Elite Githzerai Tactics


The githzerai monk has the ability profile of a shock attacker, but it lacks the mobility to get in and out of combat easily. The githzerai enlightened is the more fully developed version of this build concept, differing from the githzerai monk in three ways: higher ability scores, the Temporal Strike action, and a package of mobility- and defense-enhancing psionic “spells”: blur, expeditious retreat, haste, plane shift and teleport.

Getting the best use out of these abilities is going to require paying close attention to action economy and “spell” duration. Let’s break it down!

Actions: Multiattack, Temporal Strike, haste ©, plane shift, teleport, blur ©, jump, see invisibility.

Bonus actions: expeditious retreat ©.

Reactions: feather fall, shield.

Saliently, expeditious retreat is the only bonus action available to the githzerai enlightened, but because it requires concentration, it conflicts with haste and blur. Expeditious retreat grants Dash as a bonus action, but haste effectively grants this same benefit by doubling the target’s movement, plus an additional action that isn’t restricted to Dashing, plus bonuses to armor class and Dexterity saving throws. This also makes haste far superior to blur, whose only benefit is disadvantage on incoming attacks (effectively an armor class buff of approximately +4). Thus, there’s no reason why an enlightened won’t cast haste as its first action in combat—if not before combat begins.

As a commenter pointed out in response to my article on elite githyanki, plane shift is an imprecise spell: it can take you to a particular plane, but you have little discretion or control over where on that plane you end up. Teleport, in contrast, is considerably more precise—plus, as the dungeon master, you can fudge it. So while plane shift is good for getting out of a jam, teleport is what you want to use to drop in and attack with surprise. And since you can bring eight allies along for the ride, we can imagine a githzerai enlightened casting haste on itself, then teleporting itself and a whole squad of githzerai monks into the midst of its enemies for the ultimate surprise assault.

Temporal Strike not only has recharge but recharges only on a roll of 6, so the enlightened wants to make immediate use of it—but also has to be judicious about whom it uses it against. How good is the enlightened’s ability to size up its opponents? It’s very good, but it’s not perfect. With an Intelligence of 17, the enlightened can “read” an opponent’s abilities just by watching him or her act, but not without doing so. Therefore, the enlightened is going to have to wait one round to see what everyone does before using this extremely powerful but also extremely limited ability.

The effect of Temporal Strike is, effectively, to take one enemy out of commission for one round. It stands to reason that this should be the enemy who can do the most with his or her actions. This will generally be a high-level fighter with a triple or quadruple Attack or a shock attacker (rogue, monk, barbarian) capable of massive burst damage.

Why not a spellcaster? Because for that purpose, Temporal Strike is overkill. On average, this ability does 65 points of damage in addition to neutralizing the opponent for a round; 80 points is within one standard deviation from the mean, and 116 is theoretically possible. If Temporal Strike kills an enemy outright, the enlightened isn’t getting the full use out of it! Plus, spellcasters are more likely to favor their mental abilities in general and thus are more likely to make the Wisdom saving throw to resist it. For the same reason, even though paladins are also good at dealing nova damage, the enlightened doesn’t necessarily want to use Temporal Strike against one.

That being said, the enlightened also has an extraordinary Wisdom score, which means it doesn’t want to start a fight it can’t win. From an encounter-building perspective, this has an interesting ramification: Any combat encounter you create that includes a githzerai enlightened must be a Deadly encounter. If it were any less difficult than that, either the enlightened wouldn’t initiate combat to begin with, or it would gather all its friends and bamf out (using teleport, which would be available if they didn’t use it to bamf in) at the first available opportunity!

Mostly, the enlightened is going to rely on the combination of haste and Multiattack to inflict barrages of bludgeoning and psychic melee damage. Jump, as discussed in other articles, presents difficulties because (a) it consumes an action, (b) any distance over and above the target’s movement speed carries over into the next round, and (c) the enlightened has no ranged attack capability. However, combining jump with haste opens up interesting possibilities. For instance, if a hasted enlightened downs an enemy with a single unarmed strike (not a Multiattack) on its first action, it can use its main action to cast jump to begin moving toward a different enemy, which it may reach on the same turn or on its next one—it doesn’t matter, since even if it arrives on the following turn, it’s immediately ready to throw down again.

(Side note: The jumping rules in fifth-edition Dungeons and Dragons are a stark contrast to the streamlined simplicity of the rest of the system. I strongly, strongly recommend that if you have any character—player or non-player—with the jump spell, you calculate both normal and spell-enhanced jumping distances outside your play session, and especially outside any combat encounter. Because I love you, dear reader, here are the numbers for the githzerai enlightened: Normally, it can make a standing long jump of 7 feet, a running long jump of 14 feet, a standing high jump of 2 feet and a running high jump of 5 feet. With jump in effect, these values are tripled to 21 feet, 42 feet, 7 feet and 15 feet. Of these, only the running long jump exceeds the enlightened’s normal per-round movement, and with haste in effect, it still has movement to spare.)

See invisibility is a relatively low-value use of an action, and the enlightened will use it only when three criteria are met: First, it knows one of its enemies is invisible; second, that enemy is one it’s already identified as a high-priority target; and third, it’s got haste going. Otherwise, it’s not going to waste its action this way when it can spend it clobbering another foe instead.

