First Reactions to Mistweaver Alpha Changes
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.