Persuasion Check: Unearthed Arcana 2020 – Subclasses Revisited

Today we get a special treat as Wizards of the Coast have gone back and made changes some of the previously seen subclasses with updated names and abilities! The Revived Rogue becomes a Phantom, the Noble Genie subclass for Warlocks is now just Genie, and the Artificer’s Archivist is now the Wizard’s Order of Scribes! Let’s take a look at how these subclasses have changed and how they stack up in their current state.

As always, our Persuasion Check articles are less hardcore analysis and more commentary drawing insights and some direct analysis where needed. If you want a more flavorful approach to opinions on playtest content backed up with some insights, this is the place for you! Now, follow along and let’s dig into these subclasses!

Rogue: Phantom
Before I even look at what has changed mechanically about this subclass, I’m so glad it’s been reflavored from “hey I had to level up twice to remember that I died once and now I can shoot death-bolts from my hands pew pew!” to “affinity with the dead.” Still edgy, don’t get me wrong, but nowhere near the amount of edge I mocked it for in my original review of it. I really like how they said that this can be an agent who tracks down those who cheat death, or work alongside necromancers in their pursuits. But without further ado, let’s dive in!

Whispers of the Dead & Wails from the Grave
At level three we’re down from three abilities with the Revived down to two with the Phantom. Whispers of the Dead is essentially the same as Tokens of Past Lives; gain proficiency in any skill or tool until changed. This actually has been buffed slightly in that the proficiency can change on a short rest in addition to a long rest.

Wails from the Grave is a seeming replacement for Bolts from the Grave, the latter of which allowed the rogue to basically make a free necrotic-bolt ranged attack every turn and was ridiculous. Wails from the Grave, however, seems a lot cooler and less broken. For starters, it requires the rogue to do Sneak Attack damage, after which they have to target a different creature. That Rogue rolls half their sneak attack dice, dealing that much psychic damage to that second creature, and this ability can only be used a number of times equal to the Rogue’s proficiency bonus. So, strong, absolutely, but may more limited in both it’s use and the Rogue’s ability to use it.

What seems to have been lost in Revived Nature (thankfully), which basically made the Rogue undead in that they didn’t need to eat, sleep, breathe, etc. I’m actually glad that’s gone because that was tied more to the fact that the Rogue had died rather than having an affinity for death.

So far, I’m pleased. I actually truly like Wails from the Grave as an ability. I’d have to use it more to get a feel for if it is too strong in not allowing for a saving throw for half, but I don’t see too much issue as it is now. At the onset the theme here is working way better than it did before, which is huge.

Tokens of the Departed
At ninth level the Phantom Rogue gets Tokens of the Departed, which takes cues from a few of the Revived’s abilities at different levels. Previously at this level they can cast speak with dead at will and gain a random benefit for doing so, but now Tokens of the Departed is way cooler. Whenever they’re within 30 feet of a creature that dies they can use their reaction to create a trinket with a sliver of that creature’s soul, and can have up to their proficiency bonus in these trinkets. While they have at least one on them, they have advantage on death saving throw and Constitution saving throws, which is the real meat of this feature.

Additionally though, they can destroy a trinket and ask the now-departing sliver of soul a question. Humorously, the spirit in a rush to get back to freedom, answers quickly and may not even tell the truth. I’m picturing a scene where they down some higher up in a cult, the Rogue captures and breaks the trinket looking for answers, and the spirit just says: “Yeah, sure, whatever buddy, I’m outta here!”

More seriously, this does open up a cool avenue for the DM, at their discretion, to drop helpful tidbits of information and expand upon the lore of the world. I could actually see myself using this to drop hints and half-truths to my players, giving them a reason to not just kick down the next door they see.

Ghost Walk
Phantom Rogue’s next ability comes at 13, and again is a weird shift from the former abilities from the Revived. The Revived had more talking with dead shenanigans here along with multiple personality disorder. The Phantom however gets to float like a ghost (partially).

As a bonus action, and once per long rest or again when they destroy a soul trinket as part of this bonus action, they can assume a semi-spectral form. They get a 10 foot fly speed, can hover, and give enemies attacking them disadvantage on their attacks rolls. They can also move through objects, which is always nice when you need to escape out of a dungeon! This lasts for up to 10 minutes though, so it shouldn’t last long enough for too many tricks (though I’m sure plenty of creative players will prove me wrong).

I like this new ability and it’s limitations seem fair, so thumbs up  in that regard! I’m ok with this being a little more ‘dead’ than the rest of the abilities since it comes in at a later level when you would expect the bond with death to be stronger.

