Monks are a unique class. Generally speaking, they don’t cast spells and those who do, do so in a very stylized way, with the “spell” acting as guidelines for their Monk abilities. They fight with their fists or very simple weapons. They are focused on Dexterity for their attacks and use these stats to have a high armor class rather than actually wearing armor.
Their main mechanic is the use of Ki, an energy that flows through all living things. Depending on the kind of Monk you create, this Ki is used in different ways. This class can be slow to start off but here are ten ways to make an overpowered Monk once it gets off the ground.
10 Way of the Four Elements Subclass
The Way of the Four Elements has some of the biggest potential for power for a Monk. This subclass revolves around gaining what is essential spells as you level up. Your Ki points are used to activate various elemental disciplines. Each of these replicates spells such as burning hands, cone of cold, fireball, and thunderwave.
By the time you reach level 20, you’ll have five disciplines to use in battle. You can use your Ki points to make them stronger which is basically casting the spell at a higher level. Part of this list will be which disciplines will make for the best monk.
9 Elemental Discipline: Water Whip
This is a strong discipline that will be available to you from the start. It only costs two Ki and has a range of 30 feet. This tendril of water will strike your target and they’ll have to make a Dexterity save.
If the target fails, not only do they 3d10 of bludgeoning damage but you can move them 25 feet or they are knocked to the ground. If the target succeeds they take half damage and suffer no additional effects. In addition, you can spend more Ki to up the damage. This one is great for dishing out damage and maintaining control of the battlefield.
8 Elemental Discipline: Flames of the Phoenix
Flames of the Phoenix is quite simply, the spell fireball. This is not a negative, in fact, it's just the opposite. It's a bit expensive at four Ki and you’ll need to be level 11 to choose it but for this spell, it's well worth it. Fireball has a reputation for being a powerful spell used to either kill entire rooms, effectively killing well-planned combat encounters or a suicidal bomb.
The fireball explodes in a 20-foot radius, dealing 8d6 fire damage to everyone in the blast zone if they fail a Dexterity save. The unlucky victims will take half damage if they can make the save. As you gain levels and Ki points, you could potentially use this ability multiple times and increase the damage.
7 Elemental Discipline: Gong of the Summit
The Gong of the Summit is the Monk way of casting the spell shatter. This spell magically emits a shrill, piercing sound that can be heard in a 60-foot radius from the point of origin. All who hear it need to make a Constitution saving throw. As is usual, if the victims make it, they take half damage.
However, the spell deals 3d8 thunder damage to those who fail. An added perk is that non-organic creatures, such as constructs, for example, has a disadvantage on the saving throw. You can use Ki to increase the damage and at a cost of 3 Ki, it's worth taking once you reach level 6.
6 Elemental Discipline: Fist of Unbroken Air
This discipline is available when your Monk reaches level three so as soon as you can, this is a great one to take. It costs two Ki to use and it allows you to fire a compressed air at foes up to 30 feet away. On impact, the target will have to make a Strength saving through. If they fail, they take 3d10 of bludgeoning damage, are pushed 20 feet away, and knocked to the ground.
If they succeed, they are not moved and they take half of the damage. It's very similar to the Water Whip in many ways such as damage and effects. However, it's still worth taking this discipline because it gives you five more feet of range. This can make all the difference during battle.
5 Elemental Discipline: Breath of Winter
The Breath of Winter discipline is quite expensive at a cost of 6 Ki points. You won’t be able to take this ability until you are level 17 but it is something to look forward to. This is a casting of the spell cone of cold.
This spell produces a 60-foot cone of freezing air from you, and everyone in the area of effect must make a Constitution saving throw. On a failure, they take 8d8 cold damage and on a success, they take half of that. As a Monk, you are not going to have any area-of-effect moves in your toolbox and this can be frustrating when trying to support your team. This is a great way to fill that gap.
4 Elemental Discipline: Fangs of the Fire Snake
For your fifth discipline, take the Fangs of the Fire Snake. This is another one that is available at any time in your career as a Monk. First, it's a cheap discipline, costing only a single Ki. Second, it extends the reach of your unarmed attacks by 10 feet for the turn and converts your damage into fire damage.
Third, you can use one more Ki to throw a bonus d10 of fire damage onto the attack. Having more range gives you more targets without having to move through a potentially dangerous battlefield and in most cases, dealing elemental damage is preferable to normal types of damage.
3 Wood Elf or Lightfoot Halfling Race
The Wood Elf is one of two top choices for creating a Monk. Wood Elves make great Monks as they get a boost of two to their Dexterity. In addition, they get a 35-foot movement instead of the standard 30.
You get all of the perks of being an elf: dark vision, fey ancestry, proficiency in perception, and weapon proficiencies. Lightfoot Halflings are another ideal choice as they also get a two-point Dexterity bonus. Your speed is only 25 feet but you get the ability to move through the spaces or larger creatures and be hidden by them. In addition, if you roll a nat 1, you can reroll it.
2 Boots of Speed
Speed can be a Monk’s friend. Your armor class generally won’t be as high as other classes so sometimes, the strategy is to hit and run. To pull that off though, you need movement. The Boots of Speed are just the magical item to give your Monk a boost; especially if you choose the Lightfoot Halfling.
Once activated, your movement doubles. In addition, enemies get a disadvantage when making opportunity attacks against you. This effect can be turned on and off but you only get ten total minutes worth per long rest. These boots give you the necessary movement to retreat and weave across the battlefield and help to offset the danger of enemies taking advantage of your low AC.
1 Bracers of Defense
And finally, the Bracers of Defense are a great item to round out your Monk. As stated in the last section, Monks can have relatively low armor classes. The class’s ability Unarmoured Defense calculates your armor based on your Dexterity and Wisdom modifiers as long as you’re not wearing armor.
If you max out your Dexterity, you’ll at least have an AC of 15 but that is decidedly low. The Bracers of Defense grant two extra points to your AC as long as you are not wearing armor or using a shield. They do not count as armor so by wearing them you won’t compromise your Unarmoured Defense.