This is a supplementary post to the 8.1 Monk Megathread on Reddit. You can follow the discussion there.
Windwalker in Battle for Azeroth, while still pretty similar to its Legion incarnation, seems to overall be a step down in class design. While many people are still playing and enjoying the spec, there are quite a few concerns that plague Windwalker and scare potential players away, both major and minor. Additionally, while we got a few (emphasis on few) nice touches going into BfA, the majority have turned out just okay or downright unfun compared to Legion. Looking at the changes we’ve received from Legion until now, let’s start with the bad, going from bigger problems to smaller, easier to fix issues:
- Karma. There’s lots to be said about Touch of Karma in Battle for Azeroth. So much, in fact, that we have several articles devoted to why it’s a problem, and potential fixes. There’s debate from some over whether Karma is a high-skill ability that rewards encounter knowledge, or just a gimmick that gets you killed and makes your tanks mad while you’re trying to squeeze out 15% of your total damage. But regardless, Blizzard seems to have sided with the majority on this one and vowed to address the spell. There’s a change on the PTR for 8.1 that would somewhat alleviate the issue, but definitely not fix it completely if it goes live as-is. Maximizing the damage from Karma would still definitely be worth the risk with the proposed change, and not using it at all, or using it one or two times defensively throughout a fight could be a significant DPS loss depending on how much of the absorb you consume. This is probably the single biggest issue (that’s easiest to pinpoint) that has driven people from the spec in BfA. Also, while not directly related to Karma, the state of HP pools being so large compared to DPS also causes Touch of Death to be a larger part of out DPS than before. Having so much of our damage (~25-30%) tied to large cooldowns makes the regular rotation feel weaker in comparison.
- AoE. Windwalker AoE has gone from soaring highs in Legion (especially in Mythic+) to, in a word, frustrating in BfA. There’s two sides to this issue. The first is that our overall AoE has been tuned down across the board, with Fists of Fury doing 50% to all secondary targets (and not updating your primary target if it dies or gets out of range, but that’s another issue), and Spinning Crane Kick being completely gutted: it has less relative base damage due to costing 2 chi instead of 3 (less damage per cast even if it costs less), less damage added per stack, and most notably (though not in game on the tooltip or in any patch notes), a 5 stack cap on Mark of the Crane (which is also extremely buggy). This pretty much eliminated the big pulls in Legion’s Mythic+ where you could pop Storm, Earth, and Fire to get your clones tagging mobs until you had 10+ stacks, then unleash them with Spinning Crane Kick (in combination with Energizing Elixir) for a few seconds of AoE godhood. The other half of this is our “compensation,” in a sense: Rushing Jade Wind. Taking Rushing Jade Wind can restore a good amount of the actual AoE damage, at the cost of 3 energy per second (and, for many, quite a few frames per second). This basically feels like a big slow down to what is already a slowed down version of the spec compared to late Legion (which by itself is another big issue for many). It’s not very interactive outside of that, all you do is toggle it on with 2 targets or more. It also has the fun side effect of draining energy instead of just reducing energy generation, meaning if you do something like Tiger Palm at exactly 50 energy, Rushing Jade Wind will momentarily spend at 0 energy and turn off, costing a GCD to retoggle. Needing such a slow, uninteractive talent to come anywhere close to our old baseline AoE spot leaves many wanting more for Windwalker.
- Spec-shifting hotfixes every few weeks. While this is not something we could have seen coming from beta, it’s one of the things that’s made Windwalker a hectic spec to even keep up with how to play optimally in BfA. (If you haven’t been paying much attention, Babs compiled a nice article on how we’ve changed in the last few months). From ability and trait tuning hotfixes that make us drop and re-add core abilities to our rotations, and bug
fixesband-aids with farther reaching effects than Blizzard realized, every few weeks has overthrown our latest way to play or traits to hunt for. This ties into a lot of the complaints that players have had about Azerite gear in general, especially when what once was our best-in-slot trait becomes worthless, and vice versa. Speaking of which, it’s been a few weeks since our last big change…
- Overall boring talent tree and lack of interactivity between spells. This is a big one, and harder to sum up succinctly. The first complaint is baseline: most of our abilities don’t interact with each other outside of the builder/spender system of Chi, and are basically “press stuff on CD.” The exceptions here are the Blackout Kick cooldown reduction on Rising Sun Kick and Fists of Fury, tagging mobs with Mark of the Crane to increase Spinning Crane Kick damage (which is kind of a joke in BfA anyway), and needing Rising Sun Kick and Fists of Fury on cooldown to be able to use Whirling Dragon Punch (also, Swift Roundhouse, but that’s a bit dead now). There are tons of ways that abilities could interact with each other in simple-enough ways to make the spec a little more interesting to play. An example that was thrown out in a discussion in Discord was a passive that would do something like “Every target hit by Fists of Fury (or Spinning Crane Kick) increases the damage of your next Rising Sun Kick by X.” This would make Rising Sun Kick feel rewarding to use in AoE situations outside of activating the use of Whirling Dragon Punch, given that you could spend the same Chi on a mediocre feeling, but technically better Spinning Crane Kick. On the talent side of things, most of our talents are also pretty unimpactful to the rest of how you play. There are very minor differences between your choices: the only damage row that really could change between whatever content you’re playing at the time is the choice between Rushing Jade Wind and Xuen, at least with current tuning. And that isn’t the most gameplay-altering choice either: do you want to have slower resource generation, or hit another button every two minutes? Most of the others are similar in how little they change how you play. That’s not to say they’re awful or anything, it just feels like a lot of missed potential. Xuen, in particular, is one of the coolest and most thematic talents we can choose, but is a letdown in use. Even just in Discord, the community has had plenty of ideas for cool Xuen effects (my personal favorite involves the idea of a “trial” to complete while Xuen is active, like spending a certain amount of Chi, reflecting his the Temple of the White Tiger quests in Kun-Lai). It’s a bit strange that the talents that feel like real, roughly equal, but unique choices for what best suits the content you’re doing are the utility rows, and the movement row in particular (G’huun orbs anyone?). It’d be nice to have that kind of real choice in our damage rows outside of Xuen/Rushing Jade Wind, and have those talents interact with our base rotation in a more meaningful way.
