5E How can the whip be optimized as a weapon?

Paul Smart

Explorer
I am thinking of building a whip using character and was wondering how to optimize the whip as a weapon. I am thinking pally for smites or rogue for sneak attack. The hexblade may also be good. How would you do it? Thanks.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Hexadin should be fun, but a straight rogue would also be fun. You want a build where weapon damage die just doesn’t matter, and that doesn’t require your target be within 5ft.

Rogue/Battlemaster with two whips could be really fun. Most maneuvers don’t even specify melee, much less 5ft, so you could do a lot with the secondary effects and a build they can’t easily get to. Combine that with Sentinel, and they also can’t escape you?
 
Paladin IMO.

Dueling with Whip + Shield. Most smites should work.

Wrathful smite delivered by a whip could be really effective against melee enemies that don't have reach.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Both Monk (Kensei) and Rogue can use it to deliver high damage at reach. Sentinel feat can stop someone 10 feet away. It's the only 1 handed reach weapon so it can be used with a shield, which others can't - useful for front line non-tank.

I wish it worked well with Booming Blade, but natively that only has a reach of 5'.
 
Both Monk (Kensei) and Rogue can use it to deliver high damage at reach. Sentinel feat can stop someone 10 feet away. It's the only 1 handed reach weapon so it can be used with a shield, which others can't - useful for front line non-tank.

I wish it worked well with Booming Blade, but natively that only has a reach of 5'.
Rogues and Monks both can use bows. Not sure the benefits of reach when you can just shoot it from even further away.
 

Esker

Explorer
I think it depends whether "optimizing a whip" means taking the whip as a given and trying to build the most effective character within that set of constraints, or whether it means "finding a niche where using a whip is better than other available weapon choices". The second one is I think the more interesting, so I'll go with that for this answer.

The main thing that makes a whip unique is that it's the only one-handed melee weapon which has reach. So we want to look for a niche where it's important to be using a one-handed melee weapon, and where we get a lot of mileage out of the reach property. It also has the finesse property, which may or may not be relevant. The main downside is that it's a d4, which makes me think we want a build that gets most of its damage from sources other than the weapon die (or at least one where the reach property is worth the tradeoff in damage).

Rogues don't care that much about the base damage die, but they have a few issues: (a) they don't get whip proficiency without multiclassing, (b) reach isn't worth that much to them, since they have cunning action disengage, and the main reasons to be in melee as a rogue are being able to TWF (the whip isn't light, so would need a feat), being able to use booming blade (which has a range of 5'), or maybe being able to use a shield (if they can get the proficiency, but even then it's questionable, since being at range is probably often worth more defensively than +2 AC). So to be a rogue that really takes advantage of the whip, we need at least one level in a class like fighter to even use a whip, and at least one feat to enable either booming blade at reach or, to use TWF with a non-light weapon (in which case the main impact of reach is avoiding AoOs, which the Swashbuckler can already do without any feats or multiclassing while dual-wielding shortswords).

The Wrathful Smite Paladin is a nice idea, though you're sacrificing damage on two attacks by using a d4, and the frightened/reach combo only works a few times a day, and then only if they fail their save. So I'm guessing you'd wind up wanting to swap to a different weapon some of the time.

Reach Sentinel lets you threaten more creatures with movement-halting AoOs, but you can still only make one reaction attack, so it seems like it'd require some fairly specific positioning to be a better option than simply closing in on one enemy with a more damaging weapon.

Taking Spell Sniper for reach booming blade is intriguing, but taking Mobile and using non-reach booming blade (with a higher damage weapon) accomplishes the same thing unless you really value the free cantrip that ignores partial cover too. Lore/Glamor bards are the first that come to mind when thinking about who could really benefit from booming blade and eldritch blast, but they don't get whip proficiency without multiclassing, and if multiclassing for martial weapons they may as well take a Hexblade level, at which point they get eldritch blast anyway. So then it feels like we're back to why not just take Mobile?

Hmm...
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Rogues and Monks both can use bows. Not sure the benefits of reach when you can just shoot it from even further away.
Umm, yes, and ... ? Ranged is very potent in 5e, but that doesn't mean people don't want to play melee characters. The challenge is how to use a whip. You're not picking it for damage, which means you're either looking at finesse, reach or both.
 
Oh I just had a great idea. Barbarian 3 / Rogue X. The whip extends your OA range which makes you a better defender. I actually like it. I think it's a big improvemnt.
 

Esker

Explorer
Oh I just had a great idea. Barbarian 3 / Rogue X. The whip extends your OA range which makes you a better defender. I actually like it. I think it's a big improvemnt.
STR-based Bear Totem with Sentinel, presumably? Not bad. Be a Bugbear for even more fun with reach (though doesn't apply to AoOs, sadly).
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
STR-based Bear Totem with Sentinel, presumably? Not bad. Be a Bugbear for even more fun with reach (though doesn't apply to AoOs, sadly).
If you're going for a defender, Ancestor from XGtE works better. And it works with whip because unlike Fighter (Cavalier) you don't need to be within 5'.

You've likely got a shield, so you've got a decent AC plus standard B/P/S resistance. That's still plenty tough, even if Bear totem is the gold standard.

Hmm rage will also add to whip damage, just for extra fun.
 

