[Mod 11] Charisma’s Guide to HDPS SW

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by Charisma on May 31, 2017
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[Mod 11] Charisma’s Guide to HDPS SW

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Hello everyone!  I’m Charisma, leader of Sapphire Souls, and after lots of pressure from guildies and seeing way too many warlocks still using Dreadtheft, I’ve decided to write up how to get the most sheer damage output from your Scourge Warlock.  This guide will be written so that newer players can understand it, but hopefully even some veteran players will get a few new ideas from it.

Please keep in mind, I’m missing the 8,000 guild power boon, so my power is a bit on the low side.  So is my armor pen.  I haven’t quite finished min/maxing my stats, but I often pull top dps in dungeons and raids regardless.


IMPORTANT:  This is a starting point.  I will tell you do’s and don’ts and tell you why, but if you don’t use them or care to experiment with your own ideas please feel free to.  This is the setup that I’ve found to give the most damage output, but this is in no way the only build SW’s can run!


Okay, now that the introductions out of the way let’s get into the build!




Your race choice is very important in Neverwinter.  Every race can play any class, but some races do certain classes *much* better than others.  For Warlocks I would recommend either Tiefling, or Dragonborn.  You can theoretically run a human SW for the extra heroic feats, but I haven’t tested it.


Tiefling is, in my opinion, the best race for Scourge Warlock.  The additional 5% damage bonus you get to targets under 50% Health synergizes really well with a lot of your core skills (ex. Killing Flames) and the Constitution/Charisma Ability score bonuses are perfect.


Dragonborns are also a solid option because of their additional 3% power and critical strike.  This works really well for obvious reasons as a dps, but personally I’ve found 5% additional overall damage to outweigh the 3% power/crit.  


For your ability scores you’ll want to boost Charisma and Constitution, and roll Charisma as high as you can get it.  A Charisma score of 20 is perfect since that adds to our critical strike chance.  As a dps, your goal is to hit 100% critical strike chance.


Feats and Paragon choice:


For your paragon choice I would recommend you utilize the new loadout system and have a build with both paragons.  Both have a place in SW’s and you’ll use either a different times.  From my experience and testing, Soulbinder has the best survivability and can easily sustain itself long enough to kill almost any monster.  Soulbinder is the spec I’ll swap to if my dungeon group needs me to be more durable or if I’m soloing things. Hellbringer’s damage output is comparable to that of Soulbinder, however, with this build we will be boosting HB’s damage far past that of SB.  HB gives great buffs and has really good single target damage naturally.  It’s what I’ll run for dungeons normally, or if I’m trying to kill things quickly.


For either paragon, you’ll be using the exact same feat setup.  Hellbringer Fury does the best damage for SW’s currently, but SB Fury can get damn close.  I’ll go into detail about why to choose each feat below.


Energizing Curse:  There’s two points here because it’s better than toughness and because we need more points than the three we put in weapon mastery to get to empowered rituals.  Plus, the added AP gain is really nice.

Weapon Mastery:  Must have.  Pretty self explanatory to be honest, additional critical strike chance is always good.

Empowered Rituals:  As an SW lots of your damage will come from your encounter powers.  Additional damage added to those is a no-brainer.

Battlewise:  A good feat to have.  As you get higher in ilvl you’ll tend to pull aggro from your tanks often.  With this you help them out a bit and try to mitigate the threat you generate from doing mad damage.

Determined Casting:  Again, another feat that seems kind of self explanatory.  When most of your dps comes from encounter powers, being able to use them more would increase damage output.

Blood Pact of Cania:  There’s only two point here because we need to choose between this, and devastating critical.  Honestly, if I was a human this would be where I’d put those 3 extra feat points.

Devastating Critical:  IMPORTANT!  Critical severity is a coveted stat!  You want it as high as you can possibly get it.  Even though I’m not using a vorpal or a dread enchantment, critical chance and severity is not to be neglected!


Critical Promise: Another pretty obvious choice.  We want our critical hit chance to be as high as possible.  If you hit that goal of 100%, you’d receive this bonus damage to every one of your attacks after the first.

