Windwalker Monk State on Shadowlands Beta - Covenant Abilities, Legendaries, Spec Concerns
Windwalker has thus far seen a few changes in Shadowlands, so its time that we discuss the state of Windwalkers in Shadowlands, the good, the bad, and the still ugly. This article will be mostly focused on Windwalkers in PvE content.
About the Author
This guide is written and maintained by Babylonius; former moderator on MMO-Champion; current owner and administrator of the
PeakofSerenity Monk class discord
; founder and Windwalker author of the Monk Class site,
and those that came before it; Guild Master and Midweek Raider in
; Windwalker main since early Mists of Pandaria, guide writer/theorycrafter/teacher for several years.
How Was BfA?
Before we look forward, its important to look back. Battle for Azeroth was, as a whole, not a great expansion for Windwalker for a variety of reasons; constant changes at the start, bugs, awful scaling, little to no utility in raids, and lackluster damage.
Roller Coaster Start
After starting at a reasonable level at the start of the expansion, Windwalkers underwent several major changes to fix various "problems" that resulted from a mix of poorly balanced spell coefficients, overpowered azerite, and creative rotations. I talked about many of them in an
article on PeakofSerenity.com
, but here is the timeline of the changes:
July 10, 2018 - In the BfA Pre-Patch, due to
being incredibly strong,
became just about useless except to trigger
August 7, 2018 - After 4 weeks,
was nerfed and the spec returned to how it was "supposed" to play.
August 23, 2018 - Less than 2.5 weeks later, players figured out that by stacking
you could afford to ignore
in favor of more
August 24, 2018 - Within 24 hours of me publishing an article about that rotation change, and news getting out,
was nerfed by 35%. All this did was mean that people wanted to get three items with
on it instead of two.
September 17, 2018 - After another few weeks,
was nerfed again by 55%, effectively killing the playstyle and bringing
back into the rotation full time.
September 20, 2018 - People discovered that you could use a /cancelaura macro to clip the end of
, or turn it off prematurely, to get 300% more damage on
September 25, 2018 -
was buffed by 60%, moving it to the top of the "must have" list for Windwalkers. It also pushed
to the fringes of our priority due to it being undertuned.
September 28, 2018 - Blizzard prevented
from being "/cancelaura'd", but players can still time
at the end of the buff for a boost of damage.
All of that was within the first 55 days of Battle for Azeroth's changes. That doesn't include changes that came with patches and at other times. It was a wild ride.
Bugs on Bugs on Bugs
If you played Windwalker in BfA and looked to play the spec to the best of its ability, then you ran into the situation of having to utilize and avoid several things that would be considered "bugs" or at the very least "unintended side-effects".
Some of these increased your damage, like being able to use
at the end of
(fixed-ish), Mark of the Crane stacks lasting longer than they should (fixed-ish), being able to funnel Grong's
for 30% more damage (fixed). Others decreased your damage, like Azerite procs like
not doing its full damage when
is out (fixed),
not being usable despite
being on cooldown (fixed then broken again),
keeping you in combat after all targets are dead (unfixed).
While Windwalker has enjoyed a spot in the upper half of M+ throughout much of the expansion, with a few stints inside the "meta", this was due to above average damage, but primarily the presence of
and the value it brought to the rest of the M+ team at the highest level of M+.
Unfortunately, this strong performance in M+ was not mirrored in Raids where Windwalkers have spent the entire expansion below the average and and several times, including now, near or at the bottom of the spec comparison charts on WarcraftLogs. This is largely due to scaling being a continued problem for Windwalker as it was in previous expansions. However, unlike Legion, where spec tuning seemed regular enough to keep Windwalker from the bottom, or at least for long, this did not happen with any frequency or regularity in BfA. Couple this poor DPS performance with nearly all of Windwalker's "utility" being covered by Brewmaster, which most raids had at least one of, and it was a situation that was not very flattering for Windwalkers.
