To wrap up the last of the core classes from the Player’s Handbook, Wizards unveiled new pacts for the Warlock and a new Wizard tradition. This does not necessarily mean this is the end of the string of Unearthed Arcana articles, there may still be additional archetypes we have not foreseen that may be revisited from older editions of Dungeons and Dragons or be new concepts that have been sitting in developmental limbo. The new Warlock pacts are the Hexblade and the Raven Queen; the Hexblade has history during the large supplemental boom from 3.5 Edition as a core class and was later reimagined as a Warlock subclass during 4th Edition. The Pact with the Raven Queen is a new concept that incorporates many of the goddess’ flavor with the Warlock. The new Wizard tradition: Lore Mastery, is a callback to the Loremaster prestige class from 3.5 Edition and was later remade into a Wizard paragon path in 4th Edition. Once again, Wizards is wanting survey input from the community on their view on the previous Sorcerer article (click here for our review), there are many varied opinions and all the feedback alerts Wizards what seems to work, what may be perceived as powerful, and what works thematically.
Click to check out the Warlock and Wizard playtest material here.
Click to do the Sorcerer survey here.
Pact of the Hexblade – Curse of the Black Blade
The Hexblade had started as a core class in 3.5 Edition in the Complete Adventurer supplement. The original class focus primarily as a fighter with weak spellcasting capabilities, the most unique aspect of the class was the ability to curse a foe and make them suffer penalties. The Hexblade was made into a striker subclass for the Warlock in 4th Edition, implementing more debilitating effects with their curse features. While flavor for the Hexblade Warlock has changed, the mechanics have a much deeper legacy from its 3.5 Edition and 4th Edition roots.
Expanded Spell Lists. Lots of melee based spells, especially the smite variety of spells from the Paladin spell list. The spell options grant the Hexblade Warlock a different approach to combat spellcasting, especially since warlocks regain spell slots after finishing a short rest. If the Hexblade warlock includes the various cantrips from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide, this pact option truly opens to becoming a close-range combatant that echoes the Hexblade from 4th Edition. The inclusion of cone of cold adds a powerful and solid combat spell for large groups, which is often a shortfall when a caster class becomes a more melee role.
Hex Warrior. Normally in a half-caster martial character, they have a tendency to be multiple ability score dependent (MAD), this feature grants medium armor proficiency along with martial weapons proficiency. Ultimately the feature that is the highlight here is the ability to replace the warlock’s Charisma modifier in place of Strength or Dexterity for attack and damage rolls. Granted the weapon cannot be two-handed but overall it allows the Hexblade to enjoy the features and still be a warlock without excessive MAD.
Hexblade’s Curse. The key feature that practically identifies this subclass. While the warlock has access to the Hex and Bestow Curse spells, but having a feature frees up dedicated spells known and spell slot usage. Cursing a target is a bonus action (great), the effect lasts for 1 minute with no save (better), while cursed the target gets dealt extra damage and if slain the warlock regains hit points. Quite a solid feature, it works similar to Hex with the extra damage, the warlock can land critical hits on 19s and 20s on the cursed target, and if slain (which is rather easy with extra damage) the warlock regains hit points equal to their warlock level plus Charisma modifier. Once used, the Hexblade cannot use it again until after a short or long rest. This feature works great for bigger and tougher foes, allowing the Hexblade to focus fire on the target. The greater pay off comes to the Hexblade at 14th-level, and honestly it’s worth it. The Hexblade can still implement a Hex spell for lesser foes, or in conjunction to this feature. If that’s the case, the target under the influence of the Hexblade’s Curse and the Hex spell, potentially dealing an extra 1d6 necrotic damage plus whatever the warlock’s proficiency bonus would be at the time. The extra damage even at 1st-level becomes 1d6 plus 2 damage, which becomes an average as 5 extra damage total. With a decent weapon, like wielding a longsword two-handed, that’s 1d10+4 (assuming a Charisma score of 18) which that is an average of 9 points of damage, plus the curse damages that becomes roughly an average of 14 damage per turn for 1 minute. The damage output competes easily with early level tanks and possibly close to the damage range of monks and rogues at the same level.
