21
\$\begingroup\$

Which of these two would be more reliable at least in terms of consistently dealing damage?

I'm not going to take the Agonizing Blast Invocation because I'm planning to take other Invocations, so I won't get the +CHA mods on the EB's. I have 14 DEX so the Crossbow would deal 1d10+2 damage. Now, obviously 5th level EB would have out damage the Crossbow on a high roll, but on the lowest roll, EB would deal 2 damage and the Crossbow would deal 3.

There's also the fact that EB has more mods at least in terms of being able to actually hit (I have 18 CHA so +4 to hit mods, NOT including proficiency), but I could also get a Pact Weapon heavy crossbow with the Improved Pact Weapon Invocation. With that, it becomes more accurate and more damaging, but it still doesn't measure up to the maximum roll of 5th level EB, but I think it would deal much more consistent damage.

Taking everything I mentioned above into account, what is statistically the more consistent damage dealer between a Heavy Crossbow (which I have proficiency with due to Hex Warrior and an additional +2 from 14 DEX), or a 5th level Eldritch blast (which is helped by 18 CHA which gives it +4 to hit, not yet counting the proficiency)?

And what is statistically the more consistent damage dealer between a Pact weapon Heavy Crossbow (+1 to attack and damage rolls and being a Pact Weapon gives it +5 to both attack and damage rolls in total without proficiency) vs the 5th level EB I mentioned above?

\$\endgroup\$
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm confused: if you "could get the Improved Pact Weapon invocation," why couldn't you take Agonizing Blast in that invocation's place? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Dec 13 '18 at 12:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ One note that might worth to add is if you are going to face lot's of situation where magic is impossible. Tied down, muted, anti magic field ? \$\endgroup\$ – Franck Dec 13 '18 at 13:06
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @Franck Tied down you can't shoot a heavy crossbow either. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 13 '18 at 13:10
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Andras Probably because Improved Pact Weapon becomes available at 3rd level, whereas one has to wait until 5th for Thirsting Blade. \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Dec 13 '18 at 13:46
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @András I don't see this question as warranting a frame challenge answer, but if you do, you're welcome to post one... which I now see you already did. \$\endgroup\$ – screamline Dec 13 '18 at 18:17
12
\$\begingroup\$

A Misconception that needs to be cleared up

Hex Warrior lets you use Charisma instead of the normal modifier for either your Hex weapon, or your Pact weapon. If you were to take the Improved Pact Weapon invocation, you'd be able to use +CHA with your crossbow instead of +DEX. So that alters the calculations somewhat.

Levels 5-10: Eldritch Blast is better (but Crossbows can be made to be better)

The DPR on the double blast is always going to exceed the DPR of a single crossbow bolt, even after being boosted with Improved Pact Weapon. There's not really any getting around that. The other posts have already gone into the math explaining why.

However.

Taking the Crossbow Expert feat will (until level 11) make Crossbows reign supreme. This is because the Crossbow Expert feat removes the attack limitation on crossbows, meaning you'll be able to attack twice a turn (with Thirsting Blade), causing the DPR on the crossbow to rocket upwards, even exceeding that of Agonizing Blast.

Here's a table of DPR values, against various ACs of enemies you might fight:

\begin{array}{|l|r|r|r|r|r|r|} \hline & \text{AC 0} & \text{AC 14} & \text{AC 16} & \text{AC 18} & \text{AC 20} & \text{AC 26} \\ \hline \text{Eldritch Blast x2} & 11.000 & 8.250 & 7.150 & 6.050 & 4.950 & 1.650 \\ \hline \text{Agonizing Blast x2} & 18.600 & 13.850 & 11.950 & 10.050 & 8.150 & 2.450 \\ \hline \text{Crossbow x1 (uses DEX)} & 7.400 & 4.775 & 4.025 & 3.275 & 2.525 & 0.650 \\ \hline \text{Crossbow x1 (IPW)} & 10.250 & 8.150 & 7.100 & 6.050 & 5.000 & 1.850 \\ \hline \text{Crossbow x2 (Expert / TB)} & 14.800 & 9.550 & 8.050 & 6.550 & 5.050 & 1.300 \\ \hline \text{Crossbow x2 (IPW / Expert / TB)} & 20.500 & 16.300 & 14.200 & 12.100 & 10.000 & 3.700 \\ \hline \end{array}

detailed statistical breakdown here

In the last row, you can see that against all AC levels, the DPR of taking the Improved Pact Weapon and Thirsting Blade invocations, and the Crossbow Expert feat, will exceed the DPR of even Agonizing Blast on an Eldritch Blast.

