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The Warlock Pact Magic feature says:

The Spells Known column of the Warlock table shows when you learn more warlock spells of your choice of 1st level and higher. A spell you choose must be of a level no higher than what’s shown in the table’s Slot Level column for your level. When you reach 6th level, for example, you learn a new warlock spell, which can be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level.

Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the warlock spells you know and replace it with another spell from the warlock spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

Consider a single-classed warlock leveling up from level 4 to level 5, where their Pact Magic spell slots change from 2nd level to 3rd level. They can replace a warlock spell they know with a spell from the warlock spell list which "must be of a level for which they have spell slots," and they don't have 2nd level spell slots anymore. Can the warlock therefore only replace a warlock spell they know with a 3rd level warlock spell? Or can they learn a new 2nd level warlock spell instead?

(The word "also" suggests the same conditions apply as in the previous paragraph, but the first paragraph uses different wording -- "a level no higher than what's shown in the table's Slot Level column," and the second paragraph refers to "a level for which you have spell slots.")

I am aware that this answer claims the interpretation that you can learn lower-level spells, but it doesn't give any justification for that interpretation or discuss the specific wording.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Very related I don't get the spell slot system for warlocks \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 21, 2019 at 20:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting catch, this seems like a copy+paste error to me. \$\endgroup\$
    – GreySage
    May 21, 2019 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch reading that question actually inspired this question. The accepted answer suggests you can learn a spell of that level or lower, but didn't explicitly discuss how that interpretation was reached. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2019 at 20:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch That answer answers this question, but doesn't actually give any justification to its interpretation. A new question seemed appropriate, to ask for an appropriately justified answer to the specific issue. I've clarified that in an edit to the question. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2019 at 20:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also somewhat related (maybe): Can a warlock cast a spell at a lower level than their spell slot \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 21, 2019 at 20:52

4 Answers 4

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The Warlock's spell slot level indicates the maximum spell level they may select.

I agree the wording is a little confusing but consider the general rule for spell slots:

When a character casts a spell, he or she expends a slot of that spell's level or higher, effectively "filling" a slot with the spell. You can think of a spell slot as a groove of a certain size--small for a 1st-level slot, larger for a spell of higher level. A 1st-level spell fits into a slot of any size [...]

In other words, the phrase "for which you have spell slots" more fully means "for which you have spell slots that the spell can fill."


The rules for Warlock spells known suggests newly gained spells for a Warlock may choose spells that are no higher than what is shown on the table for their level:

The Spells Known column of the Warlock table shows when you learn more warlock spells of your choice of 1st level and higher. A spell you choose must be of a level no higher than what's shown in the table's Slot Level column for your level.

Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the warlock spells you know and replace it with another spell from the warlock spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

The wording here explicitly states that newly learned spells must be "no higher" than the slot level indicated for your current level on the warlock table.

The subsequent paragraph goes on to say that if you swap a spell out for a new one, that new spell must "also" be of a level for which you have spell slots. The word "also" indicates that it follows the same rules for the new spells (ie, equal to or less than the slot level on the table).

Another way of thinking about this: Classes that must prepare spells from a larger list (Druid, Cleric, Wizard) are told "The spells must be of a level for which you have spell slots." It's the same "for" wording, but no one would argue that these classes must prepare spells of equal (base) level available to them. They are free to choose only lower level spell and upcast them using the available higher level slots.

Altogether, the rules indicate that a Warlock is free to choose any spell that is of a level that is equal to or less than the slot level indicated on the Warlock table, regardless of whether that spell is swapped in or learned in addition to the previously known spells.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tyler I think the "also" is extraneous if it is only intended to link the two clauses. The conjunction "which" serves this purpose. Adding "also" clarifies that the previous paragraph is being referenced. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    May 22, 2019 at 4:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerMackey This will sound nit-picky, but the quote isn't "with which you have spell slots", it's "for which you have spell slots." That sounds trivial, but I think it does make a difference here. Even if the warlock only has 4th level spell slots, they do still have spell slots for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level spells. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2019 at 14:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Basically, I'm saying that a 3rd level spell slot is a single slot for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level spells. If I'm correct about that, then it doesn't matter that the slot is a 3rd level slot specifically - it would still count as a slot for a 1st or 2nd level spell since it can be used to cast them. If correct, then it fits the "level for which you have spell slots" clause because you would have spell slots for 1st and 2nd level spells. That said, this whole thing does appear to come down to two what appears to be two valid ways to parse the same phrase lol \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2019 at 19:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I obviously disagree :) But that's mostly based on the upcast rules requirements. If you had lower level 'slots', you could use those. But I think our answers stand, OP has chosen, and ultimately I hope everyone functionally uses this one :) \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    May 22, 2019 at 20:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I added one additional argument that references the rule for preparing spells, which is common between the relevant classes. This rule also uses the "for which you have spell slots" wording and I think it would be a stretch to argue these classes must choose at least one spell of each slot level. But this is essentially what Naut's answer is claiming the rules-as-written dictate for Warlocks using the same wording. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rykara
    May 22, 2019 at 20:27
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RAW, they only have slots at the highest level and therefore can only choose new spells from that highest level

This is a weird scenario. Looking purely at the rules as written, Warlocks don't have lower level spell slots. They only have the spell slots at the level the Table determines.

