62
\$\begingroup\$

Been looking over the warlock because I thought it would be cool to make a spellcaster that can also mix it up in melee combat. After all how awesome is it to conjure up a magical weapon and start swinging.

Except after a careful read through the warlock's abilities I can't help wonder why a warlock would do anything in combat except spam eldritch blast over and over?

It does 1d10 damage at level 1 so right from the start it's more powerful than all weapons except the big two-handed ones, which a warlock is unlikely to use anyhow due to somatic spell-restrictions and finesse builds.

Sure, a warlock's magical weapon can be boosted by two invocations to add charisma bonus to damage and give it an extra attack, but eldritch blast gets the same damage bonus plus two other boosted abilities from invocations AND the number of its attack increases at set levels to a whooping 4 attacks at level 17.

I was drawn to the warlock because I wanted to make a swashbuckling style of caster, except now it feels like with the exception of a few other situational spells doing anything except spamming eldritch blast in combat feels unnecessary and only done for role playing reasons. Sort of a "self-nerf" to look cool rather than be effective.

Things don't get better when you realize that the warlock's proficiency in light armor is pretty much for show too. As they get an eldritch invocation that lets them cast mage armor on itself without any cost which gives you better AC than any light armor but have the requirement that you don't wear any armor making the need to wear armor redundant.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 14
    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Are melee combatants limited to standing around saying “I attack”? \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Aug 24 '14 at 21:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ "mage armor on itself without any cost which gives you better AC than any light armor" Mage Armor beats any non-magical light armor, true. But if you're playing with magic items, +1 Studded Leather should become available sometime around 5th level or so, and as a rare item, its "value" is 501-5000 GP, which isn't unreasonable (at the low end, it's cheaper than non-magical plate), and it doesn't require attunement. Blowing an Eldritch Invocation on unlimited Mage Armor when you could buy the same advantage for a few thousand GP (or equivalent adventuring effort) seems like a bad deal. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowRanger Nov 6 at 0:56

11 Answers 11

42
\$\begingroup\$

You are absolutely right, an Eldritch Blaster is usually stronger

After the 2nd level, when you get Agonizing Blast you can do d10+Cha damage, which is the same average damage as using a longsword two-handed if you are Strength primary. You can attack twice with both at level 5.

At level 11 Eldritch Blast pulls ahead with 3 attacks, and the Charisma bonus on the Pact Weapon damage on next level (Lifedrinker invocation) can not compensate for this, unless you take the Polearm Master feat. Add to this that a Blaster only needs Charisma, while with a Pact Blade you need Strength if you want to do good damage and Charisma for the spells.

Xanathar's Guide To Everything

This book provides many new and powerful options, particularly the Hexblade Patron and Eldritch Smite and Improved Pact Weapon invocations.
With these, you can outshine a Eldritch Blaster quite often, and a Ranger any time.

However, I think you look at it all wrong

A melee Warlock is on par with a Ranger on most levels, somewhat smaller base damage and HP, same number of attacks, same AC, but better versatility. This shows it is viable as a build.
The Eldritch Blast is just a bonus. Not using it is indeed self-nerfing, but only in a way that playing a Ranger instead of a Fighter is self-nerfing.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 14
    \$\begingroup\$ A Rogue has a variety of in-combat and out-of-combat abilities that a Fighter does not, and vice versa. A Bladelock has the same abilities as a Blastlock, but the Bladelock's are fewer in number due to obligatory invocations, and inferior due to less damage. So no, your analogy is complete nonsense. \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Dec 19 '15 at 5:21
  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Sacrificing CHA for STR as a Bladelock still doesn't improve your damage above a blastlock but also cripples your spellcasting options. There's no benefit. \$\endgroup\$ – Strill Dec 19 '15 at 5:26
  • 22
    \$\begingroup\$ I find it funny that being on par with a ranger is a valid argument, as it's seen as the weakest class existent \$\endgroup\$ – Olorin Nov 22 '16 at 23:55
25
\$\begingroup\$

So there are a few things which you are not correctly taking into account.

  1. You get a limited number of invocations. So while you can specialize all your invocations into Eldritch blast, you are really missing out on versatility. Same with choosing Armor of Shadows over Light Armor.

