Diablo 3 Monk: Beginners Guide to Builds, Skills, Gameplay and Leveling

Published by admin on May 10th, 2012 - in Guides

Diablo 3 Monk Guide

The Monk is, along with Barbarian of course, the second melee damage dealing class in Diablo 3. Their gameplay is however fairly different, and even if you’re primarily a fan or melee classes like me it may not necessarily mean you’ll like the Monk.  The playstyle is simply not the same, and in the Monk guide below you’ll find out exactly what makes this class different.


Diablo 3 Monk Gameplay

This section will tell you a bit about the gameplay of Monks, their mechanics, combat style, how they deal with various combat situations and such.

Monks are sacred warriors who channel divine power through sheer force of will. Healing waves, mantras of protection and attacks empowered with holy might are all within their purview.

Monk is not a master of one particular aspect in Diablo III. Instead, they are good at everything: monks a great selection of both AoE and single target spells, and are able to do both quite well. They can also dual wield weapons, but also use a Daibo class-special weapon which is a two handed staff. This class is also great to have in any party not just because of their damage and healing spells, but also due to their party-wide auras (mantras) which are very helpful.

Monks vs. Barbarians

Can’t figure out which class is better suited for you? Here’s a few main points telling you how the monk class is different from barbs:

  • Monks have better group utility and buffs.
  • Barbarians have higher damage output.
  • Monks are generally a lot safer to play, especially at Inferno difficulty due to their “Near Death Experience” passive skill (90 second cooldown resurrect if you die).
  • Barbarians farm and level faster.
  • Monks have self healing, Barbs don’t.

Monk Resource System: Spirit

Monk Resource System: SpiritSpirit resource is in a way similar to Barbarian’s Fury. Some skills generate Spirit, while most spells will expend it. However unlike Fury which deteriorates over time when out of combat, Spirit actually regenerates.

Other than the slow replenish rate, Spirit can be generated by using specific abilities and attacks, and by completing combos. Monks can use Daibo (two handed staff weapons) or dual wield Fist Weapons, and I personally prefer the latter. Most Daibo weapons have a bonus that increases your spirit regeneration rate and The Guardian’s Path passive skill then increases your spirit regen by another 25%, I’ve found that dual wielding weapons actually gives you more DPS. As you attack faster your spirit also regenerates quicker, and you have more frequent combo attack bonuses.

By using your spirit-generating attacks in the right sequence you’ll be able to have more than enough spirit to cast plenty of spells. Since your abilities that expend spirit don’t have any cooldowns this can be very beneficial. A good rotation of spirit generating and expending abilities can mean you can do impressive amounts of damage.

Combo System

D3 Monk Crippling Wave Ability

Monk is the only Diablo III class that uses the combo system on their abilities. Whenever you use one of your primary abilities you gain 1 combo point, and on the third strike you gain a bonus depending on which skill you last used. Do note that if you don’t use a primary skill for a few seconds your combo points do disappear. Below are primary skills that generate combo points:

  • Fists of Thunder (available at level 1) – every third attack deals AoE damage to enemies and knocks them back
  • Deadly Reach (available at level 3) – every third hit extends the range of this spell by 25 yards
  • Crippling Wave (available at level 11) – every third hit damages and slows nearby enemies movement and attack speed

Furthermore, you can improve these combos by using specialized skill runes. As an example, Fists of Thunder skill rune named Bounding Light (available at level 52) releases a chain lightning on your enemies instead of knocking them back. Another example is Deadly Reach’s Keen Eye rune (unlocked at level 18) that increases your armor by 50% for 4 seconds after the third strike.

Monk Mantras

Diablo 3 Monk Mantras

Mantras are Monk’s active abilities which provide buffs for yourself and your entire party. They all cost 50 Spirit to cast and last 3 minutes.

  • Mantra of Evasion – available at level 19, this mantra gives you and your teammates a 15% increased chance to dodge attacks
  • Mantra of Retribution – available at level 21, this spell will give your party members an aura that reflects 40% of the damage they receive back to the enemies as Holy damage
  • Mantra of Healing – you’ll get it at level 26, and it will provide your friends an increase in life regeneration
  • Mantra of Conviction – all enemies around you take 12% additional damage

Each of these four mantras also has extremely beneficial skill runes that significantly increase their power. For example, Mantra of Conviction has Overawe skill rune available at level 35 that doubles its bonus, or a level 60 Submission rune that makes enemies affected by this mantra take 12% weapon damage per second as Holy Damage. You should remember that you can only use one mantra at a time.

