First thing to start off with this article is just an announcement that we’ve opened up pages for the Shadowlands changes for all the specs. They will be updated whenever new changes come out and keep a running log of all the changes so they can be used a quick reference to see what has changed and the latest changes. You can find the Windwalker page HERE and above in the navigation bar.
Additionally, with the release of Shadowlands Alpha, I want to comment on how impressed and proud I am of how the changes are being handled through discussion in Discord. Over the past few days there have been a wide variety of opinions; some that I agree with, and the rest that are wrong, but there has been very little, if any arguing and immaturity. In addition, the feedback that has been collected, discussed, and posted on the Feedback Forums has been done so primarily in a mature and constructive way. Although may disagree with me, I have always striven to provide feedback in a certain way, and encouraged others to do so as well. So far the community has shown the maturity and patience that it takes to conduct ourselves in that way, and I hope that it pays off for us.
At the time of writing this, very few have been into Alpha, and the rest of us (myself included) are sitting and waiting. We have a process of many months, and no changes are final till the expansion is released, and even then prone to changes. Try to be patient with the changes and with each other. The sky isn’t falling, and won’t fall for as long as I’m around to try and prevent it from doing so to the best of my ability. Try to refrain from the fear-mongering and conspiracy theories that can be prevalent during these times and remember that many of us play Windwalkers, or are apart of this community, because we love it, and that even if you disagree with someone on why they love it, everyone is entitled to their opinions and that we can’t always see the forest through the trees or visa versa. Blizzard isn’t out to destroy Monks or Windwalkers, regardless of what you may read from various people spouting nonsense. We have months ahead of us, so keep calm and monk on.
This was the first time anyone was able to get into the Alpha to see about some of the changes, so its pretty early to make overwhelming opinions on the state of Windwalker in Shadowlands, but its never too early to try. I’ll try to break it up into some sections;
Windwalker gained a few abilities that we had had in the past and we get to experience them again;
- Combat Conditioning – This was just an extra thing that Blackout Kick used to do, nothing special, just a smidge more damage.
- Expel Harm – I’m happy to see this back, as having a bit more control over one’s health and survivability is nice. However, right now its somewhat in a weird position of being not quite strong enough to be a rotational ability, yet not quite weak enough to totally discount it from being such.
The biggest thing this week was the changes that were made to abilities and what got moved around;
- Fists of Fury and Spinning Crane Kick both got target caps. I understand what Blizzard is trying to do with putting target caps on abilities, but right now it seems very helter skelter and without a real plan. I think it makes sense to put a cap on Fists of Fury to make sure they stay in the “cleave”-zone, whereas true AOE abilities like Spinning Crane Kick make more sense without a cap. Moreover, Spinning Crane Kick having a target cap doesn’t really make any sense in a world where Mark of the Crane exists and has a cap itself.
- Fortifying Brew is now baseline rather than a PvP talent. I have a strong love/hate relationship with this change. I love having another defensive ability, but with the existence of Touch of Karma, it results in the situation where to get the maximum DPS, you’ll want to pop Fortifying Brew before Touch of Karma so that you get the extra health to increase your Touch of Karma damage. It won’t be a huge gain, but people have done sillier things for less. The prospect of using two defensive abilities for offensive purposes just grinds my gears. However, this problem is really more Touch of Karma‘s fault than Fortifying Brew‘s.
- Leg Sweep got a little bit more range, which is never a bad thing.
- Dance of Chi-Ji is now a talent to replace Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger in the level 90 row. I’m very much OK with this, and I’d like to see it carried further and have Fury of Xuen replace Hit Combo in that slot. Although it provides a small amount of variance and procs to Windwalker, where I much prefer to not have to think about procs, but its relatively minor and does feel pretty good in single target, giving you something else to help keep up Mastery.
