Any clod with an attack-caliber Strength can smash an orc into submission. The ranger and barbarian have the bulging, rippling muscles for it, and there are at least two fighter builds centered around unarmed or improvised combat. So why would you play a monk?
You're at your best when surrounded. OK, fine, your damage is a little lacking compared to the ranger or avenger, but you can spread it around like no one else. With all your close bursts and blasts, not to mention a striker feature that rewards spreading your attacks around, you can easily hit half a dozen targets in one round for the kind of damage expected of your role.
You're agile like no one else. Right out of the box, monks are the best skirmishers in the game, period. Your powers give you movement options on the level of rogue or ranger utility powers, and they come baked into your attacks to boot.
You fight smarter, not harder. You are designed to get yourself into and out of trouble with ease. If you want a class that rewards battle tactics other than "focus fire until it's dead" the monk is a good choice.
You know fists are not just for punching. While many monks are flavored as disciplined unarmed combatants, that's not the only option available to you. The katana-wielding eladrin with defender-level AC, the spunky pixie beating up things four size categories bigger than her, the mantis-man chucking shuriken halfway across the battlefield--all of these are viable monk builds.
The guide uses the standard LDB-inspired rating system, as described below: Gold: Mandatory. You need this to be optimized, period. Generally reserved for feat taxes and options that are too good to pass up. Skyblue: Excellent. An exceptionally strong choice. Optimizers will want as many of these as possible. Blue: Very good. You can't go wrong with this choice. Black: Good. A solid choice, but probably not without issues. Optimizers will prefer other options, but you'd be well-served taking this if nothing else appeals to you. Green: Situational. The viability of this option is wildly dependent on your campaign and DM. Purple: Poor. Even if you can use this option effectively, there's probably another choice that will serve you better. Red: Weak. Either totally overshadowed by another option, or just completely bad. Never take this.
Glossary The guide will use the following abbreviations for game terms: CA=Combat Advantage CB=Centered Breath DW=Desert Wind ET=Eternal Tide FoB=Flurry of Blows IS=Iron Soul MBA=Melee basic attack MT=Movement Technique NAD=Non-AC defense (Fortitude, Reflex, Will) SF=Stone Fist
and the following abbreviations for books:
D###: Dragon Magazine Issue ### HotEC: Heroes of the Elemental Chaos PHB3: Player's Handbook 3 PP: Psionic Power
The guide is updated with all 4th editon material as of February, 2013. Big thanks to furious_kender for the previous guide, No Paper Tigers!!!, which this guide copies wholesale in parts
Anatomy of the Fist: Monk Mechanics HP: 12 + Constitution score + 5 per level. Iron Soul will be a lot more durable than other builds, though most will be suitably hardy regardless Surges: 7+Con. A little better than usual striker standards. Again, only Iron Soul will be really good in this department, but your high defenses mean it matters less than most. Armor/Weapon Proficiencies: Cloth armor, a few simple weapons. You get basically nothing, but it doesn't matter because of your awesome... Implement Proficiencies: Ki focus...and any weapon you're proficient with. Simply incredible, and allows for alot of versatility. AC: Dex-primary, plus a bonus that compensates for having no armor. You start strong here and will probably end up close to defender-level. Non-Armor Defenses: +1 all, plus a strong secondary tied to Fort or Will. On top of that Centered Breath and Stone Fist get a bonus to the defense their secondary doesn't raise. You'll still need at least of the NAD-boosting feats, but you can wait longer than most.
Fingers of the Fist: Class Features Unarmed Combatant: Free longsword-sized fists! ...when you use them as a weapon, and monks don't have weapon attacks--all monk attacks have the Implement keyword. It's worth mentioning that a martial character (fighter, ranger or rogue) who takes the MC Feat Master of the Fist to poach this feature can get up to some pretty silly shenanigans, the details of which are beyond the scope of this guide.
Unarmored Defense: Whopping bonus to AC that makes your cloth armor as good as leather. Throw in a single feat and it's better than hide.
Flurry of Blows: Your striker feature. When you hit with an attack on your turn, you get a no-action effect: damage tied to your secondary against anybody in range (two targets at paragon, everybody next to you at epic). This does not have to be someone you even targeted with the triggering attack, and you actually get a bonus if it isn't, though depending on the situation you may or may not want to target someone you've already hit. The specific effects of the flurry, as well as the amount of extra damage, depend on your build/Monastic Tradition.
Something to note: Flurry of Blows doesn't have an attack or damage roll and so can't benefit from things that trigger on a hit or bonuses to damage rolls, like Magic Missile. However it does benefit from any other bonuses that just affect "damage" or "attacks", and there are enough of those to make it worth optimizing--I'll go into more detail later.
Centered Breath (PHB3): 2+Wis damage, and you slide the target one square next to you, or in any direction if you didn't target it. This one's for the tacticians and aspiring secondary leaders or controllers in the crowd. You also get +1 Fort to make up for your lower score there.
Stone Fist (PHB3): 3+Str damage, plus 2 extra damage per tier if you didn't target the enemy. This is the purest striker option of the bunch. You also get +1 Will to make up for your lower score there.
