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State of the Game— April 23, 2007

The Monk's Toolbox
What have those Monks done now?

By Harold J. Chow

Special note: Each State of the Game article presents the opinions and insights of one game observer. These observations are personal in nature and do not reflect the opinions of ArenaNet. While ArenaNet does review each State of the Game article to assure that it offers content that is respectful of all players, we intend to allow our reporters the freedom to inject some personal opinion into descriptions of the current atmosphere of competitive play in Guild Wars, and to express views based on their experience and observation.


Regardless of whether you regularly walk the Monk path, observing current Monk practices can prove helpful. Monks struggling to keep their teams alive can improve their methods by seeing what works and what does not. And for those aggressive folk striving to break the efficiency of a backline, nothing helps like knowing thine enemy.


Elite Skill Selection

Many balanced teams designed for 8v8 combat currently run a two-Monk backline with Light of Deliverance (LoD) and Restore Condition (RC). The LoD Monk uses Infuse Health to catch spikes and often delves into Protection Prayers for Protective Spirit or Spirit Bond. The RC Monk typically uses Protection skills such as Reversal of Fortune, Shielding Hands, or Shield of Absorption, but also delves into Healing Prayers for raw healing power of Gift of Health. Also, following a tradition from the dawn of Guild Wars time, both Monks bring Hex removal.

Light of Deliverance
Light of Deliverance
Light of DeliveranceLight of Deliverance [Elite]
Monk - Healing Prayers - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Recharge: 5
Spell. All party members under 80% Health are healed for 5..80 Health.

The LoD Monk provides powerful healing in an efficient package. Even if the opponent has spread Health degeneration Hexes or Conditions around the team, one five-Energy LoD can keep the party's Health high. Additionally, after an Infuse Health or two, LoD simultaneously self-heals the infuser and heals other low-Health teammates (like the all-important the spike victim). LoD Monks typically round out the Skill Bar with Holy Veil for Hex removal, a Condition removal skill for cleaning up the RC Monk (and for self-cleaning during splits), Energy management and/or defensive Stances, and either a big heal (Heal Other anyone?) or smaller heals (think Dwayna's Kiss and Words of Comfort). LoD's power and versatility have incited some pressure teams to bring Signet of Humility or use a talented Ranger with Distracting Shot just to keep that one skill locked down.

Restore Condition
Restore Condition
Restore ConditionRestore Condition [Elite]
Monk - Protection Prayers - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.75
Recharge: 2
Spell. Remove all Conditions (Poison, Disease, Blindness, Dazed, Bleeding, Crippled, Burning, Weakness, and Deep Wound) from target other ally. For each Condition removed, that ally is healed for 10..70 Health.

The RC Monk focuses more on damage mitigation and keeping the team clean. Restore Condition provides a very powerful heal against Condition teams and helps if the Monk must split back to base against a Burning Arrow Ranger or Crippling Slash Warrior. In such situations, the RC Monk uses Mending Touch to remove Conditions from herself.

Shield of Regeneration
Shield of Regeneration
Shield of Regeneration Shield of Regeneration [Elite]
Monk - Protection Prayers - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 15
Activation: 0.25
Duration: 5..13
Recharge: 8
Enchantment Spell. For 5..13 seconds, target ally gains +3..10 Health regeneration and 40 armor.

Some GvG teams support these two with a Monk flag runner using elites such as Zealous Benediction, Shield of Regeneration, Shield of Deflection, or Healer's Boon. The choice boils down to deciding which skill allows the flag runner to both survive and defend the base NPCs from ganks while still providing synergy in team situations. Despite its high Energy cost, Shield of Regeneration's armor bonus and impressive Health regeneration make it popular for defensive splits, especially with the lack of Enchantment removal on many gank characters. Some teams have even replaced Restore Condition altogether with Shield of Deflection or Zealous Benediction and relied more on off-Monk Condition removal such as Mending Touch on Warriors, Draw Conditions on a midline caster, or Weapon of Remedy or Wielder's Remedy on a Ritualist.


Hex Removal

For the past few months, Monk duos have relied on a minimum of two copies of Holy Veil (one on each Monk) and one copy of Purge Signet. Some duos bring Divert Hexes, which shines against Hex-heavy teams when you have a lot of physical attackers to clean up, but fails to deliver against most other teams. Consequently, some guilds prefer the Mesmer elite Expel Hexes, or additional copies of Purge Signet on mid- and frontline characters. Distributing Hex removal on other characters in the build makes the team as a whole less susceptible to pinpointed shutdown (say, Signet of Humility or Diversion used against a Monk).

Deny Hexes
Deny Hexes
Deny HexesDeny Hexes
Monk - Divine Favor - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 1
Recharge: 12
Spell. Remove one Hex from target ally for each recharging Divine Favor skill you have.

