Warlocks are the most versatile class in the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Between spells, invocations, pact boons, and subclasses, there’s an incredible variety of options available to Warlock players.

This article will touch on all of these elements, as well as how to build a Warlock in 5e and what gameplay looks like. Because making a deal with an otherworldly being is never as simple as it seems from the outside.

Warlock 5e Features

Warlocks get a whole host of features, as laid out in the table below:

Level Proficiency Bonus Features Cantrips Known Spells Known Spell Slots Slot Level Invocations Known
1st 2 Otherworldly Patron, Pact Magic 2 2 1 1st
2nd 2 Eldritch Invocations 2 3 2 1st 2
3rd 2 Pact Boon 2 4 2 2nd 2
4th 2 Ability Score Improvement, Eldritch Versatility (Optional – TCoE) 3 5 2 2nd 2
5th 3 3 6 2 3rd 3
6th 3 Otherworldly Patron feature 3 7 2 3rd 3
7th 3 3 8 2 4th 4
8th 3 Ability Score Improvement, Eldritch Versatility (Optional – TCoE) 3 9 2 4th 4
9th 4 3 10 2 5th 5
10th 4 Otherworldly Patron feature 4 10 2 5th 5
11th 4 Mystic Arcanum (6th level) 4 11 3 5th 5
12th 4 Ability Score Improvement, Eldritch Versatility (Optional) 4 11 3 5th 6
13th 5 Mystic Arcanum (7th level) 4 12 3 5th 6
14th 5 Otherworldly Patron feature 4 12 3 5th 6
15th 5 Mystic Arcanum (8th level) 4 13 3 5th 7
16th 5 Ability Score Improvement, Eldritch Versatility (Optional) 4 13 3 5th 7
17th 6 Mystic Arcanum (9th level) 4 14 4 5th 7
18th 6 4 14 4 5th 8
19th 6 Ability Score Improvement, Eldritch Versatility (Optional) 4 15 4 5th 8
20th 6 Eldritch Master 4 15 4 5th 8

Player’s Handbook, pg. 106

Warlock Gameplay

Warlocks are “full spellcasters,” meaning they have access to spells from 1st-level and they rely on spell casting almost exclusively in combat and often outside of it.

Warlock gameplay almost always focuses on two things:

  1. Damage. Right from the get-go, Warlocks are a strong, consistent source of damage for any party. This damage also scales remarkably well with levels and access to more invocations.

  2. Control. Many Warlock spells focus on utility rather than outright damage. Debuffing enemies, manipulating their movement, and creating zones of control are strong suits of the class.

Many Warlocks also choose to focus on being the party’s:

  1. Face. With Charisma as the Warlock’s primary ability score, they’re naturally suited to specialize in Charisma-based skills like Deception, Persuasion, and Intimidation — all powerful tools for social encounters.

Hexblade Warlocks can also serve as a pseudo-Tank for their party, but these are the three main roles of a Warlock in general.

Gameplay as a Warlock is fairly straightforward:

  1. Cast Eldritch Blast. This is the most powerful cantrip in the game once you start applying Eldritch Invocations to boost its power. Warlocks don’t have many spell slots to work with, so this cantrip will be your bread-and-butter ability 90% of the time.

  2. Use Hex. Hex is a powerful debuff that can be moved from target to target over a 1-hour period (increasing with level), albeit at the cost of concentration. However, since Warlock spell slots are so few, Hex is a very efficient way to get an hour’s worth of damage from just one slot.

    The power of Hex falls off compared to other concentration spells at higher levels.

  3. Get mobility and control spells. Warlocks can get tanky with feats or multiclassing, but they generally don’t want to get hit at all. Spells like Misty Step, Invisibility, and Dimension Door are important for a Warlock to have prepared in case things get hairy.

    And from the control side, things like Command, Darkness, and Hypnotic Pattern can be powerful when used well.

  4. Short Rest often. Warlocks get all their spell slots back after a short rest, which makes them unique as spell casters. Since they also have the fewest spell slots of any spell caster, they benefit from short rests more than any other class in DnD 5e.

  5. Become proficient in Deception or Persuasion. When the party needs to convince an NPC of something or tell a good lie, they’re going to look to their Warlock much of the time. Becoming proficient in one or both of these skills will greatly increase your reliability in these non-combat situations.

