16.10.12

Lowbie windwalkers: fighting with flowers

The high-level mantra: Rising Sun Kick, maintain Tiger Power, Fists of Fury, Blackout Kick. Levelling windwalkers may have noticed just how lacklustre a monk's DPS will be if they stick to that, even on single-target pulls where the tank stands still and lets you maul away. Blackout Kick lacks any oomf.

There is a cure. It may make you feel like a florist rather than a martial artist, but thems the breaks. It's Spinning Fire Blossom.

Even Icy Veins' levelling guide fails to touch on this one, stating that 'you will not find much use for this ability as you level up.' But it doesn't take much testing to notice the way SFB hits for more than Blackout Kick even in melee range, and a helluva lot more at range. It does this for half the resource cost, and continues to dominate all the way through Northrend. You will do more DPS in instances if you forsake Blackout Kick for this skill, and you will mow through mobs more quickly on your own as well. Often you will kill things before they even reach you.

This is all down to a basic scaling issue with Blackout Kick, compounded by a secondary issue of convenience. Low level content is always a blitzfest. You can mow through things without stopping, in an instance or out questing. Keeping on top of the meter at this stage is more a matter of speed than style: if you've some decent burst, you're going to dominate. If your DPS requires a bit of setup... well, even at the top of your game you probably won't manage much more than 'keeping up'.

Blackout Kick becomes more powerful when you precede its use with Rising Sun Kick and three stacks of Tiger Power. RSK is a powerful ability in its own right, but Tiger Palm might be better named Tiger Pat on the Head for all the damage it deals. And let's not forget Jab, better named Poke Softly. In fact, let's not forget Jab, let's consider it.

Before Blackout Kick, you will need:

  • Four Jabs (two chi for RSK, three chi for three Tiger Palms, two chi for Blackout Kick itself);
  • Eight global cooldowns (four Jabs, one RSK, three Tiger Palms);
  • Melee range.

For Blackout Kick itself, you'll also want to be behind the target so as to apply the DoT effect. So, eight GCDs, and the ninth will be a fully-powered Blackout Kick. Meanwhile, how to use each of those eight preparatory GCDs with SFB:

  1. Jab.
  2. Jab.
  3. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  4. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  5. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  6. Jab to avoid energy capping.
  7. Spinning Fire Blossom.
  8. Spinning Fire Blossom.

In the space of time it took to set up Blackout Kick, a florist will already discharged five SFB, a skill that deals more damage than Blackout Kick even when all the buffs and debuffs are applied. SFB gains nothing from Tiger Power, so you can cut the Tiger Palms from your attack pattern altogether. Not only that, but if you have chi left over from the previous fight, or if you're keeping it up between packs through liberal use of Expel Harm, you can be smashing mobs for even more powerful SFBs when you're still some fifty yards away. The range on it is truly beautiful.

You should be aware, mind you, that your flowers have tiny flower minds of their own. Unless you've picked up the Glyph of Spinning Fire Blossom, the skill won't lock on in quite the same way other spells do. With the right combination of lag and a tank who likes running, you may find it blasting straight past the mobs you meant to hit as you were racing in... and straight into another pack.

Another downside is that, in melee range, it won't necessarily hit the mob you're targeting, or even turned toward: it could well decide it just wants to pummel that mob's neighbour instead. This is especially irksome if you're trying to nuke down a healer mob and your blossoms keep going for something else. What you can do, of course, is keep repositioning until all is working as intended, or switch back to your other skills for the sake of precision.

In my eyes, mind you, the biggest downside of all is that the power of this skill reduces lowbie windwalkers to spamming two, maybe three spells (if you include Rising Sun Kick or Spinning Crane Kick) and completely ignoring their end-game rotation.

I generally feel it is poor design for the numbers to teach observant players a completely different playstyle while levelling up to the one they'll use from 80 onward. To get a feel for the way your class will work at level cap, maintaining stacks of Tiger Power and keeping up the SFK debuff, a levelling monk will have to use a suboptimal range of spells. There's no real sense of being good at your class either way, as you'll be doing low damage if you stick to Blackout Kick, or you'll be doing high damage with SFB but feeling this is only because you happened to cotton on to the trick.

From a roleplaying perspective, meanwhile, my character has been learning to throw chi as fire flowers all this time: how is it she's so good at close-range martial arts all of a sudden when she reaches Hyjal? She hasn't been practising much of that at all. There's no solid sense of progression in the way this works.

I suppose levelling monks will have to take solace in dealing massive crits, dealt via hyacinth.

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