5E Warlock build advice...
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  1. #1
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    Acolyte (Lvl 2)



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    Warlock build advice...

    Long time D&D player but first time playing 5e. (I've had the main books forever though so I'm pretty familiar with the rules and all.)

    Starting at 3rd level and I'm thinking of making a Warlock.
    I want to be fast Dex-based sword wielder, but I want to go with the archfey for flavory reasons and pact of the chain (because I'm a dork and just really want a pet dragon...)

    I'm not too nuts about optimizing the character (obviously...), but at the same time I don't want a useless character at the same time. So my question is... is it just hopeless to have a melee-focused warlock who is not a hexblade or blade pact? Do you think it would be doable by taking a few levels in fighter first?

  2. #2
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    Grandmaster of Flowers (Lvl 18)



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    You can build a perfectly good melee warlock without hexblade. One way to avoid MAD is to choose pact of the book, and learn Shillelagh, Booming Blade and/or GFB.

    Otherwise you can go pact of the blade and max out dex first. You can still get Dex 20 Cha 16 by level 8 with the right race. You will be relying on Hex to keep your damage competitive.

  3. #3
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    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)



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    Quote Originally Posted by Flobby View Post
    I'm not too nuts about optimizing the character (obviously...), but at the same time I don't want a useless character at the same time.
    You'll have to be more specific as to what you think a "useless" character/Warlock might be.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flobby View Post
    So my question is... is it just hopeless to have a melee-focused warlock who is not a hexblade or blade pact?
    It's not hopeless, just limited.
    If you go this route realize that you are forever only getting 1 attack/round. And while stabbing things you won't be able to command your familiar to attack & that it'll (probably) interfere with casting. You're also only proficient in light armor & simple weapons class-wise.

    As you stated dex based, sword wielding, with fey patron, am I correct in guessing you're thinking maybe Elf (possibly Drow) as your race?
    Mechanically being a Drow would be the best elf choice giving you Dex+2 (for AC, initiative, pairs nicely with finesse & ranged weapons), Cha+1 (your spellcasting stat), 120' darkvision, & proficiency with Rapiers, short swords, & hand xbows (oh look: finesse & ranged weapons!) + additional limited cantrips/spells from Drow Magic. You would have to deal with that pesky sunlight sensitivity though.... as well as making sure Drow are allowed as player options.
    Alternately you could do a mountain dwarf for the Str+2 & medium armor prof & try and talk the DM into letting you switch out one of the weapon prof for a sword. Of course you still want your dex/cha & now your looking for more str.

    If you aren't an elf of some sort, then you'll need to figure out a way to get proficiency with whatever sword you aim to use.
    You could do that as a variant Human & using your feat. Or you could take at least 1 lv of a class that provides it to start with, say: Fighter 1, Warlock x. You will need to qualify stat wise for multi-classing though.

    Spell wise you're also really limited as a warlock. In # of spells known, spell selection, & most importantly in spell slots. For most of this characters career you're only going to have 2-3 spell slots per short rest.
    Yes, I know. You look at the Wizard & think "they don't have that many more slots than I do since mine come back after a short rest" But those short rests? Access to them is 100% dependent upon the game you find yourself in.
    This makes choosing what spells you know very important. Choose well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Flobby View Post
    Do you think it would be doable by taking a few levels in fighter first?
    It would be very doable. And probably even the smart choice mechanically as you'd start with armor, shield & weapon proficiencies + a fighting style as you want to be in melee.
    You could even combine that with being an Elf/Drow....

    Of course the very best combo of race/class/etc? Is whatever let's you best express the character that you're envisioning. Even if that's not the optimal mechanical choice. Whenever in doubt, go with the character vs just optimal mechanics.
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    A 1e title so awesome it's not in the book (Lvl 21)



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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Farquhar View Post
    You can build a perfectly good melee warlock without hexblade. One way to avoid MAD is to choose pact of the book, and learn Shillelagh, Booming Blade and/or GFB.

    Otherwise you can go pact of the blade and max out dex first. You can still get Dex 20 Cha 16 by level 8 with the right race. You will be relying on Hex to keep your damage competitive.
    You're flat out ignoring that the OP wants a pseudo-dragon familiar. Wich all but requires the chain pact.
    Having something cool always > optimal damage.
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    Let me put it this way:
    Wanting to be a swordsman despite having absolutely no character investment in actually learning to swing a sword better is about as far from anything resembling optimization as you can get.

    Yeah, there is the Short Sword+Booming Blade you can fall back on, but that's more of a stopgap to prevent yourself from falling too far behind someone just casting Firebolt for damage. Being Dex focused and a fey lock really limits what supplemental spells you can bolster your damage with. You have Hex, and that Darkness + Devils sight combo, and not a lot else.

    Because you are up for it, yes, taking Fighter levels will make you stab better. You are going to want 2 levels, that gives you the controversial Rapier, coveted action surge, and some great defensive boosts (the mighty CON save, HP, second wind, shields, medium armors, maybe even your fighting style if you really want it). Unfortunately, that means putting the rest of what you want off for quite some time after you start playing. Also you will need to meet the multiclass requirements, and miss out on some ASI goodness, so it's not without costs. And in the end you are still going to rely on Booming Blade to carry you after level 5.

