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Level Up (A5E) DPR for the Eldritch Blasts: Quick, Detailed, and Messy Observations

Here is a link to a GoogleSheet with my math—converted from Excel, so there may be one or two weird things from the conversion.


I don't promise that the math is perfect, but I did my best.

Some disclaimers:
This post is not a criticism of A5e—the edition was just released and no one has had the chance to play a campaign yet, so I think criticism is premature. (Personally, I really like almost everything I’ve read and consider the vast majority of A5e to be a direct improvement over O5e. I trust the designers when they say they’ve done the play testing and the damage math.) This post is an observation, with some personal analysis, of how Eldritch Blast works on a single-class warlock as A5e currently exists. I don’t have the math on the damage potential of other classes—and even if someone provides me with the math there’s no guarantee that we used the same formulas—so this post is not intended to compare Eldritch Blast against the combat abilities of other classes.
I used Treantmonk’s DPR calculation for this analysis:
All models are flawed, DPR models included, and I will address some of those flaws as I review each Eldritch Blast type. However, I do consider this theoretical model to be useful for the purpose of providing a baseline for discussion. Unlike Treatmonk, I did not include Hex in my damage calculations, as I do not remember seeing it on the warlock spell list. I will review the damage potential of each Eldritch Blast type individually, with some comments relating to the others, and also refer to their relative power for each tier of play.
My damage calculations assume that the relevant spellcasting ability score is 16 at level 1 and that all ASIs are used to increase that ability score until it reaches 20. For tradition’s sake I refer to Charisma in many places, even though A5e allows any of the mental scores. These calculations also assume that you take Agonizing Blast at level 2 and prioritize single-target damage. If you are not interested in Agonizing Blast or prefer to discuss the tactical applications of Invocations like Eldritch Tentacle or Eldritch Spasm, I touch on those a little bit, but that is not the overall purpose of this post. As a general rule I assume a 60% chance to hit, per Treantmonk’s calculations, but where I deviate from that number I make a note of it. I do not assume that the warlock possesses magical items in any of these calculations, which may be relevant for Pact of the Blade warlocks with Eldritch Spear or Scythe.
It has been debated as to whether or not a character with Extra Attack can replace a single attack with a full use of Eldritch Scythe. (As an example, and relevant for single-class warlocks, this means that a level 5 warlock with Pact of the Blade and the Thirsting Blade Invocation can make one attack with a pact weapon and then replace the second attack with two uses of Eldritch Scythe.) This post is not intended to be commentary on whether or not that’s a viable reading of the rules. This post includes that damage calculation for consideration, and you can give it attention or ignore it as is relevant to your reading of the rules. Just note that when I refer to a non-weapon Eldritch Blast, I am referring to Eldritch Spear, Spasm, and Whip, and Eldritch Scythe used on its own. When I refer to a weapon Eldritch Blast, I am referring to Eldritch Scythe when it replaces a single attack from a warlock using Thirsting Blade.
If you want to see my specific math, the chart and calculations that I used to make these observations, I have attached an Excel sheet to this post. If you don’t mind just reading through observations that don’t use specific numbers often, read through the rest of this post.
Note: I call it Eldritch Spasm multiple times in this post, and that’s a screw-up on my part. The play test material called it Eldritch Spasm, the current version calls it Eldritch Disturbance, but Spasm is what’s in my head so that’s what I used.

Some General Observations:
Which Eldritch Blast deals the most single-target damage shifts from tier to tier. Keep in mind how long your campaign is going to last if you care about the long-term viability of blasting away for maximum DPR. That said, I think any Eldritch Blast option can be made to work at any level depending on whether or not you are willing to play to the unique strengths and trade-offs of each Blast. In addition, how you weave spellcasting into your blasting will significantly impact how much mileage you get out of Eldritch Blast, and such considerations are beyond the scope of this discussion. In short, if you are disappointed with the DPR potential of your preferred blast option, keep in mind that DPR cannot catch the full picture and the unique challenges that your Narrator throws at you.

