Mistweaver 101: Chi & Mana
A funny thing happened when I tried to write the much requested “Basics of Mistweaving” post – I realized I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t write a “basics” post because the most basic, most important thing about learning how to Mistweave isn’t a list of spells or a discussion of stat weights or anything like that. It’s one deceptively simple idea to which you must absolutely subscribe before you can go any further:
The most important thing that you do as a Mistweaver is generate and spend Chi.
Read that sentence a few times and let it settle into your brain. As backwards as it may seem, this is why we are starting with an overview of Mistweaver resource management before we get into a discussion of the basic spells that we use to heal. Unlike every other healing class in the game, Mistweavers’ most important mini-game isn’t the one that they play with green health bars on their healing UI; it’s the game they play with the management of their own resources.
In order to get the most value out of Mistweaving (and to do so without running out of Mana), it is essential to constantly generate and spend Chi while you are healing. Seasoned healers may remember the old rule of “always be casting.” This Mistweaver Golden Rule is similar. Regardless of whether damage is actively going out during a fight, we should still always be generating and spending Chi in order to gain charges of Mana Tea, which is arguably the most important spell we have. But we’ll come back to Mana Tea in a moment – we need to talk about Chi first.
Generating and Spending Chi
All Monks have Chi, which is a combo point system that is somewhat similar to a Paladin’s Holy Power. Your Chi is stored on your character and not on an enemy target. Chi does not deplete while you are in combat, but it does slowly deplete once you leave combat. Monks can have a maximum of 4 Chi at any time. While it is possible to have 5 Chi if you take the level 45 Ascension talent, Mistweavers rarely choose this for reasons we will soon discuss.
As a Mistweaver, you essentially have 2 types of abilities:
- Spells that cost Mana and generate Chi
- Spells that cost Chi
Mistweavers’ spells cost either Mana or Chi. Most healing spells that cost Mana will generate Chi. (The exceptions to this rule are your major cooldown spells, which cost Mana but do not generate Chi.)
Because your most powerful heals cost Chi, it is essential that you are using spells which will generate this resource. That means you will be spending much of your Mana not on exceptionally powerful healing spells, but instead on generating Chi. This is a pretty big paradigm shift from what most healers will be used to, but it is absolutely essential that you understand this point. For most healers, Mana is their most important resource. For Monks, Mana is really only important in that it helps you get more Chi.
To really buy-in to the style of Mistweaver healing, you need to look at that blue Mana bar and think of it as completely expendable. This can be challenging for seasoned healers who are used to becoming progressively more conservative with their healing as they see their mana dip below 50%. Mistweaving plays to a very aggressive style of healing, in which you are constantly burning through large chunks of your Mana, and then getting a huge percentage of it back when you use Mana Tea.
Each Monk spec has a specialized brew, and Mana Tea is the Mistweaver beverage of choice. Each time you spend 4 Chi, you will generate 1 charge of Mana Tea. Mana Tea will show up as a buff on your character and you can have up to 20 charges at a time. Those charges will persist through death, which can be a huge help if you need to be battle-rezed during a fight. The charges will reset when you begin a raid boss encounter, however, so there is no point in trying to stack them prior to a pull.
Mana Tea also interacts with your Critical Strike rating. Each time you generate a stack of Mana Tea, you have a chance equal to your crit chance to generate double the Mana Tea charges. In plain language, that means that if you have a 50% crit chance, then each time you spend 4 Chi, you have a 50% chance to gain 2 stacks of Mana Tea instead of 1.
The one other way that Mistweavers can generate stacks of Mana Tea is by using the level 45 talent Chi Brew. Since 5.4, Chi Brew is largely seen as a “mandartory” talent for Mistweaver Monks. Chi Brew 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. This talent is considered mandatory for Mistweavers because the on-demand stacks of Mana Tea and the burst healing that 2 guaranteed Chi can provide makes it superior to the other choices in that talent tier.
