You can pretty much disregard all the discussion about the 3 second Blackout Kick cooldown as it was confirmed by Sigma as unintended. So pretty much all the article amounts to just an exercise in futility.
We got another new Alpha build last night with some changes:
See Changes Here
Effect #1 Apply Aura: Modifies Damage/Healing Done Value:
-5% Affected Spells: Blackout Kick Tiger Palm Spinning Crane Kick Breath of Fire Fists of Fury Crackling Jade Lightning Keg Smash Flying Serpent Kick Zen Pulse Chi Wave Crosswinds Strike of the Windlord Blackout Strike Strike of the Windlord Fist of the White Tiger
Effect #4 Apply Aura: Modifies Periodic Damage/Healing Done Value:
5% Affected Spells: Blackout Kick Tiger Palm Spinning Crane Kick Breath of Fire Fists of Fury Crackling Jade Lightning Keg Smash Flying Serpent Kick Zen Pulse Chi Wave Crosswinds Strike of the Windlord Blackout Strike Strike of the Windlord Fist of the White Tiger
REMOVED Effect #4 Apply Aura: Modifies Cooldown Value: -100% Affected Spells:
Blackout Kick Blackout Strike
Iron Fists – Fists of Fury grants you 0 Critical Strike for 6 sec when it hits at least 4 enemies.
That Buff, (Spell #137025), that’s been reduced from -5% to -20% is our aura buff. This isn’t really a consequential change, because its just numbers. It also is currently showing up as “undefined” which means it may have been removed from the game, but that may be a bug somewhere or not, who knows.
The more interesting part of that change is the removal of the 100% reduction in Blackout Kick‘s cooldown. For those unaware, Blackout Kick has a base cooldown of 3 seconds that, until now, has been reduced to 0 seconds for Windwalker Monks. This will get its own section shortly.
The final part is the reveal of another Azerite trait, Iron Fists, which seems aimed at making sure that you keep using Fists of Fury in AOE situations. There’s more information on what has been shown about the Azerite traits on WoWhead today, it looks like the choices will be relatively obvious, although this may just be a placeholder system for the time being.
This change, the removal of the 100% cooldown reduction, means that Windwalkers will have to contend with a 3 second cooldown on our Blackout Kick. This change has a plethora, a veritable cornucopia, of potential affects on how Windwalkers are played. Lets look at the four ways of seeing this change in four different perspectives:
Compared to Live
The way most people are looking at this change is how it compares to live. From that perspective, it is a HUGE change. Current Windwalkers have the resources to use Blackout Kick over 75-90 times in 5 minutes (300 seconds). By some basic math, that means that you’re using it every 3.3-4 seconds, on average. However, Blackout Kick is considered our “dump” or “filler” ability right now, so its used only after other abilities are. If you consider that you’re never going to use Blackout Kick when you’re channeling Fists of Fury, which can take up 50 seconds of that 300, then you’re up to using Blackout Kick an average of 2.7-3.3 seconds that you’re not channeling Fists of Fury. Toss in the legendary Chest and the time you’re channeling Crackling Jade Lightning, which eats up another 30 seconds of the 300, and you’re left with 220 seconds out of 300 that you’re not channeling something. This is why it feels like we’re using Blackout Kick constantly… because we are… every 2.4-2.9 seconds you’re not channeling something else.
However, those numbers are not drastically far away from the new 3 second cooldown, so its probably not that different, right?
Blackout Kick‘s biggest role in the current Windwalker “meta” is its ability to be interwoven into our rotation in order to minimize the loss of excess resources. You can use a Blackout Kick before and after other abilities, in order to cut down on the excess and get some more damage that would otherwise be lost to overcapping. This can be done in such away that you’re never left very long without a button to press. However, with the addition of the cooldown, you won’t be able to use Blackout Kick on either side of an ability, as that would require a 2 second or less cooldown, as Blackout Kick and the ability that follow would trigger 2 GCDs. So you’d have to use something in between.
I have not been able to test this on Alpha as there are no character copies to test it with current stats and tier bonuses, which is what makes you need, and want, to Blackout Kick so frequently. Just think of all the times you’ve gone Blackout Kick > X > Blackout Kick in a fight, whether that X is TP, RSK, or CW, now you can’t do that. This is the perspective that many people are going to be looking at this change from, and certainly the one that the mob will latch on to if they decide to grab their pitchforks over this change.
Compared to AOE
The one time that we’ve always gone Blackout Kick > X > Blackout Kick in a fight, regardless of what point in the expansion, is during AOE. Going Blackout Kick > TP > Blackout Kick in a fight allows us to tag three targets in three GCDs, or 9 targets with SEF up. This is no longer possible with this change. It will take some getting used to, specially with SCK being down to 2 Chi, making it easier to use and more prevalent in AOE.
Compared to Alpha
So on the Alpha, there are no tier bonuses nor legendaries, so the resource overload isn’t a thing. This moves Blackout Kick back into its role of “nothing else to hit, and a little too many resources than I need” as a dump/filler. From this perspective, the change is barely noticeable. You don’t have so many resources that you have to use Blackout Kick > X > Blackout Kick, and even if you do, you are only waiting on RSK or Fists of Fury to come off cooldown, so you may be able to afford to wait the extra 1 GCD without delaying anything else.
Compared to live, Alpha Windwalker only has to use Blackout Kick 60 times, or so, over 300 seconds, for an average of every 5 seconds. With only Fists of Fury, you rarely have to use Blackout Kick every 4 seconds, on average.
Because of this drastic difference in the frequency of Blackout Kick, the 3 second cooldown is not often noticed, and when it is, its not very disruptive outside of AOE target tagging.
New (Old) Meta?
This final perspective is one that had been mostly written off initially, but this change may be an attempt to show the switch in Windwalker’s priorities. This “new” meta is based around one fact:
Blackout Kick is our highest priority ability based on Damage per CD time.
Yes, folks, you read that correctly. Damage per CD time is how we’ve prioritized abilities if you assume you’re capable of having all the resources you need and want to minimize the risk of losing damage. If you look at Damage per Chi, the metric we’ve used to prioritize abilities for much of the time Windwalker has existed, Blackout Kick is slightly ahead of RSK and slightly behind Fists of Fury. Furthermore, if you look at Damage Per Execution Time, the metric that gets used when you’re looking at trying to fit as much damage as possible into a small window, such as a SEF buff or ToD window, Blackout Kick continues to be above Fists of Fury.
This means that, if the current number tuning on Alpha are to be believed, Blackout Kick is just about our most important ability.
This has a cascading effect on how the spec plays in a variety of ways. If you prioritize Blackout Kick over other abilities, as the current priorities would suggest, there’s not a lot of extra time, or resources, for Fists of Fury. Most of your Chi goes into using Blackout Kick and RSK as close to on CD as possible. This resigns Fists of Fury to the position that it was years ago during Siege of Orgimmar, where it was used just to fill time and do some damage while you refilled energy waiting for other abilities to come off cooldown. So while this is a pretty big change from how things play currently, it is a situation that we’ve seen before, and was the “normal” pre-Warlords.
The cascading effect, and complicating factor, comes into effect when you consider where that places WDP into the scheme of things. This is a topic for later discussion and further theorycrafting by the people smarter than I, so stay tuned for that over the next several months. If you’d like to take part in this or any other discussion pertaining to theorycrafting next expansion, then check out the #wind-craft channel in Discord.
If this is truly the new way Windwalker is to be played, you’ll be hearing a lot more about this over the next few months.