Warlocks excel at using dark magic to weaken their opponents, slowing their minds or their movement enough to line up the perfect killing blow with an Eldritch Blast.
Today, we’re going to be talking about an iconic level warlock spell that gives you a lot in exchange for a 1st level spell slot – as long as you can maintain your concentration that is.
Curse your enemies, deal extra damage, hobble their strongest stat – all with the power of Hex.
- Casting Time: 1 bonus action
- Range: 90 feet
- Duration: 1 hour ©
- School: Enchantment
- Class: Warlock
- Level: 1
- Damage/Effect: Necrotic, Debuff
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: Verbal, Somatic, Material
Hex Spell Description:
You place a curse on a creature that you can see within range. Until the spell You use a bonus action to call upon your otherworldly patron, placing a curse upon a creature you can see within 90 feet.
Until the spell ends, you deal an extra 1d6 necrotic damage to the target whenever you hit it with an attack.
Also, choose one ability when you cast the spell. The target has disadvantage on ability checks made with the chosen ability.
If the target drops to 0 hit points before this spell ends, you can use a bonus action on a subsequent turn of yours to curse a new creature.
A remove curse cast on the target ends this spell early.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd or 4th level, you can maintain your concentration on the spell for up to 8 hours. When you use a spell slot of 5th level or higher, you can maintain your concentration on the spell for up to 24 hours.
1st Level, Enchantment, Damage, Necrotic, Debuff
Level: Warlock (1), Bard (10, Magical Secrets)
Materials Required: The petrified eye of a newt
Number of Targets: 1, can change targets if the current target dies before the duration ends.
Die Type: d6
Number of Dice: 1
Damage Type: Necrotic
Damage On Successful Save: N/A
Statuses Inflicted: Target has disadvantage with ability checks made with ability chosen by caster
Status Duration: Until Hex curse is removed
Affected By Cover: No
Disadvantage: On all ability checks made with ability chosen by caster
What Is Hex?
Hex is an amazing 1st-level Warlock spell that rewards careful planning and positioning, synergizes perfectly with Eldritch blast, and can deliver a critical debuff to powerful foes.
It provides you with a modest damage increase which, as long as you maintain your concentration, can comfortably last for several combat encounters, providing a whole fistful of d6s worth of extra necrotic damage.
With spell slots at a premium for warlocks (seriously, you sold your soul for two measly 1st-level spells and Eldritch Blast? Pact Magic is such a rip off), damage output-focused warlocks can benefit massively from this spell, especially at earlier levels.
Whenever you cast this spell (not when you switch to a new target, which is a shame) you can also impose disadvantage on one of that creature’s abilities. While it’s a shame this only applies to ability checks, rather than attack rolls or saving throws, it can be a fantastic way to ensure you hobble a monster’s defining stat – whether that means fogging up a wizard’s mind or giving a powerful fighter some kind of magical cramp.
Is Hex Good?
Aside from Eldritch Blast, Hex is the low-level spell I see picked up most on Warlocks, and it would be pretty easy to think something along the lines of “Well, everyone uses it, so it must be good.” This isn’t exactly true.
First, let’s look at how much damage Hex actually gives you. The average of a d6 roll is 3.5, but because of the way that bounded accuracy and general mechanical balance work in 5e, you should only be expecting to hit your target with an attack about 65% of the time.
That means the true average damage buff from Hex actually comes out somewhere around 2.27 additional damage per round.
For something that consumes 50% of your spell slots per short rest, a bonus action, and requires you to maintain concentration, the opportunity cost of Hex starts to look a little steeper than at first glance.
That opportunity cost is the reason why, at higher levels, Hex really drops off in terms of effectiveness. If the damage scaled rather than (or in addition to) the spell’s duration, I could see it being a viable choice.
But, because higher-level warlocks both get access to some really cool concentration spells like Major Image and Fly, and are still contending with a measly two spell slots all the way from 2nd to 11th level, there’s very little reason that a higher level Warlock would ever burn one of their precious slots on something as lackluster as Hex.
So, that leaves us looking to answer why Hex is so popular at lower levels.
Is it good?
Ehh. The damage is nice, imposing disadvantage on an enemy’s most important ability score is good too, and the ability to keep the spell going if you’re careful with your positioning just about makes this spell ok.
The main reason why Hex is a must-have spell for low level warlocks is (hot take incoming) all other 1st level warlock spells are (here it comes) straight. Garbage.
Unless you’re playing a subclass with a better roster of unique 1st level spells (like the Archfey, which gets Sleep, for example), warlocks have a suite of starter spells that (cantrips excepted) suck harder than virtually any other class in the game. Artificers and rangers come close, but they’re not even full casters.
