Brewmasters & Quality of Life

Battle for Azeroth Items and Classes
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A little about me first: I've mained prot warrior, brewmaster monk, and BDK over the course of this expansion, and completed every tier on mythic while it was relevant. I'm not top tier by any means, but I have spent a lot of time playing with these and as someone who almost exclusively tanks these days, I feel like I have some insight into how the tanks compare. My DK is in my profile, and my monk is "Xyrmfu" on the same server.

I love my monk. It is my favorite character thematically, mechanically (for raids), and I love the aesthetic. But going into BFA I'm struggling to justify playing it because of how weak it is in 5 mans (M+ is something I find enjoyable and plan to get into more in BFA) and how bad it feels while doing world/quest content, which is a large part of the game to simply "suffer through" for the sake of its strength in raids. I'm a 2 night a week casual and I won't just play a class because it's the best.

The Problem

IMO, there is a large discrepancy with how playing a brewmaster feels while questing and doing world content compared to any other tank (and to a lesser extent, 5 man content). I'm going to attempt to make the argument that this both feels bad from a gameplay perspective and is discouraging new players from trying the class, and how the problem may be exacerbated in BFA by losing some key points of QOL going into BFA from Legion.

I leveled a brewmaster to 120 recently on horde side for Beta and it was a miserable experience. The only thing that even made me able to do all the soloable quest content was the fact that I ran with a boomkin who could spot heal me occasionally. I've played every tank on beta except bear some amount, and monk felt the worst by a large margin, even worse than warrior, which is admittedly unfinished by blizzard. Three mobs could almost kill me at times, where most DPS I played could handle that easily. Even in dungeons, Monk often felt the worst. I believe there's a few reasons for this, so I'll try to outline them in the most organized and clear manner I can, and welcome feedback!

Sustain

Brewmasters suffer from a severe lack of sustain. Unlike the mitigation tanks (warrior/druid), they don't STOP any damage automatically, they simply delay it, and you can't remove any without purifying brew. Stagger, by design, isn't very effective against consistent incoming damage that you experience while questing and doing 5 mans. This is fine in raids as you have a team of healers (typically where at least one is 100% dedicated to watch tanks) to watch you, but when solo or in 5 mans, you have yourself, and sometimes a healer who's attention is rightfully split. This means while questing, you actually often have to stop to drink/heal/recover MORE than even DPS, which is something no other tank typically has to do (maybe warrior in the current iteration but they are unfinished).

Now I'm sensitive as to WHY they don't have the sustain of a DK, pally, or DH tank. That would be grossly overpowered with how well they smooth out damage. That's completely and totally understandable.

However, I feel like their sustain is far too low. While the mechanism in which they generate self healing is great for raids, it falls short (to put it mildly) while solo and doing 5 mans. With the tank redesign in Legion, all tanks had additional reliance on healers (although BDK eventually broke out of this as the expansion progressed), and weren't meant to be able to keep themselves alive in raids of their own accord. I feel like there's a lot of room for improvement in both the potency and consistency of self healing while solo without making them overpowered for raids. The first tier of talents for brewmaster represent healing that is so weak and inadequate for sustain that most of us simply pick "Eye of the Tiger" and forget that tier exists. Chi Burst or Chi Wave still heal virtually nothing and simply don't warrant the GCD they cost.

Offensive Cooldowns

Of which to say, BFA monks have none. And that's fine. Not every tank needs to be the same, or have the same tools. But coupled with the fact that we have the worst sustain, AND no answer to then burst things down faster, means we are even further in the proverbial "hole" when it comes to killing a powerful rare or pulling a large pack of monsters. These template characters were instrumental in highlighting this fact to me, because I doubt I would have noticed if I had copied my live monk over and just mongo'd my way through the content. I'd argue as far as the tanks go by design, monks need a DPS cd MORE than other tanks, simply because they will never sustain like a BDK.

