Today we’re going to be taking a deep dive Unearthed Arcana’s Psi Knight subclass for the Fighter. We’ll cover what it is, what it does, and some strategies of using and building it effectively.
This is part 2 of a 4 part series:
- Psionic Options Revisited – Overview
- Psi Knight (this article)
- Psionic Soul
Psi Knight – What is it?
Published in “Psionic Options Revisited” the Psi Knight belongs to the next wave of testing material D&D 5th Edition psionics. The Mystic class has been been split across three new subclass with the Psi Knight filling the heavily martial role.
What is does
As you would expect from a Fighter Subclass, the Psi Knight offers a few damage options, but its primary focus is support by bolstering and positioning allies on the battlefield.
For damage options, the Psi Knight begins with Telekinetic Strike, allowing you to add a small amount of force damage once per turn. It’s a nice, fairly consistent damage increase, without any additional tactical options.
At level 7, the Psi Knight gains the much more powerful Psionic Thrust ability which allows them to force an Intelligence Saving Throw after using Telekinetic Strike. If the target fails the Saving Throw, they can be moved 10 feet in any horizontal direction and knocked prone.
With Intelligence being the best saving throw to target in D&D 5th Edition, you can expect Psionic Thrust to succeed often.
At this point, the Psi Knight plays a lot like a monk-lite: you impose status effects (prone), knock enemies around, but also deal a bit more damage.
However, the real meat of the subclass is in its support abilities. Starting at level 3 the Psi Knight gains Protective Field, an ability in the same vein as the Protection fighting style, allowing you to spend a reaction to reduce the amount of damage an ally within 30 feat of you takes.
The ability to work at range and without any equipment restrictions, gives Protective Field a clear advantage over Protection fighting style. However, the ability to impose disadvantage on an attack will, on average, prevent much more damage and stop your allies from suffering deadly critical hits. If you already have Protection fighting style, your reaction is better reserved for it.
At level 7 the Psi Knight gains the Telekinetic Movement ability, allowing them to use an Action to move a willing creature, or an object, 30 ft by reducing you Psionic Talent Die. This could be great for pulling allies from the jaws of certain doom or using it as a type of super mage hand since it can affect objects up to large size. Admittedly, it is a very costly and very circumstantial ability, but it is one you’ll be glad to have when you need it.
At level 10 the Psi Knight gains resistance to Poison and Psychic damage and immunity to the Posioned status effect. This is a mild bump to your tankiness and not much else.
However, at level 15 the Psi Knight gains one of its most interesting abilities: Bulwark of Force. This unique ability allows you to grant allies within 30 feet of you half-cover for one minute. There is no other ability in D&D 5th Edition that parallels this except the Paladin’s signature Aura of Protection.
Why is it so good? Let’s take a look at what half-cover grants:
A target with half cover has a +2 bonus to AC and Dexterity saving throws.
Aside from granting a party-wide AC and Dexterity Saving Throw buff, half cover also allows your companions to hide, giving the party Rogue an easy means to hide from danger and trigger Sneak Attack.
Finally, at 18th level the Psi Knight gains the ability to cast telekinesis, another great battlefield support ability, but one that will be a little lackluster as the party wizard will have been casting telekinesis for some time already.
Builds and Synergy
The Psi Knight falls a bit on the lackluster side of fighter subclass options. Mild damage increases and costly support abilities don’t stack up against the Battlemaster for damage or utility to say nothing of other options for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.
Despite its drawbacks, at high levels a party with a Psi Knight and a Paladin could easily have minimum Dexterity Saving Throws of +7 coupled with a +2 AC boost. Throw in a Bard and you now have a party composition that is breaking the bounds of bounded accuracy by never failing a Saving Throw and rarely even receiving damage from an attack roll.
Specific character builds are awkward of the Psi Knight: it’s outshined in its own lane by standard Fighter subclasses, and while it does have synergy with the Monk and Rogue subclasses, most of its synergy comes from its level 7 Psionic Thrust ability which is too high level to benefit from multi-classing.
By the time the Psi Knight has enough synergy to multi-class you would be better off increasing your ki pool, your sneak attack dice, or any other resource by single-classing and dropping the Psi Knight levels altogether.
The Psi Knight’s abilities to move enemies, objects, and allies around the battlefield, to protect allies, and to knock enemies prone provide some interesting tactical options, but in most cases the Monk, Paladin, or Rogue will be a better fit for the role.
Our first look at the successor to the Psychic Warrior has proven to be lackluster: it does many things, but few of them well and falls into a no-mans-land between several other classes. At high levels it may be viable as it has a fantastic 15th level ability, but its usefulness comes online too late to allow for effective multi-classing and it is greatly outshined by most other fighter subclasses.
The Psi Knight is definitely interesting, but a dearth of tactical options and the high action cost of its abilities mean it sorely needs additional options before publication.
Check back later for more psionic character build breakdowns and a sneak peak of our upcoming D&D 5e publication featuring new 50 magic items. Sign up for the Friendly Neighborhood Newsletter to receive a discount when its published.