Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Slow Down! The Current State of Brewmasters

Hello friends. There's been a lot of talk about Brewmasters and viability over the last week or so and I wanted to take the time to write down my thoughts on balance and where we are as part of our raid teams and where we are compared to other tanks.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Legion Brewmaster FAQ: All (some) of Your Questions Answered!

Hello friends! In light of Legion coming just around the corner, and with the ever increasing number of people asking questions, I thought it'd be cool to make a FAQ list for anyone interested in playing a Brewmaster once August 30th hits! Without further ado, let's get into it!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Some Happenings have been Brewing

Seeing as I haven't made a blog post on Brewmasters in a while, despite the notable happenings, I figure this is about as good a time as any to go in and talk about some of the stuff that's changed over the last couple builds. Firstly, there's the most recent changes where some of our damage was nerfed a touch... but that's not too big a deal in my mind. Keg Smash was hitting like a truck full of cement and it already had a very low cooldown. We'll be fine, I feel. But onto the other big thing that happened...



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Brewmaster Feedback - Artifact Traits

Good evening (or afternoon / morning if you happen to read this after I post it) friends! Today I'm going to be going deep into my thoughts on our artifact's traits. I want to preface this and say that this is NOT going to really be something about balance, and more so about mechanics, play feel, and the degree to which I am excited to get each trait. Do note that the order I put down here is completely arbitrary and in no way is representative of the path that I would recommend to go in order to get the most out of Fu Zan in as little artifact power as possible. So without further ado, let's get started!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Brewmaster Feedback: Talents

Hello friends! As promised, today I'm going to talk about talents. There's a lot here, so get strapped in. This is going to be a doozy.

Talents are in an alright place, I feel. Most of them I'm fairly happy with. I've had a chance to play with pretty much all the talents, so I'm pretty confident in my findings. I'm using this post as a combination of answering the question of "What talents should I pick?" as well as providing feedback on the various talents and talent tiers for any Blizzard devs who are sneaking a peek. This'll be a big post, so I'm going to have a table of contents to make it a bit easier to navigate.

Table of Contents

Level 15
Level 30
Level 45
Level 60
Level 75
Level 90
Level 100

Level 15

The healing tier and the movement tier have switched places this expansion. The Level 15 talent row has the return of Chi Burst and Chi Wave, with the new Eye of the Tiger, a passive talent which deals damage over time to an enemy and heals you over time when you hit them with Tiger Palm. Overall, it's a relatively weak but constant stream of healing, so it'd be a decent enough talent for newer players who are just starting out. Probably best for world content. As would Chi Wave, as it still has the problem of being atrocious for reliable self-healing in a group environment, as its liable to go and heal someone else rather than you. I've never really liked Chi Wave for group content because of this, though it would still be good to pick up for solo content. Overall I'm confident in Chi Burst being the go-to for group content.

Also its animation is freaking gorgeous, so yeah. Sold.

Level 30

As mentioned, Level 30 now provides us our movement options. Only this time, we've seen something rather interesting. Momentum has now merged with Chi Torpedo (though Chi Torpedo has dropped its damage/healing). More or less the decision remains the same. Chi Torpedo is great for endurance-running where you have to move fast and far for a long time, with Tiger's Lust being the go-to for more snap movement speed as well as group utility. If you don't feel like you can manage Tiger's Lust, Celerity is there as an easier to manage snap-movement talent.

Level 45

This tier's brand new. I like to think of Level 45 as the active mitigation tier, where you can choose how you wish to boost your regularly used defensive abilities. Light Brewing reduces the cooldown of Ironskin and Purifying Brew as well as granting a fourth charge. Black Ox Brew fully recharges our energy and brew charges. Gift of the Mists is a bit complicated. Here's the formula:

  • TalentedOrbChance = BaseOrbChance * (1 + 0.6 * (1 - (HealthBeforeDamage - DamageTakenBeforeAbosorbsOrStagger) / MaxHealth))

To bring some context to that, Gift of the Ox orbs now spawn when you take 100% of your max health in damage. What Gift of the Mists does is makes it so that any numbers going to that total will get a multiplier depending on what your health is at after the hit. Essentially, it means more Gift of the Ox orbs that you can scoop up physically or via Expel Harm.

So this is a bit complicated. My general testing (and player surveying) finds that Light Brewing is really your go-to for dealing with harder content. Your self healing becomes a bit less trustworthy at a certain point, so you need to talent into Light Brewing or Black Ox Brew to get more actual damage mitigation and burst reduction in the form of your brews. Gift of the Mists might see use in encounters which may require a bit more independence from tanks, where healers aren't able to babysit them, but that's a very hypothetical and in my opinion unlikely occurrence. Black Ox Brew is a strong contender if you're in a situation where you need to predictably use more brews in a short period of time than you are allotted. With everything Brewmasters need to manage in regards to brews, using Black Ox Brew for throughput is extremely difficult. If you're up for that challenge, the rewards are very promising however.

