The monk features in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are either sub par or extremely powerful. There isn’t much of an in-between.
The monk features in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are interesting at first. The optional features are intended to give the player more options, but they are pretty bad for the cost except for one. The subclasses, on the other hand, are possibly the best mechanical classes available to monks in the entire game!
With the optional features monks just gain the ability to do things, so why is this not a massive power boost? The barbarian in Tasha’s gained free abilities which was a power boost, even with their benefits being small. The monk however has ‘trap’ options that may harm you.
Monk Optional Class Features
There are 4 optional monk features in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. Three of them are traps with maybe some circumstantial benefits while only one is a good option.
You can make a weapon a monk weapon. This weapon requires you to be proficient with said weapon and it can’t have the special or heavy prosperities. Lastly, it must be a simple or martial weapon. It doesn’t do much at all. Most monks won’t have proficiency with a new weapon but it does give the chance to maybe be proficient with a longsword or warhammer to get 1d2 more damage from it being versatile. There is already the Kensi monk, so this doesn’t matter too much.
You can use 1 ki to attack with a monk weapon as a bonus action. You can already attack for free as a bonus action with martial arts, so this contests flurry of blows. Even at level 2 at best with dedicated weapon you can for 1 ki deal 1d10+modifier vs 2d4+modifierx2. If you had a +3 modifier, then it would be 3-13 damage for 1 ki vs 8-10 damage assuming you hit every time. Is this worth it? Not really and the Kensi monk already exists so it doesn’t do too much. As a Kensi monk you might be able to make Ki-Fueled Attack worth it, but that is very circumstancial.
This is the only real massive boost that every monk will love. You can spend 2 ki to heal your martial arts di+ your proficiency bonus. Mainly, this is great for short rests. If you didn’t use all your ki, you get close to a few free hit di when you short rest. This is of course if you don’t use all your ki and just want to dump it into healing, but it can theoretically be used in combat or in-between encounters. 2 ki is a bit much for this, but it is useful if you were just going to waste ki right before a short rest.
When you miss, you can spend 1-3 ki to add +2 per ki spent to your attack roll. This is a terrible trap. Imagine that you miss and then pump 2 ki into this hit. You now hit once instead of getting 2 flurry of blows. This is a direct comparison since you are trying to get more damage and spending 1 ki to add +2 to your attack is only good if you already know the enemies AC. Without that knowledge, this is a gamble and spending more than 1 ki is not worth it.
The monk doesn’t have a ‘best’ archetype as druids did. We talked about how powerful the moon druid is in our Tasha’s Druid article since any subclasses needed to at least be as good as the moon druid to really be considered. For monks, there aren’t any subclasses like this. Now the question that comes up with Tasha’s is, will there be a new monk subclass that is universally better than all the others?
The answer sadly, is yes. In fact, both of these subclasses are extremely good, just in different ways.
Way of Mercy
Implements of Mercy:
You gain proficiency in medicine, insight, and herbalism kit. In addition, you get a cool mask. This isn’t a bad level 3 ability, but it is nothing compared to the next part.
Hand of Healing:
Monks were not thought of as healers. With the way of mercy, this all changes. As an action, you can spend 1 ki to heal a creature for your martial arts+ wisdom modifier. In addition, when you use your flurry of blows you can replace one attack for a heal without spending more ki. This is HUGE! It makes the monk a major healer, and is even better on the front line. You get to attack 2x per turn and heal all in one round, or just get all your healing back on a short rest. Yes, you get your ki back so you have a major healer that gets their ki back on a short rest. I cannot express enough how powerful this ability is.
Hand of Harm:
When you hit a creature, you can deal necrotic damage equal to your martial arts + wisdom modifier damage. This can only be done once per turn, but it allows you to assuredly deliver more damage. At this time, it isn’t amazing but that will change soon.
When you use healing hands, you can end one disease, blind, deafened, poisoned, or stunned. When you use your hand of harm you inflict the poison condition onto the enemy until the end of your next turn. No saving throw, instant poison condition, and you can cure conditions with your hand of healing. This is possibly the best level 6 ability in the game, and if the way of mercy got nothing else this monastic tradition would already have a strong argument to be the best monastic tradition available.
