It’s been said before, but Warlocks are weird, man. They act like spellcasters but never cast as many spells as Sorcerer. Then once in a while they’ll conjure an interdimensional void and attack enemies with a swarm of tentacles. Weird.
Warlocks are quality-over-quantity made flesh. All their spells hit hard and are perfect for debilitating whole crowds of enemies. It should come as no surprise that the spell choices available to Warlock are all stupidly powerful, or failing that, fun as hell. Really, it’s almost for the best that Warlock has such limited spell slots, because otherwise they would be the top-tier spellcaster in D&D.
Lots of Warlocks will be drawn towards flavorful spells that match the story of their character and Patron, but there are tons of Warlock spells powerful enough that any Warlock should consider learning them. And those are the ones we’ve gathered here.
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.
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.
Spellcasting For Warlocks
Both the upside and downside to Warlock’s spellcasting is that you get very few but very high level spell slots. At any level, you will only have a handful of spell slots, but they are all the maximum level available, capping out at 5th Level. So instead of having one or two big spells and a lot of little spells (like a measly Sorcerer or Wizard might have), Warlock gets three or four big spells, but that’s it. Your spell slots also recharge on a short rest.
This wacky way of shooting spells means three things for Warlock:
- Most of the spells Warlock casts will be cantrips, so pick good ones.
- Spell slots are precious, so each one needs to make a big splash. It also weakens spells that require easily-broken-concentration or spell effects that end with a simple saving throw.
- Spells that scale and get better at higher levels are key, so your low-level spells can stay relevant as your spell slots increase in level.
You are allowed to swap out a spell each time you level up, so you can take spells that are good at low levels safe in the knowledge that you can trade up to world-shaking spells once you reach higher levels.
And thus we come to the all-important question of “what makes a Warlock spell good?” We are looking for spells that do extra damage or target more creatures when cast at higher levels, and preferably ones that do not require concentration or qualify as save-or-suck spells.
There are a few exceptions to these rules (like really worthwhile save-or-suck spells), so feel free to take some less-optimal spells. If they don’t manage to pull their weight, you can always swap them out for something more reliable.
✅ Eldritch Blast
With the Agonizing Blast Invocation, eldritch blast is an absurdly reliable source of damage, better than any ranged weapon. And since it only gets bigger at higher levels, you will be casting this cantrip well into the late game. The ability to hit multiple targets is rare among cantrips too, adding even more flexibility. To top it off, you can use Eldritch Invocations to upgrade eldritch blast further. It is so integral to Warlock—both mechanically and flavor-wise—that every Warlock should take eldritch blast.
Not much damage compared to eldritch blast, but giving an enemy disadvantage on their next weapon attack can easily disable a big scary bad guy.
✅ Green-Flame Blade
For weapon Warlocks only! But if that’s you, adding your Charisma to damage suddenly transforms you from a wanna-be fighter to a full-blown combat class. An easy upgrade to your damage output.
🆗 Mage Hand
Basically telekinesis. Not the first cantrip you should take, but opening trapped doors while standing twenty feet back feels great.
🆗 Mind Sliver
An Intelligence save means this reliably hits a lot of beasts and other stupid things, but the real fun is the penalty to a saving throw of your choice. Pick Intelligence and you can chain mind sliver against one target until death.
🆗 Minor Illusion
Incredibly versatile if you’re thinking creatively, so get weird with it.
✅ Toll the Dead
Good for high armor enemies that eldritch blast bounces off of. Scales well at high levels, and other than the first turn in combat you’ll almost always get to use the higher damage die.
1st Level Spells
✅ Armor of Agathys
Warlock’s answer to mage armor. This can soak up a lot of damage while also dishing it out. And with higher level spell slots, you get more health and deal more damage, so it remains an integral part of your arsenal.
Just the fact that you can pass this between enemies as you kill them makes this an efficient use of a spell slot. Being able to focus down an enemy and kill them quickly is even better.
🆗 Protection from Evil and Good
Giving enemies disadvantage on attacks makes for a pretty good defense. And the list of enemy types covers a lot of monsters, too.
🆗 Witch Bolt
This is a great spell at low levels, where being able to squeeze out a few turns of extra damage from one spell slot is just sheer value. However, it doesn’t scale well, so you’ll want to replace it later on.
At the same time you gain access to 2nd Level spells (Warlock Level 3), you also get to select a Pact Boon, one of which gives more spell options. Check out D&DBeyond’s overview of these Pacts and other Warlock features here.
