Warlocks are an oddity among full casters in DnD 5e. They’ve got fewer spell slots, automatically use the highest spell slot level available to them, and get spell slots back on both short and long rests, not just long ones. Oh, and they rely on an otherwordly patron as their source of magic.

Warlocks are highly limited in how many spells they can know and use in an encounter. As such, they’re forced to be much choosier about which spells they learn and when they choose to unleash them.

On the plus side, Eldritch Invocations allows them to alter or gain additional spell effects, so they’re able to compensate for their small spell pool with a greater variety of customization options. On the neutral side, automatic upcasting means that lower-level spells without upcast options naturally become weaker as you level up.

So, what does Warlock magic actually involve in DnD 5e? The Warlock spell list primarily focuses on dealing damage, debuffing enemies, and providing tactical advantages through utility spells. They’re also thoroughly learned in Conjuration, with the ability to summon extradimensional beings and teleport around.

The basic thing to remember with Warlock spellcasting is that it’s fundamentally hemmed in by certain limitations, which means creative thinking is essential – the standard “best spells” lists won’t always cut it for Warlock players. With that in mind, here are my picks for the best Warlock spells for each level.

warlock casting synaptic static in DnD 5e

Best Warlock Cantrips

  1. Eldritch Blast. Winner of “The Best Damaging Cantrip in DnD 5e,” Eldritch Blast is in a league of its own. It deals 1d10 force damage (the least resisted damage type in the game), which is nothing special on its own. But combined with Eldritch Invocations — especially the Charisma modifier damage boost from Agonizing Blast and the movement-forcing power Repelling Blast, Eldritch Blast becomes downright dominant.

    And Eldritch Blast is unique among cantrips in how it scales with levels. Instead of just getting a flat damage boost at levels 5, 11, and 17, you get additional attacks that each deal 1d10 damage. This is a very big perk, as you have more chance to actually hit and the versatility to spread it among multiple targets. With Agonizing Blast, this means +5 damage PER HIT, and with Repelling Blast, it opens up the door to >10-foot pushes in a single turn, which is great for kiting melee foes.

  2. Mind Sliver. As the only Intelligence saving throw cantrip in the game, Mind Sliver has the highest chance of hitting of any available cantrip. While Eldritch Blast is still your better damaging option, Mind Sliver’s rider effect — -1d4 on the target’s next saving throw — is incredibly powerful for setting up big-impact save-or-suck spells, like Hold Person.

  3. Mage Hand. A wonderfully useful spell for holding your torch, activating traps, opening/closing doors from a distance, pulling levers from afar, grabbing keys, and aiding in climbing (to name a few of my favorite uses). Mage Hand is a godsend for when you can totally see the thing you need to interact with, but can’t reach it or fear interacting with it yourself.

  4. Prestidigitation. The king of utility cantrips, Prestidigitation has too many uses to name here. But if you’d like a spell that can serve as a distraction, instant cleaner, tricksy poison concealer, symbol-maker, and trinket-creator all in one, this is the spell for you.

  5. Frostbite. Low damage and a bad saving throw (Constitution) means that Frostbite should never be a Warlock’s first pick as a cantrip. However, the rider effect of giving the target disadvantage on their next weapon attack can be important if you’re up against a very heavy hitter.

Here are the other Warlock cantrips and my X/5 rating for each:

Best 1st-level Warlock Spells

  1. Hex. Hexing just works — no attack roll or saving throw necessary — and causes all your future attacks against the target to deal an additional 1d6 necrotic damage. You can also give the creature disadvantage of ability checks (not saving throws) of your choice, but that’s less important to Hex’s power level.

    What’s really strong about Hex is that, concentration permitting, it lasts for up to 1 hour, during which time you can reapply Hex once your initial target dies by just using a bonus action. It’s hard to overstate how important spell slot efficiency is for Warlocks, so getting extra damage over the course of multiple fights makes Hex an easy choice.

    It gets even better once you get 3rd-level spell slots, at which point Hex lasts up to 8 hours, allowing you to short rest after the initial casting while Hex can still be reapplied, giving you more effective spell slots.

    The biggest issue with Hex’s long-term concentration requirements, which raises the opportunity cost significantly on choosing to cast a different concentration spell.

  2. Armor of Agathys. 5 temporary hit points and 5 cold damage to anyone who hits you with a melee attack while these hit points are active, for 1 hour with no concentration requirement. Again, the efficiency of AoA is what makes it so attractive for a Warlock, as you’re getting both defensive and offensive benefits for a single spell cast. As well as a long duration that doesn’t interfere with your concentration on Hex.

    And the linear +5 THP and cold damage per upcast level means that AoA stays relevant with Warlocks’ automatic upcasting of all spells.

