Today we are going to talk about the kensei monk. To all interested in the kensei monk, you can thank Branden for this review as in my divination wizard guide, they asked me to do an evaluation on a monk subclass. As a result, here it is. So I hope you enjoy and feel free to ask for an evaluation if you are interested.
How I Am Evaluating Them
For those who have read my previous reviews, feel free to skip this. If you haven’t, welcome! This is going over how I evaluate how strong a class is. There are three things that I am reviewing in the in-depth guide. I look over how strong the subclass is in combat, how much utility it has, and, if applicable, its’ roleplay ability. This way everyone’s playstyle can be shown to fit their needs.
Now, when deciding if something is good for a guide, I look at what the subclass is trying to accomplish. Then look at how successful it succeeds in that task. For instance, in a previous article on the bladesinger, I concluded, attempts to make you a competitive front line. I then figure out how well that ability succeeds in letting you front line, as well as how soon it comes online.
If it is accomplished at level 2, then it is early game. Level 6 it is Early-Mid, Level 10 Late-Mid, and Level 14 is late game. I rate earlier tiers better as most Dungeon and Dragons Campaigns do not go beyond level 8. Without further a due, let start this review on the Kensei Monk.
GOLD- “That’s gold Jerry! Gold!” If an ability is highlighted gold, then this means that this ability not only is what defines your subclasses but accomplishes it better than almost any other subclass. I rarely do Gold ratings, so definitely pay attention to them if you see me do it.
Sky Blue –If the ability is sky blue, it means that this ability is a defining trait in your subclass but for one reason or another is not game-breaking like gold.
Blue– If it is just blue, then it’s a good ability but there are plenty of other abilities that perform better. Still better to have in a subclass than other colors.
Black. Black is ok. These are your more niche abilities that have bonuses in some situations but not useful in others.
Purple – Purple is for very niche abilities. They have times when they are good, but these are rare and almost never come up. Not the best color to see for an ability.
Red- Red is dead. It is the worse color to see on an ability. That said, no matter the color, an ability can work so don’t ignore a subclass if they have a red. Enough imagination and can-do attitude will make it okay but not optimal.
Kensei Monk (Mid-late game)
So this was incredibly hard to evaluate. The reason being, on one hand their strongest abilities don’t come online till level 11, which are fantastic, but then I had to take a look at what the class is accomplishing. Which is to use weapons.
Now this seems small in the grand scheme of things but is actually a big deal for monks. The reason being your dpr increases in the early stages, and you now have access to magical weapons.
This is something many monks lack as with unarmored defense, no spell casting, and no weapons, monks magic item options are severely lacking. Thus gaining you a large array of items to work with since you gain your choice of weapon proficiency.
Moreover, the damage capabilities they gain from additional damage and increased accuracy makes them incredibly strong for consistent damage late game.
Path of the Kensei: Monk Weapons & Way of Brush
So let’s address the freebie first. Proficiency in calligraphy or painting tools. So, this has very little to no use in a campaign. Only those who truly want to use it will ever use it and even then very rarely. Still, a free proficiency is free proficiency.
Now comes the main benefits of being a level 3 Kensei monk; Kensei weapons.
This is what defines the subclass and changes the way you fight. Now rather than focusing on your fists, you focus on your monk weapons. Your strongest weapon to choose is the longsword as it will deal 1d10+dexterity damage.
Better than the original monk weapon of quarterstaff, and the most common weapon that has magical properties.
This, while is subtle does change the amount of damage you deal by roughly 1 point per hit from monk weapons. Again very small change, but that is not the big appeal, the big appeal comes from the abilities they also gain and the addition to magical weapons in their arsenal, such as the flametongue longsword that deals an extra 2d6 damage per hit.
Which are going to be talked about in detail.
Path of the Kensei: Agile Parry
With the more subtle abilities talked about in Path of the Kensei, now we talk about the active abilities everyone discusses.
First is Agile Parry, the strongest of the Kensei monk’s level 3 abilities. The math behind this functions much like the war wizard’s ability of arcane deflection that gives you a +2 AC. That said, the math is slightly different since a wizard AC and a Monk AC are different. So, if you are looking for the full math behind my results check out my war wizard article that goes into how I created the formula and collected the data.
If, however, you want to just know the math behind the Kensei monk, well stay here and read the results.
So there are two formulas I used to gauge just how effective Agile Parry is, the DPR difference you forgo when attacking with your fist instead of a regular weapon, and the damage reduction for using the ability.
The DPR difference is relatively small with a chart showing the damage difference shown below.
The notable difference is at level 3 between the damage difference to damage prevention. With a DPR change of 35.29% and damage reduced by 22.89% at level 3.
Therefore, your DPR drops more than damage prevention, making the pay off a negative return. Thus deeming it weak.
However, a notable notice is that this ability actually continues to get better as your level rises. Eventually becoming rather useful at level 11 with a 9.52% decrease in DPR, but a gain of 14-20% in damage reduction. Then, ultimately changing to a 0% DPR difference and a damage reduction of 11-14%.
Hence, the Agile Parry perk gains a blue rating for its ability to continually be useful and grow every level.
