Here follow my notes on the Playtest 7 Warlock class.
For more context and my Standard Disclaimer,
check out the introduction to this series.
Wading once again into Controversial Playtest Topics, let’s see what’s up with the latest version of the Warlock…
- Class Group has been removed from this, like the other classes.
- Primary Ability is back to Charisma, as it was in the PHB, where UA5 let players experiment with the choice of Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma.
- The flavor text is tidied up, removing the language about gaining initial spells and boons from “bargains with lesser entities”, or as it had been termed, the “baby boon”. (Barf.)
- Armor Training is back to only providing Light Armor use as it did in the PHB. (UA5 allowed Medium Armor as well.)
- Multiclassing has been updated to remove Medium Armor training (consistency!) and to revamp the rules about how spell slots work if you have both Spellcasting (from another class) and Pact Magic (from this class). In brief: your Pact Magic spell slots can be used for Spellcasting spells, and your Spellcasting spell slots can be used for Warlock spells. Curiously, this sidebar still lists Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma as the Warlock’s primary abilities, even though that was pared back to just Charisma on the previous page. This looks like another (frustrating) editing oversight.
- Eldritch Invocations (level 1, level 2 in UA5, level 2 in PHB). This framework arrives a level earlier than it did before, and now provides a maximum of 10 options (formerly 8 in the PHB and 9 in UA5). Cool. Also, the Pact Boons have been integrated into the list of available Invocations, which will allow you to pick more than one of them over the course of your career. More on list later…
- Pact Magic (level 1) is back, after being removed for the more typical Spellcasting in UA5. The flavor text has been updated to describe that you’ve made a bargain with something to get access to spellcasting, but its identity isn’t clear yet. Cantrips and leveled spells go back to being selected from the Warlock-specific spell list (this was the overall Arcane spell list in UA5); in addition to the Warlock spell list from the PHB, you can also choose Bane, Detect Magic, and Speak with Animals, plus any Warlock spells from Xanathar and Tasha. The progression of cantrips known, spells known (sorry, “prepared”), spell slots, and spell slot level remains identical to the PHB. One cantrip and one spell can now be replaced when gaining a Warlock level. Your spellcasting ability is back to Charisma again (after having a choice of Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma in UA5).
- Magical Cunning (new, level 2) allows you, once per Long Rest, to spend a minute to regain half of your spell slots (rounded up) – but only if you’re all out. This, I think, is part of the promise of Warlocks being able to cast spells more often.
- Subclass (level 3). The identity of your otherworldly patron becomes clear! This has been a polarizing change in online discourse, but I really like it from a roleplaying standpoint – it’s very similar to a Paladin taking their oath at level 3.
- Ability Score Improvement (level 4) or a feat. Remember those?
- Dead Level (level 5). Choose a new spell (up to level 3).
- Subclass Feature (level 6).
- Dead Level (level 7). Choose a new spell (up to level 4), and an Eldritch Invocation.
- Ability Score Improvement (level 8) or a feat.
- Contact Patron (level 9, level 11 in UA5) just moves to level 9 and is otherwise unchanged. Nice.
- Subclass Feature (level 10).
- Mystic Arcanum (level 11, optionally level 5 in UA5) has been extracted from the UA5 Eldritch Invocation options. You’ll get the same progression of extra spells as you did in the PHB, starting with a level 6 spell here, but now you’ll be able to replace one of these when gaining a Warlock level.
- Ability Score Improvement (level 12) or a feat.
- Mystic Arcanum (level 13). Pick a level 7 spell.
- Subclass Feature (level 14).
- Mystic Arcanum (level 15). Pick a level 8 spell.
- Ability Score Improvement (level 16) or a feat.
- Mystic Arcanum (level 17). Pick a level 9 spell.
- Dead Level (level 18). You get to pick an Eldritch Invocation though, so that helps.
- Hex Master (level 18 in UA5) has been removed.
- Ability Score Improvement (level 19) or a feat.
