It’s no surprise that the Monk class has been in need of some love pre 2.1. However with the second iteration of the patch on the PTR that need has not yet been abided. People are still clamoring for more sweeping changes(pun intended).
I was a heavy Monk user pre ROS and took a break with the xpac to delve into my first love(WD) and my new fling(crusader). I returned to the Monk only a few weeks ago and what I found was a shell of what I had left. After suffering for a long time as a WD it was nice when they finally rose to prominence. After a while on the top I wanted a new challenge and set my sights back on my monk, however even this challenge seems to daunting then all that time as a struggling WD. Diablo Forum MVP Druin put together an eloquent look at the myriad issues facing the class:
I am back from vacation and I am looking to write up a concise review of where we stand in 2.1.
My plan is to give a quick overview of our major issues then discuss the 2.1 changes and how they affect the various facets of our class.
I will be using this thread to fine-tune what we want to communicate to the devs and then I will make a major “state of monks in 2.1” thread on the PTR forums to attempt to get some help for our lovely class! 😀
1. Current Monk Issues
This is really at the forefront of the monk issues.
Since the release of RoS, monks have been having a tough time with DPS. We have a very limited range of options mostly centering around the skill Exploding Palm. (Un)fortunately EP is being changed as it breaks greater rifts (along with Rimeheart and Furnace) so our only source of widely competitive damage is going away. This leaves monks in a pretty bad spot.
Our spenders do very little damage (I mean VERY little) relative to their cost and our generators are used more as proc-vehicles for Odyn Son, Thunderfury, Shard of Hate and Rime/Furnace more than as sources of damage themselves. This leaves us with our 6pc Raiment of 1000 Storms which makes DS proc a 3000% weapon damage attack on cast. 3000% damage is a lot and it scales with lightning damage gear but DS has a flat-immutable 6 second cooldown. This can be mitigated to some extent by using Jawbreaker to give “free” dashing strike charges but that interaction is quite clunky.
Basically, monks will be forced into a clunky, hard-to-use situationally terrible Storm-breaker set in order to compete with other classes in damage. If they don’t want to use this mechanic, they will do very poor damage.
Next on the list is our ability to survive. This is a more controversial topic with some finding survival to be quite easy and many others finding it to be quite hard. In 2.1 with the change from dex giving dodge to dex giving armor and the change from OWE to Harmony, many monks who had minor synergy with OWE will see a minor tankiness boost. (my Raiment set for example)
On the other hand, monk who are deeply invested into OWE will see a major tankiness loss. (my Shatter-palm set). In either case, both types of monks probably have a lot of trouble living in T6 without 2x Unity or the constant dashing from Storm-breaker. Why is this? Because monks have to face-tank so much stuff.
Our primary source of resource generation comes from skills that require you to be up-close and personal with mobs which means a lot of damage can’t be avoided. To compensate for this, end-game monks are forced to take defensive passives (Harmony) defensive skills (Epiphany-shroud / Serenity / Inner Sanc / Blinding Flash) and CDR in basically every single spec. This is extremely limiting to the monk playstyle though arguably less of a problem than the DPS as the defensive skill/CDR solution does exist.
Additionally, sustain is nearly non-existent. LoH requires primary affixes which takes away from our already terrible DPS, LPS is the same, LPSS both takes primary affixes AND is extremely poor and Globes took a pretty big hit in 2.1. Monks actually have access to healing skills but, for some reason, they are tuned to be SO weak that they are essentially non-existent.
This is a more fundamental problem than the other two issues. Mere number tweaks would likely not result in this issue being resolved. Spirit is a very clunky resource system. It relies on using skills that are inherently weak AND inherently dangerous to fund skills that, for their investment requirement, do not do all that much. Because Spirit Generators are so inherently weak and because spirit spenders are so difficult to use efficiently, most monks turn to builds that circumvent the resource system all together. Storm-breaker does all its damage via the “free” Dashing Strike and is routinely used without a generator or passive generation (thus literally no interaction with the resource). Fire-LTK uses CDR + Epiphany + RRC gear to remove the need for a generator and spam LTK non-stop. Shatter-palm (now dead) uses spirit generators as proc-vehicles for Rimeheart and skips not only the spirit gen -> spirit dump process but also the DPS process all-together.
