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Diablo 3 PTR Testing: Monk Skill Buffs and Elite Modifers

Posted 1 Feb 2013 by

Yesterday’s Diablo 3 PTR report covered the new crafting recipes and their hypothetical economic ramifications. Today’s is all about gameplay stuff, including the new/upgraded Monk skills, the changes to some Boss monster affixes, and various general game balance issues.

As I said in yesterday’s report, I didn’t test everything, but I did several quick MP1 and MP2 farming runs of Act 3, hit Acts 1 and 2 for the sake of comparison, spent all my gold and Demonic Essences on new crafting recipes, and basically kicked the tires and slammed the doors a few time after a short test drive.

Monster Elite Modifier Changes

Three DiabloWikiElite Modifiers are being changed in v1.07, and I ran into all three of them several times.

DiabloWikiPlagued

Plagued was bumped up in damage by 120%. For the mathematically disinclined, that’s more than double, and it’s definitely noticeable. In v1.06 my Monk is indifferent to the green ground splashes, but I nearly died to a Plagued boss in my first game on the PTR last night, mostly since I ignored it as usual and took a moment to wonder why my hit points were plunging.

How much this effect bothers you will vary entirely by your hit points, leech, resistance, and color blindness, but if you’re used to ignoring Plagued like I was, you might have to check yourself before thou wreckest thyself.

To give you a general idea, my Monk was in a bit more survival gear than his usual max-MF farming getup. On the PTR he was running with about 650 Res All, 54k hps, and 600 LoH when he had to hotstep out of the Plagued. For the sake of comparison, in my usual farming gear that character is maybe 510 Res All and 47k hps, and he can ignore Plagued like it’s not even there.


DiabloWikiMolten

Molten damage has been reduced by 40% and that was also noticeable. Naturally, the first several Elites I got with Molten had Plagued or DiabloWikiDesecrator as well, so it was hard to judge just how much less damaging Molten was by itself, but it did seem less dangerous than now and roughly equivalent to the new version of Plagued.

To put that into context, in v1.06, my Monk in farming gear is pretty indifferent to standing in Molten unless it’s really stacked up from fast moving enemies. He can ignore single Molten explosions, though he has to scoot away when several are going off at once, or when he’s low on hit points.


DiabloWikiReflects Damage

I wrote an article about the new Reflects Damage a couple of weeks ago, so check that for a fuller report. Here’s from the official v1.07 patch notes, plus last night’s update:

The Reflects Damage affix has been redesigned:

* It will now apply a short duration buff to the monster and will only reflect a percentage of damage dealt back to the player while that buff is active.
* A visual effect will display whenever the durational buff is active.
* Damage dealt by pets to monster with Reflects Damage affix will no longer be reflected back to the player.
* (NEW) Damage reflected back from the Reflects Damage affix should now be capped at 10% of the monster’s current health pool (overkill damage is not considered in the reflect).

The notes don’t mention it, but the visual has been changed as well, and it’s a definite improvement. I put some screens in the article from two weeks ago, and reported that the graphic of small swirling orange swords was far too subtle. Not only was it hard to see in close combat, but it was hard to see even by itself, when the monster was on a bright background.

RD. Also, bewbs.

RD. Also, bewbs.

The shots in this section are from tonight and show the new graphic. It’s basically the same, but with a lot more orange spikes that no longer have a sword shape, which makes it a lot more visible. As you can see in the pics below, it’s still kind of tough to see in melee combat (especially for my Monk with Sweeping Wind tornadoes and explosions flashing non-stop), and I still think that eligible monsters who are not currently active should show something to indicate that they might soon become spiky. But it’s a lot better than it was 2 weeks ago.

As for the damage from the effect, I actually found it more noticeable than it is currently, but that was probably because my Monk had higher damage (thanks to Monk skill buffs and me changing my gear from MF to DPS for PTR experimentation). Reflects Damage does require you to pay some attention now, which I think was the goal of the devs.

Basically it’s like DiabloWikiShielding, in that you want to hit the monsters that don’t have it active. This means nothing if you’re all AoE, but even though my Monk’s damage with DiabloWikiSweeping Wind and DiabloWikiFists of Thunder is mostly AoE, I did notice a big difference in how much RD I was taking, depending on which enemy I was targeting. As you can see in the shots below, the effect can be active on more than one monster at once (unlike Shielding). So it’s not just one monster you need to watch out for; between an Elite and her 5 minions there will usually 3 or 4 with RD active at a time.

I didn’t get it enough to study it that closely, but the effect is generally live on about 2/3 of the eligible monsters at once, and presumably each one has their own timer, since it can be active even when there’s only one monster left. (Unlike Shielding.)

