Optimize a single class warlock

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.
Given the amount of interest in the thread - I say derail away. Maybe the derailment will draw a few additional people here to share their thoughts on the original topic as well
 
I guess it was bound to come up. I'm with you on damage dealing though - if that's what I want to do, Warlock isn't how I'm doing it.

When I think back on all the Warlock related threads I've participated in over the last months, I think the issue of short rests is probably the biggest optimizer. Are you going to get two shorts per adventure day? Yes? Great. No? Pick another class.

Past that we are really talking about two major items, well three - pact, spell slots and invocations. Let's tackle pacts further down. The spell slots thing isn't really that complicated - they are high level slots, so make the best use of their value, and make sure you use them. The invocation thing is a little more nuanced. My preference there is to work with the at-will invocations to see what kind of synergy and effect I can work up, mostly combined with skills, feats, and cantrips. I think the per rest invocations are mostly less useful, or at the very least less useful to plan synergies for.

The four at-will invocations that stand out for me get you: disguise self, silent image, alter self, and arcane eye. All of those somewhat mitigate for the infiltrator style build, so that's generally where I go. I like the utility of at-will, and it's easy to build around and get good in-game use out of, even in dungeon crawls, provided there are intelligent monsters involved. I will mention that one way I optimize for that build is to dip 1 to 3 levels in rogue, but that's certainly not a requirement, and I obviously won't be tooting that horn in this thread.

One of the stumbling blocks to the infiltrator build is the reliance on illusion, which is very DM dependent. Provided you have a DM that is going to let you stretch your wings with Illusions, then I think that would be part of my core Warlock build.

Back to pacts as a core chargen decision. Tome or Chain? I like the buffed familiars, but I suspect the Tome for ritual casting is the more useful, as you can still have a normal familiar plus all that ritual casting goodness.
 
I guess it was bound to come up. I'm with you on damage dealing though - if that's what I want to do, Warlock isn't how I'm doing it.

When I think back on all the Warlock related threads I've participated in over the last months, I think the issue of short rests is probably the biggest optimizer. Are you going to get two shorts per adventure day? Yes? Great. No? Pick another class.

Past that we are really talking about two major items, well three - pact, spell slots and invocations. Let's tackle pacts further down. The spell slots thing isn't really that complicated - they are high level slots, so make the best use of their value, and make sure you use them. The invocation thing is a little more nuanced. My preference there is to work with the at-will invocations to see what kind of synergy and effect I can work up, mostly combined with skills, feats, and cantrips. I think the per rest invocations are mostly less useful, or at the very least less useful to plan synergies for.

The four at-will invocations that stand out for me get you: disguise self, silent image, alter self, and arcane eye. All of those somewhat mitigate for the infiltrator style build, so that's generally where I go. I like the utility of at-will, and it's easy to build around and get good in-game use out of, even in dungeon crawls, provided there are intelligent monsters involved. I will mention that one way I optimize for that build is to dip 1 to 3 levels in rogue, but that's certainly not a requirement, and I obviously won't be tooting that horn in this thread.

One of the stumbling blocks to the infiltrator build is the reliance on illusion, which is very DM dependent. Provided you have a DM that is going to let you stretch your wings with Illusions, then I think that would be part of my core Warlock build.

Back to pacts as a core chargen decision. Tome or Chain? I like the buffed familiars, but I suspect the Tome for ritual casting is the more useful, as you can still have a normal familiar plus all that ritual casting goodness.
So let's take the infiltrator concept. Wouldn't a sorcerer do it better than a warlock? You obviously don't get at will spells, but really - how many disgueses and illusions are you going to need to use to infiltrate a place?

Not to mention, you presumably the sorcerer can cast invisiblity/fly/suggestion/etc more often in the infiltration attempt if needed (as your likely not to be short resting on that mission).

Despite the hard limit on resources - I really think that a tier 2 sorcerer will have more success infiltrating and getting out of a place moreso than a tier 2 warlock (not to mention the utility of subtle spell when it comes to illusions and suggestion). He may have less combat resources for the rest of the day though. That issue gets smaller and smaller as he levels though.
 
