Last Updated: September 27, 2023
Warlocks spend most of their time shooting lasers, but their invocations offer a lot of interesting tactical options. Because invocations can be used any number of times per day, invocations with durations are functionally permanent. Remember than Essence and Shape invocations can be combined, so it’s a good idea to learn at least one Essence invocation.
Over the course of the class, Warlocks get 12 invocations. You can take Extra Invocation as many times as you like, but most people prefer to spend their feats elsewhere. The Warlock can retrain an invocation at 6th, 11th, and 16th level, so most of your invocation choices will be permanent.
When selecting an invocation, consider the Extra Invocation feat. Ask yourself “Would I spend a feat on Extra Invocation to learn this?” If you wouldn’t waste a feat on the invocation, it’s probably not a good choice. Without Extra Invocation you can expect to have 3 invocations of each rank.
Table of Contents
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which tend to be more consistent than 3.5 handbooks. Because so little of 3.5 is available on the SRD, I will attempt to tag items with a superscript indicating their book of origin. For help identifying sourcebook abbreviations, see my Sourcebook Abbreviations Guide.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
It’s important to note that I generally omit campaign-setting specific content. I am of the opinion that those options are intended to be limited to campaigns run in those settings, and as such they don’t really apply to a generic campaign. Those options also tend to be wildly unbalanced and rarely receive errata. I also omit the use of “Flaws” since they allow a massive increase in power with essentially no cost to the character.
Least invocations are equivalent to 1st and 2nd-level spells, so they’re not going to be big and scary. Try to stick to options which will remain useful for a very long time.
- CM: Comprehend languages is very rarely important, and one or two scrolls will be enough to replace it for your whole career. The bonuses to Search and Spot are nice, but Warlocks don’t get Search and Spot as class skills so the bonuses won’t keep you competitive for long.
- CAr: Very situational. Sunder effects are rarely useful, and typically cause you to destroy potential loot.
- CAr: If your party doesn’t have a Face, this instantly makes you a Face despite lacking Diplomacy as a class skill. Coupled with the Warlock’s high Charisma, this will allow you to match or beat any character with maxed Diplomacy ranks until at least level 6.
- CAr: Situational, and easily replicated by a scroll of Fog Cloud. If you want to abuse concealment, Darkness can be used at range.
- CM: Very situational, but your Charisma is much better than a Druid’s.
- CS: Throw a net.
- CAr: A great way to compensate for the Warlock’s poor Fortitude and Reflex saves.
- CAr: Situational. Remember that Darkvision doesn’t let you see through magical darkness, so this will hamper you unless you have Devil’s Sight. If you plan to use this frequently, your allies should pick up Blind-Fight or something which allows them to see in magical darkness.
- CAr: Only necessary if you want to use Darkness, and remember that your allies still won’t be able to see.
- MoI: Unless the target has Essentia, this is a save against 1 point of Wisdom damage. Garbage.
- CAr: This is a good way to lock down enemies, but remember that firing into a grapple is difficult. The Strength bonus scales very well, so this could remain effective against many opponents well into high levels.
- DM (Shape): This invocation needs to define your build if you use it. You probably want to use a Gish build so improve your ability to fight in melee. An Eldritch Knight with a good build could put this to great use.
- CAr (Shape): Situational. Very few fights take place at long enough range that you will need this.
- CAr: Constant 20% miss chance on ranged attacks against you. Because Warlock learn to fly, and because they are ranged characters, most attacks against them are ranged. Because this miss chance isn’t concealment, it stacks with concealment.
- CAr (Essence): You can’t use this to perform fear stacking (at least not without other sources of fear effects), but making a target Shaken is a great debuff.
- CM (Essence): Too situational.
- CAr (Shape): Warlocks are not melee characters.
- CAr: Fatigued is a worthless condition.
- CM: Arcana, Religon, and The Planes are three of the most important Knowledge skills, and they’re all Warlock skills. This makes you a solid Librarian despite a potentially low Intelligence score.
- CAr: Darkvision is great, and this is the Warlock’s only option for detecting invisible targets.
- CM: Scent is fun, but See the Unseen is better for detecting invisibile creatures, which is the primary draw of Scent.
- CAr (Essence): On par with Frightful Blast. Sickened works on creatures immune to fear effects, but some creature types are immune to the Sickened condition. The debuffs provided by Shaken and Sickened are largely identical, so you generally only want one of the two, but they stack so you might choose to take both.
- CM: Awful. Reaving Aura is a lousy spell, even as a swift action. Because this is a spell-like ability, Soulreaving Aura takes a standard action. Even the temporary hit points aren’t enough to make this worthwhile.
- CAr: Warlocks learn to fly, and Spider Climb is a 1st-level spell that you can replicate with a scroll.
- CAr: Swarms can be very annoying, but Summon Swarm will stop being effective pretty quickly, and you need to concentrate to maintain it. If you insist on taking this, be sure to trade it in at 6th level for something useful.
- CM: Situational. Only take this in aquatic campaigns.
Lesser Invocations introduce essential caster mechanics like flight and invisibility, and are equivalent to 3rd and 4th-level spells.
