So, around April of 2017, I started a series on some of the big difficulties that Windwalker had faced in our history. While there have certainly been a few tough times since then that I didn’t write a “Lament of the Windwalker” for all of those moments, something has been going on the past few months that I felt merits a “Lament of the Windwalker” article as its very similar to the adventure we had over a few years with our Mastery changes, which I covered in my first “Lament of the Windwalker”. This would, obviously be, the roller coaster of a ride the Windwalker has been on since the Pre-Patch. By “roller coaster” I mean how frequently we’ve see tuning change how we “optimally” play. In this article I’ll try to cover all of those changes so we can hopefully see how crazy this timeline has been.
Back in Legion, Windwalker saw some regular changes to how we played. Primarily, which talent we choose between Serenity and Whirling Dragon Punch changed every new raid tier. In Emerald Nightmare we mainly used Serenity. In Nighthold, we mainly used Whirling Dragon Punch. In Tomb we used the “6pc” bonus and were back to Serenity.
In Antorus, Windwalker played a new way, and we were back to Whirling Dragon Punch. This mainly involved getting the right combination of tier and legendaries, and taking advantage of the synergy between them to deal MASSIVE damage. This was a very fast playstyle, faster than Windwalker had ever been, and with the damage that Windwalker could do, it brought a lot of people to the spec. Our population nearly tripled over the course of Antorus.
This playstyle focused very much around utilizing all of the Windwalkers abilities, maximizing the frequency of Combo Breaker procs in order to benefit from the tier bonuses. We had a lot of resources going in, but many ways to get those resources back out. It was a very straightforward playstyle, just about everything was used the way you’d think, and did what you’d expect it to do.
Many people consider Antorus or Tomb, with the “6p” to be the pinnacle of Windwalker gameplay.
But all that changed when the Fire nation attacked.
July 10th: RSK Be Gone!
If you somehow managed to avoid this part of the game, or blocked it out of your memory, it can be summed up by my article from that time: Legion WW Gets its Ass (Blackout) Kicked.
Basically, with the reshuffling of damage and with the stat squish, Blackout Kick was incredibly strong, drastically changing how things played from the day before. Rising Sun Kick became an afterthought, largely forgotten outside of Serenity. Chi Burst became by far the strongest talent, even in single target. We even found ourselves not caring too much about repeating our abilities, ignoring Mastery in some cases, something that would have seemed sacrilege any time since our Mastery was changed to its current form.
Not using Rising Sun Kick very often felt very weird, and generally bad to most people who played Windwalker. That combined with the loss of Strike of the Windlord made Windwalker rely VERY heavily on Blackout Kick damage, doing just about everything we could to get more Blackout Kick out against the target. Whirling Dragon Punch was still the preferred talent for Antorus due to how the fights were set up.
August 7th: BoK Be Gone!
After playing the Blackout Kick focused playstyle for about four weeks, Blizzard decided to nerf Blackout Kick‘s damage. I, affectionately called it “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead!“. This basically changed us back to the “normal” playstyle of valuing all our abilities.
- Rising Sun Kick back to being used on cooldown
- Blackout Kick back to being a filler/Chi dump
- Mastery back to being something we almost always care about
- Chi Wave or Chi Burst could both be used for single target, Chi Burst for AOE
This way felt like it was the way that Windwalker was supposed to play. You felt the cooldown reduction of Blackout Kick, you got some good damage out of our abilities with cooldowns, and you were back to wanting to use them as quickly as you could after they were available.
August 23rd: FoF Be Gone!
Two and a half weeks later, things changed again. Although this didn’t come as a result of direct tuning or balance changes, like the previous ones, this was a playstyle that was discovered by some hard-working theorycrafters. You can find the summary HERE.
Basically what it meant was that we were now ignoring Fists of Fury in favor of maximizing our Swift Roundhouse stacks from Blackout Kick and using those stacks on Rising Sun Kick. We wanted to stack Swift Roundhouse traits, often giving up huge chunks of item level to get it, whereas previously we wanted traits like Dagger in the Back. Once you got two items with Swift Roundhouse traits, you switched to this drastically different playstyle. This playstyle was incredibly strong, absolutely overpowered in single target, and kept us following our ST priority well into AOE.
Once again we were back to a playstyle that had us ignoring an ability that had been a core part of the toolkit for years. We also switched from using Whirling Dragon Punch for just about everything, to using Serenity for just about everything except consistent, and higher target (more than 3 targets) AOE.
August 24th: From 2 to 3
Less than 24 hours after the Swift Roundhouse playstyle was published on Peak, Swift Roundhouse was nerfed by 35%. I called it “In Record Time“. All this meant was that people wanted to get three Swift Roundhouse traits before switching to the new playstyle, rather than two. The search continued to get as many Swift Roundhouse traits as you could.
September 17th: SR Be Gone!
Welp… that happened. Although the Swift Roundhouse playstyle had technically been around the whole time, about 3 weeks after its made public, and just about enough time for everyone to fully switch over to it, Swift Roundhouse gets nerfed by 55%. This single change had HUGE consequences on the optimal playstyle.
- Swift Roundhouse remained one of our best traits for Serenity but….
- We stopped using Serenity and went back to Whirling Dragon Punch for just about everything so…
- Swift Roundhouse became pretty garbage
- We went back to prioritizing artifact traits like Dagger in the Back
This was a return to the “normal” playstyle, but one that felt like a HUGE nerf to a playstyle that everyone had spent the previous three weeks trying to maximize. We happened to have other traits and talents to fall back on, but it was still another noticeable change to our playstyle, azerite traits, and talents.
