The Monk Issue + Guild Wars 2 Release Date

Of course, after I write a very long and detailed post, some major MMO news comes out.

Commence fanboy/fangirl flailing in 3, 2…

The monk issue:

I’ll preface this post by saying that I am speaking from the perspective of a PvE player, so a lot of what I’m about to say doesn’t necessarily apply to player versus player.

Some Pandaren monks in End Time in the Mists of Pandaria betaBefore the expansion’s announcement, one of the things I most wanted to see from World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria was a new class.

My wish was fulfilled with news of the monk, but right away, I had a nagging issue in the back of my mind. They seemed very similar to rogues. Rogues are an agile, highly mobile melee class using leather armor, and monks are… an agile, highly mobile melee class using leather armor. Rogues even have a lot of martial arts flavour with abilities like kick and kidney shot.

Still, there were some very unique things about monks. They had no auto-attack at all, while rogues are highly dependent on auto-attacks and getting more so all the time. They also had a unique resource mechanic; like rogues, they used energy to build points to spend on finishers, but they had to balance two kinds of points — light and dark force.

Then beta rolled around, and both those things were scrapped. The differences between the new chi resource and combo points are now very subtle: chi stacks on the player instead of the target, and you don’t need to exhaust your chi to use each finisher. In other words, it’s combo points, but better.

My rogue's transmogrification setI gained the chance to play a monk myself on beta, and the similarities just kept racking up. This is especially true of the monk DPS spec, windwalker. Just compare the rotations.

Thanks to spec homogenization, rogue rotations all look pretty much like this in Mists of Pandaria:

  • Sinister strike/backstab/mutilate to build combo points.
  • Keep rupture or revealing strike on your target.
  • Keep slice and dice on yourself.
  • Spend excess combo points on eviscerate or envenom.

The windwalker rotation looks like this:

  • Jab to build chi.
  • Keep rising sun kick on your target.
  • Keep tiger power on yourself.
  • Spend remaining chi on blackout kick.

Obviously, I’m oversimplifying things. It has been pointed out to me that the windwalker play style is about managing chi, whereas the rogue play style is about managing energy. Windwalkers are also hitting fists of fury on cooldown (although it’s suspiciously similar to a rogue’s killing spree in many ways), and there are combo breaker procs.

My rogue stabbing things on the Molten FrontStill, I find that playing a windwalker feels extremely like playing a rogue. Brewmaster spec — which is hella fun, by the way — is a bit more unique, but even so, I can’t escape the feeling that this is how my rogue would play if she got the ability to tank.

Mistweaver is the only truly unique-feeling spec. Some of this is due to how far different from playing a rogue healing is in general, and — credit where credit is due — part of this is just due to mistweaver being a very unique spec in general.

Unless you’re melee healing, and then it’s pretty much like windwalker spec.

So the play style and feel of monks is, on average, very similar to rogues. But there are still some very big differences. Monks can tank and heal, but rogues cannot. Monks are more mobile than rogues, and their resource mechanics are smoother and more intuitive. They also have better utility and are generally of more benefit to a group, even in windwalker spec. Monks have much better and more impressive spell effects and animations.

My Pandaren monk using life coccoon in the Mists of Pandaria betaDo you see the commonality between all these differences between the two classes?

They’re all ways in which monks are better than rogues.

Of course, there is stealth. That remains the one trump card rogues have over monks. But stealth is pretty much a non-issue outside of player versus player. The (horribly designed) stealth talent tier in Mists of Pandaria does encourage (see: force) rogues to open from stealth more often, but you’re still going to spend the vast, vast majority of your time out of stealth in any PvE situation.

So the question becomes…

Why play a rogue at all?

I’m not someone who spends a lot of time worrying about what other classes can do. Holy paladins were borderline crippled in regards to mutli-target healing compared to other healers for most of Cataclysm, but while I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me at all, I never really let it get to me. Certainly not to the point where I’d do a blog about it.

A low level Warsong Gulch match in the World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria betaLikewise, I don’t overly concern myself with balance. Again using my paladin as an example, I’m told holy has been nerfed to the ground on the beta, but while I’m certainly not happy, I’m not greatly upset either. They’ll make sure we’re viable, and that’s all that matters.

But monks and rogues have become so similar that it’s impossible not to compare them. I would even go so far as to argue they are more similar than any two classes in the game’s history — discounting feral druids, as they were specifically intended to ape the mechanics of other classes.

And once you start making that comparison, rogues invariably fall short. The monk system of combo points is better. They’re more mobile than rogues. They can fill two roles that rogues can’t. Even as a DPS, they bring far more versatility and group utility.

What can rogues do that monks can’t do better? Tricks of the trade? Big deal. I feel like the only reason to play a rogue in Mists of Pandaria is if you’re too loyal or lazy to level a windwalker.

My rogue infiltrating Ravenholdt on the Fangs of the Father chain

To be clear, I wouldn’t have an issue with monks being superior in many ways if rogues simply brought a unique or more fun play style to the table. But that isn’t really the case.

I’m not asking for monks to be cut down, though. The problem isn’t how much like rogues they are. Everyone deserves to have a bit of rogue awesomeness. The problem is that rogues have stagnated, and now monks are better rogues than rogues.

If Blizzard is going to implement a class that plays so much like a rogue, they should work on enhancing rogue mechanics to make them feel more unique. Make stealth relevant outside of an arena. Make poisons a more class-defining and interactive feature as opposed to bland passive buffs. Give us some new abilities that make us feel like proper rogues. And for the love of all that’s good and stabby, get our combo points off our targets!

Monks win… at least for now:

Unfortunately, it’s probably too late in the beta for any major changes to be made to either class. I foresee that monks and rogues will become one of the great rivalries of the game — like warlocks and mages — and I very much doubt rogues will always be on the bottom, but for this expansion, monks have clearly won.

A Blood Elf monk using flying serpent kick in the Mists of Pandaria betaSo I feel incredibly torn about the monk class. As a Warcraft player, I think it’s a great addition to the game, and I look forward to playing one.

But as a rogue player, I can’t help but feel a little jipped. Blizzard implemented every change that rogues were asking for… in the form of a new class. And now us rogues just feel obsolete.

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2 thoughts on “The Monk Issue + Guild Wars 2 Release Date

  1. Stealth wins. You sort of discredit it’s use outside PvP. For raids and dungeons, I might agree, but for all else, I am stealthy all the time. Even in dungeons, stealth for sneaky sneak. Farming old content and not having to do trash. I think stealth is their defining factor and it’s what I love most of the Rogue.

    • Stealth is great for PvP — don’t get me wrong. It’s a useful convenience in PvE, but it’s only a convenience. It’s not a game-changing ability in PvE content. It’s not even a relevant ability in PvE content. Unless I have to sap something, I never use stealth in a group setting, and I only use it to skip unneeded mobs while solo.

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