An avenging angel or a maddened unicorn – celestials are badass creatures that can make for some epic encounters in D&D 5E, yet the fact that most angelic creatures are described as lawful good makes it easier said than done for the DM to pit the party against a celestial in a meaningful encounter.
So, in this article, we’re giving you our list of the top 5 most fun celestials in 5E – and ideas to how you can implement them in your game!
Before diving into our picks of the most awesome celestials in 5E, let me just start by saying that celestials are a rare breed in 5E.
With less than 30 celestial creatures across all official publications from Wizards of the Coast – compared to more than 150 dragons – it’s literally the most underrepresented monster type in D&D.
Why is that, you ask? Well, why would the party ever want to fight a celestial is probably what we should be asking. Unless you’re running a campaign for a band of unicorn-hunting, angel-slaying villains, chances are that most of the celestials you’ll find are simply described as too kind-hearted creatures to ever make for a combat-scenario with the characters.
So, unless you’re deciding that celestials are just there to act as divine agents, guiding the heroes on their path in various roleplay scenarios rather than being fought, you’ll need to consider the reasons for the creature to fight the characters in the first place. To make your life just a tad easier, I’ll be including some tips for doing just that for each of my top 5 celestials!
With that said, let’s have a look at the top 5 coolest celestials in 5E in no particular order.
1. Solar, Planetar, and Deva
Out of the 7 celestials in the Monster’s Manual, the deva, planetar, and solar share a single trait – they’re all super-lawful, angelic humanoids with a high Challenge Rating and searing angelic weapons. They’re also pretty bland and not very useful in combat encounter scenarios.
So, why do I put these angels on my top list? Well, because angels are super cool. Everyone has a mental picture of an angel – and hey, angels might be depicted as too righteous to raise arms in D&D 5E, but that’s far from the case if you turn to the good ol’ bible.
Sometimes, the too-good-to-smite-mortal type of angel acting as a divine guide is just what your campaign needs, but if you take a deva (CR 10), a planetar (CR 16), or a solar (CR 21) and give it a reason to fight the characters, you’ll suddenly have a really badass foe that’ll strike terror into any seasoned adventurer – and make for a memorable encounter!
To do so, you basically just need to find some cause for the angels’ corruption and perhaps make a few thematically fitting changes to its statblock.
For example, the forsaken deva from our new sourcebook Heretic’s Guide to Devotion & Divinity is a deva driven mad by the loss of their god, turning the majestic celestial into a savage creature.
What we’ve done is basically give the deva’s statblock a dark twist (and added a bit more dynamic actions, but that’s another story!) as well as a backstory that makes it a plausible creature to encounter for any adventuring party! Leading us to:
2. Ashen Rider, Deathpact Angel, Radiant Idol
Evil is good when it comes to making cool combat encounters for your party, but aside from a few campaign-specific celestials, there are really only three celestials that are (lawful) evil across all 5E publications. Those are the ashen rider, the deathpact angel, and the radiant idol.
Ashen riders are bitter and resentful archons from Mythic Odysseys of Theros that are set on stopping the spread of human civilization, making them quite easy to fit into any campaign. Of course, facing a Challenge Rating 16 celestial can put an abrupt end to most campaigns, but the ashen rider definitely deserves a spot on this list.
The deathpact angel (CR 14) from Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica and the radiant idol (CR 11) from Eberron: Rising from the Last War have different background stories but both like to pose as benificent gods flashing their divine powers and bestowing blessings not out of kindness but to gather fanatical followers. I smell an adventure hook here!
While I love the idea behind these lawful evil angels, they do share the unfortunate trait of having a relatively high Challenge Rating. So, if you want a mad angel running a fanatical cult for a lower-level party, you’ll want to make a weaker version of their statblock.
In Heretic’s Guide to Devotion & Divinity we’re introducing 30+ celestial foes and other seraphic horrors, many of which are of a much lower Challenge Rating than the all-powerful angels we’ve looked at so far – so, if that sounds interesting to you, check it out on Kickstarter.
Next up on the list, we have the couatl, a serpent-like celestial that I usually misspell. What I really like about the couatl is the combination of some cool abilities that work in and out of combat and a low Challenge Rating of 4, which makes the couatl a suitable encounter even for a low-level party.
Ancient and few, couatls are described as divine caretakers created to guard ancient sites of power by a long-forgotten god. Of course, a couatl is a lawful good creature and all, but if the party starts pilfering from some ancient tomb, it’ll totally make sense to have its sacred guardian attack the party in return. The beauty here is that it would be one of those encounters where the party might actually secure an ally if they care to explain to the couatl their noble intentions.
Like angels or dragons, unicorns are one of the fantasy creatures most of us have seen or heard about from somewhere – something of a hallmark for the genre, so to say.
So, of course, a unicorn deserves a spot on this list. Despite its relatively low Challenge Rating of 5, the unicorn statblock comes with numerous cool abilities, including a bunch of Legendary Actions which makes it much more suitable as a final encounter and some flavorful regional effects.
That said, the characters might not have any good reasons to fight a majestic unicorn protecting a holy shrine… unless, of course, the unicorn has somehow been corrupted! Perhaps the sacred shrine the unicorn was protecting has been corrupted, or maybe its forest has been burned down by humanoids, leaving the unicorn in a vengeful state of mad fury.
Whatever the case, you can also do a few tweaks to the unicorn’s statblock, for example fitting it with cool abilities (pun intended) as we did with the rimefrost unicorn we once made over at https://www.patreon.com/eventyr.
Hollyphants are miniature elephants with luminous gold fur and super tiny wings that give it a 120 ft. fly speed. They also treasure friendship. And honesty. So, why is this cute celestial creature on a list of the “most awesome celestials”?
Well, one reason is that it’s a cute whimsical little critter that could make for a fun non-combat encounter – perhaps the hollyphant has stolen an item in an attempt to play keep-away and make friends, or maybe the party have to catch it in order to save it.
I mean, having the party struggle to catch a super fast hollyphant flying around with the wizard’s spellbook while trumpeting in joy sounds like lots of fun to me!
The other reason for the hollyphant being on this list is that aside from a few other monsters like a pegasus, a lion-like felidar, a few quirky space-celestials from Spelljammer, and some additional angelic creatures I didn’t care to mention, you just won’t find any more celestials in 5E.
Which is, of course, a shame!
Honorable Mention: Godblood Ooze
The godblood ooze technically isn’t a celestial, and instead of Wizards of the Coast, it’s written by us at Eventyr Games. Yes, this honorable mention is a shameless shoutout to our own upcoming sourcebook Heretic’s Guide to Devotion & Divinity which will feature 30+ new divine foes.
So, if you’re like us and feel the divine is lackluster in 5E, grab a free 20-page sample filled with divine awesomeness, including a ready-to-play relic hunt, celestial foes, and sacred magic items – and check out Heretic’s Guide to Devotion & Divinity on Kickstarter!
That’s our picks for the most awesome celestials in 5E. Let us know in the comments if you agree with our selections! While there aren’t too many options to choose from, I do think that the celestials we’ve picked here can make for some fun and interesting encounters, and even a starting point for an adventure – except perhaps for the hollyphant, which is just odd and cute.
If you want to bring a spark of divine inspiration to your 5E game with vengeful celestials, sacred relics, divine oaths, and guidelines to help the DM expand the divine in their setting, check out our upcoming sourcebook Heretic’s Guide to Devotion & Divinity here.