The Brewmaster Monk
The Brewmaster is a fun spec to play with, movement heavy and a little bit different from other tank classes. I picked this spec for the project for no particular reason other than that I didn’t have a monk yet.
I played the old brewmaster from Level 1-37 and the “new” overhauled Legion one until Level 40. Doesn’t sound much, but that’s about 200 hours /played consisting almost exclusively of tanking. I did a little bit of questing and some random dungeons, but for the most part I’ve played together with the Priest.
I don’t know anything about Monks in endgame and how they’re “supposed” to be played, but most of that doesn’t really apply to us anyway and probably the way I play the Monk seems a bit weird, but it actually works, or is even required, in our special case.
In this post, I’d like to explain the old playstyle and abilities and then compare it to the way Legion works, while explaining the difficulties I’m having with the new gameplay style.
Brewmaster before Legion
As usual, there are a bunch of different situations you have to adapt to. Single trash mobs, trash packs, hard hitting trash, ranged, melee and bosses often also need their own individual strategy. Gameplay would also greatly differ if content was already trivial (that usually happened when the mobs were still above our level), difficult or in-progress.
I won’t go over every single ability and talent, but instead just talk in general about the gameplay. I’m sure many of you are roughly familiar with the Brewmaster gameplay and tankin in general, so I won’t go too much into the absolute basics. I’ll also try to focus on things that actually changed.
For the first 37 levels, tanking was actually pretty nice, because the BM is very versatile and can adapt to a variety of different situations as well as being equipped with a range of defensive skills that increase survivability. The latter is especially important for our project.
As a sidenote I want to mention about gear, that I was able to choose from a huge variety of one and two handed weapons. This was actually sometimes a bit difficult, because while there aren’t a lot of agility two hand weapons, there’s a ton of one handers I could wield, and choosing the best combination wasn’t easy, so I had my inventory filled with a bunch of weapons.
One of the skills I used a lot was Dizzying Haze as it allowed me to smoothly pull enemies from greater distances, thus being able to quickly react to adds or patrolling enemies and other issues. High range, no cooldown, low cost and I could target it. In addition to that it also slows down enemies, making it perfect not only for pulling, but also for kiting, which was a tactic often implemented in our fights. The movement speed reduction often worked on trash only, but that was more than enough as trash was usually just as hard, if not harder, than a lot of bosses. The spell didn’t have a cast time, so I could run/roll around and pick up mobs left and right or reapply the snare effect to the currently kited mobs. The fact that it dealt a high amount of threat was also quite welcome. I often require a lot of immediate healing, causing the healer to instantly build up aggro, so I had to be able to build aggro fast.
Elusive Brew sounded cool on paper, but was actually a bit pointless for us, because while I appreciate the higher dodge chance in theory, in reality I never got any stacks on difficult enemies/bosses, because I never critically hit them due to the level difference. Without crits, I get no stacks and without stacks I can’t use the skill to get more dodge.
Guard was one of my most important cooldowns. The shield and duration were quite high, the cooldown low and when used at the right time it often saved me from certain death.
Fortifying Brew was useful as a defensive cooldown at 3 minutes, because boss fights tend to last a bit longer and I could get some good use out of the ability.
Touch of Death, a lifesaver in some cases, made it possible to overcome a bunch of trash mobs in Dire Maul North. Sometimes kiting the packs until the ToD CD reset for the next kill.
In addition to these abilities, I also had a small instant heal that would deal damage and a casted heal spell that would deal AoE damage. The first one would also build Chi points. Since I was taking ridiculous damage, these abilities often helped me kill a trash mob, while keeping my HP up and getting more Chi to use another useful ability. The instant heal was used on cooldown. I also have a regular casted heal, which is slow and weak.
Gameplay wise, the Brewmaster Monk had Chi points that were build with one skill and used up by others in addition to energy. It was a little bit rigid, but after a while I got into a nice rhythm for my normal rotation when tanking.
Unless the damage was just too high or mechanics were not designed around 2 players (they usually weren’t but usually it was no problem), I was able to deal with basically anything. Staying out of the reach of enemies until my HP were back up or a cooldown was available again by rolling and kiting mobs and using the right cooldown/heal at the right time, resource management with Chi points so I would have enough when I had to cast the next Guard and so on.
I could go into much more detail, but you get the idea. While I was by no means able to survive completely on my own, I could at least deal with most problems in a way that allowed the healer to keep me alive. Sometimes it took a while to get it just right and to adjust to the situation at hand, but eventually we were able to figure out a way to deal with a problem that was impossible to overcome with just raw brute force, gear and dps at our level.
