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

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.
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25 thoughts on “Strategy Build – The Monk… Not So Bad After All!

  1. I was real anti monk for a long time. Not being one to stick to one character however I made a monk for my 4th character to hit level 60. I have to say I agree largely with this article, the monk was more durable and fun than I expected by quite a bit. I went with an Innas build, minus the weapon, and sweeping wind. Good times. Dropped Innas later and geared up for OWE, pushing 950 resist all without any buffs.

    That is about the only good thing to say about the class however.

    I found that the class hugely lacked build variety, probably more so than any other and by quite a margin. I do not like how breath of heaven and blinding flash are so hugely mandatory as their lack of dps buffs is seriously in need of reconsidering by some devs. Their heals are hugely lacking, and to be frank what I dislike the most about the class is how massively item dependant their survival is. Without lifesteal or massive life on hit on as much gear as possible there is little to no survival for the class, particularly past mp5. Also the selection of passives on the monk is just terrible, simply the worst in the game.

    Bottom line is that the class is in need of some love, despite the fact that it is underrated. I feel the class needs a boost to mobility in combat, dps buff selection (how about a passive? Every other class has 2… monks 0.) and passives to become viable and perhaps even some better party abilities.

    Oh and as for being the cheapest hero to survive. Bah to that. I say revenge barb hands down, I killed Sheablo with 11k dps in Inferno a long, long time ago. 🙂

    • Passives that increase DPS would most likely solve a lot of the trouble with the monk. Every other class can change a lot from using only defensive passives to offensive passives. Monks can change from defensive passives to 3 spirit/sec and 10% movement speed… 3 spirit, when I get 12/sec from attacking. Not really good considering I do not need the spirit (except for tempest rush) and need to use 2 passives for it.

      I hope for some build diversity in the future. I’d also love for them to change so that Tempest rush’s spirit cost wasn’t based on attack speed, would make it easier for us monks to also be fast farmers, even though WW-barbs would still be faster.


        fast forward to 1:20

        I don’t know much about the itemization in Path of Exile, but the passive skill tree always cracks me up

        this is the latest version, still in beta, but he seems to be enjoying it

        I’m actually in the beta, but haven’t played in months, might have to try again

  2. to be fair the prices for items which are currently considered medicore (yet overkill for anything inferno mp0 ) are dirtcheap… i cant think of a single class who cannot atleast manage an invincible Gear/Skill comp – if not exactly fast it will be atleast steady and safe…

    in the end it all goes back to the shitty itemization – the inflating market. and the fact that there is no intriguing interaction of Skills with affixes.

    eg. in many ways even a Moba games like League of Legends has more intricate / sophisticated gear interaction with different heroes than Diablo3 – even though there is overall not a huge amount of affixes in league of legends either –

    they are more interesting and balanced in LoL though than in d3 (blandness²)

    • Good point.

      League of Legends itemization versus Diablo 3’s itemization. Oh the irony. It’s amazing how LoL presents more compelling item choices in a 45 minute game than Diablo 3 does in the entire 1000+ hours some folks get out of it.

      The irony.

  3. Yah as I saying about the Monk when we were talking it about earlier that is their #1 pro, and the reason I originally was a Monk main in HC: They have the best survivability on the least gold of any class, which can be very valuable. However, in modern diablo 3 even in HC people have good enough gear that clear speed has become by far the top concern.

  4. The monk is indeed the sturdiest of all classes. I noticed the same when i switched from wizard to monk a long time ago in some of the early patches.

  5. Oh and it’s true monk is the worst class for magic find. You have to waste an affix slot on your gear for double resists (all res + chosen res) so there goes a potential slot that could have been magic find.

  6. I must be doing something wrong then , I find my monk the weakest of my 5 characters and die on MP0 with something like 1500 Loh . Not even completed act 3 . Might have to get a shield by the looks of this write up .

    • My monk was very squishy on Inferno, in large part because I refuse to use more than 1 defensive skill. The whole point of the forced categorization of skills was that we’d pick 1 from each category and get a nice, well-rounded build. If the only way to play the character is to turn on Elective Mode and pick 3 out of the 4 available defensive skills, that’s a broken class.

    • You are not doing it right Nodders. Getting excessive amounts of loh is not the answer and will do nothing. What you need to do is get higher mitigation. When you have done that you only need small amounts of healing.
      2.5%+ life steal or 700 loh.

      I see so many players doing this wrong. Stacking incredible amounts of loh and hope it works.

  7. My first character was a monk. I played it up to Act 2 Inferno and since then have mostly switched to barbarian.

    My main complaint was, as mentioned above, lack of build variety. There are 2 or 3 defensive skills that are all but mandatory. You can choose your mantra, but it mostly doesn’t matter, because all 4 mantras play the same — you just have a different color of light under your feet when you press the 4 key once a minute. Everyone uses Fists of Thunder as primary, because it generates the most spirit. That covers about 4 or 5 of your 6 skills. That doesn’t leave a lot of room for variety.

    The full-time Tempest Rush build is fun to play, but I hesitate to count it. That build isn’t viable due to skill balance. It’s viable due to gear imbalance. You stack up spirit regeneration in unintended ways. Fun, but basically an itemization glitch rather than a feature of the monk class. Also, it’s really only practical at lower difficulty levels or with extraordinarily expensive gear.

  8. I agree with the monk being really strong at survival, my friend had mediocre gear, which was much worse than me and my other wizard friend, and he almost instantly could handle Mp1-2 killing at a great pace, and even arguably being better at surviving than me and my wizard friend (im a barb) and we had much better, much more refined gear compared to him. Monk’s are definantly under-rated, I think they just need some blizzcon demo type exploding palm killing action to really make them more effective.

