In Dungeons & Dragons, a warlock is a spellcaster whose power is derived from a primitive, powerful being. These creatures are usually not gods, though depending on your setting, they can be as mighty as any god or goddess in the pantheon.
Each of the warlock subclasses gives a warlock unique features, spells, and abilities at levels 1, 6, 10, and 14. These are in addition to normal warlock features and serve to add flavor and interesting mechanics to your character. The following warlock subclasses are listed from worst to best, with our ranking out of five. Four out of four eldritch stars is the highest score.
Table of Contents
Warlock Subclasses from worst to best
We’ll start with the warlock subclasses that most players try to avoid. Keep in mind that each subclass does have interesting features and use cases, but they tend to be extremely situational. If you’re playing a prewritten campaign that caters to their strengths, or is more concerned about the story you want to tell, don’t let us dissuade you!
We’ll end with the cream of the crop. The warlock subclass abilities in the top few are broadly applicable to various situations, cover all three pillars of play, and are suited for all campaigns.
9. The Undying (Warlock Subclasses rating: 1)
(From Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide)
Death has no effect on your patron, who has found the secrets of eternal life, though such a prize, like all power, has a price. Once mortal, the Undying has seen mortal lives flow like seasons, like the fleeting glimpse of innumerable days and nights. It has ages of mysteries to tell, as well as stories of life and death.
Though similar to Undead, an Undying warlock has different features. Undead creatures recognize them as kin; any time they bring a friend back to life, you gain temporary hit points, the effects of aging are farther removed, and finally, you gain the ability to heal yourself from grievous injuries.
While the Undead is one of the better of the warlock subclasses, we can’t say the same for the Undying. Its features are interesting from a narrative standpoint but provide very little in the way of mechanical benefits. The additional spells are fine but don’t make up for the lack in essential subclass features.
Among the Dead
You are recognized by undead creatures as one of their own. Because of that recognition, they have difficulty targeting you for attacks.
You regain health whenever you cheat death or bring an ally back to life as your patron rewards you for doggedly clinging to life.
You no longer need to satisfy your body’s needs for food, water, air, or sleep. You also don’t feel the effects of age as much.
Your patron reveals some of their immortality secrets. In times of injury and stress, you can now replace missing body parts and heal yourself.
8. The Celestial (Warlock Subclasses rating: 2)
(From Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
Not all warlock subclasses have patrons who are evil or self-centered. The Celestial is an excellent option for someone who wants to learn about warlock mechanics without having to obey or avoid an evil patron. A Celestial patron is typically a unicorn, empyrean, solar, golden dragon, or Upper Planes equivalent.
The Celestial features give you healing powers, resist radiant damage, gain temporary hit points, distribute temporary hit points among allies, and even defy death in a blast of blinding light.
The biggest issue with the Celestial is that your healing isn’t great compared to other classes. If you build an entire subclass around healing capabilities, you can’t stick players with subpar features, decent, but not amazing additional spells, and just call it a day. At this point, you should just play a cleric.
Your patron’s healing powers are bestowed upon you. You have a number of dice equal to one plus your warlock level that you can use to heal the wounds of your party. This seems like a lot at low levels, but once you hit double digits, you can’t give enough hit points to make it meaningful. Compared to other warlock subclasses, this isn’t a strong primary feature.
Your patron assists you in channeling fire and divine vitality through your body. When you cast fire or radiant damage spells, you become resistant to radiant damage and can deal more damage.
As you gain temporary hit points to boost your health, you start taking on more qualities of your patron. As you confer your patron’s boons on them, some of your party members will gain temporary health too.
You defy death by resurrecting after being knocked out. Any enemies nearby are similarly affected by the radiant energy that is reanimating your body. They may be blinded by the bright light of your resurrection.
7. The Great Old One (Warlock Subclasses rating: 2)
(From The Player’s Handbook)
The Great Old One is an eldritch being straight out of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. Understanding its real nature is enough to drive a normal mortal insane. But you’re stronger than that, and the creature has expanded your mind in previously unimaginable ways.
The Great Old One features revolve around the strength of the mind. You can speak to others telepathically, psychically distract attacking foes, protect your thoughts from intrusion, and even turn others into your thralls.
Despite being the epitome of the warlock subclasses, the Great Old One isn’t terribly strong compared to the other options. None of the features are meaningful, and the additional spells are nothing special.
You can communicate with other minds and send telepathic messages to those close to you without needing to speak the same language.
You can make it more difficult for enemies to strike you. If and when they miss, you have a better chance of hitting them because you have psychologically distracted them.