With the recent move of Deny Hexes to the Divine Favor attribute, some Monks have begun using this skill as a non-elite form of Divert Hexes. Signet of Devotion may seem like an obvious combination, providing free heals every five seconds. However, this gets clunky in a pinch. You often have to spend two seconds to get the signet to recharge before spending another second (plus aftercast) to use Deny Hexes on someone who needed removal yesterday. Instead, pair Deny Hexes with a skill like Divine Spirit, even with its otherwise questionably long recharge. This allows a Monk to remove two hexes with Deny Hexes for the next minute. Divine Spirit also provides some auxiliary Energy management and performs extremely well in high-pressure situations.


Aegis Chains

Aegis
Aegis
AegisAegis
Monk - Protection Prayers - Enchantment Spell
Energy: 10
Activation: 2
Duration: 5..11
Recharge: 30
Enchantment Spell. For 5..11 seconds, all party members within earshot have a 50% chance to block attacks.

The buff to Glyph of Lesser Energy months ago revived the popularity of Aegis. Two or three casters "chain" the spell. One player casts first, then another starts casting Aegis as the first copy begins to wear off. This results in a constant Aegis and gives unprepared melee teams a nonstop headache. Despite the recent shift of the Glyph to the Energy Storage attribute, Monks can still use it to power Aegis and follow up with a "free" ten-Energy spell like Spirit Bond or Protective Spirit.

As Mirror of Disenchantment (the veritable anti-Aegis) has become more commonplace, however, teams have begun to forego the Aegis chain in favor of other blocking skills such as Weapon of Warding. In addition, a Mesmer's Power Block on an Aegis turns an RC Monk into a sad panda.

Players also seem divided on the ultimate question: To run Aegis or not to run Aegis on an LoD Monk? Because the LoD Monk also uses Infuse Health, spending two seconds to cast Aegis can incur an untimely death of a spiked teammate. However, LoD Monks who run Aegis try to watch the opposing offense and time the Aegis cast to occur between spikes. The pro infusers hit the Esc key at the same time as Infuse if in the middle of a long cast, instantly canceling the current cast and switching to Infuse. Doing this in the middle of Aegis can disrupt the chain because the Infuser might not have enough Energy to immediately recast Aegis after a canceled cast and an Infuse Health.


Protective Spirit vs. Spirit Bond

Protective Spirit and Spirit Bond serve different but essential roles in a Monk's repertoire. Both of these Enchantments feature noticeable animations that scream to an experienced player, "I have prot!", so at the merest flickering cast, enemy melee players swap targets like hyperactive wolves. Protective Spirit works better proactively, and its longer duration allows Monks to cast it on a Warrior before he goes berserk and charges in with Frenzy. However, its short cast time also mitigates damage when allies come under fire. Spirit Bond can work proactively as well, but its shorter duration and strong effect makes it quite effective when reacting to spikes. Teams often bring one copy of each, typically not on the same Monk.

So which Monk should take which spell? In terms of the current "standard" LoD/RC backline, this decision comes down to player preference. Infusers can use Spirit Bond to save themselves, but that puts all of the team's anti-spike eggs in the same squishy basket. Likewise, Protective Spirit works better on a Protection Monk who doesn't have the same sudden Energy expenditures as an Infuser and can pre-cast ten-Energy Enchantments. Spirit Bond gets higher healing bonuses on a Protection Monk's bar and allows an RC to catch spikes, solving the problem of running Aegis on a LoD Monk, but not every team has two Monks with ninja-like reflexes.

Protection Monks should note, however, that Shielding Hands and Shield of Absorption often help more than either of the ten-Energy spells against attacks enhanced by spells like Conjure Lightning. These Enchantments trigger damage in separate packets, so Shielding Hands negates most, if not all, of the Conjure damage while Shield of Absorption reduces damage to zero that much faster.


Secondary Considerations

Monks use a variety of secondary professions for different purposes, though most look for skills that will help them stay alive. While Elementalist remains popular for Glyph of Lesser Energy, the skill's recent shift to Energy Storage (basically a nerf) has prodded Monks to seek other professions for that extra edge. Mesmer secondaries have access to Channeling (for close, in-your-face Heroes' Ascent action) and Hex Breaker, Power Drain, and Ether Signet for Monks that don't get in the middle of everything.

For the Monk on the move, Assassin skills offer unmatched flexibility. For example, to evade spikes and frustrate Warrior chains, mobile Monks love Dark Escape and Return. More stationary Monks use Warrior skills like Balanced Stance and Shield Bash or the combination of "Watch Yourself!" and Soldier's Defense to fend off melee.

While secondary professions have traditionally provided Monks with Energy management, Monk signets such as Signet of Rejuvenation and Signet of Devotion act as a form of Energy management even without any direct Energy return. Both of these Monk skills push the little red bars up as the Monk naturally regenerates Energy.


Parting Shots

Experience trumps build selection. Those who do not Monk regularly should refrain from telling experienced Monks how to use their Skill Bars, other than to make sure they work with the rest of the team build (e.g., fewer Enchantments in a Nature's Renewal/Tranquility build). In the end, the results mean much more than the specific skill choices. But those just beginning to tread the sacred Monk road can gain quite a bit of knowledge and experience by watching what works for other Monks and trying to use those skills in the appropriate situations.


Harold J. Chow is a freelance Guild Wars reporter. His in-game name is Guild Informant.