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DnD 5e - The Warlock Handbook

Last Updated: March 29th, 2021

TEMPORARY NOTE: RPGBOT is undergoing a massive update for DnD 5e content to accommodate rules changes and new content introduced by Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Please be patient while these changes are made. I maintain this site as a hobby, and I got access to the book on the same day as everyone else and I am rushing to catch up as quickly as I can. Please check "Last Updated" date below the title of each page. If it was updated before November 17th, it has not been updated to include the new content. To see what I still need to complete to catch up with Tasha's, see my To-Do List. To watch for ongoing updates, please follow me on Twitter.

Disclaimer

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.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I 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.

Introduction

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 have a list of spells known, 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 Class Features

Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.

Hit Points: d8 is pretty good for a dedicated spellcaster.

Saves: 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.

Proficiencies: 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, surpise, 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.

Pact Magic: 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.

Eldritch Invocations: A major decision point in your build, Eldritch Invocations offer a lot of very powerful options, including signature warlock options like Agonizing Blast which is primary responsible for why everyone likes Eldritch Blast so much. You get a total of 8 invocations over the course of 20 Warlock levels (provided that you don't take the Eldritch Adept feat to get another), which feels like a lot but isn't enough that you'll be able to take everything you want. For help selecting Eldritch Invocations, see my Warlock Eldritch Invocations Breakdown.

Pact Boon: Where Otherwordly Patron defines where you get your powers, Pact Boon defines how to apply them. Pact Boon offers several options which all offer very different abilities, producing very different types of warlocks. As additional warlock options have been released in new sourcebooks, the effectiveness of the pact boons has shifted dramatically. Pact Boons are briefly summarized below. For help selecting your Pact Boon, see my Warlock Pact Boons Breakdown.

Mystic Arcanum: 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.

Eldritch Master: 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 Everyting, 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.

Additional Warlock Spells (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.

Pact Boon Option: Pact of the Talisman (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.

Eldritch Versatility (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.

Ability Scores

Charisma is all you need unless you're going for Pact of the Blade and not also taking Hexblade for some reason.

Str: 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.

Dex: Melee Warlocks need 14 Dexterity to pad their AC, but Hexblades use Charisma for attack and damage. Other Warlocks still need some for AC.

Con: 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.

Int: A bit for Knowledge skills is nice, but if you don't have any you can dump it.

Wis: Only needed for saves, and you're Proficienct so your proficiency will mitigate a poor Wisdom score.

Cha: Spells.

Chain/Talisman/Tome Blade
Point Buy Standard Array Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 15
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 8
  • Cha: 15

Races

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.

Note that setting-specific races like the Changeling and the Satyr are addressed in setting-specific sections, below.

AarakocraEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and flight. Excellent, but the Winged Tiefling is better.

Default Rules: Flight is fantastic, but the Aarakocra doesn't get a Charisma increase, and with the Winged Tiefling available that leaves little reason to play an aarakocra.

AasimarVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two damage resistances, and Darkvision. Transformation is still the big reason to play the Aasimar. Note that the damage bonuses from Transformation work with spells, so your best bet is to make multiple attacks (Eldritch Blast) or use an AOE damage spell and apply the damage to a creature which fails its save.

  • Fallen: Good for a melee warlock, the fear effect is useful crowd control, and the damage bonus is easy to use.
  • Protector: Flight when you need it in combat and a damage boost.
  • Scourge: Exciting, but you don't have the hit points to back this up.

Default Rules: The charisma increase and damage resistances are fantastic.

  • Fallen: Good for a melee warlock, but Strength-based weapons are a hard choice unless you're doing something to get heavy armor proficiency so you may need to ignore the Strength increase.
  • Protector: Wisdom isn't especially useful for warlocks, but Radiant Soul provides temporary flight and a helpful damage bonus which any warlock can use to great effect.
  • Scourge: Exciting, but you don't have the hit points to back this up.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two damage resistances, and Darkvision. The innate spellcasting is nice, but the Celestial Warlock gets access to the same spells so it's not especially exciting.

Default Rules: A Charisma increase, two damage resistances, and Darkvision. The innate spellcasting is nice, but the Celestial Warlock gets access to the same spells so it's not especially exciting.

BugbearVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Surprise Attack works with spells which make attacks, so Eldritch Blast is a great choice which remains a staple warlock option for your whole career. Long-limbed is helpful for melee warlocks because it makes it easy to stay out of your enemies' reach while attacking.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Custom LineageTCoE

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Custom Lineage.

Default Rules: A single +2 increase is all that the Warlock really needs. A feat is a powerful asset, and if you want you could pick a feat which gives you a +1 Charisma increase, allowing you to start at level 1 with 18 Charisma. You also get either a skill or Darkvision, and I recommend Darkvision unless you plan to take Devil's Sight.

DragonbornPHB

The Draconblood and Ravenite subraces are addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increase and damage resistance. The Dragonborn's signature trait is their breath weapon, which provides a helpful short-range AOE damage option that will complement your limited spell slots.