Unless you explicitly allow it, no creature can see your thoughts. Furthermore, any creature that dares to enter your mind will only end up hurting itself.
You gain the ability to infect others in the same way that your patron did to you. You enslave living beings and bend them to your will.
6. The Fathomless (Warlock Subclasses rating: 2)
(From Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything)
The great squid, mollusk, or serpent of the ocean depths is one of the more well-known patrons—a thing of nightmares so alien to anything on land that it is difficult to comprehend. The powers invoked are based mainly on those depths to drown your enemies.
Many sailors or seafaring people end up in a pact with such an entity in a desperate attempt to avoid drowning after a shipwreck. The Fathomless features give you a spectral tentacle to restrain foes, inflict damage, and take damage from attacks. In addition, you become amphibious, resistant to cold damage, and teleport the party away to a familiar body of water.
This is actually one of the better warlock subclasses…if your campaign is at sea. Aquatic campaigns or campaigns that take place in a coastal area are fantastic times to try this out.
Tentacles of the Deep
Your benefactor bestows tentacles on you to keep your adversaries at bay. As they are rent by the unending cold of the ocean’s depths, your tentacle can wrap around your enemies and restrain them while also inflicting pain.
Gift of the Sea
Your patron enables you to swim swiftly and become amphibious.
As your body habituates to the ocean, your benefactor grants you resistance to cold.
When there is an attack, the tentacle can help protect you and your friends by taking some of the damage. This is one of the best features of any of the warlock subclasses, so take advantage!
Your patron teaches you a new spell (Evard’s Black Tentacles) that lets you summon multiple tentacles without using up a spell slot. Normally, this spell is only available to wizards, and it is extremely helpful in combat, especially since you don’t need to spend one of your precious spell slots on it.
You and a few friends can magically teleport up to a mile away in a body of water you know well. A great way to get away from something dangerous while making a big impression.
5. The Archfey (Warlock Subclasses rating: 3)
(From The Player’s Handbook)
An Archfey is a powerful being from the Feywild. These creatures resemble legends more than ordinary elves of the material plane. They are inextricably linked to nature and typically request favors based on quirkiness or mystery.
Don’t mistake them for always being lighthearted; their motivations may have serious consequences down the road. Fey are frequently aligned with one of the Feywild’s two main courts of power: The Summer Court or The Gloaming Court. Depending on its origins and motivations, a hag may also fall into this category.
The Archfey features let you charm or frighten enemies, teleport out of harm’s way, redirect charm effects at opponents, and trick foes into believing they are lost in an unearthly realm that only exists in their minds.
Many of the spells added to your spell list from the Archfey subclass are useful additions, compared to the rest of the warlock subclasses. However, because you rely so heavily on fear and charm effects, you may be in serious trouble if you encounter enemies with high Wisdom scores or who are immune to those kinds of effects.
Your patron is a fey with both great and terrible beauty. During your pact, some of that charming appearance is transferred to you. For a turn, you can either charm or frighten the creatures around you as you assume certain otherworldly characteristics of your patron.
When you are injured, you can generate smoke and teleport away from danger by becoming invisible. You will remain invisible until your next turn as long as you do not attack anyone else. This is an excellent feature for assisting characters in staying alive during a difficult battle without much armor or hit points.
You can no longer be charmed with the assistance of your benefactor. Furthermore, if someone attempts to charm you, you can flip the script by redirecting the charm at the creature, allowing you to maintain control.
Your mind-altering abilities are at their peak. You can trick a creature into believing they are lost in an ethereal realm, confused and roaming through mental mazes.
4. The Undead (Warlock Subclasses rating: 3)
(From Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft)
You’ve made a deal with an invincible entity, a creature that surpasses the cycle of life and death, discarding its mortal skin indefinitely to explore its boundless ambitions. For such beings, time and conscience are transient concerns, the concerns of individuals for whom grains of sand continue to flow down life’s hourglass.
These ancient undead, once common folk, know firsthand the paths of desire and beyond the gates of death. They gladly share this heinous knowledge and other observations with those who want to impose their will on the living.
The Undead warlock features make you even more fearsome by taking on aspects of their visage, resisting necrotic damage, losing the need to satisfy bodily functions, and allowing your spirit to wander free from your body as a ghost.
Everyone who was tired of hearing about the Hexblade and wanted more from the warlock subclasses had their prayers answered with this one. It has powerful features, great additional spells, and gives everything a nice, spooky feel.
