Well, yes. I’ve been busy playing the Mists of Pandaria beta, and considering there is still a lot of bugs with the bleeding edge 85+ content, I decided very quickly to forego a pre-made character and started leveling a Pandaren Monk from scratch.
Since there is a lot of stuff still to do, it’s not really possible to judge the “new” content. By this, I mean that the changed/updated timelines in Outland and Northrend have yet to be implemented, which leads to some amusing errors and glitches for a Pandaren (such as some mounts being inaccessible, reputation gains for sub-factions not clocking up and general transformation bugs for those quests involving a disguise). That will come a little further on in the beta, and is the subject for another blog post.
That said, I’ve gotten my Monk to level 72 so far so I’ve had plenty of time and experience to judge how the new class fares in content, dungeons and the like. My initial impressions at this early stage are mixed however.
Mistweaver – the healing spec – is a case of channeling whilst dealing damage. This is a healing class that is designed to be more about sustained healing rather than hammering out lots of little heals, and coupled with the tanking spec, is a surprisingly effective turn for the books. Solo content it lacks a little sparkle, as well as damage output, as the healing weapons generally don’t have a lot of DPS on them. But arguably, that is not the point of a healer – and when you are getting regular channeled heals of 2k+, it makes most tanks quite powerful.
Brewmaster – the tanking spec – is grossly overpowered currently. The leveling spec of choice in the beta currently, a Brewmaster is capable of rounding up a dozen mobs, and with a few well-placed Haze brews, can set all of them up fior a devastating Flame Breath cone attack. With Vengeance constantly stacking an attack power buff, in dungeons a Brewmaster is a force to be reckoned with. There are still some minor threat issues here, mostly to do with the new threat system not being quite polished yet, but it’s a minor point when Brewmasters can survive heavy hitting slow foes and take a pummeling from multiple weaker foes as well. Brewmasters are masters of tanking – a cross between a Paladin and a Rogue – and it makes smashing through the currently available content an absolute breeze.
Windwalker – the DPS spec – is perhaps the one that requires the most work to be done on it however. Windwalkers are comparatively weak on the damage front when leveling, something that might pan out more at the endgame, but the real issue is that Windwalkers play suspiciously close to rogues – perhaps, as a long time rogue player, too suspiciously. Especially since the Rogue pass is yet to be done. The general idea is the same for both classes – build up Chi/Combo Points and then blow them all quickly. This makes them a bit wonky, and a dangerous alternative to rogues – rogue being a class that is often fundamentally overlooked at the start of a new expansion.
The real problem with Monks is that whatever the spec you choose, they are stronger than any other class in game. With multiple self-heals, damage reduction talents and movement speed increasing abilities, Monks are pretty much the Anti-class. A group of five monks so far proves to be devastating for whatever dungeon you can line up, and that does beg the question as to how severe the nerfs would need to be before Monk was on a par with other classes, or how heavily other classes would need to be buffed to be on a par with Monks.
It is this that has muddied the waters. Monks are currently too good. Too strong. Too slick. They are awesome, stylish and hugely enjoyable to play. But of course, this will raise questions as to why you’d want any other class to be with you in the meteoric and yet simple leveling curve.
The real danger here is that Blizzard may indeed have perfected a hybrid class that has independent and interesting means to take on each role – but in doing so, may have inadvertently overshadowed every other class in-game.
That will not fly in an MMO. Certainly not in one like World of Warcraft, with a huge, and largely vocal, userbase. Time will tell, but based on this early build it is becoming quite apparent that you’d be silly to be anything other than a Monk for the first few months of content.
And for all the changes that Mists of Pandaria will bring, that may be the straw that breaks the camels back for a large number of people.