If you're anything like me, as soon as premade monks became available, you dived in. Pick the right name, get the right look, log in for the first time, admire your look, open the spellbook ...
Stop! Don't feel like you need to run back to that character creation screen to start from the beginning. Over the next few weeks, I'll give you all the info you need to start playing with power; you won't even need to spend $3.99 per minute. One caveat, though: Because this is still beta, things will likely change somewhat between now and live. We'll have a full 101 guide that covers things like enchants, gems, and stats when Mists is released, but this will cover you until then.
What is a windwalker monk? Monks have three role options: damage, tanking, and healing, of which windwalker is the melee damage role. I'm covering this first because I expect windwalker to be the most commonly used specialization, especially for leveling.
How do windwalker monks work? Windwalker monks have two primary resources, energy and chi. Energy replenishes at a constant rate and is used to power your basic attacks and abilities. These attacks generate chi, which is then used to power your stronger attacks. Since the chi pool is small, though, you'll typically be rotating the use of chi generators and chi spenders in order to maximize efficiency.
What are windwalker monk's key damage abilities? Everything starts with Jab. This seemingly basic ability does quite a few things. First, it gives you 2 chi -- 1 baseline, plus 1 additional for being in Fierce Tiger stance. (Unlike other classes such as the warrior, who can use a tanking stance even when spec'd DPS, windwalker monks only get a DPS stance. This may change in the future.) Second, it triggers the windwalker monk mastery, Combo Breaker, which grants a chance for stronger abilities to be free of charge. Jab doesn't do a lot of damage, but over longer fights, you'll want to use it as often as possible. Don't use it when your chi is full, though; spend the chi first, then Jab to regenerate it.
After Jab, the next ability you should be using is Rising Sun Kick. This ability costs 2 chi and has a short cooldown but hits for a significant amount and debuffs the enemy to take 10% additional damage from all your abilities. Maintaining this debuff is important for longer fights.
OK, now the enemy's gotten a chunk taken out of their health and they're taking extra damage. Now what? Jab a few more times to get some chi, and bust out your signature ability, Fists of Fury. This is a 4-second channeled ability that does five pulses of reasonable damage to anything in front of you. More importantly, though, all enemies hit by it are stunned for the duration, so you're dishing out pain, not getting hit in return, and regenerating energy. Glorious! Just remember, it's channeled, so you won't be auto-attacking, and moving will interrupt the channel and stun early. It's pretty expensive at 3 chi, so the last thing you want is to waste it. Also, while it does hit all enemies, it's not a true AoE attack; it splits damage among all targets, so only use it for the stun against multiples.
After this sequence, the target you've been fighting is probably close to death, and you've got two more chi-spending moves to use to finish them off. If you only have 1 chi, use a Tiger Palm. It doesn't hit that hard, but it's cheap and has a small stacking buff. Preferably, though, you'll want to use Blackout Kick. This ability costs 2 chi but is the hardest-hitting instant strike in the monk's arsenal, gives you a small heal and a chance to gain some chi back if you kill the target with it.
That's it! Those are the basic five abilities you need to know. For longer encounters, you'll do the same thing, with a focus on maintaining the debuff from Rising Sun Kick and the buff from Tiger Palm, and using the Combo Breaker procs as they occur. You'll also add in the cooldown abilities that I talk about below. For AoE, you'll keep using Rising Sun Kick to put up that 10% debuff, and then use Spinning Crane Kick instead of Jab as your chi generator.
Leveling monks, you're in luck: Most of these abilities are unlocked by level 10, except for Rising Sun Kick.You won't need it, though. Blackout Kick will suffice by itself as your primary damage-dealing ability.
What other abilities do I need to know about?
- Movement Flying Serpent Kick is quite possibly the most enjoyable move in the game. One click, and you instantly take off at epic mount speed in a straight line. Click again, and you land thunderously, doing a bit of AoE damage. Extremely cool. You also have Roll, which is similar to a mage's Blink, but you'll use FSK a lot more, once you get it; it's just that much more fun. Finally, there's Transcendence, which is somewhat similar to a warlock's Demonic Portal, though you don't unlock it until 87.
- Ranged damage You've got two options: Spinning Fire Blossom, which hits for a good amount of damage but costs 1 chi, or Crackling Jade Lightning, which doesn't hit for much but at least costs energy, so you should always have it available.
- Survivability Touch of Karma is your go-to ability to keep yourself alive -- amazingly powerful for large crowds. You also have Fortifying Brew, which has a longish cooldown of 3 minutes but gives you health and damage reduction simultaneously.
- Buffs and cooldowns For buffs, you get two legacies: Legacy of the Emperor, which is a 5% stat boost, and Legacy of the White Tiger, which increases mastery (though this may become crit). For personal DPS boosts, you've got two brews, Energizing Brew and Tigereye Brew, which increase energy regen and damage respectively.
- Other Even though you're not a healing spec, you can do some light healing with Healing Sphere, remove diseases and poisons with Detox, and revive dead players (out-of-combat) with Resuscitate. For PvP, you've also got a robust toolkit: a incapacitate, a snare, a disarm, and an interrupt. Last, but not least, you can also insta-kill things with Touch of Death. Sure, it's not an overly practical ability, but it's pretty sweet. (No, it doesn't work in PvP...no I.W.I.N button for you.)
What talents should I pick? The long answer is too long for this column, and the short answer is that it depends. I will say, though, that the three talents I've found most useful are Zen Sphere, with its excellent damage and healing and is probably due for a nerf; Power Strikes, a passive boost that's up for every quest mob; and Leg Sweep, which is amazing for helping out tanks in instances.
Well, that wraps it up for windwalkers. Hopefully, Blizzard won't change everything tomorrow. Got any questions? Feel free to ask them in the comments!
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!