Welcome to another Zen Meditation. It’s been a while since we’ve had one, but hopefully, you still remember the drill. Here, we’ll be taking a deep dive into a particular facet of Brewmaster Monks, be it an ability, talent, or one of the many quirks to this complicated specialization. This time, the talent up for conversation is Blackout Combo! From even the Dragonflight Beta, there were reasons to be excited about this talent, and it certainly has grabbed the attention of many Brewmasters across the community ever since. Now, with the progression of Dragonflight, is it finally time to give this talent a try? Let’s discuss this.
Blackout Combo’s History
Although it has only recently come back into the spotlight, Blackout Combo has existed as a talent in some form since the Legion expansion in 2016. Still, throughout its entire lifetime, the concept has remained the same: the next ability you cast after Blackout Kick (or Blackout Strike, back then) receives a bonus effect. For the most part, these effects have been consistent, ranging from bonus damage to an ability or extra cooldown reduction to even temporarily pausing your damage taken by Stagger! However, the primary bonus to focus on was its ability to buff Tiger Palm‘s damage by +200%. This, in combination with the Face Palm artifact trait’s chance to also increase Tiger Palm’s damage by another +200%, made Brewmasters into single-target monsters among the other tanks.
Of course, once Battle for Azeroth rolled around, this interaction was gutted. With the buff to Tiger Palm being reduced to only +100% damage and no Face Palm in sight, the talent was doomed to obscurity in favor of High Tolerance‘s free Haste and extra defense. Although there was a brief stint where the Pressure Point Azerite trait became viable; Blizzard swiftly nerfed it to avoid repeating history. Then, come Shadowlands, the talent remained similarly untouched and unselected.
So what changed about Blackout Combo in Dragonflight to suddenly make it an attractive choice? There are three (and a half) main reasons, which all boil down to one fundamental change: Dragonflight’s rework of the talent system. Before the new talent trees, Blackout Combo suffered from being stuck on the bottom talent row alongside High Tolerance and one other slot that kept changing every expansion (because it was never taken anyway). But now, Blackout Combo:
- No longer has to fight for a choice with High Tolerance, which was also nerfed and turned into a two-point talent.
- Received new/rebalanced effects that are more generally useful.
- Interacts with even more effects to further bolster its power.
Not so Tolerant
The first principal component in Blackout Combo‘s revival comes from changes to the High Tolerance Talent. Previously, this talent enjoyed a dominant spot in its choice row due to offering both extra Stagger and a ton of free Haste (8% just for having ANY Stagger at all, with up to 15% at Heavy Stagger). Really, there just wasn’t a way for another talent to compete against this much passive value. But now, with High Tolerance being made into a two-point passive that is also nerfed (granting only 4% more Stagger and up to 10% Haste with both points invested), it is easier to justify spending points on other talents instead.
Combo Your Way
Next, with Dragonflight’s new and improved talent trees came updates to Blackout Combo‘s effects
- Purifying Brew became the Stagger pausing effect
- Celestial Brew now grants three stacks of Purified Chi when comboed, buffing the cast itself.
- Breath of Fire deals +50% more damage when comboed and provides an additional +5% damage reduction.
These changes, along with Blackout Combo‘s talent position being directly on the way to Stormstout’s Last Keg, are also a big part of what makes this one of the more viable areas to spend just one point on for massive benefits. In particular, Breath of Fire‘s new interaction providing both increased damage and +5% more damage reduction (for a total of 10% at effectively all times) allows Blackout Combo to compete with all of the other defensive talent options available.
Combos on Combos
Finally, due to the sheer number of options available within Dragonflight’s talent trees, many of the choices also buff the power of Blackout Combo. In particular, Face Palm has returned–in a somewhat nerfed form–along with the Sal’salabim’s Strength talent offering many more casts of Breath of Fire. Simultaneously, Brewmasters have received other damage boosts through Ferocity of Xuen, Dragonfire Brew, and the new Counterstrike talent. Individually, these talents make for nice little boosts here and there to some significant parts of your rotation. Combine them all, though–since most buffs in WoW are just multiplied together–and things can get a little out of hand…
The graph above demonstrates the impact of all the ways Brewmasters have to buff the “baseline” damage of Tiger Palm and what happens when the stars align for them to happen simultaneously. For the sake of clarity, listed below are all the methods available just from Brewmaster’s talents and abilities to increase Tiger Palm’s damage. You can also multiply each number on the graph by your character’s Attack Power to see how much damage one of your Tiger Palms could do!
