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WoWJun 8, 2015 5:00 pm CT

Zen Meditation: Where do Monks fit in patch 6.2?

Perhaps one of the most discussed things in terms of monks right now, aside from the patch 6.2 changes, are where monks actually fit in raids. In the past, for any spec, utility has always been a major concern. In 6.2, many monks are dreading the changes and wondering if, perhaps, they should consider looking at other classes.

The truth is, monks have been in an odd spot since their inception in Mists of Pandaria. As with any new class, there have been iterations during, before, and continually around patches.  Yet, even as the newest class — and can Monks truly consider themselves a new class now? — it seems that the Monk’s raid spot, regardless of role, has been in question for a few reasons at any given point.

Brewing to victory

I personally created my monk with the intention of going Brewmaster when I felt unsatisfied with the Guardian Druid changes that were presented in early Mists of Pandaria beta. While I have not raided as Brewmaster for some time, even tanks have dealt with somewhat of a rollercoaster, though admittedly not as powerful of one as Mistweavers or Windwalkers.

Brewmasters have always been incredibly gear dependent.  Especially in Mists, many guilds were slow to realize how effective Brewmasters were.  Guard and Shuffle could mitigate an incredible amount of damage, provided the Brewmaster actually has the gear to do that.  Further, Throne of Thunder illustrated how powerful Brewmasters could be in terms of both damage taken and damage dealt. Siege of Orgrimmar only continued this trend, with many Brewmasters simply solo-soaking Malkorok’s Blood Rage on Heroic in order to prevent their raids from taking too much damage.

Were they overpowered? Perhaps. If they were not, then perhaps other tanks were simply poorly balanced.  If anything, Brewmasters are an incredibly well-designed specialization, in which every stat increases their mitigation in some form (let’s leave the haste debate elsewhere — perhaps back there with the haste gear that Brewmasters should be passing on).  Coming into 6.2, many Brewmasters at first worried about the changes — the reduction to Shuffle’s usefulness seems incredibly negative but the truth is it does pull much of the spec’s active mitigation into baseline mitigation, which in turn makes the spec much more playable for less experienced or less geared players.

Misting the raid

Mistweavers are perhaps experiencing far fewer changes than the other two specializations in 6.2. However, their rollercoaster has probably been more absurd than the ride Brewmasters took, yet still less absurd than that of Windwalkers.

With a mastery that is still incredibly underwhelming and very little desire for haste, Mistweavers can deal an incredible amount of damage in comparison to other healers in Crane Stance, yet can also be very effective raid healers in Serpent Stance. However, that is likely their downfall as they seem to do poorly in smaller groups (such as 5-man content) because they cannot rely as much upon the passive healing of Crane Stance.  While they do have Revival and Life Cocoon for their arsenal, Siege of Orgrimmar and even Throne of Thunder saw much of their initial raw throughput die down.  While a Mistweaver is a powerful raid healer, they are competing with Resto Druids for the healing spot not already taken by a Resto Shaman’s multitude of cooldowns, the Holy Paladin’s beacon and other raid cooldowns, or the Discipline Priest’s incredible number of absorbs.

Tier bonuses and the healing trinket will be incredibly powerful for the throughput of Mistweavers once the siege upon Hellfire Citadel begins.  These will grant them a great amount of passive healing, adding to their abilities as a capable raid healer.  However, their single-target healing and small-group healing may leave some that simply wish to heal heroics still unable to really embrace the strengths of the class.

Just healing with BotS

Winds of change

It’s become a community-wide joke that Windwalkers will have another mastery come the next patch. So far, however, it’s been a no show and it seems that this current mastery may stay for longer than the typical Windwalker might like.

The most thrilling and yet also most disappointing rollercoaster can certainly be attributed to Windwalkers.  As a rarity during Blackrock Furnace progression, the spot for a leather-wearing melee DPS rarely went to a Windwalker for most high-end raiding.  While the spec has remained incredibly fun to play, its high time during Highmaul very quickly disappeared after a series of nerfs and other classes simply outscaling them.

In fact, with current numbers tuning, Hellfire Citadel does not look good for Windwalkers at this point.  No longer the kings of two or three target cleave, the Windwalker’s own niche has been taken by a multitude of other classes. Given that most raid groups already have dedicated tanks and healers, they cannot simply swap to a different specialization. Instead, if Windwalkers are not in a good place, they would instead be compelled to completely change classes.

Historically Blizzard has managed to make Windwalker damage at least passing when the majority of logs showed that it had become complete failure.  By undoing one or two Windwalker nerfs, Blackrock Foundry suddenly saw many high-end Windwalkers return.  In terms of difficulty, Windwalker’s single-target rotation likely eclipses the difficulty level of the other two specializations (not to state that the other specializations are particularly easy).  Yet, perhaps it is this perceived difficulty that actually plagues the class?

Difficulty of the class

Let’s face it — all three specializations have a very massive toolkit, having had very few abilities pruned.  Where my Rogue actually managed to go down a full action bar, my Monk has not.  All three specializations have tons of things to watch — Brewmasters must maintain their shuffle, not overcap Elusive Brew, and actually understand how Serenity and Chi Explosion both work (moreso Chi Explosion come 6.2).  Similarly, a great Mistweaver must know how to properly alternate their stances.  Still further, a great Windwalker can have a high ceiling for damage, but a very small margin for error if they wish to truly achieve anything near that ceiling.

Thus, perhaps the community’s view of monks has more or less been that they have little role in a raid simply because of the higher level of skill required.  This is not to state that other classes require less skill; rather, a bad Windwalker will be more of a hindrance upon a raid than a Death Knight that knows how to Gorefiend’s Grasp adds or a Retribution Paladin that knows how to use their external cooldowns.

Many of us — including myself — are very passionate about playing our Monks.  It is an incredible class with a great archetype, and hopefully a good future moving forward.  While Hellfire Citadel does look like it will be bumpy for some monks, Celestalon has already stated in an official post that Blizzard is aware of the difficulties faced by classes with only one spec for a role, and their vision in terms of those class’s niches (that is, that they should be powerful in those areas).  I believe that Hellfire Citadel’s set bonuses will be incredibly fun for all three specializations as well. The typical raider will likely be fine — for most encounters, it is far superior to bring your most skilled player ahead of their class, regardless of whether they are a Brewmaster or a Guardian.

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