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DnD 5e - Warlock Spell List Breakdown

Last Updated: March 31st, 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

This is not a comprehensive guide to every available spell, as that would be an exercise in madness. The following is a brief compilation of the most notable spells available to the class. Spells available via Magic Initiate are also excluded; for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" section, above.

Warlock Spells

Optional spells are marked below with (Optional) following the spell's name. These spells are considered optional rules, as described in Tasha's Cauldron of Everything. Consult your DM before deciding to use these spells.

Cantrips

  • Blade WardPHB: The Dodge action makes this redundant.
  • Booming BladeSCAG / TCoE (Optional): Keeping an enemy in melee is surprisingly difficult in 5e since movement is so easy and opportunity attacks are often fairly gentle. Booming Blade is a great solution to this issue. However, unless you're a Hexblade it's not an option you want to use. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.

    Note that Tasha's Cauldron of Everything published an updated version of Booming Blade.

  • Chill TouchPHB: The same range as Fire Bolt, but less damage. In exchange, you get a better damage type and the target can't regain hit points for a turn which can be a big help against enemies with regeneration or enemy clerics. This also imposes Disadvantage on the next attack if the target is undead, but many undead also have resistance to necrotic damage so Chill Touch isn't always a good option against undead. Still, if you need a staple, go-to damage cantrip that isn't Eldritch Blast, Chill Touch is a great option.
  • Create BonfireXGtE: Passable are control, especially for a cantrip, but it requires Concentration which is often a problem because the Warlock's best leveled spells (including options like Hex) often require Concentration.
  • Eldritch BlastPHB: The second highest damage of any cantrip in the game (at least base damage; Agonizing Blast puts Eldritch Blast well ahead of everything else), and it deals Force damage, so almost nothing is immune to it. Since you get multiple attacks it's more reliable than other cantrips which are hit-or-miss, but you're also more likely to only deal partial damage compared to single-attack cantrips. Be sure to pick up Agonizing Blast for a spectacular damage boost.
  • FriendsPHB: This is hard to use. 1 minute is not a lot of time, and you generally need to put distance between yourself and the subject of the spell before they turn hostile. You could use this to intimidate a creature into fleeing, but in most cases you'll probably be using this quickly talk your way past a creature blocking your way like a guard at a gate. You generally won't need this; between high Charisma and skill proficiencies it's easy to cover all of the Face skills.
  • FrostbiteEEPC / XGtE: Low damage for a cantrip (d6-based), but the big appeal is Disadvantage on the target's next weapon attack. Unfortunately, it works on Constitution saving throws, and those tend to be relatively high compared to other saving throws.
  • Green-Flame BladeSCAG / TCoE (Optional): If you are a Hexblade and you don't take this, you are making a mistake. Until you get Thirsting Blade, this is a straight damage boost. Even when you get Thirsting Blade, Green-Flame Blade may do more damage in some circumstances, and Green-Flame Blade will continue to scale in damage long after you stop getting additional weapon attacks. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks.

    Note that Tasha's Cauldron of Everything published an updated version of Green-Flame Blade.

  • InfestationXGtE: Constitution saves tend to be high, which is this spell's biggest problem. The damage is low but tolerable, and the forced movement is enough to make it useful by forcing enemies to move around in dangerous places or move out of a grapple despite your lack of control over the direction.
  • Lightning LureSCAG / TCoE (Optional): Situational, but potentially useful for hexblades to pull enemies into melee. Despite the 15-foot range, this can be a great option for melee Eldritch Knights. Against enemies with poor Strength (like many enemy spellcasters), you can use this to drag them into melee with you and force them to teleport or Disengage in order to get away from you unharmed. If you're flying, you may even be able to pull enemies into the air to cause a small amount of falling damage. Since it only has Verbal components, you can easily use this without juggling your weapon. poor save DC you'll only be successful with this against physically weak foes.
  • Mage HandPHB: The ability to move objects at a safe distance is profoundly useful. Use it to pull levers, open doors, sort your laundry, and all manner of other important but potentially hazardous tasks where you wouldn't want to risk your own hands.
  • Magic StoneEEPC / XGtE: Eldritch Blast is similar, more effective, less work, and can be improved with invocations. There is a tiny window at level 1 where Magic Stone may deal one more point of damage on average, but the Warlock can't replace their cantrips (unless you're using Optional Class Features) and dealing one extra point of damage at level 1 isn't worth being saddled with this for your whole career.

    That said, there is a small niche where Magic Stone may be useful. Pact of the Chain allows your familiar to attack, but few familiars have a ranged attack option (literally only sprites), often forcing them to move into melee to attack. You can cast Magic Stone and gives the stones to your familiar for them to use in order to attack at range.

    Taking the Attack action to have your familiar attack this way is a huge waste compared to casting a cantrip, but using Investment of the Chain Master to command your familiar to take the Attack action essentially means that you spend a Bonus Action to throw a stone for 1d6+Charisma damage without the risk of your familiar diving into melee and hoping to make it back out alive despite single-digit maximum hp. The biggest challenge is managing your Bonus Actions, but if you can manage one or two rock attacks per encounter without changing any of your other tactics, Magic Stone becomes an easy source of additional damage output.

