Top 5 D&D Best Monk Builds That Are Fun To Play

Best monk builds DND 5e
Deep in meditation, a master of martial arts ponders the age old question: To beat or not to beat?

Exploring antediluvian tombs, discovering long forgotten riches, and bargaining with devils is a daunting task, however, adventurers from all of the multiverse continue to dance with death daily.

You, being one of these great heroes of our time, will have to employ every ounce of skill and creativity that you have to survive this perilous endeavor, but worry not, for I have advice for one such as you. Sit by the fire, take a sip of my brew and let us talk of some of the many ways in which a martial artist could unlock their greatest potential.

The trappings of a great Monk.

Flowing like a river and sturdier than stone. An ascetic shape runs above water to deliver the decisive blow. The monk is one of the most iconic classes in Dungeons & Dragons history, shaking the formula with a unique flair.

With their unshakable resolve and lightning-fast reflexes, monks are a breath of fresh air in any adventuring party, however, rescuing innocent dragons from evil princesses is no small task.

Lucky for you, we’ll be sharing a handful of 5th edition builds to help you bring out your monk’s potential and become the wall scaling, arrow catching one-person army waiting to come out.

These are by no means prescriptive builds, but rather guidelines that you can tweak and modify to fit all your role-playing needs. I’ll be using options from the Player’s Handbook (PHB), Volo’s Guide to Monsters (VGtM), the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide (SCAG) and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything (XGtE), Elemental Evil Player’s Companion (EEPC), Fizban's Treasury of Dragons (FToD), The Tortle Package (TTP) and Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything (TCoE).

1. The Blurred fist.

Best D&D 5e Monk Builds

The blurred fist, a lightning-fast monk who dominates the field of battle.

Pushing their reflexes to the limit, our monk has trained their body to achieve great displays of speed. They wander the land seeking to perfect their skill at an outstanding rate, usually leaving their foes wondering what hit them.

The blurred fist is a catchy name for this monk build, which is one of my personal favorites. This build focuses on increasing our walking speed as much as we can to dominate the battlefield. It is worthy of note that feats are an optional rule in 5e, so make sure your DM allows them before building your blurred fist.

What this build excels at

  • Battlefield presence. Increasing our speed allows us to participate in combat more actively, for we can run from foe to foe in the blink of an eye. This means you’ll have a movement speed of at least 60 feet which will allow you to cross great distances in a single turn.
  • Reliable damage. Thanks to our feat selection, we will be putting out large amounts of damage in a relatively safe way. Now you can rain pain upon your foes like a tornado!
  • Amazing role-play potential. By reaching increasingly higher speeds we can get away with incredible feats…like poking a sleeping dragon and getting out of its cave before it breathes fiery doom.

Build Details

  • Using the standard array for ability scores, we’ll aim for the following: 14 Dexterity, 15 Wisdom, 13 Constitution, 12 Strength, 10 Intelligence, 8 Charisma. You want at least a 13 in both Dexterity and Wisdom to keep your AC High.
  • Starting as a Wood elf will increase your base walking speed to 35 feet and your Dexterity and Wisdom scores by 1. Tabaxis are really good choices thanks to their ability to double their speed for a turn.

  • Choose a background that aligns with the kind of character you wish to role-play as, or you could always pick one which grants you the proficiencies you want.

  • Pick the way of the Open Hand once you reach level 3 in the monk class. You can now inflict debilitating effects on those you hit!

  • The first time you gain an Ability Score Increase, if your DM allows the use of feats, pick the Mobile feat. This will allow you to move even faster and come in and out of your opponent's reach without triggering an opportunity attack.

  • The second time you gain an Ability Score increase, which would be at level 8 in the monk class, pick the Charger feat. Thus allowing you to traverse impressive distances and still pack a mean punch.

  • As you increase your levels, your speed will keep increasing and thus you’ll become able to deliver lightning-fast strikes to foes on the other side of the battlefield.

Build Overview

Race. Wood Elf or Tabaxi.

Stat Priority. Dexterity > Wisdom > Constitution; The rest are Interchangeable.

Monastic Tradition. Way of the Open Hand.

Feats. Mobile & Charger.

2.  The Ace of light

Best D&D 5e Monk Builds

The Ace of light, a heavenly martial artist who weaves the sun itself into their strikes.

Wielding the power of the sun, the ace of light descends upon the battlefield as a beacon of hope and power, a monument that spells the end for any darkness within its path.

