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MMO Building Under WoW’s Shadow

April 29, 2014

Since I’ve been doing a lot of ruminating on Twitter recently, I decided to use Storify to compile some of my recent tweets about MMO endgame and WoW’s dominance of the market, in large part due to its superior raiding game. Below are a few preview tweets, and the full story is available here.

First Reactions to Mistweaver Alpha Changes

April 4, 2014

If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I spent the morning worrying about how much I dislike change. That said, I opened up the 6.0 patch notes when they went live last night and got as far as “most of our changes to Monks will focus on Mistweavers” before I fell into a panic.

Having had a night to sleep on it and also knowing full well that a lot of these changes were coming, I’m in a better position to comment today. Overall I have a lot of concerns with what I’m reading so far, less because I am worried about the effects it will have on class balance and more because what I see makes me think that some of the fundamental defining aspects of the Mistweaver spec are going to change.

The full text of the Mistweaver patch notes is available on Blizzard’s official site. That link will take you directly to the monk changes.

Mana – We Want You To Want It

About midway through the expansion, it became clear that mana was not valuable for Mistweavers. We tried some adjustments to solve that, but it proved too large of a change to make at the time.

Though the patch notes tell us that developers want us to start caring about mana regen in the ways that other healing classes do, there is little in the notes themselves that clarifies precisely how that will happen. The notes contain a general comment that mana will regen quickly at low levels but “it scale up less at later gear levels.” A series of tweets from Celestalon later clarified that the design is intended to reduce the amount of Chi we are able to generate and spend, which will thus reduce the stacks of Mana Tea we can generate. However, since the notes discussed nothing about changes to Mana Tea, Chi Brew, or their interactions with Critical Strike (which is a huge part of what allows us to ignore mana regen currently) it seems that we may not have several pieces of the Mistweaver puzzle yet.

Now perhaps nothing about Mana Tea or Chi Brew is changing, but that seems very unlikely given Blizzard’s stated goals. The problem with Mistweaver mana regen is pretty simple: we have active mana regeneration, which is something that no other healing spec in the game currently has. As long as active mana regen is our primary way to return mana, we are never going to care about passive mana regen (or about conserving mana) as much as other healing specs do. It is what currently sets monk healers apart from every other healer in the game. Now, what we’re hearing is that it’s a bad thing that we are such an outlier and that does make sense. Balancing all your healing specs is hard enough when they all at least interact with mana in the same ways.

Here’s my problem. I would prefer to see active mana regeneration as the way of the future of WoW’s healers, much like active mitigation is now standard procedure for WoW’s tanks. While I recognize that WoW’s developers believe that triage is the thing that will make healing “interesting” and “challenging” again, I’m going to exercise my right to maintain a decent bit of scepticism regarding how successful the idea of triage can be in this game.

Active mana regen is a way to make healers think about their mana without having to work some sort of development magic with stats every tier. It is not the concept of active regen in and of itself that has made Mistweavers turn a blind eye to concerns about Spirit and mana pools, but rather the interaction that Mana Tea and Chi Brew have with Critical Strike. If that imbalance were corrected and perhaps Mana Tea adjusted somewhat, our on-demand mana return capabilities might not be so overpowered.

Therefore, what I would prefer to see rather than finding some way to bring Mistweavers in line with other healing specs, is rather to give the other healing specs an active regen mechanic as well. Obviously I am biased after playing a monk for this expansion, but my experience has been that the meta game with active regen is vastly more interesting and challenging to master than triage or stacking Spirit will ever be.

The innate problem with forcing the importance of mana via triage or limited mana regen is that it will always be a question of your healers casting less. The goal in this setup is maximum effective healing with minimum overhealing, and that sounds like a pretty good thing at first glance. Unfortunately, as long as you have classes who provide a significant chunk of their healing via heal-over-time spells, there will always be some classes whose overheal numbers are much higher than others. Additionally, with the revelation that the majority of currently instant-cast spells will now have a cast time, we will all be casting relatively fewer spells over a fight’s duration.

Alternatively, active mana regen encourages planning ahead and rewarding that planning with a chance to cast even more heals. Personally, I will always find this to be a more compelling model because it means I am doing more over the course of a fight. For this to be balanced, however, there would likely need to be some “downside” introduced into active regen that penalizes using Mana Tea (or other similar abilities) at the wrong time. For example, perhaps using Mana Tea would always remove a minimum of 5 stacks per channel, regardless of whether you cancelled the channel early. If you suddenly had to move during the channel or if you were at 90% mana when you used Mana Tea, then you would not get the full benefit of those 5 stacks and have effectively wasted some of them.

Chi – Where Does It Come From?

Two of our current Chi generators will be out of the picture in Warlords:

Crackling Jade Lightning no longer generates Chi for Mistweaver Monks.

Soothing Mist no longer generates Chi for Mistweaver Monks.

As things currently stand, it looks like the primary Chi generators for Misteavers will be Renewing Mist, Surging Mist, and Expel Harm; whereas Fistweavers will have Jab, Surging Mist, and Expel Harm. Assuming Chi Brew remains unchanged, this will also provide us with a cooldown Chi generator.

Per the Celesatlon tweets linked above, it is clear that we will be generating and spending Chi much more slowly than we currently do. This is probably my biggest concern with everything we have heard thus far. It seems that the way Mistweavers are to be brought in line with the rest of the healing classes is to effectively slow us down, via both the changes to Chi generation and to our GCD, which I will discuss below. It feels like a somewhat inelegant solution to our problem, and one that makes me worry that we will lose some of our overall flavor as a result. Mistwavers’ interaction with Chi and Mana and the fast flowing nature of that interaction is easily my favorite thing about our spec.

Haste – Playing the GCD Game

All abilities available to Mistweavers now have a 1.5 second global cooldown (up from 1 second).

Stance of the Wise Serpent no longer increases Haste from items by 50%.

