Hey guys, I just soloed Inferno Diablo today after about 10-20 attempts. Definitely not the first, nor the last, but I wanted to share some wisdom with you guys on my journey and the thoughts I had along the way.
Achievement Screenshot: http://i.imgur.com/aDGQz.jpg
Assessing my gear, I could have reasonably attempted the boss 2 weeks ago with much greater difficulty. But my goal was simple: To beat the game with as few roadblocks and as much fun as possible. I disliked dying. Given that there's Hardcore mode, I saw excessive dying and things like graveyard zerging as indicators of weaker play. There has been a lot talk on the state of Monks, but after reaching a critical mass of gear, I firmly believe that we have the highest potential to farm and magic find just like our Paladin counterparts in Diablo 2. Especially starting in 1.0.3. Allow me to explain why:
1) I die at most 4 times per Act 3 Inferno Siegebreaker/Heart of Sin run, 99% of the time due to just face running into elite mobs and not really assessing their abilities beforehand (something I wouldn't do on Hardcore, but I'm having fun here!). There is not an affix combo I cannot handle, although some more easily than others. I mostly skip Plague/Desecration/Molten/Vampiric mobs because Tyrael heals them by standing in the AoE, unless I feel that I can position well with the environment. Shielding mobs with various AoE spells are also annoying, since frequent repositioning is mandatory and sometimes I lose my 3 stacks of Sweeping Wind, which actually do not proc when you hit Shielded minions (but do when you hit Invulnerable minions, funny enough). Dying very few times is crucial, especially when the new patch comes out and players cannot just play as recklessly any more.
2) I can very easily swap to full MF gear by popping Serenity and having my Enchantress, Tyrael, and Mystic Ally help in finishing off the elite mob. I can achieve over 300 MF doing this, and I have had a run where I made 10 million gold just because of the rares that I probably wouldn't have gotten had I not been aggressive about putting on my MF gear. I know a few people are upset about this mechanic, but it is worth practising equipping your MF gear from your inventory one-by-one if you are intent on progressing. This is a very crucial advantage over a class such as the Barbarian, which does not possess an immunity spell and will get insta-gibbed if they even try to swap to MF gear. The efficiency of your MF runs will be MUCH higher, all because of a single ability.
The Act 3+ Inferno Farming Build: http://i.imgur.com/Ter5L.jpg
The Stats Without Buffs: http://i.imgur.com/4vftD.jpg
The Mercenary: http://i.imgur.com/Bgwkn.jpg
A commentary on the build and stats: I tried to have equal amounts of Dexterity and Vitality, as I saw benefit in having the both of them. In the Diablo fight, I found that certain abilities were one-shotting me. But I figured that if I just increased my health by a little bit, then maybe I will have a chance. This is the thought process should be constantly going through your mind: In what manner am I dying, and how can I improve my character so that it won't die the next time? These constant decision making processes are what separates the successful player from the not so lucky. I wasn't too concerned about using Dexterity to boost my DPS, but more for the Dodge and Armor.
But I saw the greatest benefit in increasing my overall damage mitigation via Resistances and Armor. Armor is such an underrated stat, and it's mainly why I try and go for the higher tiers (T16) of gear as you can see. Post-Tyrael nerf, my 650 All Res was just barely cutting it for Siegebreaker runs. Boosting my resistances to 850 with T16 pieces, I noticed a VAST improvement in my survivability. I have basically face tanked things like 2 different Soul Ripper elite mobs at the same time with pretty hilarious combos...all without dying.
Armor is also what makes Deadly Reach with Keen Eye and Mantra of Evasion with Hard Target such a powerful build. With full uptime on Deadly Reach (easy without Shielding elite mobs), you can achieve upwards of over 10K armor. That is insane mitigation. Because the Seize the Initiative passive synergizes with those two skills well, I have selected that instead of the Resolve passive.
But what really makes the build above shine are the Infused with Light and Inner Storm runes for ridiculous Spirit regeneration. Resource management is yet another highly underrated aspect of Monk play, and it's why IAS will remain viable even after the IAS nerfs (because Crit simply does not improve our ability to regenerate Spirit much like IAS does). Spirit regen determines healing power. This is because the more Spirit you have, the more you can spam your Mantra and have Transcendence heal you for massive amounts.