In groups, most zDPS specs also use CDR + Epiphany + EP-SS to fund their spirit needs going no-gen or using FoF as a proc-vehicle for freezes / Rimeheart / Furnace. In none of these specs do we see spirit being used as it was designed. This leads to some interesting theorycrafting but generally a very bad play environment where the majority of the monk skills go unused.
Bad DPS options + very narrow eHP options + a non-functioning resource system + an extremely restrictive 6pc set = a class relegated to zDPS support rolls and niche clunky mechanics. I don’t see this situation as hopeless and the Storm-breaker set is technically quite powerful (if you can stomach the playstyle) … but it’s certainly not rosy.
2. What affect has 2.1 had on the Monk situation
There were a lot of gen changes that did neat things. We gained a lot of random effects that could be helpful like freezes, damage boosts (assimilation) and VERY minor spirit management stuff like Strike from Beyond. Additionally, the damage of gens was increased by a fairly small amount. The result? Nothing. Because the underlying problem of spirit as a resource wasn’t addressed, these minor tweaks had basically no effect on the class as a whole.
WotHF-FoF is still the best generator in 9 out of 10 cases because it procs things quickly and procs are all Monks have right now. In some cases the utility improvements were nice for zDPS support monks who don’t mind the fact that generators do such poor DPS … but that is not the playstyle that needs support! Changes like Strike from Beyond’s “Now reduces the Spirit cost of your next Spirit spender by 8% for each enemy hit by the third hit” are the right direction but it’s far too little. If we could infinitely spam Wave of Light (our most expensive spender) it wouldn’t compete with top-tier classes or even Storm-breaker so reducing the spirit cost by 8% per monster hit on a narrow line-nuke and only on the third hit certainly isn’t going to do anything.
tl;dr — lots of quality of life changes and minor number tweaks that would have bee extremely welcome in a world where the underlying mechanics weren’t broken.
Unlike spirit gens, spirit spenders saw almost no changes at all. There were some extremely small number tweaks and a smattering of utility changes that ended up as net-downgrades simply because of the removal of Numbing Light. I think a great example of how unhelpful these changes are can be found when we take a look at Tempest Rush.
There exists a TR build that is capable of doing T3-4 efficiently with GG gear. This spec is, like most monk specs, reliant on procs such as Odyn Son, Thunderfury and Andarial’s Visage to deal its damage because Tempest Rush as a stand-alone skill does nearly nothing. It is in a PRIME position to provide real end-game build diversity by being supported with a set-bonus and/or buffs. Instead, the primary component of the spec which already deals nearly no damage, was buffed by so little that given 100 hours of play, I would never notice the change. If TR-IF was T6 capable right now, I would see a minor buff as a good thing though a bit silly due to its size … as is, it feels like a slap in the face.
Another great example of the other fundamental issue with the spirit spender changes is SSS. The changes to SSS were mostly cosmetic with a small nerf (???????) to Fulminating Onslaught which was already a non-competitive T6 skill and minor buffs to some of the other runes. The issue is, these changes managed to completely ignore the actual problem with all non-FO SSS runes … they don’t do AoE damage. Because each hit of SSS only hits 1 target, they do not scale with increased monster density which, in a game like D3, is simply untenable. Even though SSS has a very large number in the tooltip, it ends up doing almost no damage in most situations which makes its high cooldown and spirit cost seem rediculous.
A fantastic example of this SSS problem is the Storm-breaker set. This set is about as ideal a place as you get for the new SSS-Sudden Assault. SA was buffed to deal 8285% damage!! This is almost 3x what the Raiment 6pc does each hit and based on how effective Storms is at killing things, you would expect the new lightning-scaled SSS to absolutely melt. However, what you find when you use it is that vs 3 monsters, a single charge of DS does more damage. This means in the very best case (outside RG fights), when fighting a champion pack, your 30s cooldown 50spirit skill is a worse use of the 2 seconds it takes to cast than simply walking 30 yards away and dashing back in for free.
