening attacks if you need to.
Fly– There comes a point in every Pathfinder game where you’re practically expected to enter every notable fight airborne. Don’t be caught without aerial maneuverability.
Knowledge (arcana)– To make a targeted dispel against a specific effect on an enemy with dispel magic, you must name the specific effect you wish to target. And to do that, you need to make a DC 20+spell level Knowledge (arcana) check. This means you should aim to get a +28 to Knowledge (arcana) to always be able to identify every ongoing spell effect on any given enemy. Put a rank into this skill every level.
Knowledge (the rest)– You get all Knowledge skills, and your Intelligence is sky-high. Your first step should always be to put at least one rank in every Knowledge skill to allow you to make whatever checks you need. From there, focus on the most important 5 or so, and keep the others up to a healthy level every few levels. The most important 5 knowledges are (in no specific order) arcana, religion, nature, local, and planes.
Linguistics– Knowing languages is great for both communicating with NPCs and for coordinating tactics. Linguistics is very much so a “your mileage may vary” skill, with some GMs heavily favoring racial languages, and others basically handwaving all communication to Common. Still put a few ranks here no matter what.
Spellcraft– Every level you should be putting ranks into Spellcraft. You need to be able to identify every single spell that comes your way, to the point where your GM doesn’t bother concealing it anymore. You need to hit a DC 24 check to successfully identify every level of spell as it gets cast (or DC 29 if you have the Ordered Mind feat). Getting a +23 to Spellcraft can reasonably happen around 10th level or so, and usually without too much effort on your behalf. You will want to put points into Spellcraft beyond that level, as it still remains an incredibly useful skill for stuff like item crafting.
Perception– Always a useful skill, too bad your wisdom kind of sucks. You should be putting points here about 2/3rds of the time by my estimate, just enough so you’re usually aware of your enemies.
Use Magic Device– You should have a positive Charisma, and since your spell slots are something of a precious commodity, UMD is a great way to patch up the holes in your spellcasting. A DC 20 is required to be able to activate a wand not on your spell list, so that should be your general benchmark. You know, for your own purposes.
Definitely not implying some other empathically bonded entity would be benefiting from your skill ranks or anything.
There are a lot of feats to cover, and this guide will only touch the ones that are relevant to building a Counter Savant. There will always be exceptions and feats that aren’t necessarily bad choices, but I highly recommend sticking to the stronger options listed below.
Additional Traits– Depending on what traits you took and have left available, this is potentially a really strong option. If you get two +1 CL traits, then it’s basically like a feat-tax-less Spell Specialization.
Countering Loophole– This feat is fun, and pretty much allows you to rebound every Enchantment spell cast at you (with only a few exceptions). The enemy still has to make their save, and this feat is locked to just charms and compulsions, but it is definitely fun when it works.
Combat Casting– A boring, but useful +4 to concentration. There isn’t a caster out there that this wouldn’t benefit. Orange just because there are so many better feats you need.
Craft Staff– As will be discussed in Equipment, a staff of dispel magic will benefit you incredibly. The ideal solution is to buy it or get it custom ordered for 10,800 gp, eliminating the need for this feat. The next best solution is to craft it your own if your GM allows the construction of such staves but not the purchase. This feat is nowhere near as good if your GM doesn’t allow staves that aren’t listed in the rulebook.
Craft Wondrous Item– AKA “Craft Everything.” Basically gives you every magic item you’d ever want for half price and a little bit of time. Green because it doesn’t directly benefit you like craft staff does, but is still just so powerful on any build I can’t not include it.
Dazing Spell– Dazing spell is a lot of fun on any caster, but we really don’t have too much room for it. If you can find room for it in your feats and you have a good spell candidate, it’s certainly not a horrible choice. That said, a rod of dazing spell is ten times better.
Destructive Dispel– Your level 11 or level 13 feat (If you aren’t taking this at 11, you’re taking Extra Exploit). Honestly one of the most powerful and reliable actions you can do in combat is targeted dispelling because of this incredible feat. At level 11 it’s not unreasonable to assume a +8 CL to dispelling. Throw in a potential +1 DC from Spell Focus and your dispel magics have an insanely high chance to strip a buff in addition to inflicting sickness or stunning them outright. Combo with Dispel Synergy for a -2 to -4 on your next turn, potentially locking an enemy for several turns in a row. The only downside is the fortitude save, but even on a failed save your opponent is looking at a -2 to everything, including the save on your next dispel magic. Because the rules aren’t clear on this, ask your GM if suppressing magic items on a creature counts as “making a successful targeted dispel” against them. If yes, this allows you to target any creature with any magical item. Lots of fun.
Dimensional Agility– I added this feat to this list explicitly to warn you not to take it. The feat line requires you to cast a bunch of dimension doors, a luxury you decidedly do not have. It explicitly does not include the Dimensional Slide exploit so there’s honestly no point here.
Dispel Focus– +2 on dispel checks is nice. The cool thing about this feat is that you don’t have to take any prerequisites like you do for Spell Specialization. The downside is that in exchange, this feat doesn’t explicitly apply to dispel magic for the purposes of Spell Perfection’s doubling effect. It’s also kind of hard to fit in.
Dispel Synergy– Your level 7 or level 9 feat. Now when you targeted dispel an enemy they take a -2 to saves on your next spell in addition to stripping their effect. You’re basically punishing any creature for having a magical buff on them. Do you know how hard it is to fight at high levels without having any magical defenses? Read any Paizo Adventure Path and tell me how many enemies past 5th level don’t have some sort of method of magically defending themselves. This feat was made to combo with Destructive Dispel.
Extra Exploit– This is a very difficult feat to gauge the viability of. Technically, your build really only needs three exploits and a lot more feats than that, but you get your exploits so late it’s hard not justifying getting this feat to ensure you get the really good exploits not strictly pertinent to this build. I can tell you for sure that taking this feat one or two times will not diminish the quality of your Counter Savant. The best time to take this feat is at 5th level, when you finally get your first exploit and are eager for more. Too bad RAW you can’t use this to take Greater Exploits, because if you could, 11th level would be the perfect time for that. Just remember that you need feats a little bit more than exploits as there’s fewer exploits crucial to the build. Be careful and plan in advance how you’re going to be boosting your dispels while still getting the feats and exploits you need for prerequisites.
Extra Reservoir– 3 more points in arcane reservoir means 3 more uses of your Counterspell exploit. Very Solid.
Eldritch Heritage– I know most Arcanists give Eldritch Heritage a wanton glance or two, but you’re feat-starved as it is, your Charisma is 14 at best, and this assumes you aren’t going for Skill Focus (Spellcraft) and instead putting it in Knowledge (arcana). The only worthwhile ability is the Familiar, and guess what? You can already get that for the cost of one exploit.
