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The Brewmaster is the Monk tanking specialisation, which will be added to the game in Mists of Pandaria. This specialisation completes the Monk's truly hybrid nature (tank-healer-DPS), and it will be the 5th tanking class in the game.
As usual, keep in mind that this article is based entirely on Beta content, where raid encounters are not yet available and many mechanics are in development and under constant change.
The Brewmaster is adept at avoiding damage (mostly through parrying) and mitigating it (through a new mechanic, called stagger). This results in a generally smooth damage intake. We would argue that the amount of damage that Brewmasters can currently avoid or mitigate is too high, and will most likely be re-balanced.
General Brewmaster Characteristics
Here are a few facts about the Monk's tanking specialisation:
- can use Fist Weapons, One-Handed Axes/Maces/Swords, Polearms, and Staves.
- dual resource system comprised of Energy and Chi (more on this below);
- the usual array of tank abilities (interrupts, slows, stuns, disarms).
The Resource System
The Brewmaster Monk resource system is comprised of Energy and Chi.
Energy is very straightforward, acting in the same way as Rogues' and Feral Druid DPS' resources of the same name. It regenerates steadily over time, at a base rate of 10 per second. Its regeneration rate is affected by haste. Its regeneration rate is also increased by the prefered Brewmaster stance, Stance of the Sturdy Ox. Energy is used for various abilities (both threat-generating abilities and utility abilities), but also by Jab, the main Chi generating ability.
Chi is required for a number of tanking abilities used by Brewmaster Monks in their normal rotation. It has a maximum capacity of 4 (5 if the Ascension talent is taken) and it does not decrease or decay in any way (even when out of combat).
Brewmasters have various tools at their disposal for staying alive while tanking, in addition to the rather standard dodge and parry mechanics. We will present them all here.
Stance, Mastery and Staggering
While tanking, you should always be in in Stance of the Sturdy Ox. This provides you with various benefits:
- reduces all damage taken by 20%;
- increases Stamina by 20%;
- increases Energy regeneration rate by 30%;
- reduces chance to be critically hit by 6% (meaning that you will never be the victim of a critical hit from raid bosses).
Moreover, you are granted a new mitigation mechanic, Stagger. Stagger causes all damage you take to be split into two parts:
- damage taken instantly;
- damage taken over 10 seconds (as a DoT).
At its base, 70% of any damage you take is taken instantly, and the remaining 30% is staggered over 10 seconds. However, there is a self-buff that you should be keeping active on yourself at all times when mitigation is important ( Shuffle), that increases the staggered part of the damage by 20% (making it 50-50). Shuffle also increases your parry chance by a whopping 30%.
Finally, your Mastery, Mastery: Elusive Brawler, further increases your staggered damage portion. Mastery also increases your chance to parry.
While it may appear that there is no real benefit to the Stagger mechanic, this is not true. You have an ability, Purifying Brew, which removes all the staggered damage currently you. This ability has a 1 second cooldown and costs 1 Chi, meaning that you can, more or less, use it freely.
In addition to dodging, parrying and staggering, Brewmaster Monks have several abilities that help them survive.
Purifying Brew allows you to remove any staggered damage currently on you, as explained above.
Expel Harm allows you to heal yourself for a reasonable amount, while also dealing damage to the target. Expel Harm generates 1 Chi, and costs the same amount of Energy (40) as Jab, your primary Chi generator. Expel Harm has a 15 second cooldown, but when you are under 35% health, its cooldown is removed.
Guard provides a small damage absorption shield, lasting 30 seconds or until broken by damage. While the shield is active, any heals you cast on yourself are increased by 30%. Guard costs 2 Chi and has a 30 second cooldown (theoretically allowing for full uptime, if the shield would not be broken by damage). The amount of damage absorbed by Guard is increased by up to 15% (5% per stack) by a self-buff applied by casting Tiger Palm.
Elusive Brew is a small defensive cooldown that increases your chance to dodge by 10% for 8 seconds. It has a 45 second cooldown and has no resource cost.
Avert Harm is a spell that reduces all damage taken by you and nearby allies within 10 yards by 50%. 50% of the remaining damage taken by these allies is redirected to you. Avert Harm lasts 15 seconds, but its effect is canceled if you reach 10% health. It has a 1 minute cooldown and no resource cost.
Healing Sphere is a spell that allows you to place up to 3 healing spheres on the ground, which heal players who walk over them. While this ability can be used to heal yourself, it heals for a rather small amount and costs 60 Energy to use, so it is only really useful if you can pre-cast it before the fight begins.