Level 60

The level 60 talents are still about add control. But we get someone new! Dave, our statue, is now a talent alongside Ring of Peace and Leg Sweep. Out of all the talent tiers that I surveyed for, this is the one with the biggest discrepancy of choice. The survey asked players which talents they used (multiple answers were allowed). A dominating 92.6% of those surveyed said they chose Leg Sweep. 40.7% of those surveyed said they use Dave, the Black Ox Statue. Only 3.7% of players surveyed used Ring of Peace.

Ring of Peace has had a slight change in design with Legion. Instead of incapacitating enemies around the target of the spell and incapacitating enemies who cast a spell while in the ring, it now throws enemies out of the ring if they use a harmful spell or ability. The problem I have with this talent is that its design has clearly been changed to a tool that is intended to assist in peeling enemies off of the squishier members of your party, yet it isn't effective at that role.

It firstly feels as though it should have been an Honor Talent, as enemy players are far more likely to proc its effects than NPC's, for whom auto-attacking is much more frequent and relatively more dangerous to your squishies. So already, it's arguably a nerf compared to its previous incarnation, and it's competing with two of the most valued Brewmaster CC abilities that they possess. Secondly, while it has superior range to your Keg Smash, because it generates zero threat it doesn't even really peel enemies off the ally for that long and so you're better off crossing the distance with your very high Brewmaster mobility via Roll or any of the other ways we have to move rather quickly to just Keg Smash and taunt the enemies off your ally. Furthermore, it actually makes doing that harder as if there's multiple enemies engaged on an opponent (and the knockback is actually procced), it kicks them away from the center of the ring, and thus means there's a serious potential for your Keg Smash to not actually immediately land on all the enemies harassing your friend. Using Ring of Peace has an actual potential to impede your capacity to peel off of allies. I suppose you could also use it on yourself as a means of getting an enemy away from you so you could rest a bit, but you also have Roll which does similar and doesn't take up a talent slot and is less likely to make melee freak out and reposition as heavily. Honestly, I was never really much a fan of it anyway compared to the other options in previous expansions. I'm a bit sad that it's continuing that pattern in Legion.

Were I to pick a winner for this tier, it would be Leg Sweep. Dave will have his day in raid encounters with adds I'm sure, but in dungeons and world content the utility and power of Leg Sweep is too much for Dave to see much use.

Level 75

Level 75 is still the tier of defensive cooldowns and not much has changed aside from numbers. Well, except for Healing Elixirs becoming an actual cooldown and REALLY awesome. It's now got 2 charges with a 30 second recharge time and heals for 15% of your health, same as before. If you have a charge available and hit 35% health, it's automatically cast. It's served me exceptionally well in world content and dungeons thus far. Enough that as mentioned in the last post, I feel like it almost deserves to be a baseline ability.It fills this hole that we have so well and its been so useful that I'm a little worried getting into harder content we'll miss having it, despite having a stronger cooldown for bigger bursts than it can handle. I think the change has definitely boosted this tier's decision factor and while it's still largely the same (Dampen Harm for physical burst damage, Diffuse Magic for magic burst), Healing Elixirs takes the cake in solo content and so far up to Normal dungeons.

Level 90

I actually really like the level 90 talents. Each either has a notable effect on our priority or is very iconic of our class fantasy. Rushing Jade Wind is now free to cast, though with a cooldown. The cooldown is actually reduced via haste, which is cool. Xuen is no more. Instead, we have his buddy Niuzao, who is more or less functionally the same. Lastly, we have the new Special Delivery, which has a 30% chance to fling a keg into the air, dealing 900% attack power damage as AoE on a nearby enemy whenever you use Ironskin or Purifying Brew. While last I checked this was bugged and wasn't dealing damage, it's actually a really cool ability and no longer seems to suffer from "Starfall Syndrome" like it did back in the Alpha. Basically, the way I feel this tier goes is RJW is an amazing talent if you want a filler for the priority, which has slowed down compared to Live. Niuzao is still an excellent choice for when you need more burst damage, and SD is a good passive option for those who don't want to further complicate the priority, or for those who may feel that they have too much haste for RJW to be used regularly enough, since I would say that SD scales with haste much more smoothly than RJW does, as it doesn't need to compete with more important GCD's.

