The new raid is out, and just about a full week has gone by; and as I like to do, I took some time to look at the raid and how Windwalkers have done so far. So I am going to take some time to talk about how Windwalker ended Uldir and how the first week of Battle if Dazar’alor went. Finally, I’ll talk about a very interesting “bug” that got “fixed” shortly into this week that highlights some things about how other bugs are being handled and have been handled in the past.
Fury of Xuen Nerf
While I was writing this, Blizzard announced some nerfs to our Fury of Xuen trait. One nice thing is that they fixed the tooltip now, so that it correctly shows 1% per stack. You can also now make any Fury of Xuen WeakAura show the % chance you have by just using the stack number and adding a %, just put this in the text line: “%s%%”.
It looks like these nerfs were targeted shots at traits at were noticeably head and shoulders above the other traits. Looking at Bloodmallet at the time, the first trait of Fury of Xuen was worth almost twice as much as any other trait in single target. This means that it will still be a trait worth getting one of, and still be a very strong trait for Windwalkers.
Looking at the overall damage nerf, losing 33% of this trait should work out to be roughly 1.4% damage loss based on the current SimCraft default WW profile in single target. Your mileage may vary, but it should be a small nerf overall.
NOTE – The trait seems to still stack to only 67, which means you have a maximum 67% chance to proc Xuen. This may be intended, or an oversight, but since it happened on the PTR when it was nerfed from 3% per stack to 1.5% per stack, it is hopefully just an oversight we have to live with until someone can change the number.
Understanding the Colored Bars
When I look at how a spec is doing, I like to look at it statistically. I try to leave any personal thoughts or bias behind and just look at the numbers. So when someone comes in to Discord and says that Windwalker is “garbage” or “bottom tier”, I like to have data to support or refute their claims that are normally based on a combination of anecdotal experiences, word of mouth, misinterpretation or misunderstanding of the colored bars, and just chicken-little-doomsaying. This is why you may have noticed I can be rather relentless in discussing these things when they get brought up. I care deeply about this spec and the community, so I like to make sure that if the end is nigh, people know it, and in the more likely scenario that the Windwalker apocalypse is canceled, that there is ample evidence to show why it’s not all over.
I, in my love of spreadsheets, have made a spreadsheet that I copy and update whenever I remember. I use this spreadsheet to look at how all the specs compare, statistically, at various difficulties and skill levels. Because of how I use statistics in my day job to help determine the presence and severity of any speech and language discord in the students, I have a lot of practice determining when a “problem” is really a problem and not just a parent or teacher blowing it out of proportion or misunderstanding exactly where their kiddo falls compared to everyone else.
The stats that I look at with my sheet, and the ones that I consider when looking at how “strong” or “weak” a spec is are the average, the distance from the average, and standard deviation. The average looks at all the data present and sees what the average dps is for that boss, difficulty, and percentile. In my sheet I look at the damage presented for the desired percentile, which is as close to a measure of “skill level” as we can get, as well as the size of the sample for that spec, then take all the specs together to come up with a reasonable average for all specs and all data. The distance from the average is how many % above or below the average, each spec is when compared to that average.
The metric that I feel is most important is the standard deviation. This is a measure of how close or spread out all the data is. The smaller the standard deviation, the closer all the data is, the larger the deviation, the more spread out the data is. In my profession we look for children’s skills to be less than 1.5-2 standard deviations of what is expected for their peers. The area that is within 1 standard deviation from the average is called the “average range”. This is the range that people should want to be, not too strong, not too weak, juuuuuust right.
This also tends to be, from my observations, the metric that most accurately predicts if a spec is going to get buffs or nerfs. If a spec is more than 1.5-2 standard deviations from the average, it’s very likely that they will be tuned down if they’re too strong, or tuned up if they’re too weak. There has only been one time, since I started taking data back in the middle of Warlords, that Windwalkers were more than 2 standard deviations below the average, and thus, significantly behind. This time was toward the end of Tomb of Sargeras, and what followed were a series of buffs and gear/talent synergy, that skyrocketed Windwalkers to flirting with being 2 SD above the average just a few weeks later in Antorus.
When someone comes into Discord saying that a spec is “garbage” or “OMG OP WTFBBQ”, there is always data to support or refute that statement, and that is the data I bring to discuss whether they’re an astute observer, raving lunatic, or somewhere in the middle, or both.
Uldir is UL-Done
It should be no secret that Windwalkers weren’t exactly lighting up the charts in Uldir. The spec, as a whole, wasn’t in a bad place; typically within a reasonable range from the average and the top, but those pesky colored bars had people feeling that Windwalker was bad. There were a few fights like Vectis where Windwalker was super strong, and others like Zul, where our damage actively made it harder to kill the boss in many situations. However, overall the spec was in a good place, and the spreadsheet proves it.
