Last Updated: March 6, 2023
Hexadins, occasionally also called Witch-Knights, are funny things. A poor bastardized soul torn between their Holy Oath and a Hexblade Pact. Some rise, some fall, while others walk the line between. There are as many ways to be a Hexadin as there are stars between Toril and the Far Realm. We’ll be exploring one path for the Witch-Knight in depth, something I call the Knight of Nights, but there are other ways to combine these options.
While a Hexadin will always be a Hexblade, it can be many flavors of Paladin. We’ve gone over the fighting styles and the subclasses available to Paladins in order to rate them with our usual RPGBOT color rankings. We hope that by understanding what you can get out of your options, you’ll be able to experiment and make your own choices. But we won’t leave you without some additional guidance.
We have the framework laid out to get your very own Witch-Knight from 1 to 9. Why 9? Because that’s a turning point, a fork stuck in the road. From there we break off from the chart and perform a deep DPR analysis on what we can achieve by either continuing Paladin or Warlock from that point.
We’ll show just how well a Hexadin can perform in multiple different fight scenarios across several levels. With our data you’ll be well armed with the knowledge you need to decide not just if you want to be a Hexadin but how to further tailor your Hexadin to your style.
Table of Contents
- Paladin Options
- Hexadin Build – Knight of Knights
- DPR Comparisons
RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.
- : Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
- : OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
- : Good options. Useful often.
- : Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.
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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 the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.
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While the Hexadin understandably always takes the Hexblade subclass from Warlock, there are options on the Paladin side.
- : As a Hexadin we don’t need damage cantrips from Blessed Warrior because we already take Eldritch Blast. However, there are some utility cantrips that we could take from the Cleric if we want them. Guidance and maybe Light.
- : Increasing your AC gets stronger the more AC you already have, and we have at least medium armor if not heavy as a Hexadin. Additionally, if we’re taking up the Eldritch Blast but with Paladin Armor and Auras style that I refer to as a Black-Iron Blaster, then none of the other styles are really applicable except for accessing utility cantrips via Blessed Warrior.
- : Because Hex Warrior (without Pact of the Blade) can only apply to weapons that lack the Two-Handed property, it almost always applies to weapons that function with Dueling. +2 to damage isn’t a large number, but it is consistent.
- : Because Hex Warrior only applies to weapons that lack the Two-Handed property, this already subpar style is just not applicable to Hexadins.
- : We can group these together because they’re so similar. We’d prefer to keep our reaction clear for the Shield spell, but in some situations you might find these useful depending on the rest of your party.
- : The real draw here is that by virtue of Hexblade making Charisma our everything ability score, we can actually get our save DCs up like a full caster without falling behind in our weapon attacks.
- : It’s not a bad choice, but it only has one really stand out bit of shenanigans. The Sacred Weapon Channel Divinity will add Charisma to attack rolls for a minute, which for us is double our Charisma to attacks thanks to Hex Warrior. However, this doesn’t give us much because without going deep enough for Improved Blade Pact, nothing we can use with Hex Warrior works with GWM.
- : While it has some really nice spell options, Glory really wants to be a grappling build, which is one of the few things we really lose with our Charisma-based fighting style unless we’re putting some Strength in to wear Plate. That said it’s not all bad, especially if we stick it out for spells like Haste.
- : If we’re looking to protect our party, Aura of the Guardian can do wonders for us. If we’re looking to pull Face duty, Emissary of Peace can do wonders for us. Just another nice subclass that gets more out of our ability to focus on Charisma as a primary ability score.
- : We’re basically just here for the Aura of Warding because it’s so good. We’ll also be happy with getting to add Misty Step to our spell list. It’s not a large quantity of things, but that Aura is very strong.
- : Spirit Guardians go brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt. But really, consider that with a little investment for Repelling Blast and Grasp of Hadar, we can double dip someone by pushing and then pulling them with the same laser. Sure the build might come online much later because of this, but that’s still incredibly fun.
- : Watchers has a complimentary role with Ancients, where Ancients protects from spell damage, the Watcher’s Will Channel Divinity protects the party from devastating mental saves. What really makes this a great choice though, is the Aura of the Sentinel granting a bonus to initiative that allows the whole party to spring into action much quicker.
