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Strategy Build – The Monk… Not So Bad After All!

Posted 15 Dec 2012 by

The Monk gets a bad rap in Diablo III.

Monk: Hop to it.

Monk: Hop to it.

He was supposed to be this Paladin-esque party leader, with tanking skills and auras and natural speed and agility and hit and run attacks. And he is that, sort of, but compared to the OP/broken Spin2Win Barb build all other melee character options seem absurd, and when it comes to MP3 Act 3 farming, in DiabloWikiAlkaizer Runs or the like, the Monk lacks the raw speed of a Sprinting Barb or a Vaulting Demon Hunter. On top of that, the Monk endures a final complaint; that he lacks an interesting skill play set which makes the best use of Spirit repeatedly refreshing your Aura for the 3 second double-bonus.

I can’t exactly dispute either of those complaints, but I can say that I recently played my first Monk (well, Nun, since she’s female) through all of Inferno, and then did a few runs to experiment with my build on MP3-5, and I was amazed at how sturdy the character was. I’ve done all five classes through Inferno and into end game runs, and the Monk was easily the best survivor with the worst gear. Equipped mostly in mediocre twinks, with his only Auction House gear a weapon, a shield, and couple of pieces of armor, none of which cost over 500k, my Monk cruised through Inferno on MP1 (I turned it up since it was pointlessly easy/boring in MP0) and was able to survive quite well and even scored me a pair of keys when I tested him out in a quick MP3 run on Act 3, and then an MP5 run on Act 2.

Admittedly, the MP5 was too much; she could survive okay, but the killing speed was pathetic and almost laughable. On a Extra Health or Health Link bosses I was tempted to revisit the D2 Izual technique of putting a rubber band around the mouse to hold down the left click so I could go get a snack while the endless whittle-them-down battle continued on without me. [But that would have taken even longer in D3, since I needed to be there to refresh my DiabloWikiBlazing Wrath. (db)]

So no, the Monk with mediocre gear wasn’t some amazing miracle of a killing machine, but she was an amazing miracle of survival. This was my fifth class through Inferno, and there is no way any of the others would have survived on MP0, much less MP3 runs, with equivalent quality of gear. (With the possible exception of the WD, since minions are awesome tanks now, but my WD went through with much better twinked gear than the Monk had)

Monk Build Me Bad

So what was my secret formula? Meh, nothing so secret. I didn’t consult any builds or guides, though I would certainly have learned stuff from reader expert conversation of the sort you see in our Monk Strategy Forum. I tried a variety of builds, and checked the most popular Monk skills via, but didn’t follow any build.

Here’s the build I used to get through Acts 2-4 of Inferno, on MP1, without any deaths, though I experimented with Mantra of Healing and Mantra of Conviction, and now, with a bit better gear, I’m using the standard Mantra of Conviction: Overawe. (Which greatly improves the killing speed, but ironically makes me very vulnerable to DiabloWikiReflects Damage, which I had no trouble with previously, even in my one test game on MP5, since I didn’t do enough damage for the reflection to out-point my regen and Life on Hit.)

Build here

I went with a defensive build since I had crappy equipment and couldn’t kill things quickly, so I opted to not let them kill me while I gradually wore them down. The Cyclone effect on Sweeping Wind is really what makes the character fun, since every time you crit you send out a little blue tornado that zaps everything with crackling little lightning bolts. This makes the Monk a moving AoE generator, where you deal more damage the more targets you have nearby. Even in my lame gear I was soon running past all single monsters and only stopping to fight when I had a ton of them in sight, or when I found a boss.

Lightning tornadoes make for tasty visual candy.

Lightning tornadoes make for tasty visual candy.

Click through for much more, including a brief discussion of shields and the importance of blocking %, critical hit vs. socket weapon recommendations, the amusement of an Echoing Fury as a melee weapon, and general Monk strategy and MF issues.


The other odd thing was using a shield. I did some of that in the early days with my Barb, but it’s not an item that gets much use in Softcore Diablo III. I’d never found a decent one so I had to go shopping, but possibly since Monks aren’t used that much, and all the well-equipped Monks dual wield for faster killing speed, really good shields were available for dirt cheap in the GAH. When your time comes to shop, be sure you hard at the blocking percentage. The way the Ah handles it pet peeves me, since you can use +blocking% as one of the affixes, but there’s no way to just sort all the shields by their blocking percentage. (Shields have a varying inherent block %; it’s like 10-20% for most shields, so a shield with a good roll and zero added blocking % might actually have MORE blocking than a shield with a bad roll and an affix that adds to the blocking %.)

