A Complete Guide To Playing A Hexblade Warlock In 5th Edition D&D

The Warlock anxiously paced back and forth in front of his party. “I swear I’m not crazy! The sword was talking to me last night…” The party members rolled their eyes. “I dunno,” hissed a voice from the Warlock’s scabbard, “sounds crazy to me.”

Table of Contents

If you spot your party’s Warlock whispering sweet nothings to their sword when they were supposed to be keeping watch, don’t worry! That just means you’ve found yourself a Hexblade Warlock.

These martially-minded spellslingers swear their souls over to a sentient weapon forged of pure shadow. While that may sound horrifying, the sheer power of a Hexblade should make up for their… unique personality quirks. They are unmatched at ranged damage and can do more than hold their own in a vicious melee.

So, if that wasn’t enough to scare you off, Hexblade might be the subclass for you! Some better armor, bigger weapons, and the ability to stamp enemies with literal curses are all great reasons to sign up today with your nearest sentient weapon.

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 A Hexblade Warlock

Hexblade Warlocks bring a lot of power and versatility from the base class and amp it up with the melee combat skills of the subclass. Instead of acting as a magical multitool like other spellcasters, you want to be on the front lines of combat breaking skulls with the combat classes.

As a Hexblade, you provide two benefits to your party: your eldritch blasts and melee attacks provide reliable damage at any range (Striking), and your spells make you capable of disabling enemies and preventing them from moving about (Controlling).

Being An Effective Striker

Warlock is unmatched at ranged damage thanks to the combination of eldritch blast and the Agonizing Blast Invocation. Set yourself up somewhere out of your enemies’ range and blast away! When making a ranged attack, you have disadvantage when an enemy is adjacent to you, so kill off anything nearby before switching to spell-sniper-mode.

For melee combat, move yourself opposite an ally with your enemy of choice sitting between the two of you. This grants flanking, which gives you advantage on melee attacks. Always assume your attacks will hit, so readily apply effects like elemental weapon to increase your damage output.

With medium armor and a shield, you don’t need to worry about taking damage. You’ll have enough AC and health to take a few hits on enemies’ turns, then you can kill something and retreat on your own turn. If things get hairy, you can drop a spell like blink or blur to protect yourself.

Don’t forget about your Hexblade’s Curse! It makes murder a breeze if you focus fire on one target. Curse the biggest enemy on the battlefield and blast it into a fine pulp before cleaning up its minions.

Being An Effective Controller

Warlock has a number of control options that prevent enemies from taking actions or which establish ongoing area-of-effect damage pools to create an obstacle. The delicate balance is how to spend your spell slots. Warlock doesn’t get that many spells, so each one needs to radically shift the tide of battle.

Look for ways to break a fight up into manageable chunks instead of battling an entire army all at once. Aim to disable or weaken the scariest enemies while your allies pick off the easy targets, and use your area-of-effect spells to segment the battlefield so enemies can’t reinforce.

Oftentimes you’ll find yourself using inefficient options because they’re your best bet in the moment. These include spells that slow down enemies but do little damage (hunger of hadar) or brutally high damage spells that only hit one target (finger of death). Don’t be afraid to use these options even if they’re not perfect—any debuff is better than nothing in a dangerous situation. Just be sure to think through a back-up plan if your spell doesn’t land.

Player Tip: Is The Hexblade Evil?

If binding your soul to a sentient weapon is wrong, Hexblade doesn’t want to be right. Your titular blade is made of dark energy from a shadowy plane called the Shadowfell. Whatever entity orchestrated your pact is likely evil, considering the Shadowfell’s nature, but your character’s alignment can be whatever you like. A good character weighed down by an evil patron can be great fun to roleplay.

Hexblade Subclass Features

The Hexblade subclass improves your combat capability and gives you some tools to dish out single-target damage. Pick the scariest spellcaster on the enemies’ side of the battlefield and mutilate until death.

🆗 Expanded Spell List

1st Level

⚠️ Shield

Just use an actual shield, it’s a more reliable defense. This spell is good for other spellcasters, but it doesn’t scale with your spell slots.

