Last updated on January 21st, 2020
In this Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire Build Guide we’re going to be taking a look at the Psyblade Class, which is a mixture of Fighter and Cipher. I’ll be providing information on Attributes, Weapons, Armor, and most importantly, what Abilities to take and how to use them. Please keep in mind that this is my Psyblade Build, and there are plenty of ways you can build this class, and this is not the only one. If you’re new to Pillars of Eternity 2, or you just love creating characters as much as I do, then this Guide is for you. Please note that this Build Guide was updated for the 5.0 version of the game, as well as 1.01 on console (as of January 22th, 2020), and works with both Real Time with Pause and Turn-Based.
Phantom Tactician Build
This Psyblade Build combines the reliable combat damage of the Fighter Class, with an assortment of debilitating Cipher spells, for a potent “hybrid” mix. Not only will you deal incredible single target damage with this Build, but you will be able to keep many many enemies debuffed at once, resulting in more reliable endeavors from your teammates. This Build is the ultimate mix of martial and caster playstyles!
The Phantom Tactician Build relies on the passive benefit of the Tactician Fighter Subclass to regain resources when all enemies are Flanked and none of your party members are. At first glance this seems like a daunting task, but when you are able to cast the Cipher Ability Phantom Foes at will, you are able to meet the conditions for Brilliant Tactician very reliably. This results in a steady supply of Discipline which you can use for Penetrating Strike.
Phantom Tactician Sublcasses
For Cipher you can select either Beguiler, Ascendant or No Subclass for this Build. Beguilers are great here because of all the Afflictions you will be casting during combat, but Ascendant is also a solid choice. If you choose Beguiler be sure to always use Phantom Foes first, since you need to attack Afflicted or Flanked enemies to get the bonus damage from Soul Whip. If you chose Ascendant you’ll want to attack as much as possible to reach the Ascended status and then spam a bunch of Cipher spells, including Phantom Foes. No Subclass allows you the flexibility to cast or attack in whichever order you wish.
For Fighter the obvious choice here is the Tactician Subclass, because the entire Build revolves around it. Being able to regain resources through the Brilliant Inspiration allows you to maintain steady damage in combat. Very few Subclasses are able to do this, making it rather unique.
The downside is that you are better off playing a Tactician from range because you get some bad Afflictions if you are Flanked (Shaken/Confused), and this is less likely to occur if you aren’t on the front lines. In addition you lose Accuracy and Penetration when not targeting an enemy that is threatened by an ally, and it is easier to select these enemies with a Ranged Weapon. This means you will miss out on one of the Fighters best abilities in Cleaving/Mob Stance.
Phantom Tactician Weapons and Armor
One of the benefits of playing a Tactician Fighter, instead of a Devoted one as a Psyblade, is that you are free to change Weapons along the way. This allows you to try out many different Unique Ranged Weapons through out the course of the game, and is great for playing new DLCs, or if you don’t know what you want to use. Be sure to select Weapon Proficiency with several Ranged Weapons as you level up, so that you can gain the benefit of Confident Aim, Weapon Specialization, and Weapon Mastery when using them.
Armor is really a personal preference, but I highly recommend any that has low Recovery Time so that you can fire faster. Since you are not going to be Engaging enemies, if you can help it, your goal should be to burn down enemies before they can attack you. This means the lowest possible Recovery Time, to increase the number of attacks and casts you get.
In this section we’re going to cover the “must have” Psyblade Abilities for this Build. You are free to pick and choose which you want outside of these because everyone’s style of play is different and there is no perfect way. However, these ones will be needed for this Build to work effectively.
Disciplined Barrage – This ability increases your Perception, and converts 50% of Grazes to Hits. This is great for not only your weapon attacks, but also your Cipher spells.
Fighter Stances – These Stances become available at level 4 and although you won’t be using Cleaving Stance, Warrior Stance does increase the Accuracy of your weapon attacks and Cipher spells, so is a good fit.
Confident Aim – This passive also helps to convert Grazes to Hits, but only with proficient weapons. Still, it does help with your overall damage output, particularly on harder difficulties.
Disciplined Strikes – This upgrade of Disciplined Barrage increases the likelihood that you will Crit by 25%, which helps increase our overall damage. You can take Tactical Barrage if you prefer, you’ll just be trading damage for improved Cipher spells.
Penetrating Strike – Since you’ll be playing ranged, this will be your primary form of attacking enemies. It is a Full Attack, so you may consider dual wielding Pistols or Blunderbusses, but it does work well with Bows and Arquebuses as well.
Weapon Specialization – This passive will further increase the damage with your proficient weapons, so it is a great choice.
Armored Grace – This ability will reduce the penalty you take to Recovery Time when wearing Armor. This will allow you to wear Light Armor with almost no penalty. This is not important if playing Turn-Based.
Improved Critical – This passive will further increase your Crit Damage, and you will be doing plenty of Crits so it helps.