So between levels 5 and 10, (which is where most play occurs!) your DPR with a crossbow can be better than your DPR with Eldritch Blast, assuming you take the right invocations and feat.

Level 11: Agonizing Blast is best

At level 11, the third Eldritch Blast improves the DPR by a lot, bringing the DPR ahead of where the Crossbow is at for this level. The regular Eldritch Blast isn't competitive at this level.

Levels 12-16: Crossbows (barely) come out ahead again

The introduction of the Lifedrinker invocation (+CHA to pact weapon damage... again) will set things just barely back in the favor of the Crossbow:

\begin{array}{|l|r|r|r|r|r|r|} \hline & \text{AC 0} & \text{AC 14} & \text{AC 16} & \text{AC 18} & \text{AC 20} & \text{AC 26} \\ \hline \text{Eldritch Blast x3} & 16.500 & 14.025 & 12.375 & 10.725 & 9.075 & 4.125 \\ \hline \text{Agonizing Blast x3} & 30.750 & 26.025 & 22.875 & 19.725 & 16.575 & 7.125 \\ \hline \text{IPW / Expert / TB / LD Crossbow x2} & 31.900 & 28.600 & 25.300 & 22.000 & 18.700 & 8.800 \\ \hline \end{array}

detailed statistical breakdown here

Level 17: Agonizing Blast is best

Finally, with 4 attacks, Agonizing Blast will get up to a DPR of [41|38.9|34.7|30.5|26.3|13.7], which will be better than the (improved) DPR values that the Crossbow gets, stuck at 2 attacks, with [31.9|31.9|28.6|25.3|22.0|12.1].

So realistically, which combo you go with depends on what level of play your campaign will be at. If you actually expect to make it all the way to level 17+, then focus on Eldritch Blast and ignore the Crossbow feat + invocations. If you plan to never play past 16, then get the Crossbow feat and take invocations improving the Crossbow.

Note that getting the Crossbow this high does involve taking a feat and several invocations; if you'd rather dedicate those slots to other features, the Agonizing Blast setup only requires the one Invocation, and very little else. So in terms of economical builds, Agonizing Blast is easier to build around.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ First time I grasped that the cha bonus stacks since it is from two different sources ... +1 and love the tables. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Dec 13 '18 at 16:31
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I think that a hand crossbow with the crossbow expert feat comes out ahead at all levels. \$\endgroup\$ – goodguy5 Dec 13 '18 at 16:54
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @goodguy5 Yeah, I'm running the numbers on it right now. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Dec 13 '18 at 16:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András If you lose the extra CHA to the Crossbow Expert feat, the Heavy Crossbow becomes exactly equal to Agonizing Blast in terms of DPR. Use the Agonizing Blast row to match the -1CHA Heavy Crossbow. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Dec 13 '18 at 22:18
28
\$\begingroup\$

Spoiler: It's always eldritch blast.

Shooting twice per turn is always going to be superior to firing once per turn, unless the one shot is vastly better. Like, not "add a stat bonus"-better, but like "this is literally a siege weapon"-better.

First off, comparing an Invocation-enhanced crossbow against an unmodified eldritch blast is obviously an unequal comparison. If you're going to throw Improved Pact Weapon into the mix in order to claim the higher stat bonus with your crossbow, you should compare that against an Agonizing Blast -- it's only fair to add an invocation to both sides of the comparison. And in that case, it's a quite simple "one attack versus two attacks" scenario. With roughly equal chances to hit and roughly equivalent damage, two blast beams is of course superior to one crossbow bolt. Even if though Improved Pact Weapon makes the crossbow count as a +1 weapon, a 5% hit rate increase and +1 damage can't come close to the benefit of just firing twice as often.

