Table of Contents:
A 5e Guide for Sorcerer Warlock Multiclassing
With the innate power in a sorcerer’s bloodline combined with a warlock’s bargained powers, sorlocks (sorcerer/warlocks) are overflowing with magic. Sorlocks are one of the classic power builds in dungeons and dragons 5e and they're still likely the most popular character build for their sheer damage output and obscene nova damage potential. If you want a character that’s a magical damage machine gun then max out that Charisma stat as we head into the dungeon and go through everything you need to know.
Why Play a Sorlock?
Do you like eldritch blast? Do you like to eldritch blast a LOT? The sorlock does more eldritch blasts than you can shake a grimoire at by using some of the sorcerer’s metamagics to fire them off like an arcane machine gun. Both are spellcasting classes that utilize Charisma as a spell ability, meaning you won’t lose any effectiveness to ability spread, and with a little work you can also gain access to cleric spells and even medium armor and shields, giving you literally the best of all casting worlds. Many dedicated spellcasting damage dealers are basically just a glass cannon, but with the sorlock you can have a respectable 19-20 AC even at early levels. When put together properly, a sorlock arguably deals the most consistent damage it’s possible to do in 5e, all the while having a beefy AC and access to practically all the powerful spells you could care about. You’re even still Charisma based and can reasonably be the face of the party.
What are the Downsides?
If this sorlock thing is so great, why would any player just play a sorcerer or a warlock? Well, as with any multiclass, you’re sacrificing progress on one class for features of the other and won't likely see the very final features of your class like capstones or 9th level spells. A single class has unhindered spell progression, while a multiclass is always going to be a couple steps behind. This won’t matter at later levels but there will be an awkward stage where you aren’t as strong as a full sorcerer or warlock. But quite frankly the biggest downside for sorlocks is the stigma of the “min-max build”. Sorlocks are the 5e poster child of overpowered builds and are typically the go-to option for players looking to make the strongest character humanly possible. There’s a decent chance that your DM will simply not allow this type of power build, or they may well ban them after you wreck a few boss monsters using it. It also uses feats and multiclassing, which are technically optional rules, or a house rule and your DM is well within the rules to disallow it.
What Level Does a Sorlock “Kick In”?
Every multiclass build tends to have an optimized level where they “kick in” and they have all the features meshing properly. For sorlocks this is 5th level, or more precisely with 2 levels of warlock and 3 levels of sorcerer. This gets us our key access to eldritch blast, the agonizing blast invocation, and the sorcerer’s metamagic quickened spell.
That’s not to say they’re bad or unplayable before 5th level, but that’s when they start functioning not as just sorcerer or warlock, but as our new sorlock strategy.
Do I Take Sorcerer or Warlock First?
Since both sorcerer and warlock don’t really give up much in the way of proficiencies when multiclassing and we’re going to be getting better armor proficiencies from hexblade anyway, you could easily take either class first. Once you’re at a higher level, the only noticeable difference is the saving throw proficiencies:
Starting as a sorcerer gives you proficiency in Constitution saves.
Starting as a warlock gives you proficiency in Wisdom saves.
Both are considered “good” saving throws and are common spell saves, but I tend to value Constitution here as a spellcaster since it helps with concentration checks and therefore, I’d go with sorcerer as my starting level.
What Class Features Do We Care About?
While every class feature has some utility, there are a few key features we’re “going for” when putting together a sorlock.
Warlock Features for Sorlocks
Eldritch Blast: Often called the best cantrip in the game and the most effective spell at consistent damage in the game, warlocks uniquely gain access to the spell eldritch blast and we’re going to abuse the heck out of it by stacking up a ton of damage.
Hexblade: The warlock archetype hexblade gives us access to medium armor and shield proficiency which gives us an excellent chance at blocking incoming damage. We also gain access to the shield spell, and so long as we maintain a decent Dexterity a good sorlock will manage a better AC than most paladins. On top of all that we get hexblade’s curse which we can use on the same turn as a blast to stack even more damage and some critical hit threats on the nastiest targets.