Extend Spell– You are an abjurer after all. Extra duration on your buffs is great if you can spare the higher level slots.
Greater Dispel Focus– Unnecessary mostly, and takes up a precious higher-level feat. Still, +2 to dispels isn’t bad.
Greater Spell Focus– Ew. You do not need another +1 DC to your expansive list of DC-less protective spells.
Greater Spell Specialization– AKA, “Give me one more spell prepared of 3rd level.” Not worth the feat.
Heighten Spell– I was in the process of reviewing Preferred Spell for this guide, and in doing so, unwittingly found that this feat could potentially change the way this build operates in entirety, depending heavily on the answers to some unanswered questions. As such, I had to make an entirely new section below just devoted to discussing it.
For now, all I will say is that this feat leads into Preferred Spell, which is possibly just as abusable as Heighten.
Improved Counterspell– So assuming you aren’t playing the Spell Savant and didn’t get this feat for free, Improved Counterspell isn’t actually required. Ordered Mind does almost the same thing, and is a far better choice until 15th level when you kick yourself for not having the prerequisite to Parry Spell. If you don’t honestly expect your campaign to last that long, just take Bonded Mind instead.
Improved Familiar– A busted, stupid feat. There’s tons of information out there on this feat and I’m not really going to say too much more than that.
Improved Initiative– Going first is nice. +4 to go-first checks is very very nice.
Parry Spell– Your level 15 feat. This feat is simply incredible. From here on out, your combat effectiveness has functionally doubled. Everything you’ve built for up to this point has been in preparation for Parry Spell. Who needs a crappy 3rd-level Quickened Spell when your swift action (in this case immediate action) instead entirely nullifies your opponent’s high-level spell and casts it back at them, all without using up a 7th level spell slot? The Counter Savant certainly doesn’t.
Unfortunately, you can only immediate action Parry counterspells with your Counterspell Mastery ability, as the counterspell exploit explicitly prohibits this feat from working. But Parry still gives you three (and after 18th, four) immediate action spells reflected. Parry also makes Readying an action twice as viable, as now you’re actually doing something with your turn besides just stopping a single cast.
Preferred Spell– See Heighten Spell.
Retributive Summons– So whenever you counterspell a summoning spell you get your own monsters, at the cost of burning a feat on Spell Focus (conjuration). The usefulness of this really depends on how often your GM throws summoned monsters at you. Could be fun for an exploiter to take this and Countering Loophole and start amassing a list of schools you can automatically shut down. But until we get more feats like these the option is low orange at best.
Scribe Scroll– It’s good to be prepared. While scribing scrolls isn’t going to help you have every school of magic represented to counterspell from, it will help you once you’ve burned through 8 spell slots in 4 turns and need to fall back on your secondhand spellbook of magical looseleaf parchments. A nice feat to have if you have room.
Silent Spell– Chances are you’ll wish you had this at least once per campaign. Spontaneous metamagic is the way to go for situational metamagics like this. Does nothing for the build though.
Still Spell– Chances are you’ll wish you had this at least once per campaign. Spontaneous metamagic is the way to go for situational metamagics like this. Does nothing for the build though.
Skill Focus– So you’re either taking this for Spellcraft or Knowledge (arcana). A +3 and eventual +6 is pretty nice, especially for skills you’ll be using nearly every encounter. The end goal is to get these two skills to the point where you never have to roll a d20 on these checks ever again. The feat is nice but you have many better options.
Spell Focus (abjuration)– The list of spells in the abjuration school that Spell Focus even applies to is small. The only notable bonuses you’re getting are to banishment/dismissal, greater stunning barrier, repulsion, prismatic wall/sphere, spellcrash and your Destructive Dispels. Now these are pretty good spells, but SF for abjuration isn’t nearly as helpful as it would be for almost any other school. It does however serve as the stepping stone feat for Spell Specialization and Varisian Tattoo for more dispel magic caster level buffs. Just keep in mind the number of feats you’re committing to here.
Spell Mastery– While memorizing dispel magic would be nice, you really shouldn’t waste a feat planning on not having your spellbook at some future point. How about you just keep the darn thing with you and save yourself the feat slot.
Spell Penetration– Every caster will have to deal with SR eventually. Even though the Counter Savant mostly deals with defensive magic, it’s still handy to be able to penetrate enemy defenses every once in awhile.
Spell Perfection– So unlike most casters, your Spell Perfection isn’t your de facto 15th level feat, nor will it necessarily give that great a bonus regarding metamagic usage. This feat requires you to have three metamagic feats as a prerequisite, something that you really don’t have room for. The only way I see you working this into your build is if you’re a human who takes the two metamagic knowledge exploits, or if you chose Exploiter Wizard. So after you go through the effort to acquire two metamagic feats unrelated to your build (plus Heighten), what’s the payoff? Doubling all caster level, DC, and spell penetration benefits to your dispel magic; which is admittedly pretty dang good. Assuming you took the correct feats for the rest of the build, you’d basically be at the point where you’d never need to roll a caster level check again. This feat is a very expensive 17th level option (15 for Exploiters). It’s good once you get it, but costs an absurd amount of feats and exploits.
Spell Specialization– If you took Spell Focus (abjuration), it’s because you wanted Spell Specialization. Another +2 on dispel magic will never hurt. Plus you can switch your spell to greater dispel magic when you get it if you feel like that sort of decision is necessary.
Toughness– +1 hp per level is nice, because hp is that thing that determines if you’re dead or not. Though ideally, you should be in the back and devoting all your resources to playing defense.
Ordered Mind– Same thing as Improved Counterspell, except you can choose the same level or higher, instead of being strictly higher. At level 7 you should have at least a +15 to Spellcraft. Raising the DC by 5 in exchange for being an Improved Counterspell of a lower level is a trivial loss. I especially recommend this if you aren’t going School Savant as it is a straight upgrade to Improved Counterspell that you’d otherwise get for free. Still a good choice for Savants too, though it overlaps with your free Improved Counterspell and sadly doesn’t apply to Counterspell Mastery. If you plan on taking this instead of Improved Counterspell, make sure you aren’t ever going to reach 15th level before committing to opt out of the best feat in this entire guide.
Quicken Spell– An awe-inspiring, game-changing spell for every caster…but you. Your swift actions will often be devoted to the counterspells you used an immediate action for’ the previous turn, and your higher level slots need to be open to allow those counterspells to happen. Buy the rod though, cause that’s definitely worth it.