Maybe we need to broaden our definition of what an infiltrator does. He definitely does what you're describing, and I'd agree that the Sorcerer is also good at that role. But there are a ton of other scenarios where those same skills can be used to trick, mislead, and misdirect. I like the at-will stuff the Warlock has because that I can try whatever I like whenever I like without expending resources. So, for a creative player, which I am, I vastly prefer to play generally with at-will invocations plus cantrips.

(Again, an aside about MC options, subtle spell is fantastic for what we're talking about, and I'd probably MC just to get it.)

Just as a small example, the Warlock could disguise self four or five times when being chased to throw of any chance of tracing his steps, and all without worrying about resources or impacting the rest of the adventuring day. I guess it's a lot like the Warlock class as a whole, you get less toys to play with but the toys you get are high end.

What's your picture or plan for invocation use? Disguise/Alter Self obviously isn't the only way to fly.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
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.
I don't know if I'd go that far. It's the only class that can leverage Elven Accuracy and GWM together, for example. Considering how ridiculously common gaining melee advantage is in most party compositions, it's a pretty strong combination.

I'm probably biased because I played a half-elf hexblade for about a year, but it's been my favorite character so far mechanically. It's not the king of any area, but it can do pretty much any task at a B+/A- level, and I much prefer generalists over specialists.
 
Maybe we need to broaden our definition of what an infiltrator does. He definitely does what you're describing, and I'd agree that the Sorcerer is also good at that role. But there are a ton of other scenarios where those same skills can be used to trick, mislead, and misdirect. I like the at-will stuff the Warlock has because that I can try whatever I like whenever I like without expending resources. So, for a creative player, which I am, I vastly prefer to play generally with at-will invocations plus cantrips.
Sure, but I'm talking about mechanical optimization and while such things are very fun I can't say that they really allow the warlock to perform many tasks that the sorcerer cannot. It's going to be rare when you need more disguise self spells than a tier 2 sorcerer can cast. Whereas I can easily envision infiltration scenarios where more than disguise self and 2 other spells are required to safely get the job done.

(Again, an aside about MC options, subtle spell is fantastic for what we're talking about, and I'd probably MC just to get it.)
If that's the case then sorcerer is hands down better at this role because he can keep full spell progression while fulfilling the role. If anything you would multiclass your sorcerer into warlock for the 2 at will invocations of disguise self and silent image instead of your warlock into a sorcerer IMO.

Just as a small example, the Warlock could disguise self four or five times when being chased to throw of any chance of tracing his steps, and all without worrying about resources or impacting the rest of the adventuring day. I guess it's a lot like the Warlock class as a whole, you get less toys to play with but the toys you get are high end.
Sure but a counterexample (which illustrates a far more useful scenario) - he can't misty step into a window, disguise self once there, subtle spell suggestion on the ruler, then misty step back out.

What's your picture or plan for invocation use? Disguise/Alter Self obviously isn't the only way to fly.
Right now I'm at
Devils sight
Disguise self - at will
Agonizing Blast
The tome pact invocation for rituals

I would like the silent image one but it doesn't seem like the way to go till later. The rest, at least until very high level are kinda meh.
 
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To be fair, I can think of a lot of scenarios where both the Warlock and Sorcerer need actual skills as well, and neither class really rocks that out. Just because we can imagine scenarios doesn't mean that's always going to be the case too. The point of optimization is to make the best use of the available build tools, whatever that looks like. My point, which is borne out by your choice of Disguise Self, is that that is one of the best invocation options available to the Warlock early so it might as well be a purpose built thing that gets some synergy and support from the build in general.

I forgot about the most important reason that Disguise Self at will might be more useful than the Sorcerer's spell slots, and that would be the Friends Cantrip. That's the thing I can see using a whole lot paired with DS and I really like the idea that I can do both at will without burning resources. Anyway, enough about that - we're building a Warlock, so let's build a Warlock.