Agonizing Blast: At our 2nd warlock level we get our choice of two invocations, one of which should always be agonizing blast. This invocation lets you add your Charisma modifier to the damage of every eldritch blast, and we plan on firing a LOT of eldritch blasts.
Hex: A 1st level warlock spell, and probably the 1st spell you should take, hex functions a lot like the ranger’s hunter’s mark in that as a bonus action you can pick out a target and ruin their day with extra damage stacked on all your attacks. It’ll function a lot like your hexblades curse but at the cost of a spell slot and concentration vs the short rest recharging archetype ability.
Devil’s Sight: You gain two invocations at 2nd level, and this should be your second one. It basically grants “super darkvision”, with the very important added benefit of seeing through magical darkness which is quite hard to come by otherwise. This bit is technically optional, but we’ll get into why super darkvision is important in a bit. If you don't end up going the shadow route, consider instead taking repelling blast as repelling blast will add a nifty shove to your blasts every turn.
Sorcerer Features for Sorlocks
Spellcasting: Sorcerers are full-step spellcasters AND they use Charisma as their spellcasting ability. You’ll also be getting access to both the sorcerer spell list and the warlock spell list and with pact magic combined with your spellcasting class feature you will be able to fire off those warlock spells using your plentiful additional spell slots rather than the measly 2-3 the warlock is stuck with.
Quickened Spell: At 3rd level you gain the sorcerer class feature metamagic. And you get metamagic options including quickened spell which will allow you to really go off with nova damage. Quickened spell allows you to spend 2 sorcery points to cast a spell as a bonus action, rather than an action. For sorlocks, this essentially lets you cast eldritch blast twice in the same turn and considering by 5th level you’re already firing 2 beams, now we’re up to 4. This will also work with spells like scorching ray, but we'll be focusing on our eldritch blasts.
Twinned Spell: This one isn’t mandatory, but at 3rd level you get to pick two metamagic options and I find this one to be the best of the bunch for sorlocks. Twinned lets you add an additional target for spells that only have one which for many spells is just like getting an extra spell. This won’t help our eldritch blast plan directly, but it can apply to things like the hex spell and a twin inflict wounds is downright nasty. Distant spell is also an arguably better option for eldritch blast spell sniper strategy.
Sorlock Ability Scores
We have a couple of different versions of sorlocks, but they all want the same ability scores.
Charisma and Dexterity are all you’ll really need when playing a sorlock, with some consideration to Constitution for hit points and concentration checks. Beyond them Strength, Intelligence, and Wisdom can all be dump stats.
Ideally, you’ll be wanting to get both Charisma and Dexterity as high as possible, and you’ll probably want to spend all your ability score increases on them until they’re both at least 18, preferably 20. There are a couple feats that may tempt you into accepting lower scores here, but I’d honestly just max out Charisma as fast as possible.
Just like with the sorcerer (and a lot of warlocks quite frankly) sorlocks need first Charisma, then either Dexterity or Constitution, preferably Dexterity. The following races gain a +2 bonus in Charisma with an extra bit of either Dexterity or Constitution, making them ideal choices for a sorcadin character:
Base aasimar gain +2 Cha and the scourge variant gains +1 Con. I recommend scourge aasimar for quite a few classes, but they fit especially well here. Their Radiant Consumption ability is yet another source of damage you can stack on top of your eldritch blasts. Not to mention how thematically well they fit with the divine soul bloodline build. Stack that with resistance to necrotic and radiant damage, and you've got a winner.
Changelings gain +2 Cha and +1 to any other ability of their choice, which you can make Dex or Con. Changelings are technically setting locked into Eberron, so it may take some convincing for your DM to allow them elsewhere. One of the only things a sorlock isn’t typically good at is scouting and this can give you the opportunity to fill one last role.
