Many characters (mostly with big swords) are adept at fighting. Few characters are as well-prepared to negotiate, infiltrate, or humiliate their way into power. One of the most flavorful of these is the Archfey Warlock subclass, a master manipulator acting on the orders of an even more manipulative faerie.
Archfey uses magic to cloud the minds of their enemies, soothing their anger or triggering their worst fears. They are also skilled at diplomacy and often do the talking for their party. The result is a charming-yet-homicidal trickster that you literally can’t say no to.
If you’re tired of getting your hands dirty and would rather be flirty, Archfey Warlock puts the puppet strings in your hands and leaves you to enact your Patron’s bidding with guile and a smile.
Using This Guide
Everything in this guide has an emoji, ranking how useful a given ability or feature is to playing this class effectively.
✅ — An absolutely crucial feature. Often forms the backbone of a class’ look and feel. Will provide some bonus that can’t be found through other means.
🆗 — A solid feature that does its job well. Not game-breaking, and certainly replaceable, but a strong choice that shores up some weakness.
⚠️ — A debatable choice. Could work for a specific build, but otherwise is either a wasted opportunity or is just weaker than other alternatives.
⛔ — Outright bad and detrimental. This weighs down the class and just takes up space on the character sheet. A weakness you will have to accommodate for.
These rankings are meant to help you create an optimized class build but remember—DnD isn’t a game where you need to win to have fun. Weaker but flavorful builds also have their place and can make for fulfilling characters.
How To Play An Archfey Warlock
Outside of a few defensive subclass features, Archfey gets zero combat bonuses. Your best bet is to sit behind the party and focus on disabling or distracting enemies (Controlling). You’ll be doing this mainly through magical effects, so be sure to take lots of short rests to recharge your spell slots and keep out of danger so as to maintain your concentration.
Your spells and subclass features also make you very effective in social situations. It is likely your party will leave you to do all the talking (Face), so grab skill proficiencies and spells which help you butter people up.
Always feel free to kick back and throw eldritch blasts during a fight in order to save your spell slots. Your time to shine will be when interacting with NPCs―leaving someone alive after combat so you can interrogate them is often a good idea. Likewise, your presence opens doors for your party such that not every problem needs to be solved with a fight, so speak up and offer alternative options.
Being An Effective Face
Your party will rely on you during social encounters. Much like combat, these encounters are really a series of skill checks. Your high Charisma and some key skill proficiencies (deception, intimidation, persuasion) should help you get past those. Clever roleplay can even allow you to skip checks entirely if your DM approves.
If you hit a roadblock in a conversation, that’s your cue to drop a spell or use an Archfey feature to loosen up your target. Charm effects are best for delicate diplomacy, and frighten effects help during interrogations or when you need to be threatening. Mind-control effects help with all social encounters, and can even let you work remotely in a sense by commanding your minion then walking away as they carry out your orders.
Being An Effective Controller
If a fight does break out, you can still contribute by throwing enemies off-guard and manipulating the battlefield. Frightened opponents can’t attack as efficiently, so you can make a big monster hit less. Charmed opponents aren’t hostile, but the charm breaks if they are attacked. Mind-controlled opponents can fight for you, which is an efficient use of your limited spell slots. Pick the magic effect that best suits the moment.
Warlock has a few good spells to create battlefield obstacles or disable enemies, and Archfey expands on those options. Look for troublesome targets outside your party’s reach and slam them with a debilitating spell. And when a horde of enemies comes rushing in, throw up an obstacle before they reach you and your allies.
Archfey Subclass Features
The Archfey Subclass grants a number of charm, frighten, and mind-control effects. You can pair these with some well chosen spells and skill proficiencies to make yourself a puppet master on the battlefield, steering enemies around and easing the pressure on your allies. Archfey’s features also help out in social encounters, so you can always turn to diplomacy.
🆗 Expanded Spell List
✅ Faerie Fire
Giving allies advantage to hit multiple enemies across multiple turns multiplies into a lot of damage. The extra effects to create light and reveal invisible foes also help.
Because this scales with bigger spell slots, it can stay relevant even at higher levels. It’s a solid go-to crowd control spell, and is good when you want a non-lethal approach.
⚠️ Calm Emotions
Great for social encounters and for ending combat non-lethally. However, if you’re in a situation where your opponents must die, it barely buys you one turn.
✅ Phantasmal Force
With some creativity, this spell can achieve a lot. If the target doesn’t see through your illusion, it’s easy to lock it in place, intimidate it, or even squeeze out some cheap damage.
A phenomenal defensive spell. This biggest downside is its unpredictability, but it doesn’t need concentration and lasts for a long time, so you get a lot of value out of it.
⚠️ Plant Growth
While fostering good agriculture is fine, you’ll mostly use this spell to create extra-difficult terrain. That’s good for slowing down enemies, but your party will also be slowed, so it’s a toss-up.
