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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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 5, 2014 12:03 am

    Active mana regeneration, while an interesting idea, isn’t something I could see Blizzard properly implementing. Not anytime soon, anyway. They tried it with mana tea for mistweavers and, from what I understand, it started off too strong and then ended up being not quite strong enough.

    If they struggle with one class, I can’t imagine how much they’d struggle trying to implement similar (and yet different) mechanics for the other healing classes. Especially when you factor in the difficulty level of managing those mechanics.

    Mistweaver still remains the hardest healing spec in the game for someone to master and I think that’s because Mistweavers have to balance chi, mana, and mana tea stacks. That’s a lot to ask someone to manage. Especially the casuals that Blizzard tunes the majority of the content towards.

    I think they are taking Warlords in the right direction, though, because right now bad healers can get away with murder. I can’t count how many healers I’ve seen who have been carried through content because so few raid leaders understand how to properly read healing meters.

    But I also think that every healer will have a learning curve at the beginning of Warlords, because they are changing so much about the way healing works. Yes, it’s good change, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for anyone to overcome bad habits.

    Habits like spamming spells without regard for mana, for example. In that regard, I think Mistweavers are much better off than other healers. Since Mistweavers have to properly manage Mana Tea or OOM completely, they’re already ahead of the curve.

    I play a Holy Paladin and consider most of the changes good from a class standpoint; I wrote about it on my blog if you’re interested in knowing more. 🙂

  2. April 21, 2014 3:15 pm

    Really long story but I’m kind of bored, sorry. 🙂

    I think your post has a lot of validity but is very specifically looking at it from the perspective of an experienced progression raider. You may well be right about that but I have a theory on why they’re talking about doing what they’re talking about, and it has almost nothing to do with you and folks like you.

    Let me give you the view from the cheap seats, me circa 10 months ago.

    I leveled my monk pretty quickly this expansion as Windwalker with a Brewmaster off-spec for more difficult fights (and for offspec gearing purposes, WW-optimized gear is about 95% optimal for BM for casual content). I was able to get a viable Agility raid set together by about 6 weeks into ToT and joined a raid group at that point… at which point I started getting nothing but healing gear drops. Within a few weeks I had a nearly full set of i522 healing gear, arguably an equivalent set to my dps set, with a better weapon. I wasn’t tanking anything… so what the heck, I switched my off spec to Mistweaver, threw on the healing gear, gemmed, enchanted and reforged, read Icy Veins and a few other resources to get a feel for the general healing “rotation” and queued up for Terrace LFR, not exactly cutting edge content at that point. I’d done likewise with my druid and paladin already, basically tossing them into LFR without any preamble and did just fine, I expected likewise here.

    Side note – I’ve done a bit of healing over the years (mostly in Wrath) but only a bit, rarely progression, and my best healing toon for a few years now has been my dps-focused Disc priest. So, I’m not a pro healer for the existing paradigms so maybe this new Mistweaver thing would be a better fit. On the other hand, I’ve since gotten Healer Gold in Proving Grounds on the 4 other healing classes with a mish-mash of gear (for hybrids, generally my dps set, so I went in really short of spirit) so I can usually figure things out quickly enough.

    I zone into Terrace, make sure I’m in the right stance (check!), put down my statue (check!)… and… uh. I dunno. Nobody’s really taking damage… eh, let’s do that soothie beam thingie. Yeah, that works… 8K hps. Huh. Would probably help if he took some damage but 8K? Really? I’m at max chi… nobody really needs healing, guess it doesn’t matter, more soothie beams! Randomly hitting other healing spells here and there. Still doing crappy healing, I’m last on the meters (in previous-tier LFR!), for trash at least. Hm. Wonder if that Fistweaving thing would be better. Maybe I’ll try that on the boss, if there’s one thing I’m good at on my monk, it’s dpsing.