Eldritch Blast gets its power increases at levels 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 11, 17, and 20. Here are the specific power increases:
1: You get Eldritch Blast and make a decision that defines your Eldritch Blast’s archetype for the majority of the game.
2: Agonizing blast allows you to add your spellcasting modifier to each individual attack.
4: ASI, upping a starting score of 16 to 18.
5: Extra attack(s, in the case of a weapon Eldritch Blast with the Pact of the Blade and the Thirsting Blade invocation), except for Eldritch Spasm, which gets an extra damage die.
8: ASI, upping a score of 18 to 20.
11: Extra Attack.
(12: As a weapon Eldritch Blast, Eldritch Scythe combined with a Polearm and Polearm Savant finally reaches a 20 in the relevant spellcasting ability score at this level.)
17: Extra Attack.
20: Aura of Anathema. This ability is INCREDIBLE, doubling the warlock’s damage output against almost all enemies. Switch your Anathema to Force to use Eldritch Blast as-is, or use Eldritch Elementalism to make your Eldritch Blasts deal Necrotic damage. Either way, this might be my favorite capstone ability hands-down, and I love how it has the potential to buff the entire party in most combats (although it may be difficult or impossible to get your Adept dealing Necrotic or Force damage with every attack). I don’t think a single capstone approaches this in terms of raw damage output. I will ALWAYS want a level 20 warlock in my party when squaring off against a Tarrasque!

Specific Observations: Eldritch Spear
Eldritch Spear is the Eldritch Blast that you know and love from O5e. Consistent and reliable damage, pairs well with most of the Blast-improving Invocations, Eldritch Spear never has the highest single-target damage-dealing potential in any tier but also never does bad damage. If you want ol’ reliable (and un-flashy), take Eldritch Spear. (I also think it’s worth noting that Eldritch Spear is most likely to get the most mileage out of Invocations that change the nature of Eldritch Blast. At 120 of range, blasting an enemy 10ft away from you with each hit is unlikely to put the enemy out of your range any time soon, or you can cheese grater said enemy over rough terrain by pushing it away from you and then toward you with every hit, and at a safe distance no less. Other invocations are much more likely to move enemies out of range if you do this, or don’t get additional attacks per turn.)

Specific Observations: Eldritch Spasm
Eldritch Spasm (technically Disturbance) received a noticeable change from the play test. It now only ever gets one attack per turn, but it increases in damage when other Blasts increase in attacks, and it deals half damage if the target succeeds on its save. This makes it much more than just “Eldritch Spear with a save instead of a spell attack,” which, as an aside, I think was a very smart design decision. This change does ripple out in interesting ways:
1: Eldritch Spasm never gets multiple attacks per turn, so it will never have multiple opportunities to apply Invocations like Eldritch Grasp or Eldritch Tentacle—or, most important in terms of raw damage output, Agonizing Blast. If you are building around Eldritch Spasm and playing past the first tier of play, this is extremely important to keep in mind.
2: I was generous with my damage calculations, as I had difficulty determining the average DPR for a spell that’s guaranteed to deal damage but not guaranteed to deal a consistent amount of damage. If my numbers are wrong, I suspect that they are higher than they should be, which does not bode well for Spasm in terms of damage output.
By my calculations, Eldritch Spasm is the consistent single-target DPR winner of tier 1 (for why I say “consistent,” see Eldritch Whip). Being guaranteed to deal damage and dealing the same amount of damage as Eldritch Blast, and more damage per-hit than Whip or Scythe, makes it no contest. However, by tier 2 Eldritch Scythe is only barely the most consistent single-target damage-dealing non-weapon Eldritch Blast (that was a mouthful), and it continues to slip in relative damage potential from there. I like Eldritch Spasm, especially in tier 1, but I would not play it in Tier 3 or above.

