On our trip through the proposed changes to the World of Warcraft classes for their upcoming expansion Legion, we not stop on the enigmatic Monks. This class is the most recently introduced and specifically tied to the Mist of Pandaria expansion. These are not the Gregorian chanting type monks but rather the butt-kicking, martial arts and mystical magic monks that we've seen in a lot of movies and video games. They brought a unique style of play to the game and like Paladins and Druids, offer three distinct specs – the tanking Brewmaster, the healing Mistweavers and the melee attacking Windwalkers. Monks also brought something unique in that you didn't pick your allegiance until well into playing the character.
The main focus of the game designers here was to make sure that the themes of the Monks matched the game play and where it did, make sure that the mechanics behind it were sound.
Starting off with Brewmasters. Blizzard felt that this spec kind of missed the mark. This was supposed to be like Drunken Master, staggering around and defending against fighters in a frustrating, wild way that looks beautiful when seen in context. But current game play focuses on absorption fields and self-healing. So this spec is changing, it will no longer use Chi as its resource, rather now using Brew charges. The Mastery effect for this spec, Elusive Brawler, increases your dodge by 20% until your next successful dodge and it can stack. It also increase attack power by 20%. Also there is Elusive Dancer, a passive talent that makes Purifying Brew increase dodge by 6% based on how much stagger damage is purified. The basic idea here is that the Brewmaster will stagger around like a drunk, just missing getting hit over and over until the DPS kills the target. This is very different from the other tanks in Warcraft.
Mistweaver Monks are getting a mechanical overhaul in that a lot of heals needed to be set up by other abilities to really make them work well. That's not how Blizzard wants game play to work. So a spell like Renewing Mist which originally was a setup for Uplift has now been changed to work on its own and Uplift will be replaced by Vivify and Essence Front. Vivify cause a mist to surround a target and heals them and 2 allies around them for a moderate amount. Essence Front, which sounds like a Who song, spins the Monk, sending out healing bolts out to 6 allies within 20 yards and healing them for a moderate amount immediately plus more over 8 seconds. The second thing that is changing is that Mistweavers were kind of a hybrid healing and doing damage that never really worked well. Now they will solely focus on healing and their resource is also changing, eliminating Chi and turning to the healing norm of Mana.
Windwalkers still use energy and chi along with some short cooldowns, but the mechanics have been smoothed over quite a bit. The idea of the spec was to feel like other fighting video games like Mortal Combat or Street Fighter. They also changed up the mechanics behind Storm, Earth and Fire which works similar to Mage's mirror images, splitting the Monk into three (Storm, Earth and Fire) except these stay up until Earth and Fire are destroyed or it's toggled off. The player is the Storm. Also, keeping with the fighting game theme, they have a passive ability called Hit Combo where each attack that triggers Combo Strike increases damage by 1% and can stack up to 10 times.
The Monks were a nice new addition to World of Warcraft when something new was definitely needed. They bring a unique style of game play to three of the four types of specs/class and an in for people who love classic fighting games. It's good to see that the desire to reach that potential audience remains even two expansions later.
For more on the proposed changes to Monks, check out this write up by Blizzard.