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I'm trying to focus my monk on dealing out as much damage as quickly as possible to plow through the more difficult enemies. Ignoring equipment and the bonuses they grant, what combination of skills and runes will give my monk character the highest possible damage per second in

  1. Single target combat?
  2. AOE damage?
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Whew. Theorycrafting. Alright, let's see what I can come up with. –  Frank May 14 '12 at 23:14
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I'm worried that this question is a bit too broad in scope even if you exclude equipment. The number of skills and rune combinations is high enough that I'm not sure a single answer is very viable to make by one person... –  FAE May 14 '12 at 23:16
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@FAE I'm asking this early because I'm a bit sketchy on whether or not this is a good question for the site. Let's see how people react. –  Mana May 14 '12 at 23:29
    
Despite Blizzard's best intent to make this game "full of choice", I think there will ultimately be a single build that is viable for max DPS output. However, surviving and prospering in Inferno difficulty is a different question and different builds. –  Resorath May 16 '12 at 17:33
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2 Answers 2

Using the Skill Calculator, here's what I came up with. I've broken it up at every ten levels, to try to limit what's available.

Level 10: Skills

  • Fists of Thunder with Thunderclap rune; fastest single target attack, with teleport to speed up travel time, too.
  • Lashing Tail Kick with Vulture Claw Kick rune; AOE damage with Fire.
  • Blinding Flash; to blind and allow some free kills.
  • Dashing Strike; to get into the middle of a pack and use Lashing Tail Kick for quick damage.
  • There is no passive at level 10 that directly add damage. Resolve, however, will reduce enemy damage, allowing you to do more killing before needing to back off and heal.

Level 20: Skills

  • Crippling Wave is slower than Fists of Thunder. This is the AoE option, with Mangle rune; for single target damage, Way of the Hundred Fists is probably better. Without knowing how fast each skill is, though, there is no way of knowing for sure.
  • Wave of Light with Wall of Light rune; if you can manage to line up your enemies to hit a lot of them, this will do lots the bell drops on, and a bit of collateral damage to the enemies behind.
  • Blinding Flash with Blinded and Confused rune; none of the defensive skills do damage, but with the rune, there's a chance of getting a little monster action helping you out.
  • Exploding Palm with The Flesh is Weak rune; a great skill to finish enemies in a mob off with; they'll explode and deal damage around them.
  • This is a toss-up between Cyclone Strike and Seven-Sided Strike. Single target damage is absolutely Seven-Sided Strike. AoE, though, depends on how many enemies are around; if there's 8 or more, Cyclone Stike will deal more damage overall.
  • Mantra of Evasion; the only mantra available at level 20.
  • Transcendance; keeps you going by using your Spirit.
  • Exalted Soul; increases your maximum Spirit, allowing you to use more techniques, and get healed more in the process.

Level 30: Skills

  • Way of the Hundred Fists with Hands of Lightning rune; if I'm reading the tooltip correctly, the rune should push the damage from 140% to 200%, based on 20% per hit. As a primary single target attack, I don't think that can be beat.
  • Crippling Wave with Mangle is still the AoE attack of choice.
  • Wave of Light with Explosive Light rune; drop the bell and make it explode!
  • Serenity with Reap What is Sown rune; best used for single target attacking in the middle of a group of mobs; it'll blow up and do lots of damage when it wears off.
  • Sweeping Wind with Master of Wind rune; this, right here, will be the go-to skill for AoE in large mobs for Monks. Just keep up killing, and this will continue to help out.
  • For single target damage, Seven-Sided Strike with Sudden Assault rune will rule. For AoE, it's still a tossup; Cyclone Strike with Implosion rune will do incredibly well in large groups.
  • Mantra of Conviction; straight up 12% damage boost. Mantra of Retribution with Retaliation rune, though, would probably beat it if you're in the middle of mobs and you have low armor.
  • None of the passives from level 20 to 30 increase damage. I added Chant of Resonance to increase Mantra lifespan.

As you can see, it's extremely situational. What skills will work best differs depending on your situation. Hang back, act as support? Single target is probably your best bet. Attempt to imitate a Barbarian and charge in? AoE's your man.

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This is a good answer to a generalistic question. I like the focus on damage here. I agree that the game is highly situational. If you aren't changing your skills for each area/dungeon you'll struggle, imho. –  DavidYell May 28 '12 at 9:07
    
@DavidYell Unfortunately, in Inferno, you don't WANT to be switching skills at all; the Valor buff discourages it entirely. –  Frank May 28 '12 at 14:04
    
Oh right, I'm still in Act4 on Normal :) –  DavidYell May 28 '12 at 16:27
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Here's a potential DPS-focused build: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/monk#WbXYek!gfX!acbcaa.

Skills

Left-Click: Crippling Wave, Mangle Rune (143% weapon damage)
Right-Click: Deadly Reach, Foresight Rune (increases damage by 18% for 30s)
Slot 1: Breath of Heaven, Blazing Wrath Rune (increases damage by 15% for 45s)
Slot 2: Blinding Flash, Faith in the Light Rune (increases damage by 30% for 3s)
Slot 3: Wave of Light, Wall of Light Rune (312% strike damage)
Slot 4: Mantra of Conviction, Overawe Rune (doubles aura strength to 24%/48%)
Passive 1: Combination Strike
Passive 2: Guiding Light
Passive 3: Seize the Initiative

Assumption

Damage buffs from different skills apply multiplicatively, whereas damage buffs from the same skill apply additively. For example, DR/Foresight and BoH/Blazing Wrath combine for 1.18 * 1.15 = 1.36, or a 36% damage increase (better than 15% + 18% = 33%!). In contrast, Combination Strike's 8% boost applies additively for each additional Spirit Generator skill used, so using two Spirit Generator results in a 16% boost.

Build Analysis

  • Regular (almost 100% uptime): 279% damage (CW) / 609% damage (WoL)

    • Foresight + Blazing Wrath + Mantra of Conviction + Combination Strike gives 115% * 124% * 116% = 195% damage

    • Using Crippling Wave, we have 143% * 195% = 279% damage

    • Using Wave of Light, we have 312% * 195% = 609% damage

    • Start by using Deadly Reach to get the Foresight Rune buff, and then use Crippling Wave to get the full Combination Strike buff. Apply Crippling Wave and Wave of Light as spirit allows.

  • Burst (only for 2-3s): 433% damage (CW) / 945% damage (WoL)

    • Activating Blinding Flash + Overawe increases the damage modified up to 195% * 130% * (148%/124%) = 303%

    • Using Crippling Wave, we have 143% * 303% = 433% damage

    • Using Wave of Light, we have 312% * 303% = 945% damage

I've used a DPS-focused build similar to this that worked reasonably well in Hell. I'm not geared well-enough to run this in Inferno (major survivability issues). Any feedback on the numbers / analysis is much welcome!

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