Just like with every class in the 5th Edition of D&D, there are multiple Warlock subclasses to choose from. Each warlock makes a pact with a godlike entity, known as a patron. In total, there are six types of patrons. Each of these groupings make up the subclasses for the warlock class. Below, we rank these six patrons based on how optimized and powerful they are. Keep in mind we only discuss those officially-released subclasses. In other words, we do not touch on homebrew or Unearthed Arcana content. Off we go on our Warlock Patrons 5E Rankings!
Our Criteria for Ranking Warlock Subclasses
We take into account five different factors when we rank warlock subclasses. These traits include:
- Design. Our priority for ranking subclasses is based on how useful and frequently they are used by players. This includes giving special consideration to abilities that are useful at lower levels, since most characters do not reach the maximum level. Subclasses with features that are not effective or are unlikely to be used frequently will not be ranked highly on our list.
- Clarity. It is important playing a subclass is enjoyable, and one way to do this is by using clear and straightforward language when explaining the subclass. Complex or confusing language can be frustrating for players and can hinder their enjoyment of the game.
- Fun. We’re all here to have a good time, right?
- Theme. We also consider the cohesiveness of the theme that ties together the features of the archetype. If there is no clear theme, we will prioritize subclasses that have a strong and interesting theme over those without a unifying concept.
- Versatility. When weighting the subclasses, we looked for options that offer versatility and the ability to create diverse character builds. While it’s important for a subclass to be strong in a particular area, the ability to adapt to different roles is even more valuable. Therefore, versatility is a key factor in our evaluation of subclasses.
What is the Best Warlock Subclass?
Warlock Patrons 5E Rankings
The six patrons released to date are not created equally. In fact, you will see below that two of the six stand head and shoulders above the rest. That does not mean that all six options cannot be fun. Remember, your Warlock is what you make of it. You can learn more about optimizing your character with our Warlock 5E Guide as well. It is possible to optimize any of these options to a degree, and the basic traits of a warlock are strong across the board.
9. The Undying
Channeling the power of a patron that has learned to cheat death might make you think this subclass provides for a durable warlock built for survival. While that seems to be the theme, it doesn’t exactly deliver. One of the highlights is Among the Dead, which gets you Spare the Dying at level one but also gives near-invulnerability to attacks from undead. Defy Death is also great, but you can only use it once per long rest. The rest of the subclass sums up why this is at the bottom of our list.
Let’s start with the spell list. There are just a lot of options you likely won’t use much or that are overshadowed by inherent warlock features. Why use False Life when you have Fiendish Vigor? It’s not all bad, especially Contagion, but many of these spells could be replaced with much better options. It boils down to the same issue discussed above. If you want to be a melee-first warlock, go Hexblade. If you want to sling damage spells, go Fiend. If you want to be a healer or a utility spellcaster, probably go to a different class entirely.
The main reasons The Undying Warlock falls at the bottom of our Warlock Patrons 5E list are the two top-level features. Undying Nature is interesting to flavor, but few campaigns will make use of not needing to eat or drink, and virtually no campaign will use the ability to age slowly. Indestructible Life is also underpowered. While it is not a bad healing option, it is lackluster for only becoming available at level 14.
8. The Fathomless
The Fathomless is one of two new patrons offered in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Unlike the Genie patron, this option isn’t particularly strong. The theme fo the archetype is fun: your patron is some kind of underwater being that has granted you aquatic-themed powers.
The biggest issue with this subclass is how situational it is. Playing a naval campaign? Great! You’ll get plenty of use here. Otherwise, you might not. Several features are reliant on water, including a boost to swim speed and the ability to teleport your party to a nearby body of water.
The subclass isn’t bad, and some options are great. At level six you get a great use for your reaction known as Guardian Coil. You can use your magical tentacles to reduce damage of nearby allies. Oh, did I not mention the tentacles? At level 1 you can summon spectral tentacles that can deal cold damage and move around the battlefield.
7. The Celestial
The Celestial offers a sort of hybrid cleric/warlock option thanks to the addition of a number of cleric spells. In general, the theme of this subclass seems to be a mix of fire/radiant damage and healing spells. While this option is not notably worse than The Great Old One or The Fey, there is very little a celestial warlock does better than other options.
There are quite a few fire damage spells available here, but they are not any better than what is already on offer for a warlock. The same is true with most of the defensive spells, although Revivify and Wall of Fire are both great. The addition of two cantrips is also nice, but not a gamechanger. Both Celestial Resilience and Searing Vengeance are very strong options for high-level Celestial Warlocks, though.
The bottom line: if you want to sling damage, several other options work better for a warlock. If you want to be a healer, something other than a warlock is probably your best bet. But if your party doesn’t have a dedicated healer and you still want to sling some damage spells, The Celestial might work for you.
6. The Archfey
The Archfey is not my favorite. The theme of this subclass is deception and enchantment, but it misses the mark in my eyes. For starters, every feature of this subclass save one is centered around charming other or avoiding being charmed. While charming or frightening a hostile can be useful, it is rarely a focal point in larger battles. Centering a Level 10 feature around defending against being charmed is especially lackluster. Dark Delirium is good for flavor but also pretty disappointing for a level 14 benefit.
