Mists Retrospective: Shuffle as Maintenance Buff

As the game grows older, we see fewer and fewer maintenance buffs. That is, buffs that are expected to be active most of the time. In the case of the maintenance buffs that have disappeared over the years, most of them added little gameplay by themselves. Shuffle doesn’t meet the strictest definition of the term, since it plays into our resource management, but it is something vital that any brewmaster should be able to, and will be expected to, keep active almost all the time.

Right now, Shuffle / Blackout Kick is the default thing to spend chi on. It’s our most important active mitigation tool, and it’s our easiest to maintain. You will start a fight with activating Shuffle, spend most of the fight Blackout Kicking, and end the fight with a 2 minute duration. Could shuffle management be more interesting on it’s own? Does it need to be more interesting?

Positives of Maintenance Shuffle

  • Leaves more cognitive resources to monitor our other active mitigation. With its position as most important and easiest to maintain, we can focus more attention on our other abilities instead.
  • Chi dump: having to maintain such a vital buff means that chi is that much more valuable, and that decisions to purify or guard are more important. If we didn’t have something like shuffle and still generated a similar amount of chi, we would have more than enough to spend on all the Purifies and Guards we could ever want. Forcing a constant drain on chi effectively slows down our chi allowance on Purifying Brew and Guard while not actually slowing down our resource generation. It makes a common resource scarce.
  • At high shuffle, Blackout Kick becomes a dps chi dump. At low duration, of course, you use it for the buff. But at high duration, you no longer care if a 1 minute shuffle becomes a 1 minute 6 second shuffle, so you can instead choose between additional purifies/guards or blackout kick for more dps.

Negatives of Maintenance Shuffle

  • On low movement fights, shuffle builds up so high that chi is no longer a valuable resource. You have a 1 min duration, so you might as well purify every moderate stagger.
  • Brewmasters don’t need more reasons to be really good at not tanking for the first 20 seconds. We gain quite a bit from not being the first tank on a boss. We can build up a long shuffle duration and many EB stacks. It feels like we’re rewarded in a far greater amount than other tanks when we are off the boss, and feel punished if we don’t have time to build up those mitigation tools before getting hit.
  • Maintenance buffs seem old fashioned, especially if they don’t require thought. Shuffle does require some thought, or at least it transfers thought to other places. But for low movement fights, it’s downright boring.

Situational Shuffle

Would it make sense for shuffle to become more situational, similar to purifying brew and guard? That would give us more chi options. Right now we only have three choices — one is always up and one is only usable every 30 seconds — leaving only one “choice” most of the time. It would also allow a trade-off in chi-spending decisions: Immediate/reactive damage reduction vs. delayed/proactive damage reduction.

I don’t really think shuffle needs to be changed, but I like thinking about it. It does bother me when we get to high duration shuffles and decisions become boring, but I think that problem is more closely related to the perpetually increasing duration than the maintenancy nature of the skill. I’d like to see how we play with a shuffle that increases duration logarithmically instead of linearly, so that after 15 seconds or so blackout kick becomes less effective at stacking shuffle. But in reality, it’s unlikely we’ll see changes to what seems to be working fine enough already.