Half Elves gain +2 Cha and +1 in two other ability scores of your choice, which you can make both Dex and Con. Half elves are always one of the best race options from a pure ability score perspective, but you’re not really getting any bells or whistles besides that. Take half elf if you’re trying to max those stats as soon as possible.
Satyrs gain +2 Cha and +1 Dex. Technically setting locked as a playable race to the world of Theros but satyrs are still prevalent in the forgotten realms and a lot of DMs will allow them elsewhere. Satyr’s get a flat Magic Resistance, which is insane, along with a bit of an edge on movement speed and some fun bard-like ribbon features.
Tiefling (Dispater, Glaysa, Levistus)
Dispater, Glaysa and Levistus variants of Tiefling each gain +2 Cha and +1 in either Dex or Con. Every sort of tiefling fits well for sorlocks. You get ideal stats, a block of useful racial spells, and resistance to a common damage type. Tiefling is my go-to when building a sorlock and should probably be yours as well.
I’d argue that the sorlock build doesn’t need any specific feats to function properly, but there are a couple that do work exceptionally well with it and push your eldritch blasting prowess. Those two feats are War Caster, and Elvish Accuracy.
War caster does a few things that’ll help you as a spellcaster in combat:
- Advantage on Concentration checks made to maintain your spells.
- You can perform somatic components of spells while your hands are full.
- You get to cast spells as an opportunity attack.
That first feature is a massive boon to our build if we’re going with spells like hex for extra damage. Your machine gun of eldritch blasts doesn’t need concentration, but whatever else you decide to cast alongside it likely will. The somatic component feature isn’t terribly important to us, and the final feature really only matters if we’re getting into the thick of combat, but man it’s useful if you find yourself in that position. You’ll be able to eldritch blast as a reaction if something tries to get past you, and we’re all about putting more eldritch blasts downrange.
First off, elvish accuracy is a racial feat only available to elves or half-elves, thankfully half-elves are one of the best sorlock options anyway so that won’t hurt much. What it actually does is sneakily powerful:
- Add 1 to your Dexterity, or Intelligence, or Wisdom, or Charisma.
- Whenever you make an attack roll using Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma and have advantage, you get to reroll one of those attack dice.
This feat is weird but very good for our build. It strangely offers a pick of 4 scores, and we should be taking either Dexterity or Charisma.
The reroll ability is also weird, but it basically works out to be a better advantage. You roll two dice for an attack, then you get to reroll the lowest one automatically. This super advantage ability works amazingly well if we can guarantee advantage on all our attacks, which we’ll be doing if we go with the shadow sorlock build (more on that in a minute). If you go shadow sorlock this is an automatic pick, if you’re going the divine soul route you can take or leave this feat.
Multiclass Warlock Spellcasting
When you multiclass two different spellcasting classes that both have the spellcasting feature, things get weird, but warlocks aren’t exactly spellcasters in the way that other classes are and they actually multiclass pretty smoothly.
To start with, your spells known stay completely separate, so if you have 2 levels of sorcerer and 4 levels of warlock, you’ll know the same number of sorcerer spells as a 2nd level sorcerer, and the same number of warlock spells as a 4th level warlock.
For other classes, you must go through a whole calculation for figuring out spell slots. For warlock multiclasses it’s very simple. You have your special warlock slots, and they function exactly as if you were just a warlock. You have your sorcerer spells (or whatever other spellcasting class), and they keep functioning exactly like you were just a sorcerer.
The trick here is that you’re allowed to cast your warlock spells using your sorcerer spell slots, and you can cast sorcerer spells using your special warlock spell slots. Firing off just one more scorching ray doesn't hurt as much when you're regaining a couple slots on short rests now.
This is literally the best of both worlds since we’ll be getting recharging short rest spell slots from warlock on top of our juicy sorcerer slots.
