How To Build A Way Of The Four Elements Monk In DnD

Water. Earth. Fire. Air. In Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition, these four elements define a half-caster class for the typically martial-arts-focused monk. The Way of the Four Elements monk has a lot in common with Nickelodeon’s Avatar franchise, with masters of this subclass able to wield the four elements at will.


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Playing a Way of the Four Elements monk can be a tricky proposition for those who are new to the powers of ki. For those who are looking to command the elements without all the kicking and punching, consider playing a sorcerer or wizard. But for those looking for a challenging yet rewarding subclass, read on to discover the Way of the Four Elements.


Way Of The Four Elements Monk Features

Tasha's Cauldron Of Everything Way Of the Four Elements Monk
Way Of the Four Elements Monk from¬†Tasha’s Cauldron Of Everything¬†

A Way of the Four Elements monk learns to harness their ki to command the elements in addition to performing intense feats of physical prowess. Starting at third level, you become a Disciple of the Elements. This allows you to learn the Elemental Attunement discipline as well as one other elemental discipline of your choice.

You learn additional elemental disciplines at sixth, 11th, and 17th levels. Whenever you learn a new elemental discipline, you may also replace an elemental discipline you already know with a new one. To learn an elemental discipline, your monk level must be equal to the required level of that discipline.

Many of these elemental disciplines allow the Way of the Four Elements monk to expend ki points to cast spells. Others are unique abilities to the Way of the Four Elements monk. Below is a list of elemental disciplines available at each level.

First Level

  • Fangs of the Fire Snake
  • Fist of Four Thunders
  • Fist of Unbroken Air
  • Rush of the Gale Spirits
  • Shape the Flowing River
  • Sweeping Cinder Strike
  • Water Whip

Sixth Level

  • Clench of the North Wind
  • Gong of the Summit

11th Level

  • Flames of the Phoenix
  • Mist Stance
  • Ride the Wind

17th Level

  • Eternal Mountain Defense
  • River of Hungry Flame
  • Wave of Rolling Earth

Starting at fifth level, you may spend additional ki points to cast elemental discipline spells at higher level. This only applies to spells that have an enhanced effect at higher levels, such as Burning Hands or Thunderwave (designed by the “At Higher Levels” text on the spell’s description).

Each additional ki point spent casts the spell at one level higher, up to a maximum defined in the Spells and Ki Points table below. For example, a sixth-level Way of the Four Elements monk can only spend a maximum of three ki points per spell, meaning the maximum level they’d be able to cast Thunderwave wave would be at second level.

Monk Level

Maximum Ki Points per Spell

Fifth to Eighth

3

Ninth to 12th

4

13th to 16th

5

17th to 20th

6

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Best Species For A Way Of The Four Elements Monk

Githzerai Monk by Dan Scott
Githzerai Monk by Dan Scott

Most species are more than capable of becoming monks, but there are a few species that synergize better with the Way of the Four Elements’ abilities than others. Here are a few suggested species to build a Way of the Four Elements monk.

Bugbear

An extra five feet of reach is excellent for all monks to have, and Surprise Attack can provide you with extra damage if you’re earlier in the turn order than your opponents. Darkvision, charm resistance, and stealth proficiency are all nice to have.

Duergar

Monks eventually gain immunity to poison, but resistance until then is nice, as is advantage to saving throws to avoid being charmed or stunned. Darkvision up to 120 feet is great, and the Duergar’s two innate spells–Enlarge/Reduce and Invisibility–are both great additions to a monk’s arsenal.

Goblin

I will never get tired of evangelizing the benefits of Fury of the Small. Darkvision and charm resistance are also nice. Nimble Escape is less useful for a monk who can already disengage as a bonus action, but being able to hide is a good addition.

Goliath

The main draw to a Goliath monk is using Stone’s Endurance to help shore up your lackluster hitpoints. Athletics is a good skill to have, and resistance to cold damage is also a benefit.

Half-Orc

Way of the Four Elements monks don’t tend to use Flurry of Blows as often as other monks, but when they do, Savage Attacks can make crits more powerful. Relentless Endurance also keeps a monk fighting even when they drop to zero hitpoints, and Darkvision is always a plus.

Half-Elf

Monks need three stats. Half-elves provide three stat boosts. They also provide Darkvision, charm resistance, and a few more skills too.

Human

Monks are extremely stat-hungry, and humans provide a lot of stats. You can also go variant human for a starting feat, potentially providing your Way of the Four Elements monk with access to a fun cantrip.

Owlin

The best of the flying races for a monk. Flying, Darkvision, and stealth proficiency allow you to rain elemental chaos from above while zipping between shadows.

Shifter

One way of getting more hitpoints is by choosing the class that provides a bunch of temporary hitpoints during combat. Shifters also provide Darkvision and a useful skill proficiency.

Tabaxi

Claws won’t provide much benefit to a monk, but Feline Agility lets a monk get into position while still preserving their bonus action for ki-powered abilities. Darkvision and a climbing speed equal to your movement speed are also both great to have.

Best Ability Scores For A Way Of The Four Elements Monk

Way of the Four Elements Monk
Way of the Four Elements Monk via Wizards of the Coast

Like other monks, the Way of the Four Elements requires three stats: Dexterity, Constitution, and Wisdom. Unlike other monk subclasses, Wisdom plays a greater role as it not only helps boost your AC but also helps power your spellcasting.

Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma can be largely ignored as a monk, and probably should be given how much you’ll need to pump your Dexterity and Wisdom attributes.

If using the points-buy system for D&D 5e, a good starting ability score spread might look something like this:

Strength

Dexterity

Constitution

Intelligence

Wisdom

Charisma

10(0)

16(+3)

14(+2)

10(0)

16(+3)

8(-1)

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Best Starting Equipment For A Way Of The Four Elements Monk

D&D Human Monk with glowing hands
Human Monk via Wizards of the Coast

Monks don’t start with much equipment, and most of your damage will be coming from your elemental disciplines rather than strikes with a weapon.

You may choose a shortsword or any simple weapon to start, but you will likely start to ignore this weapon entirely after leveling up once or twice. A dungeoneer’s pack contains slightly more useful equipment than an explorer’s pack, and 10 darts provide you with some ranged attacks prior to your elemental disciplines coming online.

Monks don’t wear armor as they benefit from both their Dexterity and Wisdom modifiers when determining their AC.

Best Elemental Disciplines For A Way Of The Four Elements Monk

Awakened Awareness by Tran Nguyen
Awakened Awareness by Tran Nguyen

There are quite a few elemental disciplines to choose from as a Way of the Four Elements monks, especially at level one. With only four elemental disciplines able to be equipped at level 17, including the Prestidigitation-like Elemental Attunement, it’s important to use the most effective elemental disciplines.

Fangs of the Fire Snake and Water Whip are your best choices at level one. Fangs of the Fire Snake add 10 feet of reach to every unarmed strike for that action and an additional 1d10 fire damage. Water Whip has better single-target damage, has reach out to 30 feet, and can pull enemies into melee range or knock them prone.

At sixth level, Clench of the North Wind to cast hold person is a highly effective spell. At 11th level, either Flames of the Phoenix or Ride the Wind can either provide Fireball or Fly, respectively. And at 17th level, River of Hungry Flame or Breath of Winter provides both area of effect damage and crowd control.

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