Monster Power

It did not take me that long to discover what the future of my Diablo III experience was: Monster Power. Again it is amazing how scaling the difficulty can keep the game exciting and fresh (the same strategy used to lure you into playing the same story four times on Normal through Inferno). I have always been happy with tweaking my characters and I guess that’s a trait you need if you want to keep enjoying playing Diablo III. What I like in particular about being able to scale the dificulty of the monsters in the game is:

  • Reward increase: you are not doing it for nothing.
  • It’s easy to use but not to the point where you treat it without respect (as you have to leave the game and start a quest and stack of Nephalem Valor over if you want to adjust)
  • The fact that monster health is increased more than monster damage – Diablo is about mass murder (of demons – so it’s ok) – not defensive play.

MonsterPower

As previously stated I am a tweaker. I enjoy fiddling with my stats to keep improving my performance (and Monster Power let’s me test myself constantly). While I play just one character – a Monk – I do enjoy trying out new ways to play that character. Right now I am trying out the skill set that the internet tells me a lot of monk players are using. I call it:

Thunder and Swirly Things

The main stats here are Life On Hit, Critical Hit Chance & Critical Hit Damage. As you wade into combat you unleash a lot of AoE damage (which in turn feeds your health) and the idea is basically to keep doing critical hits (which also unleashes more AoE) and piling damage modifiers on top of that. It sounds very agressive but the skills are actualy a very defensive in nature (when you look at them first).

Actives:

  • Fist of Thunder – the Thunderclap Rune gives you an AoE on your attacks as well as a rather random short range teleport on your attacks. It takes some time getting used to your Monk flittering around like a hummingbird and it takes even more time using it constructively. In fact this teleport can get you in a lot of trouble unless you are VERY precise with your clicks (and this is Diablo – no shame in admitting you are just holding the left button down) as you can easily find yourself teleporting right back into a dangerous situation that you just tried getting out of. On the up side this random movement keeps your enemies from ganging up on you and  since you are not focusing on single target damage it’s ok to switch enemies and keep them repositioning themselves.
  • Blinding Flash – blinding your enemies is a nice breather – especially if you find yourself cornered – and with the Fait in the Light Rune you deal tons of damage right after activating the skill. I find myself caring less about the blind and more about the damage at times. In fact it’s hard to use the skill as a defensive ability when what you really want right after activating it is laying into your enemies as hard as you can. Not having to worry too much about getting clobbered when you want to be clobbering yourself is never a disadvantae though.
  • Serenity – this is the button you mash when you’re standing in a burning pool of plague stuff and have three purple beams of Arcane Sentry about to slice you up. It’s in no way an interesting skill but it’s effective and it saves my holy ass time and time again (it makes you immune to damage and crowd control – you can even activate it after being hit by something nasty). I use the Ascension Rune to make it last for another second – some times that’s the difference between life and running back into combat.
  • Breath of Heaven – a not too impressive amount of healing which you share with your allies if they are close enough (they never are). The real reason to grab this is that since the skll has a 15 second cooldown the Blazing Wrath Rune with it’s 45 seconds damge buff of 15% means you have a permanent boost to your damage (you do not share that with your allies). The healing is alright in a pinch as well.
  • Sweeping Wind – if you thought your teleportation attack making your screen jump was confusing just wait until this baby starts up. This skill causes constant damage to all the monsters around you and with the Cyclone Rune you also occasionally spawn vortexes (vorticii?) on your critical hits. This happens often enough (nicely helped along by a decent chance to actually inflict a crit – I’m at about 33% right now) to literally blank out the screen with little zappy whirlwinds and I can only say it feels very satisfying watching them sweep up mobs like little magical brooms of death. This is your third major AoE effect and all of them combined makes for some effective killing.
  • Mantra Of Conviction – another flat bonus to damage. With the Overawe Rune you increase the damage taken by anyone near you by 24% and that is just too sweet to pass up (a thing that bothers me since I’d much rather spend a skill slot on an interesting active skill). This is also where you spend your excess Spirit. Fist of Thunder generates Spirit at an impressive rate thanks to being a very fast attack (more hits over less time = more Spirit gained) and your other skills are fairly cheap (except Sweeping Wind but you only need to activate that once). When you re-activate Mantra of Conviction the damage bonus is doubled to 48% for 3 seconds – that is something you want to do every time you have a full load of Spirit.

