Guide to playing as a monk
|Note: This article is geared towards new players. Please keep its contents to those which new players can reasonably understand and use.|
Monks are the healing backbone of a party, keeping the other players alive and healthy. They get the unique Divine Favor bonus and two entire skill lines solely devoted to protecting and restoring those health bars. They also have the most hex and condition removal skills and the most resurrection skills.
Divine Favor (Primary Attribute)
The primary monk attribute, which gives the Divine Favor bonus: A small additional boost of health whenever you cast a monk spell on an ally; if a spell has multiple targets, the Divine Favor bonus only applies to the primary target.
One of the two main skill lines monks use, dedicated to restoring health bars.
The marginalized monk damage skill line. Smiting Prayers do extra damage to all undead creatures and monsters.
Understanding the Profession
Healing vs preventing
In general, there are two ways of keeping your team mates alive: Heal them if they take damage, or prevent them from taking damage in the first place. In Guild Wars, those two aspects are related to one monk attribute each: You heal with Healing Prayers and you prevent damage with Protection Prayers. Both are entirely viable, yet as a rule of thumb, preventing damage is more useful in later stages of the game and requires more experience than healing.
If you decide to use healing prayers, you will focus on watching the party list and using the appropriate skills on those that are low. Your skill bar will include a small number of spammable single target skills, a party heal and a few special purpose skills. In PvP, you should not need to bring party healing unless it is HA, or Divine Healing/Heaven's Delight on a Protection Monk. Do NOT bring a resurrection skill, unless it is PvE. Focus on keeping the rest of the party from dying as your first priority.
To maintain energy monks must first and foremost avoid overhealing. Do not waste a skill healing for 140 health points on a party member only missing 50 health points to full health. Note that it is your job to keep your party alive, not keeping them at 100% health. It is perfectly fine and in several cases advisable NOT to heal party members who got damaged for a small amount of health. Wait until they are damaged strongly enough that you won't overheal. Knowing how long you can wait without risking a death because of a sudden spike of damage is part of being a good healing monk.
- Spike healing skills typically deliver poor energy efficiency (health-gained per energy-spent), but are often the -fastest- and can heal a large amount very quickly and are used to catch spikes.
- Party healing skills, such as Heal Party, provide very good energy efficiency if many people in the party need healing, but are often the -slowest- and do not deliver much health to any one target. A team lacking this is vulnerable to party-wide pressure from degeneration or AoEDD.
- Spot healing skills provide the -best- energy-efficient, spammable healing on a single target, and are used in conjunction with prots to save single targets under sustained attack.
Sometimes, a party member will get hit by a lot of enemies for a lot of damage in a short time. That is when you need spike heals. Those are the fast single target heals with a big amount of healing output, like Infuse Health. At other times, no one is in immediate danger of dying, but the whole parties loses health over time, for example from health degeneration or area of effect skills. In this case you need pressure health (e.g. Heal Party) that have a good healing/energy used ratio. Spike heals will always be more costly in terms of energy, you pay for their ability to bring that health bonus where you want without delay. To keep your energy bar up, use pressure heals whenever you can, spike heals only when needed, and spot healing to conserve your energy.
Many healing skills heal for a basic amount of health, but heal for more if some criteria are met. For example, Dwayna's Kiss profits from hexes and enchantments on the target or Words of Comfort from conditions. There are many other examples with other criteria. If you see a team member is fulfilling one of those criteria and you have the appropriate skill on your bar, use it instead of your normal heal to deliver a much bigger boost (and therefore be more energy efficient).
Whereas healing monks can simply rely on the party list, protection monks need to take their surroundings into account as well. Your skills are wasted if you cast them on someone who will not be hit. Of course a first approximation is: If someone just got hit, he will be hit again. In most cases you will fare okay with this, but good protection monks see who is going to be hit and cast their spells even before the first hit lands. Also, protection monks need to assess what kind of damage will land to use the correct countermeasure: Is the attacker an Elementalist boss who will take away hundreds of health points with one skill? Protective Spirit or Spirit Bond is the correct solution. Is it a warrior boss? Use Guardian. Or is a spike coming and you were slow on the uptake? "Small prots" like Reversal of Fortune and Shielding Hands are great stop-gap measures.
Most of the monk condition removing skills are concentrated in the protection line. As such it is usually the protection monk's job to keep the party condition free. Take a look at the condition section below for more detail.