Characters with far higher DPS than EHP will now be able to take on RD bosses without suffering instant death, but you’ll have to be careful, especially with a ranged or area attack as you can have shots in motion or tornadoes spinning when the RD cycles between different Champions or Minions.

Click through for much more, including discussion of the Monk’s considerably skill buffs. (My monk found them quite delightful.)

Monk Skill Changes

Here’s the full list from the Patch Notes:

Active Skills

* DiabloWikiCyclone Strike — Weapon damage increased from 100% to 313%.
* DiabloWikiDashing Strike — Weapon damage increased from 160% to 303%.
* DiabloWikiExploding Palm — Explosion damage increased from 30% to 50% of the target’s maximum health.
* DiabloWikiInner Sanctuary — Radius increased from 8 yards to 11 yards.
** Skill Rune – DiabloWikiForbidden Palace — Damage bonus increased from 10% to 15%.
** Skill Rune – DiabloWikiSanctified Ground — Now reduces enemy movement speed by 80% (up from 60%).
* DiabloWikiLashing Tail Kick — Weapon damage increased from 235% to 470%.
* DiabloWikiMystic Ally — The amount of damage a Mystic Ally can take from a single hit is now capped. The cap scales with the player’s level, and is further reduced by the player’s Armor and Resistance.
** Skill Rune – DiabloWikiEternal Ally — Weapon Damage increased from 40% to 60%. The Eternal Ally now has a 100% chance to be reborn after 3 seconds (up from 50% and down from 5 seconds).
** Skill Rune – DiabloWikiFire Ally — The cooldown of the Fire Ally’s special attack has been reduced from 8 seconds to 4 seconds.
** Skill Rune – DiabloWikiWater Ally — The Water Ally’s special attack now reduces enemy movement speed by 60% (up from 30%). The cooldown of the Water Ally’s special attack has been reduced from 8 seconds to 4 seconds.
* DiabloWikiSweeping Wind — Base weapon damage increased from 15% to 20% per stack.
** Skill Rune – DiabloWikiBlade Storm — Weapon damage increased from 20% to 26% per stack.
** Skill Rune – DiabloWikiCyclone — Weapon damage increased from 20% to 26% per stack.
* DiabloWikiTempest Rush — Weapon Damage increased from 85% to 155%
* DiabloWikiWave of Light — Weapon damage increased from 390% to 829%.


Monk Passive Skills
* DiabloWikiNear Death Experience — Dying will now reset the cooldown.

Bug Fixes
* Fixed an issue where Sweeping Wind was not actively updating its damage and attributes from the player.
* (NEW) Cyclones generated by Sweeping Wind should now travel roughly in the same direction that the player is facing.

A glance will show you a lot of skill damage buffs, and these aren’t all just to minor skills no one uses. Sweeping Wind: Cyclone is 3rd most popular Monk skill in the game, and it’s quite powerful *now*.


Sweeping Wind

The skill (for non-Monk players) creates a sort of aura that deals constant weapon damage to every enemy within 10 yards of the Monk. The most popular rune effect is Cyclone, which sends out little blue tornadoes with Critical Hits, and they zap everything in range (it’s a long range, much like the zaps from the DH’s Ball Lightnings) for another 26% weapon damage (up from 20%).

So the base version of Sweeping Wind now does what the Blade Storm rune effect used to do, and to compensate that one’s been raised from 20% to 26% base, which will stack up three times to 78% weapon damage. A nice buff, but not amazing. Note that other tidbit they sneaked into the patch changes under a bug fix, though. “Cyclones generated by Sweeping Wind should now travel roughly in the same direction that the player is facing.”

After some time on the PTR I can safely report that this makes a HUGE difference. Currently the tornadoes mostly go backwards or sideways from the target you’re hitting. This isn’t awful since the tornadoes have pretty good range on their zapping, so they’ll hit whatever you’re hitting, but they seldom hit anything behind your target. What they mostly do is hit monsters behind you, so I suspect a lot of you other Monk players do what I do, which is to run (or Tempest Rush) into the midst of a huge group of enemies before you start your melee attack. This brings enemies in from all directions, but all the ones beside and behind you get chewed up by the Sweeping Wind, and especially by the Tornadoes.

I’ve often dealt with dangerous Elites by moving away from them and beating down defenseless trash mobs for the LoH healing, while still dealing excellent damage to the big guys behind me thanks to the dozens of tornadoes that go spinning out.

This will no longer work in v1.07.

In compensation, you will do a lot more damage to your target thanks to all the tornadoes pushing past it, and you will do huge damage to any enemies behind your target, since those guys used to hardly get hit at all by the cyclones. Thanks to this change (and the damage boost as well) I found my killing time considerably faster, especially against enemies that bunched up. I could chew through huge packs much more quickly since my tornadoes were always going forward and softening up everything before I even landed a punch.

