Raven Soul / Eldritch Soul
A ridiculously OP Melee DPR build for Eldritch Knight/Divine Soul focusing on Shadow Blade & Booming Blade, with TPK Management as their secondary role. RAW & RAI, No UA, Not AL compliant, requires Feats and Multi-Classing variant rules. Shadar-kai would be ideal mechanically and thematically.
This build is designed to maximise the synergy between Booming Blade, Warcaster, Shadow Blade, Twin-casting, Mobile, Elven Accuracy and War Magic for Melee DPR, with Action Surge & Hexblade’s Curse for Nova.
As a secondary role this build is designed to Tank its way through a TPK, providing emergency Healing Word, Revivify and Mass Healing Word to get the party back on its feet, while protecting self with Protection against Evil & Good (PEG), Darkness, Warding Wind and Blur. There are options to also pack Rope Trick and Catnap for emergency short rests in hostile territory after a near-TPK. Scatter at 20th level.
Tertiary roles are as a Party Buffer with Aid, Death Ward and Freedom of Movement (FoM) from 14th-20th level, and an everyday buffer of ability checks with Guidance, able to be delivered via familiar, from 5th level, and Control, using Booming Blade & Mobile.
You are up and running at 7th level, getting pretty god-like at 11th, with more big DPR boosts at 13th, 16th, 17th and 20th. Five ASIs are available: at 4th, 8th, 10th, 13th & 17th level.
DM’s Notes (a.k.a. But How Do I Kill It?)
Very reliant on magical damage, especially psychic & thunder, delivered at melee range, and thus very susceptible to magical damage limitation. Low Wisdom and Intelligence saves, mediocre Charisma saves. That old classic, an illithid riding an enslaved beholder should ‘solve’ any ongoing issues you may have with this build being too OP. Dominate Person and similar will annoy them until they get Resilient (Wisdom).
Blue Highly Recommended
Red Better than nothing
I’ve given a possible 9 in Strength for those using Variant Encumbrance rules. Very difficult to wear a breastplate and maintain mobility on an 8 Strength. If you aren’t using Variant Encumbrance then 8 is sufficient. You will have proficiency in Strength saves and take Athletics to make up for your low base score.
Dexterity is your maxing-out stat. You will be using Shadow Blade as a finesse weapon, as a Dexterity-based fighter. It’s your boost to AC, Initiative and a major saving throw.
Constitution is your second favourite ability score. You’re a front-line fighter: plentiful hit points and a solid Constitution saving throw is mandatory.
Intelligence is completely useless to you, except in a role-playing sense. You will not be using any attack that requires an Intelligence based spell attack or Intelligence saving throw.
Wisdom is where any spare points go; Wisdom saves are a big deal. The very last thing any party wants is a god-like fighter turning on the party while under Dominate Person. You need to choose whether you take 9 and upgrade to 10 with the Resilient (Wisdom) feat later, (at 13th level) or take it at 10, upgraded later to 11. If you’re not using Variant Encumbrance rules, go 10. (This advice is quite different if you’re playing a Half-Elf, impacts Charisma too, see below).
Charisma needs to be 13 to multi-class into Sorceror (and possibly Warlock). It’s a great stat, and will affect most spell attacks that you use that require a saving throw. However, this build seeks to avoid saving throws, so, 14 is as high as you need, unless you’re a Half-Elf, and want to take some social skills.
Half-Elves either take 14 in Charisma and 13 (later to become 14 with Resilient (Wisdom)) Wisdom (after racial modifiers), or 16 Charisma, 9/10 Wisdom (later 10/11 with Resilient (Wisdom)). First choice allows half-elf characters greater scope in deciding their extra skills: Insight, Perception & Survival become viable. Second choice improves DC for offensive cantrips, and makes taking a social skill worth the investment.
(1) Shadar-kai Perfect in every way, including thematically.
(2) Sea elves They’re elves, with the necessary +2 Dexterity & +1 Constitution, but lacking the wonderful Raven Queen’s Blessing and resistance to Necrotic damage. Also, they are harder to link into the build thematically, I think, but that’s most likely my own lack of imagination.