  • Mind SliverTCoE (Optional): Psychic damage on an Intelligence save is spectacular on its own. Intelligence saves are consistently among the lowest, and psychic damage resistance/immunity is rare (though it does exist, especially on mindless enemies like zombies). That alone makes Mind Sliver arguably the most reliable cantrip damage in 5e, but it gets better from there. With only Verbal components, Mind Sliver works while you're tied up or have your hands full, making it a great option for War Caster. It also imposes a -1d4 penalty on the target's next saving throw making them an easier target for save-or-suck spells, or you can just repeatedly hit them with Mind Sliver and watch enemies try to beat your spell save DC with a +0 save bonus and the -1d4 penalty from your previous hit.
  • Poison SprayPHB: Use Toll the Dead.
  • PrestidigitationPHB: Whenever you want to do something small and magical that's not covered by another spell, it's usually covered by prestidigitation. This spell is exceptionally versatile. For suggestions on how to use Prestidigitation to its fullest, see my Practical Guide to Prestidigitation.
  • Sword BurstSCAG / TCoE (Optional): Dealing with crowds of enemies is often difficult for weapon users, and the Hexblade is no exception. Even with Thirsting Blade, Sword Burst will deal consistently more damage any time you're facing three or more adjacent enemies. See my article on Melee Cantrips vs. Extra Attack for a breakdown of the math comparing melee cantrip spells to normal martial attacks. Other warlocks should avoid needing this.
  • ThunderclapEEPC: Thunder damage is worse than Sword Burst's force damage, and Thunderclap uses Constitution saves, which tend to be high.
  • Toll the DeadPHB: Enemies spend most of their time in an encounter with less than full hit points, so the d12 damage scaling will occur more often than the d8 scaling. Between that and targeting Wisdom saves instead of consistently high Constitution saves, Toll the Dead is already a massively better spell than Poison Spray. Of course, Agonizing Blast will make Eldritch Blast do considerably more damage, but Eldritch Blast suffers Disadvantage while you're adjacent to an enemy, so Toll the Dead is a good backup option.
  • True StrikePHB: Typically you'll get better results from attacking twice rather than using this then attacking once.

1st-Level Spells

  • Armor of AgathysPHB: Exclusive to warlocks and a truly excellent defensive option, this both protects you and harms enemies. The scaling is fantastic, too, so it remains powerful and effective at every spell level. At high levels this may do more damage than casting offensive spells, especially against foes that make numerous attacks with relatively low damage. However, it requires that you be attacked and damaged with melee attacks, so if your AC is too high it won't work and if you're standing behind a defender it won't matter.
  • Arms of HadarPHB: It's more fun than taking the Withdraw action, but otherwise it's unremarkable. The damage scaling is passable, but I wouldn't consider this a go-to combat option. It may be worth consideration if you're a non-hexblade with a bad habit of getting dragged into melee, but otherwise skip it.
  • Cause FearXGtE: Disadvantage on ability checks usually doesn't matter in combat unless a grapple is happening or if someone is dispelling or countering a spell, but preventing a creature from moving toward you can be enough crowd control to win an encounter while you and your allies shoot it to death.
  • Charm PersonPHB: If you can cast this on a target outside of combat without them noticing, this can be a great way to defuse a potentially hostile situation. However, the spell has some complications. Charm Person has no visual effect like a ball of fire, so there's no visual indication that the spell succeeded or failed. The target doesn't know that they've been targeted by the spell if they succeed on the saving throw, but you don't know if they succeeded or failed unless your DM decides to tell you (and they are under no obligation to do so). So generally your best bet is to cast this and hope for the best before presenting yourself to your target.
  • Comprehend LanguagesPHB: You can't learn every language in 5e. It's simply not possible. Eventually you will want to replace this with Tongues, but Comprehend Languages does fine until then.
  • Distort ValueAI: If your DM allows you to trade magic items, this might be incredibly useful. However, your DM might also find this incredibly annoying and punish you for using it by having angry traders track you down after an unfair trade. Discuss this spell with your DM before you consider learning it.
  • Expeditious RetreatPHB: Situational and poorly named. Expiditious Retreat is great for chases and for running long distances, but those situations aren't common enough to justify preparing this unless you know it's going to happen. The duration is good and Dash as a bonus action offers a lot of extra speed, but since this requires Concentration you'll almost always want a different buff instead.
  • Hellish RebukePHB: Warlocks don't get enough spell slots to devote one to this. The damage is decent and the scaling is good, but Armor of Agathis is better by a massive margin. For the Warlock, Hellish Rebuke's only redeeming quality is that it is cast as a reaction.
  • HexPHB: An excellent damage boost, especially once you get multiple rays with Eldritch Blast. As you gain levels you'll eventually be able to make one casting of Hex last all day long, limited only by the need to concentrate. Melee warlocks will face issues maintaining Concentration unless they pick up War Caster, and the need to concentrate on this makes it difficult to use other spells which require Concentration.
  • Illusory ScriptPHB: Too situational to justify on a class with a limited number of spells known.
  • Protection from Evil and GoodPHB: An excellent defensive option at any level, but since it requries Concentration you'll need to drop your Hex.
  • Unseen ServantPHB: This has very limited utility in combat or in dangerous situations, but that doesn't mean that it has none. With a 1-hour duration you can get a lot done with a single casting. Interacting with items can mean opening doors and chests, carrying items, using potions on allies, and other things which you might not have time or patience to do. 2 Strength isn't enough to carry anything heavy or to break down a door, but it's often enough to trigger traps.
  • Witch BoltPHB: A solid option at very low levels because you can get so much out of a single spell slot, but the secondary damage doesn't scale so this becomes obsolete when you can do more than an average of 6.5 damage with an action. Agonizing blast will get you over that threshold almost immediately, though the guaranteed damage from Witch Bolt's secondary damage may still net more damage than potentially missing with Eldritch Blast.