The gameplay was sometimes a bit hectic, but felt very rewarding, even at lower levels, to be able to make the right choice at the right time.
But apparently that didn’t sit quite right with the folks at Blizzard, because in addition to the overall weakening of tanks for Legion, they posted this for the Legion preview about Brewmaster Monks:
The gameplay for Brewmasters hasn’t quite fit their archetypes to this point. Rather than being the tricky martial artists, staggering around with an evasiveness that frustrates their opponent while being a little squishy when taking an unmitigated blow, Brewmasters have been more focused around large absorption shields and clutch self-healing. Our new design approach is to get more gameplay depth out of their strong, thematic abilities. Instead of Chi as a resource, which had little depth for Brewmasters, we’re switching to charges on Brew abilities that other abilities still interact with.
And with that said, we move on to the present.
Brewmaster in Legion
Just to clarify again, this is written specifically about our admittedly very special situation. Two players, tank and healer, in dungeons that are much higher in level. We’re still low level (40) and a lot of the thought process that went into the new Brewmaster doesn’t affect us yet. That comes in to play at max level and that’s still far out of reach. So according to some people the Brewmaster is actually completely fine at max level.
When logging in for the first time after the Legion prepatch hit and rearranging my abilities to my accustomed layout I was left with a LOT of holes in my bar and thinking to myself “How am I going to tank anything with this?”.
Not understanding every minor change in detail led to some frustrating moments in the beginning. Gone was my Dizzying Haze, which I used to pull everything, replaced with seemingly nothing. There was now Crackling Jade Lightning, with the same range, but it was only single target and almost generated no aggro whatsoever.
Getting mobs to stick to me was a pain early on. I had Keg Smash and Breath of Fire, which were on an 8 and 15 second cooldown, making it imperative that I picked up the mobs very precisely (no targeting cursor) and timely. Since these abilities are also in my general rotation, it’s difficult to pick up additional mobs quickly. While I can deal with single mobs fairly well, if another pack adds, it might be another 8 seconds before I can properly pick it up. 8 seconds in our metagame is more often than not a wipe.
It got a little bit easier after I realized that Keg Smash had gotten an update and now had a range of 15 yards, so I still could kind of pull from a distance instead of just rolling into the enemies, but that doesn’t help with the cooldown problem and also our aggro range is sometimes so huge, the mobs aggro from further away than 15 yards.
Keg Smash also slows down enemies, but with the added cooldown it’s much less flexible than Dizzying Haze.
The second thing I noticed was my damage output, which was through the roof. Mobs were dying so fast, we initially thought it was going to be a cakewalk from now on until we encountered the first difficult bosses. There I realized how fragile I had become. Nevermind the significant increase in HP, it didn’t matter at all. My HP went down so quickly, I often couldn’t even react with a cooldown…not that I had any.
Cooldowns…most of them were either completely gone, including my Bread&Butter defensive Guard, or nerfed significantly. Fortifying Brew now has a 7 minute cooldown and while it will be reduced by using other abilities, it’s still much slower and weaker than before, making it almost useless.
My self heals are reduced as well, along with Chi points. The former makes the rotation simpler and reduced my survivability, while the latter gave me a pretty long and uncomfortable adjustment period because the rhythm that came with Chi was gone. Replaced by just energy and charges on spells it is possibly more flexible, but I still prefer Chi. I can’t instantly heal myself anymore and I certainly can’t dish out any damage either. I have a passive HoT and a casted Heal, both of which are either weak or slow/not recommended while tanking.
There’s one major change that affects the way Stagger works. Originally stagger reduced incoming damage by 20% and added a DoT on myself which ticked every 2 seconds for 10 seconds total. It helped with evening out damage spikes a little bit and it took a while to get to really high levels.
Now Stagger ticks every 0.5 seconds and absorbs 35% damage. Sounds good in theory, as the ticks are more frequent, thus more predictable and the absorbed amount is higher, making the incoming damage of hard hitting mobs a little bit smoother. But considering the amount of damage I’m taking now, Stagger ticks for huge amounts. While it does even out damage spikes better, the higher ticks result in the healer not having any breathing room anymore. At least that’s what it feels like to me. I’ve seen normal Stagger ticks of 350+ every .5 seconds, while the old record was the same amount in 2 seconds. That’s about 600-700 dps, which is pretty significant in our situation.
Ironskin Brew is a new ability that increases my Stagger amount by an additional 40%. For me, right now, this is completely useless. When it doesn’t result in my death, the situation could be easily handled without it. When I have high incoming damage, all it does is put more pressure on the healer since there is now constant damage incoming. I had it rack up to 500+ per tick, that’s 10% of my HP for 10 seconds in addition to the boss’ crushing hits.