This hurt the raiding population of Windwalkers enormously. Although Windwalkers have almost always been the least represented spec of the least represented class, it saw a peak at 5.5-5.8% of the Mythic logs during Antorus. Some of that evaporated to 4.6% of the population in the BfA Prepatch, but has continued to fall. Windwalkers were only 2.64% of all parses at the end of Uldir, 2.66% at the end of BoD, 2.26% at the end of Eternal Palace, and are down to only 1.78% of Mythic logs at the time of this article.
Although not as much as many people feel that Windwalker need, the spec has seen a few changes. I'll include what they are and what they likely mean for the spec.
now also deals an additional 20% damage over until cancelled if behind the target or heals you for 20% of the damage done if in front of the target.
This was just an extra thing that
used to do, nothing special, just a smidge more damage.
– Expel negative chi from your body, healing for (101% of Spell power) and dealing 10% of the amount healed as Nature damage to an enemy within 8 yards.
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.
– Spending Chi has a chance to make your next
free and deal an additional 200% damage. Now tier 6 Talent, in place of Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger.
becoming baseline, this is a positive choice for this slot. I believe the trend should be continued with
Right now this is incredibly overpowered compared to the other talents in this row, but that may change.
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.
There haven't been any abilities removed.
– Got a target cap; now deals 100% damage to primary target and 50% damage on up to 5 other targets.
This isn't problematic as long as the target caps are kept consistent for everyone.
– Now baseline rather than PvP talent. Cooldown set to 2 minutes (up from 1.5 minutes), increase max health by 15% (down from 20%), reduce damage taken by 15% (down from 20%) for 15 seconds.
I have a strong love/hate relationship with this change. I love having another defensive ability, but with the existence of
, it results in the situation where to get the maximum DPS, you’ll want to pop
so that you get the extra health to increase your
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
‘s fault than
– Now baseline rather than a talent. He also has a second rank which uses the "Gale Burst" component from
. This means that every 8 seconds that he's out, he'll deal a burst of damage equal to 10% the damage you dealt during that time.
This should be an overall positive change for the spec, by putting more "umph" into
A forseeable problem is that
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. Its an easy fix, but its yet to happen.
– Ranged changed from 6 yards (up from 5 yards).
More range isn't a bad thing.
– Got a target cap; now hits up to 6 targets at a time.
As long as one class doesn't get punished or benefit from the target caps more than others than this won't be a problem.
– Now be used on targets with less than 15% health remaining, dealing 35% of your maximum health in damage OR on a target with less health than you, instantly killing them. Spawns 3 Chi Spheres, granting 1 Chi when you walk through them.
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 buttons and this *should* be a positive change for the spec's poor scaling.
Each zone of the Shadowlands is controlled by one of four powerful groups: the Kyrian of Bastion, the Night Fae of Ardenweald, the Necrolords of Maldraxxus and the Venthyr of Revendreth. We will experience a preview of each covenant as we level through their respective zones and will be required to make a heavy choice at max level and choose one covenant to join. Choose wisely, as changing Covenants is not difficult, but returning to a previously abandoned Covenant will be very difficult.
You can read the full overview of the Covenants
With beta underway and having access to the some of the Covenant features, right now Windwalker Monks have access to the Covenant Ability, Covenant Signature and Soulbinds. Conduits are not yet available for testing so the full picture is incomplete as the different type of conduits might change how we navigate through the Soulbind trees, for that reason Soulbinds have been left out currently and will be explored when conduits are available.
For the next 30 sec , your Mastery is increased by 15% . Additionally, Windwalkers’ Rising Sun Kick cooldown is reset instantly, and your Rising Sun Kick reduces the cost of your Chi abilities by 1 for 5 sec .
This ability is really very rough to use.
