The Tabaxi Monk is really the cat’s meow. The Tabaxi race flows seamlessly into the Monk class in roleplay and mechanics, making it a popular choice for min-maxers.
If you’re new to the combination, you might be wondering how to build your Tabaxi Monk best to get the most out of the combination. Here’s the scoop.
Ability Scores: Prioritize Dexterity, then Wisdom. Constitution is optional but not required.
Armor and Weapons: No armor. No weapons are necessary. Shortsword should be taken if the player intends to utilise the Defensive Duelist feat.
Offensive Actions: Martial Arts grants extra damage when attacking with a Monk weapon or Unarmed Strike. Flurry of Blows allows for two Unarmed Strikes as a bonus action following an attack with a Monk Weapon or Unarmed Strike.
Defensive Actions: Patient Defense allows the player to take the Dodge Action as a bonus action. Unarmored Defense grants defensive stats based on Dexterity and Wisdom when the player is not wearing armor.
Subclass Decisions: Way of Mercy for healing and support. Way of the Long Death for tanking. Way of Kensei for Defensive Duelists use. Way of the Open Hand if you’re new to Monk play and want a safe choice.
Ability Score Distribution
Monks want a high Dexterity score, and the Tabaxi race provides a +2 bonus to Dexterity in their racial features.
For those who are rolling their stats, ideally, you want to put an 18 into Dexterity as this will reach your Dexterity benchmark starting at the 1st level and give you a solid start.
For Standard Array and Point Buy, you’ll want to increase your Dexterity as much as possible before making any other choices. Standard Array users will want to put that 15 into Dexterity, while Point Buy users will spend 9 points on Dexterity.
Your second highest score should be Wisdom. The Monk’s Wisdom score is critical to their damage and defensive capabilities. Wisdom is the score used to determine their Ki save DC and contributes defensive stats to their Unarmored Defense. It’s a critical tool for monks.
Once you’ve reached your benchmarks for Dexterity and Wisdom, there’s not much left to put points into for boosting your monk damage.
Monks may want to consider putting points into Constitution. Monks are a melee damage class and need that Constitution buff to avoid being dropped or killed at a low level.
You should never have a negative Constitution score on any character, but Monks, especially, need their Constitution score to be high to protect them while dealing damage.
Point Buy and Standard Array users will want to allocate enough resources to their Constitution to make it at least an even roll. However, Constitution is an optional stat to take points in and won’t inherently boost your character, nor will not having the issues inherently nerf your character.
Starting Proficiencies and Gear
Monks will get to choose two proficiencies from the following list:
Acrobatics and Athletics are the best choices for crossing terrain and combat maneuvering, while Insight will give the Monk a decisive advantage in social and investigative situations.
Stealth will be helpful if the campaign emphasizes reconnaissance while Religion and History are options that are most heavily tied into roleplay situations.
History, in particular, doesn’t use any Monk stats and won’t see the same power spike that the other skills have because of it.
For starting gear, Tabaxi monks should select their starting weapon based on preference. The Shortsword is an excellent bonus to the Tabaxi’s raw damage output with their claws.
Tabaxis have fantastic early-level damage output, regardless of class, because of their claws.
Tabaxi Claws 101
Are They Monk Weapons?
The best answer to this question is “kind of.” Tabaxi Claws aren’t weapons at all. In the rules, they’re considered “natural weapons,” which count as a weapon attack but are not ruled as weapons themselves, as clarified by Jeremy Crawford.
The attack made with the Tabaxi’s claws is considered to be Unarmed Strikes. This distinction means that they can be used with the Monk’s Martial Arts feature, which works with Unarmed Strikes.
This feature allows the Tabaxi to use their Dexterity as the ability score they roll with when attacking with their claws both for the attack and the damage roll. It also allows the Tabaxi’s claws to scale up with Martial Arts. This enables the Tabaxi Monk to make their claws into a very deadly weapon.