This build starts with choosing the Way of the Sun Soul, a monastic tradition from the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. The way of the Sun Soul gives our monk the ability to harness sunlight into powerful attacks, bumping up our offensive capabilities.

The amazing thing about this build is that you can completely opt-out of going into melee, without actually losing the ability to do so. Since you’re still a monk, nothing is stopping you from delivering the wrath of the sun up close and personal.

What this build excels at

  • Damage versatility. This subclass gives our monk access to radiant damage, which lets you deal with those pesky enemies with resistance to physical damage.
  • Magical Powers. While we only have 1 true spell, this build allows us to do feats straight out of our favorite childhood animes without needing to multiclass!

  • High damage output. Our recommended racial combination lets you bump your damage numbers as you level up, letting you feel truly powerful as you gain experience.

Build Details

  • Using the standard array for our ability scores, we’ll be looking for: 15 Wisdom, 14 Dexterity, 13 Constitution, 12 Strength, 10 Intelligence, 8 Charisma. As with most monks, we’ll keep Wisdom and Dexterity as our priority abilities, and then Constitution.
  • For backgrounds, you can choose whichever fits your concept best, Adept is a safe bet for this build.

  • As a race, we'll pick Protector Aasimar for this build. Their racial ability bonus increases Wisdom by 1 and Charisma by 2, and while we don’t care too much for charisma, it’s the Aasimar’s 3rd level ability we’re looking for.

  • For 1 minute, Protector Aasimars who reach level 3 can add their level as extra radiant damage to one attack they make, and a flying speed.

  • At Monk level 3, pick the Way of the Sun Soul. Choosing this Monastic Tradition will give you the ability to shoot beams of sunlight.

  • Every time you gain an Ability Score Increase, make sure to increase your Dexterity by 2 until you reach a score of 20. Afterward, consider increasing your Wisdom score. If your game uses feats, take Mobile which always comes in handy for a monk.

  • As you increase your monk levels, you will gain the following:

  • A scalable spell with an area of effect.
  • The ability to unleash a wide burst of sunlight that damages your foes.

  • A protective ability that smites those who dare strike you.

Build Overview

Race. Protector Aasimar.

Stat Priority. Dexterity > Wisdom > Constitution; The rest are Interchangeable.
Monastic Tradition. Way of Sun Soul.

Feats. Focus on Ability Score Increases; Get Mobile if you’d like.

3. The Zen Archer.

Best D&D 5e Monk Builds

The Zen Archer, a bow-wielding prodigy with amazing defenses.

With the ability to use weapons not commonly seen on monks, the Zen archer slays their foes from afar. They slash with their blade almost as often as they fire their bow. 

Our build begins by taking the Path of the Kensei, a Monastic Tradition from Xanathar's Guide to Everything. The Path of the Kensei gives the monk a more diverse array of weapons and bumps the Monk’s already impressive defenses even higher.

The focus of this build will be its ability to strike at several foes from afar, although it performs outstandingly in melee. 

What this build excels at

  • Notable defense. If our Monk makes an unarmed strike, they can boost their already high AC by 2 until the start of their next turn.
  • A graceful mix of melee and range. The Kensei adds one melee and one ranged weapon to their arsenal, greatly increasing their damage output at the lower levels.

  • Impressive Accuracy. With this build, we’ll maximize our chances to hit to make sure every shot counts.

Build Details

  • Using the standard array, our stats will be the following: 15 Dexterity, 14 Constitution, 13 Wisdom, 12 Intelligence, 10 Charisma, 8 Strength. Kensei's highest ability scores are Dexterity and Wisdom, followed by Constitution. All other ability scores are interchangeable to fit your concept.
  • For our background, Soldier or Noble are a nice fit, however, you should choose something that makes you immerse yourself in your character.

  • If allowed, we’ll use the Variant Human race. Our ability score increases will go to Dexterity and Wisdom, boosting our defensive capabilities; Take Fighting Initiate for the free feat, choosing the Archery combat style.

  • If your DM allows Aarakocra, use that option instead. This way our ability scores will change like this: 15 Wisdom, 14 Dexterity, 13 Constitution, 12 Intelligence, 10 Charisma, 8 Strength, so our Kensei will have 16’s in Wisdom and Dexterity at level 1. Aarakocra also has the best flying speed out of all the races.
  • At level 3, pick the Way of the Kensai Monastic Tradition and choose the longsword and the longbow as your Kensei Weapons, as well as the following:

  • You gain the ability to increase your AC by 2 every time they use their action to make an unarmed strike and are holding a Kensei weapon.