Level 100

I think this tier is my biggest concern. It just seems such an anti-climactic row. In just the previous tier, you have RJW, a twister on a short cooldown that can be used as a filler, changing gameplay, Niuzao, our patron Celestial, and Special Delivery, which while it doesn't change gameplay is a cool display of beer-based AoE damage, a staple of the spec's fantasy. In the 100 tier, you have Elusive Dance, which grants 5, 10, or 15% dodge depending on whether you purify at low, medium, or high stagger (which stacks). There is Fortified Mind, which reduces the cooldown of our Fortifying Brew as if it was ISB or PB, and then High Tolerance which increases our stagger by 5%. Elusive Dance as far as fantasy goes is cool, but it's really passive and it doesn't make any real emergent gameplay. Neither does Fortified mind (the Fort Brew talent) or HT. All three are passive defensive bonuses in some respect. The tier as a whole feels very tame and at least to me reminds me more of the old glyph system rather than talents.

The diversity of choice also feels rather poor for that tier as well. Stacking dodge on purifies is nice but you aren't going to get a significant amount unless you're purifying a lot of damage in a short time and if you're purifying a lot of damage, you're taking a lot of damage. That dodge I feel like wouldn't do very much because A) it comes in after the spike and thus can only help with maybe preventing another if the spike was melee damage and B) it's RNG so even if you get 30% dodge (which is very high for this talent), that's still a 55% chance (barring additional dodge aside from 15% base) that dodge isn't going to help you out. As tanks, our job is to be as consistent as possible when dealing with burst damage and thus dodge is not our friend. For this particular case, I could only see this talent being useful if there are regular points in an encounter where you get bursted down from bug bites... points where dodge's RNG can be smoothed out via many occurrences. Even if numerically it would provide better damage reduction, most tanks will pick one of the other two talents simply because they provide more consistency, which is what really saves our butts. Fortified Mind however is another iffy talent which relies very heavily on an encounter-to-encounter basis. Namely, because it in practice will roughly halve the CD of Fort Brew, it's only useful on an encounter where you'd need Fort Brew more than once every 5 minutes after exhausting Zen Meditation and Dampen Harm / Diffuse Magic. Which might happen, to be fair. Still, it's another one that on paper seems very niche. Which leaves the 5% stagger.

Honestly I wish something broke this tier up a bit. On the monk discord earlier, I had a brain fart and mixed up Special Delivery with Fortified Mind, thinking the former was on the 100 tier. Thinking about it for a bit, I wish it was. It would make that tier much more interesting in its choices, giving players the chance to trade defense for damage if they so choose. I realize that's something Blizzard has said they don't really want to do much this expansion, but I honestly think say, switching Elusive Dance or Fortified Mind for Special Delivery would be a very interesting two talent tiers. You could get defense in both, you could get damage in both, but it really makes those tiers very custom to the player and their desired playstyle, driving them further away from the "pick based on encounter" feel that they somewhat have (with the 100 tier having a stronger feel of this).

That's all for talents. Thanks for reading! Hopefully the next blog post will be about Heroic dungeons and my thoughts on Brewmasters there, as well as tanking World Bosses. If you want to discuss this post, feel free to jump onto ChiBurst!

See you next time,
~ The Brewing Scribe

Brewmaster Feedback: Normal Dungeons

Hello friends! So I've done some more dungeons and I'm fairly happy with the results. I've also had the chance to really experiment with the different talents and I'm pretty confident in my thoughts on them as well. Without further adu, let's dive right in!

Right now my Brewmaster is sitting at ilvl 803. She's getting there for Heroics but I'm still confined to Normals right now. That being said, Normals feel pretty good. While leveling, I got comments saying I was one of the easiest tanks to heal and I was very confident in my tanking. Once I hit 100, I noticed my stagger was hitting extremes much more often (averaging about 3-6 times per dungeon rather than 1 or so) and I felt notably squishier. I'm still currently in a leveling / world content build so I'm going to experiment with Light Brewing instead of Gift of the Mists to see if additional charges of brews would solve that. Fairly confident it should. The general consensus right now is that the brew talents of that tier will largely be what you'd want in higher difficulty content.

I'm a bit worried that because of this and the likely need to switch out Healing Elixirs for a proper damage reduction CD come hard content that we won't have nearly as effective self-healing as we might need, but I want to make the point that such is just a worry rather than anything amazingly grounded. I've noticed that self-healing from Healing Elixirs has saved my butt during Normals enough that it almost feels like it should be baseline. It fills this wonderful niche that is a short-CD defensive ability that Brewmasters rather lack. We've got the moment-to-moment stuff with ISB and PB which feels great. We've got long-CD's in Fortifying Brew and Zen Meditation.

I'd say we'd have a mid-CD in Explosive Keg but I've honestly not really felt the defense from it. Just having one auto-attack miss doesn't really feel very noticeable. I more or less just use it on cooldown for general damage reduction rather than anything more purposeful because of that. And To get off track a little bit, I think the reason why is because it has a high rate of mitigation over an extremely short period of time. While technically it's only a 20% nerf in terms of damage reduced from the original version (15% damage reduction over 8 seconds) it's lack of a real duration means that it doesn't really help enable healers to catch up with your damage intake as significantly. It's basically a 1.5 second gap from auto-attacks and then you go back to full damage taken sans other CD's and that just doesn't feel that strong or significant. But anyway, we're missing a mid-to-short CD that'd be able to regularly help out, but not be something we totally rely on for most incoming damage. I'm going to be trying some different stuff over the next couple days as I continue to gear for Heroics, and we'll see if I really do feel like I'm missing something without Healing Elixirs.