2nd-Level Spells

  • Cloud of DaggersPHB: It's hard to guarantee that this will deal damage unless you have a good way to keep an enemy in the area of effect. An ally who likes to grapple will work, but that's hard to guarantee, and it's an extra point of failure. The damage will roll reliably because it's spread over multiple small dice, but even then the damage won't be great unless you can hold a single target in the area for several rounds. If you want single-target damage, go for something with more damage up front. If you want area control, go for something with a bigger area. If you're fine with putting area damage into a single square, cast Create Bonfire.
  • Crown of MadnessPHB: This spell is borderline unusable. The creature must attack before it moves, so you may be able to make it attack an ally once immediately after the spell is cast, but it retains control over its movement so it's free to walk away from its allies. On top of that, you need to spend your own action to maintain the spell rather than simply concentrating, so you're eating your own turns for the remote chance that the target will wander up to another of its allies.
  • DarknessPHB: Warlocks are the only class that provides a way to see in magical darkness, and other than devils there are almost no creatures that can see in magical darkness. That makes magical darkness a massive tactical advantage for you.
  • EarthbindXGtE: Situational and not terribly effective. If you're worried about flying enemies getting out of range, hit them with Lance of Lethargy or Grasp of Hadar.
  • EnthrallPHB: Too situational, too limited, and the duration is too short. The best usage I can think of for this is to distract a bunch of creatures while your allies move past them or move into place to ambush them. But in most cases where you're resorting to violence you'll have better resulsts with a different spell like Calm Emotions. In situations where you need to move past people, cast Invisibility.
  • Hold PersonPHB: Save or suck, and as you get higher-level spell slots you can affect multiple targets. Unfortunately, it only works on a single creature type that makes up a tiny portion of the monster manual.
  • InvisibilityPHB: An essential scouting and infiltration tool, and as you get higher-level spell slots you can affect more of your party.
  • Mind SpikeXGtE: Extremely situational, and only as much damage as a 1st-level spell. If you can see the target to target them with Mind Spike, you should look for a way debilitate or incapacitate them rather than just mitigating invisibility.
  • Mirror ImagePHB: Great for wizards, but less useful or warlocks. The duration is too short, the effect can be worn down too quickly, and the spell doesn't scale with spell level. Armor of Agathys is probably a better option.
  • Misty StepPHB: Teleport as a bonus action with only verbal components. Teleport out of grapples, ropes, manacles, etc.
  • Ray of EnfeeblementPHB: Garbage. The targets you want to use this on will have good Constitution saves.
  • Shadow BladeXGtE: Unfortunately, Shadow Blade won't work especially well for the Hexblade because you can't use it with your Charisma for attack and damage. It's tempting for other Warlocks if your Dexterity is decent, but it's not good enouggh to invest in Dexterity to make it viable.
  • ShatterPHB: The poor man's fireball. 3d8 damage in a 10-foot radius is enough to hit several targets and deal decent damage. However, the save is Consitution so many creatures will be able to resist easily. Disadvantage for creatures made of inorganic materials is really neat, but how often do you fight a group of animated armors or iron golems?
  • Spider ClimbPHB: Even when flight becomes an options, Spider Climb remains an inexpensive and reliable way to get off the ground, to sneak into places, and to manage many other problematic obstacles.
  • SuggestionPHB: Extremely versatile. You can use this to accomplish a lot of things. This is more effective, reliable, and immediate than Geas. However, the 8-hour duration requires Concentration, so if you want to use this while adventuring you're comitting a significant resource for a full day to get the full duration of the spell. This spell benefits greatly from your own creativity, so the more thought you put into its use the more effective it will be.

    You may also need a patient, permissive DM, so try not to abuse this too much or your DM may grow tired of your shenanigans and instill some sort of consequences. Strangely, the spell doesn't state that the target knows that they were charmed, so much like a "Jedi Mind Trick", the target will carry out the specified action as though it made sense to do so even if they'll regret it later.

