D&D 5ePlaytestUnearthed Arcana

Unearthed Arcana 2020: Subclasses Revisited Breakdown

I don’t know how to tell you all this, but we live in a fallen world… the bad timeline… a land of ill omen: the Onomancy wizard didn’t make it to further UA development following surveys. I know you all join me in mourning its loss, with rending of garments and great wailing. (Also the world is on fire, you might have noticed.)

And that’s the news that’s fit to prin…

Oh, right. There’s a new UA release, and it has three revised versions of subclasses from prior UA documents: the Phantom rogue (used to be the Revived), the Genie warlock patron (used to be the Noble Genie), and the Order of the Scribe wizard (used to be the Archivist artificer).


Phantom Rogue

I’m glad to see that the Revived got a new lease on life, and I’m still more pleased to be completely confident that I am the first person to make that joke. Yep, that’s what I’m going with.

  • Whispers of the Dead is a rename of Tokens of Past Lives: you have a wildcard proficiency in a skill, tool, or language, which you can reassign at the end of any short or long rest. Still a big thumbs-up.
  • Wails from the Grave is your big subclass-defining feature for the early game: a number of times per long rest equal to your proficiency bonus, you can splash psychic damage equal to half-round-up of your Sneak Attack dice on another creature you can see within 30 feet.
    • You don’t have to hit the second target’s AC or hope they fail a save – if you hit your initial target with Sneak Attack damage, your secondary target just takes this damage. That said, it’s cool and should be fun to use, but not really dominating. An extra 4d6 at 3rd level, over the course of a day, isn’t the end of the world. At its most satisfying, you might get to finish off two enemies in one attack.
    • I look forward to running some mystical assassins (not assassins or Assassins, obviously) that use this ability to murder the wizard and the tank at the same time!
  • Tokens of the Departed at 9th level is an unusual feature, to say the least, but it oozes style. There have been tons of “reaping the souls of the dying” features in subclasses, spells, and magic items over the years, but this one is unusual in that it creates a physical object that you can use later, or gain a benefit from in the meantime. You can create up to your proficiency bonus in soul trinkets at any one time. Their passive effect is advantage on death saves and Con saves, or you can expend one to ask the soul of the dead person a question. I love this feature, all the way around.
  • Ghost Walk at 13th level gives you a spectral form (bonus action to activate, 10 minute duration, 1/long rest or expend a soul trinket to refresh) that does a bunch of things:
    • 10-ft flying speed (you can hover)
    • Attacks against you have disadvantage
    • You can move through creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain
    • So yeah, this feature is clearly amazing. Ten minutes of all attacks against you having disadvantage is crazy good. Just freaking bananas. Flying and phasing through walls are great too.
    • Okay, assuming you’re within 30 feet of one creature as it dies in each combat, you can probably keep Ghost Walk running just about all the time – you might have to spend your first bonus action bringing it back up, but with your +5 proficiency bonus, you have soul trinkets stockpiled anyway.
  • Death Knell at 17th level lets your Wails from the Grave extra damage affect both your initial target and the normal secondary target. In overall damage output, this is close to just declaring a critical hit with distributed damage, proficiency bonus times per long rest.

This subclass looks overpowered to me, but oh my goodness is it exciting. I’m into the theme and I like the direction the mechanics are going – even if I think they’re a bit much. This is a kind of character I need in my tabletop game, and that I’ve tried to play in various games over the years. I hope you’ll support this one in your survey responses!

Genie Warlock Patron

You ain’t never had a subclass like me. That’s specifically true – I love the unusual things that are going on with this, structurally. It’s four separate patrons (dao, djinni, efreeti, and marid), and the Expanded Spells list goes into adding more Mystic Arcana options.

Well, one really important one.

Wish, of course.

Quick note: If they’re breaking the seal on improved Mystic Arcana options, please for the love of Mab add that to other warlock patrons?

  • Expanded Spell List – you know how warlocks usually get two spells at each new spell level? That’s true here too, but one comes from baseline genie and one comes from your specific flavor of genie. That’s a perfect way to handle the question, and the spells on offer here should all be pretty exciting to use.
  • Genie’s Vessel also gives you your itty-bitty living space. No, really, that’s part of the feature! Your vessels takes one of a few different forms, and grants Bottled Respite and Genie’s Wrath.
    • Bottled Respite lets you enter the extradimensional space inside your vessel (1,256-sq-ft apartment, 20-ft ceilings? In this economy?), where you can stay for two hours per point of proficiency bonus. You can hear everything around the vessel and exit it as an action. The one thing you can’t do is repeatedly pop in and out. There are rules around getting kicked out prematurely, etc. Still, there’s a ton of potential for shenanigans here – your friends smuggling you into various situations, or using your vessel as an unobtrusive form of short-term surveillance.
    • Genie’s Wrath is a once-on-your-turn damage add equal to your proficiency bonus that only applies when you make an attack roll. I like that it helps bladelocks just as much as eldritch blast
    • Finally, there are rules on the defenses and durability of the vessel, and recovering it if something bad happens. These are perfectly fine and don’t call for a lot of analysis here.
  • Elemental Gift at 6th level gives one damage resistance based on your flavor of genie. Djinni, efreeti, and marid aren’t surprising at all; bludgeoning for dao is quite a bit more so, just because it’s weapon We basically never see a feature like this cross over into weapon damage resistance.
    • Also, you gain 10-minute-duration flight, 30-ft speed, a number of times per day equal to your proficiency bonus.
    • This is an incredible feature for warlocks, with good-but-situational defense and a great mobility aid for combat and exploration.
  • Sanctuary Vessel at 10th level lets you buzz your friends in to your swanky Manhattan apartment. While there, they rest faster than normal (10-min short rest) and regain extra hit points equal to your proficiency bonus (presumably not per Hit Die expended, but added to the final total). This is an incredible feature, adding a ton more shenanigans options by getting the whole team in on the act. Its only significant limitation is that you (and therefore they) can still only enter the vessel once per long rest.
  • Limited Wish is a wildcard “spell” that you ask for directly, substituting in any spell of 6th level or lower. It does take time to recover, though – 1d4 long rests before you can use it again. Also you get to skip out on costly components.