Its pretty clear that as the tier went on, Windwalker slowly slid down the charts. There were some ups and downs because of our whirlwind of azerite tuning, but overall started at about average and then fell to slightly below average. One thing that is interesting is that in Normal difficulty, Windwalker maintained its roughly average position throughout the whole tier.
Although Windwalker was between the literally middle and the bottom of the middle third: the fact that at worst, Windwalker was 0.7 standard deviations and 2.52% from the average, and around 10% from the top, Demonology Warlocks, thats not bad. If you consider that, at the end, Demonology Warlocks were somewhat of an outlier at well over 2 SD above the average, Windwalkers were 7-8% behind the next best, and top melee. Although many will think that it sucks to be at or near the bottom, 2-3% from the average and 7-8% from the best is not a terrible position to be in.
Overall, at the end of Uldir, all specs were within 11-13% of each other, which is near the best balanced the specs have ever been, making the order of the colored bars even less important.
Where We Are
So as you can see from the Battle of Dazar’alor tabs of the spreadsheet, Windwalker is currently at the top of the bottom third or bottom of the middle third depending on how you look at it. Just like in Uldir, when some people look at just the bars they think “OMGWTFBBQ WW SUXXXXX!!”, when in reality Windwalker is about 2% and half a standard deviation below the average, and 4-4.5% behind the top melee spec. I think most people would be hard pressed to say that Windwalker is anywhere near “garbage” right now looking at that data. If you take even a 2% damage loss from the Fury of Xuen nerf, Windwalker is still within the average range.
Yes, Windwalker is currently the 2nd to last melee dps, only ahead of Death Knights, but that really doesn’t matter when we’re less than 6% from the best. Someone has to be last, and even if its Windwalker, being 6% from first to last isn’t the end of the world.
As time goes on and the charts stabilize a bit, more people will get more traits and start getting the right traits, this should benefit Windwalkers a bit since we have very strong trait combinations with 3 Open Palm Strikes and one of Fury of Xuen, Glory of the Dawn, and Dance of Chi-Ji.
I like to take data at the end of every week, so we’ll see how things progress and if there are any further class balancing changes.
Bugs vs Creative Use of Mechanics
For anyone who has been playing for as long as I have and been following the World First race as I have, has heard that term before. What a “bug” is and what is just “creative use of mechanics” has frequently been a discussion when some guild does something crazy to kill a boss. Often times this takes the form of a guild dropping Engineering Belt bombs on the Lich King platform so that it respawns, or a guild taking a few dozen locks sitting outside the instance to soulstone them before they run in to kill Yogg-Saron. However, recently we’ve seen things become a little bit more mainstream, and drastically affect what guild’s do to kill bosses. The biggest three examples that have popped up recently are:
- Subtlety Rogue’s ability to benefit from the adds reviving on Zul, Reborn to funnel an absolutely insane amount of single target damage with Shuriken Storm, Shuriken Combo, and Eviserate.
- Affliction Warlocks being able to use Corruption with Absolute Corruption to continue to damage Xalzaix on Mythic Mythrax the Unraveler even after he had disappeared again.
- Windwalker Monks gaining an extra 0.5-1.5% boss damage per Discharge Apetagonizer Core/Discharge Necrotic Core on Grong/Grong the Revenant by using Storm, Earth, and Fire then Touch of Death then Discharge Apetagonizer Core/Discharge Necrotic Core.
Now there are some similarities and some differences to these situations.
- All use current mechanics in the specs, nothing being used in a different way than its intended.
- All are clearly visible in logs:
- Rogue: CHART – Even after it was nerfed around 8.1, Sublety Rogues were doing 20-30% more boss damage than any other spec
- All gave a distinct advantage to those specs and the groups that used them
- Rogue: This added 5k Boss DPS or more per Rogue
- Warlock: This dropped Xalzaix‘s health by 2% per Warlock every time the boss would go away and come back
- Monk: On Mythic difficulty, Grong has around 100mil Health, so each Windwalker gains 1.5% of his health in damage every 2 minutes, this translated to around 12.5k DPS per Windwalker on Mythic, any other difficulty would be lower, and this caps at 2 Windwalkers.
