Greetings! I've been bitten by the real-life bug for the last few weeks, but I'm back and ready to break down the changes occurring in patch 5.2. As a new class, Monks have a ton of changes and new abilities coming, so let's buckle down and take a look! This week, we'll look at the major mechanics changes from a PvP perspective; next week, we'll take a look at PvE and speculate how your rotations and weighting might be affected.
Let's face it: Monks were pretty weak for PvP. Windwalkers were reasonably good at generating sustained damage but had trouble putting out good burst (getting a kill typically required having a high Tigereye Brew stack, full chi, and a damage trinket effect active). Unfortunately, they frequently didn't have time to generate the brew stacks they needed due to having weak passive defense. Once your trinket was down, a Shockwave or Deep Freeze usually meant you were done. Touch of Karma helped, but required skill to use pre-emptively. Add to this diffficult-to-use CC making it hard for Monks to help land lockdown chains on healers, and windwalkers were, well, terrible.
Mistweavers, thankfully, were able to avoid the survivability problem due to Dematerialize, and their strong healing made them reasonably good choices, though they suffered somewhat from their reliance on a channeled spell to do most of their healing. Sadly, their PvE performance was too good. 5.1 saw a large nerf to their healing ability (especially Enveloping Mist), which made their inability to counter enemy CC well much more troublesome. Regardless of the reasons, the facts are clear: Monk participation in PvP is, by far, the lowest of all the classes. According to World of Wargraphs, of the current arena population, only 2.4% of players rated 2200+ are Monks. (Interestingly, the next lowest are rogues at 4.5%, which shows how sensitive the arena community is to class balance.) Things needed to change, drastically; thankfully, there's lots brewing on the horizon.
The developers chose to address defenses in two ways. First, they gave windwalkers (and brewmasters) another way to get out of CC with Nimble Brew, reducing the amount of time they have to stand there and eat damage during a stun. Second, they made the current defenses more potent. Tiger's Lust and Touch of Karma lost their chi costs, making them much easier to use on an as-needed basis. Dampen Harm can now be used while stunned. Paralysis can no longer be dispelled, and now has the range increase from Deadly Reach baseline. By itself, that wasn't enough, though; they needed a showstopper to show to the community that Monks were a force to be reckoned with.
Enter Ring of Peace.
This new talent takes Deadly Reach's place in the tree, and forms an 8-yard sanctuary around a friendly target for 8 seconds. This sanctuary area disarms all enemy players, disables enemy auto-attacks, and silences enemies casting a damaging spell for 3 seconds. This is an amazing anti-melee defensive ability, with only a 90 second cooldown. Best of all: it's undispellable. The other abilities in the tier (Leg Sweep and Charging Ox Wave) are good, certainly, but both require skill to use well; RoP is nigh-invulnerability. Charge a caster and silence them; peel melee off your healer; there's lots of creative options.
Oh, and while we're talking talents, all of the level 30 healing talents were redesigned to be twice as effective and cost no Chi; in exchange, they were all saddled with a short cooldown. Now, instead of choosing to spend Chi on damage or self-healing, you get the self-healing free. Chi Wave is healing for some insane numbers right now; that'll get balanced down, but overall survivability should increase significantly.
In order to address the low burst potential of Windwalkers, Blizzard chose to address their mastery. They now have a new mastery ability, Bottled Fury, which increases the damage bonus of Tigereye Brew; Tigereye Brew itself was changed to stack more quickly, and have the opportunity to stack to 20. Meanwhile, the old mastery Combo Breaker has become a passive ability received at level 15, which also helps break up the low-level rotation monotony.
At first, this doesn't seem like much, but Tigereye Brew also was buffed significantly. It doesn't seem like it if you read the patch notes, which depict TeB as being reduced from a 2% to 1% damage increase per stack...but Bottled Fury is currently giving a 2% increase per stack, meaning you're already looking at a 2+1 * 10 = 30% damage increase from 10 stacks before any mastery rating is considered. By fully reforging to mastery, a well-geared windwalker should be able to push that up to a 50-60% damage bonus. Not only is it more effective, you stack it quicker, and the stacking to 20 gives you the opportunity to save up and use it twice, if you choose.
Interestingly, mistweavers got a large damage buff as well. They gained a new passive, Muscle Memory, that causes the next Tiger Palm or Blackout Kick to hit for triple damage. Combine that with Tiger Palm and Crackling Jade Lightning damage already being doubled, and you could see mistweavers going much more offensive then normal, to help their team score kills. Eminence and Serpent's Zeal's effect was halved to keep this from being totally overpowered, but it wouldn't surprise me to see these numbers get tuned some more before things go live. One thing's certain; doing dailies as a mistweaver will get a heck of a lot quicker.
Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.