(Continued in next post)
Why It's Getting Worse

Going into BFA, monks are losing a few things that in legion have helped to alleviate the above problems. The first two apply to all monks, and the next two apply to those of us who have been playing the expansion a bit and collected some gear.

Obstinate Determination: I'm not going to attempt to sit here with a straight face and say that corner tanking was balanced, good gameplay, or intended. It was none of those. But it gave monks a tool to live and helped mask how weak the self sustain really is. With the loss of our artifact in BFA (and by extension, the Obstinate Determination trait), we are losing another piece of the puzzle, and a huge blow to our sustain, even when ignoring how it was abused.

Exploding Keg: it may not be amazing or some cornerstone ability that Brewmasters can't live without, but it does offer some help on the offensive cooldown front. It gives us a potent additional AoE burst with a strong defensive component. Losing this makes questing considerably more painful and annoying. I'm not necessarily saying I need or want this to stick around, but it offered us a tool that we needed, and I appreciated it for that.

T20: The bonuses offered by this set gave us another mechanism for generating Gift of the Ox orbs that were both fairly consistent and helped alleviate a lot of the weaknesses of monks while doing world content in regards to sustain. Both set bonuses played a big part in this, and almost every single high-end brewmaster STILL rolls around (pun intended) with 4pc T20 both in raids and world content because of how good it is at shoring up our biggest weaknesses. I used my mythic T20 to take down mythic Argus, and it probably did a better job than mythic T21 would have done. The fact that both of these haven't been made baseline is a huge blow to monk QoL.

Legendaries: Specifically, Stormstout's Last Gasp (Shoulders that give a second charge to Keg Smash) and Sal'salabim's Lost Tunic (Chest that resets Breath of Fire when you Keg Smash), both individually and together, also helped fill the offensive CD role, and helped monk QoL and smoothness immensely.

Related to the above point, Breath of Fire feels very, very bad on Beta ATM. You can't keep the uptime at 100% and the nice "rotation" we had in Legion with the chest is completely ruined, with large dead spots in the rotation on a class that was specifically designed to NOT have dead spots (as was discussed when the change was made to Blackout Strike in Legion to not scale with haste). I feel like if any part of the legion gameplay warrants sticking around permanent, it's the chest effect. It improved the way the class feels significantly. IMO, either add the reset mechanic back in, or reduce the base CD of BoF to be in line with Keg Smash.

Conclusion

Hopefully I laid out a coherent argument. I don't want to throw balance out of whack or make monk some kind of ridiculous powerhouse, because that's not healthy for the game (as I experienced with my prot warrior prior to 7.1.5 in legion).

But I feel like there's lots of room to make monks have a better time while questing and make them more competitive in 5 mans, without dethroning the current kings. I'm not asking to be the best, I just want the delta shrunk a bit. I want to be a relevant choice in pushing M+, and I want to not feel miserable when doing world content when I LOVE my character in raids.
To chime in on this, I think there's more here as well.

I agree with you about the rotation. It is likely to be 5 buttons for most brewmasters, while some might run 4 with Special Delivery instead. The rotation is extremely static without the legendaries from Legion and there's no interplay between the abilities themselves without running Blackout Combo. The BFA rotation is simply not engaging or fun on any level, which lends to a terrible experience.

Scaling: Our primary stat scaling shifts more damage to stagger. With our limited PB charges, this doesn't really reduce the amount of damage we take by much. I'm not sure this is the best way to scale us, since it means dungeon runs won't feel much different in terms of damage taken once I outgear it.

Self-sustain: We're not bad, but the leveling experience on my demon hunter was leagues better. I could pull at least double the amount of adds without any issue, even with an rare or an elite in the pack. I could also continue pulling without stopping at all. There shouldn't be this large of a gap between tanks' leveling experiences, in my opinion.

The core problem is that stagger itself scales really well on content where tank deaths are a real concern. Once the content is outgeared, it feels bad compared to other tanks. Unfortunately, the latter is the most common scenario for most players for most of the content they do. This pushes monks to be literally a progression tank option only, with few pugs/groups wanting them for things outside of progression.

