With Mists of Pandaria nearing release, the monk class is rounding into its final form. While a few things may still be tweaked, the design and abilities have now stabilized enough that I feel comfortable presenting you with a series of guides for each specialization. This week: brewmasters!
Brewmaster is the tanking specialization for the monk class. Themed after the classic Drunken Master, your job is to keep the enemies busy trying to hit you while your compatriots take them out. Any race, except for worgen and goblin, can play a monk. Like all monks, they have two resources that must be managed; energy and chi.
Energy functions identically to rogues and feral druids, as a 100-point pool that regenerates at a constant rate, in and out of combat. This energy regeneration can be increased with haste, and is used to power your basic attacks. These abilities don't do much on their own, but they build up the brewmaster's second resource: chi. Chi is a static 4-point pool, similar to a rogue's combo points, that decays when out of combat. Once you've built up a few points of chi, it can be used to power stronger abilities that do significant damage, provide self-healing, or make you more resilient.
Stagger and Shuffle
Instead of blocking, self-healing, or dodging like the other tank classes, Blizzard designed a new mitigation mechanic for Brewmasters, called Stagger. At base stats, all physical attacks will only hit for 80% damage; the remaining 20% is added to a DoT that ticks for 10 seconds. A second Staggered attack resets the DoT timer and increases the DoT's damage, and this continues until you die, stop taking attacks (which allows the DoT to run its course) or you remove the DoT via Purifying Brew.
So why aren't brewmasters purifying machines? Well, Purifying Brew costs Chi, and you need that Chi to Shuffle. This short-duration buff gives you 20% parry and 20% more Stagger (the damage split becomes 60/40, instead of 80/20), which is a very good thing. Unfortunately, the primary way to get Shuffle is via Blackout Kick, which is hard on the chi. You'll need to balance your usage of Purifying Brew with your Shuffle uptime for best results.
Here's the most critical abilities you need to generate resources and stay alive.
- Jab This basic attack gives you 1 chi in exchange for 40 energy. This is your primary chi builder.
- Expel Harm This ability trades energy for Chi like Jab, but also heals you as well. You'll want to sub in Expel Harm instead of a Jab when you can. Has no cooldown if you're below 35% HP.
- Spinning Crane Kick Channeled AoE attack that replaces Jab when fighting groups. You continue to dodge/parry/stagger while channeling, so don't be afraid to use it.
- Keg Smash Generates 2 Chi, applies the Weakened Blows debuff (-10% damage), applies the Dizzying Haze debuff (-50% movespeed, 3% miss, works on trash only), and does a bit of cleave damage to adds. Your most important ability for generating chi, and should be used on cooldown. Dizzying Haze can also be cast separately as an instant ranged AoE for 20 energy; this does no damage but significant threat, and is a good pulling tool.
- Breath of Fire This ability makes me sad. It's really cool-looking and does great damage, but that's all it does. You'll never use it unless you're just steamrolling trash that you overgear.
- Purifying Brew Removes your Stagger DoT for 1 chi. The DoT effect is color-coded, and goes from green to yellow to red depending on hoe strong the damage effect is; shoot for using PB at the yellow stage.
- Blackout Kick Most of your chi will go to this kick, solely because it lets you Shuffle (Brewmaster Training). You want to keep Shuffle up most of the time, but not at the expense of Purifying Brew or Guard.
- Guard This 30 second cooldown puts a significant absorb shield on you. Scales with AP, so don't use it if you're just starting a fight/swapping in: build some Vengeance first, then use it.
- Gift of the Ox This is a passive, but it's rather significant. As you fight, healing spheres will pop up around you, Diablo 3-style, up to a maximum of three. Bad brewmasters will ignore them, good ones will get them as they pop, but GREAT ones will leave 2 up at all times and snag them after they take a big hit. It procs about 15% of the time on specials, and about 20% on autoattacks (halve that for DW), so you'll see a lot of these.
Even the Drunken Master can't dodge everything. Here's your backup.
- Summon Black Ox Statue While this doesn't do anything for you personally, there's no reason not to use this in every fight. It's essentially a free Power Word:Shield every so often for members of your raid. The statue does aggro things when you place it, though, and can get destroyed fairly easily. Thankfully, it's only on a 30 second cooldown.
- Elusive Brew This ability has a somewhat unusual mechanic. Instead of a cooldown, it stacks up every time you crit (which is normalized for weapon speed, you get more stacks per crit with a two-hander, but more total crits with DW) up to 15, and once you use it, it gives you 30% dodge for 1 second per stack. There's no penalty for using it sooner or later, just use it before you stack up to 15. The "cooldown" varies depending on your crit, but anywhere from 90 to 120 seconds to stack it up fully would be about right.
