Level Up (A5E) Thoughts on Eldritch Blast options for Warlock

Tessarael

Explorer
Hi folks,

I've been looking at the Warlock class for a few weeks, and I'm going to share some of my thoughts about the Eldritch Blast options for Warlock to invite some feedback and for others to share their opinions too. The A5E Warlock has some significant differences vs. the 5E D&D Warlock's Eldritch Blast. Here are some of my observations:

1. A5E Eldritch Blast is not a cantrip. There are no verbal and somatic/seen components, unlike in 5E D&D. You can Eldritch Blast someone while silenced with your hands full! This is great for a Warlock who hasn't taken the Battle Caster feat and wants to do two-weapon fighting, or fight under water, etc.

2. Eldritch Disturbance (d20 Wisdom saving throw for half damage, 60' range) seems at first glance to be on the weak side compared to Eldritch Ray (ranged spell attack, 120' range) at high levels. At level 17 for example, Eldritch Disturbance does 4 x d10 + 5, with Agonizing Blast, average 27 assuming failed save; whereas Eldritch Ray does 4 x (d10 + 5 + 3), with Agonizing Blast and Pact of the Blade with a +3 ranged weapon to get the +3 to attack and +3 to damage, average 54 assuming all four rays hit. The comparison gets even worse when you factor in a Hex or Spirit Shroud spell, and/or a Warlock archetype's curse, as those give +d6 or +2d8 and/or +3d4 each time you damage the target.

And from a battle field controller perspective, Eldritch Disturbance allows you to pull 10' with Eldritch Tentacle or repel 10' with Repelling Blast only a single target that fails their save; whereas with Eldritch Ray you could do this to four targets if you hit each with a ray. What is hard to factor in here is the miss chance / failed saving throw chance.

However, there are a few key cases where Eldritch Disturbance seems to be a better choice to me:
  • For Warlock levels 1-4, you only get a single target anyway. So the only thing you're missing out on with Eldritch Disturbance is +1 attack/damage from a +1 magic ranged pact weapon benefiting Eldritch Ray.
  • Eldritch Riposte is restricted to a single target, so for this Eldritch Disturbance is a better choice in melee than Eldritch Ray, as it doesn't suffer disadvantage on the ranged spell attack roll while within reach of a hostile opponent.
    • Your other choices for melee reaction damage is the Arcane Riposte spell.
    • Notably, you cannot use Eldritch Scythe or Eldritch Whip with Eldritch Riposte. Bit of a pity as they have melee spell attack rolls, so would not suffer disadvantage in melee.
  • Eldritch Disturbance works well vs. targets with high AC but low Wisdom saving throws.
3. Eldritch Whip seems weak to me. Even with Noxious Invigoration, False Life or Armor of Agathys, and other things to boost temporary hit points, Eldritch Whip still doesn't do as much damage as Eldritch Scythe or Eldritch Ray. I think one of the biggest limitations of Eldritch Whip is that the temporary hit points that you get only last until the end of your next turn. So you need Fiendish Vigor to replenish False Life after combat if you want to boost damage a little. It would have been nice if those temporary HP lasted longer, particularly because you may be losing temporary HP that had longer duration in order to boost damage. Now if you didn't have temporary HP, and you were running low on HP, then using Eldritch Whip to boost temporary HP until the end of your next turn is not a bad last resort to increase your survival chances.

One thing that is really nice is Eldritch Bind which allows you to paralyze a target hit by Eldritch Whip. That makes Eldritch Whip a good choice with this invocation at level 7+.

4. Eldritch Scythe is situational. It is good in melee if there's another target within 5' to do half damage to. It is essentially a better version of the 5E D&D Green-Flame Blade cantrip for the A5E Warlock. "You can choose a creature that you can see and that is within your reach" makes me want to wield a whip to have 15' reach, but that's not how it works IMHO and it is your base reach that matters. Neither the Alter Self or Enlarge spells increase your reach. I'm not seeing any good options in A5E to increase your reach. Now if you're a 5E D&D Bugbear with Long-Limbed for +5' reach on your turn, then you can do it.

If you don't have another target within 5', then you're better off just hammering your opponent with a two-handed melee weapon than does 2d6 damage or with two-weapon fighting - the latter works even between with Hex or Spirit Shroud spell, and/or a Warlock archetype's curse, as those give +d6 or +2d8 and/or +3d4 each time you damage the target.

Eldritch Scythe does have the benefit of being usable on melee opportunity attacks.

