The Monk has always been an incredibly varied and spiritual class. But, Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything really opened up their options. The Monks of the Astral Self are in full belief that they can unlock their true self through ki. These Astral Selves as they call them are more than just extensions of their mind; they are who the monk truly is. These monks use their belief in the Astral Self to protect the weak or serve the gods. But, can they serve an adventuring party well? Check it out, in our Astral Self 5E guide!
Open Your Chakra: Way of the Astral Self 5E
The Astral Self monk is a state-based Monk build. The Monk enters various states of astral alignment to best contribute to the team, both in and out of combat. As such, the Monk is only really good in the midgame, when it has enough ki to both assume their Arm state and use the Flurry of Blows action. However, if you’re willing to deal with a subpar early game, you get an incredibly powerful midgame, with a unique mechanic that’s so much fun to use.
Arms of the Astral Self
To begin, at level 3, you may summon Astral Arms by spending 1 ki point as a bonus action. When you do so, you can choose any number of creatures within 10 feet to make a dexterity save or take force damage equal to two rolls of your unarmed strike.
For ten minutes after their activation, you get ghostly arms which disappear early if you get knocked out. These arms grant you the following.
- You can use your Wisdom modifier in place of your Strength modifier when making Strength checks and Strength saving throws.
- You can use the spectral arms to make unarmed strikes.
- When you make an unarmed strike with the arms on your turn, your reach for it is 5 feet greater than normal.
- The unarmed strikes you make with the arms can use your Wisdom modifier in place of your Strength or Dexterity modifier for the attack and damage rolls, and their damage type is force.
The first benefit is pretty great. Monks are usually pretty awful at Athletics due to their low strength, and now you can use Wisdom. This’ll let you actually have decent Strength for out of combat, and then you’ll have good Strength for the few Strength saves that you’re asked to make. Pretty great!
Using spectral arms to make unarmed strikes is mostly flavor text, but technically you are not making contact with the monster. If your enemy has an effect that only triggers when an unarmed strike lands, these arms technically protect you. So you have counterplay against toxic oozes!
When you use those unarmed strikes, you get two gigantic benefits. You gain 5 extra feet of reach during attacks on your turn, which means you can play a really cool “spear” monk. You don’t need to necessarily be in the thick of combat at all times, and can sit behind a Barbarian or Fighter and stay safe.
The final ability is by far the coolest. You can fully pump Wisdom! You can be a high Wisdom-based monk. Your Wisdom is good for AC, the most important save in the game, and now for your attacks and damage. This is the best monk for the maximum Wisdom build, which is a really fun idea! Make sure your Dexterity is good enough for before level 3.
Visage of the Astral Self
At level 6, you gain the Visage ability. You can spend a ki point as a bonus action (or the same action as Arms) to gain a visage. This is basically your Astral face, so you get to decide your “true” face for yourself. This face gives you three benefits.
- Astral Sight. You can see normally in darkness, both magical and nonmagical, to a distance of 120 feet.
- Wisdom of the Spirit. You have advantage on Wisdom (Insight) and Charisma (Intimidation) checks.
- Word of the Spirit. When you speak, you can direct your words to a creature of your choice that you can see within 60 feet of you, making it so only that creature can hear you. Alternatively, you can amplify your voice so that all creatures within 600 feet can hear you.
Cool, 120 ft of darkvision. That’s… fine? It’s not exactly impressive if you already have darkvision, but can be useful if you don’t. This should probably not be the primary reason to spend ki on this ability.
Wisdom of the Spirit is great for out of combat social situations. Monks tend to have good Insight checks naturally, so now you’re next to guaranteed to know exactly what is going on in a conversation. You’re still probably not going to be the best intimidator in your party, if there are any characters that rely on Charisma. At least you can start intimidating by yourself, and have a decent chance at doing so! However, do talk to your DM about if your face might be better suited for deception or persuasion. That might make sense, based on how your face looks.
Word of the Spirit is funny, but it’s basically the same power level as a cantrip. This is not horribly impressive, but it’s also not the only benefit the mask gives.
Realistically, pop this if you really want to use Wisdom of the Spirit. It’s a great Intimidation tool, but not great for much else.
