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DnD 5e - Warlock Eldritch Invocation Breakdown

Last Updated: February 10th, 2021

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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

Invocations offer a powerful way to customize your warlock, adding passive buffs, new features, new spellcasting options, and all manner of interesting effects. Selecting your invocations is as important as picking your patron, and knowing what options are available and how to use them is crucial if you want to succeed as a warlock.

While Eldritch Invocations are primarily a warlock class feature, they're also available with the Eldritch Adept feat. Options available with Eldritch Adept are addressed below the main Invocations section.

Eldritch Invocations

Invocations frequently have level prerequisites, and are organized below by level. Higher-level invocations aren't necessarily better than low-level ones, so don't feel compelled to choose the highest-level invocations that you can get at any given point.

Level 1

This invocations have no level requirement, so they're available as soon as you can get them. While most warlocks can't get an invocation until level 2, races which offer a feat at 1st level allow access to these invocations via the Eldritch Invocation feat.

  • Agonizing BlastPHB: Nearly every Warlock takes this. The damage is simply too good to pass up. The damage grows multiplicatively as you get additional rays, so the total additional damage will range from +3 at low levels to a maximum +20 at 17th level.
  • Armor of ShadowsPHB: You already get light armor, and Mage Armor is only +1 AC over studded leather. You don't get enough invocations to justify wasting one on this. Hexblades might consider this to close the AC gap between light/medium and heavy armor, but I'm not convinced that this is better than multiclassing to get heavy armor proficiency.
  • Beast SpeechPHB: Very situational.
  • Beguiling InfluencePHB: Very helpful if you want to be a Face, but you already get Deception as a class skill option, and you can pick up Persuasion from your background.
  • Devil's SightPHB: Darkvision can be an immense tactical advantage, but it's negated by a torch. Devil's Sight allows you to use magical darkness, including the Darkness spell, to gain a massive advantage over your foes. However, keep in mind that your allies may still struggle to fight in magical darkness so using this option can often lead to selfish tactics which are frustrating for your allies.
  • Eldritch MindTCoE: Warlocks get very few spell slots, and many of their best spells require Concentration. Advantage on saves to maintain Concentration is a massive asset. Hexblades should consider the War Caster feat instead, but other warlocks will find that Eldritch Mind is sufficient.
  • Eldritch SightPHB: Nearly every full spellcaster gets Detect Magic, and it can be cast as a ritual. The only advantage you get with this is that it works faster than spending 10 minutes to cast it as a Ritual.
  • Eldritch SpearPHB: 120 feet is usually enough for most encounters. If the encounter takes place at greater range than that, you can always move closer.
  • Eyes of the Rune KeeperPHB: Pick up Book of Ancient Secrets or the Ritual Caster feat and cast Comprehend Languages.
  • Fiendish VigorPHB: At a 1-hour duration and without requiring Concentration, you can cast this repeatedly until you roll the maximum hit points every time you have a few rounds to do so. Unless you're sleeping, you should always have this running. The amount of additional hit points is basically an additional hit die, so this goes a long way to improve your durability, making this an excellent option for hexblades and any other warlock planning to spend time in melee, but may not be as useful for other warlocks who spend their time fighting at range where they're (relatively) safe. There are also more effective options like Inspiring Leader wich can provide larger pools of hit temporary hit points, so if you have room for those options you might take this early in your career then retrain it to another Invocation.
  • Gaze of Two MindsPHB: Very situational. I can't think of a time to use this repeatedly.
  • Grasp of HadarXGtE: If you're using Eldritch Blast enough to justify investing in it, you generally want to keep enemies away from you. However, the option to pull enemies closer may be helpful for your allies, and you may be able to use this to keep enemies inside ongoing are effects like Hunger of Hadar.
  • Lance of LethargyXGtE: A minor nuisance. Effects don't stack with themselves, so you can't use this to repeatedly reduce the target's speed. The best case I can think of for this is if you're heavily reliant on area control spells like Hunger of Hadar or Sickening Radiance which rely on ongoing damage being applied over several rounds. In those cases, reducing creatures' speed can help keep enemies in the area. Of course, you can accomplish the same thing by moving targets with Grasp of Hadar or Repelling Blast, and since Repelling Blast can work more than once per target they're likely to be more effective.
  • Mask of Many FacesPHB: In a game involving stealth or intrigue the ability to disguise yourself is a big advantage. The ability to do it at a moment's notice at no cost allows you to be anyone any time.
  • Misty VisionsPHB: A clever player with a DM who is willing to play along can accomplish a lot with even a basic illusion. A 15-foot cube is a huge amount of space, too. Place illusory walls, doors, statues, or other objects which creatures don't expect to move or produce other stimuli like heat or smells, and in many cases that's just as good as creating something. If creatures don't realize that your illusory wall is an illusion, they're going to treat it like a wall.
  • Repelling BlastPHB: This can be especially nice as you gain additional rays to keep enemies well out of melee range, but it's not always useful and at low levels the 10 foot push won't make a huge difference unless you're using it to break a grapple.
  • Thief of Five FatesPHB: A passable debuff, but not worth a spell slot. At low levels it may not affect enough creatures to be worth the spell slot and at high levels you should be doing much more than just penalizing attacks if you're going to spend one of your precious spell slots.

