Zen Meditation: Windwalkers and Serenity
Zen Meditation is your twice-a-month look at the monk. In previous weeks we have looked at Brewmaster and Mistweaver, meaning that this week is Windwalker’s turn.
When describing the Windwalker rotation, one of the first things to come into question is how to use Serenity. Many Windwalkers may even try to avoid using this spell, opting instead to use Chi Explosion. While Chi Explosion is fantastic for any type of cleave or multi-target fight, Serenity allows the Windwalker to focus more on their boss damage in many cases, and overall, creates a rotation with not nearly as much complexity as one might think.
The talented cooldown and how it works
Serenity is a level 100 talent which grants Windwalkers a burst cooldown. Every minute and a half, all spells which cost Chi have their Chi amount refunded for ten seconds.
This means that once you cast Serenity, if you then cast a Blackout Kick or a Rising Sun Kick, it does technically use the Chi; this causes a common UI complaint in which your monk appears to have no Chi. The spell still makes them cost Chi. In other words, they aren’t actually free. What it does is refund their Chi directly after the cast, thus you are still technically spending Chi during Serenity’s duration. Thus, even if your Chi bar appears to have zero Chi after casting Serenity and then Blackout Kick or Rising Sun Kick, you can still continue spamming either ability. You would simply be bound by the global cooldown of the spells. Thus, you still need to enter Serenity with 2-4 Chi. Otherwise, you will waste seconds of its buff by needing to cast Jab in order to actually get full benefit of the spell.
Also, Serenity is not on the global cooldown. Thus, you can use it while mid-cast on another spell, such as Fists of Fury. If you activate it just before hitting Rising Sun Kick or Blackout Kick, with the right timing, the spell in question will also be refunded.
The spell’s basic usage
Now that we have it out of the way that you’ll likely see your Chi bar at zero while spamming away, there is still the question of proper usage of Serenity — or at least, how to get the most out of it.
While it is certainly not necessarily wrong to use Serenity as soon as it is available, there is an acceptable threshold for how long one can also theoretically delay it prior to using it. The reason you don’t really want to delay it all day rises through the fact that the average fight length centers at approximately six minutes, and delaying Serenity too long can lead to completely missing it.
The main reason to delay Serenity rises through knowing if a proc from Tiger Strikes or a trinket might happen very soon, a burn phase within the next minute and a half, or waiting on an on-use trinket. In Blackrock Foundry, Beating Heart of the Mountain certainly makes delaying Serenity well worth the extra thirty seconds for most encounters. With on-use trinkets usually experiencing a two minute cooldown (thirty seconds longer than Serenity’s cooldown), the wait for these is perfectly reasonable.
Saving for a burn phase might be along the lines of a Pillar phase on Mythic Kromog. In this encounter, three pillars appear that must be destroyed as quickly as possible, or else the entire raid will wipe. A more historical example might be the tendons on the Spine of Deathwing encounter in Dragon Soul. This is great for your raid in that if you have a phase in which you must do the most damage possible, Serenity with Tigereye Brew can certainly be the answer.
Yet again — let’s emphasize that delaying your Serenity usage too much is certainly not a good thing. Losing just one Serenity cast can be a major difference in your overall damage for an encounter, so it is better to use it too early than to wait too long.
That said, do not use Fists of Fury at the tail end of Serenity or during Serenity. You will likely wish to use Fists of Fury prior to casting Serenity. It’s also a waste of a global cooldown if you use Jab during Serenity.
Serenity: The new Fists of Fury?
In Mists of Pandaria, Windwalkers often bemoaned Fists of Fury usage. As a spell, Fists did pretty okay damage, but at the cost of possibly being a loss if cast at the wrong moment.
Serenity takes some of the same planning, but is not necessarily an overall loss if used incorrectly. Meaning, you do lose some damage, but it does not mean you may as well have never cast it. If you know that a boss is about to run out of range, it is certainly better to wait on Serenity. Additionally, for maximum damage, you certainly want to have Tigereye Brew and a proc available for as much of its duration as possible.
However, don’t allow this to dissuade you from using the talent. It creates a feeling of quickness in the rotation, a throwback to the Monk’s original archetype. In fact, improper usage of Serenity for most encounters far outweighs never using the talent at all. Having the extra button on your bar, and using it, creates a much better habit than never talenting into it at all.
In other words, do not be afraid of this spell simply because it’s another cooldown to manage!
An emphasis on Big Boss DPS
Finally, your boss DPS is your most important DPS. Serenity can make the Windwalker one of the best at doing boss DPS against other classes. Big Boss DPS pushes phases, and pushing phases means progression on encounters much faster. In a word, Serenity should be your default go-to in a new encounter, unless it is very obvious that Chi Explosion is better.
While you may not beat a feral druid with Serenity, you will certainly deal much more important damage than if you simply focused on adds. Thus, one might say that Serenity is the talent to go to if you wish to focus more on boss damage for many fights, even if it means that you will not top the meters for those fights. It does not mean that it is the be-all, end-all, and this is certainly not trying to indicate that using another talent would be padding. Rather, it is simply to state that while other classes may shine on encounters with waves of small adds, your damage will remain important because you will likely deal more boss damage than most other classes.
Serenity is a cooldown that we have wanted for an expansion now — and now we have it in a talent. It’s a great part of our toolkit, so let’s ensure we don’t undervalue it!
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