A mage summoning sinister energy.

Bitterheart Witch by Karl Kopinski

Last time, we started through the warlock’s nine subclasses. Now, we wrap up that journey. As a reminder, there are three main categories I am looking at as I judge the power level of each subclass: combat strength, allowance for a range of powerful builds, and how it interacts with multiclassing. So, let’s finish up the warlock with the final four entries.

4. Fathomless

A sea monster attacking a lighthouse.
Shoal Kraken by Vincent Proce

Like the Undead replacing the Undying, Fathomless is essentially an upgraded version of the Great Old One. Like the GOO, Fathomless warlocks dabble in eldritch horrors, albeit more explicitly water-themed ones than the original. Much like the Undead, I think this is a significant upgrade from the original and renders the GOO subclass obsolete.

Level 1 – Expanded Spell List

The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.

Spell LevelSpells
1stcreate or destroy water, thunderwave
2ndgust of wind, silence
3rdlightning bolt, sleet storm
4thcontrol water, summon elemental (water only)
5thBigby’s hand (appears as a tentacle), cone of cold

This spell list is chock-full of good workhorse spells not normally available to warlocks. Lightning Bolt is the second-best blast option at 3rd level, Sleet Storm is an excellent control spell, Summon Elemental is a spell-slot-efficient source of damage, and Cone of Cold is the Fireball of 5th-level spells. None of these options would make a great spell list on their own, but put them together and the Fathomless has a solid spell package.

Level 1 – Tentacle of the Deeps

As a bonus action, you create a 10-foot-long tentacle at a point you can see within 60 feet of you. The tentacle lasts for 1 minute or until you use this feature to create another tentacle.

When you create the tentacle, you can make a melee spell attack against one creature within 10 feet of it. On a hit, the target takes 1d8 cold damage, and its speed is reduced by 10 feet until the start of your next turn. When you reach 10th level in this class, the damage increases to 2d8.

As a bonus action on your turn, you can move the tentacle up to 30 feet and repeat the attack.

You can summon the tentacle a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

Much like the cleric’s Spiritual Weapon spell, Tentacle of the Deeps is a decent bonus-action attack outlet for builds that don’t already have something they use that action for. Since all warlocks have access to the Hex spell, this feature will have competition. But against enemies that survive more than a round, this ability can stack with Hex’s damage. For less important fights, this feature allows the warlock to save one of their precious spell slots, which is quite valuable.

Level 1 – Gift of the Sea

You gain a swimming speed of 40 feet, and you can breathe underwater.

If you’re playing in a water-based campaign, this feature is awesome. For any other setting, this will be mostly flavor.

Level 6 – Oceanic Soul

You gain resistance to cold damage. In addition, when you are fully submerged, any creature that is also fully submerged can understand your speech, and you can understand theirs.

Cold isn’t the most common damage type in 5E, but I’ll never say no to a passive resistance. On top of that, the Fathomless warlock gets to be Aquaman.* It’s somewhat interesting that while the most common use case for this communication tool is talking with aquatic creatures, it technically works with anyone. Run into an insurmountable language barrier? Just get them in a hot tub with the warlock for a heart-to-heart.

Level 6 – Guardian Coil

When you or a creature you can see takes damage while within 10 feet of the tentacle, you can use your reaction to choose one of those creatures and reduce the damage to that creature by 1d8. When you reach 10th level in this class, the damage reduced by the tentacle increases to 2d8.

Much like Tentacle of the Deeps is a decent bonus-action ability, this is very similar for reactions. Since monoclassed warlocks don’t have the spell slots to burn on spells like Shield and Absorb Elements, Guardian Coil will probably see quite a bit of use due to a lack of competition. It’s not particularly strong, but it’s better than nothing.

Level 10 – Grasping Tentacles

You learn the spell Evard’s black tentacles. It counts as a warlock spell for you, but it doesn’t count against the number of spells you know. You can also cast it once without a spell slot, and you regain the ability to do so when you finish a long rest.

Whenever you cast this spell, your patron’s magic bolsters you, granting you a number of temporary hit points equal to your warlock level. Moreover, damage can’t break your concentration on this spell.

Given how few spell slots warlocks have, an extra casting of a decent 4th-level spell is very nice. Evard’s Black Tentacles isn’t the best spell in the world, but assuming you can keep the enemy inside its effect, it can do a solid amount of damage per round. Throw some extra hit points and unbreakable concentration on top, and you get a good feature.