Level 3 (Requires Pact Boon)

These invocations don't technically have a level requirement, but they require Pact Boon which is a 3rd-level feature, so there's a practical level requirement.

  • Aspect of the MoonXGtE: (Pact of the Tome) If you really feel like you need this, you should have played an elf.
  • Book of Ancient SecretsPHB: (Pact of the Tome) This is essentially the Ritual Caster feat. The effects of a feat for the cost of an invocation is pretty great, and since you are your party's Wizard-equivalent you might need to be able to access important ritual spells like Detect Magic. It also replaces the need for several of the invocations which give you access to ritual spells, including Beast Speech and Eyes of the Rune Keeper.
  • Gift of the Ever-Living OnesXGtE: (Pact of the Chain) This includes healing spells like Healing Word and Cure Wounds, but it also includes Hit Dice rolled while resting. This is good, especially if you take damage a lot, but you shouldn't be drawing enough fire that this is important.
  • Improved Pact WeaponXGtE: (Pact of the Blade) In a campaign with no magic items, this could be really great. Even if magic items are available, many magic weapons don't offer +1 to attacks and damage, and any bonus to attack rolls is great. The ability to conjure longbows also means that melee warlocks can easily switch to ranged combat, and can entirely forgo Eldritch Blast and the invocations which warlocks typically spend to optimize it.
  • Investment of the Chain MasterTCoE: (Pact of the Chain) Essentially required for Pact of the Chain. It's simply too good to forgo. Without this, your familiar is a slightly fancier pet than other familiars. Investment of the Chain Master turns it into a powerful ally.

    Weird advice: pick the swim speed. Every familiar worth having already has a way to get a fly speed of 40 ft. or greater.

  • Rebuke of the TalismanTCoE: (Pact of the Talisman) Most warlocks don't have many good uses for their Reaction, so this is an interesting option. It also makes the decision about who wears your talisman a bit more impactful. Sure, you can keep it on yourself and use this to push enemies away from you if they attack you. But you could also put it on a front line ally who's going to be taking hits consistently, allowing you to to deal consistent, reliable damage without risking your own safety. Keep in mind that the push effect is mandatory if you deal the damage, so your melee allies may get annoyed when you make them chase enemies, but you may also force enemies out of their own reach and negate some of their attacks if they don't have enough movement to get back into position to attack.
  • Voice of the Chain MasterPHB: (Pact of the Chain) Familiars make great scouts, so exploring dangerous places through your familiar is a great way to do things. It's also helpful for communicating with other creatures at a safe distance. Take Investment of the Chain Master first, but give this some consideration after that.

