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Art of War

A brewmaster monk blog.

Brewmasters for Beginners: The Step by Step Learning Program

Brewmasters are a complicated class, there’s no denying that. It’s an enjoyable complexity, and not without reward, but there is a learning curve. I don’t want people to be scared away from the class because of that learning curve. In this post, I will break down the complexity of monk tanks into small steps so that you can master the spec.

If you’re just starting out with a brewmaster, then this is the post for you. If you’re already progressing through normal and heroic raids, then you probably already know the basics but maybe you’ll learn something.

  1. The Basics: Five Mans
  2. Understanding Your Tools: LFR
  3. Situational Abilities: Raids and Beyond

The Basics: Five Mans

Below I lay out the stages for brand new brewmasters to learn. Try to stick with one stage at a time. Once you feel comfortable with one stage, move on to the next and incorporate more complexity. To practice, you can start out in a level appropriate 5 man (by yourself) and pull the first pack of trash. This is a really good way to get acquainted with your skills in a low pressure environment. You might have to zone out or die, but no one is there to judge you, and you’ll learn from your mistakes quickly. Once you feel confident, queue for a normal 5 man and test your skills with a team. (You’ll also do just fine queueing for a normal 5 man right away, but I know some people, like myself, would rather not risk being judged right away.)

It might also be helpful to install a few of my Brewmaster Weak Auras, which are basically compact little addons that will display prominent skills, buffs, and more on your interface.

Talents

You can always change these talents around if theres something you feel more comfortable with. The only talent that I’d call a “must have” is Leg Sweep, though that too will have worthy contenders in the next patch.

  • Tier 1: Momentum or Celerity
  • Tier 2: Zen Sphere (it’s not a big deal at this stage because you won’t be using heals much, though Zen Sphere is the most straight forward choice)
  • Tier 3: Ascension (you can choose the others, but Ascension will make Chi management easier)
  • Tier 4: Leg Sweep (to control damage from AoE groups)
  • Tier 5: Healing Elixirs (the cooldowns on this tier are extremely situational, and Healing Elixirs is much easier to utilize)
  • Tier 6: Invoke Xuen (It’s a good cooldown, both defensive and offensive, and easy to use)

Glyphs

None of the brewmaster glyphs are necessary, and most are situational at best. These three are good starter glyphs:

Stage 1

Ranged pull with Dizzying Haze, open up with Leg Sweep to stun all your enemies, then launch into this rotation:

  1. Generate Chi by using Keg Smash and Jab.
  2. Consume Chi by using Blackout Kick. Try to keep this buff up all the time.
  3. Expel Harm when you need a heal.

These spells make up your core rotation, so get used to using them. In the future, these abilities will become second nature.

Stage 2

All of the above, and add:

  1. Elusive Brew when you have 6 to 15 stacks.
  2. Guard when it’s available.

When you work in these skills, you’ve got the basics of our active mitigation down.

Stage 3

In addition to the above, try to wiggle your monk side to side to pick up little green Gift of the Ox orbs when you need additional heals. AoEing generates a ton of these.

Review

At this point, you should know the basics, and can tank normal dungeons and probably even heroic dungeons. To recap, here are the skills you need to keep track of:

Spend energy on:

  1. Keg Smash, whenever it’s available.
  2. Expel Harm when you need a heal.
  3. Jab.

Spend Chi on:

  1. Blackout Kick. The buff it provides should be active almost all the time.
  2. Guard whenever it’s available.

Other things to look out for:

  1. Start AoE pulls with Dizzying Haze and Leg Sweep.
  2. Elusive Brew when you have many stacks.
  3. Pick up Gift of the Ox orbs for healing.

Homework

Try to survive the first pull of Gate of the Setting Sun (or another normal 5 man) or go run a level-appropriate dungeon (normal or heroic) with a group.

Understanding Your Tools: LFR

Now that we’ve warmed up our tanking muscles, it’s time to learn how to use all of our tools intelligently. Most of our skills are situational and will be the most effective if we use them at the right time (instead of whenever they’re off cooldown).