Default Rules: A Charisma increase, and the breath weapon provides a short-range AOE damage option to complement your limited spell slots. But Strength increases are hard for the Warlock to use.

DwarfPHB

Customized Origin: One +2 increase and a second increase from your subrace, poison resistance, and weapon and tool proficiencies that you probably won't need.

  • DuergarSCAG: Invisibility as an innate spell is nice, but that's the only big appeal here. Sunlight Sensitivitiy is a pain, and Enlarge/Reduce isn't especially useful for the Warlock.
  • HillPHB: Bonus hit points are always nice.
  • MountainPHB: Medium armor is an AC boost compared to light armor since you may not bother to max out Dexterity, but if you really want medium armor you could play a hexblade or multiclass.

Default Rules: The Dwarf's core racial traits are great on any character, but none of the subclasses work especially well for the Warlock.

  • DuergarSCAG: Nothing useful for the Warlock.
  • HillPHB: Extra hit points are nice, but that's not enough.
  • MountainPHB: Medium armor and Constitution are a significant increase in your durability, but if you want medium armor you're likely to select the Hexblade as your patron.

ElfPHB

The Palid Elf subrace is addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, one skill.

  • DrowPHB: The innate spellcasting is great and it's Charisma-based so it will remain perpetually useful. The only problem is Sunlight Sensitivity.
  • EladrinMToF: Free teleportation on a short rest means that you don't need to spend one of your spell slots to do it. The rider effects on the teleportation are Charisma-based, too, which is perfect for the Warlock.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Similar to the standard Eladrin, but you give up the cool rider effect for four weapon proficiencies which you won't use.
  • High ElfPHB: Consider Pact of the Tome instead.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Not as useful for the Warlock as the Eladrin's more frequent teleportation.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Nothing useful for the Warlock, so you're basically falling back on the core racial traits.

Default Rules: Dexterity is helpful for any warlock to boos their AC, and Perception is always nice. Only a few subclasses offer Charisma increases, unfortunately.

  • DrowPHB: Bonus Charisma and some free spells, but Sunlight Sensitivity can be a pain.
  • EladrinMToF: Dexterity and Charisma are a great spread for warlocks, and free teleportation on a short rest means that you don't need to spend one of your spell slots to do it. The rider effects on the teleportation are Charisma-based, too, which is perfect for the Warlock.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Bad ability spread. The regular Eladrin is a better fit.
  • High Elf: Consider Pact of the Tome instead.
  • Sea ElfMToF: Nothing useful for the Warlock.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: Nothing useful for the Warlock.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Nothing useful for the Warlock.

FirbolgVGtM

Customized Origin: The innate spellcasting adds some useful options which reduce the need to handle the same problems with your limited spell slots or with invocations.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

GenasiEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi's traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: Learn the Ascendant Step invocation.
  • Earth: Difficult terrain is rarely a problem unless you're running around in melee, and even then it's not common enough that the Earth Genasi is appealing. Pass Without Trace is good, but it's not enough on its own.
  • Fire: Similar in many ways to the Tiefling, but the Fire Genasi's spellcasting is Constitution-based while the Tiefling's is Charisma-based, so the Tiefling has a huge advantage.
  • Water: Only in an aquatic campaign.

Default Rules: Not a single Charisma increase to be had, and none of the Genasi subraces' other traits are interesting enough to do without a Charisma increase.

  • Air: Bad ability spread.
  • Earth: Bad ability spread.
  • Fire: Bad ability spread.
  • Water: Bad ability spread.

GithMToF

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: Medium armor is a helpful AC boost, and coupled with Misty Step for free the Githyanki offers some interesting options for the Warlock. But if you want medium armor and teleportation, an eladrin hexblade is an easier choice.
  • Githzerai: A great choice for non-melee warlocks, the Githzerai's Mental Discipline will protect you from common status conditions, and the innate spellcasters offers several useful options which will help conserve your limited spell slots.

Default Rules: The innate spellcasting is tempting for the Warlock, but the ability scores don't line up well.

  • Githyanki: Medium armor is a helpful AC boost, and coupled with Misty Step for free the Githyanki offers some interesting options for the Warlock. But if you want medium armor and teleportation, an eladrin hexblade is an easier choice.
  • Githzerai: Great defensively, but you'll still struggle without a Charisma increase.

GnomePHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), Darkvision, and Gnome Cunning.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Superior Darkvision is nice, but Devil's Sight provides it and then some. That just leaves Stone Camouflage, which is nice in subterranean campaigns but otherwise only situationally useful.
  • ForestPHB: Minor illusion is a good cantrip, but it's already on the Warlock's spell list, and if you just want additional cantrips play Pact of the Tome.
  • RockPHB: Tinker is barely useful.

Default Rules: Gnome Cunning is great, but none of the Gnome's ubraces offer a Charisma increase.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Bad ability spread.
  • ForestPHB: Bad ability spread.
  • RockPHB: Bad ability spread.

GoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Nimble Escape helps you stay out of melee, minimizing the need for things like Misty Step if you're not built to fight in melee. Fury of the Small applies to spells, including AOE spells, but remember that saving for half damage will also reduce the damage from Fury of the Small so you want to apply the damage bonus when an enemy fails their save.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

GoliathEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and damage resistance. Stone's Endurance adds the equivalent of a barbarian hit die worth of ability to endure damage, and unlike the Sorcerer or the Wizard, the Warlock tends to have passable AC so you won't burn Stone's Endurance the moment anyone gazes at you.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Half-ElfPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1/+1 increases, Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry. The ability increases are somewhat overkill for most warlocks, but they also make it easy to have high scores in Dex/Con/Cha at level 1.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: Good, Charisma-based innate spellcasting. Faerie Fire is a great spell at any level, and Darkness works really well with Devil's Sight.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: If you want more cantrips, play Pact of the Tome.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Warlocks only get the typical two skills from class and two from background, and if you want to be your Party's Face two additional skills means that you have much more flexibility without sacrificng Face skills.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Nothing that the Sorcerer needs.

Default Rules: Bonuses to all of the Warlock's useful abilities, Darkvision, and a great selection of options from the variant half-elves.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: With a very limited number of spell slots, free spells provide fantastic utility.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Wizard cantrips are great for utility, but you already have the best damage cantrips. If you're a Pact of the Blade warlock, consider Green Flame Blade or Booming Blade to improve your damage output.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Two free skills are great, especially if you're the party's Face.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Nothing useful for the Warlock.

Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Relentless Endurance is great on low-durability characters like the Warlock. Savage Attacks might be useful for the Hexblade, especially since Hexblade's Curse allows you to crit on a 19, but I don't know if that's enough to make this a good option.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Lucky, and Brave. Lucky is abnormally useful for the Warlock because their typical reliance on Eldritch Blast means that you're going to be rolling considerably more attack rolls than a typical spellcaster.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Neat, but if you want telepathy, look at the Great Old One.
  • LightfootPHB: Naturally Stealthy is rarely useful without Cunning Action.
  • StoutPHB: Poison damage is really common, so resistance to poison on top of a solid set of core racial traits works well.

Default Rules: Dexterity is helpful for Blade Pact Warlocks, and everyone loves Lucky.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Nothing useful for warlocks.
  • LightfootPHB: Bonus Charisma.
  • StoutPHB: Poison resistance is nice, but if that's all that you want look at the Dwarf instead.

HobgoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Saving Face is the big selling point here, and you can use it for high-value spell attacks (not that you'll have many of those since Eldritch Blast isn't all-or-nothing and there are few leveled spells which require attacks) or save it for a saving throw.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules:

  • Standard: Warlocks really only need Charisma, so most of the bonuses are wasted. Try to capitalize on odd base scores.
  • Variant: Two +1 increases, an extra skill, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1. The Custom Lineage may be preferable since the Warlock only really needs one ability score, but for hexblades and other melee warlocks you may want to split your increases to hit 16 in both Constitution and Charisma at level 1.

KenkuVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Expert Forgery and Mimicry will rarely be impactful. Fun theme, but nothing mechanically impressive.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

KoboldVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 increase, Darkvision, Sunlight Sensitivity. Pack Tactics can offset Sunlight Sensitivity, and thanks to Pact of the Chain you have easy access to a powerful familiar to trigger Pact Tactics. When you're not worrying about sunlight, easy Adantage with Eldritch Blast will provide a dramatic boost to your damage output.

Default Rules: With a familiar (or a conveniently-place ally), Pack Tactics can give you easy Advantage. While the Kobold doesn't get a Charisma increase, Advantage on spell attacks can easily make up the difference, especially since the Warlock relies so heavily on Eldritch Blast. Avoid offensive spells which rely on saving throws, and you should do fine.

LizardfolkVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and 13+ natural armor. The natural armor will outdo your armor for any warlock except the Hexblade, but there's nothing else here that the Warlock wants.

Default Rules: The Lizardfolk's natural durability could be appealing for Hexblade warlocks, but their lack of a Charisma increase means that both your spellcasting and your weapon usage will lag until you've picked up some Ability Score Increases.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and a long list of condition resistances from Leviathan Will. Leviathan Will can protect from things that AC can't, and while it's very useful it's not terribly exciting.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

OrcVGtM

Note that errata has corrected the multiple versions of the Orc to all provide the same traits. The Intelligence decrease has been removed, and the Primal Intuition now allows selecting two skills from a list. The Orc of Exandria entry from Explorer's Guide to Wildemount omits the Powerful Build trait, but it's not clear if that was an intentional change.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Darkvision. Aggressive is the Orc's signature trait, but it's only useful for melee warlocks.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

TabaxiVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Darkvision. Feline Agility is the Tabaxi's signature trait, and it's not useful enough that the Tabaxi is an easy choice when the Standard Half-Elf is an option.