(3) Warforged (Skirmisher) if they could take Elven Accuracy they’d be gold.
(4) Goblins Yes, Goblins! +2 Dex, +1 Con, Darkvision, 30ft movement even though Small. They don’t have access to Elven Accuracy, however, their innate Disengage ability, means that you could forgo taking Mobile and take Squat Nimbleness instead, with Shield Mastery instead of Elven Accuracy. You also get to use Hide, and Fury of the Smol is kind of cute. However, Disengage and Hide burn up your bonus action, which, along with no Elven Accuracy will significantly affect your DPR. Also, no innate Misty Step. On the other hand, watching BBEGs getting torn to shreds by a goblin... hehehe. One for the great players.
(5) Stout Halflings Like goblins, but with no darkvision, and only 25ft movement. Again, no Elven Accuracy, and you have to take Mobile, so no option for Shield Mastery. Squat Nimbleness is still a very good choice however. On the plus side, resistance to Poison damage means you can forgo taking Protection from Poison and take Darkvision instead, until you obtain a pair of Night-Vision Goggles and then take, say, Misty Step. You are also Lucky and Brave. You can do it, but it’s going to be a bit of a struggle. One for the greater players.
(6) Variant Human You’re not an elf. No darkvision. No resistances. You’re not lucky, brave or all that nimble. You will have to take +2 Dexterity instead of Elven Accuracy, and getting hold of night-vision goggles must be a priority. However, you can take Shield Mastery at 1st level, and you’re a Dex-based fighter...
(7) Half-Elf Every list, there it is, the ubiquitous half-elf. The biggest problem with the half-elf is that your starting Dex is 16, making maxing it and getting Elven Accuracy something of a dilemma. One to consider if you’ve rolled your stats and can get 17 Dexterity after applying racial modifiers. On the plus side, with point-buy, your Wisdom needn’t be quite so awful.
Shadar-kai Raven Soul
The Shadar-kai is perfect for this build both mechanically and thematically. I didn’t actually set out to make a Shadar-kai specific build – initially, I was just looking for an elf sub-race that had Constitution as its secondary ability score modifier. However, resistance to Necrotic damage is excellent, adding nicely to the list of damage types this build can effectively be resistant to. Raven Queen’s Blessing is amazing; it makes the Shadar-kai perfect for TPK Management - a once-a-day get-out-of-jail-free card that also gives you a round of resistance to all damage. Which, should be as long as you need to drop one of your defensive spells or heal/revive the fallen before you all run away, ahem, make a strategic withdrawal to fight another day. It may be worth saving your Action Surge for this, when up against BBEGs. You also don’t need to take Misty Step as a spell choice, although Dimension Door is still very highly recommended for when you can get it.
Thematically, Shadar-kai is even better than it is crunch-wise. Consider the possibility of a Shadar-kai Eldritch Knight who, like all Shadar-kai is helping to maintain the Raven Queen by subsuming their personality into ‘Hers’. But there is, for some Shadar-kai, occasionally, a feedback loop, whereby the Raven Queen’s soul-essence begins to manifest through the Shadar-kai, allowing them to manifest much more advanced arcane powers than usual. Consider... that the Shadow Blade, around which this build is solidly based, could, perhaps, be a slice of the Void itself, and that exposure to the Final Reality is what causes those injured by it to suffer psychic damage as their sense of personality and identity disintegrate – just as the Raven Queen’s is said to do, albeit so much more slowly. Consider also, that as the Shadar-kai’s mastery of the Shadow Blade becomes more obvious, the Raven Queen may demand a formal Pact with this host for Her soul-essence, so as to maintain control over how Her powers are being used. In return, the Raven Queen offers to show Her ‘protégé’ how to rescue people, who’s time has not yet come, from near-death and how to perfect the use of the Shadow Blade... and so become... the Raven Soul.
I’m starting to think of this build as the Raven Queen’s answer to the Bladesingers of the Feywild.
I call this build Eldritch Soul when applied to any race other than Shadar-kai.
