Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What To Expect When Playing a Monk

So you got your shiny Beta invite from one of the waves Blizzard is sending out (in which case I hate you with envy greener than a warlock's flame, which is to say not very green at all, more of a red, really), or you live in the future and have finished installing Mists of Pandaria (in which case I hate you with a different type of envy that is still not very green). Looking at your options - level your old, soon to be forgotten main through the new content, roll a Pandaren of some other class to play through their starting zones, or roll a monk - you decide (wisely) - to go with the option that allows you to punch things and have rolled a Monk. Congratulations!

What do you do?

At first that answer is going to be quite simple: start punching things. (Though if this is the day Mists launches, the first thing you're going to do is wait in queue, which is why you'd be here and not playing. And if you're going Pandaren for your monk (we'll discuss the pros and cons of various races later) then you'll follow waiting in queue with incredibly exciting sit in lag, given it's launch day.)

Go ahead. Have some fun. Punch a training dummy. Punch a squirrel. Punch the first mob you see. Punch every mob you can see. Challenge a friend to a duel and punch him. Challenge a level 85 (or 90) and try to punch him before you get one shot. Find a flagged member of the opposite faction and punch them. Punch a Paladin. Punch a Druid. Punch a Rogue. Invent an achievement for punching one of each class before level 10. Try some of our different flavors of punching on whatever you are punching. (I don't care if it's called Blackout Kick. A friend of mine informs me that kick is just a shorthand way to say "punch with your foot", and he's been doing monk things in other games since he's been gaming, so he knows what he's talking about.)

Hit level 10 and pick a specialization. Are you going to be a Windwalker, who focuses completely on just punching things in a variety of ways until they die? A Mistweaver, who punches so hard that it actually undoes damage? A Brewmaster, who wants to make everyone hit him by shouting "I'm soooooooooo drunk! I bet that you hit like a girl!" while punching things? (Yes, that's going to be my brewmaster's taunt macro.) Hit level 15 and pick a talent, which (as of the current Beta build, will define exactly how your roll (rimshot).

Not sure which specialization to pick? We'll go into details of the different ones later on, but the good news is: You are playing a monk! You can't pick incorrectly! If you're looking to dungeon as you level, I'd strongly recommend Brewmaster or Windwalker, since the queue time with be dramatically lower. However, Blizzard has gotten World of Warcraft where there's no guide needed to level. There's no right way to do it, no wrong way to do it. You can level the entire way through picking up flowers and rocks if you want, though that involves a shameful amount of time spent not punching. Once Mists and the Monk gets closer to live I'll be able to get into some more detail as to what would be an easy route into getting your monk to level 90, but if that never gets posted this advice still stands: just do things. You'll hit 90 eventually.

What To Expect:

I've never been a flavor of the month player. I've always been a "What is currently providing me the most entertainment/is shiny and new" player. So when Wrath of the Lich King was announced, I looked at the Death Knight class and went "Wait, I can cast spells? AND dual-wield sword? AND raise the dead? Guess what I'm doing!" (The answer was "Sit in a queue, disconnect from lag, sit in a queue again, get disconnected from lag yet again, drink a few beers and curse as I start the queue again," but eventually I rolled a Death Knight.) It was a unique experience, and since the Monk is thankfully not a hero class it will be somewhat different, but if you rolled a Death Knight in early Wrath then you have some idea of what to expect:

-You're Going to Suck

Okay, so maybe "suck" is a strong word. But you are not going to be anywhere near as good as you are at playing your main. I don't care if you were an Annual Pass holder who got in Mists Beta from day one and played every single day. I don't care if you've read every single theory crafting article about monks or blogs about monks or any other monk related information you can find. Regardless of how strong the class is at launch, you will be doing some thing wrong.

Acknowledge that. It's too early into development right now to know exactly what you'll be doing wrong, but right now, admit you will be. Your former main is a class you've played for a couple years now (or is a reroll from another character you played for awhile). You're going to be better with it. That's fine. It takes time for skill to develop. Try to be aware of the areas where you're under preforming and fix them, but don't sweat it too much until you hit 90 and are starting on end game content. Just don't get mad at people who are polite about giving advice and do ignore the trolls who insult you for not doing it right. Don't be a cause for the second thing to expect...