Specific Observations: Eldritch Whip
Eldritch Whip is the reason why I calculated the 1-turn, 3-turn, 5-turn, and 10-turn damage potential of all the Blasts. Eldritch Whip’s single-turn damage output is terrible compared to all the others, but Eldritch Whip is designed very differently: with every hit you create a pool of growing temporary hit points that, on your next turn, you can convert into bonus damage, which bonus damage can be used to further feed your pool of temporary hit points. Under optimal circumstances, this causes Eldritch Whip to, by level 2 or 4, match the total damage of any non-weapon Eldritch Blast in 3 turns and vastly exceed said damage potential in 5–10 turns—at level 20, with Aura of Anathema, your damage potential over 10 turns becomes nearly enough to destroy the Tarrasque on your own. (Which will never happen because the Tarrasque won’t take that lying down, but it’s fun to imagine.) The damage potential is incredible, especially at higher tiers, but there are some caveats:
1: Your pool of temporary hit points disappears every turn—use it or lose it. If you can’t land an attack, either because you keep missing or you are too far away to use Eldritch Whip, you lose it. However, you can apply this entire pool of hit points as a damage boost to a single attack, so Extra Attack does wonders to improve the consistency of Eldritch Whip.
2: You convert temporary hit points gained from Eldritch Whip into damage. This means that if you are taking damage your DPR will go down.
3: You need multiple turns of constant whipping to make the most out of Eldritch Whip. If your combats tend to resolve in 3 turns or less, you may find Eldritch Whip to feel a bit on the flimsy side. If your campaigns tends to have longer combats, you may be disappointed to find that Eldritch Whip only fully benefits you if you use it every turn—this means not using your spellcasting as often, or focusing mostly on spells that attack with a bonus action.
If you are a gambler and want to deal a lot of damage, if you believe that you can keep yourself close enough to combat to use Eldritch Whip but far enough from danger to avoid taking damage yourself, Eldritch Whip has the highest damage ceiling of any non-weapon Eldritch Blast—and the highest damage ceiling, period, at level 20. How consistent you find it in practice may vary from campaign to campaign and DM to DM. As for me, am very excited to find ways to maximize the potential of Eldritch Whip (without cheese or munchkining—optimization is good, power-gaming is bad).

Specific Observations: Eldritch Scythe
Eldritch Scythe has the potential to be the most complicated—and damaging—of the Eldritch Blasts. If your DM allows your extra attack gained from Thirsting Blade to be turned into a full Eldritch Scythe attack, then you will deal the most damage of all the Eldritch Blasts, per-turn and over time, starting in tier 2 and going all the way through level 19, only being unseated by Eldritch Whip when combined with Aura of Anathema (but Scythe is going to be much more consistent than Whip). In addition, level 5 will bring you an absolutely insane damage jump—from 1 attack to 3, 4 if using a polearm and Polearm Savant. Your single-target damage will eclipse the other Blasts by a large amount per turn—3–6 points of damage in Tier 2, 5–8 points of damage in Tier 3, and 10–20 points of damage in Tier 4, until level 20. Over time, Eldritch Whip does have the potential to be competitive in damage with the weapon Eldritch Scythes, but Eldritch Whip will not be as consistent.
There is a trade-off to this style of play: an Invocation tax, and a feat and time tax for Polearm Savant. All options, to maximize damage, will need Agonizing Blast, Thirsting Blade, and Lifedrinker, and something to improve AC—Eldritch Warrior or Armor of Shadows comes to mind. You will also be a little more MAD, as constantly being in melee as a warlock means you will need at least decent Dexterity and Constitution scores, or good enough Strength to wear heavy armor if you manage to pick up the proficiency. For Polearm Savant’s bonus attack you will need to spend your 4th level ASI on the feat, and you won’t catch up on your Charisma score until level 12. Greatsword does the most damage prior to level 12, but Polearm Master easily wins once level 12 comes online.
As for the comparative damage among the weapon Eldritch Blasts, Longsword does better damage than the other Blast options and can benefit from a shield, so the increased armor may be worth it to some warlocks. If all you care about is high single-target damage, Eldritch Scythe with a Greatsword handily wins tier 2 while Eldritch Scythe with a polearm and Polearm Master has an easy lead once it comes online in tier 3. None of these builds come online in tier 1. What works best for you will depend on your campaign and playstyle. If you include potential bonus damage in your total for each turn, using a weapon Eldritch Blast doesn’t just beat the other options, it annihilates them.
Note that I am not using grandiose language to suggest that something is broken here. As I mentioned before, your Narrator may not allow weapon Eldritch Blasts, or you may never get to a high enough tier of play to go from “stronger” to “significantly stronger,” or you may find that the difficulty of keeping yourself alive in combat isn’t worth the trade-off for incredible damage. It seems to me that the designers had a clear intent here: being a warlock in melee is very dangerous, even if you expend the significant resources to keep yourself alive. You will also never benefit from using combat maneuvers with your melee Eldritch Blasts. But if you are willing to accept the costs, the benefit is very high and very consistent damage. Your damage only gets beaten out by Eldritch Whip at level 20 because the damage from your weapon is not likely to be the same damage type as your Eldritch Blast, so you won’t be doubling all of the damage you make per turn (through Aura of Anathema).
For players using a non-weapon Eldritch Scythe, expect to average the least single-target damage over several turns the entire game. Your total damage, including the extra damage dealt to a secondary target within range, is very respectable and, at times, is greater than the single-target damage of other blasts, but since dispersed damage tends to be weaker than single-target damage your mileage may vary. (“Area” damage, like a fireball, is different than “dispersed” damage, like Eldritch Scythe.)

