One of the most important features for Monks is D&D 5e is Deflect Missiles.
With this feature, the Monk can frustrate their ranged enemies in a major way. Those enemies will have a harder time landing ranged attacks against the Monk.
In fact, they might even find themselves getting hit by their own arrow before they know what’s happened!
If the idea of catching enemies’ arrows, bolts, and more sounds appealing to you, then you’re in luck!
Today we’re breaking down the Monk’s Deflect Missiles feature in D&D 5e!
What Is Deflect Missiles?
Deflect Missiles is a feature gained at level 3 by all Monks regardless of which Monastic Tradition they choose.
With this feature, the Monk can deflect or even catch incoming projectiles from ranged weapon attacks. This allows the Monk to reduce the damage dealt by a ranged attack.
In fact, it’s even possible for the Monk to immediately send the projectile right back to the enemy that fired it (or any other enemy within range.)
Talk about quick reflexes!
While it does take your reaction to use Deflect Missiles, this is a great way to reduce or completely avoid damage from an incoming ranged attack.
How Does Deflect Missiles Work?
When an enemy makes a ranged weapon attack against you (such as with a bow, crossbow, throwing ax, etc) they will first roll to see if they hit.
If their attack hits, you can then choose to use your reaction to use Deflect Missiles.
The damage that you take from that enemy’s attack is reduced by 1d10 + your Dexterity modifier + your Monk level.
If this reduces the damage from the attack to 0, you can choose to catch the projectile instead of simply deflecting it.
(Just be aware that the projectile has to be small enough for you to hold in one hand and that you must have at least one hand free to do this!)
If you’ve chosen to catch the projectile, you can spend 1 ki point to immediately throw it at an enemy as part of the same reaction.
The attack has a normal range of 20 feet and a long range of 60 feet.
As I explain in my guide to Ranged Combat in 5e, making the attack at long range will impose disadvantage on your attack roll. Try to prioritize another enemy within 20 feet for the best results!
You will also get to add your proficiency bonus to your attack roll using this.
Furthermore, the projectile counts as a Monk Weapon for you which means it can deal damage based on your Martial Arts die if that would be stronger.
So if you catch a dagger that an enemy throws at you (1d4 damage), your Martial Arts die as a level 5 Monk would buff that up to dealing 1d6 + your Dexterity modifier damage!
Using Deflect Missiles Effectively
The biggest thing to be aware of when you’re deciding if you want to use Deflect Missiles is the overall action economy of the combat.
In other words, you have a few primary considerations:
- If you use your reaction for this, will a nearby enemy try to run while there’s no threat of an attack of opportunity?
- How hard do you think this incoming attack will hit?
- How many more ranged attacks do you think are about to come flying at you?
There will be times when your reaction is better used for something else.
For example, a clever enemy that is right next to you might use this chance to run away or reposition since there is no threat of an opportunity attack from you.
If you instead keep your reaction available, they’ll have to decide if they want to keep fighting or spend a turn taking the Disengage action. It’s a way to keep the pressure on a high-priority enemy.
Additionally, be aware that you can only use Deflect Missiles once per round because it uses your reaction.
The goal is to predict what ranged attacks are likely headed your way and use Deflect Missiles in the way that makes the most sense strategically.
If you deflect an enemy’s arrow, you won’t have a way to reduce the (much heavier) damage dealt by the boulder being thrown by that enemy’s Giant ally!
However, this works two ways.
For example, you could catch the arrow fired by Goblin A and immediately throw it at Goblin B. If it’s enough to drop Goblin B, you just eliminated an enemy before they could put out more damage!
Be strategic with this feature and pay attention to the combat as a whole!
Is Deflect Missiles Good?
Monks have a ton of features that are cool, useful, and visually striking. But Deflect Missiles just might be one of the coolest features they get!
I mean, does it get any cooler than effortlessly catching an enemy’s arrow in midair?
Well… yeah… it’s even cooler to immediately send it flying straight back at them or to one of their allies!
Monks are excellent skirmishers who can absolutely destroy enemies in close combat. Deflect Missiles gives them a way to further defend themselves from ranged attacks.