---

I'm still struggling to figure out the "best" choice for Eldritch Blast. Of course, it depends on the situation and character build. I'm tempted to say its Eldritch Disturbance from levels 1 to 4, assuming you pick up Eldritch Warrior for martial weapon proficiency if you need ranged attacks beyond 60' and with Pact Weapon you can use your spellcasting ability modifier for attack/damage with that range weapon, so Long Bow with range 150/600 has longer range than the 120' of Eldritch Ray albeit a little lower damage, particularly once you take Agonizing Blast. At higher levels, you also want Eldritch Ray for battlefield control with Repelling Blast. Eldritch Riposte is good with both Eldritch Ray and Eldritch Disturbance to boost your damage output by using your reaction to retaliate to damage from someone within 30'.

Eldritch Scythe and Eldritch Whip seem weaker choices to me. Eldritch Scythe is a good option for a melee Warlock, particularly at level 11+ with the third attack vs. getting only two attacks with a melee weapon with Thirsting Blade. However, two-weapon fighting stills wins for damage output vs. Eldritch Scythe until level 17+, but noting that you'll need Battle Caster to cast spells with seen components, or you get to sheathe/unsheathe your second weapon to spellcast if the spell has seen or material components.

Thoughts?
 

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VenerableBede

Adventurer
I did the math on all of these, levels 1–20, early on in A5e's lifespan. I'm speaking from memory right now, and some experience since then, but here's the gist of what I observed:
1. Eldritch Ray seems to be, arguably, the best choice for the average warlock. It's the most useful in the most circumstances and does the most consistent damage, and it tends to pair best with most of the warlock's invocations and other features. It's just plain reliable.
2. If you plan on being in melee, Pact of the Blade with the appropriate invocations sometimes is better, sometimes is worse than Eldritch Scythe, depending on the level, at least with regards to single-target damage (which is more reliable than single-target and a little to the guy next to you). It really depends on the build you want, though. Pact of the Blade more consistently outperforms Eldritch Scythe in damage output with two-handed weapons, but that means no shield and lower AC, and most warlocks already don't have great AC or HP. If you use a one-handed weapon, Eldritch Scythe will do as much (or more) damage as any other one-handed weapon with a more reliable damage type, and you can wield a shield, freeing up your pact for something else. Or you could get a ranged Eldritch Blast for flexibility, go Pact of the Blade for your melee options, and be versatile. There's a lot of build options here that will more-or-less perform as well in damage output, but some will be much more MAD and invocation-intensive than others.
Anyway, you'll average par-or-below with most Eldritch Scythe/Pact of the Blade builds (that I'm aware of) compared to Eldritch Ray, but those numbers go down a little if you factor in the possibility of Eldritch Ray, being ranged, being able to attack immediately in combat while you might spend a turn or two with a melee Pact of the Blade weapon (or Eldritch Scythe) running up to your enemies.
(Eldritch Scythe has a niche use that you automatically deal the secondary damage, so if your BBEG has an AC too high to reliably hit but is always surrounded by minions that can be reliably hit, you can deal some OK damage to the BBEG while slaughtering his minions, but this does demand that you survive being adjacent to at least two creatures that probably are actively trying to murder you in response, and once the weaker enemy is dead you lose this niche. I don't think most people will ever experience this.)
3. Eldritch Whip, conceptually, can blow the other options out of the water with damage, but it's inconsistent and won't ever reach its full potential at most tables (assuming your table averages 2–4 rounds most combats). Assuming you can successfully hit at least one attack per turn (which gets more consistent the more attacks you have), and assuming you never get hit (and thereby lose your temporary HP), you catch up to Eldritch Ray in damage in about 3 turns and start significantly outclassing the other three options by about turn 5. In other words, in really specific situations you can be a monster, but it requires you to never get hit, hit at least once every turn, and have combats that regularly last longer than the average.
With the right build, I would personally rate this as roughly equal with Eldritch Scythe, but the stars need to align for it to really shine.
4. Eldritch Disturbance, in my opinion, is bad. True, it does more damage than everything else levels 1–4, but that's it, and it's only by a point or so. True, it doesn't have any disadvantages to being used in melee, unlike Eldritch Ray, and it has much more range than Eldritch Scythe and Whip, making it arguably more flexible—if that's what your priorities are, you might like this option more. But it scales terribly compared to the extra attacks the other Blasts get, dropping in damage to dead last the moment you hit 5th level, and it never scales with invocations that apply per-hit.
Are there niche cases? Well, damage is guaranteed (half on a failed save), so you will never not do damage, which some players might like. (Of course, good Wisdom saves are common, so you might be doing half damage more often than not, depending on the enemies your GM chooses.) That can be a boon against enemies with really high AC and really high saves—while everyone else is missing, you can keep chipping away with consistent low damage. So I don't think there are no good use cases for Eldritch Disturbance. I just think those use cases are much more limited than the other Blasts and also assume that you'd rather deal with the problem by spamming Eldritch Disturbance rather than casting a spell.