Varisian Tattoo– +1 CL to all abjurations is very very nice. Both of the dispels benefit, as well as giving every one of your defensive spells extra rounds of duration. This feat is the other reason you took Spell Focus in such a bad school.
Yuelral’s Blessing (Arcane Discovery)- A very solid discovery for wizards. Plenty of spells share the druid list with the wizard, most notably the dispel magics. This has the benefit of boosting up other spells beyond those you use for counterspelling as well. Not the first thing I’d spend my feat slot on, but it’s a strong option once the other choices have been taken up.
A Discussion on Heighten Spell (and Preferred Spell)
Heighten spell is one of those feats that everyone interprets differently, and you absolutely need to know what your GM considers it to mean before you choose it. The interpretation I think is most correct is that you are allowed to prepare a level 1 spell like magic missile in any slot from 2-9 that you are capable of casting, and it will act as a spell of that level in every way. If you wished to add more metamagic, the Heighten spell applies first to whatever level you want to bring the spell before you add the other metamagic. So you could Heighten magic missile to a 3rd level slot and then Empower it to have it act as a 3rd level spell using up a 5th level slot.
Now assuming your GM goes with this interpretation, then Heighten Spell is a very useful feat. You can put your dispel magics in any spell slot to increase their DCs, at the cost of a full-round casting time. However, there is perhaps a second, more powerful option at your disposal. It seems to me that you should theoretically be able to use lower-level spells heightened to higher slots to act as counterspell fuel when you might not otherwise have prepared a spell of the correct school at that level.
Here’s the gist of what I’m saying:
Say you’re at 8th level with low hp and targeted with an incoming scorching ray. You know your touch AC is bad, and being an intelligent Counter Savant, you took evocation as your opposition school. But, looking at your character sheet, you notice you happened to prepare magic missile as a first level slot, and an idea forms. You try something crazy. You use your Counterspell Mastery ability and heighten your magic missile up to a 3rd level slot to be used as your evocation school requirement. If done in this way, Heighten Spell allows you to cover every school of magic no matter what you prepare, so long as one of every school is represented somewhere on your first level spell list.
Now is this possible? Can you really do this? Well, I think so, but I honestly don’t know for sure. Manipulating counterspell levels in this way does not have a specific rule precedent so again I must stress you talk with your GM after reading what I posit below. There is a good chance they might see this as an intentional misreading of the rules. And because it is a gray area and I honestly don’t know which way is true, I’m just opting to give you the information so you have the chance to benefit from this trick. But I think after you show your GM my train of logic below he or she will side with me and allow the use of this weird ability.
All said, I would love to see some clarification on this interaction in the future, as I suspect this sort of shenanigan was not intended to be allowed. We’re messing with RAW here, as I’m not sure RAI the Improved Counterspell feat ever meant to allow for casting spells with long casting times. But until we get word of this, feel free to use it to your heart’s content so long as the GM allows.
So where does the problem lie?
With Counterspell Mastery, you’re casting a spell as an immediate action, which is modified to be Heightened, something which is supposed to take a full-round action as you are indeed a spontaneous caster. Are you allowed to boost a lower level spell with Heighten before the Counterspell Mastery feat makes casting it an immediate action?
Here’s everything I could find on how metamagic feats and counterspelling interact:
Spells modified by a metamagic feat use a spell slot higher than normal.
Spells of a higher level can counter lower-level spells with Improved Counterspell
When you counterspell, the spell is very clearly stated to be “cast.“
Improved Counterspell does not say this fact changes in any way.
“Whether or not a spell has been enhanced by a metamagic feat does not affect its vulnerability to counterspelling or its ability to counterspell another spell” (from the Metamagic section of the CRB).
Spontaneous casters must use a longer casting time to cast a spell with a metamagic feat, either making it a full-round action or adding an extra full round to the casting time.
“Spells that take a full-round action to cast take effect in the same round that you begin casting” (from the Combat section of the CRB)
No mention is made whether spells of any duration or a differing duration can be countered. The only two pieces of information on this we have are as follows:
Normally the thing that prevents spontaneous casters counterspelling with metamagic is that Readied Actions cannot be full-round or longer. This would matter if we were counterspelling normally, as a Heightened spell therefore couldn’t be readied, but we aren’t readying any actions here. So onto 7b.
Improved Counterspell never excludes spells of a longer casting time from working as counters. From my interpretation, the way Improved Counterspell works is that you are able to “cast” spells with a longer casting time to be used as counterspells, because otherwise it would say you cannot. You can use summon monster III to counter an acid arrow because the wording says explicitly you can use a higher level spell of the same school, but never explicitly excludes spells like the summon monsters with longer casting times.
“[Spontaneous casters] can choose when they cast their spells whether to apply their metamagic feats to improve them” (from the Metamagic Feats section of the CRB)
Interpretation of the data
So if it is possible under rule 7b to counterspell by “casting” any spell regardless of casting time, and if we assume rule 3a is correct that to counterspell involves the actual “casting” of a spell, then you should be able to apply a metamagic spell to a counterspell by rule 8, because in this case a spell is clearly “cast.” And by rule 4, the presence of Heighten does not disallow your heightened spell to successfully qualify as a suitable counter. As such it seems likely (at least in my eyes) that this is in fact legal.
Note that this problem does not exist with the Counterspell exploit, as in that instance it is explicitly mentioned that you do not cast a spell to activate the effect. In this case, you simply expend the spell slot without casting it, meaning you never have a chance to Heighten. This is because of rule 8 specifying that it has to be when they cast their spells.
So how good are these feats, assuming everything is legal?
Heighten Spell is very good, almost to the point of being light blue. It covers up one of your biggest weaknesses, which is that you need to always have a high level spell slot prepared of the school you need to counter. It also leads into Preferred Spell, which draws from Heighten Spell and allows you to completely obliterate the need to prepare spells of one or two of your opposition schools. Additionally, you can always use the feat in the normally intended way, which, among other things, allows you to boost the DCs of your Destructive Dispels by preparing dispel magic as a higher level slot. The only real thing stopping Heighten from being a necessity feat is that it does mean you’re burning through your higher level spell slots even faster than normal. Also keep in mind, this means you should never be using your daily uses of Counterspell Mastery when your Counterspell Exploit will work just fine, as Counterspell Mastery allows you to heighten lower level spells but the Exploit does not.
If your GM disallows the Counterspell Mastery trick, Heighten Spell is still a decent choice because it has some value in its normal function, and leads into Preferred Spell.