Weapon Mastery – Another passive that increases damage so you pick it up. You can never have enough passives that do this, and Fighters possess many, which is great.
I have not added any “weapon style” passives here because this will really depend on how you like to play. I suggest either Two-Handed Style or Two Weapon Style, but don’t take these until you’ve found the style you prefer. Just make sure you do, once you have, because they are very very good. In addition, Fearless is a great passive you can take that will remove the Shaken Affliction should you become Flanked, but is not required.
Iron Will – This passive will offset the loss in Will from low Resolve, so it’s worth picking up.
Lingering Echoes – This passive extends the Duration of all Afflictions caused by the Cipher, which means Phantom Foes will last longer. You’ll get a lot of use out of this one, so take it early.
Phantom Foes – This ability allows you to set Flanked on all enemies in a HUGE radius. This ability is what allows this Build to work so take it immediately upon reaching level 4.
Biting Whip – Take this upgrade of Soul Whip to get more damage with your weapons because you will not have an issue gaining Focus with this Build.
Secret Horrors – This ability is an amazing Foe AoE that sets Sickened and Frightened on all enemies in the area of effect. I like to use this after Phantom Foes in order to really debuff enemies.
Hammering Thoughts – This passive increases your Penetration with all weapons, which is insanely good. This can really up your damage when facing highly armored enemies.
Ringleader – This ability is a great way to turn the tide of battle, and make scenarios where you are outnumbered into an even match. This one spell can make all the difference in the world.
The Empty Soul – This ability increases your Cipher spell Accuracy by +10, which is a lot! Take this one when you can, because you will need all the Accuracy you can get with this Build.
Mind Plague – Another ability that debuffs enemies, making them Dazed and Confused. You can never have enough debuffs, and you’ll want to pile them on with this Build.
Greater Focus and Keen Mind are both decent passives for this Build, but are not necessary. You will gain Focus quite rapidly regardless, and you will find you almost always have too much of it (if that is possible). Still you can select them if you enjoy casting spells more often.
Phantom Tactician Attributes
In this section we’ll cover Attributes for the Phantom Tactician Build, and explain a bit about each and why we need it or why it’s important. Phantom Tacticians need Perception, Intellect and Dexterity. They can dump Resolve if needed, but Constitution and Might should be left untouched if possible, so that you aren’t too squishy and your damage doesn’t suffer. If you’re playing Turn-Based then you will exchange Dexterity with Might since turn order is not as important.
Perception is important for not only connecting with your weapon attacks, but also your Cipher spells. If you cannot overcome the enemy’s Will then you cannot Flank them, and you cannot make this Build work. That is why you must max Perception during Character Creation.
Intellect increases the AoE size of your Cipher spells, and you want them to hit as many targets as possible. The great thing is that they are ALL Foe AoEs, so you do not have to worry about hitting friendly targets. 15 or so points here is good.
Dexterity is important for attacking quickly, improving the speed at which you deal damage. Since you want to burn things down quickly from behind your front line, you want to attack as fast as you can. Dexterity helps with that, so you want at least 15 points here during Character Creation.
Race is not particularly important to this Build, so it doesn’t really matter much which you choose. Hearth Orlan is not a bad choice, since it increases your Critical Chance and gives you the most starting Perception, but Elf is also a good choice. Select whatever you wish and don’t worry too much about it.
Try to avoid selecting Cipher spells that deal damage (unless it’s Raw Damage) because even with the high Perception, you are not really setup for “damage casting”. This is because you won’t have passives like Penetrating Visions, and Rapid Casting, that can really help with this style of play. You will also have low Might unless you play Turn-Based, which isn’t ideal. Stick to enemy debuffs or friendly buffs when playing Real Time with Pause for these reasons when selecting spells to use. However, if you do decide to take some, Ascendant will be much more effective at dealing damage than Beguiler or No Subclass.
You can actually play this Build as a melee character if you wish, but you will need to be careful about positioning so that you are not Flanked. Mind Plague is essential when doing so, because it prohibits enemies from Engaging, which prevents you from being Flanked. This is a harder way to play, but it can be done with a bit of practice.
Having a tank that has the Persistent Distraction ability (one Class is a Rogue) can facilitate Flanking very well in the Defender Stance. This should reduce the amount of targets you need to hit with Phantom Foes by about half, often granting you Brilliant with 1 less cast. This allows you to focus more on attacking with Weapons and casting other debuffing spells.
Lastly, be sure to equip items that increase your Perception or Accuracy so that you can get more Hits and Crits with your Cipher spells. Items like Acina’s Tricorn or Gauntlets of Accuracy are great for this Build because they work with both Weapons and Cipher spells. Be sure to use food when you rest that increases Accuracy as well, for even higher values!
Stay tuned for more Pillars of Eternity 2 Build Guides, as we make some more specific Guides covering some of the most fun and interesting combinations we could find. If there is a specific combination you would like to see, please post in the comments and we will do our best to accommodate!