So once we look at the historical data and discussed how “simple” a spec is, I think its important to look at what makes up that data and whether a spec is rewarded or punished for its “simplicity”. When it comes to comparing abilities and what a spec is capable of, there are a few areas to look at. Windwalkers and Havocs have abilities that are very similar and fill similar roles in their specs, so some abilities can be looked at directly head to head. Other direct comparisons are harder, but some of the areas that I want to look at, areas that I feel are important having played both specs, are resource management, how each spec actually performs their single target and multi-target, defensive abilities, sustained vs cooldown-dependent DPS, and non-DPS utility.
Windwalker’s and Havoc DH’s have very similar abilities. Both specs use no-cooldown abilities to build resources (Tiger Palm and Demon’s Bite); both specs have cone/line based channel abilities as their biggest hitting ability (Fists of Fury and Eye Beam); both have short CD abilities (Rising Sun Kick and Blade Dance); and both have no-cooldown resource dumps (Blackout Kick and Chaos Strike). This allows us to very easily compare these abilities in what they do and how well they do it.
An easy comparison to make, although its probably the least meaningful one to compare as both abilities are relatively small portions of each spec’s damage. Tiger Palm has no cooldown in theory but does need to wait on Energy regeneration, giving it an effective cooldown of 4-5 seconds, generates 30-40% of a Windwalker’s usable resources, and deals about 5% of the Windwalker’s single target damage. Demon’s Bite has no cooldown other than the global cooldown, and no resource requirement, generating 17%-25% of a Havoc DH’s usable resources per use, dealing about 6% of the Havoc’s single target damage.
So the difference here isn’t huge, and its really more philosophical; Tiger Palm is used less due to needed Energy regeneration, but generates more usable resources per cast, whereas Demon’s Bite is used more often but generates less usable resources per cast; Tiger Palm also has the added benefit of proccing Combo Breaker. The preference for one versus the other is personal. If you’re like me and prefer the slower, more thoughtful, paced gameplay, then Tiger Palm is the resource generator for you. If you’re like many people and prefer frantic, button-spamming, fast paced gameplay, then Demon’s Bite is for you.
Probably the most common comparison that people make between both specs, these abilities seem like they’re constantly being compared to each other, for good reason. Fists of Fury has a 24 second cooldown that’s reduced by haste and the cooldown reduction from Blackout Kick; Eye Beam has a 30 second cooldown that’s not reduced by haste, but is reduced by the Eyes of Rage Azerite trait. Fists of Fury deals damage over 4 seconds reduced by haste; Eye Beam deals it over 2 seconds reduced by haste. Fists of Fury costs 50-60% of your maximum usable resource, Eye Beam costs 30%. Fists of Fury deals about 20% of a Windwalker’s single target damage (in no small part because of Open Palm Strikes which makes Fists of Fury about 40% stronger); Eye Beam deals about 17% of a Havoc’s single target damage.
The biggest differences come with the physical actions of each ability. Fists of Fury has an 8 yard range, with a cone that’s roughly 90 degrees in front of the player; Eye Beam has a 20 yard range, but with a cone that’s only about 20-40 degrees in front of the player. This makes it much easier to hit a group of close targets with Fists of Fury, but makes it harder to hit things if you’re farther away. Eye Beam, on the contrary, is harder to hit a clump of close targets, but much easier to hit ones that are farther away.
Finally, the comparison that’s most often used is that Fists of Fury can be used when moving and Eye Beam can’t be. This is easily the make-it-or-break-it comparison for many people. From my perspective, when switching back and forth between my characters, I mostly notice how I can’t move when casting Eye Beam, but feel like I’m channeling Fists of Fury forever since its twice as long. I don’t really have a preference for one over the other, but the fact that Eye Beam allows you to transform into Metamorphosis when using the Demonic talent makes it pretty easy to get used to spending two seconds in one place, even though I was enormously happy when they allowed Windwalkers to move during Fists of Fury.