And I agree - I just want us to be a viable choice across all content, especially with the push to make more content viable for end-game. I also don't want to revisit the issues in Legion where my DH and DK are far more fun on farm content like daily heroics/heroic raiding/etc.

Side note: I'd like the larger keg smash radius back again please.
I'm going to expand on both of these posts slightly.

The core gameplay for Brewmaster is unrewarding on multiple fronts:
-Rotation is a simple, 5 button rotation with minimal interplay.
-Many talent tiers are "dead" for choices, or feature extremely binary choices (15 -- dead, 30 -- MV on all magic fights, 45 -- dead, 60 -- utility, 100 -- dead)
-The only thing adding skill depth to Brewmaster is Black out Combo, which has been nerfed to a more reasonable spot at a significant hit to Brewmaster DPS and it still bullies out the other options. Elusive Dance will never be good (same as Light Brewing), High Tolerance will still only be used to cheese mechanics BECAUSE BREWMASTER DOES NOT MEANINGFULLY SCALE WITH HASTE.

As others have pointed out, without Legiondaries the rotation feels very empty. You're left spamming tiger palm or simply just waiting with empty globals while you wait on cooldown. Neither feels great as a tank.

Then we get into the further issue: we're bad for 5 man content and solo content due to a lack of self-sustain and no real damage mitigation. Unlike DH and DK, and to a lesser extent Druid and Paladin, Brewmaster has to be babysat pretty intensely by the healer at all times.

This, by default, makes us a lesser choice for anything outside of I guess high tyrannical keys when it comes to 5 mans, and surely lesser picks outside of progression raiding.

Moreover, I am not sure that Brewmaster offers a meaningful enough improvement over other tanks that they're even worth a tank slot for progression, given the versatility/utility coming out of some of the other tanks (DK and Pally both come to mind).

At the end of the day, my biggest complaint about Brewmaster is the lack of meaningful choices the spec has, which in turn makes the entire spec feel shallow. The rotation is rote, there's no real choice or brew management anymore, most talent tiers are horribly imbalance with clear winners and losers.

I know Blizzard hates the term, but Brewmaster is lacking depth. To me, lacking depth means there's not a lot of decision making or player agency surrounding the spec. To me, that is bad design.
Side note related to Blackout Combo - you feel the hit very acutely with losing 3x Face Palm relics.
All I can say is that I've been spoiled by the Chest and Shoulder legendaries and feel that without them the rotation is very stale and boring.

With shoulders/chest, I think BrM is the most fun tank for me, but losing those has me going straight to my VDH for BfA. Especially since VDH is looking to remain pretty good for M+ and BrMs very mediocre, just like in Legion.
Another concern I have with BrM in BfA is that it's virtually impossible to purify stagger at anything approaching a reasonable rate. I need Black Ox Brew just to tread water with Ironskin Brew uptime. The entire BrM tanking model is to stagger damage and then purify some of it away when it gets scary--but at the moment, I'm barely able to purify at all! An increase in Ironskin Brew duration of even one second would make BrM tanking feel so much better.

I went into a heroic dungeon at ilevel 305 and was getting my face pounded in without any way to purify away the damage I was tanking. This feels absolutely terrible.

I would also like to echo everyone's concerns about our rotation, specifically this:

05/03/2018 07:40 AMPosted by Xyrmortus
You can't keep the uptime at 100% and the nice "rotation" we had in Legion with the chest is completely ruined, with large dead spots in the rotation on a class that was specifically designed to NOT have dead spots (as was discussed when the change was made to Blackout Strike in Legion to not scale with haste).