    Boss pulled by a dps while we’re finishing off trash (of course), I check my mana… I’m at about 50%. Hm. Well, good thing I hear monks don’t need spirit, I should be fine. Alright, Fistweaving… Jab, Tiger Palm, Blackout Kick, just like when I’m dpsing… I can do this. Jab, Tiger Palm, Jab, Jab, Blackout Kick, Jab, Jab, Blackout Kick… OOM. WTF? We’re 30 seconds into the fight and can’t hit any buttons, good thing Chi Wave doesn’t have a resource cost. I have something like 3 stacks of Mana Tea at this point so I hit that… which gets me back to about 10% mana. Hm. Guess I’ll go back to soothie mist thingie! At least it looks pretty. Chi Wave on cooldown FTW.

    I finished that pull with something like 11K hps… which is probably 20% of what it could/should have been if I’d been doing a “proper” rotation, whatever that is.

    It didn’t get much better the rest of the run, I may have gotten up to 20K by the end. But HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE HEALING. I was worse than useless, my healing as Windwalker might have been better.

    After that run I went back to read Icy Veins to figure out what massive paradigm aspect I’d somehow missed. Oddly… didn’t seem like it. Nothing jumped out at me the way I expected it to. I shrugged, chalked up Mistweaver as not for me, respecced back into BM and that was that.

    From the perspective of that guy above (me), the current Mistweaver paradigm is brutal for someone trying it out for the first time. As Kyaza points out in the comment above (although I’m turning a negative comment into a positive), it’s possible for other healing classes to fake it… to make do. Sub-optimal, but functionally useful. I’d consider myself living proof that Mistweaver does NOT have that same safety net, no simple “good enough” rotation that anyone can get over the course of a fight or two, or at least not that I was able to figure out… and again, I’m not a total moron, my dps main is 8H and I’ve done a few bosses on heroic healing on my priest when needed. I’d have no issue bringing my shammy or druid into content they’re geared for and I’d be willing to try on my pally if they were willing to cut me a bit of slack. I’d noticed long ago that Mistweaver healers seemed to fall into two camps… the 10%, the epic meter rockers, or the 90%, the “haven’t figured it out yet” with a huge gulf of “nobody falls into this category” between them. I’d still claim with absolute certainty that I’ve never run into someone between those two extremes. I see a LOT of average healers from other classes, though.

    Fast-forward to recently… I’ve been picking up an insane amount of off-spec heroic (and warforged heroic) healing gear lately because apparently that’s the gear that drops for my monk in all tiers. I’d read what turned out to be a ridiculously useful (and maybe so obvious that IV didn’t explicitly mention it, or I just missed it) comment on a Mistweaver blog somewhere, that the key to Mistweaver healing is, like with rogues or pallies or even dps monks, a build/spend resource rotation more than anything. The actual spells you cast are, in large part, secondary to maintaining a build/spend rotation in the first place to get stacks of tea.

    Alright, maybe it’s time to give it another shot… but I’m not going to subject other people to my mess.

    Proving Grounds. Bring it.

    Swapped specs, set up all my gear with standard raiding defaults (about i550 gear average at this point with a heroic weapon), not doing anything special for Proving Grounds… legendary meta and cloak because I’m lazy and I like a bit of a handicap.

    Second wave of bronze… BOOM. We’re all dead. Hell, we were almost all dead during the first wave and I never really caught up. Also, OOM.

    My other 4 healers all one-shot Bronze (and 3 one-shot Silver, my druid had some early issues with just not having enough throughput). This… does not bode well.

    Not giving up this time, though… I’m only pissing myself off.

    Over the course of the next 3 or 4 hours I slowly figured it out. Incremental improvement… tweaking rotations… learning what I had to deal with directly and immediately and what I could leave for incidental healing. Note – stuff that my other healers had to deal with but I didn’t have to do it consciously, I just did it naturally. On my monk, I had to think about it to even have a CHANCE.

    Eventually, I got bronze. Silver kicked my ass for a while but I eventually got that too.

