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12 Best Monk Subclasses 5E [Refine Your Martial And Mystic Arts]

Best Monk Subclass 5e
  Written By: Ashish Arya
Updated On: 01/09/2024
Est. Reading: 5 minutes

Stepping into each adventure, every Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast knows the power of a great subclass.

The perfect choice melds with your character’s ethos while reinforcing their tactical role within an adventurous party.

Among the classes at your disposal, monks hold a special place, with their deft feats and mystical talents. It’s with this understanding that we’ve prepared a compilation of the 12 best monk subclass 5e.

In Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, monk subclasses offer not just unique abilities but an expanded horizon for storytelling and role-play.

Each subclass is rich in flavor and unique mechanics, offering you attributes that can add layers to your character’s backstory and interactive potential.

With twelve options widely recognized as top-tier picks, we want to guide you in choosing a monk subclass that resonates most with your playing style and character conception.

12 Best Monk Subclasses 5E

In Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, the character class of Monk offers its players a unique blend of mystic powers and incredible martial skills.

Each Monk subclass (termed a ‘Monastic Tradition’) delivers distinct role-playing narratives along with additional skills that complement the base traits of the class. In this discussion, we focus on six of the best Monk subclasses.

Way of the Open Hand

Built upon enlightenment and discipline, the Way of the Open Hand is regarded as an archetype for Monks. This subclass emphasizes battlefield control and direct combat.

They are zen-like warriors who manipulate their enemies’ position on the battleground, disrupt their actions, or even render them unconscious with a single strike unarmed superiority coupled with self-healing abilities make these monks true martial arts masters.

Also Read: Stone Sorcerer 5E Subclass [Merge Magic & Rock Solid Strength]

Way of the Shadow

For those drawn to a stealthier style, consider walking the Way of Shadow. As a monk traveling this path, you gain access to skills previously available only to rogues or spellcasters, making you an expert in subterfuge and skirmish tactics.

Way of the Shadow

You become one with darkness your existence barely more than a whisper in the shadowy corners of existence making you highly effective during surprise attacks or infiltrations.

Way of the Four Elements

Working on principles similar to benders from “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” monks embracing the Way of the Four Elements control fire, water, air, and earth to their advantage.

With these elemental disciplines at your fingertips, you are capable of delivering powerful attacks by summoning fiery shields or unleashing tempests.

Mastering this subclass requires balanced resource management since your elemental powers drain from your shared ‘Ki’, or life force pool.

Way of the Kensei

If you want refinement paired with lethality, look no further than Way of Kensei Monks who turn weapons into an extension of their being. While maintaining their martial prowess unarmed, Kensei monks claim mastery over martial and ranged weaponry, invoking deadly precision with any chosen armament.

Way of the Kensei

Way of the Sun Soul

A unique fusion of spirituality and power, the Way of the Sun Soul allows you to channel your ‘Ki’ into radiant energy, casting it as searing bolts of light or an explosive aura.

You gain a truly distinctive style of ranged spellcasting which can make your monk a formidable long-range combatant unseen in other monk subclasses.

Way of the Drunken Master

Inspired by martial arts films and the erratic movements imitating intoxication, the Way of Drunken Master grants you equally unpredictable combat skills.

Way of the Drunken Master

This monastic tradition allows for tavern brawlers who master incorporating fancy footwork with fluid unarmed strikes.

The subclass focuses on misdirection and cunning to weave a confusing tapestry of movements that could make enemies second-guess their strategies.

Way of the Long Death

Monks who follow the Way of the Long Death are obsessed with understanding the nature and mechanisms of dying.

Borrowing thematic elements from necromancy, their skillset revolves around manipulating life force towards destructive or self-sustaining ends.

They can sap their foes’ life force to heal themselves, radiate an aura of dread to instill fear and cheat death itself by spending a ki point to hold onto one hit point when they would otherwise drop to zero.

Also Read: Way of The Long Death Monk Subclass [Mastery Over Life And Death]

Way of the Astral Self

Monks on the Way of the Astral Self seek enlightenment beyond physical reality by manifesting their astral self.

Way of the Astral Self

This subclass offers a unique flavor as you project out an astral entity bearing cosmological influences.

With palpable astral arms complementing your attacks and an empowered astral form augmenting your defense or conversation skills, you derive an otherworldly cocktail of role-playing and battlefield dynamics.

Way of Mercy

Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Monks following the Way of Mercy learn to manipulate life forces using ki.

Straddling the line between life and death, these Monks can heal wounds or inflict deadly harm with their hands enveloped in healing energy or execute Merciful Strikes that can unexpectedly revive allies from unconsciousness displaying both yin and yang aspects seamlessly.

Way of Ascendant Dragon

Introduced in Fizban’s Treasury Dragon, this monk subclass pays homage to dragonkind’s power and majesty.

Way Of Ascendant Dragon

As a Monk following this path, your ki gets expressively draconic infusions; from resonating draconic energy as breath attacks or wings for flight or even invoking the respective dragon’s presence for communal benefits creating grand tableaus befitting a dragon-inspired hero.

Way of Cobalt Soul

Presented in “Critical Role: Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting,” these monks bear themselves as keepers and wielders of knowledge.

Cobalt Soul Monks can extract information from their opponent’s mind with each strike.

They offer a perfect blend for players seeking disciplined combat tempered with diplomatic prowess and the ability to learn and adapt on and off the battlefield.

Way of the Soul Knife

In Unearthed Arcana: Psionic Options Revisited, Monks choosing to walk along the Way of Soul Knife attain manifestation of their ki as psychic blades.

Way of the Soul Knife

These monks are adept at both offense and defense; creating mental weapons for striking foes or erecting psychic barriers for protection.

The Way of Soul Knife integrates your internal energies into versatile shape-shifting tools, broadening your strategy on the battlefield.

Also Read: Drakewarden Ranger Subclass [How It Changes Your DnD Gameplay]

FAQs About Monk Subclass 5e

Can monks use weapons in the 5e subclass?

Yes, all monks are proficient with simple weapons and short words. Some subclasses such as Way of the Kensei allow for expanded weapon options.

What additional abilities do monk subclasses gain?

Monk subclasses provide unique abilities beyond the base class, such as subtle manipulations of ki, weapon mastery, or arcane spellcasting.

Can a monk change subclass in Dungeons & Dragons 5E?

No, typically once a subclass is selected at the third level it cannot be changed according to the official rules.

How does a monk spend ki points in 5E?

Monks can spend ki points to fuel various ki features like Flurry of Blows, Patient Defense, and Step of the Wind. Many subclasses also allow the expenditure of ki for unique abilities.

Do all monks have to be lawful in D&D 5e?

Unlike previous editions of D&D, the 5th edition includes no restriction on a monk’s alignment.


  • Ashish Arya

    I'm a tech enthusiast and lifelong gamer, hailing from the beautiful city of Chandigarh. My passions range from immersing myself in worlds like GTA V, COD, SIMS, Roblox and Minecraft to exploring the latest innovations in laptops and technology. Armed with a Bachelors Degree in Computer Application, I love sharing my insights through writing and engaging with fellow enthusiasts. Join me on my journey through the ever-evolving realms of gaming and tech!