Legion Brewmaster First Impressions

They’re finally here, and surprisingly little has changed from the initial announcement!

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  • Fu Zan, the artifact, feels incredibly special. It has unique animations, including the resting on your shoulder and dangling jugs (shown above). It even stays on your shoulder for emotes and while in combat.
  • Artifact quest line: It’s a bit buggy at the moment, but the story is so very fitting for a brewmaster. It’s straightforward but full of character.
    Summary of the artifact quest
  • Breath of Fire as our primary AoE. I missed this spell in Warlords.
  • Keg Smash has a 15 yard range by default (25 with a completed artifact), which is a pretty strong replacement for Dizzying Haze (which is gone in Legion). It’s our first true pulling tool, and pulls instantly which is an improvement over Dizzying Haze.
  • Choice of Ironskin Brew vs. Purifying Brew. Right now it’s too easy to keep Ironskin up all the time, especially with artifact traits, but I like the potential. My healer ran out of mana when I used Ironskin exclusively, and I think there will be an interesting learning curve while we figure out the right times to use Ironskin or Purifying Brews, and when to not use anything at all.
  • With the loss of Dizzying Haze, I feel like Ox Statue finally has a strong place without overwriting the niches of our other abilities. In Warlords, it made Dizzying Haze and Rushing Jade Wind less useful because a pulsing passive threat is just better in almost every single way. Now that Ox Statue is a talent, I actually value that choice because it’s the king of its own niche (ranged add pickup) that comes with an opportunity cost (add control).
  • Pooling Resources
    • Brews: It’s often necessary to save brews for when you know you’ll need them, or to pool them when you currently don’t. It can be really satisfying to make those decisions. You don’t need to have Ironskin up all the time, because either due to RNG or a calm moment in the encounter, but there are also times you might need a full Ironskin+Purifying combo. This is especially engaging when you start to understand the fights better, and know when those dangerous or calm moments will happen.
    • Gift of the Ox: When an orb spawns, you know you have a big heal waiting for you. That means you can safely start pooling Brews and go without AM for a few seconds, because you can heal whatever damage you take soon. These are the cases where I like that Gift of the Ox is a big heal.
    • Elusive Brawler: I think our mastery, which increases our chance to dodge every time we fail to dodge, will also be key in providing pooling opportunities. If it gets close to 100% chance to dodge, there’s no point in using Ironskin Brew to reduce the next melee swing because you’ll already dodge it. However, it’s just a buff in the regular buff UI, so it’s difficult to track without addons.


  • Self Healing
    • Gift of the Ox barely ever procs on solo content, even at low health. I actually died while questing because my self healing was so limited (part of that might be my slow adjustment from a healing heavy demon hunter to a healing limited monk).
    • Even in dungeon content, relying on orbs as your biggest heal is scary when you have to move around a lot. It was frustrating to need a heal and see an orb on the other side of a pool of fire, out of reach. I think I’d rather have gift of the ox orbs be common and small heals to offset the cost of having to move around and track them in your environment.
    • When I could reach my healing orbs, I liked them quite a bit, and felt smart for using them when I found them. However, I think it would be a great place for a talent to offer some compensation for the cases where you have to move away from your big orb pile.
    • Ox Orbs heal for so much more than our healing talents (about 16 times more) that it feels really sad to use our talents. They matter so little that you might as well pick the passive one.
  • DPS Rotation Fillers
    • Having Blackout Strike on a 3s cd feels weird. Part of the trouble is adjusting to a spammable Tiger Palm in Warlords to a cd ability with a similar role. With a cooldown, you have to spend some cognitive resources just to keep track of it, and I spent a lot of my time in alpha staring at that timer. It’s not a huge deal when it’s just a damage dealing ability, but with our artifact it becomes a minor defensive ability, and one that benefits from being used as frequently as possible.
    • I was really tempted to create a castsequence macro with Blackout Strike, Breath of Fire, and Rushing Jade Wind to fill empty GCDs on single target. Since we have so many empty GCDs, we are welcome to fill them with any of our free spells, with Blackout Strike being the highest priority. I’m not great at castsequence macros and generally discourage their use because most of the time a human decision is more valuable, but in this case I wanted one just to avoid the tedium of watching a 3s cooldown.
  • After losing quite a few unique animations (Guard, Blackout Kick, Spinning Crane Kick), the new ones are a little disappointing. Ironskin Brew has the same drinking animation as Purifying Brew (which makes sense), with the swirly animation from old Elusive Brew. Blackout Strike has Jab’s weapon swing animation with a purple swirl. They all make sense as far as animations go, but I was hoping for some compensation for the varied animations we lost. (At least the animations combined with Fu Zan are great.)
  • I’d like to see stagger incorporated into the handy little active mitigation UI. In my dream scenario, they’d find a way to put that bar that shows stagger damage as a percentage of your health, but I’d settle for a green/yellow/red icon on the bar, to keep my eyes from darting all over my screen.


