Hey, I’m Chase Hasbrouck (aka Alaron) from WoW Insider and The Fluid Druid. Welcome to my full Brewmaster Monk guide! This page will teach you everything you need to know about playing a brewmaster monk for Mists of Pandaria. Read, enjoy, and if you find it helpful, feel free to hit the donate button in the sidebar. Let’s begin!
Guide Status: Updated for 5.1.
Brewmaster monks are a tank class that was newly added to the game for the Mists of Pandaria expansion. Any race, except Worgen and Goblin, can be a monk. (All my pictures are pandaren because, well, that’s most of the art at the moment.) Like all monks, they have two resources that must be managed; energy and chi.
First, energy regenerates at a constant rate (10/sec) in and out of combat, and fills a 100-point energy pool. Energy regeneration can be increased by haste, your tanking stance (+10%) or the Ascension talent (+15%). Energy is primarily used for abilities such as Keg Smash, Jab, and Spinning Crane Kick to build chi.
In contrast, chi is a static 4-point pool (or 5-point with Ascension), similar to a paladin’s holy power, that decays when out of combat. Chi is used to power abilities that increase the brewmaster’s survivability, such as Blackout Kick, Purifying Brew, and Guard. On the surface, it appears similar to a paladin’s holy power. The key difference, however, is that holy power consuming abilities always consume the entire holy power pool (and thus have a scaling effect), while chi consuming abilities have a fixed cost and effect.
Every fight against non-trivial enemies will require careful management of both resources. The two primary mistakes you want to avoid are chi wastage and energy capping. Chi wastage is using a chi builder when you are already at full chi (thereby wasting energy), whereas energy capping is allowing your energy meter to fill to 100, which causes your energy regeneration to stop. As you get used to the spec, you’ll learn how to weave chi builders and chi consumers together to keep a constant flow going.
Stagger and Shuffle
The very first thing you’ll notice when trying to tank something as a Brewmaster (if you’ve played a different tank class before) is how hard you’re being hit by regular swings. Bear tanks, for example, have this cool thing called Thick Hide that increases their armor by a ton. Monks don’t get anything like that, which means your damage reduction from armor is going to be around half that of a traditional tank. Now, you still get some damage reduction from your tanking stance, but you’re still going to be taking quite a bit more damage initially.
Thankfully, Monks have something called Stagger. A Staggered attack will take 80% damage instantly and the remaining 20% is added to a DoT that ticks for 10% of its damage value every second. A second Staggered attack resets the DoT timer and increases the DoT’s damage, and so on until you die, stop taking attacks (which allows the DoT to run its course) or you remove the DoT via Purifying Brew.
So, spam Purifying Brew, right? Well, PB costs Chi, and you also need that Chi for Shuffle. (insert LMFAO joke here.) The shuffle buff gives you 20% parry and 20% more Stagger (the damage split becomes 60/40, instead of 80/20), which is a very good thing. Unfortunately, the primary way to get Shuffle is via Blackout Kick, which costs 2 chi, and each kick only gives you 6 seconds of the buff. You have to strike a balance between shufflin’ and purifyin’. Too much dancing means you keel over from the DoT effect; too much purifying will make you hard to heal, because you’re low on avoidance. As a quick guideline, look at your Stagger debuff; it’ll start out green, then yellow, then red as the DoT gets bigger. Purify when red, and consider it when yellow.
Mastery will also increase the % of damage that’s staggered vs. directly taken; more on that later in the stat weights section.