So, if you use Hex carefully and manage to keep your concentration going over multiple encounters, it’s a good choice for a low level warlock. At higher levels, put away such childish things and go spend your concentration on something good.
When To Cast Hex
Hex really shines when paired up with the Warlock’s arguably class-defining cantrip, Eldritch Blast.
There are two main ways to pick a target for a Hex:
- Slap it on the biggest baddest thing in the room and whittle it down with Eldritch Blast while the rest of the party works their way up.
- Hex the weakest target, moving your way slowly from smallest to greatest threat because you’re more likely to leverage the spell’s extra damage into kills against a weaker target.
Personally, if you’re fighting a mob of weak enemies and their leader (say, a half dozen goblins and a goblin boss), I would opt for the second approach.
Because of the way that the action economy works in 5e, the side with the most actions per round tends to win.
So, even if the goblin boss hits harder than their minions, taking down two or even three regular goblins in the time it takes to take down the head honcho is going to shift the balance of power more heavily in the favor of your party.
One exception to this tactic is if the “big guy” enemy has resistances your other party members can’t overcome. Very few things in 5e are immune or resistant to force and necrotic damage, so pick your targets carefully and try to be strong where your allies are weaker.
Another exception is if an anime is trying to do something that you would rather they didn’t – like perform a ritual, operate some machinery, climb a wall; basically, if the boss is trying to do something using ability checks while their minions hold you at bay, slapping them with Hex is a great way to slow them down.
The ability to impose disadvantage on a creature’s checks actually has some degree of utility outside combat as well.
For example, say your party has arrived at the throne room, and you’re competing with the head of a rival faction to win the favor of the queen. Subtly hexing the opposing faction’s leader’s charisma could be an interesting way to tip the balance of the conversation in your favor.
I wouldn’t do this unless you were pretty sure you had a rest coming up before the next fight – Hex is combat magic first and foremost – but you shouldn’t feel completely restricted to using this spell exclusively on the battlefield.
A successful Hex is highly reliant on you not breaking concentration so that you can get the full benefits of this spell. Over the course of an hour of game time, you could conceivably go through two or even three encounters, meaning (if we assume a combat encounter lasts about four rounds on average) you can potentially eke about 16d6 worth of damage out of this spell, which is great.
If you’re not careful, you can throw out a Hex, hit once for an extra couple of damage, and then get bonked on the head or struck by a stray arrow the next turn and be back to square one. Hex (at least at lower levels) is what you make of it.
Stay in cover, stand behind the fighter if you have to, let the beefy boys in platemail weather the hits, and prioritize taking out enemy archers.
How To Cast Hex Without Memorizing It
If your party’s warlock found something better to memorize but you still need to cast Hex, then the best way to cast this spell is to find a spell scroll.
Spell Scrolls are single-use pieces of parchment or paper that allow the user to cast the spell recorded on it once, which destroys the spell scroll. If the spell is on your class’s spell list, you can read the scroll and cast its spell without providing any material components. Otherwise, the scroll is unintelligible gibberish.
Spell scrolls don’t function like memorized spells, instead having a fixed DC and attack bonus. Most Hex scrolls would be of 1st level, but it’s not inconceivable that you could find one at 3rd or 4th level, meaning you could maintain concentration on the spell for up to 8 hours; or of 5th level or higher, meaning you can maintain your concentration on the spell for up to 24 hours.
|Spell Level||Rarity||Save DC||Attack Bonus|
Spell scrolls are priced according to their rarity, which is determined by the spell’s level. A 1st level scroll of Hex would cost between 50-90 gp depending on where you’re buying it from.
Common Questions About Hex
Do Hexes stack?
Yes. Multiple Warlocks can hex a single character. However, the damage will only count for the instance of Hex imposed by the attacking Warlock, and you cannot impose Disadvantage on one ability more than once.
Does Hex end early if there is no target to bounce to?
No! There’s nothing in the rules that states Hex must end if there are no more targets, meaning that the Warlock can continue to concentrate on their Hex and impose it upon new enemies when they encounter them.
Does Hex apply to attack rolls and saving throws?
No. Hex’s disadvantage is very clearly stated to be on ability checks which means it doesn’t include Attack Rolls and Saving Throws as they are not ability checks.
Does Hex apply to spells?
Hex’s damage does apply on spell hits. The spell specifies only that it applies extra damage when attacking, and a spell attack uses the attack action, so, therefore, it would be counted for an attack.
That’s all our thoughts on how to use the Hex spell in DnD 5e, folks. Until next time, happy adventuring.
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When I’m not writing about RPGs, I’m playing Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, Yu-Gi-Oh!, X-Wing miniatures, and many other lovingly-crafted tabletop games with the people I love.