- Touch of Death got some pretty heavy changes. Now it instantly kills a target with less health than you or deals 15% of your health in damage to a target thats below 15% health if they have more health left than you, and generates 3 Chi spheres that give you some resources. Rather than being a cooldown that we use every 2 minutes, its closer to its original purpose which was largely to snipe mobs as they died or kill something quick as you are out questing. You’ll likely use it only once in a boss fight, and the addition of 3 Chi Spheres gives a nice little bonus when you use it, which will further value its use in questing. I don’t really mind this change, as I have always felt that Windwalker has enough button, so while I mourn the loss of Gale Burst as my favorite Legion thing that made it into BfA, I am not going to cry for long getting to scale back my WeakAuras a little bit.
- Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger is now baseline rather than a talent. I’m not upset about getting to spend more time with the sweet tiger, Kenny (just like Niuzao is Dave, the avatar you summon of Xuen is named Kenny, its an old joke, just let it happen). However, currently its still just a fire and forget ability and really doesn’t add much besides some damage. Another problem is that Xuen doesn’t scale with Mastery and only his auto attacks scale with Haste, which is about 30-40% of his overall damage even in single target. Having him play a bigger part of our damage in his current state would continue Windwalker’s struggles to scale with gear.
While there’s nothing that I’m overly psyched about with the changes, and there are a few concerns I have, I am excited to get back to the base playstyle that we had at the start of Battle for Azeroth before it became polluted by procs and random resources. I personally enjoy the slower playstyle that comes with more downtime and a slower pace. I know this isn’t an opinion that many share, but its always been my preferred way of playing. If I wanted to spam my buttons as fast as I can there are plenty of classes and specs that I could play. I want flow, smoothness, and thoughtfulness, which is why I’ve always loved Windwalker, even when that’s not always the case.
Ideas and Hopes
So after these initial changes there are a few things that I think still need to be addressed for the health of the spec;
- Talents – Windwalker talent balance has been rather rough this expansion with Serenity being pretty much useless the whole expansion and Hit Combo taking over for Xuen once it gets out scaled. The problem with the last two tiers of talents isn’t numbers, but functions, and I’m not even talking about Whirling Dragon Punch just not functioning sometimes when it should.
- Storm, Earth, and Fire – I’ve posted about it a bunch of times, but the prospect of another expansion being at the mercy of this ability with all its bugs an unintended mechanics and interactions, is very dismaying. I understand that Storm, Earth, and Fire is thematically iconic, but it’s functionally a mess and it’s become the top concern that people have looking forward.
- Mark of the Crane – This has always been a cool idea but this expansion came with a bunch of problems. With the target capping for AOE, and the comment about Xuen doing damage to targets recently hit by the WW, an expansion of this taking an even larger role in WW’s AOE is making a lot of people nervous.
What I’d really like to see to address some of these problems is the new form of Xuen to be really embraced, but have it replace Storm, Earth, and Fire. It could increase your damage, or empower your abilities using any of the many extra things that we’ve had in the past like some of the previous tier bonuses or former Artifact talents from Legion.
I’d also like to see Whirling Dragon Punch become baseline plus fixed of the moments that it doesn’t trigger when it should and something done about Hit Combo and Serenity. As it stands, Serenity is just nearly impossible to balance and without two charges it doesn’t really stand up to Storm, Earth, and Fire‘s flexibility.
I think that some of these can all be handled by one or two changes. There’s a lot of history to Windwalkers and things that have worked in the past without many flaws or major problems, there’s no reason we need to be reliant on things that have been constant sources of strife and annoyance.
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WDP baseline makes so much sense. I don’t want to have to choose another talent and remove WDP from the rotation. I’m sometimes playing without it these days (mostly in Visions, for comfort) and it just feels bad, I often still press the keybind as a reflex, just to realize I don’t have it, and instantly feel deep loss and regret.
Also If we’re on the topic of going back to greater days, and my opinion will surely differ from other’s, but I preferred Tigereye Brew to SEF back in 5.0 (first implementation). I wouldn’t mind getting it back, despite requiring some time to set up and thus less frontal burst that lines up with bloodlust and potions and procs.
They’ll never do it,b ut I always wanted Serenity to be about the Celestials themselves. If you’re WW, Serenity engulfs you in white aura and lightning, and do damage. Brewmasters have it, and it engulfs them in Yellow and bubbles for brew. Mistweavers would engulf in jade mist and swirls, or if you chose Fistweaving spec, a red aura and feathers.
