Build of the Week: The Axe Gang
Get your top hats on and sharpen your axes. Thrown weapon builds have been thought of as a “trap” for quite a while, and for good reason. Veterans of the 3rd Edition might remember the Master Thrower and Bloodstorm Blade, capable of throwing enough daggers (or chairs) per round to put a Zen Archer to shame. But in Pathfinder, thrown weapons are no longer about littering the battlefield with enough weapons to choke Rovagiggles himself. Rather, they have found a niche in Midrange Control.
Your job as a thrown weapon wielder isn’t doing the most damage per round. It’s utilizing your ability to keep out of the way of your crowded melee fighters, while adding to their damage per round with the Trip combat maneuver. Your job is standing between the fighter and the wizard, able to run to either end with a Wand of Cure Light Wounds, keep enemies from getting too close to your squishier party members and stylishly light up the battlefield with a cascade of sparks trailing behind your steel as they ricochet from one enemy to another.
Archetype Analysis: Fighter?!
You will need combat feats. Many, many combat feats. Like more two combat feats per level. This will require some dipping, which will help with your otherwise abysmal Will Save, in addition to covering your proficiency and giving you some really cool flavor options.
Weapon Master Fighter: Whatever Archetype you pick, you will have most of your levels in Fighter. The build originally used Lore Warden, but I shouldn’t have to explain why it changed. Whether you do Axes or Hammers, Weapon Master is an excellent choice for this build.
Far Strike Monk of the Sacred Mountain: Yes, you are starting off your otherwise full base Attack Bonus build with a class with ¾ Base Attack Bonus, but stay with me here. This class gives you proficiency with any thrown weapon, from nets to dwarven maul axes. At level 1 you get Quickdraw and Point-Blank Shot. At level 2, you get Far-Shot and Toughness. You also get Flurry of Throws, which will be used often until level 5 or 6.
Divine Hunter Paladin: You only need 1 level of Paladin. I highly recommend it be your second level. In addition to getting you Precise Shot at level 1 without having to burn a feat on Point-Blank Shot, it’ll unlock the ability to use Sliding Axe Throw at level 1 without the -4. Unlike most builds that dip into the class, you can’t afford Divine Grace until much later (around level 7 or 8).
Hurler Barbarian: The extra range is nice, as axes don’t go very far. The trait Strong Arm, Supple Wrist will help, but this isn’t a bad dip. You will have to be Lawful Good to be a Monkadin, but the Barbarian only loses its Rage Powers for being non-Chaotic, and you can trade out Rage for an Animal Companion by taking the Mad Dog archetype, even if you are lawful.
Build Options: Combat Feats
Did I mention you will need combat feats? Well before we go over our shopping list of unusual feats, I feel like I have to highlight one item:
Belt of Mighty Hurling: Invest all your money into upgrading into this item. The worst part of being a Thrown Weapon Wielder is having to juggle Dexterity to hit but Strength to Damage. You gotta keep your Dex at 14 or higher if you want to maximize your use of Combat Reflexes, but having only one stat for your attack and damage is going to make a huge difference once Enhancement Bonuses are factored in.
Sliding Axe Throw: The most important feat in the build. If you’d prefer a Hammer, look into the new Hammer Throw feat tree in Heroes of the Fringe. It takes three feats and requires being a Dwarf, but there are no terrain requirements and you don’t take -2. Note that Improved Trip isn’t necessary since you’ll be too far away to provoke, although you’ll want to pick it up eventually.
Startoss Style: The second most important feat (tree) in the build. While you can pick it up at level 1, I recommend waiting until level 3 so you can get Sliding Axe Toss first. The +2 Damage per Style Feat will also add up fast.
Startoss Comet: This let’s you do two Sliding Axe Tosses as a standard action at full attack bonus. It also lets you attack around corners and past cover, depending on enemy positioning. You can also use it to retrieve your thrown weapon, having the second axe hit your square so you can pick it up at your leisure without Ricochet Toss or Bounding Hammer, which you will get later.
Startoss Shower: Now you can make three (and eventually four) attacks per Startoss! Enjoy watching the entire room fall down.
Greater Trip: Now every time you make an enemy fall to the ground, they provoke an attack of opportunity from all threatening allies. While you probably won’t get to utilize this yourself, the rest of the party will thank you for handing out an extra two, three or even four bonus attacks per round. Unlike most “Greater Trip” builds, you can selectively pin-point the two or three enemies per round you are affecting regardless of your distance from them, maximizing the extra attacks of opportunity provoked per round.
Relentless Shot: And with this little beauty, the build becomes silly. Now you are tripping three enemies a round, and getting a second attack against each one you trip. But how can we take this to levels of quantum silly?
Ricochet Toss: Now you are throwing one axe. It is ricocheting off three enemies, tripping each one. And each time one is tripped, the axe returns to your hand so you can throw it again at the tripped enemy, via Greater Trip and Relentless Shot. I’m not quite sure how this even makes sense, and I wouldn’t blame a GM for putting his foot down at this point. With a sane GM, you should be using your best axe to trip the three enemies, and your second best axe with Ricochet toss to resolve the Attacks of Opportunity. Note that Hammers can use Bounding Hammer within 20 feet, and if you have one fewer enemy you could just ricochet the axe off the second enemy back to your square. Alternatively, your Belt of Mighty Hurling +4 will confer the returning quality to your weapons, but those weapons don’t return until after your round ends.
Detailed Build: Shooting Star
I’d love to see someone try it with Hammers, but for now we are going to stick to Dwarven Maul Axes. My own PC is a Paladin of Shelyn who enjoys painting her axes, but I suppose Torag would be a good choice too.
- Paladin: Precise Shot (B), Combat Expertise (B), Sliding Axe Throw
- Monk: Quickdraw (B), Point-Blank Shot (B)
- Fighter: Weapon Focus (B), Startoss Style
- Fighter: Startoss Comet (B)
- Monk: Far-Shot (B), Toughness (B), Startoss Shower
- Fighter: (Weapon Training 1)
- Fighter: Improved Trip (B), Greater Trip
- Paladin: (Divine Favor)
- Fighter: Relentless Shot, (Reliable Strike)
- Fighter: Combat Reflexes (B)
- Fighter: Ricochet Toss (Weapon Training 2)
Offensive Variation: You can skip the second level of Paladin and dump Charisma to get more Strength and Dexterity. Doing so also affords you another level of Fighter, getting you Deadly Aim for even more damage! I personally prefer the bonus to saving throws.
Range Variation: That 11th level can be substituted for Hurler & Mad Dog Barbarian to get yourself a 1st level Animal Companion and +10 foot range increment to your Axes in lieu of +1 Damage and +1 to Hit with your Weapon.