2nd Level Spells
An excellent escape plan on its own, but coupled with the Devil’s Sight Invocation (allowing you to see in magical darkness) means you can see everything while your enemies are blind. Great for ambushes, but it takes some work to pull off.
🆗 Hold Person
Simply disables an enemy. It takes concentration though, so only use it on something really scary. At higher levels you can hold multiple enemies, which dramatically improves its efficiency.
Surrounded by enemies? Pressured into an uncomfortable dinner party? Just go invisible and slip away. Straightforward and ever useful.
🆗 Misty Step
Extra movement, repositioning, escaping a crowd… the opportunities are endless. One of the most versatile spells in the game. Teleportation is always handy.
🆗 Spider Climb
Poor man’s fly. It gets you off the ground and out of melee range.
Good for simple mind-control commands. You won’t be killing anything with this spell, but it can make anything outside of combat a cakewalk if used cleverly.
3rd Level Spells
The one-stop-shop for messing up a villain’s plan. Preventing an enemy from killing an ally or from teleporting away is huge. However, you don’t have the spell slots to be using this willy-nilly. Either keep it in your pocket for emergencies or let another party member cast this.
An excellent utility spell, but you only get to target at most three people. Leave this to another spellcaster if you can.
✅ Hunger of Hadar
Not a lot of damage in the area-of-effect, but its radius is massive and it slows anything caught inside. This means enemies can get trapped and suffer damage several times, in addition to being blinded.
🆗 Hypnotic Pattern
A great answer to take out big crowds of enemies.
⚠️ Intellect Fortress
Sticking this on a weaker ally shores up a lot of their vulnerabilities. Still, Warlock isn’t here to play support, so think hard before learning this spell.
🆗 Thunder Step
Unlimited teleport range within sight! That’s big, as is taking an ally with you. And the damage likely hits a few targets. Just be aware the thunderclap will also hurt allies.
🆗 Vampiric Touch
This spell stays running between turns, meaning you can get several attacks with it out of one spell slot. Very efficient, and healing for half the damage inflicted can keep you alive, since this requires wading into melee.
4th Level Spells
One of the save-or-suck spells that’s worth it for Warlock. Banishing the biggest threat so you can mop up the rest and reposition can make many battles much easier.
✅ Shadow of Moil
If your DM is kind, they will give enemies disadvantage to hit you thanks to the magical darkness cloaking you. And if they do then hit, you get to smack them for some damage. It’s a win-win!
🆗 Sickening Radiance
Damage? Disadvantage on ability checks? Negated invisibility? Why pick one of these fine effects when you can impose all of them, and to multiple targets too.
✅ Summon Aberration
Oddly reliable for a summon spell, since you pick what form the aberration takes. There is also no situation where you can lose control over your pet, and the spell scales to higher levels.
⚠️ Summon Greater Demon
Lots of big nasty demons to summon, but you can lose control of it quickly. In that case, your party can hide in the summoning circle—still, having a minion disobey you so easily isn’t always worth the raw power of a demon.
5th Level Spells
The better witch bolt. Dealing the recurring damage sucks up your action, but you squeeze a lot of value out of one spell slot.
🆗 Far Step
Warlock doesn’t do much with their bonus action, so zipping around every turn for free makes you harder to hit while also giving you the positioning to hit anything on the battlefield.
🆗 Hold Monster
An upgraded hold person, made more useful because at this level, your party probably isn’t fighting many humanoids. You’ll be getting to fight dragons and aberrations soon enough.
✅ Synaptic Static
A massive area-of-effect that deals loads of damage and slaps a penalty on anything it hits. Incredibly strong crowd control.
🆗 Wall Of Light
Blind some stuff, block some stuff, blast everything else. This spell does it all, and does it quite well.
⚔ Player Tip: Capping Out At 5th Level Spell Slots ⚔
Warlocks can only cast spells of maximum 5th Level using a spell slot. All higher level spells are learned and cast through Warlock’s Mystic Arcanum feature, granting one cast of each upper-level spell per day. For more details, have a look at our guide to Warlock class features here.
6th Level Spells
🆗 Circle of Death
An area-of-effect with a massive range and high damage. Simple to use and kills things fast.
🆗 Conjure Fey
Gives you a nice pet, and there are plenty of fey creatures with useful effects, even if their damage output can be a little low. It’s too bad they turn against you if you lose concentration.
Lots of good effects. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to target one enemy a turn.
