The Part About Beating the Game
There are several paths through inferno gearing, but they all lead to the same place (as far as I can tell with my monk friends in Act IV with me).
Progression = can kill non-elites, but it's hard and requires tactics/kiting
Completion = kills non-elites with ease and easy elite packs. Can complete story mode
Farming = kills non-elites in droves and 80+% of elite packs. Laughs at story mode
Overall Damage Reduction = ODR
Note: Melee's inherent 30% is included to make this generally applicable. Also, ODR is explained at the end.
What I learned: Get a legit HP pool. In this phase I over-compensated and ended up with 60k hp and around 8-9k dps. This let me beat and farm (although slowly) act I.
Current Cost of Gear Per Piece (approx): 200-300k
Target Numbers for Farming:
90-91% ODR (520 - 570 resist, 5200 - 5700 armor)
What I learned: Resistance matters. Lose excess HP for resist and armor gear. I ended up with around 650 resist and 5-6k armor with 13k dps.
Current Cost of Gear Per Piece (approx):500-800k
Target Numbers for Farming:
92-93% ODR (610 - 680 resist, 6100 - 6800 armor)
What I learned:Kill things fast, manage healing throughput. Lose more excessive HP for attack speed and other offensive/healing stats.
Current Cost of Gear Per Piece (approx):1-1.2mil
Target Numbers to have on Farm:
94-95% ODR (760-860 resist, 7600-8600 armor)
What I learned:I have completed Act IV, but do not have a useful farming path. The chests/goblins in Act III seem to make it more profitable. Act IV pushed me to strongly consider/use damage reduction. My HP pool has dropped to 25k, but my survivability has never been better.
Current Cost of Gear Per Piece (approx):1.5-5mil
Target Numbers for Farming (presumed):
95%+ ODR (860+ resist, 8600+ armor)
25k dps +
The Part About Mechanics
Attack speed is by FAR the best offensive stat for a monk. I currently have +60% attack speed, and when combined with stunning attacks (FoT, WotHF) you can easily mow down any number of non-elite enemies.
Increased spirit generation through faster attacks
Constant stunlock even on fast enemies
Apparent 100% uptime of chance on-hit or on-crit mechanics (need more testing for on-hit, does not look like they are attack speed normalized)
Easy spirit generator effect weaving (I often run FoT:Blinding Flash and Deadly Reach:Armor buff)
Further attack speed increase by Spirit Generator attack speed multipliers (mechanics still in testing, unclear if there are frame rate thresholds or not. see: http://blackrabbit2999.blogspot.com/2012/05/diablo-3-monk-spirit-generator-attack.html for old info. Would love an update)
Dexterity: Increases damage and dodge...plus armor, making it your next best stat.
Crit: I'm sure there is a crit-based build out there. It plays well with Attack speed.
Crit Damage: Do the math and balance with Crit.
What your DPS number means (from http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/5149181464 ):
(1 + passive skill boosts)*(Weapon DPS + ((minimum damage bonus + maximum damage bonus)/2)*Attack Speed)*(Weapon Damage Multipliers)*(Attack Speed / Weapon Speed)*(1 + ( crit% * crit damage %))*( 1 + (main stat / 100))
This is a terrible formula for Monk's true dps. This DPS calculation is based on auto-attacking with the weapon you have equipped, not using spirit generating attacks. As a result, my character screen shows 23k dps (currently) and a rough test (killing an Inferno Act III tremor) with a stopwatch, I actually do closer to 50k dps using FoT. In other words, if we want to know how fast we kill things, Monks need to build their own DPS calculator/models. This is pretty important as it is possible that the Bliz included one is misleading in terms of what actually minimizes your time-to-kill-an-enemy.
As I have worked into Act IV, I have found that monk defense is built upon balancing incoming damage with healing throughput. There are several ways to do this, but our class design encourages some more than others. Life on hit is the current forum fad, and is one of the ways to increase healing throughput. It also scales very well with our best offensive stat, attack speed. Transcendence turns spirit generation into another healing stream, again scaling with attack speed. Our basic skills/pots provide bigger, fixed, heals with longer cd-s. These are meant to offset damage spikes. As commented by bliz, damage is currently a bit too spikey in inferno (and thus these heals feel inadequate).
Modeling Monk survival as damage against a fixed health pool is a very bad way to think about Monks. We live as damage reduction machines seeking to constantly meet the incoming flow of pain with well timed healing and defensive cooldowns combined with situational awareness and positioning. This is a very dynamic and exciting way to play...Monks rule.
Resist/Armor: Increase these together, keeping % reduction close so you get maximum effect.
