Last Updated: June 13, 2022
The Warlock is likely the easiest of any spellcaster to play. You get only a handful of spell slots at a time, and never have to juggle multiple spell slot levels. Warlocks learn spells permanently, so you don’t need to worry about changing your spells on a daily basis. Warlocks also get the most powerful damage cantrip in the game, giving them a solid, reliable option for damage output in between your big spells.
At the same time, the Warlock is one of the most customizable classes in the game. You get two major decision points with your Otherwordly Patron (the Warlock’s Subclass) and your Pact Boon, plus spells known and a pile of Eldritch Invocations. This wide degree of customization makes it easy to play warlocks back-to-back with very little overlap in your builds.
The Warlock typically fills the party’s Wizard-equivalent role, offering options as a Controller and Striker, and with some minor investments the Warlock can also serve as the party’s Face. The Warlock falls a bit short in terms of Utility spell options compared to similar spellcasters, but that can be mitigated with Pact of the Tome and a few Invocation choices if your party can’t compensate for that shortcoming. The Hexblade subclass also offers the ability to serve as a Defender, though Hexblades still lean more toward damage output than durability.
After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my supporting articles of the Warlock:
- Warlock Pact Boons Breakdown
- Warlock Eldritch Invocations Breakdown
- Warlock Races Breakdown
- Warlock Subclasses Breakdown
- Warlock Spells Breakdown
Table of Contents
- Warlock Class Features
- Ability Scores
- Warlock Races
- Warlock Skills
- Warlock Backgrounds
- Warlock Feats
- Warlock Weapons
- Warlock Armor
- Warlock Magic Items
- Example Warlock Build – Tiefling Warlock (Fiend)
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : 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.
We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.
RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.
Warlock Class Features
Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.
: d8 is pretty good for a dedicated spellcaster.
: Wisdom and Charisma saves are great for resisting things like mind control and paralysis which might subdue you, but Warlocks will have lots of issues with effects that affect their bodies.
: Light armor and simple weapons are fine since you definitely won’t use weapons, but the skill list is frustrating. You get two skills and access to a couple of Face skills, but most of your non-Face skills are Intelligence-based.
Otherworldly Patron: Warlock subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Warlock Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.
- The Archfey: Fey are tricky, unpredictable creatures, and warlocks who swear pacts to The Archfey gain spells and abilities to confuse, surprise, and charm other creatures.
- The Celestial: Some warlocks swear pacts with celestial creatures, gaining the ability to heal their allies and to cast some spells from the Cleric spell list, including several crucial healing options.
- The Fathomless: A powerful threat in and around water, the Fathomless gives you new spells related to storms and water, and you gain the ability to conjure spectral tentacles to attack your foes and to defend you from harm.
- The Fiend: The iconic warlock patron, The Fiend grants you a mix of abilities both offensive and defensive, including numerous sources of fire damage.
- The Genie: Make a pact with a genie of one of the four major elements, and gain benefits like empowered spellcasting and a magic vessel which you can use both as a spellcasting focus and as a resting place.
- The Great Old One: Your otherworldly master grants you abilities to assail the minds of your foes while protecting your own.
- The Hexblade: Forge a pact with a mystical force known only as “The Hexblade”, gaining the ability to use Charisma for weapon attacks and other fantastic combat abilities.
- The Undying: Sworn to an undead master, you gain abilities to defy death and to keep undead at bay.
: Warlocks have a completely unique form of magic. Unlike other spellcasters your spell slots are all the same, and you only get a handful of them, but they recharge on a short rest. This means that you will need to rely much more heavily on cantrips, and use your slotted spells when they can be the most effective. Because Pact Magic works different from other spellcasting, be sure to double-check the Multiclassing rules before you look at other spellcasting classes.
For help selecting spells, see my Warlock Spell List Breakdown.
: Pick your favorite spells. Remember that the spell slots for these spells don’t scale, so it’s fine to pick spells which won’t scale with spell slot level.
: This is really disappointing for a capstone ability. You can already get your spell slots back with a short rest, so all this does is save you 59 minutes of standing around. If you have an issue with rests taking too long, find a way to cast Catnap.
Optional Class Features
Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Optional Class Features offer ways to add additional features or replace existing ones. These rules are optional, and you should not assume that your DM will allow these features without consulting them first.
Assessments and suggestions for specific Optional Class Features are presented here, but for more information on handling Optional Class Features in general, see my Practical Guide to Optional Class Features.
(Addition): Everything added by this optional feature makes sense on the Warlock’s spell list, And surprisingly few of them are additions from existing sources (just 4). Most of the new spells are published or re-published in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
I recommend allowing the expanded spell list on all warlocks. The new spells add a lot of interesting options for the Warlock which encourage them to go beyond staple options like combining Eldritch Blast with whatever leveled spell, encouraging the Warlock to have a more diverse and interesting spell list.
(Addition): A new Pact Boon option.
I recommend allowing Pact of the Talisman on all warlocks. It’s neat and offers some new play options for the Warlock, but it’s not more powerful than anything else available.
(Addition): Like other spellcasters, the Warlock gains the ability to retrain a cantrip. Second, you can retrain Pact Boon. That’s a pretty big decision point, and fortunately it allows the Warlock to retrain any invocations which require your previous boon at the same time so you’re not left crippled for several levels. Finally, you can retrain your Mystic Arcana choices. It was always weird that you couldn’t, so I’m glad to see that change.