-People Will Hate You

Again, hate is a strong word. But they really, really, really won't like you in many cases. I saw this on my Death Knight - I'd zone into a dungeon, and people would immediately start groaning. "Another Death Knoob. Ready to wipe everyone?" On more than one occasion, I was voted out of the dungeon as soon as possible even though we hadn't wiped and I had not died or lost aggro yet and the healer was keeping up with me just fine (I was a tank). One a few rare occasions, the entire group went AFK until I dropped or they could vote-kick me.

Why? Well, see point one. The problem is some people will not be too kind in pointing out how much you suck, and some (many players) will respond with "Not as much ur mom!" or "Not as much as u do, cuz u suck every night, cuz ur ghey!" To compound that, there will be the people whom "Suck" would not be a strong word. They've never before played a tank or healer but are going Brewmaster or Mistweaver, they figured since their toon tanks drunk they should be just as wasted, they're new to the game and were lured in by promises of playing a martial artists. They'll roll into mobs ahead of the tank, or roll mid combat into ANOTHER group of mobs. They'll be focusing their healing on the hunter's pet (unless that pet is doing a better job of tanking than the Windwalker that queued up as tank, at which point they'll start healing the hunter). They'll break CC. They'll make every mistake any other class is capable of making, but they'll be doing it in new ways no other class could. People will get sick of Monks, and just seeing one in the group will put them on edge.

There's not much you can do about this one. If the group is outright hostile, leave - no amount of abuse is worth your time, and that 30 minute cooldown gives you time to cool down yourself - because you do not want to become bitter and angry at the abuse monks get. If you do, then the next time someone gives you good advice, you might end up rejecting it out of hand because it's just another "hater," which in turn remake them resentful of you and might actually turn them into a "hater."

If the group is just wary or chilly, ignore it and be friendly and play your best. Don't get your back up - try to prove them wrong. Sure, you'll probably get "Oh, at least there's one decent monk out there" at first, but if there are enough "One decent monks" running around, we'll eventually gain the level of acceptance and comfort people show around Death Knights these days, only even better, because we won't have that whole "Only been playing class for 32 levels" stigma some people still attach to them. I could write an entire article about this, and if this proves to be as big a problem as I fear it will be I probably will, but there's one more issue I need to address...

-Your Balance is Going to Be Off

It's impossible to tell what direction the balance is going to be, but it's almost a certainty that out of the gate monks will be at least someone over or under powered, and will have stretches of being over or under powered throughout their career, culminating in being one or the other at level 90. It'll take a few patches to get the balance right - the nature of the beast when dealing with an MMO as large and diverse as World of Warcraft, with (now) 11 classes, each with 3 specializations, and a huge variety of talents each can chose from.

If for a period you're overpowered, have fun with it, but don't be a jerk and don't expect it to last - you will get nerfed. If for a period we're underpowered, don't despair. Try a different spec for a change of pace, or if it gets too frustrating make take a break from monking, level your old main, finally roll a Pandaren if your monk isn't one. You'll come back or you won't, but you do not want to push yourself to the point of frustration and burnout. And we can't have monks doing that. Because in the end...

-You're Going to Be Awesome

This may seem like a counter to the first point, but remember that you are playing a monk. Your job is to punch Gods, Elementals, Demons, Titans, giant Constructs, Huge Tentacled Things, Energy Beings, member of the Alliance or Horde (or both if you PvP and Duel), and the physical manifestations of negative emotions, or make those things so pissed off that they only want to punch you, or keep the people who are hurting those things using less-awesome methods than punching alive. You're going to do this in a leather outfit, and you're going to look awesome doing it. You'll eventually regain the skill you had with your old main, people will stop giving you crap, and Blizzard will stop giving monks extreme nerfs and buffs and settle into the good old nerf-buff cycle every other class is used to.

Coming up next: Based on the current build, 5 things every monk should do regardless of spec.

Keep on punching.


  1. Hi Alex,

    Rioriel here, an editor of the TNB Wiki. I've added your site today following your e-mail. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for adding me! I'll get to work on a Wiki page for this blog ASAP.