Windwalker’s performance in Nighthold is largely credited to AoE/Cleave potential but when other classes are bringing all of our strengths with no drawbacks moving forward into Tomb of Sargeras, where does that leave us? In the scenarios where Windwalker’s do well you’ll often see sacrifices being made because overall, its a DPS gain, while other classes are just delaying cooldowns for these AoE phases while still maintaining high damage.

To be fair, why would they switch off the boss and do less damage to a secondary target when another can do it much easier? If a class can do 800k sustained single target but is penalized by switching off the primary target to do 500k to a secondary it doesn’t make much sense to require that when you can have a Windwalker who is doing 500k to the primary ,switch, and do 700k overall with some cleave added.

The damage model for Windwalkers however, requires us to give up a significant amount of Single Target damage in order to deal AoE Damage. It’s a problem that stems from the resource cost needed to sustain the source of damage that contributes to most your AoE DPS (Spinning Crane Kick) and the unfortunate circumstance where our primary single target ability is also our AoE/Cleave ability (Fist of Fury). Not every graph is perfect and not every raid boss encounter or strategy is the same but hopefully this article will help bring to light some of Windwalkers problem areas.

Maximum damage dealt by each spec (Left) – Damage done to bosses by each spec (Right)

Transitioning from Single Target to AoE / Cleave

Xes’s Aluriel Log
Shadli’s Aluriel Log

The following screenshots are taken from the two logs posted above. “Serenity God” Xes from Limit on US-Illidan and Shadli from Northern Sky EU (DE)-Antonidas are two very well known Windwalkers in the community for there contributions to theorycrafting and for the consistent appearances on the Warcraft Log Class All-star rankings.  

This screenshot is with  Xes running Serenity & Convergence of Fates with the legendary Drinking Horn Cover. Serenity brings the strength of unparalleled burst damage in the short duration, unlimited resources, and reduced cooldowns. Since everything is free for the 8 seconds the damage/chi hierarchy is replaced with simply valuing the raw damage of Spinning Crane Kick against an alternate ability.

In a normal scenario using Spinning Crane Kick with low stacks on Single target over Rising Sun Kick or Blackout Kick is generally going to be a single target DPS loss, in this case your single target damage is priority damage on the primary target, which happens to be the boss in this example. Running Serenity in this situation changes your AoE rotation so that Rising Sun Kick / Blackout Kick become used for tagging which removes that single target damage from your primary target for the sake of AoE damage.

For example: In Xes’s log while pooling prior to AoE while attacking the priority target or Target 1 (Spellblade Aluriel) for the first stack of Mark of the Crane. Tiger Palm being used on the Fel Soul (2 stacks of MoTC) with Fist of Fury being the last global used starting the cooldown when the 4 elemental’s spawn and they’re running and the channel ending when they’re in melee range. Tiger palm target 3 (Icy Elemental 1) Blackout Kick Target 4 (Icy Elemental 2) and then Tiger Palm pop Serenity + Spinning Crane Kick -> Rising Sun Kick target 5 (Icy Elemental 3) -> Spinning Crane Kick -> Strike of the Windlord -> Spinning Crane Kick -> Rising Sun Kick target 6 (Icy Elemental 4) -> Spinning Crane Kick -> Blackout Kick -> Spinning Crane Kick -> Rising Sun Kick -> Spinning Crane Kick -> Fist of Fury.

Strike of the Windlord where it would normally be considered a DPS loss to use it on AoE but having it line up with every Serenity and the additional Thunderfist proc’s from hitting the frost adds was again held for an overall increase in damage. Spinning Crane Kick was a 1.78m DPS contribution in that phase and needless to say, he completely dominated damage on the adds weaving abilities in between Spinning Crane Kicks while executing a perfect Serenity with Fist of Fury, 3 Rising Sun Kicks, and Strike of the Windlord.


