First thing to start off with this article is just an announcement that we’ve opened up pages for the Shadowlands changes for all the specs. They will be updated whenever new changes come out and keep a running log of all the changes so they can be used a quick reference to see what has changed and the latest changes. You can find the Windwalker page HERE and above in the navigation bar.
Additionally, with the release of Shadowlands Alpha, I want to comment on how impressed and proud I am of how the changes are being handled through discussion in Discord. Over the past few days there have been a wide variety of opinions; some that I agree with, and the rest that are wrong, but there has been very little, if any arguing and immaturity. In addition, the feedback that has been collected, discussed, and posted on the Feedback Forums has been done so primarily in a mature and constructive way. Although may disagree with me, I have always striven to provide feedback in a certain way, and encouraged others to do so as well. So far the community has shown the maturity and patience that it takes to conduct ourselves in that way, and I hope that it pays off for us.
At the time of writing this, very few have been into Alpha, and the rest of us (myself included) are sitting and waiting. We have a process of many months, and no changes are final till the expansion is released, and even then prone to changes. Try to be patient with the changes and with each other. The sky isn’t falling, and won’t fall for as long as I’m around to try and prevent it from doing so to the best of my ability. Try to refrain from the fear-mongering and conspiracy theories that can be prevalent during these times and remember that many of us play Windwalkers, or are apart of this community, because we love it, and that even if you disagree with someone on why they love it, everyone is entitled to their opinions and that we can’t always see the forest through the trees or visa versa. Blizzard isn’t out to destroy Monks or Windwalkers, regardless of what you may read from various people spouting nonsense. We have months ahead of us, so keep calm and monk on.
This was the first time anyone was able to get into the Alpha to see about some of the changes, so its pretty early to make overwhelming opinions on the state of Windwalker in Shadowlands, but its never too early to try. I’ll try to break it up into some sections;
Windwalker gained a few abilities that we had had in the past and we get to experience them again;
- Combat Conditioning – This was just an extra thing that Blackout Kick used to do, nothing special, just a smidge more damage.
- Expel Harm – I’m happy to see this back, as having a bit more control over one’s health and survivability is nice. However, right now its somewhat in a weird position of being not quite strong enough to be a rotational ability, yet not quite weak enough to totally discount it from being such.
The biggest thing this week was the changes that were made to abilities and what got moved around;
- Fists of Fury and Spinning Crane Kick both got target caps. I understand what Blizzard is trying to do with putting target caps on abilities, but right now it seems very helter skelter and without a real plan. I think it makes sense to put a cap on Fists of Fury to make sure they stay in the “cleave”-zone, whereas true AOE abilities like Spinning Crane Kick make more sense without a cap. Moreover, Spinning Crane Kick having a target cap doesn’t really make any sense in a world where Mark of the Crane exists and has a cap itself.
- Fortifying Brew is now baseline rather than a PvP talent. I have a strong love/hate relationship with this change. I love having another defensive ability, but with the existence of Touch of Karma, it results in the situation where to get the maximum DPS, you’ll want to pop Fortifying Brew before Touch of Karma so that you get the extra health to increase your Touch of Karma damage. It won’t be a huge gain, but people have done sillier things for less. The prospect of using two defensive abilities for offensive purposes just grinds my gears. However, this problem is really more Touch of Karma‘s fault than Fortifying Brew‘s.
- Leg Sweep got a little bit more range, which is never a bad thing.
- Dance of Chi-Ji is now a talent to replace Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger in the level 90 row. I’m very much OK with this, and I’d like to see it carried further and have Fury of Xuen replace Hit Combo in that slot. Although it provides a small amount of variance and procs to Windwalker, where I much prefer to not have to think about procs, but its relatively minor and does feel pretty good in single target, giving you something else to help keep up Mastery.
- Touch of Death got some pretty heavy changes. Now it instantly kills a target with less health than you or deals 15% of your health in damage to a target thats below 15% health if they have more health left than you, and generates 3 Chi spheres that give you some resources. Rather than being a cooldown that we use every 2 minutes, its closer to its original purpose which was largely to snipe mobs as they died or kill something quick as you are out questing. You’ll likely use it only once in a boss fight, and the addition of 3 Chi Spheres gives a nice little bonus when you use it, which will further value its use in questing. I don’t really mind this change, as I have always felt that Windwalker has enough button, so while I mourn the loss of Gale Burst as my favorite Legion thing that made it into BfA, I am not going to cry for long getting to scale back my WeakAuras a little bit.
- Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger is now baseline rather than a talent. I’m not upset about getting to spend more time with the sweet tiger, Kenny (just like Niuzao is Dave, the avatar you summon of Xuen is named Kenny, its an old joke, just let it happen). However, currently its still just a fire and forget ability and really doesn’t add much besides some damage. Another problem is that Xuen doesn’t scale with Mastery and only his auto attacks scale with Haste, which is about 30-40% of his overall damage even in single target. Having him play a bigger part of our damage in his current state would continue Windwalker’s struggles to scale with gear.
While there’s nothing that I’m overly psyched about with the changes, and there are a few concerns I have, I am excited to get back to the base playstyle that we had at the start of Battle for Azeroth before it became polluted by procs and random resources. I personally enjoy the slower playstyle that comes with more downtime and a slower pace. I know this isn’t an opinion that many share, but its always been my preferred way of playing. If I wanted to spam my buttons as fast as I can there are plenty of classes and specs that I could play. I want flow, smoothness, and thoughtfulness, which is why I’ve always loved Windwalker, even when that’s not always the case.
Ideas and Hopes
So after these initial changes there are a few things that I think still need to be addressed for the health of the spec;
- Talents – Windwalker talent balance has been rather rough this expansion with Serenity being pretty much useless the whole expansion and Hit Combo taking over for Xuen once it gets out scaled. The problem with the last two tiers of talents isn’t numbers, but functions, and I’m not even talking about Whirling Dragon Punch just not functioning sometimes when it should.
- Storm, Earth, and Fire – I’ve posted about it a bunch of times, but the prospect of another expansion being at the mercy of this ability with all its bugs an unintended mechanics and interactions, is very dismaying. I understand that Storm, Earth, and Fire is thematically iconic, but it’s functionally a mess and it’s become the top concern that people have looking forward.
- Mark of the Crane – This has always been a cool idea but this expansion came with a bunch of problems. With the target capping for AOE, and the comment about Xuen doing damage to targets recently hit by the WW, an expansion of this taking an even larger role in WW’s AOE is making a lot of people nervous.
What I’d really like to see to address some of these problems is the new form of Xuen to be really embraced, but have it replace Storm, Earth, and Fire. It could increase your damage, or empower your abilities using any of the many extra things that we’ve had in the past like some of the previous tier bonuses or former Artifact talents from Legion.
I’d also like to see Whirling Dragon Punch become baseline plus fixed of the moments that it doesn’t trigger when it should and something done about Hit Combo and Serenity. As it stands, Serenity is just nearly impossible to balance and without two charges it doesn’t really stand up to Storm, Earth, and Fire‘s flexibility.
I think that some of these can all be handled by one or two changes. There’s a lot of history to Windwalkers and things that have worked in the past without many flaws or major problems, there’s no reason we need to be reliant on things that have been constant sources of strife and annoyance.