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Wave of Death: Using the best monk skill in the game

Monk Class Guide

By rice on September 2, 2012
Last Updated: March 6, 2013


2/17/13 (1.07 update)

-Huge buffs in terms of numbers (wave of light damage: 390+45 --> 826+96)
-Updated Introduction
-Updated build with new skills and new calculations
-New infernal machine section with build
-New video showing MP10 Ubers solo clear!
-New video showing off an MP7 keep depths clear
-Added colors to phrases and sections to spice things up.

10/30/12 (1.05 update)

-Updated some skills to reflect 1.05 changes with regards to passives, monster power, etc.
-Updated some weapon/armor discussion to reflect 1.05 changes.
-Other small random edits to reflect 1.05 changes.
(1.05 didn't really change that much for this build.)


-Added introduction section
-Added sample run video
-Revised "gearing up" section with touch-ups and hyperlinks


-Created first version of guide


Q: "Why should you play this build if you're doing fine with a standard cyclone build?"

A: Because you're tried of holding down left mouse button and falling asleep, that's why.

Wave of light is the highest damaging skill the monk has in 1.07.  It allows you to quickly mow down both large groups of white mobs and groups of elites on high MP with ease while simultaneously giving you the edge in how the fight plays out via knockbacks.  With the empowered wave rune, it has the single highest damage per spirit spent ratio in the monk arsenal, not counting seven-sided strike (explained later in the skills section).  It allows you to attack enemies without sitting molten, plague, and other nasty ground damage effects.

So why exactly should you use this build?  Here are the pros and cons versus a cyclone build as I see it:


-Knockback allows you to manipulate the fight in your favor
-Attacking from range allows you to avoid tons of damage
-The "illusionist" and "reflect damage" affixes on monsters are rendered worthless
-Significantly cheaper to obtain a powerful 2-hander vs. 2x 1-handers
-Heal to full after every wave of light cast due to high lifesteal and burst damage


-Weaker single-target damage; not so great vs. bosses, especially uber encounters
-Reliant on spirit to do damage (not really a con but a big distinction vs. standard cyclone build)
-Requires the guardian's path passive, which means less passive skill diversity
-Slower attack speed means slower animations, which can be costly in combat if you mistime an attack (shouldn't be a problem once you're used to 2-handers)
-Not as group-friendly as standard cyclone build; knockbacks may annoy other melee members, though ranged members may like it

However, because this build is a different playstyle than the standard cyclone build, you will need slightly different gear - namely a strong two-handed weapon with lifesteal and perhaps one or two spirit regen pieces (more details in the "gearing up" section).  Details on skill choices and how to use wave of light properly are explained under the skills section.

Infernal Machine

With the new changes in 1.07, wave of light now does enough damage to be competitive with the standard cyclone build in the ubers encounters on high monster power.  

Keep Depths full clear in 1.07

A 10 min Keep Depths clear on MP7 showcasing the new damage potential of wave of light in 1.07.

Solo MP10 Ubers

I used the build outlined in the infernal machine section to demonstrate that MP10 ubers can be soloed with this build.


  • I'll allow you a brief moment of silence to say goodbye to your beloved thunderclap.  Ok, we good?

    Why quickening?  Because it gives the most spirit per attack in the game, assuming you at least even a little bit of crit gear.  At 33% crit, it effectively adds on average of 5 spirit to every attack you make, which means that on average, every hit is worth about 11 spirit.  This is also increased if you crit multiple targets with the 3rd aoe swing.

    With guardian's path, a crit will grant you (6+15)*1.35 = 28.35 spirit.  That means you just need 2 crits and you have more than enough spirit to cast a wave of light.  Three crits will allow you to cast twice.

    Unlike the standard sweeping wind/thunderclap build, this build shifts the burden of damage from your spirit generator to your spirit spender, which is why it's OK to have a relatively weak left-click attack.

    If you feel comfortable with your spirit generation and want more damage output or mobility, you can switch back to thunderclap.  This is ideal if you are farming lower difficulties for speed.
  • With the changes to crowd-control mechanics in 1.05, faith in the light becomes better than breath of heaven.  With the buffed beacon of ytar passive, it's even stronger.  With the new empowered shrine, it becomes ludicrous.

    A blinding flash into 3x wave of light will do immense amounts of damage.  An important thing to note is that wave of light takes a snapshot of your DPS before you cast to calculate damage doneWhat this means is that if you cast blinding flash while casting wave of light, it will not receive the bonus dps - you must cast it right before you cast wave of light.
  • Gets around the map faster and helps to avoid bad positioning.