Lastly, Sweeping Winds saw a “revamp” to 2x power that leaves it still doing so little that it will never see use outside of niche “I need to passively freeze things” play. I think this change would have been a lot more welcome if our skill bar wasn’t so full of “help you live in T6 and above” skills and we actually had room for fluff.
As is, the monk class is too tight on skill spots to accept something that takes ~17 seconds at max stacks to deal the same damage as a single Raiment proc. (note: Raiment BARELY does enough damage when spammed to be competitive). Most of the recent attempts to fix monk spirirt spenders have fallen victim to these mistakes. Each spender has fundamental issues and other than the incredibly massive LTK damage boost, not a single spender fix has addressed them.
tl;dr — the changes to spenders did nothing to alleviate the fact that the payout is not worth cost for the vast majority of monk spirit spenders
In 2.1 monks lost OWE and STI but gained Harmony / Relentless Assault / Provocation. While the loss of OWE has a lot of people up in arms, I think it was probably for the better in the long run. It ruins a lot of gear sets today but makes the class 1 affix easier to farm for tomorrow. (assuming underlying toughness issues that hard-required double defensive passives are fixed). Relentless Assault is possibly the best thing that came out of this patch. It’s a real offensive passive that promotes interesting build choices. 20% isn’t enough to fix the class by any means but it’s one of the only steps that I feel is actually in the right direction.
Though these changes were made pre-PTR, they are still part of the “fix the monk” package and they warrant discussion.
Raiment of 1000 Storms
The 4pc is essentially not a set bonus which is depressing when you see awesome 4pc bonuses like Marauder’s.
The 6pc is extremely close to being in a good place. 3000% damage is a lot. Lightning is a bit restrictive but it’s a good element for monks and synergizes well with the items monks already want to use. The flavor is very cool as well.
The two major issues?
First, it’s tied to an EXTREMELY restrictive skill. Dashing strike has a hard-set cooldown, was already in use in 99% of monk builds as movement and has zero interactive runes. By this I mean that none of the DS runes actually matter. Un-runed DS would work for 1kStorms almost exactly as well as a runed version. Second, the set bonus is very very narrow. It allows for a completely new playstyle (dashing strike + jawbreaker and no other sources of damage) but that is all it does. Outside of that particular interaction, it bring nothing to the class.
You won’t see a fire-LTK monk using 6pc raiment nor a TR monk. Only Storm-breaker or, rarely, lightning-shard type setups relying on weapon procs that already used 4pc Raiment and already used DS-Q.
I feel that if the sets are intended to create at least one end-game spec that is unique and flavorful, this set is almost there. Jawbreaker is too weak to make the set worth it for most players as the restrictive play-style, while strong, is un-fun.
Monkey King’s Garb
This set, unfortunately, did not see the kind of buffs needed to make it fun or competitive. 1600% damage seems like a lot but Holy is a nearly 100% un-supported element (as in there are no good legendaries that have holy damage or interact with holy damage). Additionally, the 2pc is even less of a set bonus than the 1kStorms 4pc. 2h weapons are, for all intents and purposes, currently not in the game and thus buffing them by 20% is worthless. (the sole exception here is Flow of Eternity which is almost good enough to compete with real T6 builds).
The real problem with this set, aside from the useless 2pc and the lack of supporting legendaries, is that it’s so completely uninteresting. You were probably going to spend spirit anyway and there are almost no spirit-generating augmentations you can make to a build that you weren’t already using already (CDR Epiph) and thus you were already going to do what this set demands. This is markedly different from 1kStorms which completely changes your playstyle. The only case I can see SWK being used is in a situation where your playstyle would already proc it a lot in which case it’s a flat +% damage buff … the least interesting kind of set bonus.
Boring and weak. Not a good spot.