I agree with your list of Invocations, nothing else seems better. Would you still take Devil's Sight for a character that already has Darkvision? I think I'd use it as a solid reason to go VHum and grab that extra feat. Seeing through magical darkness is still good in both cases though. Misty Visions would be my alternate there for a character who already had Darkvision, but I'd be looking to swap it out at higher levels.

I guess the next decision is race. VHum for the feat or Half Elf for the good stats and access to Eleven Accuracy seem like the best options. This is where we need to start picking what kind of Warlock we're building. If we're going to build for Hexblade melee/range then we want to go VHum to start building the feat pyramid early, but if we're planning on a ranged spell/buff role then 1/2E might be the better pick. I like the 1/2E option personally - good stats, decent racial abilities, and extra skills.

For stats I'd probably go with the standard CHA/DEX/CON rankng, so either fits.

If we are looking to build something that isn't trying to do the same thing as a Wizard, I might think about a Fey or Old One Patron to work the control side of things. I haven't had a chance to use Create Thrall and it seems pretty cool. Something in a skill monkey/infiltrator/control build could be very cool (1/2E for skills). I find the intrigue builds for Warlocks more compelling than the standard adventurer builds, and that's where I think they start to differentiate themselves more from Wizards and Sorcerers.

If we go 1/2E with Tome we have a good skill list, lots of cantrips, extended spell access, plus some funky at-will invocations to work with. That sounds like fun to me. From there we could either go Hexblade and build a true all-rounder, or we could focus on the intrigue side of things and go with Fey or Old One.
 
I don't know if I'd go that far. It's the only class that can leverage Elven Accuracy and GWM together, for example. Considering how ridiculously common gaining melee advantage is in most party compositions, it's a pretty strong combination.
I wouldn't go that far. Melee advantage when your charisma based and aren't causing it yourself isn't common in my games. Spells or prone are typically the only way to proc it and even then most of the better combat spells don't cause it. If anything you'll be likely to have it in easy fights and less likely to have it in hard fights IMO - which is the exact opposite of what you would prefer.

In the right party though it can be devastating, as some partys nearly always generate advantage - though it's still costing those other PC's resources to generate said advantage that they may could have used to do something just as effective. Anyways, at this point you need presumably 3 feats, which means by level 12 you've still not maxed your charisma and so you pretty much suck when you don't have advantage (because 16 cha isn't really enough to make use of the -5/+10 feature against most enemies). It also means you didn't take the actor feat (or if you did then you did so at the expense of those other feats or your charisma).

I'm probably biased because I played a half-elf hexblade for about a year, but it's been my favorite character so far mechanically. It's not the king of any area, but it can do pretty much any task at a B+/A- level, and I much prefer generalists over specialists.
How though? If you really took elven accuracy, GWM and polearm mastery and the extra attack invocation and the invocation that lets you use a great weapon with the hexblade ability. you presumably only have 16 cha, 2-3 invocation slots open (1 for most of the game), no notable out of combat abilities etc.

I guess you have 2-3 short rest recharging spells per day. What are you using them for?

I really don't see what he's doing at a B+ level besides melee when allies grace you with advantage.
 

Esker

Abventuree
Don't forget Elven Accuracy can also give a +1 CHA, so if you're half-elf and planned for it, you probably started with 17 CHA, to 18 with EA.

Not saying I disagree with your bottom line, but taking elven accuracy usually won't cost you a boost to your main stat; tertiary or quaternary(?) stat maybe.

As for how to get advantage, presumably using devils sight and darkness a whole lot.

Or better, shadow of moil.
 
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Yup, this is why an oddly high percentage of suave half elves in the know enroll at Tanis' School for Accurate Warlocking. It's a well regarded finishing school, and their competitive cantrip team is really top notch.
 
Don't forget Elven Accuracy can also give a +1 CHA, so if you're half-elf and planned for it, you probably started with 17 CHA, to 18 with EA.

Not saying I disagree with your bottom line, but taking elven accuracy usually won't cost you a boost to your main stat; tertiary or quaternary(?) stat maybe.