Default Rules: An excellent option for a blade pact warlock. Dexterity boosts your AC (and possibly your weapon attacks depending on your ability scores), and Charisma boosts your spells.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increase, Darkvision, and damage resistance, plus most subraces/variants give you Charisma-based innate spellcasting, which is great for the Warlock. These were already great benefits for the Warlock prior to the introduction of the Customizing Your Origin rules, but the ability to rearrange your ability increases adds a lot of flexibility, so more of the Tiefling's subraces/variants may be worth exploring depending on your build.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: A good mix, the Asmodeus Tieflings works for basically any warlock. I recommend taking Devil's Sight to capitalize on Darkness.
  • BaalzebulMToF: More directly offensive than the Asmodeus Tiefling, but roughly equivalent.
  • DispaterMToF: Some interesting utility options that would work well in an intrigue campaign, but I don't know if they'll be consistently useful in a typical adventure.
  • FiernaMToF: Great spells for social situations.
  • GlasyaMToF: Great spells if you want to be sneaky, tricky, or otherwise subtle.
  • LevistusMToF: Roughly equivalent to Asmodeus, but more ice themed.
  • MammonMToF: Situational utility options.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Flame Blade is garbage.
  • ZarielMToF: The smite spells are appealing for melee warlocks, but no one else.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Similar to Fierna, but more useful in combat and less useful outside of combat.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Roughly equivalent to Asmodeus. The difference is mostly personal preference.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Permanent non-magical flight, and it works in up to medium armor so hexblades can remain aloft and shoot stuff with crossbows.

Default Rules: Bonus Charisma, and most subraces/variants provide Charisma-based innate spellcasting. The Flames of Phlegethos feat is tempting for Infernal pact warlocks, but it may not be worth the feat with the Warlock's limited pool of spell slots.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: A perfectly fine option, but the Intelligence is wasted and you can find better spells from other subraces.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Roughly equivalent to Asmodeus but the spells are more directly offensive.
  • DispaterMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
  • FiernaMToF: The Wisdom is largely wasted, but the spells are great for a Face.
  • GlasyaMToF: Dexterity means better AC, and the spells are great if you want to be sneaky or tricky.
  • LevistusMToF: Constitution means more hit points, and the spells offer a nice mix of defensive, offensive, and utility options.
  • MammonMToF: The Intelligence is wasted, and the leveled spells are highly situational.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Flame Blade is garbage. Go for the Hellfire variant instead.
  • ZarielMToF: Strength is wasted, but that doesn't matter much. The big draw is the smite spells, and Hexblades are the only ones who would use them but they already get smite spells so the spells may not be impactful beyond low level.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Dexterity is normally fine for a melee build, but for Warlocks you'll be using your Charisma thanks to Hexblade, and giving up the Charisma build hurts any warlock.

    According to the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants.

  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Arguably better spell options for a Warlock, the Devil's Tongue Tiefling focuses on mind-affecting spells.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Burning Hands is about as good for the Warlock as Hellish Rebuke, but doesn't require you to be hit to use it.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: Flight is fantastic, especially for a class so dependent on ranged combat. Sure, you give up the Tiefling's innate spellcasting, but the ability to remain in flight means that you don't need to look for magical options to get off the ground.

TortleTP

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and AC fixed at 17 without worrying about actual armor. Not quite as good as the Mountain Dwarf (poison resistance, Darkvision) or the Githyanki (innate spellcasting), but pretty close. The Tortle's AC isn't as remarkable for the Warlock as it is for the Sorcerer and the Wizard because the Warlock has access to medium armor and shield via the Hexblade.

Default Rules: Despite the lack of a Charisma increase, Tortles can be a great choice for a Pact of the Blade Warlock. 17 natural armor means that your AC is as good as a comparable warlock with 20 Dexterity, allowing you to focus on quickly raising your Charisma instead without worrying about your AC.

TritonVGtM

Customized Origin: Three +1 increases and Darkvision. The innate spellcasting is neat, but the spells are very situational.

Default Rules: A fantastic option for blade pact warlocks. Good ability score increases, and the innate spellcasting provides some good utility options.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and one skill, but in the context of the Customizing Your Origin rule, the advantages which make the Verdan special largely vanish. Black-Blood Healing is neat but not essential, and Telepathic Insight can't compete with races like the Kalashtar, the Vedalken, and the Yuan-Ti Pureblood.

Default Rules: Constitution and Charisma is a perfect combination for a Charisma-based spellcaster, and getting Persuasion for free is great. You'll almost certainly be your party's Face, and the Verdan's Telepathic Insight can go a long way to address language barriers despite its limited capabilities

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increase, Darkvision, and poison immunity. Magic Resistance is a fantastic defense on any character, and since the Warlock gets so few spell slots, it's nice to know that you can rely more on saving throws instead of rushing to cast Counterspell whenever you encounter other spellcasters.

