Four Flavors of Monk
If you’ve shared a virtual room with me at any point in the last 2 months, you know that I am a fanatic about Monk. Classes in general have seen a bit of a decline lately with “good stuff” Tricolor decks dominating the ladder, and of the few classes that still see play, Monk is one of the least popular. Even Spellsword has seen a bit of a rise in popularity due to Token and Dwemer strategies developing. Monk however has always been on the fringe of competitive viability, a niche choice in a niche category. There have been brief moments in Legends’ short history where Monk has shined in various forms, but they are few and far between.
In the era of Tricolor decks, it becomes very difficult to attempt to convince anyone that X Class is better than it’s Tricolor counterpart, which have access to cards that render the downsides of X Class obsolete with a minimum loss in consistency. Invariably a discussion about Monk is going to lead to the inevitable question of “Well, isn’t this just strictly better in Hlaalu?”
It’s not an unfair question. The answer is probably yes, Hlaalu is generally a more powerful option than Monk. However, I will admit that in the last few months of playing strictly 50 card decks, I have been enlightened more and more to the fact that increased consistency can lead to builds and archetypes that simply can’t exist in Tricolor decks, or if they do exist they exist as, to use the common vernacular, “straight up jank piles”.
The thing about Tricolor decks is that you often cannot build around specific synergies. In a 75 card deck you are much less likely to be able to capitalize on synergy and combos due to the increased variance in drawing the complimenting pieces that you need. Instead, you sacrifice the ability to build a highly synergistic deck in order to include the best cards of another color. This is why most Tricolor deckbuilding boils down to including all of the “good stuff”. You just jam as many good cards of each color as you can, adjust the curve as necessary, and call it a day.
So what does this have to do with Monk? Well, as I’ve been experimenting heavily with the class over the past few months, I’ve discovered that there is a lot of value in being able to craft a highly consistent 50 card deck that is packed with synergy. You will rarely see players attempting to build Hlaalu decks using combinations like Curse + Leaflurker or Execute + Cloudrest, or building strategies around cards like Master of Thieves or Conjurer’s Spirit. These types of combos and synergies are nearly impossible to pull off consistently in 75 card decks. Even if you pack your Tricolor deck full to the brim with draw, you are more likely to lose consistency chasing these combos and synergies than you would if you’d just jam as many cards as you can that are good on their own.
This means that some decks, such as the Ramp Monk Strike deck that I’m going to detail below, have combos and strategies that would be very difficult to pull off in a Hlaalu shell, to the point where building this kind of deck in Hlaalu would result in what many would say is a meme or jank deck. On first glance, a list like this might seem a bit too combo wombo to be successful, but I wonder how much of that is tied to conditioning over the last 9 months since Houses or Morrowind’s release to view decks through this “good stuff” lens.
So, all the rambling aside, my theory is this: Monk is a class that is wonderfully unique in feel and play style and offers a metric boatload of variety in deck building options and potential archetypes. I think it is sorely underplayed, underexplored and underestimated. I’ve spent most of the last two months experimenting with different builds and archetypes, and these are the lists that I’ve been the most successful with.
I’m not going to go into a ton of detail on this list since I did an extensive write up for it on Legends-Decks, but I will say that it’s a very versatile list that highlights all of the unique aspects of Monk and what it has to offer. Piloting Mid Monk feels like being Muhammad Ali in a boxing match — float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. When piloted correctly, you will be constantly switching between defense and offense, swapping lanes, buffing and debuffing to make trades, pulling off little mini combos that snowball into unstoppable boards. It’s all about momentum and knowing the right time to strike and the right time for restraint.
Monk is a class, especially in a Midrange/Tempo build, that rewards graceful and thoughtful play and proper management of your resources. It’s incredibly satisfying to see a line of play and the potential ways it will branch out further into the game, pick the line, and execute it perfectly to win the match. All of the little combos in the deck, Leaflurker + Curse, Execute + Cloudrest, Master of Thieves + Pilfer, etc…They all work so fluidly and you will rarely feel that any one piece of a combo is not useful in its own right, but they work even better together. And with plenty of options for refueling, you can keep the pressure up long past when other Midrange decks would have ran out of steam.
I’m really happy with this build and excited to see how some of the new Isle of Madness cards will further enable this archetype.
Feels like: Muhammad Ali
This deck is for: People who love playing Midrange decks that play for the board, people who love combat tricks
Deck Code: SPAEqcejqnajAIqAjyfWcxhQlZbxrPAKdQebkVdyhldhdffxdrkn
Ramp Swift/Strike Monk
This is my latest Monk discovery and it is probably one of the most fun decks I’ve ever put together. On its face, it is primarily a Swift Strike combo deck focused around dealing massive amounts of damage out of hand with a single powerful creature on the board. You can abuse Torval Extortionist’s 7 power to deal as much as (or more than) 20 damage out of nowhere to steal a game, while also draining for 20 and coming back against more aggressive decks.
However, what truly makes this deck special is the temporary Ramp theme. The inspiration for this deck came from some of the Midrange Green lists you’ll find in Magic: The Gathering. A lot of green creatures in MTG have ways to add mana to your pool, so you can exhaust them to cheat out massive beatsticks long before you should be able to. I tried to think about an analogue for this strategy in Legends and thought about Brotherhood Slayer and Completed Contracts.
