Last week, I covered windwalker monks and how to fly around kicking butt like a kung fu master. This week, I'm delving into the "spirited" version, the brewmaster. 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 brewmaster monk?
Monks have three role options: damage, tanking, and healing, of which brewmaster is the tanking role.
How do brewmaster monks work?
Brewmaster monks have two primary resources, energy and chi. Energy replenishes at a constant rate and is used to power your basic moves and abilities. These attacks generate chi, which is then used to buff your survivability.
What is this "stagger" thing?
Stagger is a new mitigation mechanic that is exclusive to brewmaster tanks. For every physical attack taken, a percentage of the damage is not taken immediately but instead is turned into a damage over time effect that stacks. In and of itself, this does nothing except spread out the damage taken a bit. However, brewmasters also have Purifying Brew, which completely eliminates the Stagger DoT effect. Depending on the fight, you may have enough chi to use PB often, or you may need to let Stagger stack a bit. Many abilities buff Stagger, such as the Shuffle effect from Blackout Kick.
Similar to guardian druids, agility leather is what brewmasters are designed to use. As such, you'll mainly be looking for rogue and feral druid gear, though with different jewelry items. If you're looking to get some heirlooms now to prepare, Shadowcraft armor is your best bet.
For weapons, monks can either dual wield fist weapons, swords, maces, and axes or use a two-handed polearm or staff. While that seems like a lot of choice, there aren't really that many agility heirlooms; your best choice is either dual Venerable Mass of McGowan or wait until the Burnished Warden Staff is implemented.
What are brewmaster monks' key rotational abilities?
First, make sure you're in Stance of the Sturdy Ox, not Stance of the Fierce Tiger. If you mess this up, you'll find out quite quickly.
Properly positioned? Keg Smash is the key ability that starts everything and should be used on cooldown. This does a lot. Most importantly, it gives you 2 chi, but it also applies the Weakened Blows effect and the Dizzying Haze effect, which makes enemies hit 10% less hard, miss 3% of the time, and move 50% more slowly. So, yes, keg smash all of the things. If you need chi and KS is on cooldown, though, the next option is Expel Harm (which also self-heals, which is great) or the old reliable Jab.
Once you've got chi, you'll want to burn it on stuff to keep you alive. Your best option, as mentioned above, is Blackout Kick to proc Shuffle. You'll want Shuffle up as often as you can, as the damage you take while it's down is considerable. If your Stagger damage is getting high, though, use Purifying Brew to clear it. Finally, assuming the level 30 talents keep their strong healing effects, weaving one of them in when you have extra chi (I prefer Zen Sphere) will be a significant help.
What self-cooldowns do I have?
- Elusive Brew is an interesting one. It increases your dodge significantly, but instead of having a cooldown, its duration is based on charges that you get from crits. This gives you a cooldown to use when you're out of chi and gives brewmasters a reason to want crit. As it's currently designed, though, it'll probably be used rotationally instead of as a cooldown.
- Guard is in a somewhat awkward place between cooldown and rotational ability, due to the 30-second cooldown and 2 chi cost. Generally, you'll prefer to use the chi to maintain Shuffle, but that doesn't do a thing for magic damage.
- Fortifying Brew is the spell of 20s: 20% more health, 20% less damage taken, and 20% more damage Staggered. This is your big cooldown.
- Dampen Harm or Diffuse Magic are level 75 talents that you can take for an extra cooldown ability. Dampen Harm is probably the most broadly useful, but Diffuse Magic looks to be excellent for certain situations.
Yes! Avert Harm is available and works somewhat like a paladin's Hand of Sacrifice. Unlike HoS, though, this reduces raid damage but increases damage dealt to you, so you'll definitely want to pair it with another cooldown. Zen Meditation is also available, even though it's not really meant for brewmasters. While some planning and kiting might be necessary to use it to its fullest extent, it'll always mitigate at least one melee hit. Finally, a Black Ox statue can be dropped that will occasionally shield teammates.
What about keeping threat?
Most of your single-target threat will come through your standard rotation by hitting Keg Smash and Blackout Kick. For AoE situations, though, you do have a few other tools. Dizzying Haze is normally applied by Keg Smash, but it can be used on its own as an AoE pulling ability. It doesn't do damage, so it won't break any CCs, but it'll still add a good bit of threat.
Once you've got all the mobs rounded up and hazed, though, you've got a new option: Breath of Fire. This cone attack puts up a DoT on targets with DH that hits like a truck. The downside, though, is that it uses a lot of chi that could be used for survivability, so this is only for stuff that doesn't hit too hard. Finally, your fallback AoE is Spinning Crane Kick. It doesn't do a ton of damage, and it's channeled so you can't use other abilities during the kick, but at least it generates chi instead of spending it. Oh, and if you lose threat, you have a standard taunt: Provoke.
What other abilities do I need to know about?
- Movement Clash, aka Death Charge, is a fusion of Charge and Death Grip. Instead of you going to them, or them coming to you, you meet in the middle. You also have Roll, which is similar to a mage's Blink, and Transcendence, which is somewhat similar to a warlock's Demonic Circle, though you don't unlock it until 87.
- Buffs Legacy of the Emperor, which is a 5% stat boost.
- 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 or CC, you've also got a robust toolkit: an incapacitate, a snare, a disarm, and an interrupt. Last, but not least, you can also insta-kill some 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?
I've already mentioned a few, but Leg Sweep is an amazing way to give yourself some breathing room for AoE pulls, especially at the beginning. I've got a fuller description of monk talents here, and Sunnier has an amazingly good guide for brewmasters here.
That's it for brewmasters. So far, some things are still getting tweaked with regards to passive vs. active mitigation, but the overall design of the spec seems pretty solid and incredibly fun to play for Mists. 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!