✅ Mass Suggestion
This targets so many people that even if a few pass their save, you get a lot of value. Equally effective at pacifying a battlefield as it is as getting you off that murder charge in court.
✅ Mental Prison
Deals a load of damage even if the target passes their save, and if they fail it they are essentially locked out of the fight for the spell’s duration.
7th Level Spells
✅ Crown Of Stars
This is non-concentration, so you can hold down an enemy and pelt it with stars. Each one deals a nice chunk of damage, and using one only takes a bonus action.
✅ Finger of Death
A guaranteed 37 damage for targets who fail their save is a respectable minimum, and the damage only gets higher from there. Can easily take out a single target with a snap of your fingers.
Stick all your problems in a box and forget about them! This spell is incredible for two reasons: you can remove a crowd of enemies from a fight, and there is no save to avoid the spell.
✅ Plane Shift
Moving between planes is either an effective escape plan or just good transit. Also being able to use this offensively to make sure you never have to deal with an enemy ever again is super useful.
High level spell effects can ramp up in complexity. If you find yourself getting a bit lost and want quick access to spell descriptions, check out Dnd5e.wikidot’s reference list to Warlock spells here.
8th Level Spells
✅ Abi-Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting
A reliable crowd-control spell that works best on weaker grunts. Since the save is Constitution, the majority of targets that fail will have less health and could be killed outright.
✅ Dominate Monster
Dominate monster is to friends what an ICBM is to a spud gun. Why make an enemy neutral in a fight when you can just turn it into your personal pet? Additionally, the Wisdom save to break the spell only happens when the monster is damaged, so there’s a good chance you’ll never lose control.
A little bit of damage, and a lot of consequences. Using this on a spellcaster utterly wrecks them, and even using it on a non-magical target turns them into a mindless beast. Combine that with a 30 day timer between saving throws to break the effect, and you can decommission evil mages with ease.
The premier social encounter spell. You will already have a high Charisma bonus, so getting a result over 20 on every Charisma check for an hour is almost guaranteed. Just be sure to think hard about making your only 8th Level spell a pure social buff.
🆗 Maddening Darkness
This covers a wide area, blocks line of sight to provide cover, and deals a load of damage. Great to incapacitate a crowd, especially if they are locked in a room and can’t escape the spell.
9th Level Spells
A buff ability from Warlock might seem out of character, but this is so good that any spellcaster should consider learning it. Advantage on doing anything and disadvantage on being hit. Simply obscene in a fight, and handy outside one too.
🆗 Power Work Kill
Quick and clean way to end a battle. There is no save, so inflict a beat-down and then finish your boss fight with this spell.
✅ Psychic Scream
The range is only limited by line of sight, so you can easily clear an entire room with damage this high. And if something doesn’t die, it’s stunned, which is debilitating enough that you can finish it off in a turn.
✅ True Polymorph
An extreme way to change your hair color, but it does the trick. Seriously, you can do anything you want to with this spell. Turning into a planetar is only the tip of the iceberg. Turn a dragon into a statue, a ship into a kraken, the floor into an acidic ooze. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
How To Get Access To More Spells
If you’re not satisfied with the spell list available to Warlocks, you have a few options to get different spells.
The first is with Eldritch Invocations: these are acquired by leveling up your Warlock, and many grant access to particular spells. For instance, Invocations are the best way for Warlock to get polymorph. For a breakdown of all the Eldritch Invocations, you can check out our guide here.
If you want a spell that isn’t available through an Invocation, you can try one of several feats. The Magic Initiate feat gives you two Cantrips and a 1st Level spell from the spellcasting class of your choice, and Ritual Caster gives you two 1st Level spells as long as they are rituals.
⚔ Player Tip: Racial Spells & Feats ⚔
Several races have innate spellcasting, allowing you to cast a handful of spells. Additionally certain races have niche feats that grant new spells.
At the end of the day, if you want certain high-level spells (the infamous fireball springs to mind, although Warlocks sworn to The Fiend can get that one in particular), you won’t get them as Warlock. Your last hope is multiclassing into a new spellcasting class. This can offer a few benefits, like new armor proficiencies and loads more spell slots. But more importantly, it opens new doors for what spells you can learn. So if you are desperate to shoot a cone of cold, then it’s time to start hitting the books and learn how to be a Wizard.
If you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends! Drop a comment below and let us know if we missed your favorite spell. Because of Warlock’s limited spellcasting, you need to choose each spell carefully and make them count. Hopefully this guide can help you do just that.