Aka My love letter to Skorn
While a combo strike build will work for either 2H or DW playstyle, this guide focuses on 2H simply because of my personal love for Skorn. You can certainly play this build as DW, but some of my gearing advice and offspec builds won't apply as well.
Philosophy & History
This build is for people who like the 2H playstyle and want to try out a spec that puts their dps and survivability well beyond their gear-range. I started my main monk out with a cookie cutter build. It worked fine, albeit a tad boring, but I got to the stage where I wanted to move beyond my mp7 farming. I thought I could do this with my decent resists, single lifesteal, 200k BoH buffed dps. I was wrong. Lots of death. Very frustrating transition beyond my usual mp level. I started playing around with a skorn in my cookie cutter builds and found it to be much more effective than my DW setup and let me move into mp9 with no problem. From there I played around with various active and passive skills until I came across the wonderful skill combo strike and my passion for skorn and 2H builds was only increased
- FoT:TC = Fists of Thunder: Thunderclap
WOHF:BF = Way of the Hundred Fists: Blazing Fists
DR:F = Deadly Reach: Foresight
CD/CC/IAS = crit damage, crit chance, increased attack speed
- 5% lifesteal on a budget – basically, if you want to go above mp8 without spending billions on your gear, you’ll need “dual lifesteal” – with this setup you get that all in one cute little package called Skorn.
High dps – The variability in dps stats for skorn is much smaller than compared to 2x 1H weapons. Additionally, a solid dps skorn is relatively easy to find on AH for a very low price compared to comparable 1H weapons.
Enough spirit generation to handle 3 second mantra refreshing -- ***with a little IAS (See below)
Some gear freedom – 2H builds free up gear requirements a little bit. Average damage is not the greatest stat when using a 2H, which bumps up the cost of jewelry quite a bit. IAS is relatively better for this build. Skorns have high inherent critical hit damage and only require the use of one marquise gem, etc. All of these things together create a little bit of gear freedom compared to a DW build.
Facetank mp9 and mp10 desecrators, poison pools, etc – only do-able at higher levels of EHP gear, but the high dps and lifesteal allow me to play pretty stupidly and hang out in deathtraps, but still able to survive.
- Some gear restriction – you need enough increased attack speed to make it not feel like you’re swinging a log around in slow motion.
Lower dps cap-out potential – this can be debated, but in the strictest sense, you can achieve more effective dps with a DW build, if you have an unlimited supply gold to get the necessary 1Hers. I have a few ghom run tests down below that compares the two setups.
Shut up already and tell me the builds:
Maxdps.com variant (best single-target dps, but solid tightly-packed aoe with a lazy playstyle):
Trash farming variant (great for killing large white packs, little slower vs elites):
It’s pretty simple. Basically, I treat one mob cluster as a “unit of engagement” and as such, this build shines In places with large clusters one after another – Fields of Misery, Dahlgur Oasis, Weeping Hollow, etc.
- 1) Activate sweeping wind
2) FoT:TC to first mob (left click for me)
3) WOHF:BF to get the multihit 2nd attack (right click) – this will easily stack the 3 ias buff with decent crit chance
4) DR:F the 3rd attack for the 18% dps bonus (1 key for me)
5) Hit mantra and spam FoT:TC for dps
6) Renew mantra every 3 seconds and renew WOHF:BF every 8 seconds
Obviously this is an ideal, latency-free, I’m not tired or watching a movie and paying close attention to the game situation. Realistically, I hit sweeping wind and just walk up to the first mob mashing my 1 key to get the deadly reach buff, then I hit mantra and mash WOHF:BF a few times to get my 3 ias stacks, and then I lazily mash FoT:TC for dps.
When I was first getting used to the build, I had to keep my character window open a lot to make sure all my buffs were up and I was getting my max dps, since the DR:F 30 second buff doesn’t show up on the buff window but instead is a faint green glow around your toon that is easily obscured by sweeping wind and cyclone graphics.
Trash farming variant
Same setup as above, but your spirit spender is the EP, not mantra spam. Engage a group of mobs, get your combo strike rolling, and hit EP on a mob or two while doing so. As one explodes, your spirit should fill back up from the Strong Spirit rune on EP, allowing you to continue the chain and keep EP'ing mobs until the pack is dead (which happens pretty quickly)
EP takes some getting used to -- how many EPs you apply per pack is going to depend on your dps, since overkilling it will just drain your spirit and underdoing it will slow down your kill speeds. My happy medium is 2 EPs per pack, which kills off anything within the blast radius and allows me to turbo through the Fields of Misery.
As I mentioned above, you have a little bit more freedom, but a little bit more restriction in gearing, if that makes any sense. Skorn is a naturally slow 2H weapon and if you don’t have any IAS on your gear, this build just isn’t going to work. You’ll go crazy watching the animation take forever and you won’t generate enough spirit to allow for mantra refreshing. Over time I’ve improved my gear, but I was running around with a budget setup for quite a while that was still very effective. So, I’ll break down 3 different gearing sets:
Newbie (aka I have a skorn what now?)
As I said, you need increased attack speed to make that skorn shine. Here is what I would suggest for starters:
- Helm: Inna’s with 6 crit and high dex and your resist of choice. Can find one on AH dirt cheap.
