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Monk changes in patch 5.1


While I've taken a brief hiatus from writing recently, the many, many changes to monks in the 5.1 patch and the immediately following hotfixes have lit the ol' theorycrafter spark. I'll go spec by spec and list the changes, along with some analysis.

Spoiler alert: Mistweavers aren't gonna be happy.

General changes This is nice, though it's not something that I particularly thought was necessary. With proper use of Roll (and Flying Serpent Kick for windwalkers), movement generally wasn't much of a problem for monks. The energy reduction for the buffs is nice for a quick rebuff after dying.

  • The Healing Elixirs talent now grants the Healing Elixirs effect every 18 seconds, which causes the next Brew or Tea consumed to heal the Monk for 10% of maximum health.
  • Ascension now increases energy regen by 15% and your maximum mana by 15%, as well as increasing maximum Chi by 1.
  • Power Strikes can now proc off of Soothing Mist or Crackling Jade Lightning, as well as Jab.

The Healing Elixirs change is fairly minor; the talent itself is mostly a leveling talent, as any endgame monk should be taking Diffuse Magic anyway. More interesting is the undocumented buff to Ascension. In Patch 5.0, it was universally considered to be a weak talent (because it provided no throughput gains), but now it's much more competitive with the others. I may dedicate a post to looking at Ascension more in detail. Finally, Power Strikes is also now much more helpful for mistweavers who stay at range.

  • The healing provided by Chi Burst and Chi Wave has been reduced by 25%.
  • The healing provided when detonating Zen Sphere has been reduced by 25%.

Ouch. This nerf pretty much ensure mistweavers will no longer use these, possibly excepting Chi Burst. That said, it doesn't really change their role any; Chi Wave and Zen Sphere are still decent self-healing options for a windwalker/brewmaster, and Chi Burst is still useful for stacking situations.

  • The Tiger Power (and Power Guard for brewmasters) provided by Tiger Palm now reduces the target's armor by 30% for your attacks (and increases your next Guard by 15%) with a single application. No longer stacks.

Yes! This is a very nice change for questing and just ramp-up time in general. This doesn't affect brewmasters all too much, who typically had plenty of free global cooldowns to use Tiger Palm anyway, but windwalkers love it, and mistweavers can even use it for Eminence healing.

A nice quality of life change that makes interrupting much less painful for windwalkers; the brewmaster interrupt remains free. (Unfortunately, if you'd persuaded your raid leader to leave you out of the interrupt rotation, you no longer have an excuse. Sorry about that.)
  • The energy cost of Healing Sphere has been reduced to 40, down from 60, and the healing provided has been increased by 20%.
Healing Sphere itself is of such situational value that this doesn't really affect much. It's helpful for soloing rares, but Chi Wave or Zen Sphere is still a better choice for self-heals, even with the nerf.

Back to stacking spirit! That last change is extremely painful and has really shaken up the spec. You could previously keep Renewing Mist on cooldown for trickle damage and add in Spinning Crane Kick for burst damage, but it's now much more expensive to do so.
  • Renewing Mist now travels to 2 additional targets (was 3 targets).
This is a large AoE healing nerf, especially in 25-mans when you factor in Thunder Focus Tea. A good Mistweaver using Renewing Mist on cooldown pre-patch could keep 8 targets reasonably healthy, or 16 temporarily via TFT; now that drops to 6 and 12, respectively.

This DOES mean that the Renewing Mist haste breakpoints have changed; they are now 154 and 3145 (if you can rely on the 5% haste buff from a moonkin or spriest) and 1578/4719 without. This gets you to 10/11 ticks on RM; I'd recommend this in most cases. (Note: these are unbuffed numbers for reforging purposes, so make sure you switch out of serpent stance.)
  • You now have a chance equal to your crit chance to generate double the amount of Mana Tea charges.
This change helps compensate somewhat for the mana nerf. Either way, your secondary stat priority doesn't change: you're still stacking spirit until you have enough mana to get through encounters, then shifting to a haste to breakpoint/crit setup as you feel comfortable. Mastery remains terrible.
I get the RM nerf; this one has me a little puzzled. I don't think monks were in any way overpowered for single-target healing.
Small tweak here; this compensates slightly for the EM nerf, but only very slightly.
  • The absorption effect of Life Cocoon has been increased by 100%.
This was a very needed change, as Life Cocoon was just too weak before. Now, I'd put it roughly on par with Pain Suppression as a healing cooldown.

Summing up

It's pretty clear that mistweavers got whacked with the nerf bat. Did they need to? Yes; they were grossly overpowered in any fight that featured constant raid damage (see Garalon) and otherwise just overpowered. Unfortunately, I'm afraid that mistweaver mechanics were built around having a throughput advantage to some extent; when placed on an even footing with other healers, they struggle due to their inability to target their AoE heals effectively. They're certainly viable healers, but much like resto druids, you're going to have to be very aware of upcoming raid damage in order to heal well.

Finally, if you're a windwalker or brewmaster, enjoy your buffs and try not to lord it over your healing cousins. Until next time, keep on kicking!

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