We are the only tank with a 1s GCD baseline, implying that we are meant to be very active with our ability usage. Why, then, do we have dead spots in our rotation? What's the point of the lowered GCD if we are unable to fill it? In theory, we should be able to use Tiger Palm to spend excess energy, but the reality is that our rotation is actually energy negative, meaning that Black Ox Brew is mandatory not only from a brew maintenance perspective, but also from a perspective of maintaining enough energy to execute our base rotation. This is annoying beyond compare.
That's a great point, I didn't even think of the impact on brews with the loss of our artifact. I guess I didn't realize how big of a component of the sustain/survival question it is.
One easy solution would be to make eye of the tiger passive and buff it 10 folds based on crit. Put Celestial Fortune as a talent in it's place and make it so selecting that talent will replace eye of the tiger. This way we can choose flat heal for dungeons/soloing and for raids we still have our scalable heal.

Ofcourse we lose the other healing talents for raids but really that is a small loss for QoL improvement.
I think they should play more with the BrM's unique tanking mechanic. No other tank uses a stagger mechanic, which means that BrMs can have some cool/unique CDs that isn't just the boring old "Reduces all damage taken by 40%" that so many classes get.

Something like a high CD ability (~3 min) that clears 100% of your stagger and makes it so every attack received for 10 seconds generates no stagger.

Something like this plays off of stagger and makes the ability fun, unique, and useful to have. Feel free to change Zen Med into this since the current Zen Med iteration is just garbage.
Something I was thinking about that might be a simple solution to some of the BrM solo/5 man issues with self sustain:

What if they doubled the chance of Gift of the Ox proccing, but had it decrease by 10% for each additional party/raid member (up to 10)? So for soloing we'd get orbs much more consistently, in 5 mans we'd get them 50% more often, and in raids it would be the same as it currently is.

Thoughts?
So I never played MoP or Wod, but reading some older posts it seems like Brewmasters had some utility skills back then and I would like to see some return.

Also for BfA I would like to see the range of Keg Smash increased.

Maybe for an offensive change, allow Brewmasters to counter attack when we dodge? Would be cool if we could also dodge spells too, excluding spells that needs to be soaked from bosses.
I've played around with BrM more in heroic dungeons at a slightly higher item level (315+), and my primary two concerns still stands: I'm unable to purify at anything even approaching what I'm able to do on live, and my rotation has very frustrating gaps in it. Blizzard has already said that they're basically done making massive class changes, so I'd like to suggest something along the following:

* A reduction in the energy cost of Tiger Palm to make our standard rotation energy-neutral rather than energy negative.
* Black Ox Brew basline, even if in a nerfed form, and a slight rejiggering of its talent row to account for this.
* An increase in the duration of Ironskin Brew of 0.5s or 1s.

The goals of these changes would be to alleviate the above issues by letting us use Tiger Palm as filler more frequently and providing us more opportunities to purify damage away.
I think brewmaster has become too much of a one trick pony, relying on stagger so heavily that we have lost pretty much everything else. Stagger isn't so good that it props the whole class up though. With mythic+ being made so important it feels bad to have a tank that just brings nothing to the table outside of progression raiding where tanks can die.

While it is a unique way to tank, it also feels uniquely bad in most content. Especially if there are constantly changes to make it worse. Without being able to bank stagger, we can rarely purify....yet we can't afford to have stagger drop off because they we just go squish. Upkeep of stagger isn't even interesting or challenging/fun. You purify in extreme situations...but we can't even afford to act on it most times. In general its better to just keep ISB up than to purify and the fact that it has to be a choice between the two is hardly a choice where it matters. You just have to keep ISB up. That is gameplay that is very hard to appreciate when it feels like you have one choice. Perhaps adding other defensive options or making it so we can purify more/be rewarded when we purify would be ideal.

Players initially (and currently I believe) enjoy BrM because it is active and many enjoyed the idea of a fairly complex/versatile tank. In Mists/WOD this was well realized as they had some group utility, ways to purify while fighting (chi explosion), damage shields, and decent enough healing. There was enough going on that you could feel like there were some choices to be made and that you could carry your own weight. Recently that has dwindled and it feels like you are a liability more often than you save the day.

