Unearthed Arcana: Subclasses Part 5 Analysis

After some time from the previous installment, we have another Unearthed Arcana with some more subclass options. In this case, we have the Way of the Ascendant Dragon for the monk, and the Drakewarden for the ranger. As you can probably guess, they both have to do with dragons; and in fact do have several similarities despite the vast differences between the base classes.

To avoid repeating myself too many times, I’m going to make up a new term here: Throughout the UA, there are multiple mentions of acid, cold, fire, lightning, and poison damage. I’m going to call these draconic damage types.

Way of the Ascendant Dragon

You are inspired by the power of dragons and utilize your ki in ways that allow you to imitate them. The hows and they whys are mostly left up to you – the core of this subclass is that you’re a monk and you like dragons.

Draconic Disciple (3rd level)

You learn to speak, read, and write Draconic, and once per long rest you can turn a failed roll of Persuasion or Intimidation to a success. More importantly however, you can change your unarmed strike damage from bludgeoning to a draconic damage type. While this technically doesn’t increase your damage on its own, it allows you to be far more versatile and exploit the enemies’ resistances and vulnerabilities. The Persuasion or Intimidation roll is a bit strange in my opinion, especially because oftentimes you have varying degrees of what a successful Persuasion check is, but I don’t mind it.

Breath of the Dragon (3rd level)

When you take the Attack option, you can replace one of your attacks with a dragon breath-style attack in a 20-foot cone or a 30-foot line, dealing damage equal to two rolls of your Martial Arts die (three at level 11) of any draconic damage type if the creatures in the area of effect fail a Dexterity saving throw and half as much of they succeed. You can use this number of times equal to your proficiency modifier, or by spending 1 ki if you have no more uses available. I like this feature a lot – it gives monks quite a bit of range and AoE, something they sorely lack, and in higher levels with your abundance of ki you can use it very often.

Wings Unfurled (6th level)

When you use Step of the Wind (1 ki to take the Disengage or Dodge action as a bonus action), you can grow a pair of wings until the end of your turn, giving you a flying speed equal to your walking speed. You can use this a number of times equal to your proficiency modifier, or spend 1 additional ki point when you run out of uses. Monks generally have high mobility with their increased walking speed and Step of the Wind to disengage, and this really makes them all the more mobile. This gives them a cheap to use flight effect, allowing them to reach and disrupt high-priority targets much easier – or almost trivially escape any group of enemies.

Aspect of the Wyrm (11th level)

As a bonus action, you can create a 30-feet aura around you for 1 minute. Choose a draconic damage type; you and your allies within the aura gin resistance to it, and when they are hit by another creature also within the aura they can use their reaction to deal damage of the chosen type equal to one roll of your Martial Arts die. You can use this feature once per long rest, or by spending 4 ki points. A quite powerful feature with both defensive and offensive components, I can’t see it not being used in most fights.

Ascendant Aspect (17th level)

Quite bit of text here. First, you gain blindsight to 30 feet – nice and simple, this is mostly useful for seeing invisibility but it can also work as darkvision if you don’t have it. Second, whenever you damage a creature with Breath of the Dragon (which is always, since they still take half damage if they succeed the saving throw), they take damage equal to one roll of your Martial Arts die at the beginning of their turn. To end the effect, they make a saving throw at the end of their turns. This is a lot of extra damage that quickly stacks up, since every turn you can inflict it on multiple opponents. Finally, when you activate Aspect of the Wyrm, you can deal 4d10 damage to any number of creatures within the aura. The damage can be of any draconic damage type, not necessarily the one you chose for the aura. Note that this is without a saving throw, it’s guaranteed. Overall this might seem like a very powerful feature, but it’s also at level 17 so i think it’s warranted.

The Way of the Ascendant Dragon looks like a solid subclass, and primarily an offensive one. There is a lot of damage to be found in almost every feature, and the addition of flight and blindsight makes it more versatile. As for the theme of the subclass, I’d say the features capture it pretty well – you can obviously see the connection to dragons in each and every one of them.

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The Drakewarden is a ranger that has a bond with a drake, a minor dragon. The ranger can summon the drake and gain various dragon-themed abilities. How you gained this bond is up to you, but the document has several suggestions.

Draconic Gift (3rd level)

You learn to speak, read, and write draconic, and you learn the Thaumaturgy cantrip as a ranger spell. Can’t say it’s something too useful, but it’s ok to have.

Drake Companion (3rd level)

The core feature of the subclass. You summon the drake with which you have a bond. It shares your initiative and you command it as a bonus action; the drake remains for a number of hours equal to your proficiency modifier. You can do this once per long rest, or by expending a spell slot of 1st level or higher.

I’m not going to go over the drake’s stats, they are similar with other “companions” in previous UAs like the alchemist’s homunculus etc. But i will say that it scale with your proficiency bonus, it’s immune to a draconic damage type that you choose when you summon it, it deals that type of damage with its attack, and it can use its reaction to increase the damage of an ally’s attack by 1d6 of that damage type.

At first, I was a bit underwhelmed by the drake; it seemed to lack the stats to be an effective fighter, particularly in terms of damage. However, other features further improve it, and while I think the end result is still not much of a damage dealer it’s definitely an improvement. I do want to note though the drake’s AC, which starts at 16 and can reach 20 (14 + proficiency bonus) – a significant amount that most player characters won’t reach.

Bond of Fang and Scale (7th level)

Your drake gets a few boosts, making it a much more capable companion. First of all, you gain resistance to the damage type you chose for your drake – not bad at all, but not what I want to focus on. Second, your drake’s Bite attack deals an additional 1d6 damage, going to 2d6 total. Finally, you choose between your drake gaining a swimming speed of 40 and the ability to breathe in water and air, or gaining wings and a flying speed of 40. I think I’m not exaggerating when I say that flying is clearly and absolutely the better option, except some very niche situations – of course, since you make the choice every time the drake is summoned and not once and permanently, you always have either option available.

Drake’s Breath (11th level)

As an action, you can force creatures in a 30-foot cone to make a Dexterity saving throw, taking 6d6 damage on a failed save or half as much on a successful one. The damage increases to 8d6 on level 15, and it is of a draconic damage type of your choice. You can use this feature once per long rest, or by expending a spell lot of 3rd level or higher. Not a surprising feature, it’s a good bit of damage but I’m not wowed by it. I think this could also give your drake a breath attack of its own, or at least allow this feature to be used by your drake as well. I don’t see why you can have a breath attack but your drake can’t.

Perfected Bond (15th level)

You further improve your bond with your drake, increasing its size to Large from Small. I think the size increase is a bit sudden, you could grow it from small to medium in Bond of Fang and Scale – not that it has much of an impact in mechanics, but I think it counts. Additionally, its bite attack damage increases by 1d6 again, reaching 36 total – here, the UA document has (what I assume is) an error, claiming the total damage is now 2d6. However it was already increased at level 7, with Bond of Fang and Scale. Finally, when either of you take damage when within 30 feet of each other, you can use your reaction to grant resistance to that instance of damage. This can be used any number of times, so it really help cut down a lot of damage and can also allow you to more effectively use your drake as a meat shield. It also encompasses all types of damage, even those that are a bit harder to defend from like force or psychic damage.

Overall, I do like the Drakewarden, especially conceptually. However, I wanted more things to do with the drake. A breath attack at the very least, a bit more damage perhaps, or some other unique ability that would make it really exciting to use the companion.

To wrap things up, I definitely look forward to having both the Way of the Ascendant Dragon and the Drakewarden in an official release. I think the Drakewarden needs a bit more work, but not a complete redesign or anything.

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