Default Rules: Good Charisma, some truly awful innate spellcasting, Magic Resistance, and Poison Immunity.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.

Races of Eberron

BugbearERLW: See above under the general Races section.

ChangelingERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rule does little to improve the Changeling since their traits already lined up well with the Warlock's needs, but their signature trait is still made obsolete by the existence of Mask of Many Faces.

Default Rules: The ability score increases are great and you get two skills, but the Changeling's signature trait is Shapechanger. If you want to disguise yourself constantly, consider Mask of Many Faces instead. The Standard Half-Elf is better and provides similar benefits.

GoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

HobgoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcERLW: See above under the general Races section.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, damage resistance, Advantage on Wisdom saving throws, and probably the best racial telepathy option. That's all fine, but you can also replicate the defensive traits with Mind Fortress and the telepathy with the Great Old One patron.

Default Rules: A Charisma increase, and you'll be really good at Wisdom saving throws between proficiency and permanent Advantage. The Kalashtar doesn't support any specific part of being a warlock, but it's a fine starting point for a warlock of any kind.

ShifterERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, and one skill. Shifting is the Shifter's signature trait, offering a short-duration combat buff which includes temporary hit points which can be a good defense on top of the Warlock's relatively few hit points. Of course, you could just take Fiendish Vigor and walk into every fight with a pile of temporary hit points. Shifting's Bonus Action activation time can also be a problem since the most obvious shifter warlocks are going to be melee warlocks like the Hexblade who will frequently rely on their Bonus Action for other things like Hex or the extra attack from Crossbow Expert/Polearm Master.

  • Beasthide: A good boost of durability in a pinch which can do a lot to mitigate damage for melee warlocks.
  • Longtooth: Strength is not a good choice.
  • Swiftstride: Interesting for hit-and-run tactics, but the Goblin can do it more easily.
  • Wildhunt: Too situational.

Default Rules: None of the Shifter's subraces offer a Charisma increase.

  • Beasthide: Bad ability spread.
  • Longtooth: Bad ability spread.
  • Swiftstride: Bad ability spread.
  • Wildhunt: Bad ability spread.

WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: The flexible ability increase goes into Charisma, and the Warforged's other traits will make you more durable than a typical warlock. A warforged with Mage Armor would have an AC of 14+Dex totally unequipped, allowing you to meet the AC of characters in light armor and a shield. A warforged hexblade can do even better: half-plate, a shield, and 14 Dexterity brings you to 20 AC with very little effort.

Dragonmarks

While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.

Dragonmarks are uniquely helpful for the Warlock. Any amount of extra spellcasting can significantly improve your capabilities since your spell slots are so limited. Because your spell slots work differently from other spellcasters, spells which scale when they're cast with a higher-level spell slot can often be good options even though other spells on a specific dragonmark's spell list aren't interesting.

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: While most of the dragonmark spells are new to the Warlock's spell list, they're nearly all situational utility options which you may never find a use for. The skill bonuses are fine but don't line up particularly well with the Warlock's ability scores, and the innate spellcasting is only consistently useful for Mage Armor.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: Misty Step once per day is nice, and the dragonmark spells give you some interesting transportation options that normally aren't available to the Warlock.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: The ability score increases are great, the innate spellcasting is good, and there are several dragonmark spells which warlocks can normally only get from specific patrons.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: While some of the dragonmark spells are new (Arcane Eye, Silence), most of them aren't, and the innate spellcasting is very situational. With the ability to rearrange your ability score increases, Mark of Scribing needs to compete with dragonmarks (not to mention other races) which provide much more exciting spell options. Plus, much of the Mark of Scribing's capabilities can be replicated or made obsolete by the Great Old One.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: The ability score increases work, and several of the dragonmark spells are new to the Warlock's spell list, but most of the spells aren't very good.

Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: Mark of Detection was already a great choice for the Warlock, and the ability to rearrange the ability increases makes it even better. Every one of the dragonmark spells is new to the Warlock's spell list, the innate spellcasting includes some staple divination options, and the skill bonuses can be very useful, especially if you take Insight to complement your Face skills.
  • Mark of Storm: The options are almost all weird, situational stuff that you'll almost never use.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: The ability score increases work, and with the exception of two spells available to great old one warlocks, every spell provided by Mark of Detection is new to the Warlock spell list. Many of the spells are powerful divination options, offering great utility and scouting options.
  • Mark of Storm: The ability score increases work, and while most of the spells aren't very good they're quickly replaced by better options as you gain levels, and easy to replace spells known, and several of the better spells aren't on the Warlock's spell list.

Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: None of the dragonmark spells are on the Warlock's spell list, but most of them are very situational. The skill bonuses are decent, but not great. The innate spellcasting is similarly decent, but Hunter's Mark is redundant with Hex and Locate Object is very situational. As a whole this is fine, but it's not as impressive as Mark of Detection which is appealing for the same reasons but offers better spells.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: Somewhat redundant with the Celestial patron, but if you're desperate for a healer and you just can't bring yourself to make a pact with a celestial, Mark of Healing provides all of the crucial healing options which your party needs to do without a cleric or druid.
  • Mark of Hospitality: None of the dragonmark spells are on the Warlock's spell list, and there are a couple fun abuse cases. Wake up in the morning, cast Goodberry and Aid, then take an immediate Short Rest. The innate spellcasting is all decent utility options, and a d4 to Charisma (Persuasion) checks is spectacular for a Face.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: Bad ability spread. Adding healing spells to the warlock feels great, but generally the Celestial patron can handle that need.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The ability score increases work well, and the spellcasting is surprisingly good for the Warlock. The innate spellcasting offers useful utility options, and the low-level spells include great options that scale well with spell level.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Unless you're really worried about beasts, there's little to be gained here. The ability to use Animal Friendship and Speak With Animals against monstrosities is neat, but very situational.
  • Mark of Making: Every one of the dragonmark spells is new, and several of them are excellent utility options and buffs.
  • Mark of Passage: A bunch of new ways to get around magically, but if you just want Misty Step you'll do better with the Eladrin.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Numerous powerful defensive options from the cleric and paladin spell lists, plus Shield once per day for free. Vigilant Guardian is probably only useful for hexblades, but you might also use it to keep your familiar alive if you have one.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: The ability score increases can work, but many of the racial traits depend on you always having Animal Friendship and Speak With Animals prepared, and neither of them scale as you gain levels. Spending a 5th-level spell slot on a mediocre 1st-level spell feels terrible, and it's rarely useful as you reach mid-level.
  • Mark of Making: The ability score increases can work, but the spellcasting isn't especially useful. Magic Weapon won't work on pact weapons, hexblades already get elemental weapon, and there aren't enough other good options on the spell list to make up for how many options aren't useful for you.
  • Mark of Passage: Dexterity and Charisma are great, free Misty Step is excellent, and nearly every one of the dragonmark spells is new to the Warlock's spell list.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Bad ability spread.

Races of Ravnica

CentaurGGTR

Customized Origin: All of the Centaur's interesting traits are tied up in Strength.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

GoblinGGTR: See above under the general Races section.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, resistance to charm and fear effects, and 12+Con natural armor. Basically a worse locathah unless you plan to put ability score increases into Constitution and ignore Dexterity entirely.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

MinotaurGGTR

Customized Origin: All of the Minotaur's interesting traits are tied up in Strength.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: The constitution increase is helpful, especially if you're considering Hexblade. Animal Enhancement offers several excellent options as you gain levels, and saves you the trouble of getting those effects from your limited number of spell slots.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and one tool. Vedalken Dispassion provides an excellent defensive option, and Tireless Precision can make you more effective at some non-magical stuff. If you just want durability the Yuan-Ti Pureblood may be more effective, but the Vedalken is still a very effective choice.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Races of Theros

CentaurMOoT: See above under the Races of Ravnica section.

HumanMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Daunting Roar is neat, but the range is tiny so it's only an interesting option for melee builds. Even then, the Fallen Aasimar has a similar effect with a damage bonus and a Charisma-based DC.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

MinotaurMOoT: See above under the Ravnica Races section.

SatyrMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, one instrument, and magic resistance. While the Satyr isn't as durable as the Yuan-Ti Pureblood, the additional skills can help you expand your non-magical capabilities, which may be worth the trade.

Default Rules: Dexterity for your AC, Charisma for your spells, Magic Resistance to keep you alive, and two free skills to help you serve as your party's Face.

TritonMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

Races of Wildemount

AarakocraEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

AasimarEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

BugbearEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

DragonbornPHB

Wildemount presents two new Dragonborn variants, each replacing the standard Dragonborn's ability score increases and damage resistance.

Customized Origin:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Roughly equivalent to the standard Dragonborn, but if you're playing your party's Face you might enjoy Forceful Presence.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Maybe useful for the Hexblade, Vengeful Assault combined with Breath Weapon offers some interesting options for melee warlocks.

Default Rules:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Roughly equivalent to the standard Dragonborn, but if you're playing your party's Face you might enjoy Forceful Presence.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Bad ability spread.

Elf

Wildemount elves share the core traits of PHB elves, but Wildemount adds two new subraces. See above for more information on other elf subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The skill bonuses are decent and the Innate Spellcasting is nice, but Sleep is obsolete as soon as you get it and there are plenty of other races which provide Invisibility as an innate spell.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

Default Rules:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

FirbolgsEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GenasiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

HalflingPHB

Wildemount halflings share the core traits of PHB halflings, but Wildemount adds a new subrace. See above for information on other halfling subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • LotusdenEGtW: The innate spellcasting is decent, but it's Wisdom-based so you'll find that it's unreliable due to the poor save DC compared to your warlock spells.

Default Rules:

  • LotusdenEGtW: Bad ability spread.

HobgoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoliathEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

KenkuEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcEGtW: See above, under "Races of Eberron". Wildemount uses the updated Orc racial traits rather than the original traits published in Volo's Guide to Monsters.

TabaxiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

TortleEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

Skills

  • Arcana (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills in the game.
  • Deception (Cha): Important for any Face.
  • History (Int): Situational, and frequently useless in many campaigns.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Important for any Face.
  • Investigation (Int): Helpful, but you probably don't have enough Intelligence or skill choices to justify it.
  • Nature (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.
  • Religion (Int): One of the most important knowledge skills in the game.

Background

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:

  • AcolytePHB: Insight, two languages, and a knowledge skill.
  • CharlatanPHB: Fun, but not terribly useful for a Face, and the idea of being a real spellcaster pretending to be a spellcaster is just silly.
  • City WatchSCAG: Insight and two Languages, but Athletics is essentially worthless.
  • Cloistered ScholarSCAG: Two Knowledge skills and two languages.
  • CourtierSCAG: Exactly what you need to be a Face.
  • CriminalPHB: Good if you want to be your party's Rogue-equivalent.
  • Faction AgentSCAG: Insight, and you can pick whatever Face skill or Knowledge skill you want. Two languages, too!
  • Guild ArtisanPHB: Two Face skills not on the Warlock's skill list, plus a language.
  • Knight of the OrderSCAG: Persuasion, a knowledge skill, and a language.
  • SagePHB: Two languages and two knoweldge skills.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: Good if you want to be a Face or if you want to be your party's Rogue-equivalent.
  • UrchinPHB: Good if you want to be your party's Rogue-equivalent. Probably better than Criminal since you can already get Depecption.
  • Waterdavian NobleSCAG: Persuasion, a language, and a bad knowledge skill.

Feats

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.

  • AlertPHB: 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.
  • AthletePHB: Awful.
  • ActorPHB: In a highly social game, this opens up some interesting options and allows you to further capitalize on your excellent Charisma.
  • ChargerPHB: Even Blade Pact Warlocks should just use Eldritch Blast if you're at a range long enough to justify charging.
  • ChefTCoE: 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.
  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: 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.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: Blade Pact Warlocks might enjoy this to help compensate for the Warlock's lack of AC.
  • Dual WielderPHB: 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).
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: Warlocks don't have the skills to back this up.
  • DurablePHB: Pick up Fiendish Resilience, and it will go a long way to compensate for a lack of healing options.
  • Eldritch AdeptTCoE: 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.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: The Warlock's most iconic spell, Eldritch Blast, deals force damage and isn't compatible with Elemental adept.
  • Fey TouchedTCoE: 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.

  • Fighting InitiateTCoE: 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.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: 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 have the Heavy property, and all two-handed weapons have the Heavy property so you can't use Great Weapon Master with that weapon. Once you gain Pact of the Blade, your Pact Weapon can be two-handed, and Hex Warrior extends to your Pact Weapon.
  • GunnerTCoE: 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.
  • Heavily ArmoredPHB: Tempting for a Hexblade, but the Strength requirements for full plate make heavy armor unappealing.
  • HealerPHB: Find a Cleric.
  • Inspiring LeaderPHB: 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.
  • Keen MindPHB: Awful.
  • LinguistPHB: Use magic.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
  • Mage SlayerPHB: Too situational.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: 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.

  • Martial AdeptPHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: 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.
  • Metamagic AdeptTCoE: 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.
  • MobilePHB: 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.
  • Moderately ArmoredPHB: If you're not getting by in light armor as a non-hexblade, you need to go straight to heavy. Multiclass.
  • Mounted CombatPHB: It's hard to play a mounted character without a special mount ability of some kind.
  • ObservantPHB: Warlocks don't have the skills or abilities to support this.
  • PiercerTCoE: 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.
  • Polearm MasterPHB: 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.
  • ResilientPHB: 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 2.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: Pick up Tome Pact.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
  • SentinelPHB: It's hard to justify this for a Blade Pact Warlock, but you might be able to make it work.
  • Shadow TouchedTCoE: 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.

  • SharpshooterPHB: Warlocks don't use ranged weapons with the possible exception of Hexblades, but even then Crossbow Expert is a better choice.
  • Shield MasterPHB: Warlocks don't get Shield Proficiency by default.
  • SkilledPHB: Warlocks can get all of the skills which they're any good with from their class and background.
  • SkulkerPHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
  • Spell SniperPHB: 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.

  • Tavern BrawlerPHB: Unarmed Warlocks aren't a thing.
  • TelekineticTCoE: 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.
  • TelepathicTCoE: 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.
  • ToughPHB: Blade Pact Warlocks might consider this since Warlocks don't really have enough hit points to be a melee character.
  • War CasterPHB: 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.
  • Weapon MasterPHB: You get all of the weapon proficiencies that you need to function.

Weapons

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.

  • Whip: 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.

Armor

  • Leather: Starting Gear
  • Studded Leather: The best armor most Warlocks can hope for.
  • Half Plate: Hexblades' best armor.