Because of our Mastery, having a reset on
is something we can’t use right away, so even if you stocked up enough Chi, you cant
without losing Mastery, so either way you waste at least 1 second of the CD reset. Thats at least 10% of the value of that aspect of the ability lost right off the top. Last someone checked for me (which is the only person who has Alpha and has been helpful with figuring things out in the WW discord), Weapons of Order had a 1.5s GCD, which is not only 50% longer than a WW’s normal GCD, but it means that at minimum the now reset
will sit off CD For 2.5s before we can use it, which, at minimum is 25% of the CDR value, and can easily be 1/3 of the CDR value during Bloodlust. Windwalker has had many things in the past that have lost value because of the GCD or their interaction with Mastery, and they all feel awful, this one has both those problems plus extra.
The other aspect of this is the Chi cost reduction of other abilities. This also feels awful. Windwalker has one ability to dump Chi in single target and thats
. We can’t use this too often because of Mastery, so we can’t dump Chi really at all in normal circumstances. The Kyrian ability takes away our ability to dump Chi during its duration;
will cost 2 Chi, but not benefit from its own buff,
will cost 2 Chi instead of 3, but only be usable twice during the cooldown of the Covenant ability,
is free, and now
doesn’t cost Chi anymore. We can’t spam it to take advantage of it being free, so we’re left to alternate using it between
, since the other abilities won’t be used more than once or twice during the 30 second buff.
still generates 2 Chi, so we’ll quickly be overwhelmed with resources. The only way to actually be resource negative is to use
to just dump Chi, which, in single target actually does slightly less damage than
. So the choice is to overcap resources and lose damage, or cast a lesser damage ability and lose damage. The solution is to alternate
to dump chi without using
, but because it will take 4 GCD to use the 2 Chi from any
you generate by going
, you’re still having to prioritize a lesser damage ability for the sake of saving resources and Mastery.
The 30 second duration means that no matter what you do, you’ll be overcapping resources for most of its duration, and the additional 15% Mastery means we’ll be extra punished by trying to take advantage of the extra resources.
Additionally, the 2 minute cooldown will make it awkward to use with
consistently. It lines up with Xuen fine, but Xuen doesn’t benefit from Mastery, so there’s no reason to care about lining them up. It really would synergize well with Serenity since you’d have more
and since you’re already ignoring resources, it would let you just fill time with
to keep Mastery without needing to use
, but Serenity is just not strong enough without changes to consider doing so, and Serenity has a 90s CD, which means you’d have to delay Serenity by 1/3 of its CD for them to line up.
This Kyrian Covenant ability will not only result in little to no damage increase, other than the 15% Mastery, but in order to get the benefit from that 15% Mastery, we have to basically ignore the rest of what it does.
Opens a mirror for the next 24 sec, summoning reflections of your order’s fallen Ox, Crane, and Tiger adepts every 3 for 6 sec. Fallen Monks that have mastered Style will and assist for an additional 2 sec.
This is a incredibly powerful ability, but its relatively uninteresting since its fire-and forget. Its miles ahead of the others in terms of its strength, but you just press the button and hope you get a good combination of Adepts.
I am VERY hesitant with it as it feels like another version of
which has been a thorn in Windwalker's side for years. However, one of the great things about this is that through testing we found that it does scale with all our stats, which is a rare thing for Windwalker and gives hope to scaling improvements in the future.
Hurl a brew created from the bones of your enemies at the ground, coating all targets struck for 10 sec. Your abilities have a 15% chance to affect the target a second time at 25% effectiveness as Shadow damage or healing.
refunds 1 Chi when striking enemies with your Bonedust Brew active
This can be very reasonable in AOE situations, since we can spam
more often. However, in single target it will be useless unless you’re talented into
, which given
tuning, won’t likely be used in single target over
unless its overtuned.
The big problem is that its just another mechanic that gives Windwalkers more Chi, where the Mastery doesn’t make getting rid of excess Chi very easy, especially if that Chi comes in randomly.