Flurry of Healing and Harm:
When you use flurry of blows, you may replace each attack with a hand of healing with no extra ki cost. When you use flurry of blows, you may also inflict hand of harm on someone for no extra ki cost. Now you can double your healing output or gain an extra attack’s damage. At this point, there is no contest. The way of mercy is by far the best monastic tradition. The power this gives in addition to physician’s touch is above and beyond anything a different type of monk could dream of.
Quick calculation if you were to just heal with a +5 wisdom score at level 11. 11×2=22 1d8+5×22= 132-286 healing per short rest. Again, this isn’t per day. This is per short rest, OR you can make a boss poisoned for 11 rounds while having 5 attacks per round (with the free necrotic damage counting as another attack).
Hand of Ultimate Mercy:
You can once per long rest bring a creature back to life for 5 ki if they have died within 24 hrs. This is an amazing level 17 ability. Free resurrection is a great bonus for anyone even at this level, and the fact that it can be used on anyone is impressive. Quite a way to round out the most powerful monk in the game.
Way of the Astral Self
Arms of the Astral Self:
For 1 ki you can create astral arms for 10 minutes. These arms can make you use wisdom instead of strength for almost everything, attack with them, gain 5 ft of reach with them, and use your wisdom modifier for unarmed strikes instead of strength or damage dealing force damage. The fact that this is force damage and that it gives you reach is pretty good. Add the changing from strength to wisdom and you have yourself a good 3rd level ability.
Visage of the Astral Self:
This is where things get interesting. Your astral self now can take on a spectral visage which gives you additional bonuses. The visages are summarize thus:
- Astral Sight: You can see in normal and magical darkness up to 120 ft.
- Wisdom of the Spirit: You have advantage on insight and intimidation checks.
- Word of the Spirit: Silently communicate with another creature or amplify your words up to 600 ft.
These additions to your astral self are cool, but don’t do too much for combat. You mostly will use these arms in combat, so it is a strange way to incorporate astral self into roleplaying. Not that great, but ok.
Body of the Astral Self:
Now we get something that is worthwhile in combat! When you summon your astral arms you can these benefits:
- Deflect Energy: When you take acid, cold, fire, force, lighting, or thunder you can use your reaction to reduce the damage by 1d10+wis modifier.
- Empowered Arms: Once each turn you can add your martial arts di a hit made with your astral arms.
This is finally what we needed! With your arms summoned you get some cool abilities that help in combat but this is a bit late. Deflecting energy like you would deflect projectiles is cool, but 1d10+wis modifier isn’t a lot vs some effects. The empowered arms aspect is nice, but it only comes at level 11. Takes a while, but you now have combat applications to your astral self.
Awakened Astral Self:
This is the big one. If you spend 5 ki points you can summon everything! The body, visage, and have a complete astral self! This form gives you two benefits.
- Armor of the Spirit: You gain +2 to your AC.
- Astral Barrage: You now attack three times with your attack action instead of twice.
This gives you extra AC, a reaction, 4-5 attacks per round, and once per turn you can add an extra martial di to your arms making you almost gain another hit in. This makes it close to 5-6 attacks per round! The potential is insane and possibly even more damage than the mercy monk!
While you can deal a bit more damage than the mercy monk at level 17, it takes a while to get there. The mercy monk is more versatile and gets their final boost at level 11. This makes it hard to call the way of the astral self better, but it is an extremely fun monastic tradition that can at least somewhat compare to the mercy monk.
The monk features in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything are both lackluster and amazing. The optional features are mostly lackluster with only one objectively useful ability. The others are subjective or not great, but allowing a monk to burn their ki before a short rest to heal themselves is pretty useful.
The monastic traditions, or subclasses are the real draw of Tasha’s for monks. These subclasses are leagues above the rest. Astral self grants more attacks and ways to damage enemies while using wisdom instead of dexterity. The true monastic tradition though is the way of mercy. This subclass is versatile, deals a TON of damage with an insane debuff that can’t be resisted, and enough healing per short rest to make them rival a cleric. If you have a few short rests in your day, they easily can out heal and out damage a cleric.
The way of mercy is absolutely filthy and without a doubt the best subclass for any monk out there. I hope that this doesn’t stop you from playing the monk that you love, but way of mercy has become akin to what circle of the moon was for druid.
I hope that this has helped you understand the monk a bit better in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.
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