Iron Soul (PP): 2+Con damage and the target can't shift for a turn, plus if you didn't target it, it can't make OAs.You also get a +1 shield bonus to AC when you wield a weapon other than your fists, and this tradition's exclusive riders on powers (something no other tradition has) usually require you to be wielding a certain weapon, so this is the default choice for non-unarmed monks.
Desert Wind (HotEC): 2+Cha damage, and a 1-square shift. If you didn't target the enemy it also takes a -2 penalty to any attack including you, even area attacks that affect your buddies. This one's all about mobility and not getting hit. Plus, you get tier-scaling fire resistance, or a small bump to your existing resistance that pretty much only affects the odd tiefling monk.
Eternal Tide (HotEC): Str-mod damage. This one's an interesting alternative for defender types--it's melee 2! You pull the target 1 square and if you didn't target it, it's slowed. The major drawback with this one comes in Epic, where it targets 3 creatures instead of each enemy in reach. You do get to reduce forced movement by a square and shift another square in response, which is very nice.
Ability Scores The monk is an A-class: your primary score is always Dex, and your secondary varies by build. I strongly recommend the 18, 14, 11, 10, 10, 8 spread for monks; you rely on your primary more than your secondary. Scores recommended do not take into account racial bonuses.
Strength- Secondaryfor Stone Fist and Eternal Tide; they want this at 14+. It's also important for athletics and maybe multiclassing, but odds are you won't have points to spare. Constitution- Secondaryfor Iron Soul, who want this at 14+. If you deviate from the standard 18-14 spread I would put the extra points here; if you don't I'd still put this at 11. No one likes being a paper tiger. Dexterity - Determines your hit rate, damage, AC, Reflex, initiative, and some important skills. You want this as high as possible; no lower than 16 if you get a racial bonus or 18 if you don't. I'd put it at 18 anyway; monks aren't especially accurate. Intelligence- The muscle wizard needs no books. Wisdom- Secondaryfor Centered Breath; they want 14. This will probably be where you get your Will defense from and it affects two importan skills in Perception and Insight. Desert Wind can dump it if they don't care about skills, but usually I wouldn't put your 8 here. Charisma- Most monks have no use for this, except Desert Windwho want at least 14. On the skill front it affects Diplomacy and maybe Intimidate if you're trying to be a big scary guy. If you're not Desert Wind I would dump this over Intelligence; they're about equally useless but personally I like a character being able to form coherent sentences.
Masters of the Fist: Monk Races Any race with a Dex bonus is probably fine, especially human for the extra at-will and pixie for their ridiculous mobility. Pixies, human and thri-kreen are my favorite monk races and can be good at any build. Thri-kreen in particular are among the best Stone Fist, Eternal Tide, and Centered Breath in the game, but half-orcs aren't far behind.
A Centered Breath should almost always be a githzerai or elf. Revenants are uber Iron Soul monks, but halfling and half-orcs are less cheesy. Halflings are also good for Desert Wind. If a race is not mentioned, assume it's not under consideration, either because of poor stats or (more likely) a dearth of racial support. Or I just forgot about it.
Drow: Dex, and either Wis or Cha, perfect for Centered Breath or Desert Wind. Crossbow support can result in a interesting (weird) build that is capable at range and melee, and your racial powers aren't bad either.
Eladrin: Dex/Cha..but not together. Argh! Still, free longsword training, Fey Step for when you're immobilized/slowed, and plenty of feat support for using swords as implements make you good enough at Iron Soul that the lack of a secondary doesn't matter.
Elf: Fast, perfect stats for Centered Breath, plus your choice of some of the best racial powers in the game. Close to the best CBs in the business. Proficiency with bows too, if that matters to you.
Githzerai: The fluff says their culture is built around monks, and indeed they have great stats, especially for Centered Breath, and nice defensive racial traits. Their feat support allows them to get more mileage than most out of heavy blades, so if you want to be a samurai this is the race for you.
Gnome: Dex/Int isn't so healthy for your defenses, but the eladrin has the same problem. The deal-breaker is speed 5 on a class that is all about mobility. Small doesn't really matter but you should really just pick halfling.
Halfling: Stats line up for Desert Wind, but you're what really good at is the Iron Soul tradition, due to all your defensive racial traits and feats. Plus, no real penalty for being small means that the little people make excellent monks.
Human: NAD bonus, and a free feat. The real selling point is a third at-will--Fallen Needle, Five Storms and Steel Wind all on the same monk is almost too good to be true.
Half-Orc: Perfect stats for Stone Fist, Eternal Tide, or Iron Soul. There's also some nice RP opportunities there if you want to play it like reverse Hulk: you struggle against your aggressive nature by adopting a fighting style that requires discipline... Racial feats are very striker-oriented and not terribly monk-like.
Pixie: I really hate pixies. Dex bonus makes them good at anything. They prefer Desert Wind due to their natural Cha, but you're top tier for anything but Centered Breath. But the real reason you're here is flycheese--if the DM rules your speed applies to any of your permanent movement modes, all those monk disciplines that let you shift your speed suddenly have you flipping through the air and through enemy spaces with literally no OAs or other consequences. The mental image is very silly, and some DMs are less tolerant, but in LFR you're near unstoppable. Stupid damn pixies.