As for how to get advantage, presumably using devils sight and darkness a whole lot.

Or better, shadow of moil.
Spot on with elven accuracy. I always forget it adds a stat.

Darkness and shadow of moil have a major opportunity cost of your first action in many combats. Giving up your first action in 3-4 round fights is not what I would call optimization. Nice for when you can prebuff though, but your putting a lot of eggs into the get good at combat basket. It's like there's now almost no eggs left to put in any other baskets. (I know you agree but this is also for everyone else).

Besides, isn't using one major control spell and eldtrich blast with agonizing blast going to have a greater effect on combat?

In addition you leave invocations and pact and feats open for out of combat uses. That seems like the more optimized warlock to me.

I'm still not sure it's actually better at anything than a sorcerer (except in tier 1 play). However, it's probably close enough in power level while also offering ritual casting (familiars etc can be fairly useful as well)
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
I wouldn't go that far. Melee advantage when your charisma based and aren't causing it yourself isn't common in my games. Spells or prone are typically the only way to proc it and even then most of the better combat spells don't cause it. If anything you'll be likely to have it in easy fights and less likely to have it in hard fights IMO - which is the exact opposite of what you would prefer.
Depends on party composition, really. We had an open hand monk in the party, so prone and stunned enemies were extremely common. And it would be more common on boss fights, since the monk would burn 5 ki a round if necessary to get the stun to stick.

In the right party though it can be devastating, as some partys nearly always generate advantage - though it's still costing those other PC's resources to generate said advantage that they may could have used to do something just as effective. Anyways, at this point you need presumably 3 feats, which means by level 12 you've still not maxed your charisma and so you pretty much suck when you don't have advantage (because 16 cha isn't really enough to make use of the -5/+10 feature against most enemies). It also means you didn't take the actor feat (or if you did then you did so at the expense of those other feats or your charisma).
Personally, I only took EA and GWM. PAM is a boost, of course, but I found triple advantage attacks, especially combined with hexblade curse, caused enough crits and takedowns to fill up a large number of available bonus actions. And as others mentioned, EA gives you a level 4 Cha 18 that's useful for both melee attacks and eldritch blast.



How though? If you really took elven accuracy, GWM and polearm mastery and the extra attack invocation and the invocation that lets you use a great weapon with the hexblade ability. you presumably only have 16 cha, 2-3 invocation slots open (1 for most of the game), no notable out of combat abilities etc.
Pact of the Blade lets you use great weapons with Hexblade, no invocation needed. Invocations are a little tight, but as you mentioned above, none of them are so amazing that they're must takes. I had AB, the extra attack one, the one that treats your weapon as a +1 (because when the game ended at 11 I still had never found a magic weapon, lol), Tomb of Levistus, and Devil Sight.

I guess you have 2-3 short rest recharging spells per day. What are you using them for?
Whatever's needed, really. AoA against weaker minions where it should proc a couple of times before going down. SoM if I really needed some defense and advantage. Synaptic static or thunder leap if I needed AoE. Counterspell, of course. I had a few other spells (hypnotic pattern, enemies abound, some other filler), but they came up fairly infrequently.

I really don't see what he's doing at a B+ level besides melee when allies grace you with advantage.
Depends on your metrics, I guess.
 
Depends on party composition, really. We had an open hand monk in the party, so prone and stunned enemies were extremely common. And it would be more common on boss fights, since the monk would burn 5 ki a round if necessary to get the stun to stick.
Agree, open hand monks have that effect. They are melee advantage machines. Great build if you know one of them will be in your party!

Personally, I only took EA and GWM. PAM is a boost, of course, but I found triple advantage attacks, especially combined with hexblade curse, caused enough crits and takedowns to fill up a large number of available bonus actions. And as others mentioned, EA gives you a level 4 Cha 18 that's useful for both melee attacks and eldritch blast.
I can see that, especially with the monk in the party.