  • Flaming Keg literally does 1 damage. Probably not final.
  • Ranged add pickup is really hard with Keg Smash when you have to switch targets. Maybe Flaming Keg will offset that when it gets fixed, or maybe we’re meant to rely on ox statue, which still remains powerful.
  • You only have 2 AoE tools by default: Keg Smash (8s cd) and Breath of Fire (15s cd). You can talent into Rushing Jade Wind, Chi Burst, and Black Ox Statue to help. Some artifact traits will also likely add to AoE ability (Dragonfire Brew, Flaming Keg). The default setup is limited, which is fine, but takes some getting used to. RJW will pretty much be a necessity for 5 mans, but I miss using that ability so I’m glad to see it back in a stronger niche.
  • Brewmasters still have strongly themed talent tiers, which risks theorycrafting an objective answer. The healing tier and the resource tier are especially going to have “right” and “wrong” answers in their current state. (For contrast, look at the Vengeance DH talent tiers, where none of the rows are strictly themed.)
  • Can’t use Purifying Brew unless you actually have a stagger dot.
  • Using Ironskin Brew while a previous buff is still active will extend the buff, similar to today’s Blackout Kick / Shuffle.
  • If I were to put us on a scale with other tanks, where on one end we have warriors with almost no self healing and on the other end we have death knights with really vital self healing, monks would be right up next to warriors. We still have some healing, but most of our survival comes from preventing and smoothing damage. (For the record, demon hunters would be right next to death knights.)
  • Keg Smash is doing that thing it did in Mists beta where it doesn’t apply its debuff to unsnarable mobs, like bosses. This means that Breath of Fire doesn’t apply it’s DoT effect. I hope that’s a bug.
  • Lariel

    Interesting. Changing from an absorb damage model, with sufficient self-healing, to a model that looks like is all about smoothing damage and ignoring parts of it, with limited self-healing. That’s certainly going to take some time getting used to.

  • Zyel – Dalaran EU

    Very interesting post. Looking forward for more update !
    (Sorry for my english btw)

    I’m playing on the french version of the alpha, perhaps theres some tooltip not translated.

    Here my thoughts / questions :
    – Isn’t Breath of Fire allready AoE ?
    – How can Keg Smash can be compared to Dizzying Haze ?

    Empty GCD looks like really boring. No more fire / beer launched / funny things.
    Looking for some “distance” pull / control, like Dizzying Haze.

    Isn’t Special Delivery (lvl90 who procs Keg Smash) a valuable option ?

    The only things i’m very happy is the change to Active Mitigation, and so, less RNG.

    • Sunnier

      – Yes, Breath of Fire is already AoE now, but it becomes our primary AoE in Legion. I’ll clarify that in the post.
      – Keg Smash was basically merged with Dizzying Haze. KS has a long range, not quite as long as old Dizzying Haze, but it is also instant (unlike Dizzying Haze). They even share an animation (they always have, though it was harder to see with short range KS).
      – Breath of Fire actually is an empty GCD filler. It’s not particularly valuable, but better than nothing.
      – Distance pull tool is Keg Smash. It’s probably the best distance pull tool in the game, since it’s ranged, has a snare, and deals huge AoE damage. The targeting thing is different than Dizzying Haze though, but I hope Ox Statue and Flaming Keg will make up for that. Mouseover macro with Keg Smash would probably work, too.
      – Special Delivery is such a weird talent, I don’t know where to place it. It seems like an extra free Keg Smash effect, but it’s a random chance to activate on brew skills so it’s not reliable. Other tanks all have a talent that adds damage to their active mitigation, and I think this is the brewmaster version, but it’s disappointingly passive.