Sorlock Optimal Class Progression
As with any multiclass, there’s an optimal path for advancing your character and ultimately a “correct” ratio of levels from each class. I’ve seen a lot of different versions but they boil down to either prioritizing getting “online” as soon as possible, or prioritizing optimal ASI progression. I don’t value the feats as highly as I value getting our eldritch blast machine gun up and running faster and I consider the following paths to be optimal:
The only warlock abilities we really need we can get in the first two levels in warlock and if you’re willing to ignore a pact boon (not terribly helpful for us so not much lost there) then the rest of your progression can be sorcerer levels all the way.
Levels 1-2 Warlock
Levels 3-20 Sorcerer
Pros: Highest level spell progression and best access to metamagic and spell slots.
Cons: No pact boon, two levels wasted for ASI progression.
This is my preferred build as we aren’t actually getting much from the pact boon when it comes to eldritch blasting, the magic weapon from pact of the blade isn't much use to us but both pact of the tome and pact of the chain are tempting, and if you are so tempted go with the next build.
Warlock-4, Sorcerer 16
Really all we’re doing for this version is picking up the pact boons, while also making sure not to waste levels when it comes to ASI progression. We still want to be “online” at 5th level though, so we have to do a little back and forth when it comes to passing back and forth from levels in warlock to sorcerer levels:
Levels 1-2 Warlock
Levels 3-6 Sorcerer
Levels 7-8 Warlock
Levels 9-20 Sorcerer
Pros: No ASI lost, pact boons, 2nd level warlock spells.
Cons: Sorcerer spell levels come later.
The pact boons aren’t essential, but it hurts leaving it behind, and once you get 3 levels in a class it messes with your feat/ASI progression not to pick up that 4th level.
Best Warlock Archetypes for Sorlocks
While there are technically other options for a 5e warlock, nothing does more for this build than the hexblade:Hexblade
Hexblade is really a linchpin in this build. Right off the bat a hexblade warlock gets medium armor proficiency and shield proficiency, and you get the excellent hexblade’s curse feature. For the low price of a bonus action, hexblade curse targets an enemy and gives you a bonus to damage rolls against them equal to your proficiency bonus, and a higher critical hit chance. And since you’ll be firing an average of 4 bolts a turn, hexblade curse adds a whole lot of opportunities for critical hits. To top it all off you even get hit points back when you kill the target. Take the hexblade, you won’t regret it.
Best Sorcerer Archetypes for Sorlocks
The build will still work no matter what sorcerous origin you pick. Wild magic sorcerer has some potential, but there’s a couple that I highly recommend:
Divine Soul Sorcerer
This archetype doesn’t affect the whole machine gun strategy directly, but it does give you access to THE ENTIRE CLERIC SPELL LIST. That’s all of the game’s best healing spells and all those juicy cleric buff spells right at your sorcerer spell slot swollen fingertips added to your spell choices. One of your biggest weaknesses as a sorlock is a relatively low hit point total and having cure wounds and other cleric spells at the ready can be a massive blessing, as is the spell bless. Take this archetype if you’re worried about survivability or if your party is missing a healer.
This is sort of a classic play but it’s still one of the most effective tactics in the game. This archetype gives you very easy access to the darkness spell and lets you cast it with sorcery points. It also grants you the ability to see through your own magical darkness. This means that you can now stand in the middle of your area of darkness, fire out of it at targets that can’t see you (so with advantage), and any retaliatory attacks won’t be able to see you (so at disadvantage). This gets even better if you take the devil’s sight invocation as it lets you see through any darkness, not just your own. It gets even better if you take the elven accuracy feat since you’ll be instead making attacks at what is essentially super advantage during all of this. It’s a nasty combination that will serve you well all the way through every tier of play so long as you cast darkness as your 1st spell each combat.
Putting it All Together
Ok, now that we’ve created our sorlock, let’s take a look at what a 5th level sorlock (3 sorcerer/ 2 warlock) can do.