These two abilites may look like they do different things, with Rising Sun Kick being pure single target and Blade Dance being AOE, but functionally when looking at the mechanics of the priority, they serve similar purposes. Both cost a moderate amount of resources, both have a cooldown that’s reduced by haste, and both generally are at the top of their spec’s priority list due to short cooldown.
What separates them is all the extra stuff. Rising Sun Kick is straightforward, press button do the same damage every time, with some modifications for Azerite Traits like Glory of the Dawn. Blade Dance provides 1 second buff of 100% dodge; this can be used to great affect on certain mechanics that you can dodge if you time using this correctly, which isn’t difficult due to its short cooldown. Rising Sun Kick also costs 33-40% of a Windwalker’s available Chi, whereas Blade Dance and Death Sweep cost about 30% of a DH’s Fury or as low as 13% when talented into First Blood, making it significantly easier to setup and prepare for an upcoming cast of Blade Dance and Death Sweep.
Finally these two abilities are, more or less, the closest in comparison to each other mechanically than any of the other abilities. Blackout Kick costs 12.5%-20% of the Windwalker’s maximum Chi compared to Chaos Strike costing roughly 33% of a Havoc’s maximum Fury. However, due to Chaos Strike having a 20% chance to refund half its Fury, or a 40% chance when it becomes Annihilation during Metamorphosis, the real cost of these abilities is lower, generally closer to 10-20% of the Havoc’s maximum Fury. This makes both abilities very similar in how they feel and how they fit with inside the rotation.
There are two big differences between these abilities. The first is that due to the differences in how many resources go into each spec, Havoc DH’s Chaos Strike and Annihilation tend to be cast 2-3x as often as a Windwalker casts Blackout Kick. Although they functionally are similar, and this is largely semantic, they get to the same point for a different reason. Blackout Kick is cast to use any excess Chi that isn’t being used on the other abilities with cooldowns. Chaos Strike and Annihilation are used to dump excess Fury, yes, but because you can cast Demon’s Bite whenever you want, Chaos Strike and Annihilation are used as much to fill any free GCD as they are to dump Fury, since you create the excess Fury with the express plan of dumping it right away to fill time. Lastly in Battle for Azeroth, Blackout Kick was given the ability to reduce the cooldown of Rising Sun Kick and Fists of Fury by 1 second per cast. This has become a core part of this ability, but it does have an adverse affect, since the more Chi you spend on Blackout Kick the more you’ll cast Rising Sun Kick and Fists of Fury which gives you less Chi to cast Blackout Kick.
While its important to look at HOW these specs do their things, its obviously important to look at HOW WELL these specs do their things. So I’ll be using the above comparisons to look at the actual numbers that each ability puts out between each spec. For a lot of these comparisons, I’ll use my Monk and my Demon Hunter set up with, roughly, ideal azerite and identical gear. I’ll also not take either spec’s Mastery into account, as that can vary so much, and neither spec really is stacking Mastery right now.
After modifiers Tiger Palm deals 27% AP in damage compared to Demon’s Bite deals roughly 50% AP in damage with both abilities being effected equally by armor. Tiger Palm gets a little bit more considering it benefits from Hit Combo and Storm, Earth, and Fire for a rough total of 32% AP per cast. What this works out to is that, on average, Demon’s Bite deals a very small amount more, per cast, than Tiger Palm, despite also being used roughly 15-20% more often. Looking at my Monk, Tiger Palm averaged just shy of 6964 damage per hit, which is just about equal to my Demon Hunter‘s 6990 damage per hit. The difference is the frequency of use, with Demon’s Bite being used noticeably more often, but also the fact that Pressure Points needs to provide almost 2x the bonus to Tiger Palm that Chaotic Transformation provides to Demon’s Bite in order for them to be equal.
This is further confirmed by the WCL parses where the Monk‘s Tiger Palm dealt an average of 9.3k damage per hit and was cast 32 times for about 3,200 DPS, compared to the Demon Hunter casting Demon’s Bite 47 times for an average hit of 11.7k damage or 3,670 DPS.