Acrobatics Escape grapples – vitally important when relying on Mobile.
Athletics You’ll be expected to be able to swim, climb and jump.
Perception Because it’s Perception, also, you’re probably an Elf.
Stealth Because being Dexterity-based, you can.
Deception } One of these, maybe, because you’ve got decent Charisma.
Intimidation} Intimidation seems most thematic, utilising Thaumaturgy...
Persuasion } Certainly this doesn't seem like a build that excels at diplomacy.
Insight If you’re taking a social skill.
Survival If you’re not.
Investigate Your Intelligence is meh, and not going to get better without magic.
Any other Dexterity or Charisma based skills.
Any other Wisdom or Intelligence based skills.
If you can find a background that, along with Fighter, will enable you to take the four gold standard skills, plus, say, Thieves’ Tools, I’d say that was ideal.
Urban Bounty Hunter hits the spot nicely. Languages aren’t important, you’re not the party Face, and, while you can ably support the Point person, using Guidance and the Help action, you’re no Infiltrator. Note that proficiency with a Gaming Set allows you to make Insight checks with advantage according to Xanathar’s. This would synergise nicely with a social skill (looking at the half-elves...).
Multi-class split: 8/12, 9/11 or 8/11/1?
The Raven Soul was originally conceived as an 8/12 Eldritch Knight/Divine Soul build. However, 12th Sorceror is, frankly, very weak: no new spells or slots, +1 Sorcery Point and an ASI – which you only get at 20th level.
8th EK & 12th DS
If you are going 12th DS, recommended ASI upgrades are:
- +2 Constitution or Tough. Hit points are great.
- Shield Master. You have a shield and high Dexterity... say goodbye to oh so much Dexterity saving throw damage.
- Elemental Adept (Thunder). Thunder is one of your main sources of consistent damage. All thunder damage 1’s become 2’s, and... nullifies resistance.
However, none of this is available until 20th level. On the other hand, not caring what you get at 20th level means you take every level from 13th onwards one level earlier.
9th EK & 11th DS
Alternatively, going 9th EK gives: Indomitable, at 15th level, when it still has some time to make a difference. It synergises nicely with Favoured of the Gods and it might even be worthwhile picking up the Resistance cantrip.
This is GOLD if your DM doesn’t permit the use of Pact Magic slots for non-Warlock spells.
8th EK, 11th DS & 1st Hex
Or, one level of Hexblade Warlock, for:
- Hexblade’s Curse, which synergises amazingly with the rest of the build
- 2 more cantrips with a Charisma DC
- Armour of Agathys
- One more 1st level spell
- One 1st level spell slot per short rest; which basically means one more Twincast per short rest (DM permitting)
- Hex Warrior is pretty useless since you have Weapon Bond and are using Shadow Blade most of the time anyway.
Absolutely recommended; but at what level to take it? It pushes every level afterwards back one, slowing progress at early levels or, if taken too late will make little difference.
Why Divine Sorceror and Eldritch Knight?
Draconic Bloodline Sorceror would be an excellent alternative to Divine Soul if such a creature as a dragon that dealt thunder damage existed. Draconic Resilience is amazing for this build, taking Duelling Fighting Style instead of Defence. The minute WoTC brings out a dragon that does Thunder damage... (This would also make Elemental Adept (Thunder) incredibly attractive, even at 20th level).
However, since almost all damage is coming from Shadow Blade/Booming Blade, then leaving all other spell slots for heals, revives and buffs that can be Quickened or Twincast is pretty amazing. Eldritch Knight for War Magic, which really gets some love from this build, and the +2 to slot levels from being a 1/3rd caster gives access to 5th & 7th level Shadow Blade. The close-packed ASI/Feats at 4th, 8th, 10th and 13th level get the supporting feats online at the right time to make the DPR progression smooth and reasonably early (7th – 13th level is when everything starts coming together nicely).
Why not Paladin or Hexblade instead of Eldritch Knight?