Preferred Spell If your GM is leery of the Heighten+Counterspell Mastery trick, you might be able to convince them that Preferred Spell works. With this feat, you can select a spell to cast spontaneously and apply a metamagic feat like Heighten without affecting the casting time. So if you took Evocation as an opposition school, selecting magic missile as your Preferred Spell would allow you to do the same thing as the Heighten trick, with the additional bonus of never having to specifically preparing magic missile. So instead of wasting two first level spells prepared trying to cover all the evocation spells, now you never have to prepare magic missile, but will always be able to use it. Use this on your opposition schools preferably.
If with no convincing are you able to make the Heighten+Counterspell Mastery trick work, you can still choose Preferred spell and select either dispel magic or a high-level opposition spell. Choosing dispel magic means you can easily Heighten as a standard action and don’t have to prepare it, whereas a high-level spell from an opposition school means you can still at least counter lower-level spells of that school, but you can’t change the Preferred Spell as you level up. Still really good though.
If you see that I made a mistake somewhere in this process, or have any useful information to add, I’d love to hear it. This is certainly a very puzzling situation I’d love clarification on.
Man, exploits are good. The Counter Savant gets just enough to make the build work, but doesn’t get the luxury other Arcanists have where he can branch out and try a little bit of everything. Luckily Extra Exploit is there if you ever feel like you just have to have a cool toy from this list. As I have been doing, only the relevant exploits will be presented.
Bloodline Development– Decent. You’d choose Arcane here for a bonded object so you can trade a point from your reservoir for spell of your highest level (why would you choose Familiar when you have an exploit that does it better?). Extra spells per day are pretty nice.
Consume Magic Items– The only reasonable way to recharge your reservoir until 11th level is by consuming magic items. All the useless scrolls and wands you pick up now have a use besides just sell-for-half fodder. For your reference, the most efficient way to consume magic items is by stockpiling 2nd-level scrolls, but remember that you’re throwing away a 150 gp magic item each time, and that can add up fast. Green because eating up magic items is expensive, and if you only have 12 Charisma this won’t really get you all that many points in a day, but sometimes the extra daily points are really worth it.
Counterspell– Your level 5 exploit. You’re playing the Counter Savant, and this is the best, most reliable way to counterspell in the game, period. Note that this exploit specifically mentions the use of dispel magic so your bonuses to the spell should all carry over (all the literature I’ve found on the topic seems to suggest this, anyway), or at the very least all your bonuses explicitly to dispel checks. Most of your swift actions will be devoted to this exploit. You also should aim to be spending all, if not nearly all your arcane reservoir points on this exploit.
Dimensional Slide– This Exploit uses up more points than just walking, but sometimes it’s nice to get out of a sticky situation without provoking attacks.
Familiar– Extra bodies on the battlefield are great. Especially when they give you a +4 to initiative. Or when they somehow eventually turn into wand-swinging pseudodragons.
Face Thief– One point wasted so you can cast a first-level spell. Yeah what a great idea.
Fiendish Proboscis– So you can grow a long proboscis and make reach melee touch attacks to gain back reservoir points.This exploit basically is just a can of spray cheese. As-written, you can just regain reservoir points in between combats by repeatedly making attacks against yourself (or familiar) and…draining your own magical energy? I guess? I think this is a stupid violation of RAI, but RAW it theoretically should work. If your GM doesn’t allow this, the exploit still isn’t terrible, as it is still is probably the most reliable way to regain reservoir points until Counter Drain. The melee touch kind of blows, as does the inability to cast verbal spells, but at least you can attack at-range so you don’t have to be right next to your enemy. I recommend Silent Spell and a passing Strength score if you want to take this and actually use it in combat.
Illusion Catcher– Ok, so you decided to take Face Thief anyway. Well Illusion Catcher is decent I suppose. First you have to disbelieve an illusion, but once you do you get to use your absurd bonus to dispel magic to take control. It’s neat, but I’d really only recommend this if Illusion is one of your oppositions. That way you still have at least some way to “counter” illusions with disbelief saves.
Item Crafting– It’s a free feat, and there are several really good ones you can take. Especially look into Craft Staff and Craft Wondrous.
Metamagic Knowledge– Hey look, you can get Heighten Spell for an exploit instead of a feat! Cool!
Metamixing– If your GM takes issue with the condensing of metamagic spells within immediate actions, this exploit remedies that aspect of the Heighten Spell trick. In this case, the exploit might be worth it, though it basically means your Metamagic Mastery counterspells now cost 2 points instead of 1. The ability to not change the casting time on any spell is pretty nice though.
Potent Magic– Yet another way to increase your CL. Potent magic makes it even more worth it to spend a point and raise your CL (or DC) on spells or counterspells you absolutely need to land. Remember you can only spend these points on spells that you cast.
Quick study– The exploit of sheer versatility. As long as you’ve got it in your spellbook, this exploit lets you have any spell within one full-round action. Definitely more useful out-of-combat than in-combat, but there's still situations I can see you needing a specific spell and willing to wait two turns to use it. Very strong.
Spell Disruption– So basically, this allows you to spend a pool point to temporarily stop a magic effect instead of using a 3rd level spell slot to fully stop it outright. Now even the spells you decide to let through or are too strong for you to counterspell aren’t safe. Unfortunately, if you want to do a targeted spell against an unwilling target, you need to make a melee touch attack (yuck) as opposed to the at-range in the way dispel magic works. Too bad it doesn’t specify that this is a targeted dispel, otherwise Destructive Dispel would work here, but that’s why you’d get the Greater version later on. Consider this if you have more than a 13 in Charisma and want to eventually take Greater Spell Disruption
Spell Tinkerer– Kind of like Spell Disruption, but worse. Altering spell durations really isn’t that strong, and you’re still using a point to do what your dispel magics do better. Plus you actually have to be adjacent to the effect for this one, unlike Spell Disruption. Yeah, no.
Counter Drain– Oh god finally. All the way at 11th level do we finally get a reliable way to replenish our Arcane Reservoir. Counter Drain and/or Greater Counterspell should be taken at 11, while the other at 13.
Greater Counterspell– Oh god finally. All the way at 11th level do we finally get to immediate action counterspell without having to waste a higher level slot. Counter Drain and/or Greater Counterspell should be taken at 11, while the other at 13.
Greater Metamagic Knowledge– Meh. It’s a free feat, but the extra effect is kind of lame. There’s not too many metamagic spells that work with the Counter Savant, and choosing a new one each day isn’t really like choosing spells per day. You’re pretty much going to have mainstay strategies by this point anyway. Take it if you have nothing else to take I suppose.
Greater Spell Disruption– Cool! You now get to use a reservoir point to cast a targeted dispel instead of briefly suppressing it for a couple rounds. The Touch range blows but casting a 3rd level spell you have buffed to high hell for a reservoir point, now a renewable resource, is awesome. You also get your Charisma to the dispel check, as if you didn’t have your checks high enough already. Basically, now you can Destructive Dispel with a touch attack and 1 reservoir point. Definitely worth wasting an exploit on Spell Disruption.