      • Zyel – Dalaran EU

        Thanks for your answer ! I didn’t even noticed that KS was now 15m distance spell !

        What about talent ? (Perhaps its a bit too early to discuss about it if so, tell me, i’ll wait for your next post :D)

        – Lvl 15 & 30 didn’t seems “that important”.
        – But lvl 45 allready is a huge choice, the first one, Light Brewing is really OP and will probably be nerfed (or Ironskin Brew will have some longer CDs). Black Ox Brew seems very powerfull too, even more if Ironskin got a longer CD. The last one though seems a bit off compared to the others.
        – Lvl 60, making a choice between control & Distance add managment is tough …
        – Lvl 90, i’ve made the choice to pick RJW, because the new Xuen doesn’t seems that usefull, boss can’t be taunted and add are in general packed to be cleaved, or need a special managment that can’t be really manage by Xuen (Niuzao ! ^^).
        – Lvl 100, Elusive Dance seems to be the strongest especially with Lvl 45 Light Brewing. Fortified Mine is ok but not that great, and High Tolerance makes us report from 35 to 40 who’s not that important …

        • Sunnier

          I’ll have a post up with talent evaluations eventually, but I think you’re pretty much on the dot. Level 15 is useless, level 30 is fun but a minor effect, 45 will likely be decided by theorycrafting (with Light Brewing in the lead right now), level 60 is a tough but interesting choice, level 90 will depend on whether you need sustained aoe or burst single target. Level 100 is tough for me to evaluate, leaning toward elusive dance most of the time.

        • GLaDOS

          Niuzao does taunt boss’s, has the same health as the player too so hes basicly a free off tank

  • Gary Hicks

    Hi, thanks for the write up! I find it disappointing that Keg Smash has become our pull/opener, because it’s important benefit (reducing Brew CDs) is essentially being wasted (we pull with full brews); it just seems very messy. I’m extremely anxious that we have lost our amazing Chi Explosion (4 x Chi = AoE) for ranged, and feel that currently in Legion whilst we are somewhat mobile we lack a *responsive* (low CD) ranged toolkit. PS, yes Flaming Keg is indeed bugged -although it was reported that it can Crit… for 2 dmg! *wink*
    What are your thoughts on our ranged toolkit, and the lack of Chi Explosion? PS how much Energy do we start with, 100?

    • Sunnier

      You can use an ironskin brew right before casting Keg Smash, if you wanted to take advantage of KS’s brew generation. I passionately hate Chi Explosion (which I’ve written about at length), so I could not be happier it’s gone. With Ox Statue and ranged Keg Smash, our ranged pulling is fine. Ranged casters are still a pain, but that has always been true, and at least we can keep threat on them with the aforementioned tools.

      • Gary Hicks

        Hi, I didn’t know of your stance on Chi Explosion, my apologies; for me it was both a beloved DPS and Ranged tool. Thanks for the reply, I’ll certainly keep the faith and stay tuned in for your thoughts on Legion’s iteration on the class! Cheers

  • Matt

    Great summary as usual Sunnier. I look forward to more in-depth analysis. Keep up the great work (and good job with the gnome choice for the Alpha).

  • x zhou

    Yeah I play monk tank as my main with 735ilvl currently. I love how much self heal monk tanks have currently. Mythic dungones and some raid bosses u pretty much don’t need a healer. I have been reading on the monk tank changes recently and I’m not happy with the changes. I will choose to play a self heal tank over a dmg mitigation tank anyday. The reason I choose a monk not a DK is cuz monks not only having the heals they have have great mobility. But legion monk tank is all disappointments, I might reroll to a pally or druid tank.

    • Sunnier

      Brewmasters still have quite a bit of self healing, especially with the upcoming changes, but yeah, they’ve never been a “self healing tank”. If you’re frustrated with Brewmasters’ weakened healing in Legion, I might also suggest Vengeance. They’re heavy on the self healing but still have more mobility than Death Knights.