It might take some getting used to; you do much less damage to enemies to the rear than you’re used to, but you do much more to those ahead of you, so expect to learn some new battle positioning. The pic below I took while harvesting the Skeleton King for a new Crafting Recipe and it really shows which direction the tornadoes head in. I’m just surprised that this is a “bug fix” rather than a skill improvement. So we should have had this all along? Ragerageragearglebarglecheeseburger!

New and improved Cyclones from Sweeping Wind.

New and improved Cyclones from Sweeping Wind.


Exploding Palm

Not as popular a Monk skill, but I’ve found this one very useful when grinding on higher MP levels and keyruns. It deals some DoT to the monster you target, but the real boost comes if the monster dies with the debuff still active, since it explodes and deals damage based on its hit points to all enemies in a (fairly small) range.

It was actually quite useful even at just 30% damage, especially against Champions, since the first one you killed would almost always finish off the other two or three, if they were crowded in and taking damage from your Sweeping Wind and AoE combo attack the whole time. Now that this one deals 50% of the monster’s hit points, it’s even better… for those who use it.

If the Monk had some huge damage single target attack, this might create some potentially-clever tactics against bosses, since there’s no cap on the explosion; if you kill a boss with this effect on them, everything in range takes 50% of the bosses hit points. And since Bosses have much higher hit points than their minions (much less regular monsters) it’s instant death. As such it’s almost unfortunate that Monks have so many AoE and multi-target attacks, since those make it hard *not* to kill all the minions and trash mobs nearby before the boss dies itself.

Like I said though, this is amazing against Champions, and theoretically you could devastate the second big boss while fighting the Infernal Machine events.


Tempest Rush

DiabloWikiTempest Rush is (currently) an amazing support skill. Most Monks use it to dash between groups of enemies, and with enough Spirit Regen you can use it quite extensively, basically slashing through/past all the trash mobs and only pausing for really big groups, or when you find the next boss pack.

It’s not (quite) capable of functioning as a full time, main skill though (barring exceptional equipment). For most Monks the Spirit costs are too high and/or the damage is too low, so even with Sweeping Wind at three stacks, and Breath of Heaven: Blazing Wrath for your DPS boost, trash mobs don’t die with a single pass. (Not that making a second pass, or circling around them, is hard to do.)

That will change in v1.07, and even without any equipment changes to my Fist/Shield Monk in max MF gear, I found Tempest Rush fully-capable of killing 75% of trash mobs from a single pass. It’s basically the Monk version of the Barb’s Spin2Win build, where you can just run past/through things and watch them die seconds behind you from tornadoes. This is thanks to the huge boost to Tempest Rush damage (up from 85% to 155%) and Sweeping Wind damage (up from 45% to 60%) and Sweeping Wind Cyclones (up from 20% to 26%).

Nothing has been changed to make the Spirit costs more affordable though, so most players will still need to use Circular Breathing, and special passives, and specific gear to meet the resource cost. (Perhaps next patch Monks will get a ridiculously OP skill like Fist of Az Turrasq that hugely boosts movement speed, and damage, and more than pays for itself while in use.)

Before some nitpicker goes crazy in comments, yes Tempest Rush can be used almost full time now, as some Monk rushing videos show. But like Jason Bourne you’ve got to fully commit to the program, which generally means using a two-handed weapon (which means Skorn) with The Guardian’s Path passive and probably Exalted Soul and/or Chant of Resonance as well. Which can work in v1.06 but is borderline suicidal if you’re Hardcore or not super-geared, and forces you to hit very slowly (unsatisfying) when you pause to use something other than Tempest Rush to generate Spirit or kill a boss.

In v1.07 it’s possible deal much higher damage from Tempest Rush, without resorting to the awkward two-handed option, and I envision dual-wielding Monks with a pair of Spirit-generating fist weapons going berserk with full time Tempest Rush, only stopping to punch (at super fast dual-wielding speed) when they encounter an Elite. It’s enough to make me wish my Fist of Az Turrasq didn’t have a terrible roll on the inherent Spirit regen, since a good value on that would be enough to make up the plodding-slow Spirit cost difference between Northern Breeze and Tailwind.


Final Word

On the whole I’m excited about v1.07, despite my almost total disinterest in the zero-feature-added D2-style dueling system we’ve been abandoned to. My current fave class is getting a big boost to several of skills I actually use, most of the new crafting recipes seem pretty interesting, and there are a bunch of other useful changes as well. (Though I’d hoped for more big changes to class balance, fixes to “farm act 3 only” problems, and other major changes.)

You guys finding things to like and look forward to? Have you tried it out on the PTR yet?