Closing Thoughts:
I love warlock in A5e more than I ever have before. Eldritch Blast significantly expands the versatility of this class and each individual option was crafted with care to ensure that none of them feel the same. If I had to pick a clear winner in terms of DPR, I’d call a tie between Eldritch Whip and Eldritch Scythe used in conjunction with Thirsting Blade and a Greatsword (or, for later levels, a polearm and Polearm Master, which would be super easy to transition to from Greatsword anyway). I accept the gamble that Eldritch Whip offers in return for crazy damage, but true gishes will probably prefer how the Eldritch Scythe with a weapon can absolutely shred through enemies. If you’re looking to stay distant and stay the most versatile, Eldritch Spear is always there for you.
My one disappointment in this analysis was Eldritch Spasm (Disturbance). In the play test I loved this option, but I don’t think it faired very well in the final product. I don’t believe it’s bad, but I don’t like that I can’t use Invocations specifically intended to buff Eldritch Blast with it more than once per turn, which all the others get to benefit from starting at level 5. I still think the design behind Eldritch Spasm is solid, however, and I appreciate how the designers clearly differentiated it from Spear beyond just being Spear with a shorter range and a save.
I still believe that all Eldritch Blasts are viable, but you will need to play to their strengths and weaknesses to get the most out of them, and I hope that this quick and messy review helped you accomplish exactly that. I mentioned high-level play for a lot of my observations in this review, but the real differences and specializations for each Eldritch Blast come online at level 5 when most options get an extra attack. In my campaigns, most of the gameplay happens between level 5 and level 10, so that works perfectly.
 

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I did not realize that this thread would show a preview of the GoogleSheet and the YouTube video links that I included. I'm new to EN World's forums—it was A5e that got me here in the first place. If anyone is willing to show me how to get into this thread I made and edit the formatting to make the previews show a little better, I would be grateful. (I do not want to get rid of the previews, I think they are useful tools.) I figured it out.
 


Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
I think the formatting works just fine. It's a little less than perfect, but no one's going to fault you on it when you've got your data presented so effectively. Though you could put them on their own lines with a line-break between them and the next bit of text if you're concerned.

I would like to note, however, that Eldritch Spasm was renamed Disturbance to avoid negative and ableist connotations. Not sure why Eldritch Ray became Spear in your writings, as Eldritch Spear is the range-increase invocation for Eldritch Ray.

I am quite surprised to see how well Eldritch Disturbance holds up in DPR, though. Half Damage on a failed save was definitely the right way to go!
 