I recommend allowing Eldritch Versatility on all warlocks, though retraining Pact Boon makes me nervous. You can’t get anything which you couldn’t already have, so it doesn’t make your character more powerful, but retraining your Pact Boon can be almost as impactful as changing your subclass. As a DM I might allow it, but only if the player was really unhappy with whatever they chose.
Charisma is all you need unless you’re going for Pact of the Blade and not also taking Hexblade for some reason.
: Dump. Melee Warlocks might want a bit to resist grapples and similar issues. If you take a class dip to pick up heavy armor, melee Warlocks can emphasize Strength, but with Hexblade it’s still easier to focus on Charisma.
: Melee Warlocks need 14 Dexterity to pad their AC, but Hexblades use Charisma for attack and damage. Other Warlocks still need some for AC.
: Everyone needs hit points. You don’t need a ton because you can depend on Fiendish Vigor for an easy hp boost, but you still don’t want to skimp on Constitution.
: A bit for Knowledge skills is nice, but if you don’t have any you can dump it.
: Only needed for saves, and you’re Proficienct so your proficiency will mitigate a poor Wisdom score.
|Point Buy||Standard Array||Point Buy||Standard Array|
Charisma bonuses are crucial, but there’s little else that’s truly a must-have so there’s lot of room to explore the benefits other racial traits. Races with natural flight, innate spellcasting, and traits which improve your durability are all helpful and can make up for the Warlock’s tiny pool of spell slots.
For a classic warlock feel, consider the Tiefling (many varieties work well, including the standard Asmodeus Tiefling) or a human. If you want something durable, consider the updated version of the Goliath or the Tortle. If you want a powerful long-ranged caster, consider the fairy or the winged variant tiefling.
For help selecting a race, see our Warlock Races Breakdown.
- (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills in the game.
- (Cha): Important for any Face.
- (Int): Situational, and frequently useless in many campaigns.
- (Cha): Important for any Face.
- (Int): Helpful, but you probably don’t have enough Intelligence or skill choices to justify it.
- (Int): One of the more important knowledge skills in the game, but the creatures which you can identify with Nature diminish greatly in number as you gain levels.
- (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills in the game.
This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.
Since Warlocks already have high Charisma and access to two Face skills, look for Persusasion, bonus languages, and possibly Insight. If you have high Dexterity, you could also pick up some Rogue skills and Thieves’ Tools proficiency.
If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:
- PHB: Insight, two languages, and a knowledge skill.
- PHB: Fun, but not terribly useful for a Face, and the idea of being a real spellcaster pretending to be a spellcaster is just silly.
- SCAG: Insight and two Languages, but Athletics is essentially worthless.
- SCAG: Two Knowledge skills and two languages.
- SCAG: Exactly what you need to be a Face.
- PHB: Good if you want to be your party’s Rogue-equivalent.
- SCAG: Insight, and you can pick whatever Face skill or Knowledge skill you want. Two languages, too!
- PHB: Two Face skills not on the Warlock’s skill list, plus a language.
- SCAG: Persuasion, a knowledge skill, and a language.
- PHB: Two languages and two knoweldge skills.
- SCAG: Good if you want to be a Face or if you want to be your party’s Rogue-equivalent.
- PHB: Good if you want to be your party’s Rogue-equivalent. Probably better than Criminal since you can already get Depecption.
- SCAG: Persuasion, a language, and a bad knowledge skill.
This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.
- PHB: Warlocks only get a few spell slots, so when you use them they need to have a huge effect on the challenge at hand. Going first makes a lot of your spells more effective because you can get their effects up and running before enemies can respond.
- PHB: Awful.
- PHB: In a highly social game, this opens up some interesting options and allows you to further capitalize on your excellent Charisma.
- PHB: Even Blade Pact Warlocks should just use Eldritch Blast if you’re at a range long enough to justify charging.
- TCoE: An interesting choice for melee warlocks, but definitely complicated. High-damage weapon-using warlock builds frequently rely on their Bonus Action to attack in addition to crucial options like Hex and Hexblade’s Curse, so spending your Bonus Action to eat a snack can be a hard choice. Inspiring Leader may be more effective even if you’re planning to keep all of your treats for yourself.
- PHB: Hexblades can abolutely make Crossbow Expert work. Hex and Hexblade’s Curse both benefit greatly from additional attacks, and even Eldritch Blast+Agonizing Blast can’t keep up with Crossbow Expert, especially once you add Lifedrinker. However, this requires your Bonus Action for two rounds to set up, and in that time other warlocks are happily doing other things which don’t require resources that need a short rest to recharge. Since combats generally last around three rounds, in most cases you can except to get your combo set up and start using the Bonus Action attack from Crossbow Expert an average of once per encounter.
- PHB: Blade Pact Warlocks might enjoy this to help compensate for the Warlock’s lack of AC.
- PHB: Two-weapon fighting usually isn’t a good option without the Fighting Style, but the Warlock has some unique interactions here. Hexblades can apply the benefits of Hex Warrior to two weapons: one that you touch after a long rest, and then to your Pact Weapon. However, without the Fighting Style (Two-Weapon Fighting), you still don’t get to add Charisma to your damage rolls with the Bonus Action attack. You do still add other damage bonuses like Hex and Hexblade’s Curse, but that places a ton of strain on your Bonus Action. This will take two turns to set up, which is a hard commitment when combats can only be expected to last around 3 turns. If you still want to explore two-weapon fighting, consider taking Fighting Initiate for Fighting Style (Two-Weapon Fighting).