Strike the ground fiercely to expose a faeline for 30 sec, dealing (60% of Attack power) Nature damage (Windwalker) and ripping Chi and Energy Spheres out of enemies. Your abilities have a 10% chance of resetting the cooldown of Faeline Stomp while fighting on a faeline.
Hey look, another ability that gives extra resources to the spec that has a harder time using extra resources than almost any spec in the game. This is a very repetitive theme in Windwalker design in BfA and I’m sad to see it carrying over into Shadowlands. Windwalker doesn’t have the tools to spontaneously dump resources that appear randomly, so we have to play as if they’ll always be there and then suffer when they aren’t, or play talents like Ascension purely for the fact that it makes it easier to deal with random excess.
That being said, this is an absolutely gorgeous ability to use and if you're attentive and skilled, there will be lots of things that you can do to utilize this ability for increased damage. It won't be easy, and it may not be fun, but it will be doable.
It's still WAY too early to tell what Covenant will be the best, but none of them are overly fun or impressive. Night Fae is impressive visually, Venthyr is impressive numerically, Necrolord is entirely forgettable, and Kyrian is just awful to play with.
There are a lot more that will go into the decisions of what Covenant to use, but it may be a "lesser of four evils" for Windwalkers.
We finally got a look into the legendaries that Windwalker will have access to, and thankfully they're ones that were very much fan-requested.
- When Fists of Fury ends, the critical strike chance of Rising Sun Kick is increased by 30% for 5 sec. Rising Sun Kick critical strikes reduce the cooldown of Fists of Fury by 1.5 sec. Original Source: T20 Windwalker 2p + 4pc Xuen's Battlegear
If you’ve been following many of my posts on PeakofSerenity or Discord, you’ll see that this is one of the things that I’ve been calling the most to be added back to the kit. Although its the nerfed version that we had at the end of Tomb of Sargeras, and without a double hitting
it won't be as strong, something is better than nothing. This should feel great with the play of Windwalker and be a strong all-purpose legendary, assuming they’re all tuned within reason.
I think if people really want to enjoy how much fun this interaction was in Legion, then it needs to see the cooldown reduction
now has a 10 yard range, and increases your critical strike chance for 25% for 6 sec on the target. When used, you instantly dash to the target. The increased critical strike effect cannot occur more than once every 30 sec per target.
This is a super interesting legendary thats likely to be incredibly fun since it gives us a very small charge and help our burst at the start of the fight a little bit. Its unlikely that it will be the strongest legendary numerically, but I could definitely see it being the most used for questing and other stuff where the charge will be fun to have.
- Whenever you deal damage to a target with Fists of Fury, you gain a stack of Chi Energy up to a maximum of 20 stacks. Using
will cause the energy to detonate in a Chi Explosion, dealing (40% of Attack power) damage to all enemies within 8 yards. The damage is increased by 5% for each stack of Chi Energy.
So, its not quite Chi Explosion, but its called that mostly to appease the masses. There are a few questions like whether or not hitting 5 targets will give you 5 stacks, or whether it gives you one stack per target, or one stack per damage tick per target, we just don’t know. Either way, its likely that this will be a SUPER strong legendary for sustained AOE.
- Chi spenders increase the damage of your next Crackling Jade Lightning by 100% and reduce its cost by 5%, stacking up to 20 times. Original Source: Legion Legendary
Back by popular demand, my 3rd least favorite Windwalker mechanic in history (behind damaging Chi Torpedo at #2 and Highmaul PvP 2pc Roll for more damage at #1). Its not that I hated the legendary or the fact that it included Crackling Jade Lightning into the rotation, I hated how we couldn’t move during it and how it filled the rotation and left no downtime, but I’ve always been in the minority with that thinking. In a vacuum, and with the slower pace at the start of the expansion, this will certainly be an incredibly strong single target legendary. It would be nice if we could move while casting it, but its an inconvenience rather than breaking anything. Realistically it just increases the skill ceiling since there will be times that you may have less than 20 stacks but have a break in your rotation so you want to use it now rather than clutter things a few seconds later.