An enlightened isn’t going to stay engaged in prolonged combat. After the third round, it’s going to conduct a risk assessment. If its own side is losing, or if it’s clearly turning into a battle of attrition, it decamps with its allies using teleport (if available) or plane shift. If its side seems to be winning, it will hang in there for a couple more rounds. Thus, it’s unlikely that its haste spell will ever run out—unless its concentration is disrupted by a large amount of incoming damage or a botched Constitution save.

A disrupted haste spell takes the enlightened out of action for a round, during which any allies it has will close ranks to protect it. Once it’s back in business, it has to choose between blur and expeditious retreat, since it has only one use of haste per day. It judges based on the nature and effectiveness of its enemies’ attacks and on how spread out they are. The more spread out the opposition and/or the fewer attack rolls they’re making, the more it will favor expeditious retreat. The more attack rolls they’re making and/or the closer together they are, the more it will favor blur.

The githzerai anarch is a different critter, more similar to the vanilla githzerai monk. Its distinctive abilities include flight, globe of invulnerability, wall of force, and three legendary actions: Strike, Teleport and Change Gravity.

Both globe and wall require concentration, so the anarch can use only one of them at a time. Globe offers protection against magical assault, wall against physical assault. Also, globe has a fixed shape—a sphere with a 10-foot radius—while wall can be configured as a sphere, a straight line or a zigzagging line. Which it chooses will obviously depend on which of its enemies it judges to be the most dangerous. Its own armor class is 20, and it’s tooled for melee combat, so it will generally favor globe over wall unless it’s trying to block its enemies off from a particular location.

Because the range of its Teleport action is only 30 feet, and because it doesn’t take anyone else with it, the chief use of this action is to move from one enemy to another without incurring an opportunity attack; it doesn’t really offer any other benefit. Strike is a freebie retaliation against an enemy with whom the anarch is engaged in melee. But the really interesting feature in the anarch’s toolbox is Change Gravity.

Like the reverse gravity spell, Change Gravity affects an area with a 50-foot radius—this is huge!—and has a range of 100 feet. It requires concentration, meaning it can’t be used in conjunction with globe of invulnerability or wall of force. And it can be oriented in any direction. A githzerai anarch’s enemies definitely do not want to encounter it at the end of a 120-foot corridor: they’ll be taking 10d6 damage while it stands there pointing and laughing at them, and then they’ll have 100 feet of ground to cover before it does it to them again. Or maybe it will simply cause them to “fall” 100 feet up in the air and leave them there until it gets bored and drops the spell—and them.

It goes without saying that the anarch will use this action only when it has room to exclude itself and its allies from the area of effect, and that it will orient gravity in the direction that causes the most falling damage. But also, for it to be worth the three-legendary-action cost, it has to do more damage than three unarmed strikes. Back-of-the-envelope, each strike does an average of 32 points of damage on a hit, and with +10 to hit, we can surmise that a strike is going to land roughly three-fourths of the time. Therefore, we should want Change Gravity to do more than 72 points of damage. That’s equivalent to about 20d6, so the anarch reserves Change Gravity for when it can cause two enemies to fall 100 feet, three enemies to fall 70 feet, four enemies to fall 50 feet, etc.

Anarchs have strong self-preservation instincts and will retreat when only moderately wounded (reduced to 100 hp or fewer), unless they have a very strong reason to be fighting, in which case they’ll stay in the fight until seriously wounded (reduced to 57 hp or fewer). Otherwise, they’ll follow the same principles as the enlightened, not initiating any fight that isn’t a Deadly encounter for their enemies and retreating along with their allies if they’re not clearly winning by the end of the third round. Note also that the anarch has teleportation circle, not teleport, so the “bamf assault” isn’t an available option, and its only evacuation ability is plane shift.

Next: skull lords.

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5 responses to “Elite Githzerai Tactics”

  1. Joseph Blanc Avatar
    Joseph Blanc

    The Anarch’s flying speed means it doesn’t have to worry about its own Reverse Gravity. It could just hover in place. It’s allies aren’t so lucky

    1. Keith Ammann Avatar

      Oh, yes, thank you for bringing this up, because I forgot to mention: The anarch’s flying/hovering ability also allows it to Teleport up into the air. It’s not quite as elegant as the strafing option available with, say, Flyby, since the anarch has no mechanism for avoiding opportunity attacks—although it does have an armor class of 20, so it may not even care—but it does give the anarch the ability to engage in melee while still spending the majority of its time hovering out of reach.

  2. Gabriel Russell Avatar
    Gabriel Russell

    As someone already pointed out the Anarch’s fly speed means it can ignore **reverse gravity**. This also means that if they’re outdoors they can leave melee enemies helpless with it while they zip around and punch the squishies to death. (50 foot radius is enough to grab most every foe). Additionally since they can maintain their concentration on r.g. once it’s up they can use their later Legendary Actions to make 6 attacks a round while their foes float like helpless balloons. If they do this tactic they’ll prioritize d6HD casters, then ranged physical combatants.

  3. Maximilian Wilson Avatar
    Maximilian Wilson

    Also, githzerai monks have Feather Fall, so they don’t have to worry taking damage from falling either.

  4. Blobfish Avatar

    Two words: ceiling spikes

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