Let’s assume that our sorlock has 16 Dexterity, 16 Charisma, took the elven accuracy feat at 4th level, and took the shadow magic and hexblade archetypes, along with the agonizing blast and devil’s sight invocations, and the quickened spell metamagic.
To start with, our lil sorlock can wear medium armor and a shield, so with either a breastplate or half plate and a shield we’ve got a 19 or 20 AC which rivals a paladin. In a pinch we can also cast the shield spell, popping us up to a 24 AC or 25 AC, not too shabby at all and no glass cannon here! If you're especially worried, you can even use mirror image for even more protection but at the cost of some of the damage we're about to stack up.
Next let’s figure out our ELDRITCH BLAST MACHINE GUN OF DOOM!
Eldritch blast deals 1d10 per bolt, and at 5th level we’re up to 2 bolts so we’ve got a 2d10 force damage roll on our hands.
We smartly took the agonizing blast invocation, which lets us add our Charisma to each bolt, now we’re at 2d10 + 6 force damage.
The twinned spell metamagic lets us cast another eldritch blast as a bonus action at the cost of 2 sorcery points, which we should currently have a whopping 5 of, but with the ability to convert spell slots to sorcerer points (even a warlock spell slot that recovers on short rests), so we technically have access to 23 spell points if we need them. With our eldritch blast twinned our 2 bolts suddenly became 4 and now we’re at 4d10 + 12 force damage.
But wait! There’s more. It takes a bonus action (so we can’t twin our blast on the same turn but we can still blast in addition) but if we cast the lovely warlock spell hex, our target takes an additional 1d6 necrotic damage on each hit with disadvantage on the saving throw of our choice thrown in for good measure. Now each round of blasting will be dealing them 4d10 + 12 force damage and 4d6 necrotic damage.
But there’s STILL more. We’re a hexblade, and as a bonus action we can slap a hexblade curse on our target, which adds a bonus to damage on each hit equal to our proficiency (currently +3) AND our critical hit chance is raised against them to a 19-20. So now we’re dealing 4d10 + 24 force damage and 4d6 necrotic damage.
STILL MORE. We’ve hit the current cap for the machine gun damage, but let’s get those hit chances up eh? Because we took the edgy shadow sorcerer option, we can cheaply cast darkness for just 2 sorcerer points and see our targets using our warlock invocation devil's sight, but they can’t see us. So now we’re dealing 4d10 + 24 force damage and 4d6 necrotic damage, with a 19-20 crit range, and all 4 of our attacks are at advantage. All the while attacks against us with our 19-20 AC get disadvantage on attack rolls. Keep in mind though that if you’re using your own darkness rather than some dark you found in the wild, you can’t concentrate on both hex and darkness at the same time, so you’ll have to choose between the advantage/disadvantage or the secondary damage. (If you really don't want to go the shadow sorcerer route, the greater invisibility spell sets up a similar situation but at a high spell slot cost).
AND A BAG OF CHIPS! We still haven’t factored in our elven accuracy feat, which means all of those attacks aren’t just at advantage, they’re at super advantage and are essentially rolling 3 dice for each attack and picking the highest.
So between our 4 shots, all of which are very likely to hit just about any target, with a mathematically high critical strike chance every turn, we’re dealing on average of 60 damage (4d10 + 24 + 4d6) before factoring in critical hit damage every turn with our cantrip! This is at level 5! Admittedly that’s a best case scenario with a couple turns casting the setup and you're draining spell points but MAN this can melt a dragon. This is outpacing even a rogue sneak attack for DPS.
And don’t forget that eldritch blast goes up to 3 blasts at 11th level, so go through all those calculations with 2 extra blasts, a bump to proficiency, and assuming we get up to 18 Charisma we land at a whopping average 102 (6d10 + 48 + 6d6) damage a TURN.
Last updated: January 27, 2019
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