Shadar-kai Guide 5e

Published on March 6, 2023

Originating from the Plane of Shadow, shadar-kai are elves that have been forged in the necrotic energy of their bleak homeworld. Learn how to play a shadar-kai here!

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What is this guide?

This guide is meant to give you an idea of whether or not the shadar-kai will be right for your 5e character build.

The color code below has been implemented to help you identify, at a glance, how good that option will be for your shadar-kai. This color coding isn’t a hard and fast rule; there are plenty of sub-optimized options out there that will be viable to your party and will be fun to play.

  • Black is a trait shared by many races and or will not impact the effectiveness of your character build
  • Red isn’t going to contribute to the effectiveness of your character build at all
  • Orange Situationally good, but a below-average option otherwise
  • Green is a good option
  • Blue is a great option, you should strongly consider this option for your character
  • Sky Blue is an amazing option. If you do not take this option your character would not be optimized

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything Update

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything has added the "Customizing Your Origin" option that may affect the ability score increases, languages, and proficiencies in this guide. To read more about this, visit our D&D Race Guide.

What are Shadar-kai in 5e?

Source: Monsters of the Multiverse

Shadar-kai are known for their dark, shadowy appearance and their association with the Shadowfell—a plane of existence that exists parallel to the Material Plane and is associated with death and darkness.

In D&D, shadar-kai are typically depicted as highly skilled and agile warriors, with an affinity for magic and the ability to teleport short distances through the use of shadows. They are also known for their resistance of necrotic energy due to their origin from Shadowfell.

Shadar-kai were originally introduced as a 5e playable race in Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes but have been rereleased in Monsters of the Multiverse. If you want to see the legacy version of this playable race, check out our elf guide.

Shadar-kai 5e Traits

Ability Score Increase: Being able to choose between +2 ASI, +1 ASI, or +1, +1, +1 ASI means that you can pick exactly what your build will need.

Darkvision: Darkvision is always great, but its advantage can be ruined if your party members do not also have it.

Fey Ancestry: Advantage against being charmed will come in handy quite often as the charmed effect is relatively common.

Keen Senses: Free proficiency in Perception is always welcome.

Trance: The elf’s trance is seemingly innocuous but it is quite powerful upon closer inspection. First off, remaining semiconscious allows you to be surprised less often. Second, only having to sleep for 4 hours will allow casters (specifically wizards and warlocks) the ability to wake up before the rest of the party, cast a spell, and then short rest to get the spell slot back. This can be extremely powerful given the right spell and the right circumstance.

Blessing of the Raven Queen: This ability is a straight upgrade from its previous version because you can now cast misty step at least twice and up to six times by 17th level per long rest. You also still get the resistance to all damage for a round when you use this ability starting at 3rd level, which is a massive boon for survivability.

Necrotic Resistance: Necrotic damage is a relatively common damage type, which makes this a solid passive feature to pick up at 1st-level.

Which 5e Classes Work With Shadar-kai?

There aren’t really any downsides to the shadar-kai. They provide a stellar movement option, some great traits from the parent elf race, and a common damage resistance.

The only thing that can get in the way of a truly optimized shadar-kai build would be if your bonus action Blessing of the Raven Queen continuously conflicts with another class feature that uses a bonus action. That said, the Blessing of the Raven Queen combined with the damage resistance will likely outrank any other move you could make in a certain situation that calls for it. For example, if your fighter is at low health and is caught in a group of enemies, they’d likely misty step out and gain the damage resistance over swinging with an offhand attack.

Some builds that may find their bonus action interferes with Blessing of the Raven Queen would be:

  • Those using a companion post Tasha’s ( Revised Beast Master, Battle Smith’s Steel Defender, Artillerist’s Eldritch Cannon, or Drakewarden’s drake)
  • Two-Weapon Fighting builds
  • Bards using Bardic Inspiration
  • Rogues and their Cunning Action
  • Rangers and warlocks who like to run with hunter’s mark and hex, respectively

For all the spellcastings looking to use the shadar-kai’s Blessing of the Raven Queen to save on spell slots, keep in mind that casting misty step as a bonus action using Blessing of the Raven Queen is still technically casting a leveled spell. So, you can only cast a cantrip as your second spell.

Artificer: A decent for artificers, especially those that focus on melee combat and can make use of their teleportation ability. However, they don't have any particular racial traits that benefit the artificer class specifically. Also, be careful that half of the artificer subclasses (Battle Smith and Artillerist) have a consistent use for their bonus action.

Barbarian: Barbarians already gain damage resistance to physical damage while raging. If damage resistance is particularly important to you and you're not taking the Path of the Totem (Bear) subclass, this can be a decent option. More often than not, if you want access to misty step, it'd be best to choose another elf subrace like the eladrin.

Bard: Even though you have a semi-regular bonus action in Bardic Inspiration and have misty step in your spell list, shadar-kai are still an effective race to start with. The misty step castings can allow you to spend your spell slots elsewhere, and the damage resistance will help keep you alive with your d8 hit dice.

