Undead Warlock

Published on May 2, 2024

Resist the pull of death with the Undead Warlock. Your deathless patron grants you increased survivability and amplified necrotic damage to defeat your enemies on the battlefield.

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Quick Links
Undead Warlock Overview
Undead Warlock Subclass Features
How to Play an Undead Warlock
Ability Scores for Undead Warlocks
Undead Warlock Races
Undead Warlock Feats
Undead Warlock 5e Build Example

Undead Warlock Overview

“The Lich King has given me true power!”

— Death Knight Arthas

If you’re interested in running a death-themed Warlock, the Undead subclass is certainly a superior choice to its underwhelming cousin the Undying Warlock. Introduced in Van Richter’s Guide to Ravenloft, the Undead Warlock asks you to make a pact with some powerful being who exists beyond death’s veil like a lich, a vampire lord, or an undead pharaoh.

Your new patron grants you access to typical undead characteristics like the ability to resist death or project your spirit onto the mortal plane, plus a signature affinity for necrotic damage. These features grant the Undead Warlock additional survivability in combat, as well as utility in non-combat situations.


With a temporary HP boost available through its basic feature, Form of Dread, and additional resistances added later, the Undead Warlock is probably the most durable Warlock subclass in the game. At the same time, the Undead subclass provides a strong baseline damage boost from Grave Touched, which can amplify the main Eldritch Blast build quite effectively. These two features open up some interesting build options for the Undead Warlock player.


While the Undead Warlock has some strong survivability built into its kit, Warlock isn’t a class that typically wants to engage in melee combat. Its best build is usually the Eldritch Blast route, which makes it difficult to leverage the subclass’ strengths. The subclass also has a lacklustre set of expanded spells. Ultimately, there are ways to work around these weaknesses if you see the potential in the subclass, but you’ll have to get creative to fully optimize your character.

Subclass Guide Rating Scheme

This guide is meant as a deep dive into the Undead subclass. For a full overview of the Warlock class, check out our Warlock 5e Guide.

For our class guides, we use the following color rating scheme:

  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all.
  • Orange Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise.
  • Green is a good option.
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character.
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option, your character would not be optimized.

Undead Warlock Spells (Pact Magic)

Your pact with your Undead patron grants you the power of life and death over lesser beings, providing spells that apply debuffs to your enemies or protect you and your allies from death.

1st level

  • Bane: A simple and effective low-level debuff. Scales well with warlock spell slots.
  • False Life: A good way to get temp hp, but you will be given a better way to do this in your Form of Dread feature. Still, one-hour duration and no concentration can make this a worthwhile way to heal after your Form HP have run out.

2nd level

  • Blindness/Deafness: Very effective debuff that doesn’t require concentration. The only downside is that it targets CON.
  • Phantasmal Force: There are extreme situations where this could be useful, but it is simply not a good spell.

3rd level

  • Phantom Steed: Situational. If you need to do any serious traveling, this spell means you won’t need to buy a horse but only lasts for one hour.
  • Speak with Dead: Get some interesting lore, help solve a mystery, or get advice on how to proceed through a dungeon.

4th level

  • Death Ward: Has an 8-hour duration and doesn’t require concentration so it could be a good spell to cast pre-emptively if you have the ability to regain spell slots during a short rest.
  • Greater Invisibility: Being able to attack or cast spells while invisible is a huge upgrade from regular invisibility. Give it to a melee party member and watch them get advantage on every attack and disadvantage on attacks against them, bonus points if it’s a paladin or rogue for extra crit + Divine Smite / Sneak Attack potential.

5th level

  • Antilife Shell: Great option if you find yourself in trouble in melee combat. It will also hedge out your allies so keep that in mind.
  • Cloudkill: Not great in an open field but if you can get the drop on an enemy or contain a group of enemies within the spell it can be very effective because it deals damage turn after turn, as long as the caster keeps concentration. It can also be effective to block off a vantage point used by ranged enemies.

Undead Warlock Subclass Features

The subclass features for DnD 5e Undead Warlocks mimic the characteristics of your undead patron, providing undead immunities and amplified necrotic damage. These features will improve your survivability and tankiness, while also boosting all of your damaging abilities.