Revenant: I hate revenants almost as much as pixies, but there's no denying that they make good Iron Soul monks, and their choice of racial feats makes them good at basically never dying (again). They are not as cheesy as pixies in my opinion, but many DMs are wary. Shade: I only included this race to mock it for being terrible. Standard-action racial and you lose a healing surge, all for training in a class skill you're good at anyway.
Shifter, Razorclaw: Perfect stats for a Centered Breath, and once bloodied they become faster than elves. Probably a better choice than elf if you know you're going to be bloodied most of the time.
Thri-Kreen: Like the elf, but instead of Int, a Perception bonus, and Elven Accuracy, you can get Str, incredible jumping ability, and a minor-action attack. You are probably the best all-around monk race, or would be if you weren't from Dark Sun and thus subject to DM approval.
Vryloka: Less cheesy than pixies, but almost as good at Desert Wind. High speed and decent racial are nice, penalty to surges while bloodied less so. No monk feats either... Still not a bad pick.
Wilden: Perfect stats for a Centered Breath and a versatile racial. They even have monk feats now, so if you want to be a fighting plant-man you could do worse.
Any race without a Dex bonus has to work really, really hard to be a good monk, but if they buy an 18 they can probably get away with it. You'll never be optimized by any stretch of the imagination but you can still be effective.
Dragonborn: Your choice of secondary (except Wisdom) plus an (inaccurate) breath weapon and a nice surge bump helps a lot. Draconic Arrogance makes them good spear & push fighters. The racial attack gives you an additional FoB opportunity.
Dwarf: Too slow. You might get your choice of secondaries, but your stubby little legs won't carry you far in this career. Be a fighter with Brawler Talent if you want to punch.
Goliath: Again, fighter is probably a better choice. If you're hell bent on being a monk you can put the double-roll-for-jump racial trait to good use.
Half-Elf: Both secondaries, but you're here for Dilletante. My personal choice would be Vampire Slam of all things--melee touch, Dex vs. Reflex, and and usable as an MBA.
Mul: Well, you're faster than a full-blooded dwarf and almost as tough. You're not terrible. I'd pick this over warforged, at least.
Shifter, Longtooth: Bonuses in both secondary stats, plus a nice damage boost once you've been bloodied. Passable
Tiefling: Two secondaries, and Con is important even if you're not Iron Soul. But you're here because you're Desert Wind and want to exploit fire damage and watch the world burn. Note that DW's fire resistance stacks with yours to become 7+half level; that's pretty good.
The Unclenched Fist: Skills You get 4 skills, which is about average for strikers, and a pretty good list at that. Class SkillsShow
Acrobatics- You're Dex-primary so you might as well train this. There are a lot of nice utility powers that require training, and if you ever fall from a height you'll be glad you have it. Athletics- You have quite a few nice movement techniques that let you jump more than your speed, and even if you don't end up taking those the extra mobility is always handy. Diplomacy- Only Desert Wind will be really good. Consider training it anyway if you spend a lot of time in the city; you want people to be nice to you and give you quests and generally do what you tell them to. Endurance- This is one of those skills that you rarely need, but when you do roll for it you REALLY don't want to fail. Iron Soul will be good regardless and might train it just in case. Heal- Centered Breath will be good at this...so good that they probably won't need to train it, because the DCs for its most important uses don't scale. Insight- Centered Breath will be good at this, but it's somewhat campaign-dependent in my experience. Perception- Only Centered Breath will really have a score worth writing home about, but being able to find stuff is always important. Religion- You'll never be good at this without serious work. Stealth- If you train in it, you'll be as good as the Rogue. Whether you want to be depends a lot on how your party gets things done, and if you already have a scout. Thievery- Not a traditional monk skill, but you'll be very good at it. If you don't have a rogue this is a nice choice.
Despite their predisposition to melee, monks are a pure implement class: no monk power has the weapon keyword. Normally, it does not matter what weapon you use, because its properties do not benefit you when you use it as an implement. Iron Soul powers do have riders based on your weapon, and several feats give you benefits with your Flurry of Blows when you use a specific weapon. Here, I'll go over the various tools you could use as a monk.
Ki Focus/Unarmed: The default choice. Ki focuses have a lot of nice properties for monks, and this is probably your best bet unless you're an Iron Soul. You can't really go wrong with this. Remember that your unarmed strike requires you to have a hand free, if you are using it for some reason.
Dagger/Shuriken: The dagger is one of only two weapons that have superior implement versions, and as such it's completely superior to the shuriken. The main selling point is Starblade Flurry, a Paragon feat that lets you chuck a dagger at a target and add it to your Flurry. Probably your best choice for a weapliment.
Staff: The other superior weapliment. Shielding Whirlwind Style causes FoB to grant you partial cover and immunity to flanking. This is a solid choice for a defender build, but most will prefer a damage or accuracy bonus.
Club: You mainly want this for the Crashing Tempest Style feat. You don't even need to attack with it, which means you don't need to keep it leveled, which means that for a single feat and 1 gold, you get +2 Flurry damage, forever just by holding it.