Shadow Hound. This feature seems to not imperative, but the unique aspect of the feature is granting the warlock something akin to a Ranger’s Hunter’s Mark spell. By choosing a target within 60 feet, the Hexblade sends out their shadow and the target loses any benefits from cover. Additionally, the Hextblade knows the distance and direction of the target, very similar to Hunter’s Mark. The Hexblade can recall their Shadow Hound with another bonus action, and the target cannot remove the Shadow Hound unless through dispel magic, remove curse, or similar magic. This is a great feature for long range assaults or enemies that tend to use cover or hide. Great against rogue based enemies. Outside of situations with little to no cover, this feature does not seem to be as useful, but when in a confined environment with plenty of hiding spots, this is a great feature to have around. Granted, the Hexblade requires line of sight of the target first, so if the rogue is hidden, the warlock can’t use this feature until they strike.
Armor of Hexes. I love this feature, especially since when the Hexblade uses their curse feature on the boss creature. This encourages the Hexblade to be more aggressive with their playstyle against the cursed target, using perhaps the smite spells they took from this pact. In any case, whenever the cursed target attacks the Hexblade, simply roll a d6, and if the result is 4 or higher, the attack automatically misses. This feature enhances the survivability of the Hexblade, granted it only works with a creature under the Hexblade’s Curse feature but given how potent of a feature it can be, the Hexblade needs every little bit of help to deal more damage and also ways to survive attacks. If the target is casting spells that do not require attack rolls, this feature does little against them. Ultimately, a Hexblade may need to take feats to gain better saving throw stats.
Master of Hexes. This is one capstone that I full hardly endorse. The Hexblade’s Curse feature can be used an unlimited amount of times before resting. Essentially, if a new target is given the curse, the previous one disappears which is fair and acceptable. It grants the Hexblade greater flexibility and versatility of their curse, planting curses on targets that are near dead to regain some easy hit points or switch to a target to deal more damage.
The Hexblade has lived a decent legacy within Dungeons and Dragons, beloved by many in its early days as a stylized anti-hero class that offered martial prowess with some arcane perks. Over time, the class gained more magical features but still kept its martial roots. This iteration remains true to the original theme and even brought back its fabled key feature: the curse. It was pleasant to see an iconic archetype return into the 5e ruleset with some excellent nostalgia tied into it.
Pact of the Raven Queen – Nevermore!
This was an interesting pact option, thematically different than many other Warlock pacts as they are generally vague or ambiguous. Granted that many of the Pacts do offer suggestions of particular entities but this entire pact is flavored exclusively for the Raven Queen. The Raven Queen is a deity created in the early days of 4th Edition under the new pantheon, her flavor and demeanor have left many fans within the community. It was very pleasant to see the Raven Queen receive some worthwhile attention and even its own Warlock pact.
Expanded Spells. The spell list is an impressive array of defensive, utility, and even some offensive capabilities. From Sanctuary to Spiritual Weapon, Locate Creature is very useful as well. Ice Storm and Cone of Cold are definitely powerful offensive spells. Feign Death and Speak with Dead are great utility spells that expand on the flavor of the Raven Queen pact.
Sentinel Raven. Essentially the warlock gains a powerful raven familiar that cannot be targeted by attacks, spells, or effects. Best part, it’s a familiar that cannot take damage or be incapacitated which is very useful since the warlock still gains the combat utility of a traditional familiar. The unique feature with this Raven familiar is that it grants additional boons while perched on the warlock’s shoulder. The warlock gains Darkvision up to 30 feet, additionally the warlock adds their Charisma modifier to their passive Perception score and Perception checks. The warlock can see through the Raven familiar’s eyes as well and issue commands telepathically. It’s definitely an upgraded familiar, which honestly frees up the Pact Boon selection choices for the warlock.
Soul of the Raven. The warlock gains the ability to polymorph themselves as their Raven familiar and gain all the benefits as if it were perched on the warlock’s shoulders. It’s a useful feature since the familiar cannot take damage, or be incapacitated, or be targeted for attacks or spells. A useful feature when the Warlock needs to flee and reposition themselves elsewhere from the combat environment. This also serves as a great scouting mechanic as well but equally a stealth feature, a warlock can scout an enemy and then return to their normal form to prepare an ambush.
Raven’s Shield. Immunity to being frightened, advantage to death saving throws, and resistance to necrotic damage. A useful feature to gain by 10th level, more undead enemies start dishing out necrotic damage and higher tier undead (especially intelligent undead) really dish out the necrotic damage like its going out of style. This feature is thematic and mechanically benefiticial for the warlock, especially the advantage on death saving throws.