1st Level

Form of Dread

You manifest an aspect of your patron’s dreadful power. As a bonus action, you transform for 1 minute. You gain the following benefits while transformed:

  • You gain temporary hit points equal to 1d10 + your warlock level.
  • Once during each of your turns, when you hit a creature with an attack roll, you can force it to make a Wisdom saving throw, and if the saving throw fails, the target is frightened of you until the end of your next turn.
  • You are immune to the frightened condition.

You can transform a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.

The appearance of your Form of Dread reflects some aspect of your patron. For example, your form could be a shroud of shadows forming the crown and robes of your lich patron, or your body might glow with glyphs from ancient funerary rites and be surrounded by desert winds, suggesting your mummy patron.

The basic feature of the Undead Warlock offers strong scaling HP, which can be quite significant in the late game, and a strong crowd control effect with a limited duration. This feature is a great way to survive early encounters, although it does lean towards more of a tank-playstyle, which isn’t normally a hallmark of the Warlock class.

6th Level

Grave Touched

Your patron’s powers have a profound effect on your body and magic. You don’t need to eat, drink, or breathe.

In addition, once during each of your turns, when you hit a creature with an attack roll and roll damage against the creature, you can replace the damage type with necrotic damage. While you are using your Form of Dread, you can roll one additional damage die when determining the necrotic damage the target takes.

While removing the requirement for eating or drinking has minimal impact in most DnD campaigns, not having to breathe can be significant in dungeon-trap situations (or underwater), so it’s definitely a nice-to-have feature.

What pushes this feature into the Blue tier is the additional damage dice while in Form of Dread. The shift to necrotic damage isn’t super impactful for most encounters, but adding another 1d10 to Eldritch Blast damage synergizes really well with the existing Agonizing Blast build.

10th Level

Necrotic Husk

Your connection to undeath and necrotic energy now saturates your body. You have resistance to necrotic damage. If you are transformed using your Form of Dread, you instead become immune to necrotic damage.

In addition, when you would be reduced to 0 hit points, you can use your reaction to drop to 1 hit point instead and cause your body to erupt with deathly energy. Each creature of your choice that is within 30 feet of you takes necrotic damage equal to 2d10 + your warlock level. You then gain 1 level of exhaustion. Once you use this reaction, you can’t do so again until you finish 1d4 long rests.

Necrotic Husk is quite strong for a 10th Level ability — it’s a one-time death immunity combined with a powerful AoE burst reaction. This feature does cost 1 level of exhaustion and 1d4 long rests before it resets, so there is a cost to using it and it doesn’t mesh super well with the Warlock’s long-range playstyle.

You shouldn’t underestimate the impact of necrotic damage resistance (or immunity in Form of Dread) either because there are a decent number of common late-game burst spells that rely on necrotic damage, such as Finger of Death. This passive aspect of the feature won’t be impactful most of the time, but fits the flavour of the Undead subclass nicely.

14th Level

Spirit Projection

Your spirit can become untethered from your physical form. As an action, you can project your spirit from your body. The body you leave behind is unconscious and in a state of suspended animation.

Your spirit resembles your mortal form in almost every way, replicating your game statistics but not your possessions. Any damage or other effects that apply to your spirit or physical body affects the other. Your spirit can remain outside your body for up to 1 hour or until your concentration is broken (as if concentrating on a spell). When your projection ends, your spirit returns to your body or your body magically teleports to your spirit’s space (your choice).

While projecting your spirit, you gain the following benefits:

  • Your spirit and body gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage.
  • When you cast a spell of the conjuration or necromancy school, the spell doesn’t require verbal or somatic components or material components that lack a gold cost.
  • You have a flying speed equal to your walking speed and can hover. You can move through creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain, but you take 1d10 force damage if you end your turn inside a creature or an object.
  • While you are using your Form of Dread, once during each of your turns when you deal necrotic damage to a creature, you regain hit points equal to half the amount of necrotic damage dealt.

Once you use this feature, you can’t do so again until you finish a long rest.

The ultimate feature of the Undead Warlock offers a ton of creative possibilities. The immediate use case is a scout for dangerous encounters, since you have the ability to fly, move through objects and walls, and teleport your body to your spirit (or vice versa). This makes it great for sneaking into secure areas to find out what your enemies are up to.

But the addition of resistance to all types of physical damage in the Spirit Projection and the necrotic damage lifesteal effect make it a compelling option in combat as well. Of course, there is the question of what to do with your body, which can still be attacked. The answer could be as easy as sticking yourself in a bag of holding, but it does require a certain amount of setup.

