The PTR has been out for a while, things have been changed, things have been fixed and things have been broken.
Where does the monk stand after the dust has settled?
Previous Review --
1. Then and now
The problems Monks face in 2.0.6 are generally broken down in to four categories --
These problems result in a class that has a relatively low power-level which will, come 2.1, result in low leaderboard rankings and lack of competitive advantage.
This has largely been ignored.
Several PTR patches have seen extremely minor changes to monk skill damage but most changes have come in tandem with nerfs that counteract any potential power-level buffs.
Across the many posts and conversations it is clear this is the #1 monk problem of today's PTR.
I will discuss the various facets of this problem in more depth later.
Low Mitigation / Sustain
This appears to have been addressed in a very strong and decisive way in PTR3.
The changes made to Mantra of Evasion (now Salvation), Sixth sense and Transcendence appear to have finally bridged the gap left when OWE was destroyed.
Several monk specs are available that can actually face-tank things again (SWK 4pc is the best here) which means support-specs can once more be viable.
Additionally, this opens the door to DPS specs that aren't storm-breaker which can be seen as they slowly filter up the leaderboard rankings.
The last thing that appears to be missing is buffs to Harmony which is set too low to be compelling or competitive.
Spirit as a Resource System
This was addressed to some extent in PTR2.
The changed in PTR2 (doubled spir/sec from most sources and higher base spirit) in conjunction with the new rune on Epiphany in PTR3 allow monks to solve most of their spirit problems.
What these changes did NOT address was the extreme focus on CDR to achieve these results as well as the near-zero focus on Generators to actually generate spirit.
We can all use Vigil belt + CDR + Air Ally + Ifini-Epiph and have no spirit troubles ever again but if you want to forgo CDR you are left out in the rain.
I consider this problem to be half fixed. If nothing more is done the class will be okay but not whole.
Class Sets are Restrictive and Underwhelming
Despite the class-sets receiving no changes at all, there have been tangential buffs that have greatly improved the power-level of Monkey King's Garb (SWK).
Specifically, massive spir/sec buffs, gen APS buffs, 2h buffs.
Nothing at all has changed for Raiment. (it can be argued that CDR DS is an improvement but the recent nerf to 8s CD makes it a wash in the grand scheme)
Inna's has seen tangential buffs by the inclusion of Salvation as a mantra and the extremely minute possibility that SW will be a real skill with the new Seasonal legendary.
Shenlong's is still the red-headed-step-child of sets and has not even been mentioned.
All in all this problem is mostly left unsolved.
While SWK is now more powerful it is still extremely restrictive via being a single element.
Raiment is in the worst shape by far as it is tied to a single element, has a terrible 4pc, is tied to a single skill and has nearly no useful impact other than opening a single style of play that the VAST majority of people dislike intensely.
2. Detailed list of Issues
Monks have VERY low DPS compared to every other class.
Damage in today's D3 comes from two places --
> Strong skills interacting with specific Legendary effects
> Class sets
Class sets will be discussed later so let's focus on skills interacting with legendaries.
Monk Skill + Legendary Item Synergy
Monks actually have strong combinations such as:
LTK + GNK
WoL + new Grand Temple
FoF + Odyn/TF
TR + Hexing
BoH + Eye of Pesh
Freeze skills + Rimeheart
Gens + Depth
SSS + Madstone + FoE
EP + FoA
So why do these great synergies result in such low damage? Because the skills associated with them are all weak.
LTK saw some cosmetic buffs and QoL increases but in conjunction with a 67% increase in cost that resulted in a net-zero or net-nerf and other than that it has been left at a relatively weak place.
WoL does so little damage for its cost that it's hard to imagine using it let alone actually doing so.
FoF, as well as all other gens, have low damage (which was just recently nerfed to make way for slightly improved APS).
In fact, FoF is the only gen I mention because it circumvents the damage problem by having a high Proc Coefficient. The rest of the gens have both low damage AND low Proc Coefficients.
TR has always done terrible damage and now it does terrible damage AND costs too much spirit for any non-max CDR setup to sustain.
BoH has always been a pet-love of mine and it's always under performed. The heal is meaningless as it doesn't scale well at all and has an insane cooldown and the runes are all extremely small as if to make up for being on a "defensive" skill that is actually nothing at all.