- CM (Essence): Awful. The 2d6 bonus damage is very tempting, but it only affects one creature type. Unless you’re in a campaign where you’re fighting one type of enemy exclusively, this will not be useful.
- CAr (Essence): Blinding a target for even one round can easily cripple them. Combine this with shapes which allow you affect multiple targets and you can shut down whole encounters.
- CAr (Essence): Typeless magical damage is usually a much better choice than fire damage due to the extreme prevalence of fire resistance, but the ongoing damage makes this one of the only invocations which can improve Eldritch Blast damage. Unfortunately, the target can automatically extinguish the flames with a full round action, and the duration will only be 4 rounds at most.
- CAr: Situational, but easier than Diplomacy.
- CM: Very situational, and easily replicated.
- CM: This is really amusing, but a familiar is considerably more effective.
- CAr: Bestow Curse is horrifyingly effective, but this requires that you touch the target, forcing you into melee range. You may be able to deliver this through a familiar if you take the Acquire Familiar feat, but check with your DM to be sure.
- CAr: Other classes are much better equipped to create undead minions.
- DM (Essence): Situational.
- CM: If you like touch attack invocations, this can be very useful. Depending on your DM’s interpretation, you might be able to use Walk Unseen to remain invisible while your hand flies about doing your dirty work.
- DM: Situational. This is really only good against enemies that move around a lot and use ranged attacks.
- CAr (Shape): A great option for encounters with multiple enemies, and it works well when your allies are in melee with your targets. However, the secondary targets take only half damage. Be sure to combine this with a good Essence invocation so that you can spread the effects around.
- CAr: Absolutely essential. Unfortunately, the speed matches your land speed, which is annoying for small warlocks with normal 20 ft. speed.
- CAr (Essence): The penalty to Dexterity makes targets ostensibly easier for you to hit, but touch AC doesn’t really scale past 14 so this will almost never matter. Cold damage is a nice option, but few enough creatures are weak to it that you don’t really need it.
- CAr: Combines Darkness and Summon Swarm. A really cool concept, but not particularly effective and it requires you to concentrate.
- DM: All of the energy resistance you will ever need, but be sure to change the type when new enemies appear.
- CM: Very situational.
- CM: Situational, and not as versatile as Voracious Dispelling.
- DotU: The sizes of spider scale with level, but the CR of the spiders is considerably too low to make this a reliable combat option. Your GM may allow your allies to harvest poison from your spider form, and the spider venom’s DC and damage are both respectable.
- MoI: Only works on creatures with essentia, so it’s only useful in essentia-heavy campaigns.
- CAr: Only marginally better than Earthen Grasp.
- DotU: A spider swarm is only CR 1, but it deals guaranteed damage, and swarms are hard for many enemies to kill.
- CS: Very situational, but useful for defending yourself in dungeons.
- CAr: Blindsense is fantastic, but it doesn’t let you bypass the concealment provided by invisibility, so you still have to deal with miss chances. See the Unsean may be better in some cases.
- CAr: Situational, and the damage is trivial. Once you get access to Devour Magic, retrain this.
- CAr: Invisibility is always great, but because it’s normal invisibility you will end the effect by using your Eldritch Blast. Instead, fly around invisibly and use your invocations to indirectly affect enemies. Once you get access to better invisibility effects, retrain this into another invocation.
- DM: Situational, but flight becomes very common at high levels, and denying enemies the ability to fly for a round can seriously hurt them. The falling damage is nice, and makes it easier to decide to use this instead of trying to shoot the target to death.
- CM: Fell Flight lets you fly over all of these problems.
Greater Invocations are equivalent to 5th and 6th-level spells, and include quite a few excellent options for improving your Eldritch Blast.
- CAr (Essence): I have never liked the Confusion effect. It’s unpredictable and ineffective.
- CM: Decent area control with some guaranteed damage, and if you use Brimstone Blast it will boost your damage a bit.
- CAr: Guaranteed damage, and it replicates one of the best area control spells in the game.
- CS: Amusing, but situational.
- CAr: Greater Dispel Magic at will, and it grants you temporary hit points. The temporary hp only lasts for a minute, so it’s difficult to abuse this by dispelling your own effects.
- DM: The energy resistance is really the only important part, and there are better options for energy resistance.
- CAr (Shape): A great shape option, and all of the targets take full damage. However, the 30 foot range means that you need to get fairly close to your targets. Remember that cones are 3-dimensional objects (remember high school geometry?), so you can use this to fly above grounded enemies and effect 30-foot diameter circles.
- DM (Shape): Line effects are hard to use against more than two targets, so Eldritch Cone will almost always be better.
- CAr: Complicated, ineffective, a lousy 5 round duration, and you need to combine it with another darkness effect for it to be useful.
- CM: Hellcats are solid CR 7 Grab Strikers. If you need to get into melee, turn into a hellcat, pounce on something, and grab it. Unfortunately this will stop being useful after a few levels, so be sure to retrain this at level 11.