Neck: Crafted or find one on AH with dex, vit, crit, and ias. Also will be dirt cheap
Shoulders: Vile Ward with dex, vit, your resist, and all resist. One with under 200 dex will cost only a couple mil, if that
Chest: Tal Rasha’s chest with vit and dex roll and 3 sockets. Use this piece to boost your vit, the dex roll cap isn’t very high. Or you could get one with less vit and your resist OR all resist for very cheap. Good slot for some decent EHP + the IAS
Belt: Witching Hour is the only real option. They’re a tad more expensive, but the IAS is necessary. Upgrade this over time to better stats
Pants: Inna’s pants, only option. They’re cheap too. One with dex and your chosen resist roll. Dirt cheap
Boots: Natalya’s Bloody Footprints. Get one with high dex and your resist + all resist. Combined with ring, can’t beat the 7 crit, ias (Ring), dex, resists, etc.
Ring 1: Nat’s. Start with just a plain one with a high ias roll. Those will be very cheap. Over time you can upgrade this (and you’ll have to), but this will get expensive. You can sneak one in with a high roll on your resist and some avg damage or vit for pretty cheap too.
Ring 2: Lots of options. For a cheap start, search for rares with Avg dmg, dex, vit, your resist, ias, and crit. You’ll be able to find a decent one for a couple mill. Good start
Weapon: 1300-ish dps skorn with lifesteal and as high as possible crit damage. You’re looking in the 12-30 mil range on AH
Intermediate (aka I love this build and I’m ready for upgrades!)
- Helm: Upgrade your inna’s to as high as possible dex, vit, 6 crit, and resists.
Neck: Same as newbie, but better. Add some crit damage if you can, or higher ias/crit/dex rolls.
Shoulders: Better vile ward or crafted.
Chest: Tal’s with 9 ias, 140+ dex, 220+ vit. Or cut the vit under 100 and a high resist roll.
Belt: Better witching hour – 9 ias, 40+ crit damage, dex, etc
Pants: better inna’s.
Boots: better Nat’s.
Ring 1: Better Nat’s. Will start getting expensive, but start looking for ones with crit chance.
Ring 2: Better rare or ias unity/litany/wailing.
Weapon: 1375-ish dps skorn with lifesteal and 175+ crit damage. You’re looking at 200 mil +, maybe snipe a cheaper one with a bid.
It’s funny because I don’t even have some of the gear I’ll list below.
- Helm: Mempo with crit
Neck: Trifecta craft
Shoulders: Craft with 250+ dex, vit, dual resist… oh and +life% and a unicorn.
Chest: Inna’s chest with massive vit roll (EHP) or Tal's with 9% ias and high dex/vit (dps)
Belt: Godly witching hours, near perfect rolls on the ias/cd, high dex/vit (mine has +armor, good slot for that)
Pants: high stats inna’s
Boots: Nat’s with over 250dex/vit
Ring 1: Nat’s with any number of godly stats
Ring 2: IAS unity/litany/wailing, or a beastly rare
Weapon: 1450+ dps skorn with lifesteal and 180+ crit damage. Mucho expensive unless you sniped one right when blizzard missed a decimal place and broke the economy
As I've said numerous times, increased attack speed is a pretty important stat for both your own sanity and for the effectiveness of this build to be realized. Playing around a bit, I've found that aiming for 1.5 aps (which will be buffed to over 1.7 with WOHF:BF) is ideal. The more the better. At a minimum, I wouldn't take this build out for a ride below 1.3 APS.
My paper dps right now is 270-280k. Fully buffed with my combo rolling, I get up to 500k. (with maxdps.com build)
I’m sure you’re wondering how this compares to a DW build. With my current build, I kill mp10 ghom in around 45 seconds, give or take a few seconds. Ghom runs are a poor display of “real game effectiveness”, but it’s a good benchmark to look at.
And an important added tip from Druin
Note that WotHF:BF is a 15% APS buff * your IAS.
If you have 0% IAS and a Skorn, BF will be 5% per stack.
If you have 50% IAS and a Skorn, BF will be 5%*1.5 = 7.5% per stack and you will get 22.5% total IAS from it.
The build itself has some room for changes – BoH isn't absolutely necessary in the maxdps build. If you are absolutely in love with DS for mobility or feel your gear won't let you give up serenity, that's perfectly fine. You can easily swap either of those in for the BoH and still do plenty of DPS.
Like I said before, you can certainly do this with only 2 spirit generators if you want a more custom build. Since this is the 2H guide, I'd recommend FoT:TC and WOHF:BF as your two generators -- the increased attack speed is too nice to pass up. If you replace the DR:F from my above mentioned build and replace it with Breath of Heaven with the 15% dps rune, you're effectively only losing 11% dps, but gaining a heal utility and simplifying the rotation -- although there isn't much point in dropping a generator with a 2H build -- your only real dps boost option is blind:FiTL and going for a beacon-type cooldown reduction build, and that isn't as good for 2H builds as for DW.
So, this build came about because I wasn’t satisfied with the restrictiveness I felt the cookie cutter builds placed on gearing. I didn’t want to shell out billions for 2 high dps lifesteal weapons where one of them basically had to be a WKL and the other an EF, legendaries with whopping pricetags. I had mid-level gear and was stuck on mp6-7 with not enough dps to maintain a 1 lifesteal weapon setup to push beyond that. I picked up a relatively crappy skorn and swapped it in for my DW weaps and with almost no changes I was suddenly farming mp8-9 with relative ease. My love affair with skorn only continued from there and I started playing around with builds and asking on the monk forums for advice. What I have written above is my lengthy conclusion on the best use of skorn outside of boring TR builds and my gift to everyone else who is looking for something a little different.