D&D 5e: Yuan-Ti Pureblood Race Guide
“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?” – Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Fantasy eugenicists and gene-splicers, the Yuan-Ti Purebloods are the perfect amalgamation of centuries worth of dark magic and study. Their lore is dark, mysterious, and in a word “Lovecraftian”. If you seek a path painted with blood magic, this is the one for you.
As Yuan-Ti society is described in greater detail in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and I recommend the read, there are a few key things you should be aware of before making one yourself. You don’t have to play someone who is particularly “snakey”. You’re a hybrid creature, and the most humanlike of the Yuan-Ti tend to be the ones to leave the caste-based society as spies. Their 5e artwork largely portrays the Purebloods as mostly human-appearing, but you can lean into their snake-like heritage to play something that has more scales, serpentine eyes, and the like. This is D&D, the world is limited only by your imagination (and your DM).
Yuan-Ti Pureblood Traits
–ASI: +2 CHA and +1 INT. This is a great array for CHA focused classes that want to lean into INT based skills. A natural bonus to both of these stats is pretty rare (only seen elsewhere with the Tiefling, or with some races that would allow you to select your boosts). This is going to mean that you’re going to be great at a handful of classes and absolute trash with others, so be careful in your selection.
-Age: Literally the same as a human.
-Size: Literally the same as a human. Medium.
–Speed: 30ft. Solid place to start for a Medium sized race.
–Darkvision: 60ft standard darkvision. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, it’s just good darkvision.
–Innate Spellcasting: You get the Poison Spray cantrip, can cast Animal Friendship an UNLIMITED number of times (but only on snakes), and get access to the Suggestion spell once per long rest at level 3. So, the cantrip is fine, but it can still be easily saved against. Luckily, since CHA is your spellcasting ability for these guys your spell save DC should be decent. Snake-limited Animal Friendship is cool for the flavor, but pretty limited in utility unless you’re in a snake heavy campaign. And Suggestion is a nice piece of utility to grab. While it fits in the Save-or-Suck category spells, if you can pop off this effect, to quote Tim and Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! – “It’s free real estate”.
–Magic Resistance: Advantage on saving throws against spells and magic. This is ALWAYS going to be a powerful effect.
–Poison Immunity: As you might anticipate from the name of the trait, you are immune to both poison and the poisoned condition. Hot. Being poisoned is one of the most annoying things to deal with in all of 5e. This is a free get-out-of-jail-free card. Smart creatures will learn to ignore you quickly though, so you’re party members may be getting poisoned more often than usual.
Yuan-Ti Pureblood Subraces
No Yuan-Ti Pureblood subclasses have been published. Given that they are a monstrous race we will likely never see a Yuan-TI Pureblood subclass.
Best Classes and Archetypes for Yuan-Ti Pureblood
Let’s chat about how I determined these rankings. Generally speaking, I assume that your Ability Score array is not already maximized with 18’s from perfect score rolls at character creation and that you plan to lean into the existing strengths of the Yuan-Ti Pureblood: strong mechanical social ability, avoiding magic damage, and snaking-it-up. At the end of the day, the reasoning comes down to three things:
1) Does the race satisfy the expectations of the class?
2) Does the class synergize with subclass abilities?
3) How easy would it be to get started with this race-class/subclass combo?
You can try to turn D&D 5e into as much of an exact science as you want, but at the end of the day, you need to figure out what works best for your playstyle, your campaign, and your playgroup. Alrighty, here we go!
A plus +1 to INT is going to be welcome here, but CHA is not a focus of the class (it doesn’t come up in its saving throws or selectable skills). However, that doesn’t mean it won’t be useful or that you can’t make good use of a more sociable Artificer. CHA saves aren’t so common, but having a better CHA score means you’ll be in a better position than most Artificers in those situations. Just get a bonus to your INT as soon as possible and you’ll be set up to succeed.
Alchemist: Appreciates the immunity and it is a nice thematic fit for a potion mixer to be protected against poison. Likely the best fit of any of the artificer subclasses for the Pureblood.
Armorer: The immunity to poison is again very welcome (and it is going to be beneficial to every class), but you’re going to struggle to deal damage until you’ve got an INT boost under your belt (which shouldn’t take too long).
Artillerist: Relies super heavily on INT for their damage and utility options. Needs that boost. With it, you’ll be golden.
Battle Smith: Exact same situation as the Artillerist.
The Barbarian is the opposite of what you’re going for. CHA and INT are just not the paths for you. No STR, DEX, or CON in any measure means that this is a hard SKIP.