  • Your Kensei can increase their ranged attack’s damage with a Kensei weapon.

  • You also get to choose a Proficiency between two tool options.

  • The first time you gain an Ability Score Increase, if your DM allows the use of feats, pick Sharpshooter. This will greatly improve your ranged capabilities. 

  • As you increase your Kensei level, you gain the ability to make your weapon attacks count as magical as well as increasing their damage even further.

Build Overview

Race. Variant Human or Aarakocra.

Stat Priority. Dexterity > Wisdom > Constitution; The rest are Interchangeable.

Monastic Tradition. Way of the Kensei.

Feats. Fighting Initiate & Sharpshooter.

2. The Shadow Stalker

Best D&D 5e Monk Builds

The Shadow Stalker, an eldritch monk who strikes from the darkness.

No longer truly sane, our monk opened their mind to the void between the stars…and it listened. They now hear its ceaseless whispers as the shadows of the void creep ever closer.

The Shadow Stalker build will probably be the most complex of the five builds (although not too much). We will have to multiclass to do it, so check with your DM beforehand if it’s allowed. We’re going to focus on combining the Way of the Shadow with the Warlock class.

We will exchange some of our monk progression for access to magic spells to boost our arsenal, and most importantly, eldritch invocations. This build also gains us a familiar who can serve as a loyal scout and even a companion in combat.

It is important to keep in mind that this build will require a three-level dip into the Warlock class, so make sure your campaign is going to last enough sessions to truly enjoy its potential.

What this build excels at

  • Guerrilla Warfare. We’ll make liberal use of the Darkness spell, letting you pummel down your foes without them even knowing what is happening.
  • Extra utility. Our dip in Warlock gives you the ability to cast spells and choose eldritch invocations. Now your monk can blast their foes with magic and whisper into the minds of others.

  • Maintaining concentration spells. This build focuses on toying around with the darkness spell, so your Monk is going to be more than capable of keeping it going!

Build Details

  • Using the standard array, we’ll use the following ability score array: 15 Dexterity, 14 Charisma, 13 Wisdom, 12 Constitution, 10 Strength, 8 Intelligence. We need that charisma to satisfy our Multiclass requirements.
  • For backgrounds, it is better to choose something which fits your role-playing needs or grants you the Skills you are looking for.

  • We’ll use the Half-elf race for this build. Their racial ability bonuses increase Charisma by 2 and we’ll raise our Dexterity and Wisdom by 1.

  • Start at level 1 in the monk class. We begin with monk because it gives us a higher AC as well as better saves.

  • At level 3, pick the Way of the Shadow Monastic Tradition. This will give your monk the ability to cast several spells, out of which Darkness will be your bread and butter.

  • At level 4, take your first level in Warlock, you can choose any patron you want, but we recommend taking the Great Old One for its utility. You’ll take levels in the warlock class until you reach level 3 in it.

  • The Great Old One patron gives you the ability to communicate telepathically with creatures, a handy tool to whisper aberrant thoughts while you haunt them in darkness.

  • At Warlock level 2, you’ll gain the Eldritch Invocations feature. Make sure to pick Devil’s Sight as it will allow you to see in supernatural darkness. This is the star ability of the build, the ability to blind your foes in the shadows as you strike at them safely.

  • Since Darkness is a Concentration spell, we recommend picking Eldritch Mind as your second invocation.

  • When you reach Warlock level 3, choose the pact of the chain. This will gain you a familiar that you can use to aid you in combat. Picking the Pseudodragon will give your monk a pet which makes them resistant to magic!

  • From here on, you’ll only be taking levels in the Monk class.

  • As you increase your monk levels, you gain the following:

  • You can teleport up to 60 feet as long as you are in dim light or darkness.

  • While in darkness, our Monk can become invisible.

  • If someone dares strike a creature other than our Monk while in darkness, you can punish it with a strike of your own.

Spell Selection

Our Warlock levels give us access to the Spellcasting feature. You’ll likely pick spells that fit your tastes, so don’t hesitate on choosing them. Here are our recommended picks that put the cherry at the top on the Shadow Stalker build:

  • Cantrips: Eldritch Blast, Lightning Lure.
  • 1st Level Spells:  Armor of Agathys, Shield, Hex.
  • 2nd Level Spells: Shadow Blade.

Keep in mind that, since we took warlock levels, our spells are always cast at the maximum level possible.

Build Overview

Race. Half-elf.

