I'm building a tanking Monk, however I have not yet found a shield worth using.

I find that the faster spirit generation caused by duel wielding (increased attack speed = faster spirit generation) is better than a little extra armor or chance to block < 1000 damage.

Since there really isn't a concept such as aggro, tanks need to be more than just damage soaks. They need to be able to control mobs, and keep them away from the squishier members of the party. To me, having faster spirit generation to control the mobs and keep them away from my allies seems more important than a little extra armor and block chance, providing my other gear provides me with enough stats to survive.

The best shields I've found so far have been about 1400 armor, and typically have < 20% chance to block a few thousand damage. The extra armor doesn't seem to be enough to be worth it, and the amount blocked seems too low to matter. If something is going to kill me, it hits for quite a bit more than 1k-2k.

But I am not sure if this will hold up in the higher difficulty levels.

Can I be an effective tank as a Monk without a Shield at higher difficulty levels?

It should probably be noted that I don't ever play my Monk alone, and this question is about being a tanking Monk as part of a group, not a tanking Monk playing solo (My current build is here)

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    I don't have any high level monk experience, but the concensus I'm seeing has been exactly the opposite: that at high levels, 1H + Shield vastly outperforms the alternatives. Commented May 21, 2012 at 14:59
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    This shouldn't be closed as a duplicate... I'm asking about the effectiveness of Shields vs Duel-Wielding for a Monk Tank (armor + block chance vs spirit regen), and not 2H vs Duel-Wielding (dps vs attack speed + extra attributes)
    – Rachel
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 16:14
  • shield's 1400 armor is not small!! it is on average 20-30% of your TOTAL armor, that is HUGE! shields with 25+ chance to block are common on the AH, so get them unless you for some reason (challenge) dont want to use AH. also you should use justice lantern and helm of command, which will easily bump your block chance above 40% Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:29
  • @ŁukaszGruner I'm not saying the amount isn't decent, but I was trying to decide if the lost spirit generation from lower attack speed was worth the increase in armor and chance to block a bit of damage. So far, the answer has been no for me. The amount blocked is too low for me to make a significant difference, and the extra armor is not enough for me to lower my spirit generation and decrease my effectiveness as a tank :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Jun 21, 2012 at 15:50
  • @Rachel after the last patch (aspd nerf) I ditched the shield, it is not worth it compared to aspd from dual wield. Commented Jun 27, 2012 at 16:00

7 Answers 7


Updated Answer

Having soloed inferno recently with a dual wielding setup on my monk, I can now say as a fact that dual wielding is absolutely possible. But note, this highly depends on having two great weapons to use on your monk.

Here are the main advantages for dual wielding over a shield:

  • Additional socket on weapon for HUGE critical hit damage boost (This is the most important factor, I've severly underestimated how much DPS having more crit hit damage can provide with modest crit hit chance (~30%).)
  • A ton of more stats
  • More Life On Hit Proc (This is the second most important factor)
  • 15% faster attack
  • 15% more dodge

My primary weapon right now is a ~850 dps 250dex 250vit 500 life on hit axe.

My secondary is a ~750 dps 850 life on hit 97% critical hit chance axe.

The main goal of this setup is to have high dps with huge life on hit and high critical hit damage. I'd prefer my primary to be socketed to have even more critical hit, but those weapons with similar stats to mine are too expensive right now and far beyond my reach.

Now that I have 3x more DPS than the old tank build, even though I'm down quite a bit on defense, its easier since I kill them faster so I don't have to tank as long. Also, the really deadly effects such as arcane turret and ground effects can't be blocked anyway, making blocking less useful than killing the target faster.

Finally, dual wielding axes is major style points, imo looks much nicer than axe/shield ;)

Old Answer

This answer is still applicable since having 2 great weapons is really really expensive compared to 1 and a shield.

From my experience, a shield is extremely necessary in late game inferno and ponies (the 1.03 damage nerf has made shield even better by reducing the spikiness of damage). Lets compare and contrast:

Shield Benefits

  1. 1000 - 1500 armor (double that if you use deadly reach)
  2. 70-140 resist all (70+ res all and another element of choice for stacking)
  3. 30-40% block (high block shield with JL + HoC) for 3k damage (note this is after reduction!)
  4. 1 free passive slot (you don't have to take guardian's path so you can devote 1 more passive for defense, such as resolve)

Overall, you gain HUGE damage reduction benefits for 1 equipment slot. If you are trying to be a tank this is almost a no brainer.

