The Tactical Monk
Hey all! This is my first build I’ve shared with people. I’ve done a lot of messing around with classes and various builds before, but never really put anything out there. The monk is something I’ve been trying to get to work for the longest time, and nothing ever seemed to. Then Tasha’s came out, and with it the Mercy Monk, and I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. This build is fun, and VERY monk. You’re using the things that monk gets that normally don’t do much, and turning them into STRENGTHS. Namely, movement and messing with enemies’ movement and options in combat.
(Just a little pre-warning: this does rely on some RAW-but-likely-not-RAI stuff in the form of the polearm master feat, and not using that polearm to make the reaction attack.)
This is a support build, making use of detrimental effects (not stunning strike, I promise) we can inflict on specific enemies, and our healing ability that we can very easily intertwine with these abilities, doing both in the same turn. Our positioning in combat and maneuverability are the keys to this character’s success.
With all that out of the way, here’s my first shared build, the Tactical Monk!
Monk, Custom Lineage. Feat: Crusher. Using point buy we get:
DEX: 14+2(custom lineage)
At this level, we’re… well, we’re a monk. Our offenses are really quite good at this level, however our defense definitely leaves a bit to be desired. We do get the advantage of having a +3 con mod, so 11 HP which is nice. Additionally, we can make use of the crusher feat to push an enemy 5 feet away from us when we hit them, forcing them to leave our melee range, and allowing us to back off, positioning ourselves well on the battlefield to avoid taking hits.
Level 2 gives us our ki points, which we’re often spending on flurry of blows on critically important enemies. It’s somewhat important to ration ki points, however, as they are a resource that you can use to save your hide, most likely with step of the wind, allowing you to disengage if you are caught in the middle of a large group of enemies. Generally, initiating a fight with a single creature, pushing them, and backing off to be out of range of as many enemies as possible is still where you want to be, but Ki gives you an offensive option as well as a “get out of jail free” card, which is nice. Not as great as the rogue’s, but we’ll still take it.
Also at this level we get our Unarmored Movement feature. This is so important for us, as we’re looking to position ourselves out of the range of our enemies’ movement, so being able to have that increased movement means we can more easily get to the most awkward areas on the battlefield for our enemies.
Level 3 is when things pick up a little. We take our subclass, Way of Mercy. This gives us 2 major things in combat. Hand of Healing, and Hand of Harm. Hand of Healing is great for our character, as if an ally goes down in combat, we can run up, attack the enemy that downed them with a flurry of blows, and use one of the strikes to bring up our friend. Hand of Harm is a good thing to do when we don’t need to bring up an ally. I would suggest not using flurry of blows if you’re planning on using Hand of Harm. It’s just gonna eat up your ki so quickly. Hand of Harm allows you to reliably spend your ki to increase your damage if you have nothing else going on, meaning you don’t waste it like you may do with flurry. The second hit with flurry can miss, meaning you lose a ki point, and the result is basically like you didn’t flurry.
We then take monk all the way to level 6. We take Resilient Wisdom with our level 4 ASI, to shore up that odd wisdom score, adding to our hand of harm damage, our AC, and giving us a good wisdom saving throw. Wisdom saves are the saves that are going to screw a character like this (you do NOT want to be hit with a Slow), so making sure we can pass those is very important.
Level 5 gives us Stunning Strike, Extra Attack, Focused Aim, and our unarmed strikes become d6s. This is a character that is going to value unarmed strikes over our quarterstaff, so now our unarmed strikes dealing only 1 damage less on average is a really nice thing. Means we can afford to take more chances to hit and use our Hands of Harm. Stunning Strike is something I’m very unlikely to use, but if you’re fighting something that ends up having a poor CON save, then by all means, go for it. The condition is very good if you can get it off. Ki points are just so important now especially that I can’t see myself using it much if at all. Focused Aim is not the best use of our ki, but if you really need to land that last hit to push a creature away or poison them (which we get at level 6), then it is still something you can do.
Level 6, and now we’re cooking with gas. We get the Physician’s Touch ability from our monk subclass. This is what we’ve been drooling over since level 1. For one, our hand of healing now lets us end the blinded, deafened, paralyzed, poisoned, or stunned conditions IN ADDITION to healing the creature, so now when the enemies do some of those nasty things to your friends, you can help them out of that bad situation. However, the real powerhouse here is our Hand of Harm now automatically inflicts the poisoned condition on the creature we use it on, until the end of your next turn. THIS IS SO GOOD. No save, that creature now has disadvantage on all its attacks and ability checks for the round. Shoring up our defenses is very handy given our relatively low AC of 16, and this is a way to help protect allies who are being assaulted by something scary. We can now push a creature 5 feet on our turn, and poison either that creature or another one. Plus, our unarmored movement at this level brings our speed up to 45 feet. We’re zipping around the battlefield, and finding the best spots to get out of the way of creatures.
Level 1 fighter gives us a couple options here. We get our second wind, which, given our ki points already come back on a short rest, getting another healing option that comes back on a short rest isn’t bad at all. We also get a fighting style. For this I picked the Superior Technique fighting style. With this, we grab the “Bait and Switch” maneuver. This allows us, without using any actions, to switch places with a creature within 5 feet of us, for 5 feet of movement, not provoking opportunity attacks. Not only that, but we can add a d6 to the AC of either ourselves, or the target. This can be used in a million different ways for a million different circumstances, but for one, it allows us to shore up our defenses if we find ourselves stuck in melee. We can also use it to get out of melee, giving an ally an extra AC boost after we’ve poisoned an enemy and pushed another.
