Optimize a single class warlock

Every time I look at a single class warlock I look at how the class is set up and it's really set up to be able to use one big spell most every encounter.

Past tier 1 that means he really should be using things like hypnotic pattern or hold monster over hex IMO. But it seems to me that from levels 7+ a sorcerer or wizard accomplishes that better with more utility options. And bards do it just as well from levels 9+ while being decent at it before then but also having all their bard abilities.

So really, is there any mechanical reason to make a pure warlock over a bard or sorcerer or wizard?

Is eldritch blast + agonizing blast really the only in-combat selling point remaining if the plan is to use those control spells in combats? What good out of combat abilities will I be able to pick up?
 

Esker

Explorer
A lot of the invocations are non-combat oriented: Ghostly Gaze and Ascendant Step seem pretty cool (though I've never seen it used in play), Eldritch Sight and Mask of Many Faces are quite nice (I have used those)... there are things like Whispers of the Grave, Visions of Distant Realms, etc. as well. And of course Tomelocks can get rituals like a wizard, except actually a bit better than a wizard since they get them from any class. I think there can be quite a bit of utility there; maybe not to the extent of a wizard, but more than a sorcerer, and different than a bard.
 

Esker

Explorer
As for combat ability, at level 7 the warlock can cast 6 hypnotic patterns per day, vs the wizard's 5, the sorcerer's 5 (well, if they burn sorcery points for an extra slot) and the bard's 4. But I agree, that extra one 3rd level casting probably isn't worth not having the 1st and 2nd level slots (though as I noted, they can get some of those 1st and 2nd level things at will through invocations). The warlock can alternatively cast 6 banishments per day vs the wizard's 2, the sorcerer's all-out 2, and bards who aren't lore bards can't cast it at all. Depending on the campaign, that really might be a big deal. Level 9, same deal, but with hold monster. Level 11 they get 9 5th level slots per day.

They clearly get more and better at will options than the other arcane casters, and have more top slot casts, but not as good a spell list, and not as many slots overall. I wouldn't call them the best arcane caster by any means, but I don't see them as being made obsolete by those other classes either.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
So really, is there any mechanical reason to make a pure warlock over a bard or sorcerer or wizard?
Well, by now you can probably guess what Ihave o say about this....
But it needs said again anyways.

A: Because regardless of the advantages, Muti-Classing to bard/Sorc/or Wizard or whatever might not be the best way to represent the character I'm envisioning. Personally I think that's a very compelling mechanical reason to remain single classed.
Don't get me wrong, my characters are optimized. Very much so. They're just optimized to fit my vision, not to wring out every rules advantage conceivable.
 
Well, by now you can probably guess what Ihave o say about this....
But it needs said again anyways.

A: Because regardless of the advantages, Muti-Classing to bard/Sorc/or Wizard or whatever might not be the best way to represent the character I'm envisioning. Personally I think that's a very compelling mechanical reason to remain single classed.
Don't get me wrong, my characters are optimized. Very much so. They're just optimized to fit my vision, not to wring out every rules advantage conceivable.
While it's very much so a reason to stay warlock even if mechanically inferior, it's not a mechanical reason to make a warlock.

Speaking of - all classes can make pacts with otherworldly beings which is really the only fluff that makes the warlock unique.
 
As for combat ability, at level 7 the warlock can cast 6 hypnotic patterns per day, vs the wizard's 5, the sorcerer's 5 (well, if they burn sorcery points for an extra slot)
The sorcerer has 7 sorcerery points. He can turn all his level 2 and level 1 slots into sorcery points. That brings him up to 17 sorcery points. He can actually cast 7 per day. Or 5 and 2 banishments.

and the bard's 4. But I agree, that extra one 3rd level casting probably isn't worth not having the 1st and 2nd level slots (though as I noted, they can get some of those 1st and 2nd level things at will through invocations).
Sure, for the most part their level 1 and level 2 spell invocations are pretty bad until 15th level+.