So let's ignore invocations: If we compare a standard crossbow attack to a standard blast, the blast is still the better option. You hit more often because of the higher attack bonus, and you get two attacks per turn rather than one, so you have a very high chance of hitting at least once.

The actual math would depend on what AC you're shooting against, but in general, you're talking about one attack at +5 for 1d10+2 damage versus two attacks at +7 for 1d10 damage each.

Supposing you're attacking a relatively tough AC 16, your crossbow will hit on an 11+, or 50%, which gives an average damage over time of (5.5+2)*0.5 = 3.75 damage per round.

By comparison, your eldritch blasts would hit on a 9+, or 60% of the time, and deal 1d10 damage each. So over time that would average out to 5.5*0.6 = 3.3 damage per beam. Since you're firing twice per turn, your expected damage would be double that, or 6.6 damage per round, which is vastly better than the crossbow. I ignored the impact of critical hits in the calculation here, but since you're making twice as many attack rolls with the blast, you'll crit twice as often, so that's only going to tip things even more towards eldritch blast. (Point of interest: The break-even point on damage-dealt would be at a 30% hit-rate for the blast, which I believe in this case would mean blasting with a -1 charisma modifier. Yes, the power of shooting twice is so great that the world's worst warlock is STILL a better, more consistent combatant than you with a crossbow.)

"Consistent" could be interpreted to mean "more likely to do at least some damage every turn" or "the maximum expected damage-per-round", but either way eldritch blast is the way to go for a warlock.

For what it's worth, the crossbow with Improved Pact Weapon is just barely competitive with an unenhanced blast at 5th level, at around 6.3 damage/round. In order to make it superior, you need to spend a lot more resources (such as Thirsting Blade and the Crossbow Expert feat), and as you level up there are a lot more options that can make either method competitive -- good enough to be worthwhile if not "the best", at any rate.

If I had to guess, the point of Improved Pact Weapon isn't really to enable a crossbow- or shortbow-focused warlock, but rather to give a melee-focused warlock a ranged option that can leverage all the boosts he's pouring into his pact weapon.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ It's entirely possible that my DPR calculation is slightly off, but given the vast difference between the two scenarios, I don't think it matters even if it is slightly wrong. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Dec 13 '18 at 13:48
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I agree with everything except your last paragraph, the problem is not Improved Pact Weapon, its crossbows \$\endgroup\$ – András Dec 13 '18 at 15:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why do you calculate with Dex instead of Cha for the crossbow? \$\endgroup\$ – András Dec 13 '18 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András I don't know what you mean by 'problem'. I didn't say there's a problem with IPW. I'm just saying the ranged options it offers will never be as good as an eldritch blast as a primary focus; they're really good if you have focused on blade pact and want to leverage those invocations when you can't easily get into melee. I doubt a shortbow-blade-lock would be able to keep up with a blast-lock, but I haven't worked the numbers up as that wasn't the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Dec 14 '18 at 0:26
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @András I used DEX in the calculation because a crossbow isn't fired with your CHA unless it's a pact weapon, which requires a specific invocation, in which case it should be compared to an enhanced blast, see paragraph 2 for discussion. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym Dec 14 '18 at 0:27
4
\$\begingroup\$

[Magical] Hand Crossbows are better at every level... Except level 11

If you truly want to maximize DPR, you'll pick up the Crossbow Expert feat, and then use a Magical Hand Crossbow with your Hexblade warlock. The reason for this is that starting at level 5, you'll get to make three attacks per turn with your lone Hand Crossbow: 2 from the Thirsting Blade invocation, and 1 from the Bonus Action permitted by your Crossbow Expert feat. This will offset the DPR of Agonizing Blast at [almost] every level, simply due to the high number of attacks.

