Hello all! Sorry to give you a week without us, but we’re back and we’re breaking right into one of my favorite classes, the Warlock! Prepare to stare death in the face and and make a deal with it, today we’re talking about The Undying pact for the Warlock!
Let’s start off by saying Warlock subclasses seem to be pretty hit or miss, depending on what you’re looking for. For straight combat effectiveness, nothing can rival the Fiend or the Hexblade. But for out of combat effectiveness, the Archfey and Great Old one reign supreme. We’ll be looking at the effectiveness of the Undying both in and out of combat, and here’s to hoping that we won’t have to mention Eldritch Blast at all during it.
Meeting with the Reaper
To start, let’s take a look at the Warlock’s expanded spells, since they often add some very useful spells to a sparse spell list. Overall, the spell list contains an okay at best mix of in and out of combat abilities, naturally centered around death. Some niche spells are thrown into the mix such as feign death, death ward, and legend lore find themselves into the spell list, but may not find themselves into the Warlock’s repertoire of spells. Blindness/deafness could be a nice staple, since it has the ability to be upcast and effect up to four creatures. Aura of Life could also be useful if you’re staying near your front line and find that you’re fighting a ton of undead creatures. Overall though, I think that the spell list is lackluster and you generally won’t be picking too many of the options from here.
The first class ability available to The Undying once they sign their life away is Among the Dead. The ability has multiple effects, with the first one giving you the spare the dying cantrip as well as having advantage on saving throws against any disease. You also effectively gain the benefits of the sanctuary spell against Undead, forcing them to make a Wisdom saving throw to hit you. There are two campaigns where these abilities are useful: Campaigns like Tomb of Annihilation, where diseases run rampant and can ruin your playthrough, or Curse of Strahd, where undead stalk each and every dark corner. Outside of that, if you’re playing a game that doesn’t involve many undead or diseases, you may not see much use out of this spell. Having spare the dying is very nice if you don’t have a designated healer in the party or if your healer goes down, but it should be one of those spells you’d rather not have to whip out of your component pouch.
At level 6 you gain the ability to Defy Death. When you succeed on a death saving throw or stabilize a creature with spare the dying, you can choose to regain 1d8 + your Con mod hit points. You can use this once per long rest. True to the name of the subclass, this ability will make dying just from death saving throws very difficult! Being able to not only stabilize but wake up with a decent chunk of hit points can get you right back into the fight, and fortunately you’ll still get your entire turn when you succeed! The other effect where you can regain HP when you stabilize my creature though, I can see that almost never being used. If the ability allowed you to heal the ally you cast spare the dying on it would be a phenomenal ability, but sadly you can only heal yourself with the ability. Being gated behind a long rest as well makes many hesitant to use this ability, so its sadly lacking that extra oomph to make it a great ability.
When you reach level 10, you acquire an Undying Nature. This ability is…. nearly useless. Sure it helps you against spells like cloudkill or effects that’d magically age you, I’ve gone through entire campaigns where these spells or effects have never seen the table. The ability makes it so you don’t need to breathe, eat food, drink water, or sleep, as well as making you age only 1 year for every 10 years that passes. At this point food is mostly a non issue, as you’re either rich enough to buy a warehouse of rations or have a Paladin/Cleric to make food for you. Not sleeping is useful if you have a high passive perception and you want to take the only watch, but other than that… this ability has no real use. It’s a neat fluff ability that fits the class, but that’s about it.
Finally we gain the secrets of Indestructible Life. This ability lets you use a bonus action to regain hit points equal to 1d8 + your warlock level. If you use it while holding a severed body part of yours back in place, the part also reattaches! Now let’s be real folks…. how many of you have actually encountered dismemberment in a game? I’ve only encountered it once, and that was only because the player specially requested it so they could replace their arm with a shinobi prosthetic! At this point a bonus action heal of 20 hit points will help you to take one, maybe two more hits which is great, but the main appeal of this ability will almost never be used! You can only use it once per short or long rest, which is fairly nice, but other than that, the heal this ability provides at level 14 is fairly insubstantial and its weird niche bonus will almost never be used.
The Foot in Death’s Door
So right about now is where we’ll be looking at how this subclass really stacks up compared to other subclasses available to the Warlock. It’s almost criminal to compare this class to the top contenders in this class, since it’s apparent by now that it doesn’t compare to them. Many of this subclass’s abilities are quite niche, so probably the best subclass to compare it to is the Great Old One. Granted, I’m very biased towards that subclass (big project with that class coming up soon), but I can acknowledge that from a combat stand point, it’s probably the weakest of all the options here. However, I think that its ability to do such an incredible job of information gathering on a short rest basis outweighs what The Undying has to offer.
The Undying offers 3 in combat abilities, but all of them have a very niche use. Among the Dead is only useful when fighting against Undead, Defy Death is only useful if you’re going down and Indestructible Life is quite weak for the level you get it at. Searing Vengeance from The Celestial patron lets you explode in a nova, restore half your hit point max, and deal damage while blinding creatures in a large radius! And Undying just lets you recover up to 22 HP as a bonus action! Their only non combat ability is a pretty terrible fluff ability when compared to the Great Old One, since aging is almost never a factor in a campaign and like I said, at that level you’ll be more than set on food and water.
While I did want to write about Warlocks, it was hard to really choose a subclass option that I could bang out within a shorter article. While this subclass definitely has some cool features and I like the flavor of it – I mean sheesh, Vecna could be your patron – I’m sadly going to have to give it an Underpowered. Its abilities are far too niche and campaign reliant and it doesn’t have a great spell list to compensate for that. If you want to play the Sentinel at Death’s Door more effectively, look into the Grave Cleric, it’ll give you everything you want and more…. except Eldritch Blast.
With that we’ll be drawing this one to a close! Next week is going to be an interesting week since we have something neat planned, but after that… I may dive into my great analysis of the Great Old One Warlock, my personal favorite class/subclass combination in the game! That’ll be a nice teaser for the lot of you who have made it to the end of this article, and as always, I can never thank you enough for your support! Give us a follow on our Twitter or Instagram, and we’ll see you guys next time!