  2. Eldritch blast is 1d10. (avg 5.5) A summoned longsword is 1d8+dex/str and you can later use an invocation to also add your charisma bonus. (1d8+str+cha for example) So it's likely going to be 1d8+2 (avg 6.5) and then at level 12 1d8+7 (avg 11.5). If you use a two handed weapon, it become even better. Making the summoned weapon better than eldritch blast. In order to be better than your static damage modifier, you generally need to go up 3 dice sizes.

  3. Eldritch blast is a ranged attack, and so suffers from the same drawbacks that all ranged attacks have. Being able to both used Eldritch blast, and a melee weapon gives you greater versatility.

  4. While Eldritch blast or your pact weapon are an at will go to attack options, you have many other spells that you will likely want to use, and should not just limit yourself to your "basic attack".

\$\endgroup\$
  • 14
    \$\begingroup\$ Eldritch Blast is a 1d10, until 5th level and beyond. By level 11, it's three blasts of 1d10+CHA., which is greater than 2 hits of 1d8+str+cha. \$\endgroup\$ – Drunk Cynic Jul 19 '16 at 15:47
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Technically you could overcome the ranged drawback by taking Crossbow Expert, as "Being within 5 feet of a hostile creature doesn't impose disadvantage on your ranged attack rolls." (PHB 165), and the creators have confirmed that it's worded that way to include non-crossbow attacks. \$\endgroup\$ – J Nason Dec 31 '17 at 21:54
18
\$\begingroup\$

A pure warlock will be using EB a lot most likely. But with very little work, you can build a Warlock that is a melee monster.

I've worked out such a character here: Spinneth Bloodaxe, Human Outlander Barbarian 1/Warlock 6. Pretty solid at range (low CHA), but can nearly keep up with the melee classes in the long haul, has a few pretty solid nova options

  • Armor of Agathys plus rage is gross--he'll do more damage passively in the first round than the fighter will in 2 rounds)
  • In the right situation nothing beats a fireball
  • Sitting in darkness and spamming blasts (he can see, they almost certainly can't) He also has a few out-of-combat options (minor illusion, fly, see in nearly any darkness to 120')

I think similar options exist for a paladin.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for "in the right situation, nothing beats a fireball." Many people seem to undervalue a well-placed and/or well-timed blaster spell, even if specializing in blasting has historically been weaker than specializing in control for mages. That's why I think it's important a caster should have one or two. \$\endgroup\$ – Lucas Leblanc Nov 6 '15 at 15:38
9
\$\begingroup\$

While Eldritch Blast is a potent attack ability in its own right, it is easy to build a Warlock that deals significantly more damage with his Pact Weapon in melee combat. Anyone who claims that melee is always inferior to Eldritch Blast is simply wrong.

I previously asked a question regarding how to optimize a Strength-based Warlock that primarily uses 2-handed weapons in melee combat. I ended up writing and accepting my own answer which provides details for a build capable of doing noticeably higher damage on average per round with a Pact Weapon (greatsword or maul works best, see below).

Note that due to the size of the previously referenced answer, it is impractical to reproduce the entirety of my detailed analysis. What follows is a brief summary. I encourage you to check out the entire analysis before rushing to judgment.

On average, this build does roughly ~64 damage per attack sequence with his Pact Weapon while the Eldritch Blast with all of the damage increasing invocations tops out at ~56 damage. Although a big part of this superiority is dependent on choosing a weapon that deals 2d6 damage (hence greatsword or maul) for synergy with Great Weapon Fighting style (obtained from a dip in Fighter, which also gets you Heavy Armor proficiency) and further specializing by picking up the Great Weapon Master feat, there are other factors to consider.

For example, being in melee range means that your enemies are more likely to trigger abilities which deal damage when you get hit (Hellish Rebuke, Armor of Agathys, and Fire Shield). Also, that Eldritch Blast damage assumes that you hit with each of Eldritch Blast's attack rolls. Since you make two melee attacks per sequence, you only need to hit twice. However, Eldritch Blast requires succeeding on four separate attack rolls per casting at higher levels in order to get optimal damage. You're much more likely to blow one of those Eldritch Blast rolls than you are to blow one of your melee rolls simply by virtue of having more chances to fail.

