Hello again. A few weeks back, I predicted in another post that windwalker was going into Antorus in a very strong state.
As most of you know by now, windwalker has since then turned into a “flavor of the month” spec and is considered one of the strongest if not the strongest damage output spec around.

Some feared nerfs would come, some are just happy monks finally get a chance to shine.

Here are my thoughts on this whole situation. I hope it’ll be a better analysis than just “lol windwalker OP one button spinning crane kick and 5M dps nerf please.” Allthough this could be an easy summary now that I think of it.

How did this happen?

Class balancing is a delicate thing. Unfortunately, people tend to judge it based on metrics which aren’t very reliable nor stable.
Simulations? But classes perform better in simulationcraft based on how much effort was put into their profile. One week feral is nowhere to be seen, the following week they have a brand new updated profile and top the simulations, etc. It’s hard to keep up with that.
Logs? Well, logs differ a lot depending on the content you’re looking at. Late farm heroic logs (because bigger sample sizes matter somewhat) for bosses which get rushed in a couple minutes versus early progress mythic bosses are two different worlds. It’s impossible to tune different spec to perform equally in two different realms of raiding.

As I stated in previous article, windwalkers tend to be bad at farm bosses. Higher bloodlust uptime, short lived adds all favor high burst AoE classes (namely, warriors for instance) and some casters with high burst potential.
For some reason, blizzard left windwalkers untouched during all of tomb of sargeras. We were locked into a build that allowed us very little AoE (the infamous “6p”), few legendaries, and gave us very good sustained single target/cleave.

Because of this situation, when the class design team decided to get rid of our tier shenanigans, they buffed us to make up for it. As this happened during very late Tomb of Sargeras farm, the buff meant to put us back in the middle of the pack with extremely underwhelming tier prepared us to be extremely strong in the upcoming tier.

TL;DR: buffing a spec by 15% right before a tier happens might make it significantly stronger.

Beyond that, the tier itself is very good for windwalkers. The boss design is very different from Tomb of Sargeras. For instance, targets spawning in a staggered manner on bosses like Eonar and Portal Keeper allows windwalkers to tag them as they appear and once more targets are up, nuke them all easily. On mythic Varimathras, a second target is up frequently, but not long enough to favor multi-dotters. It is very short-lived, but that allows classes like windwalkers to get 50% or 100% more damage off some of their key abilities.
Last but not least, bosses which favor repetitive burst on specific timers are a superb fit for windwalker’s kit. Imonar and Kin’garoth are the perfect examples. Imonar has heavy downtime during which cooldowns refresh and you reach the boss with everything up every single time, allowing perfect line ups. Kin’garoth is a whole different topic so I’ll give it a whole section, but it highlights windwalkers strength.

All in all, this made our performance this tier exceptionnal.

Exactly how strong is windwalker right now?

It’s easy to look at warcraftlogs mythic 75th percentile statistics and say “well, windwalker right now is simply the strongest spec in the game, therefore it wins at everything.”
This is not the right approach. Let’s not be stupid and actually try to look a bit further into logs.

As you can see, with the right point of view, monks are at their natural spot in logs.

Jokes aside, logs are incomplete if you look at a single arbitrary percentile, difficulty, for all bosses. For instance, specific bosses will skew data a lot in favor of some classes, sometimes hiding issues they have. Coven and Eonar are easily such bosses.
I won’t do a full article about log analysis because it is most likely bound to be a failure from me.
However, looking into specifics will show you that windwalker is just flatout strong because
1) It is good at single target fights of any duration
2) It is good with downtime
3) It has good consistent AoE/Cleave benefits
4) It has no big weakness that are highlighted this tier. Short and frequent downtimes from the boss, burst AoE, bloodlust, multi dotting benefits are the things that are the biggest lacks in our kit.

Is this going to last?