Freeze skills such as the new FoT or CW-Tsunami share the FoF problem in that they do their job (freeze stuff) without doing any damage or having any Proc C to speak of.
SSS is a non-AoE skill which makes it mathematically less total damage than a single cast of WoL (which is already terrible) in most situations. On top of that, it has a MASSIVE 30s cooldown and 50 spirit cost which, together, work to make it one of the lowest DPS skills monks have.
The one rune that does AoE (and thus actually does damage) was nerfed early on despite being extremely underpowered.
This skill has the kind of lengendary support that dreams are made of and it still fails to even compete with the other lackluster options.
EP, unlike the rest of this list, is actually fairly strong. FoA still works quite well with it. What's this? A synergy that isn't bad ... why then Druin do you not see any EP FoA monks doing well? Because this skill is inherently tied to your OTHER sources of DPS which, as we have covered, there are none.
This synergy will get better as the other pairings increase in value.
So ... we have these synergies that people want to use and want to love but they simply don't perform well.
This one is pretty easy. Buff all these skills.
We have been asking for these kinds of buffs forever and we have seen nothing but quality of life changes or steps forward combined with steps backward.
Okay, so our skills do far too little damage but that is no issue. The mighty class-sets can solve all our problems like M6, Raekor's (2.1), Earth, Akkhan, Jade and Firebird's (2.1)!
Sadly, this is not the case.
Our sets are not interesting in mechanics like M6, Raekor's (2.1) and Akkhan or powerful in numbers like Jade, Earth and Firebird (2.1).
SWK's effect requires interacting with your resource which is good mechanically but its 2pc requires not only a 2h weapon but a 2h daibo specifically limiting the weapon choice to basically 3 total items out of the entire pool. Additionally, the proc is Holy which further limits both the skills that synergize with it and the items that work with it.
In a very odd turn of events, the 2pc requires using daibos and the 4pc asks for holy-dmg which can only be found on 1h weapons ... this is a pretty glaring design error.
Raiment is infinitely more restrictive. It is tied to a skill that has almost no interaction at all AND it doesn't even interact with that skill. It does lightning damage no matter what rune of Dashing Strike is chosen making it elemental restrictive AND making your DS rune-choice meaningless.
Additionally, because the set is tied to Dashing strike which has no interaction with the monk resource mechanic at all it inherently ignores almost every other monk skill.
The strongest build utilizing Raiment involves ignoring not only the monk resource mechanic but also ignoring the entire monk kit in favor of a bunch of stuff that buffs damage and nothing else. Not even a single generator OR spender is worth using when you could just be dashing.
So you are locked into a single element and either a single skill or a single weapon ... at least you are compensated with TONS of damage right? Nope.
SWK 4pc's 1600% weapon damage is pretty strong when surrounded by monsters as it's AoE but against a single target (RG's that MUST be fought now that Furnace is gone or just the garden variety GR30+ elite) it does the same damage as a single proc of Odyn Son.
This means a monk with nothing but an Odyn Son equipped attacking with WotHF-FoF will do about the same DPS as a monk using their class-set spamming mantras and generating/spending spirit as max speed.
Meanwhile, Jade and Earth are bumping out tens-of-thousands of damage% per activation. It would take my SWK monk 15-20 seconds of constant attacking -> spending to generate the damage done by a single activation of a Jade WD's Soul Harvest.
Raiment does a bit better damage than SWK as it can be spammed at about the same speed assuming ideal conditions but does ~2x the damage. Additionally, while boring, lightning is a VERY supported element allowing for 120%+ bonus.
The problem is not in the paper-math damage for Raiment but in the actual eDPS. When you paper-math the spec, you see 3000% damage over and over and over with Jawbreaker. When you play the spec you realize that it's actually 3000% damage -> spend 3 seconds running away to get distance -> 3000% damage.
As it turns out, 3000% damage is a lot worse when it comes every 3 seconds. At 1000% damage / second Raiment also takes 15-20 seconds to deal the damage of a single Jade Soul Harvest.
Unlike SWK, when Raiment works it actually feels good. 3000% damage at the speed of "how fast can I click dashing strike" isn't that bad .... unfortunately that's not how it works a LOT of the time.
