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State of the Game—October 16, 2006

Embracing Your Inner Monk

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.


It seems like every competitive match comes down to the Monks. Sometimes, they keep everyone alive at critical times and the team emerges victorious. Other times, they crumble in the face of the opposing offense and the team berates the Monks over voice chat during and after the match. When it comes to high-level Monk play, however, Monk success depends greatly on the performance of the team as a whole. Monks and non-Monks alike must make sure they have done all they could to ensure team survivability.


The Team Build

Heal Party
Heal Party
Heal PartyHeal Party
Monk - Healing Prayers - Spell
Energy: 15
Activation: 2
Recharge: 2
Spell. Heal entire party for 16..80 Health.

When watching successful guilds in Observer Mode, one might note that Monks in these guilds typically get quite a bit of support from non-Monk teammates. The most common support character, the Elementalist/Monk, frequently uses Heal Party to help Monks conserve their Energy against pressure and Health degeneration for more important tasks such as catching spikes and removing key Hexes and Conditions. Some guilds even have other support characters to share these duties, often a Necromancer/Monk with Draw Conditions or a Mesmer/Monk with Remove Hex or Expel Hexes.

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.

Increased defensive capabilities and damage prevention also make a Monk's job more manageable. Teams may include Aegis on a Necromancer/Monk or Elementalist/Monk to block half of the enemy attacks. Other Elementalists carry Ward Against Melee to keep Warriors in check. Some Warrior primaries or secondaries bring "Shields Up!" to thwart Rangers and boost armor against other professions that deal piercing damage. Mesmers and Necromancers often equip anti-attacker hexes such as Faintheartedness and Spirit of Failure to slow down a Warrior train or restrict Rangers from firing so many interrupting arrows. Ritualists use defensive spirits like Shelter and Union to make the party more resilient to attacks.

Draw Conditions
Draw Conditions
Draw ConditionsDraw Conditions
Monk - Protection Prayers - Spell
Energy: 5
Activation: 0.25
Recharge: 2
Spell. All negative Conditions are transferred from target other ally to yourself. For each Condition acquired, you gain 6..26 Health.

Naturally, Monks should use a Skill Bar that has some synergy with the team's build. If the team gets shutdown by Hex-heavy teams, the Monks may want to bring extra Hex removal. In an extreme example, one top guild wanted to out-pressure opponents with lots of damage and degenerative Conditions, so it used only one Monk in the build. This Monk made good use of "Victory Is Mine!" to recharge Energy from the numerous conditions the team had spread to the opponents. Meanwhile the party's E/Mo used Heal Party to sustain everyone's health while the N/Mo used Draw Conditions to keep the team's attackers clean. Even the Warriors sported the Necromancer skill Plague Touch to remove Blindness. Running builds that meshed well together rather than just using a template Monk build factored greatly into the guild's success.


Playing a Monk

Despite the need for good team play, Monks do require skill on an individual level to succeed in PvP. For some, playing a Monk or other healer class can seem like playing a different game altogether compared to other professions. Instead of gazing at the wonderfully rendered scenery or watching powerful attacks hit enemies, a Monk's focus shifts to making sure all of those Health Bars in the party window stay red. Part of improving individual play as a Monk comes from adjusting your own style of play.

  1. Adjust the User Interface

    Monks must be able to simultaneously follow the action, maintain adequate attention to the party window, and keep party members alive. Customizing the user interface (found by pressing the F11 key) helps accomplish these goals. Moving the compass closer to the party window allows a Monk to more easily navigate by compass while monitoring the party's Health. For those who use the mouse instead of the keyboard to activate skills, moving the Skill Bar closer to the party window and, if needed, resizing it to a comfortable size can mean all the difference when trying to catch a spike. Those who prefer to use the keyboard can set up hotkeys for each member of the party. Some Monks bind the number keys on the number pad to select party members. Since these keys bind separately from the set of number keys above the letters on the keyboard, these Monks can select a party member with one hand and activate the appropriate skill with the other.

  2. Learn the skills

    While a Monk obviously should know what each of his or her skills does, a good Monk also knows when to use those skills. Sure, Monks commonly use a skill like Protective Spirit to catch a spike and mitigate much of the damage. However, proactive use of this skill on a party member running through a Trebuchet blast zone or overextending into enemy lines can keep that ally from getting killed before the Monk can react.