Cleric: Clerics don't normally get access to misty step and it can be quite useful for zipping around the battlefield and bestowing healing, buffs, or debuffs. The bonus action may conflicts with other staples like spiritual weapon but usually using your Blessing of the Raven Queen will be of higher importance than pumping out a bit of additional damage. Plus, you get a free proficiency in Perception, which goes great with your pumped WIS.

Druid: Misty step is a useful spell for quick movement and strategic actions like healing, buffing, and debuffing in the battlefield. Although druids typically do not have access to it, it can still be a valuable addition to their skillset, despite potential conflicts with other spells like heat metal or the Circle of the Moon druid's Combat Wild Shape. However, these conflicts are not likely to occur frequently.

Fighter: Fighters love the ability to misty step in battle. Whether they need to close in with an enemy or get out of the thick of it to be healed, a bonus action teleport is extraordinarily useful. Now, stack on the damage resistance Blessing of the Raven Queen provides and the additional necrotic resistance and you'll have the perfect combination of movement and survivability.

Monk: Monks need their bonus action for Flurry of Blows and other Ki-powered abilities, but they normally struggle with ranged options and survivability, both of which can be solved by the shadar-kai's Blessing of the Raven Queen.

Paladin: The ability to use misty step in battle is highly valued by paladins, as it allows them to swiftly approach or retreat from enemies, as well as get a free Disengage when necessary. Additionally, the added benefit of damage resistance from Blessing of the Raven Queen, combined with the necrotic resistance it provides, creates a powerful combination of both mobility and survivability.

Ranger: The Blessing of the Raven Queen can be especially valuable to rangers, as it provides both additional movement options they wouldn't normally receive. However, rangers are known for a plethora of uses for their bonus action, like hunter's mark, the Drakewarden's drake, Horizon Walker's Planar Warrior, and Monster Slayer's Slayer's Prey, all of which can compete with the shadar-kai's misty step. Despite this, melee rangers can still benefit from the added mobility and survivability, while ranged rangers can use the free disengage option to maintain their distance while still being able to attack.

Rogue: Unfortunately, rogues are just too bonus action-focused to make the most of the misty steps Blessing of the Raven Queen provides. Whether they're hiding or dashing with Cunning Action, offhand attacking to try to land a sneak attack, using the Steady Aim optional feature, or using a subclass feature, like the Mastermind's Master of Tactics, Soulknife's Psychic Blades, or Thief's Fast Hands, there are too many uses to commit to the shadar-kai's playstyle. All of this combined with the bonus action Disengage option provided by Cunning Action means that there's just too much overlap to make an shadar-kai optimal for rogues.

Sorcerer: Misty step is already available to sorcerers but, seeing as they have a small list of spells known, the free castings provided by Blessing of the Raven Queen are a welcomed bonus. The only conflict for bonus actions would be if your sorcerer really likes using the Quickened Spell Metamagic option, but those conflicts should be relatively uncommon.

Warlock: Misty step is already available to warlocks but, seeing as they are severely strapped for spell slots, being able to cast it for free using Blessing of the Raven Queen is a welcomed bonus. Seeing as warlocks also recharge spell slots on a short rest, you can use Trance to your advantage by waking up before your party, casting a spell with a long duration like hex or mage armor (or both) and short resting to get the spell slots back.

Wizard: While you may not need the free misty step, gaining access to a couple of free castings per long rest will enable you to use your reserved spell slots for dishing out damage or utility. Seeing as wizards get access to Arcane Recovery, you can use Trance to your advantage by waking up before your party, casting a spell with a long duration like mage armor and short resting to get the spell slots back. Keep in mind that you can only use Arcane Recovery once per day and only to regain a spell slot up to 6th level.

Sources Used in This Guide

  • BR: Basic Rules
  • GotG: Bigby Presents: Glory of the Giants
  • SotDQ: Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen
  • ERLW: Eberron: Rising from the Last War
  • EEPC: Elemental Evil Player’s Companion
  • EGtW: Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount
  • FToD: Fizban's Treasury of Dragon
  • GGtR: Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica
  • MotM: Monsters of the Multiverse
  • MToF: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes
  • MOoT: Mythic Odyessys of Theros
  • PAitM: Planescape: Adventures in the Multiverse
  • PHB: Player's Handbook
  • SAiS: Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
  • SCoC: Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos
  • SCAG: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide
  • TCoE: Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything
  • TTP: The Tortle Package
  • WBtW: The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
  • VRGtR: Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft
  • VGtM: Volo's Guide to Monsters
  • XGtE: Xanathar’s Guide to Everything

Mike Bernier

Mike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. He is a Adamantine best-selling author of Strixhaven: A Syllabus of Sorcery on DMs Guild and is a contributing author at D&D Beyond. Follow Mike on Twitter.

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