Fair warning: with the right build, the Undying subclass might make your DM tear their hair out. Undying Warlocks tap into the necromantic power of liches and death gods to ensure they never take a trip to the undiscovered country.
You can stack defensive spells and Invocations on top of your subclass features to create a Warlock who never goes down in combat. That means you can spend your time helping your party, even if they’re put off by your constant rants about how Vecna isn’t so bad.
If zombification doesn’t sound so bad in exchange for eternal life, then Undying is the Warlock subclass for you!
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 Undying Warlock
As might be expected, your biggest strength is how hard it is to kill you. That doesn’t lean toward any particular playstyle, but Undying’s spell list opens a few doors. You can prioritize keeping your allies from dying half of the time (Support) and otherwise keep them from getting hurt in the first place by disabling groups of enemies (Controlling).
You’re still not a combat-focused class, but you don’t need to hide on the backlines either. With a few defensive upgrades, you can get right up in the face of enemies to land touch-range spells. Another option is blinking around the battlefield and landing surprise attacks with eldritch blast without having to worry about getting overwhelmed and killed.
Always try to stay close to your allies though (or at least be sure you can easily get back to them), as many of your spells and abilities want you nearby in order to buff the party. This will also prevent you from getting cut off when you drop a magical obstacle onto the battlefield.
Being An Effective Support
By virtue of gaining the spare the dying cantrip, you’re well positioned to focus on keeping your allies alive during combat. You won’t have healing spells, but you do have options like aura of life and death ward which helps downed allies get back on their feet. Since incoming damage adds up to be larger than what healing spells can recover, helping allies when they hit zero HP is usually the more efficient option anyways, so your abilities are quite effective.
You also have access to a few buff spells from the Warlock spell list, and by taking Pact of the Tome you can grab a few support cantrips. These provide a good fallback to ensure your allies are always landing attacks or passing saves.
Being An Effective Controller
Your subclass spell list provides a couple good control options which pair well with standard Warlock control spells. Focus on hitting groups of enemies with spells that either slow them down or debilitate them, squeezing the biggest effect out of a single spell slot.
You excel at surviving combat, so you can even use yourself as an obstacle on the battlefield. Get in front of an enemy to block their advance while pummeling them with spells and protecting your party.
⚔ Player Tip: Is The Undying Subclass Underpowered? ⚔
Undying is known as the weakest Warlock subclass. Even still, the base Warlock class is very powerful, and most subclasses just power it up a little further. Undying has comparatively weak subclass features, but with the right build, you can still contribute effectively to your party.
Undying Subclass Features
The Undying Subclass gives you a buffet of support and control spells, as well as features designed to prevent you from dying. You also gain the ability to easily bring allies back from the brink of death, making you well-suited to acting as a battlefield medic.
⚠️ Expanded Spell List
✅ False Life
This is one way as Warlock to reliably bump up your health pool. There is the Fiendish Vigor Invocation that lets you do this at-will, but you can only ever cast it at 1st Level. Learning it as a full-fledged spell means the health you gain scales at higher levels.
⚠️ Ray of Sickness
The damage isn’t great, plus you have to both hit and have the target fail a save to get the full effect. It’s an alright option, but using a spell slot to hit one target for this little damage feels silly next to eldritch blast.
Nice debuff that will give the target disadvantage on attacks if they’re blinded. Good to take one skilled enemy out of the fight.
The beggar’s antimagic field. Many spells require verbal components, so this cripples spellcasters. Just be wary that any enemies using weapons can still hit you and try to break your concentration.
⛔ Feign Death
Using a 3rd Level spell slot for an effect you can achieve with good acting is ridiculously inefficient. Do not even bother.
🆗 Speak With Dead
Nice for roleplay and will probably net you some useful information. This is a little more utility-focused than Warlock usually wants, but is handy enough you might like to keep it in your back pocket.
⚠️ Aura Of Life
A damage resistance and a wake-up call for downed allies are both pretty solid, but not game breaking. Since this is a concentration spell, you’re better off using your concentration on a flashier control effect.
🆗 Death Ward
This keeps an ally from dying without requiring concentration or needing you to be anywhere near them. That’s pretty powerful, and the duration means you can take short rests in order to stick this on every party member. There’s even an Invocation with a similar effect—Gift of the Protectors—which you can read up on here thanks to RPGBot.