- Lots of smaller issues, including:
- Lack of efficient self healing, especially for a full hybrid class
- Homogenized monk utility (not a bad thing to reinforce a cohesive class fantasy, but means we don’t bring much if a group has a Mistweaver or Brewmaster already)
- Unrewarding/overly restricted utility (Detox costing nearly half a Tiger Palm of energy, discouraging its use; enormous cooldowns on Paralysis (not really monk specific) and Transcendence)
- Energizing Elixir being on the global cooldown (and having 3 dead GCDs nearly in a row in our opener with Xuen, and every 2 minutes after that)
- Overall much slower pace of the spec, though whether that’s a downside is a matter of opinion
- Mediocre Azerite traits that either don’t do anything to our rotation, or change it too much and get nerfed in a hotfix
- Blackout Kick Cooldown Reduction on Rising Sun Kick and Fists of Fury. As I mentioned, we don’t have a lot of interactivity between our core spells (see above). While this doesn’t fix the issue entirely, it was definitely a step in the right direction and a welcome change.
- Chi Burst Giving Chi. Just like the Blackout Kick cooldown reduction, this was a step in the right direction in terms of make our talents a bit more interesting, turning what was just a 30 second fire-and-forget into something that plays into your flow of building and spending Chi. Unfortunately this development seems to have stopped one talent in, not even applying to the others in its row (Chi Wave restoring a small amount of energy on bounces, for example).
- ToD Getting Gale Burst Baseline. In case you skipped Legion, Gale Burst was an artifact trait that added the 10% boost to spells used in the Touch of Death window. Recognizing that Touch of Death would have been a “press this every two minutes” button and taking action on it preemptively was a good call.
- Mystic Touch. Just a nice incentive for a group to bring a Windwalker… if they don’t already have a Mistweaver or Brewmaster, which, in a raid group, they probably do.
- Mobile? Fun? Flexible? The Stuff We Kept: It’s still a decently similar spec to Legion, all the rest aside, and most people playing Windwalker now also played it in Legion and enjoyed it. It still maintains key features such as high mobility (well, we got a Flying Serpent Kick nerf), decent cleave in our single target rotation, flexible cooldowns, and useful utility such as Leg Sweep. This is completely opinion, and you could probably take it as a negative that one of the “positives” is “at least it’s not that much worse than Legion.” Which kind of sums up this whole post.
Overall, while still a decently fun spec, Windwalker seems like it mainly received negative changes going into BfA coupled with the loss of the artifact (as I’m sure is a sentiment echoed by many other specs). Without some of the mechanics, traits, and legendary effects that spruced up the base gameplay in Legion, BfA leaves little but the core, and exposes it in the mediocre state that it’s in without those systems, as well as introducing new unloved mechanics like maximizing Karma. (Well, not totally new. Prenerf legendary cloak anyone?) Windwalker could definitely use a fresh look at many core ability interactions, some utility spell touch ups, damage distribution between cooldowns and rotational abilities, and the entire talent tree. Unfortunately, with how many other specs are in a similar or more dire state, and since we’re still playable and decently enjoyable in our current state, it seems unlikely that we get any sort of major rework anytime soon. But hopefully, we’re at least on the radar for another look sometime later in BfA. I would say don’t hold your breath, but we just got the equivalent of a major rework to our PvP toolkit on the PTR a few days ago, so there’s a chance.
For a lot more of this feedback, including even more detailed notes on the bad, the good, and suggestions for some changes, you can peek at my notes I prepared before writing this. Warning: probably way too long, and pretty much my opinions (many of which seem to be shared with the greater community, but take it as you will). For reference, here’s Kuya’s feedback doc as well. Credits to Kuya for his input on this article as well.