This patron is amazing, worthy of Robin Williams himself. I would love to play this – there’s a great mix of combat effectiveness and creative noncombat solutions.

Also, this is your best chance to play a Good, Neutral, or Bad Janet in D&D. Don’t pass this up.

Order of Scribes Wizard

I’m not even going to pretend to be unbiased. When Colin and I wrote the Dust to Dust LARP (along with the rest of our creative team), Inscription was one of our crafting skills, and some of these features are a lot like ones we wrote way back then. I am primed to love this.

  • Wizardly Quill gives you a magical quill that you can create as a bonus action. It never runs out of ink, halves the time and money cost of spell transcription (it’s all the School Savant features together), and you can erase things you wrote by waving the quill over the text.
    • Gonna be real curious to see how that gets used to mess with contracts you’ve written…
  • Awakened Spellbook is sort of a tutelary spirit (“arcane sentience”) invested in your spellbook. It does a bunch of different, very useful things.
    • Your book is a spellcasting focus. Sure, no problem.
    • You can substitute damage flavors, for your non-cantrip spells. Force-damage fireball, fiery thunderwave, pretty much whatever you want as long as the new damage type is also found in a spell in that spellbook.
    • Once per long rest, you can fast-cast a ritual, using its base casting time rather than adding 10 minutes. It’s one free spell per long rest, as long as that spell has the ritual tag.
    • You can replace your spellbook and destroy the original (if it were stolen, for example) as part of a short rest. This neatly solves most of the major wizard weaknesses.
  • Master Scrivener at 6th level lets you create both a short-term, low-level scroll that only you can use, at no cost, once per long rest; and it halves your gold and time cost to make a scroll. The free scroll can only be a 1st– or 2nd-level spell, but it’s as if cast with a 2nd– or 3rd-level slot, respectively.
  • Manifest Mind at 10th level lets you bring the arcane sentience into a semblance of physical reality. This behaves broadly like a special kind of familiar, as well as being usable as an origin point for your spells a number of times per day equal to your proficiency bonus. You can use its senses, and when you cast through it, you use its senses (that’s especially important for all those “creature that you can see” functions).
    • This is a fairly tame reconnaissance feature, though it isn’t specifically stealthy the way, say, arcane eye (of Kilrogg or whoever) I’m sure some unusual and fun things can happen with the origin-of-spells thing. In my own game, I’d have no choice but to invest this sentience with its own personality and goals. I think it’d be fun to get a quest hook out of a subclass feature like this.
  • One with the Word at 14th level improves your Manifest Mind feature, allowing you to switch places with it a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus. Further, it can restore you to life if you die, but it consumes 3d6 spell levels of spells out of your spellbook permanently – such that you can’t ever re-learn them without a wish – when it does so.
    • The first part of this feature is nice, but I think we’re getting close to too many separate use-per-long-rest pools.
    • The second part of this feature needs the player to have an option not to trigger it, in case you know that the cleric has raise dead or resurrection prepared and you’d really rather wait on that than lose a potentially huge amount of work. Up to 18 spell levels is No Joke, and I feel like it’s only too easy for this to feel like a drawback. The fact that it kicks in after 1 minute means that if revivify doesn’t get there in time or can’t be used (maybe because you got disintegrated), you’re SOL.
    • It’s not at all clear to me that most campaigns are handing out a lot of spell scrolls or captured spellbooks that PC wizards get to copy spells from. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t – but this subclass loses a lot of its interest and punch if the availability isn’t pretty high.

I still love the themes at work in the Scribe, and my misgivings about One with the Word are the only thing stopping me from loving the whole thing. Manifest Mind feels like a long way to go for what it grants, but that wouldn’t bother me as a single feature. Thinking about comparisons to other Traditions and what they’re doing at 10th and 14th, I’m going to say that both could stand to get a little more throughput. Even something comparatively minor like “and your memories can’t be altered” or “you get legend lore but more so” would be strongly in-theme, as would some additional Arcana boost. I assume I’m not the only one expecting Scribe to stand in for a sage.

Aesthetically, this works better for me than the Archivist artificer. It feels more like D&D’s tech and magic axiom and less like something too futuristic even for Eberron.


The Phantom rogue and Genie warlock are both incredibly cool, and I want the Scribe wizard to get there as well. These are all exciting concepts that I very much want to play. I think Phantom and Genie work as-is, and I’d have a year or more of play with the Scribe before I had any issues with it.

It’s interesting to see a shift toward proficiency bonus as the “governing attribute” for your currency pools and damage bonuses, rather than the class’s main stat or a secondary stat. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for conversations about that, and I’m curious to see if that makes it way into more new content.

Don’t forget to fill out surveys and apologize for what you (collectively) did to the Onomancy wizard.