The result of this theorycrafting was to find ways to make Chodala’s Treachery a cost effective and powerful tool to swing a board position to your favor. Playing big threats is nice and all, but often these big beat sticks don’t deal with your opponent’s board and they can be destroyed with the right removal spell for much less than you paid for it, then your opponent can continue to develop their own board and you fall behind. With Treachery, you can steal your opponent’s best creature, leaving their board weaker, yours stronger and forcing them to have to react to your growing board without them being able to snowball their own winning position. In other words, it’s a huge swing in your favor and the earlier the Treachery falls, the harder it is to come back from.
Completed Contract into Treachery on 8 feels really, really good and it is not at all uncommon to pull off in this deck. But you also have other ways of cheating it out cheaply. You can draw it for free from a Morag Tong Nightblade or discount it with Thieves Guild Recruit or Baroness as well. And sometimes the game might go long enough for you to just play it along side a 2 drop.
As combo wombo as the deck looks on paper, it is actually much more consistent than you would think at first glance. The combination of these powerful tempo plays by cheating magicka combined with the incredibly swingy Monk Strike + Swift Strike combo plays makes this a very scary deck that can come back from even the most dire situations. It’s a very versatile deck that can play full on beatdown against Control to a deck that can fight for the board and eek out incremental advantage against Aggro/Midrange before putting the nail in the coffin — pure Monk style. This is the kind of deck I mentioned before that just simply would not work in Hlaalu for the inconsistency, but in a 50 card deck actually functions beautifully.
Feels Like: “What the heck just happened?”
This deck is for: People who like winning in huge flashy ways, people who want to pull off crazy combos but not play pure jank
Deck Code: SPAHajczbkiFejqnqcAIfAdcpVkGmJdynMnwAJqHcvkMgskVhjdrlYqy
Enlightened Wolf Monk
*not pictured: Goldbrand — just…just pretend its there.
Shortly after the NecroWolf rampage that Justin Larson and I went on, I tried experimenting with Conjurer’s Spirit in other classes to see if I could find other consistent ways to get value out of the card. I looked for other ways besides Necromancer’s Amulet to keep the value engine going and what I came up with was using the Support package out of Willpower so that you could play an early Elixir of Vitality and only trigger it when a Conjurer’s Spirit is on the board to proc and create wolf tokens. I added in some draw and early game lethal defensive options out of Agility and this was the result.
What I found in testing was that it was much easier to trigger the Wolves in this deck than it was out of Spellsword with the Amulets, but it wasn’t as self sustaining. It’s a deck that plays very similarly to its Spellsword cousin but without quite as powerful of a late game engine since it’s missing Odirniran Necromancers and Galyn and that ability to potential generate infinite value with Amulets and wolf tokens self triggering. But it’s still a really fun and unexplored archetype of Monk that has a lot of potential.
It’s quite possible that the Support package isn’t as good as just jamming as many drain/life gain creatures into the deck as possible. Only having 4 support slots is definitely a problem for this deck. So once Isle drops, I look forward to seeing if some of the cards in there can replace the Support package and make the deck a little less clunky. It sure is fun though, and better than it looks!
Feels Like: NecroWolf, but monk
This deck is for: People who like stalling into a nebulous win condition, people who like wolves.
Deck Code: SPAFrgczqckClHAGqkfWqIeDiFrfALgsqynwfJcxdximlScOcRrP (replace the third Moose for Goldbrand)
This is the archetype I have the least experience with. I don’t play Token decks very often, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t mention it in an article about Monk archetypes. While Token Monk doesn’t have quite as many tools for refueling as it’s Crusader cousin, it does have a few really power cards in the form of Mournhold Traitor and Ahnassi. And really, besides Thieves Guild Recruits (which could be Priest of the Eight if you don’t mind the conditional nature), that’s about all the green you’ll find in this list.
To make up for the lack of Crusader’s Assault and Ulfric’s Housecarl, I put in some Pack Leaders. These won’t draw you cards like Red can, but they can be a powerful form of resource extension in the form of creating more tokens. It’s a must answer 4 drop, something that Crusader Token lists don’t usually have.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one except that it’s a Yellow token list and you play it like a Yellow token list. It’s probably the least exploratory Monk build in the list, but again, I’d feel negligent if I didn’t at least mention it.
Feels Like: Tokens
This deck is for: People who like Tokens.
Deck Code: SPAEajejqnelAChFlZAOlSkknBcxgpfxmemYdrimeDkVqyiN
In this article I wanted to outline four different flavors of Monk, one from each major archetype, to give a taste of what the Class is capable of and show off some of the more unique ways that Monk decks can be built. This list is by no means exhaustive though. There have been plenty of other archetypes that have seen play throughout Legend’s history, some of which are still quite viable and fun today. Some of those other archetypes include…
Good old fashioned Control Monk
Altar of Despair Monk (Justin Larson, lookin’ at you buddy)
I don’t have quite as much experience with these archetypes, nor do I feel that many would be interested in reading another 2000 words on them. But I’ll mention them here for reference, and to maybe spark some ideas for you to think about as we come closer and closer to a new expansion. Will Isle of Madness bring new life to Monk and offer exciting new archetypes? From some of the cards I have seen, I think the answer is absolutely yes.
For now, if you haven’t given Monk a shot and would like to experience a class with a really unique feel, I suggest giving one of these deck’s above a shot. And if you’ve come up with your own unique twist on Monk lately, please let me know in the comments.