Healing as a protection monk
The biggest problem for protection monks is: What to do once the bars are down? Whether you protected the wrong person or someone was out of casting range, sooner or later you will be faced with the situation of very low health bars that need to be brought back to full. The easiest solution, is of course to have a healing monk with you. The protection monk protects, the healing monk heals those that the protection monk misses. However there are some other possibilities that a protection monk has:
- Gift of Health:
- Healing Burst:
- Zealous Benediction: Despite being in protection prayers, this skill is in effect a healing one. Add the energy gain and this is a great elite for protection monks who do not want to go dual.
- Divine Boon: Every monk uses divine favor for the divine favor bonus, but this skill in addition to the attributes' skill list also features some anti-pressure heals, giving those who use neither of the above options at least some ability to heal.
Going dual, also known as running a "hybrid" bar, this allows the Monk to use both healing and protection skills. This is done by many experienced monks, who usually bring along one skill (sometimes called a "power heal") to heal up (Gift of Health is great for this). The downfall is that by spreading your attributes, your individual skills get weaker.
Monks must get the most bang for their buck and must always be conscious of the amount of healing or effectivenes of protection they get for the energy spent.
Healer's Boon and Unyielding Aura increase your healing bang. High end parties frequently feature a UA monk (the 50% increase in healing overshadows the 25% decrease in energy regen, and frequent and instant rezzing at full health and energy is priceless), and an HB monk that takes Arcane Mimicry to steal the UA. This combination mutltipies the effectiveness of heaing skills by 231% at 13 Divine Favor.
PvE skill Selfless Spirit rather drastically reduces your cost of heals and is a no brainer for monks casting on party members (increases healing output by about 40%); there are a few Inspiration skills grant reasonable energy for low attribute cost (great for Hero monks).
Monks that cast duration enchantments should give good consideration to weilding a weapon with an Enchantment upgrade, making these skills 20% more effective.
In general, it is more important for monks not to die compared to other professions. A front line character dying hurts the party, but a monk dying can easily lead to a full party wipe. Therefore most of the time monk equipment is centered around defensive runes and insignias. In the beginning however, the only mandatory thing is to get a full max armor (Armor rating 60) as soon as possible.
Monks should avoid using superior runes, as the -75 health is hazardous; Reducing your life can make you die faster and PvE monsters tend to attack the target with the least life. For the same reason getting a rune of Vigor (the higher the better, since these do not have a health reduction) is a high priority for monks.
Try to craft a headpiece with a bonus to the attribute you use the most and put a minor rune of that attribute on it. Avoid Divine Favor headpieces as the bonuses you can get from a headpiece in Protection Prayers or Healing Prayers almost always outweigh the bonuses you can get from a Divine Favor headpiece. You should place a minor divine favor on one part of your armor as it will be useful for all builds.
Many experienced PvPers will advise you to use Disciple's Insignias on your armor for the increase of armor. In both PvE and PvP, armor insignias tend to be superior to Survivor's insignias due to the facts that conditions are plentiful in both PvE and PvP (spikes in PvP generally include Deep Wound) and that damage prevention is better than having more health, as damage prevention leads to less damage a monk has to heal, and thus saves a lot of energy in the long run. Many monks in PvP also use shields for the armor bonus; even if you don't meet the requirements, you still get half the armor bonus.
Kiting and positioning
More than any other professions, monks need to kite.
Kiting is the action of running away from the enemy to avoid being hit or to get out of the way of projectiles. Melee attackers often carry Knockdown, and when you are knocked down, you can't cast. During this time, you and your team can be pummeled by the opponents. Also, while kiting, you reduce the pressure on your team as foes are not able to cause damage.
Along with kiting, monks should also try to get to safe positions. The most basic thing is to stay in the backline of the party. Monsters tend to attack characters close to them and will rarely run through the whole group. You can also use walls to avoid projectile spells and attacks. If there aren't any obstacles, kiting sideways is a good tactic. Keep in mind that you need to be in casting range for your teammates to benefit from your positional survival advantage. A useful tactic is to hang back as other party members aggro and engage the foes, and after 4 seconds or so then approach and start healing. A monk should always notice party movements and react by going back or forward.
Dealing with conditions
Only a few other professions are able to remove conditions, thus your party will expect you to deal with them. The first goal of a monk is to be able to identify the kind of condition(s) on the target. Disease and Poison color the health bar green, while Bleeding turns it light pink. Deep Wound is recognizable by replacing part of the health bar with a grey block. All other conditions (cripple/blind/dazed/cracked armor and burning), however, show up as a small brown down arrow on the health bar and particular animations on the affected character. Monks need to either look at the actual character model or monitor the skills used by enemies to distinguish these.