While you can use tactics that increase accuracy (such as Darkness + Devil's Sight which Snowpaw mentions in his answer), these strategies provide better returns by being used to increase melee accuracy to cancel out the penalty from Great Weapon Master because really there is just no way for Eldritch Blast to beat the +10 static damage bonus that it grants. As GMNoob correctly points out, increasing your dice size pales in comparison to a big static damage modifier on average. Furthermore, using Darkness for ranged attacks is inferior to using it for melee attacks because when you cast Darkness on your Pact Weapon, the Darkness moves with you (assuming you are carrying the weapon with you) for the remainder of its duration. If you cast it on a point at range, it stays there and cannot be moved meaning you have basically wasted one of your precious Warlock spell slots for an extremely short-lived temporary buff because you were better off casting Hex which is easier to maintain for long periods of time with a single casting. At best you can use Darkness at range 4 times between short rests at maximum level, and then you're gimped until you can rest again. Casting it on your Pact Weapon you can get 10 minutes out of it reliably every time with a single casting which is usually enough for several separate encounters assuming they take place in rapid succession:

  • 6 seconds = 1/10 minute = 1 round.
  • 1 minute = 10 rounds.
  • 10 minutes = 100 rounds.

Lastly, it's also worth mentioning that using 2-handed weapons does not hinder casting with somatic components! The recent Player's Handbook errata says the following:

Two-Handed (p. 147). This property is relevant only when you attack with the weapon, not when you simply hold it.

So there is nothing to prevent you from removing a hand from your hilt to cast a spell with a somatic component (which can also be the hand holding your arcane focus or your spell component pouch) and then re-gripping it with both hands to make melee attacks. I got permission from my DM to wear the Crystal arcane focus as a necklace which I can simply reach up to grab quickly and then let go once I'm finished casting so that it doesn't need to be stowed away in a belt pouch or in my backpack during the heat of battle.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I just think your answer skips over the downsides of the build without taking them into the account in the analysis. It is not to critisize your build, I actually think it is very competitive, but still not worth it (from a min/max perspective) because you need a lot of feats, tactics and invocations to make it work (i.e. EB will be strictly superior for almost all levels, and even under most circumstances in level 20). Also note that you CAN take advantage of Darkness with an EB build. Just cast Darkness on a rock that you hold. \$\endgroup\$ – Thorkil Holm-Jacobsen Jul 1 '15 at 5:26
6
\$\begingroup\$

So far, my personal experience is building the same kind of character you are speaking about, a swashbuckling-style Warlock. Now, while I don't have all the theorycrafting knowledge these other guys do, I can tell you what I'm planning on and I think it'll work out rather nicely.

Human Warlock, Pact of the Blade, Archfey. First off, the feats I'm planning to pick up are Medium Armor Prof, Warcaster, and Defensive Duelist. If it feels right, I'll pick up Medium Armor Master too. What that does is it gives me incredible survivability without taking away my ability to spellcast in melee combat.

The general idea is to use a Rapier, since I'm a dex build (8str) and a shield in my other arm. That, plus MAP/MAM gives me a pretty high AC. That can get even higher if I use Defensive Duelist. Yes, it takes up my reaction, but it can be used AFTER a confirmed hit. Generally you get told if you're hit or automatically hit (they rolled a 20) so if they auto-hit, you don't waste it.

Combo this with Mirror Image. No concentration, 3 images, and you roll to see if they hit those instead of you. They don't have nearly the same AC I do but that's fine, they're there to take one hit and poof. Now, if I'm not auto-hit, and they don't hit an image, but hit me directly, I can use DD to add my proficiency bonus to my AC and force them to attack THAT number. Since my AC would already be pretty high, I've got a good shot at going over 20 with that boost, which is hard to hit. So it's a pretty safe bet that I'll deflect almost everything coming at me.