- Eldritch Master (level 20) is back, reflavored to enhance Magical Cunning, but still having the same net effect of restoring all your spell slots once per Long Rest.
Eldritch Invocation Options
The design notes on changes take up nearly three-quarters of a page in the PDF, so, uh, buckle up I guess?
- Agonizing Blast now lets you choose which cantrip it enhances – so it’s not just for Eldritch Blast any more. The selected cantrip can be changed when leveling up. Customization is cool.
- Armor of Shadows says you don’t have to use a spell slot, but removes language in UA5 and the PHB about not needing material components. This is subtle but potentially important, and it’s not even mentioned in the design notes which are supposed to call out all the changes.
- Ascendant Step has its Warlock level prerequisite reduced from 9 to 5, but also removed the “without material components” language that was in UA5 and the PHB. Weird!
- Beast Speech has been removed since Speak with Animals was added to the Warlock spell list (and is available for ritual casting).
- Devil’s Sight now works in Dim Light in addition to Darkness. Makes sense to me!
- Eldritch Mind has been imported from Tasha.
- Eldritch Sight has been removed since Detect Magic was added to the Warlock spell list (and is available for ritual casting).
- Eldritch Smite has been imported from Xanathar. I hadn’t ever really looked at this before, but wow! At level 9 it’s adding 6d8 damage, which is like delivering a personal Fireball when you hit a foe with your pact weapon.
- Eldritch Spear, like Agonizing Blast, is no longer locked to Eldritch Blast, and the cantrip it enhances can be changed when gaining a level. More customizable is more cool.
- Eyes of the Rune Keeper has been removed, since Comprehend Languages is already on the Warlock spell list (and is available for ritual casting).
- Favor of the Chain Master has been removed.
- Fiendish Vigor now gives you the maximum number of temporary hit points when using it to cast False Life, instead of having to roll a die… But it doesn’t say at what level it gets cast, which matters since the maximum scales based on the spell level! This is a nice improvement, but the lack of specificity is sloppy and frustrating.
- Gaze of Two Minds now works with any willing creature (formely just humanoids). Very nice. It does rein in the ability to cast spells from the other creature’s space, though, now requiring that you and the other creature must be within 60 feet of one another. And it requires you to have at least 5 levels of Warlock. Still, this is nice, since it’d let you use it with a summoned familiar.
- Gift of the Depths has been imported from Xanathar.
- Gift of the Protectors carries over unchanged since its introduction in UA5. I still like it.
- Hexer has been removed after having been introduced in UA5.
- Investment of the Chain Master has been imported from Tasha, and replaces UA5’s Favor of the Chain Master. This change means that your familiar gets five features added to it instead of just one that was specific to the form of your familiar. This is probably a good trade. (So what do we think the Chain Master invests in? Stocks? Bonds? Real estate? Startups?)
- Lessons of the First Ones, introduced in UA5, now requires two levels of Warlock, but can be chosen more than once.
- Lifedrinker keeps the level 9 prerequisite, and now lets you select from doing Necrotic, Psychic, or Radiant damage. Its healing is now tied to spending a Hit Die instead of to the damage done. See below for certified Hot Takes™ on these changes…
- Mask of Many Faces is unchanged.
- Master of Myriad Forms moves from a level 15 prerequisite to level 5. Nice!
- Misty Visions now requires the use of material components.
- One with Shadows is now implemented as being able to cast Invisibility without using a spell slot if you’re in sufficiently spooky lighting conditions. This means you can stay invisible while you move or otherwise participate in the action economy. Where this was formerly a clarification in UA5, this is now a nice improvement. Thanks!
- Otherworldly Leap drops its prerequisite from being a level 9 Warlock to level 2. Nice, if you like to jump magically.