- PHB: Warlocks don’t have the skills to back this up.
- PHB: Pick up Fiendish Resilience, and it will go a long way to compensate for a lack of healing options.
- TCoE: Once you hit 20 Charisma, most warlocks have a lot of room for feats but are still straining to get every Eldritch Invocation that they want. You can only take this once, but one extra invocation can still be very powerful.
- PHB: The Warlock’s most iconic spell, Eldritch Blast, deals force damage and isn’t compatible with Elemental adept.
- TCoE: While the best spell options here are already available to the Warlock,
adding two additional spells per day is essentially two additional spell
slots. For the Warlock, that’s a significant benefit. The 1st-level spell
options are difficult, but if you select Hex you can use the daily 1st-level
casting of Hex and all that you lose is duration. Hex already lasts an hour,
and in many cases that’s plenty. You’re locked into Misty Step and whatever
1st-level spell you pick, so you want it to be one that you’re going to cast
on a daily basis.
For more advice on Fey Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- TCoE: Blade pact warlocks may enjoy the additional capabilities offered by a Fighting Style. Adding Fighting Style (Archery) to a Crossbow Expert build can turn an already high-damage build into a truly frightening offensive threat. Interception might be helpful for Pact of the Chain users because negative damage to your familiar may keep it alive more effectively than trying to make attacks miss their sub-13 AC or trying to give them resistance to damage with their single-digit hit points.
- FToD: The weapon buff is only useful if you share it with an ally. Reactive Resistance is the important part of Absorb Elements without eating a spell slot or a spell known.
- FToD: Telekinetic Reprisal is only good if you plan to get hit, and that’s a bad plan.
- FToD: Potentially useful for hexblades. Cure Wounds is probably only to get used if you make it to a rest with extra spell slots, but Protective Wings give you a protection option similar to the spell Shield without eating a spell slot.
- PHB: Hexblades can make effective use of two-handed weapons, which makes this a possibility. Hexblade’s Curse allows you to score a critical hit against the target on a 19-20, which makes it more likely that you can trigger the first portion of the feat. If you use Darkness with the Devil’s Sight invocation you can easily get Advantage, making the second half of the feat a safe and reliable option. However, the weapon which you touch with Hex Warrior can’t be two-handed property, so your best bet is a Versatile weapon like a longsword. Once you gain Pact of the Blade, your Pact Weapon can be two-handed, and Hex Warrior extends to your Pact Weapon, so you can upgrade to a greatsword.
- TCoE: A blade pact warlock with firearms as pact weapons would be insanely cool, but there is very little reason to do so. If you’re going to spend a feat to get better with ranged weapons, Crossbow Expert is massively more effective than Gunner. The Bonus Action attack’s damage output is simply too effective for the Warlock. Gunner does allow you to use a firearm effectively while adjacent to enemies, but since you still need two hands to reload you can’t do shield+pistol, so being in melee with a gun is dangerous and you should try to avoid it whenever possible.
- PHB: Tempting for a Hexblade, but the Strength requirements for full plate make heavy armor unappealing.
- PHB: Find a Cleric.
- PHB: You have the Charisma to back this up, and it removes the need for Fiendish Vigor. You can even make it target your familiar, which is an incredibly large increase to their durability considering that most familiars have single-digit hit points.
- PHB: Awful.
- PHB: Use magic.
- PHB: Good on anyone.
- PHB: Too situational.
- PHB: The cantrips are tempting, but if you really need these abilities you
should select Tome Pact.
For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- PHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
- PHB: Heavy armor isn’t appealing for Hexblades because of the Strength requirements to wear it, so medium armor master can allow you to match heavy armor AC without caring about Strength. That’s nice, but it’s also only a difference of +1 AC. A feat is too previous for so little.
- TCoE: Excellent on any spellcaster. While warlocks generally don’t have enough spell slots to make metamagic impactful, simple options like extending Hex or Hunger of Hadar can dramatically improve the efficiency of some of the Warlock’s best spells. It can also make options like Fireball an easier go-to thanks to options like Transmuted spell. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
- PHB: Blade Pact Warlocks might enjoy this so that they can remain safely out of reach, but you still need to have another melee character to tank for you.
- PHB: If you’re not getting by in light armor as a non-hexblade, you need to go straight to heavy. Multiclass.
- PHB: It’s hard to play a mounted character without a special mount ability of some kind.
- PHB: Warlocks don’t have the skills or abilities to support this.
- TCoE: The Strength/Dexterity increase is helpful for non-hexblade warlocks who take Pact of the Blade, but it’s mostly wasted for the Hexblade. The reroll mechanic is nice, and works well between your weapon damage die and Hex. The critical hit mechanic is nice, but the Hexblade is the best option to make it meaningful. It’s hard to find a warlock where this is an easy fit, and you’ll likely have better results from Crossbow Expert.
- PHB: Hexblades can make effective use of polearms. I would probably stick to a quarterstaff or spear (spear was added in errata in 2018) so that you can use a shield to compensate for the Warlock’s relatively poor AC and low hitpoints, but maybe you’re braver than I am.
- PHB: Proficiency in Constitution saves really helps with Concentration, not to mention how common Constitution saves are. If you care primarily about Concentration it’s easy to compare this to War Caster. Advantage works out to a little more than +3, so once your Proficiency Bonus hits +4 Resilient becomes the more effective option of the two.
- PHB: If you really want rituals, Pact of the Tome is generally a better idea.
- PHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
- PHB: It’s hard to justify this for a Blade Pact Warlock, but you might be able to make it work.