Redirect Spell– So at the cost of a point from your reservoir, you get to control enemy spells for a round instead of countering them outright. Your CL checks are sky-high, there’s a decent number of spells this applies to, and Redirect Spell has no Exploit prerequisite, so you might as well snag this one if you’ve got nothing else. Kind of a waste of a standard action in a lot of cases, but it might be better than dispelling it outright if an opponent’s spell happens to work well against them. Works especially well on summoned monsters.
Siphon Spell– Gain reservoir points for using Greater Spell Disruption. This would be great if the spell you’re siphoning didn’t have to have an equal caster level. That said, if you exceed your dispel checks by 5 or more (ahahahaha) you get a free reservoir point, and two if it exceeds by 10. Not-so-great versus casters lower level than you, but then again, most spells they cast you’d just counter easily anyway. Siphon Spell is the only Exploit in this build that will reward you for not having the levels on an enemy caster.
Spell Thief– So this is kind of like the Redirect Spell of Spell Disruption. You steal enemy buffs and put them on yourself. Two problems with this: First, it’s a melee touch attack. Second, you’re not getting any of your caster level or dispel check bonuses to apply here. It’s just a flat will save. Pass.
For the most part, what you wear is up to you as there are few items that give the bonuses we need. I’m going to go through all the items that you’re going to want to pay special attention to. This is by no means an exhaustive list.
A Staff of Dispel Magic containing the spell at just 1 charge is so incredibly useful to the Counter Savant that it should be bought as soon as possible. This spell fuels your readied counterspelling; your destructive, synergized targeted dispels; and your permanent duration spell disruption. You also can free up your 3rd level slot for one of the other amazing abjurations at that level, like ablative sphere, protection from energy, communal resist energy, magic circle vs. evil, or greater stunning barrier. May the gods have mercy on your soul if your GM only allows printed staves, because the next cheapest staff with dispel magic is 72,000 gp more expensive.
Staff of Dispel Magic (9,600 gp)
Staff of Abjuration (82,000 gp)
Really any metamagic rod you can get your hand on is going to be great. I’m really not exaggerating here, you can definitely find a use for pretty much every metamagic rod in the game. Listed below are the ones I think are worth special mention, with some sample spells they work well with. Rods are awesome, even if it means switching out your staff for a round.
Dazing Spell (14,000 gp minimum)- stone call, fireball, ball lightning
Disruptive Spell (3,000 gp minimum)- flaming sphere, slow, chain lightning
Extend Spell (3,000 gp minimum)- mage armor, resist energy, communal stoneskin
Persistent Spell (9,000 gp minimum)- heatstroke, accursed glare, spellcrash
Piercing Spell (3,000 gp minimum)- aggressive thundercloud, chain of perdition, dismissal
Silent Spell (3,000 gp minimum)- charm person, dimension door, break enchantment
Quicken Spell (35,000 gp minimum)- true strike, haste, spell absorption
Pick two from the ones listed below and have fun. The ring of sustenance is only there if you don’t have the money to buy a Ring of Wizardry. Ideally you’d be getting a level 2 or higher ring of wizardry, but if that’s too pricey, the extra spells per day means you can cover all schools as first level spells for the Heighten trick. Plus you can always turn the extra spells back into arcane reservoir points.
Ring of Protection (varies)
Ring of Sustenance (2,500 gp)
Ring of Wizardry (varies)
Ring of Freedom of Movement (40,000 gp)
Honestly either dexterity or constitution will work just fine. Both are about as useful to you.
Belt of Mighty Constitution (varies)
Belt of Incredible Dexterity (varies)
Belt of Physical Might (Dex/Con) (varies)
It’s expensive, but oh boy is it good. Save up like hell and maybe by 14th level you can afford one of these. +4 to caster level checks is incredible.
Otherworldly kimono (67,000 gp)
Just basic “don’t get grappled” insurance here. Obsolete if you have the Ring of Freedom of Movement.
Quick Runner’s Shirt (1,000 gp)
Unfettered Shirt (10,000 gp)
Nothing in the Eyes slot is particularly noteworthy. 2,500 gp for +5 to perception isn’t a bad deal but you don’t need to go seeking out anything from here.
Eyes of the Eagle (2,500 gp)
Feet slot items are mostly there to just give you extra forms of mobility. Extra haste or extra Teleports are both very handy to have.
Boots of Speed (12,000 gp)
Boots of Teleportation (49,000 gp)
If you think your Spellcraft is fine, take the gloves of reconnaissance. If it needs a boost, grab the gloves of elvenkind. Someone in your party needs First Aid Gloves, but it doesn’t have to be you.
Gloves of Elvenkind (2,500 gp)
Gloves of Reconnaissance (2,000 gp)
First Aid Gloves (4,500 gp)
You have to make a tough choice here. Do you want a chance to negate critical hits, do you want a chance to negate a failed save, or do you want to see through fog? Everything here is useful, but not strictly necessary. Ask your GM if the Cyclops helm can apply to caster level checks.
Cyclops Helm (5,600 gp)
Jingasa of the Fortunate Soldier (5,000 gp)
Goz mask (8,000 gp)
You need your intelligence as high as possible. Aim to get a better headband every 5 levels, starting at level 4 or so.
Headband of Vast Intelligence (varies)
You’re either choosing extra AC or extra spells until you can afford the necklace of netted stars. You’re getting another once-per-day counterspell from this, and we take as many of those as we can get.
Amulet of Natural Armor (varies)
Amulet of Spell Mastery (22,000 gp)
Necklace of Netted Stars (42,000 gp)
Don’t even think about not wearing a cloak of resistance.
Cloak of Resistance (varies)
Easy AC is nice. Too bad the bracers don’t stack with Mage Armor. Not really much here, if you happen to pick these up along the way it’s worth not selling them, but don’t go out of your way to buy them.
Bracers of Armor (varies)
Altar of Nethys (8,000 gp)- Heavy as hell, but if you can swing it, you’re getting +2 to your two most useful skills and +1 CL to whatever dispel you wish. Good for campaigns set in one place.
Cracked Dusty Rose Prism Ioun Stone (500 gp)- Cheap initiative. Literally why not?
Numerology Cylinder (5,000 gp)- This item is nuts. Your Knowledge (arcana) is going to be pumped up anyway, and by level 10 or so a DC 25 is child’s play. +2 CL is just what you need.
Orange prism (30,000 gp)- Expensive but worth it.
Runestone of Power (varies)- Always useful to have extra spells.