These are the abilities you’re going to use most often, so know them, love them, hotkey them.
|Jab||40 energy, no CD. Basic attack, which increases chi by 1. Use this to generate chi if EH/KS is on cooldown.|
|Expel Harm||40 energy, 15s CD. As often as possible, you’l want to press this instead of Jab, as it generates 1 chi, heals you for a decent amount, and turns that healing into a bit of damage. (If you’re at full health, it won’t do any damage but will still return chi. You can use this out of combat to start with 1 chi when pulling.) If you’re below 35% HP, Expel Harm has no cooldown due to Desperate Measures, though it still costs energy so you won’t be able to spam it.|
|Keg Smash||40 energy, 8s CD. Generates 2 Chi, applies the Weakened Blows debuff (-10% damage), applies the Dizzying Haze debuff (-50% movespeed, 3% miss), and does a good chunk of cleave damage to adds. Your most important ability for generating threat and chi, and should be used on cooldown. Dizzying Haze can also be cast separately on ranged targets for 20 energy; this does no damage but significant threat, and is a good ranged pulling tool. Note that the Dizzying Haze debuff does not work on bosses.|
|Spinning Crane Kick||40 energy, no CD, generates 1 chi if it hits three or more enemies. Replaces Jab for AoE situations.|
|Blackout Kick||2 chi, no CD. Most of your chi will go to this kick, solely because it lets you Shuffle (Brewmaster Training). You want to keep Shuffle up most of the time, but not at the expense of Purifying Brew or Guard.|
|Purifying Brew||1 chi, no CD. Purifying Brew removes your Stagger DoT. You don’t want to purify stagger too quickly, because that wastes chi; instead, wait until your stagger debuff turns yellow/red (yellow = 3-6% HP loss per second, red = >6%) before purifying. I’d say every 10-15 seconds is a pretty good baseline to shoot for, though of course it will vary depending on the fight; harder-hitting bosses will push you into yellow/red much faster. Highly recommend using an addon to track/notify you of your PB status.|
|Guard||2 chi, 30s CD. This is a short cooldown that you want to use when it’s up, as it puts a significant absorb shield on you. Scales with AP, so don’t use it if you’re just starting a fight; build some Vengeance first. Increases your selfhealing by 30% while up. Can be glyphed to only absorb magical damage (see the glyphs section for when this is a good idea).|
|Elusive Brew (Brewing)||9 sec CD (not that it matters much). This has a somewhat unusual mechanic. It stacks based on crits (which is normalized for weapon speed, you get more stacks with a 2H, more crits with DW) up to 15, and once you use it, it gives you 30% dodge for 1s per stack. There’s no penalty for using it sooner or later, just use it before you stack up to 15.|
|Fortifying Brew||180 sec CD. This is your big personal cooldown. Increases health by 20%, reduces damage taken by 20%, and increases Stagger by 20% (Brewmaster Training). Best saved for predicted burst moments or “I’m about to die” times.|
|Gift of the Ox||This is a passive, but it’s rather significant. As you fight, healing spheres will pop up around you, Diablo 3-style, up to a maximum of three. Bad brewmasters will ignore them, good ones will get them as they pop, but GREAT ones will leave 2 up at all times and snag them after they take a big hit. It procs about 15% of the time on specials, and about 20% on autoattacks (halve that for DW), so you’ll see a lot of these. Great when combined with Guard.|
That’s it! Master those 10, and you’ll be mostly there.
Other notable abilities:
|Dampen Harm / Diffuse Magic||90 sec CD. You get ONE of these abilities as your Level 75 talent choice. (Or Healing Elixirs, but I wouldn’t recommend that one unless you’re soloing.)I’d generally recommend Diffuse Magic as it’s helpful in more situations, but Dampen Harm is absolutely killer for bosses that hit super-hard. (DH was changed in 5.1 from 10% damage to 20% damage, which makes it more situational.)|
|Avert Harm||180 sec CD. This raid cooldown is dangerous. It can save your raid, but it will kill you quickly if you try to use it while you’re also tanking melee swings. Use with caution. Good when paired with Zen Meditation as an off-tank.|
|Summon Black Ox Statue||30s CD. While this doesn’t do anything for you personally, there’s no reason NOT to use this in every fight. It’s essentially a free Power Word:Shield every so often for your raid. The statue DOES aggro things when you place it, though, so be cautious with that.|