I noted in there that, due to the playtest, it’s Eldritch Spasm in my mind, but I am aware that the name has changed in the final product.
But dang! I got the wrong name for Eldritch Ray, too? I feel silly. Was it renamed since the playtest, too? The math should be good, though - I double and triple-checked that.
I was surprised at how Disturbance and Ray stacked up as well - closer than I expected. I still think only attacking once per turn is a major disadvantage at higher levels, though.
 



TwoSix

Unserious gamer
The calculation on Spasm/Disturbance seems..off? I don't have the books yet, but is it 1d10 per tier (+Cha mod at 2), save for half? 90% hit chance would be equivalent to assuming an 80% save failure, 20% save success chance, which seems somewhat high?

Also, I think some of your calculations adding crit might be off, unless there's some other factor in A5E I haven't seen (This is highly possible!). Just looking at Whip level 2 for example, 1st turn damage should be 1d6+3 (avg 6.5) * 0.6, plus 0.05 * 3.5 (average of 1d6 for a crit). That should be 3.9 + 0.175, rounding to 4.08, not 4.23. It looks like you might have the Charisma mod being doubled as well, which is incorrect unless A5E changed the crit rules on me (again, highly possible, and disregard this paragraph if that's the case).
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
... oh.

So. Dual Wielding is a thing...

Thirsting blade Longsword+Dagger at 20.

4 Eldritch Scythe Swings, 1 Longsword, 2 Dagger Strikes as a Bonus Action.

... and a partridge in a pear tree.
 

The calculation on Spasm/Disturbance seems..off? I don't have the books yet, but is it 1d10 per tier (+Cha mod at 2), save for half? 90% hit chance would be equivalent to assuming an 80% save failure, 20% save success chance, which seems somewhat high?

Also, I think some of your calculations adding crit might be off, unless there's some other factor in A5E I haven't seen (This is highly possible!). Just looking at Whip level 2 for example, 1st turn damage should be 1d6+3 (avg 6.5) * 0.6, plus 0.05 * 3.5 (average of 1d6 for a crit). That should be 3.9 + 0.175, rounding to 4.08, not 4.23. It looks like you might have the Charisma mod being doubled as well, which is incorrect unless A5E changed the crit rules on me (again, highly possible, and disregard this paragraph if that's the case).
Good feedback!
The issue with calculating Eldritch Disturbance is that it does full damage on a failed save, half damage on a success. Thus, damage is guaranteed every single turn, but the amount of damage isn't consistent, and the odds are an even 50/50 (at which point I'd just average full and half damage and call it a day). So, after some huming and hahing, I represented it as a 90% change to hit and then added a lot of disclaimers that I felt I was being very generous. If the actual damage potential of Eldritch Disturbance is much lower I would not be surprised in the least.

As for critical hits, A5e doubles all damage rolled, including the modifier. If this were base O5e rules, you would be spot-on.
 

... oh.

So. Dual Wielding is a thing...

Thirsting blade Longsword+Dagger at 20.

4 Eldritch Scythe Swings, 1 Longsword, 2 Dagger Strikes as a Bonus Action.

... and a partridge in a pear tree.
Two dagger strikes? I haven't looked at the equipment section very closely. Do daggers have a feature that let you attack twice with them as part of a single Bonus Action for Dual Wielding? If there were a way to have them count as a pact weapon—and thus benefit from Lifedrinker—and if you could get the Dual Wielding fighting style without sacrificing your capstone, that's a really solid boost to damage.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Good feedback!
The issue with calculating Eldritch Disturbance is that it does full damage on a failed save, half damage on a success. Thus, damage is guaranteed every single turn, but the amount of damage isn't consistent, and the odds are an even 50/50 (at which point I'd just average full and half damage and call it a day). So, after some huming and hahing, I represented it as a 90% change to hit and then added a lot of disclaimers that I felt I was being very generous. If the actual damage potential of Eldritch Disturbance is much lower I would not be surprised in the least.
Hmm. If the odds of a save are at 50/50 (which feels a little low), than you'd want to use 0.75 as the hit modifier (50% of 50% damage plus 50% chance of 100% damage).