Level 14 – Fathomless Plunge

You can magically open temporary conduits to watery destinations. As an action, you can teleport yourself and up to five other willing creatures that you can see within 30 feet of you. Amid a whirl of tentacles, you all vanish and then reappear up to 1 mile away in a body of water you’ve seen (pond size or larger) or within 30 feet of it, each of you appearing in an unoccupied space within 30 feet of the others.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

As a GM, I resent this feature for forcing me to consider the number of pond-sized* bodies of water that are within a mile of the players at all times. As a player, I’m not particularly impressed either. This is a situational teleportation effect with no combat application outside of an escape route, not what I want to see in a subclass capstone. I’m also not a fan of how reliant this is on the terrain the warlock is in.

The Fathomless is a collection of solid features. If you’re looking for the Cthulhu-worshiping subclass, this will fill that niche. Outside of that, I find it serviceable, if a bit boring. Fourth place.

3. Fiend

A fiendish warlock.
Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded by Peter Mohrbacher

From the depths of the ocean to the pits of hell, we have the Fiend. Despite its ancient origins,* this subclass has managed to maintain relevance among its younger peers.

Level 1 – Expanded Spell List

The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.

Spell LevelSpells
1stburning hands, command
2ndblindness/deafness, scorching ray
3rdfireball, stinking cloud
4thfire shield, wall of fire
5thflame strike, hallow

Much of this relevancy can be summed up by “short-rest Fireballs.” When it’s acquired, Fireball is one of the best spells in the game, and the ability to cast it twice per short rest is incredibly good. Even at higher levels, Fireball is still a decent damage spell. The rest of this feature is very bad, but the single standout spell is enough to make this expanded list extremely good.

Level 1 – Dark One’s Blessing

When you reduce a hostile creature to 0 hit points, you gain temporary hit points equal to your Charisma modifier + your warlock level (minimum of 1).

A renewable source of temporary hit points is another good feature. Depending on how your GM interprets hostile, this ability could allow the Fiend to replenish this pool of temp HP between encounters by attacking random critters. However, even a strict reading allows for a solid boost to hit points throughout a battle.

Level 6 – Dark One’s Own Luck

When you make an ability check or a saving throw, you can use this feature to add a d10 to your roll. You can do so after seeing the initial roll but before any of the roll’s effects occur.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a short or long rest.

A single d10 per rest is far too weak for a 6th-level ability. If the number of uses was equal to a charisma or proficiency modifier, that would be solid. In its current form, this feature is bad.

Level 10 – Fiendish Resilience

You can choose one damage type when you finish a short or long rest. You gain resistance to that damage type until you choose a different one with this feature. Damage from magical weapons or silver weapons ignores this resistance.

A resistance makes for a good feature, and the ability to pick that resistance makes for a great one. This ability even allows for selection of the physical damage types.* On average, bludgeoning is the most common monster damage type in the game, and since almost no monsters have silver or magic weapons, this translates to a lot of extra health in many encounters.

Level 14 – Hurl Through Hell

When you hit a creature with an attack, you can use this feature to instantly transport the target through the lower planes. The creature disappears and hurtles through a nightmare landscape.

At the end of your next turn, the target returns to the space it previously occupied, or the nearest unoccupied space. If the target is not a fiend, it takes 10d10 psychic damage as it reels from its horrific experience.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish a long rest

Assuming you’re not fighting fiends, this feature is a good single-target damage option that also banishes your target for a round. The biggest issue with Hurl Through Hell is how limited its usage is. It’ll feel good to use this ability, but that feeling won’t come up too often. Personally, I would have preferred a bit less damage in exchange for more uses.

The Fiend isn’t a terribly complicated subclass. It gets one of the best blast spells in the game and makes the warlock significantly more resilient. From hell’s heart, I grant this subclass third place.

2. Hexblade

A glowing magic sword.
Sword of Hours by Brian Valeza

Figuring out where to place the Hexblade was extremely difficult. For those of you unaware, this subclass has a… reputation of being an overpowered and overstuffed mess that does entirely too much for too little investment. In many ways, that reputation is well earned. The Hexblade is probably the most used subclass in 5E, making its way into all sorts of builds. However, as good a dip as this subclass is, it does have some serious issues when viewed through the lens of a monoclass or mostly warlock build.

Level 1 – Expanded Spell List

The following spells are added to the warlock spell list for you.

