Covenants are a big part of the next expansion with each of the four Covenants providing an additional ability for players to use. Rather than comment on the problems I forsee with this system, I wanted to spend some time focusing on what we think are the Covenant abilities that Monks will have available to them and how they affect Windwalkers. Since I haven’t gotten into Alpha, most of the ones for Monks were left out of the blog, and the only view I have of them is through what was datamined on MMOC and WoWhead, I’m not sure if what I’m commenting on is intended, but here goes.
Kyrian: Weapons of Order
I got to test this one at Blizzcon and I wasn’t a fan of how it felt. Because of our Mastery, having a reset on RSK is something we can’t use right away; even if you stocked up enough Chi, you cant RSK > RSK without losing Mastery, so either way you waste at least 1 second of the CD reset. That’s at least 10% of the value of that aspect of the ability lost right off the top. Last someone checked for me, Weapons of Order had a 1.5s GCD, which is not only 50% longer than a WW’s normal GCD, but it means that the now reset RSK will sit off CD For 2.5s before we can use it, which, at minimum is 25% of the CDR value, and can easily be 1/3 of the CDR value during Bloodlust. Windwalker has had many things in the past that have lost value because of the GCD or their interaction with Mastery, and they all feel awful, this one has both those problems plus extra.
The other aspect of this is the Chi cost reduction of other abilities. This also feels awful. Windwalker has one ability to dump Chi in single target and that’s BoK. We can’t use this too often because of Mastery, so we can’t dump Chi really at all in normal circumstances. The Kyrian ability takes away our ability to dump Chi during its duration; RSK will cost 2 Chi, but not benefit from its own buff, FoF will cost 2 Chi instead of 3, but only be usable twice during the duration of the Covenant ability, Whirling Dragon Punch is free, and now BoK doesn’t cost Chi anymore. We can’t spam it to take advantage of it being free, so we’re left to alternate using it between Tiger Palm, since the other abilities won’t be used more than once or twice during the 30 second buff. Tiger Palm still generates 2 Chi, so we’ll quickly be overwhelmed with resources. The only way to actually be resource negative is to use Spinning Crane Kick to just dump Chi, which, in single target actually does slightly less damage than BoK. So the choice is to overcap resources and lose damage, or cast a lesser damage ability and lose damage. The solution is to alternate BoK and Spinning Crane Kick to dump chi without using Tiger Palm, but because it will take 4 GCD to use the 2 Chi from any Tiger Palm you generate by going Tiger Palm > Spinning Crane Kick > BoK > Spinning Crane Kick, you’re still having to prioritize a lesser damage ability for the sake of saving resources and Mastery.
The 30 second duration means that no matter what you do, you’ll be overcapping resources for most of its duration, and the additional 15% Mastery means we’ll be extra punished by trying to take advantage of the extra resources.
Additionally, the 2 minute cooldown will make it awkward to use with Storm, Earth, and Fire consistently. It lines up with Xuen fine, but Xuen doesn’t benefit from Mastery, so there’s no reason to care about lining them up. It really would synergize well with Serenity since you’d have more FoF and RSK and since you’re already ignoring resources, it would let you just fill time with BoK > Spinning Crane Kick to keep Mastery without needing to use Tiger Palm, but Serenity is just not strong enough without changes to consider doing so, and Serenity has a 90s CD, which means you’d have to delay Serenity by 1/3 of its CD for them to line up.
This Kyrian Covenant ability will not only result in little to no damage increase, other than the 15% Mastery, but in order to get the benefit from that 15% Mastery, we have to basically ignore the rest of what it does.
Venthyr: Fallen Order
Opens a mirror for the next 24 sec, summoning reflections of your order’s fallen Ox, Crane, and Tiger adepts every 3 for 6 sec. Fallen Monks that have mastered [Ox][Crane][Tiger] Style will [attack your enemies with Keg Smash][heal with Renewing Mist][assault with Fists of Fury] and assist for an additional 2 sec.
