The Rogue is historically a pretty dark and gritty class. Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything kinda put that up to eleven! The Phantom subclass is one so affiliated with death that they have become it’s friend. The Phantoms are barely alive themselves, and thus have the closest knowledge of any about the realm of death. They are the Necromancer’s right hand man, infiltrator of undead societies, and ensure that death’s will is law. But, does that make them a good adventurer? Find out, in our Phantom 5E guide.
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Consume their Souls: Phantom 5E
The Phantom is a mid-game build with a little bit of everything. They get damage, utility, skill proficiencies, and information; it’s only missing extra defense, which rogues get by default with Uncanny Dodge! Unfortunately, until level 9, you don’t get your main mechanic. So you’ll be relying on your party for a while, until you get powered up!
Whispers of the Dead
At level 3, you get two rather basic features. The first is a floating proficiency.
Whenever you finish a short or long rest, you can choose one skill or tool proficiency that you lack and gain it, as a ghostly presence shares its knowledge with you. You lose this proficiency when you use this feature to choose a different proficiency that you lack.
This is pretty amazing, actually! If your party has skill issues, then you can always have the skill you need prepared! For example, let’s say your Wizard doesn’t have Religion, and you desperately need to know what a holy symbol is for. You can simply spend a short rest to get the highest benefit possible, and maximize your chance to roll well! If that wasn’t enough, most DMs let you reroll your failed knowledge check with new information… And you’re literally talking to the dead!
More interesting, perhaps, is the tool proficiency. I’m not a huge fan of tools, but if your DM likes using tool proficiency then you have something great here! There are a ton of tools in 5E, each with rather specific roles. If you use them correctly, you can get absolutely massive benefits without needing to spend a single spell slot. So, with your Whispers ability, you can become a blacksmith, a lumberjack, a climber… anything you need for just a brief moment!
At worst, this is one free skill or tool proficiency of your choice. And that’s fairly good!
Wails from the Grave
And then, you get a damage ability as well!
Immediately after you deal your Sneak Attack damage to a creature on your turn, you can target a second creature that you can see within 30 feet of the first creature. Roll half the number of Sneak Attack dice for your level (round up), and the second creature takes necrotic damage equal to the roll’s total, as wails of the dead sound around them for a moment.
You can use this ability a number of times per long rest equal to your Proficiency Bonus.
This ability is great. It gives the rogue some Area of Effect ability, and a source of necrotic damage. For a class without spells, that can be hard to get! The range of 30 feet is for your target, so you can be a ranged or melee rogue and still use this ability without any problem. And it scales like crazy! This ability gets so much better as you level up.
So, there are two downsides of this ability. If there’s only one enemy, it’s worthless. There won’t be many cases that an enemy is purely by themselves, but during boss encounters you’d rather have the damage be all on the major threat. At least you can help slowly chip down enemies off to the side while focusing on the main threat.
Now, the other problem… The scaling of this ability is insane because it starts at nothing.
When you get this ability, you roll 2d6, average 7. That means this ability does an average of 3.5 damage… Twice per day. That’s… Not amazing. However, every time you get a sneak attack dice, you get another 2 average damage (or so). That’s good! And your proficiency bonus increases your damage potential as well, since you get to use this ability more and more often as you level up.
So, great! You have the ability to look forward to in the future. Just don’t expect to be as useful as other archetypes early on.
Tokens of the Departed
Okay, so your starting abilities weren’t great. That’s because, at level 9, you can really start making use of your Wails from the Grave! You’re far too in-tune with death now, and can steal slivers of life from others.
…as a reaction when a creature you can see dies within 30 feet of you, you can open your free hand and cause a Tiny trinket to appear there, a soul trinket. The DM determines the trinket’s form or has you roll on the Trinkets table in the Player’s Handbook to generate it. You can have a maximum number of soul trinkets equal to your proficiency bonus, and you can’t create one while at your maximum.
So, between 4-6 trinkets. Cool, that’s not too many, but you don’t need too many. The problem is you’re getting a Reaction to take the soul. That means you’re not spending your reaction on Uncanny Dodge. That’s pretty dangerous! Make sure you’re not going to get bodyslammed before spending the reaction, or ask your DM to keep monsters alive until they naturally die, so you can use your reactions out of combat.
- While a soul trinket is on your person, you have advantage on death saving throws and Constitution saving throws, for your vitality is enhanced by the life essence within the object.
- When you deal Sneak Attack damage on your turn, you can destroy one of your soul trinkets that’s on your person and then immediately use Wails from the Grave, without expending a use of that feature.
- As an action, you can destroy one of your soul trinkets, no matter where it’s located. When you do so, you can ask the spirit associated with the trinket one question. The spirit appears to you and answers in a language it knew in life. It’s under no obligation to be truthful, and it answers as concisely as possible, eager to be free. The spirit knows only what it knew in life, as determined by the DM.