|Zen Meditation||180 sec CD. This is sort of a hybrid personal/group cooldown. Not really useful for Brewmasters like it is for the other specs, because it breaks on melee, but at a minimum, it’ll reduce that one hit by 90%, which might save your life. Like Dampen Harm, really killer for bosses that do periodic super-hard hits.|
|Clash||35 sec CD. A Charge/Death Grip fusion; you and the target meet in the middle, then everything around you gets stunned. Doesn’t work on bosses, which is funny; you’ll charge halfway to the boss and stop. It works better for groups if used fairly close (so you don’t pull out one guy and just stun him), but it can’t be used in melee range. I found a Roll->Clash combo to be effective and cool.|
|Spear Hand Strike||Your interrupt. Thankfully, due to Brewmaster Training, it’s free, so interrupt every cast you can.|
|Roll||20 sec CD per charge. This gets you out of the way of something fast; click it, and your monk instantly rolls about 20 yards in the direction you’re currently moving. (This is different from things like Blink and Disengage, which operate according to the direction you’re facing.) It has two charges so can be used twice.|
|Breath of Fire||2 chi, no CD. This spell makes me sad. It’s really cool-looking and does great AoE damage. That said, since it doesn’t have any defensive benefit, you’ll only use this for trash (maybe the occasional boss+adds where you really need DPS).|
|Tiger Palm||Your filler ability. Costs nothing with Brewmaster Training, so use it while you’re waiting on energy to do a little more damage. Also grants you a buff that increases your DPS.|
|Legacy of the Emperor||It’s a buff! Gives 5% to primary stats for you and your group. All monks get this.|
Still a work in progress, obviously. Many thanks to Venyasure, Disargeria, Sunnier, and others on EJ and the forums for their theorycrafting work.
- Place your Black Ox Statue. Seriously, just drop it, it’s one click, you never have to worry about it again, and it can save your group. Or skip it, if you hate your healer for some reason.
- When Keg Smash comes off CD, use it than immediately use the 2 chi on Blackout Kick. If it gets dodged/parried, Jab as needed for the chi for BOK.
- When/if your Stagger debuff gets to yellow/red, hit Jab then Purifying Brew.
- If you’re full on energy and don’t need to purify, throw in an extra Jab. If you’re full on chi, use Guard to spend it.
- If you’re getting low on HP, pop Elusive Brew and/or grab your healing spheres. Use Fortifying Brew if things get really bad.
While you’re still learning, that’s really all you need to know. This rotation has plenty of downtime that you can use to see what’s going on around you and just get familiar with buttons, fight flow, etc.
Regular Single-Target Rotation:
- Place your Black Ox Statue.
- Energy management: Use Keg Smash on CD. Use Expel Harm on CD if hurt. Use Jab if energy is about to cap. If you’re full on Chi, though, dump some on something like Blackout Kick.
- Purifying Brew when Stagger debuff is yellow or red. Exact time to use PB is debatable.
- Elusive Brew if it’s close to capping out (10+ stacks), unless you need to save it for something in the next 15-20 seconds.
- Guard on CD unless you need to save it for something in the next 15-20 seconds.
- Blackout Kick for Shuffle. Desired uptime on Shuffle is debatable but 80-90% is probably optimal. Going for 100% makes it difficult to use Guard or Purifying Brew.
- Let two Healing Spheres pop up, then grab the third when it pops.
- Fill free time with Tiger Palm.
- Cooldowns: Grab saved Healing Spheres (from Gift of the Ox), Dampen Harm/Diffuse Magic, Fortifying Brew, Zen Meditation (in that order).
Same as the single-target, but you’ll be swapping in Spinning Crane Kick for Jab. If you’re tanking something relatively easy or threat is a concern, you’ll use Breath of Fire instead of Blackout Kick for more AoE damage (at the expense of Shuffle uptime).
- Level 15: Celerity or Momentum. Either is pretty useful, though Momentum probably edges out Celerity. I don’t really recommend Tiger’s Lust due to the chi cost, but it can be very useful for certain situations.
- Level 30: Chi Wave. You won’t be able to position yourself to use Chi Burst effectively (needs to hit 6+ targets to be useful as a raid heal), and Zen Sphere is less healing than CW. Either way, you won’t use it much in a raid, but you might in a 5-man.