  3. Comprehend Languages. Another 1-hour no-concentration spell, Comprehend Languages allows you to understand all spoken and written languages (although you can’t speak them yourself). This won’t come up all the time, but until you get the 3rd-level Tongues, it’s a good spell to have prepared.

  4. Hellish Rebuke. A rare reaction spell that allows you to deal 2d10 fire damage (or half on successful Dexterity save) to a creature who damages you, right away. While it may seem like a bad idea to use your limited resources on a one-time damage ability, the fact is that Hellish Rebuke is incredibly economical for quickly dissipating enemies.

    Dealing 11 damage is plenty to one-shot many monsters in early tiers of play (goblins, kobolds, etc.). And one-shotting them when it’s not your turn leaves you free to Eldritch Blast the remaining bad guys and end the fight that much faster.

  5. Protection from Evil and Good. This is a really good spell for protecting yourself against aberrations, celestials, elementals, fey, fiends, and undead, giving an ally immunity to charms and frightens from those creatures and giving those creatures disadvantage on attack rolls against your ally.

    However, PFEG is a concentration spell (meaning it’ll interfere with Hex), and it’s available to Clerics, Paladins, or Wizards, all of whom don’t have to be as choosy about which spells they know/prepare. And there’s no benefit to upcasting it, which is annoying for Warlocks who are forced to upcast. Meaning you should probably don’t need this on your Warlock character for most groups, unless you lack other spellcasters who can use it AND you’re playing a campaign that heavily features one of the creature types it affects.

Here are the other 1st-level Warlock spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Cause Fear – 4

  • Arms of Hadar – 3 (5 on Hexblade)

  • Charm Person – 2

  • Unseen Servant – 2

  • Expeditious Retreat – 1

  • Illusory Script – 1

  • Witch Bolt – 1

warlock patron dnd 5e

Best 2nd-level Warlock Spells

  1. Spider Climb. If you’re in an environment with walls, Spider Climb is basically as good as flying in combat situations. While it will eat up your concentration, it lasts for up to an hour, which should be good enough to cover you for more than one fight.

    That’s not even to mention the access to locations you couldn’t otherwise reach, which can help with puzzles, traps, and locating hidden content.

  2. Shatter. A big-damage area of effect spell; a no-nonsense way to add to your Warlock’s offensive arsenal. Sure, it’s a Constitution save (the highest average ability modifier among 5e’s monsters), but it still deals half damage if they pass. And creatures made of inorganic materials (rare, but you’ll meet some) have disadvantage on the saving throw.

  3. Misty Step. A bonus action teleport that allows you to get your Warlock out of a dangerous situation. For most Warlock builds, being up close and personal with the enemy is the last thing you want, so this is a godsend.

    And if you don’t have Spider Climb, it also works to get to unreachable places on the Z axis of your environment. Happy Eldritch Blast sniping from the rafters! Or getting to unreachable places to solve puzzles, avoid traps, and other things that normal movement can’t achieve.

  4. Darkness. Magical Darkness in a fairly big area that essentially blinds all within and blocks vision from those without. If your party is getting sniped by arrows or spells, Darkness can ruin these tactics and get you back on even footing. Especially if you’re able to take out some melee foes or pick off lone rangers one by one while the affected enemies reposition themselves.

    Even better, you can cast it on a sheath-able object, like a weapon. With this trick, you can have your melee allies run in, attack, and then take out the Darkness-producing object to run away without suffering opportunity attacks (you can only take those against creatures you can see!) Heck, you can even throw or shoot the Darkness-infested item around the room to reposition it during the fight.

    You can also dispel light-producing spells like Faerie Fire with it, allow your Rogue to hide more easily, and pair it with people in your party who have Blindsense or Devil’s Sight for even more shenanigans.

  5. Invisibility. While not a great combat spell (beyond getting a surprise round and attack advantage on your first attack), Invisibility is excellent for scouting, escaping a botched scouting mission, and getting into an ideal position before a fight kicks off.

    Invisibility only affects one target at 2nd level, but scales to cover more party members as you level up.

Here are the other 2nd-level Warlock spells and my X/5 rating for each:

Best 3rd-level Warlock Spells

  1. Hypnotic Pattern. The premier control spell at this tier of play, Hypnotic Pattern can reliably remove a significant portion of an enemy group to become charmed and incapacitated. That leaves your party free to deal with the stragglers who pass their Wisdom save, and then clean up the hypnotized enemies when you’re done with that.

    Enemies can also wake each other up, but that requires a full action on their part, so it’s an action economy win for your party no matter what. Just look out for charm immunity, as it’s fairly common among 5e’s monsters (about 1 in 5).

  2. Fly. Excellent, you can now swap Spider Climb for the ability to fly instead. You’re now untouchable from melee combatants; try not to taunt them too badly, or your DM might come back with a vengeance (and Dispel Magic while you’re 60 feet in the air…).

