Ascendant Dragon Monk D&D 5e subclass review featured image is from Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. This article contains affiliate links to put gold in our coffers.
The Way of the Ascendant Dragon Monk was introduced in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a disappointment.
We will review the Ascendant Dragon features and how these work with the core Monk class features. Then we move on to feats, races, and multiclass options. Finally, we combine these into some build concepts.
As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about the Ascendant Dragon, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
Dragon Disciple – 3rd Level Ascendant Dragon Monk
- Once per long rest, you can use your reaction to reroll a failed Charisma (Intimidation) or Charisma (Persuasion) check.
Monks typically have terrible Charisma. Monks need to put ability scores in Dex, Wis, and Con already. This is basically a ribbon feature.
- When you damage a target with an unarmed strike, you can change the damage type to acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison.
Magic damage at level 3 is nice. If you ever find a creature with vulnerability to one of these damage types, this becomes great. All Monks get magic attacks at level 6, though. At that point, this feature becomes less impactful.
Tongue of Dragons
- You learn to speak, read, and write Draconic or one other language of your choice.
Another ribbon feature.
Breath of the Dragon – 3rd Level Ascendant Dragon Monk
- When you take the Attack action on your turn, you can replace one of the attacks with an exhalation of draconic energy in either a 20-foot cone or a 30-foot line that is 5 feet wide. Choose a damage type: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison. Each creature in that area must make a Dexterity saving throw against your ki save DC, taking damage of the chosen type equal to two rolls of your Martial Arts die on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
- At 11th level, the damage of this feature increases to three rolls of your Martial Arts die.
- You can use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest. While you have no uses available, you can spend 2 ki points to use this feature again.
This starts as a 2d4 at 3rd level (5 damage on average, for a creature that fails its save), rising to 2d6 at 5th level, 3d8 at 11th and maxing out at 3d10 at 17th level (16.5 damage on a failed save). It’s not a huge amount of damage or a big area of effect (AOE) – although you can spend even more ki points later on to extend the AOE. It’s nice that it only replaces one of your attacks rather than costing an action or bonus action. The Dragonborn races in Fizban’s all gain stronger breath weapon attacks than this – both higher damage and also better damage types – which is slightly odd, I don’t see why this Monk’s attack should be weaker.
Stunning a creature will make it automatically fail a Dexterity save. But there is no upcast mechanic to allow you to take full advantage of this.
It’s expensive to use this for ki points, so likely you will only ever use the free version. And for some reason, the free uses only recharge on a long rest, unlike most Monk features that recharge on a short rest.
Wings Unfurled – 6th Level Ascendant Dragon Monk
- When you use your Step of the Wind, you can unfurl spectral draconic wings from your back that vanish at the end of your turn. While the wings exist, you have a flying speed equal to your walking speed.
- You can use this feature a number of times equal to your proficiency bonus, and you regain all expended uses when you finish a long rest.
This is basically an extended jump. It synergizes well with the increased movement speed of the Monk, plus the Slow Fall ability Monk’s get at level 4 – so you can jump very high (to attack a flying enemy) and not worry too much about falling down afterward.
This feature has a double cost. You have to spend a ki point to use Step of the Wind, and you only get limited uses per day. Again – this seems unnecessary. Why not have this ability give you ki-free uses of Step of the Wind? Or just be able to use it all the time with Step of the Wind?
Again, your free uses are per long rest.
Aspect of the Wyrm – 11th Level Ascendant Dragon Monk
As a bonus action, you can create an aura that radiates 10 feet from you for 1 minute. Once you create this aura, you can’t create it again until you finish a long rest unless you expend 3 ki points to create it again. For the duration, you gain one of the following effects of your choice:
- Frightful Presence. When you create this aura, and as a bonus action on subsequent turns, you can choose a creature within the aura. The target must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw against your ki save DC or become frightened of you for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a successful save.
- Resistance. Choose a damage type when you activate this aura: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison. You and your allies within the aura have resistance to that damage.