Getting back to it though, dungeons have been pretty fun and while the spike in difficulty at 110 was a little jaunting, I really can't say I've been struggling because of it. Brewmaster still feels engaging and entertaining and I feel like I'm on top of the things which it throws at me most of the time. There's these giant crystal elementals in Neltharion's Lair which truck me but they're one of the few things I've found. It's quite possible I just don't know how to counter them, though I didn't see anything that made a counter known. In any case though it's been pretty enjoyable. I'm looking forward to a couple more experiments and some Heroics, once I get enough gear.

This is a bit of a short post, but that's because I've got a LOT written up for Talents, which is coming tomorrow! Thanks for reading! I want to try something a bit different for comments and discussions. There's still my Twitter, but I've made a thread on ChiBurst to discuss this and tomorrow's topics. Hope to see you there, ChiBurst is an awesome site that we're trying to get a bit more love and attention.

So long for now, see you tomorrow.
~ The Brewing Scribe

Saturday, May 28, 2016

It Begins! The Brewmaster Feedback Marathon!

Hello friends! I've finally gotten access to Legion's beta which means I've finally been able to start testing the Brewmaster! What I am hoping to do is have several posts of feedback targeted at specific aspects of play. The list i have thus far (in no particular order) is as follows:

  • Game Feell
  • Leveling / solo content
  • Talents / Abilities
  • Normal Dungeons
  • Heroic Dungeons
  • Mythic+ Dungeons
  • Raids (if Blizzard continues testing and I am lucky).

Before I begin I want to again plug my Beta Brewmaster Talents Survey. If you've played Brewmaster on the Beta, please do me a huge favor and fill it out. I'm collecting data to try and see what players pick and more importantly, why, to potentially get some more context on talent choices. I'm hoping to use that data for my Talents post

Today I wanted to talk about play feel and how Brewmaster holds up in solo content. To get right into it, when I say "play feel", what do I mean by that? It is essentially a slight alliteration to game feel, a concept of game design which is one of the most vague things you have to think about. In essence, it's basically about whether the game feels fun and engaging to play. So to talk about play feel is essentially answering the question of "Do Brewmasters feel good to play?"

And overall I think they do. I haven't used RJW all that much, but even so I definitely overestimated the downtime you have as a Brewmaster. The spec still feels fairly fast and you still need to manage multiple things in your core priority/rotation (In this case, active mitigation, energy spenders and cooldowns, rather than active mitigation, energy spenders and chi spenders). The animations are very nice and I've found myself just watching my character move as I use my abilities. Flaming Keg, as far as feel goes, is awesome. You throw it down and it just EXPLODES in a crescendo of beer and fire. If tuned correctly, that's going to be an awesome button to press.

My active mitigation, as far as how I use it, feels fairly good too. What I've largely been doing is using ISB when I feel like I need the extra defense (similar to how I use Guard in live), and then using purifies if that stagger DoT is getting a bit excessive. I feel more attentive towards stagger than on live, which i think is a good thing. Expel Harm makes Gift of the Ox feel much nicer and I really appreciate its return. Overall, though the spec has changed fairly substantially, I personally still enjoy it. So far, I haven't felt like I needed something else than what my kit has to offer in order to deal with incoming damage... but I do want to stress that I've pretty much only done world content. I could very well be in need of something greater when I get into challenging content.

Speaking of, world content on the Legion Brewmaster is fairly smooth. Damage dealt feels good and while you won't sit at 100% health all the time you shouldn't really feel like you're in danger provided you are using self-healing talents, which I personally think are mandatory for solo content. There are people who are saying that they can't play at all without Obstinate Determination, but once I got used to everything (which took a couple hours, be fair) I was doing perfectly fine without it. Even in the dungeons I've done, it hasn't been necessary.

Overall there's not much in the way of feedback that I think I can truly give as far as the above is concerned. The spec is enjoyable to play and level, at least to me. It's got a good feel and a vibrancy to it that is very encouraging. I'm still leveling right now but I can't wait till I hit 110 so I can do even more advanced testing. If Brewmaster maintains its feel into harder difficulty content, I will be very happy with how the spec will play come launch.

Thanks again for reading friends! As usual, feel free to talk to me here or on twitter if you want to discuss Brewmaster stuff or just anything really. Like I said above, this is going to be a bit of a marathon so expect quite a few updates over the next week or two.

~ The Brewing Scribe