⛔ Wrathful Smite

Bad smite #1—maintaining the fright takes concentration which is better used elsewhere, and the damage is meager.

2nd Level

✅ Blur

Straightforward defense buff, and since you’re harder to hit, your concentration is easier to maintain.

⚠️ Branding Smite

Bad smite #2—negating the target’s invisibility takes concentration. At least the damage scales.

3rd Level

🆗 Blink

An effective, if supremely unreliable, way to dodge damage. The spell doesn’t require concentration and will last for an entire combat, so you can drop it and enjoy the benefits worry-free.

🆗 Elemental Weapon

This works with your Pact of the Blade weapon, so while a few features overlap, you still get an increase in damage. You should choose thunder damage (unless the target has a specific vulnerability) because almost no monsters resist thunder damage. For more info on common resistances and vulnerabilities, check out 4d6d1’s guide here.

4th Level

🆗 Phantasmal Killer

Not bad for disabling an enemy and dealing some recurring damage. The damage isn’t massive, and the spell needs concentration, but leaving an archlich quaking in its bony boots is always good fun.

⚠️ Staggering Smite

Bad smite #3—you just don’t have the spell slots to waste them on so little single-target damage. The debuff is nice, but not crippling enough to make this worthwhile.

5th Level

✅ Banishing Smite

Good smite #1—I’m as surprised as you are: smites can be good! The banishing effect has no save to prevent it, and maintaining concentration is worth your time when it’s keeping the biggest monster on the battlefield floating in some demiplane. 

✅ Cone of Cold

A shotgun-blast of damage that can hit multiple targets, something Warlock is notoriously bad at. Effective and murderous.

✅ Hexblade’s Curse

A juicy reward for targeting one enemy. It won’t make you hit more, but if your attack rolls are consistent enough to hit with several attacks, you wrack up damage like nobody’s business. This works especially well with a barrage of eldritch blasts at higher levels—if every attack hits, you’ll deal an average of 60 damage every single turn.

✅ Hex Warrior

Medium armor, shields, and martial weapons give you access to the tools you need to survive melee combat with a d8 hit dice. The real superstar is using Charisma for your attacks, which means you don’t need to share ability score increases among otherwise useless stats. Getting to focus on just Charisma means your melee attacks, ranged attacks, and spell saves are all boosted at once.

⚠️ Accursed Specter

This is a lame utility that is obsolete a few levels after you gain the feature. It’s difficult to meet the criteria, and only grants a minimal effect. You can mostly ignore this.

✅ Armor of Hexes

Chances are you’re safest when attacking at range, so this feature greatly softens the risk of moving into melee. Making half the attacks coming at you miss is huge. Complement this feature with high AC and a defensive spell to ensure hardly anything hits you. This is even better a few levels later when you get to reuse your Hexblade’s Curse during a fight, meaning you can dodge half the attacks coming from the biggest threat at all times.

✅ Master of Hexes

Effectively more uses of Hexblade’s Curse equals more damage during a fight. It also lessens the pressure to pick the optimal target for your Curse, or the fear of using it too early in a fight. Reusing the Curse is almost always more worthwhile than the temporary health, but in a pinch you’ll appreciate the option.

The Perfect Hexblade Build

Warlock already does ranged damage well (cheers, eldritch blast), so the real power of Hexblade is the ability to handle melee combat. More health and AC are priorities for this, since you have a d8 hit dice. It also means you’ll be hit by more attacks on average, so bonuses to maintaining concentration on your limited spells are crucial.

Ability Scores

⛔ Strength

Dump stat.

🆗 Dexterity

Important until it hits 14, then dump it. That gives you a +2 to AC, which is the maximum medium armor allows. Also used for a lot of saving throws if you have an extra ability score increase lying about.

✅ Constitution

Wading into melee means you need as much health as possible. A high Constitution makes concentration checks easier so your spells can keep running and makes you better at common saving throws.

⛔ Intelligence

Dump stat.

⛔ Wisdom

Dump stat.