    Instead it might be able streamline this concept down to the MAP. Just tweaking something to get either Hexblade or Blade pact isn't going to have the world descend upon you and brand "munchkin" on your forehead.

    The easy change is your Patron. Because it's for flavor, and flavor is in the hands of the player. The Lady of the Lake could be portrayed by either an Archfey or a Hexblade Patron. You could also swear by Corellon's lost sword, Sahandrian, for instance, and still be subject to Fay type bargains. The best part about this change is that you can still keep the rest of your character. Dex based melee backed up by spell list designed for such a thing (Smites!), and you can still get Pact of the Chain for your dragon pet.

    If you can't ditch the Archfay patron: Do you really need a Psudodragon familiar? Is there perhaps a way you could get it without going for pact of the chain, like talking to your DM? Just going Blade pact lets you use a Rapier and spend your invocations on all the stuff that makes your sword hurt more without having to go for any kind of Fighter levels. It will make stabbing feel better, for you, at least.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ccs View Post
    You're flat out ignoring that the OP wants a pseudo-dragon familiar. Wich all but requires the chain pact.
    Having something cool always > optimal damage.
    As per monster manual you can take a pseudodragon for a familiar without needing to be a warlock at all.

    But if qualifying for a warlock familiar is the priority, then the minimum 3 levels of warlock and the rest fighter (Eldritch Knight might fit the theme) is the best way to go.

  7. #7
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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)



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    Melee Warlock is probably best built as either Hexblade or with a fighter dip, as you really want that second attack if at all possible. The best option that keeps as much flavour as possible but still kicks some butt is to go Hexblade but with chain pact for the familiar. Hexblade works just fine without blade pact. You can dip fighter or not at your leisure.

    The kind of game you'll be in does matter a lot too. As mentioned above, the Warlock is hugely short rest dependent, so you'll want to make sure your DM plans on allowing short rests. There is also the question of the actual campaign itself. Is this a dungeon crawl, wilderness exploration, or an urban intrigue type game? The Warlock has some strong options in the social interaction pillar as a CHA based class, so if there's going to be enough social interaction you could make that a key facet of your build and settle for being a blaster/control type combat character. Dipping rogue and building as an infiltrator works really well for Warlocks - Disguise Self at will plus the friends cantrip is awesome in the right game, even better with a good set of skills and expertise stacked on top from some Rogue levels (or just one).

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    I'm going to slightly disagree with some of the advice and say that booming blade or green flame blade plus hex might be able to get you what you are going for, depending on how non-optimized you are willing to go.

    Assuming you place Dex before Cha, just taking green flame blade is giving you an at-will attack with primary target damage about on par with an evoker's d8 cantrip. Adding hex on to it moves it clearly higher. Plus you are getting some decent second target damage, which really will make a difference if you can regularly hit two targets. If not, booming blade gives damage or control. You won't be winning any contests with dedicated warriors, but you might still be able to feel good about your contribution, as long as you choose your melees and don't charge every behemoth you see.

    But by no means should you ever take Agonizing Blast, unless you can convince your DM to nerf it so it works like all the other similar powers (ie, ability mod applying to only one attack rather than all). Because if you have Agonizing Blast swinging a sword will feel completely and utterly pointless, like waving a butter knife when you have an assault rifle.

  9. #9
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    Myrmidon (Lvl 10)



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    Yup, that's the rub, without some work Warlocks are far better blasters than they are crumpers. Agonizing Blast is the Warlocks signature go-to move. Its also the easiest way for them to do reasonable combat damage without resorting to MC dips or Hexblade. The Archfey Chainlock that was the original idea would be fine in combat going that route, and could focus the rest of his build on control spells, familiar use, and whatever else he wanted the character to be good at. It's way less investment for similar return.

    The problem with melee is that the Warlock needs more than just the offense side. Green Flame Blade is pretty good, as is Booming Blade. But that doesn't solve the problem of the Warlock being significantly squishier than most melee characters. Some defensive spells would help, but only to a point. You really need either Hexblade or a MC dip to make it work well (not even great, but just well).

    One option to look at is the Swashbuckler from XGE. That has some solid combat abilities based one Dex and Cha (eventually), and at level three gets some decent mobility and initiative abilities so it could work for a Warlock. The problem there is it needs at least three level of rogue to come online, so you'd be waiting a bunch of levels to get rolling in both classes. That's not the end of the world, but its a consideration. If you're going to be a little bit squishy, it's best to be super mobile, so some levels in rogue would be helpful.

    Another MC option that works thematically with the Archfey is to aim for three levels in Ranger and go Gloomstalker, which gets you some good stealth and ambush skills, plus some extra spell goodies, a fighting style, and better weapon and armor proficiency.

    You need to pick based on your level of patience. If you want a Warlock that works out of the box you're limited with options that are good at melee (Hexblade is about it), but not so much if you build a blaster. If you can be patient and work a MC build you have a lot more options for melee builds.

  10. #10
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    Actually, with 7 levels of Eldritch Knight, you can use Agonising Blast then follow up with a rapier attack as a bonus action.
    Last edited by Paul Farquhar; Thursday, 13th June, 2019 at 12:38 PM. Reason: spelling, grammar
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