Now that June is upon us, a new Unearthed Arcana article is out for us to look at! If you haven’t had a peak, open it up now in another tab and follow along!
Much like May’s article, June brings us a bunch of subclasses that have been revised based on user feedback alongside new Eldritch Invocations for the Warlock. Rather than go in depth on the mechanics of each subclass and the invocations, I’ll highlight aspects I like and dislike and give my general consensus on the option as a whole. So how does this month’s offerings hold up? Keep reading to find out!
Druid: Circle of the Shepherd
Having not read the original Circle of the Shepherd (or, truth be told, any of the other options here), this is an unexpected treat. I really like the overall feel of this subclass, almost bridging between the Circles in the Player’s Handbook. It makes good use of spells and abilities, but focuses on beasts and fey. It’s got a great supportive feature, but also has a big focus on summoning beasts and fey to aid you. While I’m not a huge fan of dedicated summoners (tracking all the different options can be annoying), in the hands of the right player this could be an absolute blast.
Right off the bat, I love Spirit Totem. It’s a movable aura that helps buff in your choice of three flavors, offering defensive or offensive aid to you and your party. I find it akin to an AOE once per rest Bardic Inspiration, with a small element of strategy (choosing the aura) when it comes to the encounter you find yourself in. This alone wins me over.
Then, lumping all of the summoning stuff together, you can talk to beasts and fey and understand them (while they retain their potentially simple and limited intelligence and emotional range), you can buff them, heal them with your Spirit Totem, and summon them when you are incapacitated to watch over your body. Again, I’m not a big fan of conjuration, but I’d be excited to DM a player that goes this path if I had faith in their ability to play it well. It gets a thumbs up!
I don’t know what to make of the Cavalier, and I’ll be honest in that I’m biased: I avoid mounted combat like the plague. I just don’t like to DM it, and when I do it’s usually not the PCs that are mounted, and I fudge the rules in favor of cinematic fun. That said, I don’t think this is a bad subclass for that reason, it just doesn’t start off on the right foot for me.
Let me start off with what I like about the Cavalier: I like the essence of what it is going for. It paints a picture of the child of a noble, learning to ride throughout their life, learning the etiquette that comes with that upbringing, negotiating peace treaties and collecting tithes as much as wielding a blade of riding a horse. It’s a nice picture, a great idea for a character even. But that’s about it. What I like about this is basically the Noble background that is assumed (though, easily changed to fit whatever you want your character to be).
So here’s what I don’t like: It’s boring. A bonus proficiency, wonderful. That’s real fun. Better mounting/dismounting and protection against falling off a mount, that’s fine. Not amazing but thematic and certainly useful if you’ll be mounted a lot. And then there’s the superiority dice. This is a watered down Battle Master. I really can’t see any reason, other than wanting to play a character with this background (which again, just pick Noble) when the Battle Master is just that much better, with more maneuvers to choose from. The only vaguely redeeming area for the Cavalier is that when specifically they use their Trip Attack, they can add 2 Superiority Dice to it. Woo. Thumbs down for sure.
Paladin: Oath of Conquest
Well, here’s something fun: An
evilhonest paladin who acknowledges that they’re, in fact, being a jerk. Subjugation, tyranny, crushing their enemies, seeing them driven before them, and hearing the lamentations of their women. Conan would get along well with these loose cannon Paladins, and I welcome this change with open arms. The class even suggests that some who walk this path consort with infernal beings, which drives a rift between followers of this oath.
But beside being cool, is it good? I’d say so. The spells specific to the Oath of Conquest are spot on, with a theme of commanding/holding/frightening others alongside other great offensive spells. Same goes for their channel divinity, with one option forcing creatures of your choice in 30 feet to make a Wisdom save or be frightened for 1 minute, while the other adds +10 to an attack roll. The former option works great with the level 7 ability, which grants an aura that comes out from you for 10 feet. Any creature frightened of you in this aura has their speed reduced to 0 and takes psychic damage each turn they start in it. This could be a great combination for sure.
The class rounds off with a nice touch at level 15, Scornful Rebuke, dealing psychic damage to any creature that hits you with an attack so long as you’re not incapacitated. And lastly, at level 20, you get a choice of 3 stellar martial benefits, offensive and defensive, that last a minute and are once a day, but could greatly help you. Overall, thumbs up.
Warlock: The Celestial
Didn’t I just review this? Oh wait that was the Favored Soul subclass for Sorcerers in May’s article. Wizards of the Coast seem to be on a roll with getting their divine in my arcane, and quite frankly I’m liking it.
First off, the expanded spell list is a combination of healing/restorative spells, and damaging spells that deal specifically fire or radiant damage. Very good for the idea of this subclass, so right off that bat I’m loving it. In addition to those, warlocks that have this pact have sacred flame and light as cantrips. But the portion I really love, is their Healing Light ability. They have a pool of d6s that equal their warlock level +1 that they can expend like a lay on hands (with the maximum that can be used at once equal to their Charisma modifier). This really puts them on par with a cleric when it comes to potency, and I would love to play one of these.
As they level up, they get a bonus to radiant and fire damage they deal, temporary hit points for themselves and up to 5 creatures they see after every rest (short and long), and a very powerful ability at level 14 called Searing Vengeance. The gist of that is that when they make a death saving throw, they can instead get back up, regain half of their maximum hit points, and deal 2d8 + Charisma modifier damage to each creature you choose withing 30 feet. Oh, those creatures are also blinded. There’s no save on that either, making it a very potent, but not too powerful ability. I think this is my favorite subclass so far, and I wish I could play in a campaign as one. One big radiant thumb up!
Warlock: Eldritch Invocations
I’ll start off and say that I like each and every one of these. Some of them are a little lacking for me personally, others seem a smidge powerful, but overall nothing I can complain about. In no particular order, here are my three favorite of the bunch:
Kiss of Mephistopheles- I limited myself to only one invocation that alters Eldritch Blast, and I chose this one. Basically, when you cast Eldritch Blast and hit a creature, you can use your bonus action to cast fireball centered on that creature. Of course, this comes with a prerequisite level of 5, making Fireball level appropriate. Just imagine the BBEG surrounded by his minions, taking an Eldritch Blast to the face and watching them burn around him. Love it.
Cloak of Flies- I like things that can be both thematic and impactful. I also like things that can last indefinitely while not having too big of an effect. Centered on and including you, and 5 feet out from, a magical aura resembling flies can be turned on as a bonus action. While on, you have advantage on Intimidation checks, and any creature that starts its turn in the aura takes poison damage equal to your Charisma modifier. It ends when you dismiss it or become incapacitated, and can be used once per short rest, making it almost like a toggle in certain situations where resting is an option.
Tomb of Levistus- This is Ice Block, for anyone who has played World of Warcraft or another game with a ‘stasis’ mechanic that temporarily removes you both from harm and from harming for a short period of time. The basics are, once per short rest, when you take damage, you can enter. Your speed is 0, you gain temporary HP equal to 10x your Warlock level, which reduces or negates the triggering damage, you become incapacitated with a speed of 0, and you gain vulnerability to Fire until the end of your next turn. Save this for that big spell or fatal (or incapacitating) damage and you have a Invocation well used. This requires a prerequisite of level 5 as well.
Check out the rest of the invocations in the article, you won’t be disappointed by the great new options!
So that’s June’s Unearthed Arcana, and I’d say for the most part it knocks it out of the park. I’m usually a stickler for sticking to published materials, but the last few releases have me going back on my word- as I type this one of my players has rolled up a Favored Soul from May’s release to use in my primary campaign.