What are the most powerful creatures by type in 5th edition? The results might surprise you!
In this post, I have picked out the creature with the highest challenge rating (CR) for each of the 14 categories in the Monster Manual: aberration, beast, celestial, construct, dragon, elemental, fey, fiend, giant, humanoid, monstrosity, ooze, plant, and undead. I have tried to stick to official 5th edition material (supplements and adventures as well as core rulebooks) with only occasional extras like Minsc and Boo’s Journal of Villainy, a DMs Guild release. All entries are correct as of Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, but if I’m wrong, please correct me in the comments.
Warning: mild spoilers ahead. (That said, I don’t think anyone will be massively surprised to learn that Tiamat is the final boss of Rise of Tiamat.)
Aberration: Dyrrn, CR 24 (Eberron: Rising from the Last War)
Dyrnn the Corruptor is one of the Daelkyr, extraplanar creatures native to the realm of Xoriat in the Eberron campaign setting. Bound to Khyber, the underworld, he is considered to be the most powerful of the Daelkyr and is credited with the creation of dolgrims, dolgaunts, and doppelgangers. Surprisingly, in the 2014 Monster Manual, there is no aberration more powerful than the beholder.
Honourable mentions: Ssendam the Slaad Lord of Madness (Minsc and Boo) is CR 23. The elder brain dragon in Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons is CR 22. Belashyrra, another of the Daelkyr, is also CR 22.
Beast: Bhaal, ravager form, CR 24 (Minsc and Boo)
There are two stat blocks for Bhaal in Minsc and Boo: the slayer, which is a CR 20 humanoid, and the ravager, which is a beast and CR 24. Nothing else comes close. The T-Rex in the Monster Manual is CR 8, as is the sperm whale in Icewind Dale: Rise of the Frostmaiden and the huge giant crab in White Plume Mountain. Traxigor (Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus) is CR 12, but since he’s technically a polymorphed mage, I’m not sure that counts.
Celestial: empyrean, CR 23 (Monster Manual)
One of the only monster types where the most powerful example can be found in the Monster Manual. Empyreans closely resemble the titans of previous editions. The angel Aurelia in Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica is also CR 23.
Construct: warforged colossus, CR 25 (Eberron: Rising from the Last War)
This probably won’t surprise anyone, but the warforged colossus is an absolute beast of a stat block. The marut in Monsters of the Multiverse is also CR 25, and Trobriand (Dungeon of the Mad Mage) is CR 22. In the Monster Manual, the most powerful construct is the iron golem: CR 16.
Dragon: aspect of Bahumat or Tiamat, CR 30 (Fizban’s)
These stat blocks are some of the most powerful creatures in all of 5th edition. By comparison, an ancient red dragon is ‘only’ CR 24. The greatwyrms, also in Fizban’s, come close, ranging in CR from 26 to 28. Niv-Mizzet in Ravnica is also CR 26.
Elemental: Maegera the Dawn Titan, CR 23 (Storm King’s Thunder)
(No image for this one! Let me know if an official one exists.)
Considerably more powerful than the final boss of Storm King’s Thunder, Maegera is a gargantuan fire elemental – more powerful in fact than the prince of elemental fire himself! The elder tempest in Monsters of the Multiverse is also CR 23, and the zaratan, also in Monsters of the Multiverse, isn’t far behind at CR 22.
Fey: Iggwilv the Witch Queen, CR 20 (Wild Beyond the Witch Light)
It shouldn’t come as a great surprise that the most powerful fey creature in 5e is in Wild Beyond the Witch Light. Beyond Iggwilv, few fey attain high CRs. The Selesnya guildmaster, Trostani, is CR 18 (Ravnica), and Nintra Siotta in Candlekeep Mysteries is CR 16. Bone of the other fey stat blocks go above CR 10.
Fiend: Tiamat, CR 30 (Rise of Tiamat)
Tiamat again? Yup – different stat block this time. For a while, this was one of only two CR 30 creatures in the game. Two of the Overlords in Rising from the Last War are CR 28, and there’s a bunch of demon lords in the mid-20s such as Orcus and Demogorgon, but Tiamat is considerably more powerful. (One conspicuous omission in 5e so far is Lolth, Queen of Spiders. Given her status as a lesser deity in most previous editions of D&D, I would not be surprised to see a very high CR for her. Maybe an adventure in the works?)
Giant: Borborygmos, CR 18 (Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica)
Again, no official picture for this one!
Giants cap out at a surprisingly low CR. Borborygmos, an enormous cyclops, is CR 18. (His name, by the way, is a pun on borborygmus, a tummy rumble.) The storm giant quintessent in Monsters of the Multiverse is CR 16, and the hundred-handed one in Mythic Odysseys of Theros is CR 15. But that’s it. Storm giants are CR 13 and so are dire trolls, but yep, nothing above CR 20.
Humanoid: Halaster Blackcloak, CR 23 (Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage)
The master of Undermountain is an extremely powerful mage, and, to date, the most powerful humanoid in 5th edition D&D. Two more that come close: the drow matron mother in Monsters of the Multiverse (CR 20, and the Lord of Blades in Rising from the Last War (CR 18). Like Lolth (see fiend, above) we have a conspicuous omission in this category: R A Salvatore’s drow ranger, Drizzt Do’Urden.
Monstrosity: the Tarrasque, CR 30 (Monster Manual)
Did you expect anything else? If you’ve never got to 20th level, the tarrasque is essentially a kaiju (like Godzilla). Have fun. Tromokratis in Theros is CR 26 and the kraken is CR 23. Not much comes close.
Ooze: elder oblex, CR 10 (Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes)
Like giants, oozes are surprisingly low CR. The elder oblex might be the only one to get into double digits. Despite her ooze-like appearance, Juiblex (Monsters of the Multiverse) is actually a fiend. And by the way, it’s Juiblex, not Jubilex.
Plant: treant, CR 9 (Monster Manual)
CR 9? I really want to be wrong about this, but nope, the treant is the most powerful plant creature in 5e. Plants need more love. The tree blight in Curse of Strahd is CR 7.
Undead: Acererak, CR 23 (Tomb of Annihilation)
There’s a bit of competition here: Miirym in Candlekeep Mysteries is CR 23, Lady Illmarrow in Eberron is CR 22, and the Monster Manual lich is CR 21, but Acererak the archlich reigns supreme. Why else would he be on the front cover of the Dungeon Master’s Guide? I hope you’ve got some trickster gods fighting with you or you’re going to have a really hard time. Mwahaha.
Update (10 June 2022): move over Acererak, we have a new undead mastermind in town! D&D Beyond have today released The Vecna Dossier, including stats for Vecna himself. At CR 26, he has some very nasty abilities including enhanced counterspell each turn, flight of the damned, vile teleport, and something called ‘rotten fate’. This is one archlich you don’t want to mess with.
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