⚠️ Dominate Beast
We love a good mind-control spell. It’s a shame you can only control beasts, which tend to be low power, particularly at this level. Have a look at this bestiary from Aidedd to see what qualifies as a beast, and you’ll understand just how limited this spell can be.
✅ Greater Invisibility
Opportunities abound! Use it for defense in combat, use it for infiltration missions, use it for roleplay to annoy an NPC… this will help with a lot of situations, and its flexibility gives you a plethora of options in those situations for how to proceed.
🆗 Dominate Person
Most spellcasters are humanoids, so this is an excellent way to pick out an enemy mage and disable them in combat. Gaining them as an ally as your opponents lose them can upset the battlefield and leave it firmly in your favor.
For big disguise spells, nothing beats seeming. Reskinning any number of creatures for eight hours is nothing to scoff at, and not requiring concentration gives you time for a short rest to recover your expended spell slot. Sneaking into fancy banquets without an invitation just got that much easier.
🆗 Fey Presence
A frightened enemy has disadvantage to attack you, so using this ability to weaken an enemy who crept up on you from the flanks of a battle delays it and gives your party time to help out. Still, that’s situational, but outside of battle this makes for a great roleplay ability in social encounters.
🆗 Misty Escape
Misty step is already an incredible spell. Getting to use an upgraded version of it every short rest is even better. This ability protects you from multiattacks and gives you advantage on the next attack you make thanks to the invisibility. The downside is you need to take damage to use it.
⚠️ Beguiling Defenses
Immunity to getting charmed is neat, but the rest of this ability requires the DM to try and charm you anyway. That’s already situational as heck. Couple that with your long list of charm effects and getting one more via this ability is just underwhelming.
⚠️ Dark Delirium
A free charm/frighten effect per short rest is one less spell slot you need to use. However, neither of those conditions are especially debilitating, and the ability doesn’t add anything except some aesthetics. You’ll want to use this for social encounters rather than combat, where it’s still not that impressive.
The Perfect Archfey Build
Archfey is designed to excel at manipulating others, either through socialization and roleplay or through magical effects. You’ll want to improve your spellcasting wherever possible, as well as picking up abilities that give you useful tools in social encounters. Combat is a low priority for Archfey.
A higher AC or a good Dexterity save help keep you alive. Dropping some extra points here never hurts if you can afford to do so.
Many mind-control, charm, and frighten effects require concentration, so a high Constitution makes maintaining those spells a breeze. Additionally, having more health is good for a soft spellcaster.
Your key ability score, since it governs your spellcasting. To make your status effects land, you need a high spell save DC, which means a high Charisma. You will also be doing most of the talking for your party, so Charisma helps you out in social encounters.
✅ Changeling comes with a ready-made disguise for social encounters, and Half-Elf lets you pick a pair of social skills, making both these races perfect to play as the party’s face. Dispater, Fierna, and Glasya Tieflings get some nice spells which can also help for this. Other good options include Eladrin, Satyr, Verdan, Warforged, or Yuan-Ti Pureblood.
🆗 Some strong choices are Aasimar, Simic Hybrid, Tabaxi, Triton, and Variant Human, each of which gives a Charisma boost and comes with a suite of useful racial abilities.
Getting to mimic others and gaining advantage on some rolls can make you a very adept smooth-talker, especially if you take a more trickster-ish style to roleplaying. Getting a Charisma bonus is the cherry on top.
🆗 Dragon Fear (Dragonborn Only)
First, a Charisma bonus is great for Warlock. Second, a repeatable frighten effect that doesn’t need a spell slot is great for Archfey, who already loves its frighten effects.
Fair warning: it will often be better to take the ability score increase rather than this feat. However, if you like passing checks, you can fill up on skill proficiencies, allowing you to be the party’s face and still specialize in other areas.
✅ War Caster
Advantage on concentration checks just cannot be beat. It’s too useful for Warlock, and a number of your charm or frighten spells require concentration.
✅ Agonizing Blast
More damage for the spell you’ll be casting the most. Impossible to turn down.
⚠️ Beguiling Influence
Deception and persuasion are definitely the most important social skills, so as the party’s face, you’ll want them. However, you should get proficiency from your background or race rather than wasting an Invocation.
✅ Mask of Many Faces
If you plan to speak a single word to an NPC in your campaign, take this Invocation. Changing your appearance is incredibly useful, especially for the party’s face with high Charisma.
⚠️ Master of Myriad Forms
This opens a few extra doors compared to disguise self, but they are either situational (water breathing) or help in situations you should be avoiding (melee combat abilities).
🆗 Whispers of the Grave
As the party’s face, people will turn to you to collect information, and this is a repeatable and reliable way to interrogate dead bodies. Learning what killed them is a critical insight, even if nothing else they know is useful.
Warlock Pact Boons
There are two major options for two different playstyles. The first is taking Pact of the Tome and piling up on spells. Message, shillelagh, and vicious mockery leap to mind as good cantrips for Archfey. If you take the Book of Ancient Secrets Invocation, you gain ritual spells like ceremony or speak with animals which can serve you well in social encounters.