✅ Charisma

Every attack or damage roll you make will use Charisma, as well as your spell save. It is the single most important number for Warlock which will affect every aspect of gameplay. Since it’s so influential, try and get your Charisma as high as possible during character creation, and focus on boosting it to the max before increasing any other ability scores as you level up.

Races

Aasimar, Half-Elves, and Satyrs are all excellent races for Hexblade Warlock, combining a Charisma bonus with either a Dexterity or Constitution increase to help you stay alive. Some other choices which give you powerful defensive bonuses include Eladrin, Verdan, Warforged, and Yuan-Ti Pureblood.

🆗 The classic Tiefling still makes an excellent Warlock, but lacks the combat-focused bonuses Hexblades prioritize. Other viable races include Variant Human, Simic Hybrid, Tabaxi, and Triton, all giving a small Charisma boost plus some versatile bonuses that help you specialize in your preferred fighting style.

⚠️ Lightfoot Halfling gets a special mention for some decent ability score increases, but mostly for the “Lucky” feature. Rerolling natural 1s comes in handy when you’re face-to-face with a big monster.

Feats

✅ Crossbow Expert

With all the Invocations you can dip into plus this feat and a hand crossbow, you can easily make three attacks a turn with a minimum of 10 damage each. Add Hexblade’s Curse and you beat out eldritch blast’s damage even with Agonizing Blast.

🆗 Eldritch Adept

One more Eldritch Invocation makes for nine in total. Five or so will be taken up by Invocations crucial to Hexblade, so one extra can expand on your utility and spells.

🆗 Great Weapon Master

A two-handed weapon means you can only use an unenchanted weapon summoned with Pact of the Blade or else you don’t get to use Charisma for attack and damage rolls. You also can’t use a shield. If that trade seems worth it, this feat makes your damage skyrocket.

🆗 Polearm Master

Extended range and extra attacks are pretty sweet. The biggest downside is you can’t use a shield, unless you opt for the weaker quarterstaff or spear.

🆗 Resilient

Only choose Constitution with this feat, but proficiency on saves to maintain concentration keeps your spells active, especially when stacked with the Eldritch Mind Invocation.

✅ War Caster

Part of this effect doubles up with Eldritch Mind, so be aware. However, that effect is indispensable for Hexblade, so get it from somewhere. Otherwise, getting to annihilate enemies with an extra eldritch blast per round is icing on the cake.

A few race-specific feats can be advantageous for Hexblade. Check out this list from AideDD of all the feats and their prerequisites.

Invocations

✅ Agonizing Blast

A go-to for any Warlock, but especially for you who will be dealing loads of damage. This pairs well with Hexblade’s Curse to make your eldritch blast hit harder than any non-spell attack in the game.

⚠️ Cloak of Flies

This hits adjacent enemies, which means you should use it while in melee, where you already want to be. Sadly, the damage is quite minor, and poison is often resisted.

✅ Eldritch Mind

Moving into melee means more chances to break concentration. This Invocation accounts for that risk and minimizes it as much as possible.

⚠️ Eldritch Smite

You already have access to smite spells which suffer the same downsides. You don’t have enough spell slots to make this good, though knocking an enemy prone is a decent bonus effect.

🆗 Fiendish Vigor

Extra health never hurts with your small hit dice, and this spell doesn’t require concentration. At high levels, the health will be negligible, but you can also swap out the Invocation (for more info on swapping Invocations, check out our guide to Eldritch Invocations here).

⚠️ Improved Pact Weapon

This accomplishes a lot of what your Hex Warrior feature already gives you, so it’s less crucial than if you took Pact of the Blade as a non-Hexblade. The +1 to attack and damage rolls is nice, but can easily be replaced by a magic weapon at higher levels.

✅ Lifedrinker

You won’t make as many attacks as most combat classes, so a base damage increase compensates to keep you on par. This also stacks with Hex Warrior for a potential damage bonus of twice your Charisma modifier per attack.

✅ Maddening Hex

Free damage with no save, and it hits multiple creatures! This is an excellent way to spend your bonus action, and gaining Hexblade’s Curse expands your ability to use it.

