What is Savage Attacker and how best to use it

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savage attacker 5e

Savage Attacker is a feat designed to make a character more effective in combat. Characters who chose this option are allowed to re-roll their weapon damage once per turn, meaning that if your roll produced a result below average then you could re-roll the dice and hope for a more devastating and damaging result. You are then free to use either result, meaning that if your second roll was even lower than the first, you are allowed to still use your original roll.

Value for money?

Savage Attack is not what you would call one of the more powerful feats available to a player. When stacked up against a simple strength bonus, the latter wins out every time. Also, as you can only use the feat once per turn, if you are skilled enough to be able to make two attacks per round, then you can apply Savage Attack to only one of the blows. Again, a straight-forward strength bonus is applicable to every attack you make.

Also, without going into the pure maths of the situation you have to bear in mind that Savage Attack also offers diminishing returns the bigger the dice you are rolling.

You could also make the argument that the constant re-rolling slows the actual gameplay down.

In short, if you are looking for the edge in dealing damage in combat situations, strength bonuses get the edge every time. Strength bonuses also have the additional advantage of increasing your ability to jump, grapple and help with a wide range of strength based actions.

If you do wish to take a feat which helps in combat, Lucky, Martial Adept and Shield Master are all much better options.

Savage Attacker used with opportunity attacks

The concept of using this skill “once per turn” might need a bit of qualification. Obviously you can use this feat once in the turn that you are attacking an enemy but if a potential target has moved turning their own turn and created the possibility for you to make an opportunity attack, then you do get to ably the feat to those attacks too. A turn is no just the one that you are moving in, it also applies to an enemies turn that you might also active in, if the chance arises. The rules are worded in such a way that makes this the desired and logical outcome, it is the same reasoning that allows Rogues to make sneak attacks outside of their own turn.

Can you use Savage Attacker feat whilst in Wild Shape?

The key phrase here is that Savage Attacker can be applied to “melee weapon attacks.”  A melee weapon attack is defined as a hand held combat weapon, improvised or otherwise, unarmed strikes, or animal strikes such as bite, claw, fist and other animal appendages. This means that when you use Wild Shape, you can still apply Savage Attacker to your new animal form.

If in doubt, look at the stat block of the animal you’re turning into, be it bear, boar or badger, it will list the animals attacks as a melee weapon attack.

Using Savage Attacker with other abilities and skills

Savage Attacker works when combined with some feats, skills and abilities, but not all.

It would not work in combination with Sneak Attack for example. Savage Attacker works by allowing the character to reroll the weapon’s damage dice, but Sneak attack and its associated dice are a different mechanic and represent extra damage on top of the Weapon dice: it is not part of the weapon dice itself and so cannot be re-rolled under the Savage Attacker feat.

When you consider using Savage Attacker in conjunction with Great Weapon Fighting things start to appear complicated. But there is a logical sequence to be followed.

Great Weapon Fighting feat states “When you roll a 1 or 2 on a damage die for an attack you make with a melee weapon that you are wielding with two hands, you can reroll the die and must use the new roll, even if the new roll is a 1 or a 2.”  Some of which appears to be contrary to the Savage Attacker feat.

The ruling seems to be that after rerolling any 1s or 2s (each die only once) you can decide to use Savage Attacker and still use Great Weapon Fighting on the new roll because unlike Savage Attacker it doesn’t have the once per turn restriction.

This is something that was clarified by that minor deity Jeremy Crawford on twitter recently. He stated…

“If you use Savage Attacker with Great Weapon Fighting, the latter lets you reroll 1s and 2s in both rolls.”

…and he should know.

Final Thoughts

Let’s face it, Savage Attacker is not great. It makes for some interesting combinations when used with some other feats but even then, considering the amount of work you have put in building the character, adventuring, risking life and limb to reach the threshold where you can obtain a feat, it seems to be scant reward.

There are many, much better ways of powering up your character to give them the edge in combat, better feats and as explained above, the simple strength bonus options far outweighs the Savage Attacker every time.

There are some great feats to choose from, sadly, Savage Attacker isn’t one of them.