September 20th: Less SEF = More DPS?
After returning to using Whirling Dragon Punch, and thus Storm, Earth, and Fire, we decided to go public with a slight change to the playstyle coming from a “bug” that had been present for as far back into BfA’s Alpha/Beta as anyone could remember, CancelAura Macros for SEF. This involved using a /cancelaura macro to cancel Storm, Earth, and Fire and, simultaneously, using Whirling Dragon Punch or Rising Sun Kick. Cancelling Storm, Earth, and Fire was not an instant loss of the buff, but caused the clones to come flying back to you. During this small time that they’re technically gone, but not actually gone, you could use an ability and they would still copy it. However, because they’re “technically” gone, you don’t deal reduced damage, you deal 100% of the damage you normally would, and they do to, because…. why not. This interaction worked without using /cancelaura, as you could use an ability at the last second of Storm, Earth, and Fire as they ran back to you, the /cancelaura just let you force this interaction.
Again, this was something that had been reported as a “bug” for months, so after we switched back to using Storm, Earth, and Fire, and nothing had been done about it, it was decided to go public with this interaction to help mitigate the loss of damage from the Swift Roundhouse nerf.
September 25th: OPS is OP
Borrowing from the article titled; Can’t spell IT’S OP without OPS, Blizzard decided to buff the Azerite Trait, Open Palm Strikes by 60%. This basically took it from obscurity, but decent trait in AOE at least, to one of, if not THE best trait for just about all content. Although this wasn’t a change to playstyle, per-say, it was a change to what was our best trait…. again.
Because this shifts a HUGE amount of our damage, especially in AOE, into Fists of Fury, this could technically prompt a playstyle that focuses much less on Rising Sun Kick and maybe even Mastery, in order to pump out more Fists of Fury for the extra benefit. The gain from this is so small, possibly nonexistent, so moment specific, and largely happens anyway through our AOE priorities, that it hasn’t been worth spending time on, which is why there hasn’t been a huge cry about “OMG WE’RE NOT USING RSK ANYMORE!!”
So after generic traits spent around two weeks being best, and Swift Roundhouse spent 3 weeks being best, and generics were back on top for a week, now its time for Open Palm Strikes to shine… for now.
September 28th: Cancelaura Be Gone!
So last Friday, Blizzard decided to “fix” the cancelaura by preventing us from being able to cancel Storm, Earth, and Fire by any means. This doesn’t really fix the “bug” as you can still try to take advantage of the bonus damage, you just have to try and time using your ability, either Whirling Dragon Punch or Rising Sun Kick, at the very very very end of Storm, Earth, and Fire‘s uptime, with a window of only a few tenths of a second. So really the “bug” isn’t fixed, as much as set up so that we can’t force to take advantage of.
Although this was certainly something that we saw happening, after it had gone un-“fixed” for so long despite numbers bug reports, it was still a little surprising to see it get “fixed” after barely more than a week. Many people had found that it was quite enjoyable to track the cooldowns and try to plan things out. It was also incredibly strong when there were many targets to hit with Whirling Dragon Punch, which is likely why it was “fixed” once people started taking advantage of it.
So, as you can see, Windwalker has gone through eight changes, that could be classified as “major”, since the Pre-Patch came out on July 10th, roughly 80 days. Seven of those changes, starting with the nerf to Blackout Kick, have taken place in 55 days, which is a little more than one major change per week.
Of these eight changes:
- Four involved either dropping, or re-adding, a “core” ability, and thus changing our priority; July 10th, August 7th, August 23rd, and September 17th.
- Four involved changing what Azerite traits were the strongest, or how strong they are; August 23rd, August 24th, September 17th, and September 25th.
- One allowed us to force a “bug” that had been reported for months but never “fixed”; September 20th.
- One prevented us from forcing a “bug” that had been reported for months but never “fixed”; September 28th.
- Two were things discovered and made public by members of the community; August 23rd and September 20th.
- Three were nerfs to those discovered thing; August 24th, September 17th, and September 28th.
- Three increased our damage; August 23rd, September 20th, and September 25th.
- Of those three that increased our damage, only one was an actual buff from Blizzard; September 25th.
- Five decreased our damage; July 10th, August 7th, August 24th, September 17th, September 28th.
- One was something we did ask for; August 7th.
- Five were things we didn’t ask for; July 10th, August 23rd, August 24th, September 17th, and September 25th.
- One was something we asked for, but then didn’t get till we made it public; September 28th.
- Seven were drastic changes caused by one simple change. Only the Pre-Patch had more than one change that affected things.
- The average time between changes of “new” things that the community has discovered is 11 days
- The average lifespan for an Azerite trait being the strongest is 11.75 days
- The average time for one of our “core” abilities to be the strongest is 11.75 days
- The average time between changes of any kind is 7.83 days
This means that, since the expansion has come out, Windwalker has changed, on average, about once per week. While there have been other specs that have been screaming for any changes at all. For comparison, there were 10 patches between Alpha and Beta that contained changes for Windwalker, I know because I wrote an article for each one. The first of these was with the 8.0.1 push to Alpha on January 28th. So between then and the actual Pre-Patch, there were 10 changes over 163 days, or an average of one change every 16.3 days, more than twice as long as the average we’ve seen since then. There have been almost as many changes to Windwalker in the past 2.5 months than there were in the preceding 5.5 months.
If nothing else, its certainly keeping us writers busy, but it would be nice to spend more than a few days between having to theorycraft and read up on whats best for this week. I’d actually like to get to play the game every now and again. We also have the impending change to Good Karma in 8.1, which is currently on the PTR, and there will certainly be more changes as time goes on.