Okay, so you want to have one trinket on you at all times, if possible. Having advantage on those two saving throws will quite literally save your life. Constitution saves especially can be extremely detrimental! So try to have your favorite trinket stay on you at all times.
This ability gives you “infinite” uses of your Wails from the Grave ability. As long as you can kill people, you can deal half your sneak attack to nearby enemies. That’s wonderful! However, it expends uses of your trinkets. Often, you’re going to want to destroy everything except for your last trinket to gain this benefit, since it’s too much extra damage to ignore!
The last ability allows you to get a little bit of information. However, without exceptionally good Charisma skills somewhere in your party… You’re not gonna get much out of them. They’re probably not happy with you, if you were the one who killed them. And heck, it doesn’t say you can convince them to be truthful either! This ability is good if an ally dies; for example, if you witness the assassination of a king, you can capture the soul and ask them what happened. That’s not necessarily going to be common, so you should probably just spend your extra trinkets on hurting people… Unless your DM lets you convince the soul to talk.
At level 13, the Phantom gains some utility, defense, and arguably mobility.
You can phase partially into the realm of the dead, becoming like a ghost. As a bonus action, you assume a spectral form. While in this form, you have a flying speed of 10 feet, you can hover, and attack rolls have disadvantage against you. You can also move through creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain, but you take 1d10 force damage if you end your turn inside a creature or an object.
You stay in this form for 10 minutes or until you end it as a bonus action. To use this feature again, you must finish a long rest or destroy one of your soul trinkets as part of the bonus action you use to activate Ghost Walk.
This is rather stellar! As a bonus action, all attacks get disadvantage against you. For 10 minutes! As a purely defensive ability alone, this is actively fantastic. It doesn’t even mention anything about weapons that can hit ghosts or anything like that! So very little can ignore that!
In addition, you have a way to get a Fly speed… 10 feet fly speed, but fly speed nonetheless! That’s not going to be great for the traditional reasons that flight is; it’s rather negligible mobility, and you’re not going to reposition while awkwardly floating around at 10 feet a turn. It’s simply useful for melding through small walls, which can really mess with some DM puzzles! And since you can use the Dash action, it’s a sneaky 20 feet of wall that you can ignore! Do talk to your DM about whether or not walls count as “objects” for the purposes ability. Otherwise, you can only sneak through specific hazards… Still useful, though less fun.
At level 17, you gain two minor boons.
- When you use your Wails from the Grave, you can deal the necrotic damage to both the first and the second creature.
- At the end of a long rest, a soul trinket appears in your hand if you don’t have any soul trinkets, as the spirits of the dead are drawn to you.
Ooh! Those are two very fun buffs!
Wails from the Grave now hits the first and second creature. There still must be two creatures in the room to use it, and you have to be near them. But, that’s another half of sneak attack, meaning that Wails from the Grave basically doubles your sneak attack damage! Ever wanted to do 20d6 every round of combat? Well, here’s your chance!
You also gain a free trinket every long rest… Which is good. That means you can break your 1 extra soul trinket every day and start with a new one. I’m not sure what this soul is for… Maybe it’s just a completely random person who died, somewhere in the world? That’s kinda funny.
Overall, this is a big buff, but not exactly hugely substantial. It’s a great capstone, as long as you’ve been good at grabbing soul trinkets. And you get a free one every day! Try to save that for later; popping that for the answering a question ability will make your DM scratch their head and say “uh” guaranteed!
Best Races for Phantom Rogues
The Phantom rogue, interestingly enough, has absolutely no secondary attributes. So all that really matters is that you get your Dexterity as high as you can! Afterwards, the world is your oyster. Constitution gives you health, Wisdom protects you from mental effects
Yes, I’m serious.
The Volo’s Guide to Monsters Kobold has been errata’d; instead of having a penalty to Strength, they only have the +2 to Dexterity. That’s a pretty minor buff, but it’s still enough to make Kobolds just a little less absolutely terrible. In addition, Kobolds gain advantage to on attack rolls against creatures who are fighting your allies. That’s great; it’s basically guaranteed Sneak Attack. Sunlight Sensitivity might seem scarry, and Grovel, Cower, and Beg a little… pathetic, but trust me. Try these guys out!
These beefy halflings are wonderful Phantom Rogues. They get +2 Dex, +1 Con, essential for the melee build. Lucky is amazing, allowing ones to become one of your best options on a d20. Brave and Stout Resilience will keep you from getting debuffed while fighting most undead, a prime target for the Phantom Rogues. And, being the edgiest halfling in the world might make some sense; you’re ensuring that those who deserve death don’t escape it, and putting others out of their misery. Dark!
Conclusion – Our Take on the Phantom
The Phantom is great… After level 9, Once you get your trinkets, you’re set. Before then, you’re going to not feel too strong. And that’s fine; most parties can support a weaker character until they’re ready to become devastating. If you’re looking for a rogue who likes death and solves a ton of problems, check out Tasha’s Cauldron for this archetype in full, and other Rogue options!