3rd-Level Spells

  • CounterspellPHB: Essential in any party.
  • Dispel MagicPHB: Essential in any party.
  • Enemies AboundXGtE: Astoundingly few enemies have good Intelligence saves, especially big scary melee monsters. Throw this on something tanky and horrifying that's there to protect squishy enemies from you and your friends, and watch it freak out and kill its buddies for you. The duration is only a minute, and obviously this only works in an encounter with multiple enemies, but that doesn't make the spell less awesome.
  • FearPHB: A great way to disable groups of opponents, but it doesn't scale with spell slot level so you may want to trade it out at some point.
  • FlyPHB: A great way to get around, but it requires Concentration so you can be knocked out of the air any time you take you take damage. As your spell slots gain levels you can affect more creatures so your entire party can fly.
  • Gaseous FormPHB: Situational, but a fantastic way to safely infiltrate or scout an area.
  • Hunger of HadarPHB: Exclusive to warlocks, but no spell slot level scaling. The damage is decent, and the area control effects (difficult terrain and creatures in the area are blinded, so even Devil's Sight doesn't let you see through the area) are great for keeping enemies in the area to guarantee that the damage will apply more than once. This is a great spell to cast into a room before locking the door and leaving its occupants to their fate.
  • Hypnotic PatternPHB: AOE save or suck.
  • Incite GreedAI: This is a gamble. If targets fail their saves you can draw them into melee range with you and keep them there for up to a minute. You then need to find a way to capitalize on their position. You could walk your full speed away (affected targets can do nothing but move toward you, so they can't take Reactions to perform an Opportunity Attack), drop Concentration, then hit them with a big AOE.
  • Intellect FortressTCoE (Optional): Technically situational, but an absolutely spectacular defense against enemies which rely on spells or common effects like charm and fear effects. Unlike racial traits like the Gnome's Cunning or the Satyr and Yuan-Ti Pureblood's Magic Resistance, this applies to all Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma saving throws, providing broad and effective protection against many of the most dangeorus save-or-suck effects in the game. You also get resistance to psychic damage, which is nice if you're fighting mind flayers, aboleths, or bards who enjoy Vicious Mockery. With a 1-hour duration, the Concentration requirement can be problematic, but it also means that you can carry this through multiple encounters at low cost, so in situations where you need this it's not going to eat all of your spell slots.
  • Magic CirclePHB: With a 1-minute casting time, you can't use this in combat unless you have time to prepare and your enemies are coming to you. Even then, using this in combat isn't reliable protection because it doesn't mitigate the effects of spells and abilities which don't require attack rolls like breath weapons or fireballs. The best use case is generally to invert the effects and use a spell to summon a creature so that you can bargain with it without risk of the creature escaping. Even then, the 1-hour duration may not be enough to guarantee your safety. If you want similar effects in combat, Protection From Evil and Good will do the trick.
  • Major ImagePHB: Fantastically versatile, and creatures don't make a saving throw. Instead, they need to know to touch the illusion or make an Intelligence (Investigation) check, or they need to physically interact with the illusion. Even then, you can buy yourself a great deal of time while the target tries to figure out your illusion.
  • Remove CursePHB: Situational, but irreplaceable.
  • Spirit ShroudTCoE (Optional): An interesting choice for the Hexblade. The extra damage works well if you're using Thirsting Blade, and it's even better if you're using Crossbow Expert, too. This competes for space with Hex, which will do similar damage until you can upcast Spirit Shroud at 5th level, and by that point you may find Shadow of Moil more appealing for similar purposes.
  • Summon Lesser DemonsXGtE: You can't control the demons, and they're probably not strong enough to win an encounter on their own. The material component may also be problem since it has a 24 freshness timer.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Summon FeyTCoE (Optional): Decent summons at this level, especially compared to Summon Lesser Demons, but upgrade to a better summon spell as soon as you can.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Summon ShadowspawnTCoE (Optional): Better combat options than Summon Fey, but mostly worse than Summon Undead.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Summon UndeadTCoE (Optional): Several excellent combat options, and the ghostly option can fly around and do stuff for you.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Thunder StepXGtE: Basically Misty Step with added damage, but it has an Action casting time. The damage is nice, but there's a small window of levels where casting this will do more damage than using Misty Step and casting Eldritch Blast in the same turn.
  • TonguesPHB: You are almost certainly your party's Face, and language can present a serious barrier. You may not want to pick this up when you first get access to 3rd-level spells, but consider picking it up later when using a 3rd-level spell on a utility option is less daunting.
  • Vampiric TouchPHB: Migrants from previous editions should note that this spell is no longer a single attack: The spell lasts a minute and you can repeat the attack every turn. Unfortunately because the range is "Self", you can't cast this through your familiar, so if you want to use this you'll need to wade into melee. This spell is a great option for hexblades who are trying to get by on their d8 hit dice and whose temporary hit points didn't hold up.

4th-Level Spells

  • BanishmentPHB: Save-or-suck on anything extraplanar, and even for native creatures you can lock them out of a fight for up to a minute. Charisma is a great save to target because relatively few creatures have high Charisma. Higher-level spell slots allow you to affect multiple creatures, but you'll max out at 2 targets because Pact Magic spell slots max out at 5th level.
  • BlightPHB: Warlocks don't get enough spell slots to spend one on such a relatively small amount of single-target damage. On top of that, Constitution saves tend to be high among monsters, so enemies are likely to pass the save and take reduced damage.
  • Charm MonsterXGtE: A great nonlethal way to deal with enemies. It doesn't require that the target be able to understand you, but otherwise has the same complications which Charm Person does: the target is only friendly toward you, and when the spell ends they know that they were charmed.
  • Dimension DoorPHB: You can get the most important parts of Dimension Door from Misty Step, and Misty Step has a bonus action casting time. Of course, you're using the same spell slot for either, so this is a good candidate to pick up after you've run out other interesting spells of 5th level and below. To be clear: This is by no means a bad spell, it's just a bad choice for a Warlock when they can first select it at level 7.
  • Elemental BaneXGtE: Removing damage resistance is great, but many of the Warlock's spells do necrotic, thunder, or force damage, so resistance is almost never a problem.
  • Hallucinatory TerrainPHB: Situational.
  • Shadow of MoilXGtE: Combine this with Armor of Agathys and make attacking you both difficult and very costly.

