For the most part in this expansion, I’ve been able to use my monk and dh interchangeably. Sure, there have been some situations where one was a bit stronger than the other, but I could cover those weaknesses with some adjustments in strategy or toolkit and it worked out fine. But when we hit heroic Gul’dan this week, that was the first time I ever swapped out one character for the other for progression.
I’ve historically been more comfortable on my brewmaster. That’s why I’m going to couch all my thoughts in this post with issues I’m having on my vengeance dh, and not necessarily issues everyone is having (though in talking with other people, I know I’m not alone). I just wanted to write about them, since I already talked about them on the latest episode of Tankcast.
So the first issue I had on Gul’dan was solo-soaking the Bonds of Fel. The way my guild has been handling tank bonds was a) using the extra action button when it was available, then b) using our personal mitigation to handle it otherwise. My cotank handles it with Mark of Ursol and a big ol’ Frenzied Regen after. On my monk, I handle it with a Mystic Vitality-buffed Ironskin Brew with a big ol’ Expel Harm after. On my Demon Hunter, in theory I could use Empower Wards and/or Soul Barrier, but wouldn’t be able to heal it back up until I got back in range for Soul Cleave. And in practice, I needed Empower Wards and Soul Barrier to handle the other mechanics (which I’ll talk about soon).
The solution was to have my cotank handle any of the bonds I couldn’t cover with the extra action button. It’s not a solution that makes me feel great, but it works and it wasn’t a detriment to our progression.
But the real challenge came from all the burst damage and Fel Scythe. Handled properly, as in we only trigger Fel Scythe and Fury of the Fel when us tanks are ready, I could usually cover Fel Scythe’s magic damage with Empower Wards or Soul Barrier plus Painbringer, and Demon Spikes handles Fury of the Fel just fine. There were some scary points that I had to work hard to recover from, just with my health dropping from all the extra melee hits, but overall it was manageable, if difficult.
But add in just about any mistake, like melee killing the eyeball adds and stepping a little too close to the boss, or me losing track of my cotank and not realizing he was coming in to trigger Fel Scythe, or both of us tanks forgetting to trigger Fel Scythe until it was at very high energy, or being unable to top myself off before the Fel Sythe, and I would go down.
I considered talenting in to Last Resort to cover my unpredictable deaths, but I would have to lose Soul Barrier for that, and I needed Soul Barrier to handle the magical damage. I feared that with Last Resort I’d only trigger it early on something Soul Barrier could have handled, only to die on the next unexpected burst.
If everyone was playing really well, including myself, I could have stuck to my DH. But we can’t depend on that, especially on a new fight, so I swapped to my monk.
And this whole fight was vastly easier on my monk! The frequently-usable magic damage mitigation built into Ironskin Brew+Mystic Vitality greatly reduced Bonds of Fel damage, and the ranged healing of Expel Harm was excellent for recovery. Burst damage from Fel Scythe and Fury of the Fel never concerned me, because stagger will save me, even if I make a mistake. The high uptime on Ironskin Brew covered all the unexpected Fel Scythe damage.
Clearly Gul’dan caters to Brewmasters’ strengths, while revealing Vengeance weaknesses. Burst damage, frequent magic damage, ranged damage management, all these are areas monks excel at handling and demon hunters struggle with. Normally I power through just fine after adjusting talents and rotations, but here my stubbornness was a detriment to my raid.
I have no doubt that this fight is doable by Vengeance. However, it takes much tighter play to do it, tighter than I’ve seen before in other encounters at a similar level, and tighter than the play required by druids and monks (and those are just the tanks my raid has used on this fight). There are some adjustments we could have made that would have helped me succeed as a DH (like having the other tank handle the less predictable boss damage, and me handle the more predictable Bonds of Fel), but with switching to monk we never were forced to do that.
On my monk, I don’t have to monitor stacks of an artifact trait to survive a fight on heroic. Brewmasters can micro-manage such things, but they are not required for success on this difficulty (and they are notably easier to manage). On my monk, I can do something as terrible as forgetting to put up AM, and I have tools to recover. On my monk, when my raid significantly misunderstand mechanics, I have the tools to compensate. With enough practice, all of these monk advantages become less important because failure on all fronts is less likely. But in a situation like this, which is a perfect storm of vengeance weaknesses combined with seeing the fight for the first time, and it made more sense to sub out the demon hunter.