    It’s also great for scouting (bird’s eye view) and getting to hard-to-reach places that Misty Step doesn’t have the range for and/or Spider Climb doesn’t have the contiguous surfaces for.

  3. Counterspell. Enemy spells are usually the scariest thing you have to worry about in combat, and having Counterspell at the ready makes them much less scary. Plus, the automatic upcasting of Warlocks means that you should always be able to shut down an equally leveled spellcaster.

  4. Tongues. Allows you to understand and speak every language for an hour with no concentration requirement. With how Warlock spell slots work, there’s no reason to keep Comprehend Languages once you have Tongues. Now you can actually respond to the Githyanki who were trash-talking you, rather than just get annoyed about it.

  5. Summon Undead. One of the premier single-creature summon spells at this tier, Summon Undead provides three solid combat-ready options. The Ghost can fly, go through objects/creatures, and frighten enemies, which is actually a more impactful form of crowd control than you might realize at first — more in my video on the Frightened condition if you’re interested.

    And the putrid undead has an aura that has a chance to poison creatures who start their turn next to it AND an attack that has a chance to paralyze a target if they’re already poisoned. It involves two failed saves compared to the Ghost’s one failed save to work, but it’s more impactful if it does.

    The skeleton is the boring ol’ ranged attacker in the group, but if you don’t want to risk your summon getting killed, it’s likely your best option.

    Summon Undead also gets much better when you can upcast it as a 4th-level spell, as all the potential summons get two attacks per turn.

Here are the other 3rd-level Warlock spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Dispel Magic – 4

  • Summon Shadowspawn – 4

  • Fear – 4

  • Thunder Step – 4 (technically a straight-up upgrade from Misty Step for Warlocks, since you can bring an ally with you and it has triple the range. But it’s audible from 300 feet away and requires an action rather than a bonus action, making it worse for stealth missions and in-combat usage…unless you actually want to deal the damage it deals around creatures you teleport beside.)

  • Vampiric Touch – 4

  • Gaseous Form – 3

  • Hunger of Hadar – 3

  • Intellect Fortress – 3

  • Spirit Shroud – 3 (decent for Hexblades and Pact of the Blade Warlocks)

  • Summon Fey – 3

  • Major Image – 3

  • Remove Curse – 3

  • Magic Circle – 2

  • Enemies Abound – 1

  • Summon Lesser Demons – 1

Best 4th-level Warlock Spells

  1. Banishment. One failed Charisma save, and you banish an enemy for a full minute (concentration permitting) with no follow-up saves on later rounds. Totally eliminating the biggest threat of a fight until you’ve dealt with their minions is incredibly strong in 5e’s combat system, where numbers count for a lot.

    And when they come back, your whole squad can be prepared with readied attacks to basically blow them up right away. Checkmate. Plus, if the creature you target isn’t from the plane you’re currently on, it won’t come back at all. So be careful if you need a quest item they have on their person!

  2. Shadow of Moil. Become heavily obscured to others and darken the area around you within 10 feet. The key here is the ‘heavily obscured’ part, which makes other creatures suffer from the blinded condition when trying to see you (disadvantage on attack rolls and you have advantage on attack rolls). This even works on creatures with Darkvision, since the spell makes no bones about you being heavily obscured, regardless of the area of effect darkening portion of the spell.

    This is a full minute of serious offensive and defensive buffs.

    Then there’s the other part of Shadow of Moil, which gives you resistance to radiant damage (not that common) and allows you to hit a creature within 10 feet that hits you with an attack for 2d8 necrotic damage. These bonus effects aren’t all that good compared to the ‘heavily obscured’ bit, but they’re nice bonuses all the same.

  3. Sickening Radiance. Huge area of effect damage over time spell that deals 4d10 radiant damage per failed Con save (if a creature starts its turn there or moves into it), gives them +1 level of exhaustion, and lights them up so they can’t benefit from being invisible.

    The damage is certainly sizeable (an average of 22 per tick if it hits), but the stacking exhaustion effect is even stronger if you can get it built up. It starts with just disadvantage on ability checks (yay for your party’s grappler), but it progresses to 1/2 movement speed, disadvantage on attack rolls and saving throws, and then halved hit point maximum. The last two steps are 0 speed and insta-death, but most fights ought to be over or enemies should be out the area of effect by then.

  4. Charm Monster. If you’re looking to talk your way out of a fight or skip an encounter before it starts, Charm Monster gives you that chance. The creature will know what happened after the fact, but the whole point is that you should be long gone before the spell ends (1 hour, no concentration).

  5. Dimension Door. Although you lose the bonus action of Misty Step for Dimension Door, it has a much longer range (500 feet compared to 30 or 90), and you don’t need to see where you’re going to use it. Oh, and you can bring a buddy with you.