Tiger Palm Damage Modifiers
- Ferocity of Xuen (+4% at all times, included as part of the tooltip value)
- Mystic Touch (+5% Physical damage once you have hit the enemy)
- Face Palm (50% chance of +100%)
- Counterstrike (+100% after successfully dodging an attack)
- Blackout Combo (+100% when you choose to combo it)
- Weapons of Order (+32% on a fully-debuffed enemy)
- Critical Hit (+100%, based on your Critical Strike chance)
- Bonedust Brew (50% chance of +40% damage as a separate hit)
Essentially, there is a lot of different ways to buff Tiger Palm and almost as many to buff Breath of Fire too! Not to mention, there are additional modifiers from other players, like a Demon Hunter’s Chaos Brand (+5% Magic damage), a Warrior’s Battle Shout (+5% Attack Power), and your own Versatility and Critical Strike percentages as well! However, you’ll notice that most of the more significant buffs are tied to either a random chance (Face Palm) or a long cooldown (Weapons of Order). What makes Blackout Combo stand out from the rest is that there is no randomness to worry about; if you want to add +100% damage to your next Tiger Palm, all you have to do is cast Blackout Kick first and have at least 25 Energy to spare. If you get lucky enough to trigger Face Palm and Bonedust Brew on the hit while also being buffed with Counterstrike, all the better!
Becoming a Combo Master – How to Use Blackout Combo
Now that we have established what made Blackout Combo such a compelling talent choice in Dragonflight let’s discuss how to maximize its potential. Have you ever wanted to hit for over 200,000 damage with a single Tiger Palm? How about 50,000 from a Breath of Fire? Combo correctly, and it will happen more often than you might expect!
The first rule of Blackout Combo is perhaps the most obvious: cast Blackout Kick on cooldown! This priority is already how you should play Brewmaster (yes, even in AoE), but with this talent, it becomes even more crucial to maximize the number of times you can chain your abilities. If you aren’t already good at doing this, you may want to avoid this talent so you have less to worry about.
The next rule is similarly simple: you should avoid comboing with Purifying Brew and Celestial Brew. While occasionally powerful, both combos are very, very situational. Pausing Stagger sounds cool on paper, but in practice it is not very useful outside of a few niche cases where you cannot be healed. Similarly, comboing Celestial Brew is rarely valuable since you cannot go over 10 stacks of Purified Chi. Since it is easy to reach 10 stacks, you almost never need the extra 3 from the combo (it will not treat it as “13 stacks” of Purified Chi). If you know exactly why you need these bonuses, they’re great—but most of the time they accomplish nothing. In short: don’t combo with Brews.
After these two main rules, there is a relatively simple priority of what to combo for you to follow:
- Always combo Tiger Palm by default, as its damage increase is truly tremendous. Due to having Sal’salabim’s Strength talented and the relatively low damage of Keg Smash, you can often get away with delaying a single global cooldown of Keg Smash in favor of Tiger Palming first.
- Combo Breath of Fire if you are in need of a little more defense, or Keg Smash if you need a quick jolt of Brew cooldown reduction. Do not underestimate how much of a difference the extra cooldown reduction from comboing Keg Smash can make in an emergency.
One major part of the Blackout Combo playstyle to remember is that many of your abilities (Rushing Jade Wind, Spinning Crane Kick, Rising Sun Kick, etc.) have no interaction with the talent. This means that these abilities will not consume the buff and can be used as “gap-filling” globals while still allowing you to press Blackout Kick safely. For example, say you have Blackout Kick, Rising Sun Kick,
and Breath of Fire all off cooldown and ready to push. Rather than directly casting Blackout Kick into Breath of Fire, you can Blackout Kick, Rising Sun Kick, and then Breath of Fire to gain more damage while properly buffing your Breath! Taking advantage of this behavior is the hardest part of using Blackout Combo, so you will probably have to play around with it a lot to get the hang of things; don’t get discouraged!
Conclusion – Is it all Worth It?
Overall, Blackout Combo represents one of the true “wins” of the Dragonflight Talent rework. It has gone from a once-respected option that lost its reason to exist to now being both a compelling and powerful choice for Brewmaster Monks. At the same time, however, it is not so strong as to be a mandatory pickup, nor is it placed so that you have to select it to reach another talent you would prefer instead. Once you master its use, you can enjoy massive buffs to your single-target and AoE damage, or you can choose to greatly increase your total Brew cooldown reduction and defense as necessary, all for just one talent point! Of course, your overall damage potential is not being severely punished if you ignore it in favor of a rank of High Tolerance either. If you want the extra complexity, it’s there for the taking, but rest assured, you will still be more than good enough as a Brewmaster without it. The choice is yours.
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