Then, Shadli, who held Fist of Fury for add spawns and used it as his first global before tagging, with 8 stacks of Hit Combo & 8 stacks of Transfer the Power, and then transitioning into Spinning Crane Kick with Storm, Earth, and Fire the same way Xes did only this time with clones tagging the additional mobs you dont necessarily need to switch off of your primary… except we’re doing 45% of our normal damage during SEF…. Once again, sacrificing single target damage on the boss but dominating the add damage

Very important abilities held for each talent with the intent of doing more overall damage and what was the penalty for it?

Nearly all of there boss damage was sacrificed in order to do use these abilities in a more efficient way. Fist of Fury starts out at 2625% of your AP in damage and after Relics , Artifact Weapon traits, Transfer the Power, and Hit Combo a single cast is doing 5032% per target on the low side of the spectrum and this isnt including any benefit from Mastery or trinkets. Proper use of these abilities are what makes the spec shine in a way that no other class can replicate but we’re sacrificing so much for this uniqueness. Despite all of this there is always talk about “Just bring a Warrior or a Demon Hunter, they do what we do better” and to those people I’ll say, no, you’re wrong: when talking about other specs in relation to AoE potential, Windwalker is the outlier, not Odyn’s Fury or Metamorphosis.

This damage style put us in this awkward position when boss enrage or pushing timers comes into play. During Mythic Tichondrius for example you have the challenge of getting everyone through Phase 2 safely and then beating the enrage timer afterwards. Phase 2 is probably nothing to your guild if you’ve got a Windwalker raiding but there is the possibility that you might be low on the requirement to kill the boss before the enrage timer afterwards.

 

Resource cost

 

How did things end up this way? Spinning Crane Kick and Fist of Fury both are very expensive with a cost of 3 chi so when its extended AoE (Spellblade, Tichondrius, Gul’dan, etc) there ends up being a pretty significant investment when it comes to the energy requirements of generating Chi to use these abilities and almost always it causes us to once again make sacrifices on boss damage to accomplish it by pooling energy 10 seconds prior and holding single target damage cooldowns 5-10 seconds before.

When you’re transitioning from AoE to Single Target with or without another AoE transition upcoming your pretty much strapped for resources. Rising Sun Kick is rarely used on cooldown in these situations and Blackout Kick is either extremely rare or cast only when you get a Combo Breaker proc from Tiger Palm otherwise you risk not being able to cast Fist of Fury when it comes off cooldown.

I’ll be extremely brief here because I dont want to shift focus away from Windwalker to other specs and it’s not meant to be a comparison between classes but just to exemplify the actions, not the damage, these other classes are doing; 

 

DK’s rotation: Remorseless Winter > Obliterate > Howling blast > Frost Strike during downtime -> Breath of Sindragosa; during AoE, you don’t need to change ANYTHING, you might want to switch targets for melee hits to apply frost debuffs but that’s it. Lose 0 damage to priority target.

 

DH’s rotation: Blade dance on cooldown anyways, chaos strikes, eye beam outside of meta etc; on AoE? Doesn’t change anything or barely, just delay one spell (Fury of the Illidari) slightly, it might even gain ST if timed right (hard to do).

 

Survival: Fury of the eagle is barely good to use single target, so it comes at close to no cost to never use it on ST during AoE heavy fights; butchery comes at the cost of a lackluster resource for the spec, focus. All that’s hard on your single target is that you need to slightly adapt your timings and rotation at a cost if you want to get that damage to line up nicely with AoE.

 

TL;DR: for most specs, AoE comes at little to no cost; for WW it goes against ST greatly.

 

So how do we fix it?

That’s not an easy question to answer as most of you probably understand. The initial bonus of the new trait Split Personality is pre-nerf Convergence of Fates level strong and Thunderfist is a strong addition to the sustained single target damage we do. There are some who think we need more sustained though and given what we’ve seen throughout Nighthold, what good will it do? It’s not the global cooldown, its not the boots being nerfed, it’s not because you have that versatility/haste belt that rolled titanforged, we simply can not facility the energy cost associated with casting more RSK/BoK. Haste has its minor perks and very weird interactions with our abilities at times but the energy regen just isn’t there.