Ancestral Guardian: Cool options, but you won’t be able to take advantage of them.
Battlerager: Dwarves only, and they are weak anyway.
Beast: Transformations are excellent and you could get a tail that you can ‘flavor-up’ as a snake tail. However, you’re damage and saves are going to be trash.
Berserker: Exhaustion is too steep a price for you to be paying.
Depths: Might as well be restricted to water campaigns.
Juggernaut: Needs STR to break things.
Storm Herald: Love the various elemental options, but this is not a natural fit.
Totem Warrior – Bear: Love the resistances, but you need to be able to do more than take a hit to be a good tank.
Totem Warrior – Eagle: Movement is decent, but your lack-of-CON is going to get you killed.
Totem Warrior – Elk: Needs STR to push people around.
Totem Warrior – Tiger: Jumping is ‘meh’ without a better STR score.
Totem Warrior – Wolf: Probably your best choice here, and it would be easy to reskin as something snake-themed.
Wild Magic: Chaotic abilities. A decent thematic since you are the product of some crazy magic, but this is more “fairy” and less “dark god”.
Zealot: You’ll just be more annoying to kill. This could be a fine pick to get you through all the ability score improvements you’d need to become a half-decent Barbarian.
The +2 to CHA is perfect here, and a +1 to INT is quite good for skills. However, what you’d want for an epic set-up here is a +1 to DEX instead for your saves, AC, and just generally as the god-stat of 5e.
Creation: An excellent path that has comic-book levels worth of utility options available to them.
Eloquence: Their Bardic Inspiration has some of the best effects available to Bards and their spells are not to be trifled with. Never fail a Persuasion check again! Set up your allies’ save-or-suck spells for success. Allies never waste a Bardic Inspiration on a fail. You can effectively DOUBLE your Bardic Inspiration. I can’t get enough of this guy.
Glamour: The glitz and glamour of your Kardashian life will become legend (and might get a Television series that ends but then surprisingly gets rebooted).
Lore: You’d want to boost your WIS to help some additional skills, but you’re in a pretty solid spot with a CHA and INT boost to start.
Maestro: More versatile than the Swords bard, but is going to spend its BI dice very quickly. You’re going to feel a bit like a Sorcerer spending their sorcery points all over the place, but you have less.
Swords: Very straightforward and offers some strong utility in combat in both ranged and melee settings. Excellent take on the “spellsword” archetype.
Valor: Outdated Bard subclasses. Not viable.
Whispers: The impetus for developing stranger danger PSAs. Enjoyable to play in very social-heavy campaigns, especially with your high CHA.
Your INT score can be used for your Hemocraft modifier, so a +1 to INT is nice coming in. However, that’s just a secondary focus. The primary focus is on the more martial ability scores of STR and DEX. You won’t shine based on the stats, but the monstrous aspect of your race and magic resistance means you’ll have a great time fighting magical monsters and spellcasters (fairly likely in the trade of a Blood Hunter).
Ghostslayer: Solid abilities, especially against the undead. Undead are generally immune to poison damage, which may be something you are thematically interested in.
Lycan: Needs a stronger stat array than you’d be able to provide from the get-go. Anticipates close combat.
Mutant: Fairly forgiving in terms of your actual ability scores. Not a bad way to go. Fits the feeling of a character whose very race is the product of experimentation.
Profane Soul: Just play a Warlock at this point. You’ve got the CHA for it.
No WIS. A non-starter. Look at playing a Paladin before going, Cleric. Neither is a great option for you, but at least you’ll have bonuses that the Paladin cares about. Multiple WIS boosts are going to be critical to getting you off the ground. Prioritize WIS as your highest stat in character creation and maybe, MAYBE you’ll be okay.
Arcana: Wizardry Cleric is cool, but you need the WIS to make it work.
Blood: Begs you to have a good WIS score. Could be a good thematic fit with the blood magic of the Yuan-Ti.
Death: Can’t be a good necromancer without the WIS.
Forge: Utility is limited without a good WIS score.
Grave: You’ll be in a grave pretty quick without a better WIS score.
Knowledge: Focuses on WIS and INT skills. Bad.
Life: Meh, just because healing is always going to be welcome, but you’re not going to be doing as good a job at it as you could be. Probably pass.
Light: Spell Saves are going to suck without a good WIS.
Nature: Can’t recommend a Druid either. Needs a WIS boost badly.
Order: Valuable only for its level one ability. Immediately multiclass into something else afterward.
