Hexblade Warlock – how to play in DnD 5E

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Notable amongst Warlock Patrons for being the only one to provide you with medium armor and shield proficiency, this subclass is capable of seamlessly switching between spell casting and swinging a weapon. The Hexblade Warlock subclass is infamous for being an excellent multiclassing dip for any Charisma-based class and so good it even tempts some Wizards to make a deal with a mysterious weapon of power.

In this mini-guide, we’ll break down what this Patron provides you, as well as give you an insight on how to play this interesting subclass.

Level One

Hexblade’s Curse – Once per short rest, as a bonus action you curse one creature within 30 feet that you can see. For 1 minute, or until either of you die, or you’re incapacitated, you gain certain benefits against that creature: you can add your proficiency bonus to damage rolls against that target, attacks against that target are a critical hit on a 19 and 20, and if the target dies you regain HP equal to your Warlock level plus your Cha modifier. This is a minor damage increase for most characters, however, there are certain ways to leverage this for much more impressive damage numbers. It’s important to note that, unlike some other patron features, you don’t need to be the one to kill the target of your curse in order to receive the heal. 

Hex Warrior – You gain proficiency with martial weapons, medium armor, and shields. In addition, when you finish a long rest you can choose one weapon that lacks the two-handed property. You can use your Charisma for the attack and damage rolls with that weapon, until your next finish a long rest. If you have Pact of the Blade, you can also use Charisma in this way for every pact weapon you conjure with that feature, no matter the weapon type. Perhaps the most infamous feature of this patron, this allows you to switch seamlessly between throwing bolts of energy and swinging lengths of sharpened steel. The AC increase from medium armor and wielding a shield is a substantial durability boost that can help you maintain concentration on your spells or wade into melee range should you wish.

Level Six

Accursed Specter – Once per long rest, when you kill a humanoid you can raise them as a specter (Monster Manual pg. 279) under your verbal control. The specter lasts until the end of your next long rest and gains a bonus to its attacks equal to your Cha modifier. This feature is unfortunately out of your control to some degree, if you don’t fight any humanoid enemies then you don’t even have the option of using it. If you can use it, however, then this can prove to be a valuable addition to your party and can watch over you whilst you take your long rest.

Level Ten

Armor of Hexes – If a creature affected by your Hexblade’s Curse hits you with an attack, you can use a reaction to roll a d6 and make them miss on a roll of 4 or higher. This is a great defensive ability, giving your cursed enemy a 50% chance to miss you, even when they think they’ve hit you!

Level Fourteen

Master of Hexes – You can now move your Hexblade’s Curse to a new creature when the original target dies, this requires no action but you cannot do so if you’re incapacitated. Moving your curse in this way prevents you from regaining hit points from the original target’s death. A quality of life improvement, allowing you to leverage your damage bonus against multiple enemies in a single combat. You should use caution when using this feature, if you are badly injured you may be better off accepting the hit points from the creature’s death instead of moving the curse.

Hexen folk – sample builds

The Force of Destruction (Half-Elf Warlock 2/Sorcerer 18)

Here is a suggested Ability Score Array for this build using the point buy method, before applying racial ability score increases:

Str 8 Dex 13 Con 15 Int 8 Wis 12 Cha 15

Your floating half-elf +1s will be assigned to Dexterity and Constitution, giving you just enough of the former to make the most out of medium armor, and enough Con to take some heavy hits and increase your chances of maintaining concentration.

The purpose of this build is to leverage the damage bonus of Hexblade’s Curse with the unique way that Magic Missile functions, making you a devastating damage dealer against single big monsters. You will be able to add your proficiency modifier to the damage of every dart, making it 1d4+3 damage per dart when you take your first level of Sorcerer. The foundation of this build is Hexblade but, will end up primarily a Sorcerer for the higher-level spell slots and more Sorcery points.

Key Levels

1-4: For the first two levels you will start out Warlock, switching to Sorcerer for level three onwards. You can choose any Sorcerer subclass you like, as it’s only the core Sorcerer features that matter for this build. For the purposes of this guide, we will choose Clockwork Soul for the support spells and abilities. You should choose Agonizing Blast for one of your invocations, the other can be whichever you personally prefer. Your go-to strategy in these levels is to use Eldritch Blast against most enemies, and then combine Hexblade’s Curse and Magic Missile from 3rd level onwards against tougher enemies.

5-10: You should choose Quickened Spell and Extended Spell to increase the duration of some of your Clockwork  Spells. By using Quickened you can either use two castings of Eldritch Blast in a turn or add Eldritch Blast to your Magic Missile nova attack. For your first ASI, you should choose Fey Touched, boosting your Charisma and adding a free use of Misty Step to your toolbox. For your second ASI, you should max out your Charisma. You can bolster your allies with Aid and Bastion of Law starting in these levels, converting Warlock slots into sorcery points to fuel the latter.

