Familiars, an extremely strong addition to any player. The ability to add a whole other action to your character, and the ability to scout ahead and interact with items that were once unavailable to you, make them something that everyone craves.
The strongest pact of the chain familiar is the imp. It sports high survivability with both invisibility, resistances, immunities, and adv on all saves against spells. Combine that with a high darkvision, good attack, and a polymorph ability. They make a great asset for every situation. That said, while the imp works well overall, each of the other familiars comes with unique opportunities that provide excellent choices which will be gone over in detail in the article below.
What Is Pact of the Chain And Their Familiars
Pact of the Chain is a boon given to third level warlocks who choose this pact. There are two other pacts a warlock can take, Pact of the Blade and Pact of the Tome. Both feature different uses such as the blade pact makes use of a front-line warlock. Meanwhile, the Tome Pact makes use of gaining additional cantrips and the ability to cast ritual spells. The Pact of the Chain though, focuses on garnishing power through a servant familiar that aids you in and outside of combat.
This creates for unique roleplay experiences with your familiar and gaining you more options to have in a scenario that is only limited by your creativity. Therefore, while the imp is overall the strongest, each can overpower the other on the familiar ranking depending on the situation and the creative uses one can think of. The list of Pact of the Chain familiars to choose from is the; imp, pseudodragon, quasit, or sprite. Each will be gone over in detail with a ranking beside their name, their stats, and why they got their ranking.
How Am I Ranking Them
Now, before we begin looking over the pact of the chain familiars in detail, many were asking me to release a detailed explanation on how I come up with the numbers when rating. As such, here is how I come up with a rating system.
When comparing against the other familiars, all pact of the chain familiars starts at a 5 out of 10. From there, they can go up and down.
2 points are dedicated to utility situations. This can be anything from mechanics that come in handy, proficiency in skills, or (for the case of pact of the chain familiars) how well they can perform a task given to them.
An additional 2 points are set aside for combat situations. So I look at how well their survivability is, how effective their damage is, and their ability to aid you in combat.
If they are the best in their group for combat, then they get 2 points added. However, if they are not the best, then I take a look at how well they still perform that function. If they do not do a good job, then they can lose points rather than gain. The same can be applied for utility, if they are the best, they gain an additional 2 points. If they are terrible at utility, they lose two points.
Finally, you might notice that leaves 1 point left to reach a 10 or a 1 in the rating scale. The final point goes to how iconic or strong something is. For example, the spell Fireball would receive a 10/10 because the damage is the best of its kind and is so iconic and strong that it is leagues above most other spells. Same for a rating of one, but for being irredeemable.
Pact Of The Chain Familiar: Imp (8.5/10)
The imp gets an 8.5 out of ten for its ranking for pact of the chain familiars. It gets a 2 out of 2 for being the strongest in terms of combat and a 1.5 out 2 for utility as a few have utility features that are unique to them. Thus, making the imp strong in utility, but not the go-to choice for every situation.
The reason for the high combat ranking comes from a few different avenues. One, the damage the imp has. The imp deals the most in terms of pure damage than any other familiar. Dealing on average 16 points of damage per hit. Meanwhile the pact of the chain familiar, the imp, also has the most useful trait of them all, Magic Resistance.
This is considered so powerful because the imp gains advantage on all saves against magic. An extremely powerful ability that puts the imp leagues of most other familiars in terms of survivability. But what truly sets them apart with magic resistance, is the variant rule to it. The variant rule states that, while within 10 feet of your pact of the chain familiar, you gain the ability of magic resistance. Now it should be noted that this a variant rule, meaning DM approval, so ask your DM before you choose this as your pact.
Finally, they gain a large list of resistances and immunities. Being resistant to cold, and all basic attacks cover some of the more popular ways to be attacked. However, once you combine being immune to poison and fire, the imp gains a large boost to survivability that makes it stand out. These coupled with the highest amount of hit points for any pact of the chain familiar greatly goes to help increase a high survivability if they are hit.
As a result, the high damage, magic resistance, and immunities and hit points make this the go-to choice if you plan to use your familiar in combat.
Finally, comes the utility, the imp gets 1.5 out of 2 for a few reasons. One comes from probably the strongest utility aspect, invisibility. Invisibility is huge in the game, granting you advantage on stealth checks and being able to hide where it once was unable to do. This allows you to be able to see all that is going on in a room while they never know you’re there. This transforms a good stealth of a +5 to effectively a +10 with advantage. Making your imp quieter than most other players and optimal for stealth missions.
This is not all, the imp can also shape change into three different other familiars, a rat, a raven, and a spider. This allows you to basically get 4 familiars for the price of one since it can transform into any of them to accommodate the situation. If you are interested in the uses for each in combat and out of combat then I highly suggest you take a look at this wizard’s familiar guide that goes into an analysis on each and every single one of the familiars, such as the rat, raven, and spider.
