Tehrdas, Diablo 3 Monk #3

I ended up having more free time last week than I thought, so I was able to write this sooner. This time I got to level 44. Nightmare started out pretty easy, but the difficulty definitely ramped up in Act 2. This is mainly from champion monsters with certain affixes that make it hard for a melee character to do damage. I died only once in Act 1 to champions with the Arcane affix because I didn’t realize it did so much damage. Act 2 Nightmare was a wake-up call until I got some better items.

Act 1 Nightmare seemed to drop a lot of the same items as Act 4 Normal. Act 2 Nightmare, on the other hand, had a lot of good upgrades. I got some huge weapon upgrades and my stats have improved quite a bit in just these 11 levels.

I think two Acts is about the right length for my weekly updates. It takes about 2-3 days to play through the content. Then, I have 2-3 days to write the post. I always know in my head what I want to write. Putting it down in coherent writing is the hard part. This may change in Hell difficulty though. Most of the time spent is in combat. When the combat is slower (due to higher monster health), it takes longer to finish quests and get through the Acts.

Tehrdas
Level 44 Monk

Statistics
Strength: 98 (+1%)
Dexterity: 769 (+44%)
Intelligence: 219 (+35%)
Vitality: 274 (+16%)

Armor: 2176 (+48%)
DPS: 1430.83 (+256%)

Mostly Dexterity and Intelligence increases this time. I don’t really care about Intelligence much. The resistance bonus doesn’t seem to be much compared to the elemental damage my Monk takes. Elemental damage just has to be avoided by running around. Perhaps it will be necessary on Hell difficulty and higher. I’d really like to see my Dexterity higher, but not at the cost of Vitality. I’ve seen a few items with lots of Vitality, but they had zero Dexterity.

The Armor and DPS numbers are explained by a couple huge upgrades I found in the middle of Act 2. I happened to find a really nice weapon and shield. That explains the huge DPS increase and smaller Armor increase. Check the items section for the item stats. At the beginning of the Act 2 before I had those two items, it was really starting to take a while to kill monsters. It could take 10 or so hits just to kill a regular monsters and champions would take a few minutes to kill. I expect this to be more common as I level up and play in harder areas.

Skills & Runes (Indented)

Mostly new runes in this update but also a few more passive skills.

Deadly Reach rune

  • Scattered Blows – This rune adds a nice area damage effect to the third strike. I believe this replaces the normal third strike effect. You get extra area damage but lose the extra range. I think Crippling Wave is much better for area damage though.

Cyclone Strike rune

  • Sunburst – Instead of dealing damage from the explosion, this rune adds a Fear effect to it. Fear to me seems kind of annoying for a melee character. It’s good for survivability when lots of enemies are around, but not when you are trying to finish off an enemy.
  • Wall of Wind – This is a nice rune that helps with the survivability problem Cyclone Strike suffers from. When you pull a bunch of enemies in melee range, you end up taking a lot more damage. This rune will help a little bit with that, though I’m not sure if it is enough.

Wave of Light rune

  • Empowered Wave – I like this one just for allowing you to use Wave of Light more often. It’s normally a really  high Spirit cost skill. This rune makes it a little more manageable.

Mantra of Conviction rune

  • Overawe – This rune simply doubles the effect. It is probably best on lower difficulties when you just want to kill things fast. Other runes add nice utility that I think will be required on Inferno difficulty.
  • Intimidation – This rune reduces the damage done by afflicted enemies. It’s a nice survivability boost for a primarily damage skill. In higher difficulties, I think I will need a good mix of survivability and damage with every skill.

Crippling Wave rune

  • Rising Tide – This rune adds some extra Spirit when you get a critical hit. There seems to be a rune like this for all of the Primary Monk skills. I think some Spirit regeneration from skills is essential at higher difficulties. You have a to do a lot of hit and run, and just can’t sit there building up Spirit for long periods.

Exploding Palm rune

  • Creeping Demise – This rune reduces the targets movement speed by 80%. It’s a nice way to keep up with ranged targets that like to run away a lot. I think it is best against champions when you just want to pick off one target at a time.
  • Impending Doom – This rune is actually a DPS loss compared to the default effect, but it has its purpose. The bleed does the same damage but over 6 seconds instead of 3 seconds. This gives you more time to kill the monster within the time limit and trigger the area damage effect.

Mantra of Retribution rune

  • Transgression – This rune adds an attack speed bonus to the skill. Attack speed is always nice for Monks since the only way to gain Spirit is with the Primary skills. The faster you attack, the faster you gain Spirit. I actually think they should normalize the Spirit gain from skills to be based on weapon speed. Until then, attack speed will be a really good Monk stat.
  • Indignation – This rune adds a chance for enemies to be stunned when they attack you. The base skill provides nothing defensively, so this is a nice bonus. Stun is the best effect as well.