    So, Gold. By the time I got Silver I was starting to figure things out… synergies between spells, fight-specific strategies to get through with decent efficiency. Mana was still my main issue but it was becoming less of one… I was still generally dying to oom, though. Then, almost 4 hours in, something clicked. I was still wiping but it was starting to feel close… I was just making mistakes… I can fix mistakes. In short order after that I finished it off, Healing Gold, after a few near misses (mostly missed dispels)… and had 220K mana at the end.

    I haven’t healed since that, had to go back to BM since I do occasionally tank in my normal raid, but at least for one afternoon, I’d kind of figured things out.

    Thing is, though, I didn’t have to go through anywhere NEAR that amount of learning on my other 4 healers combined… not even close. On those healers it was simply a matter of learning to be i463-equivalently efficient with my heals… heal big enough, but not too big. The complexity on my monk was higher by a factor of 5x, minimum. I suspect I’d walk into PG Bronze today a month or so later and fail again, despite all that I learned before. It’s just not an intuitive healing style. I could pick up my shammy in 4 years and do just fine, though, even though I haven’t healed anything of note on him since LK.

    So… long story short, while I appreciate that the changes they’re proposing may seem odd or unwelcome to someone on the cutting edge, I’m sure there are 10x more players like me than like you, those who have tried monk healing and immediately ruled it out as a possibility.

    How much of that is due to active mana regen and how much is just the generally synergistic, dual-resource healing paradigm? I’m not sure… but I absolutely, 100% guarantee to you that if they converted the other 4 healers into anything even slightly resembling the monk style of healing, they’d lose SO many more healers overall than by making healing monks perhaps more appealing to the masses. I love that I can jump on a healing toon and do okay for casual content… I really, really don’t want to see any changes that will impact my ability to do that. By upping the base regen for healers I’m just hoping that mana tea becomes a less valuable regen mechanic than it is today, I don’t think it needs any specific tweaks otherwise.

  3. Luke permalink
    June 15, 2014 7:13 pm

    So, this may be a few months late.
    I quite enjoy Mistweaver healing as it is, I raid in a 25man heroic raiding team. However, being 25man, competing with Disc Priests who need spirit about as much as we do, and having Resto Shamans blanket cover 100% of the raid as opposed to my 40-60% with ReM/Uplift, it makes it extremely difficult to even look competitive on the meters (Malkorok and Thok excluded), and Fistweaving isn’t even viable in the slightest. The new changes I’ve seen in Alpha patch notes is quite interesting, and I’m looking forward to it. The changes to the GCD gives us a necessity to hit haste gcd cap for a smooth rotation, similar to what we feel currently, with our base 1sec gcd, as well as the “stance dancing” that seems to resemble the skill cap shown in Holy Priests. The fact that (currently in p.notes) Blackout Kick gives a 20% crit chance buff is where the excellent Mistweavers will shine compared to the good mistweavers, making the most of their stats especially in the earlier tiers of WoD. The lack of chi building abilities may make it harder to manage mana tea because you’ll have less chi-dumping to build mana tea is also compensated for by having CJL free to cast, with increased throughput (100%). This has already made CJL > Soothing Mist, as they were basically even in this expansion for throughput.
    Now, Mastery. Detonate Chi is a fantastic idea, even though it is still a little RNG, I see it as fantastic for any stacked/AoE healing fight (as we’ll see in Mythic SoO for Malkorok/Thok). It creates a possibility of pushing for a higher mastery, especially with the Spirited Crane->BoK crit buff, as 45-50% crit chance is perfectly fine for mana tea generation. It’s going to GREATLY increase our burst-AoE healing, which is something I feel we desperately need, with the (mostly disappointing) RNG of ReM bounces. On a 15second cd, with 25-30% mastery, and SCK/RJW spam on raid to create bulk GotS spheres, detonate chi is going to make a huge difference to our throughput.
    So in the end, I believe that all the Mistweaver changes are neither good, nor bad, but really interesting, I’m quite keen to get into beta/PTR and find out what sort of stat build is going to be best for us leading into Mythics.

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