Gift of the Ox is a passive ability that gives you a 1% chance each time you deal damage to spawn a healing sphere next to you. This healing sphere is special in that you are the only player who can see it. It heals you for a small amount.
Fortifying Brew is a defensive cooldown that increases your health by 20%, your Stagger amount by 20%, and reduces your damage taken by 20% for 20 seconds. It has a 3 minute cooldown and no resource cost.
You can choose one of the following survival abilities, as your tier 5 talent:
- Healing Elixirs, which heals you for 10% of your maximum health each time you use a Brew (Fortifying Brew, Purifying Brew, Elusive Brew). It has a 15 second internal cooldown.
- Dampen Harm, which causes the first 3 attacks against you that deal over 10% of your health in damage to be reduced in half. It has a 1 minute and 30 second cooldown and no resource cost.
- Diffuse Magic, which reduces all damage taken by 90% for 6 seconds. It also makes you immune to magic debuffs, reflecting them back to their caster. It has 1 minute and 30 second cooldown and no resource cost.
Summon Black Ox Statue lasts 15 minutes and has a 3 minute cooldown. It provides you with several benefits:
- For every 150,000 damage you deal, the statue will place a shield, absorbing a small amount of damage on a low health member within 40 yards of it. It cannot cast this shield on you.
- Casting Provoke (the Monk's taunt ability) on the statue will cause all enemies within 8 yards of the statue to attack it.
- Leer of the Ox, an ability granted by a Major Glyph of the same name. It causes the statue to slow the movement speed of a target by 50% and force them to attack it for 8 seconds.
Threat and Damage
As a Brewmaster, in addition to simply surviving, you will have to use several abilities in order to keep aggro and deal damage. Several of these abilities are inter-related to your survival abilities, as we will see.
Jab is your primary Chi generating ability. You will be using this to dump Energy and give yourself enough Chi to use other abilities.
Keg Smash is an ability that hits the target and up to two nearby enemies for a small amount of damage. Additionally, it applies two debuffs to the targets:
- Dizzying Haze, which reduces the target's movement speed by 50% and gives it a 3% chance to "misfire" its attacks, damaging itself instead. This debuff lasts 15 seconds.
- Weakened Blows, which reduces physical damage by 10%, lasting 30 seconds.
Keg Smash costs 40 Energy, generates 2 Chi and has an 8 second cooldown.
Dizzying Haze can be applied manually to targets, in an area, with the same effect as the the debuff applied by Keg Smash. It costs 20 Energy, has no cooldown, and generates a large amount of threat.
Breath of Fire is a frontal cone AoE attack that breathes fire on all targets 12 yards in front of you. If the targets are affected by Dizzying Haze, they will catch fire and burn for a reasonable amount of damage over 8 seconds. It costs 2 Chi and has no cooldown.
Blackout Kick is your main threat-generating ability. You will use this often, as it applies and refreshes the Shuffle buff on you, which is integral to your survival. It costs 2 Chi.
Tiger Palm is another threat ability. Using Tiger Palm stacks two self-buffs on you: one which causes you to ignore up to 15% of the target's armor, thus increasing your threat, and one which causes your next Guard to be 15% stronger. It costs 1 Chi, but deals considerably more damage per Chi than Blackout Kick.
Spinning Crane Kick is a channeled AoE ability that deals damage to all enemies within 8 yards for 3 seconds. It generates Chi and, unlike other channeled abilities, does not interfere with your ability to dodge or parry attacks.
The playstyle of Brewmaster Monks revolves around spending Energy to generate Chi, and using both Energy and Chi to stay alive and maintain aggro. Many abilities are being frequently changed at this stage of the Beta, but it appears that a viable way to play the Brewmaster is:
- Make sure Summon Black Ox Statue is active at all times.
- Use Keg Smash, Expel Harm and Jab (in that order of priority) to generate Chi.
- Use Blackout Kick to maintain your Shuffle buff (greatly increasing your survivability).
- Use Tiger Palm to spend additional Chi, when your Shuffle buff is not about to expire or when it is not needed. Tiger Palm also buffs your next Guard, so it can be used with that in mind.
- Use Purifying Brew to clear your staggered damage whenever it is high or you are in danger of dying.
- Use your various survival and healing abilities at the right time. This will depend on a fight-by-fight basis, and may require quick thinking.
If facing multiple enemies, make sure that they are affected by Dizzying Haze (either from casting it manually or from Keg Smash) and then use Breath of Fire. You can also use Spinning Crane Kick for AoE threat and damage.
This concludes this first look at the Brewmaster specialisation. As we have said before, rather important changes have taken place in regards to many mechanics of Brewmasters, recently, so much of this is subject to change.
As always, we eagerly await your comments.