I’m confident that Sorcadin and Hexblade Sorlocks have had a whole lot of love already. EK maximises the SB/BB synergy with War Magic giving a Shadow Blade attack as a bonus action after every Twincast Booming Blade (which also uses Shadow Blade). I feel this really makes EK blossom in the mid to late game when EK can seem, to me, to be a bit under-gunned.
Paladin does, of course, give Divine Smite, Aura of Protection and +4 to slot levels compared to EK’s +2, for -2 cantrips, -1 ASI/Feat, no War Magic, no Action Surge, and needs to be Strength-based otherwise MAD. Divine Smite will burn slots very quickly.
Hexblade gives 4 Invocations, a Pact Boon, +8 Sorcery Points per short rest (!), for -1 cantrip, -1 ASI/Feat, no War Magic, no Action Surge, no Fighting Style and no Second Attack (Shadow Blade is not a Pact Weapon) so very Twincast dependent. Not as MAD as a Paladin, but still needs Dexterity for SB/BB since Hex Warrior cannot apply to Shadow Blade.
Why not just be a Bladesinger?
Why not, indeed? Bladesingers get tons of versatility, best AC, and is a great Shadow Blade vehicle. However, Bladesingers can’t Twincast Booming Blade, which means BB damage only comes from Warcaster opportunity attacks. And maybe you don’t want to be hanging around for attacks of opportunity? Given that having to max both Dexterity and Intelligence means very little left over for Constitution, and you have a d6 for hit points. The Raven Soul is a good deal less squishy than the Bladesinger, and dishes out more damage. Also: heals.
I can easily imagine the two traditions being great rivals, and that a laconic and fatalistic Shadar-kai might value ‘a good death’ at the hands of a master Bladesinger more highly than yet another victory over less worthy opponents.
Assuming a High Magic setting (i.e. that magic items are plentiful), I’d suggest:
You’ll be wearing a breastplate for most of the characters’ adventuring life. You’re a frontline fighter. Critical hits are very annoying. This becomes a less essential item once you aquire a Cloak of Displacement (0. 25% chance of a Critical Hit, aka 400:1) and should be replaced with magical studded leather after that.
Winged Boots (requires attunement)
Flying is great. At-will flight is even better. Winged Boots give a flying speed equal to your walking speed, which means that if Hasted after picking up Mobile, you could have a flying speed of 80ft./round, Dash while flying for 160ft./round; as fast as dragons.
The advantage given to initiative outweighs the lack of a +1 to AC. To get the most from the Control aspect of Booming Blade you need to be attacking before the enemy does, so as to tie targets up before they can get stickied on your squishier party members. The same goes, arguably even more importantly, for reacting to a near-TPK incident – you really want to be getting your protection and heal spells cast and then getting the hell out of Hell before the enemy can step in and finish you all off. Your excellent Dexterity score gives you a good chance of this when combined with the advantage from this item. Advantage gives an 80% chance of rolling 10 or higher, +3/+4/+5 initiative modifier from 17/18/20 Dexterity, gives a 36%-43%-51% chance of an initiative count of 20+. Perception checks with advantage are nice too. Note that RAI this will add +5 to your passive Perception too.
Pearl of Power (requires attunement, spellcaster only)
Three more twincasts or one more 3rd level casting of Shadow Blade every single day, need I say more? It’s a great shame to part with this for a Ring of Spell Storing at 17th. This helps to balance out the lack of sorcery points due to EK levels.
Cloak of Displacement (requires attunement)
You can’t use Blur and Shadow Blade simultaneously. Giving enemies who rely on sight disadvantage to hit you is a very good thing. An enemy with a +10 attack modifier has an 84% chance to hit a 19 AC (your base AC for most of your character’s adventuring career) without disadvantage, 36% with. To hit 24 AC (taking into account Shield) the same enemy has a 35% chance without disadvantage, 12.3% with. Swap Blur out for Revivify as soon as convenient once you aquire this item.
Sometimes, there will be enemies who are immune to psychic damage. Constructs loom largely in mind. Or you’ll need to fight in melee while under the effect of one of your protection spells. A non-magical silvered adamantine rapier might suffice...