As for your mercenary, the Enchantress is far and away the best support pick for your Monk as she provides ranged leverage as well as a whole host of buffs. Powered Armor and Focused Mind are the obvious skill choices as they provide amazing passive benefits without you having to wait for long cool downs. I selected Erosion because I didn't need the additional CC from Disorient, and extra damage is always nice. Additionally, Erosion is on a shorter cool down, effectively giving you a mini Mantra of Conviction every 15 seconds. At first glance, Forceful Push may appear to be the better alternative because it's free damage as opposed to a CC on a relatively long cool down, but I've found that Forceful Push really screwed up a lot of my good positioning. Often times, I would get an elite mob clamped at a doorway or by some junction point, only to have my Enchantress blow them back and have them go crazy into the next room. Because positioning is everything as a melee character, you're never going to want to take the abilities that could potentially ruin a good spot that you're in.
For Enchantress gear, focus on getting stuff with massive Intelligence and Vitality. I find Resistances to be kind of useless on mercenaries, as they will always die immediately any ways if they're standing in ground AoE, and there's not much you can do when your NPC is way out of position other than for you to continuously adjust your own positioning in creative ways, but that's not always convenient. Try to aim for a 1000 DPS 2-Hand weapon, but don't spend more than 20K per item.
With my build and setup, if a mob doesn't possess any ground AoE or lasers, it is literally a tank and spank. With mobs like those Act 4 clobber guys that possess one-shot mechanics for most other classes and builds, I can definitely take a hit from them still, but it's much better to just side-step and position accordingly.
The Act 1 Grind
We've all been there. Purgatory. The spot where you never know when you're going to make it out. Unlike some people, I did not abuse the Act 2 Chest farming, the goblin farming, the Act 3 Chest farming, or the cheesy Tyrael mechanic that allowed people to advance further in the game. I wanted to play in what I viewed was the most legit manner possible. I want to make one thing clear for everyone that's trying to look for a quick and easy solution to things: When you play legit, you reap all of the rewards and benefits. No one can say that my skill did not take me to Diablo. No one can say I did not earn my gear. I have not spent a dime on the RMAH, and I refuse to ever do so. And probably one big reason why I've been playing the Monk: Nobody can say I achieved the things that I did with an overpowered class (Secretly, I really do think it is overpowered, but the general masses definitely do not think so!). There are a few Demon Hunters and Wizards on my buddies list who have cheesed their way through Act 3 farming with Tyrael. Weeks later, they still have not downed Diablo.
Because I knew one thing: After a critical mass of gear, the game would essentially become face-roll to the point of relaxation. People sweat and curse Soul Lasher elite mobs all the time on forums and whatnot. I look FORWARD to those challenges. I knew that the Demon Hunters and Wizards could never improve their gear to the point of face-rolling content, for they possess a play style that is contingent on the skill of the player to anticipate and avoid problems. If they have not cleared the content within the past few weeks, they weren't going to do so any time soon. But regardless of personal skill, few can say that they have an easier and more satisfying time magic finding than the Monk in the right setup does.
But for now to the general public, we are the underpowered class. Love it! Embrace it!
Back to the story: I have probably spent more time in Act 1 doing magic finding runs than in all other Acts and difficulties combined. I have been there. You will progress, if you know exactly what you want for your character in order to make it that much stronger.
For me, that something that I wanted was a high-end dagger with over 700 Life on Hit and IAS to improve upon its already fast base attack speed. After reaching 600 All Resists, and reasonable health, armor, and DPS with a 550 DPS weapon, I refused to purchase any upgrades until I got the one upgrade that would change everything. I refused to cave in to any less of an alternative until I had exactly what I was looking for: a dagger with IAS and massive LoH. I could have caved in and bought a higher DPS weapon at any point in time, but I feared that if I did so, I would not have enough gold for the inevitable bidding wars that lay ahead. But man, I was extremely tempted by some of the offerings in the Auction House, with massive LoH but just not the right weapon type or without IAS. My biggest fear was that my earnings would not be able to keep up with the massive ongoing inflation at the time 2 or 3 weeks ago (it's much less pronounced now, so don't worry about it too much folks!).