Gatekeeper’s Empowerment: Gates of Hell does some crazy damage in large groups.  Increasing that further is awesome, plus adding more AP gain when it kills targets, and increasing your damage another 5% with Flames of Empowerment, while your AP is full.  FoE is a great class feat. and one that I’ll routinely run at all times.

Helltouched: This is a tricky one.  I choose Helltouched over Infernal Wrath because I simply don’t apply lesser curse that reliably.  The only real way I could justify taking Infernal is if you’re using All Consuming Curse, but ACC doesn’t increase your damage output as much as No Pity No Mercy.

Executioner’s Gift: This is another one of the reasons I run Tiefling.  This feat synergizes so well with Killing Flames and some other aspects of this build that I wouldn’t recommend not taking it. (Plus, the additional damage you get from Killing Curse is tiny).

Brutal Curse: This is awesome.  Additional damage to curse targets by a flat percentage, and it’s on top of the damage buff from warlock’s curse.

Murderous Flames: Great additional damage to Killing Flames.  Increases your single target damage by a lot, and adds a bit of aoe during boss fights.

Creeping Death: This is really the only choice for dps warlocks.  The Damnation tree and it’s capstone, Soul Desecration are now nerfed to hell and don’t do near as much damage as this.  The other option is Temptation and that’s for healing.


Relentless Curse: When you use an ability that consumes Warlock’s curse, the enemy is then smacked with a lesser curse.  Lesser Curse will do more damage than 6% of your weapon damage, no matter what weapon you are using.

Power of the Nine Hells: This feat is why everyone wants a HB Warlock in their runs.  Crazy good damage output.

With Soulbinder your feat setup is the same.  The only feats that change are the feats that change with your paragon, and I use them both.

Burning Soul:  This feat is strong and you’ll get a lot of use out of it if you’re running SB when you need survivability.  As a SB warlock, you don’t want to spam Soul Scorch, so you’ll build up sparks and get use out of this.

Sparkbinder:  Immolation Spirits is a crazy high, single target, dps skill.  The spirits will also generate Soul Sparks when they attack.  Adding to the duration of this skill is awesome.

Powers and rotation!

Remember to use Warlock’s Curse as much as possible during combat!  Curse every target you can, but don’t miss out on using a skill that’s off cooldown to do so.  Warlock’s Curse increases the amount of damage enemies take, and can apply additional effects when you use encounters on targets affected by it.

The general rotation for either paragon is largely the same.  In fact, you really only change a couple skills.  I’ll list Hellbringer here, as it’s what I use mostly.  Again, you’ll be more valuable to your party and have a tad bit more dps in Hellbringer.

AoE setup.  Use for trash mobs and questing. (Hellbringer):

Class Feats:

Flames of Empowerment: Good damage increase as you fight mobs.  Really effective in hard dungeons where you can get a lot of use out of it.

No Pity No Mercy:  This is a class feat I will always have slotted, no matter what.  Very high increase in damage output from Hellish Rebuke.


Hand of Blight: Good damage and a good damage dealt debuff.  Helps your tank.

Hellish Rebuke:  Main source of At-Will damage.  I’ll use this almost exclusively when all my encounters are on cooldown.


Arms of Hadar:  Crazy good AoE damage (because of the low, stacking cooldown) and it knocks enemies prone.  I spam this a lot in combat.

Pillar of Power:  With my build you want to hold as many enemies in PoP as possible, because it’s damage can’t crit it synergizes really well with the owlbear cub, and because it applies a damage resistance debuff to enemies inside it.  You’ll want to also stay inside that circle for as long as possible, because it increases your damage output by a very large amount and increases your damage resist.

Fiery Bolt: Good AoE damage with a low cooldown.  Remember to Warlock’s Curse targets around the one you are using Fiery Bolt on to increase damage output.


Gates of Hell: Really good, instant, AoE damage.  Good if trying to kill a large group really quick, rather than melting it with Tyrannical.

Tyrannical Curse: Your most important skill to doing AoE damage.  Use this skill on the target with the most health in a room with lots of other enemies and watch the entire room melt when you drop PoP under the one you cursed. 

