Monk Leveling Guide for Season 4
Please feel free to critique or suggest ways to improve! I've run three L1-70 characters using this method and a couple using older approaches (HoA/Bounties). I think this is the best approach for minimizing the time involved in getting a fresh season character going.
Patch 2.3 introduces a few mechanics that influence how to efficiently make a new character for Season 4. The first major change is that regular Nephalem Rifts are available for “free” (i.e. no fragment requirements) and immediately at Level 1. Nephalem Rifts can have nice mob density and have an inherent boost to legendary drops, on all difficulty levels and at all levels. This opens up a potentially new L1-70 pathway, one that has been explored by myself and others repeatedly on the PTR. The second major change is the introduction of Kanai’s Cube, which has broad implications for gameplay, builds, and strategy in Diablo 3. What is relevant to a freshly started Season 4 character is the mechanic allowing Legendary drops to be absorbed by the cube and their passive effects used by the character. Specifically, there is now value to legendaries that are below L70 in that they can be consumed by the cube.
We will utilize the following L1-70 zone flow in order to be efficient with leveling and gearing our Monk:
L1-11 Adventure Mode: Startup and Halls of Agony runs
L11-20 Adventure Mode: Nephalim Rifts
L20-22ish Story Mode Act 1: Run Story Up to Skeleton King and Leoric’s Crown
L22-70 Adventure Mode: Nephalim Rifts
In contrast to other Seasons and other guides, I recommend sticking with Nephalim Rifts over a Halls of Agony or Cursed Bounties strategy. Methods using these have been measured faster, but not appreciably so. The upsides to the Rift-centric approach, which does not have the same density (reliably) as a HoA-only strategy, are that the legendary drops that you will get in Rifts can dramatically increase your power and these drops will be available to your Kanai’s cube when you are beginning the post-70 phase of character development. Additionally, several testers have noticed that the average gear level of a “fresh 70” from Rifts is appreciably more powerful than that of a HoA-levelled character.
Finally, this method involves exiting the game only a couple of times. This makes it suitable for use by groups with less headache and certainly more viable should servers be crowded and cause a game creation queue.
It is important to not Salvage any legendaries you may want to absorb into your cube. If you are following my approach, I recommend paying close attention to what you may want to cube and putting those items in your stash as you outgrow them. Alternatively, just throwing old legendaries in the stash and sorting them out at a later date may be safest.
We will start the game in Master mode, and generally remain there unless a string of poor drops forces us to drop down to Hard mode. Expert mode should generally be avoided, as the math around HP and XP for mobs is goofy and it is not as efficient. Generally speaking, if you die, you probably need to drop down to Hard from Master mode. In my 3 runs from 1-70 using the Rift approach, I’ve found that I can do Rifts in Master mode up until the 45-60 range, and then occasionally a lack of good gear drops will force me back into Hard. The Story Mode segment in Act 1 to get Leoric’s Crown is recommended to be run on Hard, for the sake of speed. You can drop the Skeleton King down as low as you want for a fast kill, which is guaranteed to drop a socketed Leoric’s crown at L18+.
I don’t recommend bothering with any crafting other than upgrading weapons (if needed). I have included key levels for yellow 2H axes/swords in the guide in case you have had a lull in legendary weapons and want to consider crafting an upgrade. You should salvage any gear you do not wear, with the exceptions of legendaries (see above).
For Gems, you should have a red gem early in your weapon if it has a socket, and a red gem in your Leoric’s crown at all times. I did not bother combining red gems as I have recommended in the past, because the new gem levels generally provided me with a fresh supply of high level gems as I was speeding through rifts. Use your Gem station to un-gem old versions of red gems from your Leoric’s crown and simply Salvage outdated weapons to recover the gems you place in them. Red gems in weapons taper in the effectiveness the closer you get to L70, so feel free to switch to Greens in your last hour or two. They are fantastic below L50, however.
For weapons, you will generally use only slow 2H weapons. In three trials, I had a useful supply of Legendary drops that kept me well equipped and able to pump out the damage. You’ll rely on Exploding Palm and other skills that care about damage range and not attack speed, so the slower the better. For armor, +XP gain per kill is king, and you should prioritize that in your gearing choices. Next, you should look at damage increasing stats to decide whether to replace an item. Movement speed on boots is helpful and competitive with +XP.
Consider the value of the legendaries you’re using. Leoric’s is guaranteed with this plan, and you’ll keep your low level version equipped (with a red gem) until L70 regardless of the XP or damage you find on a helm. You may come across a Gungdo Gears that is worth keeping equipped for the flavor text even if it is sub-par in stats. There are legendaries that aren’t so great at end-game that may appeal to you as a speedy leveler. E.g. the Pox Faulds pants are incredibly useful for dashing into a group, EPing one, and then letting the Pox Faulds damage kill the group. Finally, survivability should be boosted should you start having trouble post L40. I’d give up 1-2% sheet damage for 15-20% toughness, but be mindful not to trade off more than that.
