Hello everyone and welcome back to Brewing Mastery! It’s been a long time, but with 7.2.5 here I figured now’s as good a time as any to talk about the current state of Brewmasters. Before we go forward, I just want to announce that this will be my continued place of posting from now on, to better centralize Monk and Brewmaster discussion and information. Now that’s done with, let’s go into all the changes and updates!
First thing’s first, we’re getting new Legendaries! Two, in fact. The first is Stormstout’s Last Grasp, a shoulder piece that gives us a second charge of Keg Smash and increases its damage by 25%. An actually very solid piece for DPS, and absolutely worth it if you happen to get it.
The second legendary is the ring, Soul of the Grandmaster, which provides us the Mystic Vitality talent for free. Another really good legendary! This basically frees up that tier to either concentrate more on a powerful damage reduction cooldown or a moderate self healing cooldown. Either way, it’s a strong addition to your defensive kit.
Do note that these new legendaries are not acquirable through the Nethershard item tokens acquirable at the Legionfall base on the Broken Shore. You’ll need to get them through the traditional means: random loot from bosses, M+ chests, rare mobs, or emissary caches.
The new Tomb of Sargeras tier set provides us with a pair of very potent self healing and mitigational set bonuses. Our 2 piece generates a Gift of the Ox orb whenever you consume a brew (which would include BoB and FB), while our 4 piece enables Gift of the Ox orbs to purify 5% of our current stagger pool upon use. Do note that if you use multiple orbs at once (such as with Expel Harm), it will purify as if you picked each up individually, and the effect will not be as effective as if you picked them up separately over a longer period of time, but the self healing would still have priority. These set bonuses are actually extremely powerful, so if you are wondering what class to play for Tomb of Sargeras… the general consensus of these set bonuses is that it makes Brewmasters one of if not the most popular progression tanks, even despite other changes to the spec. Here’s an example of the throughput you can expect with the bonuses. Thanks to Faov#9243 on the Discord for allowing their screengrab to be used!
Core Gameplay Changes
The meat of the 7.2.5 changes, we’ve seen a significant set of changes across our abilities, talents, and artifact traits. I won’t list out every change in detail, merely go through my thoughts on them. If you want to see the specific changes, check out our article on the 7.2.5 update for Brewmasters!
Thoughts on Ability Changes
Okay so there’s a lot to dive into here. So to get started with everything, I really can’t complain about the new legendaries or tier 20 set bonuses. They’re all pretty cool and I’m looking forward to them.
With regards to the core gameplay changes, I’m a bit more mixed. There’s definitely some really positive stuff here like the Special Delivery change to be less RNG and Rushing Jade Wind’s duration buff to make it more easy to maintain it in our priority / rotation. I’m very excited about that. With Rushing Jade Wind especially, I’m extremely happy to see it return to competitiveness and I would highly recommend using it, as now there’s probably going to be just a bit more downtime in our rotations and it does reward higher DPS for using it well. There’s also stuff that I’m rather nonplussed about. The reduction of Ironskin Brew’s stagger allowance isn’t too big a deal to me, nor is the same for Fortifying Brew. I remember during Emerald Nightmare when they gave us an additional 5% stagger and really it did not feel significant at all back then. Those of us with the T19 bonus might feel it harder since they’re losing out on 10% total stagger once they switch over to T20, but for those of us without, it shouldn’t really feel too much. The change to Dragonfire Brew and Staggering Around are also pretty nice for the spec as a whole. I’m a bit annoyed that my Sal’Salabim is going to be notably less potent (at least for magic damage, it’ll provide some DR from the new Breath of Fire), but it still will provide very solid DPS and that’s worth considering. At least I’m happy that Staggering Around is going to be more meaningful, even if I personally don’t know if it’s worth investing relic slots in yet, but I understand that’s a very sensitive balancing problem.
Nor does the reduction to magic mitigation worry me too much. Yes, with the reduction of DR from Hot Blooded and stagger from Ironskin Brew, while only basically getting armor and dodge in return does mean that we’re now more vulnerable to magic damage, that’s something that’s very easily hotfixable so if it does turn out to be a problem (and I doubt it will be that horrible), I’m confident Blizzard will be able to rectify it fairly quickly, like they did with Emerald Nightmare. Heck even the change to Purifying Brew is in this category. It’s something that in combination with everything might be a problem, but it’s hardly worth sweating about. That’s even more true once you get the tier 20 set bonuses, which handedly outweigh these smaller nerfs. My core concern is primarily the capping of Ironskin Brew’s uptime and its effect on our defensive capacity, as well as its gameplay ramifications. Before that though, I want to talk about Breath of Fire’s new functionality re: providing stacks of Elusive Brawler.