Longsword: The best choice for eladrin and githzerai, due to their racial feats that give a bonus to damage rolls. Eladrin in particular get Dancing Thorn Style which gives +1 to hit with monk powers through the sword and +1 flurry damage for two-handing it, so this borders on goldfor them.
Spear: Pointed Step Style gives you another square of reach against one Flurry target. If you're Eternal Tide you already have that. Eladrin Soldier gives a bonus to damage rolls, but not your Flurry...I'd say you can do better.
Bow/Crossbow: Remember how weapon properties don't apply to implement attacks? By very strict RAW, that includes the weapon's range. Elves can use a bowstring as a garrote, drow can flavor their attacks as point-blank shots, and both can benefit from sweet feat support and an accurate and powerful RBA. In a home game your DM will probably shut you down like Walter Peck so this is pretty much strictly theoretical, outside of WotC organized play.
Anything else: If you're using a ki focus you can feasibly pick up any weapon you like for flavor reasons and use it effectively, and it'll be fine unless you need to spend a feat for it in which case I reserve the right to point and laugh at you for not just getting an accurate ki focus.
Way of the Fist: Monk Tactics
At the monent, this section is taken directly from furious_kender's previous guide. I present it here for posterity, with one rather large caveat.
In general, the advice that furious_kender provides is based on the assumption that brutes and soldiers will have significantly higher Fortitude than Reflex, and skirmishers, artillery and controllers will have much better Reflex than Fortitude. However, since the release of Monster Manual 3, the difference between attacking a single creature's Fortitude and Reflex is less pronounced. In fact, only Elites and Solos generally one noticeably lower NAD, and only because they get bonuses to their other defenses. In short, it doesn't matter if a power targets Fort or Reflex. Of course, powers that target Will are still the gold standard because most enemies have a lower Will anyway. furious_kender on monk tacticsShow
Enemies have many different roles, but they can be pretty much divided into two types : the front line and the back line.
The front line The front line consists of strong and tough monsters that try to smash you as they protect the back line. Because they are strong and tough, they tend to have stupidly good fortitude defenses, and poor reflex and will. Therefore, you want almost always avoid attacking fortitude when you attack the front line. In addition, as the front line is trying to protect the back line, they tend to group up like linemen in football. This makes them vulnerable to multi-target attacks, and dangerous to draw OAs from. In addition, they tend not to move around much once they’re in melee, so they are resistant to effects that limit movement (like prone, slowed or immobilized) unless the effect causes them to not be able to get in melee range.
The back line The back line typically consists of nimble and intelligent creatures that give nasty status effects and make powerful ranged attacks. This means that the back line typically is more dangerous than the front line. Because they are nimble, they tend to have good reflex defenses, and decent fortitude and poor will. Therefore, attacking fortitude is somewhat better than attacking reflex when attacking the back line, all other things being equal. They also tend to be fairly spread out and mobile. This means you typically won’t be able to use your multi-target attacks very well when you attack the back line, but their fragility means that catching a large section of the back line with a multi-target power can be devastating. In addition, because the back line attacks from range and moves around a lot, effects that limit movement (like prone, slowed or immobilized) are effective against them if they are in melee. The back line’s ranged nature and mobility also can require you to be very mobile to reach them.
Monks have a good selection of multi-target and single-target powers. Multi-target powers are typically best used against the front line(because they tend to be clustered up), and single-target powers typically are best used against the back line (because they tend to be spread out).
Around half of monk powers target reflex, around half target fortitude, and a few target will. If at all possible, you should avoid attacking the front line’s fortitude. Similarly, attacking the back line's fortitude tends to be somewhat more effective than attacking their reflex.
Putting it all together
If a power is single target and targets fortitude, it should almost always be used on the back line.
If a power is single target and targets reflex, it is somewhat better to use it on the front line.
If a power is multi-target and targets fortitude, it will be devastating if you catch the back line clustered, but you will tend to be using it on the front line and missing quite a bit.
If a power is multi-target and targets reflex, it will be effective whenever you find enemies clustered, which will tend to be the front line.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense?
Damage, Defense and You: Learning to Live TogetherShow
Because monks don't do very good single target damage, they can't live by the "Best Defense is a Good Offense" motto like barbarians and rangers. Even seasoned players complain about their monks dropping due to multi-attacks drawing too much enemy aggression.
As a result, monks face two choices: 1) use single target attacks, which tend to not do very good damage for a striker. 2) focus on defense and use the best attack available.
I strongly encourage people to choose opton 2: "Defense as a Means to a Good Offense." For monks, this means taking as many multi-attack powers as possible and also taking making use of the best defensive options available. In other words, a monk should take feats and utilites to enable themselves to stay alive while taking the best multi-attacking powers available.
As monks get more and more multi-attacks as they level, if you choose to pick powers that draw less enemy attention, from paragon on, you and/or your party will be suffering.
If monks have devoted enough effort into defenses, they can be more durable than most defenders.