Perhaps that was a bit too much all at once in the past, and yet there were still plenty of other tanks that were taken into raids and dungeons. Right now the class feels like an echo of what it was...and it feels empty. It lacks an engaging rotation. It feels as if core abilities are missing.

Legion barely left me feeling like a monk at base, but with artifact traits and legendaries it started to have a design. Were it not for the legendary chest, and face palm relics I think any interest in the class would have evaporated for me. It doesn't do well enough in progression for it to feel like a real weighty decision over other competitive tanks either. I love the idea of moves modifying others, it would be nice to see more of this in the rotation and perhaps a clear area of focus outside of just staggering. These things made it more fun, but without these? I'm not sure I can stand playing someone so bland and one note.

I think we need something else reliable in our rotation or to at least offer something that balance out our lack of self sufficiency.

I also think trying to make the class a bit more active and have something that makes us attractive to play is incredibly important. Right now I have a hard time pointing to what really makes us desirable outside of very limited scenarios.
05/06/2018 01:30 PMPosted by Managan
I also think trying to make the class a bit more active and have something that makes us attractive to play is incredibly important. Right now I have a hard time pointing to what really makes us desirable outside of very limited scenarios.


I think, at its heart, this is the crux of the problem. Well put.
Really awesome post that I'm trimming


Going off of what you posted here and maybe broadening the conversation -- what the hell is the Brewmaster identity anymore, anyway? We're not really a mitigation tank, because we don't actually mitigate our damage -- in fact, we take the most damage courtesy of so rarely getting to purify. We're not the highest damage tank anymore either, and we have almost no raid utility, so what is it that Brewmaster is bringing to the table?

What is our class fantasy? Are we drunken brawlers? Where is that reinforced? Our constantly animation canceled doges from our mastery? Because we smash kegs and spit fire? How does any of that read as a drunken brawler?

I just don't understand what I am anymore. Brewmaster rotationally doesn't really feel any different from a Paladin (just push what isn't on CD), except Paladins get a reset on some stuff at least.

With Black out Combo there's the BoS -> TP interaction that's our bread and butter, but then it's literally just KS > BoF > BoS > TP with TP to fill while you wait for KS and BoS to come off CD.

As you said, there's no decision making, skill expression, or depth left on Brewmaster. How is this a monk anymore? How is this a brewmaster?
I made a monk tonight to give it a whirl. Though I am no way an expert I do play all three specs the class offers on live.

Now I decided to start WW so much downtime and low on HP doing the first scenario I was extremely frustrated I logged off without finishing the scenario. The damage is poor and every spell on CD at the same time and I am waiting,waiting and waiting so that I have a spell to cast. Nah,no thanks I don't want to have to sit on my hands while I wait for my CDs. That's total BS!

Logged back on and decided to give BrM a spin a 4 button rotation /yawn LAUGHABLE Not impressed. I did however manage to get through that first scenario then logged off. I don't have the patience to put up with bad class design and god awful boring rotation. I won't be playing my monk any time soon if at all in the remainder of the Beta.
I agree though I have yet to play the beta. BrM is already a pretty easy spec to play and now they are taking away exploding keg? What the hell am I going to do, just stare at cooldowns?
Stagger should be much stronger than other tanks' AM since it doesn't actually prevent the damage, it only delays it. It feels like VDH is having their cake and eating it too with the improvements to their general tankiness being on par with everyone else while still being able to self-heal extremely well (thanks to how quickly souls spawn as opposed to Frenzied Regen/Light of the Protector cooldowns, our orbs, and even BDK runic power generates).
Yeah, t20 2p baseline would greatly help self-sustain. Something like: (25% base + your crit %) chance to spawn Gift of the Ox upon Ironskin and Purify use? Then scrap Celestial Fortune and BrM would definitely have the kit for M+.

(And, ideally, Fortifying Brew would cooldown twice as fast when out of combat for further tank M+ balance... But I digress.)

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