The warlock can alternatively cast 6 banishments per day vs the wizard's 2, the sorcerer's all-out 2,
The sorcerer can actually cast 4 banishments per day and still have a 3rd and 2nd slot remaining.

and bards who aren't lore bards can't cast it at all. Depending on the campaign, that really might be a big deal. Level 9, same deal, but with hold monster. Level 11 they get 9 5th level slots per day.
Bards get polymorph which in most situations is arguably a better control spell at level 4 than banishment.

They clearly get more and better at will options than the other arcane casters,
But really, what important affect are they going to use their invocations on?

and have more top slot casts,
Barely so. Sorcerers stay very competitive here. Wizards a little less, but the adventuring day is rarely set up in such a way that you need 6 banishments and no hypnotic patterns. It's typically set up in such a way where a you'll use primarily hypnotic pattern (as it's control effects are stronger) except on enemies you know are immune or resistant to charm effect or that are from other planes. Days where you won't use hypnotic pattern more than banishment are extremely rare.

but not as good a spell list, and not as many slots overall. I wouldn't call them the best arcane caster by any means, but I don't see them as being made obsolete by those other classes either.
Then tell me what they can actually do that's worth anything. I've looked and I don't see it.
 
A lot of the invocations are non-combat oriented: Ghostly Gaze and Ascendant Step seem pretty cool (though I've never seen it used in play), Eldritch Sight and Mask of Many Faces are quite nice (I have used those)... there are things like Whispers of the Grave, Visions of Distant Realms, etc. as well. And of course Tomelocks can get rituals like a wizard, except actually a bit better than a wizard since they get them from any class.
Or worse since you must find the rituals you want to add in the game instead of being allowed to potentially choose 1-2 per level. But overall I agree - tomelock provides the best out of combat utility.

I think there can be quite a bit of utility there; maybe not to the extent of a wizard, but more than a sorcerer, and different than a bard.
I don't even think I'd put it at more than a sorcerer. You get the ability to disguise self at well vs the ability to disguise self a few times per day that a traditional caster gets. I'm not positive that making that be at will really has a huge effect on anything but character conception.

The tomelock with a book of shadows (1st invocation take) and cantrips from any class covers the ritual casting and some of the more useful cantrip uses.

Then you take Agonizing blast since your set up to only cast a big spell on turn 1, you will want your at will option to be better.

That leaves open 2 invocation slots. Let's look at what we can do with those

EYES OF THE RUNE KEEPER You can read all writing.

Not great - but I suppose it helps in adding ritual to your book of shadows

GAZE OF Two MINDS
You can use your action to touch a willing humanoid and perceive through its senses until the end of your next turn. As long as the creature is on the same plane of existence as you, you can use your action on subsequent turns to maintain this connection. extending the duration until the end of your next turn. While perceiving through the other creature's senses, you benefit from any special senses possessed by that creature, and you are blinded and deafened to your own surroundings

In a party with a really good scout that scouts ahead this could be pretty good.

MASK OF MANY FACES You can cast disguise self at will. without expending a spell slot.

Very fun but not particularly useful - though maybe with this and the actor feat you could make something nice. That combo is my favorite thus far.

MISTY VISIONS You can cast silent image at will, without expending a spell slot or material components.

I've actually used a warlock with this invocation for a session. It was quite fun but I'm not sure it was particularly useful.

ONE WITH SHADOWS Prerequisite: 5th level
When you are in an area of dim light or darkness, you can use your action to become invisible until you move or take an action or a reaction.

Terrible ability as you can't even attempt to hide after becoming invisible.

BEAST SPEECH You can cast speak with animals at will, without expending a spell slot.

Not impressed

BEGUILING INFLUENCE You gain proficiency in the Deception and Persuasion skills.

At least it's useful.

DEVIL'S SIGHT You can see normally in darkness, both magical and nonmagical, to a distance of 120 feet.