- Level 45: Power Strikes or Ascension generally. Power Strikes provides slightly more chi (assuming you can Jab every 20 sec), while Ascension provides a bit more DPS due to extra Jabs. Take your pick. I don’t recommend Chi Brew since burst chi doesn’t really increase your survivability much if you’re already playing correctly.
- Level 60: Leg Sweep. You’re going to be in their face anyway, so why bother with Ox Wave or Deadly Reach? Leg Sweep is GREAT for 5-mans.
- Level 75: Dampen Harm or Diffuse Magic. I mentioned this above, but Dampen Harm is an excellent mini-cooldown on hard-hitting bosses, while Diffuse Magic is more generally helpful. Healing Elixirs doesn’t compare to either for difficult content, but it’s decent for soloing/5-mans as one thing you don’t have to think about.
- Level 90: Invoke Xuen, the White Tiger. RJW’s helpful for doing more damage in AoE situations, but Xuen can off-tank things for you and also does more damage in AoE situations…so, yeah, go with the freakin’ cool tiger, IMO. Only take RJW if you’ll be able to use nothing but SCK for the next 30 seconds. Chi Torpedo’s underwhelming.
For a broader discussion, see the Monk Talents page.
Mostly situational glyphs, nothing I would call mandatory. For general-purpose use, I’d say Spinning Crane Kick/Breath of Fire/Expel Harm, swapping in the others as opportunities present themselves. If I haven’t listed a glyph, I don’t recommend it.
- Glyph of Spinning Crane Kick - I really get annoyed with the movement speed slowdown during SCK, so I like this glyph.
- Glyph of Breath of Fire - Good AoE interrupt, even if you don’t get the full disorient length (the damage breaks it).
- Glyph of Expel Harm - While you won’t need the extra range much, it never hurts.
- Glyph of Clash - Very useful, as long as you understand Clash’s limitations (use it like Death Grip, don’t use it like Charge).
- Glyph of Transcendence - Know where adds are going to spawn? Want to pop over there immediately and pick them up? Yes, you do.
- Glyph of Guard - this is very situational, but a counter-intuitive use presents an advanced strategy. Since Guard buffs your self-healing while active, using this glyph on a primarily physical damage boss will let you keep up the self-healing buff nearly constantly. You’ll want to look at some logs to see how much self-healing vs. Guard absorbs you’re doing to see if this is a good idea.
- Glyph of Touch of Death - There’s a few fights where you have to help kill something fast; the glyph helps you do that without having to worry about the Chi.
- Glyph of Zen Meditation - This makes ZM much more useful. You can use Transcendence or Roll to get some distance from the boss, then pop ZM and kite him to stay alive.
- Glyph of Leer of the Ox - This isn’t terrible – it essentially serves as a short-duration CC, letting your Black Ox statue taunt and take a mob out of play temporarily. Not recommended for raids (where you want the shields from the statue) but can come in handy for solo/5-mans.
- Glyph of Stoneskin - It’s slightly helpful on Stone Guard…and that’s about it, I think.
For the full list of glyphs (including the cosmetic minor glyphs), see the Monk Glyphs page.
Gear, Stat Weights and Reforging
I was planning on doing a gear list: they take way too much time. Just check out wowhead‘s sorted list, and grab the highest ilvl stuff you can (before you reforge/spend DKP/EP/VP/JP on anything, though, read below)
Stat weights are…complicated. Agility is clearly the best stat, but the importance of secondary stats varies dramatically depending on how effective Gift of the Ox is for you and the level of content you’re doing.
- Hit and Expertise increase chi generation and GotO procs. They also significantly increase DPS (much more than any other stat). If you’re tank swapping, though, Expertise becomes less good (since you can attack from the back when off-tanking, and still build up your Shuffle duration).
- Crit directly boosts Elusive Brew, which is great for “must-dodge” encounters, and makes GotOX/EH healing more effective.
- Haste is great for AoE encounters since it decreases the channeling time of Spinning Crane Kick (which directly translates into more GotOx orbs). In general, it increases your energy regen and indirectly helps accumulate Elusive Brew stacks and Shuffle uptime.
