Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Thoughts on the Legion Brewmaster Changes

"The brewmaster is a quirky character, though dangerous when underestimated. Brewmasters may seem to struggle with balance as they chug their concoctions in the middle of a fight, but this unpredictable behavior is far from foolhardiness. Most opponents barely have time to process the erratic nature of the brewmaster’s fighting tactics before they find themselves laid low—possibly the result of a keg smash to the head. When an opponent actually manages to land an attack, it’s often unclear how much the brewmaster feels it . . . if at all."
-Official Monk Blog Post

The Brewaster specialization has gone through a lot in the three years they've been playable. I've seen it develop, I've seen it changed, I've played through buffs, nerfs, and all manner of tweaks. These changes are definitely interesting. If you want to take a full look at the changes, you can find them here

The long and short of it, for those of you who just want the quick and dirty version, is that Brewmasters are now about cooldowns. Your energy spenders reduce the general cooldown on your significant active mitigation abilities (Ironskin Brew, which increases stagger amount, and Purifying Brew, no significant change mechanically. Both have shared charges). This is actually kinda what I had in mind for Elusive Brew, but it looks like that ability got turned into our new mastery, where we get an increased chance to dodge whenever we are hit. That's definitely an interesting mastery, though I suspect that we're going to largely be going haste, for maximum shuffle and purifying potential.

But anyway let's get right down to it and discuss EVERYTHING that's here.

So for starters, Ironskin Brew and Purifying brew. Both have a 20 second cooldown for each charge, with a max of three charges shared between both abilities. I honestly LOVE this change. It's all going back to what I originally said about the shuffle / purify dynamic during Mists beta, where you have to make a real choice between maintaining high stagger, but not so much that you're overwhelmed by the staggered damage. This strikes me as a good way to handle that, at least on paper. You're probably still going to favor Ironskin Brew more often, but you can't just spam it in its entirety. Not sure if Ironskin Brew will have the stacking duration of today's Shuffle, though. We also know that Soul Dance is being baked into stagger at 50% effectiveness, so this is going to make Brewmasters far better at handling magic damage.

Gift of the Ox's changes actually sound pretty neat. It's more reactive to your principle focus of tanking and unlike today's Gift of the Ox it actually improves when dealing with more than one enemy, so it naturally scales. The one big concern I have is that even though boss movement is being fixed very soon... I am not sure if I like Gift of the Ox being the only self heal available to us. There's something to be said about the security one has when using Expel Harm to heal one's self. You don't have to worry about screwing up positioning. Perhaps it's an overly-sensitive worry, but as a tank, when you say that I need to move around in a fight where I am positioning a boss in order to get heals... I get a bit anxious. That being said, it wasn't ever really too big a deal back when I actually did do hardcore raiding (or even bosses in Warlords), and as long as the movement fix is good, it shouldn't be too big an issue, I think. Our base damage reduction and our new active mitigation is just going to have to be really solid in order for this change to not be too icky.

Our Mastery, as I mentioned earlier, has also received a significant change. It's now called Elusive Brawler and we get additional dodge until our next dodge whenever we are hit. On the one hand, I do like that we've moved away from stagger mastery as that was going to be stupid hard to balance well as I mentioned before Blizzcon, but at the same time, dodge has always classically been great at reducing overall damage intake... but awful at reducing burst intake, because of its RNG nature. Even though this mastery is actually designed to help eliminate some of that RNG, it's still going to be really bad at burst smoothing. You have no control over when you are hit and when you dodge. Even if there is an ability which pretty much mimics Elusive Brew, you're still going to have that issue. This will be a cool, unique way to reduce overall damage taken, but it suffers from the classical problem of avoidance tanks: you lack the capacity to control damage intake. As I said earlier, because we are primarily getting mitigation from cooldowns and we reduce those cooldowns via energy spenders, haste is going to likely be our big stat.

Keg Smash didn't change much. It got the increased range major glyph baked in, so it now has a range of 15 yards, and it will now reduce the cooldown of our Brews by 4 seconds. Now the interesting question here is whether or not the cooldown reduction works on Fortifying Brew, if that's still around. That could be an interesting thing to play around, though my instinct is that it only affects the active mitigation brews, rather than the long cooldown one. Tiger Palm has a similar functionality, except it reduces the cooldown of our Brews by 1 second instead. It also actually has a cost now, at 25 energy. Gone are the days of Tiger Palm filler spam. That last bit I think is a little disappointing. I greatly enjoyed being able to press buttons without waiting for energy. It was the reason I enjoyed monk play compared to rogue play, where I felt like I wasn't doing more than waiting for energy. That gameplay felt too slow and boring for my tastes.

But let's actually explore that! How often will we be waiting for energy? Simply enough, at base energy regen, you generate 80 energy in 8 seconds. 40 of that is used for Keg Smash, and then Tiger Palm uses another 25, so you have a surplus of 15 left. So basically for every Keg Smash cooldown, you generate enough energy for 1.6 Tiger Palms. Rounding that down to 1, that's now 6 empty GCD's, if you include Keg Smash. You also get (again, rounding down) two Blackout Strikes / Breath of Fires (talking more about them later, but suffice it to say, they have a shared 3 second cooldown,) which means there's now 4 empty GCD's.

That sounds a bit worrisome, but keep in mind that I rounded down quite a bit here. In actual combat, more GCD's are going to be used up. As well, you also have to think about the active talents we are going to be getting. If some of those are rotational, then that could make Brewmaster feel better. To reiterate, the 50% number would be at the absolute worst point where all of your cooldowns and energy don't really want to line up well, in a very small, very specific timeframe, all at 0 haste with no other abilities than the ones mentioned. While there is likely to still be downtime, having it be as bad as this will be rare or even unheard of in practice. This is probably my biggest worry for how Brewmaster's going to be in Legion. I really enjoyed that even though I was waiting on energy or a cooldown, I ALWAYS had something to do, something to press. Furthermore, that's at base energy regen. As we get more, we can use Tiger Palm more, and therefore have less open GCD's. If Ironskin Brew and Purifying Brew are somehow now on the GCD, that's even less open GCD's. That the spec has slowed down, even if it's only for a couple GCD's per 8 seconds... that doesn't really sound good. I enjoyed the fast, active style of Brewmaster. It really should feel like I'm constantly doing something, or I'm probably going to end up frustrated and disappointed.

So Blackout Strike and Breath of Fire. Blizzard did the thing that I suggested! Kinda! As I mentioned earlier in that little theorycrafting spiel, they share a cooldown and which one you use will be determined by whether you want to do single target damage or AoE damage. This is actually a pretty cool change and one that I like. Breath of Fire finally has some use for us.

The Elusive Dance talent is another interesting thing. Again it's not really great at reducing burst, but it does make purifying a bit more skill-based and more rewarding, which is cool. It feels a bit underwhelming at least to me because of that, but there is some synergy with our new mastery. The more dodge we have before factoring in mastery, the more likely that we will get a dodge due to our mastery's increase in a lower number of melee hits. This is again something that really needs to be tested in-game for any real understanding of how good it is.

Overall, I'm pretty excited to try out this new Brewmaster, but I can't help but feel that there's some changes that could be very worrying depending on whether Blizzard adds more to our kit and priority. There's some stuff I really like, and some stuff that makes me a bit hesitant. And again, this is all really just rambling until I can actually get my hands on the beta.

This is going to be a bit of a fluid document. There's bound to be a lot of questions on these changes, and I'll be updating it a bit when any pertinent ones get an answer or clarification.

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