- TCoE: Most of the spells are already available to the Warlock, but the free
spells per day effectively mean more spell slots, which is a boon for any
warlock. Fey Touch has more and better spell options, but if you like Fey
Touched you’ll likely enjoy Shadow Touched for the same reasons.
For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- PHB: Warlocks don’t use ranged weapons with the possible exception of Hexblades, but even then Crossbow Expert is a better choice.
- PHB: Warlocks don’t get Shield Proficiency by default.
- PHB: Warlocks can get all of the skills which they’re any good with from their class and background.
- PHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
- PHB: Removes the need for Eldritch Spear, and makes Eldritch Blast even more
reliable. If you can’t fit this into your build, a Wand of the War Mage will
allow you to ignore up to half cover, which isn’t quite as good but it can
still be very helpful.
For more advice on Spell Sniper, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.
- PHB: Unarmed Warlocks aren’t a thing.
- TCoE: While the warlock does have options to use their Bonus Action, most of them involve spending spell slots. That means that on most turns your Bonus Action is going to go unused. In those cases, Telekinetic adds a useful way to spend your Bonus Action to have a tactical impact. Moving a creature 5 feet often isn’t a big deal, but it’s enough to break grapples and sometimes it’s enough to force enemies into hazardous places like the are of ongoing spells.
- TCoE: Unlike many sources of telepathy, including those offered by some races, this telepathy still uses languages, so the benefits are minimally appealing even for a Face. You do get to increase a mental ability score, which reduces the cost of the feat, but the benefits are primarily the ability to communicate while being stealthy.
- PHB: Blade Pact Warlocks might consider this since Warlocks don’t really have enough hit points to be a melee character.
- PHB: If you’re a Hexblade, you want this. Juggling your weapon to cast spells is annoying, but the ability to reliably maintain Concentration when you take damage means that you can reliably maintain Concentration even while drawing a lot of attacks. For other subclasses, consider Resilient (Constitution) instead because mathematically it’s more effective than Advantage as your Proficiency Bonus increases.
- PHB: You get all of the weapon proficiencies that you need to function.
Only Blade Pact Warlocks actually need weapons, which means that only Hexblades should be using them. Your choice of weapon matters fairly little, and Pact of the Blade allows you to change your weapon easily (unless you’ve bound a magic weapon), so you can easily choose a weapon to suit the situation. Hexblades get proficiency with shields, and since warlocks have relatively low hit dice and hexblades still only get medium armor I think a shield is a good idea most of the time.
- : One-handed and reach mean that you don’t need to be in enemies’ reach to attack, and you can still hold a shield in your other hand.
- : Starting Gear
- : The best armor most Warlocks can hope for.
- : Hexblades’ best armor.
This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.
- : One level gets you some basic spellcasting. Two gets you Jack of All Trades. Three gets you Expertise and a college. Bards are also Charisma-based spellcasters, so multiclassing between the two is relatively easy.
- : Starting as a Fighter gets you heavy armor and shields, which opens up a lot of options for a Blade Pact Warlock. Fighting Style is also nice. Two levels gets you Action Surge, but you won’t get a lot from a martial archetype so I wouldn’t go that far.
- : Like a Fighter, you can get heavy armor and shields, which is good for Blade Pact. Two levels gets you Charisma-based spellcasting, a Fighting Style, and Divine Smite which allows you to burn your spell slots to add a bunch of radiant damage to the attack. It’s a great way to capitalize on Warlock spell slots refreshing on a short rest, but you will usually be able to do much more with your spell slots by casting spells than by adding a few d8s of damage to a weapon attack.
- : Sneak Attack only works with weapons, so Hexblade is the only good combination with rogue unless you’re taking a class dip solely for Expertise. If you’re going Hexblade+Rogue, I would go Hexblade Warlock 2/Rogue X rather than building around Warlock, and if that’s your plan you should be looking at the multiclassing section of my Rogue Handbook.
- : Sorcerers are also Charisma-based spellcasters, but their abilities (with the exception of Metamagic) are very level-dependent, so you need to devote yourself to leveling as a Sorcerer to benefit from sorcerer levels unless you’re just take a class dip for Metamagic. If you go that route, it’s probably so that you can quicken Eldrith Blast. 3 levels of sorcerer gets you two types of Metamagic, and if you convert all of your Sorcerer spell slots to Sorcery Points you’ll get a total of 11 per day and recharge 3 on a Short Rest alongside your warlock spell slots. Your subclass can offer some useful stuff, too, but you’ll only get the 1st-level feature unless you go all the way to 6th level. Draconic Bloodline is a good, easy choice, and Shadow Magic’s 1st-level features are very powerful even if they’re a bit more complicated.
Warlock Magic Items
Common Magic Items
- : Easy access to all of those weird, situational cantrips that aren’t worth learning permanently. A DC 10 Arcana check isn’t hard as long as you have Proficiency, so even if you dumped Intelligence to 8 you still have better-than-even odds of success. Unfortunately, this does require Attunement and you can only attempt to use it once per day, so you may abandon this in favor of other items later in your career.
- XGtE: It’s fun to make a magic item your pact weapon, but Improved Pact Weapon makes this functionally obsolete.
- XGtE: Improved Pact Weapon already allows warlocks who use weapons to use their pact weapon as a spellcasting focus.