Breath of Fire
When testing the Brewmaster on the PTR I found that I more or less couldn’t actually tell I was even benefiting from it. It really didn’t seem to provide any significant defensive power. To be fair, though, I’m only human; my perceptive capacity is inherently limited and because there were quite a few changes to how we worked, it was hard to really get a good idea of how this really affected my defensive power. So I decided to model it. You can check it out here (make a copy of the sheet to edit values).
To the right is the mentioned model of how Breath of Fire’s mastery interaction affects damage taken from auto-attacks based on relevant stats and the number of enemies present. The primary factors are your mastery percentage, the amount of baseline dodge chance you have, and any modifiers to Breath of Fire’s cooldown (with haste there for Sal’Salabim). It assumes that you have 0 mastery stacks when casting Breath of Fire. I should note that these numbers are somewhat technically inflated as they factor in base dodge mainly to determine when you would guarantee a dodge (something important when discussing the optimality of multi-target use with the ability). For the values where there are fewer enemies, the numbers are higher than the true value of the stacks generated. You can more or less find those out by setting the Base Dodge value to 0.
It should be noted that Sal’Salabim causes significant inflation of these values: a bit over 8% damage reduced from auto-attacks on one target. Without Sal’Salabim, this is 4%, with the current model. That’s really good for bosses and raiding in general, but I do Mythic+, and Breath of Fire’s defensive capacity drops sharply with additional targets. That’s the nature of our mastery: The moment your stacks equal a guaranteed dodge, additional stacks are worthless because once you dodge the next attack they all drop. Furthermore, the number of total attacks you get within the span of Breath of Fire’s cooldown are multiplicative, while the number of attacks you can dodge via one cast caps at 1, so the dodge benefit caps early and has a regressive benefit the more enemies you are in combat with.
Even with Sal’Salabim over doubling baseline effectiveness, once I hit 5 targets, the amount of damage reduced goes below 1%. Mythic+ has a variable number of enemies you fight depending on dungeon and affix, but it’s averaging around 3 to 6, which means with the numbers shown above, Breath of Fire gives anywhere between 0.6% and 2.16% auto-attack reduction on average, with Sal’Salabim. This will be significantly lower if you do not have the legendary chest. The numbers shown are roughly for my Monk and as I said, you can check out the model at this link (be sure to make a copy of the sheet to play with it) to see where you would end up with the varying modifiers to Breath of Fire’s cooldown, but generally speaking, this change to Breath of Fire actually does not provide too much. Arguably, it actually provides too much single target benefit, while providing not nearly enough multi-target benefit. For raiding, it’s really good, but for Mythic+, it’s not really worth thinking about. While I know I’ve come across as showing this as some sort of concern, I’m mainly coming from a theorycrafting point of view to really see how much this affects us rather than anything else. I just hadn’t really seen any explicit math on the subject, so I figured I’d take the time to throw that to the public.
The actual concern I have is how the current cap on Ironskin Brew will affect our power, but more importantly our playstyle, as well as our skill floor. I want to talk about this in greater detail, so I’ll more or less say the gist of it. There are three core issues that I personally have with the cap. Firstly, it greatly diminishes our capacity to handle hard damage in non-trivial content. Secondly, due to how it handles this, it has now become much easier (or more punitive) to use the wrong Brew. Thirdly, I personally find the gameplay shift to a focus that I think isn’t very fun.
To tackle those issues in order, please check this table. In it, you basically see the amount of brew charges (on average) you can generate with 15% and 20% haste for Black Ox Brew (right) and no talent (left) in 24 seconds, the Ironskin Brew uptime cap with 4 ranks in Potent Kick. Technically, this is a condensed image from my calculations spreadsheet (once again, make a copy to play with the values), but it serves as a good visual aid. In any case, it illustrates a core problem: at best, you can purify once for every 3 casts of Ironskin Brew; using it more than once within that 24 second window means you WILL drop the buff. In non-trivial content that can very easily be a death sentence. The change is meant to ensure that we cannot simply spend half a raid encounter purifying if we spend the first half not purifying at all, but the limitation to this degree means that we now have a smaller pool of brews to look at at any given time during active combat in an encounter, which means that because we can’t pool uptime, we focus more on constant maintenance. While we have the same number of brew charges as before, this does mean that we can’t use them in a more fluid order; purifies by necessity have to be spread out, as bunching them together means you are likely to lose Ironskin Brew uptime. More pointedly, if there is any situation where we need to purify more than once in that 24 second period, we have no choice but to wait it out with our remaining uptime and hope we survive instead of before when we could actively try to mitigate it with a purify.