Focus and Harmony is a new passive ability for Mistweaver Monks.

  • Focus and Harmony: Haste effects lower the global cooldown of your spells and abilities.

Currently Mistweavers have a 1 second GCD, which the patch notes say was to “to give them a faster combat feel.” Because that has made us devalue Haste, however, it means that our GCD will have a baseline of 1.5 seconds in Warlords and that any additional Haste we get from our gear or other effects will lower it.

Again, this is aimed not only at making us value Haste more than we do now but also at generally slowing down our playstyle. While this may serve to make Haste slightly more attractive to us overall, it is hard to imagine that anything will be able to beat Critical Strike if Mana Tea and Chi Brew remain unchanged, as discussed above.

Fistweaving - Changing Your Stance

As we’ve known for a while, Fistweaving will now require its own stance called the Stance of the Spirited Crane. Our Spell-Power-to-Attack-Power conversion effect and the passive Eminence, which previously allowed us to effectively DPS in Wise Serpent Stance, will now only be a part of Spirited Crane. This means we will need to choose whether we want to be Fistweavers or Mistweavers, although we will be able to swap between the two stances during a fight without penalty.

As a part of this change, certain DPS spells will only be able to be cast in Spirited Crane and certain healing spells will only be able to be cast in Wise Serpent:

The following abilities now require Stance of the Wise Serpent for Mistweavers:

  • Enveloping Mist, Renewing Mist, Soothing Mist, Uplift

The following abilities now require Stance of the Spirited Crane for Mistweavers:

  • Blackout Kick, Jab, Tiger Palm

Again all of this is expected and necessary, though it is a little disappointing to see Mistweavers being pulled back from that true hybrid style that many of us enjoyed. Still, as long as the penalty for swapping stances remains relatively minor (such as a GCD), then we will still have plenty of freedom of choice about whether we want to traditionally heal or damage-t0-heal over the course of a fight.

There are a few other common sense changes that follow from this separation:

Teachings of the Monastery now makes Spinning Crane Kick heal friends instead of damaging enemies, while in Stance of the Wise Serpent (previously, it would heal allies in addition to damaging enemies).

Mastery: Gift of the Serpent’s Healing Spheres now scale with Spell Power instead of Attack Power.

Serpent’s Zeal has been removed. Eminence now always includes Auto Attacks.Muscle Memory and Vital Mists have been merged.

Muscle Memory now requires Stance of the Spirited Crane, and passively increases the damage of Crackling Jade Lightning by 100%, causes Tiger Palm to trigger the Vital Mists effect, and causes Blackout Kick to hit 4 additional nearby targets for 50% damage.

Healing Spheres – Now Smarter & Explodeier

When a player runs through multiple Healing Spheres at once, only as many as needed to heal the player to full health will be consumed (instead of all of them if the player is injured at all).

Healing Spheres from Gift of the Serpent now heal an injured ally within 12 yards (up from 6 yards) for 100% (up from 50%) of their normal effect, when they expire.

Detonate Chi is a new spell available to Mistweavers:

  • Detonate Chi: Instantly detonate all of your Healing Spheres, causing each of them to heal a nearby ally within 12 yards of the sphere. 15 sec cooldown.

The changes to running through multiple spheres and the buff to the radius and healing done from our Mastery spheres will be very helpful for quality of life. Detonate Chi sounds like it should be a fun ability that is high risk/high reward and will require smart usage to get the most out of it. I am definitely looking forward to experimenting with it as soon as possible.

Questions & Concerns

Overall, I am worried that the Mistweaver spec may lose some of its appeal and flavor as a result of the changes here. I am most concerned about the forced slowing down of our Chi generation and spending in order to equalize our mana concerns with those of other healers.

I also am unconvinced that, without changing Critical Strike’s interaction with Mana Tea and Chi Brew, Mistweavers will be likely to desire Spirit or Haste on their gear. Critical Strike seems, in this very early stage, as if it will still provide the best return – and that return may still be powerful enough that the changes to Chi generation will not significantly alter our dependence on mana.

If the changes to Chi generation are successful, however, I am also worried that we may actually have a huge learning curve at the start of this expansion. It is impossible to understate how huge a change in our playstyle this would be if we truly go from focusing entirely on active mana regen to instead looking at mana as other healers do. This, I feel, would be a large step backwards in Mistweaver design philosophy.

Contrary to most of what we usually read, Mistweavers are in some ways the healers who spend the most time thinking about their mana. While we are usually not worried about running out of it per se, we are extremely concerned about spending enough of it that we generate the stacks of Mana Tea we need. Going OOM is neither fun nor compelling, and being scared to cast because we might go OOM is equally frustrating. Learning how to spend mana when necessary and then having complete control over how much and when we get that mana back – THAT is what defines this spec to me.

Talking Mistweavers on the Training Dummies

January 7, 2014
by

I’m dropping in on the Training Dummies podcast tomorrow evening to discuss all things Mistweavers. You can learn more about the podcast on their website or Twitter, and the podcast will be streamed live on their Twitch channel when we record tomorrow night. Please drop in to talk Mistweavers and ask lots of fun monk questions!

What:  Training Dummies
When:  Wednesday, January 8 @ 11 pm EST / 8 pm PST
Where:  Twitch Channel / Website

Mistweaver 101: UI & WeakAuras

January 7, 2014

ui and auras

Today we will discuss setting up a UI for a Mistweaver Monk. Obviously, UI choices can be very subjective so what works for me may not be ideal for you. Overall I have found that playing a Mistweaver, particularly if you intend to do much Fistweaving, requires a slightly more complicated setup than most other healing specs.  Your UI must be able to function for both healing and DPSing purposes, and this can make for a lot of keybinds and/or mousebinds.

My UI

My UI

I use Shadowed Unit Frames to manage my unit frames, as seen in the player and target portraits above. Shadowed Unit Frames is more or less ready to go out of the box, and I will not discuss it in this post as it is not particular to my Mistweaver setup. The other addons you can see in this image are Vex Power, for managing Mana and Chi, and WeakAuras for tracking cooldowns.