Uncommon Magic Items
- DMG: Easily overlooked, but one of the best ways to get flight for any character. It doesn’t require attunement, and has a fly speed of 50 feet, though many medium characters will exceed the 200 pound limit to reduce the speed to 30 feet, but even then 30 feet fly speed with no duration cap and requiring no action after speaking the command word is absolutely incredible. The only drawback is that you’re using the item’s speed rather than giving yourself a fly speed, so things that improve your speed won’t make the broom move faster, and you can’t Dash with the broom. Even so, I honestly can’t justify why this is only Uncommon considering how exceptionally good it is.
- DMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it’s not very interesting.
- DMG: Crucial for races which don’t get Darkvision, especially if your party can’t cast the Darkvision spell for you.
- DMG: For a class with so few spell slots, an extra slot (even if it’s only up to third level) is a huge benefit. However, Rod of the Pact Keeper doesn’t cap the level of the spell slot and also provides a bonus to your spell attacks and DCs, and it’s the same rarity. Pearl of Power is still good, but Rod of the Pact Keeper is much better.
- DMG: +1 to spell attacks (Elditch Blast!) and save DC’s, and you can use it to regain a spell slot once per day. Unlike a Pearl of Power, the spell slot can be of any level, so it doesn’t diminish in effectiveness as you gain levels.
- DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. Unfortunately only the Hexblade gets proficiency, but if you’re a Hexblade it’s an excellent boost to AC.
- DMG: The next-best thing to flight. Walking up a wall has all the benefits of flying out of reach at a much smaller cost than even the lowest-level item which provides magical flight.
- DMG: The snake attack doesn’t benefit from Hex Warrior, Shillelagh, etc. so you’re stuck using your Strength to attack.
- DMG: A decent low-level summon. At CR 2, the Giant Constrictor Snake is excellent at incapacitating single targets, especially if they have poor bonuses to Athletics and Acrobatics. With blindsight, the snake can even function is area of magical darkness or other sight-blocking conditions like fog or smoke, allowing the snake to be useful well above what its CR would suggest. Keep in mind that the snake’s 12 AC and 60 hit points won’t stand up to repeated attacks, so plan to revert the snake to its staff form quickly or risk losing the item permanently.
- DMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Stone of Good Luck shines if you’re heavily reliant on skills and ability checks (like Face skills), and ability checks include Initiative rolls and checks to counter/dispel things.
- DMG: This saves you the trouble of learning Detect Magic and spending a spell slot on it, which is a frustrating tax unless you took Pact of the Tome or the Ritual Caster feat.
- DMG: Rod of the Pact Keeper is better if you want more from your leveled spells, but Wand of the War Mage is better if you just want to spam Eldritch Blast and can’t fit Spell Sniper into your build.
- DMG: Blade pact warlocks can take Improved Pact Weapon to get the same benefit.
- DMG: Excellent on its own, but Winged Boots are more limited in use than a broom of flying, and they require Attunement.
Rare Magic Items
- DMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don’t need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you’re really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI’s into Constitution means more room for feats. Combining this with Resilient (Constitution) or War Caster can do a lot to make Concentration easier.
- DMG: Excellent, but unpredictable in most games since you can’t perfectly predict what sort of damage you’ll face. Fire and poison are safe choices.
- DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
- TCoE: For non-hexblades, this is way better than Mage Armor and you don’t need to raise your Dexterity past 14 to still have good AC. For the Hexblade, go for +1 half plate instead.
- TCoE: The detection effect suffers the same problem’s as the Ranger’s Primeval Awareness, plus it’s blocked by total cover (walls, etc.) so even if applicable creatures are nearby you can’t guarantee that you’ll detect them. The option to cast Protection From Evil and Good is nice, but then this is essentially a wand of a 1st-level spell. Not good enough for the rarity.
- DMG: Get a Barrier Tattoo (Rare).
- DMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
- DMG: One less AC than Barrier Tattoo (Rare), but it doesn’t require attunement, so in a game with abundant magic items Elven Chain may be a better choice.
- DMG: Mathematically the +2 bonus to attack rolls from a +2 weapon will be a more consistent improvement to your damage output, especially with damage bonuses like Hex and Hexblade’s Curse.
- DMG: A great way to mitigate damage from AOE spells and things like breath weapons which can often be problems from front-line martial characters, especially if you’re not build around Dexterity.
- DMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
- DMG: A fine item in a vaccuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
- DMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield, and recharge it whenever possible and this is a spectacular defensive asset.
- DMG: +2 to spell attacks and save DC’s, and you can use it to regain a spell slot once per day. For more, see Rod of the Pact Keeper under Uncommon Magic Items, above.
- DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. Unfortunately only the Hexblade gets proficiency, but if you’re a Hexblade it’s an excellent boost to AC.
- DMG: See Wand of the War Mage under Uncommon Magic items, above.
- DMG: This will beat the attack/damage bonus from Improved Pact Weapon, but combining Improved Pact Weapon with a magic weapon that doesn’t provide an attack bonus (Flametongue, etc.) may be more effective.
- DMG: Broom of Flying is much better, lower rarity, and doesn’t require attunement.
Very Rare Magic Items
- TCoE: Good, but too high rarity to devote to a single damage type. Get a Ring of Spell Storing and fill it with Absorb Elements.
- TCoE: The fixed AC matches full plate, so you don’t need to worry about Dexterity to boost your AC and you don’t even suffer Disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks. Hexblades should go for +X breastplate instead, since it’s equivalent or better AC and doesn’t require Attunement.
- DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
- DMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you’re using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
- DMG: +3 to spell attacks and save DC’s, and you can use it to regain a spell slot once per day. For more, see Rod of the Pact Keeper under Uncommon Magic Items, above.
- DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. Unfortunately only the Hexblade gets proficiency, but if you’re a Hexblade it’s an excellent boost to AC.
- DMG: Basically only useful against spellcasters, but if you’re facing a spellcaster there are few better defenses.
- DMG: Fireball is a great spell, but it’s often a hard choice for the Warlock because they get so few spell slots to spend so you need to get a ton of efficiency out of every spell slots. Access to Burning Hands and Fireball from an item makes it much easier to fit those spells into your arsenal.
- DMG: Cone of Cold for quick AOE damage and Wall of Ice for a combination of damage, area control, and utility. Wall of Ice is a good spell that’s normally exclusive to the Wizard’s spell list, and it can be a useful utility in addition to its offensive uses.
- DMG: A +2 quarterstaff, +2 to spell attacks (though not to spell DC’s for some reason, so you may want another focus), +2 to both AC and to saving throws, 20 charges, and 9 spells which you can cast. This is powerful, versatile, and all around just an exceptionally powerful item.
- DMG: Permanent Charisma bonus and raises your cap by 2.
- DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It’s difficult to beat the math here.
Legendary Magic Items
- DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. It feels underwhelming at this rarity, but the math if good.
- DMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. Unless you’re playing a Defender and actively trying to draw attacks away from your allies, this is absolutely amazing.
- DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. But Attunement is precious and you’ll probably only get one legendary item. You can get +1 to all saves and all ability checks with a Stone of Good Luck rather than just ones where you have proficiency, and they’re Uncommon so they should be easy to find by this level. I might consider this on warlock subclasses which have features which depend on your Proficiency Bonus like Hexblade’s Curse, but otherwise a Stone of Good Luck will be more effective.
- DMG: Bonuses to attacks and saves, a once per day reroll, and it can cast Wish a few times (maybe. 1d4-1 could be zero). if it can’t cast Wish.
- DMG: Given the choice, I would much rather haqve a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn’t provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to .
- DMG: Provided that you didn’t go for The Genie as your Otherwordly Patron, you should use this to do one of the things that risks permanently removing the ability to cast Wish, such as granting 10 creatures permanent resistance to once damage type. If you lose the ability to cast Wish, pass this off to another ally who will never be able to cast Wish by any other means. Repeat until the last charge is used.
- DMG: Combine the benefits of a Very Rare spellcasting focus, a Barrier Tattoo (Rare), and a Mantle of Spell Resistance. Those are three absolutely fantastic items, and combining them on one item is spectacular.
- DMG: Allows you to easily change your weapon damage type, and provides three powerful offensive abilities which work in a variety of situations.
- DMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn’t take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.
Example Warlock Build – Tiefling Warlock (Fiend)
Tari’th Darkmoon the Tiefling Fiendish Warlock
Your eyes search for the source of the purple blast that just blew past your hair. After adjusting from the momentary brightness, they land on a burnished orange Tiefling, her white eyes reflecting the violet hues of the fizzling spell. She stands tall and graceful with her leather armor and elegantly curved horns, her beauty as enchanting as her power. You’re so taken by her captivating presence that several moments of intense study pass before you even notice the small, scaly creature skittering across her shoulders.
This is a “Staple Build”. This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.
The combination of Tiefling and Infernal patron place a lot of emphasis on fire damage. This is fine in most cases, though you’ll have issues against enemies with resistance or immunity to fire damage. Fortunately warlocks can always fall back on Eldritch Blast.
Because we’re not using feats, there’s little incentive to spend the extra points to start with 15 Charisma, so we’ll make some adjustments to the ability scores presented above to get the most out of our points. You could switch some points around to raise your Intelligence and/or Wisdom, but neither are important to the build so we won’t worry about it.
Tiefling. The Tiefling’s ability scores line up nicely for the Warlock, and their racial spells are a nice complement to the Warlock’s limited spell slots.
Skills and Tools
With suck high Charisma it’s easy to build the Warlock as a Face, so we’ll take Deception and Intimidation.
If your party already has a Face, it may be helpful to adjust your ability scores to raise your Intelligence, then pick up options like Arcana, History, Nature or Religion.
Also keep in mind that certain Eldritch Invocations can give you proficiency in more skills.
None of the options in the basic rules are an especially good fit for us as a Face, unfortunately. Criminal gets us a redundant proficiency in Deception which we can trade for Persuasion, and Noble gets us Persuasion on its own, so either of the two will work. If you pick Criminal, Thieves’ Tools proficiency and Stealth will help you act as your party’s Scout, too.
If you chose to emphasize knowledge skills over Face skills, look at Acolyte or Sage.
With a singular focus on Charisma and a starting score of 16, there’s plenty of room for feats in this build. Elemental Adept (Fire) and Flames of Phlegethos will both help keep your fire damage options useful, and Magic Initiate can help pad your spellcasting options.
At this level you can cast Hellish Rebuke as a racial spell, so knowing it as a Warlock spell is less useful. You don’t want to need Hellish Rebuke frequently, so consider replacing Hellish Rebuke with another 2nd-level spell like Mirror Image.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
|1||Otherworldly Patron (The Fiend)|
Dark One’s Blessing
– Burning Hands
– Hellish Rebuke
– Eldritch Blast
– Mage Hand
|For your starting equipment take a light crossbow and 20 bolts,
either a component pouch or spellcasting focus (I like the focus
because it feels cooler even though they’re functionally identical),
either pack, leather armor, any simple weapon you like (you won’t use
it), and a dagger.|
The Warlock starts immediately with a relationship to their patron. This means that you can learn spells from your patron’s spell list (provided that they’re of a spell level which you can cast), and you get a patron ability. In our case, that’s Dark One’s Blessing. This is a great way to pad your hit points, and even though you’re only getting 4 temporary hit points at this level that’s still almost half of your normal hit point maximum (10 at this level).
