Annotated Playthrough Venture Cave Monk
This is a detailed how-to on the Monk class, set in the Venture Cave with no exotic preps. Monks are a complicated class that deal half damage in exchange for only taking half damage from physical attacks. They use their superior healing to tilt the odds in their favor. This advantage starts out weak but eventually becomes dominant. For example, a 1st level Monk heals at a rate of 2 per tile, which is the same rate that a 2nd level monster heals (which is what you should be fighting at 1st level). However, a 8th level Monk taking on a 9th level monster heals 16 hp/tile versus the monster's 9/tile.
Monks benefit proportionately more from physical resistance effects and attack boosters (both percent and base attack) than other classes. These should be high priorities, and you should play as an orc or a human to get the most out of the class.
I will also demonstrate the Slayer Wand, a cheap prep available from the beginning that is commonly misused by beginners.
It begins! My first priority is to find a suitable level 2 monster, and some sort of edge that will let me fight it.
The Mana Pendant looks like a good deal, but I don't have any glyphs yet. I'll feel like an idiot if I buy it now and then have to pass up on a set of Dwarven Gauntlets later. You always want to delay your decisions until taking action actually makes a tangible difference.
Ah, a Fireball. Now, that pendant would let me cast two fireballs at once, which is a big boost. But, I have also already found a mana powerup. If I find one more, that would also let me double cast the fireball, but not cost me any gold. For now, I'm going to hold off and do without.
The first strike glyph is marginal for Monks, who don't really have the damage output to leverage it. I'm not going to convert it right away (10% damage is literally nothing at first level), but I'm also not going to pick it up either. Who knows, I might need that inventory space.
Also, I would normally have picked up those powerups right away. I left them on the map for illustrative purposes. Unlike items and glyphs, there is no advantage to not picking them up right away.
Hmmm, a possible target. The Warlock is one of the worst possible matches for a Monk, since its powerful magic attack ignores our resistance, but I think that I can pull this off. I realize that I can just barely beat him if I build up two stacks up burning on him before starting combat. That will cost me 12 squares of space, but that's okay. I need to explore anyway, and it's not like there's anything else that I can spend my mana on right now.
Let's do this! I have to get the order of actions exactly right, or it won't work. First, I'll fireball him, which keeps the burning stack active. Then I will explore exactly one square to bring my mana back up to 6 (I carefully left an exposed corner of black space in the upper area just for this purpose) and fireball him again. A melee strike, combined with the burning damage, should just barely let me win.
It worked! While moving back and forth during the battle, I uncovered a Gorgon-2, which is a perfect target, but I'm tapped out. This would be a good time to partially explore that subdungeon, since it's the only source of blackspace that isn't blocked off.
Not sure which dungeon this is. Without knowing what's down that corridor, I decide to just refill my resources and head back up. One little subtle touch: I carefully left an exposed corner so that I can get in exactly one square's worth of mana for the next fight.
The Gorgon is way easier than the Warlock, because now our resistances actually work. I bottom out my health, then fireball her, explore that one square I left behind in the basement, fireball again, and then finish with melee. Again, order of actions was important here. You always want your fireballs to be consecutive, so that you get the most out of burning. You can get lax about this when monsters have 100 health or so, but right now every point counts. I opened with melee instead of magic because I knew that I was going to explore that square to keep the fireball chain running, so I might as well do the melee bit first so that I get some health back along with the mana.
I'm now level 2 and am eyeing that Goat-3 in the upper right corner. I realize that if I pick up GETINDERE, I can win the fight without even needing to bother with regeneration.
This Meatman will be my next target. I'll explore my health back up to full.
Which takes like two steps, because I'm a freaking Monk.
You should be getting the idea by now. I bottom out my health, fireball, explore, fireball again, and then coast to victory. Notice that I had to over-explore a bit to get that second fireball. In those earlier battles this would have been a problem, but my Monk is starting to come into his own and now I have margin for error.
I'm now level 3 and am surveying that Zombie. I don't bother calculating anything. I'm pretty sure I can take him if I regen between sorties. I need to explore anyway, so this is a great use of resources.
My first pass does more damage than I was expecting. This will be easy. Also, see that break in the rock in the south? That's probably a walled in bonus basement. It's nice to know that's there. If we find PISORF or ENDISWAL, we'll go and check it out.
I explore just a little bit more and can now dominate the zombie.
I do a bit of mental math and conclude that I can take this guy if I start the battle with 3 stacks of burning. No big deal, I need to explore more anyway.
While building up the burning, I stumble across a shop selling the Elven Boots. This is a nice find, and because I held off on buying that pendant earlier, I can pick this up if I want. The thing is, I'm not sure if I really want it or not. The 15% magic resistance won't mean much if there aren't any high level magical monsters on the board, and while the +3 mana is nice, I'm already doing pretty well on 11 mana as it is. I'll wait and see.
Ah, the grill is hot and the meat is ready to cook.
Same drill as always. I don't really consider this (and the fights like this one) to actually be examples of regen fighting, since all I'm doing is grabbing one extra mana.
To my surprise, I find yet another subdungeon, making 3 in total so far. I guess this is what the devs were talking about in the update notes this week. It's the Hitball Tournament, which an awesome find. Winning all three rounds nets you 30 gold, a mana, health and reflex potion, and a nice chunk of experience on top of it all.