Pact of the Blade lets you use great weapons with Hexblade, no invocation needed. Invocations are a little tight, but as you mentioned above, none of them are so amazing that they're must takes. I had AB, the extra attack one, the one that treats your weapon as a +1 (because when the game ended at 11 I still had never found a magic weapon, lol), Tomb of Levistus, and Devil Sight.
The +1 weapon invocation is just like a +2 ASI with the added benefit of a magic weapon - which while typically not always important, apparently was very much in your game.

Whatever's needed, really. AoA against weaker minions where it should proc a couple of times before going down. SoM if I really needed some defense and advantage. Synaptic static or thunder leap if I needed AoE. Counterspell, of course. I had a few other spells (hypnotic pattern, enemies abound, some other filler), but they came up fairly infrequently.
Keeping the slots open for counterspell is something I hadn't considered. I like the ability of your meleelock to do that. The caster locks need them for their own combat spells to much. That's a huge+ to yours. The ability to fall back to ranged is nice, or to start a fight at range with a big control spell. I would be afraid to use one in melee due to concentration.

Depends on your metrics, I guess.
I'd say for your particular game nothing would have worked better than the warlock for melee. I don't think your game is typical. I wonder how your warlock would have fared with a spear/staff and a shield and PAM instead of GWM? Or that may interfere to much with counterspell.
 

Esker

Abventuree
Besides, isn't using one major control spell and eldtrich blast with agonizing blast going to have a greater effect on combat?

In addition you leave invocations and pact and feats open for out of combat uses. That seems like the more optimized warlock to me.
Yeah. If I'm building for weapon damage, I'm hard-pressed to think of a case where I'd build a single-classed caster, tbh. As a straight caster, at most I might put some light investment into being able to hold my own in melee once my big spell (which is my real contribution) is up.
 

Esker

Abventuree
Keeping the slots open for counterspell is something I hadn't considered. I like the ability of your meleelock to do that. The caster locks need them for their own combat spells to much. That's a huge+ to yours. The ability to fall back to ranged is nice, or to start a fight at range with a big control spell. I would be afraid to use one in melee due to concentration.
Although in a big battle against a caster, two counterspells is likely not enough. If you don't have a wizard, or a sorcerer (or a lore bard / any bard post 10th) in the party to handle counterspell duties (or I guess if you want a backup counterspeller when the main one's reaction is used up) then it's nice that you can do it (and I agree that it's easier for this build than another warlock) but it's not ideal, exactly. At least counterspell takes advantage of your slots being higher level.
 
Although in a big battle against a caster, two counterspells is likely not enough. If you don't have a wizard, or a sorcerer (or a lore bard / any bard post 10th) in the party to handle counterspell duties (or I guess if you want a backup counterspeller when the main one's reaction is used up) then it's nice that you can do it (and I agree that it's easier for this build than another warlock) but it's not ideal, exactly. At least counterspell takes advantage of your slots being higher level.
Many enemies can cast fireball etc without having counterspell. Even in a big caster battle it won't be "easy" for your counterspell to be counterspelled considering the spell level it will be cast at. And if the enemy caster uses a high spell level resource to do so then it's still a win as that's one less big spell he potentially gets to cast at the group.
 

Esker

Abventuree
Many enemies can cast fireball etc without having counterspell. Even in a big caster battle it won't be "easy" for your counterspell to be counterspelled considering the spell level it will be cast at. And if the enemy caster uses a high spell level resource to do so then it's still a win as that's one less big spell he potentially gets to cast at the group.
Yeah, I wasn't so much thinking about counterspell duels as wanting to be able to counter more than two spells. But there's also that. My main point is that if there is also a wizard or sorcerer in the party,if you were going to pick you or them to have counterspell, it's probably better for it to be them. I can think of a couple times DMing where I had one or two casters going up against a relatively high level party (I think the two occasions I have in mind were both tier 3), and they went through four or five counterspells in one encounter.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Agree, open hand monks have that effect. They are melee advantage machines. Great build if you know one of them will be in your party!
Yea, the warlock was a replacement character, so I already had a pretty good sense of what would synergize strongly. But I think we all know that optimizing to your specific party and DM is the first rule of practical optimization.