Spell LevelSpells
1stshield, wrathful smite
2ndblur, branding smite
3rdblink, elemental weapon
4thphantasmal killer, staggering smite
5thbanishing smite, cone of cold

As a 1-3 level dip, this list has some excellent entries. Shield is a great spell that most casters don’t have access to, and Blur is a solid defensive concentration spell. Unfortunately, this feature gets a lot worse for builds sticking with Hexblade. For a monoclass warlock, Shield is far too expensive given how few spell slots warlocks have.

Blur remains decent, but besides that, Cone of Cold is the only spell I’d actually want to cast. Smite spells are inefficient damage boosts, Elemental Weapon is an awful concentration spell, and Phantasmal Killer requires two failed saves before it does its below-average damage.

Level 1 – Hexblade’s Curse

As a bonus action, choose one creature you can see within 30 feet of you. The target is cursed for 1 minute. The curse ends early if the target dies, you die, or you are incapacitated. Until the curse ends, you gain the following benefits:

  • You gain a bonus to damage rolls against the cursed target. The bonus equals your proficiency bonus.
  • Any attack roll you make against the cursed target is a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20 on the d20.
  • If the cursed target dies, you regain hit points equal to your warlock level + your Charisma modifier (minimum of 1 hit point).

You can’t use this feature again until you finish a short or long rest.

This is another feature that is great when granted by a dip into Hexblade. It’s a damage increase that scales as you increase in level and expands your crit range. While Hexblade’s Curse doesn’t get worse when used by a monoclass warlock, it also doesn’t get much better until 14th level. The class-specific scaling present in this feature is attached to the healing portion of the ability, which is by far the weakest part.

Level 1 – Hex Warrior

You gain proficiency with medium armor, shields, and martial weapons.

Whenever you finish a long rest, you can touch one weapon that you are proficient with and that lacks the two-handed property. When you attack with that weapon, you can use your Charisma modifier, instead of Strength or Dexterity, for the attack and damage rolls. This benefit lasts until you finish a long rest. If you later gain the Pact of the Blade feature, this benefit extends to every pact weapon you conjure with that feature, no matter the weapon’s type.

For dipping purposes, this is one of the best features in the game. Allowing paladins to focus entirely on charisma has led to one of the best builds I’ve seen, and the other charisma-based casters/subclasses benefit to a lesser extent from the martial proficiencies and attribute consolidation.

For monoclassed warlocks, the armor proficiencies will still be useful, but the ability to use charisma as an attack stat will often fall short when compared to Eldritch Blast. It’s not impossible for a warlock to use Hex Warrior like a paladin does, but it requires a lot more investment, investments that could have been spent improving what the warlock is already good at.

Level 6 – Accursed Specter

When you slay a humanoid, you can cause its spirit to rise from its corpse as a specter, the statistics for which are in the Monster Manual. When the specter appears, it gains temporary hit points equal to half your warlock level. Roll initiative for the specter, which has its own turns. It obeys your verbal commands, and it gains a special bonus to its attack rolls equal to your Charisma modifier (minimum of +0).

The specter remains in your service until the end of your next long rest.

Once you bind a specter with this feature, you can’t use the feature again until you finish a long rest.

This is the first feature that doesn’t show up in most dips, and, sadly, it is very bad. First off, a humanoid needs to die to trigger the ability. This isn’t a massive requirement as humanoids are fairly common, but there will be encounters or campaigns that spend large amounts of time fighting other creature types, rendering Accursed Specter useless.

Even when the specter is summoned, it is very low impact. At 6th level, the specter has 28 hit points, whereas most summons land between 30-40. The specter also has sunlight sensitivity, meaning that in many encounters, it will have a hard time landing hits, even with the accuracy bonus it receives. When it does land a hit, the damage is a decent 3d6, but that is not enough to make up for the specter’s fragility or the restrictions on its summoning.

Level 10 – Armor of Hexes

If the target cursed by your Hexblade’s Curse hits you with an attack roll, you can use your reaction to roll a d6. On a 4 or higher, the attack instead misses you, regardless of its roll.

This is essentially a more restricted version of the 5th-level rogue ability Uncanny Dodge. Both reduce damage by an average of 50 percent, but the rogue’s works on any target and appears five levels earlier. This shows up four levels after Accursed Specter, and I like it even less.