It’s not clear that most AH shield merchants realize this, or else they’re hoping that you won’t, since I saw high level shields with blocking from 12% to 27%, and seemingly no correlation between that and their prices. Prices varied by the affixes; critical hit change, res all, dexterity, vitality, etc, but shields with similar affixes were priced similarly, even though one had 14% blocking and the other had 25% blocking. Initially I used a twinked shield with 18% blocking and good bonuses to Dex and Vit. Once into Inferno I bought, for like 300k, a shield with similar dex and vit, bigger critical hit chance, and arcane resistance (my OWE special) and best of all, 27% blocking. It made an immediate, very noticeable difference in how much I could tank (all I wanted), thanks to the higher blocking and higher damage absorbed per block, and I laughed as I thought of the shields with slightly better stats, but half the blocking %, priced at two or three times what I paid for my superior board.

So yeah, check the blocking percentage. Even though you have to mouse over every single shield hover to do so, since the GAH still sort of sucks in some basic usability ways.

Look At Them Go!

One other amusing thing from my leveling up was my weapon. Initially I was using an Echoing Fury I’d found. Not an amazing one; 1100 DPS, 150ish Dex, and moderate critical hit damage. It would have cost 1m or so, and it was good enough for me to do a bit more Monking; it certainly out pointed any of the Fists I’d found, despite having experienced (endured?) quite a few Monk orange weapon discoveries. I’ve actually found 7 or 8 legendary Fists in Inferno, (compared to 2 Wizard wands, 3 WD knives, 3 bows, and 2 Barb weapons) but they’ve all sucked. All with mediocre seeds and all of this or this weapon, rather than the one Fist that players actually want.)

Not quite the perfect Monk weapon.

Not quite the perfect Monk weapon.

So, I used the Echoing-ing-ing Fury-ry-ry. It had decent stats and much higher DPS than any of the Fists I’d ever found, and my WD uses his own Echoing Fury (though which he somehow blows poisonous darts) and likes it. What I’d never really noticed while using it on the WD though, is that an inherent mod on that hammer is a % chance to fear the target. That’s largely irrelevant for the WD, but it was a constant issue for the Monk. It was hilarious or hilariously-annoying, depending on the circumstance. The annoying part came forward against bosses, and especially when I did some trials on MP3-5, since every battle consisted of every monster constantly running away.

They only ran fora second, seldom moving more than 10 or 20 feet, before the effect wore off and they came back for more. It was not bad in big packs since it constantly thinned the number of enemies trying to hit me, and it was awesome against big single targets, like Mallet Lords and Golgors and Tremors, since I’d hit them, they’d run away, and I’d follow, doing that little first hit teleport with Thunderclap, and basically backslaps them until they died, unresisting.

On the other hand… DiabloWikiMolten. Molten, DiabloWikiFire Chains, DiabloWikiPlagued. Those guys, Molten especially, where a complete pain since I couldn’t get in position in front of the monsters and hold my ground. They’d retreat out of hitting range and force me to follow. Worst, that cute little hop step teleport with DiabloWikiThunderclap would automatically follow after them, teleporting me a few feet right into the trail of flames behind the monster. (Which were generally not visible yet, right on the monster’s heels, but which still hurt.)

Even when bosses didn’t have those mods it got really annoying chasing them around the level and trying to steer them into a corner. Plus it was inefficient for killing speed; every second walking is a second not spent hitting, and walking bosses were constantly moving out of range of my Cyclone tornadoes.

Magda got stuck, afeared.

Magda got stuck for a good 30 seconds.

There was one benefit, though. Amusement.

It was funny watching huge monsters run away, and the movement speed of monsters varied wildly. Most of the time it was predictable, with fast monsters coming in quickly and going out much the same, but occasionally I’d get a monster or boss that moved away much faster. I don’t remember the actual name, but one Unique brawler in Act Three, those big red guys who look like Fallen on steroids, ambled in, then got hit and sprinted away at literally five times the usual speed. In less than a second it vanished off the edge of the screen — I’m talking a even quicker than a Tremor boss with DiabloWikiFast speed — before returning at the same very slow walking pace it had shown before.

It was like an anti-car, moving much faster in reverse than in forward, and it reminded me of any of the thousands of “watch me scare my friend” YouTube videos, where someone gets frightened, takes about three sprinting steps, before lurching to a halt and then sheepishly stumbling back to their original position. And usually trying to hit their laughing friend when they get there.