Unfortunately as you've quoted, this does mean that when swapping spells that they are limited to only adding a spell at that spell level and spells at a lower level aren't available anymore.

Whether this makes sense thematically or not is questionnable - but that is the strict interpretation of how pact magic works.

This is somewhat supported in that they have to upcast any lower level spell when they cast it.

The case of the term "also"

In the section regarding this particular clause it states:

Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the warlock spells you know and replace it with another spell from the warlock spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

It is unclear what the "also" means here, but if the first part of the sentence is stating that you can choose a warlock spell you know and replace it, then the also is likely an additional requirement - and that requirement is that it "must be a level for which you haves pell slots". And that level, for a warlock, is singular.

This may be a case of general vs specific. Where the first part of the section is the general rule for picking brand new spells, while the second part under question is the specific rules for exchanging spells.

But that's crazy!

Yeah, it kinda is. I don't think it would be gamebreaking for a DM or table to consider that WoTC likely meant it to be inclusive of lower level spells when levelling up. But you'll need to discuss with your DM and get their approval to move beyond the strict RAW.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @TylerMackey that's the case I'm asking about. \$\endgroup\$ May 22, 2019 at 4:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ This appears to be taking that passage out of context. If we read the whole section addressing this ... The Spells Known column of the Warlock table shows when you learn more warlock spells of your choice of 1st level and higher. A spell you choose must be of a level no higher than what’s shown in the table’s Slot Level column for your level. When you reach 6th level, for example, you learn a new warlock spell, which can be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level \$\endgroup\$ Sep 1, 2023 at 12:04
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My interpretation of the passage is:

New Spell must be on the warlock spell list

AND

Be of a level you have a slot for or can cast it in

So no 3rd level spells when you're only warlock level 3. You have no slots to cast from.

Since lower level spells CAN be upcast, do you have an available spell slot you can cast it from? Answer is yes.

BUT let's be realistic. When you finally get higher level spell slots, are you going to want to get more 1st level spells or get the higher level spells to fill them?

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Like most sentences in English, there is more than one way to read it.


The first is that also refers to the spell selection restrictions in the previous paragraph.

The Spells Known column of the Warlock table shows when you learn more warlock spells of your choice of 1st level and higher. A spell you choose must be of a level no higher than what’s shown in the table’s Slot Level column for your level. When you reach 6th level, for example, you learn a new warlock spell, which can be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level.

Additionally, when you gain a level in this class, you can choose one of the warlock spells you know and replace it with another spell from the warlock spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

So also is followed by enough information for you to find that rule, in the previous paragraph, which also applies here.

This rollercoaster is awesome, and you should feel awesome. For safety reasons, you must be between 3'6" and 4'2" to ride this. When you finish the ride, someone will hand you a rubber chicken.

There is a second track attached to the ride. No electronics are permitted on the second track and you must also be of sufficient height to use the second track.

This is an example of this technique -- the also summarizes and refers back to the height restrictions in the first paragraph here, rather than repeating them.


The second valid reading is that also is internal to the paragraph:

[...] you can choose one of the warlock spells you know and replace it with another spell from the warlock spell list, which also must be of a level for which you have spell slots.

Here, also describes an additional restriction to what kind of spell you can choose to replace a warlock spell. Ie, it must be "another spell from the warlock spell list" and "level for which you have spell slots".

In this reading, you can only learn spells that exactly match the level of the spell slots you have.

Amusingly, here the wording doesn't say "warlock spell slots", so by that reasoning you if you are a Paladin 2/Warlock 7 you could pick up level 1 Warlock spells, because you have level 1 spell slots from Paladin 2.


To be clear, both of these are perfectly valid readings of those paragraphs. To determine which one is correct you'd have to use context.

My personal rule for interpreting ambiguous rules is to (a) determine if either interpretation is crazy unbalancing, (b) determine which interpretation makes bookkeeping annoying, and (c) determine which gives players the most freedom.

If neither is unbalancing, and neither makes bookkeeping suck, and one gives the player more freedom, I go with that interpretation. Which is the first interpretation.

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