- : There’s a lot to love here, but especially the Vow of Enmity. Advantage on all attacks for a minute on one target in particular is great. That’s not attacks with a weapon, just attack rolls in general. What brings it down however is that it competes with Hexblade’s Curse and Hex for bonus action clutter, but we could just as easily spend these resources against different foes as we see fit. Curse for hitpoint sponges and Vow on heavily armored targets while concentrating on something that isn’t Hex.
- : Hey do you want to add your Charisma to damage twice? Oathbreaker can help you add your Charisma to damage twice. It’s kind of a meme build but that doesn’t make it not good.
Hexadin Build – Knight of Knights
You work all your life, for that moment in timeManiac – Carpenter Brute
It could come or pass you by
It’s a push shove world but there’s always a chance
If the hunger stays the night
As a Knight of Nights, we sprinkle a bit of Eldritch power into our blades that we might battle with the raw might of our soul behind the steel in the place of our muscle.
We Knights of Nights must have Strength with which to wear the heavy plate armor, with a decent amount of Constitution to bolster our life force. But we, like all Witch-Knights, will have much in the way of Charisma.
|Point Buy||Racial Adjustment|
Variant Human with Polearm Master is very strong especially in the levels before we get Extra Attack from Paladin. Because Hex Warrior only works with weapons lacking the two-handed property we’ll use this with either a spear or a quarterstaff. This works especially well with the Dueling fighting style.
No strangers to fighting, the training of a Marine is a healthy boon to our cause, with training in both Athletics and Survival.
At first level, we train diligently to Master the Polearm by taking Polearm Master.
At fifth level, Paladin 4th, we’ll be learning to be a War Caster.
At ninth level, Paladin 8th, we’ll take an ASI for +2 Charisma.
|1-Paladin 1||Divine Sense|
Lay on Hands
Feat: Polearm Master
|At this level we’re just getting things setup for later.|
Take a spear and shield and stab things. Your Strength is enough to work with at this point.
With Polearm Master we get a lot of extra damage over anything else thanks to the bonus action and reaction attacks.
|We’re just starting to come online here.|
Hexblade’s Curse is a great little damage boost against bigger targets.
We learn the Booming Blade and Eldritch Blast cantrips. These are not compatible with Polearm Master, but they can be used on the rounds we have to activate or move Hex and Hexblade’s Curse.
When combat opens it would be wise to Hex and fire off an Eldritch Blast before pulling out the spear to proceed into the fray on the next round.
Thanks to Hex Warrior we now use Charisma to make our weapon attacks.
|3-Paladin 2||Fighting Style: Dueling|
|The Dueling style is particularly strong when combined with Polearm Master.|
We’ll also gain our Paladin spell slots and Divine Smite. Dropping a smite or two is good burst damage when something needs to die right now.
But don’t burn up all your slots on Smites. Spells are strong. We have Hex for ourselves, but we also have Bless and Protection from Evil and Good for the party.
We can also use Divine Smite with our one Pact Magic slot and it will come back on every short rest, but we only have one slot to use this way without further Warlock levels. It’s a handy extra 2d8 damage we can pull out a few times per day, once per short rest, so don’t forget it.
|4-Paladin 3||Divine Health|
Sacred Oath: Ancients
-Turn the Faithless
-Harness Divine Power
|Taking the Oath of the Ancients will eventually grant us resistance to spell damage when we attain the aura.|
|5-Paladin 4||Feat: War Caster||With War Caster we can cast Shield without juggling our spear. |
We can also use Booming Blade whenever Polearm Master’s opportunity attack triggers for increased damage.
|6-Paladin 5||Extra Attack|
|With this we can swing twice when we attack, which combined with the bonus attack of PAM is a good chunk of damage, especially if we can add Hex damage on top (see the DPR section below for a very in-depth analysis on when it makes sense to forgo the PAM bonus attack on turns where you could cast or re-target Hex).|
With second level slots we gain some good options, but especially from Oath of the Ancients we gain access to Misty Step for battlefield teleportation.
|7-Paladin 6||Aura of Protection||Charisma modifier to all Saves is one of the key reasons to be a Paladin.|
|8-Paladin 7||Aura of Warding||With this we have resistance against all spell damage.|
With this we have everything we came to Paladin for. We can now choose to either go further or diversify.
|9-Paladin 8||ASI: Charisma +2 (16=>18)||One direction is to take one more level in Paladin for the ASI. You don’t have to but it is right there, and we’re falling behind the Fundamental Math since we took a feat with our first ASI.|
We can continue into Paladin until 11 for Improved Divine Smite if we want, which will add plenty more damage onto our Spear attacks.