    This replaced seven-sided strike because the burst damage from SSS is no longer required with the changes in 1.07.  It's better to cast another wave of light most of the time.
  • Not much to explain here, either.  Invulnerability that breaks CC.  Don't leave home without it.

    You can swap to the healing rune if you have low hit points (less than 30k or so).  Otherwise, stick with the increased duration.
  • This is the entire point of the build.  This single skill, and more importantly, this single rune makes it the highest damage to spirit spent skill in the game for monks, not counting seven-sided strike.

    Wave of light deals not only tremendous damage, but also has a built-in knockback that affects champion elites, something that thunderclap doesn't offer.  This knockback is very handy for pushing fire chains champion packs away, getting yourself out of a crowded situation so that you can reposition better, and generally making you feel like a badass. 

    Wave of light also has an extremely large area of effect.  Its main damage radius (the 826%) extends about 5-7 yards outside of the bell's animation graphic, and even hits slightly behind your character.  The knockback "wave" (the 96%) extends at least 40 yards in the direction you cast it in.

    Wave of light hits in 3 ticks of damage for 276.33% weapon damage each with the 96% "wave" attached to the last tick.  These occur over the duration of your cast, which is dependent on your attack speed.  Each enemy should receive 4 damage numbers total per cast (not counting enemies only hit by the wave).

    I have seen many wave of light builds posted using the increased damage rune (1202% weapon damage on cast).  There is no reason to use the increased damage rune if you look at the math:

    Wall of Light:

    1202% + 96% for 75 spirit, for an effective 1298% / 75 = 17.307% weapon damage per spirit spent

    Empowered Wave:

    829% + 96% for 40 spirit, for an effective 925% / 40 = 23.125% weapon damage per spirit spent

    As you can see, empowered wave is significantly more efficient.  In fact, it's around 33% more efficient.

    Another thing to note about wave of light is that there's two ways to cast it, as a targeted cast or as a positional cast:

    A targeted cast is when you are hovering over an enemy with your pointer so that the bell is cast directly on top of them.  This is slightly different than a positional cast because this will always knock them directly away from you.  However, unlike the positional cast, this will also follow your target if your target is fast (soul rippers, for example) or has teleport.

    A positional cast is casting it in the direction of your pointer.  This is best for when you want to hit two enemies that are somewhat apart from each other so that a targeted cast wouldn't hit both of them or knock a target away in a certain direction that's not directly behind itself.  An enemy affected by the main damage will always be knocked away from the center of the bell animation.  That means you can knock enemies to the side with the right casting angle.  To avoid accidental targeted casts, you can pull your pointer farther away from close quarters, since the spell itself always has the same range regardless of how far your pointer is from your character.

    Knowing when to use which type of casting will maximize your crowd control and damage.
  • With the changes in 1.07, circular breathing is now a better choice.  With the guardian's path, it generates about 4 spirit/sec, which is equivalent to about 10% of a wave of light cast.  This translates to about 90% weapon damage aoe every second. 

    It's also useful for sustaining tempest rush for long periods of time.

    Overawe may be a better choice in 3-4 player parties.


  • Staying alive is good.

    If you're in the minority that does NOT use this passive, then you have some leeway here. 

    I'm currently using chant of resonance for the increased spirit regeneration as well as not having to refresh mantras for a long time.  However, if you're having trouble staying alive, consider using transcendence, as it will greatly increase your healing done since this is a high spirit throughput build. 

    You can also use exalted soul or resolve here as well, but I don't recommend them.
  • This is an absolutely crucial and non-negotiable passive in this build.  An additional 35% spirit generation is massive.  If you are using a 1.10 speed 2-hander for example, it will generate spirit equal to that of a 1.485 speed weapon, which is faster than a fist weapon. 

    Yes, this passive also affects all passive spirit generation from gear, other passives (chant of resoannce/exalted soul), and spirit on crit runes such as quickening.  Patch 1.05 also updated the stats sheet to reflect this passive working with the 2-hander version.
  • Staying alive is good, but apparently it was too good for 1.05.

    If you are farming lower difficulty content or are satisfied with your defensive stats, consider using the new beacon of ytar which now grants 20% cooldown reduction.  This lets you use SSS, blinding flash, and serenity much more often.


With a build that utilizes high spirit generation, the templar follower is now a strong contender to the overused enchantress.  The templar's last ability grants 12% spirit generation for monks, which is about 1/3 the benefit of the guardian's path.  Using this templar ability will increase your overall spirit generation by around 9% when compared to just using guardian's path (147 / 135 = 1.0888), bringing total spirit generation up to 147%.  That's almost 50% more from passives, crit procs, and gear!