Masterwork Tool (50 gp)- +2 to Spellcraft and Knowledge (arcana) for cheap.
Myrrh (2gp/4 doses)- Incredibly cheap consumable Alchemical Power Component that gives you a flat +1 on CL and Dispel checks. Buy a ton of it to use with your counterspells.
Sample Choices Per Level
Here’s a path you might take if your GM is more on the lenient side:
1 Gifted Adept(Magic Trait)
1 Spell Duel Prodigy(Regional Trait)
1 Improved Initiative (Feat)
1 Additional Traits (Feat)
1 Adopted (Dwarf; SoL)(Social Trait)
1 Reactionary(Combat trait)
3 Heighten Spell (Feat)
5 Preferred Spell (Feat)
5 Counterspell (Exploit)
7 Dispel Synergy (Feat)
9 Quick Study(Exploit)
11 Destructive Dispel (Feat)
13 Extra Reservoir(Feat)
13 Counter Drain(Exploit)
15 Parry Spell (Feat)
15 Spell Disruption(Exploit)
17 Ordered Mind (Feat)
17 Greater Spell Disruption(Exploit)
19 Spell Penetration (Feat)
Dispel Magic Benchmarks by Level
First number is to CL checks and the second number is to dispel checks.
Level 1: +2/+4 to dispel magic, +1/+3 to greater dispel magic
Level 9: +2/+6 to dispel magic, +3/+5 to greater dispel magic
With Orange Prism: +3/+7 to dispel magic, +3/+6 to greater dispel magic
With Otherworldly Kimono +7/+11 to dispel magic, +7/+10 to greater dispel magic
Here’s a path you might take if your GM is more on the hesitant side:
1 Gifted Adept(Magic Trait)
1 Secret of the Impossible Kingdom(Regional Trait)
1 Spell Focus (abjuration)(Feat)
1 Varisian Tattoo(Feat)
3 Improved Initiative(Feat)
5 Additional Traits(Feat)
5 Adopted (Dwarf; SoL)(Social Trait)
5 Reactionary (Combat Trait)
7 Dispel Synergy(Feat)
9 Spell Specialization(Feat)
9 Quick Study(Exploit)
11 Extra Exploit(Feat)
11 Counter Drain(Exploit)
11 Greater Counterspell(Exploit)
13 Destructive Dispel(Feat)
13 Item Crafting (Craft Staff)(Exploit)
15 Parry Spell(Feat)
15 Potent Magic(Exploit)
17 Extra Reservoir(Feat)
17 Spell Disruption(Exploit)
19 Spell Penetration(Feat)
19 Greater Spell Disruption(Exploit)
Dispel Magic Benchmarks by Level
First number is to CL checks and the second number is to dispel checks.
Level 1: +3/+3 to dispel magic, +0/+1 to greater dispel magic
Level 5: +4/+4 to dispel magic, +1/+2 to greater dispel magic
With Orange Prism: +5/+5 to dispel magic, +2/+3 to greater dispel magic
With Otherworldly Kimono +9/+9 to dispel magic, +6/+7 to greater dispel magic
Example Characters for Levels 6, 12, and 18
Presented below are three different takes on building a Counter Savant, presented at levels 6, 12, and 18. Each build was generated with 20 point-buy and assumes the standard wealth a PC should have.
This build is focused around going first at all costs to have the best chance at disrupting enemy casting.
Mia here is only just starting to step into her role as a Counter Savant. Having only just gotten access to both Counterspell Mastery and dispel magic, she now is finally able to counterspell without using her standard actions. Whenever an Abjuration or Transmutation spell of 2nd level is cast, or whenever a Conjuration, Abjuration, or Necromancy spell of 1st level is cast Mia will be able to use her class features to immediately counterspell. So long as she is against a caster, she will be able to use her standard actions to Ready an action. If she does not have an appropriate counterspell, she will use dispel magic.
Female Elf Arcanist [school savant] 6
NG Medium humanoid (elf)
Init +11; Senseslow-light vision; Perception +2
AC 17, touch 12, flat-footed 15 (+1 armor, +2 Dex, +4 shield)
hp 31 (6 HD; 6d6+12)
Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +6; +2 vs enchantments
Immune sleep; Resist fire 5
Speed 30 ft.
Melee quarterstaff +1/+1 (1d6-2)
Rangedmasterwork light crossbow +5 (1d8/19-20)
Special Attacks Disruption (+2 touch, 3 rounds, 9/day)
Arcanist Spells Prepared (CL 6th; concentration +12)
3rd (3/day)—dispel magic (CL 7, dispel +9), fly
2nd (6/day)— acid arrow, resist energy, blindness/deafness (DC 18)
1st (6/day)— charm person, color spray (DC 17), reduce person, shield, snowball (DC 17)
0 (at will)—acid splash, detect magic, ghost sound (DC 16), mage hand, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance
Opposition Schools– divination, evocation
Counterspeller School Powers— Resistance, Disruption, Counterspell Mastery
Str 7, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 22, Wis 12, Cha 13
Base Atk +3; CMB +1; CMD 13
FeatsAdditional Traits, Improved Counterspell, Improved Initiative, Run, Spell Focus (abjuration)
Traits Adopted (Strength of the Land), Reactionary, Gifted Adept (dispel magic), Spell Duel Prodigy
SkillsAcrobatics +3, Escape Artist +3, Knowledge (arcana) +14, Knowledge (local) +12, Knowledge (nature) +11, Knowledge (planes) +11, Linguistics +11, Perception +2, Spellcraft +17 (+19 to identify spells and items), Stealth +8, Use Magic Device +9
Languages Common, Elven, 8 other languages
SQ arcane exploits (counterspell), arcane reservoir (6/day, 9 max), consume spells, racial traits (fleet-footed, elven magic)
Combat Gear quarterstaff, masterwork light crossbow, potion of cure light wounds (3), potion of lesser restoration, scroll of comprehend languages, scroll of burning hands, scroll of fox’s cunning Other Gear bracers of armor +1, cracked dusty rose prism ioun stone, cloak of resistance +1, elixir of hiding, headband of vast intelligence [stealth] +2, masterwork tool (Spellcraft), runestone of power I, 1100 gp.
Counterspell Mastery (Su)
Mia may attempt to counterspell an opponent’s spell once per day as an immediate action (instead of a readied action). She must use a spell at least one level higher than the spell being countered to use this ability.