🆗 Relentless Hex

Hexblade’s Curse means more ways to use this Invocation. The effect is still limited, but since you often want to jump into melee combat anyway, it’s an acceptable boost to your maneuverability.

✅ Thirsting Blade

More attacks, more damage. Take this Invocation as soon as possible.

Warlock Pact Boons

For a Hexblade Warlock, the best choice of Pact Boon is Pact of the Blade. It grants you a choice of weapons which you can conjure at any time, and allows you to bond with one magic weapon to conjure it too. This pairs great with Hex Warrior’s bonuses to conjured weapons, letting you use Charisma for attack and damage rolls.

The best part of Pact of the Blade is the Eldritch Invocations it lets you unlock. An extra attack is the best of these, but extra damage and the option to summon ranged weapons are both very good as well. Pact of the Blade already makes you into more of a combat class, so it makes sense for a combat-focused Hexblade.

Picking one of the other Boons means losing some flexibility and power in combat, but if you can accept that, then they offer some expanded abilities. Pact of the Talisman in particular has some useful features to improve your survivability, which is useful for Hexblade Warlocks. You can check out our complete guide to Pact Boons here (coming soon).

Spells

Cantrips

✅ Eldritch Blast

Ridiculously efficient and powerful. Just do it.

✅ Green-Flame Blade

Extra damage on an attack is always good, though this spell only lets you make one attack a turn, so it gets worse at higher levels.

1st Level

✅ Armor of Agathys

Great defense that makes getting hit a good thing!

✅ Hex

Stack this with Hexblade’s Curse and watch your target explode after just a few hits. Helps you do more of what you’re doing—focusing down a single target.

2nd Level

✅ Misty Step

Maneuverability is difficult when you’re in melee, so jumping around the battlefield keeps you out of danger and lets you ambush distant targets.

3rd Level

🆗 Hunger of Hadar

A premier control spell for slowing enemies, letting you focus on more pressing targets.

🆗 Thunder Step

Dealing damage while repositioning yourself and an ally is an excellent one-two punch.

4th Level

✅ Shadow of Moil

Make yourself even harder to hit while also hitting harder when you are hit. Did that make sense? Stuff dies if it gets too close to you.

5th Level

🆗 Far Step

This is a good way to use your bonus action which would otherwise be unspent. We’ll never turn down more maneuverability.

✅ Synaptic Static

Disrupting a crowd of enemies either through a debuff or death is a great use of a spell slot and softens up baddies for your allies to finish off.

6th Level

🆗 Circle of Death

Clears up most injured enemies. Nothing crazy, but sometimes the best way to control a battlefield is with mass-murder.

7th Level

✅ Crown of Stars

A perfect use of your bonus action that piles extra damage onto your target. And more attack rolls means more critical chances with Hexblade’s Curse applied.

8th Level

🆗 Abi-Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting

Another good multi-target damage spell, but this one has an impressive range.

9th Level

✅ Foresight

Stick this on yourself and with your other defensive effects, attacks will bounce off you while you cut your way through swaths of enemies.

✅ Psychic Scream

An excellent damage dealer, and leaving enemies stunned means you can easily swoop in and hack them to bits.

For more information on Warlock spells, check out our complete guide here.

Equipment

A suit of medium armor is almost a requirement for Hexblade Warlocks, keeping you alive in combat by compensating for your small health pool. In that same vein, pick up a shield when possible for even higher AC.

Your Hex Warrior feature doesn’t like two-handed weapons, so your weapon choices are limited. A battleaxe, flail, longsword, morningstar, rapier, war pick, or warhammer are your best choices for the most damage.

If you want to double-down on ranged attacks, you could even pick up a hand crossbow, which combined with the Crossbow Expert feat lets you make three weapon attacks in a turn.


Hexblade is well known as one of the most powerful Warlock subclasses. If this guide helped you learn how to play Hexblade better, share it with your friends! We would love to hear the stories behind your Hexblade characters, so drop us a comment if you have a good one. 

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