Queen’s Right Hand. I love the name of this feature and the fact the warlock can cast the Finger of Death spell from it, granted its once between each long rest but it’s very flavorful. At 14th-level, the warlock would have access to 7th-level mystic arcanum and Finger of Death is a possible spell choice, now the Warlock effectively has two 7th-level mystic arcanum. That’s considerably powerful for a warlock, opening up the avenue for another powerful spell selection. For the level this feature is gained and the overall strength of this feature, it’s a solid boon for a traditional warlock approach.
This pact does not do much to expand the Warlock’s roles but instead allow the Warlock to do what they already do but better. The features are thematically on point and the features have a variety of uses and are set well to represent their overall power at the levels they are acquired. The Raven Queen is one of the few new deities from 4th Edition that resonated well for many players during that era of D&D’s history, seeing more material with some of those “newer” deities is always a welcome sight.
Warlock Invocations – Options for Days!
The nice aspect of this Unearthed Arcana playatest is the new Invocations to play with. The Undying pact did not introduce any new Invocations but this time around we are given new Invocations for existing Pacts and even for the Pact of the Seeker (click here for the Unearthed Arcana material for the Pact of the Seeker). Overall, some of the invocations were useful for the appropriate warlock, there are some were ultimately specific to the campaign the warlock may find themselves and reduced their viability in the general sense.
- Aspect of the Moon. If you’re not an elf warlock, this is a marginal useful invocation to acquire especially when the group needs a dedicated watch dog.
- Burning Hex. This feature doubles up on the Hexblade’s striker role, dealing extra damage for free with a bonus action. Good for the DPS department overall.
- Caiphon’s Beacon. If you like playing the charming assassin with your Warlock, this is an improvement over the Beguiling Influence invocation. Sure you lose out on Persuasion but that’s a matter of necessity. Deceiving and stealthing is great for a martial based Warlock under the Great Old One patron.
- Chilling Hex. Similar to Burning Hex but with the added bonus to deal the damage to all enemies adajcent to the cursed target instead. A useful invocation when dealing with multiple adversaries and letting the Hexblade focus fire on the cursed target while gaining a boon to damage their allies. Take both to maximize efficiency.
- Chronicle of the Raven Queen. A free speak with dead but only for one question. It’s thematic but easily useful after a combat encounter when seeking more information. If the party had slain say an entire band of goblins in a cave and want to assess what they might face, well if there are 5 dead goblins, that’s 5 free questions to ask about the cave and their possible foes ahead.
- Claw of Acamar. Essentially the Great Old One Warlock can create a tentacle rod with their Pact of the Blade boon. The ability to completely stop an enemy in their speed and deal extra damage is nice, not sure if it’s worth the spell slot even with the Warlock’s ability to regain them after a short rest.
- Cloak of Baalzebul. A useful invocation for keeping foes from being adajcent to the Warlock, especially at early levels. At higher levels, there are better invocaions.
- Curse Bringer. So the Hexblade can create a Greatsword with the Pact of the Blade, which completely voids the Hex Warrior benefit but adds the nice boon of extending the Hexblade’s Curse to a new target once the original target is slain with the Curse Bringer. The ability to reduce a creature’s speed to 0 and deal extra damage is great here since the target cannot escape and helplessly gets ceramed by the Hexblade with this greatsword. I like it here and it’s totally worth the spell slot usage.
- Kiss of Mephistopheles. A double whammy of hits, not quite a free fireball but in essence a quickend fireball is cast from the Fiend patron Warlock. Great when you need to lay waste to the opposition.
- Frost Lance. The Warlock’s eldritch blast now become ray of frosts, marginally usefull when in higher levels the eldritch beams can target multiple creatures.
- Grasp of Hadar. The opposite brother to the Repelling Blast invocation, instead of pushing targets away, this feature brings them closer. Great for a martial inclined Warlock of the Great Old One.
- Green Lord’s Gift. Essentially the Warlock is under the influence of Beacon of Hope minus the advantage on death saving throws. Maximized healing is great for striker role, when hit points flucuate often.
- Improved/Superior/Ultimate Pact Weapon. Wow. Did not think Wizards was going to allow free +1/+2/+3 magic weapon. Luckily this does not affect magic weapons made into a pact weapon. If the warlock has been shafted with magical weapon acquisitions, this is a decent invocation to acquire for the martial warlock (especially Hexblades).
- Mace of Dispater. Knocking creatures prone tradtionally is limited to large size or smaller, hitting huge size creatures and making them fall prone with no save is great even with the spell slot cost.