Then I saw my opportunity on the Battle.net Trading forums, exactly what I was looking for at 900 DPS, over 900 LoH, and IAS. I knew I had to go all-in on this. I knew that most people didn't check the Trading forums, and that if I had botched this opportunity, I may never get another one like this again. Had the seller posted his finding on the Auction House, it would have been gone from my reach, no question about it. After saving up 18 million gold solely through Act 1 Inferno runs, I saw a bidder go 15.5 million on the item. I scared him off with a 17.5 million bid, and won my ticket to Act 3 and beyond. I knew the value of my item. It would be luck to see something similar today in the Auction House at that price, but fellow Monks, you must press on! Because if you play with the attitude that you will get there eventually, you will get there! Make sure progress is being made on your gold amount each time you play.
What I did for my Act 1 runs: Start on the Sword of the Stranger quest and head out to the Fields of Misery. Find and kill every single elite mob in this area. Take every single side-cave and kill the elite mobs in there. Basically, find and kill every single elite mob up to the Butcher. Provided that your deaths are minimal, you can make 150K-250K per run just on gold drops from the five stacks of NV. And that's without selling anything - you are guaranteed gold without having to do anything but enjoy the game and kill monsters. Yes, you might have heard about that one Demon Hunter that's chest farming Act 3 - ignore him. Your personal progress is yours alone, and you should not compare your success to others. Be proud of what you've done, and what you will do. Only a small fraction of Diablo players have made it to Inferno thus far, so know that you're in an elite group of players already! This game is about killing stuff and having fun slaying monsters. Hence, challenging elite mobs are the name of the game! Have fun, enjoy it! And don't forget to pop Serenity and swap to your MF gear right before you land a kill on an elite! With the specs that I had: 650 All Res with 9000 DPS and 45K health, easily obtainable these days with cheap gear, you can EASILY face-roll through Act 1 so hard that public games will be impressed by the Monk that's standing in 5 lasers, poison puddles, molten, and all that jazz at the same time. No lies, I have had many a pub in Act 1 tell me that I was the best Monk they had ever seen. And with those stats and with the build that I have posted, you too will be the best Monk that the pubs have ever seen. I promise you that. You can't tell me that isn't fun!
The Selling of Act 1 Finds
Being able to assess the value of items that you've found is kind of an art, and that is what will determine the potential of gold that you can make in the Auction House on top of the gold that you've picked up from the ground. The reason why I don't suggest straight up Butcher runs, is because in 1.0.3, Blizzard is nerfing boss loots to 1 guaranteed rare - essentially the same as an elite mob. It is also clear that Blizzard encourages people to play the game the way it was meant to be played, just going around owning and killing monsters. Personally, I have NEVER found anything good off the Butcher or Warden, but I have found legendaries and set pieces off the weirdest places in Act 1. Make sure when you're doing your runs, clear everything! I have found valuable pieces off of dead bodies, random chests (not resplendent ones), and the like. I have found many extremely good, saleable items (item level 61) off elite mobs, but I can say in the many runs that I did, I have NEVER found anything good off the Butcher or Warden. The one benefit that Act 1 has over the other acts is that there are TONS of side dungeons just teeming with delicious elite mobs, and there's just a ton of elite mobs in any given area in general. It is a well designed Act compared to the others, I feel.
As for Auction House pricing, if you have a piece with say, Primary Stat + Vitality + All Resistances, I like to search for those parameters 5-10 values below what is displayed on your gear. If you have a level 60 item you want to sell, only search for level 60 items (people in general just desire level 60 items above all else).
Another stat that I've found worth keeping in mind is IAS on rings and amulets. Even just a basic IAS + single resist can fetch hundreds of thousands of gold. For some reason, a lot of rings and amulets that I've been finding are quite sellable. Even things that I wouldn't think are sellable like Dex + Life % + some random stuff go for hundreds of thousands. This game is so fresh that people are willing to try new and weird things! I've even listened to a Wizard swear by Life Regeneration. Imagine that!
Just always keep an open mind to what could be sellable, and don't be so quick to salvage your finds! My rule of thumb: if the stats look reasonably high, and you think you have 2 good affixes to work with, go cross-check it on the auction house! There are numerous times when I would go, "Man, this is so ****, who would want this?" Sold for over a million gold.