- Mastery is generally mediocre, but shines when you’re facing bosses while undergeared, similarly to armor/stamina. Really, though, if you’re going up against bosses that have a possibility of bursting you down, you should be stacking stamina, not mastery.
- Parry/dodge is kinda meh. It’s helpful, but I’d never consider stacking it in any situation.
- 5-mans or sharing gear with a windwalker set: Hit/Exp to 7.5% cap, then haste, then crit, though all the stats are very close in value. Here, you’ll want stats than can boost your DPS to power through trash. Reforge out of mastery/parry/dodge, in that order. Agility is worth almost exactly 2x the other stats in this scenario, so your choice on gems, really.
- Raiding, solo-tank fights: Same as above, though agi is no longer 2x as good as hit/exp/haste/crit so you’ll want to focus on gemming those stats.
- Raiding, tank-swapping: Agi drops in value dramatically, as does expertise. You now have agi slightly above haste and hit as your best stats, with crit and then expertise much farther behind. Basically, you’re stacking haste so you can get as many stacks of EB and super-long duration on Shuffle while you’re off-tanking, to then focus chi on Purifying Brew while on-tanking.
Here’s all the recommended enchants: I’ll try to go back and add in others if options present themselves. Having two crafting professions remains the best choice. Not mentioned in the table is Alchemy (+320 agi or +450 stam from Mixology) and Jewelcrafting (2 gems that give +160 agi over their rare equivalents). Herbalism (2880 haste on-use ability) and Skinning (480 crit) bonuses are half as effective as those from the crafting professions; Mining (480 stamina) is of course useful but YMMV.
|Head||Head enchants are gone!|
|Shoulders||Greater Tiger Claw Inscription (200 agi, 100 crit) or Greater Ox Horn Inscription (300 sta, 100 dodge). The non-greater version is about 60% as effective for about 20% of the cost, if you’re cheap.
Inscription: Secret Tiger Claw Inscription (520 agi, 100 crit) or Secret Ox Horn Inscription (750 sta, 100 dodge)
|Chest||Glorious Stats (80 all primary stats) or Superior Stamina (300 sta)|
|Waist||Living Steel Buckle (gem socket)|
|Legs||Shadowleather Leg Armor (285 agi, 165 crit) or Ironscale Leg Armor (430 stamina, 165 dodge) As with shoulders, cheaper versions are available and are about 60% as effective for about 10% of the cost.
Leatherworking: Primal Leg Reinforcements or Heavy Leg Reinforcements (replaces expensive leg armors)
|Feet||Blurred Speed (140 agi, +8% movespeed) You need the movespeed, don’t skimp here.|
|Wrists||Greater Agility (170 agi)
Blacksmithing: Socket Bracer (gem socket, stacks with enchant)
Leatherworking: Fur Lining – Agility (500 agi)
|Hands||Superior Expertise (170 exp) or Greater Haste (170 haste)
Blacksmithing: Socket Gloves (gem socket, stacks with enchant)
Engineering: Synapse Springs (1920 agi proc, stacks with enchant)
|Fingers||Enchanting: Greater Agility (160 agi) x2|
|Back||Accuracy (180 hit) or Superior Critical Strike (180 crit) or Greater Protection (200 sta)
Tailoring: Swordguard Embroidery (4000 AP proc)
|Main Hand||Colossus (damage shield proc) or Dancing Steel (1650 agi proc). River’s Song/Windsong are also good.|
Gems, Consumables, and Professions
In order to make non-primary stat gems more compelling, Mists doubled the amount of secondary stats provided by gems. That said, which makes stacking agility not necessarily optimal (though I’ve listed agi gems in the table below as a good default choice; I prefer to hit/exp cap via reforging, to lower gem costs.)
I’m only listing the blue gems in the list below: that said, a perfect green gem has the same stats as the blue, so you may be able to find them cheaper. (They’re much more rare on the AH, however.)
- Meta: The Austere Primal Diamond or Agile Primal Diamond (for main spec windwalkers) are the choices.