Ring of Spell Storing (requires attunement)
Lots of Shield and Absorb Elements spells is very good indeed. From 12th level onwards you will have five 1st level slots and three 2nd level slots. Once you have a Ring of Spell Storing, try to keep your 1st level slots unused throughout the day, relying on the RoSS instead. This gives you eight potential slots for Shield and Absorb Elements. Since Absorb Elements can be upcast at 2nd level but Shield cannot, storing four Shield spells and one Absorb Elements spell in the RoSS gives you the possibility of four of each, per day. Your five unused first level slots can be used to restock the RoSS, or, much more likely, for the inevitable emergencies.
Studded Leather +2
No more attunement slots left. AC is god. You’re definitely back in leathers after 17th level and your +2 Dexterity ASI.
(Broom of Flying)
If you cannot bear to give up the Pearl of Power then give up Winged Boots and Rapier +1 instead, and take the annoying Broom. It takes both hands to operate, and is thus seemingly quite useless for combat. Prove me wrong.
*Power is calculated by totalling the number of spell slots available for each level, and multiplying by the slot level e.g. four 1st level slots = 4*1 = 4, three 2nd level slots = 3*2 = 6, and then adding daily available sorcery points to the total. A Pact magic slot is worth three times as much, e.g. two 5th level Pact Magic slots = 2*(5*3) = 30.
Caveat: this is my own rating invention to give a rough numerical value to gauge differences in arcane power between levels and classes.
Comparing the magical power of the two source classes with the multi-class, I think the Eldritch Soul comes out quite favourably at about halfway in between the two, while having more cantrips and spells available than either source class.
The table below gives a side-by-side comparison of growth in arcane power of all three classes. I haven’t gone to the indulgence of calculating *Power for every level.
CL: Class Level
P: Sorcery Points
C: Cantrips known
S: Spells known
L: Maximum spell level available (this only affects the Raven Soul)
Spell Slots (1-x): Number of spell slots available for each spell level
Note that the fifth 1st level slot the Raven Soul gets at 12th level is a Pact slot.
It is noticable that the Raven Soul build has a significant slowing down of increase in arcane power between 9th – 13th levels. However, you are picking up two attacks, Elven Accuracy, War Magic, Hexblade’s Curse and Resilient (Wisdom) during this time. You have a steady supply of 3rd level slots for Shadow Blade, Booming Blade boosts at 11th level, and with a Pearl of Power in your possession, a reasonable number of Sorcery Points to Twincast with.
Certainly there is a case to be made for dumping EK 7-8 and Hexblade 1, and going DS 5 at 11th level instead. This gives 5th level Shadow Blade at 13th, and 7th level Shadow Blade at 17th. No War Magic or Hexblade’s Curse. Hmmm, Elven Accuracy still arrives at 10th, Resilient (Wisdom) and +2 Dexterity ASI are both put back, but only one level, to 14th and 18th respectively. This also opens up 7th level spells and an 8th level slot, as well as giving you Otherworldly Wings at 20th level. A very nice capstone indeed! And 8th level Globe of Invulnerability means you can still retain your 6th level slot for Scatter... but... no 3-5d8+4-11 bonus attack every turn, from 11th level onwards, nor 30% crits from 12th. Choices, choices... hmmmm.
This build gives you ten cantrips. Thank you, yes, you're welcome! You have to take Booming Blade and Thaumaturgy, and it would seem foolish not to take Guidance if it is so conveniently available, especially since you will have a familiar who can deliver Guidance to other party members by touch.
My suggestions for the remaining seven are completely replacable. The ones I have suggested offer a variety of damage types and saving throws for those situations when your main attack isn't an option.
I couldn't have written this without the style and logic of the excellent guides already to be found here. Obliza in particular really opened my eyes to the possibilities inherent in the Divine Soul. It was the missing link that I was looking for when trying for a build that could maximise Shadow Blade - Booming Blade, which is really all this build is about. Everything else is icing, but I do hope that you will find that the 'icing' works towards a mechanical and thematic whole.
I would be interested to hear your thoughts about this build. Any improvements or questions readily responded to. Thank you for taking the time to read this, my first build!