Long story short: prioritize XP gains, don’t let your damage suffer, and monitor your legendary affixes for things that are helping your kill efficiently.
You are going to end up with a build that will look like a very traditional “Starter Monk” build as recommended by a great number of folks, including Quin C and other Twitch/YouTube contributors. There are a few tweaks as you level, however. If you are an experienced Monk, you are going to have a feel for what you like and what will work for you.
Core skills that I absolutely recommend are:
Any Generator/Primary (I like Fists of Thunder, because it gives more Spirit)
Mantra of Salvation
My build progression uses a few abilities and runes that you may not normally use end-game, but can be incredibly useful leveling. For instance, I utilize Breath of Heaven – Circle of Scorn for a long time in the process, because both the heal and the 500% weapon damage pop can be useful. One EP on a pack and then a BoH activation can be quite effective, for example. I also like Exploding Palm – Strong Spirit, almost never recommended in a L70 build, for leveling due to the spirit recovery.
You should feel free to swap out what works best for you based on your preference, ability to regain Spirit (which is critical pre 70 using questionable gear), and what’s working for you in game. However, be incredibly mindful that you can waste large amounts of time fooling around with rearranging your abilities. I have arranged the level guide in such a way that you can ignore many decisions and focus on killing efficiently.
If you want to make tweaks based on personal preference, take note of when certain skills/runes become available and modify the plan to avoid wasting time. The difference between stopping every level, tweaking your build with runes that may have opened up and sticking to a predefined plan can be an hour or more.
Execution – L1-11 Adventure Mode: Startup and Halls of Agony runs
Start Adventure Mode in Master Difficulty
Hire the SCOUNDREL (You’ll ditch him later)
Take the Templar’s Spear and equip it in your main hand
Take the Enchantress’ Dagger and equip it in your off hand
Run Halls of Agony 3 until Level 7. Certain new abilities (Lashing Tail Kick, Blinding Flash) will auto-equip on your bar.
Return to town at L7 and buy +Damage Rings from vendors, reset game until finding one.
7 Lashing Tail Kick: Vulture Claw Kick
8 Breath of Heaven (replace Blinding Flash)
9 Dashing Strike
10 Passive: Fleet Footed
11 Return to town and buy +Damage Amulet
12 Wave of Light (available to replace Breath of Heaven, if you want)
13 Exploding Palm
13 Passive: Exalted Soul
14 Cyclone Strike (automatic equip)
14 Breath of Heaven: Circle of Scorn
14 Fists of Thunder: Wind Blast
15 Dashing Strike: Way of the Falling Star
15 Craft Available: 2H Sword
18 Exploding Palm: The Flesh is Weak
19 Mantra of Salvation (automatic equip)
19 Craft Available: 2H Sword
20 Passive: Chant of Resonance
20 Return to Town, Hire Templar, Equip him with any 1H+Shield weapons you may have found so far
20 Train Templar with Inspire + Other skills (All Left-most skills works well)
Exit game and switch to Act 1 Story Mode, Hard mode difficulty.
Execution: L20-22ish Story Mode Act 1: Run Story Up to Skeleton King and Leoric’s Crown
Run the story as fast as possible, kill the Skeleton King. There is a L21 Craft available for a 2H Axe should you desperately need it. Equip the socketed Leoric’s crown and gem it with your best red gem now and throughout the rest of the journey to L70. Switch back to Adventure mode, Master difficulty after the kill.
Execution: L22-70 Adventure Mode: Nephalim Rifts
24 Mantra of Salvation: Hard Target
25 Exploding Palm: Strong Spirit
27 Sweeping Wind: Master of Wind
27 Craft Available: 2H Sword
29 Craft Available: 2H Axe
30 Passive: Guardian’s Path
32 Dashing Strike: Quicksilver
33 Sweeping Wind: Blade Storm
38 Sweeping Wind: Fire Storm
39 Mystic Ally: Air Ally (replace Breath of Heaven with this for more spirit regen)
45 Passive: Harmony (available, but I do not take it unless I am having survivability issues)
50 Mantra of Salvation: Perserverence
50 Craft Available: 2H Axe/Sword, Might want to check on armor pieces that could be 20+ level upgrades
57 Wave of Light: Pillar of the Ancients (depending on your spirit regen, you may be able to go Generator-less here, Rift Guardians might become tedious depending on gear, however)
58 Mantra of Salvation: Agility
61 Epiphany (available, or you can stick with Air Ally)
61 Craft Available: 2H Axe
67 Epiphany: Insight (available, and you can probably convert to a “L70 Starter Monk Build” at this point)
Final crafting note: Once you can get Death's Breath material drops, it can be very worthwhile to craft a L70 weapon and hope/enchant for a "Reduced Level Requirement". L70 weapons are a massive increase in damage and this can significantly speed up the final few levels.