This doesn't even close to consider every potential situation. I'm sure there are builds I'm unaware of that might take something I posited as a minor or inconsistent option and makes it great, and there are multiple edge cases I didn't mention that I'm already aware of where, in a one-shot where I know what's coming, I might pick a Blast that I normally consider inferior over the other options. But, in general, if you want consistency in damage and utility over the most levels that fits on most warlock builds, go Ray. If you want to be a meleelock, Pact of the Blade, Eldritch Scythe, and Eldritch Whip all have something to offer, so carefully weigh what you really want with the strengths and weaknesses of each. If you want to usually be less effective than the others, go Disturbance.
 

Tessarael

Explorer
Regard 1., agreed, particularly at level 5+ with Agonizing Blast compared to Eldritch Disturbance vs. an opponent that doesn't have high AC and low Wisdom saving throw.

Regarding 2., Warlocks don't get shield proficiency, so unless you are multi-classed, have the Moderately Outfitted feat, or a Warlock archetype that gives shield proficiency (Hexblade from 5E D&D), then Warlock doesn't have the weapon-and-shield option. However, two-weapon fighting scales well and outdoes Eldritch Scythe for single-target damage until 17th level's Extra Blast (four blasts vs. 2 main hand attacks + 2 off-hand attacks when two-weapon fighting). The issue with two-weapon fighting is un(sheath) free object interactions to free a hand to cast spells with seen/somatic and material components, unless you have the Battle Caster feat to cast spells with V,S components.

I agree with your comments about a ranged Eldritch Blast and Pact of the Blade for melee capability. That seems the most natural choice to go with, at the cost of not getting your magical melee weapon modifier from Pact of the Blade to attack/damage of ranged Eldritch Ray.

Eldritch Scythe is good for melee attack of opportunity, scaling much better than an attack with a melee weapon at level 5+.

Regarding 3., I think that your math on Eldritch Whip may be out-of-date vs. the more recent A5E version of Warlock's Eldritch Whip. In particular, the Warlock gets half the damage done by Eldritch Whip as temporary HP, and half of that as additional damage. So if you successfully hit each round, and add that up across rounds, at best you're getting +1/4 + 1/16 + 1/64 ... = +1/3 damage in the limit. However compared to Eldritch Scythe, Eldritch Whip doesn't benefit from magic weapon modifier to attack/damage, it does 1d6 instead of 1d8, and it doesn't do half damage to a target within reach, so it is clearly inferior in damage output to Eldritch Scythe assuming (1) you're within 5' to hit targets with Eldritch Scythe, and (2) you will sufficiently often have opportunity to do 1/2 damage to a target within reach with Eldritch Scythe. And in any case, Eldritch Whip doesn't get that much extra damage across rounds, as you miss sometimes, want to cast a spell instead of attacking, etc.

The only major benefits that I see from Eldritch Whip are the 15' attack range, the temporary HP if you had none or few temporary HP, and the paralyzation with Eldritch Bind. So one option to make good use of it is to whack opponents in melee, and then every so often flick others at 15' range with your Eldritch Whip, say to push them back 10' with Repelling Blast or to pull them into melee with Eldritch Tentacle. Situationally, Eldritch Whip can be useful, I just think it is not that often where it has a clear benefit.

Regarding 4., I think one of the most important uses for Eldritch Disturbance at higher levels is with Eldritch Riposte. Eldritch Disturbance does more damage with Eldritch Riposte than Eldritch Ray, because the target takes half damage if they make their save, and because you're not making a ranged spell attack with disadvantage vs. a melee opponent.

