I leveled a monk. I didn't do it to replace my rogue, but rather to replace my holy paladin. I am using my monk to heal in one of my guild's raids. I leveled as a windwalker, simply because that's the most efficient way to do it. While working my way from 1 to 90, I had a lot of time to reflect on the monk's playstyle and how it compared to the rogue that I have been playing for so many years now.
The rotation is blisteringly fast
The monk rotation feels so fast. You've got something to fit into every single GCD. Once you have your full repertoire of abilities, you're going to be spamming keys like crazy. By comparison, rogues at level 90 feel pretty anemic, with haste rating decay causing our APM to drop significantly from where we were at level 85 with our raid gear.
The monk rotation starts with your 40-energy generator, Jab. You only have one core generator, and it's really the only ability that costs energy that you'll be using. All of your energy goes towards Jab. Each Jab generates two chi, like Mutilate. However, with its cheap cost of only 40 energy, you'll be spamming it like Sinister Strike or Backstab. You never have to push Jab more than twice in a row, because otherwise you're wasting chi. Jab doesn't hit very hard, as its only purpose is to feed you chi. This is actually the strength of Jab and the monk class, and not a weakness, as I'll talk about later. The key here is that monks are generating two chi for very little energy, and on a very regular basis.
Monk finishers only consume 1-2 chi each, so you don't have to wait for a full chi bar before unleashing a finisher. The windwalker mastery bonus gives monks free finishers every so often, which are easily consumed for bonus damage. Rogues, on the other hand, tend to favor bigger finishers to maximize our energy usage and our chance at a Relentless Strikes proc. Because of this, windwalkers are unleashing 2-3 times the number of finishers that rogues are, which add even more actions into the mix. They can also unload two finishers in a row with a full chi bar, giving them great burst. The key here is that monks are unloading more than twice as many finishers as rogues are capable of.
A focus on active damage
If you start doing the math, you'll realize that monks only have three sources of damage: auto-attacks, Jab, and their finishers. Their auto-attacks aren't going to hit as hard as ours are, specifically because of talents like Ambidexterity. They don't have poisons that are passively dealing a huge chunk of their overall DPS. Their Jab hits like a wet noodle, as opposed to the way a rogue's damage is diluted into generators like Mutilate of Sinister Strike.
The core of a monk's damage comes from their finishers. Blackout Kick, Rising Sun Kick, Fists of Fury, and Tiger Palm, which make up their four-finisher core, add up to over 60% of their total damage. Compare this with a rogue that will deal 60% of their damage via auto-attacks and poisons, and you can clearly see the difference in mechanics.
Breaking down our finishers
Looking at World of Logs, we can see how rotations are shaping up in Mogu'shan Vaults. On a typical encounter, an assassination rogue might use Envenom around 35-40 times. A monk on the same fight is unloading nearly 90 Blackout Kicks, 40 Rising Sun Kicks, and 40 Tiger Palms.
An ability like Blackout Kick will land for 50k non-crit and 100k crit, which is what your average assassination rogue will see their Envenoms land for. Imagine if your rogue got to unleash an Envenom more than twice as often during an encounter. The difference is that those Envenoms cost five precious combo points and 35 energy each, while the Blackout Kick only cost two chi and several of them were free due to the random mastery proc. An assignation rogue can't pop two Envenoms back-to-back, but a monk can actually drop three Blackout Kicks in three GCDs with a proc and a full chi bar.
What's really scary is that Rising Sun Kick hits 75% harder than Blackout Kick and Envenom (85k/188k), and your typical monk got to drop 40 of those too. How about that for some burst damage? A subtlety rogue with all cooldowns activated can land a 140k crit Eviscerate every once in a while. Even Find Weakness barely pushes a fully-buffed Ambush over 100k, let alone nearly 200k.
An assassination rogue's Mutilate hits for a moderate 24k/55k damage against Jab's mere 10k/20k damage. Finally, an area where rogues beat monks! Unfortunately, you can see how all of those Mutilates are stealing damage from our finishers. Jab's relative weakness requires the finishers to make up for it. Monks see their damage loaded into their finishers, giving them amazing burst and control over their damage. There's something very visceral about seeing big numbers pop up on your screen.
Death by a thousand cuts
Rogues have been turning into the passive damage class. We focus so much of our time and energy into keeping up Slice and Dice, making sure that Rupture is active, and managing Hemorrhage and Revealing Strike. We spend our combo points on maintenance abilities, and our damaging finishers are few and far between. Assassination rogues are twiddling their thumbs as they wait for 55 energy between each Mutilate, while combat and subtlety rogues are simply bored until Adrenaline Rush and Shadow Dance are off cooldown.
Rogue cooldowns are the only area where they excel over monks. While monks have the incredibly useful Energizing Brew and Tigereye Brew that give them some reasonable burst every 60 seconds, rogues have massive cooldowns that allow us to demolish our targets for 15 seconds every 3 minutes. The fact is that outside of these small windows, we are too weak. Too much of our damage is reliant on these cooldowns, which is hard for me to admit. I love being a cooldown class, but that simply doesn't cut it anymore.
The fact that our finishing moves cost energy is but one flaw amongst a multitude. The energy cost on our finishers ensures that rogues won't be able to chain too many abilities together, because that would be too much burst at one time. It's just three more seconds of waiting to go with the dozens of other seconds we spend idle.
The real issue with rogues is that our damage has been diluted across so many different sources that each of them has lost any real meaning. I don't feel powerful when 60% of my damage is present even though I'm not pushing any buttons. I don't feel powerful when all of my abilities deal a fraction of my overall damage rather than stacking it on a few key abilities. I don't feel powerful when my strongest move is dealing 75% less damage than that of my direct competitors. I don't feel powerful when I'm playing my rogue.
Sneak in every Wednesday for our Molten Front ganking guide, a deep-dive into the world of playing a subtlety rogue -- and of course, all the basics in our guide to the latest rogue gear.