In cases of Degeneration (poison/bleeding), and especially the case of Apply Poison, where the target of a condition removal will often have it reapplied within seconds of being cured, it is often more efficient to apply a long term regeneration effect to negate it, rather than having to focus all effort on keeping the one or two conditions off, thus neglecting the rest of the party, and wasting far more energy in the process.
Not all conditions are equally severe, so monks must prioritize which conditions to remove: Blind is very strong on a warrior, yet can be safely ignored on a caster. It is the other way round for Dazed. Deep Wound and Cracked Armor endanger one character under immediate attack, while Disease and Bleeding are more likely to out pressure your energy.
When choosing your condition removal skill especially consider the recharge: Conditions are applied often and quickly, so the condition removal benefits a lot from a small down time. Also keep in mind that it is very useful to be able to remove conditions from yourself if you are the only monk in the party.
Dealing with hexes
Hexes are harder to remove, harder to identify and usually have stronger effects than conditions. Any hex on a teammate will add a purple down arrow to the health bar, while some health degeneration hexes will additionally color the health bar bright purple. This purple coloration of the bar also hides the green and pink characteristic of poison/disease and bleeding, though the brown arrow on the health bar will still remain.
Since hexes vary widely in their severity, it is even more important than for conditions to know who is suffering from which hex. It might be a good idea to get your team mates to "ping" (control + left click on the hex icon) important hexes and only remove those.
Hex removal skills come in a wide variety. Several good ones are mesmer skills (See: Expel Hexes). Hex heavy regions might need an elite hex removal skill or several normal ones, but you should usually have at least one on your skill bar.
Cure Hex is a popular option due to the bonus heal the spell provides. Spotless Mind is also popular due to its ability to remove hexes over time, this benefits teammates who have multiple hexes "stacked" on them.
In PvP situations, the spell Holy Veil is a great option to defend the Monk from hexes such as Diversion and Shame, which are commonly cast on Monks in PvP. Casting Holy Veil in advance (usually before the start of the match) allows the Monk to remove these hexes without casting a spell and triggering the hex's punishment for casting. Veil will be recharged and ready to put on again. Be careful of enchantment removals.
Resurrecting team members
As a rule of thumb, monks should never resurrect allies during battle. In the time it would take you to resurrect your teammate, someone else might die due to you being busy resurrecting and not healing. Exceptions are when the monk is using Healer's Boon to speed up casting times, or Renew Life which heals party members with the resurrection.
PvE: In terms of PvE, one skill stands out: Rebirth lets you resurrect team mates, without aggroing nearby monsters, thus often saves a party from a wipe. Rebirth will remove all of your energy, and should never be cast in the middle of battle; only after when the pressure to heal has diminished and the team is safe should it be used. An alternative to Rebirth is Unyielding Aura, as it functions the same as a Rebirth in the manner of resurrecting. Unyielding Aura offers other benefits, but uses the monk's elite skill slot.
Some monks in PvE may choose not to bring a resurrect in lieu of more healing or protection abilities. If you should decide not to bring one, you should inform your party, and ensure that other members are bringing a hard resurrection skill. Generally, parties assume that a monk will have a means of resurrection.
PvP: In PvP resurrection skills are a rarity as most monks prefer to leave the resurrecting to other party members and use that slot for something else. Often Monks in PvP are too busy with kiting, healing/protecting, and overall keeping battlefield awareness to stop to cast a resurrection skill.
Playing in a party
As healers, monks are usually primary group picks. After all, every group needs a healer or two. However this can backfire upon the monk, as they are usually the first to be blamed if something goes wrong. The chief cause for this is, unlike other professions, monks can never let down their concentration. If a damage profession does not attack an enemy for 20 seconds, another player may engage it instead. An easy substitution has been made. But, if the monk stops healing for 20 seconds, the results can be disastrous. A party wipe is common from here, as no one else can easily fulfil a main healing role. Parties expect that you monitor the party health status at all times. Common party builds simply allow for more damage professions than healing, and as such the monk is more vital in their performance. However, even a good monk can sometimes be blamed for a player or a team's mistake. As such, being a good monk requires concentration, and sometimes a thick skin.
One note on using Smiting Prayers: Your party will always expect a healer when they see a monk. If you are playing as a smite monk, advertise that fact well in advance to the other players in your party; don't keep quiet or your party may incorrectly assume they have enough healers.