Stat Priority. Dexterity > Charisma > Wisdom > Constitution; The rest are Interchangeable.

Monastic Tradition. Way of the Shadow.

Feats. Ability Score increases benefit you more.

5. The Astral Shell

Best D&D 5e Monk Builds

The Astral Shell, a naturally armored monk who has achieved enlightenment.  

By believing in the power of their spirit, our monk has gained the ability to bring out their astral body, becoming a walking fortress of serenity.

The Astral Shell is a wordplay used to describe this fun build. We’re going to focus on bringing out the most of our inner self while forgoing the agility usually seen in a monk, but not by much.

By combining the Way of the Astral Self from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything and the Tortle race from The Tortle Package, we’ll come upon a fun, if a bit uncommon monk to set forth into a myriad of adventures.

What this Build Excels at

  • Being Durable. The Tortle race gives our Astral Shell natural armor. This means that you’ll have an Armor Class (AC) of 17 depending on your Dexterity. This feature frees you up to not prioritize Dexterity as your main ability if you so wish.
  • A Sage’s fist. The way of the Astral Self lets you use your Wisdom instead of Strength or Dexterity for your attacks and damage, making you stand out from other builds.

  • An Uncommon sight. Our racial choice gains your Monk a set of qualities not easy to come by, such as the ability to hold your breath for 1 hour at a time and a neat little defensive mechanism.

Build Details

  • Use the standard array for ability scores to get the following: 15 Wisdom, 14 Constitution, 13 Dexterity, 12 Intelligence, 10 Strength, 8 Charisma.
  • Starting as a Tortle will increase your Wisdom by 1 and your Strength by 2. Tortles also get Natural Armor and proficiency in the Survival skill.

  • For backgrounds, you should choose whatever resonates with your character concept. Hermit is a safe bet for the Astral Shell.

  • At level 3, pick the way of the Astral Self Monastic tradition. For 10 minutes, the Arms of the Astral Self feature will allow you to make attacks that deal force damage, using your Wisdom modifier.

  • Every time you gain an Ability Score Increase, increase your Wisdom by 2 until you reach a score of 20. After this, we recommend increasing your Constitution score. If your DM allows the use of Feats, take Tough if you haven’t already.

  • As you gain experience, you’ll become capable of manifesting more of your Astral body:

  • Your Monk will gain the ability to enhance their senses.

  • Their Astral body will manifest, gaining the ability to reduce the damage of elemental attacks and increase your unarmed strike’s damage.

  • Once you have perfected your Astral body, you will achieve the pinnacle of awakening, having the ability to attack three times instead of once with the Attack action and a +2 bonus to your AC.

Build Overview

Race. Tortle.

Stat Priority. Wisdom > Constitution; The rest are Interchangeable.

Monastic Tradition. Way of the Astral Self.

Feats. Ability Score increases benefit you more.

Honorable Mentions

There are many ways in which you can reach the pinnacle of martial arts which your monk, and, while the following mentions are not full builds, they are excellent choices to take if you want to take your Monk to the next level.

  • The way of Mercy from Tasha's Cauldron of Everything combines the deadly prowess of a Monk with the caring touch of a healer.
  • The way of the Ascendant Dragon from Fizban's Treasury of Dragons offers a vast array of elemental versatility for us Dragon lovers.

  • The way of the Drunken Master from Xanathar's Guide to Everything is deceptively powerful, for your abilities let you truly exploit the action economy.

An Ascetic Treasury

Unlike most other adventures, Monks do not rely on any kind of gear to bring out the best of their features, thus you are always prepared to face danger in any situation, including bath time.

Still, there are a handful of magical items that, once attained, allow you to turn your already unstoppable martial arts master into a force to be reckoned with:

  • Boots of Speed are a godsend for any Monk, for they give you the ability to move at impressive speeds, and any attack of opportunity you might generate is done with disadvantage.
  • Bracers of Defense also complement your arsenal quite well, since you are already unarmored, their +2 bonus to AC will come in handy.

If you enjoyed what we shared, you may also be interested in:

Top 10 Most OP DnD Builds (OP D&D Class Builds)

Top 10 D&D Best Class Combinations 5e (Best D&D Multiclass)

[Top 5] D&D Best Beginner Classes That Are Fun To Play

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Born in a land where the sun forever blazes comes a man with an undying love for gaming, Jose enjoys nothing more than spinning tales about the multiverse of creativity to captivate and inspire.
Gamer Since: 2008
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: World of Warcraft
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dragon Age: Origins, Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn

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