Death Knell
Lastly, the Phantom Rogue at 17th levels gets Death Knell, which makes the Wails from the Grave ability also apply to the creature they hit with their Sneak Attack, which is nice. A soft, but still great ending to an otherwise wonderful rework of a subclass I absolutely hated.

So at the end of the day, while I had nothing nice to say of the Revived, I’m more than happy with the Phantom. The flavor works so much better, the mechanics are way less ridiculous, and I think players will have more fun with it. It gets a thumbs up from me, and I look forward to one of my players eventually playing with this subclass!


Warlock: The Genie
The flavoring of the Genie patron for the Warlock reminds largely unscathed, with some minor wording changes. What has been added however, is that type of genie that is associated; previously it was just ‘genie’, but now you can choose between dao, djinni, efreeti, or marid. These have mechanical consequences, too, so it’s nice to see things fanned out a bit.

Expanded Spell List & Genie’s Vessel
Much like every expanded spell list, there’s some nice thematic spells. I’m not going to go into detail; one of the two at each spell level previously shows up somewhere on the list now, except now there is a single ‘genie’ spell that all Warlocks get with this patron, with the second determined by the type of genie. Additionally, Warlock’s get access to wish at 9th level where previously expanded spells have stopped at 5th level.

On top of that, Collector’s Vessel has been changed to Genie’s Vessel. While they appear the same as a Tiny object, their uses are quite different. Previously, it bound you to a creature of your choosing and gave you boons to affect you and them. Now, it serves as a combination sanctuary and way to deal bonuses damage. For entering it, you can be sucked into it genie-style where it’s lavishly decorated and acts as a pseudo-bag of holding. For damage, after hitting with an attack roll (which, hey, includes to ol’ mainstay eldritch blast), you add your proficiency bonus in damage determined by the type of genie.

I’m not sure where I land on this. While I liked but wasn’t in love with the old vessel rules, I’m going to have to keep going to see how I really feel. Being able to pop into the vessel is thematic as heck and really cool, and the bonus damage is a nice little bonus that scales, so there’s nothing to complain about. It just doesn’t wow me- but then again, does everything need to? I’d say not.

Elemental Gift
At 6th level Elemental Gift replaces Elemental Resistance. Both gives resistances to damage (the old version allowing you to choose and also granting it to the bound creature), but this one also allows you to give yourself flight. Spellcasters that can cast fly already have access to it at this point, so this isn’t a bad way to get a few uses of it for free that scale with your proficiency bonus.

Again, not wow’d, but still delivering well. The resistance being tied to the type of genie instead of changing at random makes sense, and the flight is a really nice perk. Also at this point I want to point out that it seems Wizards of the Coast is really toying with aligning uses per day with proficiency bonus, which I don’t believe we’ve seen before (but please let me know if I’m wrong!).

Sanctuary Vessel
Our next stop is Sanctuary Vessel at 10th level which replaces Protective Wish. I actually really liked the old ability, allowing the Warlock to swap positions with their bound creature if either is hit by an attack, thereby redirecting it at the other. However, since the tethering is gone, it’s time to move on.

Now, the Warlock can bring the whole party (of up to 5 others) into their vessel with them, giving them benefits of a short rest after 10 minutes and adding the Warlock’s proficiency bonus to hit points restored if they use any Hit Dice while in there.

We do lose Genie’s Entertainment without a replacement, which allowed the Warlock to banish an enemy to their patron’s court to be gawked at for up to a minute. I mean, it’s hilarious, but I’m not too sad to see it go.

So again, what we have now is cool, thematic, and builds on the previous abilities as to make them better as time goes on. It seems a bit passive though, where the old abilities here were so neat and engaging. Still, no complaints within a vacuum, so on we go!

Limited Wish
Lastly, we get to Limited Wish, which replaces Collector’s Call at 14th level. Where before Collector’s Call this granted any one of three effects that didn’t really excite me too much, now Limited Wish is like wish except for level 6 and below spells and no option to go off rails at risk of losing access to it. Interestingly, it takes 1d4 long rests to regain, which seems a bit soft at even a few levels higher. Still, it’s thematic and fits the subclass well!

I’m overall pleased with this. Is it perfect? I don’t think so, but it certainly is viable and fun. I think it has a more well-established theme throughout the mechanics where before it was a mish-mash of cool genie-themed abilities thrown together. While I still wish it had something like Protective Wish, I ultimately can’t complain and give it a thumbs up!


Wizard: Order of Scribes
I’ll be honest, I don’t think I actually remember much of the Archivist subclass that came out almost exactly a year ago. Rereading my review of it here, which I kept brief, I even ended my thoughts with:

“… it just feels a little bit like a reskin of a wizard’s familiar except slightly different.”