But what does Mana Tea actually do and how do you use it? Mana Tea is a channeled spell that restores 4% of your maximum Mana for every 0.5 seconds that you cast it (or 8% of your Mana per second, for those who prefer nice round numbers).
Let’s go over that again. Mana Tea gives you back 8% of your Mana for every 1 second you channel it. That is a TON of Mana in a really short time period, and this is exactly why Mana is a much more expendable resource for Mistweavers than for any other healer.
When we were all first learning about Mistweavers, many people compared Mana Tea to a Potion of Focus. While this is a helpful comparison in some ways, it is also important to understand why Mana Tea is significantly different and stronger. A Potion of Focus requires you to find 10 seconds of a fight during which your character can remain completely still so that she will get the full duration of the effect and regain the maximum possible amount of mana. If you have to cancel that channel early for one reason or another – well, tough cookies. You now can’t use a potion for the rest of the fight and you didn’t get the full Mana you could have out of the potion you did use.
While Mana Tea also requires you to stand still and channel a spell to return mana, unlike the Potion of Focus you do not lose any charges of Mana Tea if you interrupt the spell before you consume all your current charges. This means that you can use Mana Tea at any time for as long as you want and there is no punishment for having to cancel the channel. Getting pretty low on Mana and you’re able to stand still for a few seconds? Channel for as long as you can and you’ll get nearly all of your Mana back. Have to run because a boss ability has randomly selected you as its target? That’s Ok! Just run off to a safe spot and start drinking your Mana Tea again when you’re able to. Mana Tea is extremely versatile and because the amount of time you need to channel to get back a huge portion of your Mana is so small, it is much easier to sneak it into your rotation than you would expect.
All this is why Mana (and by extension, Spirit) is such a minor concern for Mistweaver Monks. We go through our entire Mana pool multiple times during a boss fight and not only is that perfectly Ok – it’s how we manage to be effective healers. We are balanced around that very notion. For a real example, in a recent 9.5 minute Heroic Immerseus kill, the Holy Paladin in our raid group regained about 200,000 Mana over the course of the fight. From Mana Tea alone, I regained more than 750,000 Mana in the same span of time. So if I include the 300,000 Mana that I would have started out with at the pull, that means I could have gone through my entire Mana pool 3.5 times during that fight.
Mana is expendable. It’s only important to you as the primary way you get more Chi.
At the start of a dungeon or boss encounter, there isn’t usually a lot of healing to be done. Damage generally ramps up over the course of the fight. So for most healers, this means that you have some time after the pull to either do a little DPS or perhaps get some shields rolling on your team, depending upon what class you play.
For Mistweavers, that downtime is when we need to build up some stacks of Mana Tea to hold in reserve. Whether we generate Chi by running into melee and Fistweaving at the start of the fight or by intentionally overhealing the raid, it is important that we start spending that Mana and Chi as early as possible so that we’ll have a few stacks of Mana Tea when we really need them later in the fight. Upcoming posts will go into greater detail as to how we go about this.
Optional Reading: Why We Don’t Glyph Mana Tea
I’ve written about Mana management once before and at that time I discussed the benefits of the Mana Tea Glyph. This glyph makes Mana Tea an instant ability that consumes 2 stacks at a time to give you back 8% of your Mana. It also gives Mana Tea a 10 second cooldown. Since Patch 5.4, this glyph is really no longer viable for Mistweavers. Because our Crit rating can now give us extra stacks of Mana Tea and because Chi Brew is essentially mandatory, we will generate stacks of Mana Tea too quickly to be able to consume if we are using the glyph.
Next Up: Back to Basics
The next Mistweaver 101 post will actually be the basics guide that so many have requested. I apologize for this long segue at the beginning of the series, but as I explained at the top of the post, understanding how your resources function is really at the heart of being a Mistweaver Monk. Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or comment on the blog, via email, or on Twitter.