Monk Skills & Abilities

The following is a list of all active and passive abilities that Monks get, broken down by levels.

Monk Active Skills

Fists of Thunder.png Fists of Thunder Requires Level 1 Generates 6 Spirit
Unleash a series of extremely fast punches that deal 110% weapon damage as Lightning. Every third hit deals damage to all enemies in front of you and knocks them back a short distance. Generates Spirit faster than other Spirit-generating skills due to the high attack speed.
Skill Runes: Thunderclap, Lightning Flash, Static Charge, Quickening, Bounding Light
Blinding Flash.png Blinding Flash Requires Level 4 Costs 10 Cooldown: 15 seconds seconds
Create a flash of light that blinds all enemies within 20 yards for 3 seconds. Elite enemies recover faster, but suffer a 30% chance to miss with attacks.
Skill Runes: Self Reflection, Blinded and Confused, Blinding Echo, Searing Light, Faith in the Light
Mantra of Evasion.png Mantra of Evasion Requires Level 19 Costs 50
Recite a Mantra that grants you and your allies within 40 yards a 15% chance to dodge attacks for 3 minutes. For 3 seconds after activation, a second effect grants an additional 15% chance to dodge attacks. This is a Mantra. You can only have one Mantra active at a time.
Skill Runes: Hard Target, Divine Protection, Wind through the Reeds, Perseverance, Backlash
Lashing Tail Kick.png Lashing Tail Kick Requires Level 2 Costs 30
Unleash a deadly roundhouse kick that knocks enemies back and deals 200% weapon damage.
Skill Runes: Vulture Claw Kick, Sweeping Armada, Spinning Flame Kick, Scorpion Sting, Hand of Ytar
Deadly Reach.png Deadly Reach Requires Level 3 Generates 6
Project lines of pure force over a short distance for 110% weapon damage. Every third hit extends 25 yards.
Skill Runes: Piercing Trident, Keen Eye, Scattered Blows, Strike from Beyond, Foresight
Breath of Heaven.png Breath of Heaven Requires Level 8 Costs 25 Cooldown: 15 seconds
A blast of divine energy heals you and all allies within 12 yards for 6202 – 7442 Life.
Skill Runes: Circle of Scorn, Circle of Life, Blazing Wrath, Infused with Light, Penitent Flame
Dashing Strike.png Dashing Strike Requires Level 9 Costs 25
Quickly dash at the targeted enemy or location, striking for 100% weapon damage and rooting the target for 1 second.
Skill Runes: Way of the Falling Star, Flying Side Kick, Quicksilver, Soaring Skull, Blinding Speed
Crippling Wave.png Crippling Wave Requires Level 11 Generates 6
Unleash a series of large sweeping attacks that cause 110% weapon damage to all enemies in front of you. Every third hit damages all enemies around you and dazes them, slowing their movement speed by 30% and attack speed by 20% for 3 seconds.
Skill Runes: Mangle, Concussion, Rising Tide, Tsunami, Breaking Wave
Mantra of Retribution.png Mantra of Retribution Requires Level 21 Costs 50
Recite a Mantra that causes you and your allies within 40 yards to reflect melee damage back at enemies, dealing Holy damage equal to 40% of the damage sustained. The effect lasts for 3 minutes. For 3 seconds after activation, the effect on you increases to 80% of the damage sustained. This is a Mantra. You can only have one Mantra active at a time.
Skill Runes: Retaliation, Transgression, Indignation, Against All Odds, Collateral Damage
Inner Sanctuary.png Inner Sanctuary Requires Level 22 Costs 30 Cooldown: 20 seconds
Create a runic circle of protection on the ground for 5 seconds that cannot be passed by enemies.
Skill Runes: Safe Haven, Sanctified Ground, Consecration, Circle of Protection, Forbidden Palace
Exploding Palm.png Exploding Palm Requires Level 13 Costs 40
Cause a target to Bleed for 220% weapon damage as Physical over 3 seconds. If the target dies while bleeding, it explodes and deals 30% of the target’s maximum Life as Physical damage to all nearby enemies.
Skill Runes: The Flesh is Weak, Strong Spirit, Creeping Demise, Impending Doom, Essence Burn
Mantra of Healing.png Mantra of Healing Requires Level 26 Costs 50
Recite a Mantra that causes you and your allies within 40 yards to gain increased Life regeneration by 310 Life per second. The Mantra lasts 3 minutes. For 3 seconds after activation, the effect is increased to 1240.4 Life per second. This is a Mantra. You can only have one Mantra active at a time.
Skill Runes: Sustenance, Circular Breathing, Boon of Protection, Heavenly Body, Time of Need
Tempest Rush.png Tempest Rush Requires Level 5 Costs 15
Charge directly through your enemies, knocking them back and hobbling them, slowing their movement by 60% for 2 seconds. Also deals 50% weapon damage while running.
Skill Runes: Northern Breeze, Tailwind, Flurry, Slipstream, Bluster
Sweeping Wind.png Sweeping Wind Requires Level 21 Costs 75
Surround yourself in a vortex that continuously deals 15% weapon damage to all enemies within 10 yards. The vortex lasts 6 seconds and is refreshed each time you strike an enemy with a melee attack. Landing a Critical Hit has a chance to increase the vortex effect up to 2 times for a total of 45% weapon damage to nearby enemies.
Skill Runes: Master of Wind, Blade Storm, Fire Storm, Inner Storm, Cyclone
Serenity.png Serenity Requires Level 16 Costs 10 Cooldown: 20 seconds
You are enveloped in a protective shield that absorbs all incoming damage for 3 seconds and grants immunity to all control impairing effects.
Skill Runes: Peaceful Repose, Reap What Is Sown, Tranquility, Ascension, Instant Karma
Way of the Hundred Fists.png Way of the Hundred Fists Requires Level 15 Generates 6
Unleash a rapid series of punches that strikes enemies for 140% weapon damage.
Mantra of Conviction.png Mantra of Conviction Requires Level 30 Costs 50
Recite a Mantra that causes all enemies within 20 yards of you to take 12% additional damage. The Mantra lasts 3 minutes. For 3 seconds after activation, the effect is increased to 24% additional damage. This is a Mantra. You can only have one Mantra active at a time.
Skill Runes: Overawe, Intimidation, Dishearten, Reclamation, Submission
Seven-Sided Strike.png Seven-Sided Strike Requires Level 17 Costs 50 Cooldown: 30 seconds
Dash rapidly between nearby enemies, dealing 777% weapon damage over 7 hits.
Skill Runes: Sudden Assault, Several-Sided Strike, Pandemonium, Sustained Attack, Fulminating Onslaught
Mystic Ally.png Mystic Ally Requires Level 22 Costs 25
Summon a mystic ally to fight alongside you until it is destroyed. The ally deals 40% of your weapon damage as Physical per swing.
Skill Runes: Water Ally, Fire Ally, Air Ally, Eternal Ally, Earth Ally
Wave of Light.png Wave of Light Requires Level 12 Costs 75
Focuses a wave of light that crushes enemies for 215% weapon damage as Holy, followed by an additional 45% weapon damage as Holy to all enemies in a line.
Skill Runes: Wall of Light, Explosive Light, Empowered Wave, Blinding Light, Pillar of the Ancients

