Dungeons & Dragons: How to Build the Perfect Phantom Rogue

AbraxasJanuary 11, 2022

D&D’s Phantom subclass grant a spooky edge to the normally-drab Rogue, calling upon the souls of the dead to boost their offense and defense.

Most Rogue subclasses in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition are pretty ordinary. The Arcane Trickster gets Wizards spells and the Soulknife a few psionic abilities, but players looking to take supernatural weirdness to the next level as the Rogue should use the Phantom subclass. Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, the grimly-flavored Phantom draws their power from souls that have already passed onto the other side.

This manifests in two primary subclass features. The first is Wails from the Grave, which lets them deal half their Sneak Attack damage to a secondary target a few times per day. The second are soul trinkets, small totems of the departed the Phantom can generate as a reaction whenever they see a creature die. Having these trinkets gives the Phantom advantage on Constitution and death saving throws, and they can be spent to gain access to a range of extra abilities, including a one-question version of Speak with Dead and additional uses of Wails from the Grave. Here’s how to make the most of the Phantom.

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Prioritize the Phantom Rogue’s Dexterity and Constitution

One of the great parts about playing a Rogue is that they don’t really need any ability scores besides Dexterity. Other classes have to worry about spellcasting stats and Unarmored Defense, but Rogues get the bulk of their defensive options from Evasion and Uncanny Dodge. The Phantom even gets a further boost to said defense through one of their later features, Ghost Walk. While in Ghost Walk’s wraith-like altered state the Phantom can walk through walls, fly and impose disadvantage on attack rolls made against them.

If players happen to roll a second high ability score naturally, put it into Constitution to give the Phantom even more staying power. After that, assign ability scores in whatever order feels right for the character, though it’s worth noting that Strength will probably never come into play, making it an ideal candidate for last place.

Why Changeling Is The Best Race For a Phantom Rogue

D&D 5e Changeling race

While the Reborn race from Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft seems well-suited to the moody tone of the Phantom, there’s overlap between the Reborn’s Deathless Nature feature and the Phantom’s soul trinkets. Both grant advantage on death saving throws, a feature which doesn’t meaningfully stack. Players who don’t mind sacrificing a bit of effectiveness in favor of flavor can still take the Reborn, but the best choice is actually the Changeling. Changelings get two bonus skill proficiencies of their choice and can shapeshift to look like anyone, which combines well with their +2 Charisma if the Phantom wants to end up serving as the party’s face for social encounters.

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The Best Feats for Phantom Rogues

Stealthy Rogue Sneak Attack D&D

Since the Phantom Rogue’s only essential stat is Dexterity, this leaves quite a few opportunities to take feats instead of ability score improvements. Which ones players will want to pick up depends on their fighting style. Ranged Rogues will want to pick up Sharpshooter, while players fighting up close should duel-wield a rapier and an offhand dagger with the Defensive Duelist feat. Sharpshooter lets players take a -5 penalty to hit in exchange for a +10 bonus to damage, while Defensive Duelist lets players add their proficiency bonus to their Armor Class once a round.

Regardless of fighting style, Shadow Touched is a great pick. Its +1 to a mental stat can go to Charisma in this case, and use of the Invisibility spell once a day is an amazing boon to any Rogue. If those bonuses weren’t enough, players also get to pick any first-level spell from the Illusion or Necromancy schools. Silent Image is a good choice, giving players another tool in their box of tricks for fooling enemies.

Lucky is a great feat for any character, letting players reroll any die three times a day. Finally, as choices specifically for Rogues, Mage Slayer and Sentinel each grant different ways to make a melee attack as a reaction. Sneak Attack only activates once per turn, but taking an attack as a reaction on a separate round gets around that restriction and can massively up a player’s damage output.

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