Pact Magic starts of slow. You get just two spells known and just one spell slot to share between the two, so your spell slot needs to do a lot of work between short rests. Normally I recommend hex as the go-to option at this level, but Hex isn’t in the Basic Rules or the SRD, so we’ll look elsewhere. Use Burning Hands to handle multiple enemies, or save your spell slot for Hellish Rebuke if something gets into melee with you.
For cantrips, take Eldritch Blast for fighting and Mage Hand for utility. I would normal say Prestidigitation, but you get Thaumaturgy for free as a Tiefling, which I think provides enough magical miscellany to get you through first level.
When combat breaks out, your go-to option is either Eldritch Blast or your crossbow. Your crossbow will deal more damage (1d8+2 avg. 6.5 vs. 1d10 avg 5.5), but your Eldritch Blast is cooler and will be slightly more accurate. The differences are minor, so don’t stress about the decision too much. If you get dragged into melee somehow, you’re decent with a dagger, but if you’re injured you’re better served by running away than by trying to trigger Hellish Rebuke.
I typically recommend Hex as a good 1st-level spell for the Warlock because you can get so much mileage out of one spell slot. Unfortunately, Hex is omitted from the SRD, so we’ll skip it for this build.
– Agonizing Blast
New Spell Known: Protection from Evil and Good
|At this level you get your second spell slot, and you get Agonizing
Blast. Agonizing Blast adds your Charisma bonus to the damage dealt by
Eldritch Blast, making it truly your go-to option for combat.
Unfortunately you won’t get a third spell slot until 11th level, so
get used to managing the two you have between rests.|
At this level consider learning Protection from Evil and Good. it’s a solid, reliable defensive spell that’s always good to have on hand, even if you don’t need it for a while.
|3||Pact Boon (Pact of the Chain)|
New Spell Known: Darkness
|At third level you get to pick a Pact Boon. Pact of the Tome is
probably the most effective choice, but the intent of this build is to
focus on simple yet effective options so we’ll take Pact of the Chain.
To fit the theme of our Fiend patron warlock, we’ll take an Imp.|
The Imp is easily the best familiar option available. See my assessment of Pact of the Chain above. At this level you might consider sending your imp to attack rather than casting Eldritch Blast. If it hits, your imp will deal 1d4+3+3d6 (avg. 16) damage compared to just 1d10+3 (avg. 8.5) with Eldritch Blast, and you and the imp have the same +5 attack bonus. However, this also places your familiar in harm’s way, and repeatedly spending 10gp to cast Find Familiar can become a drain on your limited funds.
This level raises your spell slots to 2nd level, so you can start learning 2nd-level spells. We took the Devil’s Sight invocation at 2nd level so that you can see in magical darkness, so learn Darkness at this level so that you can start using the two. Keep in mind that your allies probably can’t see in magical darkness, so if you cast Darkness expect to do a lot of work on your own. Send your familiar to use the Help action to assist your allies, which will offset the Disadvantage for attacking in the dark.
|4||Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 16 -> 18)|
New Cantrip: AnyNew Spell Known: Invisibility
|Your first Charisma does a lot for you. Your attack bonus with
Eldritch Blast is now higher than your imp’s attack bonus, but you may
still want to send your imp to attack for its considerably higher
damage if that has proven to be a good tactic for you.|
At this level you learn a new cantrip. I suggest a utility option like Minor Illusion or Prestidigitation, but you may want Chill Touch if you really want more offensive options for some reason.
By this level we have a defensive spell (Hellish Rebuke), an AOE spell (Burning Hands), and an area control spell (Darkness), so a utility spell or crowd control spell is a good addition to our arsenal. I recommend Invisibility, but Enthrall and Spider Climb are great options too.
|5||New Eldritch Invocation: Voice of the Chain Master|
New Spell Known: Fly
Retrain Spell: Burnings Hands -> Fireball
|At 5th level you get access to some new invocation options. There are
several great options, but I really want to lean into how great your
familiar is so we’ll take Voice of the Chain Master. This opens a fun
combination: Voice of the Chain Master allows you to speak through
your familiar. Thaumaturgy (which you get as a racial spell) allows
you to triple the volume of your voice. Your imp can turn invisible.
So you can have your imp turn invisible, fly somewhere, and you can
speak through your imp like a terrifying invisible megaphone. I don’t
know exactly what you would use this for, but the fact that it’s
possible makes me boundlessly happy.|
5th level brings 3rd-level spells, which is really exciting. The SRD doesn’t include any exciting offensive options on the Warlock list, but your patron gives you access to Fireball, so we’ll replace Burning Hands with Fireball. We’ll learn Fly with the new spell known because flying is really cool.
At this level you gain the ability to cast Darkness as a racial spell. That’s a good excuse to retrain Darkness into another new spell, but we’ll need to wait another level because we’re retraining Burning Hands at this level.