Monk Passive Skills & Abilities

Resolve.png Resolve Requires Level 10 Damage you deal reduces enemy damage by 25% for 2.5 seconds.
The Guardian's Path.png The Guardian’s Path Requires Level 24 While dual-wielding, you gain a 15% chance to dodge incoming attacks. While using a two-handed weapon, all Spirit generation is increased by 25%.
Fleet Footed.png Fleet Footed Requires Level 10 Increases movement speed by 10%.
Transcendence.png Transcendence Requires Level 16 Every point of Spirit spent heals you for 62 Life.
Chant of Resonance.png Chant of Resonance Requires Level 20 Duration of all Mantras increased by 7 minutes. While one of your Mantras is active you gain 2 Spirit every second.
Seize the Initiative.png Seize the Initiative Requires Level 20 Your Armor is increased by 100% of your Dexterity.
Exalted Soul.png Exalted Soul Requires Level 13 Increases maximum Spirit by 100. Spirit fuels your defensive and offensive abilities.
Sixth Sense.png Sixth Sense Requires Level 27 Your dodge chance is increased by an amount equal to 30% of your Critical Hit Chance.
Pacifism.png Pacifism Requires Level 30 While you are under a Stun, Fear or Charm effect, all damage taken is reduced by 75%.
Near Death Experience.png Near Death Experience Requires Level 58 When receiving fatal damage, you are instead restored to 35% of maximum Life and 35% Spirit. This effect cannot occur more than once every 90 seconds.
Guiding Light.png Guiding Light Requires Level 40 Whenever you use a direct heal skill on another player you and the other player deal 16% more damage for 15 seconds.
One With Everything.png One With Everything Requires Level 45 Your resistance to all elements is equal to your highest elemental resistance.