What to avoid
Useless maintained enchantments: Monks often believe that through the use of Mending, they can prolong their life, which is false. By choosing to maintain mending, you sacrifice 1 pip of energy regeneration, and most often, bring Blessed Signet instead. Blessed Signet has a slow activation time and yields little benefit, and mending doesn't provide nearly enough regeneration to survive in any place other than Pre-Searing. Similar enchants which provide no true benefits should be avoided unless necessary. Likewise, 55HP Monks are generally useless in a PvE party or in PvP: you will spend too much time focusing on keeping yourself alive and a simple enchantment removal will render you useless to your party. Monks should be used for support characters; the skills they have complement this path far better than other routes.
Another common mistake is use of expensive (in terms of energy to healing ratio) healing or protection spells which yield little benefit. Heal Party is a useful skill, however, it is very expensive and should be used sparingly. There are many healing skills that use 5 energy, but provide maximum results, such as Word of Healing, Dwayna's Kiss, Ethereal Light, Healing Ring, Words of Comfort and Patient Spirit. A good 10 energy skill is Healing Ribbon, which is very useful for healing melee front-line party members.
Avoid resurrecting teammates with skills such as Rebirth and Resurrect during the heat of combat. Rebirth consumes all your energy, and will render you useless to your party for 5-10 seconds as you wait to recharge. Similarly, the party members resurrected with either skill are returned with very low health, energy and disabled skills. Rebirth is useful to pull members back from a party wipe, and Resurrect is useful for after-combat resurrection.
In PvP sometimes you may forget to remove Holy Veil when there are no possible professions that hex. Be sure to check the enemies when you maintain Holy Veil.
The standard and defining use of monks. All variants use the Divine Favor attribute, and can then either focus on one other attribute or use a hybrid of healing prayers and protection prayers. As the secondary is not needed for healing, it is used either for self defense or energy management.
Boon Healer (HB)
Monk builds utilizing Healer's Boon for extra speed and efficiency from otherwise slow and costly healing prayers spells.
A third, rarer breed of Protection monks specializes in the use of "bonds", protective enchantments, which are kept up on many or even all party members. More than the other two species of monks, bonders are very situational. A skilled bonder might keep 7, up to 9 enchantments active at one time, and still manage to cast aegis every time it recharges, providing immense damage reduction support. At other times, bonding monks are completely useless (such as when you encounter a great deal of enchantment removal). Know what you are going to fight before you use a "bonder" build.
A boon prot monk uses Divine Favor and Divine Boon with Protection Prayers spells. This combines the damage-reducing properties of protection spells with the healing ability of Divine Favor and Divine Boon. Such a monk is relatively versatile but this versatility came at the cost of maintaining Divine Boon and paying boon's extra energy cost per monk spell cast. Most boon prots use Mantra of Recall or Energy Drain and other Inspiration Magic skills such as Inspired Hex or Drain Enchantment for energy management.
These characters are less popular in both PvP and PvE after the nerfing of their energy management, and the introduction of stronger monk primary elites (Blessed Light, Zealous Benediction, Light of Deliverance etc.)
With the nerfing of Ray of Judgment smiters have become less desirable nukers in some formats, however they are still effective. Besides the ray, a variety of signets can be used. Mesmer secondary can be used for Arcane Echo to copy Ray of Judgment.
Monks have many specialty builds suited for farming, such as the 55 monk, the 600/smite monks and other varieties. Skills from either Smiting Prayers or a secondary profession are used to deal damage.
Flag running on a monk is a viable idea, considering cheap speed buffs and accessible party heals. Monk runners typically require a monk elite to be effective defenders and to effectively support a split, but using a monk elite usually gives them superior defensive capabilities in comparison to a ritualist runner. Favoured in teams with little defense or teams that intend to split heavily and aggressively, monk runners are very difficult to kill and usually better at keeping everyone else alive. It is usually difficult to fit everything required on a monk runner bar as Heal Party is probably the only viable party healing, but expensive, often requiring energy management and there is often no room for other utility such as a snare
Choice of secondary professions
- Warrior Many monks use the warrior profession for self defense.
- The skill Shield Bash is very useful for getting melee characters off you.
- Balanced Stance is a very good skill for preventing knockdowns and stopping critical hits.
- Disciplined Stance and Shield Stance block incoming melee attacks, mirroring the effect of Guardian, but without stopping to cast a spell.
- Mesmer The mesmer has many skills useful for energy management and hex removal.
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