Form of Dread
Your patron becomes an extension of yourself. You take on their characteristics, instilling fear and loathing in those who see your horrifying appearance.
You no longer need to satisfy your body’s needs for food, water, or sleep.
As your body becomes more dead than alive, you become more resistant to necrotic damage. Rather than dying, you can be revived, albeit exhausted.
Your spirit can freely leave your body, but any damage you sustain affects your body as well. As you hover through corridors, your spirit can pass through objects or creatures, moaning for added ghostly effect.
3. The Fiend (Warlock Subclasses rating: 4)
(From The Player’s Handbook)
The Fiend is a being from the Lower Planes. These are evil creatures with selfish and malicious intentions. They are only concerned with themselves, more than willing to accommodate your ridiculous mortal wishes if it means having a faithful servant. You will always be dispensable in the end.
The Fiend features give you temporary hit points whenever you take a life, extra luck on certain rolls, resistance to a damage type of your choice when you complete a long rest, and the ability to hurl someone through Hell.
Of all the warlock subclasses, the Fiend is the most straightforward. None of the features are difficult to understand, the additional spells focus on giving you extra blasting power, and you can enhance crucial rolls in the game, regardless of circumstances. Simple, yet very effective.
Dark One’s Blessing
When you take a life, your patron is pleased and rewards you with extra hit points.
Dark One’s Own Luck
Your benefactor distorts reality to meet your needs by allowing you to roll an additional 1d10. You make the additional roll after you see the results of your original roll.
You are not limited to one type of resilience, unlike other features from warlock subclasses. Every morning, you can modify your resistance type to fit your day of exploring.
Hurl Through Hell
Your patron grants you access to their hellish planes. You can transport an opponent to the fiery depths and have them be horrified by what they discover.
2. The Genie (Warlock Subclasses rating: 4)
(From Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything)
After millennia of being enslaved by lesser beings to grant wishes, genies are delighted to flip the script and claim mortals as their property. Each Genie represents an element: dao for earth, djinni for air, efreeti for fire, and marid for water.
The Genie features include a lamp or vessel that first you and, later, your whole party can take refuge in, the ability to fly multiple times per day, resistance to the Genie’s elemental affinity, and cast a 6th level spell without using costly materials or a spell slot.
The Genie is our favorite of the warlock subclasses, and we highly recommend trying it out. It works best for players who choose the Pact of the Tome and focus on spellcasting over martial abilities but can be viable for other playstyles too.
You have a vessel from your genie, as is customary. You can, however, choose to spend time in the vessel and store items as you build your relationship with your patron. This feature also lets you add extra damage to the first attack of each round equal to your proficiency bonus.
The genie bestows resistance to their elemental affinity as well as the ability to fly for a few minutes each day.
Your vessel is no longer just a place to sleep. You can invite your friends into your vessel to enjoy the sanctuary and the perks of rest in style.
You can request that your patron allow you to cast a single spell of up to sixth level without using a spell slot or requiring special materials. The spell does not have to be on the warlock spell list. Of all the warlock subclasses and their features, this is undoubtedly the best.
1. The Hexblade (Warlock Subclasses rating: 4)
(From Xanathar’s Guide to Everything)
The Hexblade is a broad term for a patron, which means it can refer to almost any type of entity. Because it revolves around transforming a spellcasting class into a partially martial character, it would work with any entity that approves of fighting and can bestow a magical weapon.
The Hexblade warlock bestows many fantastic features like proficiencies in medium armor, shields, and martial weapons, a curse that lets you do more damage, the ability to bring back a slain opponent to serve you, and others that make you more effective in battle.
Most players see the Hexblade as the best of the warlock subclasses. Certainly, if you want to focus on martial abilities and close combat it’s hard to go wrong here. The additional spells aren’t amazing, but they don’t have to be since you can use your Charisma modifier when you make weapon attacks.
You gain the ability to curse your foe, doing more damage and regaining health when you eventually slay them.
Your patron teaches you martial fighting skills by equipping you with armor, shields, and weapons. You also get an enchanted weapon that you can summon from the abyss whenever you want. This feature sets it apart from the rest of the warlock subclasses since it lets you use your Charisma modifier to attack.
You control your adversaries. When you kill one, you can resurrect them to serve your purposes, whether nefarious or noble.
Armor of Hexes
Your Hexblade’s Curse makes it more difficult for enemies to attack you.
Master of Hexes
You gain the ability to transfer your Hexblade’s Curse to other creatures during combat, allowing you to fight multiple opponents.