In addition to a character builder and online rules source, D&D Beyond also has a blog, and that blog just posted Monk 101: Way of the Four Elements. This article notes
Regrettably, the Way of the Four Elements is not only one of the weakest monk subclasses, it’s one of the weakest subclasses in the Player’s Handbook.
... and gives reasonable justification for that statement. Then, it proposes:
If your Dungeon Master is willing to use house rules, consider using the following house rules to buff the Way of the Four Elements subclass:
- Reduce the ki cost of all Elemental Disciplines by 2 (to a minimum of 1). This cost reduction is applied after you spend additional ki to raise the spell’s level. For example, the Fist of Four Thunders discipline lets you cast thunderwave for 2 ki. This cost is reduced to 1. Casting the spell at 2nd level increases the ki cost to 3, but it still only costs 1 ki point after the cost reduction of 2 points.
- At 3rd level, you learn the Elemental Attunement discipline as normal, and two other disciplines of your choice (instead of just one).
- You learn two new disciplines at 6th, 11th, and 17th level (instead of just one), and can replace any discipline you know with another one that you meet the level requirements to learn when you gain a level in this class.
- You can also learn two cantrips of your choice from the following list: acid splash, fire bolt, mold earth, produce flame, ray of frost, shocking grasp. When you gain a level in this class, you can replace one of these cantrips with another instead of replacing an elemental discipline with another. (If you have other sources, such as Xanathar’s Guide to Everything or Elemental Evil Player’s Companion, you can choose other cantrips from those sources that deal acid, cold, fire, or lightning damage, or have an otherwise elemental theme, with your DM’s permission.)
As a DM, I want my players to have fun and I want them to be able to choose options that seem interesting without falling into "trap" classes which seem cool but turn out to be frustrating to play; on the other hand, I don't want to just throw out home-brew options that are more powerful than the standard choices.
While the D&D Beyond rules section is official, this blog is really ... just a blog, and I don't think they have any particular insight into behind-the-curtains D&D design (although obviously they have contact with and work closely with the designers). But, D&D Beyond also has a central sort of voice, and while I've seen several home-brew attempts at "fixing" this subclass (including here), it seems like if this one is reasonable enough it might be something that 5E gamer consensus kind of builds around.
So... how reasonable is it? Does it achieve the goal of bringing the subclass into line?
- Is this variant reasonably balanced against the other monk subclass options?
- Is it comparable to other "third-caster" classes like Eldritch Knight or Arcane Trickster? What about to "half-casters" like Ranger and Paladin?