Fall of 2017 is going to be busy with the release of the Tomb of Annihilation dungeon module and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Many of the subclasses to be featured in the upcoming Guide to Everything will be offerings presented through the Unearthed Arcana playtest materials, with two from each class (except for the Wizard) for a total of 25 new subclasses. Jeremy Crawford and Mike Mearls have previously mentioned that the more popular and well-received content would be included in future content; it sounds like a few have already made it past the chopping block. We previously did a review for some of the revised subclasses (click here) and were pleased with the overall changes implemented from the initial offerings. Hopefully, we shall continue this positive trend as Wizards continues to seek feedback from the community with the objective to make the best game possible. Our new revised playtest material covers the Druid’s Circle of the Shepard, the Fighter’s Cavalier, the Paladin’s Oath of Conquest, and the Warlock’s Celestial patron (formerly the patron of the Undying Light). Plus, we also have warlock invocations changed.
Circle of the Shepard – Druid Superfriends!
Previously, I reviewed the Druid circles (click here) and the Circle of the Shepard, I felt, was a strong candidate for needing little to no revisions. You can read the original Circle of the Shepard playtest material here.
One of the notable differences comes with the inclusion of fey creatures as part of the summoning trope. It honestly adds a wider arrangement of utility for the Druid summoner, especially when summoning fey allies. With this change, the Beast Speech feature is replaced with Speech of the Woods. The druid gains literacy in Sylvan in addition to beasts understanding the druid. Adding proficiency with languages is more flavor context than mechanically beneficial.
The Spirit Bond got a flavor upgrade, replacing the wolf with a unicorn totem instead. Which honestly, makes more sense as it’s hard to see a wolf totem granting boons to healing spells. The Hawk totem receives an adjustment, using a reaction to grant a creature within the totem’s aura advantage on their next attack roll instead of automatically granting it in the previous rendition.
Mighty Summoner includes fey creatures summoned by the Shepard Druid into its clause for extra hit dice and the fact their attacks are treated as magic weapons for the purposes of resistances and immunities.
Guardian Spirit received a complete overhaul. Previously, it granted the druid a death ward spell effect after a long rest that lasted for 24 hours. It was a great feature since many of the spells a Shepard Druid require concentration and generally, an enemy combatant will focus fire on the summoner first. It’s a basic strategy that works. It granted the druid survivability without expending spell slots. You can make the argument that the druid can Wild Shape once they cast their conjure spells and fight alongside their summoned allies, this is also true, but ultimately the druid will be targeted one way or the other. The revised feature grants Fey and beast creatures summoned by the Druid the ability to heal hit points if they end their turns in the totem spirit’s aura. I’m personally on the fence with this amendment, I personally prefer the idea of the summoner using their guardian spirit to protect them rather than the allies summoned. That’s a personal taste.
Faithful Summons received no changes.
Overall, the subclass only received some minor fixes to include fey creatures into the mix and allow them some benefits from the features above. Guardian Spirit was the only feature to receive an entirely new version that focuses more on the summoned allies as opposed to the survivability of the Druid as a whole.
Cavalier Archetype – Horse and buggy
The Cavalier archetype was introduced in an older Unearthed Arcana supplement (click here) to bring back old concepts from previous editions which included the College of Blades Bard. I wrote my own design for a Cavalier fighter (click here) and did a review of the subclass during the playtest surge.
Previously, the Cavalier was granted two skill proficiencies or use one of them for a language. Instead, the revision only grants one or the other. The skill list did not change, which honestly seemed odd to reduce the options for the Fighter. Perhaps the feature was perceived as generous as opposed to being a minor boon. It would seem better to just grant one skill and one language if that were the case.
Born to the Saddle received no changes.
Superiority Dice and the Maneuvers granted remained virtually unchanged with only adjustments made for clarification purposes. Additionally, the maneuvers are now named to connect them across other features in the subclasses. The Control Mount maneuver was amended to specify the Animal Handling skill to influence a creature, previously it did not mention the skill and left it loosely worded.
Ferocious Charger was modified to account for a variety of weapons compared to the original document. The end result is an effect that utilizes a superiority dice maneuver in a much cleaner design style. I’m extremely pleased with this change and integration with the other class features.
The rest of the Cavalier remains unchanged. It would seem the subclass received more clarifications than actual mechanical alterations. It would suggest that feedback for the subclass was overall sufficient and that only the language of the mechanics was necessary.