\begin{array}{|l|r|r|r|r|r|r|} \hline \text{} & \text{AC 0} & \text{AC 14} & \text{AC 16} & \text{AC 18} & \text{AC 20} & \text{AC 26}\\ \hline \text{L5 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 20.500 & 16.300 & 14.200 & 12.100 & 10.000 & 3.700\\ \hline \text{L5 Hand Crossbow x3} & 24.750 & 19.650 & 17.100 & 14.550 & 12.000 & 4.350\\ \hline \text{L5 Agonizing Blast x2} & 18.600 & 13.850 & 11.950 & 10.050 & 8.150 & 2.450\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L8 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 22.400 & 18.950 & 16.650 & 14.350 & 12.050 & 5.150\\ \hline \text{L8 Hand Crossbow x3} & 27.600 & 23.325 & 20.475 & 17.625 & 14.775 & 6.225\\ \hline \text{L8 Agonizing Blast x2} & 20.500 & 16.300 & 14.200 & 12.100 & 10.000 & 3.700\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L9 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 22.400 & 20.100 & 17.800 & 15.500 & 13.200 & 6.300\\ \hline \text{L9 Hand Crossbow x3} & 27.600 & 24.750 & 21.900 & 19.050 & 16.200 & 7.650\\ \hline \text{L9 Agonizing Blast x2} & 20.500 & 17.350 & 15.250 & 13.150 & 11.050 & 4.750\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L11 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 22.400 & 20.100 & 17.800 & 15.500 & 13.200 & 6.300\\ \hline \text{L11 Hand Crossbow x3} & 27.600 & 24.750 & 21.900 & 19.050 & 16.200 & 7.650\\ \hline \text{L11 Agonizing Blast x3} & 30.750 & 26.025 & 22.875 & 19.725 & 16.575 & 7.125\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L12 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 31.900 & 28.600 & 25.300 & 22.000 & 18.700 & 8.800\\ \hline \text{L12 Hand Crossbow x3} & 41.850 & 37.500 & 33.150 & 28.800 & 24.450 & 11.400\\ \hline \text{L12 Agonizing Blast x3} & 30.750 & 26.025 & 22.875 & 19.725 & 16.575 & 7.125\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L13 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 31.900 & 30.250 & 26.950 & 23.650 & 20.350 & 10.450\\ \hline \text{L13 Hand Crossbow x3} & 41.850 & 39.675 & 35.325 & 30.975 & 26.625 & 13.575\\ \hline \text{L13 Agonizing Blast x3} & 30.750 & 27.600 & 24.450 & 21.300 & 18.150 & 8.700\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L17 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 31.900 & 31.900 & 28.600 & 25.300 & 22.000 & 12.100\\ \hline \text{L17 Hand Crossbow x3} & 41.850 & 41.850 & 37.500 & 33.150 & 28.800 & 15.750\\ \hline \text{L17 Agonizing Blast x4} & 41.000 & 38.900 & 34.700 & 30.500 & 26.300 & 13.700\\ \hline \end{array}

Detailed Statistical Analysis here

Here are the breakpoints:

  • At level 8, our Charisma hits 20
  • At level 9, our proficiency goes up to +4
  • At level 11, Eldritch Blast gets 3 attacks, and (briefly) becomes the top DPR.
  • At level 12, we gain Lifedrinker, and the crossbows take over once again
  • At level 13, our proficiency goes up to +5
  • At level 17, our proficiency goes up to +6, and Eldritch Blast gets its fourth attack. Heavy Crossbows fall behind, but Hand Crossbows are still at the top

TL; Too much Stats

So if you absolutely want to maximize DPR, use a Hand Crossbow with the following:

  • FEAT: Crossbow Expert
  • INVOCATION: Thirsting Blade
  • ITEM: Hand Crossbow +1/+2/+3 (non-magical Hand Crossbows cannot be used as Pact Weapons)
  • INVOCATION: Lifedrinker

"But I'm not a Variant Human!"