- Moon Bow. If you’re in a campaign that deals with lycanthropes, having advantage on attack rolls is very nice. Edit: It was brought to my attention that the invocation read 2d8 radiant damage “per spell level”, which a 9th-level Warlock can dish out 10d8 radiant damage since they cast using 5th-level spell slots. It’s pricey to deal an average of 45 radiant damage per slot at that stage of play, but in later levels its worth consideration.
- Path of the Seeker. A very useful invocation for the Seeker Warlock, depends on how often the party gets bound in rope and chains, but the free ignore difficult terrain is still useful here.
- Raven Queen’s Blessing. This is an interstin invocation that requires a critical hit with eldritch blast to trigger. A higher levels with more eldrtich beams, this is a nice feature to have every so often. At early levels, you’re better off choosing more useful invocations and not suffer from combat efficiency.
- Relentless Hex. So the Shadow Hount feature is a nice feature when combined with this invocation, closing the gap and then quickly teleporting to them is a great.
- Sea Twin’s Gift. This is a useful invocation if your campaign deals with being on water often or underwater even. Otherwise it’s rather lackluster.
- Seeker’s Speech. Gaining free two languages between long rests is useful when exploring ruins or areas with plenty of books to read. It’s flavorful and good in the exploration part of the game.
- Shroud of Ulban. Essentially this is a free invisibility spell, you would think at this point we would have something akin to greater invisibility intead. Overall a useful feature, it was useful for the Archfey Warlock as an actual class feature so this is just as useful even in higher levels.
- Tomb of Levistus. If you play Overwatch (just Google it if you’re been living underneath a rock), this is essentially Mei’s ability to entomb herself in ice. At higher levels, the temporary hit points are great, the only flaw is the incapacitated condition and speed of 0. So while it does help the warlock, its all about timing when triggering this feature. A wrong time could spell a fatal result for the Warlock here.
Lore Mastery – dFinding the Secret Tome
The loremaster was an agnostic spellcasting class from 3.5 Edition and was reintroduced as a Wizard paragon path in 4th Edition. The loremaster’s claim to fame was that the character would unearth arcane secrets and delve into greater abilities to gather information. It was a class that benefited any playstyle with even a small dip in 3.5 and was a flavorfully rewarding paragon path in 4th Edition. When Unearthed Arcana introduced the possibility of prestige classes returning to 5e, the loremaster and others came into mind for a possible return. This iteration follows its 4th Edition legacy but with mechanics that call back to its 3.5 Edition roots.
Lore Master. The double proficiency to pretty much all the basic “lore” skills seemed reasonable and extremely helpful. The best part of this feature is the ability to replace Dexterity with Intelligence for initiative rolls, which for a caster is doubly important. Having a good Dexterity traditionally was to help with Initiative rolls and Dexterity saving throws, since many offensive spells deal with Dexterity and Constitution saving throws.
Spell Secrets. In older editions, the loremaster learned secrets that stemmed to empowering their spells with higher DCs or caster levels, some of them were minor things like a bump to saving throws or Knowledge-based skill checks. This feature on the other hand, blows everything out of the park. Essentially this feature reads: if it deals non-physical damage, you can substitute the damage type and even change the type of saving throw (if the spell requires one). Granted the Loremaster Wizard can only change the saving throw once between a short or long rest, but having the ability to change the elemental damage of spells is quite potent. It nearly invalidates the Elemental Adept feat, more importantly it changes enhances the flexibility of the spells and their area of effects based on damage types. For example, the Loremaster can make a “coldball” from a fireball spell now. Like ice storm? Why not have it deal necrotic damage instead of cold. Remember, changing damage types does not require a rest of any kind, only the saving throw portion. That’s quite powerful, especially if the Wizard realizes that the opponent has a particular weaker stat in a certain ability and exploits that feature even with non-damage dealing spells. Oh the enemy spellcaster has weak Strength or only mediocre Constitution scores? Let’s exploit that with a Dominate Person spell with a Constitution saving throw instead. This feature is inherently powerful and makes the Loremaster Wizard a wrecking ball in the spellslinging arena.