Great for non-darkvision races

ELDRITCH SIGHT You can cast detect magic at will, without expending a spell slot

When a ritual has essentially the same effect you might as well not bother.
 
There's also the addition of subclass abilities, some of which are fairly nice out of combat abilities.

I guess I'm looking at telepathic communication
At will Disguise self
Actor feat
Super Darkvision
Book of Shadows (whatever rituals I can find)

I'd be too afraid to use any utility spells that use spell slots since that's literally leaving me with the ability to only have spells in 1 combat before I run out.
 

Esker

Explorer
The sorcerer has 7 sorcerery points. He can turn all his level 2 and level 1 slots into sorcery points. That brings him up to 17 sorcery points. He can actually cast 7 per day. Or 5 and 2 banishments.
True. I'd not factored in converting lower level slots to higher level ones. But if the sorcerer does this, they've traded away their signature feature just to pull about even with the warlock. And they don't have invocations or any means of getting access to rituals. So you have rough parity in spell nova capability, but the warlock wins in utility and at-will options.

Sure, for the most part their level 1 and level 2 spell invocations are pretty bad until 15th level+.
I'll respond to this below, since you have a whole other post about them.

Bards get polymorph which in most situations is arguably a better control spell at level 4 than banishment.
I don't disagree that it's a better spell for most characters if they're choosing between them, but I don't know if it's a better control spell per se. I think of polymorph as foremost a damage absorption spell, and secondarily (when you can first get it) a damage buff.

I played a one shot recently at level 11 where I was playing a wizard with polymorph, and someone else was playing a warlock with banishment. The premise of the adventure turned out to be stopping an invasion by elementals from their home plane. The warlock being able to use 5th level slots to banish two elementals, then hang back and support the rest of us with cleanup using eldritch blast was a major boon, and she was the clear MVP when we faced elementals. We actually also had a bard, who also used banishment (but only at 4th level) on a 3rd target. That's what I mean about having lots of uses of banishment potentially being huge "in the right situation". It's not that uncommon that a campaign would feature a lot of extraplanar creatures, or encounters with a few big undead or constructs, say, who can't be charmed.

Sorcerers stay very competitive here. Wizards a little less, but the adventuring day is rarely set up in such a way that you need 6 banishments and no hypnotic patterns. It's typically set up in such a way where a you'll use primarily hypnotic pattern (as it's control effects are stronger) except on enemies you know are immune or resistant to charm effect or that are from other planes. Days where you won't use hypnotic pattern more than banishment are extremely rare.
I agree for the average case: I'd usually rather have a regular complement of spell slots with the versatility they grant than the pact magic ones, particularly if I'm building a character to be the primary controller in the party. But if the party already has a bard or wizard, say, then I think there's a case that a warlock might make a better addition to the group than a sorcerer.
 

Esker

Explorer
I don't even think I'd put it at more than a sorcerer. You get the ability to disguise self at well vs the ability to disguise self a few times per day that a traditional caster gets. I'm not positive that making that be at will really has a huge effect on anything but character conception.
I don't know, it's potentially huge at low levels, and even at higher levels, the sorcerer has to use up a precious spell known to be able to do it at all, let alone needing to also use a spell slot. And yes, considering that with the right race, you can start with 17 CHA and take the Actor feat at level 4 while still getting your casting mod up (or be variant human starting with 16 CHA and Actor, freeing up a couple of points for DEX or CON), it gives you a pretty great infiltrator. I had a bard that achieved this combination via a hat of disguise, and was able to infiltrate a cultist camp for several hours, without having to worry about recasting the spell every hour.

The tomelock with a book of shadows (1st invocation take) and cantrips from any class covers the ritual casting and some of the more useful cantrip uses.

Then you take Agonizing blast since your set up to only cast a big spell on turn 1, you will want your at will option to be better.

That leaves open 2 invocation slots.
This is at level 7, I take it? You get a 5th one at level 9.