This makes me sort of a tank, just not as good as an actual tank, and it requires a lot of feats, hence variant human. What this DOESNT do, is eat up my invocations. I only need to spend 2 on the Pact of the Blade boosts, and those only come at 5th and 12th. This leaves me open for casting False Life at will, so I almost always enter combat with 8 temp HP. That has saved my ass pretty well so far in Horde of the Dragon Queen. Devil's Sight is nice too, seeing through even MAGICAL DARKNESS. BBEG casts Darkness, you're fine, go up, stab him in the face. It doesn't delay you until your cleric(if you even have one) uses Daylight.

Part of the reason I picked Archfey is because I wanted the flavor of it, the other part is all the abilities work best when you're in close. Fey Presence can only hit a 10-foot square adjacent to you, so if they're not near you, it's useless. Fear for 1 turn is nice, and can make low-wis characters like the Big Stupid Fighter turn and run for long enough to give your party breathing room. Misty Escape lets you get the heck out of dodge if you are in trouble, and in melee, you're likely to get in trouble more often than if you're at range. Another reason is Greater Invisibility gets added to your spell list. It can be great for getting a good positioning on the boss, and with the added staying power of the rest of the build, you can actually hold that position well and deal good damage.

Spells will always hit harder than weapons, and some cantrips are more useful or powerful than weapons, that's just the way it is. But it's not really a big nerf to choose to build for melee combat, since you can then do something no Eldritch Blast spec warlock can: hold the line for the party.

So far, I'm only level 4, but I can see this playing out very nicely in the long run. It'll only get more effective the more levels you gain, which is the mark of a good build. Anything truly effective should get better with time(and EXP!).

I hope this helps give you ideas!

\$\endgroup\$
6
\$\begingroup\$

Position from which this answer is sourced: Level 8 Half-elf Warlock, Pact of the Tome, the Great Old One Patron. Invocations: Mask of Many Faces, Book of Ancient Secrets (Spare the Dying, Shocking Grasp, Guidance), and Agonizing Blast (+Cha).

No. While it is the primary offensive tool for Pact of the Tome or Pact of the Chain and has an impressive damage output, it is mainly there to compensate for the shortage of spell slots. With those spell slots, you can control the battlefield: Hunger of Hadar, Dissonant Whispers, and Tasha's Hideous Laughter to name a few. By staying out of the fray and maintaining concentration, you can strategically limit the number of foes your party has to face. With Find Familiar via Book of Ancient Secrets, you can gather up some spectral goo into the form of an owl (does not provoke opportunity attacks), and deliver your touch spells at range. Plushy healer cornered by the bulky minotaur; cast shocking grasp through the owl, and lock down opportunity attacks. PC on the ground burning through death saves; Spare the Dying.

Become the controller, own the battlefield.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can't you only cast ritual spells gained from the Book of Ancient Secrets as rituals? If you casted it already I suppose you could still have a familiar. \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Rose May 17 '17 at 1:52
3
\$\begingroup\$

You're correct. Melee warlocks are weak. However, there are a few things that may give the melee warlock greater potential in certain scenarios.

Caveat: I'm not saying the following points are enough to compensate, but they should be considered.

1. Melee attacks don't take Disadvantage

Eldritch Blast is a ranged attack, and gets disadvantage when used in melee range. Pact Weapon does not.

2. Multi-class potential

While a single-class Warlock is relatively limited in options, multiclassing as a Warlock has the potential to compensate for the class's weakness in melee. For example, starting as a level 1 Fighter or Paladin gives you heavy armor proficiency and a fighting style. Paladins can also make great use of Warlock spell slots with their Divine Smite ability.

3. Feats Can Help

While Eldritch Blast surpasses melee damage with equal resource expenditure, if you're willing to spend additional resources, it's possible to match or surpass Eldritch Blast. With Polearm Mastery, melee attacking can exceed Eldritch Blast's damage at levels 1 - 10. However, at levels 11-20, you'll also need reliable reaction attacks in order to continue to surpass Eldritch Blast.

Also note that this build suffers from MAD unless you have heavy armor proficiency. It's likely that either your +hit bonus or your spellcasting attribute will suffer if you choose this route without multiclassing. You also won't benefit from Repelling Blast.

4. Weapon Attacks Synergize with Spells

Eldritch Blast cannot benefit from poison, or spells like Haste or Elemental Weapon.