- CM (Essence): Noxious blast is more effective because the target doesn’t get the option of a standard action, but Hindering Blast targets Will instead of Fortitude, and Fortitude saves tend to be higher.
- MoI (Essence): Reasonably useful if your enemies are primarily opposite to your alignment. This is one of the few options to boost Eldritch Blast damage, and the Daze effect is very nice, but because it has an alignment requirement and doesn’t affect non-living creatures it’s situational.
- CM: An interesting area control effect with some ongoing damage. Its usefulness depends heavily on your creaitvity and your DM’s tolerance.
- CAr (Essence): Nauseated limits targets to a single move action per turn, making them effectively useless.
- CM: Save or suck. The effective spell level of 6 will make the DC decent.
- DM (Essence): Take Arcane Mastery or Spell Penetration instead so that you use an essence which does something interesting.
- CAr (Essence): Knocking targets prone makes them harder for you to hit, but pushing them away can be a good way to keep enemies from approaching you. Pushing enemies into solid objects also gets you a bit of extra damage, which is hard to find on Eldritch Blast.
- CAr: Much better than previous swarm summoning invocations. Insect Plague doesn’t require concentration, has minutes/level duration, and creates multiple immobile 10-foot cubes which you can position to control the battlefield
- CAr (Essence): Essentially identical to Brimstone Blast, but the targets can’t spend a full round action to remove the ongoing damage, and Vitriolic Blast doesn’t allow spell resistance. Personally, I would rather take Arcane Mastery and/or Spell Penetration and use other essences which are more exciting.
- CAr: Wall of fire is a great area control effect, but it can’t lock down targets like Chilling Tentacles. The damage being half unresistable is nice, but not enough to make this a fantastic option.
- CAr: Not particularly important. If you need to talk to someone often enough to justify this, buy a pair of Sending Stones. The ability to turn the sending back on the user is probably to keep you from prank calling everyone in the world.
Dark invocations are equivalent to 6th-level spells and higher.
- CM: Stunning a target robs the target of their turn, and makes them vulnerable to your allies’ other attacks. Targets with poor will saves will be helpless against this ability, allowing you to take all the time you need to laser them to death.
- CM: What are you, a Cleric?
- CAr: This invocation includes a hilarious rules oversight. Ending an invocation is a standard action, but you can only take move actions while in this form, so RAW you are stuck in swarm form for 24 hours. Discuss this with your DM before taking this invocation. Assuming that your DM allows you to drop out of swam form willingly, this is a really cool effect. Being a swarm can make you completely immune to some enemies (most animals, and enemies that use weapons like other players in your party), and the distraction DC is good enough that you can lock down multiple enemies.
- CAr: Combines the effects of Foresight and Telepathic Link, both of which are fantastic. The duration is 10 minutes/level, so be sure to refresh it repeatedly throughout the day.
- CAr: A nice sized AOE, but it centers on you, so you need to wade into your enemies to make use of this invocation.
- DM: There are any number of uses for a wall of force. Need a bridge? Wall of force. Need cover from the weather? Wall of force. Need to stop a lava flow? Wall of force. Fight going badly? Wall of force between you and the enemies. Need a wall? Stone shape.
- MoI: Constant concealment makes you immune to Sneak Attack, and allows you hide in plain sight (assuming you’re not already invisible). The free point of Incarnum gets you a +1 to AC and Fortitude saves, even if you don’t use Incarnum. Note that Entropic Warding’s miss chance stacks with this, making you particularly resistant to ranged attacks.
- CAr: Shadow Walk is an interesting, though somewhat unreliable transportation mechanic. You may be able to use it to grab unwilling creatures and drag them to the plane of shadow, but it’s fairly difficult and dangerous.
- CAr: No one would blame you for starting every fight with this. The duration is only rounds/level, but you can laser things to your heart’s content.
- CM: Very situational.
- CAr (Essence): Almost nothing is resistant to negative energy damage (exept undead, of course), and negative levels will really ruin people’s days. Repeated strikes with this can easily fell even the scariest targets.
- CAr: Save or suck at will, but the effective level is only 5, so your DC will be low.
Dragonfire Adept Invocations
Warlocks can learn Least and Lesser Dragonfire Adept Invocations thanks to the Infernal Adept. I have omitted Dragonfire Adept Invocations which the Warlock already gets. Remember that because the invocations are several levels behind, their DC’s will be problematic.
- DM: Swimming the Styx works just fine.
- DM: Deafening enemies rarely matters.
- DM: Considerably better than Otherworldly Whispers, but remember that Knowledge skills are trained-only, so you will need to put a rank in each Knowledge skill to make use of this.
- DM: Cold Comfort does more for the Warlock.
- DM: Warlocks can detect magic at will.
- DM: Situational, but the targets takes full damage even if they pass the save.
- DM: Essentially identical to Fell Flight, which you have had for several levels.
- DM: Ignore the Pyre will be more effective by the time you can get this.
- DM: Situational. Devil’s Whispers will have a higher DC, and has additional effects.
- DM: Doesn’t work for the Warlock because Warlocks don’t have a breath weapon.
- DM: Buy a Hat of Disguise.