Passives:

  • Resolve – 20% less damage for everyone you hit. I’m actually not sure if this is only the enemies you slap around yourself or if it also goes for the enemies hit by your AoE effects ( I hope it does). At some point I should try playing without this skill just to see if it is as vital to surviving as I like to think it is.
  • Seize the Initiative – 50% of your Dexterity is added to your Armor. As you have a high Dexterity because you are a Monk and you want a high Armor Rating to stay alive this is a pretty effective skill. Again I have not played without this skill so I’m not sure how much of a difference it actually does.
  • Beacon of Ytar – 20% reduction on your cooldowns. This build uses three cooldowns – all of them pretty brief. Spending a passive skill to reduce 15 and 20 seconds to 12 and 16 seconds may seem excessive. I find – however – that in a pitched battle (especially against nasty elites) I am very often waiting for my cooldowns and as such having to wait less means less dying for me.

 

When I approach the enemy I have Mantra of Conviction and the Blazing Wrath Rune buff already up (they always should be). If the pack of mobs include a lot of ranged enemies I have found that it is possible to use the teleport granted by the Thunderclap Rune to “skip” through the mass of close combat mobs and end up in the middle of the softer ranged support. I always try to kill the ranged enemies first as they will otherwise be allowed to keep pelting you with attacks until you have finished with the melee oriented monsters. That’s a lot of damage you do not need to take. Alternatively you can engage the front of the close combat monsters and move back in order to minimise the ranged damage you take – hoping that your Cyclone Rune will take out the ranged combatants before they overwhelm you. Both approaches has it’s merits and disadvantages.

As soon as I make contact with the first mob I activate Sweeping Wind and usually I do not have to activate it again for the rest of the combat. It is a great tool that does a lot of work for you. Your job is to keep hitting the enemy so the skill keeps running and to generate as many critical hits as possible. When I find myself locked fairly well in combat and the Cyclone Rune is starting to work I hit Blinding Flash and try to make the most of the damage bonus from the Faith in the Light Rune. I try to time this with a re-activation of the Mantra of Conviction too – just to pile the damage modifiers as high as possible. If I have been skipping to the ranged mobs I’ll maybe use Blinding Flash before the damage machine is fully operational (it only has a 12 second cooldown – so I can use it again son anyways) this prevents the ranged monsters from running off and the the damage bonus usually lets me finish most of them off before their close combat friends arrive to help (if that strategy works I some times allow myself a brief exclamation of approval before turning my focus back to the game)

If I find myself getting trapped in a large group of enemies I use Blinding Flash as a defensive measure – usually bying me enough time to teleport out of danger (although some times wasting the damage buff). If Blinding Flash is on cooldown or the situation is exceedingly dire I activate Serenity – I try to keep this skill off cooldown as much as possible. It is the life saver not something you use to mitigate some damage you could otherwise counter with a use of Breath of Heaven or a potion.

So far I am enjoying using this build. It certianly is effective but it also has some disadvantages:

  • The teleport of Thunderclap is both a blessing and a curse. You can get good at using it to your advantage but some times it will be a source of frustration. Diablo is smply not a game where you have the time or ability to micro-manage every click of the mouse. Usually you will find yourself running into the enemy while holding down the left button and hope for the best (this is especially true for Elites that place nasty stuff on the ground).
  • Taking Breath of Heaven and Flash of Light – both defensive abilities – for their damage buff some times makes their use feel awkward as your activation of the ability on the defensive negates the offensive potential of the ability or the other way around. On the other hand being versatile in the use of your skills can be an advantage – I find myself feeling a bit of both when playing.
  • Your offensive abilities run on autopilot. Sweeping Wind and Mantra of Conviction needs little supervision and as such you find that the work you do mainly keeping yourself alive and your buffs optimal. In their article about Monster Power Blizzard wrote that “there’s a heavy emphasis on increased monster health rather than monster damage. This is because, in general, it’s more fun to find ways to maximize your damage than it is to be forced into taking every available form of damage mitigation” – this is very true and with this build you are not unleashing your attacks, but managing your defenses. There is – in other words – a high risk of boredom (a thing that seems to floow in the wake of being effective). If you look at the skill calculator you will also notice that you have chosen 3 out of 4 of the monks “defensive” abilities.

 

As my Monk grows I’d like the ability to fiddle with this build. I would enjoy switching Serenity for Seven Sided Strike. I would like it even more if I did not have to rely on the passive Mantra of Conviction. As for passive skills Beacon of Ytar could perhaps be switched for The Guardians Path and maybe Seize the Initiative could be replaced by One With Everything (although both those alternatives requires some very specific gear).

Right now though I am progressing on Monster Power 3 and trying out new gear combinations. I have some pieces of the Inna’s Grandeur set but I’m not sure that is the way to go (especially not for this build which relies very little on Spirit and Holy Damage). I am very grateful for the extra stash space avaliable in this game. A girl needs her wardrobe after all.

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