I’ve simplified massively here. Your choice of subclass, Eldritch Invocations, Pact Boon, and feats can drastically change the playstyle of a Warlock. But the above guidelines are definitely the “default Warlock options” that players often build on.

Warlock Pact Magic (Spellcasting)

Pact Magic is how Warlocks have access to spellcasting — it is a gift bestowed on them by their patrons. Spellcasting for Warlocks is perhaps the most unique among spellcasters in DnD 5e.

  1. Cantrips. Warlocks have access to 2 cantrips at 1st-level, scaling to 3 cantrips at 4th-level and 4 cantrips at 10th-level. These are precious, considering how limited Warlock spell slots are.

    Eldritch Versatility allows for a Warlock to change one Warlock cantrip with another whenever a player reaches a level that grants an Ability Score Improvement (TCoE 70).

  2. Spell slots. Warlocks have access to 1 spell slot at 1st-level, 2 at 2nd-level, 3 at 11th level, and 4 at 17th level. However, it’s a little more complicated than that, with Mystic Arcanum granting another way for Warlocks to cast spells outside of the spell slot system.

  3. Spells known. Warlocks know 2 spells at 1st-level, scaling by +1 every level up to 9th-level. At that point, they gain 1 Spell Known every other level, maxing out at 15 at the 19th-level.

    Whenever a Warlock levels up, they can replace one Warlock spell with another.

  4. Spellcasting ability. Warlocks use Charisma as their spellcasting ability, meaning they use their Charisma modifier for their spell attack modifier and their spell save DC.

    A Warlock’s spell attack modifier is (Charisma Modifier + Proficiency Bonus), and their spell save DC is (8+ Charisma Modifier + Proficiency Bonus)

  5. Spellcasting focus. Warlocks can use an arcane focus in place of free spell components. This can be something like an orb, crystal, rod, wand, or staff, and the Warlock starts the game with this item.

  6. Mystic Arcanum. An 11th-level class feature that allows a Warlock to choose a 6th-level spell that they can cast without a spell slot once per long rest. Warlocks get a 7th-level spell at level 13, 8th-level at level 15, and 9th-level at level 17. All Mystic Arcanum spells are recharged after a long rest.

Warlock Proficiencies

Warlocks are proficient with/in:

  • Light armor

  • Simple weapons

  • Wisdom and Charisma saving throws

  • Two skills from Arcana, Deception, History, Intimidation, Investigation, Nature, and Religion

warlock casting find familiar

Warlock Eldritch Invocations

Eldritch Invocations allow for a Warlock to enhance or modify their natural powers, or grant the ability to cast additional spells.

Here are some of the best Eldritch Invocations:

  • Agonizing Blast. Add your Charisma modifier to Eldritch Blast damage. A must-have invocation for all Warlocks, and the one that definitively makes Eldritch Blast the best cantrip in the game.

  • Repelling Blast. Push an enemy 10 feet when hit by your Eldritch Blast. This gets better at higher levels, when multiple Eldritch Blasts opens the potential to push enemies 20, 30, or even 40 feet.

  • Devil’s Sight. The ability to see normally in both magical and nonmagical darkness up to 120 feet. Wonderful when paired with the Darkness spell (and a willing party), but solid in all circumstances.

  • Fiendish Vigor. The ability to cast False Life (1d4 + 4 temporary hit points) on yourself at will. This basically means you start every fight with 6-7 temporary hit points — quite a lot at low levels, and all without a spell slot.

    This becomes worse at higher levels, because the invocation only allows you to cast the spell at 1st-level. But you can switch it out with the Eldritch Versatility feature once you reach a level where it’s no longer helping.

  • Eldritch Mind (TCoE). Advantage on concentration checks is incredibly powerful, especially given the Warlock’s powerful suite of concentration spells right from 1st-level with Hex. This is basically the only part of the War Caster feat that a Warlock actually needs, so you’re replacing a feat for an invocation (very good deal).

  • Book of Ancient Secrets (Pact of the Tome). Pact Boon-specific invocation that allows you to pick two 1st-level ritual spells, as well as cast Warlock spells as rituals and add ritual spells to your spellbook if you find them, like a Wizard.