I knew something was off then, even though I had liked it at the time. That said, I’m not going to do as direct a comparison as I had with the Phantom and Genie above, and rather just take a look at this as it is now, existing much more comfortable (I assume) as a Wizard subclass.

Wizardly Quill & Awakened Spellbook
First up is the Wizardly Quill, which is basically one of the pens that have the ink erased on the end. A Wizard can summon it, it can write in any color ink (which it just magically produces), it halves gold and time for spell transcription, and it can erase anything the feather is waved over that it wrote. There’s actually a lot of cool clandestine subtly that can be done with the summoning and erasing alone; it’s essentially a cantrip in itself.

The real magic (ha) begins with the Awakened Spellbook however, which bestows a few benefits. First, it makes the book a spellcasting focus, which is fine and somewhat obvious. Second, whenever the Wizard casts a spell using a spell slot, they can temporarily replace the damage type done by the spell with the damage type from another spell. Which, does that mean we get to cast bludgeonball now? Because I am SO in for this! But lastly, it allows one ritual per long rest to use normal casting time instead of the full 10 minutes, which is a handy time-saver.

So, yeah, this is great so far. I really like this spellbook-centric approach so far, and it has this fun, cartoonish whimsy to it with the quill. I’m excited, and this is only the first features! Let’s see what’s next.

Master Scrivener
Continuing the theme of fun magical office supplies, at level 6 Master Scrivener allows the Wizard to create a free scroll for them to use once per long rest that vanished upon use or until their next long rest. Shortly, it allows them to copy a 1st or 2nd level spell, cast effectively as 2nd or 3rd level respectively, onto a scroll that only they can read, so it’s essentially a weird, but effective, extra spell slot. Also, if the rules for spell scrolls are used out of the DMG, it halves the gold and time for those as well, which is nice.

I’m continuing to like this subclass, but I wish the maximum spell level on the scroll scaled a little bit better as the Wizard levels up. That said, I still approve, especially at level 6 when they get this feature.

Manifest Mind
It does what it says on the tin: it manifests the mind of your Awakened Spellbook as a Tiny spectral construct, allowing you to cast spells through it, move it, sense what it senses, and all that. It can pass through creatures fine, but still is able to be hit and destroyed. While there’s no limit to how long or how many times it can be summoned, how often spells can be cast through it is, making it’s likely most useful feature limited fairly.

I mean, I dig it. Like my quote, it’s basically like having a familiar. I even stated in that other article it’s like having Siri, Cortana, or even Navi as part of your class. I do like that you can in theory have this along with a familiar as well, potentially opening up shenanigans that I’m not going to bother researching at this very moment (but do tell me if you find some fun or broken interactions).

One with the Word
And finally, One with the Word rounds out the abilities of the Order of the Scribe. This further enhances the Manifest Mind ability by linking the Wizard’s soul with the spellbook. As an action, again limited by proficiency bonus, the Wizard can swap places with the mind’s location. Furthermore, if the Wizard dies (not knocked out, but failed three death saving throws because the rogue refuses to share his healing potions to pour one in the Wizard’s mouth dead), they can revive in a minute near the spellbook so long as at least one spell is left. Upon reviving with 1 hit point, the Wizard rolls 3d6 and loses that many levels of spells from their book, unable to cast them ever again without the help of the wish spell to restore them.

For one, here’s a suitable replacement for the Protective Wish ability I’m so sad to see missing from the Genie Warlock. But second of all, as far as having an AI (that’s Arcane Intelligence), I like how this one operates. It’s able to sell knowledge for life, and able to swap places to keep the Wizard out of trouble. Now, if only it could give the Wizard reviews on local taverns in the village.


Conclusion:
Some revisions these were, yeah? I’m very happy with the Phantom, especially after loathing the Revived. The Genie is a better thematic fit for it’s mechanics, and the Order of the Scribes just makes way more sense than the Archivist ever did. I’m really happy with this edition of Unearthed Arcana and hope these subclasses are coming to some published material sooner than later!

Be sure to give these class options a try and give Wizards of the Coast your feedback with their usual post-Unearthed Arcana surveys so that these options can get refined and added to the game!

What did you think about this Unearthed Arcana? Be sure to join in the discussion over on our Discord channel where we talk tabletop!


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2 Comments on “Persuasion Check: Unearthed Arcana 2020 – Subclasses Revisited

  1. Wails from the Dead feels too gamey to me and less inspiring than the old one did.

    Like

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