Seven-Sided Strike rune

  • Pandemonium – This rune adds a Stun effect to the skill. The Stun has a fairly long duration, but the skill itself uses up most of that. This Stun chance depends largely on the number of targets. Against two or less enemies, it is pretty much 100% chance. With more enemies, the chances are much less.
  • Sustained Attack – This rune simply reduces the cooldown of the skill. This skill really doesn’t cost that much Spirit, so a lower cooldown is very nice. This rune improves the skill defensively as well since the Monk cannot be hit while performing this skill.

Inner Sanctuary rune

  • Consecration – This rune increases the duration to 7 seconds. You can depend on it a little more.
  • Circle of Protection – This is a really nice rune for reducing damage you take. As long as you stand in the circle, you take 35% less damage. This would be very good when combined with Deadly Reach’s long range, so you can hit enemies from the middle of the circle while taking full advantage of the damage reduction.

Lashing Tail Kick rune

  • Scorpion Sting – I really like this rune for survivability. It adds 50% stun chance to the skill. Lashing Tail Kick doesn’t have a high Spirit cost, so you can really spam it. There does not seem to be any diminishing returns on the Stun effect. Monsters can be stunned constantly as long as you have the Spirit.

Sweeping Wind rune

  • Firestorm – This is an overall nice rune to increase area damage. I wonder if this radius is big enough to hit enemies while standing in the middle of Inner Sanctuary. You could do some pretty hefty area damage from the safety of that circle.

Mantra of Healing rune

  • Circular Breathing – This rune adds Spirit regeneration to the skill. It is really important to get Spirit faster. You can achieve this with fast attack speed or with rune effects like this one. I don’t know how useful this one is though since Mantra of Healing just doesn’t heal enough to make a difference in most battles.
  • Boon of Protection – This rune adds a shield to all allies, including yourself, that absorbs a lot of damage. It was so powerful at launch that Blizzard nerfed the skill. It used to absorb up to 15% of max life for 2 seconds. Now it is capped at the Mantra of Healing max value of 1240 health. This rune was too powerful with 4 Monks stacking it together, so Blizzard basically nerfed it to oblivion until they come up with a new rune effect. I won’t be using this rune at all until then.

Dashing Strike rune

  • Soaring Skull – This is an interesting rune that slows the movement speed of all enemies in a line from the starting point and end point of Dashing Strike. I don’t know if it effects the target itself, but the target is already rooted in place, so their movement is impaired as well. Despite being interesting, I haven’t thought of a really good situation to use this rune. Some other Dashing Strike runes just seem more useful.

Serenity rune

  • Tranquility – This is another Monk rune that was nerfed. Like Boon of Protection, a party stacked with Monks could use Tranquility in sequence to achieving 8 seconds of damage immunity with only 12 seconds to wait until it was available again. Blizzard nerfed it from 2 seconds to 1 second. With only 1 second, it requires really good group coordination to use it at the just the right time. I probably won’t use it since I usually play single player or public games with strangers.

Mystic Ally rune

  • Air Ally – This rune gives your ally a Sweeping Wind effect (with lowered damage) and a small chance to generate 100 Spirit for you. The Sweeping Wind effect is pretty low damage, but the Spirit generation is massive. To get the best results out of this rune, you have to keep your Spirit 50 and below. Then the Spirit proc will boost it to your 150 cap. Otherwise, a lot of Spirit could be wasted.

Way of the Hundred Fists rune

  • Fists of Fury – This is a nice rune for improving the damage of the skill. The second strike of Way of the Hundred Fists can hit a lot of enemies, so this rune could potentially add a Holy damage over time to a group of enemies.

Mantra of Evasion rune

  • Wind through the Reeds – This rune adds a 5% movement speed increase to the base effect. Movement speed is definitely nice for keeping up with spellcasters and archers that like to run away, but it might be better just to rely on movement speed on boots. By the way, this effect does stack with Fleet Footed and boots. You could get 20-25% base faster movement speed with these.

Blinding Flash rune

  • Searing Light – This is a nice rune for elite killing. Elites, which I call “champions”, are the more powerful monsters you face from time to time. The rune doubles the miss rate of elites from 30% to 60%. Overall, I think Blinding Flash is one of the best defensive skills.

Fists of Thunder rune

  • Quickening – This is another critical hit based rune. Each critical hit using this skill gives you 15 Spirit. Each Primary Monk skill has a skill to increase Spirit gains. Critical hit gear can be used to maximize this rune bonus.

