It has been several weeks since Wizards of the Coast gave us the Unearthed Arcana packet of both Warlock and Wizard, and it quite surprised me while not surprising me at the same time.
I quote my boyfriend currently: he absolutely adored the 3.5 Hexblade Prestige Class. I personally hate the notion of Prestige Classes but that’s a personal preference above all else. As soon as we saw that a new Patron had been added for the Warlock, called the Hexblade, I could just hear his little prior edition gears going into overdrive and childlike joy emerging into him.
But wait: what was this Raven Queen Pact that was also in the segment? Curious, reading into it’s fluff text, it fascinated me even more. Considering how corvids are some of my favorite creatures in the world and that the goddess Morrigan is super bad-ass in Celtic mythos, I took it upon myself to test this new shadowy Pact out myself.
So let’s dive right in, shall we?
The Raven Queen, like the Feywilds, is a product of editions past, and it seems that Wizards is investing in the ‘reintroduce new players to old content’ market: with ‘Tales of the Yawning Portal’ being released by the end of the year, this just solidifies that notion. While some dislike the idea of the Raven Queen in my social group, I think the fluff behind the Patron is an interesting one: a being who may be seen as evil but is not totally that.
Warlocks do not get many spell choices as is, so Expanded Spell Lists are always a welcome addition. Though, I do question some of the choices that are given on it.
1st Level: False Life and Sanctuary. False Life is perfectly okay, but Sanctuary is a spell which thematically does not seem to fit the undead hatred and battle lust of the Raven Queen. I could see Inflict Wounds being a better choice, or even Compelled Duel being in tune with this Patron (especially if one chooses Pact of the Blade at 3rd Level as their Boon). Inflict Wound could also work here.
2nd Level: Silence and Spiritual Weapon. Silence is always handy! Spiritual Weapon? Not so much. I would opt for Pass Without Trace. Combined at later levels with your ability to merge with your raven companion (more on that later on), I could see that being a deadly combination.
3rd Level: Feign Death and Speak with Dead. Both are okay, though I question if the Raven Queen would be okay with you faking being deceased.
4th Level: Ice Storm and Locate Creature. Not exactly good choices for the Raven Queen Patron. Having each of those spells once a day seems like a waste of spell options, and you’re going to want something that has more impact. Phantasmal Killer is more thematic with both the Patron and the Warlock in general.Locate Creature is situational at best, and you should probably let someone who has more spell slots then you take the lead on that one.
5th Level: Commune and Cone of Cold. Telekinesis could be a better option for either/or. Battlefield control is good for everyone, especially Warlocks who don’t have the largest hit point pool in the game. At least you aren’t a Wizard.
Beastmaster Rangers and anyone who can cast Find Familiar (including other Warlocks), eat your heart out! This is significantly better then any familiar you can get (yes, even the Improved Ones as Warlock).
Features of the Raven:
- Telepathically can speak to and give commands to up to 100 feet away. You can also see through it’s eyes and perceive what it hears for up to 100 feet away.
- Darkvision 30 feet (which I am guessing stacks if you naturally have Darkvision already), and a bonus to Passive Perception and Perception rolls that’s equal to your Charisma modifier while it’s on your shoulder. When it’s also perched there, it can’t take damage or be targeted by attacks. You’re the only one who can cast spells on it, but it’s considered incapacitated. WOW.
- ‘In combat, you roll initiative for the raven and control how it acts. If it is slain by a creature, you gain advantage on all attack rolls against the killer for the next 24 hours’. WHAT THE HECK, that’s insane! I’d expect this sort of thing at least at Level 10, not 1.
- Doesn’t need to sleep and can wake you up up to 100 feet away as a bonus action.
See? I told those Rangers they’d be jealous. Sentinel Raven is honestly one of the best animal companions you could have, if not the BEST (though it could definitely use reworking to not be so bonkers).
Soul of the Raven
6th Level. You can now merge with your Raven as a bonus action, and take on the Raven’s stats. Your actions are limited in this form, but you essentially get at-will fly as a bonus action. Now you can free up a spell slot!
Have really bad luck on death saving throws? The Raven Queen has mercy! Advantage on death saving throws, immune to the frightened condition and resistance to necrotic. You could easily put the necrotic resistance at first level, since some races come with a damage resistance at the start, such as Tieflings and fire resistance.
Queen’s Right Hand
You can cast Finger of Death once before you need to regain it on a short or long rest. Isn’t this essentially a Pact Invocation? A cool spell you can’t get access to, though the 10th Level feature could be used for something else.
Yay, more for the Archfey! This makes me super excited, as in the Player’s Handbook, the Archfey didn’t seem to get much love at all. There are several Seeker Pact options in here as well, which I find interesting.
Yet, the one thing which greatly disappoints me is how there are still hardly any Chain Pact Invocations. It’s like Wizards just hates the idea of having creature friends you can conjure forth. Granted, the Sentinel Raven shouldn’t be considered in that same catagory.
Maybe one of the options for Chain Pact Warlocks would be an option to give them more hit points as the character leveled up. It could be called ‘Master’s Vitality’, and when you level up, it gains their hit die plus your Charisma modifier. It makes them able to take more of a hit while also being useful still.
The Raven Queen Pact also suffers a lack of Invocations as well. Hexblade, Archfey, Seeker and Great Old One all have Patron exclusive ones, while the Raven Queen has maybe one or two. This is strange, considering how much content they just gave us for Warlocks in general. Granted, this is all still test material. Hmm…
While I applaud Wizards of the Coast for giving us constant updates using Unearthed Arcana, there is massive gap between the disappointing under-powered to powerhouse builds and setups.
If one thing would need to be changed, I would say much of the aspects of Sentinel Raven. many of those could be Eldritch Invocations in themselves, with some of the larger portions of it being given at later levels like 7th and 10th (I’m looking at you, death saving throws!).
Spells need to be looked at some more, to be relelvant to the flavor text of the Raven Queen. I don’t see her casting Sanctuary at any point.