Like above, both abilities do very similar things, but in slightly different ways. Both abilities do more damage to their primary target, Fists of Fury just does 50% less damage to all other targets; Eye Beam does 50% more damage to its primary target.
Eye Beam deals about 190% AP over 2 seconds to all targets it hits, and 286% AP to your primary target. Contrast this with Fists of Fury which deals 478% AP to your primary target over 4 seconds. However, that’s not all of the story as Fists of Fury is Physical damage and Eye Beam is Chaos damage, which means that Fists of Fury has its damage reduced by 30% due to Armor. Once you factor in that Fists of Fury benefits from Hit Combo and Storm, Earth, and Fire you get a functional total of 390% AP.
Although Eye Beam does its damage in half the time, due to the difference in cooldown and the fact that Eye Beam‘s cooldown isn’t reduced by Haste, you generally see more DPS from Fists of Fury. Windwalkers see further increase in the damage that Fists of Fury does due to the insane strength of Open Palm Strikes, which furthers the gap between these two abilities. Eye Beam does gain a some of this gap back when looking at how much damage these abilities do for the resources they cost, with Eye Beam costing about 25% of the Havoc’s maximum Fury, compared to Fists of Fury‘s much larger Chi cost of 50%-60% of the Windwalker’s maximum Chi.
As you can see with the information from the RaidBots, on my Monk with triple Open Palm Strikes does just shy of 8900 DPS with Fists of Fury alone; although its worth noting that about 40% of that comes from the Open Palm Strikes traits. This is compared to the damage of Eye Beam which, in the RaidBots of my Demon Hunter did approximately 3400 DPS of which a small portion comes from Eyes of Rage. Similarly, when looking at the logs from WarcraftLogs, the Monk deals a little less than 6700 DPS with Fists of Fury compared to the 3400 DPS done with Eye Beam by the Demon Hunter.
Clearly, when comparing simply the damage between the abilities, Fists of Fury has a massive lead with Open Palm Strikes. The big bonus of Eye Beam currently comes in its ability to proc Chaotic Transformation and Furious Gaze, which are HUGE boosts to the Demon Hunter’s DPS, but difficult to quantify.
Although the base form of Blade Dance currently does about 1/3 the damage of Rising Sun Kick, due to being modified by talents like Trail of Ruin and First Blood its damage rivals that of Rising Sun Kick and makes it untouchable when Blade Dance becomes Death Sweep and considering the increased cast frequency. This will change in 8.3 given that Rising Sun Kick is gaining 25% damage to help on single target.
Using the buffed 8.3 numbers; Rising Sun Kick deals about 338% AP per cast before considering a temporary buff like Hit Combo which would bring it up to 359% AP. If you assume that you have 30% uptime of Storm, Earth, and Fire, which is generally high, then the average Rising Sun Kick deals 396% AP per cast.
Blade Dance deals roughly 93% AP per cast at its base value and 220% AP per cast when using First Blood, keeping it slightly behind Rising Sun Kick. However, when under the effects of Metamorphosis and Blade Dance becomes Death Sweep, its base AP% goes from 93% to 145% AP without First Blood and 220% to roughly 335% AP per cast. This is important since this means when the DH is using First Blood, you need to have about 150% of your casts fall inside Metamorphosis for the average cast of Blade Dance/Death Sweep to deal more damage than Rising Sun Kick. This is obviously not a possible number; logs generally have that number between 70% and 75%. However, current best talent choices for Havoc generally includes Trail of Ruin, which adds 53.6% AP to each cast of both Blade Dance and Death Sweep. This lowers the threshold for these to beat Rising Sun Kick to an easily achievable 39% of casts inside Metamorphosis.