Warlock damage is a conundrum. Pact weapon's two invocations give the warlock nigh-identical damage to a Paladin of their level, but Eldritch Blast is still much stronger and requires fewer resources spent in it. So from one perspective, Pact Weapon could be said to be balanced against Paladin damage, but from another perspective, it's not balanced against Eldritch Blast. Improve Pact Weapon and then Paladin damage is too weak. A houserule that lowers Eldritch Blast's damage is the only thing that could truly solve this issue.

Ultimately this problem renders single-class melee warlocks somewhat of an afterthought. Your most obvious benefit will be the ability to attack in melee without disadvantage, but it'll cost you several invocations if you want to keep your damage up, and even then you still won't be doing as much as Eldritch Blast. Not using Eldritch Blast also means you don't get to benefit from Repelling Blast, one of the most powerful abilities in the game. You also lose out on the powerful benefits of the other two Pact boons. Ultimately your optimal strategy will be to use Eldritch Blast the majority of the time regardless, with the Blade Pact serving as a fallback option, not a primary specialization.

It's possible to be a melee warlock if you really want to, but it's unlikely that you'll be anywhere close to optimal unless you find some multi-class combos.

\$\endgroup\$
3
\$\begingroup\$

These two lines particularly from your question strike me as the problem:

Except after a careful read through the warlock's abilities I can't help wonder why a warlock would do anything in combat except spam eldritch blast over and over?

As well as:

Sort of a "self-nerf" to look cool rather than be effective.

Let's start with the second one. What does it mean "to be effective?"

I'm not sure where this idea that maximum damage output is effective. It is a role-playing game. A warlock is a versatile class with a lot of options. They have a Patron, spells, melee, armor, and the ability to get minions. Just because Eldritch Blast makes them into a relatively easy to execute damage machine doesn't it's more effective than a Warlock that prefers a different style of play.

To answer the first question quoted above, the why is because its fun. If you enjoy casting Eldritch Blast and want that to be your Warlock than go for it. But if you think it would be fun to do something else than that's cool too. The goal of the game is to have fun (without the expense of other people's fun), so effective is anything that helps your group have fun.

If you want to play a swashbuckling warlock with a Scimitar in one hand and a spell in the other then go for it! And when they strike you point your finger at them in Rebuke and curse them to another plane of existence!

I was drawn to the warlock because I wanted to make a swashbuckling style of caster, except now it feels like with the exception of a few other situational spells doing anything except spamming eldritch blast in combat feels unnecessary and only done for role playing reasons.

...those last 6 words. Only done for role playing reasons. That's reason enough! This is a role playing game.

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

If you have access to Xanathar's Guide to Everything, Melee Warlocks and Eldritch Blasters can be roughly equivalent in power.

Xanathar's Splatbook introduces a new power source for the warlock, in the form of an Otherworldly Patron tied to sentient magic weapons. This warlock sub-class, the Hexblade, receives a nifty feature at level 1 that allows him to use his charisma modifier for attack and damage rolls with a single chosen weapon, as well as with any Pact of the Blade weapon he could conjure. This makes the melee warlock much more viable, as they are no longer sacrificing spell power to boost their martial prowess.

Feats and Invocations

For an Eldritch Blaster, combat prowess comes mostly through invocations, agonizing blast being the most notable one. While most Eldritch Blasters will pick up Spell Sniper at some point, it is not mandatory for Eldritch Blast to be effective. Indeed, invocations such as Eldritch Spear (increased range), Repelling Blast (10ft knockback), Grasp of Hadar (10ft pull) and Lance of Lethargy (10ft slow) can add tremendous utility to Eldritch Blast, granting it properties similar to other utilitarian offensive cantrips while keeping a high base damage.

For the Bladelock, the biggest increase in offensive power comes through feats. While invocations such as Thirsting Blade (extra attack) and Lifedrinker (add charisma modifier to damage) are mandatory, what allows a melee-oriented warlock to keep up somewhat with other classes is the Polearm Master feat. With this feat, a warlock is able to obtain a third attack each round using his bonus action. This third attack has a slightly reduced damage (1d4 vs 1d10) but, unlike the additional attack granted by dual-wielding, gets to add all stats modifiers to damage. This is especially important to the Hexblade, as it allows him to add his charisma modifier twice.