Regardless, this is certainly a fun ultimate with a lot of options to explore as a player. If you do make it this far in your campaign, we have no doubt that you’ll have fun with it!

How to Play Undead Warlock

The Undead Warlock subclass opens up a couple of different playstyle with its built-in class features, including both ranged and melee options.

Necrotic Amplification for Eldritch Blasts

The most obvious direction for an Undead Warlock player is to lean into the well-known Eldritch Blast build, which is the optimised choice for most Warlocks. As mentioned in other guides, this build leverages the Agonizing Blast invocation to increase the baseline damage of your Eldritch Blast cantrip.

Combined with your Grave Touched feature at 6th Level, this build further ramps the damage of your blasts with an additional 1d10 when you are in your Form of Dread. This can also be combined with additional eldritch invocations to add crowd control against opponents.

This is certainly a strong build path, albeit one that may be too familiar to be exciting for seasoned Warlock players. The damage amplification of Grave Touched also synergizes with core Warlock spells like Hex, Shadow of Moil, and Finger of Death, providing more consistent damage across the board.

Tanky Disrupter in Melee Combat

While it’s probably not advisable to play an Undead Warlock as your primary tank, the temporary HP granted by Form of Dread does unlock the option to take a more frontline role for your party. In addition, the bonus damage die of Grave Touched can synergize powerfully with a high base damage weapon like a greataxe.

This gives you the option to take Pact of the Blade and play your Undead Warlock as a melee alternative to the Hexblade Warlock. While this build won’t offer the same damage cap of Hexblade’s Curse, it will provide more durability for your character. Combine this with the classic Warlock disruption to create chaos on the battlefield.

Of course, there are a number of issues with this build path. For starters, Warlocks have only a simple weapon proficiency, so you’ll have to take Pact of the Blade or the Weapon Master feat to get proficiency with a greataxe. You’ll also have to consider how to rejig your ability scores to improve your melee prowess. It’s not an unworkable option, but trickier.

Late-Game Utility Payoff

It’s worth mentioning that, if you do enjoy a more stealth and roleplay-oriented game, the Undead Warlock does come with a massive late-game payoff. Your ultimate feature in Spirit Projection is an incredibly cool way to sneak around and avoid enemy defenses, but it may come too late to be worth the wait.

Your early-game features do offer some advantages in not needing to breath, eat, or drink. While the core Warlock spells and expanded options like Speak with Dead and Greater Invisibility might be nice, it’s unlikely to be enough to tempt you into choosing this class — if the primary focus of your campaign is roleplay and exploration.

Ability Scores for Undead Warlock

The most valuable ability score for Undead Warlock is Charisma as it serves as your primary spellcasting modifier. Other important ability scores are Dexterity and Constitution, which will improve your armor class and hit points pool. Wisdom is useful for saving throws. If you opt for a melee build, you may want to prioritize Strength, instead of using it as a dump stat.

If you’re using point buy, a recommended starting stat distribution could be:

  • Strength: 8 (-1)
  • Dexterity: 14 (+2)
  • Constitution: 14 (+2)
  • Intelligence: 8 (-1)
  • Wisdom: 12 (+1)
  • Charisma: 15 (+2)

If using another ability score generation method, just follow the color coding above.

Undead Warlock Races

Any race that makes a good warlock will make a good Undead Warlock. See our suggestion for warlock races here.

Undead Warlock Feats

Any feat that works for a normal warlock will work for an Undead Warlock. See our suggestion for warlock feats here.

The Undead 5e Build Example

Since the Eldritch Blast build is well-known to most Warlock players, we are choosing to highlight a more interesting build example for the Undead Warlock. This tankier build leans into the hit points granted by Form of Dread and the damage amplification of Grave Touch, using the greataxe weapon build mentioned above.


To start with, we’ll choose the Bloodline of Zariel as our Infernal Descent, which offers the ideal ability score combination for a melee Warlock build. Access to additional Smite spells is a nice addition as well. Check out our guide to best Warlock races for other ideas.


There’s no clear-cut choice when it comes to choosing your background. For this build example, we picked Guild Artisan to give access to Insight and Persuasion. As a Warlock, your high Charisma means you will often be serving as the face of the party in social interactions and both these skills can be valuable here.