Level 14 – Master of Hexes

When the creature cursed by your Hexblade’s Curse dies, you can apply the curse to a different creature you can see within 30 feet of you, provided you aren’t incapacitated. When you apply the curse in this way, you don’t regain hit points from the death of the previously cursed creature.

Finally, a good feature for those who decide to stick with the Hexblade. Now your amazing 1st-level feature can be moved around in a similar way to the Hex spell, although it cannot be maintained between fights like Hex. This is very strong, as Hexblade’s Curse adds a ton of damage and can now be used against every target in a fight. Unfortunately, you still have to rest before you can use it again, but I’ll take what I can get.

The Hexblade is the only subclass I’ve seen that benefits its parent class so much less than those that multiclass into it. The warlock chassis simply lacks any serious synergy with the subclass outside of levels 1–3 and 14. It still makes for a decent monoclass option, but it is on the strength of its multiclass synergy that Hexblade curses me for its second-place ranking.

1. Genie

A djinn with three swords hovering around them.
Soulblade Djinn by Viktor Titov

The Genie is the newest addition to the warlock family and by far my favorite from a design perspective. As much as the optimizer in me loves the Hexblade, the Genie managed to do something I wasn’t sure was possible with just a subclass: make warlock a rewarding class at all levels.

Level 1 – Genie Kind

You choose your patron’s kind or determine it randomly, using the Genie Kind table.

d4KindElement
1DaoEarth
2DjinniAir
3EfreetiFire
4MaridWater

One of the ways the Genie does this is by having four distinct paths* for the warlock to choose from. While the choice doesn’t have any mechanical consequences in this feature, we soon see how much this can change up the experience between two Genie warlocks.

Level 1 – Expanded Spell List

The Genie Expanded Spells table shows the genie spells that are added to the warlock spell list for you, along with the spells associated in the table with your patron’s kind: dao, djinni, efreeti, or marid.

Spell LevelGenie SpellsDao SpellsDjinni SpellsEfreeti SpellsMarid Spells
1stdetect evil and goodsanctuarythunderwaveburning handsfog cloud
2ndphantasmal forcespike growthgust of windscorching rayblur
3rdcreate food and watermeld into stonewind wallfireballsleet storm
4thphantasmal killerstone shapegreater invisibilityfire shieldcontrol water
5thcreationwall of stoneseemingflame strikecone of cold
9thwish

There are a couple of major differences between this spell list and those we covered in earlier entries. The first is that half of the Genie’s additional spells change depending on the element they chose in the previous feature. The designers even managed to put some solid options on every list. Spike Growth and Wall of Stone are the dao’s standouts, Greater Invisibility is a great addition for the djinn, the efreeti gets Fireball, while the marid has Blur and Sleet Storm. Spell lists aren’t the only consideration when choosing your Genie type, but it’s great that all of these options have something going for them.

The second difference between this list and other warlock subclasses is that it cheats by having one additional spell outside of the levels normally granted by features like this: a little spell called Wish. Turns out that giving warlocks the strongest spell in the game makes playing the class to high levels a bit more enticing. It’s true that many warlocks won’t see this feature, given the level ranges of most campaigns, but just having a powerful option at high levels can make a class feel better to play. For those who reach 17th level, this will put them massively ahead of any other warlock.

Level 1 – Genie’s Vessel

Your patron gifts you a magical vessel that grants you a measure of the genie’s power. The vessel is a Tiny object, and you can use it as a spellcasting focus for your warlock spells.

While you are touching the vessel, you can use it in the following ways:

  • Bottled Respite. As an action, you can magically vanish and enter your vessel, which remains in the space you left. The interior of the vessel is an extradimensional space in the shape of a 20-foot-radius cylinder, 20 feet high, and resembles your vessel. The interior is appointed with cushions and low tables and is a comfortable temperature. While inside, you can hear the area around your vessel as if you were in its space. You can remain inside the vessel up to a number of hours equal to twice your proficiency bonus. You exit the vessel early if you use a bonus action to leave, if you die, or if the vessel is destroyed. When you exit the vessel, you appear in the unoccupied space closest to it. Any objects left in the vessel remain there until carried out, and if the vessel is destroyed, every object stored there harmlessly appears in the unoccupied spaces closest to the vessel’s former space. Once you enter the vessel, you can’t enter again until you finish a long rest.
  • Genie’s Wrath. Once during each of your turns when you hit with an attack roll, you can deal extra damage to the target equal to your proficiency bonus. The type of this damage is determined by your patron: bludgeoning (dao), thunder (djinni), fire (efreeti), or cold (marid).