Going back to Warlock would give us a second 1st-level Pact Slot and Invocation access right away. This is a pretty strong path to take. Going all the way to Warlock 12 would grant us three 5th-level Pact Slots.
While this example uses the Oath of the Ancients, a fun option is to combine the Oathbreaker Paladin and the Lifedrinker Invocation so that every attack is [dice]+Cha+Cha+Cha.
If we did it this way, at 20 we’d be doing 44.92 DPR by swinging twice with a spear and then using a bonus action to get an extra swing in. The trouble with this attack pattern is that we can also use bonus actions to apply Hex and Hexblade’s Curse. This causes a decision conflict in situations where things are going to die too fast to get benefit out of moving the hexes vs just making the bonus action attack.
There are some ways to deal with this and we’ll talk about those below in the DPR section.
Or we can diversify with levels in Sorcerer or Bard at this point.
From eight Paladin levels, our spell slots are equal to four levels of a full caster, not counting our one level of Pact Magic as well.
Taking eleven levels of either Bard or Sorcerer would have us end with 8th-level slots and 6th-level spells, which isn’t bad for fueling Smites and Upcasting.
Of the two, Sorcerer is probably the stronger candidate because of Metamagic access and the flexibility of Sorcery Points. Don’t ignore combining Harness Divine Power with Font of Magic to get additional Sorcery Points, especially by Quickening Booming Blade for big swings every now and then.
I’m going to provide some DPR breakdowns for the Knight of Nights. This build stops at 9 because it is open-ended in terms of where it can go from there. Myriad options are available and can take us in different directions, which means we’ll have to decide some things about the following levels. For the Knight of Nights, I will do two variations: Further Paladin and Further Warlock.
To analyze the DPR, we’ll look at three rounds each with two kinds of fights. The math used to calculate CR is based on the expectation that combat will last 3 rounds on average, so it serves as a good assumption when considering how a build will perform over the course of a typical combat encounter. The two broad types of fights I’ll talk about are minion spam and elite foes. Minions in this context are foes that will go down to one or two solid attacks, while elites are more durable and expected to stick around for at least the three rounds.
Knight of Nights – Further Paladin
With Further Paladin, the Knight of Nights picks up one more level of Warlock at some point but otherwise continues Paladin to 18. This does result in one fewer 5th-level spell slot, but it does give us 2 1st-level pact slots to work with and we want the Invocations. I will point out something that can be confusing when reading the Divine Smite ability: a 1st-level slot is 2d8 damage and the maximum damage is 5d8 from a 4th-level slot, not counting bonuses vs undead and fiends and also not counting the additional +1d8 from Improved Divine Smite. This means that we do not lose out on any uses of Divine Smite.
In the early levels, we’ll have the Dueling Style and Polearm Master to help us really shine, making extra swings at the cost of the bonus action. This of course causes trouble with both Hex and Curse, which already are fighting with each other. This problem is exaggerated in those minion spam fights mentioned above, the bonus of 1d6 from Hex is less than the damage of the bonus action attack.
We can’t reliably bring Hex or Curse to bear in those minion-heavy fights, but we might be able to reasonably position such that we can get those reaction swings in every round by forcing something to approach us. Thanks to picking up War Caster, these reaction swings can be made with Booming Blade. In the tables below, the total when adding the reaction attack will appear in parenthesis.
In Elite fights when we can focus on one bigger monster, we can open the fight by placing Hex and then firing Eldritch Blast. While it might feel like the right play is to close into melee, by enticing the foe to come to us, we are able to swing a Booming Blade with Hex bonus damage as an opportunity attack thanks to PAM. We can then fight in melee in the following rounds.