    Word of Healing
    Word of Healing
    Word of HealingWord of Healing [Elite]
    Monk - Healing Prayers - Spell
    Energy: 5
    Activation: 0.75
    Recharge: 4
    Spell. Heal target other ally for 15..100 Health. Heal for an additional 15..100 Health if that ally is below 50% Health.

    Likewise, knowing the opponents' skills helps a Monk recognize how to respond. For example, watching an opposing group of Necromancers starting to cast Shadow Strike should tip off a Monk that a "blood spike" will soon hit the party member that the Necromancers have turned to face. The Monk should then cancel his or her current action and prepare to use a skill with a quick activation time. Knowing that Shadow Strike takes two seconds to cast, a Monk can time a 0.75-second-cast heal like Word of Healing to start when the incoming Shadow Strike has reached about three quarters of its cast time. The heal spell should then land safely between Shadow Strike and the typical blood spiker's follow-up spell, Vampiric Gaze. Trying to cast a two-second Signet of Devotion, on the other hand, will only lead to extra death penalty for the spike victim.

  3. Learn to "kite"
    Ward Against Melee
    Ward Against Melee
    Ward Against MeleeWard Against Melee
    Elementalist - Earth Magic - Ward Spell
    Energy: 10
    Activation: 1
    Duration: 8..20
    Recharge: 20
    Ward Spell. You create a Ward Against Melee at your current location. For 8..20 seconds, non-Spirit allies in this area have a 50% chance to block melee attacks.

    Just as a kite moves around unpredictably in the sky around a fixed location, a Monk must learn to evade attackers through movement while still staying in range to heal the team. If a teammate has set up a Ward Against Foes, kite through the ward to lose a melee attacker. If a teammate has planted a Dust Trap or cast a Ward Against Melee, kite into the trap or ward to make a melee assailant hit less often. Dodge projectiles, such as arrows or Lightning Orbs, by moving left or right before they hit. Monks on high-rated guilds rarely stand still in combat as constant movement mitigates damage. Likewise, learning to stop when a pursuing Warrior tries to use Bull's Strike can prevent a trip to the Resurrection Shrine.

  4. Positioning

    Just about all Monk skills become useless if the Monk does not stay in range of the party members taking damage. Likewise, Monks standing too close to the action soon find themselves at the center of enemy attention. Ideally, try to stay just in range of most party members, and anticipate the need to push forward to heal a frontline character that charges into the enemy ranks.

    In addition, use terrain advantageously. Hide behind walls and other terrain features to prevent Rangers from hitting with devastating bow attacks. Casters can also stand on different height levels from melee attackers and cast non-projectile spells on allies and enemies.

  5. Communicate with the Party

    In a team-oriented game, good communication means the difference between winning and losing. Monks can communicate over voice chat when they run low on Energy to let the rest of the party know that they may need to retreat. Telling the party to Blind or otherwise deter a Warrior allows the Monks to focus on healing the team instead of kiting around. Monks can even alert the party to certain dangers such as interrupters or Migraine Mesmers that threaten to completely shutdown the healing.


Playing a Non-Monk

Non-Monks can apply the above concepts to improve their Monks' chances of keeping the party alive. A non-Monk's interface should allow the player to control his or her character to its fullest potential. Non-Monks who have familiarized themselves with a lot of skills will know what enemy skills give their Monks the most trouble if left unchecked. Interrupting or otherwise targeting those enemies can prolong the Monks' ability to keep the party alive. A non-Monk kiting when faced with sudden danger allows the Monks more time to cast a lifesaving heal. Staying within healing range of the Monks likewise contributes to the party's success, as the non-Monks can get healed as needed and stay close enough to protect their Monks from enemy attackers.

Clear team communication makes the most difference, as Warriors who warn their Monks that they need to overextend will receive a preventative Protection spell and have a better chance of surviving. Teams who heed their Monks' warnings of problematic enemies will keep their Monks functional by taking down those characters quickly. Most importantly, players who refrain from blaming their Monks for not healing quickly enough allow those Monks to stay focused on the task at hand instead of questioning their own abilities or arguing with the team.

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