MISTY VISIONS You can cast silent image at will, without expending a spell slot or material components.

I've actually used a warlock with this invocation for a session. It was quite fun but I'm not sure it was particularly useful.
Certainly situation-dependent, but I could see it being useful, especially if combined with minor illusion for sound. Actually I think a sorlock might make the best use out of this one due to subtle spell.

ONE WITH SHADOWS Prerequisite: 5th level
When you are in an area of dim light or darkness, you can use your action to become invisible until you move or take an action or a reaction.

Terrible ability as you can't even attempt to hide after becoming invisible.
Agreed, this one is badly designed.

BEAST SPEECH You can cast speak with animals at will, without expending a spell slot.

Not impressed
Usually not impressive, but in the right campaign... This is one that takes good advantage of the ability to swap out invocations when you level, I think.

ELDRITCH SIGHT You can cast detect magic at will, without expending a spell slot

When a ritual has essentially the same effect you might as well not bother.
I'm going to disagree with you there. In my experience, the 10 minutes required to ritual cast detect magic is a pain more often than not. At a minimum it feels awkward to have everyone stop and wait while I cast detect magic; and in many cases you can't afford to sit there for 10 minutes.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Optimized? Well, Darkness + Devil's sight is the obvious place to start. Soooo much advantage. Mask of Many Faces (with or without Actor) is really cool in most games if you're going to be creative with it, and super-mega awesome in urban campaigns. I'd normally MC rogue to build an infilitrator, but it's very doable (and fun) with straight warlock). For out of combat utility I'd go either tomelock for the rituals or chainlock for the buffed familiar, depending on what I thought I'd get more use out of in that particular campaign.
 
Optimized? Well, Darkness + Devil's sight is the obvious place to start. Soooo much advantage.
Your spell slots and concentration slot is most always better used to control enemies from level 5+. Darkness isn't even worth mentioning IMO.

Mask of Many Faces (with or without Actor) is really cool in most games if you're going to be creative with it, and super-mega awesome in urban campaigns.
Agreed, that's the one out of combat ability combo that I'm impressed with.

I'd normally MC rogue to build an infilitrator, but it's very doable (and fun) with straight warlock). For out of combat utility I'd go either tomelock for the rituals or chainlock for the buffed familiar, depending on what I thought I'd get more use out of in that particular campaign.
In general I think the tomelock has better utility. You still can get a familiar albeit not a super-familiar and you get other useful rituals as well.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Darkness and Devil's Sight is goofy good, but only when you have the combat chops to make it worthwhile. There's no arguing about the silly level of utility involved when you have those chops. Otherwise I'd counsel going straight control right out of the gate.
 
Darkness and Devil's Sight is goofy good, but only when you have the combat chops to make it worthwhile. There's no arguing about the silly level of utility involved when you have those chops. Otherwise I'd counsel going straight control right out of the gate.
Even then, your slot is better used for control than for enhancing your damage and that's without even taking into consideration the drawbacks of using the darkness spell:

1. It takes an action - meaning you do no damage on turn 1 unless you can prebuff
2. It's very bad for your allies. They all get disadvantage to hit the enemy you are attacking and any other enemies around you. There are also a number of spells that require you see the target. This excludes casters from using those on the target.

IMO, If you want all out damage be a fighter or paladin or even rogue.
 
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Esker

Explorer
2. It's very bad for your allies. They all get disadvantage to hit the enemy you are attacking and any other enemies around you.
I know many people play it that way, but RAW, wouldn't they also get advantage since the enemy can't see them, and therefore have a normal attack (even if they would normally have had disadvantage from another source, though also if they would have had advantage from another source)? Or are you assuming everyone can see outside the darkness?

In any case, the spell targeting part is true.

I agree though that as a single classed warlock I wouldn't want to use slots and concentration for darkness even if it didn't negatively affect allies. A sorlock built for damage though, that's potentially a different story.
 