We can’t assume we’ll get in additional reaction swings on the bigger target, but we will assume it has enough life to stick around for the three rounds. As a bonus, however, because we’re not using our reaction for attacks, it is ready for casting Shield if needed against this tougher opponent.
|Level 5||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Minions||11.7 (20.8)||11.7 (20.8)||11.7 (20.8)|
This chart shows an interesting point in the progression. We don’t yet have Extra Attack at level 5, but we’re keeping up because of PAM. At the same time, our Eldritch Blast has scaled to two beams here, which allows it to apply Hex twice now. Additionally, this is the level we picked up War Caster, which gave us the boost to damage on the PAM Opportunity Attacks. If we take a look at level 10, we can see where things are going then.
For the level 10 math, we’ll smite with a 2nd-level spell slot on critical hits because in further Paladin we still take Warlock 2 at level 10 before continuing into Paladin for the rest of the career. This gives us two invocations and a second Pact Slot, important parts to our toolset. Specifically, we’ll have Agonizing Blast so that when we open on Elite type encounters or have to battle against flying enemies staying out of reach, we can apply a bit more damage.
|Level 10||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Minions||21.03 (31.18)||21.03 (31.18)||21.03 (31.18)|
Except for the Eldritch Blast damage from Elite Round 1, this damage is accurate at 9th level. In fact, if we look at the numbers from my chart on GWM, PAM, and CBX, we can compare to the 1H Polearm Master Spear Dueling row. We might seem behind on the minion fight by comparing to the level 6 entry, but that’s a result of my other math being done as a Fighter which gets an extra ASI at 6th level. We’re actually doing quite well here, considering the additional defensive strength we have in Shield as well as the ability to cast Paladin spells.
As we move forward, the next big change is at level 14 when we take our 12th level in Paladin. Specifically, we’ll have a 3rd laser from Eldritch Blast, Booming Blade opportunity attacks gain another +1d8 (we get these at level 11 but I’m skipping that table), Improved Divine Smite adding +1d8 to every melee attack, and finally our 20 Charisma ASI. Interestingly, the difference is only about 2.5 DPR between using a 1st or 3rd-level slot if we only Smite on a crit, so we’ll assume we spend a pact slot when we crit twice per rest. This allows us to save those higher-level spell slots for spells.
|Level 14||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Minions||32.45 (48.90)||32.45 (48.90)||32.45 (48.90)|
Looking back at our other chart, we’re doing quite well here by comparison. Our one-handed spear setup in situations where we can’t really bring Hex into play is keeping up with the level 12 DPR of a two-handed polearm using GWM, while having all of those defensive and utility advantages I mentioned above.
We could even Concentrate on something long duration like Elemental Weapon (Thunder) with a 3rd-level slot to pull ahead in those kinds of fights. In those situations where we can use Hex, the first round is potentially weaker because we can’t always guarantee that a reaction attack will happen, but the following rounds are quite strong. This is mostly where we land in DPR for the rest of our progression. There is a small boost we can get later that will benefit us in both types of fights.
When we finally get our 5th-level Paladin spells at 19, we can cast Holy Weapon once per day that lasts for an hour. While this is running, we can instead use Hexblade’s Curse on those Elites once per rest. When Holy Weapon is not running, the numbers will be closer to the above Level 14 chart. For this level I’m also putting a third number in the Elite round 1 box to show the effect of instead closing into Melee on our turn and spending the bonus action to activate the Curse to really show what a difference the reaction hit by letting the foe close in makes.
|Level 19||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Minions||51.38 (78.15)||51.38 (78.15)||51.38 (78.15)|
|Elites||45.10 (78.23) [46.00]||68.25||68.25|
We can take a few things from this data. First: Holy Weapon is really strong. Second: Eldritch Blast+Agonizing Blast is really good for those situations where you can’t reach or you need to bait out provoking an Attack of Opportunity and for filling in on the round we activate Hex or Hexblade’s Curse.