Now for some important differences, and these are certainly from a Windwalker perspective, so they may be a little biased
- Two promoted class stacking that was seen in the WF race and those that emulated them
- Rogue and Warlock damage increase was per player
- Monk maxed out at two players, since only two orbs spawn and Touch of Death has a a two minute cooldown
- Two came with no cost to the player and was pure gain
- Rogue and Warlock just had to do what they normally would, maybe a talent change
- Monk has to save cooldowns for the adds to spawn, cutting down opener damage and add damage
- Two benefited classes that were already super strong in boss damage
- Even if you take out Zul, Rogues, and more specifically Subtlety Rogues, were one of the strongest specs on boss damage. Rogues as a whole, given their multiple specs, were consistently one of, if not THE, strongest melee on many bosses in Uldir
- Like Rogues, Warlocks were one of, if not THE, strongest DPS on many bosses in Uldir
- Only one of them was changed
- Rogue: Nerfed in 8.1, but persisted the entire tier
- Warlock: Persisted the entire tier
- Monk: “Fixed” less than half the week after it emerged
So the obvious question is, why did Windwalkers get our “cheese” fixed almost instantly whereas these two recent examples were allowed to persist for months? Obviously I can’t answer that. Its likely that ours was just easier to fix and could be done quickly whereas the others required more work, or maybe there’s a more nefarious reason, we may never know. Whats clear is that all three of these situations have similarities, and its just our bad luck that ours doesn’t seem to have been allowed to survive like the other two.
More Bugs to Squash
So beyond the obvious inequity of how these “creative use of mechanics” were handled, some people may classify these things as “bugs”. To me, a “bug” is when something isn’t working as intended, which is why I don’t classify those as “bugs”, except maybe the Warlock one. However, Windwalker has been plagued by bugs, things that are actually not working the way they were intended. Some of these bugs were reported numerous times going as far back as Beta and Alpha, but haven’t been fixed. So, how quickly the Grong “bug” was fixed brings into stark contrast how slowly other bugs have been fixed. Here are the bugs we’re currently experiencing, all of which I wrote about over a month ago and people like Talby and Kuya have reported on the forums consistently:
- Tiger Palm does not always generate the Chi that its supposed to. There’s more weirdness to it than that even, so its easiest to just see what Talby has posted in the Bug Report thread about it. This is happening for many specs.
- Dance of Chi-Ji damage is reduced, but not replicated, during Storm, Earth, and Fire. This leads to our strongest AOE trait being 1/3 as strong during our strongest AOE cooldown, which is… less than optimal. Once again, our resident MVP, Talby, has posted about this on the Bug Report forums. This one is HUGE loss in AOE/M+.
- Mark of the Crane continues to be a screwy mess. At times you’ll generate more stacks than there are targets, other times the stacks will fall off despite doing what, you thought, had refreshed them. If you really pay attention to your stacks, they often seem to be incorrect more frequently than correct. The “bright” side of this, if you could call it that, is that the stacks are only 10% and they don’t have any real consequence on how or when we use our abilities. It still tends to be damage lost rather than damage gained, but it could be worse… I guess?
- People are also finding that Whirling Dragon Punch is not always usable when its off cooldown and Fists of Fury and Rising Sun Kick are both on cooldown. We’ve seen this behavior back in Legion when people were using the trinket from Ursoc, Bloodthirsty Instinct. This seemed to be because the haste proc would change the cooldown of the abilities, but this wouldn’t be registered correctly by the game, so it wouldn’t recognize that Fists of Fury and Rising Sun Kick were both on cooldown. This is just our best guess as to why it was happening, but it fits with the fact that its happening again now when people are starting to get Fury of Xuen procs with huge amounts of haste again. This kills the flow of the spec and the spell interactions with each other.
Again, these have been reported for weeks, with no changes. Yet, things like Touch of Death on Grong is “fixed” 3 days later, and CancelAura for SEF is “fixed” after 9 days. What do these have in common? They both increase our damage, whereas the ones listed above decrease our damage, especially the issue with Dance of Chi-Ji when you’re in M+ or any AOE situation. Maybe that’s the reason these things haven’t been changed, maybe its because the Windwalker population is so small they don’t want to devote resources to it, maybe they aren’t able to or don’t know how to fix them. Whatever the reason, these actual bugs have been plaguing Windwalker for months, all posted in the appropriate places, in the appropriate ways, by the appropriate people, for months.
This article got away from me super quick, and with getting distracted watching WF streams, answering in Discord, and actually playing the game, I’ve been working on it for just about 10 hours, pretty much all my snow day. Just about 3100 words later, I think I’ve appropriately discussed all that needs to be discussed, although I’m sure others will have more for me to talk about. Since it got a little out of hand; basically what you need to know is this:
- Windwalker wasn’t bad in Uldir, it isn’t bad in Battle of Dazar’alor
- Being at the bottom doesn’t mean you’re bad as long as the spread to the top isn’t big, which it currently isn’t
- Fury of Xuen has been nerfed, its not the end of the world
- There seems to be something not fair about how the Touch of Death on Grong was handled compared to things in Uldir
- There are several noticeable bugs with Windwalker that have been reported, that still go unresolved.