This difference is compounded by the fact that due to Haste procs and differences in the desirability of Haste for both specs, Demon Hunters generally cast Blade Dance/Death Sweep almost twice as often as Windwalkers cast Rising Sun Kick. This is why if you look at the information from Raidbots, the Monk’s Rising Sun Kick does roughly 8,600 DPS compared to the Demon Hunter’s combined DPS of just about 7,000 DPS with both Blade Dance and Death Sweep, plus another 3,300 DPS from Trail of Ruin bringing the total to roughly 10,300 DPS. With the 8.3 changes, assuming nothing else changes, the Monk’s DPS from Rising Sun Kick goes up to 10,750 DPS, putting it then slightly ahead of the Demon Hunter’s abilities in pure single target situations.
Similarly, looking at the reports from WCL, the Monk gained roughly 5,100 DPS from Rising Sun Kick, which would theoretically become about 6,400 DPS in 8.3, compared to the astonishing total of almost 11,000 DPS from Death Sweep, Trail of Ruin, and Blade Dance, combined with the MASSIVE gain that Havoc gets from short fights with high uptimes on Haste increasing buffs like Metamorphosis, Furious Gaze, and Time Warp.
Windwalkers primarily look at abilities as how much damage they do for the resources they require, whereas Havocs look primarily at DPS or DpET. Its clear that when using Trail of Ruin, Havoc has the edge in this comparison. However, as I mentioned above, Blade Dance and Death Sweep can cost as low as 13% of the Havoc’s potential resources, compared to 33-40% of the Windwalker’s Chi for using Rising Sun Kick, making Rising Sun Kick significantly less damage efficient for the resource cost, which is paramount for Windwalkers. This should come as no surprise since the reason that Rising Sun Kick is getting a 25% buff in patch 8.3 is that Windwalkers were considering dropping it from the priority due to how weak it is for the cost.
Chaos Strike deals approximately 80% AP per cast in its base form and 103% AP in its Annihilation form. Blackout Kick deals 84% AP currently and will get a boost up to 93% AP with the buff in 8.3. Generally a Havoc will cast about 60-75% of its Chaos Strike inside Metamorphosis, making it Annihilation, this gives the average cast about 94% AP. This may seem balanced until you remember that Chaos Strike and Annihilation are Chaos damage and Blackout Kick deals Physical damage, so even after the buffs it will deal roughly 65% AP per cast. Toss in the modification from Hit Combo and Storm, Earth, and Fire and you get a total of about 78% AP.
What helps Blackout Kick close the gap is the cooldown reduction it provides to Rising Sun Kick and Fists of Fury as this directly translates into more casts of those abilities, and thus more damage. If you assume little to no Haste, then each cast of Blackout Kick adds, on average, 1/10th of a Rising Sun Kick and 1/24th of Fists of Fury. This translates to roughly 40% AP from Rising Sun Kick and 16% from Fists of Fury giving Blackout Kick a total of 134% AP. Once you factor in all of these you see that Blackout Kick has a pretty healthy lead on Chaos Strike and Annihilation when looking at damage per cast.
As you can guess, once you factor in the frequency of these casts, that lead dissipates quickly. Using the WarcraftLogs parses, the Monk cast Blackout Kick 22 times for roughly 2,600 DPS. Its very difficult to quantify exactly how many additional casts of Rising Sun Kick and Fists of Fury are created by these 22 casts of Blackout Kick as any time those abilities it off cooldown before being used erases some of the gain from Blackout Kick. If you take the above proportions of 1/10th and 1/24th then this adds roughly 510 DPS from Rising Sun Kick and 280 DPS from Fists of Fury for a theoretical total contribution from Blackout Kick of around 3,400 DPS. If you factor in the 10% buff from 8.3 then it goes up to around 3,860 DPS. This is dwarfed by the Demon Hunter that cast Chaos Strike 15 times for 2,200 DPS and Annihilation 45 times for 9,400 DPS.