11-15: With three Eldritch Blast rays and your cursed Magic Missile doing 1d4+5/6 per dart in these levels, you’re not only a potent damage dealer, but your damage is also very reliable. For this ASI you can choose any feat that interests you, Lucky is a good choice here no matter what your priorities are.

16-20: At 16th level, you’ll get Trance of Order, which can make your Eldritch Blast attack rolls a minimum of 20 to hit whilst under its effects! Your capstone feature will be Clockwork Cavalcade, a fantastic support feature for your party and your nova round will be four Eldritch Blast rays for 1d10+5 each, and 1d4+7 per dart for your Magic Missile. This means if you use your 9th level spell slot on a quickened Magic Missile and also cast Eldritch Blast with your action you’ll do 146.5 force damage on average, in a single turn!

The Cursed Swordsman (Variant Human Warlock 17/ Fighter 3)

Here is a suggested Ability Score Array for this build using the point buy method, before applying racial ability score increases:

Str 10 Dex 13 Con 14 Int 8 Wis 12 Cha 15

Your floating variant human +1s will increase your Charisma and Dexterity, the latter of which you won’t need to increase again unless you want to take the Medium Armor Master feat. For your racial skill take Perception, and for your racial feat take Fighting Initiate from Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. With Fighting Initiate choose the Dueling style. 

This build is focused on being a high-damage dealing ‘sword and board’ user, meaning that you will use a one-handed weapon of your choice and a shield. The synergy between the Warlock and Battle Master Fighter means that your resources will be entirely short rest dependent, allowing you to spend them freely. Whilst the focus of this build is a balance of weapon damage and higher AC, the nature of maneuvers means that you will have a lot of in-combat versatility.

Key Levels

1-4: You’ll be starting out as a Hexblade and taking Warlock levels throughout this level range. For your invocations initially take Agonizing Blast and Fiendish Vigor, at 3rd level take Pact of the Blade and change Agonizing Blast out for Improved Pact Weapon. From this level onwards you can summon a +1 weapon, and use your Hex Warrior feature on a different weapon, in case you need to change things up at any point. For your ASI at 4th level just increase your Charisma to 18.

5-10: 5th level will be another level of Warlock, for your third invocation choose Eldritch Smite for the nova damage and swap out Fiendish Vigor for Thirsting Blade. For levels 6, 7, and 8 switch over to Fighter, choosing Superior Technique for your style and Battle Master for your subclass. For your maneuvers choose Trip Attack, Menacing Attack, Precision Attack, and Parry. This will give you a mix of control options and a reaction defense that isn’t Shield eating your very limited spell slots.

11-15: In these levels, you’ll gain two ASIs and Armor of Hexes to bolster your defenses in those tough boss fights. For your ASIs you can choose what you like, you can boost your Dexterity and take Medium Armor Master for an AC boost, or increase your Constitution for more hit points and a better chance of maintaining your concentration. For your 6th level Mystic Arcanum Tasha’s Otherwordly Guise is a good choice, giving you a +2 AC, 40 ft. fly speed, and multiple immunities as a bonus action. Other solid choices include Circle of Death and Summon Fiend. Your third Pact Magic spell slot means that you can afford to use Eldritch Smite in most fights, even if you have to cast a spell. At 15th level, your 12th level of Warlock, you should use your newest invocation to pick up Life Drinker, which will allow you to add your Charisma to your pact weapon attacks for a second time. If you use a d8 weapon, such as a longsword, at this level your attack now deals 1d8+13, with the option of adding Battle Master Maneuvers and an Eldritch Smite for even more damage.

16-20: Your final levelssee you gain your Mystic Arcanum for 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells, as well as Master of Hexes and your fourth Pact Magic slot. For your 7th level spell Crown of Stars is an excellent pick, with a long enough duration that you can reliably precast it and then use the stars as you need them. Forcecage is also a powerful choice at this level, allowing you to lock down many monsters. 8th level spells are more limited, but Dominate Monster can completely change encounters, whilst Demiplane gives you a private sanctuary to cache your loot and imprison your enemies. For your 9th level spell you have a couple of nice options; Blade of Disaster, from the Icewind Dale: Rime of the Frostmaiden, gives you a powerful bonus action option to complement your weapon attacks. Foresight, your other great option, would give you advantage on all attacks, checks, and saves, whilst also giving disadvantage on attacks against you.

We hope that you’ve found this article helpful and are now open to talking with the Fighter about who gets that new magic sword, instead of just smiting them in the face. If you’re interested in more Paladin information, then check out our Paladin guide, or if you just enjoy reading about the game, then check out our how to play section. Until next time, may your arguments be convincing and your sword hand at the ready.

Expert Editor-in-Chief