Level 5

  • Cloak of FliesXGtE: This remains in effect until you dismiss it, making it an excellent buff both offensively and defensively. Melee warlocks can capitalize on this by diving into groups of enemies and attempting to catch as many as possible in the area. If enemies attempt to flee, take opportunity attacks, then chase them down on the following turn. Against enemies that are especially hard to hit, force them into a corner, block their escape, stand next to them, and Dodge. The damage is guaranteed and doesn't allow a save, so against many enemies you can stand still and wait for them to fall over. Still, I wouldn't take this on any warlock except the Hexblade, and Poison damage is commonly resisted so you can't always count on it to be effective.
  • Eldritch SmiteXGtE: (Pact of the Blade) This is rarely worth a spell slot to activate. The damage is decent, but you can usually do a lot more by using that spell slot to cast a spell, even if the spell only does damage. Knocking enemies prone is tempting, but it also makes them hard for you to hit with ranged attacks, including Eldritch Blast. Your best bet is to reserve this for when you score a critical hit, at which point you can choose to use Eldritch Smite and double the damage dice.
  • Far ScribeTCoE: (Pact of the Tome) Very cool, but very situational. I love the way that this invocation works, but it's just not very useful for most warlocks. Your DM could make this appealing by adding powerful NPCs to the pool of creatures with whom you can communicate, but that's heavily dependent both on your DM's willingness to play along and on those NPCs being conscious, helpful, and willing to respond at any given point. If you're repeatedly Sending "You up?" to people at all hours of the night, they're eventually going to get sick of you.

    As a DM, I would consider adding the warlock's patron to the list of creatures. That would be a really interesting way to provide semi-direct interaction with the Warlock's patron, and it could give the DM a great way to feed the players information or just generally mess with them.

  • Gift of the DepthsXGtE: Only useful in aquatic campaigns, and if you're in an aquatic campaign you probably want the ability to function underwater much sooner than 5th level.
  • Maddening HexXGtE: 5 damage as a Bonus Action to the target and targets of your choice within 5 feet. If you run Hex all day long, this will be constitent, nearly free damage during most rounds.
  • Mire the MindPHB: Slow is a good spell, but it doesn't scale with spell slot and you only get to use it once per day. Save your spell slots for more powerful options.
  • One with ShadowsPHB: Invisibility is extremely useful. Unfortunately, you need to remain in one place and not do anything to remain invisibile, but you can move, turn invisible until your next turn, then repeat.
  • Sign of Ill OmenPHB: Bestow Curse is a great single-target debuff with some challenges. It only affects one target and since you can only cast it once per day with Sign of Ill Omen your best bet is to cast it on powerful single targets. However, it requires Concentration and allows a saving throw, so there's a good chance that the target passes their save and your once-per-day Bestow Curse is wasted. Even if it does work, you're stuck Concentrating on it and unlike Hex you can't move the effect between targets. Hex has some overlap with Bestow Curse, providing a similar debuff to ability scores and a similar damage buff, but Hex doesn't allow the target a saving throw and allows you to move the spell between targets so you get considerably more benefit from your tiny number of spell slots.
  • Thirsting BladePHB: (Pact of the Blade) Crucial for Hexblades to keep pace with more conventional melee characters who get Extra Attack at 5th level, but you may do better with a melee cantrip like Booming Blade unless you're also looking at options like Great Weapon Master or Sharpshooter. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.
  • Tomb of LevistusXGtE: This is a great panic option, and at 10 temporary hit points per warlock level it should be able to absorb basically anything that hits you unless you're fighting something with a CR well above your level. However, you're incapacitated for the turn after you use this, which means you give up your turn to use it. Unless your allies can come to your aid, that could be a serious problem. Because 5e's death mechanics are so gentle, it may actually be safer to take the damage and fall unconscious, and have an ally heal you later.
  • Undying ServitudeTCoE: You get one skeleton or zombie, and not even a cool one. It's a generic humanoid skeleton/zombie. CR 1/4. You can't upcast the spell to get more of them since you're not using a spell slot. I guess they could carry your loot or something? Set off traps? If you want a pet, go get a familiar. If you want an undead warrior, cast Summon Undead. I honestly can't explain why they didn't just add Animate Dead to the Warlock's spell list.