-% Damage: This is your endgame secret weapon to reach your target reduction.
Dodge: Dodge mechanic is not intuitive to everyone. Each additional skill applies its dodge increase on the remainig, undodged damage. Thus, if you have 50% dodge and apply a 15% aura, you actually benefit from an increase of 7.5% dodge (50% undodged * 15% aura), giving a net increase to 57.5% dodge.
Block: Block is applied after damage, so dodge mitigates block (can only block un-dodged attacks) but blocks provides a solid increase in survival.
Vitality: More health is better, but not all that important once you have high ODR and decent healing throughput.
Doorways/Corners: The single best defensive stat in the game. Learn to position yourself well and you will go far.
I have found that lower vitality pool with increased resistance is a better combination that the initial math would suggest. Although your effective total health may not be as high, a healing-throughput model implies that the monk goal should be to have just enough health to be out of 1-shot range with constant heals strong enough to refill your hp constantly. Obviously that is unuseable in real gameplay, but the theory is sound. I currently have only 25K hp, down from 60K in Act II. I think this is a little bit low and would prefer to be around 30-35K, but not much higher. By improving resistance over HP I make my healing more EFFECTIVE, letting life-on hit/life per spirit/other regen scale well against my HP pool and my heal-abilities remain powerful.
Put another way: The health-on-hit/hp per spirit heals necessary to keep up with low-reduction damage on a huge health pool are unattainable, but the heals necessary to keep up with damage on a smaller higher resistance HP pool are very easy to get. It's a balancing act between expected incoming damage and healing.
The State of The Class
Desipite the difficulty, I believe monks are currently well balanced. Inferno is, as bliz stated, a bit too spikey, but otherwise it is challenging but fair. Ranged classes certainly feel overly strong at the moment, but a quick glance at their skill trees versus ours makes me believe that this is a gear issue. End game skills are those that scale with gear/stats. We have these in far greater number than any of the ranged classes. Our spirit generators provide a huge DPS boost that other classes do not have. As a result ranged, DH and Wiz in particular, have come much closer to their max damage potential more quickly due to the ability to ignore defensive stats...but they are quickly capping out in damage. Our damage and defense scales exceptionally well with our gear. Yes, monks are more gear dependent, but once you build the gear up, you can faceroll anything using any spec/build you want (don't believe me? go back to Act I and run around). The biggest current issue is our inability to itemize for Magic Find in our basic item set (unlike ranged classes). Also, gear swapping in areas where you don't have Tyriel is really a pain until you solidly outgear the area.
Summary: Ranged is around 70-80% of potential endgame, melee closer to 40-50%. Ranged is easier to get to end game with worse gear, and therefore cheaper. Current best items for monks will run 5million (ish) per slot, that's just where we are.
The Part About Staying Alive
Overall Damage Reduction(ODR)
I hit a gear wall leaving Act III. The necessary armor increase (and to a lesser extent resist) were just not feasible given the game's itemization. It is possible to achieve the needed numbers using skills and some AMAZING items, but this was just out of reach. A bit of math digging yielded the solution.
Common Formula for Damage Reduction:
1-(1-Armor%)*(1-Resist%)*(1-Melee Natural Reduction)
True Formula for Damage Reduction:
1-(1-Armor%)*(1-Resist%)*(1-Melee Natural Reduction)*(1-Other Reduction)*(1-etc)
How this changed my life:
At 700 resist, 7000 armor
Damage Reduction: 93.3% [1-(1-.69)*(1-.69)*(1-.3)*(1-0)]
Resist/Armor need to reach 94%: 760, 7600 (60 resist all, 600 armor increase)
Other Reduction needed: 10-11%
I purchased a decent string of ears with 17% reduction, good resist roll and 60 or so dex (not perfect by any means). Here's what it did to my actual numbers:
Before 760 resist, 7800 armor: 94.1%
After 740 resist, 7700 armor, 17% other: 95% reduction.
A full 1% increase in ODR is HUGE. This alone took me from my early farm Act III goal into my Act IV goal. In game this translated into speed running Act III 5 stack Siegebreaker in 30 min, down from 45. Yes, it matters that much.
In order to conquer the end game content, a combination of gear and defensive skills (these multiply in as additional Other Damage Reductions). It is possible to find good enough gear without using -% Damage from Melee/Ranged/Elites (melee is the best by far), but this makes a HUGE difference.
Since people keep asking, my stats (no buffs):
Life on Hit 500
Life steal 2.7%
Melee Reduction 17%
Ranged Reduction 4%
Increased Attack Speed 45%
Life Per Spirit 0
Best of luck to all you fellow monks,