I initially forgot to include a section on this set because I actually forgot that it is in the game. That’s how good a place it is in right now! It is beyond me how Danetta’s can have a unique legendary bonus on each weapon and a game-changing 2x set bonus while Shenlong’s procs a meaningless energy ball. This is one of those design decisions that is so incredibly frustrating that I actively try to forget about it.
Was there just no one advocating for monks at the design table for RoS? (If not, hire me and I will happily fill that position! <3)
3. Conclusion and what to do
Monks are not in a good place. We have been carried along by Exploding Palm since the release of RoS and now with, the looming thought of that being taken away, a very bleak future is in sight. However, I do not believe that all is lost. With some fairly drastic increases to our Spirit generation mechanics (more from gens and more from passives and some natural-passive) the use of spenders might shift from “stack CDR and epiphany for all specs or ignore spirit completely” to “CDR-epiphany is one choice but generator + passives + some RRC is another”. With some pretty simple APS changes and some toughness increases along with with increased utility our generators might start making their way back onto skill-lists. With some easy but substantial numbers increases and/or cost decreases our spenders could start to seem worth it relative to other classes once more.
In the end, I still love my monk and I will play the terribly clunky Storm-breaker if that is all that’s left to me … but I would really like to see some fixes that make my class BETTER not worse.
Review of most recent patch notes
Resolve : Duration increased to 4 seconds (up from 2.5).
This is a meaningless change. Resolve doesn’t trigger for many elite affixes and is thus considered to be one of the non-viable tank passives.
That being said, if they ever fixed resolve, upping it’s duration is nice and it would probably see a fair amount of use as monks still have lots of problems tanking T6 and above.
Barrage : Now deals 750% weapons damage (up from 498%). Not the best change, not the worst change. 750% is enough damage that taking this in a Storm Breaker builds might have some small value. It’s an extremely minor change though. Single-target nukes are historically bad and this isn’t even a high-damage one.
Way of the Falling Star : Now deals Holy damage.
Quicksilver : Now deals Lightning damage.
As dashing strike does close to zero damage, these changes will have close to zero effect. If Storms’ proc did damage as the element of your Dashing Strike, these changes would be amazing.
As-is, these are essentially not changes.
Flying Side Kick has been replaced by Radiance : Gain 15% increased attack speed for 3 seconds after using Dashing Strike. Dashing Strike’s damage turns into Fire. Well … FSK was my favorite Raiment rune because it let you keep mobs 30 yards apart and proc Relentless ……. instead I now get attack speed for 3 whole seconds. I consider this to be an overall nerf due to the length of the buff. If it was 5 seconds or more, I would consider this to have been a fair trade.
Exploding Palm has been completely redesigned : Cause an enemy to Bleed for 1200% weapon damage as Physical over 9 seconds. If the enemy dies while bleeding, it explodes and deals 2770% weapon damage as Physical damage to all nearby enemies.
Creeping Demise has been replaced by Shocking Grasp : Exploding Palm arcs up to 15 yards to another target. Exploding Palm’s damage turns into Lightning.
Impending Doom has been completely redesigned : Exploding Palm no longer causes the enemy to bleed, but if the enemy dies while affected by Exploding Palm, they explode for 6305% weapon damage as Cold.
Strong Spirit : Now deals Holy damage.
Essence Burn : Now deals 1875% weapon damage (down from 2620%) before the explosion and 3260% weapon damage (up from 640%) to nearby enemies after the explosion. Ah, the EP change.
Despite the fact that monks are now completely ruined, I stand by the EP nerf as a correct move. The new EP is infinitely more interesting though it is also quite a bit less powerful. I was able to effectively run a shatter-palm build with Impending Doom in T6 and GR24 (got DC’ed at the RG with 7mins left so I would have cleared it easily). I have also heart a lot of people succeeding with Shocking Grasp + Storm-breaker.
The upside is that you can palm little-mobs and kill big-mobs. The downside is that once mobes get to a specific level of HP relative to your DPS, EP stops killing elites and shatter-palm can no longer progress.
