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The Way of the Sun Soul Monk was introduced in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and reprinted in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. It offers a unique playstyle for a Monk but takes a while to get going. It excels in undead-heavy campaigns.
This review will take a deeper look at the Sun Soul’s features and how they work with the core Monk class features. I’ll assess feats, races, and multiclass options. Finally, I’ll combine them all for some quick build concepts.
As always, these are just my thoughts. If you have any other ideas about the Sun Soul, I’d love to hear about them in the comments below!
3rd Level – Radiant Sun Bolt
When you take The Way of the Sun Soul at level three, you gain a new attack option. You can hurl radiant bolts of energy (‘Bolts’) as ranged spell attacks from up to thirty feet.
A magical attack at level three is very nice. Monks don’t usually get those until level six. This ability is straight from an arcade game (via anime and games console). To me, it is slightly jarring in a D&D context.
The main issue here is that Bolts at level three use your Martial Arts die (d4). That’s low damage potential. Your Monk weapons can do d8 (versatile quarterstaff or spear), your Dedicated Weapon can do d10 (versatile longsword or similar). If you use your Bolts, you’ll deal less damage. There is no way to boost the Martial Arts die for the Sun Soul Monk. Some Monk subclasses can improve their unarmed strike damage at early levels with the Unarmed Fighting Style from the Fighter. The Sun Soul, however, is built to use Bolt attacks. You’ll have to wait until you level up a few times.
The second issue is the ki cost to do a ‘Flurry of Bolts’ for two bonus action attacks. You must use the attack action, so it sounds like Flurry of Blows… but it’s worse because the bonus action to flurry isn’t free. There is no equivalent of your single, free bonus action Martial Arts attack. If you don’t spend the ki point, you won’t be using your bonus action.
DMs may let you have a basic, ki-free bonus action attack with Radiant Sun Bolt. If not, you will need to find another option. Either way, RAW is not a great design.
Does Radiant Sun Bolt Get Better?
You’re dealing considerably less damage than most Monks at level three. This starts to feel less gimped at level five. Martial Arts dice become d6s, and you pick up Extra Attack. You can also mix up your attacks at this point. Attacking will require decision-making from you since you can make unarmed strikes, Bolt attacks, or weapon attacks with your Attack action. Bonus actions will vary their eligibility depending on your attack choices, and the flexibility is nice. Remember, ranged attacks are made at disadvantage if a hostile creature is right next to you.
A Sun Soul will not be making much use of one of the Monk’s most powerful abilities, Stunning Strike. You can only use Stunning Strike with melee attacks. You can still keep this in your back pocket and revert to melee if something really needs stunning. However, most of the time, you can use your ki to help boost damage, movement (Dash), or defense (Dodge).
6th Level – Searing Arc Strike
This is a fancy name for Burning Hands as a bonus action for two ki points. It’s 3d6 fire damage in a fifteen-foot cone with a Dex save for half damage. You can upcast with additional ki points for 1d6 damage per ki point. The maximum number of ki points you can spend is half your Monk level, but this scaling is horrible, and I don’t recommend it.
Stunned creatures auto-fail Dex saves, so I recommend reserving Searcing Arc Strike for victims of Stunning Strike. Otherwise, Burning Hands isn’t good enough of a spell.
Monks don’t typically get area-of-effect abilities. While Burning Hands is not the best AOE, its fifteen-foot cone can allow you to attack up to six enemies (or more depending on the grid). It can be upcast all the way to ninth level (if you really want to spend ten ki at level twenty). Again, not recommending it, but it’s a unique option for a Monk.
The Four Elements Monk also gets this spell but has to use an action and can’t upcast it as high.
11th Level – Searing Sunburst
An action that hurls an orb of light up to 150 feet away. Each creature within the twenty-foot radius must take 2d6 radiant damage with a Con range for no damage. That’s right, no damage on a successful saving throw. It’s like a cantrip in that way.
This is free. You can increase the damage by 2d6 per ki point up to 8d6 total (three ki points). That’s like a radiant Fireball for three ki points, but you get it at level eleven instead of level five.
This is essentially the only ranged AOE blast cantrip in the game, and its range is excellent. You can use it on groups of flying enemies, which is something Monks typically struggle with. I would mainly use the free version and spam it on groups of enemies until they reach Bolt range. I wish Searing Sunburst scaled like cantrips as you level up.
It might not be the most impactful eleventh-level ability in the game, but it’s not bad.
17th Level – Sun Shield
You can shed bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light for 30 feet beyond that. Or not. You can turn your light bulb on and off as a bonus action.
Any creature that hits you with a melee attack while you are a light bulb will allow you to use your reaction to deal 5 + Wisdom mod radiant damage to the attacker.
This is shockingly bad, the worst seventeenth-level ability of any Monk. I’m exceedingly disappointed with this ability. This ability creates additional confusion about the Sun Soul action economy compared to the base Monk features.
You might wonder if the lighting effect makes up for the poor damage, but it doesn’t. Even the lighting effect is bad. Sun Shield is basically a greater Light cantrip that you cast on yourself, and it does not count as sunlight.