I know many people play it that way, but RAW, wouldn't they also get advantage since the enemy can't see them, and therefore have a normal attack (even if they would normally have had disadvantage from another source, though also if they would have had advantage from another source)? Or are you assuming everyone can see outside the darkness?
Never thought much about it. I guess I'd go with the later as that's typically how non-magical darkness works in my games. If the enemies camp is lit up and my camp is lit up and it's a dark night then I'd give normal rolls to attack enemies in the camp and vice versa, but any enemies in the dark area would be attacked at disadvantage since you couldn't see them but they could see you.

I notice that the spell doesn't say anything about not being able to see out of the magical darkness if you are in it. Just that darkvision is ineffective against it.

In any case, the spell targeting part is true.
yea

I agree though that as a single classed warlock I wouldn't want to use slots and concentration for darkness even if it didn't negatively affect allies. A sorlock built for damage though, that's potentially a different story.
Yea. I mean I know trying to make a hexblade warlock work in melee with GWM and PAM is a thing. But that takes nearly all your class resources and in the end you've basically just made something that is clearly inferior to fighters, paladins or barbarians.
 

Esker

Explorer
Never thought much about it. I guess I'd go with the later as that's typically how non-magical darkness works in my games. If the enemies camp is lit up and my camp is lit up and it's a dark night then I'd give normal rolls to attack enemies in the camp and vice versa, but any enemies in the dark area would be attacked at disadvantage since you couldn't see them but they could see you.

I notice that the spell doesn't say anything about not being able to see out of the magical darkness if you are in it. Just that darkvision is ineffective against it.
Yeah, I think that's a reasonable interpretation. It also means they could use ranged attacks out of the darkness with advantage. I usually see people talking about zones of magical darkness as being like a movable fog cloud though, blocking vision through it. But darkness is a more useful spell without devil's sight if you can see out, since then if you can cast it on yourself and situate yourself somewhere far away you can make ranged attacks out of it with advantage. Devil's sight then only really helps you at close range.

Having gone back and looked at the RAW on vision and light, it says that "A heavily obscured area—such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage—blocks vision entirely. A creature in a heavily obscured area effectively suffers from the blinded condition". So that sounds like, RAW, even non-magical darkness prevents being able to see out of it if you don't have darkvision, and so magical darkness would prevent seeing out of it if you don't have devil's sight.

Still, I think I prefer your interpretation, even if it does amount to a house rule.
 

Fenris-77

Explorer
Well, sorry for the slight bump in the road lads, I wasn't aiming for a derail there.:D I don't actually care for the combo much myself as it's generally, as you mention, pretty selfish as far as who benefits. That does not stop it from being a perennial contender in the optimized Warlock voting, which is why I mentioned it.

I would much rather talk about optimizing for control. For urban and intrigue based campaigns the infiltrator/control build is almost too nice to pass on, but that might be my personal tastes peeping through.
 
Yeah, I think that's a reasonable interpretation. It also means they could use ranged attacks out of the darkness with advantage. I usually see people talking about zones of magical darkness as being like a movable fog cloud though, blocking vision through it. But darkness is a more useful spell without devil's sight if you can see out, since then if you can cast it on yourself and situate yourself somewhere far away you can make ranged attacks out of it with advantage. Devil's sight then only really helps you at close range.

Having gone back and looked at the RAW on vision and light, it says that "A heavily obscured area—such as darkness, opaque fog, or dense foliage—blocks vision entirely. A creature in a heavily obscured area effectively suffers from the blinded condition". So that sounds like, RAW, even non-magical darkness prevents being able to see out of it if you don't have darkvision, and so magical darkness would prevent seeing out of it if you don't have devil's sight.

Still, I think I prefer your interpretation, even if it does amount to a house rule.
Wow. I hadn't realized they had messed up so badly on the lighting rules. Or rather, dumbed them down to such an extent that non-magical light and non-magical darkness don't behave nearly at all like they do in the real world.
 

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