Magda actually got bugged by it. You can’t really tell in the pic, but I got her into that corner and some combination of the fear and all the tornadoes had her stuck for literally 20 or 30 seconds between each stage of her transformation. I never moved and never stopped hitting her, and I’d take off the allowed 1/3 of health in about .5 seconds, and then she’d just float there, bowing up and down, for half a minute before she’d finally manage to cast her shield and summon her dudes. Who would die in .5 seconds to all of the tornadoes, and then the bowing delay would start all over again.

It was fun taking revenge for Cain! (Though I suppose that would actually require battery upon Chris Metzen, since he wrote Deckard’s terrible death to the Butterfly McQueen.)

Weapons: Socketed vs. Critical hit Damage

A quick weapon shopping price tip for the Auction House. Get a weapon with a socket rather than a weapon with Critical Hit Damage. (Get both on your weapon if you can afford it, but you’ll be up well past 5m to get decent DPS with both, so budget accordingly.) While Monk shopping I compared a bunch of one-handed weapon types, and in almost every case the price point for a socket was around 50-60% critical hit damage. By that I mean that a weapon with say the same DPS and Dex cost roughly the same with 55% CD, or with a socket.

If you just add up the cost, then the socketed weapon costs more in tota, since you have to pay for it and for the Emerald you add to get that CD. (Full price breakdowns on the Gems Wiki article.)

Successful key farming

Successful key farming

The highest quality emerald adds 100% CD, but that’s a 20m gem, so if you can afford that, you’re not worrying about the price difference on 1m weapons anyway. If you’re on more of a budget like me, then consider that you get 70% CD from a Star Emerald, which costs 500k (and 27 flawless squares + 54 Tomes of Secret) to create. (Or about 790k to buy in the GAH, since there’s a pretty hefty markup.) Thus the weapon + emerald costs more total, but you can reuse that emerald once you outgrow that weapon, while whatever higher price you paid for a weapon with with more CD is lost once you move on to a different tool. (Sure, you can resell it, but prices are dropping constantly for all low and mid-range gear in the GAH, as people continually find more/better stuff. So if you use it for a few weeks/months, your resale will be a lot less than your original price.)


No, the Monk isn’t the fastest and most mighty killer, at least not initially into Inferno. (Though at the very high end he can be a kick ass farmer.) But he’s a lot more fun than I expected, and quite capable of tanking and surviving almost anything, including going up a few MP levels with gear quality that would have the other classes dying just trying to MP0 it. I’ve since played mine up to Paragon 8 and bought him some better gear (and a claw without that damn “run away” affix) and I’m giving serious thought to investing 10m or so and making him an actual key runner.

Unsuccessful stack building pre-key farming.

Unsuccessful stack building pre-key farming.

His MF is negligible, aside from stacks, Plevels, MP bonus, and the 35% or so he gets from his Follower, so he’s not taking farming away from my max MF Demon Hunter. But he can already survive MP3 almost as well as she can, despite having maybe a third of her unbuffed DPS (Monks have a *LOT* of DPS skill buffs), and I’ve talked to players who say they do Monks for Keys and Organs for just that reason; the class is kick ass at surviving and wearing monsters down over long tank battles, even without super quality gear.

(Incidentally, I don’t think the Monk is very suited to MF anyway, without spectacular gear. He and the DH theoretically shear their main stat, but to survive well in Infero the DH needs Dex, CC, CD, AS, and minor amounts of Res All and Vitality… which leaves a lot of open affixes for Magic Find. The Monk needs Dex, CC, CD, AS, Life on Hit and/or Life Leech, big Vitality and/or Life %, Res All + his OWE res, Armor, and probably some other stats I’m forgetting. Good luck squeezing MF in with all those.)

So, if you’re interested in playing a *real* melee character and having some Paladin style flashbacks, and you’ve stayed away from the Monk due to bad reviews and complaints about his alleged lameness in farming… maybe give him another try. I put the Monk off until my last class, and I had a terrible time when I first got to 60, but once I went to decent weapon with a shield and the defensive stats, he started to kick ass (or at least not die) and I quite enjoyed the experience.

Diablo was effortless. Easily the easiest for any of my five classes to beat Inferno.

Diablo was effortless. Easily the easiest for any of my five classes to beat Inferno.

Tagged As: | Categories: Monk, Strategy News