The second option is going Pact of the Chain. Using your pet to deliver touch-range spells can let you sneak up on unsuspecting targets. After all, who would blame the cute kitten? Having a pet can also be a big advantage in social encounters where it could be used as intimidation or for scouting ahead. To browse which Invocations might compliment your Pact Boon the best, check out this Invocation list from dnd5e.wikidot.
Pact of the Talisman remains a solid backup option that improves survivability, but adds almost nothing to Archfey’s playstyle. Pact of the Blade is too combat heavy to be of much use for this subclass, especially since attacking enemies will break a charm effect.
✅ Eldritch Blast
The one spell every Warlock should take. Stacking on a couple key Invocations makes a capable control option, too.
For the party’s face, this is an indispensable go-to spell. While you need to be careful about the target getting pissed off when the spell ends, advantage on Charisma checks is quite powerful for a high Charisma class like Warlock.
A convenient source of several small magical effects. Use this for roleplay during social encounters.
✅ Armor of Agathys
Just the best defensive option for Warlock. Having this running means your party doesn’t need to worry about protecting you all the time.
🆗 Cause Fear
Cheap and easy frighten effect. Giving something disadvantage across the board while it can see you can really weaken it.
🆗 Charm Person
A good if basic charm effect. The one hour duration is great. This spell will make many social encounters a cinch.
Getting to eavesdrop without being seen can offer huge advantages, especially in a politics or espionage heavy campaign. This spell can also help you get advantage on a cheeky eldritch blast to kick off combat.
The all-star mind-control effect in the game. Suggestion is versatile and reliable. It’s not too hard to fit a command into one sentence. With the triggered effects, there are tons of roleplay uses, such as making someone else carry out that royal assassination.
Aside from the base frightened effect, this also makes affected targets run away from you, so it works well defensively. Getting to hit multiple enemies makes this a worthy upgrade from cause fear.
✅ Hunger of Hadar
Warlock’s best control spell. The combination of effects creates an unavoidable roadblock that can trap enemies and successfully reshape the battlefield.
✅ Hypnotic Pattern
An excellent mass-charm that actually stops targets in their tracks rather than just making them chill out.
Speaking all languages is good for you as the face. Just be careful burning a precious spell slot on this.
🆗 Charm Monster
Straightforward charm effect that can target anything. It also doesn’t require concentration. Almost a direct upgrade from charm person, and will be used for the same slew of social encounters.
✅ Modify Memory
While this can work great in combat to bamboozle an enemy, the real fun is through roleplay. Making targets forget the conversation you just had or make them think their boss gave them orders to let you inside the evil lair can only be beneficial for you.
✅ Wall of Light
A strong control effect that works to blind, trap, and blast your enemies. One spell doing all that is incredible, and getting to repeat all those effects for several rounds of combat is even better.
✅ Mass Suggestion
Why mind-control one guard when you can do the whole barracks? More targets means more bang for your Mystic Arcanum usage.
🆗 Mental Prison
Very effective at disabling one target, or at least doing a lot of damage. A good way to single-out the biggest enemies on the battlefield.
A super-efficient control spell to trap a good number of enemies. Also fun for imprisoning rivals or even just creating an obstacle.
🆗 Project Image
A useful way to communicate over long distances. Have your illusion negotiate with the enemy king while you stay safe.
🆗 Dominate Monster
The last Dominate spell in the set. You get dominate beast and dominate person through the Archfey subclass, so you might not need this as well. But a no-restriction mind-control is obviously very powerful.
Good for breaking enemy spellcasters, but also just makes the target much more open to manipulation. Convincing the mental equivalent of a newborn baby is far easier than convincing a 20 Intelligence Wizard.
The best option for you as the party’s face. If you have proficiency in a social skill, when using this spell it’s impossible to get below a 20 on any Charisma check with that skill.
Just an insane number of bonuses, and it lasts for hours without concentration. Drop this once a day on a party member and reap the benefits.
🆗 True Polymorph
Handy for turning into a giant monster during fights, or for disguising yourself, or for handing out favors to NPCs to brown-nose, or for reshaping someone’s house to mess with them… point is, there are tons of uses, many of which are particularly strong in social encounters.
Enjoy what armor you can get, even though you’re limited to light armor, meaning studded leather is the best option.
For combat, the highest-damage weapons you’re proficient with are greatclubs, handaxes, javelins, maces, quarterstaffs, and spears. For ranged damage, pick up a light crossbow.
As the party’s face, you might consider a disguise kit to supplement any disguise magic you have. Similarly, a forgery kit can be useful for sneaking your way into social events.
Hopefully the Archfey has charmed you with its fun flavor and unique gameplay style. If you enjoyed this guide, share it with your friends! And be sure to let us know if you’ve tried this awesome subclass by dropping a comment below.