Counterspell Exploit (Su)
By expending 1 point from her arcane reservoir, Mia can attempt to counter a spell as it is being cast. She must identify the spell being cast as normal. If she successfully does so, Mia can attempt to counter the spell as an immediate action and by expending an available arcanist spell slot of a level at least one higher than the level of the spell being cast. To counterspell, Mia must attempt a dispel check as if using dispel magic. If the spell being countered is one that Mia has prepared, she can instead expend an available arcanist spell slot of the same level, and she receives a +5 bonus on the dispel check. Counterspelling in this way does not trigger any feats or other abilities that normally occur when a spellcaster successfully counters a spell.
This build is focused around applying debuffs to enemies to hopefully end encounters quickly without having to use a lot of Arcane Reservoir points. His spells are carefully chosen to be some of the offensive spells he fears the most. Jorg has been counterspelling for a good while now, and understands the concept well. He makes sure all 6 schools he doesn’t oppose are well-distributed across his spell levels so he can try and use as few higher-level slots as possible. He can Heighten his preferred magic missile to take care of any evocation spells he deems problematic by using one of his two uses of Metamagic Mastery. He also can Heighten his only divination, detect secret doors, for the same effect.
Jorg has countered magic long enough to know every spell as it is cast, and can identify nearly every spell’s effects on a target. He knows what magical buffs are threatening, and when he dispels them his opponents are usually stunned and more vulnerable to his next attack.
Male Human Arcanist [school savant] 12
N Medium humanoid (human)
Init +8; Senses Perception +3
AC 21, touch 13, flat-footed 19 (+2 armor, +1 deflection, +2 Dex, +2 natural, +4 shield)
hp 80 (12 HD; 12d6+36)
Fort +9, Ref +9, Will +10;
DR 10/adamantine Resist fire 10
Speed 30 ft.
Ranged+1 shock light crossbow +9 (1d8+1 plus 1d6 electricity/19-20)
Special Attacks Disruption (+5 touch, 6 rounds, 11/day)
Staff staff of dispel magic (CL 14, dispel +18, DC 21; 10 charges)
Arcanist Spells Prepared (CL 13th; concentration +21)
6th (3/day)—greater dispel magic (CL 13, dispel +17, DC 25), flesh to stone (DC 24)
5th (5/day)— dismissal (DC 23), teleport, feeblemind (DC 23)
4th (6/day)— crushing despair (DC 22), enervation, greater invisibility, stoneskin
3rd (6/day)—accursed glare (DC 21), haste, heroism, magic circle against evil, summon monster III
2nd (6/day)—acid arrow, alter self, glitterdust (DC 20), hideous laughter (DC 20), mirror image, resist energy
1st (6/day)—charm person (DC 19), detect secret doors, feather fall, grease, shield
0 (at will)—acid splash, detect magic, ghost sound (DC 16), mending, message, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance
Opposition Schools– divination, evocation
Counterspeller School Powers— Resistance, Disruption, Counterspell Mastery
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 26, Wis 8, Cha 14
Base Atk +6; CMB +5; CMD 17
FeatsAdditional Traits, Dispel Focus, Dispel Synergy, Destructive Dispel, Heighten Spell, Improved Counterspell, Improved Initiative, Preferred Spell (magic missile)
Traits Adopted (Strength of the Land), Reactionary, Gifted Adept (dispel magic), Spell Duel Prodigy
SkillsAcrobatics +6, Bluff +14, Knowledge (arcana) +25, Knowledge (the rest) +17, Linguistics +15, Perception +3, Spellcraft +25 (+27 to identify spells), Use Magic Device +13
Languages Common, 12 other languages
SQ arcane exploits (counterspell, potent magic), arcane reservoir (9/day, 15 max), consume spells, greater exploits (counter drain)
Combat Gear +1 shock light crossbow, staff of dispel magic (10 charges), wand of cure light wounds (50 charges), potion of cure serious wounds (3), scroll of lightning bolt (2), scroll of mirror image, scroll of air bubble, scroll of enlarge person, 50 cold iron bolts Other Gear amulet of natural armor +2, bag of holding I, belt of incredible dexterity +2, bracers of armor +2, cracked dusty rose prism ioun stone, cloak of resistance +3, headband of vast intelligence [bluff] +4, gloves of arrow snaring, orange prism ioun stone, ring of protection +1, runestone of power II, masterwork tools (Spellcraft, Knowledge [arcana]), 80 doses myrrh, 2,450 gp.
Counterspell Mastery (Su)
Jorg may attempt to counterspell an opponent’s spell twice per day as an immediate action (instead of a readied action). He must use a spell at least one level higher than the spell being countered to use this ability.
Counterspell Exploit (Su)
By expending 1 point from his arcane reservoir, Jorg can attempt to counter a spell as it is being cast. He must identify the spell being cast as normal. If he successfully does so, he can attempt to counter the spell as an immediate action and by expending an available arcanist spell slot of a level at least one higher than the level of the spell being cast. To counterspell, Jorg must attempt a dispel check as if using dispel magic. If the spell being countered is one that he has prepared, he can instead expend an available arcanist spell slot of the same level, and he receives a +5 bonus on the dispel check. Counterspelling in this way does not trigger any feats or other abilities that normally occur when a spellcaster successfully counters a spell.
Counter Drain (Su)
Whenever Jorg successfully uses the counterspell exploit, he regains a number of points to his arcane reservoir, which is determined by the level of the spell countered. Spells of 2nd level or lower do not restore any points to his arcane reservoir. Spells of 3rd and higher restore 1 point to his arcane reservoir for every three spell levels (rounded down), to a maximum of 3 points at 9th level.
This is an example of a build you would never play unless you created it at 18th level. It is focused around getting an obscene caster level check to greater dispel magic. Vane has been travelling for so many years he’s forgotten just how old he actually is. He is completely attuned to his surroundings and can counterspell just about anything. During his turns, he likes to do some blasting with his evocations (truly his one most regrettable vice) to assist the party in dealing damage. Even with his Ordered Mind, Vane is able to identify every spell as it is cast without fail, and will almost always be able to have a counter. He is widely known for the incredible power behind his greater dispel magic, as his party members say he’s been working on that one spell for the past six years. He has gotten so adept at it that only spells of higher caster levels can possibly give him trouble, and when he inevitably strips opponents’ defenses, they are left absolutely stunned.
For Vane, sometimes patience is a valuable strategy. When he readies an action to counterspell, he just needs to meet the level of the spell with his Ordered Mind feat. And When he inevitably counters it successfully, he is able to send the spell back on it’s master entirely. If forced into melee, his ability to disrupt passive spells leaves foes just as petrified, for if he merely grazes a finger on someone, they find themselves in for a stunning surprise.
Male Human Arcanist [school savant] 18
LN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +4; Senses all-around vision, Perception +7
AC 27, touch 16, flat-footed 24 (+4 armor, +3 deflection, +3 Dex, +3 natural, +4 shield)
hp 80 (18 HD; 18d6+0)
Fort +13, Ref +14, Will +15
Resist cold 10
Speed 30 ft.