- Red Sockets: Deadly Vermilion Onyx, 80 agi/160 haste; Deft Vermilion Onyx, 80 agi/160 crit; Delicate Primordial Ruby, 160 agi.
- Blue Sockets: Rigid River’s Heart, 320 hit; Accurate Imperial Amethyst, 160 exp/hit; Piercing Wild Jade 160 crit/160 hit; Lightning Wild Jade 160 haste/160 hit; Glinting Imperial Amethyst, 80 agi/160 hit; Solid River’s Heart, 240 sta. (Blue gems are going to have at least one of hit/exp/sta, which I generally prefer not to gem, but there’s not really much choice if you want to match sockets.)
- Yellow Sockets: Quick Sun’s Radiance 320 haste; Smooth Sun’s Radiance 320 crit; Deft Vermilion Onyx 80 agi/160 haste; Deadly Vermilion Onyx 80 agi/160 crit.
Consumables basically work the same as they did in Cataclysm, with one major difference: there are now three tiers of food, instead of two. The best tier (+300 agi) is individual foods; the bottom two tiers (275 and 250) have individual foods or feasts, now known as “banquets.” The Pandaren Banquets/Great Pandaren Banquets are for 10m/25m respectively, and offer 275 to all; the lesser banquets give 275 for a certain stat only, and 250 to the rest. Be prepared to level Cooking or spend heavily on the AH. Flasks and Potions work the same way they did in Cataclysm. (Stamina food added for those that prefer it.) Unforunately, banquets will give you stamina, so if you want agility you’ll need personal food or need to respec to windwalker while eating.
- 300 agi: Sea Mist Rice Noodles
- 450 sta: Chun Tian Spring Rolls
- 275 agi: Valley Stir Fry, Chao Cookies,
- 415 sta: Twin Fish Platter
- 275 agi/415 sta: Pandaren Banquet/Great Pandaren Banquet, Banquet of the Oven (sta), Banquet of the Wok (agi)
- 250 agi: Sauteed Carrots
- 375 sta: Wildfowl Roast
- 250 agi/375 sta: All lesser Banquets
- Flasks: Flask of Spring Blossoms (1000 agi) or Flask of the Earth(1500 sta)
- Potion: Potion of the Mountains (12000 armor) or Virmen’s Bite (4000 agi)
Boss-Specific Strategies (TBA)
Extra discussion/tidbits here that didn’t make sense anywhere else in the guide. I’ll add things here periodically.
2H or DW?
In theory, they’re equal. In practice, I find that overall avoidance and Gift of the Ox generation from a 2h is better than that from DW, but Elusive Brew generation and DPS is better for DW. Use the best ilvl stuff you can get your hands on, really. DW is also slightly better for windwalker DPS, but you’ll have more competition for DW drops (and you need two of them, obviously).
Heirloom Gear Recommendations
- 2 Venerable Mass of McGowan
- 1 Burnished Warden Staff
- 1 Venerable Dal’Rend’s Sacred Charge (main hand only) + 1 Mass of McGowan
- 1 Battleworn Thrash Blade (suboptimal, unique so can only use 1) + 1 Mass of McGowan
- Shadowcraft gear: Cap, Tunic, Spaulders
- Inherited Cape of the Black Baron
- Dread Pirate Ring (yeah, right, good luck)
- 2x Swift Hand of Justice (no xp% gain)
Well, that wraps up the guide! If there’s anything specific you’d like me to add, discuss, just think I got wrong, just drop me a note and let me know! Also, here’s some other guides/info you’d do well to check out:
- There’s a good discussion thread at Elitist Jerks. Later in the thread, there’s a link to a spreadsheet made by Venyasure which has been absolutely invaluable in calculating weights.
- Disargeria has great info over at Monk and Monk, and knows much more about monks then I do. Here’s his brewmaster guide.
- I think Sunnier got sucked into Guild Wars 2, but she wrote a really good brewmaster guide before she disappeared! (Edit: she’s back and the guide’s up to date! Probably better than mine! Go check it out!)
- The Madgod has a decent Brewmaster guide at MMO-Champion, though I disagree with some of his recommendations.