- Pact of the Blade is now an Eldritch Invocation instead of a Pact Boon that grants a cantrip. It has no prereq, so you can still take it at level 1 if you like. Bonding with an existing magical weapon is still short (where in the PHB it required one hour). The weapon you conjure or touch to bond with can now have the Heavy property. It explicitly uses your Charisma modifier instead of Strength or Dexterity (where in UA5 it used whatever your spellcasting modifier was – but that flexibility was removed, so here we are). New here is that you can choose to deal Necrotic, Psychic, or Radiant damage (or even the normal damage type) with your bonded weapon. Removed here is UA5’s property that made a thrown weapon return to your hand – sorry, Thor fans.
- Pact of the Chain is now an Eldritch Invocation that can’t be taken until level 2 (formerly this was available at level 1). This returns mostly to the PHB version, where you cast Find Familiar (instead of the new Pact Familiar spell from UA5). UA7 adds the skeleton and slaad tadpole forms to the list of bonus/special forms you can choose for your familiar. The biggest mechanical change from the PHB is that it’s now cast as an Action without using a spell slot instead of a ritual. Rolling back to using Find Familiar means that you lose UA5’s unlimited range for telepathic contact, are deaf and blind again within your own body while perceiving through your familiar’s senses, and lose the ability to speak through the familiar in your own voice. On the other hand, you can once again cast touch-ranged spells via your familiar, which you couldn’t in UA5.
- Pact of the Tome is now an Eldritch Invocation instead of a Pact Boon that grants a spell. The new version lets you have two level 1 spells from any class’s spell list (since the Arcane, Divine, and Primal lists are gone), where the PHB version gave you three cantrips. The new version also provides an extra level 1 spell slot that can only be recovered with a Long Rest. (Nice! More casting is more fun.) As with the UA5 version, the book that you conjure can be used as a Spellcasting Focus. One last note here is that you lose the upgrade from UA5 that did extra cantrip damage based on your spellcasting ability bonus for any cantrips that didn’t already do this. I think last is due to this feature being moved to the Eldritch Invocations umbrella, where you’d be able to take this later in your level progression than when the upgrade would kick in. This is probably fine.
- Repelling Blast is unchanged from UA5, where it restricted the effect to creatures that are Large or smaller.
- Thirsting Blade returns from the PHB, offering an Extra Attack at level 5+, with an upgrade at level 11 that matches the Fighter’s level 11 Two Extra Attacks feature, and putting the Warlock above the number of attacks allowed to a Barbarian. This is a little much if you ask me – if you’re not a martial character class, you shouldn’t get more attacks than martial character classes do.
- Visions of Distant Realms drops its prerequisite from level 15 to level 9.
- Whispers of the Grave drops its prerequisite from level 9 to level 7.
- Witch Sight is unchanged from UA5. Good.
Phew! That was a lot. This is a good time to take a stretch break, and maybe have some water. (How long has it been since you drank a glass of water? Go. I’ll be here when you’re back.)
Okay, all good? Now time for subclasses…
The PHB’s Archfey Patron subclass arrives with some tune-ups:
- Patron Spells (level 3) replaces PHB level 1’s Expanded Spell List. It now adds its spells as always prepared (nice), and adds Misty Step to the already very thematic list. The table that shows when these spells are available to you is now aligned to your Warlock level rather than the spell level, which is definitely easier to parse.
- Steps of the Fey (level 3) replaces Fey Presence. This new feature lets you cast Misty Step without using a spell slot, with uses based on your Charisma modifier, and recharging fully on a Long Rest. And whenever you cast Misty Step (with or without a spell slot) you can give a nearby creature temporary hit points or cause creatures near your starting location to have Disadvantage on attack rolls against targets that aren’t you. I’m in favor of more mobility in 5E combat, and extra HP are always nice, so this seems useful and fun to me.
- Misty Escape (level 6) keeps the take-damage-use-Reaction-to-Misty-Step mechanic, but instead of automatically turning you Invisible, brief invisibility is now added as an option for Steps of the Fey, as well as another effect that can cause psychic damage to creatures near the space you left or the space you arrive in. The invisibility change is admittedly a nerf, but it seems fine to me to have to pick one effect rather than doubling them up. Decisions, after all, are a big component of what makes this game interesting.