Druids have a similar style with Incarnation.
Love the idea of being shrouded in white tiger lightning and having empowered abilities! TP could have increased range, BoK could leach speed, RSK could cleave, FoF could explode with electricity and add a 0.1 sec mini-stun and roll could leave an AoE path of electricity. Technically its the same idea as metamorphosis for DH’s but who cares, they stole hecka amounts of our mechanics and abilities!!
Huge aesthetic opportunity!
What if they remove SEF, give Xuen a 1.5 min cd and a second charge and make his Tiger Lightning a rapid Mark of the Crane generation source, and make Serenity our main dps cd? Or, what if TeB replaces SEF, and Xuen gives us 10 charges of TeB instantly, thus helping WW to keep its burst capabilities.
While I’ve always enjoyed your articles and analysis Babylonius, I believe none of the alpha changes I’ve seen so far will impact the desirability of including a windwalker into raid compositions. WoW wide community perception of windwalkers will never improve unless the top guilds/m+ players start recommending them in their expansion/tier videos that rank mdps & rdps.
In those videos, windwalkers routinely fall short in all three metrics (dps, survivability,utility). DPS can be fixed by tuning (which Blizzard has failed at consistently through BFA). In the survivability area, fort brew baseline is an improvement, but is tainted by touch of karma degeneracy. It always comes back to many raid encounters preferring dps with immunities to negate certain mechanics. While other dps classes that do not have immunities are often included, they universally bring high dps & utility to the table. Which brings us to the last metric, where windwalkers get ring of peace and mystic touch. Ring in a raid setting can be replaced by the many other knockback abilities. As mystic touch is class wide and with brewmasters consistently being strong progression tanks, that bit of utility is often negated.
In some combination of those three areas, windwalkers will need to improve or forever be treated as a second class dps citizen of Azeroth.
I would love to see an additional change to ToD. I think it would feel awesome and fit into the fantasy of ToD. So i think it would be nice if ToD had a similar passive mechanic as Dribbling Inkpod in Bossfights. “While you fight your foe you learn more and more about his weak points and increase the damage done by ToD”. Of course it had to be balanced out, but i really like that idea, espacially because ToD is going to be used only once per fight.
Unfortunately, these changes bring nothing really new or exciting to our toolkit and that following major issue remains:
-> We will get ignored in a raid setting once again, because we don’t bring any useful stuff except the 5% physical debuff that is already covered by Brewmasters. And who am I kidding, like Brewmasters won’t be the progression tanks once again right ?
– our Windwalking aura is a joke with its 10 yards and never needed in times where almost everyone got a movement skill
– we are getting forced to attack from behind with this new “Combat Conditioning” to get max damage with BoK and while it’s not huge it’s frustrating you cannot do it in certain fights -> we are no Rogues, why do they force our positioning ?
– have fun using “Fortifying Brew -> Karma” to get into that degenerate playstyle once again using now TWO of our “def cds” offensively, way to go
– as things stand right now we can decide between a really cool BFA mechanic via “Dance of Chi-Ji” that even smoothes out the rotation OR max single target damage via “Combo Strikes”.
– losing the one burst cd with ToD replacing it with some useless 3 minute cd doesn’t help. God beware changing it into a small but real execute in raid settings. Add in the “cool new mechanic” by collection Chi spheres that lay under the stacked raid so visually noticeable…oh wait… in between say hallo to Demon Hunters, if collecting spheres works for them with their single resource bar, why shouldn’t it for Monks with 2, right.
What we do really need is a gimmick that is really our own thing.
Like a 3 or 5 minute raid-cd that stretches our Windwalking aura over 40 yards for 8 or 10 seconds, letting everyone caught in it cast on the move. Problem solved, suddenly people are happy to have a WW in their raid, but it’s not mandatory.
Yeah, i feel you bro. I feel like i coud be replaced by and other dd spec and it would make 0 difference. I have very much fun with my monk and iit is my favourite Class, but you just have nothing that makes you special.