The last huge trait in the pact of the chain familiar, the imp, is darkvision and Devil Sight. These combined create the ultimate underdark companion. The reason being as there are a few things, mainly spellcasters, that can create magical darkness. This negates darkvision as that ability only applies to regular darkness. Now though, it doesn’t matter what kind of darkness it is. Your imp can see, and since you can see through his eyes, so, can you. Making your sight and their scouting rather secure in your campaign.
Pact Of The Chain Familiar: Pseudodragon (7/10)
Next comes the Pseudodragon, still a strong familiar for pact of the chain but falls behind in combat and utility. What makes the Pseudodragon shine though, is having the powerful blindsense ability, and the ability to communicate to anything with a language. Making this the familiar to choose for finding invisible creatures and translating to those that do not speak the same language.
If you cannot tell from the summary above, the pact of the chain familiar, pseudodragon is designed more for communication and searching than anything else. Nonetheless, it still has a few uses that give its combat rating a 1 out of 2.
The first thing to note about them is they also have a strong magical resistance mechanic just like the imp. Thus, increasing theirs, and potentially yours, survivability. But their most combat noticeable feature is sting attack.
The Pseudodragon’s sting attack does not do nearly as much damage as the imp’s attack, however, it does do something different. When the Pseudodragon hits with its’ sting attack, the opponent suffers roughly 5 points of damage. From there though, the enemy must make a DC 11 Constitution save against the second effect, poisoned. If they fail, they have disadvantage on all attack and ability rolls. But, if they fail by 5 or more, then they fall unconscious netting you even more delicious goodies in combat.
While this, might seem extremely useful, I decided to take a look at how effective these mechanics really are. The first thing to note is how often an enemy will save against it. To do that, I compiled a sheet of every monsters’ stats in the books and ran a test to see their average. The result showed a 15 in constitution. This means that on average, they have a 40% chance to fail the save, and a 20% chance to fall unconscious.
After that, I looked at how many are immune to the condition with 95 out of 561 being immune. Thus, 16.9% of the time the enemy will be immune to the effects and be wasted. As such, while useful, it is not a fantastic ability only raising its combat score to 1.
The Pseudodragon utility is very niche, as such it does not grant a huge utility score only being a 1 out of 2 as well.
What they are able to do though, is stronger than any other familiar in the game. Which is communicating to anything that can speak a language. This can be incredibly potent with the right mindset and creativity in mind. In addition, with it being telepathic, the shenanigans with this pact of the chain familiar are real.
When you have a pseudodragon familiar, communication barriers become a thing of the past as now you have an automatic translator that can talk to them for you. Run in a bunch of drow who only speak undercommon? Have your pseudodragon speak to them and defuse the situation. This said, it should be noted that since your pseudodragon is the one talking, your DM might force you to roll at their charisma score, which is a +0. So be warned about that.
The next ability they have is their perception. With a 10-foot blindsense, a 60 foot darkvision, and advantage on all perception checks, the pseudodragon covers all the bases for perception. Blindsense is an incredibly useful trait as it prevents you from being surprised by invisible creatures. That said, it is only ten feet, so if they are 11 feet away, they are hidden from your pact of the chain familiar.
Finally, comes their big boost, keen senses. Having advantage on all perception checks makes for an incredibly powerful boost for scouting and searching. So, even if the invisible creature is outside ten feet roll a perception check to see if you can find his scent at advantage and try to deduce it that way. Making the pseudodragon a rather ideal creature for searching.
Pact Of The Chain Familiar: Quasit (8/10)
The pact of the chain familiar, the Quasit, has both strong combat and utility that make it rival the imp for a few reasons. Netting a 1.5 for both combat and utility. In fact, almost anything the imp can do, the quasit can do as well. So, it often comes down to preference between the two.
The Quasits combat survivability comes from a few things, one being the magic resistance, two its poison claws, three having numerous resistances, and four (and my favorite) a combat ability that doesn’t use up an attack.
You see, much like the octopus familiar for wizards, the quasit also has an ability that does not require an attack roll. As such, it counts as an ability. Thus, you now do not need to use up an action to cast the ability. Making this a rather strong and unique function of the Quasit.
What is the ability? Great question! The ability is called “Scare” and can be used once a day. The chosen target must succeed on a DC 10 Wisdom save or be frightened for up to a minute. After reading that I had to take a look at how effective it was. The average wisdom score of a monster was a 12. This means that on average 40% of the time the frightened condition should work on a target. After that, I looked at how many were immune to the frightened condition. A whopping 112 out of 561 were immune. Meaning, roughly 20% of the time, the quasits frightening ability is ineffective against targets due to immunity.