Duel Wield Weapon Benefits

  1. 15% Faster attack speed for more LoH
  2. More stats (weapons can get higher stats than armor can), and more unique effects like transcendence (having 100+ life per spirit spent is a great way to heal).
  3. Faster spirit regen (even faster if you have 2 spirit regen weapons)
  4. 15% dodge (if you take the passive)

Overall, you gain a little dodge (doesn't work when frozen, etc, and you can't dodge ground effects like desecrate and plague, which are the main sources of death in late game inferno), some more potential sources of healing and spirit regen, more damage, but way less survivability. Either way you won't be a tank.

To summarize, using a shield is a lot more defensive oriented, and thus provides the most survivability in late inferno acts (3+ and ponies). Not to mention finding a good shield is a heck lot cheaper than finding a good 1 hander with high damage, ias, stats, and LoH. You might be able to get away with duel wielding up to act 2, but I wouldn't expect you to last long beyond that unless you have godly gear and weapons.

  • I concur with your analysis. Having a good weapon to switch out for a shield is viable for low level content (compared to your gear... for me Inferno Act 1). But when you are trying to progress through difficult content, survival is more important and the defensive bonuses of shields far outweigh the increased spirit regeneration from dual wielding. If I run Act 2 or 3 of Inferno, I need my shield. -my personal experience Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 14:24

I personally think you can be, and I think you would be doing the monk an injustice by taking away a 2nd weapon and putting a shield in his hand. The monk is completely built around being a fast and hard hitting melee character. Even though Blizzard will let you equip a shield, could you ever see the character that Blizzard has shaped through the lore ever carrying a massive heavy shield around? I don't.

The concept of an avoidance based tank is perfectly viable, and I think by playing to the Monk's natural strengths you can be an excellent tank.

It starts with not only dual wielding weapons, but stacking attack speed increase. You need to make your spirit generators as fast as possible to keep a constant stream of spirit coming in so that your can continue using your spirit spenders to incap your enemies.

These are suggestions I might make based on the build you linked...

You might want to consider switching your primary attack. Crippling wave is awesome, and the movement speed decrease fits what you're trying to do well, but I might consider using Fists of Thunder + Quickening rune. A couple reasons...

  1. The basic attack generates spirit quicker than any other primary attack as per the tooltip.
  2. Adding the Quickening rune gives you an instant 15 spirit boost each time your crit.
  3. The movement speed gimp that crippling wave applies can easily be offset by a cyclone strike + blinding flash combo which results in total incapacitation, rather than just a speed decrease.

The second move I would make it a passive skill change. Since spirit generation should no longer be an issue, I would drop "Chant of Resonance" in favor of "The Guardian's Path" to get the extra 15% dodge. This will help your survivability immensely in the middle of those large packs, and I think you will have plenty of spirit with your primary attack + dual wield change.

Gear wise, seek out the attack speed increases as well as life on hit, life on kill, etc. Also, find a good spirit stone that puts a lot of item points into spirit regen.

Otherwise, I think you are definitely on the right path, and think your build as is is viable. I just wanted to offer up a different approach.

  • I've started using some of your suggestions (more attack speed, life-on-hit, a good spirit stone, and a different passive than Chant of Resonance), and so far I'm finding it is definitely possible to be a duel-wielding tank at higher difficulty levels. I am finished with Hell, and am currently in Act II of Inferno. I tried a shield a few times, but always find I survive better duel-wielding. I tried out Fists of Thunder and don't like it compared to Crippling Wave, and use One with Everything instead of Guardians Path, but overall thanks for the advice and words of encouragement :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Jun 9, 2012 at 1:57

I'm also in Hell mode now, and I always play with at least one friend, but usually 2 or 3 friends.

Many of those friends run very high dps builds, so it offsets my low dps allowing me to stack more defense and use my crowd control abilities.

I run with a shield, but I am also experimenting with duel wield and 2 handed play. For me the shield is very solid at the moment because it carries a large amount of Resist all, Vitality and dex, plus the block stat and the 1k armor.

Shield vs No Shield

Shield: Block value aside it's very hard to pass up 1k armor, 30 resist all and 60 vitality. That's all hard mitigation that affects every kind of hit I take whether i'm cc'd or not.

No Shield: You'll gain DPS, increased attack speed thus more spirit during attacks, more Dodge, and can have decent Vit for life on an offhand.

Dodge - The issue Dodge though is that it isn't hard mitigation. If you are CC'd then you don't dodge at all. After you burn serenity and eat a second Frozen, that's going to hurt, especially if you don't have Pacifism 75% Damage reduction when CC'd

Spirit - Now here is where things get tricky. 'Tanking' isn't about standing in front of the mobs and soaking up damage in this game. Later Hell and inferno show that you just cant. Sure you can tank trash mobs, but who cares about them. Can you tank that Molten, Frozen, Arcane pack?