- Beguiling Defenses (level 10) maintains immunity to being Charmed from the PHB, but instead of reversing the charm on its originator, you can now use your Reaction to reduce damage from a hit caused by an attack roll as well as repaying the perpetrator with an equal measure of Psychic damage. This is typically available once per Long Rest, but you can use it again by spending a spell slot. I can dig this – it seems much more commonly useful than it did in the PHB version.
- Bewitching Magic (level 14) replaces the PHB’s Dark Delirium feature. Now you can cast Misty Step for free whenever you cast an Enchantment or Illusion spell using a spell slot and an Action (which in turn lets you use the options from Steps of the Fey and Misty Escape). This maybe isn’t as creative as trapping a foe in the illusion of being lost in a misty realm, but it seems a lot more practical, and it encourages both casting and repositioning.
The Celestial Patron from Xanathar joins the ranks of core Warlock subclasses with light modifications:
- Patron Spells (level 3) replaces Expanded Spell List and Bonus Cantrips from level 1 in Xanathar. Like the Archfey’s spells, those that it grants are always prepared (nice). The spells offered haven’t changed.
- Healling Light (level 3, level 1 in Xanathar) is mechanically unchanged.
- Radiant Soul (level 6) is mechanically unchanged.
- Celestial Resilience (level 10) can now be activated by using Magical Cunning in addition to finishing a Short Rest or Long Rest as it was previously. It’s otherwise unchanged.
- Searing Violence (level 14) is mechanically unchanged.
This is our second round with the Fiend Patron subclass in this series. The UA5 version made me somewhat more interested in playing one at some point – let’s see if I still feel the same way now.
- Patron Spells (level 3) replaces Expanded Spell List from level 1 in the PHB. As with other subclasses, the spells granted are always prepared. It looks like the spell list has changed slightly; the new list is: Burning Hands, Command, Scorching Ray, Suggestion (replaces Blindness/Deafness from PHB), Fireball (replaces Fear from UA5/goes back to PHB), Stinking Cloud, Fire Shield (replaces Blight from UA5/goes back to PHB), Wall of Fire, Geas (replaces Flame Strike from UA5 and PHB), and Insect Plague (replaces Hallow from PHB). This feature also loses UA5’s once per Long Rest free casting of one of these spells.
- Dark One’s Blessing (level 3) has been upgraded to activate when someone takes down a foe within 10 feet of you (as opposed to 5 feet in UA5 and not having this mechanic in the PHB). I liked it before, and I like it more now!
- Dark One’s Own Luck can still be used several times per Long Rest (based on your spellcasting ability modifier), but clarifies that it can only be used once per roll. This is probably a good idea, and it’s consistent with similar feats and features in other classes.
- Fiendish Resilience (level 10) is unchanged from the UA5 version. Good, I’m glad to see this change sticking around.
- Hurl Through Hell (level 14) now requires its target to fail a Charisma saving throw in order to be sent on this bogus journey. The damage has been reduced to 8d10 here from 10d10 in UA5, and while it’s experiencing this bad trip, your target is Incapacitated. This feature now requires a level 5 spell slot to recharge early, because by level 14 that’s the only level of spell slot a Warlock has. And like the UA5 version, this can only be used once per turn. This is all in line with the “Deep Dive” preview discussion, so isn’t a big surprise.
Great Old One Patron
Rounding out the proposed core subclasses for 2024 is an update to the 2014 Great Old One…
- Patron Spells (level 3) replaces Expanded Spell List from level 1 in the PHB. As with other subclasses, the spells granted are always prepared. It looks like the spell list has changed slightly; the new list is: Detect Thoughts, Dissonant Whispers, Phantasmal Force, Tasha’a Hideous Laughter, Clairvoyance, Hunger of Hadar (replaces Sending), Confusion (replaces Dominate Beast), Evard’s Black Tentacles, Modify Memory (replaces Dominate Person), and Telekinesis.