Simple: Don't even buy anything after you've begun to face-roll Act 1 until you have enough gold for an item that will change the game completely for you. Go for the big upgrades. Don't settle for those 700 DPS 1-handers with 1.40 Attack Speed and 400 Life on Hit (I sold one of those yesterday for 2 million...honestly, this is why people don't progress). Go for the big guns. Because it is those big guns that will change everything. Think about it. If you're already cruising through an Act, why waste gold on an upgrade that will only make you cruise through an act slightly faster, but won't allow you to deal with the huge jumps in difficulty in the later acts? I stuck with a 550 DPS weapon for the longest time, because I needed to exercise as much Discipline as my Monk. Balance in all things. Embrace that mantra.
Looking back at all the big things that I've purchased, the biggest difference maker of them all was no doubt, my IAS/LoH dagger that I still use today. Everything else was just improvements to what I already had - resistances, vitality, armor, etc. I went from fearing the hell out of Act 2, to essentially rolling through Act 3. All because of just one weapon, and my patience in obtaining that piece of gear. Save, save, save. Do not let yourself be influenced by impulse purchases.
To illustrate an example, I have a buddy who has probably never had over 2 million gold but who has invested far more into the game than I have (well over 300 hours). The Blizzard gods have also smiled down on him graciously through MF, hooking him up with items such as a Tal's Armor, several other legendaries, and some pretty decent rares. But due to inaccurate pricing when selling (always having 10 active auctions up at a time) and just bad purchasing decisions (such as buying a non-tier 16 helm without a socket at one point for 900K gold), his character is not really any better than it was weeks ago. He is stuck in Act 1.
The Final Boss
Act 3 was pretty straightforward, just more lucrative than Act 1. And probably harder too, but it certainly feels the same with the weapon that I had purchased. So I'll skip all those details and cut straight to the final boss himself.
Diablo Kill Build: http://i.imgur.com/XW4tP.jpg
Reasoning: I knew that I had enough sustain to outlast Diablo's auto-attacks with my LoH and attack speed combined with Fists of Thunder, so Mantra of Evasion proved excessive there. In a fight that is all about avoiding mistakes, such as getting caught in the bone prisons or not side-stepping the fire circle quick enough, improved DPS meant that I could down the boss faster before making a crucial error. As mentioned before, there are Demon Hunters are Wizards on my friends list that have downed Inferno Azmodan weeks ago, but still have not gotten the final kill, mainly because Diablo has a lot of gimpy mechanics that essentially one-shot characters with poor defensive cool downs or stats. With a Monk, at least you have a chance to survive those hits because, although it will inevitable that you will get caught in the fire or in a bone prison, your overall mitigation and defensive abilities ensure that you won't get one-shotted. And that's what the Monk is all about in this fight - surviving situations that would very clearly destroy a poorly controlled Demon Hunter or Wizard.
The Blazing Wrath, Blade Storm, and Faith in the Light runes were all included to add to my overall DPS. I went with Peaceful Repose on Serenity because I felt that I didn't need the 4 second duration on my invulnerability, and especially because the heal really did help a lot when I got caught in the fire circle, as it meant that I wouldn't have to burn my Breath of Heaven heal most of the time. The main sources for wipes were almost always due to getting caught in the fire circle. Because of that, I decided to go for the Seize the Initiative passive instead of Resolve (since it wasn't Diablo's melee attacks giving me problems) just to give me increased armor; just to give me a chance to survive the bad situations that I needed to survive.
Blinding Flash was also put in to neuter my Shadow Clone while I bursted him down before he could do any reasonable amount of damage to me (hopefully with the rest of my cool downs intact). But also, I used it to interrupt Diablo's fire circle, bone prison, and laser casting animations, whenever I felt it was beneficial to do so.
Phase 1: This phase is actually surprisingly simple. With around 45K life, I don't think getting caught in the bone prison can screw you over. I started off my attempts with 37K life, but I would usually get gimped by the bone prison (and even the fire circle) simply because while I was making my escape out of a bad situation, that extra life could have made the difference between life and death. The key idea here is that my Life on Hit can heal me from pretty low to full in a matter of a few seconds, so being able to survive bad situations was the primary focus for me. Of course, you want to maintain the same level of resists and armor when considering boosting other stats.
Pretty much just keep your Breath of Heaven buff up, your Sweeping Wind at full stacks, and your Mantra of Conviction active buff up at all times. Click on the boss on your way to Phase 2! Maybe occasionally interrupt a bone prison cast or run around in circles when you see him lift his hands up into the air. Save Serenity for those really bad situations.