Read more…

Mistweaver 101: Cooldowns, Talents, & Glyphs

December 26, 2013

MW Cooldowns

Today we will review the Cooldowns, Talents, and Glyphs that we regularly use as Mistweaver Monks. This post will primarily focus on the uses of these abilities in raiding environments. An upcoming post will suggest some ways to get the most of your cooldowns and talents in specific fights in Siege of Orgrimmar.

Raid Cooldowns

revivalRevival

Revival is a large, instant heal that affects everyone within 100 yards of you. It also dispels all Magic, Poison, and Disease effects from anyone it hits. It can be used once every 3 minutes.

Revival is our go-to major raid cooldown. Because it is instant, however, and not channeled like Tranquility or Divine Hymn, it can be a difficult to decide when in a major damage spike we should use it. My rule of thumb is generally to use it as far into a damage spike as I comfortably can, to ensure that it does as little overhealing as possible and so that players come out of the damage phase relatively close to full health. Alternatively, if much of the raid is low and I know we are about to go into a major damage phase, I may use it in advance to make sure we keep everyone standing.

While the dispel is incredibly helpful, you generally do not want to use this cooldown for the dispel alone since the heal is so powerful. The only time I have found it helpful to use Revival primarily for the dispell is on the second or third door on Horridon, where the stacking poisons and diseases could quickly become unmanageable at lower gear levels.

life cocoonLife Cocoon

Life Cocoon places a large shield on your target that also increases all “periodic healing” taken by 50%. (Periodic healing means heal-over-time and channeled spells like your Renewing Mist, a Druid’s Rejuvenation, a Priest’s Renew, and so forth.) The tooltip says that it lasts for 12 seconds, but this is misleading. Life Cocoon will only last for a full 12 seconds if the entire shield isn’t consumed in that time.

Currently, my Life Cocoon usually places around a 600,000 absorb shield on its target. If I put that on my one of my tanks, then it is probably going to be consumed before that 12 seconds is over, depending upon what abilities the boss is using at that time. All of this means that the increase to periodic healing isn’t really the main selling point of the spell, and it’s not something that you want to count on.

Use Life Cocoon when your tank is taking a large amount of damage, or when they are below 50% health and you need a bit of a buffer to give yourself time to heal them back up. You can use it when you know they are about to take a big hit, or if they call that they are out of cooldowns. You can also use it on DPS who have pulled aggro (if you feel like saving them), or really anyone who is taking a large amount of damage in a short period of time.

If you glyph Life Cocoon, then you can use it while you are stunned. This can be very helpful in PvP situations, but has limited use in a raiding environment.

Personal Cooldowns

Fortifying BrewFortifying Brew

Fortifying Brew is a standard damage reduction cooldown that increases our health by 20% and reduces the damage we take by 20% for 20 seconds. It has a 3 minute cooldown and we should use it anytime we know there will be a large damage spike.

Fortifying Brew can be modified with a glyph that changes the spell so that our damage taken is reduced by 25%, but our health is only increased by 10%. For healing Monks there is little difference to Fortifying Brew’s effectiveness regardless of whether we take the glyph, so we are likely to bypass it in favor of 3 Major Glyphs that modify our healing.

zen meditationZen Meditation

Zen Meditation is probably our least understood personal cooldown. It reduces our damage taken by 90% and it can redirect up to 5 harmful spells cast against your allies to you. It can be channeled for up to 8 seconds and has a 3 minute cooldown. If you are are the victim of a melee hit, however, the channel will end.

It is important to understand that the redirect portion of this spell will work against almost nothing in a raiding environment. There are a few exceptions to this rule in Siege of Orgrimmar, but they are all abilities cast by trash packs or adds rather than bosses themselves. As a general rule, Zen Meditation’s redirect will usually work on anything that a Shaman’s Grounding Totem or a Warrior’s Spell Reflect also works on. In short, don’t count on the redirect to work on anything while you are raiding. If it does, that’s a bonus.

The main benefit of Zen Meditation is the 90% damage reduction. As stated in the tooltip, a melee hit will cancel the channel so you cannot use it to save yourself if you have adds swarming you. While I have not personally tested this, the comments on the WoWHead page indicate that it will absorb the damage from the very first melee hit you take, after which it will cancel. The spell can also be glyphed so that you can channel it while moving (meaning you will need to hit Escape if you want to stop channeling it.)

Zen Meditation is best used when there is a large and predictable damage spike, especially if that spike happens in a single hit. A single hit is preferable because, while you are channeling Zen Meditation, you will not be able to heal or do anything else. Thus, if you use Zen Meditation through the large hit and then immediately cancel it, you will have negated the damage and also be able to quickly heal up the rest of your team. In some fights, Zen Meditation can also allow you to solo abilities that would usually require a group to stack up in order to split the damage. (This was particularly helpful for Static Shock on Lei Shen, for example.)

Talents

Since the talent changes made at the start of Mists of Pandaria, there is no standard set of talent choices for a spec 100% of the time. I frequently go through at least a stack of Tomes of the Clear Mind in a raid night. That said, below we will discuss each of the talents available to us and when we might want to use them.

Tier 1 – Movement

talents15

Celerity allows us to Roll 3 times instead of 2, and it also reduces the cooldown on our Roll to 15 seconds instead of 20. This talent can be very helpful in movement-heavy fights where we need to move frequently but not necessarily travel a long distance.

Tiger’s Lust is a buff that we can place on ourselves or our teammates that increases movement speed by 70% for 6 seconds and also clears all immobilizing and movement-impairing effects. It has a 30 second cooldown. Because a single Roll is often enough for me to get out of harm’s way, I often take Tiger’s Lust so that I can give it to one of my teammates who does not have a speed burst.