    The darkness mechanics on this spell are complicated and I think a lot of people get it wrong, as it depends on complicated interactions between the Unseen Attackers rules and the Vision and Light rules. In Bright Light (daylight, the area of a torch, etc.) Shadow of Moil reduces the light to Dim Light, which has no further effect mechanically. You get nothing for being in Dim Light. If you are in Dim Light already (moonlight, the edge of a torche's range), the light is reduced to Darkness and you get all of the normal benefits of being in mundane Darkness (possibly Advantage on attacks and Disadvantage when enemies attack you). Unlike the Darkness spell, creatures with Darkvision can see through this darkness. Darkness includes the text "A creature with darkvision can't see through this darkness", but Shadow of Moil does not and many players overlook that extremely intentional ommision from the spell's effects. To simplify all of that: the darkness effects are completely negated by sunlight, a torch, Darkvision, or any source of light which creates Bright Light.

    However, the darkness effect is not what makes Shadow of Moil good. It's that you're heavily obscured by the spell. It's surprisingly easy to overlook, but the first sentence says "causing you to become heavily obscured to others". According to the Vision and Light rules, that means that other creatures are effectively blind toward you. You get Advantage to hit them, and they get Disadvantgae to hit you. Combined with Eldritch Blast's numerous attacks, that means that you get a whole bunch of rolls to potentially score critical hits. The rules notably only describe "a heavily obscured area" rather than creatures or objects, but Jeremy Crawford has confirmed that the spell Heavily Obscures you, full stop.

  • Sickening RadianceXGtE: This spell is very easy to overlook. The effects are complicated, and the 4d10 damage looks underwhelming, but don't let that deter you. This is a great spell to cast into a room then shut the door, but even if that's not an option it's a fantastic way to handle crowds. With a 30-foot radius you can hit a huge number of targets, and with a 10-minute duration you can easily kill anything stuck in the area for an extended period. The 4d10 damage is fine, and negating invisibility is great, but the real appeal is the levels of Exhaustion. One level makes targets less able to resist grappling or other crowd control spells like Maximilian's Earthen Grasp or Web which your allies could cast to keep enemies in the area. Two levels halves targets' speed, making it harder for them to move out of the area. Three levels imposes Disadvantage on saves so their condition will deteriorate even faster. If targets somehow survive until 5 levels of exhaustion (they'll have taken 20d10 radiant damage by now, which is a lot), their speed drops to 0 so you no longer need to do anything to prevent escape. Just wait for them to hit 6 levels of Exhaustion, which results in death if a total of 24d10 radiant damage somehow hasn't killed them. Just be warned: this spell affects allies, too, and if the spell ends the levels of Exhaustion are removed instantly.
  • Summon AberrationTCoE (Optional): Three diverse and effective combat options.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Summon ConstructTCoE: Not as effective offensively as Summon Aberration, but all three summoned constructs are unusually durable for creatures summoned by similar spells.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Summon ElementalTCoE: Summon Aberration is better offensively, and Summon Construct provides a more durable summon. Summon Elemental's biggest advantage is that you can summon a creature that can fight effectively underwater, but even then it's not a great summon.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Summon Greater DemonXGtE: Potentially very useful, but Summon Greater Demon is a double-edged sword. The demon is only under your control so long as it keeps failing Charisma saves, so you want to pick something with poor Charisma saves to keep it under your control as long as possible. In a pinch you can use the option to create a safe space and bottleneck the demon in a room full of enemies, then walk away and let the demon run wild. Even at this level a CR 5 is still decently powerful, and thanks to 5e's flat math a CR 5 will remain a meaningful addition to the party for a reasonably long time. As your spell slot levels improve, you can summon more powerful demons, which keeps the spell useful for a long time. It may wane in effectiveness a few levels after you max out at 5th-level spell slots, but if you can find a demon with good utility options Summon Greater Demon may remain viable long past the end of its usefulness in combat.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

5th-Level Spells

Pact Magic's spell slots max out at 5th level. All spells available to warlock as higher-level spells are "Mystic Arcana", and work differently from Pact Magic spells. Once you reach 5th-level spell slots at 9th level, you also learn new spells much less quickly. Hopefully you've picked up the essentials already, so plan to go back through the list of lower-level spells for anything which is still useful at high level.

Considering it's the Warlock's highest-level spell slot, it's frustrating that there are so few options on the Warlock spell list.