Cantrips of the Fist: Monk At-Will Disciplines
All attack powers will have an entry in italics specifying what defense they target and any relevant keywords. Generally I rate powers for general use but if the power is tied to a secondary ability score or works better for a specific monk tradition, this will also be mentioned and the power will include a second rating for if you have that secondary or build. I'll also rate the movement techniques for at-wills and encounter powers seperately. In general I'll try to divide powers up by whether they're single-target melee attacks or area-of-effect attacks. Remember that you want to target the lowest defense of each enemy: Reflex on soldiers/brutes, Fort on skirmishers, artillery and controllers.
As far as at-wills go, you want Five Storms, or maybe Steel Wind. If nothing else looks good you can easily take both; multi-attacking is kind of important for you. If you want a single-target attack as well your options are more varied. Desert Wind want Blistering Flourish, and anyone with a good Str can use Crashing Wave. If you're Iron Soul or Centered Breath, your single-target options boil down to Fallen Needle and a bunch of stuff that uses your secondary, but still isn't as good as Fallen Needle.
Melee Blistering Flourish (Charisma) Reflex, Fire The damage roll itself is just ok, but it also adds 2 turns of bonus Cha-mod fire damage on your melee attacks. Ordinarily not so hot (sorry) but if you're Desert Wind your Cha will be high enough that it averages out to an extra d6 per hit, and remember that your Flurry is a melee attack that triggers after this hits. As a Desert Wind I wouldn't go without it. The movement technique is OK; generally you don't want to be provoking OAs at all but this makes enemies think twice about taking the shot.
Crane’s WingsFort Everyone likes forced movement. Too bad most of the time the guys you'd want to push 1 square are brutes with high Fort, and you probably would rather have them close so you can hit them with close burst attacks. If you've got good Athletics the movement technique does a lot for your mobility, but higher-level encounter powers can duplicate it. Overall I feel that Crashing Wave does everything this power does and better.
Crashing Wave(Str) Fort Slide is almost always better than push, even if the damage die is a little lower than Crane's Wings. The movement technique is much more useful for Stone Fist and Eternal Tide; it's actually the second longest at-will shift in the game, next to the rogue's Gloaming Cut, and unlike Gloaming Cut it isn't tied to a redundant ability modifier.
Dancing Cobra(Wis) Reflex Higher than normal damage, with a bonus if the target tried to OA you. In my experience, OAs are triggered because you want to get past someone to get to a higher-priority target; as such, this isn't very useful except against targets that somehow force you to engage (enemy fighter maybe?) The movement techniqueis obsoleted by Steel Wind, which you should probably take instead.
Dragon’s TailFort You give up a bit of damage for minor control. At-will prone isn't bad, but nothing earth-shattering. The movement techniqueallows you to switch places with an ally (some DMs let you do that anywayin which case it is even less useful) or a prone enemy. Since prone means you are already granting CA you don't really need to use it to move the enemy into a flank. I expect more from a power with dragon-related fluff; as it is have trouble recommending it over Crashing Wave or Fallen Needle.
Fallen NeedleReflex Probably the class's best single-target at-will. Good damage, a penalty to hit, and a versatile movement technique (minor-action shift 1 or move 3) all add up to awesome. If you're human this is probably your third at-will, since it has no secondary ability dependency.
Lion's Den (Con) Reflex Free-action Con-mod damage against bad guys that get close. The movement technique is OK, but Fallen Needle and Five Storms are better at increasing the distance between you and the enemy. This is really only good with sky-high Con, which probably means you don't have sky-high Dex like you should.
AOE Five StormsClose burst 1, Reflex At-will AoE for good damage is immediately awesome. The movement technique that is equivalent to an Epic feat makes it close to gold in my book; if you don't take either this or Steel Wind you probably are doing something wrong.
Steel Wind Close blast 2, Reflex The attack is almost as good as Five Storms, if a little harder to target; enemies tend to cluster around you, not in front of you. The selling point is the movement technique: move you speed+2, then end all marks just for fun? Rogues can't do all that and attack in one turn until over halfway through their career. If you're a fast race like elf or thri-kreen, this is easily as good as or better than Five Storms.
The Awakened Fist: Monk Heroic Disciplines Level 1 EncounterShow
Call Up the Savage Wind for AoE, Open the Gate of Battle for melee. Scattering of Leaves if you want a bit of both. Specific builds have some nice melee choices as well. Centered Breath can use Drunken Monkey, which is tons of fun. Stone Fist probably want Awaken the Slumbering Hurt. Desert Wind get Light the Fire. This level has the first batch of powers weapon-specific riders for Iron Soul; they're both pretty good so you probably want the one that corresponds to what you're wielding for other reasons.
Awaken the Slumbering Hurt(Stone Fist)Fort Against normal targets it's probably a waste...against bloodied targets, a secondary ability modifier in extra damage (NOT bonus to damage roll!) on this attack and your next one. Your Flurry of Blows is an attack, remember? A Stone Fist with 20 Dex/16 Str who follows this up with their FoB will do between an average of 25 damage (33 on a good day or a crit). A level 3 standard mook has a bloodied value of 23. As your bonuses to damage improve and you get more magic items this can easily drop a single target every single encounter for most of Heroic. If only movement technique was better; it's just a generic move unless your party isn't focusing fire. Overall it's borderline skyblue; just remember that you have to invest in it to keep it useful, and it should be the first thing you swap out come Paragon.