  9. I have 350 hours played as a monk, all hardcore. I just recently started playing again after the big changes, and finally have cleared a3 inferno and am comfortable farming it.

    I am super jelly of barbs and their ease of inferno, but I will not stop playing monks until I get to PL100 🙂

    Whenever we get pvp…. teleport 7 sided = dead anyone ^_^

    build i like is very similar to the one mention in the post, except instead of tempest rush I use 7 sided strike with teleport. This serves as a huge DPS cooldown, and a form of escape, and a few seconds of immunity, all of which are important for HC. I typically wait until I can cast mantra + 7 sided immediately after for a 48% damage increase, unless 7sided is being used defensivly.

    breath of heaven is geat healing esp with high crit… I have 70k hp on my monk, and can get 20-30% of my hp with breath of heaven at times.

  10. Ok, I left my monk for the last character as well. I suppose I can give him another shot, though, I just need to figure out what to do with him.

  11. I made my monk a key farmer, and he is as this article describes. IF you use the cookie-cutter build setup. I’m fine with that now because I don’t like the class enough to want to do anything differently, but when I tire of doing oddball throwbarbs, grenade strafers, or frosty leechblade wizards, the monk still only functions well as a cookie cutter monk.

    At least it’s fun to play for now, though. my WD depresses me too much to even log in on him anymore.

  12. My monk reached Paragon 87 before I quit a week ago to wait for the next patch. I think people have some misconceptions about monks. While it’s true monks could use some work on the passive department, there’s definitely other choices than OWE you should consider. I’m using Fleet Footed, Exalted Soul and Chant of Resonance. From an XP standpoint a monk can clear very similar to a DH or Barb.

    24 movement plus Fleet Footed brings your movement to 34, which in turn ramps up to 59 while using Tempest Rush. My playstyle consists of using TR to go from one fight to the next and then crushing the mobs with the standard thunderclap/cyclones and quickly moving on to the next one with TR. Very fast and effective. I have about 140k window dmg and with the setup I do MP0 Alk runs in 9-12 minutes. I’ve ran with well geared barbs, wizards and demon hunters and can keep up just fine.

    Of course in regards to Barbs, the problem is they can keep Wrath up for most of the run which allows them to ramp up the MP level easy with decent gear, while I’m much weaker in higher MP levels if I keep my Spirit passives to keep the speed up.

    • There’s a whole interesting debate about gearing and building chars, now that MP0 Act 3 runs are pretty easy if you have good DPS. Like you say, builds designed entirely around speed and AoE can be kick ass for that, while being useless for higher MP levels.

      It’s an interesting sort of dual path approach that only opens up once you’ve got really good gear and can survive without spending much effort on defensive skills.

  13. Monks were never weak. Did everybody already forget how overpowered a 4 monk team was at D3 Release where you could chain invulnerability and clear Inferno Bosses that way? It was so extreme that it had to be hotfixed very quickly.

    Less people played Monks since then but since 1.0.5 (actually 1.0.4 already) they can easily put those WW barbarians to shame – given equipment of similar value and the Tempest Rush build that everybody uses nowadays.

    As for farming ubers they’re insanely good as well. People usually always ask a Monk, Barbarian or Wizard to carry ubers.

    The movement speed boost Monks get from their skills at pretty much NO costs is ridiculous. Even Demon Hunters who were supposed to be the squishy but mobile class stand no chance of keeping up since their resource (disc) becomes extinct when they spam Vault.

    If anything Monks need a nerf and yes, I have a monk myself.

  14. As my favorite class, this pleases me 😛 Even with the supposed breaking of the Monk in 1.5, I’d always seen her as my best char. So far, only my Monk can solo A4 Inferno, and has survived MP10 (though it takes a LONG time).

    Also, don’t be so quick to throw away Won Kim Lau. The screen doesn’t show it, but it vastly out damages the competition. Unless you go for the Keen Eye’d Deadly Reach, FoT will be your key skill.

    I’m still working on key farming, and only my Monk can do that (except A2, my DH likes that). I’m nervous about Ubering at MP10, but if anyone can do it, it’s definitely my Monk. 🙂

  15. I actually “squeezed” alot of MF in my monk, so as with my other characters XD
    I just cant seem to play without increasing that “RNG chance”
    Try using Sun Keeper like mine Flux, wont cost you more than 5 mil, you can actually get some for around 2m or less with 1k dps/OS/IAS, its a great MF booster, as well as some damage.

    • I have those on my paladin followers, but haven’t used it directly. I’m not real worried about MF on the Monk since I have a DH with max who can comfortably farm MP1, so it seems unnecessary to try to get a Monk up to that level also. Happier using the Monk for tanking and key run stuff, which seems to fit better with the class design, while fast moving glass cannons are easier/cheaper to MF build.

  16. What I find odd about D3 is the concept of builds. I mean really, you take a good game like D2 and rip any symbolic reference to it OUT and paste it onto poker machine reels and call it a sequel. Wtf have builds got to do with D3? None! There’s buttons that pay and others that don’t. You just hit another button if the one u’r currently hitting isn’t pay up. If one button is paying too much then next patch it won’t – guaranteed. Blizzoker!

  17. The first time I killed inferno Diablo was with a Monk… with 200 DPS. It was fun, but I wish I had used a real weapon first, instead of challenging myself to do it with minimal gear.

  18. The monk is my main toon and I love it. I went through some rough spots once I made it to Inferno but after a few days I finally found some better gear. I am currently running MP6 and only have problems with molten mobs. I use the Echoing Fury and was very frustrated with “Fear on Hit” but made a change to my build to help. I started using “Cyclone Strike” and its wonderful to see all those mobs run away and then i suck them back in for some more.

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