Several windwalkers are sweating every week as they open the list of hotfixes and check wether we are on that list or not.
In my opinion it would make very little sense to nerf us now, for the reasons listed above and a couple more.

If you’ve been paying close attention to what I’ve been saying and looked for yourself, you’ll maybe have noticed that some classes rise every week in logs, and some perform worse and worse as time goes by. We’re still very early in Antorus. By now people have acquired a lot of tier, and that reflects in logs. For instance, Fury warriors have definitely risen, and in my opinion are still on the rise as one of the strongest melees. However, fury warrior’s performance is tied to their execute opportunities and this does not get better during farm for instance.
On the other hand, feral druids don’t gain that much from their tier 21 and did very well early on from previous tier and having good item level. Arms warrior were very good early on in tier 20 gear as well.
Some specs have very weird behavior as they are in a weird transition spot where they still want to use tier 20 up to a certain point. Hunters and Boomkins for instance follow such patterns depending on fights/item level available.

One of our strengths was that things could only get better/in our favor. We came from very weak tier, and benefit a lot from item level. We were glad to dump old tier. We also went directly into helm and chest legendaries. At item level 1000, these two slots provided us an insane amount of stats which we value so much.

As things go forward and others get high item level weapons while we’re stuck into looking for the rare relic with the right traits, as our dear extra targets get fewer, as fights get shorter and people can line up their cooldowns without losing a set of them, they’ll catch up to us in many places.

Another big topic is the pantheon trinkets. They will get better every week, not only by ilvl but by frequency. More people running them means more benefits from them. We’re NOT one of the best users of the agility trinket, as it’s effect procs on melee hits which we aren’t fond of. Some classes will love that trinket getting bigger, we won’t. This is another thing going against us.

TL;DR: Things, in my opinion, are going downhill from here. Having two stacks of Storm, Earth, and Fire in the opener will make us stronger than usually in shorter fights, but overall expect us to fade off a little bit. Considering how strong we are, this will be fine.

Do we deserve a nerf?

In my opinion, no we don’t. As I said right before this, in my opinion the nerf will happen alone from things getting slightly less favorable. This will leave us in the top of rankings but not in a fashion that justifis a nerf.

Looking back at legion, we’ve been as a spec left behind several times. Wether it was bugs or just viability, we haven’t brought much to raids. So far, the rule was that any raid leader could find a spec that was strictly better than windwalkers every tier. In nighthold, there was basically no reason to bring a windwalker over a fury warrior. The same could be said of many classes but at least some had utility, defensive spells, immunities, solid single target… We brought transcendance to reset bosses.

Again in Tomb of Sargeras, arms warrior were strictly better than us at virtually everything, and sub rogues as well, except these also brough uncontested boss damage and the best defensives around. Most other melees brought some sort of utility or immunity.

Right now, blizzard has designed a tier where things are probably more balanced between bosses. You want different things for every boss, and in that regard we fill a spot. We bring more damage output than most classes right now and in a very reliable way, yet top guilds didn’t feel the need to bring us over other specs.
No one is stacking windwalkers; guilds that bring two are extremely rare. Some world first racing guilds geared up a windwalker and Limit even used our very dear Xès on his monk for Argus, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

And that is fine in my opinion. If windwalkers are gonna be bad at mythic raiding needs and slightly more challenging than the average, let them bring good damage. Apparently good damage wasn’t enough for them to be picked over other classes, but at least we were considered.

It’s sad, in my opinion, that windwalkers, with their very niche toolkit, were never before in legion seen at the top of any boss. We had such a unique kit, you would expect with proper balance that one specific boss would fit our Spinning Crane Kick madness and you’d see an occasional monk at the top of logs. It wasn’t the case.
Now we’re in a spot were we have the tools to compete at everything, and windwalkers are killing it on Kin’garoth specifically. Is that an issue? No, in my opinion it’s the right direction and blizzard made a couple right choices there.

I’m not a monk player, can you explain what happens on Kin’Garoth to me?