While zDPS monks can no longer use palm, DPS-support monks should provide a very similar service with substantially lower eHP up to GR ~35 after which having a monk in your group will become a liability. Having a lot of elements is quite nice.
All in all, this change will most likely drastically improve the monk class in the long-term but it will feel pretty bad in the short-term.
Sudden Assault : Now deals Lightning damage.
Several-Sided Strike has been replaced by Incinerate : Seven-Sided Strike causes enemies to burn for 630% weapon damage as Fire over 3 seconds. Cool, another change to SSS that completely ignores it’s main issue.
No one cares that each hit burns things for 630% damage as fire. I will bet my life that DoT doesn’t stack so it doesn’t even get to deal good single target DPS (the only thing non FO runes are good for). This is essentially not a change. Even full 120% fire damage fire specs would do more with FO than with Incinerate.
Tempest Rush : Additional Cost while channeling removed. Cost increased to 25 Spirit (up from 15). Now deals 390% weapon damage (up from 260%).
Northern Breeze : Now reduces Spirit cost to 25 Spirit (up from 8). Now deals 500% weapon damage (up from 310%). Possible error on cost reduction.
Flurry has been completely redesigned : After you stop channeling Tempest Rush, you cause an icy blast to all enemies within 15 yards. The damage of the explosion increases by 135% weapon damage as Cold while channeling. Tempest Rush’s damage turns into Cold. The more I think about this change, the more I think that the way it works in-game is unintentional.
The wording for these changes clearly indicates a higher start-up cost with no channeling cost while in-game we are seeing a flat 30spir/sec * aps channeling cost. If we assume that they have removed the channeling cost, I see this as a substantial buff as all specs will be able to run TR-T which out-performs DS-Q in many situations. If we assume that they have correctly changed it in game to a 30spir/sec * APS channeling cost, this skill is no longer viable for any spec including TR-IF which is no longer a spec at all. The damage increase, like the last damage increase, is too small to matter.
As Blizz apparently has never played a TR-IF build, I will just come out and say any number below 750% damage is probably not going to make TR-IF viable in T6. Please increase TR damage to 750% base (900% Northern Breeze) remove its channeling cost and give it an initial cost of 30-45. <3
Fire Ally : Active: Now deals 290% weapon damage (up from 149%).
Water Ally : Active: Now deals 625% weapon damage (up from 190%).
Earth Ally : Active: Now deals 380% weapon damage (up from 333%).
I assume these changes were made as a joke to lighten the mood of the rest of our grim experience. Mystic Ally does functionally zero damage and sees near-zero use outside of Air-ally spirit spam and the rare case of “I have no use for any of my skills so I will take fire-ally for the buff”. Increasing the active damage on Water and Earth will have literal-zero effect on monk gameplay as I believe those runes have a 0% usage rate for a good reason. The Fire-ally buff would be awesome if the proc wasn’t exactly like SSS and single-target.
Seize the Initiative has been completely redesigned : Dealing damage to enemies above 80% Life increases your attack speed by 15% for 4 seconds.
Again, I consider a buff of 4 seconds to be a bit low. This passive would probably see a fair amount of play if it was 20% for 6 seconds. As-is, I assume some people will use it but I will not be one of them. There is nearly no value to having IAS anymore so passives that add it aren’t making the cut for me!
tl;dr — This patch, like the last patch, was a bunch of changes that might have been nice if monks were in a good spot. As they are not, the changes feel like slaps in the face. We still do very low DPS, have extreme difficulty tanking T6+ without the use of multiple CD’s + Unity + CDR and our resource system is still better off avoided than used.
Druin effectively hits it on the head with the problems plaguing the class. Monk’s are in really bad shape right now. The same could be said for the Wizard and Barbarian, however they don’t fall nearly as low as the Monk has. However unlike a lot of people on the forums I have faith. I recall the state of crusaders at the start of ROS, the state of WD before their revamp, and I can only hope that posts like Druin’s help push the class back to where it should be.
What are your thoughts? Is the monk doomed to be the fourth follower or will it be patched up to glory?