Hello and welcome to what we’ll be calling a Zen Meditation. The topic of this post is going to be all about our Gift of the Ox (GotO) passive and its interaction with our ability Expel Harm (EH). Note that this is meant to be an extension of the state of Brewmaster section of the specialization megathreads appearing on the r/wow subreddit over the coming weeks. Feel free to check out that or any of the other Zen Meditations that will be appearing about it soon™ here on Peak!

Gifts of the Past

The tooltip for Brewmaster's Gift of the Ox passive

What’s the chance? Blizzard won’t tell you. How long do they last? Who knows!

Over their lifespans in WoW, Gift of the Ox and Expel Harm have existed to fill the rather limited role of self healing for Brewmasters. All that’s changed over time is how that self healing happens. For GotO, this was most recently changed in Legion to be a passive that spawns healing spheres based on damage taken. The ability Expel Harm was also changed to allow players to gather up every orb at once, and the spell icon for EH would now display a number to reflect how many spheres going to be “eaten”. Finally, we had access to an additional talent on the 45 row called Gift of the Mists that further increased the spawn chance the lower your health was. But, apart from seeing some niche usage, it was otherwise an inferior talent since it had to compete with the extra brew generation and energy from Black Ox Brew.

Beyond what was mentioned above, the only other change Gift of the Ox received during Legion was a cap on how many spheres could be spawned from a single attack: 10. With how hard it could be to find an attack capable of hitting for over ten times your max health that didn’t immediately kill you or was impossible for any other tank to survive, this generation limit was never a problem outside of Nighthold where it was introduced. Thus, our spheres remained a useful emergency heal that could be saved for later throughout the expansion.

The tooltip for the old Brewmaster talent Gift of the Mists

The increased chance was only 60% until patch 7.1.5

Gifts of the Present

Now that we’re in Battle for Azeroth, how does Gift of the Ox work? Well, until BfA, there were two main rules:

  1. One Gift of the Ox sphere will spawn for every 100% of your max health taken as damage, before mitigation (armor)/Stagger reduced it. Debuffs that reduce max health do not make you generate more orbs, and buffs to your stamina should not make you generate less.
  2. If not removed by moving through them or casting Expel Harm, they will be consumed automatically 30 seconds after being created.

However, new to BfA is a third rule and the main topic of discussion here:

  • you cannot have more than five spheres out at a time.

If any orbs are generated beyond this point, the oldest orb(s) available will be consumed automatically to stay at this cap of 5. In addition, Brewmasters have access to two azerite traits that interact with Gift of the Ox in the forms of Boiling Brew and Niuzao’s Blessing. Boiling Brew causes you to generate around 2.5 more orbs per minute–independent from rule 1 orbs–so long as you have a target affected by the damage over time from Breath of Fire. Niuzao’s Blessing, on the other hand, causes you to gain a heal over time based on how many GotO orbs you pick up with Expel Harm. One of these traits is incredible, and the other is abysmally bad (hint: check the pins in our discord questions channel).

The tooltip of the azerite trait Boiling Brew at item level 385

Not shown: [2.5+haste] procs per minute.

The tooltip of the Expel Harm azerite trait, Niuzao's Blessing, at item level 385

The Rule of Five

What the cap of five Gift of the Ox orbs looks like in the combat log

As soon as a sixth orb is created, the player is healed by the oldest orb present to stay at 5 total spheres.

So now that we’ve established there is a cap on Gift of the Ox and how it works, why should Brewmasters care that it exists at all? In some ways, this change is a good thing, as it allows us to passively heal ourselves (and potentially proc Celestial Fortune) more often without wasting the global cooldown and energy on casting Expel Harm. Another positive is that in situations where one feels a need to make use of EH, a maximum of five orbs means that it’s unlikely for the ability to overheal you terribly with crits and Celestial Fortune‘s activation.

Unfortunately, this tweak isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. For Brewmasters that didn’t rely on Expel Harm to gather orbs and instead walked into them–the recommended way to use GotO–you now have a smaller bank of spheres to draw from than before. Combine this with how Gift of the Ox alternates spawning its spheres to your right and left, and suddenly you’re almost forced into using Expel Harm to get a sizable heal when you need it. This isn’t so bad in theory, but for an ability rotation/priority as rigid as Brewmaster’s, one can’t always afford to commit the time to pressing EH (though anyone making use of High Tolerance likely doesn’t need to worry about the energy cost, at least). There’s another negative/neutral aspect to this cap in that the azerite trait Niuzao’s Blessing can only activate with five GotO orbs at most; this makes an already poor trait even worse. In the grand scheme, these downsides likely won’t matter most of the time, but could become a source of frustration for Brewmasters that would like a little more jurisdiction over their own survival (a topic worth its own Zen Meditation).

Gifts of the Future

Going forward, even with this new cap in play it’s important to remember that it will only actually pop up during specific scenarios. Since the only other way to generate orbs outside of taking damage is to make use of Boiling Brew, you would need to take more than five times your expected max health in damage within 30 seconds while also not consuming any GotO orbs in the meantime to see this cap. For most players, this will only happen in a large Heroic raid, Mythic, or high level keystone dungeons. In anything easier, your Gift of the Ox spheres will just time out and consume themselves before approaching the cap. Of course, this could change if we ever receive new azerite traits that further interact with this passive or Expel Harm in some other way. So, overall, it’s best to think of this change as a quality of life adjustment with some potentially unintended consequences.

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