This made for a useful ability, but nothing overpowered when looking through the details behind it. That said, its poison claws are another useful feature giving the quasit familiar lots of combat utility over the imp. For example, while the damage of the quasit is less, the quasit still can apply the poisoned condition on a target after dealing damage. But, only with a 35% success rate. Therefore, while unable to deal as much or take as much damage as the imp, the quasit is actually stronger for combat utility.
In addition to combat utility, the quasit familiar for pact of the chain also has a large utility option much like the imp. Sporting a shape change, invisibility, large darkvision, and stealth check. In fact, while the imp has more proficiencies, I would argue the quasit has a better shape change.
The reason for this comes from the utility of the familiar choices it can choose from. Blindsense is an incredibly powerful ability and the bat does the best in terms of blind sense. Moreover, many people say the imp is better because it can fly. Which is a huge benefit to familiars for numerous mentions in my previous guide. However, the bat also gains a fly speed so the quasit still can match the imp for the ability to fly.
Additionally, the other two options of the quasit also cover the utility of movement. Each of them grants the ability for the quasit to function underwater or climbing on walls. Both with a decent movement speed to boot.
Now that said, the quasit may have a better shape change, but it lacks horribly in comparison to skills. Its’ only redeemable skill is stealth with a +5 in it. However, unlike most other pact of the chain familiars, it only gains one skill and even then, a comparable familiar would be the sprite which greatly beats the quasit in stealth. Because of this, the quasits utility comes primarily from its shape change and invisibility, with checks like perception and all other abilities, sorely lacking.
Pact Of The Chain Familiar: Sprite(7.5/10)
Our last pact of the chain familiar on the list. The Sprites combat is relatively weak netting only a .5 out of 2 for combat. However, its’ abilities truly shine when it comes to the ability to scout ahead and interrogate, giving it a 2 out of 2 for utility.
The Sprites combat is weak. At most, the damage a sprite can deal is 1 point of damage. The only reason you would forgo an attack for your sprite to attack is to have it attack with its short bow. Even then, you would do this to poison a creature with a DC of 10. Meaning you have on average a 35% chance to inflict the poisoned condition on an opponent, and only a 15% chance of rendering them unconscious. Making this the weakest ability out of all pact of the chain familiars for combat use.
In fact, I was tempted to even subtract points for the sprite, because of combat use, but chose not to for the sake of it being invisible and having an AC of 15. This roughly translates to a 20 AC when invisible, and, while not mentioned so far, invisibility has quite a few combats uses.
For instance, your familiar can deliver touch spells for you, meaning if your sprite is invisible, it has advantage on delivering these spells. Therefore, helping secure your deliverance of the spell. Another use of it in combat is to increase the survivability of your familiar. By having them invisible they can take the help action and remain invisible, not suffering from an opportunity attack. This means, that your sprite can help your allies all the while not being attacked and even if so, at disadvantage.
Now the Sprite’s utility is where this pact of the chain familiar, truly shines. There is one job that every familiar does, because of this, it is considered the most important. And in this list of familiars, the sprite takes the lead with some effective synergy, which is their stealth, invisibility, and heartsight.
Their stealth is great, better than great actually, phenomenal. With a +8 to stealth naturally, everyone but the rogue will have a hard time beating them. Then the Sprite can rival even the rogue, by turning invisible granting it advantage on every stealth check. An incredibly powerful combo to be sure that guarantees a good stealth check.
This combined with a decent perception check makes the sprite a fantastic familiar for scouting ahead and reaching any area unnoticed. All the while gaining a decent chance to spot things when scouting ahead.
However, what truly shines in situations is the heartsight ability in my opinion. This has large roleplay potential as it automatically allows you to succeed in a general insight check. Which, seeing as you will probably have the highest charisma and not the highest wisdom, allows great synergy when talking or interrogating. Place your sprite familiar on your target and know if they are in a good mood, bad mood, etc. Then cater your conversations to the way they feel.
Moreover, if you have a generous DM, you can keep your sprite heartsight ability on at all times with a successful sleight of hand or stealth check. Now it should be noted that not all DM’s approve this so ask them first. If they do though, you are guaranteed to gain the upper hand in conversations.
Pact Of The Chain Familiar: Conclusion
As can be seen, while the imp is the strongest choice overall for both utility and combat, each of the familiars have different sections that allow them to excel far beyond the other familiars. So, a good base knowledge for each familiar can be huge for your character as it allows you to be able to prepare for any encounter as long as you think ahead.
If you are sold now on the pact of the chain familiar but want some creative uses of your familiar. There is a great Reddit post that goes over some potential uses for your familiar that is filled with good content. OR if you do not know much about the warlock here’s a good beginners guide to the warlock you can read about. Check it out sometime! Well, that concludes, this pact of the chain familiar review. I hope your day is unique and wonderful!
P.S. If you enjoyed this post and you have a specific subclass, spell, or anything else, be sure to check out my Patreon to see the rewards!