Level 7

  • Bewitching WhispersPHB: Compulsion is a fun crowd-control effect, but it doesn't scale with spell slot level, you only get to use it once per day, and it's not effective enough to justify an Invocation.
  • Dreadful WordPHB: Confusion is an unreliable debuff in the best of cases. I would take Mire the Mind over this any day of the week.
  • Ghostly GazeXGtE: The ability to see through walls, even with limited range, is a huge benefit for adventurers. Knowing what's in the next room of a dungeon can often turn a difficult fight into a cakewalk, or it might help you totally circumvent a problematic encounter.
  • Protection of the TalismanTCoE: (Pact of the Talisman) Adds an average of +2.5 to a roll. It may be hard to figure out the DC of a save unless your DM is kind enough to tell you, unfortunately, so using this will often be a gamble. If you do figure out the save DC, you can easily weigh how far you are from success when deciding whether or not to spend the attempt. If you're off by 1 or 2, definitely do it. If you're off by 3, do it if the consequences for failure are severe (lots of damage, paralysis, etc.). If you're off by 4, generally only roll if you're desperate.
  • Relentless HexXGtE: Potentially useful for melee warlocks. Your movement is typically sufficient, but if an enemy is especially fast or there are barriers in the way you may find this situationally useful.
  • Trickster's EscapeXGtE: Situational. Freedom of Movement is occasionally great, but you don't get enough Invocation options or to make this an easy choice, and the fact that you can only target yourself doesn't help.
  • Sculptor of FleshPHB: Even once per day, Polymorph is a fantastic single-target save-or-suck spell combined with a fantastic utility spell. Turn your enemies into harmless animals, or turn yourself or an ally into something which allows you to escape, explore, or fight better. However, remember that the target's mental statistics change, so don't go turning your allies into animals or they might forget who they are temporarily.

Level 9

  • Ascendant StepPHB: Warlocks get access to Fly, but it's hard to justify spending your precious few spell slots on a buff for yourself. Levitate gets you the biggest benefit of flight (distance from the ground) at much lower cost. However, you still need to concentrate.
  • Gift of the ProtectorsTCoE: (Pact of the Tome) Imagine the Half-Orc's Relentless Endurance trait, but shared between your entire party. While it won't help you actively accomplish anything, this is a great support option that any party should welcome.
  • Minions of ChaosPHB: There are summon spells on the Warlock's spell list now, so this is obsolete.
  • Otherworldly LeapPHB: Jump is a 1st-level spell, and by this level you can cast Fly.
  • Whispers of the GravePHB: Speak with Dead is one of my favorite divinations because it grants you easy access to information which is otherwise lost forever. With the ability to cast it at will with no cost means that you can interrogate every random mook you kill in your long, sordid career of murder-hoboing. But keep in mind that the target isn't compelled to tell you anything helpful, so this isn't always reliable.

Level 12

  • Bond of the TalismanTCoE: (Pact of the Talisman) Teleporting as an Action is often hard to justify in combat. The unlimited range is nice, but if you're far enough from your talisman for that to matter you're doing something very unusual.
  • LifedrinkerPHB: (Pact of the Blade) A must for Blade Warlocks. The bonus stacks with your Charisma (for Hexblades) or Strength/Dexterity (for everyone else) to damage, so you're going to have a very solid static damage bonus to your attacks.