The vessel’s AC equals your spell save DC. Its hit points equal your warlock level plus your proficiency bonus, and it is immune to poison and psychic damage.

If the vessel is destroyed or you lose it, you can perform a 1-hour ceremony to receive a replacement from your patron. This ceremony can be performed during a short or long rest, and the previous vessel is destroyed if it still exists. The vessel vanishes in a flare of elemental power when you die

Even though the subclass pretends this is one feature, it’s actually two. The first is a very cool extradimensional space that can be accessed once per long rest. There are too many ways to use Bottled Respite to list them all here, but to sum it up, this is a very cool and flexible tool that’s loaded with possibilities for creative players.

The much easier part of this ability to discuss is Genie’s Wrath, a flat once-per-turn damage boost that differs in type depending on your elemental choice. Out of the options here, magical bludgeoning is by far the best, but even the worst of these types is still a completely free damage boost that works for monoclass and multiclass builds alike, as it’s tied to the class-agnostic proficiency bonus.

Level 6 – Elemental Gift

You now have resistance to a damage type determined by your patron’s kind: bludgeoning (dao), thunder (djinni), fire (efreeti), or cold (marid).

In addition, as a bonus action, you can give yourself a flying speed of 30 feet that lasts for 10 minutes, during which you can hover. You can use this bonus action a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

This feature blows every other 6th-level warlock ability out of the water. First, you get a free resistance depending on your element choice. It’s at this point that the dao Genie pulls ahead in most campaigns, as bludgeoning is not only the best damage type to deal to enemies, it’s also one of the most common types those enemies will deal back to you.

On top of this resistance, you get a decent duration flight ability up to six times per long rest.* While the duration of this flight isn’t enough to have on constantly during exploration, it’s more than enough for combat, and the number of uses means that even at 6th level, the Genie warlock is likely to be flying during every fight they’re in. This isn’t just the best warlock 6th-level feature, it’s one of the best 6th-level features in the game.

Level 10 – Sanctuary Vessel

When you enter your Genie’s Vessel via the Bottled Respite feature, you can now choose up to five willing creatures that you can see within 30 feet of you, and the chosen creatures are drawn into the vessel with you.

As a bonus action, you can eject any number of creatures from the vessel, and everyone is ejected if you leave or die or if the vessel is destroyed.

In addition, anyone (including you) who remains within the vessel for at least 10 minutes gains the benefit of finishing a short rest, and anyone can add your proficiency bonus to the number of hit points they regain if they spend any Hit Dice as part of a short rest there.

Now your magic lamp can be used as a base of operations for the entire party. On top of that, it also grants one 10-minute short rest with improved healing from hit dice. This is good for any class, but it’s amazing for warlocks, allowing them to refresh their spell slots almost any time they want.

Level 14 – Limited Wish

As an action, you can speak your desire to your Genie’s Vessel, requesting the effect of one spell that is 6th level or lower and has a casting time of 1 action. The spell can be from any class’s spell list, and you don’t need to meet the requirements in that spell, including costly components; the spell simply takes effect as part of this action.

Once you use this feature, you can’t use it again until you finish 1d4 long rests.

Wish is the best spell in the game, so getting a weaker version of it at 14th level is very good. This gives the Genie warlock access to a massive number of additional spells. Some standout options include Heal, Globe of Invulnerability, Disintegrate, and Wall of Force. If none of those suit your fancy, there are 286 more to choose from. The only downside to this feature is the 1d4 long-rest cooldown. As a rule, I dislike features that force players to track anything past a single long rest, but even that isn’t enough to dampen my excitement for this ability.

Genie is the only subclass that makes me want to play a monoclassed warlock. It has great features at every level and a capstone in Wish that puts all other warlocks to shame. It might not be the multiclassing powerhouse of the Hexblade, but it still makes an excellent dip for builds that want Eldritch Blast but don’t need the Hex Warrior stat cheating. First place to Genie, we ain’t never had a subclass like them.


That wraps up the warlock. Next time we’ll start the final class in this long-running series with the wizard.

I have also created a tier list for those of you who are interested.

Treat your friends to an evening of dark ritual murder. In a fictional game scenario, of course. Uncover your lost memories and save the day in our stand-alone game, The Voyage.

Jump to Comments