More burst damage is an option even though we’re already up there doing insane amounts but you hit this point in a tier where the power creep allows everyone to do the required damage to quickly burst down these packs of adds or secondary targets yet Windwalker still has to sacrifice damage in order to contribute and in a way it starts to become less and less relevant. Maybe less sustained AoE with Spinning Crane Kick and more Burst damage is the answer; higher base value and lower value per stack perhaps? One thing I have been saying alot is that I didnt think Fist of Fury would work in a state that Legion put it in and it would have been better in the WoD style where it did 100% primary target damage and 100%/n damage split by the number of secondary targets which would have allowed room for single target dps buffs via FoF without touching AoE/Cleave to much. This new set bonus for T20 mimics that model very closely.

Moving Foward into The Tomb of Sargeras

 

T19 2pc    T20 2pc

T19 4p     T20 4pc

 

Finally, We know that the T19 Nighthold 2pc bonus is worth a little more than +3 average ilvl  and the 4pc bonus is worth +5 average ilvl. One thing we’ve learned as a community in Nighthold is that in the areas we shine, Rising Sun Kick doesn’t, and the new tier set putting a focus on that aspect of gameplay is not something that I look forward to. As more people shift from these less popular DPS specs to ones that may benefit more than we do on AoE >10 seconds such as Warriors or 3-4 targets such as Elemental Shamans and even specs that do ridiculous single target damage across all percentiles such as Affliction Warlocks / Sub Rogues / Shadow Priests the downwards shift will slowly start to become more apparent than it has been in the weeks since 7.2 release considering not everyone has access to there new Artifact traits yet.

Napkin math puts the T20 set as only a slight increase over the T19 set bonus and from what I’ve seen the increase is mainly from the Agility differences. Fist of Fury becomes strong on Single target and 2 target cleave since you can apply Rising Fists to both targets with the T19 2pc  / T20 4pc and it becomes weaker on burst AoE (losing T19 4pc “2000 mastery”). If your wearing a tier set comprised of mostly 905+ peices then the chances of us wearing a different set depending on the type of content is very likely in its current iteration.  AoE becomes weaker, Single Target becomes stronger, but increasing our very low damage now isnt likely to be significant enough to warrant the loss on AoE. Fortunately at the time of writing Bob, Pandanaconda, Babylonius, and Hinalover have started to debunk the mystery’s of the new tier bonus and hopefully all of us (myself included) can look forward to the next chapter for Windwalkers in the coming weeks.

Is it an issue that people judge WW based on top numbers?

 

Damage going back to the start of the Tier

Top numbers for WW will always delay FoF by up to 5 seconds to hit useless targets, will always try to fit a spinning crane kick at 4 stacks on bloods who take no damage in melee range of Tichondrius, will always be the one padding to the extreme, aka losing boss damage by over using SCK to gain less relevant damage. The class is taken at face value by  new players, raiders, raid leaders, and communities when they open up Warcraft Logs and look at Windwalker smack in the center of the mix and say “this spec is fine” when the reality of it paints a much different picture. Not all Aoe/Cleave is pad but does it matter when you could be doing 3 million damage per second by altering the way you play slightly? I’ve been typing for some time so I guess this is where I’ll close things up.

 
 
 
 

Hopefully this post serves its purpose to illustrate a problem and not as the foundation for future viability disputes because if your being benched it’s probably because you didnt run  Black Ox Statue when you had the chance. Windwalker is a very strong, capable, and viable spec even outside of the niche where we like to show off what we can do but in the end we’re always left looking around and wondering why other classes get priority for tier, trinkets, relics or why our dps is increasing 13% across the span of the tier while other classes are creeping up towards the 30%+ damage range.
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