- Awakened Mind (level 3) lets you form a two-way telepathic connection to another creature as a Bonus Action, instead of just speaking one-way to the target. The new feature sets some limits on distance and duration, but the other most interesting change is that the new version requires you to speak mentally in a language known by the target, where in the PHB version the target simply had to understand at least one language, even if the two of you don’t share a language.
- Psychic Spells (new, level 3) lets you change the damage type of a Warlock spell to Psychic. It also lets you cast Enchantment and Illusion spells without any verbal or somatic components.
- Clairvoyant Combatant (level 6) is similar to but replaces Entropic Ward from the PHB. It now builds on Awakened Mind, leveraging the psychic link to attempt to impose Disadvantage on the target’s attacks against you and Advantage on your attacks against the target. It can also be recharged by spending a level 2+ spell slot. Cool; in general I like features that build on other features.
- Thought Shield (level 10) is unchanged from the PHB, and seems pretty cool if you know you’ll be going up against things that do Psychic damage.
- Eldritch Hex (new, level 10) makes Hex permanently prepared, and buffs it by giving the target Disadvantage on saving throws in addition to ability checks using the ability you selected. Cool (if a little mean).
- Create Thrall (level 14) has been completely redesigned. It now makes the Summon Aberration spell permanently available, optionally without needing Concentration – though limiting the duration from one hour to one minute if you choose to do this. The summoned creature has some additional temporary hit points based on your Warlock level and Charisma modifier. And once per turn when the summoned creature hits a target you’ve Hexed, it does extra Psychic damage equal to Hex’s bonus damage. This is an interesting flavor change, but seems more direct and practical for combat than merely charming a target.
- Magical Cunning made me knee-jerk jealous as a Sorcerer player, since it’s restoring leveled spell slots. But then I looked at the spell slot progressions of these classes side-by-side, and, yeah, I think I’m okay after all. A level 20 Sorcerer will have 22 spell slots, where a level 20 Warlock will have four. I think letting Warlocks have eight spell slots (when this combines with Eldritch Master) is probably fine.
- Lifedrinker… I like the increased flexibility on the damage types, and even though a single use of the new version can restore more hit points than the UA5 version could, I really liked how thematic the 1:1 exchange rate of damage to healing was. Spending your own hit dice in mid-combat also isn’t nearly as much fun as DRINKING THE HIT POINTS FROM YOUR FOES. Like, not even close.
- Thirsting Blade needs to be nerfed. A Warlock has so much other cool stuff it can do; it doesn’t need to have more attacks than a Barbarian, and it certainly doesn’t need more attacks than a Monk. I might even say it should be removed again, since there are plenty of other perfectly good Eldritch Invocation options to select from, like doubling up on the Pacts.
- The Archfey Patron seems like the way to go for some thematic extra spells and Misty Step shenanigans. I’m definitely more interested in it now than I was in the past.
- Celestial and Fiend seem like fun counterpoints to one another; I’m glad to see both in the core rules.
- The Great Old One Patron seems like it has a lot of overlap with the Aberrant Sorcery Sorcerer. These subclasses share roughly half of their bonus spells (the GOO Warlock’s Pact Spells and Aberrant Sorcerer’s Psionic Spells). Further, the GOO’s Awakened Mind is identical to the Aberrant’s Telepathic Speech, and the GOO’s Psychic Spells is very similar to the Aberrant’s Psionic Sorcery. I think these are both fine, but I maybe wouldn’t want to have both subclasses in the same campaign, as it sure looks like they were copying each other’s school work. I do see the distinction though – C’thulu gave the GOO Warlock psychic powers, while the Aberrant Mind Sorcerer just is psychic.
Aside from a few tweaks that I’d like to see, this latest Warlock seems really good, offering fun new features, upgrades to existing features, and tons of ways to customize it and explore different configurations. The subclass selection here is excellent, with four solid and iconic archetypes, all of which are obvious “yes, of course” decisions for inclusion. I think I’d have fun with any of them.