  • Contact Other PlanePHB: This is a fantastic divination. You can gain a ton of useful information from a handful of yes or no questions. Unfortunately, Intelligence is a dump stat for Warlocks so the save will be very difficult even at a DC of just 15. Try to pad your save bonus however you can: bardic inspiration, Guidance, whatever you can get. Oh, and don't cast this unless you can safely endure the 6d6 damage and spend the rest of the day tied to a bed.
  • Danse MacabreXGtE: As a DM, I'm going to ask you a personal favor: Don't cast this spell on anything except human corpses. The Monster Manual contains only a handful of skeleton and zombie stat blocks, and if you do something silly like raise a bunch of zombie wolves your DM is going to need to generate a new stat block for them in the middle of a game session. At some point I'll write a "Big Book of Skeletons" and "Big Book of Zombies" to convert every living creature in the Monster Manual, but that's probably a long way off. I think the intent is that you should use the generic "Zombie" stat block used for humanoid zombies, but it never explains what to do if players use this on any other kind of corpse.
  • DreamPHB: While this spell on its own can be very powerful, it's only usable outside of combat, and there are a lot of limitations on its usage. If it were easier for the Warlock to change their spells known this would be fine, but you get an extremely limited number of spells known and you want those options to be consistently useful. If you really want this, make sure that you have plenty of other spells known that can cover your needs in combat.
  • EnervationXGtE: Remember Witch Bolt? Remember how it was a decent use of a spell slot at first level when you had very few spell slots to throw around? Enervation is startlingly similar, but with some notable exceptions. First, Enervation requires a Dexterity saving throw rather than attack roll, and Dexterity saving throws tend to be poor for both big tanky creatures and small squishy casters. Second, it does necrotic damage, which is objectively more useful than lightning damage. Third and finally, Enervation heals you for half the damage it deals, so you can cast this at the beginning of a fight, spend the whole fight using it to deal automatic damage, and walk out at full hit points. The biggest issue I see is that the ongoing damage will probably be lower than what you can get out of Eldritch Blast with Agonizing Blast. You get three rays not long after you get this spell, and 3d10+15 (avg. 31.5) is higher than 4d8 (avg. 18). Save this for enemies with high AC or for when you're low on hit points.
  • Far stepXGtE: Misty Step, but you can activate it again every turn for a minute. The only drawback is that it requires Concentration, which means that you need to drop concentration on other spells to cast this even if you don't need to teleport more than once.
  • Hold MonsterPHB: Single-target save or suck, and it works on non-humanoids. However, the target gets additional saves every turn which makes this a difficult gamble with your limited spell slots.
  • Infernal CallingXGtE: If Summon Greater Demon was a frustrating gamble, Infernal Calling is even more difficult. You need to negotiate with your summoned devil, and unless you're playing to the devil's nature or doing something actively eveil you may find the whole spell totally unreliable. Casting Summon Greater Demon will get you a creature of the same CR, which will likely be sufficient, and doesn't require so much real-world work. There's an option to summon individual devils using their talisman, but getting one of those would be a plot point which the DM would need to include, so don't gamble on that happening.
  • MisleadPHB (Optional): Situational. Not a great option in combat, but out of combat this provides a passably safe way to scout an area or to trick other creatures.
  • Negative Energy FloodXGtE: Much like Danse Macabre, this requires the DM to produce zombie statistics for creatures on the fly, so I'll politely ask you not to use this on anything which doesn't already have published monster stats. On top of that, it's really hard to time this so that you'll get a zombie. Enervation is probably a better choice.
  • Planar BindingPHB (Optional): Extremely situational and very expensive. If you learn this, wait until you're high level, can easily afford the 1,000gp material cost, and can cast a spell of sufficiently high level to summon something extremely powerful.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • ScryingPHB: Technically situational, but it's a situation that comes up frequently. Any time that you want to know what the BBEG is up to, cast Scrying and take a look. The spell gets easier the more you know the target, and after one face-to-face encounter you could easily make off with something tying you to the target to penalize their saving throw.
  • Synaptic StaticXGtE: Start with fireball. Shave 30 feet off the range, change the damage type to psychic, and change the saving throw to Intelligence. Very few creatures are good at intelligence saves, so expect most creatures to fail the save. The 8d6 damage feels underwhelming at this spell level, but subtracting a d6 from from attack rolls and ability checks for a full minute is a significant debuff. This is a good option to start a fight with a large number of martial enemies because they'll be impacted most by debuff and most martial enemies have poor Intelligence saves.
  • Teleportation CirclePHB (Optional): Situational, but generally one of the safest long-distance teleportion options, especially since it doesn't have a cap on the number or size of creatures affected. However, how useful it is depends on the availability of convenient teleportation circles in your campaign. If your DM isn't going to make such teleportation circles available and useful, look elsewhere.
  • Wall of LightXGtE: Less of a wall and more of a hostile opaque rectangle. This is a great area control effect, especially in long corridors. If you can trap enemies inside the area, the 10 minute duration will allow you to do massive amounts of damage with relatively little effort. However, the limitations on the shape of the wall mean that it won't be a great option in every case.

6th-Level Spells

Your first Mystic Arcana. Remember that you only get to cast the spell once per day, unlike your normal spell slots.