Monk Builds

Monk Leveling Builds

Diablo 3 Monk Leveling Builds

For leveling I would almost always go for a combination of both single-target and area of effect skills, and monk’s are no different. Unlike with most other classes I don’t feel monks necessarily have any “bad” abilities, and your choices may often come down to your play style. There’s also one major difference, as that’s whether you play solo or in groups. If you like playing with your friends then a more group-oriented ability build is recommended, consisting of particular mantras and supportive skills.

For solo play however, there’s two ways you can go. First one is single target oriented build, where you want to have mostly spirit generating abilities, and at least two powerful spirit spending abilities, as you still need damage. As I already mentioned monks are quite good at AoE as well, in which case Crippling Wave is a great spirit generating ability, which you should compliment with a selection of healing and protective skills as well.

Recommended Active Skills

D3 Monk Active Skills

Fists of Thunder & Deadly Reach – Deadly Reach is quite popular among players, but I personally prefer Fists of Thunder for better consistency and damage. At level 11 you might want to pick up Crippling Wave if you’re going for a more AoE-focused build.

Breath of Heaven is your main healing spell which I almost always take. It’s available at level 8 and will save your butt on countless occasions.  It’s also quite useful in groups.

You have a ton of various spirit-spending attacks to choose from, and all of them are quite good as I already mentioned. Find a combination that fits your play style and think about what you’re lacking in combat: if you feel like you need more AoE attacks or crowd control, pick spells accordingly.

If you need more survivability Serenity (level 16) will give you a 3 second immunity to damage on a 20 second cooldown, making it amazing for those clutch situations. Inner Sanctuary is available at level 22 and in my opinion isn’t as good, but if you need an additional defensive spell go for it.

Recommended Passive Skills

Monk Passive SkillsThere are 14 different passive skills you can choose from, and some are (again) better suited for solo play or group play.

At level 10 you can choose from Fleet Footed, increasing your movement speed by 10%, or Resolve, which reduces enemy damage by 25% for 2.5 seconds. Clearly you’ll want to use the latter, as the 10% movement bonus isn’t nearly as useful.

At level 16 you gain access to the fourth passive skill Transcendence, which is in my opinion amazing. For every point of spirit you spend you’ll gain 62 life, making it an incredibly useful skill to have when farming. Sustain is always good, and quite often you won’t necessarily need to take Breath of Heaven (your healing spell), freeing another active skill slot for something more useful.

The Guardian’s Path is also quite good. When dual wielding your chance to dodge is increased by 15%, or when using a two handed weapon your spirit generation is increased by 25%. Paired with Mantra of Evasion you can have a 30% dodge just from those two skills. And that doesn’t even include any dodge you may get from dexterity or other stats. There are some skill runes that give reactive bonuses when you dodge, so a dodge-focused build can make a lot of sense, however it’s best at later levels and game difficulties. Alternatively, you can use Sixth Sense at level 27, which increases your dodge chance by 30% of your critical hit chance. If you focused on building a lot of critical strike, this may be of more benefit to you.

Guiding Light is available at level 40 and it’s only useful when grouped. It increases your and your friends damage by 16% for 15 seconds each time you use a direct heal skill on him.

One With Everything skill becomes available at level 45, and I absolutely love this one. It increases your resistance to all elements so the amount of your current highest resistance, so for example if you have 50 Holy resistance, all other resistances would have the same amount. It makes most sense at later levels and difficulties though when you can build decent resistance sets. By using this passive skill you can just stack a ton of one elemental resistance, but get them all.

Nothing comes close to Near Death Experience skill however. This one’s available at level 58, and will resurrect you with 35% of your maximum life and spirit in case you die, with a 90 second cooldown. It’s extremely useful to have, as I’m sure you can imagine.

Example Builds

PvE Builds:

PvP Builds:

Generic PvP Build – focused on single target abilities with snares, mobility and closing distance.

Co-Op Builds:

  • Pure Defense Monk – this build focuses almost entirely on supporting your group, and far less on damage dealing
  • Monk Group Support Build
  • Monk Party Support Build
  • Monk Ranged Support Build – Casting Breath of Heaven every 12 seconds regardless of need provides permanent 16% attack damage buff to whole team. All other skills all regen team health, increase team damage, decrease mob damage, and/or slow mobs. A Wizard with Galvanizing Wand Passive will have constant 930 hp regen/sec with this build.
  • Healer/Defender Monk – Weapon style (usually either fast dual wield(fast/high spirit), skill damage daibo (skill damage), or whatever maximizes skill effectiveness (max 2 skills)): max 2 skills. Role: keep allies alive any way possible, healing heavily damaged allies and scaring away mobs at the same time when needed.