You are a mid-range kiting subclass that can also hide. Why on earth would you light yourself up and invite attacks with such a meager defensive response? An awful, awful ability that is best ignored.
Sun Soul Monk Subclass Summary
The Sun Soul features allow a unique mid-range blaster playstyle for a Monk. You can use your movement speed to kite enemies very effectively, and radiant damage can block some regeneration effects (vampires), making you potentially very effective in undead-heavy campaigns.
If you find a way to use a ranged bonus action attack, it will round out this subclass. The Sun Soul is a bit of a slow starter, and it suits campaigns starting at level five or above.
Sun Soul Monk Feat Options
Take Fey Touched and choose Hex as your spell. The once-a-day Misty Step and point of Wisdom are great, but Hex is the reason I’d select this feat. Hex lasts an hour, has a ninety-foot range, uses your concentration, and takes a bonus action to cast/retarget. If you have a level in a spellcasting class (perhaps multiclassing with Cleric), you can cast Hex with regular spell slots. Hex will add a d6 of necrotic damage to each of your attacks vs. hexed targets. The extra damage from this stacks nicely with your multiple ranged attacks.
My favorite feat for Monks is usually Mobile because it allows you to avoid opportunity attacks from a single enemy you have attacked; however, the Sun Soul wants to use ranged attacks, so it’s not as useful.
Crossbow Expert is one option for a ranged bonus action attack. You’ll need to pick up proficiency in hand crossbows (likely by swapping out another martial weapon proficiency from your race) and then use a hand crossbow as your Dedicated Weapon. Using the attack action and making at least one attack with a hand crossbow will allow you a free attack with your bonus action with the hand crossbow. This feat also allows you to ignore ranged attack disadvantage if a hostile enemy is within five feet. This goes for your Radiant Sun Bolts as well as your crossbow. If you go this route, it’s hard to escape the feeling that you might be better off playing a Kensei Monk…
Race Options for Sun Soul Monks
Tabaxi is always a fun race for a Monk. The ability to move twice as fast for one round is fantastic. Your speed will make your enemies’ eyes cross.
Variant Human and Custom Lineage give you that famous free feat. The feat-starved Monks can make great use of a feat to boost their abilities at low levels.
The Protector Aasimar is a thematic and fun match for a Sun Soul. You get Darkvision, radiant and necrotic damage resistance, a bit of healing, and Radiant Soul. The Radiant Soul racial feature uses an action to transform for one minute once per long rest. This transformation gives you incorporeal wings with a flying speed of thirty feet (increased by the Monk movement speed boosts) and allows you once on each of your turns to add radiant damage equal to your level to an attack or spell. I think this is a wonderful fit for a Sun Soul.
Multiclassing with Sun Soul Monks
I like dipping a level of Cleric onto my Monk. I enjoy this because most Monks don’t have anything to do with their concentration. Clerics offer loads of value for a one-level dip. The Light Domain Cleric fits the Sun Soul’s them if you’re into that.
One level of Rogue is a nice option: extra proficiencies, Expertise, hand crossbows, and Sneak Attack. This allows your Monk to act as the party’s Rogue if needed. If you go three levels into Rogue, you can become a Soulknife, which gets a ranged d4 bonus action option with its Psychic Blades, provided you use a d6 Psychic Blade attack with your main attack. The Psychic Blades are simple melee weapons, so they’re compatible as Monk Weapons with scaling Martial Arts weapon dice. It seems clear that you can only make one Psychic Blade attack with your main attack; however, you can make one Bolt attack as well. You can’t trigger Sneak Attacks with Bolts, only with Blades.
Another option is two levels of Circle of the Stars Druid. You get the Guidance cantrip, many free uses of the Guiding Bolt spell, and the Archer Starry Form using Wild Shape. The Archer Starry Form lasts ten minutes, turns you into a lightbulb (again), and provides a sixty-foot ranged bonus action spell attack that does 1d8 plus Wisdom mod damage. Remember, you’ll need to use your Wisdom mod for the attack rolls. This also provides access to Druid spells and cantrips, Wild Shape, and an hour-long Familiar (via the Wild Companion feature for Druids in TCoE), all of which add heaps of flexibility to a Sun Soul Monk.
Character Build Ideas
My favorite build for a Sun Soul Monk is a Protector Aasimar, two levels of Stars Druid, and the Fey Touched feat (for Hex). This one takes a while to get going but becomes really well-rounded and fun.
Conclusions on the Sun Soul Monk
The Sun Soul is a slow starter with abilities that don’t easily synergize with core Monk abilities. It offers a unique mid-range blaster playstyle for a Monk, shining brightest in undead-heavy campaigns where its radiant damage will be most impactful. Curse of Strahd would be an interesting campaign to play as a Sun Soul Monk (or any content from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft, really).
This wraps up my review of the Way of the Sun Soul! It’s a tough subclass to use effectively, but you can make it work if the sunny theme tickles your fancy. Cast Message in the comments below to tell me about Sun Soul Monk characters you’ve played and how well you enjoyed them.
About the Author
Shard enjoys creating practical and effective guides for D&D 5e – covering classes, subclasses, feats, spells, and more! Check out his YouTube videos here.