Oath of Conquest – the “Darth Vader” of Paladins returns
Non-good Paladins are fun. There I said it. Breaking the traditional stereotype with the Paladin in 5th Edition has bestowed multiple avenues of interpretation and play. When I previously reviewed the Oath of Conquest, I thought it had some great mechanics and some flavorful contributions, but also felt that there was room for improvement.
For the Channel Divinity feature got some modifications, namely the Conquering Strike became Conquering Presence. Instead of two features focused on strictly combat, we have one that works outside of combat as well. Conquering Presence becomes a broader ability that bestows the frightened condition to any number of creatures within a 30-foot radius.
Aura of Conquest now rewards the Conquest Paladin by reducing the speed of frightened creatures to 0 while inside the aura’s range. Additionally, the frightened creatures take psychic damage if they start their turn in the aura. Once the feature expands to 30 feet, combined with the Conquering Presence feature, the combination becomes extremely potent. Keeping your foes locked into their squares is incredibly powerful, especially if the party wizard lands a well-timed fireball into the mix. Frightened means the foes have disadvantage on their saving throws and ultimately increases the chance of failing their saving throws. I love it.
Implacable Spirit is replaced with Scornful Rebuke, which rewards the paladin for taking the tank role by dealing psychic damage to a creature that hits them as a reaction. The original immunity to charmed effects, while meaningful in the context that the embodiment of fear and dread could not be swayed was appealing, it felt ultimately felt lackluster.
The Invincible Conquerer feature remained unchanged but received a greater boon with Conquering Presence as a feature. Especially since the enemy cannot move away from the paladin if frightened, granting advantage on attack rolls, and landing a critical hit on 19s and 20s if frightened. It’s a recipe for mass slaughter, and I love it. Overall, the changes are small but incredibly impactful to the subclass.
Celestial Warlock Patron – Let there be light!
Originally titled as the Undying Light patron, the subclass has received some critical revisions (more so than the previous ones above) besides the name change. The Undying Light patron was originally featured in a Underdark playtest (click here) which we reviewed later with the other playtest materials.
The Undying Light spells were expanded to include two spells for each appropriate spell level. The additional spells grant the warlock some cleric-like utility, especially with spells like cure wounds, lesser and greater restoration, and revivify. All of these spells expand the warlock’s role, especially if the group needs a secondary healer.
The Radiant Soul feature was broken into two components, or rather, refined into two components, splitting the original feature into bonus cantrips and the real feature at 6th-level. The bonus cantrip feature by itself grants the sacred flame and light cantrips while the actual feature works as originally written. The separation of features is an active measure to bring balance to the subclass and maintaining the current design philosophy.
Healing Light was previously a capstone feature at 14th level, but now it has become a 1st-level feature. The logic seems to indicate that a healing pool has a greater impact in the beginning and fits with the concept of making the warlock closer to being a pseudo-cleric. The dice pool now has a maximum of 1 plus the character’s Warlock levels. Additionally, the maximum amount of dice expended per use is limited to their Charisma modifier.
Celestial Resilence remains unchanged.
Searing Vengeance has been moved as the capstone feature. If you’ve played Destiny, this is reminiscent of the Warlock Sunsinger’s Radiance super. Notice that they’re both Warlock features, I’m sure it’s not a coincidence. The feature, for the most part, remains unchanged, but the radiant damage has been upped to 2d8 plus the warlock’s Charisma modifier from the original 10 plus Charisma modifier. The best part about this capstone is that damage and blindness do not permit a saving throw, which is great if the Celestial Warlock was surrounded by enemies before going unconscious.
Overall, the Celestial Warlock is an impactful yet flavorful mix of Cleric roles while still maintaining its identity. This subclass provides an excellent secondary healer and has strong survivability features to keep it going for those long encounters. Even better, the Celestial Warlock can cast cure wounds using their warlock spell slots and regain them at the end of a short rest. It’s quite a potent combination. The overall changes make the subclass relevant in the current game environment.
Warlock Invocations – Generalization versus Specialization
The notations for this playtest indicated that many within the community felt the previous Warlock invocations (click here) were too patron-specific. There were honestly a few invocations that indeed did not need to be peculiar to any particular patron, but a few of them were reasonably necessary. The ones presented were made more general than some of the other invocations (most likely the less popular ones).
- Aspect of the Moon only removed the flavor text about the Maiden of the Moon for the Archfey patron. Expanding it for general acquisition makes any warlock with the Tome of Shadows feature is a great utility invocation.