Use this table instead, where instead of taking the Crossbow Expert feat at level 1, you're instead forced to take it at level 4, meaning you don't reach 20 Charisma until level 12. The only difference is that below level 11, Heavy Crossbows are equivalent to Agonizing Blast in DPR.

\begin{array}{|l|r|r|r|r|r|r|} \hline \text{} & \text{AC 0} & \text{AC 14} & \text{AC 16} & \text{AC 18} & \text{AC 20} & \text{AC 26}\\ \hline \text{L5 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 18.600 & 13.850 & 11.950 & 10.050 & 8.150 & 2.450\\ \hline \text{L5 Hand Crossbow x3} & 21.900 & 16.275 & 14.025 & 11.775 & 9.525 & 2.775\\ \hline \text{L5 Agonizing Blast x2} & 18.600 & 13.850 & 11.950 & 10.050 & 8.150 & 2.450\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L8 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 20.500 & 16.300 & 14.200 & 12.100 & 10.000 & 3.700\\ \hline \text{L8 Hand Crossbow x3} & 24.750 & 19.650 & 17.100 & 14.550 & 12.000 & 4.350\\ \hline \text{L8 Agonizing Blast x2} & 20.500 & 16.300 & 14.200 & 12.100 & 10.000 & 3.700\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L9 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 20.500 & 17.350 & 15.250 & 13.150 & 11.050 & 4.750\\ \hline \text{L9 Hand Crossbow x3} & 24.750 & 20.925 & 18.375 & 15.825 & 13.275 & 5.625\\ \hline \text{L9 Agonizing Blast x2} & 20.500 & 17.350 & 15.250 & 13.150 & 11.050 & 4.750\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L11 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 20.500 & 17.350 & 15.250 & 13.150 & 11.050 & 4.750\\ \hline \text{L11 Hand Crossbow x3} & 24.750 & 20.925 & 18.375 & 15.825 & 13.275 & 5.625\\ \hline \text{L11 Agonizing Blast x3} & 30.750 & 26.025 & 22.875 & 19.725 & 16.575 & 7.125\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L12 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 31.900 & 28.600 & 25.300 & 22.000 & 18.700 & 8.800\\ \hline \text{L12 Hand Crossbow x3} & 41.850 & 37.500 & 33.150 & 28.800 & 24.450 & 11.400\\ \hline \text{L12 Agonizing Blast x3} & 30.750 & 26.025 & 22.875 & 19.725 & 16.575 & 7.125\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L13 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 31.900 & 30.250 & 26.950 & 23.650 & 20.350 & 10.450\\ \hline \text{L13 Hand Crossbow x3} & 41.850 & 39.675 & 35.325 & 30.975 & 26.625 & 13.575\\ \hline \text{L13 Agonizing Blast x3} & 30.750 & 27.600 & 24.450 & 21.300 & 18.150 & 8.700\\ \hline \\ \hline \text{L17 Heavy Crossbow x2} & 31.900 & 31.900 & 28.600 & 25.300 & 22.000 & 12.100\\ \hline \text{L17 Hand Crossbow x3} & 41.850 & 41.850 & 37.500 & 33.150 & 28.800 & 15.750\\ \hline \text{L17 Agonizing Blast x4} & 41.000 & 38.900 & 34.700 & 30.500 & 26.300 & 13.700\\ \hline \end{array}

\$\endgroup\$
2
\$\begingroup\$

Eldritch Blast is stronger at this point

However, the right weapon with the right invocation could easily outperform it.

Invocation

You can replace one of your existing invocations to Thirsting Blade, that gives an additional attack with your pact weapon, unless it has the loading property.

Weapon

As outlined above, crossbows are not really good because of the loading property. You could fix this with Crossbow Expert, but the best benefit (an additional attack with hand crossbows) is inaccessible with Pact Weapons.

Calculation after fixes

Eldritch Blast: 2 attacks for 1d10 = 11 damage.
Heavy Crossbow with IPW: 1 attack for 1d10+5 = 10.5.
Longbow with IPW and Thirsing Blade: 2 attacks for 1d8+5 = 19.

72% higher damage output for the Longbow than the previous winner EB, and +1 to hit.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why is it not accessible with pact weapons? \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Dec 13 '18 at 19:09
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ @BenBarden You can't use a Hand Crossbow as a Pact Weapon unless it's already magical (+1/+2/+3/etc.), which means it's dependent on what your DM is willing to issue. \$\endgroup\$ – Xirema Dec 13 '18 at 19:23

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.