Focusing in more on that last bit, the fact that you can attempt to do something that seems right (purify to stop immediate burst damage) has the potential to be an actual mistake (take even more burst damage because you lost Ironskin Brew’s uptime due to not having sufficient brews) is something that increases our skill floor and makes the spec notably more complicated to understand and play successfully in non-trivial content. I should note that when I say non-trivial content, I’m typically referring to high Mythic+ and Mythic raiding with an ilvl where you still can gain a good deal of gear upgrades from that content (ignoring warforges / other gear modifiers). More or less, content that is actually challenging and not something you can just auto-pilot through. If you’re pushing higher Mythic+ or working on Mythic level raid bosses, you can’t really gauge your survivability when tanking a Normal raid boss or a +2 dungeon. This topic as a whole is something that I’d like to look more into with regards to new Brewmasters playing the spec and gauging how they react to damage, because I have a feeling that this would be a problem for players. Sadly, I don’t really have access to stuff like that, so it will probably just remain an idle question.
Bringing it back to the last point I made, I don’t really enjoy the new gameplay of the change all too much. In theory, I really like the idea of Ironskin Brew and Purifying Brew being this shared resource: The former being basically “active armor” where instead of playing a class that just has armor or damage reduction from simply being that class, you have to actively generate it. The latter is your actual active mitigation, where you are explicitly performing an action that reduces your damage taken. The way 7.2.5 changes this dynamic is that now because your frame of flexibility with brew charges is no longer 1, 3, 5, maybe even 10 minutes in length and is now at least 24 seconds (and at max 28.5 seconds), I feel that I no longer have that dual focus of maintaining Ironskin Brew so that I am actually tanky and using Purifying Brew when I need to mitigate damage in a fairly balanced place.
Now, I feel that my focus is far more on micromanaging Ironskin Brew’s uptime and looking at a timer, doing math in my head to make sure when I press that button again, I won’t waste uptime, with purifying taking a back seat to that. Maybe that’s partly because I’m not fully used to the changes, which is possible. Being said, I’m pretty confident in myself and I’ve looked at other testers’ logs from raid testing and it corroborates what I’m saying. As well, it’s now a lot harder to use Black Ox Brew effectively. Your timing with it needs to be much more stringent so you don’t waste either Ironskin Brew uptime or double-purify, wasting that charge on negligible damage.
Brewmasters in 7.2.5 have much less room for error and much less flexibility in how we handle damage. I know I adjusted to the changes within an hour or so, but it became clear that there was some unnecessary difficulty that had been added with the changes. One of the things I loved the most about Brewmasters since the beginning was that while we’ve never really had all too many real cooldowns (Legion especially), we were really awesome in that our core kit could generally always be flexible enough to deal with damage wherever it came from. Now, I’m not as confident in that. I still had fun with the changes… but I definitely found the older version more fun. I think if the uptime cap was increased to 6 or 7 times the duration, you would still get a cap on how many times you can purify in a row, but it would be a lot more flexible and would allow for players to more or less do what they do in most non-trivial content: create a comfortable uptime (about 1 minute or so) and purify as needed without worrying about running out of either resource, without getting to the levels the developers wanted to curb with this change.
The biggest concerns I have are the changes to our brew management. While I still generally had fun on my Brewmaster when testing the changes it’s definitely not the same feel anymore. Your mileage may vary, but the harder focus on non-flexible brew use may not be your cup of tea. Again, I think it’s still fixable and I don’t really have a problem with an uptime cap in of itself, but I think the current iteration is too tight to allow for comfortable, controllable gameplay, at least for me. Like I said, your mileage may vary. And again, the Tier 20 bonuses are actually really fun, so that may also swing your opinions too if you plan on raiding. As always, I recommend you play the spec once you get the patch, get a feel for it, and form your own opinions on whether the changes are a deal-breaker or if you can live with them.
Ultimately I believe that in 7.2.5, despite all the negativity surrounding the changes (heck, despite the things I’ve said in this article even), Brewmasters will still be viable and honestly, we’ll still be plenty strong. We’ll still be able to play the game, we’ll still be able to do content. Generally, it should be perfectly fine. I do however have some concerns that the changes we’ve seen are going to disproportionately affect Mythic+ players more so than raiders. Being said, most of the stuff that could make us feel underpowered come from numbers that can be very easily tuned up. I’m still very confident that if we are in fact underpowered (something that myself and the rest of the theorycrafting community are rather skeptical of), we can be hotfixed to ensure we are actually competitive. And to add to that, if you are raiding in Tier 20, our set bonuses are actually insanely good. It’s more or less the thing making us extremely powerful and popular in high-end progression, even despite our rebalancing.
I hope that this article has been helpful to you all! Like I said, I’m planning on doing a deeper dive into brews / stagger in general and my thoughts on that system and its current implementation as well as some more designy thoughts on how it could change in the future as a thought exercise, so keep an eye out for that! If you have any questions feel free to comment or poke me on twitter!
Cheers all, may your tankards be ever-full!