- Cloak of Flies was original Cloak of Baalzebul. Again, the feature was mostly taken out of the patron’s context and made available to other warlocks. This invocation also received some mechanical clarifications, namely that the aura only extends to 5 feet from the warlock and is blocked by cover. It’s a practical and realistic approach given the original text felt rushed. Additionally, the invocation was given a cooldown between rests while previously it was simply an abusable feature that could be turned off and on.
- Eldritch Smite was formally Mace of Dispater, most of the changes were cosmetic in nature and less so mechanically. They both function identically to each other.
- Frost Lance removed their flavor text with the Prince of Frost. Honestly, I found this change to be just as much an impact as Repelling Blast. Though Repelling Blast has a larger influence in combat if the target can never approach the warlock as readily. Meanwhile, this feature works wonders only if the target is far enough away. Probably worth playtesting between the two feature to find which one prevails.
- Ghostly Gaze is an updated Gaze of Khirad with some clarified text and a cooldown between uses. To be honest, having the ability to see through objects is quite powerful, similar to a Lantern of Revealing but with no limits. Sort of glad that the feature was amended and equally pleased with it being made a more generic invocation.
- Gift of the Depths is identically the Sea Twin’s Gift invocation simply minus the flavor text. Water Breathing as a spell is always useful and to have the ability to cast it without expending spell slots is lucrative.
- Gift of the Ever-Living Ones is a modified Green Lord’s Gift invocation with now the added stipulation that if a warlock’s familiar is within 100 ft of them, they can maximize their healing. This change makes sense since the previous restriction was to merely have an Archfey patron. The necessary change prevents other variants of the warlock from outright benefitting from this invocation.
- Grasp of Hadar was made into a generic invocation, which from a design choice, it proved logical since the Hadar spells are openly available to every warlock regardless of creed. Perhaps if those spells were not made available in the initial printing, then the consideration to keep such features only with the Great Old One patron would feel logical and fair.
- Improved Pact Weapon removed the level requirement which personally I felt was unnecessary and too compelling of a feature to be granted so early. A warlock gains their pact boon at 3rd level, they know two invocations, upon reaching that level, the character can replace one their invocations with this instead. A warlock cannot gain access to the Thirsting Blade invocation until 5th-level, why shouldn’t this one? This now feels too powerful to be a generic invocation with no level requirement.
- Kiss of Mephistopheles removes the Fiend patron requirement. Honestly, that element should be kept both for flavor reasons and to empower choice. The removal of the patron requirement invalidates the necessity to choose a patron that fits the player’s needs and playstyle. While my argument is largely in semantics, the idea of keeping an invocation after a known Archdevil and then making it into a generic invocation seems rather off.
- Maddening Hex is a combination of invocation concepts that tries to reward the warlock that uses the hex spell, the Hexblade Curse, or the Sign of Ill Omen invocation. The inspiration for this invocation seems to stem from the Chilling Hex invocation from the original playtest document. While it is indeed generic in appearance, the fact that it accommodates whatever warlock the player chooses is empowering.
- For Relentless Hex, the design from Maddening Hex is transplanted into this invocation. Now even a Fiend patron warlock with a blade pact boon can close the gap and assault their hexed foe.
- Shroud of Shadow is essentially the Shroud of Ulban but with a lower level requirement and removal of the patron requirement. Invisibility at will without expending spell slots is essentially giving the warlock a ring of invisibility. It’s powerful and fits within that higher tier of play when a caster would like to utilize such tricks.
- Tomb of Levistus essentially got the Fiend patron requirement removed. The invocation remains unchanged and can be a great feature to use unless you’re fighting against a fire spell or in the Plane of Elemental Fire.
- Trickster’s Escape is essentially the Path of the Seeker invocation, the text in the original document essentially were features of a freedom of movement spell and therefore was simplified. The other main difference is the cooldown added in Trickster’s Escape between rests since the previous iteration only had an obscure warlock patron requirement. The change fits well and makes seem less overpowered than initially conceived.
Most of the previous Unearthed Arcana material were already further along the design pipeline when originally presented to the community. The Cavalier was an early submission that ultimately was regarded through feedback possibly to be well-rounded and nearly complete as a whole. Others, namely the Celestial patron Warlock received quite the revisions in their features and even the warlock invocations as well. The progress and desire to improve the game is a continued testament to the R&D team at Wizards of the Coast. Hopefully, we as players and fans are rewarded well for our input and patience for new content. Especially with the release of Xanathar’s Guide to Everything later in Fall 2017.