The final contestant is always a little stronger than you, but the arena has enough blackspace that you should always be okay. I end up gaining 12 xp from the fights, which is nice, but not quite as good as it sounds. By picking up xp 'out of the ether' like this, I have also reduced the window of opportunity for gaining bonus xp from monsters already on the board. I'll still come out ahead, but that's an important effect to keep in mind.
I will sometimes hold off on the tournament until all of the higher level monsters are gone. Not only does this let me maximize bonus xp, but the tournament itself is also worth more, since the contestants are always equal to your current level. This is risky, because Hitball requires an investment of resources that you may not be able to spare that late in the game. You also pay an opportunity cost for not having that 30 gold earlier in the game.
At any rate, I leave the Hitball game with a ton of cash. I almost immediately encounter a Dragon-8, which I use an excuse to buy those Elven Boots. That puts me up to 14 mana, which isn't any kind of special threshold, but at least puts me over 11 so that I can stop doing that weird 1-mana grab that I've been having to do at the start of all of my fireball chains.
I also find Pactmaker. I don't have any gods to generate piety with, but I can at least cash in those sparkles for a few points of Body Pact. I also find the Venom Ward, which is a terrific item. It's small, makes poison go away (huge deal for Monks), and has a great gold/conversion ratio if it turns out that you don't need it. The only reason I don't buy it right away is that the 65 CP won't actually do anything for me unless I also convert something else. May as well wait.
I pick up the BYSEPS rune and examine this Goo Blob that I found. BYSEPS permanently reduces monsters' resistances every hit. I decide to regen fight this guy, using BYSEPS as a more efficient alternative to the opening fireball spike that I've been using. The truth is, I think I'm ready to start fighting 6s instead of 5s, but I decide to take what I have.
Because this is going to be a real regen fight, I need to take efficiency seriously. I go ahead and convert the obsolete GETINDERE to increase my damage. But, no sooner do I start the fight than I find a Goat-6, which is a much better target.
Much better. From here, I need to do some serious exploring. I want to find a 7, or maybe even a vulnerable 8 (dragons do not count as vulnerable monsters when you're a Monk).
Interesting. I find one of the 9s. Wraiths are terrible for Monks, having both a magic attack and a physical resistance. However, they have low hit points and are vulnerable to fireball spiking, especially if you can engineer a ding to get two fireball chains in a row. I'm going to keep hunting for 7s and 8s and see if I can't set that up. Also, I grab the CYDSTEP, cast it once, and then convert it. Death protection is mediocre for Monks, but I'll take one use of it if it's for free.
A lot of stuff happened here. I found two more mana powerups, putting me at 16. I decided to go back and finally buy that mana pendant from the beginning of the game, putting me at 18 mana, which enables a triple fireball. I went ahead and converted BYSEPS, since it looks like I'm going to be using my mana for damage spikes instead of melee efficiency from now on. I then found the Fine Sword, which will be great for regen fighting that Meatman-7.
He didn't have a chance. I didn't open up with the triple fireball spike, because it isn't needed and I want that mana for the Wraith.
I don't think that finishing the Meatman will quite level me up, but I am still not used to the new xp formula and am not sure. I decide to go ahead and use my mana on the Wraith now rather than risk not getting to use it at all before the ding.
It turned out that the Meatman left me one point short, so my caution wasn't necessary. I level up off of a Goblin, and use my fresh mana pool to detonate the Wraith. Killing off the top level monsters earlier is a huge deal, and not just because of the bonus xp. It means you get to fight them when it is still possible to recover. At the end game, the map is mostly explored, and you are committing your resources to the boss. Any high level monsters left have to be ignored, meaning that you lose out not just on the bonus xp, but ALL of the xp.
At this point I really want to find that last level 9 while there's till black space, but I'll definitely take this Gorgon-8 since it's right in front of me.
And I might as well get this Dragon too. Dragons are really hard for Monks, and if I don't get this guy now, I probably won't be able to afford to do it later.
And then I take the Zombie-8, regen style. That accounts for one of the 9s, and all 3 of the 8s. Nice, but I wish I knew who the boss was already.
Ick! The Tormented One. Worst possible match up for a Monk. Look how little damage I do to him, and how much he does to me. I'll have to fireball him to death. No sense wasting any resources in melee combat. But first I need to prepare
Found the last 9, and it's a Zombie. I could take him with regen combat, but I'd rather use my Slayer Wand. Sure, fighting him now would give me 4 more xp than using the wand, but the resources that I save can be leveraged into something even better.
But first I triple fireball the Tormented One. BTW, this was a minor mistake. Since I knew that I wasn't going to be regen fighting anymore, I should have explored the entire map first. There's probably still some good stuff out there!
I then empty out my health bringing all of those 6s and 7s down to one hit territory. I basically just created 20 xp worth of popcorn out of thin air. I couldn't have done that if I had decided to fight the Zombie-9 instead.
I then triple fireball the wraith AGAIN, and then level up AGAIN.
Which lets me triple fireball him YET AGAIN. Or would have, except that he died on the second fireball of the set. Or whatever it is that wraiths do when you 'kill' them.
Oh, BTW, that first subdungeon ended up being one of the Transmuter quests. I go ahead and do it, because why not.
While I certainly got some mileage out of those fancy Elven Boots, they weren't really necessary. They just let me 'win more.' I they hadn't turned up, I still had a whole pile of untouched mana potions to lean on.