    This is very useful, as it opens up the Warlock’s limited spell list and allows them to save spell slots when casting a ritual spell (if they have time for it).

  • Investment of the Chain Master (Pact of the Chain – TCoE). Makes your familiar faster, allows it to attack with your bonus action, makes its attacks overcome nonmagical resistance, increases its spell save DC, and gives you the option to give it resistance to an attack with your reaction.

    This qualifies as a must-pick invocation if you choose Pact of the Chain as your Pact Boon.

  • Thirsting Blade (Pact of the Blade). This 5th-level invocation gives a Bladelock Extra Attack, allowing them to keep pace with other martial classes. Again, this is a must-pick invocation for Warlocks who choose the Pact of the Blade.

Warlock Pact Boons

At 3rd level, Warlocks make a choice of Pact Boon — a gift that their patron gives them. This represents a significant choice, as it creates entirely new playstyle options for a Warlock. Depending on your choice, different Eldritch Invocations also become available, further compounding the importance of this decision.

Let’s briefly go over what each Pact Boon does and how it affects a Warlock’s gameplay:

  • Pact of the Chain. Gives the Warlock an empowered Find Familiar spell that they can cast as a ritual and doesn’t count against their spells known. This familiar can also take a Warlock-specific form (imp, pseudodragon, quasit, or sprite) that can use the Attack action in place of the Warlock’s action (or bonus action with the Investment of the Chain Master invocation).

    If you’re drawn to the “demon summon-y” aspect of Warlock lore, then this Pact Boon will suit you well. While it can be tricky to keep your familiar alive (they all have quite low hit points and AC), controlling a second creature in combat can be a big advantage.

  • Pact of the Blade. Allows the Warlock to summon a changeable magic weapon at will that they’re automatically proficient with. This is only really useful for a Hexblade Warlock, and then only because it opens the door to the Thirsting Blade invocation (Extra Attack) — a thing that’s pretty important for keeping the subclass viable.

  • Pact of the Tome. Grants access to three additional cantrips from any class spell list. This is a massive increase in both number and variety, allowing for a player to lean into the spellcaster aspect of the Warlock archetype.

    Your “standard Warlock gameplay” doesn’t change much with this Pact Boon.

  • Pact of the Talisman (TCoE). Gives the Warlock a talisman that allows the holder to add a d4 to a failed ability check. The Warlock can give this item to a party member, and it can be used a number of times equal to the Warlock’s proficiency bonus per long rest.

    With the Rebuke of the Talisman invocation, the Warlock can also cause someone who hits the talisman-holder psychic damage equal to their proficiency bonus and push them 10 feet away from the talisman-holder. Protection of the Talisman is a 7th-level invocation that allows the d4 to be added to a failed saving throw as well — very helpful indeed.

    This is a good option for Warlocks who want to lean into the “utility/support/magic artifacts” aspect of Warlock-ness.

What I love about Warlocks is that none of these Pact Boons is “bad.” While it’s true that the Pact of the Tome is probably the most straightforward for a straight-up spellcaster, you won’t gimp yourself by not picking it. And Pact of the Blade is underwhelming on its own, but for a character that’s leaning into the gish-type Warlock, it fits quite nicely.

Warlock Spells

Warlocks are quite constrained in the spells they can learn. However, each subclass grants access to additional spells. Unfortunately, these spells are not automatically granted and do count against the spells known if a Warlock chooses one.

The list below does not include subclass spell options, but it doe contain spells from the Player’s Handbook, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Some of the best Warlock spells by level include:

  • Cantrips. Eldritch Blast, Mage Hand, Minor Illusion, Prestidigitation, Mind Sliver (TCoE)

  • 1st-level. Armor of Agathys, Hex, Protection from Evil and Good

  • 2nd-level. Darkness, Invisibility, Misty Step

  • 3rd-level. Counterspell, Dispel Magic, Fly, Hunger of Hadar, Hypnotic Pattern, Thunder Step

  • 4th-level. Arcane Eye, Banishment, Shadow of Moil (XGtE), Sickening Radiance (XGtE), Summon Aberration (TCoE), Summon Greater Demon (TCoE)

  • 5th-level. Planar Binding, Synaptic Static (XGtE), Teleportation Circle

  • 6th-level. Conjure Fey, Eyebite, Mass Suggestion, Summon Fiend (TCoE)

  • 7th-level. Crown of Stars, Forcecage, Plane Shift

  • 8th-level. Demiplane, Dominate Monster, Maddening Darkness

  • 9th-level. Foresight, Psychic Scream, True Polymorph

Remember, you can switch out one Warlock spell for a different one each time you level. So if a spell stops making sense at a certain point, or you find that a spell isn’t as useful with your party/in your campaign, you can always switch to a different one.