Three saves means the actual sickness is unreliable. Sometimes you’ll cast this spell, wait several turns, and find out nothing happens. Even if it works, the effects aren’t that great. Blinding Sickness is probably the best to severely weaken a target.
⛔ Legend Lore
This is not a big enough effect to deserve wasting a spell slot on it. You can only get info on legendary items, people, and places, which writes off 99% of the world. Leave this to Wizard.
⚠️ Among The Dead
Spare the dying is lovely, sure. But it’s still just a cantrip. It’s useful for playing a support role, but actual healing spells could accomplish this effect even better. Having undead struggle to hit you is pretty nice, especially since it requires a Wisdom save which undead are generally bad at. Sadly, one passed save makes them immune to this effect for 24 hours, which means it’s quite common for this feature to become irrelevant after a turn or two of combat.
🆗 Defy Death
This means you immediately become conscious after passing just one death save, which is excellent. You can also feel safe spending a turn to stabilize an ally since you’ll heal while doing so. Too bad you only get this once every long rest, but it still rewards you for using one of Undying’s core mechanics.
⛔ Undying Nature
With a careful read, you’ll see that gameplay-wise, nothing is different. You still need rests just like everyone else. Everything else is flavor except being able to hold your breath indefinitely. This feature feels like a massive letdown, and won’t shake up your routine gameplay in the slightest, which as a Level 10 feature, it feels like it should.
⚠️ Indestructible Life
A quick heal during combat is very nice, and it recharges on a short rest. This is essentially Fighter’s Second Wind ability, but with slightly smaller dice. It works better on Fighter, who’s had it since first level and will therefore get more use out of it. Getting this at Level 14 means you’ll heal comparatively little health with it, but all the same, an emergency heal never hurts.
The Perfect Undying Build
By focusing your build around improving your already strong survivability skills, you can become an unstoppable force-of-undead-nature. Aim to get high HP, a high AC, and spells, feats, and Invocations which either expand on your primary role in the party or which give you defensive buffs.
AC, and therefore Dexterity, will be your core defense. Being able to dodge fireballs also improves your survivability.
Spells like false life and your subclass features mean you shouldn’t need to worry about health. However, having a strong Constitution save for concentration checks is key to your control spells.
Your spellcasting ability. Get this as high as possible to increase your spell save DC, making your control spells much harder to resist.
✅ If you are leaning towards a support role, Aasimar, Eladrin, Verdan, and Yuan-Ti Pureblood are good races. Variant Human is also good to pick up an extra feat and use it to improve your survivability. If you’d prefer to fill a control role, Half-Elf, Satyr, Tiefling, and Warforged are your best options.
🆗 Changeling, Simic Hybrid, Tabaxi, and Triton are good secondary choices, each bringing a number of flexible racial features that help you round out your build.
🆗 Moderately Armored
Undying really wants to stay alive, so better armor will help with that. Getting access to shields is a fantastic AC boost, and an extra Dexterity bonus can only help.
A good way to get ahead on HP without having to hyperfocus on Constitution. Make sure you never disappoint your patron by going down in combat!
✅ War Caster
Really just the best feat for Warlocks everywhere. Advantage on concentration checks means you get more value out of your spell slots, and using eldritch blast as an opportunity attack amps up your damage output.
✅ Agonizing Blast
When you run out of spell slots, you will turn to eldritch blast. Pumping up your go-to damage spell is a must.
✅ Eldritch Mind
Many of your control spells require concentration. This Invocation is a straightforward buff that ensures your spells keep running even when you’re under fire. You might even be able to get closer to combat with enough bonuses to maintaining concentration.
⚠️ Tomb of Levistus
This is such a weird Invocation and very situational, but it’s just so much fun and flavor-wise aligns with Undying’s dedication to being annoyingly unkillable. Soaking up potentially 200 points of damage is an absolute joy.
Warlock Pact Boon
There are two strong options here. Perhaps the more obvious is Pact of the Talisman. Most of the talisman bonuses apply to whoever is wearing it, so you can pass it to an ally and buff them up. With the Protection of the Talisman and Bond of the Talisman Invocations in particular, the wearer gets big defensive boosts which makes it easier for you to keep them alive.
The second choice is Pact of the Tome. You can learn a few cantrips which greatly expand your capabilities in a support role. The best of these are guidance and resistance. You can also grab the Gift of the Protectors Invocation, which lets you save your party members from unconsciousness when one of them hits zero HP, which is perfectly in line with what Undying is already doing.