Momentum gives us a 25% speed increase for 10 seconds after we Roll. The buff can stack, so if we Roll twice in a row, we will get a 50% speed increase. This talent is helpful in fights when it is necessary to have a speed boost for a long period of time, such as when we need to kite adds or maneuver through a very large room.

Each of these 3 abilities is perfectly viable in most PvE situations and this tier choice is largely personal preference. I generally run with Tiger’s Lust because it is the only choice that allows me to provide a speed boost to someone else if they need it.

Tier 2 – Free Healing

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Chi Wave has a 15 second cooldown and can be cast on either a friendly or enemy target to do damage or healing. It will then “bounce,” up to 7 times, from an ally to an enemy to an ally, and so forth. It always bounces from ally to enemy, never to 2 allies or 2 enemies in a row; and if there are no more enemies to damage, then the spell will simply end. Chi Wave is the best option in this tier for fights that require the raid group to be spread out, as the other 2 talents are dependent upon your raid being grouped up.

Zen Sphere is a heal-over-time that lasts for 16 seconds with a 10 second cooldown – meaning you can have it up on 2 targets at once. This spell will place an orb over its target’s head that pulses for both healing and damage every 2 seconds. If its target reaches 35% health, then the sphere will detonate for an added burst of damage and healing. It will also detonate if it is allowed to expire, which you should allow it to do. You will never want to refresh a Zen Sphere on the same target or you will not get the burst of damage and healing it does when it detonates at the end. When I use this spell, I typically place either a sphere on each tank or 1 sphere in melee and 1 in ranged. I find that it is most helpful in fights that require my team to group up but are not suited to Chi Burst.

Chi Burst has a 1 second cast and is a “skill shot” ability, meaning that the spell does not require a target but will instead fire out in the direction your character is facing when she casts the spell. Chi Burst will always heal you, and it will also heal or damage any ally or enemy that it hits along its path. This talent has a 30 second cooldown and can be great for any fights that require your raid group to stack tightly, or on fights that have low-health adds spawning on regular intervals. It actually does quite a lot of damage and can easily help your group quickly pick off a pack of adds. That said, if you have difficulty with the skill shot mechanic and worry that you might not be able to consistently aim the spell, I would recommend choosing something else.

I frequently swap between these 3 talents depending upon the mechanics of a fight. For a fight like Thok, during which most of my raid group will be stacked up but I do not want to have to worry about a cast time, I will take Zen Sphere. On a fight where my raid group is stacked and we will have adds on a predictable timer (such as Sha of Pride), I may take Chi Burst. If the group is spread out, or if I intend to Fistweave for the majority of a fight, then I will take Chi Wave. When I am first learning a fight, I usually default to Chi Wave as it requires the least setup and is most forgiving if the group is not tightly stacked.

Tier 3 – Chi Modifiers

talents45

Power Strikes is a passive ability that procs every 20 seconds and causes our next Jab, Soothing Mist, Spinning Crane Kick, Expel Harm, or Crackling Jade Lightning to generate 1 additional Chi. Essentially, each of those abilities will now generate 2 Chi instead of 1 every 20 seconds. If you are already at maximum Chi, a Chi Sphere will be summoned near you. These are small grey spheres that you can walk through to gain back 1 Chi. 

Ascension is a passive that increases your maximum Chi by 1 (so that you will have a possible total of 5 Chi instead of 4) and which increases your maximum Mana by 15%. 

Chi Brew is an active ability that has 2 charges, and for each charge it will give you 2 Chi and 2 stacks of Mana Tea. Each charge has a 45 second cooldown. You can use the charges back to back and you will have 1 charge back again after 45 seconds, and a second charge will return an additional 45 seconds after that.

As discussed in the Chi & Mana post, Chi Brew is currently considered a “mandatory” Mistweaver talent. While Ascension may seem appealing because it increases our Mana pool,  Chi Brew is superior because of the on-demand stacks of Mana Tea and the burst healing that 2 guaranteed Chi can provide.

Tier 4 – Crowd Control

talents60

Ring of Peace places a green circle around yourself or a team member that lasts for 8 seconds. Any enemies inside the circle will be instantly silenced and disarmed for 4 sec. If the enemies within the circle attack or cast harmful spells, they will be disarmed and silenced for an additional 4 sec. This ability does not work on raid bosses themselves, but it can work on many of the adds in most raid environments. If you have adds who need to be silenced or disarmed, and who are usually in range of at least one member of your group, then this spell can be helpful. Ring of Peace has a 45 second cooldown.

Charging Ox Wave is another “skill shot” ability like Chi Burst, meaning that it will fire out in a straight line from the direction that your character is facing. It will travel 3o yards in front of you and stun all enemies that it hits for 3 seconds. It has a 30 second cooldown. I tend to prefer Charging Ox Wave for any fights that have adds that need to be controlled because I can fire it off from a distance without having to check if there is a friendly player in range as I would with Ring of Peace. Again, as with Chi Burst, the downside to this spell is that managing the skill shot aspect can take some practice.

Leg Sweep is an area of effect ability that knocks down any enemies within 5 yards of you and stuns them for 5 seconds. The short range means that you will need to be quite close to the enemies that you want to stun, but it can still be very helpful when you need to get away from a mob that is attacking you or help your group control a pack of adds.

Any of these talents can be useful on fights with adds that are able to be stunned, disarmed, or silenced. Keep in mind that Charging Ox Wave is a “skill shot,” meaning that you do not have to be near a mob to stun it, as you would with Leg Sweep, but it also means that you probably don’t want to take it if you have difficulty accurately aiming the shot.

Tier 5 – Personal Damage Reduction

talents75

Healing Elixirs is a passive ability that can proc every 18 seconds. If you fall below 35% health, Healing Elixirs will heal you for 15% of your health. Also, if you drink your Chi Brew or Mana Tea while you are injured, you will be healed for 15% of your health. This talent is generally not taken by Mistweaver Monks, both because we should constantly be healing ourselves with Expel Harm (which has a much shorter cooldown) and because the other 2 abilities in the tier are much stronger for us.