Overall, looking at them, we have one legendary thats more general purpose, strong in single and multi-target:
; one that’s mostly pure AOE focused:
; one thats purely single target focused:
; and one that's fun utility:
I am happy with the balance of these legendaries, so now it all comes down to acquiring them and how to switch between them, as well as how well their numbers are balanced.
As I said above, Windwalker didn't have a great Battle for Azeroth. Unfortunately there's not a ton that I can point to and say "Windwalker is going to be SUPER strong in Shadowlands" or "Windwalker is going to be SUPER useful in ___ content". I can say with reasonable certainty that Windwalker will be fun. If you want to get an experience for how Windwalker plays on Beta without having Beta access, just unequip your Azerite and don't use ToD, its essentially the same.
As for specific concerns for Windwalkers, there are a few worth noting.
Touch of Karma
Although it may not seem like it, Touch of Karma is actually a HUGE problem for Windwalker and has been for a long time. Beyond the fact that it promotes a “degenerate playstyle” where you have to use your defensive abilities for offensive gain, which will be getting worse in Shadowlands with Fortifying Brew coming back, its always been one of the biggest barriers that Windwalker has had to good scaling. Because it only scales with Stamina and Versatility, it means that Windwalker doesn’t scale with Agility, Critical Strike, Mastery, or Haste as much as it could. Scaling has been a problem for Windwalkers for years, and Touch of Karma is one contributing factor.
This is easily solved by making the damage portion of Touch of Karma a PvP talent, call it "Bad Karma".
Invoke Xuen Scaling
This is one that has really not been a problem historically, but will become a bigger problem in Shadowlands. Similar to Touch of Karma, the problem with Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger is that he contributes to some of the scaling problems that Windwalkers have had in the past. This has, historically, been offset by the fact that we’d just switch to Hit Combo once Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger got out-scaled, but since its becoming baseline in Shadowlands, it will be a slightly bigger problem that could use addressing. For reference, Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger scales with Agility, Critical Strike, and Versatility, and his auto-attacks scale with Haste, but his Tiger Lightning doesn’t, and he doesn’t scale at all with Mastery.
Another simple solution; since
scales with all our stats, then certainly Xuen can as well.
While not a HUGE problem in terms of the strength of the spec, this ability has been a thorn for years. Its iconic and often strong, but it comes with a plethora of things that don't quite work the way they should, or things that need coded workarounds to work the right away, and things that have coded workarounds that cause other intended results. Historically, almost no new system has worked correctly with
from day 1, so going into a new expansion of new systems is a concern.
Another problem point of this ability is its effect on our talent choices in that Windwalkers used Serenity only for a few weeks in BfA, and only to take advantage of other mechanics that were then patched for being unintentional.
I mentioned them above, but Windwalker still has several bugs or unintended interactions that work for the Monk's benefit or detriment. Having a spec so dictated by things out of our control or design is just frustrating, especially when some of these bugs have been around for as long as they have. Ex.
not being usable when its supposed to be was a problem during Emerald Nightmare, and
not playing nice with other things has existed since the start of Legion at the least, likely longer.
While I'd love to be positive and excited about how great Windwalker will be in Shadowlands, I don't feel that I can confidently do that. Windwalker's desirability in PvE content is going to come down to two factors; numbers tuning and the viability of Brewmaster and, to a lesser extent, Mistweaver. Unfortunately those two factors have, historically, not worked in Windwalker's favor.
Windwalker was a very fun spec to play at the start of the expansion and, as long as you can get past the "stigma", numbers, and lack of popularity, then Windwalker can continue to be a very desirable spec for people to play.
I've said it for years, but no one plays Windwalker because its strong or popular, you play it because its fun and you love it, and that won't change in Shadowlands.
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