Balance Restored (Str)Fort- You have at-wills that do this much damage, and since you generally want enemies close by as a monk the push is not very helpful. The movement technique is another generic shift 1 with a rider: you knock the next enemy that hits you prone...but you can do that at-will too and control who triggers it.
Drunken Monkey(Wis)Will – Attacking Will is automatically nice, but the real fun is that you get to be an enchanter for one round. If your defender is a fighter, warden, or swordmage the attack will also trigger their mark punishment, and this moves close to gold. It only gets more useful as monster MBAs get more dangerous. The movement techniqueoffers a speed boost like Steel Wind, ignores difficult terrain like Call up the Savage Wind, and a huge bonus against OAs that's like Laughing Wind but better. Any of these effects would be good; combined in one move action in a package with the awesome attack power this is too good to be true for Centered Breath.
Eagle ClawStrike(Str)Fort The AC penalty is literally useless to you--your implement powers don't target AC--but it's nice for allies who do. If you're playing some kind of weird leader monk it could be useful. The movement technique lets you fly but you have to land before you attack. It's actually deceptively good; ordinarily you won't fight alot of fliers in early heroic, but you will face plenty of artillery in entrenched locations that you can't just walk to. Worth a look for Eternal Tide who don't get as much out of Awaken the Slumbering Hurt.
Laughing WindFort In theory this prevents enemies from ganging up on you during their turns. But they have to END their turn next to you so all it really does is prevent you from catching them all in a close burst. Oh, and it targets Fort, and monsters that care about staying next to you tend to have that high. I hate to rate a power red but not even the movement technique that gives +2 against OAs can save this one.
Light the Fire(Cha)Reflex, Fire It's either Burn Knuckle or Falcon Punch, depending on your choice of fighting game...but the real benefit is an aura that hits enemies with 2+Cha damage for starting their turn next to you. The movement techniqueis pretty generic but you'll never hear me complain about a 2-square shift Only Desert Wind can use it, but they take it without a second thought.
Open the Gate of Battle Reflex 3d10 is a hell of an opening salvo for level 1; a good roll and you've just bloodied him with one hit. You don't really get to choose your target, sadly, but if you're playing a monk you'll need to learn to be indiscriminate with your punch targets. The movement technique is situationally useful if you want to break off attacking whoever you're engaging to use this on someone new and exciting.
Rising Storm(Str)Fort, Thunder Good thunder damage, plus a little extra thunder damage against everybody adjacent. In a vacuum this would be ok, but for monks hitting more guys is generally better than hitting one guy really hard. The movement technique is identical to Eagle Claw Strike. Even for melee specialists there are better options.
Scattering of LeavesReflex/Fort The first attack is against Reflex, but on a hit you make a second against Fort. The idea is that you can knock a soldier or brute out of the way and shift forward to engage that annoying skirmisher or lurker who thought he was safe behind his buddy. It's a solid plan and I endorse it. Oh, and the movement technique is Crane's Wings, but attached to a better power.
Stinging Nettles (Iron Soul with light blade/spear)Fort, Light Blade/Spear Good damage die, a deterrent to hit you, and you shut down OAs completely if you wield the right weapon. The movement techniqueis a less situational Dragon's Tail.
Swift River Floods(Iron Soul with mace/staff)Reflex,Mace/Staff A little less damage than Stinging Nettles, unless you're an Iron Soul which is the only reason you'd take this power anyway, in which case it averages more, and more damage is never bad. Slow is not as good as stopping OAs cold, however. The movement techniqueis another free shift 2 which is always useful.
Call Up the Savage WindClose blast 3, Fort Steel Wind, with a slightly larger area. Poor damage, and slide 1 as an effect seems marginal, but it does hit a lot of guys. Personally I've never been in a situation where I couldn't get at least some benefit out of a slide, even if it's just setting me up for an AP and a nova round. The movement technique ignores difficult terrain which normally shuts down your mobility, so it gets a pass in my book.
Gentle RainfallClose burst 1, Reflex A slightly more powerful Five Storms, but you get to shift 1 square for each hit. The movement technique is identical to Fallen Needle, which is actually kind of nice if you do end up taking it (you can't use two different full disciplines in a turn). This one's more for the mobility than the damage...but really, just use your at-wills for mobility. Encounter powers are for big damage.
Masterful Spiral and Steel Avalanche dominate this level; Stunning Palm is only OK right now but you'll want to come back for it later on.
Lashing RainFort, Stance As a monk, I would argue that daze is less detrimental to you than slow. Don't agree? Then take Stunning Palm and its immunity to being dazed, and incidentally avoid spending a daily to slow yourself for a crappy quasi-OA.
Reflection in WaterReflex, Elemental, Stance The attack is kind of boring and not especially powerful, but the stance gives you two solid benefits. Not having to line up with your allies to flank isn't mind-blowing, but it combines with an immediate-action switcheroo with enemies who miss in melee to give you a consistent source of CA. CA as a striker is always nice; I don't think it's necessarily worth a daily but you might disagree.