Alchemical Casting. Sorcerers have the advantage of Sorcerer points to empower and augment their spells to gain additional features and effects. This feature requires the Loremaster Wizard to expend spell slots (any from 1st to 3rd-level) and based on the spell slot expended, the particular effect is implemented. This feature seemed a bit weak in comparison to a Sorcerer’s Sorcery Points since spell slots are a hot commodity in 5th Edition. Even if the Loremaster Wizard were to use their Arcane Recovery feature, is it worth it? Sacrificing a 3rd-level spell slot for increase a spell’s save DC by 2 is quite powerful but honestly I would rather just have a magic item do that instead of wasting precious spell slots. I feel this feature should’ve had a limited amount of uses equal to the Wizard’s Intelligence modifier plus 1 (similar to bardic inspiration). Increasing range is powerful, I mean imagine casting a fireball a mile away from the enemy, all they would have to do is cast Scrying on the foe and then launch the fireball. Sure the Wizard uses up a 4th-level slot, a 3rd-level slot, and a 2nd-level slot but the reward is lack of exposure and the element of surprise. There are some merits to these features and effects, I’m just not sure if the spell slots are worth it for some of them. Expending a 1st-level spell slot to deal an average of 11 (210) force damage is nothing to snuff at early levels. Most 1st-level spells deal around 10 to 12 damage on average already, so if anything this part feels like casting a free 1st-level damage spell. There may need to be some tweaks to the benefits but ultimately this feels a solid idea that perhaps needs an adjustment or two.
Prodigious Memory. The greatest downfall of a spellcaster that has to prepare their spells (clerics, druids, and paladins, and wizards) is when the spells they prepared do not fit the situation they enter. For wizards, spell variety is key to improving their chances of having useful spells in any situation while having a few to fit their specializations as well. This feature lets a Loremaster Wizard replace one of their prepared spells for another from their spellbook. It doesn’t even have to be the same level, which I feel is a design oversight for it can quite power when you wish to substitute a 1st-level spell for a 3rd-level spell and the only concern the wizard has would be whether they still have the spell slots to cast the new spell once selected. The feature can be used again after a short or long rest, which is great for when the Wizard needs utility and replaces a damage spell for one instead. Even if combat that’s quite useful when you need more more damage spell over a defensive or utility spell.
Master of Magic. Quite a title to give oneself, but this feature is particularly powerful to the point my jaw dropped the first time I read it. This feature is absolutely overwhelmingly good I could barely contain myself even while writing this article. Imagine the cleric or main healer dead, like absolutely dead. The group needs to find a way to resuscitate the cleric so the rest can heal up and perhaps resurrect others who have died. The Loremaster Wizard can “learn” revivify, raise dead, resurrection, or even true resurrection and then bring back the cleric. Presto! The group has their healer back and the group is healed and saved. Need some major healing spells in a pinch and the cleric is nearly tapped out of spells? This feature can turn the tide for that short instance. Want to have the ability to move between trees via Tree Stride? This feature can help with that. Any one spell from any spell list so long as the Loremaster Wizard has the spell slots to cast it, does not have them prepared, and must still follow the remaining rules of the spell. This is a powerful feature when implemented at the correct time and place, the mechanics fit the name of this feature. Having that sudden insight and rush of knowledge to guide the wizard to the correct spell to use in a dire situation. Even casting a spell from the Wizard list that either the Loremaster does not have prepared or did not learn yet. This feature satisfies one of my main beef with some the Unearthed Arcana materials and their lackluster capstones. This one hits a home run for me and I cannot wait to playtest this with an NPC I have in mind.
With the last two core classes from the Player’s Handbook out of the way, the question is: “what’s next?” There are some possibilities to consider, either more material that has been sitting in the backburner, some refreshed existing ideas, or perhaps a full Mystic class progression. The possibilities are endless, the good thing that came from these Unearthed Arcana articles has been the discussion of class design and even talk about the future hopes of the game in a possible future supplement. Many people are excited for the possibility of Eberron returning as a campaign setting when the Artificer class was unveiled and it comes with good reason. The Warlock pacts were flavorful and even managed to mechanically satisfy their heritage and themes. The Lore Mastery tradition for the Wizard did exactly what you expect for a sage like entity who knew ancient secrets and had a sharp wit the match. Have a go at these playtests and make sure to check back with myself and Wizards of the Coast for the next survey for the Warlock and Wizard materials. Our opinions and feedback help ensure that the future content will reflect the atmosphere of the community and the way we play the game.
Click to check out the Warlock and Wizard playtest material here.
Click to do the Sorcerer survey here.
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The invocations that add 2d8 damage, like Moon Bow, are “per spell level”. So, for example, if you’re a 9th level Warlock, your 2 spell slots are each 5th level, so that becomes 10d8 radiant. Not so measly now, hehe!
That is a good catch. Averaging about 45 damage per warlock spell slot expenditure at 9th level is quite an improvement! Expensive at early levels, worthwhile in later levels. Would love to playtest this with a Sorcerer/Warlock build.