This can potentially shut down a ranged attacker until the Monk gets their chance to use their incredible movement to get close and start pummeling them with a Flurry of Blows.
The temptation to immediately use this feature when being attacked with a projectile is certainly there. But the real trick lies in careful judgment and patient discipline when looking for the best times to use this.
Once you can master being able to anticipate your enemies’ actions, you’ll have no problem reliably using Deflect Missiles when it’s most impactful.
After all, this is such an iconic Monk feature for a reason!
Deflect Missiles FAQ
Before we wrap up, let’s review some frequently asked questions about Deflect Missiles in D&D 5e.
As always, feel free to leave a comment below if you still have questions about this important feature. I’m always happy to help!
Can Deflect Missiles Be Combined with Stunning Strike?
No. While Stunning Strike is certainly one of the most powerful features in the Monk’s arsenal, it doesn’t work with ranged attacks.
If you throw an arrow or other projectile at an enemy with Deflect Missiles, you will not be able to add Stunning Strike to the attack.
Because of this, you should prioritize nearby enemies with low enough HP that the attack from Deflect Missiles might be enough to reduce them to zero.
Does Deflect Missiles Work on Bullets?
If your game includes firearms, the Monk can still use Deflect Missiles to catch a bullet that is being fired at them.
Just be aware that this will be more difficult since firearms typically deal more damage. Additionally, don’t forget that you can only do this once per round.
If your Monk goes charging directly into a line of musket-wielding enemies, they’re going to have a bad time.
While it’s possible, you don’t want to be reckless!
Can Monks Deflect Boulders?
Yes. Kind of.
Monks can use their Deflect Missiles feature against something like a boulder that’s being thrown by a giant. This could potentially reduce the damage to 0.
However, the Monk cannot throw the boulder back at the enemy that threw it at them. This is because the boulder can’t be held in one hand like an arrow or crossbow bolt could.
That would be pretty cool though!
Can Monks Deflect Ballista Bolts?
Like dealing with boulders, Deflect Missiles can be used to reduce damage from ballista bolts. This can allow your Monk to take no (or greatly reduced) damage if they find themselves as the target of an enemy siege weapon.
As with boulders, the Monk would not be able to throw the ballista bolt back at the enemy that fired it.
Can Monks Deflect Fireballs?
As fun as it would be to throw an enemy caster’s fireball back at them, Deflect Missiles cannot be used against spells.
Specifically, Deflect Missiles can only be used to deflect or catch projectiles launched by a ranged weapon attack.
This excludes spells like Fireball (which prompts for a Dexterity save) as well as spells like Ray of Frost which are ranged spell attacks.
Can Monks Deflect Magic Missile?
Magic Missile is a spell and not a ranged weapon attack which means that Deflect Missiles cannot be used against it.
Does Deflect Missiles Use Ki Points?
As a Monk, deflecting a ranged weapon attack does not use ki points. It only takes a reaction (which means that you can do so once per round.)
If you have successfully reduced the damage from the ranged weapon attack to 0, you can then choose if you would like to spend a ki point.
Spending this ki point allows you to immediately throw the projectile back at the enemy who fired it.
As always, be mindful of both your environment and your total ki points when deciding if you want to do this.
Does Deflect Missiles Work on Saving Throws?
No. Deflect Missiles does not work on saving throws and only works against ranged weapon attacks.
If you are looking for a way to better protect yourself from situations that require Dexterity saving throws, you’d instead be looking at the Monk’s Evasion feature.
I cover that feature (and everything else you need to know about Monks) in my full 5e Monk class guide!
Conclusion – Deflect Missiles in D&D 5e
With their mastery of body, mind, and spirit, Monks are truly exciting characters to play.
In a group that I’m in, it always makes us laugh when the DM forgets about this feature about every other session or so.
One of his monsters will “hit” the Monk with a ranged attack only to have her quickly catch the arrow and use it to drop another nearby enemy.
The DM inevitably says something like “oh yeah…. Monks….” as we all chuckle.
Got questions or fun stories about Deflect Missiles in your game? Let’s chat in the comments!
Subscribe To Tabletop Joab's Newsletter!
Subscribers get updates on all of the latest news, posts, and offerings from Tabletop Joab!