The +1 weapon invocation is just like a +2 ASI with the added benefit of a magic weapon - which while typically not always important, apparently was very much in your game.
Sure. I was preparing to drop it as soon as I got a magic weapon, it just never actually.... happened. (Thanks, DM!) Situational swapping of invocations and spells known is just part of the fun, to my mind. It's one of the reasons I like the limited spells known for a sorcerer, the restrictions provide a greater play challenge. The limited spell slots of the warlock provide a similar play challenge.

Keeping the slots open for counterspell is something I hadn't considered. I like the ability of your meleelock to do that. The caster locks need them for their own combat spells to much. That's a huge+ to yours. The ability to fall back to ranged is nice, or to start a fight at range with a big control spell. I would be afraid to use one in melee due to concentration.
Yea, the issue with concentration spells is a big deal, and why I wouldn't consider this build truly optimized. Wasting an open concentration slot when you're an (almost) full caster sucks, but it's hard to justify risking it when you're in melee, only have 2-3 slots, and don't have Con save proficiency or War Caster.


I'd say for your particular game nothing would have worked better than the warlock for melee. I don't think your game is typical. I wonder how your warlock would have fared with a spear/staff and a shield and PAM instead of GWM? Or that may interfere to much with counterspell.
Probably pretty well. If I was going PAM and staff/shield, I'd probably swap to VHuman, and that would open up 2 feat slots. One of those could be War Caster, which would make using Hex a lot easier. 3 attacks with Hex, Lifedrinker at 12 and Hexblade Curse is pretty solid damage. (2x(2d6+14)+1d4+1d6+14 at level 12, assuming you use ASIs to bump Cha to 20). That's probably better damage in a non-advantage situation, although I think EA/GWM might win out when advantage is there. (Can't run the numbers right this second.)
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
Yeah, I wasn't so much thinking about counterspell duels as wanting to be able to counter more than two spells. But there's also that. My main point is that if there is also a wizard or sorcerer in the party,if you were going to pick you or them to have counterspell, it's probably better for it to be them. I can think of a couple times DMing where I had one or two casters going up against a relatively high level party (I think the two occasions I have in mind were both tier 3), and they went through four or five counterspells in one encounter.
That's interesting, because to my mind, I'd rather have the warlock do it. Auto-upcast, the warlock doesn't have as many high-leverage spells as the sorc/wiz, and burning a short rest resource rather than a long.

I mean, ideally, if you have a sorc/wiz and a warlock, I'd rather see both of them have it. But that might be because I've been hit by high level casters too many times. :)
 

Esker

Abventuree
That's interesting, because to my mind, I'd rather have the warlock do it. Auto-upcast, the warlock doesn't have as many high-leverage spells as the sorc/wiz, and burning a short rest resource rather than a long.

I mean, ideally, if you have a sorc/wiz and a warlock, I'd rather see both of them have it. But that might be because I've been hit by high level casters too many times. :)
The auto-upcast helps if and only if the spell you're countering is 4th or 5th level, otherwise it's inefficient; though if you don't get a way of identifying the spell before countering it, then the other casters have to guess what slot level to use anyway. This is one of those things that depends on the DM; there are suggested rules for ID-ing spells in XGtE, but I don't know how many people use them.

The bigger part of the argument against warlock being the primary counterspeller for me is that they are set up to spread their spells evenly throughout the day, which to me means about one spell per encounter for most of their career. Counterspell is one of those spells where most encounters you don't need it, but when you do need it, you might need it a bunch of rounds in a row. Regular-slot casters have the ability to use their spells unevenly if the situation demands it, whereas warlocks can't.

At 5th and 6th level the warlock has the advantage, since regular casters only have 2 or 3 3rd level slots anyway. But by tier 3, they get seven or eight slots between 3rd and 5th level, and so blowing 4 of those in a single mage encounter is not unreasonable.
 

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