Stunning PalmStance The attack is good enough: the rogue doesn't get save-ends stun until late Paragon, and a decent damage roll on a miss as a consolation prize. Remember, you're 1st level--you're going to miss every so often. Oh, and until you use the attack, you can't be dazed or stunned, period. When that starts to become a problem in mid-heroic you'll want to pick this up and keep it until early Epic, if not forever.
Cacophonous ShoutClose blast 3, Fort, Thunder Average damage and a small push, but unfriendly and targets Fort. And when was the last time anyone cared about deafened? I would be nicer on this if it was an encounter power, but not by much.
Cyclone ScourgeClose blast 3, Reflex, Elemental Targets only one creature in the blast for OK damage. The selling point is the effect: a sustainable zone of forced-movement goodness that you can relocate with your move action. It's a weird controller power that suits weird controller monks very well; if you're looking for damage, look elsewhere.
Harmonious Thunder (Str)Melee,Fort, Thunder A lot of thunder damage, if you're abusing that damage type, and it's against two targets. You also get a very nice effect that doesn't allow a save: hit one target and the other takes some more thunder damage. If you're fighting two elites in one encounter this is really good to have, but usually you'll be saving your daily for either a bunch of medium-strength guys or a solo.
Masterful SpiralClose burst 2, Reflex, Force Not only does it hit basically everybody, but it puts you in a stance that gives +1 to your melee reach. So all your single-target powers suddenly are that much more useful. I love this power.
Risen SunClose blast 3, Reflex, Aura, Elemental, Fire A fairly weak hit with blasé ongoing fire damage, but you can slide the target 1 square on a failed save which is nice. Also, a full round of fire damage for enemies that get close, and it actually uses your Dex mod for once. Despite not using your Cha, fire abusers among the Desert Wind probably want this to kick-start their career in pyromania.
Spinning Leopard ManeuverReflex. Shift your speed and hit everyone you move past for good damage. The hit is a melee attack, so if you're investing heavily in melee damage bonusesthis will eventually outpace Masterful Spiral in damage. Note that if you have both they don't stack--you have to be adjacent to the target of Spinning Leopard, so the extra reach from Masterful Spiral is of no use.
Steel AvalancheClose blast 3, Reflex A lot of damage against a lot of targets, plus a penalty to attack rolls and a large shift. Almost as good as Masterful Spiral, though a little trickier to aim. The effect is save-ends at best but you're doing so much damage it's unlikely to matter.
Whirling Mantis StepFort A poor man's Spinning Leopard Maneuver. You get a free slide, and each hit does more damage and slows. Targeting Fortitude makes it a little less accurate, but the real downside is that you only get three targets, ever, while Spinning Leopard Maneuver hits everyone you can reach, and that number goes up as your speed increases.
Twin Thunders is the standard for a two-target attack. Eternal Mountain if you're gonna fight surrounded, probably Resounding Strike if you're not. Burning Brand and Undeniable Incitement are the default choices for their respective builds. Special note should be taken of Wind through the Willows, which is a nice attack that leaves you very vulnerable and should be used with some caution. Melee Bonecrusher Fort Damage and a small defense penalty. You could do worse, but you could probably do better too. The movement technique is another shift that hands out a bonus to AC and Fort; underwhelming in my opinion.
Burning Brand (Desert Wind)Reflex, Elemental, Fire A less conditional Awaken the Slumbering Hurt that affects everbody next to your target as well?And you a movement technique like Steel Wind, but with defensive perk? Only for Desert Wind, but they just take it without even thinking. Dance of SwordsReflex Why didn't you just use a close burst, again? The movement techniqueis no better since it doesn't give a bonus to your defenses against. Avoid! Enduring Champion (Centered Breath) Fort Interesting defensive power: good damage and a free saving throw with a bonus. Oh, and if you save the target takes a little extra damage. Fairly tame movement techniquebut that's not why you're here. Fallen Hammer in ReposeFort Good damage and a decent-size push. But you probably want enemies to stay close so you can beat them all up at once. Movement technique is another Fallen Needle dupe, not surprising given this power comes from the same Dragon article. Frozen Moment Fort, Elemental, Cold Immobilized is usually better than prone, but the effect matters less than slapping it on many people as possible. This is a melee power. And the less said about the movement technique (protip: immobilized very bad) the better. Inner Eye OpenedWill,Psychic If your DM rules that "plus 1d8 psychic damage" is an extra damage instance that allows you to add all your mods, this is a great pure damage powerthat gets some synergy with Psychic Lock at Paragon. I strongly doubt that was the designer intent, however, so it's probably just 2d8 plus mods, 1d8 of which is psychic. The movement technnique is another one that lets you swap with an adjacent creature; I'm not a fan. Resounding Strike (Stone Fist)Fort, Thunder For Stone Fist this is essentially a double-tap on your Flurry damage. When all's said and done you're still a striker, and this kind of single-target damage every encounter will never be wasted. Themovement techniqueis identical to Steel Wind, and you won't hear me complain about that. Springing Drake Assault(Iron Soul with light blade/spear)Reflex The movement technique lets you jump into a flanking position, but the attack slides the enemy out of it. Seems a little weird, but for Iron Souls with the proper weapon the slide is longer and more tactically useful. Good damage regardless.