Similarly, the Raidbots report of my Monk has Blackout Kick at 3,300 DPS compared to that of my DH with 3,277 DPS from Chaos Strike and 8,216 from Annihilation. Although they do somewhat similar damage per cast, and cost somewhat similar resources, due to frequency, the end result is entirely different.
This section isn’t quite as complex since most has already been covered above. The biggest difference between these two specs is HOW they transition to multi-target from single target and how different their priorities are between both.
For Windwalkers, the single target rotation looks somewhat different than the Multi-target one. In 8.3 it gets a little bit simpler with the transition coming when 3 targets are present. At this point the player drops Blackout Kick from the priority except with Blackout Kick! procs and drop Rising Sun Kick from the priority except to allow the use of Whirling Dragon Punch. When this happens the excess Chi that doesn’t go to Fists of Fury is used for Spinning Crane Kick. On contrast, the priority for Demon Hunters don’t change as Blade Dance, Death Sweep, and Eye Beam make up a big part of both single target and multi-target. This makes the DH priority basically identical regardless of number of targets.
Once you’ve established that Demon Hunters can just carry on their normal playstyle whereas Windwalkers change at 3 targets, the next step is to compare the damage that they do. This is pretty easy to do since most of the work is done above. The biggest thing to do is Blade Dance and Death Sweep compared to Spinning Crane Kick.
Spinning Crane Kick deals about 76% AP per target and is then modified by Mark of the Crane for another 10% per target per stack. So it can vary from 76% AP per target to 114% AP per target. Like mentioned above Blade Dance does 93% AP per target, with Death Sweep up to 145% AP per target; however, this doesn’t count the fact that Trail of Ruin does its damage to each target, which adds another 54% AP per target, bringing the minimum damage of Blade Dance up to 147% AP per target. Obviously this means that as its base damage, Spinning Crane Kick just doesn’t compete with Blade Dance and Death Sweep. Windwalker also has Whirling Dragon Punch which adds another 197% AP ability every 20 seconds or so. Another help that Windwalkers have to close any DPS gap is that its generally easier to hit multiple targets with Fists of Fury than it is with Eye Beam since targets have the tendency to spread out in a clump rather than stand in a line.
Overall, when you put together everything, both specs have relatively similar strength in AOE, but with massively different requirements for effort and attention.
The first and obvious difference is that Havoc only has one cooldown to contend with, compared to Windwalker’s 3, which is just consistent with the other comparisons. Having to press one cooldown every 4 minutes is very different from managing one that has 2 charges on a 90 second cooldown, one that has a 120 second cooldown, and another that, not only requires you to take damage to deal damage, but has a 90 second cooldown. This is likely the only area where Windwalker presses their “comparable” buttons more often than Havoc.
The way these cooldowns all work is massively different. Metamorphosis provides Haste, Leech, and changes two main abilities into newer and stronger forms where as Touch of Death takes a chunk of damage and adds some more of yours, Touch of Karma is technically a defensive ability, and Storm, Earth, and Fire splits your damage, increases it, tags targets for Mark of the Crane, and occasionally none of the above.
Finally, the biggest area that these abilities differ is that Metamorphosis isn’t the most problematic and confusing cooldown ability in the history of the game like Storm, Earth, and Fire is. Metamorphosis doesn’t spontaneously decrease your damage, or make other damage increases less of an increase. It doesn’t have weird interactions with trinkets or certain abilities and require constant workarounds just to function at a base level of function.
Its pretty clear that there’s currently a big gap between the performance in raids between Windwalker and Havoc. However, this is something that can be easily fixed with tuning changes. The damage that Havoc deals is at a very appropriate level, but the damage that Windwalker deals is too far down to justify the undeniable increase in complexity of the spec.
Many of the abilities that both Windwalker and Havoc have that are similar tend to do similar damage per cast. The problem is mostly that Havoc casts things massively more often, as Windwalker is bound by the restraints of resources available and Havoc is simply using things to fill all available time. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this difference in playstyles, as long as the damage is commensurate, which it currently isn’t.