So controlling that pack becomes your priority. Keeping them contained so that your dps'ers can safely apply their dps without becoming zerged and 2 shot.

Thankfully your CC abilities don't cost that much spirit for the most part, but your other support abilities do and you aren't going to be standing in among that Firechains/shielded/arcane pack for very long my friend to get hits on them to gather spirit.

So bottom line is, if you can't stand toe to toe and tank the mob packs that are actually going to threaten your group, then what good is all that previously discussed mitigation? Having 'some' is important of course, to take a couple of hits at least while getting close, but suddenly 'spirit regen' becomes really important so that you can keep firing off your abilities to help your group!

This opens the door for looking for gear with spirit regen mods. A nice 2 handed weapon with spirit regen, The Guardians Path for regen, Air Ally with it's chance to regen 100 spirit, healing mantra with Circular breathing, etc all become very viable options.

Spirit regen so you can continue to control the kiting for your friends could be the way to go.

Of course as I said, I'm also only in early hell, so this is all theorycrafting for me at the moment. Great topic though and glad I found this discussion.

  • Tin
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    Do you have a reference stating that you cannot dodge while being stunned? I was under the impression that you can.
    – Alderath
    Commented Jun 6, 2012 at 23:43

I think shield is a far better choice. Not mentioned is that shields can have up to 10% crit hit chance on them. Depending on how good your weapons are, you may actually gain dps by using a shield.

If you can get your crit chance above 20% (a 10% shield does half that for you) and use Sweeping Wind Cyclone, you will watch monsters melt.

  • Thanks, however I'm definitely not a dps character, and usually don't try to be. I'm more concerned with the tanking/survivability aspect of using a shield
    – Rachel
    Commented Jul 16, 2012 at 3:05

I have a monk myself lvl 51 I was duel wielding up until lvl 50 when he'll was just ripping me apart. I switched to a shield today and I must say it is a huge improvement. The key is finding a shield with dexterity. With the shield I have equipped I only lost about 20 DPS an gained over 1200 defense and 4000 vitality. I have no problem dealing with crowded areas as I thought would occur. I do play both public and solo and in both I am able to provide needed mantras to my party and disperse large groups for my fellow players. I have found a happy medium with my shield that allows me to continue being a quick handed attacker (losing only .04 attack speed) while not having to concern myself with losing health to rapidly. You must find the gear that fits your build to be able to enjoy the best of both.


Im hoping your using Mantra of Healing to help your survivability tanking as a Monk. However, all the posts I read say put the Sustenance Glyph on it for extra healing. The way I see it, the Mantra of Healing is more important for getting your health up between fights and not that important when fighitng an elite who can smack you around and cause massive damage fast. I like to use this as an oppurtunity to get some spirit regeneration by using the Circular Breathing Glyph instead. This way, you can build up spirit fast. As far as the shield versus non-shield, its a good question. Im built for tanking and find that I almost always have full spirit and because all my skills are for tanking, I barely blow through my spirit. Maybe thats a result of the fact that I dual wield and build spirit fast, or maybe thats a reason that I should use a shield as I barely use all my spirit. I figure ill find out more in Inferno.

  • This answer could have been left as a comment, but it could be improved to provide some additional information regarding the question at hand. First, your "Answer" to the question is hidden, try to highlight that because that is what people are looking for. Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 15:40

Avoid Mantra of Healing, with a target 60k+ health, it does absolutely peanuts. Use the damage up mantra, with the rune that gives chance to heal on hit. With very high attack speed and fists of thunder (total of 5 punches) this provides 1500-2000 heal per completion. This means that in those moments when you're safe (whether it is by blinding flash, free moment from arcane/molten, or actual invlunerability) you will be healed. Stack life leech on that as increased damage as well. Monks are not sitting rocks, and are only effective offensively - get that DPS up. 40k or so for act III Inferno is good.

I'd have to say shields vs. double fisting may be fairly equal if you have unlimited money to spend. Otherwise there aren't really that many great secondary fist options, and the added DPS is fairly minimal if you hold the dex on shield/other weapon as equal. Blocking takes away damage done, and the added defense does help. More importantly resistances are crucial to surviving Inferno and shields can offer a lot of it.

Use elective mode (enable under the game options) to allow you to use more useful skills for the right mouse button.

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    The structure of your answer could be significantly improved. Currently, your opening paragraph has little-to-no relevance towards the question. It could more appropriately be left as a comment. Commented Jul 11, 2012 at 15:43

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