On the subject of Curse, it’s roughly equal to Hex as far as the damage it provides at early levels, while being better on average at +4 PB. I continued using Hex in the calculations because it would be available more often than Curse. We can get higher numbers out with Curse during some of those Elite fights because of the 19-20 critical hits and our plan to smite on crits, but I left that aside until switching over to concentrating on Holy Weapon.
Another alternate path we could have taken was casting Magic Weapon or Elemental Weapon at earlier levels and using Curse instead of Hex. These spells would have had noticeable DPR increases on the Minion type fights and might have been enough to make up the difference lost by not Hexing as often against larger foes.
Knight of Nights – Further Warlock
With further Warlock, the Knight of Nights proceeds down the Warlock class, ending with 12 levels of Warlock and 8 Paladin. While this does cut off higher-level Paladin spells and Improved Divine Smite, it ends with Pact of the Blade, three 5th-level Pact slots, and six Invocations.
Because this only splits from Further Paladin at 11th level, this section will be shorter and start at 12th level where we’ll get our ASI from our 4th level of Warlock. We’ll also have Pact of the Blade and the Improved Pact of the Blade Invocation at this level, giving us some nice DPR increases. We’ll be fighting the same as Further Paladin, making use of PAM’s bonus action during Minion type fights while taking the time to apply Hex on Elite type fights, still using Booming Blade as our PAM Opportunity Attacks.
|Level 12||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Minions||26.63 (41.60)||26.63 (41.60)||26.63 (41.60)|
You’ll notice by comparison to Further Paladin that going Further Warlock doesn’t increase DPR as quickly. If we again consult our GWM+PAM chart, we’re just slightly behind the level 12 entry for PAM Duelist Spear. This makes sense, of course. Further Paladin is getting Improved Divine Smite soon, while we’re just barely started on Warlock. We could discuss a tiny bump at the next level, but instead we’ll move forward to Warlock 9 at 17th level.
We’ll be getting the final Eldritch Blast laser here at 17 as well as 5th-level Pact Slots. We could continue to use Hex, but upcasting Elemental Weapon to 5th level will do some nice damage using the same resources without the need to reassign Hex. As a quick overview, Elemental Weapon upcast to 5th-level adds +2 to hit and +2d4 elemental damage. We can choose Thunder as it is the easiest to use when we don’t know what we might face.
On critical hits, we will Smite with a 1st-level Paladin slot. We could have taken Eldritch Smite, but that Invocation can only spend Pact Slots and we’ve only got so many of those at one time so it’s more consistent to just spend the Paladin ones on Divine Smites. The difference if we do use Eldritch Smite on crits is 5 DPR on Minions and 10 if we’re fighting an Elite with Hexblade’s Curse increasing our critical range. As we’re concentrating on Elemental Weapon, we’ll switch over to Hexblade’s Curse on the Elite fight now.
|Level 17||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Minions||40.30 (64.80)||40.30 (64.80)||40.30 (64.80)|
Here we pull ahead of the Further Paladin and we’ll be ahead for a level or two because with Pact Slots we’ll be able to keep Elemental Weapons running longer over the day. Yes, when Further Paladin is finally able to run Holy Weapon, it will be ahead for an hour a day, but over the day, Further Warlock at this level does finally pull ahead. But there’s still a little more to come. At Warlock 12 we can take the Lifedrinker Invocation, which adds extra Necrotic damage equal to our Charisma modifier on attacks with our Pact Weapon.
|Level 20||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3|
|Minions||51.55 (79.80)||51.55 (79.80)||51.55 (79.80)|
Having 5th-level Pact Slots means that we can keep up this DPR all day with Elemental Weapons while the Further Paladin can only Holy Weapon for one hour per day. On the other hand, Further Paladin has access to other useful Paladin spells such as Find Greater Steed, and it has a much smoother power curve as it levels up.
Further Paladin and Further Warlock both offer decent amounts of DPR if that’s what you’re looking for. Choosing which direction to take your Hexadin after level 10 (without yet another Multiclass of course) really comes down to whether you want 3rd, 4th, and 5th-level Paladin spells or if you want more of what Warlock can offer, knowing that you’ll have less total slots at any one time, but eventually more 5th-level slots to work with each day.