This damage can be further increased by the use of the Great Weapon Master feat (at the cost of accuracy), or the use of the Eldritch Smite invocation (at the cost of spell slots). Alternatively, a melee warlock is more likely to get hit by enemies, making Armor of Agathys a very powerful option both defensively and offensively, as it does not require concentration to maintain and can deal a lot of damage per fight at higher levels, assuming the temporary HPs can withstand a few attacks.

If you don't want to use a polearm, consider starting your first level as a fighter (heavy armor proficiency, 2 more HPs and a free fighting style) and go the dual-wielding route. Once you can summon a Pact Weapon, you can use two weapons with your charisma (though only one gets to apply cha x2 to damage rolls). It's a slight reduction in damage, but allows for much more variety while affecting your action economy similarly to what a polearm would.

Damage comparison between Eldritch Blast and Polearm Master

Assuming human warlocks with a free feat at level 1, the Eldritch Blaster has likely opted for Spell Sniper and the Bladelock took Polearm Master. This table assumes that no other damage boosts apply to both of these warlocks, only base weapon and cantrip damage.

  • Level 1 : 1d10 (5.5) vs 1d10+3 + 1d4+3 (14)
  • Level 2 : 1d10+3 (8.5) vs 1d10+3 + 1d4+3 (14)
  • Level 4 : 1d10+4 (9.5) vs 1d10+4 + 1d4+4 (16)
  • Level 5 : 2d10+8 (19) vs 2d10+8 + 1d4+4 (25.5)
  • Level 8 : 2d10+10 (21) vs 2d10+10 + 1d4+5 (28.5)
  • Level 11 : 3d10+15 (31.5) vs 2d10+10 + 1d4+5 (28.5)
  • Level 12 : 3d10+15 (31.5) vs 2d10+20 + 1d4+10 (43.5)
  • Level 17 : 4d10+20 (42) vs 2d10+20 + 1d4+10 (43.5)

In practice, however, an Eldritch Blaster can make a slightly better use of Hex, as transferring the curse requires a bonus action to perform and plays badly with Polearm Master's required action economy. But even factoring for the use of Hex, a melee warlock can mostly keep up with the Eldritch Blaster in damage, except for level 11, where the Eldritch Blaster gets a significant power up slightly earlier than the Bladelock. In fact, up to level 11, the Bladelock outdamages the Eldritch blaster on average, assuming that he can use his extra polearm attack at least once during the fight on an enemy under the effect of Hex.

Availability of equipment

Offensively, the Hexblade isn't much different from the other subclasses, at least regarding their equipment's contribution to their attacks. Short of a few stronger magical focuses (the Staff of Power comes to mind), an Eldritch Blaster can commonly only improve his chances to hit, but not his damage, via a Rod of the Pact Keeper. On the other hand, a Hexblade can use any magical weapon as his chosen weapon, adding it's magical modifier to both attack and damage rolls. Using the Pact of the Blade feature, a Hexblade could potentially keep two different magical weapons on hand for more versatility, and still benefit from using his charisma modifier with both.

Interestingly, magical items that would increase an Eldritch Blaster's damage output are actually stronger on a Bladelock. Indeed, items such as the Staff of Power and the Staff of the Magi grant the Bladelock the same advantages as they would an Eldritch Blaster, while being 100% compatible with the Polearm Master feat. Furthermore, a staff of Striking can grant additional damage dice on melee hits to the Bladelock, not unlike the Smite ability of a Paladin. The staff itself is a slight damage drop compared to a glaive or halberd, but their potential added properties are pretty interesting and should not be underestimated.

Regarding defense, the Hexblade is proficient with medium armor, as well as shields. This means that a high dexterity score is much less important, as a 14 is sufficient to obtain an AC of 17 with a half-plate armor. While a dexterity score of 20 could reach an AC of 18 with mage armor, this is usually at the cost of a lot of magical power, as charisma becomes a secondary stat. The Hexblade, using charisma for his melee attacks, can concentrate on charisma first.