This problem doesn't get enough attention because it's overshadowed by the others ... but our class set bonuses are bland.
Yes, SWK makes a clone which is awesome but it explodes instantly and is, for all intents and purposes, a 1600% damage holy Explosive Blast.
Raiment is even worse in that it just does 3000% lightning damage. Not even a clone to ignore.
None of our sets change the way our skills work and thus the way we think about our class.
This can't be fixed with numbers tweaks. If Storms did 30,000% damage and SWK did 16,000% damage they would be just as boring as they are today.
Other classes get neat things like "X skill gains all its runes" or "Y skill now has reduced cooldown or increased effect" that make you think differently. We get "Proc for Z% damage" and "Proc for Z% damage".
Disappointing Set Bonuses
Even if SWK's 4pc and Raiment's 6pc were better, we would still have what appears to be a design oversight with the two other bonuses.
SWK 2pc requires using a daibo. That is one weapon class. When you use a Daibo, do you get a cool effect? No. You get 20% more damage. That's about as uninteresting as you can possibly get for what I believe it the most restrictive class-set-bonus in the game?
Wait, you CAN get less interesting that that! Raiment's 4pc is 15% lightning damage. This is worse than the bonus on Odyn Son that is felt to be a "freebie" for using a weapon with an awesome proc.
Usually you want to hit at least two of the three "effect" scalars when you are designing items --
SWK 2pc --
Raiment 4pc --
This is a bit harder than the skills problem because some re-design is almost hard-required thanks to the lack of innovative design involved with our sets.
Monkey King's Garb
Sadly it loses Lore flavor but you simply CAN'T leave it as it is ... it's too restrictive to be reasonable at any level
This bonus already requires interaction with our resource and Holy is the right element for a spirit-gen based build
Raiment of 1000 Storms
If you MUST avoid a re-design for Raiment ...
Yea, I get it, it loses the flavor ... I don't care. I want my class not to be bad more than I want to be a storm-master.
There are hundreds if not thousands of suggestions for these two sets that are better than mine. The monk community has, by some sort of wizardry, remained constructive despite our situation and this has resulted in massive amounts of content suggestions. I am not that great a designer so read them please.
(also feel free to link / copy-paste your set design ideas into this thread guys ... can't hurt!)
Resource Management and the CDR problem
There is no arguing about it, Monks are in a WAY better place resource-wise than we were in 2.0.6.
That being said, the way we got there hasn't changed. If you are a monk and you want to spend spirit on something, you better have 50% or more CDR. Generators take away from your DPS, put you in harm's way and generate relatively minimal spirit. This is not to say that generators are worthless, the APS buffs in PTR3 were nice and some specs definitely use generators ... just not as their primary source of spirit generation.
If Gens are meant to do very little damage that is okay but they need to be able to carry their weight. They take a skill slot and stop you from doing everything else while using them. For many specs this is too much of a burden to bear and Gens are done away with all together.
For other specs, they remove one of the downsides such as Lightning-proc which uses TF + Odyn to make the use of FoF not a net-loss in DPS or SWK 4pc which spams Mantras and Sweeping Winds to proc SWK damage and thus removes the downside of stopping your other damage sources.
If your spec can't mitigate the downsides, then ignoring gens altogether is usually the preferred fix. Fire-LTK = no gen, TR = no gen, storm-breaker = no gen.
Ideally, Gens would be valuable on your skill bar without items that specifically make them valuable.
I want EP without FoA, I want DS without Jawbreaker, I want CS without a special legendary, I want Inner-Sanc without any item support ... ect.
The two ways to achieve this are:
I think option 2 is really the way to go here as it is less homogenizing.
If spirit generators were, say, doubled ... you might see people using them for their intended purpose instead of stacking CDR + Epiphany + Air Ally (which isn't overpowered at all it's just the only option we currently have).
Let's clarify what I mean here.
Spirit generators, in a vacuum, are not that terrible. FoT-Q generates 20 spir/hit at 1.31 APS mod which can easily come out to 45 spir/sec given an even remotely fast spec. That's the same as the new rune of Epiphany.
The problem is not the paper-number but the fact that FoT-Q can only generate this much by stopping your other actions and taking you into melee range to sit there.