Esker

Explorer
Here's a really silly idea: vuman Hexblade 1 / Lore Bard 5 / Arcane Trickster X, starting with Spell Sniper, Reach Booming Blade shenanigans, and plenty of wrathful smites from Hexblade with bard slots, using cutting words on their checks to break it. Then later, pick up Dual Wielder, War Caster and Sentinel, using a rapier in the off hand for AoOs with booming blade at two different radii.
 

Paul Smart

Explorer
Lots of great ideas. Thanks everyone. I am thinking Halfling (because it is my favorite race) Fighter 3 (Battlemaster) for all the trick shots as a base. After that I am not sure. I may combine this with Halfling Paladin riding a war dog (love the idea of a tiny dude on a dog with a lance).
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Here's a really silly idea: vuman Hexblade 1 / Lore Bard 5 / Arcane Trickster X, starting with Spell Sniper, Reach Booming Blade shenanigans, and plenty of wrathful smites from Hexblade with bard slots, using cutting words on their checks to break it. Then later, pick up Dual Wielder, War Caster and Sentinel, using a rapier in the off hand for AoOs with booming blade at two different radii.
What is Lore Bard bringing? With Valor or Sword Bard you can get an extra attack at 6th. Not super important because you can have the attack cantrips from Warlock, but not something to ignore.

Dual Wielder's need for bonus actions does not play well with the Smite spells. Plus two weapon fighting requires the Attack action, which means that you can't do Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade. If you really want to fight with two weapons, I'd go back to sword bard for the extra attack and take the Two-Weapon-Fighting style for ability modifier to damage with the offhand. Since you're using an attack action you can take advantage of the Blade Flourish options as well.
 

Esker

Explorer
What is Lore Bard bringing? With Valor or Sword Bard you can get an extra attack at 6th. Not super important because you can have the attack cantrips from Warlock, but not something to ignore.

Dual Wielder's need for bonus actions does not play well with the Smite spells. Plus two weapon fighting requires the Attack action, which means that you can't do Booming Blade or Green-Flame Blade. If you really want to fight with two weapons, I'd go back to sword bard for the extra attack and take the Two-Weapon-Fighting style for ability modifier to damage with the offhand. Since you're using an attack action you can take advantage of the Blade Flourish options as well.
I did say it was a silly idea... :) In retrospect, we don't need dual-wielder to have two weapons equipped, only to make a bonus action attack. The off-hand weapon is only there for a second AoO radius, so we can drop dual-wielder from the build and just use attack cantrips. Lore bard gives cutting words to keep wrathful smite going, but the reaction competes with further AoOs. Glamor could be interesting to give allies reaction movement using a bonus action when not casting wrathful smite. Then switching to rogue makes our AoOs hurt more.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I did say it was a silly idea... :) In retrospect, we don't need dual-wielder to have two weapons equipped, only to make a bonus action attack. The off-hand weapon is only there for a second AoO radius, so we can drop dual-wielder from the build and just use attack cantrips. Lore bard gives cutting words to keep wrathful smite going, but the reaction competes with further AoOs. Glamor could be interesting to give allies reaction movement using a bonus action when not casting wrathful smite. Then switching to rogue makes our AoOs hurt more.
You were right the first time that you needed Dual Wielder - the whip is not a light weapon. I was just suggesting other options to work with it.
 

Esker

Explorer
You were right the first time that you needed Dual Wielder - the whip is not a light weapon. I was just suggesting other options to work with it.
My understanding is that you only need the feat to be able to use TWF (that is to say, to qualify for a bonus action attack with the second weapon), not to hold two one-handed weapons at the same time...

From the Combat chapter of the PHB:
When you take the Attack action and attack with a light melee weapon that you're holding in one hand, you can use a bonus action to attack with a different light melee weapon that you're holding in the other hand.
That is (I think) the only place the light property comes up in the rules.

So on a given turn you'd only be able to attack with one of them, but you could pick either one. I believe it would also make your reach both 5' and 10' at the same time, which really only matters (compared to having a reach of 10') when it comes to enemies "leaving your reach". That's probably not worth not having a shield equipped, tbh, but I think it works? I acknowledge that the rules don't seem entirely unambiguous whether leaving the reach of your rapier and entering the reach of your whip counts as "leaving your reach".
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
My understanding is that you only need the feat to be able to use TWF (that is to say, to qualify for a bonus action attack with the second weapon), not to hold two one-handed weapons at the same time...

From the Combat chapter of the PHB:


That is (I think) the only place the light property comes up in the rules.

So on a given turn you'd only be able to attack with one of them, but you could pick either one. I believe it would also make your reach both 5' and 10' at the same time, which really only matters (compared to having a reach of 10') when it comes to enemies "leaving your reach". That's probably not worth not having a shield equipped, tbh, but I think it works? I acknowledge that the rules don't seem entirely unambiguous whether leaving the reach of your rapier and entering the reach of your whip counts as "leaving your reach".
Agree with you now that I understand it was just to have it for an alternate range for triggering OAs, not for two weapon fighting use.

I have seen things before (JC's sage advice?) about multiple ranges for leaving range, I believe it does work like you mention.
 

Gammadoodler

Explorer
Could be an interesting part of a Cavalier's kit. Lance when mounted, one handed d8 weapon to taste when dueling single targets on foot, whip when looking for maximum stickiness.
 

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