Phase 2: This phase feels not too bad for a Monk. Essentially, when the Shadow Clone comes out, you want to make sure all your damage buffs are up and open on him with a blind (which has the 30% damage buff rune). You should be able to burst him down really fast. If not, then pop Serenity if you see that you're starting to lose health.
When Diablo comes out, engage on him with your full buffs up. If you see his fire circle casting animation, try to react quickly and interrupt the cast with a blind. If you fail to interrupt him, pop Serenity and you should be fine for a while. Do not try and interrupt his bone prison casts, as I find that is a waste of cool downs, and they're typically easy to avoid when you see him raising his hands as you can just start running around. If he casts a fire circle and both my blind and Serenity are down, just get out of the way quickly and pop a quick potion and Breath of Heaven heal (I sometimes like to do this combo first as it will ensure that I have Serenity and my damage buff from Breath of Heaven up for the next fire circle). I find this cycle of cool downs is typically sufficient to get through the second phase with few issues.
Phase 3: This one's the hard part. The key idea that I found here was to essentially engage him when my cool downs were up. Before, I went pretty aggressive, toe-to-toe like I did in the first two phases, but since he casts the fire circle and laser abilities so often, you're just not going to have enough cool downs to go toe-to-toe with Diablo for the full duration of the final phase. I also positioned myself to fight in proximity of a healing well, just in case things got hairy. Once I got into the mindset to play a little more defensively, the phase became a lot easier. With cool downs up, I like to Breath of Heaven heal + potion the first fire circle that I couldn't avoid, and save my Serenity for the second one. When Diablo starts to fire his laser, which is a pretty long cast time, I usually just run around to his backside really fast as the ability is really easy to avoid.
When my cool downs are depleted, I typically run to the other side of the room where the other health cauldron is, not depleted of course. All of his ranged abilities are typically easy to either avoid or out-range. His laser ability is pretty simple to out-range so long as you don't even stand close to him. Diablo may occasionally throw a fire circle at you. Just watch out for that and use the cauldron if necessary.
When your defensive cool downs are up again, start going toe-to-toe with Diablo and cycle your cool downs as explained. Make sure your damage buffs are up too, since you'll want to be dishing out as much DPS as possible. When you get to burn phase (pretty much when Diablo doesn't have that much life left), feel free to pop all of your cool downs, including blind, just to get higher uptime on your damage and finish him off! Don't get too cocky though! Several times I have gotten Diablo to 20% health, only to die to a fire circle because I wasn't being defensive enough with zero cool downs, and because I wasn't paying attention due to being excited at the prospect of getting the kill.
The Closing Thoughts
I had a pretty wonderful journey levelling my Monk and finally getting him to the hardest moments of Hell (or Inferno rather) itself. The final Diablo fight was much easier than I made it out to be, and even then at that point in my hours of collective experience in the game, I still learned new things as a player. I learned that being able to selectively pick when to play defensively and offensively are realizations that come with more experience fighting difficult AI scripts. Don't ask yourself what type of endgame gear or achievements you'd like to get (other than that crucial piece of weaponry of course), but ask yourself how you can always improve as a player of games. People complain all the time about unreasonable elite mobs, and how everything is outside of their control, instead of trying to wrestle with a problem and having that eureka moment when you finally crack it with a solution.
But I'm honestly quite saddened that Blizzard will be nerfing Inferno so that future players who pick up the game will never get to experience the raw excitement that was the REAL Inferno when the game first came out. Jay Wilson said that it was a mistake that the damage is so high in Inferno. One could say that Tyrael healing vampiric elite mobs is a mistake too, but learning how to overcome such difficulties is what made the game so rewarding to me, and I'm relieved that I was able to fully defeat the Inferno difficulty before the upcoming changes.
I feel with all this hoopla surrounding the RMAH, that people forget that gear is just a means to an end, and the journey to the finish is much more rewarding than the actual milestones themselves. The achievements themselves don't mean much, but the manner in which you got them, and the style in which you did it all along the way will be the things that make you feel just damn good in the end! That's why I refused to duo or team-up for my first Inferno boss kills, and refused to exploit chest runs and goblins. I wanted to play the game the way I think Blizzard meant for it to be played, and that is how I will continue to do it...in Hardcore.