---

IMHO, I think your best option may be something like this:
  • Eldritch Disturbance at 1st level
  • Eldritch Warrior at 2nd level to get martial weapon proficiency and significantly improved AC
  • Eldritch Riposte at 3rd level to bump damage output, at the cost of spell points to power it
  • Thirsting Blade at level 5 if you intend to use melee/ranged weapons to deal damage
  • Eldritch Ray at level 5+ with Versatile Blast
  • Lifedrinker to increase damage with your pact weapon, or Eldritch Scythe at level 5+ with a second choice of Versatile Blast at a later point.
  • Agonizing Blast at level 6 as your Eldritch Evolution
  • Repelling Blast is good to pick up, as is Eldritch Tentacle if you like to melee your opponents.
  • And don't bother with Eldritch Whip, as it is seldom worth it.
  • At very high levels, particularly level 17+, drop Lifedrinker and Thirsting Blade, and pick up other Eldritch Invocations, as Eldritch Blast is best now.
The "frustration" for me as a player who likes game mechanics, is that it takes a fair bit of analysis and deep understanding of the trade-offs before coming to this conclusion. Most players aren't going to understand the trade-offs at this level of detail, at least without reading someone else's analysis to get to that conclusion. And taking Versatile Blast twice to pick up the other Eldritch Blast types does have an opportunity cost - you're missing out on other very good Eldritch Invocations.

Obviously, for different builds your best choices vary. And if you're multi-classed to get medium armor proficiency, have high Dexterity to get good AC with light armor, or have Pact of the Blade, you may skip Eldritch Warrior.

If you're not playing a Dread Knight, Hexblade, or similar melee Warlock build with shield, martial weapons, and medium/heavy armor proficiency, I think that melee Warlocks have a glass jaw due to lower AC (no shield) and lower HP than other classes that can be much more melee-oriented like Berserker, Druid wild-shaper, Fighter, Herald, Marshal, Ranger, and Rogue. For that reason, I think that trying to create a melee Warlock can often be a bit of a suboptimal trap ... Hence Eldritch Scythe and two-weapon fighting can be subpar, and you either want a reach weapon (Eldritch Whip?) or Eldritch Ray/Disturbance to attack at a distance. The argument for Eldritch Whip may come down to a reach weapon making good sense for a Warlock to reduce damage by not being directly in melee, but then why not just use Eldritch Ray?
 
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VenerableBede

Adventurer
Regarding 2., Warlocks don't get shield proficiency, so unless you are multi-classed, have the Moderately Outfitted feat, or a Warlock archetype that gives shield proficiency (Hexblade from 5E D&D), then Warlock doesn't have the weapon-and-shield option.
reads Eldritch Warrior again
What the heck? Why does this invocation not grant shield proficiency? That's... really unintuitive. Been too long since I read all of these.
That seems the most natural choice to go with, at the cost of not getting your magical melee weapon modifier from Pact of the Blade to attack/damage of ranged Eldritch Ray.
I think this is only the best choice for warlocks focusing on Pact of the Blade and using Eldritch Ray as a ranged versatility option. If you want to be focused on Eldritch Ray and take Pact of the Blade so you can apply magic weapon buffs to it, then don't worry about taking any of the feats or invocations that would push you toward melee, because you don't want to be there in the first place. Just get what's necessary for a backline caster.
And in any case, Eldritch Whip doesn't get that much extra damage across rounds, as you miss sometimes, want to cast a spell instead of attacking, etc.
Yup.
In a white room, perfect circumstances, Eldritch Whip can be insane, but those stars nearly never align. There's just too many factors.
Regarding 4., I think one of the most important uses for Eldritch Disturbance at higher levels is with Eldritch Riposte. Eldritch Disturbance does more damage with Eldritch Riposte than Eldritch Ray, because the target takes half damage if they make their save, and because you're not making a ranged spell attack with disadvantage vs. a melee opponent.
While this is true, Eldritch Riposte requires you to get hit, and I'd rather focus on not getting hit in the first place, or killing/disabling my opponent before they can do the same to me.
IMHO, I think your best option may be something like this:
  • Eldritch Disturbance at 1st level
  • Eldritch Warrior at 2nd level to get martial weapon proficiency and significantly improved AC
  • Eldritch Riposte at 3rd level to bump damage output, at the cost of spell points to power it
  • Thirsting Blade at level 5 if you intend to use melee/ranged weapons to deal damage
  • Eldritch Ray at level 5+ with Versatile Blast
  • Eldritch Scythe at level 5+ with a second choice of Versatile Blast at a later point
  • Agonizing Blast at level 6 as your Eldritch Evolution
  • And don't bother with Eldritch Whip, as it is seldom worth it.
"Best option" is really vague. Best option for what? This build uses a lot of feats and invocations with some redundant benefits. You definitely don't need more than one Eldritch Blast to be good on the back line or the front line, but this suggested build kind of tries to do everything, which means you won't really excel in any one area. (I could see it being useful in parties with 2–3 players, where fitting multiple roles and specializing yes can be more rewarding.)
If you want to get in melee and focus on that, I'd recommend starting with Eldritch Scythe rather than Disturbance, and then focusing on having good defenses and dealing lots of damage. Use spells or cantrips to cover ranged options where necessary. (Although if you are planning on getting hit, since your build focuses on Eldritch Riposte, hopefully you are planning on having a high CON, and in that case I understand why you prefer Disturbance.)
 