Warlock Feats

It’s important for a Warlock to max out their Charisma ability score as fast as possible. However, some feats are tempting or are definitely worth getting once Charisma is maxed out.

Some of the best feats for Warlocks in 5e are:

  • War Caster. Advantage on concentration checks, the ability to use somatic components with your hands full, and the ability to cast spell attacks as opportunity attacks. The first part is the most important, as maintaining concentration on important spells (with limited spell slots to spare) is paramount as a Warlock.

  • Moderately Armored. +1 Dexterity and proficiency with medium armor and shields. This represents a significant increase (4+) to the AC you can achieve, which is a massive help for increasing your general survivability.

  • Resilient (Constitution). +1 Constitution and proficiency in Constitution saving throws. This is mostly important for improving your concentration checks, but the +1 Constitution is also nice if you’re at an odd ability score currently.

  • Lucky. The ability to reroll a d20 test 3 times per long rest, or reroll an attack roll of an enemy. This is a wonderful feat on any character, including a Warlock. The ability to reroll failed saving throws against powerful abilities is especially impactful.

  • Spell Sniper. Doubles the range of spell attacks, allows you to ignore cover on those attacks, and grants one free cantrip (of any class) with an attack roll. The last part is kinda wasted, since Eldritch Blast is all you really need as a cantrip spell attack, but the other perks are definitely welcome.

  • Eldritch Adept (TCoE). +1 Eldritch Invocation and the ability to switch it out every time you level as a Warlock. Eldritch Invocations are powerful, and having access to an additional one is welcome.

  • Metamagic Adept (TCoE). +2 Metamagic options and +2 Sorcery Points to use on them. Warlocks are forced to upcast, meaning you can’t take Twinned Spell into the late game, but other metamagics can be very nice, depending on your build. Quickened Spell, Empowered Spell, and Subtle Spell are generally player favorites for Warlocks.

  • Telekinetic (TCoE). +1 Charisma and the ability to cast an invisible Mage Hand without verbal or somatic components, which can shove a creature as a bonus action. A half ASI, access to an empowered high-quality cantrip, and a way to use a bonus action for shoves in combat is great on many characters, including Warlocks.

    Note that Pact of the Chain Warlocks won’t have the bonus action to spare for the Mage Hand shove, since they’ll be using it to command their familiar to attack instead.

Warlock Patrons (Subclasses)

Warlock subclasses are represented by the otherwordly being who grants them their magical powers — their patrons. Below are brief descriptions of the two low-level features and playstyles of each of these subclasses:

  • Archfey. Access to two great 1st-level spells (Faerie Fire and Sleep), a 1st-level feature to frighten or charm creatures around you once per rest, and a 6th-level feature to use a reaction to turn invisible and teleport away once per rest.

    The Archfey’s bonus spells, 1st-level abilities, and defensive/mobility boost are a great combination. The playstyle leans more on the support side of the Warlock spell kit.

  • Fiend. Access to two great 1st-level spells (Burning Hands and Command), as well as the powerful 3rd-level spell Fireball, a 1st-level feature that grants temporary hit points when you kill a creature, and a 6th-level feature that allows you to add a d10 to an ability check or saving throw once per rest.

    All of these are excellent factors that conspire to make the Fiend one of the best combat-oriented caster Warlocks in DnD. Plus, the ability to tip the scales in your favor on any saving throw is quite powerful for the entirety of a campaign.

  • Great Old One. Access to excellent 1st-level spells (Dissonant Whispers and Tashas Hideous Laughter), as well as the ever-useful Detect Thoughts and Sending at 2nd- and 3rd-levels, respectively. A 1st-level feature that grants telepathy that crosses language barriers and a 6th-level feature that allows you to use a reaction to give an enemy disadvantage on an attack against you and grant you advantage on your next attack against them.