Level 15

  • Chains of CarceriPHB: (Pact of the Chain) Hold Monster is really good, but limiting the targets to three specific creature types dramatically reduces how useful it is. You do get to use this at will, though, which is tempting. You can't use it on the same target until you complete a long rest, but if you're facing creatures of the right types you can use this several times in a day, making it a go-to option similar to Eldritch Blase. But, again, it's limited to just three creature types.
  • Master of Myriad FormsPHB: If you want to disguise yourself, Mask of Many Faces has been available for a long time. By this level the natural weapons option is terrible, and the aquatic adaptation option is too situation to make this worthwhile. You might choose to replace Mask of Many Faces with this since Alter Self's Change Appearance options has some advantages over Disguise Self (it's not an allusion), but remember that Alter Self requires Concentration so it's not strictly better in every way.
  • Shroud of ShadowXGtE: If you have a free moment, you should turn invisible. The only times you should be visible are when you're talking to people or when you've broken invisibility.
  • Visions of Distant RealmsPHB: Arcane Eye is one of my favorite scouting options, and the ability to cast it at will makes it even better. Never go into a room without knowing exacty what's inside.
  • Witch SightPHB: Invisibility is an illusion, and locating invisibile creatures is important for a class so dependent on ranged attacks. The 30-foot range is a big problem, unfortunately, and by this level you've had plenty of time to learn how to handle invisible creatures with AOE spells like Hunger of Hadar and Sickening Radiance.

The Eldritch Adept Feat

For warlocks, Eldritch Adept gets you an extra invocation. While warlocks get several already, there are enough good options that one more could be very helpful. There's also the option of taking Eldritch Adept at first level thanks to the Custom Lineage and Variant Human, and starting at first level with something like Agonizing Blast can be very effective. For warlocks taking Eldritch Adept, see the Eldritch Invocations section, above.

For non-warlocks, Eldritch Adept offers a way to get access to an Eldritch Invocation without taking warlock levels. This offers some very interesting options, but the limitations on invocations with prerequisites means that you have a very limited pool of options to choose from. This section offers advice on those invocations specifically intended for non-warlocks.

  • Armor of ShadowsPHB: Take Magic Initiate. Mage Armor's duration is 8 hours, so one casting will get you through the day.

    The one use case for this is School of Abjuration wizards, who can use this to repeatedly cast Mage Armor in order to recharge your Arcane Ward without spending spell slots.

  • Beast SpeechPHB: Very situational. I would consider a level of druid long before spending a feat to get this.
  • Beguiling InfluencePHB: Take the Skilled feat or the Skill Expert feat, instead.
  • Devil's SightPHB: Do you have allies who like to use Magical Darkness? This will make that less of a problem.
  • Eldritch MindTCoE: Excellent on nearly any spellcaster, but War Caster provides the same benefit plus some other stuff.
  • Eldritch SightPHB: Nearly every full spellcaster gets Detect Magic, and it can be cast as a ritual. The only advantage you get with this is that it works faster than spending 10 minutes to cast it as a Ritual.
  • Eyes of the Rune KeeperPHB: Cast Comprehend Languages.
  • Fiendish VigorPHB: The temporary hit points are really tempting, but they don't scale since you always cast False Life at first level, so a Constitution increase, the Chef feat, the Inspiring Leader feat, or the Tough feat will be more effective ways to pad your hit points.
  • Gaze of Two MindsPHB: Very situational. I can't think of a time to use this repeatedly unless you were a spellcaster with a familiar or something, in which case you could solve the same problem by numerous other means including divination spells.
  • Mask of Many FacesPHB: If you want to cast Disguise Self, take Magic Initiate. If you want constant disguises, either get proficienct with the Disguise Kit or play a changeling.
  • Misty VisionsPHB: A clever player with a DM who is willing to play along can accomplish a lot with even a basic illusion. A 15-foot cube is a huge amount of space, too. Place illusory walls, doors, statues, or other objects which creatures don't expect to move or produce other stimuli like heat or smells, and in many cases that's just as good as creating something. If creatures don't realize that your illusory wall is an illusion, they're going to treat it like a wall.
  • Thief of Five FatesPHB: Technically you can select this without having warlock spell slots, which means that it's totally useless. Don't do that. It's amusing that you can do it, but it's a terrible idea.