Melee +2 dancing spear +11/+6 (1d8+2/x3)
Ranged+3 light crossbow +15/+10 (1d8+3/19-20)
Special Attacks Disruption (+5 touch, 6 rounds, 11/day)
Staff staff of dispel magic (CL 24, dispel +26, DC 23; 10 charges)
Arcanist Spells Prepared (CL 19th; concentration +28)
9th (3/day)— prismatic sphere (DC 29), time stop
8th (5/day)— mind blank, sunburst (DC 27), summon monster VIII
7th (5/day)—prismatic spray (DC 26), plane shift, spell turning, waves of exhaustion
6th (5/day)—greater dispel magic (CL 28, dispel +30, DC 26), greater heroism, sirocco (DC 25), summon monster VI
5th (6/day)— break enchantment, mind fog (DC 24), overland flight, suffocation (DC 24), teleport
4th (6/day)— black tentacles, communal nondetection, dimensional anchor, wall of ice (DC 23), warp metal (DC 23)
3rd (6/day)— haste, heroism, fly, lightning bolt (DC 22), protection from energy
2nd (10/day)— acid arrow, communal protection from evil, false life, hideous laughter (DC 21), scorching ray, levitate
1st (6/day)— detect thoughts (DC 20), silent image (DC 20), shield, thunderstomp
0 (at will)—acid splash, dancing lights, detect magic, mending, message, prestidigitation, open/close, prestidigitation, read magic, resistance
Opposition Schools– divination, illusion
Counterspeller School Powers— Resistance, Disruption, Counterspell Mastery
Str 11, Dex 16, Con 14, Int 29, Wis 7, Cha 14
Base Atk +9; CMB +9; CMD 22
Feats Dispel Focus, Dispel Synergy, Destructive Dispel, Heighten Spell, Improved Counterspell, Ordered Mind, Parry Spell, School Focus (abjuration), Spell Specialization (greater dispel magic), Varisian Tattoo
Traits Gifted Adept (greater dispel magic), Secret of the Impossible Kingdom (greater dispel magic)
SkillsKnowledge (arcana) +32, Knowledge (the rest) +30, Spellcraft +32, Perception +7, Use Magic Device +14
Languages Common, 12 other languages
SQ arcane exploits (counterspell, spell disruption, quick study), arcane reservoir (12/day, 21 max), consume spells, greater exploits (counter drain, greater counterspell, greater spell disruption, siphon spell)
Combat Gear +3 light crossbow, +2 dancing spear, metamagic rod of extend spell, metamagic rod of dazing spell, staff of dispel magic (10 charges), wand of cure light wounds (50 charges), potion of cure serious wounds (3), scroll of raise dead, scroll of reverse gravity, scroll of sending (2), scroll of control water, 50 cold iron bolts Other Gear arachnid goggles, amulet of natural armor +3, belt of physical perfection +2, boots of speed, bracers of armor +4, cracked dusty rose prism ioun stone, cloak of resistance +5, handy haversack, headband of vast intelligence (knowledge [religion]), +6, orange prism ioun stone, otherworldly kimono, ring of protection +3, ring of wizardry II, runestone of power IV, masterwork tools (Spellcraft, Knowledge [arcana]), 250 doses myrrh, 8,100 gp
Counterspell Mastery (Su)
Vane may attempt to counterspell an opponent’s spell four times per day as an immediate action (instead of a readied action). He must use a spell at least one level higher than the spell being countered to use this ability.
Greater Counterspell (Su)
By expending 1 point from his arcane reservoir, Vane can attempt to counter a spell as it is being cast. He must identify the spell being cast as normal. If he successfully does so, he can attempt to counter the spell as an immediate action and by expending an available arcanist spell slot of the same level or higher than the level of the spell being cast. To counterspell, Vane must attempt a dispel check as if using dispel magic. If the spell being countered is one that he has prepared, he can instead expend an available arcanist spell slot of the same level, and he receives a +5 bonus on the dispel check. Counterspelling in this way does not trigger any feats or other abilities that normally occur when a spellcaster successfully counters a spell.
Counter Drain (Su)
Whenever Vane successfully uses the counterspell exploit, he regains a number of points to his arcane reservoir, which is determined by the level of the spell countered. Spells of 2nd level or lower do not restore any points to his arcane reservoir. Spells of 3rd and higher restore 1 point to his arcane reservoir for every three spell levels (rounded down), to a maximum of 3 points at 9th level.
Spell Disruption (Su)
Vane can temporarily disrupt a spell by expending 1 point from his arcane reservoir and succeeding at a dispel check against the spell, as dispel magic. This ability suppresses a spell effect for 2 rounds. If the spell affects multiple creatures, this ability only suppresses the spell for one creature. At the end of this duration, the spell resumes and the suppressed rounds do not count against its total duration. This ability can be used on unwilling targets, but Vane must succeed at a melee touch attack, and the target may attempt a Will saving throw to negate the effect. This ability has no effect on spells that are instantaneous or have a duration of permanent.
Greater Spell Disruption (Su)
Vane can disrupt a spell effect or magic item by expending 1 point from his arcane reservoir. This acts like a targeted dispel magic with a range of touch. He can add his Charisma modifier to the dispel check.
Siphon Spell (Su)
When Vane uses the greater spell disruption exploit, he can siphon some of the power of the targeted spell to restore his arcane reservoir. If the caster level of the spell is equal to or higher than that of Vane, and he exceeds the DC of the dispel check by 5 or more, he adds 1 point to his arcane reservoir. If he exceeds this check by 10 or more, he instead adds 2 points to his arcane reservoir. This has no effect on magic items.
So there we have it. Now you are fully equipped to building your very own Counter Savant. I hope this guide has inspired you to take up the challenge, and has proven that counterspelling isn’t necessarily doomed to uselessness. If you liked this guide, tell me what you think! Or if you have any questions, feel free to PM me on reddit, /u/eeveerulz55 and I’d be happy to answer them. If you think I made a mistake or left something out, I’d be happy to edit this document. In fact, I’d be surprised if I got through writing all of this without getting something wrong.
I want to give thanks to all my friends, the players in my Hell’s Rebels game from where this build idea started, and especially the entirety of /r/Pathfinder_RPG for being one of the greatest, friendliest rpg communities I know.
I always love giving back to the Pathfinder Community. If you want to see some more things I’ve contributed, I’m including links below so you hopefully can get more use out of my work. You guys deserve it.
Alternate Settlement Magic Item Rules (kind of outdated, might revisit)