Dampen Harm is a self-buff that has 3 charges, which last for 45 seconds or until all 3 charges have been used up. If a damaging ability hits you that would deal more than 20% of your health, Dampen Harm will reduce the damage you take by half. Dampen Harm has a 90 second cooldown and you can cast it while you are stunned. It is helpful on fights that have very large hits within a 45 second period. It is important to remember that the actual damage per hit must be large (more than 20% of your health) in order to proc the charges. Therefore, this ability would not be helpful on a fight in which there is a lot of sustained, small hits going out over a period of time.

Diffuse Magic is a very powerful self-buff that reduces all spell damage taken by 90% for 6 seconds. Because it only reduces spell damage, it is important to review a boss’ abilities before the fight starts to see whether the large damage spikes are physical or spell damage. In most cases, you will find that the largest hits (for non-tanks) are from spell damage, and so this talent will usually be your strongest choice. Diffuse Magic has a 90 second cooldown.

Healing Elixirs is not helpful for Mistweaver Monks. Diffuse Magic is generally the best possible choice in this tier, unless a fight has major physical damage spikes. I generally only take Dampen Harm for the Iron Juggernaut fight so that I can help my raid team by soaking Crawler Mines. In most fights in Siege of Orgrimmar, I prefer Diffuse Magic. It is also important to remember that as you gear up and gain additional health, Dampen Harm may not actually proc on the same abilities that it used to because 20% of your health would now require a larger hit.

Tier 6 – DPS Abilities

talents90

Rushing Jade Wind replaces our Spinning Crane Kick ability and changes the spell. Instead of being out of control of our character when we use this ability, Rushing Jade Wind places a healing wind around us that heals our allies and damages our enemies. It lasts for 6 seconds and, just like Spinning Crane Kick, it generates 1 Chi if it heals or damages at least 3 targets. Rushing Jade Wind provides more powerful healing and damage than Spinning Crane Kick does. Remember that if you do take this talent, you should not take Glyph of Spinning Crane Kick because you will already be able to move at 100% movement speed. Rushing Jade Wind can be helpful in fights that require your group to be tightly stacked and that have a lot of group damage.

Invoke Xuen will summon a controllable tiger pet that attacks your primary target and also does area-of-effect lightning damage to enemies within 10 yards of himself. Xuen lasts for 45 seconds and has a 3 minute cooldown. Xuen provides a decent burst of passive damage (and healing via Eminence) and can be helpful on nearly any fight. Xuen also requires the least amount of management on your part of the talent choices in this tier, so if you aren’t comfortable with the way that Rushing Jade Wind or Chi Torpedo work, then Xuen is probably a good choice for you.

Chi Torpedo replaces your Roll ability and makes you travel farther than Roll. When you use Chi Torpedo, you will travel approximately 25 yards and you will heal and deal damage to any enemies or allies who are in your path. Essentially this is a free ability that can potentially do a very large amount of healing if you are good at aiming it. If you choose to take Chi Torpedo, you should certainly pair it with the Celerity talent in the first tier so that you are able to use it 3 times rather than 2. You generally would not want to take Chi Torpedo if your raid group is too spread out to be able to hit several targets, or if you absolutely need your Roll ability for mechanics that require you to move quickly.

Chi Torpedo can be a very powerful healing ability if your raid group is tightly stacked and if you are comfortable with aiming the spell. While Rushing Jade Wind can be a very powerful group heal, it does require your group to be tightly stacked and can be a strain on your Mana. Xuen is a good choice for fights that require the raid to spread out, or if you are not comfortable with the additional management that goes into using either Chi Torpedo or Rushing Jade Wind.

Glyphs

For the most of raid encounters, you will want to choose three of the following Major Glyphs:

Glyph of Renewing Mist changes Renewing Mist so that it jumps to the furthest player within 40 yards of the original target, rather than the closest player within 20 yards.  The glyph is desirable especially in raiding situations when a group has to be spread out. I generally prefer to run with this glyph, as the number of situations where I would prefer that Renewing Mist is capable of traveling 40 yards greatly outnumbers the times when I’d prefer that it stayed within 20.

Glyph of Surging Mist is recommended if you are Fistweaving because it will make your Surging Mist into a smart heal that automatically heals an injured player without you needing to target them. It is not especially helpful when you are not Fistweaving because if you cast Surging Mist while channeling Soothing Mist, then you will still only be able to heal your Soothing Mist target with that cast. As such, the glyph is relatively pointless for a stand-back-and-heal style Mistweaver because we never hard cast Surging Mist.

Glyph of Enduring Healing Spheres increases the duration of our Healing Spheres (both those we summon manually and those generated from our Mastery) to 4 minutes. While we rarely cast Healing Spheres during a raid fight, we often end up generating quite a lot of them through our Mastery. My raid group has become especially adept at picking up the “green power pellets” and so I end up doing a very respectable amount of healing from my spheres over the course of a fight. Simply put, the longer your Healing Spheres last, the higher the probability that someone will run through them (even unintentionally) at some point during the fight.

Glyph of Spinning Crane Kick should be used anytime that you intend to make use of Spinning Crane Kick in an encounter so that you will be able to move at 100% speed while you channel the spell. It should not be used if you take the Rushing Jade Wind talent.

Glyph of Zen Meditation allows you to use Zen Meditation while moving, and it can be useful in fights where you need to mitigate a large hit of damage while on the move. Remember that if you take this glyph, you will need to hit Escape or use a /cancelaura macro to end the channel.

Remember, as discussed in the Chi & Mana post, the one glyph you currently do not want to take as a Mistweaver is the Glyph of Mana Tea.

Up Next: UI & WeakAuras

The next post in the series will cover some of the Mistweaver-specific challenges you may face when you set up your healing UI. I will also review the WeakAuras that I use on my Monk and provide export strings for those auras. As always, questions and comments are welcome!