    Another great subclass with powerful and useful spell options and a 6th-level feature that helps a bit with survivability. However, this playstyle shines most when it leans into the Face element of the Warlock archetype, with a 1st-level feature that basically acts like a 3rd-level spell (Tongues) with a shorter duration and Detect Thoughts working to your favor in interrogations.

  • Celestial (XGtE). Free Light and Sacred Flame cantrips, access to 1st-level spells Cure Wounds and Guiding Bolt, as well as great 2nd- and 3rd-level utility spells Lesser Restoration and Revivify. 1st-level feature to heal allies for a bonus action and 6th-level feature that grants resistance to radiant damage and bonus damage on radiant and fire spells that you cast.

    If you want to be a half-healer, half-Warlock without multiclassing, this is the subclass for you.

  • Hexblade (XGtE). Access to the immensely powerful 1st-level spell Shield, a 1st-level feature that grants bonus damage to those you curse, as well as regain hit points when you kill cursed targets, proficiency with medium armor, shields, and martial weapons, and a 6th-level feature that binds a creature you kill once per rest as a loyal specter who fights for you in combat.

    The Shield spell and proficiency with medium armor and shields would be enough to make this an attractive option, but paired with invocations and the Pact of the Blade, this subclass becomes incredibly potent. Additionally, the playstyle of the Hexblade is entirely different than every other Warlock subclass, as it’s more akin to a martial with spells than a spellcaster.

  • Fathomless (TCoE). Access to 1st-level spell Thunderwave, 2nd-level spell Silence, and 3rd-level spell Sleet Storm, a 1st-level feature that spawns a tentacle that can attack for a bonus action, 40-foot swim speed/underwater breathing, and a 6th-level feature that grants resistance to cold damage and shared language with any creature while submerged in water.

    A decent subclass that has access to some great additional spells, but it only really shines in a universe where underwater missions are commonplace.

  • Genie (TCoE). Access to 1 of 5 sets of additional spells, depending on your genie patron, the ability to enter a safe genie’s vessel, and a 6th-level feature that grants you resistance to a damage type depending on your genie patron and the ability fly for 10 minutes.

    The bonus low-level spells granted by each of the genie patrons are quite good, the ability to rest more conveniently is great (especially on a Warlock who depends on frequent short rests), and the ability to fly without using a spell for it is fantastic. Overall a great subclass that makes a great spellcasting class even better.

  • Undead (VRGtR). Access to 2nd-level spell Phantasmal Force and 3rd-level spells Phantom Steed and Speak with Dead, a 1st-level feature that allows you to transform into a defensive form, and a 6th-level feature that allows you to live without eating, drinking or breathing and the ability to change your attack damage type to necrotic.

    This subclass tries to enhance a Warlock’s survivability, but it’s pretty poor at doing so.

  • Undying (SCAG). Access to 2nd-level spell Silence and 3rd-level spell Speak With Dead, a free Spare the Dying cantrip, a 1st-level feature that grants advantage on disease saving throws and a defensive boon against Undead attackers, and a 6th-level feature that allows you or an ally to regain hit points when they pass a death saving throw or benefit from Spare the Dying.

    A half-defensive, half-healing focused Warlock that doesn’t really succeed at either.

I play on writing a more detailed guide/ranking of Warlock subclasses at some point — this is just to give an idea of what each one offers. In the meantime, I’d recommend checking out Treantmonk Temple’s tier list of Warlock subclasses:

What Race Is Best for Warlock in 5e?

The best race for a Warlock in 5e is one that gives a bonus to Charisma and comes with helpful secondary bonuses.

Most dungeon masters use Tasha’s rules for variant race ability scores, making your choice of race more about flavor and utility rather than ability score bonuses. But if you do use each race’s prescribed ability score bonuses, you want to choose one that gives +2 to Charisma — a Warlock’s most important ability score.

With concern for ability score bonuses, here are the best races for Warlocks in 5e:

  1. Half-elf. Player’s Handbook. (+2 to any ability score)

  2. Tiefling. Player’s Handbook.

  3. Aasimar. Dungeon Master’s Guide / Volo’s Guide to Monsters

  4. Yuan-ti Pureblood. Volo’s Guide to Monsters

  5. Changeling. Eberron: Rising from the Last War

  6. Satyr. Mythic Odysseys of Theros

Without concern for ability score bonuses, here are the best races for Warlocks in 5e:

  1. Tiefling. Resistance to fire damage, free Thaumaturgy, Hellish Rebuke, and Darkness spells, and darkvision are all great for a Warlock. Plus, there’s the whole “you’re half-demon” thing.

