Zen Meditation: The critical mastery of Brewmaster tanks
It seems that when discussing secondaries, people like to assume one stat or another is better or worse. Sadly, this is hardly ever the case. For Brewmasters, the truth is that almost all stats are actually pretty good. Haste is the outlier, as it brings no mitigation value; it allows one to generate Chi, but with power strikes, that argument weakens. However, what about crit or mastery? For Windwalker and Mistweaver, mastery’s awfulness is hardly negotiable. Thus, Brewmaster’s love for mastery creates almost a red herring. However, why are tanks taking either more mastery or more crit? Let’s take a look!
The Brewmaster offset annoyance
If you main a tank monk, this annoyance likely rarely raises its head. However, the moment you realize you need to go Mistweaver or Windwalker, you realize that all of this mastery that you gained is nothing but an annoyance because of how low it is in value to the other specializations.
Nonetheless, in terms of progression, many Brewmasters will still shoot for mastery. Before we delve into the why’s, let’s take a look at what Mastery grants.
- Increased amount of Stagger. As the main mitigation spell, Stagger makes Brewmasters tick. As described in the tooltip, only a certain portion of initial incoming damage is taken upfront. The rest becomes a DoT that the Brewmaster can remove using Purifying Brew. This does not mean that the damage is virtually ignored — after all, Brewmasters do not gain Chi nearly as quickly as a Windwalker does, and thus, not all of their Chi spending can be used on Purifying Brew. What it does mean is that for a hit of, for example, 100,000 damage, the Brewmaster will take take 70,000 upfront and then 30,000 more over time. However, Mastery actually affects this by increasing the amount of stagger. My own monk happens to have just under 10% Mastery in their Brewmaster gear. This means that for a 100,000 hit, I would theoretically take 60,000 damage upfront and then stagger 40,000 of that. This means that some of the damage taken is smoothed. However, note that 1% more stagger does NOT necessarily mean 1% more damage staggered, simply because of the way that mastery scales. Without going too far in-depth, suffice to say that 1% more mastery is actually more or less damage taken depending upon the amount of mastery you have, as it does not necessarily scale linearly compared to other stats.
- This amount of mastery also grants me just a little bit more attack power. This may come as a surprise to many people, as Mastery did not originally grant attack power to Brewmasters. With my roughly 10% mastery, I gain approximately 13% more attack power.
This illustrates how Mastery does still grant some attack power, but is also for smoother damage intake. During progression, you might see more Brewmasters opt for Mastery due to the ability to mitigate larger hits. Mastery becomes the stat of choice when one undergears content and expects to take larger hits, so to speak.
This also means that gearing for a Brewmaster offspec is annoying for Mistweavers and Windwalkers, as having some mastery on gear (if not quite a lot of it) is actually more desirable than for the other two specializations.
But why go crit?
With the benefits granted by mastery, it then likely comes as a surprise to find that many high-end Brewmasters still prefer crit.
Unlike mastery, crit’s effects are pretty straight-forward. More critical hits means more double damage. However, Brewmasters have another interaction with critical strike — Elusive Brew. Every time an auto attack crits, the Brewmaster can gain up to 3 stacks of Elusive Brew. As stated in the tooltip, Elusive Brew is part of the Brewmaster active mitigation toolkit by increasing the Brewmaster’s chance to dodge attacks for one second per stack of Brew used. Thus, gaining more elusive brew is good, as having more uptime on the spell is very good!
However, the unspoken benefit from Crit is also simply self-healing. Gift of the Ox and Expel Harm work fairly well with Crit — Expel Harm in particular. There are a few more interesting interactions with Expel Harm in particular. First, it deals nature damage equal to 33% of the amount that it heals. Second, it becomes almost spamable when below 35% health. Needless to say, if you are able to spam it, and it crits, not only are you healing yourself for a good chunk of health (thus saving the healers’ mana and likely sparing your own life), you are also doing a decent enough amount of damage from that amount of healing.
I’m a tank, not a DPS!
Let me begin by stating that I believe either build is perfectly viable for different encounters. Also, I am of the school of thought that a tank’s first priority is to not deal tons of damage, but to mitigate as much incoming damage as they can. However, I also believe that part of being a great tank is having this mitigation be so natural that damage dealt is the final measure of skill.
In other words, the more that healers or tanks can deal damage while still doing their primary duties of not dying and ensuring others don’t die, the faster bosses are able to be downed. Take Mythic Blackhand, my own guild’s current progression. The faster that a certain phase is pushed, the faster we can go to the next phase, and the next, until finally the boss is dead. Each phase certainly has its own hazards, but pushing them as quickly as possible only helps. An even better example is Mythic Imperator Mar’gok, in which pushing through Phase 3, where tons and tons of magic damage are dealt, is almost a surefire way to a kill.
Nevertheless, let me echo again that sacrificing mitigation should only very rarely be considered by tanks during progression — it is certainly a choice that should take much thought, as taking too much damage in the name of DPS can put a higher strain than necessary on healers. In addition to this, the Brewmaster’s mitigation toolkit is fairly well designed due to its interactions that allow both crit and mastery to not only mitigate damage, but to also grant a little bit more damage done. It would still be somewhat of a tradeoff, but not nearly the same amount of tradeoff as a Brewmaster might experience if they, for example, went with Haste instead and its little to no mitigation.
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