Level 2 fighter gives us one of the sweetest things to get back on a short rest: Action Surge. This is just such a neat feature that is so flexible. We can use it to attack more, we can dash, disengage, all that good stuff. It makes us able to be more defensive, more maneuverable, more damaging, it gives us just this awesome flexibility at the start of an important fight.
Level 3 fighter is soooo good for us. We take the battlemaster subclass, giving us more 4 superiority die, which are d8s, and 4 maneuvers. We take Precision Attack, Pushing Attack, Trip Attack, and Menacing Attack. We just got a whole lot better at messing with enemies. And again, this all comes back on a short rest, so keep that in mind when you use these. You don’t have to ration resources on this character QUITE as hard as a long rest ability.
So, now you have an auto-poison on a hit thanks to Physician’s Touch, you can knock someone down or push them really far on a strength save, you can push someone 5 feet with no save, and you can frighten someone on a wisdom save. At this level, you’re really helping your party win fights. You’re not outright winning them, but you’re turning the wheels in your favour with your abilities, and you’re maneuvering around to make enemies have a tough time getting to you to stop you.
Now for the sweet spot in my opinion. One more level of fighter, bringing us to a level 10 character. With our ASI we take the polearm master feat. The trick here is we have a whole bunch of annoying things we get to do on a hit to creatures. We can push them, knock them prone, poison them, and make them frightened. Polearm master lets us do these things as a reaction when someone gets within 5 feet of us as long as we’re holding our quarterstaff. So now what we can do is poison someone with our hand of harm on our turn, and poison someone as a reaction when they get within 5 feet of us if we use an unarmed strike, giving them disadvantage on all their attacks until our next turn. Crusher works the same way, so we can do this quite consistently twice per turn. This allows us to push an enemy out of our melee range, move back, and if any enemies try to get close to us, we can push them back, and a number of other nasty things that target multiple saving throws.
Higher level, the idea would probably be to go to level 12 monk, get the 11th level Flurry of healing and harm ability, which means we can now afford to flurry of blows, and we get to finally increase our dexterity. Hopefully, positioning well alongside our reaction stuff, we shouldn't be getting attacked all that much, but 16 AC still looks rough to look at. Our to hit modifier is the most important reason for increasing DEX to 20 though, since it just means more messing with enemies’ movement and attacks.
Last 4 levels, I would maybe consider going with gloomstalker ranger. Zephyr strike is probably the sweetest spell to pick up for us. Ignoring attacks of opportunity is really nice, and the movement boost is huge. Gloomstalker also boosts our initiative, gives us potentially 2 more attacks on the first round of combat (with action surge), gives us 10 feet extra movement on turn 1, and just rounds us out quite nicely. Also, 20th level ASI: Lucky. Why not? Give yourself a nice capstone.
Phew, that was a lot. If you’re still here, thanks for sticking with me. I’m really proud of this, as it’s something I’ve been trying to do for so long. I love monks, but they just don’t do enough of anything in 5e to make work. I think the Way of Mercy mixed with the battlemaster maneuvers helps to carve out this nice niche for the monk though, being able to go in, hit some creatures and restrict what they do, and then get back outta there.
Also, people like damage reports, so even though this character isn’t meant to do great damage, I’ve put this at the end for those who like that kinda thing. I only did up to level 10, the sweet spot, as you could kinda go in multiple directions after that point, but I like what I ended up with all the way to level 20.
Just before we get into average damage here, I just want to remind you that THIS IS NOT A DPR BUILD. It can put out some decent numbers, and I’ve included a “nova” amount that shows average damage if you just blow all your resources, but with this build, especially around level 10, you’re looking to control specific creatures on the battlefield, and mess with their ability to hit you and your friends more than anything. Not only that, but you can use your resources for control, and still put out somewhat decent damage, and you can tailor the resources you use based on the damage you want to see. Nevertheless, you can get some pretty silly numbers in the first round of combat with this monk, and your resources do all come back on a short rest, at least until stupidly high levels, so in the end, play how you want.
Assumed ACs per level:
1-3: 14, 4: 15, 5-7: 16, 8: 17, 9-12: 18, 13-16: 19, 17-20: 20
Level 1: 8.15 average damage
Level 2: 8.15 no resources, 11.575 while flurrying
Level 3: 8.15 no resources, 10.975 with HoH (Hand of Harm) (looks worse, but more reliable/less waste of ki as you choose to add on hit), 14.4 nova with flurry + HoH
Level 4: 7.5 no resources, 10.65 with HoH, 13.8 nova with flurry + HoH
Level 5-7: 12.45 no resources, 16.2 with HoH, 19.95 nova with flurry + HoH
Level 8: 11.375 no resources, 14.8 with HoH, 18.225 with flurry + HoH, 26.175 nova on 1st turn with flurry + HoH + action surge
Level 9: 11.375 no resources, 14.8 with HoH, 20.7 with flurry + HoH + 1 maneuver, 35.9 nova on 1st turn with flurry + HoH + action surge + all superiority dice
Level 10: (assuming 1 unarmed opportunity attack per round) 14.8 no resources, 21.65 with HoH twice per round, 24.125 with HoH twice per round and 1.5 maneuvers per round, 42.575 nova with flurry + HoH twice per round + action surge + all superiority dice