Mistweaver Q&A

December 20, 2013

I’m taking a break from guide writing today, but I wanted to pause for a moment to point out some good questions that have been asked so far.

First up, from @liopleurodonic:
Q:  “If you’re focused on fistweaving, is it better to use a traditional healer stat stick or should you consider weapon damage first?”

A:  You want a traditional healer stat stick and weapon damage doesn’t matter a bit to you. The reason for this is our Stance of the Wise Serpent, which makes our attack power equal to 200% of our spell power and makes it so that we no longer benefit from other sources of attack power. This conversion gives us enough attack power via our spellpower that it would greatly outweigh any difference in weapon damage from one weapon to another. Additionally, only our damage (and thus the healing done via our damage) would benefit from an increase in attack power, whereas our entire healing arsenal benefits from increases to spellpower and Intellect.

Next, from @Zelgadys14:
Q:  “Wondering if you can talk about what is the desired rotation for fistweaving?”

A: Unfortunately there really isn’t a rotation, per se. Similarly, one of the comments on the Fistweaving post pondered whether it is “even POSSIBLE to do a full fistweaving rotation … and be viable from a mana perspective.” As the commenter rightly pointed out, if you shouldn’t Jab twice in a row, then it becomes difficult to build up multiple Chi at a time to use Blackout Kick, Uplift, etc. This is really where the “weaving” aspect of Fistweaving comes into play.

Obviously you aren’t going to do a ton of healing and you are likely to get bored really quickly if all you ever do is Jab and then Tiger Palm to consume the 1 Chi you generated. So that means that if you choose to Fistweave, you will still be constantly working your healing spells into your rotation as well. Expel Harm should still be used every time you are below 100% health. You should still frequently use Renewing Mist so that it is already on the raid if you need to uplift. The free and instant Surging Mists you get from Vital Mists will still grant you 1 Chi, so you will get an extra 1 Chi for every 5 Tiger Palms.

From Gruffertus on the Chi & Mana post:
Q:  “Mana Tea is a buff that stacks to 20, and Mana Tea is also a channeled spell that returns 8% mana per second. What’s the connection between them? What’s the difference between channeling at 1 stack and 20?

A:  You have an ability that you can use called Mana Tea. Mana Tea the activated ability can only be used if you have a least 1 stack of the buff, also called Mana Tea. So the button for the active ability will be greyed out until you have at least 1 stack of the buff.

Having multiple stacks of the buff increases the amount of time that you can channel the activated ability, and thus the amount of Mana you can return. So if you have 10 stacks of the buff, you will be able to return 40% of your Mana over a 5 second channeled cast – if you allow the full channel. If you have 10 stacks but only need to get 20% of your Mana back, then you simply press the active ability and then move/cancel the cast once you’ve gotten back as much Mana as you need. You lose stacks of Mana Tea as you channel the spell. So if I start with 20 stacks and I channel long enough to use up 10 of them, I will still have 10 stacks left to use later.

Finally, from Andrew on a comment on the Fistweaving post:
Q:  “Roughly speaking, how much of a DSP gain/healing loss is Fistweaving?”

A:  Believe it or not, I happen to have some specific data on this, thanks to working on Heroic Fallen Protectors last night. I began the fight standing back and doing traditional healing, until it became apparent that our DPS would not be able to beat the enrage timer if I didn’t help out and Fistweave. (I recognize the intense irony of that statement, given my assertion yesterday that Fistweaving is not mandatory for success. But as I also pointed out yesterday, for different raid groups at different points in their progression, various things may be considered “mandatory” that are completely optional for folks who are doing LFR, Flex, or Normal raiding. In a 10-man heroic fight with slightly low DPS, I found it was necessary to Fistweave to defeat the encounter.)

But I digress.  Comparing 2 pulls of Heroic Fallen Protectors, one where I did not Fistweave and one where I did, I see my HPS output drop by about 40,000 when I was Fistweaving. I see myself drop from top healing to second on the meters. My damaging abilities did around 90,000 DPS, for about 5% of the total damage done. This is in 565 iLevel gear in a 10-man raid setting, and during a fight that has a pretty significant amount of both tank and group damage going out. Obviously your mileage (and mine) is going to vary somewhat depending upon your gear, your raid, and the fight.

***

Thanks very much to everyone reading for all the positive feedback, questions, comments, and for passing these guides along to your friends. I really do appreciate it and we will get back into the next portion of the guide over the weekend.  I am also looking to stream some Mistweaver 101 content in the near future, so please subscribe to my Twitch channel if you would be interested in viewing that.

Mistweaver 101: Fistweaving

December 19, 2013

MW Fistweaving

Today we are finally going to talk about “Fistweaving!” I spent the first few posts in the series dancing around this topic specifically because it can be very difficult to understand and to do well. This guide will explain what exactly Fistweaving means, how it works, when we should use it, when we shouldn’t use it, and whether it is essential to Mistweaver healing.

It is also very important to note that the information contained below will certainly change with the release of Warlords of Draenor. Celestalon, one of the Blizzard game designers who is now handling most class design questions, has confirmed that Fistweaving will be substantially changed in the new expansion. Currently, Mistweavers can use both healing and damaging abilities in our healing stance. Blizzard intends to change this in Warlords of Draenor and create 2 separate stances – one specifically for Fistweaving and another for a more traditional stand-back-and-heal method. Thus, any information outlined below is likely to hold up only until we get a 6.0 patch.

What is Fistweaving?

Mistweaver Monks are able to heal our allies using our damaging abilities, and this is known as “Fistweaving.” The reason we are able to do so is because of a passive ability called Eminence. We gain the Eminence passive anytime that we are in Stance of the Wise Serpent. Since Wise Serpent is one of the abilities we learn as soon as we choose the Mistweaver spec at level 10, we are able to provide healing by doing damage from level 10 onward, though some of the specific buffs and debuffs we apply will come later.