Multiclassing

This section briefly details so 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.

  • Bard: 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.
  • Fighter: 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.
  • Paladin: 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.
  • Rogue: 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.
  • Sorcerer: 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.

Magic Items

Common Magic Items

  • Dark Shard Amulet: 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.
  • Moon-Touched SwordXGtE: It's fun to make a magic item your pact weapon, but Improved Pact Weapon makes this functionally obsolete.
  • Ruby of the War MageXGtE: Improved Pact Weapon already allows warlocks who use weapons to use their pact weapon as a spellcasting focus.

Uncommon Magic Items

  • Broom of FlyingDMG: 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.
  • Cloak of ProtectionDMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it's not very interesting.
  • Goggles of NightDMG: Crucial for races which don't get Darkvision, especially if your party can't cast the Darkvision spell for you.
  • Pearl of PowerDMG: 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.
  • Rod of the Pact KeeperDMG: +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.
  • Shield, +1DMG: +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.
  • Slippers of Spider ClimbingDMG: 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.
  • Staff of the AdderDMG: The snake attack doesn't benefit from Hex Warrior, Shillelagh, etc. so you're stuck using your Strength to attack.
  • Staff of the PythonDMG: 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.
  • Stone of Good LuckDMG: 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.
  • Wand of DetectionDMG: 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.
  • Wand of the War MageDMG: 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.
  • Weapon, +1DMG: Blade pact warlocks can take Improved Pact Weapon to get the same benefit.
  • Winged BootsDMG: Excellent on its own, but Winged Boots are more limited in use than a broom of flying, and they require Attunement.

Rare Magic Items

  • Amulet of HealthDMG: 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.
  • Armor of ResistanceDMG: 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.
  • Armor, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Barrier Tattoo (Rare)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.
  • Bell BranchTCoE: 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.
  • Bracers of DefenseDMG: Get a Barrier Tattoo (Rare).
  • Cloak of DisplacementDMG: 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.
  • Elven ChainDMG: 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.
  • FlametongueDMG: 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.
  • Ring of EvasionDMG: 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.
  • Ring of ProtectionDMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
  • Ring of ResistanceDMG: A fine item in a vaccuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
  • Ring of Spell StoringDMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield, and recharge it whenever possible and this is a spectacular defensive asset.
  • Rod of the Pact KeeperDMG: +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.
  • Shield, +2DMG: +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.
  • Wand of the War MageDMG: See Wand of the War Mage under Uncommon Magic items, above.
  • Weapon, +2DMG: 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.
  • Wings of FlyingDMG: Broom of Flying is much better, lower rarity, and doesn't require attunement.

Very Rare Magic Items

  • Absorbing TattooTCoE: Good, but too high rarity to devote to a single damage type. Get a Ring of Spell Storing and fill it with Absorb Elements.
  • Barrier Tattoo (Very Rare)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.
  • Armor, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Manual of Bodily HealthDMG: 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.
  • Rod of the Pact KeeperDMG: +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.
  • Shield, +3DMG: +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.
  • Spellguard ShieldDMG: Basically only useful against spellcasters, but if you're facing a spellcaster there are few better defenses.
  • Staff of FireDMG: 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.
  • Staff of IceDMG: 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.
  • Staff of PowerDMG: 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.
  • Tome of Leadership and InfluenceDMG: Permanent Charisma bonus and raises your cap by 2.
  • Weapon, +3DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It's difficult to beat the math here.

Legendary Magic Items

  • Armor, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. It feels underwhelming at this rarity, but the math if good.
  • Cloak of InvisibilityDMG: 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.
  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)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.
  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. Attacks, saves, skills, etc. all benefit.
  • Luck BladeDMG: Bonuses to attacks and saves, a once per day reroll, and it can cast Wish a few times (maybe. 1d4-1 could be zero). Green if it can't cast Wish.
  • Ring of Spell TurningDMG: 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 blue.
  • Ring of Three WishesDMG: 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.
  • Robe of the ArchmagiDMG: 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 combiing them on one item is spectacular.
  • Rod of Lordly MightDMG: Allows you to easily change your weapon damage type, and provides three powerful offensive abilities which work in a variety of situations.
  • Scarab of ProtectionDMG: 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 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.

-- Boxed text provided by dScryb (affiliate link)

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.

Abilities

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.

Base Increased
Str 8 8
Dex 14 14
Con 14 14
Int 11 12
Wis 11 11
Cha 14 16

Race

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.

Background

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.

Feats

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.

Levels

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
  • Pact Magic
  • Spells Known:
    • Burning Hands
    • Hellish Rebuke
  • Cantrips:
    • 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.

2
  • Eldritch Invocation:
    • Agonizing Blast
    • Devil's Sight
  • 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: Any
  • New 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 add 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 spellcasts (though it will feel like a disappointing way to spen 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 know.

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.

10
  • Fiendish Resilience
  • 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 Slashing.

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 Master.

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.