  • Arcane GatePHB: Far too situational to consider. Cast Fly and have your party fly the 500 ft. distance instead.
  • Circle of DeathPHB: Decent damage in a huge AOE. Not super exciting, and the 500gp material component is annoying, but the spell doesn't consume it so you can carry around the same bag of dust forever.
  • Conjure FeyPHB: With an hour-long duration, a pet fey can get a lot done for you. Unfortunately this requires concentration, so you can't use Hex at the same time, but the versatility of summoning any Fey of CR 6 and below is probably the best you can get from the only 6th-level spell that you'll ever cast.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Create UndeadPHB: Adventuring tends to produce a lot of dead medium humanoids, which gives you plenty of fodder for this spell. Since you never get another 6th-level spell and you can only cast this once per day, you're permanently committed to three pet ghouls, which isn't a terrible commitment unless you actually need your Mystic Arcanum for use in combat or something.
  • EyebitePHB: A signifigant departure from previous editions, Eyebite gives you up to a minute to target one creature each turn. The best option is to put things to sleep, followed by Sickened.
  • Flesh to StonePHB: Single-target save-or suck, but they get multiple saves and Constitution saves tend to be high so you can't count on this to work reliably. Even if the target does succumb to the spell, it takes at least three rounds.
  • Investiture of FlameXGtE: The "investitute" spells are hard for warlocks. Each has merits depending on your situation, but warlocks only get one 6th-level spell, so you need to pick one that's always a good go-to option. Flame isn't a great option; the 1d10 damage to adjacent enemies isn't enough to be scary at this level, and the line of fire will do less damage than Eldritch Blast+Agonizing Blast unless you manage to hit two or more creatures.
  • Investiture of IceXGtE: A decent option for Hexblades, the difficult terrain area makes it hard for enemies to get away from you in melee, and the AOE is good for handling groups of weak enemies.
  • Investiture of StoneXGtE: The damage reduction is great, but knocking enemies prone with your action will only help if you have melee allies acting immediately after you in the initiative order.
  • Investiture of WindXGtE: If you want flight, cast Fly. The attack option doesn't do enough damage to be appealing, and if you want to push/pull enemies there are Eldritch Invocations that do it better.
  • Mass SuggestionPHB: Difficult to use in combat, but potentially a great way to avoid a fight.
  • Mental PrisonXGtE: Excellent single-target save-or-suck. Almost nothing has good intelligence saves, which makes this a solid go-to option. The target can't see or hear outside of the mental prison, but you're free to shoot them to death while they're restrained. It's not quite as restrictive as being paralyzed by Hold Monster, but it's considerably more reliable and the target doesn't get additional saves every round. The target can technically still see and hear, but only within the illusion, and most offensive spells require line of sight so the best that most enemies can do is Dodge or cast buffs on themselves. Do keep in mind that if the target chooses to Dodge, it'll offset Advantage on your attacks against them.
  • ScatterXGtE: Too situational to be locked into it permanently. You could build your spell list to have a bunch of nasty AOEs then use this to drop enemies into them, but that seems silly when you could just use your Mystic Arcana to kill stuff.
  • Soul CageXGtE: This can be really good if you're still facing humanoid enemies frequently at such high level, which certainly isn't a guarantee.
  • Summon FiendTCoE (Optional): Three perfectly fine summon options, but I don't think they're good enough to spend one of your Mystic Arcanum slots.

    For more help, see my Practical Guide to Summoning Spells.

  • Tasha's Otherworldly GuiseTCoE (Optional): A number of useful buffs, including flight and a bonus to AC among other more situational benefits. With a 1-minute duration this may not feel impactful enough for one of your precious Mystic Arcana slots.

    This also grants the equivalent of Extra Attack. While that's objectively a good benefit, unless you're already built to use weapons you're better served by Eldritch Blast. And if you are built to use weapons, you're either using a cantrip like Booming Blade or you took Thirsting Blade so you either don't want Extra Attack or you already have it.

  • True SeeingPHB: Too situational to be locked into every day with your onyl 6th-level spell.

7th-Level Spells

  • Crown of StarsXGtE: Not very exciting, but a solid boost to your damage output. The hour-long duration means that you can easily cast this before going into one or more encounters and use it as-needed, and you don't need to Concentrate to maintain the spell so you can combine it with Hex.
  • Dream of the Blue VeilTCoE (Optional): This is more a plot point than a spell. Don't learn this unless your DM tells you to.
  • EtherealnessPHB: Too situational for the Warlock. Aside from specifically dealing with etheral creatures, you can handle challenges addressed by Etherealness using spells like Gaseous Form.
  • Finger of DeathPHB: Excellent single-target damage, and since there's a flat +30 you're guaranteed to not roll too terribly. The free zombie is nice, too. Unfortunately it's a Constitution save, and those tend to be high.
  • ForcecagePHB: Trap one or more creatures. No save, and the only way out is to use magic. Against non-spellcasters, this is a death sentence. Throw down a damaging AOE like Hunger of Hadar or Sickening Radiance, throw the cage on top of it, and go take a break.
  • Plane ShiftPHB: Combination travel/banishment in one spell. You can easily replicate teleportation by casting Plane Shift twice to get where you want to be on the same plane. You can also banish a creature to a plane where they'll be really unhappy, like a living creature banished to the plane of fire, or a demon banished to Celestia. The spell requires a Charisma save to resist, and many monsters have terrible Charisma saves because they're horrifying monstrosities.
  • Power Word PainXGtE: A good debuff, but the things you want to affect with it will have too many hit points. Hit them with a save-or-suck instead.

8th-Level Spells

  • DemiplanePHB: A really cool spell, but you only get one 8th-level spell, and you don't need to cast Demiplane on a daily basis.
  • Dominate MonsterPHB: Arguably the best save-or-suck spell in the game. You can do a lot with perfect control over a creature for such a long period of time. Using the target as a thrall in combat is obviously tempting, but the target gets to repeat their saving throw every time that they take damage, so be very cautious if you choose to do so.
  • FeeblemindPHB: Wisdom-based and Charisma-based casters are extremely vulnerable to Feeblemind. Even creatures who cast spells as a supplement to their other abilities can be seriously inhibited by suddenly being less intelligent than many animals.

    Beyond limited spellcasting, I've always found this spell difficult to manage for other enemies. 1 Intelligence and 1 Charisma is obviously very poor, but what is the victim capable of? If they're a cleric, can they still cast spells? What are they smart enough to do in combat? There's a lot of room for the DM to interpret how this works and which abilities creatures can still use. While that could be fun and very effective, it also makes the spell's effect totally dependent on the DM and their interpretation of what an affected creature is mentally capable of doing.