Here are the other 4th-level Warlock spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Summon Aberration – 5 (technically a linear upgrade from Summon Undead, although I personally like the undead’s extra abilities better than the aberrations)

  • Hallucinatory Terrain – 2

  • Summon Greater Demon – 2

  • Blight – 1

  • Elemental Bane – 1

Best 5th-level Warlock Spells

  1. Synaptic Static. A 20-foot area-of-effect that deals 8d6 damage on a failed Intelligence save, or half that on a success. Intelligence is the lowest average ability score of creatures in 5e’s main monster sourcebooks, meaning this has the best chance of landing among any AoE spells in 5e.

    Plus, creatures who fail their save have -1d6 on all attack rolls, ability checks, and concentration checks for up to 1 minute (they can repeat the save on later rounds). This is a big deal in DnD 5e’s system of bounded accuracy, where an average of -3.5 on d20 checks matters a lot.

    This is a strong rider effect on an already strong spell — perfect for this tier of play, but it can’t be upcast, and so becomes slightly less attractive for Warlocks in later levels.

  2. Hold Monster. Hold Person, but on all creatures, not just humanoids. If the target fails their Wisdom save, they’re paralyzed for up to a full minute (but can make repeated saves at the ends of their turns).

    Paralyzed is an insanely strong condition that not only gives melee allies attack advantage, but also automatic critical strikes. Your Paladin and Rogue are going to absolutely love it when you add this to your arsenal.

  3. Danse Macabre. A horde of up to 5 zombies and/or skeletons can be really useful in some fights…provided you’ve got the corpses nearby to raise. For my money, Summon Undead is still the better choice in most fights, but if you feel numbers are more important than additional rider effects, this is a good spell to use.

  4. Contact Other Plane. 5 one-word answers to whatever questions you’re burning to ask your DM. This is even better than a Clerics’ Commune, which only gives 3 yes-or-no answers and is dependent on their knowledge.

    The only trouble is that if you fail a DC 15 Intelligence save, the spell fizzles, you take damage, and go insane until you complete a long rest. It’s not exactly the best spell to cast while you’re out in the field, mind you, but it’s excellent when you’re in a safe location.

  5. Scrying. Your window into the big-bad-evil-guy’s life, Scrying is incredibly strong for moving the plot forward or learning important details much more safely than you could otherwise achieve. While the power level of Scrying is firmly in your DM’s hands, it can be an excellent tool in your tool belt.

Here are the other 5th-level Warlock spells and my X/5 rating for each:

  • Far Step – 4 (double-ranged Misty Step (60 feet), which you can repeatedly use for 1 minute with a bonus action; if it didn’t eat your concentration, I’d put this in my top 5, as it’s dead handy in encounters where mobility is essential)

  • Wall of Light – 3

  • Mislead – 2

  • Infernal Calling – 2

  • Negative Energy Flood – 2

  • Dream – 1

  • Enervation – 1

  • Planar Binding – 1

  • Teleportation Circle – 1

6th- to 9th-level Warlock Spells

6th-level Warlock Spells

  • Eyebite – 5

  • Investiture of Ice – 4

  • Investiture of Stone – 4

  • Mass Suggestion – 4

  • Mental Prison – 4

  • Circle of Death – 3

  • Soul Cage – 3

  • Summon Fiend – 3

  • Arcane Gate – 2

  • Conjure Fey – 2

  • Investiture of Flame – 2

  • Scatter – 2

  • Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise – 2

  • Create Undead – 1

  • Flesh to Stone – 1

  • Investiture of Wind – 1

  • True Seeing – 1

7th-level Warlock Spells

  • Forcecage – 5

  • Crown of Stars – 4

  • Finger of Death – 2

  • Plane Shift – 3

  • Dream of the Blue Veil – 1

  • Etherealness – 1

  • Power Word: Pain – 1

8th-level Warlock Spells

  • Dominate Monster – 5

  • Glibness – 5

  • Feeblemind – 4

  • Maddning Darkness – 4

  • Power Word: Stun – 2

  • Demiplane – 1

9th-level Warlock Spells

  • Foresight – 5

  • Psychic Scream – 5

  • True Polymorph – 5

  • Gate – 3

  • Blade of Disaster – 2

  • Astral Projection – 1

  • Imprisonment – 1

  • Power Word: Kill – 1

  • Weird – 1

Warlock Spells FAQ

  1. What spells do Warlocks start with? Warlocks start with four spells — two 1st-level spells and two cantrips.

  2. Why do Warlocks have so few spell slots? Warlocks have so few spell slots because they’re the only casters to get back all their spell slots on a short rest. This makes them heavily dependent on frequent rests throughout an adventuring day, but it does allow them to come close to breaking even with other spellcasters if they do.

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