Finally, 5th level adds a second ray to Eldritch Blast. Two rays at 1d10+4 damage easily outdoes your imp, so it’s time for the imp to go back to a support role rather than an offensive one.
|6||Dark One’s Own Luck|
New Spell Known: Counterspell
Retrain Spell: Darkness -> Dispel Magic
|Dark One’s Own Luck adds a nice backup when you roll poorly on a saving throw. Of course, a d10 will range wildly in value, so you can’t always rely on it to save you.|
At this level we’ll retrain Darkness, and add two crucial utility options to our arsenal. Counterspell allows you to shut down enemy spellcasters (though it will feel like a disappointing way to spend a spell slot) and Dispel Magic will allow you to remove problematic ongoing magical effects.
|7||New Eldritch Invocation: Repelling Blast|
New Spell Known: Wall of Fire
|7th level brings 4th-level spells and another invocation. Unfortunately, the SRD’s options for 4th-level spells aren’t great, and there are few invocation options that are especially interesting at this level. We’ll learn Wall of Fire and Repelling Blast so that you can put up a wall of fire and use Eldritch Blast to push enemies into it.|
|8||Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 18 -> 20)|
New Spell Known: Banishment\
|At this level we’re at maximum Charisma. More attack and damage with
Eldritch Blast and a higher save DC with everything else.|
There’s not much else going on at this level. Grab Banishment so that you can one-shot powerful extraplanar enemies.
|9||New Eldritch Invocation: Whispers of the Grave|
New Spell Known: Hold Monster
|At this point you have a lot of options for your invocations, and
deciding can be very difficult. Whispers of the Grave is a nice,
universally-appealing option. Adventuring involves killing a lot of
things, and sometimes those things know things that you want to
Finally we’ve reached 5th-level spells. This is where your spell slots reach their maximum effectiveness. From here on you’ll continue to learn more spells, but remember that your normal spells known can only be of 5th level or lower. When you run out of good 5th-level spells to select, look at lower-level spells which are still useful like utility options or spells which scale with spell slot level.
At this level we’ll learn Hold Monster. It works in nearly any fight, and sometimes it can even prevent a fight from happening.
This level also marks a turning point in how the Warlock advances. You no longer gain new spell levels, and you gain interesting new class features slower. Even at 20th level, your 5th-level spell slots are the most important parts of your spellcasting arsenal beyond Eldritch Blast, so be prepared to look for creative ways to apply your spells as you face new challenges.
New Cantrip: Any
|Fiendish Resilience is a difficult ability to use. You can change the
damage resistance when you rest, but it’s often difficult to know what
you’re going to face ahead of time. If you’re ever not sure, select
With the limited options in the SRD, we’re quickly running out of interesting options for spells known. From here on, you’ll want to go back to lower-level spells to look for good options.
|11||Mystic Arcanum: Mass Suggestion|
New Spell Known: Any
|Our first Mystic Arcanum gets us accustomed to the mechanic. You get to cast each of your Mystic Arcanum spells once per day, so you want each option to be broadly useful. In this case I suggest Mass Suggestion. We have plenty of options for hindering and killing enemies, but we have very few less lethal options. Mass Suggestion allows you to conveniently remove 12 creatures. Tell them to go take a long walk, or march out of the dungeon to gather food, or something else that conveniently removes them without actually harming them.|
|12||Ability Score Improvement (Any)|
New Eldritch Invocation: Any
|It’s difficult to provide specific guidance at this point. You have everything that you need to function. If you want more AC consider increasing Dexterity, otherwise you probably want to increase Constitution. You can select any invocation available at this point, and hopefully by now there are some options that you’ve been eying for a while.|
|13||Mystic Arcanum: Force Cage|
New Spell Known: Any
|Force Cage is a really cool spell. It’s really easy to use it to eliminate single foes or groups of foes, and in a pinch you can use it as a place to hide, as a bridge, to block a hallway, or even as a place to take a short rest (the duration is conveniently 1 hour, the same as a short rest).|
|14||Hurl Through Hell||Hurl Through Hell is a once per day damage boost. It applies on top of the effect of an attack, but there’s no limitation on what kind of attack, so you can apply this to a target hit by your Eldritch Blast or by any other spell which requires you to make and attack roll.|
|15||New Eldritch Invocation: Witch Sight|
Mystic Arcanum: Dominate Monster
New Spell Known: Any
|15th level opens up the highest tier of Eldritch Invocation options.
Normally I would suggest Visions of Distant Realms, but you can get
most of that function from your familiar thanks to Voice of the Chain
For this level’s Mystic Arcanum, we’ll take Dominate Monster. Like Mass Suggestion it allows us to non-lethally remove a problematic creature, but it gives you more direct control over the target. If you do it right, you can dominate one monster and walk it into the next encounter or two like an extra party member.
|16||Ability Score Improvement (Any)||Not much going on at this level.|
|17||Mystic Arcanum: Any|
New Spell Known: Any
|This is the most notable level for a while. 17th level adds the fourth and final ray to Eldritch blast, and you get your final Mystic Arcanum. I recommend Foresight or True Polymorph, but if you just want to kill stuff go for Power Word Kill.|
|18||New Eldritch Invocation: Any||Your final Eldritch Invocation slot.|
|19||Ability Score Improvement (Any)|
New Spell Known: Any
|At this level your Charisma is 20 and you’ve had two other Ability Score Increases, so your ability scores should be excellent. This level also gives you your last new spell known.|
|20||Eldritch Master||20th level is a bit dry, unfortunately. Eldritch Master lets you ask for your spell slots back once per day without completing a short rest, which saves you 59 minutes once a day.|