Again, this is really expensive if you spend ki points on it. The Open Hand Monk can spend three ki points on Quivering Palm. The range of the Aura is very small – the Long Death Monk has an unlimited use, ki-free frightening effect that has a range of 30ft, which they also get 5 levels earlier. This burns your Bonus Action in order to attempt to frighten a single enemy – which competes with all the other Monk Bonus Action options.
The second effect is situationally nice for you, but again the area of effect is tiny, so will only be of use to your party members if you are keeping very close to them. This doesn’t favor the Monk’s hit-and-run play style that well. I’m not sure why this aura effect couldn’t be larger, particularly as you level up.
Again this gets one free use per long rest.
Ascendant Aspect – 17th Level Ascendant Dragon Monk
Your draconic spirit reaches its peak. You gain the following benefits:
- Augment Breath. When you use your Breath of the Dragon, you can spend 1 ki point to augment its shape and power. The exhalation of draconic energy becomes either a 60-foot cone or a 90-foot line that is 5 feet wide (your choice), and each creature in that area takes damage equal to four rolls of your Martial Arts die on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.
- Blindsight. You gain blindsight out to 10 feet. Within that range, you can effectively see anything that isn’t behind total cover, even if you’re blinded or in darkness. Moreover, you can see an invisible creature within that range unless the creature successfully hides from you.
- Explosive Fury. When you activate your Aspect of the Wyrm, draconic fury explodes from you. Choose any number of creatures you can see in your aura. Each of those creatures must succeed on a Dexterity saving throw against your ki save DC or take 3d10 acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison damage (your choice).
This breath augmentation finally turns this into a decently large AOE, and the damage has now risen to match that of the Fizban’s Dragonborn – if you spend that ki point. At this level of play, this is probably worth spending a ki point on if you can catch three or four creatures in the area – although again, at 17th level, you’re only doing the fraction of the damage a 5th level Wizard can do with a single Fireball.
You could have received Blindsight at level 3, and it wouldn’t have been overpowered (Fighters can pick it up at level 1).
You can now do a little damage when you activate Aspect of the Wyrm – which, remember, only has a 10ft range. Again the amount of damage you are doing here is paltry compared to a full caster.
Ascendant Dragon Monk Subclass Summary
The Ascendant Dragon makes an attempt to create an AOE Monk and does it pretty badly. Arguably even the Four Elements Monk and Sun Soul Monk have more impactful AOE effects. You get very limited uses of most of your abilities, and the additional ki cost in using them again is not worth it.
If you play any other Monk as a Fizban’s Dragonborn, you’ll get most of the features of this and a better overall package.
It’s hard to describe just how disappointing this Monk is.
If you run out of ķi, your entire suite of subclass features consists of elemental damage and Blindsight.
I would probably allow all the features to recharge on a short rest, which would make this Monk more playable and still not overpowered.
My favorite feat for Monks is Mobile. The feat allows you to avoid opportunity attacks from a single enemy you have attacked.
As always, Variant Human and Custom Lineage give you that free feat, and given how feat-starved Monks can be, this can also be a great way to get started as a Monk.
I always like dropping a level of Cleric onto my Monk – most Monks don’t have anything to do with their concentration.
One level of Rogue is a nice option as well: extra proficiencies, Expertise, and a little bit of Sneak Attack. This can allow your Monk to act as the party Rogue if needed.
I don’t really have a favorite build for an Ascendant Dragon Monk – I guess you go with a Dragonborn in order to double down on Breath weapon attacks and be able to use them more often overall.
The Ascendant Dragon doesn’t get the most impactful abilities; the extended jump is probably my favorite. It might not be as bad as the Four Elements Monk, but I would probably have more fun playing that one.
A level or two in another class can help you feel like you are contributing a bit more to each session.
This wraps up my review of the Way of the Ascendant Dragon! Check out my YouTube channel (Shard) for more D&D reviews and tips.