Windwalker functions, but it seems like besides counting on people’s nostalgia they don’t really have much of an idea what to do with WW. It plays alright, but the animations are getting dated and the only new stuff shown so far are sterile passives and cooldowns you could put on any other class. No new attacks, no new animations.
Ultimately, windwalker requires resources to reignite it, but considering it’s unpopularity I don’t think Blizzard wants to put the time into it, so it will likely be stuck in this limbo and noticed only when it suddenly does a lot of damage.
Monk is more or less just Brewmaster and DH has cannibalized windwalker’s niches while looking better, having stronger lore background, being dead easy, scaling well, having better mobility, raid cooldown and staying relevant all patches since it was born. This is the new, popular windwalker and probably for good.
I feel like people are reeeaaally overstating the Fortifying Brew + Touch of Karma “issue”, by seemingly forgetting that in order for it to increase your damage you have to take more damage than it would take for the original shield to be broken. It’s already a huge meme that noob Windwalkers taunt the boss off of the tank and disrupt the raid just to do a little extra dps with ToK and often end up dying anyway or getting others killed, do we really need to feed into this by acting like this is a new must-have offensive CD that needs to be used as such?
Not only that, given that FB also reduces damage taken, it will *decrease* the damage you do with ToK if you use them both but take less than 57.5% of your non-FB max health within the ToK timeframe, because any less than that and it reduces the HP% taken off of your new FB-buffed HP to less than 50%. Because of this, I pretty much see the offensive benefit as a small bonus to doubling them up when you actually need to anyway more than something to actually aim for in most cases; sure, in many encounters there are big hits that you can plan to take (or that are unavoidable anyway) which you can use to take more than 66% of your pre-buff max HP in damage and get the full effect out of this combo, but in doing so you also either prevented yourself from potentially dying to a huge spike, or intentionally took a hit that might kill you in an attempt to squeeze out a little bit of DPS, in which case you’re either misusing the skills anyway or you know what you’re doing enough that it doesn’t matter anyway.
And yeah, of course high-level players can plan around this to squeeze out an extra bit of damage without putting themselves in danger either by using it for said dual-purpose or because they know they won’t need defensive CDs anyway, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Having the *option* to either spread their uses out for more sustained defense, bundle them together for one extremely powerful defensive burst (and get rewarded for it with some bonus damage), or make high-level plays where you intentionally take on some risk for an offensive reward sounds great to me honestly.
It’s a bad thing, it has always had negative effects on the health of Windwalker, it’s why they nerfed ToK in Uldir. This is even more unhealthy since it doesn’t just not fix the problem with ToK, but it makes it worse. If you think using Fort Brew for ToK is going to be a small bonus that not many people will try for then you must be forgetting the last time it was this way, or all the other things people have done over the years just for that extra little bit.
RJW also needs some attention as a talent because it is a dead talent in its current form. 5.4 RJW anyone?
Serenity also needs some love; although not quite as dead a talent as RJW, it is still 99% dead. Ideally, serenity should become the baseline CD and SEF become a talent (or even better yet restore SEF to 5.4/WoD).
I would recommend that ToK as a baseline ability should be removed. Good karma, an absorb with heal should become baseline. ToK would then become a PVP talent which replaces good karma. Removing ToK should assist in WW scaling and making it a PVP talent means it still stays in game where it should be impactful.
It’s a pity that expel harm as baseline is not coming in the form of reverse harm. WW needs everything it can get to stay competitive.
I agree with the above and the main thing or idea I have for hit combo is not just replace hit combo with fury of xuen but rather combine the two for something more fun. Let’s say every 3rd unique ability that is not a repeat of your last you have a chance to spawn xuen or increase xuen duration if he is already summoned. Obviously every 3rd ability is just an example but I think that would be a happy medium of keeping hit combo’s synergy with our mastery and making it more fun to use. Or hell you could make it what ever you wanted. Every 3rd unique ability charges your next ability with lighting or a gale burst type thing and does X amount of dmg to 3-5targets something like that.