Making it a little more general, if the chance to fail the save is p, then the hit modifier should be p+0.5*(1-p).
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Two dagger strikes? I haven't looked at the equipment section very closely. Do daggers have a feature that let you attack twice with them as part of a single Bonus Action for Dual Wielding? If there were a way to have them count as a pact weapon—and thus benefit from Lifedrinker—and if you could get the Dual Wielding fighting style without sacrificing your capstone, that's a really solid boost to damage.
Daggers are Dual-Wielding weapons. Which allows you to use them with a main-hand weapon that is not Heavy to dual wield.

Two-Weapon Fighting in the combat section explains that if you have Extra Attack and you use two weapons on your turn you can make two attacks with the offhand weapon as a bonus action instead of just once.

Though I suppose you could dual-wield shortswords, one of which is your pact weapon, and do 4 Eldritch Scythe attacks and then 3 short sword attacks (Two with your offhand).
 

Hmm. If the odds of a save are at 50/50 (which feels a little low), than you'd want to use 0.75 as the hit modifier (50% of 50% damage plus 50% chance of 100% damage).

Making it a little more general, if the chance to fail the save is p, then the hit modifier should be p+0.5*(1-p).
I think the actual odds of the monster failing its save are 60–65%, but it also varies based on the monster even more widely than AC does. I borrowed this formula from Treantmonk, and he didn't specify how to calculate this niche situation, so I'm in the dark. I may update the formula at some point, for Disturbance specifically, but I definitely don't have time today.
Curse not studying math and then discovering that optimization math is really exciting!
 

Two-Weapon Fighting in the combat section explains that if you have Extra Attack and you use two weapons on your turn you can make two attacks with the offhand weapon as a bonus action instead of just once.

Though I suppose you could dual-wield shortswords, one of which is your pact weapon, and do 4 Eldritch Scythe attacks and then 3 short sword attacks (Two with your offhand).
Man. You learn something new every day. That's +3d6+30, in addition to the base Scythe damage.
 

Steampunkette

Shaper of Worlds
Supporter
Man. You learn something new every day. That's +3d6+30, in addition to the base Scythe damage.
Not +30, just +10.

You don't get your attribute damage on your off-hand attacks unless you have the two-weapon fighting style. And since your off-hand isn't your Pact of the Blade weapon, it doesn't add Charisma to attack or damage.
 

Not +30, just +10.

You don't get your attribute damage on your off-hand attacks unless you have the two-weapon fighting style. And since your off-hand isn't your Pact of the Blade weapon, it doesn't add Charisma to attack or damage.
... You're right. It would be just +10. Can you tell I've spent significantly more time analyzing the changes to the warlock than the base rules? Ha ha.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
I think the actual odds of the monster failing its save are 60–65%, but it also varies based on the monster even more widely than AC does. I borrowed this formula from Treantmonk, and he didn't specify how to calculate this niche situation, so I'm in the dark. I may update the formula at some point, for Disturbance specifically, but I definitely don't have time today.
Curse not studying math and then discovering that optimization math is really exciting!
Yea, 60% failure rate sounds about right, plus it matches up with the normal hit rate you were using anyway.

That would make 0.8 the appropriate multiplier for Disturbance.
 

Yea, 60% failure rate sounds about right, plus it matches up with the normal hit rate you were using anyway.

That would make 0.8 the appropriate multiplier for Disturbance.
Interesting. That makes Eldritch Spasm inferior to Eldritch Ray after tier 1, damage-wise. I did that calculation before I ultimately switched to 0.9.
I’ll get that updated eventually.
 

Vampersan

Explorer
I'm a little confused. How are you making weapon attacks in addition to Eldritch Scythe in the same turn?

Isn't Eldritch Blast an Action to activate, and not the "Attack" Action, which would seem that two-weapon fighting with Eldritch Blast is not legal?

Or have I missed something? If so, then I apologize.
 

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