Breath of Heaven rune

  • Infused with Light – This is a really nice rune that fits with many situations you get into with Breath of Heaven. When your health gets low, you started running around to avoid attacks and wait for Breath of Heaven to be off cooldown. Then you can go back in, build up Spirit with Primary skills, and use Spirit-requiring skills. With this rune, the first few Primary skill hits you do generate an additional 6 Spirit each. I have been in this situation many times, so this rune fits right into things I already do. I don’t have to do anything special to take advantage of it.

Beacon of Ytar (passive) – This passive skill simply reduces all cooldowns by 15%. Almost all the skills with a cooldown for Monk are defensive skills, so I think of this as greatly boosting survivability. Still, it depends on how many of these types of skills you have. Serenity, Breath of Heaven, Inner Sanctuary, Seven-Sided Strike, and more are all good with this passive.

Guiding Light (passive) – This rune adds a 16% damage bonus to you and allies for a short duration whenever you use a direct heal skill on them. The wording seems a little strange to me since the Monk really doesn’t have any direct heals. They all heal the monk + allies. I am guessing it just means Breath of Heaven and Cyclone Strike (with Soothing Breeze rune). It is not the most useful passive since it forces you to use one of these skills. It also requires you to heal an ally, so solo players get nothing from it.

Items

This is my new weapon. A great improvement over my previous one. The Holy damage and Ruby really boost its DPS. The Spirit regen works well with Transcendence healing.

Really good Dexterity bonus here, but it could have more Vitality. I really love the Critical Hit Chance. So many Monk abilities are triggered off of critical hits. Magic find is always nice, and Immobilize is good for staying in melee range of monsters.

I think I will mostly be listing new weapons and shields I find. They just seem to be the most important items. The faster I can kill monsters, the faster I can get health globes. That will probably change at higher difficulties, but it’s working for Nightmare. I can definitely see getting to a point where I get killed in just a few hits before I can do any damage. Then better armor will be the priority. If I find a particularly good rare or legendary item I will also list it, but they are very rare.

I found a few items with +10% faster attack speed, and they seemed to greatly increase my damage. It is really hard to compare +X-Y damage, +10% attack speed and +Dexterity. I did notice the game has an item comparison feature that seems to work pretty well. I will probably rely on that to judge which items are best.

Progress

Things felt slower just because it takes longer to kill monsters now. Act 1 wasn’t so bad, but Act 2 definitely slowed down. I did get those nice items to speed up killing, but it is still slower than Normal difficulty. I think the difficulty very much has to do with killing speed. If you kill monsters faster, you get health globes faster. You also don’t have to avoid as many area attacks when the monsters die so fast. Instead, Nightmare involves a lot of backtracking to get monsters away from their area attacks.

There seem to be a few champion monster affixes that are devastating to melee. All classes really, but ranged classes can avoid most of them while attacking at range. Many of these are almost instant kills. You can’t stand in them longer than a few seconds before dying. The main ones I remember now are:

  • Arcane – Long lines of arcane energy rotate in circles. You can avoid one or two without much trouble but four or five is impossible. The only way I can fight them is lots of backtracking. Every time they cast a bunch of them I move to a clear area. The monsters then follow and I can attack freely for a short time.
  • Plague – These are just big pools of poison damage. The area is not huge but it completely covers melee range. Avoiding this is pretty much the same as Arcane. I just do a lot of backtracking. I will have to learn how to move in circles to conserve space. In many situations you just don’t have much free space to work with.
  • Molten – Everywhere the monster walks is covered with a fire effect that does heavy damage. I think I have been able to attack from one side without being hit. However, with multiple Molten monsters, they tend to crisscross all over making it a real nightmare to avoid. So I do a lot of backtracking to fight these monsters too. Also, a fire explosion happens shortly after they die that has to be avoided; it is an instant kill if hit.
  • Fire Chains – Out of all of them, this one is the most annoying for me. Basically, there are chains of fire connecting all of the champion monsters. If you get surrounded, you are killed pretty much instantly. Ranged champion monsters are not so bad because they stay at range and you can pick off one at a time. Melee champions are another story. They all surround you to get in melee range to attack. Then you take damage from all the chains at once. Lots of backtracking against melee, not too much trouble with ranged.

It is particularly devastating when these are paired with affixes that impair movement, such as Frozen, Jailer, Nightmare or inherent monster stuns and slows. My survival in the future will be based on how well I can dodge these. Luckily, the monsters don’t seem to regenerate health very fast when I die. I have been able to return and whittle away their health. Usually, I don’t die more than once, but a few times I’ve been bombarded with 2 or 3 separate champion packs at once. I suffered 5-10 deaths in those situations.

Until next week. I hope to be finished with Acts 3 & 4 of Nightmare difficulty. I predict Act 3 to be another bump in difficulty and Act 4 even harder. Luckily, Act 4 is short, so it shouldn’t be that bad despite the number of deaths.

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