Your basic AoE rotation should be as follows:

Tyrannical Curse the biggest enemy you can find and drop Pillar of Power under him.  Try to catch as many enemies as you can within that green circle.  The more standing in it, the more dps you’ll do.  Then, while inside the circle yourself, Warlock’s Curse the targets and drop Arms of Hadar on them.  Then, Fiery Bolt.  While your skills are on cooldown, use Hellish Rebuke on the enemy you used TC on.  You want to maximize the damage he takes.  Repeat as cooldowns come back up and watch all the pretty numbers fly from the enemies as they melt.

Single Target.  Use for boss fights (Hellbringer):

Class Feats:  These will remain the same.

Flames of Empowerment

No Pity No Mercy


Warlock’s Bargain: Applies an almost never ending DoT on your target.  Also deals a portion of damage you take to the target it’s applied to and heals you while it’s active.

Pillar of Power: Really hard to beat the damage that comes out of this skill.  Not only does it buff you and your party but it’s perfect for maximizing that Owlbear Cub damage.  Keep the boss in this circle at all times!

Killing Flames: Very strong single target encounter with a short cooldown that increases in damage as the boss loses health.  Always have this slotted for boss fights!  The Soul Puppet it can spawn is kind of useless though.


Brood of Hadar: Awesome single target damage ability.  The brood will swarm an enemy and do a bunch of damage plus slow, and best of all they’ll swap to another target if the target you casted it on dies.

Tyrannical Curse: Solid damage buff and amazing add control during boss fights.

Your basic Single Target rotation should be as follows:

First, open with Warlock’s Bargain.  This skill should be used on cooldown, and the boss should have this DoT applied to them at all times.  Then drop Pillar of Power, preferably with the boss inside.  Stand in the circle for as much of the fight as possible.  Now, Warlock’s Curse your target and use Killing Flames.  If adds spawn, use Tyrannical on the boss.  If not, use Brood.  While your skills are on cooldown, use Hellish Rebuke and wait until they come back up.  Repeat.

Pretty Simple, right?


The artifacts I use are the Wheel of Elements, Shard of Orcus’ Wand, Sigil of the Controller, and the Fragmented Key of Stars.

I’ve seen many Warlocks using the Sigil of the Devoted over Wheel and I can tell you from experience, the Wheel of Elements will do way more damage.  Having full AP whenever you want is nice, but an additional 30% damage is better.

For Artifact sets I’m using the Orcus set because it does the highest damage out of all the Artifact neck/belt sets in the game, and the Mirage Weapon set.  Do not use Mirage!  I use it because I was testing them when they were new, and will swap them out for the Hexweaver set as soon as I get the marks to upgrade it.


Ideally you’ll want Brutal rank 12’s in all your offense slots, filling in some with Azure’s if you need more Crit or Savage if you need Armor Pen.  You’ll want 100% crit, 60% armor pen.  Anything over in either of those stats is a waste.

For Weapon and armor enchantments I’m using a Transcendent Vorpal Enchantment in my weapon and a Shadowclad in my armor.  I’ll swap the Shadowclad for Negation or Soulforged when I can afford either.


Ideally you’ll want a combination of the new manticore master crafting set.  It’s between Raid, which gives lots of Power and Crit, and Assault which gives a lot of Power and Armor Pen.  Don’t neglect Armor Pen. for crit here!  Remember, only 70% crit is okay!  Just means we’ll get a bit more use from owlbear.  60% Resist Ignored is super important for PvE!


I’ll now dive into what companions you should be using, and why.

-Obviously the Owlbear cub is a must.  The additional damage it provides is insane.  Even if you have 100% crit, you’ll still be getting use out of this little guy.

-Fire Archon:  Very good damage.  Synergises well with our build.  I use him to hold my bondings as well.  Do not put bondings on an augment companion!  Bonding runestones don’t activate on augments!  Put them on a Striker!

-Air Archon:  Again, more synergy with the rest of our build.  Solid damage, and a must have.

-Erinyes of Belial:  Critical Hit Severity is extremely strong for DPS and you want as much as you can get.