I’m not complaining about the balancing, all these changes and abilities were never intended to be used in a situation like this, I’m just stating the fact that the old system worked much better in this specific case.
Later I’ll get the ability to clear 50% of my Stagger amount. I hope that will change the way I handle Stagger damage significantly and in a good way.
As for getting aggro: It’ll be a while until I get anything useful. At 60 I can get the Black Ox Statue, which should help me out a lot. But 15 levels is an eternity in our case.
This doesn’t make sense
At level 25 I get a new ability to draw in all healing spheres that spawned during an encounter. Great, sounds super helpful, right? Well…at level 40 (!) I get the passive that actually makes these healing spheres appear. Come again? So for 15 levels you have this completely useless skill on your bar that does absolutely nothing at all. I’d like to think Blizzard accidentally swapped the levels, but I’m afraid that they just don’t care. You level from 25-40 in an afternoon or two if you’re not stupid, so nobody cares.
What else? Right, I can’t use anything but Staffs and Polearms anymore. That made it easier to choose the right weapon as I could throw out about a dozen of one handers and I got a fancy new staff in the mail, so I was done.
If you’re familiar with the itemization, you’ll know that there are very few agility Staffs and Polearms in the game. The staff I got in the mail at level 37 will only be replaced by an AQ40 drop before Outland. I doubt we’ll be able to clear AQ40 at that level, but who knows.
Itemization in general is bad, for example Chest armor: I got a nice one at Level 30 in the Monastery, the next upgrade was at level 38 from a 1k needles quest and the next upgrade is from a Blackrock Quest I can start at 55….and that’s the only upgrade I have before going into Outland.
Not feeling it
I’m having a tough time getting into the groove, because there doesn’t seem to be one. Seeing the incoming damage in relation to my health makes me feel much weaker. Being unable to do anything about incoming damage just enhances that feeling of weakness.
In trash fights I try to slow them down and roll around like an idiot, only returning to deal a bit of damage every now and then when my AoE abilities are off cooldown.
In boss fights I barely do anything. While Keg Smash now works on bosses and slows their movement down, I feel especially unequipped to deal with any mechanics that involve high incoming damage.
So basically I do my normal damage rotation while trying to get out of reach when my HP get low. I feel like a bad DPSer that got aggro and has to run away.
It sounds bad, and to be honest, it is in some way, but it’ll get better. There are more abilities coming and I have a couple of talent choices as well. But with the new simplified gameplay, the new abilities are so few and far between…from level 40 to 100 (!) I get more flying skills from the flight trainer than I get new active abilities. And not all of those are actually useful. With our progress being slow, slow upgrades feel like an eternity. And if the gameplay is in dire need of upgrades due to repetitiveness and lack of options, that’s bad!
Again, this doesn’t matter for the normal player. If you level regularly, you’ll be getting new abilities more frequently because let’s be honest: In the time we got from 1-40, other people level several characters to 100 without much effort.
So that’s my little Brewmaster overview. I’m sure I forgot a ton and there’s a lot more to talk about, but that’s it for now. I might add some more information later when talking about different boss encounters. I haven’t lost hope, but the challenge has absolutely lost a significant amount of its charm, because it’s just too simple right now.
Well, I’m not sure anymore. We made a few more tests with the recently adjusted HP value in dungeons and found little to no change. We progressed one (!) trash pack further in DM:North, but that’s about it. Bosses like Immol’thar, that died months ago, are now unkillable again. We’re now officially nerfed a LOT, so in theory we get to redo a ton of content, again, which doesn’t feel rewarding or motivating at all.
We were actually looking forward to finally putting Dire Maul behind us. It’s been 9 levels and countless of runs and to be honest, I’m getting pretty sick and tired of the place, because we’re seeing no progress. The moment we get stronger, there’s a nerf coming, either through the new Legion mechanics or through the HP change.
I’ll go into a bit more detail in the next instance-clear summary and explain why this isn’t as fun anymore. To some people it might seem strange, because week after week I’m writing on how it’s almost impossible to get a challenge at lower levels. Now that some bosses ,that are around our level and not 10 levels higher, are unkillable again, I should rejoice that the game is hard again. But it’s not that simple. For now we’ve decided to pick up the pace, level up faster and not try to minmax at every single level and re-try half a dozen bosses, with new content coming maybe once every few months.
We’ve leveled up to 42 (!) now and with that the Blackrock Depths unlock, which will hopefully provide ample entertainment for the upcoming weeks.