Every class has its core abilities -- skills you rely on to get you through every fight or to save you in an emergency. These are all bound to hotkeys within easy reach, on a primary button bar, and you're so used to them being there that your fingers move towards the right keys without any thought. But you also have abilities you reach for less often... or that might not be on your button bars at all.
But not all of these abilities are as useless as you might think they are. Almost every ability in a monk's toolbox is useful in some situation, even though some abilities may not seem useful at first glance. To help you unlock the power of these lesser-used skills, we'll take a look at five abilities you might not be using and discuss how -- and when -- they can come in handy.
When I got Provoke at level 14, I immediately labeled it useless and filed it away on a seldom-used button bar. After all, I was playing a windwalker monk -- why would I want to taunt anything? It took me an unfortunate amount of time to realize just how handy Provoke was, so learn from my mistakes and drag it to your button bar right now.
With an instant cast time, zero cost, and a 40 yard range this is a great way to grab the attention of your next target and get it to come to you -- which saves a ton of time when you're leveling or doing dailies. That 40 yard range also means you can pull things in the air, which is dead handy for a melee-based class. (Sure, you can use Crackling Jade Lightning at level 90, but it's channeled and Provoke is instant -- why stand still when you can cast on the go?)
Even PvPers will find some utility here, since Provoke can be used to taunt pets and summoned creatures, which can be useful getting them off a healer or flag-carrier.
Flying Serpent Kick
This flying kick seems like it would be key to monk gameplay, but many monks quickly discover how badly a bit of lag can cause Flying Serpent Kick to go. Land too early and you miss your target -- land too late and you may find yourself aggroing more than you can handle. Landing at just the right time requires a good connection and careful attention, which not everyone has. Even though you can use Glyph of Flying Serpent Kick to cause your kick to automatically end when you reach an enemy, this can still be stymied by lag or make you stop to pick a fight with critters... and it removes your ability to stop manually. All in all, even glyphed this ability doesn't seem so hot, and it's often kicked off your main button bar pretty quickly.
However, because of the speed boost you get while flying, it can be a great way to get around -- especially since you get it at level 16, before you gain access to mounts. Use it to fly down roads or zip across water -- though be aware that turning to navigate will cancel the spell and hitting bumpy terrain can do the same... still, it's not a bad way to travel, especially for a quick way to get across lakes or rivers.
Already in the water? Jump up and cast Flying Crane Kick before you fall back in. Just make sure you're pointing the direction you want to go when you do!
The Glyph of Zen Flight may not seem so great, but, trust me, it has some excellent utility... and a bit of comedic value, too. When I first glyphed this I used Zen Flight to zoom around Stormwind for a while like a complete newbie, but it was painfully slow and I pretty quickly swapped it for something else. Boy, was that a bad call.
The important thing about Zen Flight isn't the ability to fly around on a cloud, but that it's an instant cast ability that lets you fly around on a cloud. Being instant cast means you can use it to save yourself from falling -- like if you've ever positioned yourself wrong doing Halfhill dailies and got flung off the edge of the cliff. So, really, it ought to be renamed "Glyph of Never Dying from Fall Damage." That would be a lot more accurate.
While a lot of abilities are unusable while you're in Zen Flight, a surprising number are -- you can craft (including summoning a mid-air cooking fire), fish, gather, use your hearthstone, and even summon your mount. One thing to remember, though: if you log out in Zen Flight, you'll find yourself in for a fall when you log in again. Don't do it unless you're ready to have your finger on the button to cast Zen Flight again when you log on.
The fact that Zen Meditation requires you to stay still -- and not be hit by melee -- while you're using it means that it often gets ignored. Despite the fact that it reduces all damage taken by a massive 90% and redirects harmful spells targeting your party to you, the fact that you can't use it while you're in common scenarios where you're taking damage -- like things hitting you -- means you probably don't use it a lot. You may not even have it on a button bar. But even though situations in which it's useful can be uncommon, when it's useful, it's really, really useful -- and ought to be within easy reach on your button bar even if you rarely reach for it.
If you're fighting a boss that deals a lot of magic damage or has a painful magical effect, you can use Zen Meditation to pull debuffs off your party and take a bit of weight off the healer. Even if you're tanking, Zen Meditation can help you absorb at least a single hit -- and sometimes that's all you need to get by. If PvP is more your thing, Zen Meditation will give any casters a hard time -- and it can even prevent members of your group from being polymorphed. If you follow up by using Diffuse Magic, you'll also clear any debuffs you got by using Zen Meditation and reflect them back to their attacker. Take that, pesky warlocks!
If you find yourself reaching for the Zen Meditation button often, you might consider Glyph of Zen Meditation, which allows you to move while you channel Zen Meditation -- this offers more mobility, even though your meditation will still be broken by a melee hit.
Storm, Earth, and Fire
This ability is most often overlooked because it's misunderstood. Which is perfectly fair, because it's a bit complicated. Storm, Earth, and Fire lets you summon up to two duplicates of your character that mirror your actions. For each duplicate you summon, your damage is decreased... but if you combine the damage of two or three duplicates, you're definitely coming out ahead.
The caveat is that each duplicate needs to have its own target -- so Storm, Earth, and Fire is great for AoE situations, but will actually hurt you when you only have a single target, because it will reduce your DPS and your duplicate doesn't do much if you're attacking the same target. So for SEF to work at its best, you need to target a monster, cast the ability to summon a duplicate, then target another monster, cast the ability again to summon a second duplicate, and target a third monster for you to fight -- with all of your moves mirrored by your two duplicates.
But even with perfect casting, if your targets die quickly, you might have lost DPS overall in the time it's taken you to switch targets and get the spell going. A mouseover macro can help speed your setup -- try "/cast [@mouseover] Storm, Earth and Fire" to send a duplicate after a target you're mousing over -- but won't remove setup time altogether, so be sure to consider before you cast.
However, in the right situation -- groups of enemies that will take a bit of time to AoE down -- you'll find your overall DPS is up.
That's all for now, fellow monks -- hopefully this has helped you to find some extra utility in your spellbook!