  2. Half-elf. Advantage on charm saving throws, immunity to magic-based sleep effects, two skill proficiencies of your choice, and three starting languages (one being your choice) are all great perks. Especially good if you want to really lean into your role as the party’s face.

  3. Drow. A subrace of Elf, Drow get Dancing Lights, Faerie Fire, and Darkness for free and a superior-ranged darkvision. You have to deal with Sunlight Sensitivity, but the free spells are solid and very welcome for a Warlock.

  4. Satyr. Advantage on saving throws against spells and magical effects, proficiency in Persuasion, a 35-foot speed, and an empowered jump, the Satyr has a lot to like. Plus, a Satyr is definitely a natural fit for the Warlock class.

  5. Verdan. Free (but limited) telepathy, proficiency in Persuasion, advantage on Wisdom and Charisma saving throws, and three starting languages (one being your choice) are all great benefits for a Warlock.

    This is especially suited to a player who wants to be the face of the party, but the saving throw bonuses are also incredibly powerful defensive boons.

  6. Warforged. Advantage against being poisoned, resistance to poison damage, immunity to disease and magic-induced sleep, free +1 AC, and +1 skill proficiency of your choice are all welcome for a Warlock.

    A Hexblade can make even greater use of these defensive benefits, but a floating +1 skill proficiency makes this a versatile race for a Warlock.

  7. Yuan-ti Pureblood. Advantage on saving throws against all spells and magical effects, immunity to poison damage and the poisoned condition, free access to Poison Spray, Animal Friendship, and Suggestion, and three useful (and Warlock-relevant) languages are all perks for this race.

    More spells are always welcome, especially those that don’t eat spell slots, and the defensive and utility bonuses are also nice.

  8. Hexblood. Free access to Disguise Self and Hex and a long-distance telepathic communication/viewing ability are mechanically and thematically appropriate for a Warlock.

    There’s not much of a change in playstyle, but the free use of Disguise Self might encourage more deception than a Warlock player of another race.

Warlock Backgrounds

Basically, you want access to skill proficiencies that you can’t otherwise get and extra languages when you choose a Warlock background.

Here are some of the best Warlock backgrounds in 5e:

  1. Sage. Arcana and History are good skill proficiencies, and two additional languages are very useful for the party’s Face.

  2. Acolyte. Insight and Religion are nice skill proficiencies to have, and two additional languages.

  3. Charlatan. Deception and Sleight of Hand are both useful proficiencies, and disguise kit and forgery kit proficiencies can solidify your role in the party.

  4. Guild Artisan. Insight, Persuasion, and +1 language.

  5. Urchin. Sleight of Hand, Stealth, and proficiency with thieves’ tools and a disguise kit. It’s sad to miss out on bonus languages, but if you don’t have anyone in the party who can pick locks, this background works well with the Warlock theme.

I stuck with Player’s Handbook backgrounds for simplicity, but these remain solid options even in today’s environment.

Are Warlocks a Good Class in 5e?

Yes, Warlocks are a good class in 5e. In fact, they’re one of the top-tier classes in the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons. There are 4 Warlock Pact Boons, 9 subclasses, and 54 official Eldritch Invocations in the game, and each of these choices has a significant impact on what kind of Warlock you are.

This means that Warlocks are the most versatile class in DnD 5e — one that offers endless replayability. I didn’t even get into the value of Warlocks as a multiclass option, or the powerful multiclass dip options a Warlock main can take.

But suffice it to say that Warlocks are powerful. They are spellcasters with access to the best and most reliable damaging cantrip in the game, as well as several great leveled spells. Their subclasses are generally well-designed and offer both additional flavor and genuinely useful mechanical advantages that highlight the subclass’s theme.

They offer damage, support, control, and aid in social encounters — a well-rounded class that quickly ramps up in power and fun. Sign up for Warlock College today; your name on the dotted line…in blood.

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