The Monk class factors Unarmed Strikes into their rotation very heavily. Flurry of Blows is a massive part of the Monk class’s damage output, and the Tabaxi is free to use their claws when making these strikes.
The use of the Tabaxi’s claws is two-fold. Firstly, it raises the damage dealt by the blow, and secondly, it changes the type of damage. Blows made with a fist deal bludgeoning damage, but the Tabaxi’s claws deal slashing damage, allowing them to diversify their damage pool in a way that other Monks are unable to.
Are Tabaxi Claws Finesse Weapons?
No, Tabaxi claws are not considered Finesse weapons, and the Monk’s Martial Arts feature does not grant them the Finesse feature; it just allows for Dexterity to be used when rolling with them.
The only weapons considered Finesse weapons are the ones that have “Finesse” as a listed feature.
Tabaxi Monk Subclasses
There are nine published subclasses for the Monk class. Most of them are pretty good, with the staunch exception of Way of the Sun Soul, which is less than stellar and not recommended unless you’re taking it for flavor.
While shooting Kamehamehas out of your hands might sound fun, the subclass mostly does very middling damage because the damage dealt without consuming Ki points is pathetic and leaves you kind of helpless when you’re out of Ki points.
Way of the Open Hand
Way of the Open Hand is very rarely anything special. It represents a very safe choice that offers little in the way of unique play potential. It’s not a lousy subclass, and it’s straightforward to get into. It has sound damage output and good defensive utility, but it’s exactly what you see on the tin and nothing more.
Way of Mercy
The Way of Mercy subclass is a tremendous, supportive Monk subclass that allows the Monk to moonlight as an off-healer with their extra Ki points. Way of Mercy was introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything and is a good choice for Monks who want to do more for their allies than punch things.
Way of the Long Death
The Way of the Long Death is for Monk players whose parties forgot that Monks aren’t tanks and allows the Monk player to fill that role. Way of the Long Death Monks are tough to kill, but they have little offensive or utility skills that Paladins or Barbarians typically bring. They’re just really fat and hard to kill.
Way of the Kensei
The Way of the Kensei subclass is great for Monks who want more weapon options as it opens up a few martial weapons as Monk Weapons, something that’s usually out of reach for the Monk.
Kensei Monks get access to weapons such as the Whip and Longbow for ranged combat, which can provide versatility for the Monk. Since the Whip and Longbow grant range without using Ki points, they end up just being a better version of Way of the Sun Soul’s ranged options.
Way of the Sun Soul
In case you missed that from the opening paragraph, Way of the Sun Soul is stark “Nah” from me “dawg.” Sun Soul’s damage without Ki points is terrible, and it doesn’t provide any non-Ki-point-intensive options for ranged combat like Way of the Kensei does.
The Dos, Don’ts, and Maybes of Feats for the Tabaxi Monk
Feats are a great way to improve your character’s power and durability. Tabaxi Monks will have an easier time hitting their Ability Score benchmarks than other Monks, which means they have more openings to take feats.
The Mobile Feat is excellent for the Monk regardless of their chosen subclass. Mobile’s movement speed buff stacks with the Monk’s Unarmored Movement. The Monk further benefits from Mobile’s ability to move in and out of a character’s zone of influence without incurring Attacks of Opportunity.
Grappler is great for Monks who want to help the party out by immobilizing the enemy. Grappler affords the player Advantage on attack rolls against enemies they’ve grappled and allows them to make a roll to pin down an enemy they’ve grappled.
If the roll succeeds, both the enemy and the player will be immobilized until the grapple ends.
Durable is an excellent pickup for Monks, but especially Way of the Long Death Monks. It gives them bonuses to their Constitution, an Ability Score that Monks don’t usually put points into of their own accord, and increasing their healing during short rests, which gives them even more ability in their quest never to die.
Tough is a remarkable feat in pretty much any class, and Monks are no stranger to needing HP as a melee DPS class. The HP is great on them since they’ve got such strong offensive and defensive capabilities.