Path of the Kensei: Kensei Shot
This is widely deemed “not very good”, for good reason too. The ability lets you deal an extra 1d4 everytime you hit with your Kensei weapon.
The only cost is using up your entire bonus action.
Your action economy is huge as it determines how much one can do in around.
So, by using up your entire bonus action to do at most 2d4 damage seems well subpar.
But, I decided to check the math out anyway which was interesting, to say the least.
To do this, I used the data I have and compiled what the average monsters hit points are at that level to the chances to hit are. Therefore gaining the closest accurate damage increase you gain at that level.
Afterward, I then created a chart to compare Kensei shot two ways.
One, the actual increase in damage dealt if you could not use your bonus action to attack.
And two, the actual damage difference between using Kensei shot and using your bonus action to attack once with your hand.
The take away from the graph on damage increase Kensei shot is that at level 3 you deal an extra 2.5% to an enemy’s overall health. Then increasing to 3.3% at level 5; most likely due to the extra attack. However, it then drops consistently to only doing an extra 1.64% of monsters overall health.
Meanwhile, when looking at the opportunity cost of using your bonus action to attack with a fist or Kensei shot, you see that at level 3 you deal 3% less damage to the average monster overall hit points when attacking with Kensei shot instead of your fist.
This again gets mitigated again dropping to only .99% difference at level 5 and eventually a 1.81% difference at level 17.
Making the math behind this show that the cost is not extremely significant of a difference by level 17.
However, this is assuming you are only attacking once with your bonus action and not using flurry of blows, if you were to use flurry of blows then the damage difference is actually 8.5% at level 3 and 5.25% difference at level 17.
In conclusion, why you gain a 1.64%-3.3% increase in damage with Kensei shot, you forgo 1-3% in damage by sacrificing a fist attack or 5.25%-8.50% if you sacrifice flurry of blows.
Kensei Monk: Magic Kensei Weapon & Deft strike
Next, we have Magic Kensei Weapon and Deft Strike for the kensei monk.
Making kensei weapons magical is a solid and necessary choice for Kensei monks for a few reasons. One is on the off chance of fighting a slime that destroys your weapon with each hit.
While the second is being to overcome monster resistances and immunities to nonmagical weapons. A 117 monsters to be exact.
All in all, not much to say for that as it is fairly standard in weapon-based classes.
Now the second part, deft strike is useful for increased damage. You can expect to see a small but good portion of additional damage when using it.
The most effective way to use this ability would be to wait until you roll a natural 20 on an attack. Effectively doubling the damage you deal with this ability since you can roll the damage die twice.
The ability effectively allows you to deal extra damage by spending a ki point. A useful ability to be sure in combat but is nothing absurd. As such it’s a solid ability but nothing game-breaking.
Sharpen The Blade
Level 11 comes with the ability to transform any mundane item into a legendary magical item. What it effectively does is as long as an item does not already have a bonus to attack roll and damage you can spend up to 3 ki points to make the weapon have a +3 to hit and damage.
Notice, this does not mean magical weapons can’t gain this bonus but just weapons like +1 shortswords. Therefore, a flametongue longsword can still be turned into a +3 flametongue longsword. Insane!
To show you how insane this is, I calculated what the average monster AC is at level 11, then I calculated how much of a boost a +1, +2, and +3, weapon has to damage. To do that I calculated how much more your chances to succeed to hit are and how much additional base damage the weapon will add.
At level 11 the average monster has an AC of 17. This means, that at level 11, the kensei monk can increase their Damage from 19.23% with a +1 weapon, all the way to an increase of 42.86% per hit! This is an awesome ability that changes the damage capabilities of a class.
Therefore, the Kensei monks damage change is a solid choice in this regard purely for the increase in damage you can add with this class’s level 11 ability.
If you were afraid of missing, now you don’t need to worry. Unerring Accuracy changes your chances to miss from 12.25% to 4.29%.
And, this is before you add a +3 magic weapon that you can make with your “Sharpen The Blade” feature. Which, in case you were wondering reduces your chances to miss to 0.8% chance on average.
Effectively making sure every weapon attack will hit.
It’s another solid ability that is a solid level 17 ability to make you feel just that much more competent in fights against anything, be campaign ending bosses, or even just your standard minions.
There you have it. The Kensei Monk, with all the math that comes with them. I definitely did not plan how much math this subclass involved but, honestly, it’s a blast to see the damage differences in this class.
I also did not realize just how powerful +3 weapons are before doing this so seeing the math damage increase from them is absolutely insane.
Their ability to consistently deal solid damage every round against a single foe makes them a solid choice for fighting enemies with high AC. Moreover, by keeping enemies distracted by being up in their face and reduce the damage they take with their agile parry feature. makes them a solid tank as well.
All in all, the Kensei monk is a solid choice for those monks that want to play a weapon focused class that’s looking to have magical items in their arsenal
If you enjoyed this review then I definitely suggest looking into a full class monk review like this one. I hope you all have a wonderful day and have fun “stabbing enemies with the pointy end”.
- P.S. If you enjoyed this post and you have a specific subclass, spell, or anything else, be sure to check out my Patreon to see the rewards!