Peace: Meh, only due to the Peace Cleric’s overwhelmingly powerful abilities. You won’t have great spellcasting, but your core abilities are nice.
Tempest: Though the Tempest Cleric is epic in my eyes, it is not great for you. Your spells are going to suck and you’re not going to hit as hard as you’d like to.
Trickery: Thematically, this is a solid fit. Mechanically, I’d pass.
Twilight: Useful as a single level dip to multiclass, otherwise, pass.
War: You’re begging to die, aren’t you? The abilities are solid, but it puts you in melee combat where you do not want to be.
No WIS. This is a definite no go. Your spells need much better saves than what you’re going to have going into this class. You’ll spend too many resources boosting your WIS over multiple Ability Score Improvement opportunities (level 4, 8, etc.) before feeling useful. Just won’t feel great to play.
Dreams: Spell saves are going to make your life sad.
Land: Your spell attack rolls are going to be pretty atrocious.
Moon: Perhaps the only exception here, just because you could transform into a big ol’ snake and that’s thematically a great fit. You’re focus here is largely going to be on buffing yourself and spending slots to heal yourself in Wild Shape. This is a decent tanking option for a Yuan-Ti caster.
Shepherd: Cool abilities and a good thematic fit, but just not a great fit in the end game.
Spores: Surprisingly tanky, but needs WIS to be effective beyond soaking hits.
Stars: My favorite druid right now, but you’ll need multiple WIS boosts to get this guy to where everyone else is at.
Wildfire: Bad Wis. Big Pass.
The martial life is not your best life. As a Fighter, you just won’t have the tools to succeed at the same level as your peers for way too long.
Arcane Archer: Appreciates the INT, but you’ve none of the other stats that this class needs.
Battle Master: Highly versatile, but you’ll have to pick your path very early on and stick to it. You’ll lose out on the fun of the class.
Cavalier: Well, if we’re going to make a suboptimal pick, you might as well have fun and get a mount out of it. I won’t stop you. I can’t stop you.
Champion: Expanded crits are gorgeous, but you won’t be able to hit as frequently with your character anyway, so you’ll be living off the occasional 19.
Echo Knight: Awesome mechanics that you’ll never be able to live up to.
Eldritch Knight: Appreciates the INT, but you’ve got this class wants.
Gunslinger: No DEX. No go.
Psi Warrior: Appreciates the INT, but you’ve got this class wants.
Purple Dragon Knight: More social and gives boosts to allies. This may a halfway decent pick for you, but don’t expect to be the star of the show.
Renegade: No DEX. No go.
Rune Knight: A highly set path from the get-go. Start taking STR and don’t stop.
Samurai: With the CHA from your race, you’re good to just lean into STR or DEX. You’ll hit the social elements of the subclass immediately and you’ll be able to get off the ground faster than other subclasses.
As noted in the fighter, martial life is uncomfortable for you. As a monk, you need DEX, WIS, and a decent helping of CON (if possible) to help take a hit or two. You bring none of that naturally. It’s not your fault, it’s just how the game has been built against you. Going this route is going to be painful and suboptimal.
Ascendant Dragon: Never going to work. A serpentine dragon is cool in theory, and very mythologically sound, but the mechanics are scuffed.
Astral Self: Gonna need to find another option.
Cobalt Soul: Give Zone of Truth a try. No need to punch the truth out of people.
Drunken Master: You’re going to want to drink through your entire session if you go this route.
Four Elements: The subclass is pretty busted, and not in a good way. Just a clunky spellcaster.
Kensei: You’ll feel clunky right until you die.
Long Death: Gonna suffer as much as your enemies do.
Mercy: Let me give you some advice: don’t do this. You won’t heal in any meaningful way.
Open Hand: You could play a basic monk and this would give you a fast idea of why this wasn’t a good choice.
Shadow: If your DM lets you swap your CHA for WIS and DEX, then this (or any other subclass) might be okay. But at that point, you’d just be better off grabbing a different race.
Sun Soul: Ranged options are great to have as a monk, but you’ll never hit the broad side of a barn.
Perhaps the only martial class that you could make it with. You’d need to grab an ability score improvement in STR or DEX at the nearest opportunity, but at that point, you’ll be just fine. Your spellcasting, once you gain access to it, should be solid.
Ancients: You’ll make the most of your spells and your aura effect is hot. Solid thematic fit, nature, and all that.
Conquest: Your Channel Divinity is freaking outrageous (+10 to hit). Your Divine Smites are going to hit and hit HARD.
Crown: Really solid spellcasting options with powerful combat viability. Great pick.