While Lucky is always good, there’s a lot of feats that jive better with the Monk skillset. However, rerolling dice will not be decisive. It’s just not something that necessarily plays off of the Monk skillset in particular.
MAYBE: Defensive Duelist
Defensive Duelist will be best used by Kensei Monks or Monks who are okay with holding a shortsword or a dagger… always. Unless you’re holding a Finesse weapon, you don’t get much out of Defensive Duelist.
The shortsword and the dagger are the only natural Monk weapons with the Finesse property. Kensei Monks, however, can choose a Finesse weapon as their Kensei weapon and wield that instead.
It’s worth noting that Defensive Duelist will stack with the Kensei Monk’s Agile Parry, giving it an extra boost.
The ideal Tabaxi Monk starts the game with 20 Dexterity, so Athlete can only give them a Strength boost which can be helpful but less so than Wisdom for the Tabaxi Monk.
However, the buffs to the Tabaxi’s climbing speed and the ability to stand from a Prone position without using all of their movement are both potent abilities to give to the Tabaxi Monk.
DON’T: Tavern Brawler
While Tavern Brawler may seem like an entertaining and flavorful feat to have, Monks will get very little use out of it because all of their class features rely on the use of Monk Weapons.
Since Improvised Weapons don’t count as Monk Weapons, you’d basically be choosing between using Tavern Brawler or using your Monk features which is a spot no player wants to find themselves in.
Resilient’s significant power spike grants the character extra saving throw proficiencies, but Monks will get Diamond Soul at the 14th level, giving them a proficiency in all saving throws. Diamond Soul turns Resilient into a worse ASI since all the Monk will be getting from Resilient at that point is +1 to any Ability Score.
Quick Monk How-To
Most late-level Monk features are passives, so we’ll cover the basics of Monks’ early-level features.
Allows the player to use Dexterity instead of Strength when making Unarmed Strikes or attacking with Monk Weapons. Martial Arts also enables the player to make an Unarmed Strike as a bonus action whenever they attack using either an Unarmed Strike or a Monk Weapon on their turn, increasing their damage output
Ki points are the numerical manifestation of the Monk’s attunement with their physical body. Monks can spend Ki points to use various Monk features.
Flurry of Blows
Flurry of Blows allows the Monk to use 1 Ki point to make two Unarmed Strikes when they use the Attack action on their turn utilizing either Unarmed Strikes or a Monk Weapon.
Patient Defense allows the Monk to take the Dodge Action as a bonus action for 1 Ki point.
Step of the Wind
Step of the Wind allows the Monk to use 1 Ki point to take the Disengage or Dash action as a bonus action on their turn.
The Monk can use their reaction when hit with a ranged attack to lower the damage they take from the hit. If Deflect Missiles reduces the damage to 0, they can catch the projectile and throw it back using 1 Ki point.
When doing so, the projectile counts as a Monk Weapon, and the throw is made with proficiency, regardless of what ammunition was caught.
Flurry of Blows is a damage-dealing solid skill but should be saved for essential mobs. Once you reach the 2nd-level, you’ll automatically get one bonus Unarmed Strike when you attack with another Unarmed Strike or a Monk Weapon, so you’ll use that as your primary damage while saving Flurry of Blows for when it counts most.
Deflect Missiles will basically always be an excellent reaction to use if you haven’t already used your reaction since it just lowers the damage you’re taking. Likewise, if you aren’t finding that damage output is a big deal, but you’re low on health, Patient Defense might be a better choice than Flurry of Blows.
The Tabaxi Monk is one of the most potent combinations for the Tabaxi and the Monk alike. Both the race and the class play well off each others’ strengths and cover each others’ weaknesses.
For those looking to build the strongest character in the numbers game, the Tabaxi Monk is one of the strongest choices the game has to offer.
As always, each player, DM, and the campaign is different. So, finding the right balance of fun and numbers will be a case-by-case situation. This guide is meant as a framework, not a directive; do what feels best for you and your character!
Good luck, have fun, and happy questing!