Stage 1

Use Guard intelligently, instead of on cooldown. Think of it as a traditional defensive cooldown like Shield Wall, except it has a short cooldown and a resource cost.

Here are some good situations to use it:

  • If the boss is about to use a big ability, like a dragon breath.
  • If your health is dipping low.
  • If your healer is unable to heal you (like if they are stunned).

Stage 2

Use Elusive Brew intelligently. Because dodge isn’t a reliable way to reduce damage, you can’t use it like a traditional defensive cooldown, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a useful ability. Think of it as a health stabilizer.

Here are some good situations to use it:

  • Before a boss’s big ability. Usually it won’t let you avoid the big ability, but it will help keep your health high before the ability lands, so your healer will be better able to keep you topped off.
  • If you’re taking a flurry of physical damage. Some bosses like to Frenzy or buff their melee attacks in a similar way.
  • When your Vengeance is low, like at the beginning of a pull. Most of your active mitigation scales with attack power, but Elusive Brew will always be powerful even before you take damage.
  • When you’re near the maximum (15) number of stacks. No point wasting the buff (unless you know you need to save it for later).

Stage 3

Just like there are periods of predictably high damage, there are often periods of predictably low damage. Once you become familiar with your damage mitigation, you can pinpoint times that you can sacrifice some resources for offensive abilities.

Tiger Palm doesn’t have a cost except for a global cooldown, so now that you’ve got the basic defensive rotation down you should try to squeeze it in whenever you don’t have another button to push.

Breath of Fire when you want to deal some additional AoE damage / threat instead of a Blackout Kick. When glyphed, Breath of Fire can even provide some defensive utility in AoE groups, though it should still be used carefully.

Spinning Crane Kick when you have two seconds to spare. This skill is great for AoE damage / threat, and generates a huge amount of Gift of the Ox orbs. However, the trade-off is the approximately two second cast that prevents you from doing anything else. Try to squeeze this spell in when you have a decent duration remaining on Shuffle and your health is high. It’s best not to open up with Spinning Crane Kick, because you have no defenses active and no way to put those defenses up during the cast. If you need AoE threat, rely on Keg Smash, Dizzying Haze, and even glyphed Breath of Fire before risking a Spinning Crane Kick.

Review

Now you should be able to hold your own in a heroic dungeon and LFR (just try to read some basic strategies first, it helps).

Spend energy on:

  1. Keg Smash, whenever it’s available.
  2. Expel Harm when you need a heal.
  3. Jab.
  4. Spinning Crane Kick for AoE situations, as long as you’re not in a dangerous situation.

Spend Chi on:

  1. Blackout Kick. The buff it provides should be active almost all the time.
  2. Guard when you need a cooldown, such as if your health is low or you’re about to get hit hard.
  3. Breath of Fire for AoE situations, for threat and defense if it’s glyphed, otherwise just as an AoE dps tool.

Other things to look out for:

  1. Start AoE pulls with Leg Sweep.
  2. Elusive Brew when you have many stacks.
  3. Pick up Gift of the Ox orbs for healing.
  4. Tiger Palm when you don’t have anything else to do.

Homework

Queue for a Mogu’shan Vaults LFR. You can read my guide for the normal version of MSV to get an idea of the strategy (though the first boss is different – you can just tank them in one big group in LFR).

Situational Abilities: Raids and Beyond

Finally time to start thinking about Purifying Brew. I left it for this late because when you’re first starting in 5 mans and normal raids, you will rarely even reach moderate stagger. It’s just not that useful for beginner content, and makes learning how to brewmaster more complicated than it needs to be.

Stage 1

To get used to the feel, start using Purifying Brew when you reach moderate (yellow) or heavy (red) stagger. The faster you can purify a yellow or red stagger, the better, so practice saving one or two Chi in situations where you are taking significant physical damage so that you can use Purifying Brew quickly.

Stage 2

Once you master the above, you can try to use Purifying Brew more intelligently. You don’t need to Purify all yellow staggers because yellow stagger represents a very broad range of damage and your stagger will be moderate almost all the time once you start the more difficult normal raids. Eventually, you will reach content where you just don’t generate enough Chi to purify every yellow stagger and keep up Shuffle, so you’ll have to make decisions.