Pact of the Blade isn’t terrible if you want to use your survivability to fight on the front lines of combat, but you still won’t be as good as Hexblade or the dedicated combat classes. For a good guide on playing Pact of the Blade as a non-Hexblade, check out this guide by Lichlair. Pact of the Chain offers nothing good for Undying.
✅ Eldritch Blast
For sheer damage output, this is unmatched, especially when customized by your Invocations. A staple for Warlocks everywhere.
✅ Armor of Agathys
You already specialize in staying alive: double-down with this spell for even more health. The damage also means you can wade into melee and actually dish out some damage.
✅ Protection from Evil and Good
The protection covers a lot of monster types, and negating a few conditions is very useful. The biggest buff is disadvantage on attacks against the ally you cast this on.
A solid control spell meant to eliminate line-of-sight and give your party a chance to retreat.
✅ Mirror Image
Improve on your already incredible defenses is this spell, making it unlikely you’ll even get hit in the first place. When paired with your subclass features, getting downed in combat is almost impossible.
🆗 Misty Step
While you stay near your party, this spell makes a quick side-trip to eldritch blast a weak enemy possible, which is often strategically useful.
✅ Hunger of Hadar
The best control spell you can get as Warlock. Anything trapped in here is going to get wrecked, and lose at least a couple turns they could have spent attacking you.
🆗 Intellect Fortress
These are crucial saves for resisting many spells, so sticking this on an ally makes them less likely to be mind-controlled or banished in combat.
✅ Magic Circle
Crowding your party into one of these circles provides a lot of defensive boosts, and reversing the magic to trap a creature is a good way to lock an enemy out of a fight.
🆗 Vampiric Touch
You are one of the Warlock subclasses most capable of getting into melee range, so a repeatable melee attack with damage that also heals you is well worth it.
With your limited spell slots, you’re not well suited to big concentration spells like banishment, but removing a big scary monster from a fight for multiple turns is too good an effect to pass up.
🆗 Far Step
You’re always in range of the ally that needs your help thanks to this spell. Maneuverability also greatly helps your survivability, so you’ll be even harder to kill.
✅ Synaptic Static
Blasting several enemies in an area-of-effect causes loads of damage. But the real benefit is making them subtract a d6 from attacks and ability checks, which weakens them significantly and makes it easier for your party to run in and mop up.
✅ Wall Of Light
One of your best control options, simply because the conjured wall is very large and hurts to climb through. Blinding enemies also makes them hit less, so all in all this spell is perfect for covering your party’s retreat.
🆗 Circle of Death
Just a lot of damage in a huge area. Exceptional at hurting a lot of enemies fast. You won’t need to support your allies if there are no enemies left to attack them.
🆗 Mental Prison
Perfect for targeting a boss monster. They take a lot of damage, and either take more or are forced to stay in place. Very efficient at locking the target where they stand and keeping them there while you focus on weaker enemies.
Trapping a lot of enemies at once is a wonderful feeling. This spell is a very good option for crowd control. And the cage itself can act as an obstacle and slow down whatever enemies you can’t imprison.
A great buff to give to your party’s face. That might even be you, in which case you can play a support role for yourself. Self-care is important.
✅ Maddening Darkness
Blocking line-of-sight and dealing damage are what you want out of your area-of-effect spells. The massive radius only makes this spell better, as does a bit of auditory torture to drive your enemies a little insane.
The ultimate support spell. This one is a no-brainer. The sheer quantity of buffs granted makes this worthwhile, let alone how good each of them is. Add in the fact that you don’t need to maintain concentration and that the spell lasts eight hours and this becomes an insanely efficient buff.
Studded leather is the best armor you start out proficient with, but you might consider investing in a feat to gain proficiency with medium armor.
You can only use simple weapons, so your best melee options are greatclubs, handaxes, javelins, maces, quarterstaffs, and spears. If you want to hit harder, look to Pact of the Blade or to feats that grant martial weapon proficiency.
When attacking at range, always default to eldritch blast, but a light crossbow is a decent backup.
While Undying has a reputation as underpowered, it can still be a fun and flavorful subclass. If this guide helped you reconsider Undying, share it with your friends! And leave a comment telling us all about your own Undying Warlock build.