-Dancing Blade

You can swap Fire Archon for Sellsword if you want.  I haven’t tested it myself, but I’ve heard it works well and provides a valuable damage resist debuff to enemies.



Mount bonuses:

Leave a reply
  • Ruin
    June 2, 2017 at 4:10 am

    Recently switched to your rotations and have noticed quite an increase in dmg especially on bosses. Great guide, thanks for posting it.

    • Profile photo of Charisma
      June 4, 2017 at 11:23 pm

      Awesome to hear that it’s working out for you! Working on getting the mount bonuses set up and written in so it can be complete soon! Stay tuned ^^

  • Z
    June 8, 2017 at 3:56 pm

    I want to start a SW and like to get homework done ahead of time 🙂
    How would you characterize the difference between HellBringer and SoulBinder?
    There are technical differences (spells) but also a play style.

    • Profile photo of Charisma
      June 13, 2017 at 6:03 pm

      Hellbringer does more overall dps, but Soulbinder has a lot of self heal and sustain. Soulbinder is what I’d recommend leveling as, but as soon as you hit 70 and start running epics I’d strongly suggest switching to Hellbringer.

  • Dot
    June 17, 2017 at 2:08 am

    Can you recommend spell rotation for msva nd fbi? Or do you swap out between single target and aoe during the fight?

    • Profile photo of Charisma
      June 22, 2017 at 11:00 am

      I swap in and out. For anything that isn’t a boss I stay in aoe and Tyrannical Curse big guys whenever possible, but as soon as we hit those boss fights I swap back to single target.

  • Scrylite
    June 17, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Why not skip the 10 points in damnation and the 5 points in murderous flames and go 15 points in on temptation to get dark revelry? High crit builds trigger hope stealer non-stop and with savages or darks in your defense sockets you will have dark revelry ringing off the screen. The extra 20% movement and power is highly desirable and more flexible group perk

    • Profile photo of Charisma
      June 22, 2017 at 11:02 am

      That might be something I mess around with in the future, however my current setup is designed simply to burn everything as fast as possible. My assumption with this build is that I will be partying with people who can handle keeping me alive while everything melts, so I left the defensive party buffs to another member, and took the offensive ones.

  • kevin
    June 19, 2017 at 10:46 am

    hi i just swapped to your build tonight and i gotta say that at level 74 in icewind dale i can now actually stand up for myself and enjoyed the game again. thanks heaps for your efforts. i am a 50 yr old man and this is my time for me and it sucks when it is bad. super build.

  • MangoTango
    June 28, 2017 at 8:57 am

    What are your Main hand and Off-hand artifact powers?

    • Profile photo of Charisma
      July 1, 2017 at 11:17 am

      Flames of empowerment buff for off-hand and Hellish Rebuke buff on main hand ^^

      • Profile photo of JD
        July 2, 2017 at 7:28 pm

        Ive talked with several fellow sw’s and from my personal testing, flames of empowerment on off hand doesnt work, your better off using all consuming for yhe extra 5% crit sev

        • Profile photo of Charisma
          July 5, 2017 at 9:39 am

          I’ve never had or heard of an issue with flames of empowerment, but assuming you are correct, using Vorpal in my weapon enchant and my 15% from companions I have more than enough crit sev. Plus, I don’t think All Consuming is all that great with my current set-up, so I don’t think I would use that either. I’m thinking of swapping over to feytouched and trying that out instead of vorpal. If I do I might swap class feats as well.

  • Thomas
    June 29, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    Icewind Dale and Storm King’s Thunder boons?

    • Profile photo of Charisma
      July 1, 2017 at 11:16 am

      As far I know the SKT and IWD boons aren’t nearly as good as all the others, and there’s a pretty clear choice for warlocks. for SKT I’d choose Cold Hearted, Hardy Constitution, Icy Wrath, Vengeful Heat, and Chill of Winter 3/3. For IWD: Encroaching Tactics, Refreshing Chill, Sleet Skills, Cool Resolve, and Winters Bounty. The choices for IWD are a lot less important than the other boons because they kinda suck.

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