Epiphany gives you spirit while you do other stuff. FoT-Q does not.
This makes Epiphany's spir/sec worth WAY more than FoT-Q's.
Monk's toughness and sustain are not in a place that using a gen isn't instant death but it's still WAY harder than not using a gen.
This means the reward for using a Gen needs to be higher to compensate the monk for having to stop what they are doing.
I think FoT-Q is a great example here as it does nearly no damage, hits a single monster 2 of its 3 hits and has an extremely low Proc C. There is basically no world in which this skill would ever be used for anything other than generating spirit.
What if it made 40 spirit / hit? Well now you have a choice. 90 spir/sec while using FoT-Q and doing nothing else OR 45 spir/sec from Epiphany. This is a choice.
FoT-Q would also scale with APS instead of CDR which would help break the stranglehold CDR has on the monk build-choice right now.
Double the spir/hit from all generators.
All gens have one of the following list --
Keep Gen damage where it is and allow them to be a form of utility in one way or another. Focus damage buffs on spenders.
I know some people want a "gen only" style play so perhaps each gen could maintain one "damage" rune that has substantially more damage/hit than the others.
Bear in mind that this number would need to be quite high ... Lightning-proc which is a spec focused on lightning damage does higher DPS by using Way of the Hundred Fists - Fists of Fury than Hands of Lightning.
I will say it again ... a spec with upward of 120% lightning damage is better off using a Holy generator than a Lightning one. This showcases the value of utility relative to damage.
3. What Has Been Done
I think it's bad form to ignore the positive steps so here you go --
Our passives are good enough that I wish I had more passive slots for the first time in as long as I can remember.
We have defensive and offensive passives that actually do their job. There are conditional passives (Relentless) and unconditional ones (SixthS).
Things can always be better but I feel our passives are finally "in a good spot" as y'all like to say.
Attacks Per Second
This is the monk hallmark and it's been dead in the water for a long time.
With the inclusion of higher gen APS mods, STI's 30% and Alacrity's multiplicative 15% monks who want to attack quickly can finally do so. It's no zDPS from 1.0.8 at 4.0 APS but I doubt we will ever see that kind of thing again.
Dex -> Armor
This change got a lot less hype than it deserved because it was coupled with the absolutely CRIPPLING nerf to OWE but it's exactly what we asked for.
Dodge wasn't cutting it and Armor is. Now that we have passives to bridge the OWE gap, we can finally start appreciating how much we don't have to rely on dodge.
Mantra of Salvation
MoE was a bad skill. MoS is a fantastic skill.
The way it is implemented allows for scaling redux (active vs. non active) which is awesome. Additionally, other than leaving the movespeed cap on Wind through the Reeds (REALLY!?!?!?) the runes are also great.
This also greatly helps monk's mitigation issues AND helps us stay relevant in the group-world after losing EP.
CDR-based Spir/sec and the Max spirit level
Although it only addressed half the problems with our resource, this change did actually fix the one half!
Our options for passive generation are much more robust now which helps CDR stacking monks move into various builds that were limited by impossible spirit requirements previously.
Note: the fact that TR and LTK were both gutted in the cost-department is a glaring issue in light of these positive spir/sec changes ...
I will start my conclusion with a snapshot of the leaderboards (as of 8:00 AM PST 8/8/14) --
DH ----- 40
WD ----- 39
Barb --- 36
Crus --- 36
Wiz ---- 36
Monk --- 32
I will do my best to keep this updated.
When the numbers stop looking so unbelievably bad, I will consider my mission accomplished.
Monks in 2.1 PTR3 are the lowest total power-level that they have been since the beginning of RoS. This is due to massive power-level shifting changes such as EP's nerf and the nerf to Furnace.
However, Monks are also the most "healthy" that they have been since the beginning of RoS. We have a fairly functional sustain / mitigation system. We are no longer reliant on a single skill for 99.9% of our DPS. There is some build-diversity sprouting up (though they are all weak).
If there has ever been a more fertile ground for growth and balance, I have not seen it.
The opportunity is there to remake this class into the awesome powerhouse of build diversity that it was in 1.0.8. All we need is some help.
Please buff Monks.
"Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing at all" ~ HK
Druin, the happy monk