For sure.

First let’s get things straight: Kin’garoth is a long single target fight with very occasional cleave and burst windows every 2 minutes. These windows happen 30 seconds into the fight then every 2 minutes precisely afterwards.
During these phases, adds appear that take 90% increased damage which gets reduced by 3% every second.

For many classes this is awkward. You cannot use everything on pull like you’re used to. If you have 1:30 minutes cooldowns or 3 minutes cooldowns, you have to make hard decisions. For instance, demon hunters can run the legendary shoulders combined with 2 minutes cooldown talents, but they need specific relics for their metamorphosis to reliably happen at the right time without bloodlust.
On top of that, some classes have ramp up damage. Unholy death knights have a hard time getting the most out of dark arbiter there. Affliction warlocks cannot get the best out of their damage over time. Casters cannot precast anything before the target spawns.

Monks don’t have that. We have two stacks of our offensive cooldown, which allows us to use one on pull and get the cooldown rolling, then one on the add. We have no ramp up, or rather all of our ramp up (chi building, hitcombo, legendary chest) is allready over by the time the phase times. We can have transcendance ready around our targets to move around more freely.
Our other offensive cooldown is touch of death, which has exactly 2 minutes cooldown and a built in burst.

Gale burst is an artifact trait that has been underwhelming most of legion. However, it interacts with damage taken increases in the most peculiar way. The damage dealt during thes 8 seconds benefits from the damage increase, then the gale burst application benefits from it again, making that very underwhelming trait suddenly relevant. This is the reason behind our uncanny burst on Kin’Garoth. We get a lot out of this debuff.

All of this to say: this has been happening all of legion, but for the first time there is a damage increase to reward us.
If you look closely, monks have been destroying priority targets on every progress. Sisters on Cenarius, Mariners on Helya, Empowered eyes of Gul’dan, maiden’s suppression protocoles on Fallen Avatar, and now Apocalypse protocoles on Kin’garoth.

Most guilds who ran a windwalker on Fallen Avatar relied heavily on him to clear maiden shields, allowing some room to be freed around her and potentially some players to focus on the boss. However, this went unnoticed as there was no damage increase on that.
If you went back in time and made the maiden shield twice as big, but made her take 100% increased damage, then people would have noticed windwalkers.

What I’m trying to say is, it took a tier where windwalkers were strong overall for people to notice how strong we were at stuff like Kin’Garoth. We’ve allways been doing this, but it hasn’t been noticeable so far.
What does this remind me of? Weighted damage in warcraftlogs. To try and reward proper raid behaviour, the administrator of warcraftlogs once made damage on less relevant targets appear as less damage, so that it wasn’t as rewarding to “pad”. However no one used that metric much.
On the other hand, blizzard can implement such metrics manually. This, in my opinion, is a very good example of how a boss can highlight specific class strengths, and I want more bosses like Kin’garoth in the future.

Gorefiend was one of my favorite bosses ever because of his damage patterns. I’m very glad to see such things again.
Varimathras has unique damage patterns as well: secondary targets that live a few seconds are fresh air after a couple years of multi dotting targets at best.

Conclusion

Windwalkers are very strong, but not strong enough for anyone to stack them nor for world first racers to use them. I guess they aren’t too strong then?
If classes don’t bring raid utility, it is fine if they can compete for damage output, and it is sad if they are never allowed to perform.
This tier highlights different strengths than previous ones and that is refreshing, let’s hope at least these conclusions are taken from it.
We are only getting worse from here on, so it would make little sense to nerf us, but who can predict the future?

The only thing that feels oppressive is how windwalker right now has so few weaknesses, in dungeons specifically. While other classes will burst one boss then chill on the next one without bloodlust, or burst one pack then chill, we are strong on every single pull, boss, target. However, that’s how the class is designed, to be reliable, and we cannot reach the same crazy burst instants some classes can get on AoE or single target.

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