  • GlibnessPHB: In many cases you'll know that conversations will take place ahead of time, which makes glibness's hour-long duration fantastic. By this level your Charisma should be 20 already, so you're effectively rolling 20+proficiency bonus on every Charisma check. Counterspell and Dispel Magic also call for ability checks with your spellcasting ability, which means that this even has a use outside of social situations.
  • Maddening DarknessXGtE: Hunger of Hadar's horrifying big brother. Equal parts area control and AOE damage. If you have Devil's Sight, you can see into the area and shoot the unfortunate creatures inside it.
  • Power Word StunPHB: Power word spells are hard because you don't know how many hit points a creature has, but if you can target an appropriate creature this is very effective. This also works on Cosntittuion saving throws, which means that its best reserved for physically frail enemies like spellcasters who have low hit point maximums to behind with.

9th-Level Spells

  • Astral ProjectionPHB: Too situational, too expensive. Use Plane Shift.
  • Blade of DisasterID:RotF / TCoE (Optional): In almost every situation Psychic Scream is a better damage option, but in long fights against powerful single foes, the total damage output from Blade of Disaster will be more effective. It also has the added benefit of not killing your party in small quarters.
  • ForesightPHB: If I woke up one day, not knowing anything about what was going to happen that day, and was told "pick one 9th-level spell right now", I would pick Wish. But Wish isn't on the Warlock spell list, so take Foresight instead. It's difficult to overstate how effective this buff is on literally any character. You do everything for 8 hours with Advantage, and every attack against you is made with Disadvantage. Unless someone hits you with Dispel Magic, you're basically unstoppable. Imagine how many times you're going to score critical hits while you're rolling four rays with Eldritch Blast and Advantage on every one of them.
  • GatePHB (Optional): There are several ways to use this spell, two of which were intended when the spell was designed.
    • Travel to another plane: The simplest option, you open a door and you walk through to another plane, leaving the gate open for up to a minute for whoever else to walk through in either direction.
    • Summon a creature: If you know the name of a creature on another plane, you can drag them (potentially against their will and without a save) to your location. This is easy to abuse by going to plane where you know they aren't (pocket dimensions work great for this, but there are so many planes that it's hard to accidently be on the same one), then forcibly summon them. You could summon your biggest antagonist after spending a bunch of time setting up traps, buffs, and readied actions, then have your party stomp them into the dirt. If you're extra clever, you can use Astral Projection to fight whatever you're summoning whiel projected so if something goes wrong you won't actually die and you could try again later. I think the intent of this function was to summon an ally to help you in a fight, but I think my idea is more useful.
    • One-way cover: You can only enter the portal from the front, but it's unclear what the back looks like or how it functions. It's not described as solid, so it's entirely possibly that you can fire projectiles through it from the rear, while projectiles from the front pass into the portal. I can't imagine that you can see through the portal, so this may be hard to do, but it may be possible. Check with your DM.
    • Magical drain: About to drown? About to hit by a flow of magma or falling rocks? Open a gate to literally anywhere else and let the offending substance enjoy eternity floating in limbo or anywhere else that isn't a problem for you. The multiverse is your dumping ground.
  • ImprisonmentPHB: This is an incredibly interesting spell, and it's incredibly effective for handling problematic foes who have a habit of rising from the dead or other such nonsense. However, it is insanely expensive to use even once. It's also not totally clear to me what happens to the material component when you cast the spell. Since nothing is specified, I presume that you're lefting holding the component. That means that you're now responsible for ensuring that no one ever casts a 9th-level Dispel Magic on that component, and you're also not allowed to use that component again for fear of releasing the previous target. If you weren't locked into this spell permanently, it would be fine, but for the Warlock who gets just one 9th-level spell, it's simply too restrictive and too exprensive.
  • Power Word KillPHB: 100 hit points is a very low cap, but it's hard to argue with how effective it is to outright slay a creature with no rolls involved. As an example, a 20th-level wizard with 12 Constitution will have 102 hit points (6+19*4+20), so basically nothing which is scary at this level will be immediately vulnerable, but if your allies can deal a bunch of damage quickly you may be able to use this in round 1 of a fight.
  • Psychic ScreamXGtE: Intelligence saving throws tend to be poor, and this affects up to 10 creatures. The damage is decent, but it is absolutely not the primary appeal of the spell. It's the fact that you can make creatures' heads explode. Or if that's not appealing it's the ongoing Stun effect which again targets those low Intelligence saves. The stun has no limit on its duration, so creatures are stunned until they get a lucky roll, leaving your plenty of time to deal with them and their allies.
  • True PolymorphPHB: Powerful, versatile, and it lasts an hour. This is a spell that really rewards thorough knowledge of 5e's monsters, so go sit down with the Monster Manual etc. and do some reading. You'll want a go-to combat form at CR 17, 18, 19, and 20 for when you need to turn yourself or an ally into a monster, but you should also look for a good CR 9 in case you need to polymorph an object into a pet.

    Remember that the spell becomes permanent if you keep it running for an hour, so you can also use this to permanently turn yourself or someone else into a monster or a dragon or something. You'll lose all of your class stuff because you assume the creature's statistics, but honestly a CR 20 dragon is much more powerful anyway.

    The spell's final option allows you to turn a creature into an object (which allows a Wisdom save). Turn them into a flower pot, then either drop them from high enough to deal maximum fall damage (the extra damage carries over to their regular hit points when they revert), throw them into a demiplane, plane shift them somewhere unpleasant, or dispose of them in some other permanent and irrevocable fashion like a bag of devouring.

  • WeirdPHB: Like Phantasmal Killer for every creature in a 30-foot radius. Good on its own, but Psychic Scream is a better way to kill a crowd so there's little reason to select this.