Eminence converts 25% of the damage we do into healing, and it will only heal allies who are within 20 yards of us. Additionally, only non-autoattack damage will be converted to healing, so we cannot simply right click on the boss and do nothing else.  Non-autoattack damage is any ability we must actually click/press to use (Jab, Tiger Palm, etc). Eminence is a “smart heal,” meaning that you cannot control who is healed by the damage you do. It will automatically heal an injured player in your group.

Our Jade Serpent Statue also interacts with the damage we do. The statue has its own version of the Eminence spell, which also converts 25% of your damage done to healing. The effects can stack, which means that if someone is within 20 yards of you and within 20 yards of your statue, then they will receive 50% of your damage as healing.

How do Mistweavers DPS?

Mistweaver Monks have 5 abilities that we use for damage:

JabJab

Jab is our primary Chi generator when we are Fistweaving. It has a high Mana cost (8% of our Mana) and always generates 1 Chi. Note that the spell icon for Jab will change depending upon what type of weapon you have equipped. We must be within melee range of our target to hit them with Jab.

Tiger PalmTiger Palm

Tiger Palm costs 1 Chi and deals a moderate amount of damage to our target. It also applies a debuff to our target called Tiger Power, which allows our attacks to ignore 30% of our enemy’s armor. The debuff lasts for 2o seconds.

Each time you use Tiger Palm, you will gain a stack of a buff called Vital Mists, which reduces the cast time and Mana cost of your next Surging Mist by 20%. The buff stacks up to 5 times, and at 5 stacks your Surging Mist will cost no Mana and be instant cast.

This is where the Glyph of Surging Mist that we discussed yesterday can be handy. If you have an enemy targeted to do damage but want to use a free, instant-cast Surging Mist to heal an injured ally, then the glyph will allow you to do so without having to swap targets.  The usefulness of this really depends upon how your action bars and interface are set up. Personally, since I use keybinds for damaging attacks and mousebinds via VuhDo for healing spells, it is just as easy for me to keep my hostile target and click in VuhDo to heal the person I want with my Surging Mist. Others may prefer to keep Surging Mist as a keybind and will find the glyph more helpful in that case. We’ll discuss some of the pros and cons of both setups in the upcoming UI post.

Blackout KickBlackout Kick

Blackout Kick costs 2 Chi and for Mistweavers it will hit not only your primary target for full damage, but also up to 4 additional nearby targets for 50% damage.

Blackout Kick also gives us the Serpent’s Zeal buff, which lasts for 30 seconds and allows our autoattacks to heal for 25% of their damage done. As with Eminence, Serpent’s Zeal affects our Jade Serpent Statue, causing it to also heal for 25% of our auto attack damage. Also as with Eminence, these 2 buffs can stack so that our autoattacks will do 50% of their damage as healing to any injured players who are in range of both the Mistweaver and her statue.

This means that as long as both we and our statue are within 20 yards of everyone in the raid group, and as long as we keep the Serpent’s Zeal buff up on ourselves, we will heal our group for 50% of our autoattack damage and 50% of our non-autoattack damage.

crackling jade lightningCrackling Jade Lightning

Crackling Jade Lightning is our ranged damaging spell. Like Soothing Mist, it has a 30% chance to generate 1 Chi. This is not something that we would work into a normal melee Fistweaving rotation, but if we are forced to stand at range then it is a way to continue dealing damage and generating Chi.

Spinning Crane KickSpinning Crane Kick

Spinning Crane Kick is an area-of-effect (AoE) damaging and healing spell that will generate 1 Chi as long as it hits (meaning damages or heals) at least 3 targets. For 2.25 seconds, it will spin your character around and slow her movement by 30% while it deals damage or heals anyone within 8 yards. If you intend to use this ability regularly, you should take the glyph that will remove the movement speed penalty. You are not entirely in control of your character when you use Spinning Crane Kick, in that you can still move her but you cannot use any other abilities until it finishes. If for some reason it is necessary, you can cancel the channel with a /cancelaura macro or by right clicking the buff on your character.

In order to generate the 1 Chi from hitting 3 targets, you can hit 3 different targets at any point during the channel of the spell. If you hit 2 targets at the start but miss another that is close by, you can move to that target before the channel ends to ensure that you generate your Chi.

Spinning Crane Kick actually does quite a bit of damage and is a great way to pick off low-health targets in a 5-man dungeon or a raid trash pack. It does, however, cost 7.2% of your Mana each time you cast it, so it is unlikely that you will be able to use it several times in a row without running out of Mana.

Choosing the Rushing Jade Wind talent in your level 90 talent tier will transform this spell and change the way that it works. We will cover that change in the Cooldowns, Talents, & Glyphs post in this series.

Fistweaving Mana Management

Fistweaving can be incredibly Mana-intensive if you are not careful about how your abilities interact with each other. As you can see above, our primary Chi generator is quite expensive. To counteract this, we have a passive ability called Muscle Memory.

Muscle Memory is a buff that will appear on your character after you successfully Jab a target, or hit (damage or heal) 3 targets with Spinning Crane Kick. You will know that it has activated because you will notice that your Tiger Palm and Blackout Kick buttons will have a gold outline around them and will light up. When Muscle Memory is active, your next Tiger Palm or Blackout Kick will deal 150% additional damage and, most importantly it will return 4% of your Mana.

This means that Fistweaving is not “Mana-neutral.” I will spend either 8% of my Mana on Jab or 7.2% of my Mana on Spinning Crane Kick, and then only return 4% with Muscle Memory. This also means that we must be very careful not to waste Muscle Memory when we get it.

If I Jab a target and then immediately Jab the target again, I have just wasted Muscle Memory. The buff does not stack, so if I do not Tiger Palm or Blackout Kick before I Jab again, then I have lost the ability to regenerate 4% of my Mana from that first Jab.