- Dampen Harm This is your level 75 talent selection; the other choices are decent, but this ability is ridiculously good at blunting spike damage. 90 second cooldown.
- Fortifying Brew This is your big personal cooldown. Increases health by 20%, reduces damage taken by 20%, and increases Stagger by 20% (Brewmaster Training). Best saved for predicted burst moments or "I'm about to die" times. 3 minute cooldown.
- Avert Harm This raid cooldown is dangerous. It can help your raid during big AoE damage phases, but it will kill you quickly if you try to use it while you're also tanking melee swings. Use with caution (and a Fortified+Shuffled Stagger, preferably). 3 minute cooldown
- Zen Meditation Not really designed for Brewmasters, because it breaks on melee. That said this hybrid personal/group cooldown can be used to absorb 90% of one big attack, or can be used with the glyph and a kiting strategy.
More utility than Batman, it's Monk...man!
- Roll Rolling, rolling, rolling; Rawhide! This iconic monk skill gets you out of the way of something fast; click it, and your monk instantly rolls about 20 yards in the direction you're currently moving. (This is different from things like Blink and Disengage, which operate according to the direction you're facing.) It has two charges so can be used twice; one charge regenerates every 20 seconds.
- Clash 35 sec CD. A Charge/Death Grip fusion; you and the target meet in the middle, then everything around you gets stunned. It works better for groups if used fairly close (so you don't pull out one guy and just stun him), but it can't be used in melee range. I found a backwards Roll->Clash combo to be effective and cool.
- Spear Hand Strike Your standard spell interrupt, which happily has no cost due to Brewmaster Training.
- Disable A short-ranged snaring ability, which can be used again to make it a root.
- Paralysis A short-ranged crowd control ability. Lasts longer if used from behind.
- Grapple Weapon A ranged disarm.
- Legacy of the Emperor This buff gives 5% to primary stats for you and your group. All monks get this.
With the nerf to energy regeneration in late beta, energy (and thus chi) is very constrained. Most of your chi will be going to Blackout Kick to keep Shuffle up, with the rest being used on Purifying Brew and Guard. Here's a quick five-point rotation to get you started:
- Place your Black Ox Statue for every pull, or as close as you can manage. It's on a 30 second cooldown, you never have to worry about it again, and it can save your group.
- Use Keg Smash on cooldown, then immediately use the 2 chi on Blackout Kick. This should keep your Shuffle uptime around 75%, which is reasonably good.
- When your Stagger debuff gets to yellow/red, hit Jab or Expel Harm, then use the chi on Purifying Brew. Every 10 seconds is probably a good guideline. If you're tanking a group, sub in Spinning Crane Kick for Jab/EH.
- If you're full on energy and don't need to purify, throw in an extra Jab to stockpile some chi. If you're full on chi, use Guard to spend it.
- If you're getting low on HP, pop Elusive Brew and/or grab your healing spheres. Use Dampen Harm or Fortifying Brew if things get bad.
This isn't Cataclysm where you pick your talents once and you're done; now, you'll want to switch up talents as necessary for certain fights. Take this general recommendations with that in mind.
- Level 15: Momentum I prefer the sustained movement here, though Celerity is good for fights with lots of adds. Tiger's Lust is more for PvP.
- Level 30: Zen Sphere The damage from these abilities is incidental; the healing is the focus, and I prefer ZS for that, though Chi Wave and Chi Burst both have useful niches. Overall, though, I find that we're so strapped for chi that you won't use these much, if at all.
- Level 45: Power Strikes Best overall chi generator. Chi Brew isn't too helpful unless you want to be sure you have a button that will let you Guard. Ascension doesn't do much; our problem is generation, not storage.
- Level 60: Leg Sweep AoE stuns are fantastic for trash. Charging Ox Wave is decent, but LS is better. I might consider recommending Deadly Reach if the range increase was more than 20 yards.
- Level 75: Dampen Harm Diffuse Magic is very nice in certain situations, but I'll take Dampen Harm as my first choice. Healing Elixirs isn't terrible, since it triggers off Purifying Brew, but it's not going to do much in a raid environment.
- Level 90: Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger Rushing Jade Wind gives you a bit more survivability in AoE situations (since it's essentially a Blackout Kick/Spinning Cyclone Kick hybrid), but Xuen can off-tank things for you. Chi Torpedo isn't great.