This is one that there’s not any information on, so its unclear if all of the things that get summoned will have “mastered Tiger Style” or if its random what style they’ve mastered when they get summoned, or if there are some that will be summoned without any mastered style, or what.
This ability sounds like a randomized Storm, Earth, and Fire, which is already an ability that generally causes more problems than solution, so it doesn’t really inspire any excitement. It sounds like it will be visually very cool, but could be very random, and with so many problems with Storm, Earth, and Fire, I don’t see a world where this isn’t a heavily lamented Covenant ability.
Necrolord: Bonedust Brew
Hurl a brew created from the bones of your enemies at the ground, coating all targets struck for 10 sec. Your abilities have a 15% chance to affect the target a second time at 25% effectiveness as Shadow damage or healing.
**Windwalker** : Spinning Crane Kick refunds 1 Chi when striking enemies with your Bonedust Brew active
This is probably the least awful of the 4, as it can be very reasonable in AOE situations, since we can spam Spinning Crane Kick more often. However, in single target it will be useless unless you’re talented into Dance of Chi-Ji, which given correct tuning, won’t likely be used in single target over Hit Combo unless its overtuned.
The big problem is that its just another mechanic that gives Windwalkers more Chi, where the Mastery doesn’t make getting rid of excess Chi very easy, especially if that Chi comes in randomly.
Night Fae: Faeline Stomp
Strike the ground fiercely to expose a faeline for 30 sec, dealing (60% of Attack power) Nature damage (Windwalker) and ripping Chi and Energy Spheres out of enemies. Your abilities have a 10% chance of resetting the cooldown of Faeline Stomp while fighting on a faeline.
Hey look, *another* ability that gives extra resources to the spec that has a harder time using extra resources than almost any spec in the game. This is a very repetitive theme in Windwalker design in BfA and I’m sad to see it carrying over into Shadowlands. Windwalker doesn’t have the tools to spontaneously dump resources that appear randomly, so we have to play as if they’ll always be there and then suffer when they aren’t, or play talents like Ascension purely for the fact that it makes it easier to deal with random excess.
So clearly, I’m less than enthused about these Covenant abilities. I feel that 3 of them go against the way that Windwalker was changed to be in Legion, but was then forgotten entirely in BfA. Windwalker generally plays best with slower pace and increased planning. This insistence on giving Windwalker more resources than it can use just pushes Windwalker to a place that it wasn’t designed to be. The Mastery explicitly fights against dumping a lot of resources quickly, so a Windwalker plays best when you can plan how and when to dump resources in a way that benefits you, rather than panic dumping resources because you have no other choice.
It is OK to have a spec that requires more planning and attention, and attacks slower. Windwalker is designed to be the spec that you plan things out so that you have *enough* for what you need, whereas all the extra resources we have in BfA, or get from these Covenant Abilities, push us to throwing out the planning and just reacting so that we don’t have *too much* and drown.
Windwalkers are not Havoc Demon Hunters who have a no CD, medium damage, resource spender. This insistence on pushing Windwalkers to be closer to GCD capped at the expense of any flow or rhythm with the spec seems to fly in the fact of the design of Mastery and other changes that were made when it got “revamped” a bit going into Legion.
The pinnacle of Windwalker design is widely considered to be the 4p+2p+2p tier bonuses in Tomb of Sargeras, where Windwalkers barely cast BoK, and had the highest downtime in the history of the spec, but RSK benefited FoF and FoF benefited RSK, both abilities flowing one into the other, and Serenity moved the spec into a beautiful flow of martial arts prowess and interconnected abilities, without needing to rely on external sources or gimmicks to maximize damage.
However, it seems like that masterful design has gotten thrown aside because it benefited from a previous tier set, in today’s world of BoK reducing the CD of FoF and RSK, this playstyle could very easily live again just using the t20 4pc and 2pc as they were in their original state. Just because this playstyle came from an unintended interaction and situation, don’t punish its marvelousness.