Here’s a simple scenario: I have 1 Chi. I use Jab to generate a second Chi, and then I spend that 2 Chi on Uplift. Now I have left Muscle Memory on myself and I have no Chi to use either Tiger Palm or Blackout Kick. In this situation, I would probably want to use any other Chi generator besides Jab (so perhaps Expel Harm or Soothing Mist, or maybe even Chi Brew) to get enough Chi back so that I can Tiger Palm or Blackout Kick and use up that Muscle Memory before I Jab again.

That may sound complicated but it is an important point to understand if you want to Fistweave. You never want to Jab several times in a row without using up the Muscle Memory buff each time. Because Fistweaving is already Mana-expensive and because even with perfect Muscle Memory use you won’t return all the Mana that you spend, it is essential that you weave those Tiger Palms and Blackout Kicks in between your Jabs.

Fistweaving While Leveling

From levels 10 until you have access to both Renewing Mist (at level 42) and Uplift (at level 62), I highly recommend Fistweaving as you heal in low-level dungeons. Because Mana regeneration is much faster at lower levels, particularly if you are wearing heirlooms, you will be much less likely to run out of Mana than you are at 90. You will also find, again particularly if you are wearing heirlooms, that you do quite a bit of damage as a low-level Mistweaver. You may find yourself topping both the healing and the DPS charts in your dungeons.

You will gain access to Muscle Memory at level 20, and I recommend that from that point on you practice switching between Jabs and Tiger Palm or Blackout Kick to use up the buff each time. While you will not need the mana return at this level, it is a good idea to get used to this style of healing early on so that it feels more natural at 90.

Some of the passive abilities described above, including Vital Mists and Serpent’s Zeal, are granted through a passive called Teachings of the Monastery that you will learn at level 34. Teachings of the Monastery will also grant a passive damage increase to Tiger Palm and Crackling Jade Lightning, so you are likely to see yourself doing increased damage after this point.

At level 62 you will learn Uplift. At this point, I suggest running a few dungeons in which you do not Fistweave at all. It may be a little boring if you have an overgeared tank, but it is extremely important to learn how your traditional healing spells work, too. Once you are comfortable healing without Fistweaving, slowly begin to reintroduce your DPS abilities back into your rotation. As always, ensure that you are using up each proc of Muscle Memory as you Jab so that you will be used to doing this when you hit max level.

Fistweaving at Level 90

At max level, Fistweaving can serve many purposes. It can be a fun way to run through some Heroic dungeons or scenarios, especially when you outgear the content. (Again, depending upon gear level you may find yourself at the top of both the healing and DPS meters once more.) In progression raiding, Fistweaving can also provide that needed extra DPS to beat a boss’ enrage timer.

Yet Fistweaving at level 90 is also considerably more difficult than it is as you level up. Raid boss abilities are far more likely to be unfriendly to melee than a low-level dungeon boss’ abilities are. If you choose to Fistweave on boss fights, it is absolutely essential that you understand the bosses’ mechanics from the viewpoint of a melee DPS.

Mana management also becomes a constant and more challenging concern than while you are leveling. The vast majority of beginner and mid-level Mistweavers will find that they generate less Chi on average when they are Fistweaving than they do when they stand back and heal. This means that you will also have fewer stacks of Mana Tea to go to when it is time to refill your Mana pool. 

Particularly if you are raiding in a traditional 10-man setting with 2 healers, you will find that while Fistweaving can supplement your healing and provide a solid DPS boost to your group on some fights, there is no way that Fistweaving alone will do enough healing to keep your raid standing. It will be essential for you to use a combination of DPS abilities and your traditional healing spells. Additionally, if you are looking for sheer heals-per-second (HPS) output, Fistweaving will almost always provide lower HPS than traditional healing for beginner and mid-level Mistweaver healers. So, given all that …

Do I Have to Fistweave?

The simple answer: No.

Fistweaving is a lot of fun and it can help your group’s overall DPS. But it is absolutely not essential to Fistweave to be a successful Mistweaver healer. Frankly, if you are having difficulty with keeping people standing as you are healing now, I’d recommend removing Fistweaving from your rotation, healing using the spells described in the Basics and Breakdown posts, and seeing if that doesn’t improve your success.

Some of the resources and guides for Mistweaver Monks will tell you that you must Fistweaver in order to get the most out of your healer. As always, keep in mind that guides are written from the perspective of their authors, who are perhaps progressing at a very high level and do need to provide as much DPS to their raid group as possible in order to defeat encounters.

But again, if you are healing as an LFR player or a generally casual raider who is progressing through a raid tier well after world-first kills have happened, Fistweaving is entirely optional. If you feel comfortable standing in melee and if you are able to generate enough Chi through Fistweaving to reliably regenerate your Mana, then go for it.

Also remember that you can pick and choose fights to Fistweave versus heal traditionally. Mistweavers are very lucky in that the game perceives us as melee players, regardless of whether we are actually standing in melee. Many abilities that do not target melee will not target us, meaning that if there is a boss whose mechanics are more of a headache for ranged players (Siegecrafter Blackfuse’s sawblades or Jin’Rokh’s orbs, for example), then we can stand in the melee pile and not have to worry that we will end up being targeted by those abilities.

I can’t stress enough that you should absolutely experiment and try different fights using different styles. Don’t be afraid to Fistweave for 30 seconds at the beginning of the fight and then switch off to traditional healing once the heavy damage goes off. The Mistweaver spec is extremely flexible and it is important that you find a playstyle that works for you as a healer. If that playstyle involves Fistweaving, great! If it doesn’t, that’s perfectly fine too.

Up Next: Cooldowns, Talents, & Glyphs

The next post in the Mistweaver 101 series will discuss our Cooldowns, Talents, & Glyph choices. Hopefully this should start pulling some things together and providing a clear view of how everything interacts. Questions and comments are always welcome!

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