Devotion: You’ll negate charm effects which you already have advantage on saves against. Redundant? Sure. But it’s nice to not have to worry about one more thing.
Glory: Mobility boosts on top of your existing great mobility makes this an epic pick. Plus, you have excellent utility options that will help sustain your allies while you deal damage.
Oathbreaker: With undead friends, this is a great direction to go and you’ll eventually get crazy tanky. With the evil-leaning nature of Yuan-Ti, this could be a cool path to take.
Open Sea: Works well at sea, otherwise, this is a pass.
Redemption: Your spell DC is going to be a good position and you’ll want to boost your CHA even further to make your Rebuke the Violent ability a threat that scales well even until the end-game.
Vengeance: Relentless Avenger is going to turn you into a mobility powerhouse, but it’s more focused on your (not your allies). Determine how much support your party needs because the Vengeance Paladin can be a bit you-focused.
Watchers: Great for a plane-protector style campaign and has some cool skills.
Is it a martial class? Yes. Yes, it is. Do you have the tools to thrive? Kinda. You’ll need to be spending a lot of resources on improving STR or DEX, and you need to give up on WIS entirely.
Beast Master: Maybe talk to your DM about having a big snake friend. That could be interesting thematically, I guess.
Drakewarden: Dragon buddies are always welcome. They will probably help make up for your lack of excellent WIS.
Fey Wanderer: Love getting access to psychic damage, but the damage is wimpy and WIS is a major component of the subclass.
Gloom Stalker: Fantastic damage and this feels like the right thematic fit for a snake-person. Can give you proficiency in WIS, INT or CHA saves. Focused on damage output, so boost your STR or DEX soon!
Horizon Walker: Like the Watcher Paladin, it’s great for planar style campaigns. Access to force damage is sweet. Loads of teleportation options as you level up. Doesn’t care too much about WIS, so you’re good to focus on STR or DEX.
Hunter: Basic Ranger. Feels pigeon-holed rather quickly.
Monster Slayer: Needs a much higher STR to go toe-to-toe with the big fellas.
Swarmkeeper: Kind of just a ‘meh’ subclass on its own. The theme is interesting, but mechanically a little dry.
CHA and INT are both solid secondary stats to focus on as a Rogue, but neither of them is that key DEX stat that we are often looking for. However, that does not mean that the Yuan-Ti Pureblood can’t have a good time here. You’ll just need to boost your DEX, and that’ll be my expectation for taking this class going forward..
Arcane Trickster: Appreciates the INT and the CHA is going to be great for your deception. Trickle in some DEX as you go.
Assassin: This fits the Yuan-Ti theme of poisoning since you get access to the poisoner’s kit (which is fairly rare to come by). Bonus: you can never accidentally poison yourself!
Inquisitive: Needs WIS for your sneak attacks. This is gonna be a pass.
Mastermind: Loves the CHA for deception and impersonations. Best bonus action in the game.
Phantom: Doesn’t care too much about raw stats, so this is a fair pick for any race-combo, in my humble opinion. Thematically a bit silly, but they have some cool effects to take advantage of.
Scout: Beautiful mobility that the Yuan-Ti is lacking, especially since this gives you things to do as a reaction. This would be a great way to go.
Soulknife: Craves a much higher DEX, especially at higher levels. Should be doable over time.
Swashbuckler: More beautiful mobility to take advantage of on your turn. You’ll want to find ways to boost your speed to get the most out of it (i.e. the Mobile feat).
Thief: Classic Rogue option. Can use every magic item out there if you can survive long enough. Keep an artificer around for a good time.
The +2 CHA is a glory to behold for the Sorcerer. Magic resistance is going to be a warm welcome to the class as well (I love any sort of magical resistance on my spellcasters. It just feels right). Thematically, the sorcerer is an interesting one for the Yuan-Ti who claim to have perfected their bloodcraft. How did your bloodline come about?
Aberrant Mind: Super flexible spell list that adds in Warlock and Wizard (divination and enchantment) spells and some excellent abilities. Great.
Clockwork Soul: Tanky sorcerer thanks to their Bastion of Law ability. Great.
Divine Soul: Healer sorcerer. Can’t fault it. The wings will be nice additions for mobility lacking Yuan-Ti. One of the better healing options available to the Yuan-Ti.
Draconic Bloodline: You’ll get wings pretty late. A solid subclass to get some consistent elemental damage.
Rune Child: The ability to overcome resistance or immunity is pretty sick. But you’ll be hurting for sorcery points.