Body of the Astral Self
However, at level 11, you get a reason to use it in combat! When you pop both your Visage and Arms, you gain these benefits.
- Deflect Energy. When you take acid, cold, fire, force, lightning, or thunder damage, you can use your reaction to deflect it. When you do so, the damage you take is reduced by 1d10 + your Wisdom modifier (minimum reduction of 1).
- Empowered Arms. Once on each of your turns when you hit a target with the Arms of the Astral Self, you can deal extra damage to the target equal to your Martial Arts die.
Deflect Energy is a great reaction… But only if there’s no other reactions you need to take. It’s great against spells like Fireball to reduce the damage you take, but the reduction isn’t stellar. On average, you spend your reaction to reduce elemental damage by 11, assuming you have 20 Wisdom by now. Not bad at all! But there might be better reactions, such as attack of opportunity.
Empowered Arms is unfortunately not too strong. Monks relish in making a massive number of attacks per round. So, dealing an extra 5-7 average damage every round isn’t exactly incredible.
However, it might be worth the extra ki point. Remember, this gives you 9 total benefits, 6 of them based on combat. At this point you have 11 ki points per rest. Spending 2 to give you 600 rounds worth of crazy strong attacks with 5-7 extra damage per round? That’s probably fine, even if you need some ki for flurry of blows. Just pay attention to your ki economy while you’re playing this class, and rest often.
Awakened Astral Self
Finally, at level 17, you have one final way to spend ki. By spending 5 ki points, you get Arms, Visage, and Awakened Astral Self. Along with the benefits of standard Arms and Visage, you gain the following bonuses.
- Armor of the Spirit. You gain a +2 bonus to Armor Class.
- Astral Barrage. Whenever you use the Extra Attack feature to attack twice, you can instead attack three times if all the attacks are made with your astral arms.
5 ki is a ton! Thankfully, these benefits are well worth it.
You’re basically spending 3 ki for these two buffs. Is it worth it? Well, you’re spending 3 ki for a +2 to AC. That’s not bad; 10% chance to avoid damage is great, but certainly not worth all 3 ki points.
One more attack? Now that’s what I’m talking about! That puts your Monk at 5 total attacks when you Flurry, and 4 if you don’t. You don’t need to spend any ki if you want the standard damage of your monk, and you’re still getting that extra 7 average damage from Body of the Astral Self!
Also, you don’t need to use 5 ki every 10 minutes, of course. You only need to use Awakened Astral Self during hard fights. In most other cases, just using Arms and Visage will be plenty for most fights, and arms alone might be enough. Definitely pop this before going to a short rest, of course!
Best Races for the Astral Self Monk
The Astral Self monk needs Wisdom like crazy. You’ll be getting Arms as often as you can, so Wisdom handles way too many things at the same time to make lower than Dexterity. Dexterity is still your secondary stat, and Constitution will keep you alive.
These hunters from Eberron: Rising from the Last War are stellar Astral Monks. They gain +2 Wisdom, +1 Dex; perfect for surviving the early game and transitioning to Wisdom-focus. Shifting is great for your durability, giving you a massive amount of health shield. You also get free Survival proficiency, and while you’re transformed you gain advantage on Wisdom checks and can’t get advantage rolled against you on attacks. That’s really handy! Get in tune with your wild and spiritual side!
The Astral Self is not very tanky, so if you’re looking for a durable option, Hill Dwarf might work. Your Dexterity will be awful (+2 Con, +1 Wis), but you just need to get to level 3. You not only get high constitution; you get +1 health per level, increasing your health by a ton as you level up! Dwarves also get good proficiencies, Stonecunning, and are basically immune to poison. It’s not the perfect build, but it’s a very, very safe one.
Honorable Mention: Bugbear
This is not serious, but a Bugbear can theoretically get 15 ft reach on their punches during Astral Form. It’s not worth the +2 Strength, +1 Dex; it’s just a funny idea, and could potentially be a good build in very, very specific circumstances.
Conclusion – Our Take on the Astral Self Monk
The Astral Self monk is a strange build. It works well with other classes that require common short rests, so they can use their resources whenever necessary. If you’re good at resource management and want to try a neat Wisdom-based monk, try this build out! And make sure to check out the other Tasha’s builds to see what else you can make.