Technically speaking, it is also possible to wield a quarterstaff in one hand. This reduces the Hexblade's damage considerably (1d6/1d4 instead of 1d10/1d4), but it allows him to benefit from his shield proficiency and his Polearm Master feat. It makes little sense conceptually speaking, but it apparently works according to the rules. As such, the Hexblade's base AC could become 19. And with two pieces of equipment that add to armor, this means that the Hexblade can get both a magical armor and a magical shield, putting him far ahead in terms of defensive capabilities at the cost of a little bit of damage (4 dmg per round on average if all attacks land). In this context, a Staff of Power becomes a very strong defensive tool, as it also grants +2 to AC. To maximize the subclass' versatility, a Hexblade can attune a magical staff to use with a shield when defense is the best option, and use his Pact Weapon feature to summon a Glaive or Halberd when offense is required.

Spellcasting while using a two-handed weapon or a shield

Casting spells with somatic components when wielding a shield or a two-handed weapon becomes harder, but a Hexblade will probably buff himself in-between fights with concentration-less spells such as Armor of Agathys (lasts 1 hour or until the temporary HPs are spent) rather than cast damaging spells during the fight. Assuming you carry your staff when out-of-combat with the same hand that is holding the shield, you can cast Hex on your first round of combat, then draw the weapon as part of your first attack.

If you are using a two-handed weapon, you can still cast spells requiring somatic components by removing one hand from the weapon. If you carry a component pouch or a crystal on a string around your neck, your item interaction should allow you to use it as a focus as well. The Warcaster feat (can use your weapon for somatic components) and Improved Pact Weapon invocation (can use your weapon as a focus) both help this maneuver a bit as well.

Conclusion

Throughout their careers, both the Eldritch Blaster and the Hexblade will have similar damage output. Until level 11, the Hexblade will have a slight advantage in damage provided he has the Polearm Master feat. At higher levels, the difference in offensive powers will be very small, with a slight advantage to the Eldritch Blaster when Hex is factored in.

In the end, it's mostly a playstyle choice. If you wish to play a spell slinging warlock, it's probably best to use Eldritch Blast and remain in the back, protected by your squad mates. If you'd rather be in the thick of it, you will get a similar damage output using a polearm, at an added risk of injury. Luckily, the Hexblade is also proficient in medium armor, making it slightly easier to optimize AC without a high dexterity score.

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

I recently started playing a warlock in our game; there is one spell or combination of spells that gets overlooked.

If your DM allows Xanathar's Guide to Everything, consider the cantrip Toll the Dead. It can keep up with or even exceed Eldritch Blast depending on the combat situation.

TtD does 1d8 damage with a WIS save or 1d12 if the target has taken damage. The number of dice scales at the same rate as EB. The spell pairs well with Hex if you choose to give disadvantage on WIS saves. Obviously, this doesn't get you in melee range, but it's one way to make a warlock a little more versatile than just spamming EB.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPGSE. The tour and help center provide guides to how to get the most out of this site. You may want to revise your answer. Hex does not grant disadvantage to wisdom saves, nor on any saving throw; it grants disadvantage on ability checks. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 6 at 19:31
-5
\$\begingroup\$

Pretty much you just spam EB all the time. The warlock spell list is lame unless you make a deal with the literal devil, so your heavy hitter is always EB.

Of course you can get creative in using EB ... example:

I went with the Paladin8/Warlock12 build (Currently Paladin 4/Warlock4) and have the feats Warcaster and Polearm Mastery. This allows me to Pact Blade a glaive or quarter staff to provoke an AoO on anyone entering reach of my character (Don't know why any caster wouldn't take this feet combo) so I can EB them and knock them back up to 20 feet (at my level) away from me. Since they are just entering reach there is no disadvantage on using EB.

The Warlock spell list is so lame (went Archfey/The Anchients because its the only Warlock/Paladin combo that make sense atm) that I am basically just using my warlock spell slots to cast paladin searing smites and cure wounds.

\$\endgroup\$
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Please take a moment to check out the tour and the help center to get an idea of how things work. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Jun 23 '15 at 6:37
  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ The OA from Polearm Mastery must be taken with the weapon. \$\endgroup\$ – Thorkil Holm-Jacobsen Jun 30 '15 at 12:02

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