Just like talents, you can swap glyphs in and out at will; unlike talents, you'll find that glyphs aren't all that important anymore. Here's a few options you can try, though.
- Glyph of Clash - Very useful, as long as you understand Clash's limitations (use it like Death Grip, don't use it like Charge).
- Glyph of Expel Harm - While you won't need the extra range much, it never hurts.
- Glyph of Transcendence - Know where adds are going to spawn? Want to pop over there immediately and pick them up? Yes, you do.
- Glyph of Guard - this is very situational, but a counter-intuitive use presents an advanced strategy. Since Guard buffs your self-healing while active, using this glyph on a primarily physical damage boss will let you keep up the self-healing buff nearly constantly. Of course, you lose the benefit of the shield, so it's an interesting tradeoff.
- Glyph of Zen Meditation - This makes ZM much more useful. You can use Transcendence or Roll to get some distance from the boss, then pop ZM and kite to stay alive.
- Glyph of Spinning Crane Kick - I really get annoyed with the movement speed slowdown during Spinning Crane Kick, so I like this glyph.
- Glyph of Breath of Fire - this would be better if not for the fact that the disorient breaks on damage, and it's a DoT, so it breaks itself. I'me listing it here in hopes that it gets hotfixed.
- Glyph of Leer of the Ox - I honestly have never seen this used in a useful way. I guess you could use it as a short-duration CC?
Stat Weights and Enchants
You'll want as much agility as you can get. After that, parry or dodge (slightly preferring parry), then haste, then crit, with mastery bringing up the rear. Hit/Expertise is debatable; it's primary value is in increasing the amount of Gift of the Ox procs you get. In theory, if you can use most of your Gift procs as effective healing and not overhealing, capping Hit/Expertise is the best overall strategy, but it remains to be seen how effective that will be at max level.
- Head – Gone!
- Shoulders - Greater Tiger Claw Inscription (200 agi, 100 crit) or Greater Ox Horn Inscription (300 sta, 100 dodge). From Inscription: Secret Tiger Claw Inscription (520 agi, 100 crit) or Secret Ox Horn Inscription (750 sta, 100 dodge)
- Chest - Glorious Stats (80 all primary stats) or Superior Stamina (300 sta)
- Waist - Living Steel Buckle (gem socket)
- Legs - Shadowleather Leg Armor (285 agi, 165 crit) or Ironscale Leg Armor (430 stamina, 165 dodge). From Leatherworking: Primal Leg Reinforcements or Heavy Leg Reinforcements (cheap versions)
- Feet - Blurred Speed (140 agi, 8% movespeed)
- Wrist - Greater Agility (170 agi). From Blacksmithing - Socket Bracer (gem socket, stacks with enchant). From Leatherworking - Fur Lining - Agility
- Hands - Superior Expertise (170 exp) or Greater Haste (170 haste). From Blacksmithing: Socket Gloves (gem socket, stacks with enchant). From Engineering: Synapse Springs (1920 agi proc, stacks with enchant).
- Fingers – Enchanting - Greater Agility
- Back - Accuracy (180 hit) or Superior Critical Strike (180 crit) or Greater Protection (200 sta). From Tailoring: Swordguard Embroidery (4000 AP proc)
- Weapon - Colossus (damage shield proc) or Dancing Steel (1650 agi proc). River's Song/Windsong are also good.
Several more options here than we used to have, thanks to the new focus on cooking. Unlike in Cataclysm, to get the best-possible food, you can't rely on a feast; you'll need to cook/buy your own. I've included options here for both agility and stamina, depending on your preference.
- 300 agi: Sea Mist Rice Noodles
- 450 stam: Chun Tian Spring Rolls
- 275 agi: Valley Stir Fry, Chao Cookies,
- 415 stam: Twin Fish Platter
- 275 agi/415 stam: Pandaren Banquet/Great Pandaren Banquet, Banquet of the Oven (sta), Banquet of the Wok (agi)
- 250 agi: Sauteed Carrots
- 375 stam: Wildfowl Roast
- 250 agi/375 stam: All lesser Banquets
- Flasks: Flask of Spring Blossoms (1000 agi) or Flask of the Earth (1500 stam)
- Elixirs: Elixir of Perfection (750 hit)/Weaponry (750 exp)/other stat combined with Mantid Elixir (2250 armor) is slightly better than an agility flask.
- Potion: Potion of the Mountains (12000 armor) or Virmen's Bite (4000 agi)
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!