Important: some of these builds may be outdated. If you need updated builds made by top Diablo 3 players click here.

Monk Weapons & Armor

Monk Weapons and Armor

Monks are well known for their martial arts skills, but they have a powerful arsenal or weapons available to them in D3. They can use standard weapons such as one-handed and two-handed axes, swords, spears or maces, but their class-specific weapons are:

  • Katar- these fist weapons are basically one handed daggers that can be dual-wielded
  • Daibo – these are two-handed weapons similar to staves

Daibos are slow weapons, best used if you want a more burst-oriented spirit heavy build, while katars and other weapons are commonly used by dual wielding characters and generally do higher DPS and are better for tanking. For weapons you’ll want to pick those with highest attack speed and highest DPS, clearly; attack speed is important for generating spirit and thus using your spells.

As for armor, monks start with cloth robes, progressing to better ones imbued with steel plating and various ornaments, which by the way look badass. Monks have exclusive headpieces called Spirit Stone: they are basically similar to regular helms but usually have a bit more armor with less durability.

Monk Stats & Attributes

Diablo 3 Monk Attributes and Stats

Can’t decide between your items? Don’t know if +10 dexterity is better than +1% crit chance? If you’re not sure which stats are more or less beneficial for Monk class, the following section should explain exactly what attributes you should be aiming for on your armor and weapons.

Primary Attributes

Primary Monk attribute is Dexterity, of which every point will increase your damage by 1%, and increase your chance to dodge incoming hits (dodge has diminishing returns, so as you progress through levels you will gain less from the same amount of Dex stat). Second important monk stat is Vitality: as a melee class the monk requires some survivability and this is often the easiest way to get it. Intelligence and Strength are fairly bad for Monks in Diablo 3, as they only provide small amounts of armor or elemental resistances, both of which can be obtained through proper itemization or passive skills.

If you decide to use the Seize the Initiative passive skill you’ll also gain armor equal to your Dexterity, making this stat more valuable for both offense and defense.

Secondary Attributes

There’s a huge amount of various secondary stats, some of which are more useful than others for this class:

  • Damage – damage is hugely important for every class in Diablo III and Monks are no exception. This amount is multiplied with your Dexterity meaning it scales very well and you should aim for as much damage as possible through your equipment.
  • Attack Speed – if you read most of this guide you’ll know how important attack speed is for your damage, mainly because it affects your Spirit generation. The more attacks you do the more spirit you will gain, as well combo bonuses from your primary skills.
  • Critical Hit/Critical Hit Bonus DamageBarbarians are usually the ones who build high critical strike chance and damage, but this stat is useful for monks as well. It’s especially effective with Sixth Sense passive skill, giving you an increased dodge chance equal to 30% of your critical attack chance.
  • Increased Spirit Generation – certain items, mostly Daibo weapons, have spirit regen stat on them. Usually you won’t aim for this stat directly as you should be using an optimal build making sure you rarely run out of spirit.
  • Lifesteal – also fairly bad for monks, since the Transcendence passive will give you plenty of life back whenever you use your spirit points
  • Dodge & Armor – both of these defensive stats are useful, but you can get them from using proper skills, both active but mostly passive. You shouldn’t directly aim for attributes that increase your dodge chance or armor. If you have to pick from either of these, dodge is better.


Monk is a solid all-around class that’s very fun to play for casual players, while those who are looking for a bigger challenge will certainly find it as you need to put some thought into using your skills in the right sequence to maximize your spirit gain and damage. This class is great for solo play and has incredible survivability, and it’s even more fun in groups where you can support your friends with awesome mantras, CC and heals.

Recommended: Monk Class Guide – includes more detailed info on builds, skills, leveling, gold making etc.

Be sure to add your thoughts about the Monk in the comments below.

One Response

  1. Mobus says:

    I play a bit differently. Deadly Reach is my favorite primary attack. LAshing tail kick is great with knockback when you find yourself surrounded. Seven sided strike deals insane damage, and mantra of evasion is what I usually run with.

    What you did not mention in the post is that you should sometimes switch skills on boss fights. Makes it much easier.

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