Undeniable Incitement (Iron Soul with mace/staff)Will Mini-Come and Get It. Melee 2, an AC bonus, and you pull the target next to you and knock him prone with good damage. For Iron Soul the AC bonus becomes uber good. The movement technique just lets you run away without provoking. Compared to Springing Drake Assault, the attack is less powerful but also less situational; I give it the edge because it hits Will and has a potentially ridiculous defensive buff baked in.
AoE Eternal MountainClose burst 1, Fort, Str Good damage and prone is a winning combination, but the selling point is the movement technique: a 2-square shift and resist all equal to your Str mod means you're suddenly well-equipped to survive the counterattack. I like it more for Eternal Tide than Stone Fist.
Twin ThundersMelee, Fort, Thunder Like Resounding Strike, but the extra damage is against someone else. You'll probably be able to get your DM to rule that it's an extra damage instance, which means you'll get all those tasty damage bonuses. The movement technique is even better than Steel Wind, since it lets you move with impunity against one guy in your way, which is very handy. It may hit two targets, but I'd say this is still the dominant choice for a melee specialist.
Wind Through the WillowsClose blast 3, Reflex Slowed is bad enough for melee creatures, but take away their charge attack too and you've basically stopped the entire front line in their tracks. It's green because a lot depends on what happens next: once you've used this, you're still close enough for all those nasty brutes and soldiers to waddle over and pound on you. The movement techniqueis no help at all, sadly; swapping places with a single enemy is not what you want from your move action when you're surrounded. If you have an escape button or a way to survive the reprisal, this power is great; if you have teammates backing you up it's still good but requires caution as the attack's not friendly; if you don't have any of those you're so boned.
Melee fighters have basically two good options at this level. Resonating Fist if you have high Strength and you want to help your other strikers. Water Gives Way if you don't or you like not getting hit. AoE specialists either take One Hundred Leaves or suck it up and go back for a level 1 power, where Steel Avalanche is looking mighty tempting...
Calm Before the StormFort/Reflex, Stance Very strange power. The initial attack hits Fort for barely encounter-level damage, but hit or miss you get a stance with an at-will interrupt against Reflex when an adjacent enemy attacks. Knocking prone does provide a nice disincentive to get near you. Oh, but the stance does have another effect: You're slowed, and that sucks big time. For me it's a deal breaker; I'd never take this over Water Gives Way.
Deadly Cobra StrikeFort, Poison Ongoing 5 damage of a commonly resisted type isn't really the kind of kicker I look for in a daily.
Disrupting FistFort, Stance Trades in Stunning Fist's good attack and better stance for an extra die (of a lower size). Awesome! No, wait, not awesome. The other thing.
Freeze the Life BloodReflex, Cold Crap-ass damage, but immobilize is pretty nasty against melee critters. The extra damage is hard to trigger since it's at the end of the enemy's turn and they'll just try to avoid standing next to the guy you hit.
Overwhelming Mountain StrikeFort I fail to see what's overwhelming about a poor-damage daze with slow aftereffect. It's not even overwhelmingly bad like Steel Warrior Technique, just boring. You can do better.
Resonating Fist(Stone Fist)Fort Poor initial hit, but potentially huge amounts of extra damage for the whole party, for quite some time at that. Flurry of Blows is an attack, yada yada, you probably know if you want this or not based on whether you're Stone Fist or not.
Steel Warrior Technique(Str)Reflex There are other powers at this level (Water Gives Way!) that do 3d10 and don't provide an incentive to attack you. The Str-mod damage everytime you get hit is almost irrelevant.
Supreme Avalanche Combination Fort Good damage but the real meat is the effect: +2 damage and a slide every time you hit the target, for the whole rest of the encounter. It looks better if you pretend most of your other options aren't totally lame.
Water Gives WayFort Immediate interrupt when you're hit means automatic skyblue. Then you get a powerful attack (more powerful if the trigger was a charge) and a slide that will most likely negate the attack altogether unless the bad guy somehow has reach 3. Oh, and it isn't expended if you miss. Close to gold in my book; telling a solo brute that nah, his save-or-die encounter power didn't actually hit would be awesome at level 15, let alone level 5.
AoE One Hundred Leaves Reflex Actual good damage for the level, plus a very nice kicker: another Flurry target for this turn and the next! The push matters not at all, but it's better than a poke in the eye. You should pick this if you can't bear to stoop for another level 1 AoE power.
Salamander ChargeReflex, Elemental, Fire, Zone You leave a trail of fire that does poor damage and finish with a kick that does encounter-level damage (a extra d6 is worth less than your Dex mod at this level). Desert Windwho really, really want a fire power are stuck with it.
Thunderbolt SurgeReflex, Thunder Flurry of Blows won't be usable at range for another six levels, and in the meantime you can surely find a better use for your daily slot than a ranged attack. Avoid.