So far, demon hunters have been hard for me to master. That isn’t because of the class, it’s just me taking forever to learn how to intuitively play something new.
A while back I ran heroic Halls of Valor on my two tanks. My demon hunter was at about 850 ilvl, my monk barely above 810. And throughout the whole thing, I actually felt more confident on my monk than my demon hunter. Not for any class or balance reason, but because when bad stuff happens to my monk I intuitively know how to handle it. When my health becomes unstable, even if I don’t know why, I can probably put up an Ironskin Brew and I’ll be okay. I know to do that without even consciously thinking it.
In our first few weeks of Emerald Nightmare, I died many more times than my co-tank. A few deaths were just due class differences (I thought I could take the same stuff to the face as a bear), more were because of mechanic failures, but most were just due to mismanaging my class. I died too many times with all my cooldowns up. It was frustrating, and made me question why I’m punishing my guild with wipes when I could be playing a class I’m much better at.
It might be hard to believe, but I take longer than the average joe to figure stuff out. It’s why this whole blog exists, as an excuse for me to learn how to play. It’s an avenue to figure stuff out in ways I know work for my brain: writing everything down, focusing on small achievable steps, and displaying only the information I need at any given time. This is the reason I talk so much about approachability, because I struggle so much with it myself.
I think one reason brewmaster just clicks with me is that they have relatively few skills. I’ve always been terrible at remembering cooldowns, and brewmasters have few of those in any form, rotational or defensive. I don’t have the fastest reaction times, and brewmaster mechanics that slow damage down just make a lot of sense to me. I don’t think that means vengeance can’t click with me, but it will probably take more work.
To complicate my learning process, demon hunters don’t use their skills in the same way as monks, they’re just designed differently. Monks have relatively few tools, but those tools are applicable to many situations. Ironskin Brew works against magic and physical, it’s effective even in a panic situation, and Fortifying Brew is a genuinely strong cooldown with similar benefits. In contrast, Demon Spikes only works on physical, and you need another semi-active-mitigation that works differently if you’re facing magic. While demon hunters have a wide array of cooldowns, each comes with its own drawbacks, which makes them best used with a plan. It can be really frustrating because all these skills I’ve developed on my monk don’t immediately apply to my demon hunter.
This has provided me with some insight into the requests of others to please help them improve, they feel like they’re doing something wrong but they’ve done all this research and practice and still feel like they’re failing. I always struggle with asks like this, because I’m not sure what makes me better at one class over the other, either. Maybe some classes just click with some brains, and some take extra work. Some brains can hold a lot of information at once, some can only hold a little (this is me). Some can react really quickly, some just can’t.
I’d rather not have to slow my teammates’ progress down to learn new things, but I think the challenge is good for me for long term engagement. Raiding as a brewmaster, I had a tendency to get bored halfway through each progression fight. I’d figure out my tasks quickly, and usually had to wait for the rest of the group to figure out their tasks, so I’d spend many wipes just counting down until the next boss. That also made each kill feel unearned, like I never got challenged enough to make that boss finally dropping feel like a giant relief.
Maybe this is why I’m really enjoying my brewmaster in dungeons. Brewmasters have fewer cool toys than vengeance in that department. That grants vengeance the chance to feel smart when they use their toys well, but it also risk simplifying their world, too. When you drop a timely sigil of flame, and the boss dies, does that feel triumphant? That’s meant to be rhetorical, because sometimes it feels great and it doesn’t even register as a challenge. Similar with brewmaster, does it feel great to passively shrug off so much damage with Ironskin Brew? Sometimes yes, and sometimes it makes survival too easy.
All these struggles have cause me to wonder if I should be playing a brewmaster exclusively. Clearly that class just clicked with me, whereas vengeance has not yet. But I’m still having fun playing vengeance, and I am getting better, albeit slowly. Apart from that, all this discomfort at learning new things is making me a better player. For one thing, coming from a class with Guard, I never needed to development my external cooldown calling skills; a skill I will need raiding on my demon hunter. I also have to pay attention to other things going on in the raid when survival is hard. Struggling forces me to find creative solutions. It’s a worthy time and effort investment all around, but it comes with a cost of playing at a lower level until I get there.
Learning requires challenge. Not too much to discourage, but just enough to stick. The places where I’m most engaged in each class are the places I feel like I can improve, and I know how to improve. When I’m tanking as a brewmaster and planning all my brews around my elusive brawler and ox orbs, I feel smart and enjoy it immensely. When I’m picking up adds as vengeance and I’m planning all my cooldowns around their attacks and all my add pickup abilities around how frequently I can use them, I feel smart. When I’m mobbed by casters and archers on my monk I feel frustrated and out of control, because I can’t find a solution other than doing exactly what I’m already doing. When I’m getting trucked by a hard-hitting boss on my demon hunter, I am overwhelmed with managing my plethora of cooldowns that may or may not be effective here.
Recently, while running another random heroic on my demon hunter, I realized that I was feeling more confident. I was pulling bigger groups, rotating my cooldowns (even though I didn’t really need them), and felt like I almost knew what I was doing. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as good on my demon hunter as I am on my monk, but it’s fun just to try. I really want to play both classes intuitively, and the best path for that is to keep putting myself in difficult situations and problem-solving my way out.