Use Purifying Brew when:

  • You have red stagger.
  • You have high yellow stagger (30k+)
  • Shuffle has a long duration remaining and you don’t need to Guard.
  • Your healers are having trouble keeping you up through the sustained damage plus the stagger DoT.

Also, understand how Stagger builds. If you know you’re going to take a big melee swing soon, it’s worth it to sit on a moderate stagger and get hit again, then quickly purify, instead of purifying twice and using up two Chi. (Sha of Fear’s Thrash ability is a good example of predictable bursts of physical damage that you should save Chi and Purifying Brew for after Thrash.)

Stage 3

That should cover all of our “active mitigation” tools. There’s a lot more to brewmastering, but the remaining skills are all situational and depend on whatever you’re fighting at the time.

First off, you should get used to swapping out your level 75 talents: Healing Elixirs, Dampen Harm, and Diffuse Magic. Healing Elixirs is the best default, Dampen Harm is fantastic when you’re taking very large hits (though worthless if you only take small hits, even if there are many small hits), and Diffuse Magic is a lifesaver in heavy magic fights (though worthless when there is little predictable magic damage).

You can also try to throw in your healing talents, Zen Sphere, Chi Burst, and Chi Wave. Zen Sphere is best when you need single target healing or HoTs, Chi Burst excels when the raid is grouped together, and Chi Wave is great for AoE healing when the raid is spread apart. Keep in mind that it is almost always more worthwhile to spend your Chi on tanking abilities (tanks are very mediocre offhealers), so when in doubt, just Blackout Kick. These talents will be changing significantly in the next patch (5.2), but for now, try to throw them in during the following situations:

  • You’re not currently tanking and healing is more important than dps.
  • You have a very long duration remaining on Shuffle and you won’t need to Purify or Guard any time soon.
  • The boss you’re tanking does very little physical damage and almost entirely magical or raid damage.

Brewmasters lack giant Shield Wall-type cooldowns, but we still have Fortifying Brew, which you should get used to popping in scary situations. Zen Meditation, though it sounds like it’s a raid cooldown, actually works best as a personal one. Use it for magic attacks or predictable physical attacks (since it will disappear after you’re hit by a single melee). Invoke Xuen will taunt any non-raid-boss creature off you (and give you vengeance / threat for it), so it’s also a good defensive option for AoE trash or dungeon monsters.

For the details on the more obscure skills, you can read through my Brewmaster Guide.

Review

I know it feels like we’ve covered a lot of stuff here, but that’s just because I’m trying to be thorough.

Spend energy on:

  1. Keg Smash, whenever it’s available.
  2. Expel Harm when you need a heal.
  3. Jab.
  4. Spinning Crane Kick for AoE situations, as long as you’re not in a dangerous situation.

Spend Chi on:

  1. Blackout Kick. The buff it provides should be active almost all the time.
  2. Guard when you need a cooldown, such as if your health is low or you’re about to get hit hard.
  3. Purifying Brew when you are taking a lot of stagger damage.
  4. Breath of Fire for AoE situations, for threat and defense if it’s glyphed, otherwise just as an AoE dps tool.

Other things to look out for:

  1. Start AoE pulls with Leg Sweep.
  2. Elusive Brew when you have many stacks.
  3. Pick up Gift of the Ox orbs for healing.
  4. Tiger Palm when you don’t have anything else to do.
  5. Fortifying Brew or Zen Meditation when you need a big cooldown.

A Few Additional Tips and Tricks:

  1. Keep at least one of the following abilities active at all times: Shuffle, Guard, Elusive Brew.
  2. If your health suddenly drops low, use one or more of: Guard, Expel Harm, Fortifying Brew, Zen Meditation, or Gift of the Ox.
  3. Avoid spending energy or chi until you absolutely have to. It’s always good to have a buffer of some energy (for a quick jab, or to save up for Keg Smash if it’s coming off cooldown soon) or some chi (for a quick Purifying Brew, Guard, etc).

Homework

Go forth and be awesome.

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