Shadow Sorcery: Teleporting in the darkness/dimness is game breaking if your campaign will have you in the dark regularly.
Storm Sorcery: Controlling the battlefield with Storm’s Fury is going to be a consistent way you manipulate your enemies’ positions by pushing them around.
Wild Magic: It’s only okay unless a DM uses it regularly (i.e. more than the rules recommend), then it becomes very, very fun.
CHA is the bread and butter of the Warlock, so this is a happy find for you. INT is going to be helpful in the case of building out your skills (something many Warlocks tend to ignore). Your innate casting is long rest based (at least your Suggestion spell at level 3), so that doesn’t synergize happily with the short-resting Warlock.
Archfey: Love a misty escape, pair that with your already existing mobility and your game-plan will become very proactive.
Celestial: Loads of utility packed into a cleric-ish package. Make your god worshipping friend’s envious of your Patron that plays an active role in your life.
Fathomless: Wants a water-based campaign. Cool abilities that would make any DM wary of a pool of water.
Fiend: Very sustainable in the early game with some insane damage options into the late game. Saying the words “10d10” will make any DM quiver.
Genie: Your CHA will help your Genie Vessel stay alive and your spells are going to go crazy.
Great Old One: Your CHA will make it much harder for your enemies to get out of your control spells and you’ve got some fun reactivity with Entropic Ward.
Hexblade: Super powerful. You’ll be slicing and dicing until the cows come home.
Undying: Way cool in undead campaigns. Your poison immunity makes you more undead. Hard to take down because they’ll be able to redirect undead attacks. Outside of undead campaigns, they’ll be just fine.
A +1 to INT is a completely reasonable starting point. Something higher would always be better, but you can make this work, especially by picking up Ability Score Improvements and/or INT-boosting feats down the line. Your goal will be to get at least a +4 to INT abilities as soon as you can. Avoid concentration spells where possible, unless you think you can swing splitting your focus between boosting your CON and your INT.
Abjuration: Love a good defensive spell. Wants a higher CON.
Artificer: Just play the Artificer class.
Bladesinging: Elf restricted, but I think they are one of the most fun subclasses with a high INT. If your DM lets you swing it, I’d say go for it.
Chronurgist: One of the strongest subclass abilities in the game with Chronal Shift. Limited uses do balance it out though.
Conjuration: Powerful summons in the late game, until then, a bit milk-toasty.
Divination: Best ability in the game. “Pick-your-reroll” is a mini-game within D&D that will drive your DM crazy.
Enchantment: The save-or-suck aspect of most of these spells makes this subclass an auto-skip.
Evocation: You’ll be able to get off your attacks reliably enough, and after an INT boost or two, your spell save DC should be in a decent place.
Graviturgist: I like their effects and I think gravity magic is a very useful effect. Moving enemies around the battlefield and altering the weight of allies/enemies is super cool.
Illusion: Creative options require a very creative player. Not great if you have a DM that is going to “see through” everything. Otherwise, could be a great option to mess with your enemies.
Necromancy: Not great. Can’t have a hoard of undead.
Order of Scribes: Spell collecting is a great time, and this gives one of the most interesting defensive options in the late game (i.e. lose spells temporarily to mitigate damage).
Transmutation: Play the Artificer.
War Magic: Arcane Deflection is hot for an AC boost and you should be able to put out some reasonable damage.
Racial Feats/Best Feats
The Yuan-Ti Pureblood has no racial feats at this time. With Magic Resistance and Poison Immunity, we already have a pretty strong kit granted by the race, so we likely will never see a Yuan-Ti-specific racial feat. However, there are still plenty of feats to choose from that could help a variety of approaches to the race.
–Lucky: Just the most busted feat out there of all time. And it will never get old. In a world of Random Number Generation, rerolls are King. Plus, this will make it so you should seldom fail a save against a spell ever again.
–Mobile: You don’t naturally get a mobility bonus anywhere in the Yuan-Ti Pureblood racial traits, so picking one up at level four is not a bad way to go. 40 movement speed is more than most classes/races will ever see, so that’s something to cherish.
–Spellsniper: While the Yuan-Ti Pureblood doesn’t have to be a caster to do alright, they are primed to take up positions as Bards, Sorcerers, and Warlocks. I’d recommend this as a mobility mitigator. If they can’t get to you within 100s of feet without getting shredded with your spells, then it doesn’t matter if you can only move 30ft (which isn’t bad to begin). Also, I’d recommend snagging the Warlock spell Eldritch Blast with this one, since this boosts it to 240ft of range.