The first 2 templar skills don't really matter too much.  However, I strongly recommend charge, which is a nice small aoe stun.

If you're going to stay with the enchantress then I recommend getting mass control.  I personally think the 3% attack speed buff is horrendously overrated, and would prefer a bit more crowd control in lieu of it.  With patch 1.05, the passive armor buff got gutted to 1/3 of its previous strength, which makes the enchantress more or less worthless now.

I don't think the scoundrel is very useful overall for this build compared to the templar.

Gearing Up


The crux of this build relies on picking the right weapon.  Although this build can work with weapon/shield or dual-wield, it really shines the most with 2-handers and as such, you should look to invest in a 2-hander for this build.

Personally, I'm not a fan of slow weapons.  Slower attack speeds and slower casting animations can be very detrimental in intense situations.  Because of this, I do not recommend going any slower than a 1.00 base weapon.  This means no hammers or polearms.  Two-handed swords and daibos are the best if you find one with the right stats.

Lifesteal is the most important stat on your weapon.  Do not buy one without lifesteal.

Ideally, you'll want to search for the following parameters on the auction house depending on your budget: dexterity, socket, critical hit damage, and lifesteal.

Here are a few sample search parameters for a mid-level weapon:

Critical hit damage: 150+
Life steal: 5+
Socket: 1


Critical hit damage: 150+
Life steal: 5+
Dexterity: 200+

A high-level weapon such as Skorn would look like this:

Critical hit damage: 170+
Life steal: 5.6+
Socket: 1
Dexterity: 200+

As for legendary choices, Warmonger is a GREAT beginner weapon for this build because it innately rolls high lifesteal and attack speed and spawns 2 random mods, which can be a combination of dexterity, socket, and critical hit damage. It is also reasonably abundant on the auction house, so finding a good one is easy and prices are relatively cheap.  Consider one with at least 140%+ critical hit damage with a socket or dexterity. 

Other legendary choices include Flying Dragon, Inna's Reach, and of course, Skorn.  Of these 3, Flying Dragon and Skorn are the best choices because they can roll 2 random mods, while Inna's Reach can only roll 1 random mod.  You should obviously look for the wave of light bonus if you are opting for one of the daibos but because daibos are so difficult to get, it may be extremely difficult to get the right one.

A dexterity Skorn with lifesteal is a top choice for those looking to spend significantly more on their weapon.  This is the best weapon you can get.

Remember, do NOT buy a weapon without lifesteal.


Wave of light has a very weak coefficient (11% per tick, for a total of 33% for each target per cast), which means that life on hit and other proc effects are near useless.  As always, critical hit, critical hit damage, and attack speed are the best damage stats to have.  There is essentially no difference in gearing for armor compared to a standard sweeping winds/thunderclap build aside from life on hit being useless.

An Inna's Radiance with spirit generation and your resistance of choice or % life is the best helm you can get and should be reasonably affordable.

There are special 1.0.4 legendaries to consider with relevance to this build:

Stone of Jordan and Skull Grasp with wave of light critical hit chance (7% and 6% max, respectively) are excellent.  SoJ also comes with spirit regen.  While neither of these are crucial, they can be a good alternative to a regular rare ring if you can afford it.  Stone of Jordan in particular is VERY powerful for farming elites (and pvp!), and as such, I strongly recommend one, although it is very costly.

The new Mara's Kaleidoscope is now the best in slot for this build if you roll wave of light as the random skill and crit/crit damage/attack speed/dex as the random properties, but in reality is extremely difficult to find and purchase.

Infernal Machine

To use this build in high monster power (8-10) ubers fights, you will need to slightly tweak it to be similar to this:


(If you are in the minority that does not use one with everything, use resolve instead.)

By adding inner storm, you will keep the 3 spirit/sec that you would usually have from circular breathing.  Keep in mind that hitting a target with wave of light counts as an attack for keeping sweeping winds active.  This allows us to have hard target to help mitigate the damage on the high MPs.  If you feel comfortable with your survivability or are in a 4-person party, switch to overawe instead.


This build is a very fun and effective alternative to those who are tired of the same old cyclone spam.  While it does not excel at killing bosses, it does excel at killing white mobs and elites, which take up the majority of the game. 

My armory:  http://us.battle.net/d3/en/profile/rice-1791/hero/14284340

If you have questions or suggestions on how to improve this build, feel free to add me and we can chat it up.

If you're into PvP, I now have an in-depth PvP guide on this site using 2-handers and bells.
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