WanderingMystic

Adventurer
To me they are fairly balanced against each other but some of them might be used more often.

1: Eldritch Disturbance - Good damage that can be used at range or melee, wis save is better than attacking ac against most warrior type creatures.
Good a second option for someone who already has either Eldritch Ray or a eldritch Scythe.

2: Eldritch Ray - Best option is you are nothing but a ranged caster, it is also the most boring option but probably most people's first pick.

3: Eldritch Scythe - Ok so this one is weird best melee option and better than being a blade pack for a melee warlock option. The extra damage to someone else in 5ft really makes this a must take if you think you will be in the thick of it.

4: Eldritch Whip - Personally this is my favorite while it is only a d6 it means that at 5th level you are getting 5-8 temp hp that first round so extra survivability. This is a better option for warlocks who want to do melee damage but who knows that they will be mainly fighting one on one. It is a great second pick for anyone since the ability to gain some temp hp is well worth the damage trade off.

For me if I was building a tomb or chain warlock disturbance would probably be my first pick and whip my second. A little less damage but you are guaranteed to do at least half damage so no missing.
 
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WanderingMystic

Adventurer
So damage break down with agonizing blast a 50% save chance and a 60% hit chance @ 3/5/11/17

ED: 6/11/16/21
- range or melee great against low will opponent
ER: 6/10/18/25
- range only, gets better with some magical items
ES 5(3)/9(5)/15(8)/23(12)
- melee only, gets better with magical items, n eds a second opponent to fully make use of its power.
EW 5(2hp)/10(5hp)/18(9hp)/25(13hp)
- melee with reach, weaker if you already get thp.

Eldritch whip is assuming that you will be able to use your temp hp for extra damage every other time.

Now this does not take in to account magical items being pact of the blade or any invocation other than agonizing blast.
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
All of this is good information and ideas... but Eldritch Disturbance wins on it's unique Invocation: Eldritch Prism.

20ft cube of "Screw you guys, take damage"

Don't get me wrong. I know Eldritch Severance is cool for theme but a line is way less targets on average than a 20ft cube. Squall is good for the Ray to have a nice cone, but that puts the range as pretty short and requires you to be sort of close. Eldritch Grasp is... sure. It's a thing that happened.

But a 20ft cube and a 60ft range? REALLY GOOD. Especially since it's a cube and thus hits flying and ground creatures, or enemies at different elevations. And since it's a Wisdom save, you can't benefit from Cover against it.

May not deal as much damage in it's baseline use, but having a "Once per short rest" fireball in your pocket is great. Especially as you expend spell points and recover it between short rests.
 


WanderingMystic

Adventurer
Eldritch grasp is still ok, paralyzing someone for a minute and they still take your Eldritch whip damage is nice but the lack of an aoe option sucks. It does however renforce the idea that I have about Eldritch whip being more utility than the dage potential of the others. I would have still liked Eldritch disturbance to have had some type of a rider effect. If they ever come out with a magal item to bump your dc then that would work nicely with it.
 

Tessarael

Explorer
Regarding temporary HP, if someone in your party with Charisma 13+ takes the Rallying Speaker feat, I think that's probably the best option for the group. Second to that, Fiendish Vigor gives False Life for 1d4+4 temporary HP and Noxious Invigoration boosts this by your proficiency bonus. I'd generally prefer Armor of Agathys instead if your DM permits that Warlock spell from 5E D&D, as it gives per spell level both 5 temporary HP and does 5 cold damage to creatures that hit you with a melee attack. I see temporary HP from Eldritch Whip as a boost to this when you get hurt in combat.

Regarding Eldritch Prism, yes, it will typically be the most useful of the level 7 invocations that do area of effect damage. And I'll note that Agonizing Blast adds to the damage of these as they are a use of Eldritch Blast per the wording.

Regarding magic items to bump the save DC for Eldritch Disturbance, there's Rod of the Pact Keeper from 5E D&D that gives a bonus between +1 to +3 to Warlock spell attack rolls and saving throw DCs. A5E doesn't have this magic item, so depends on your DM whether you could get this or not. In particular, Eldritch Blast is no longer a spell in A5E, so Eldritch Disturbance may not qualify for the benefit from this item, though the others which are melee/ranged spell attack rolls do.
 
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