The Archfey Warlock is not all bad. At level 6, Misty Escape is a very powerful defensive tool that can help you avoid a ton of damage. Using it once per short rest gives you a strong escape option in nearly every fight. The spells aren’t bad either, with the excellent Dominate Person available at Level 5.
Much like The Celestial, the Archfey has a theme but it isn’t particularly optimal. You are an inferior damage dealer to a Fiend Warlock, and centering an entire subclass around charming or frightening hostiles isn’t ideal. If there isn’t a story-based reason to take this option, I would steer clear.
5. The Great Old One
In my opinion, the falloff from second to third on this list is pretty steep. The Great Old One isn’t a bad patron, but it may leave you wanting for more. The theme of the Great Old One Warlock is knowledge, which helps to explain why many of the options involve controlling another character’s mind or learning hidden information. The end result may fit thematically, but much of the spells and features of this subclass are very situational.
One of the benefits of this subclass is that it offers more utility than any other Warlock option. This is most obvious in the selection in the expanded spell list. Dissonant Whispers and Telekinesis are useful options outside of slinging damage spells. You also gain the ability to communicate telepathically with almost anyone within 30 feet of you at level one, which is exceptionally valuable.
The higher-level features of the subclass are a mixed bag. While Create Thrall is a fun twist on Dominate Person, Thought Shield and Entropic Ward are awfully situational for bonuses available at level 6 and 10. There is some cool stuff in this subclass, and you with careful spell selection this could be a pretty good option if your party has another dedicated spellcaster to deal damage. Other than a few spells, I don’t see a lot of reason to take this as a spellcaster of The Fiend though.
One of the latest editions to this list, the Undead Warlock is also one of my favorites. This subclass is everything you want in a spooky, necromancy-tinged warlock. Your patron could be any famous undead, from Acererak to Strahd himself.
This subclass succeeds at a lot. It marries design and theme very well, offering useful and creepy mechanics that fit perfectly with an undead-inspired character. Playing this warlock is straightforward at first, but as you level you are rewarded with additional features that build on what came before.
The highlight of the subclass is Form of Dread, which is a creepy form you can take that can cause fear in enemies and add temporary HP. The Undead Warlock makes for a strong caster who can wield a devastating eldritch blast.
3. The Genie
The first of two new patrons added in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the Genie warlock is a fantastic spellcaster. The expanded spell list stands out, as you get a range of good options outside of the warlock spell list. The specific spells are tied to your choice of genie patron. Your options include dao, marid, efreet, and djinni.
On top of the great spell list, this warlock also gains a vessel as a gift from their patron. That’s right, you get a genie bottle. Not only can you enter the bottle on your own, at higher levels your whole party can take 10-minute short rests inside.
My personal favorite aspect of the Genie patron is the level six feature Elemental Gift. Elemental gift gives you some damage resistance based on your chosen type of genie patron, but that’s only a small part of what is great about it. You also gain 10 minutes of flying time that is not reliant on casting spells or maintaining concentration. This is a great spellcasting subclass for sure.
2. The Fiend
Warlocks are at their best hurling spells and slaying enemies with Eldritch Blast. You couldn’t ask for a better setup than a Fiend Warlock. It should be no surprise then that it is at the top of our Warlock Patrons 5E list? In my view, A Fiend Warlock with the Pact of the Time boon is the best avenue for a spellcaster in this class. Taking the Fiend as a patron addresses one of the bigger weaknesses in the Warlock spell list: AOE damage. Warlocks starting at level one have solid damage against single foes at range. The Fiend spell list add a level one AOE spell with Burning Hands, and at level three you get the greatness that is fireball. These spells also have some nice utility and defensive options like Command and Blindness/Deafness.
The other features are strong as well. At level six you get Dark One’s Own Luck, which is essentially the ability to inspire yourself like a bard would. This extra d10 to your ability checks or saving throws can be used at any time before the DM announces the outcome of the roll, and returns after a short or long rest.
To me, the highlight is Hurl Through Hell at Level 14. You can launch a creature through a one-turn trip through hell, giving them 10d10 damage along the way. All of this coupled with the added survivability from Dark One’s Blessing and Fiendish Resilience is a great combination for a spellcaster.
1. The Hexblade
The Hexblade is the other patron that really stands out in the class. It is entirely different from the Fiend, however. A Hexblade Warlock is primarily a melee character. This is a fantastic subclass, and a case could be made that it is the best. While very different from the traditional spellcaster, a Hexblade Warlock is a great option particularly with Pact of the Blade as their boon. A proficiency in better armor and shields also adds some survivability to a class that is known to be squishy.
The highlight of this subclass starts with Hex Warrior. In addition to the proficiencies mentioned above, you can use your charisma modifier for weapon attack and damage rolls instead of strength or dexterity. This is excellent, as it allow you to build both your spellcasting and melee offense around a single attribute. What’s not to love about a melee-centered character that uses strength as an attribute sink?
Also fantastic is Hexblade’s Curse, which makes attacks against a cursed creature critical at both 19 and 20. When you curse a character you also get bonus damage and can siphon off their hitpoints when they die. The other features of this subclass are also strong, although the expanded spell list is forgettable at early levels. This is a great subclass, but a fairly specific one.
Concluding our Warlock Patrons 5E List
That wraps up our Warlock Patrons Rankings. While I think the two at the top stick out like a sore thumb, your mileage may vary on the rest of the list. What do you think?