Pact Boon

For our Pact Boon, we want to choose Pact of the Blade at 3rd Level, which is what unlocks this melee option for Undead Warlock. We will choose a greataxe as our pact weapon, which grants 1d12 damage to be amplified by Grave Touched to 2d12 when you are in Form of Dread. This pact will also unlock a number of powerful invocations for our melee playstyle, similar to what you would pick as a Hexblade Warlock.

Eldritch Invocations

There are a number of powerful Eldritch Invocations that we can take with Pact of the Blade and lean more into our tanky Undead build. However, for the first few levels, we recommend going for the default Agonizing Blast option before you gain access to your pact weapon.

At 3rd Level, we suggest adding Improved Pact Weapon, then swapping in options like Eldritch Smite, Thirsting Blade and even Maddening Hex at the 5th Level to really take the build online. Bear in mind that Grave Touched will only trigger once per turn, so the payoff of an invocation like Thirsting Blade might be less valuable with this consideration.

More powerful late-game invocations like Relentless Hex and Lifedrinker are also available at later levels. For other ideas, you can check out the full build example table below.


For our tanky Undead Warlock build, we recommend taking the Heavily Armored feat at the 4th Level to improve our Armor Class. This is a super necessary pick for our tanky build path, which also adds an additional point to Strength.

This is probably the most crucial pick for our build, but we also suggest taking options like Fey Touched and Resilient as strong overall feats that synergize with your chosen playstyle. Generally, a feat like War Caster is not necessary as you’ll use the Eldritch Mind invocation instead, but it can be another route to go if you want to select different invocations instead.

If you want to see other recommended Warlock feats, you can check out our Warlock feat guide for additional suggestions.

Mystic Arcanum

When selecting your Mystic Arcanum options for Undead Warlock, there are a couple of spells that will play into your melee approach. Taking Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise as your 6th Level spell will enhance your durability and mobility in melee combat, while options like Finger of Death and Blade of Disaster lean into the strengths of your build. Read our Warlock Spell Guide for other recommended choices for your Mystic Arcanum.

1st level
  • Race: Tiefling - Bloodline of Zariel
    • Ability Score Increase: +2 Charisma, +1 Strength
    • Darkvision
    • Hellish Resistance
    • Infernal Legacy - Thaumaturgy, Searing Smite, Branding Smite
  • Class: Warlock
    • Armor Proficiency: Light
    • Weapon Proficiency: Simple
    • Skill Proficiencies: Deception, Intimidation
  • Ability Scores (Point Buy)
    • Base: STR 15 (+2) DEX 10 (+0) CON 14 (+2) INT 8 (-1) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 14 (+2)
    • With Improvements: STR 16 (+3) DEX 10 (+0) CON 14 (+2) INT 8 (-1) WIS 10 (+0) CHA 16 (+3)
  • Background: Guild Artisan
    • Skill Proficiencies: Insight, Persuasion
  • Otherworldly Patron: Undead
    • Expanded Spell List
    • Bonus Cantrips
    • Form of Dread
2nd level
  • Eldritch Invocation
    • Agonizing Blast
    • Eldritch Mind
3rd level
  • Pact Boon - Pact of the Blade
    • Greataxe
  • Eldritch Invocation: Improved Pact Weapon
4th level
  • Feat: Heavily Armored
5th level
  • Eldritch Invocation: Eldritch Smite
  • Eldritch Invocation: Thirsting Blade
  • Eldritch Invocation: Maddening Hex
6th level
  • Undead Patron Feature: Grave Touched
7th level
  • Eldritch Invocation: Relentless Hex
8th level
  • Feat: Fey Touched
    • +1 Charisma
    • Dissonant Whispers
9th level
  • Eldritch Invocation: Minions of Chaos
10th level
  • Undead Patron Feature: Necrotic Husk
11th level
  • Mystic Arcanum (6th level): Tasha’s Otherworldly Guise
12th level
  • Eldritch Invocation: Lifedrinker
  • Feat: Resilient
13th level
  • Mystic Arcanum (7th level): Finger of Death
14th level
  • Undead Patron Feature: Spirit Projection
15th level
  • Mystic Arcanum (8th level): Dominate Monster
  • Eldritch Invocation: Shroud of Shadow
16th level
  • ASI: +1 Strength, +1 Charisma
17th level
  • Mystic Arcanum (9th level): Blade of Disaster
19th level
  • ASI: +2 Charisma
20th level
  • Eldritch Master

Other Warlock Guides

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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