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The Monk

Posted by Malevica on March - 17 - 2010

A concept that comes up from time to time in the WoW community is the concept of the ‘Monk’. Inspired by other RPGs, the generic Monk is primarily a healer but with an active resource model. For example the Monk could use melee attacks to generate and store a reserve of healing power which could then be spent on healing abilities.

Some people take this idea further and propose applying an active regen model to all healing classes to replace the current mostly passive model, although this usually gets shot down pretty quickly. Retrofitting such a huge change onto every class is likely to upset a great many players, and Blizzard are unlikely to do that. For the purposes of this entry, I will only talk about the Monk as a new, distinct class.


The Monk is often proposed as a solution or part-solution to the perennial healer shortage. The argument goes that for the most part healing works the same: you stand stationary, usually at range, and cast healing spells sequentially on the raid members. There’s a lot more complexity to healing, but in essence this describes healing in WoW at the moment.
So, say the proponents, design a totally different type of healer and it will have a broader appeal. More people playing healers means more people healing. After all, that’s been done for tanks, although results have been fairly underwhelming.

Requiring the Monk to attack from melee or at range in order to generate resources might be a good way of making the healer more aware of the dynamics of the fight itself, getting them to look away from the mana bars a bit more often. This green bar tunnel vision is a problem which can very easily affect healers, while the Monk would be allowed, nay encouraged, to engage in the fight more directly.
Howeve, it could equally be argued that the focus required to take in both the healing and DPS games at the same time would be a real challenge, to the point where the Monk was generally, albeit not universally, not performing at its best.

Since the Monk would be expected to attack, they could be given relatively competitive DPS for the time they were active. This could allow them to slot into the half-a-healer spot that many encounters and raid groups would like to have, when a boss stretches the DPS but you need that last healer for a particularly challenging phase. As an analogue, In the past plate DPS were often able to play a 4th tank role when an add needed tanking, although this largely fell by the wayside in Wrath.

It’s obviously not as simple as this though. A Monk with zero passive regeneration will be engaged in a constant balancing act to ensure they have enough resources to put out the healing when it is required. How finely-balanced this is depends to a large extent on the size of the resource pool. A small pool of 3 heals would require a lot of weaving, while a pool of 20+ heals would mean the Monk would need to switch roles less frequently.

This model would also provides the developers with a much-desired opportunity for a truly ‘difficult to master’ class which would require skill at dividing GCDs and ability cooldowns appropriately to produce high throughput in both the healing and damage modes. The Monk would need to understand the rhythms of the encounter to know when regeneration is the right choice, and when to burn those precious resources instead.

Let’s not forget that WoW does have active regeneration at the moment: Shadowfiend, Hymn of Hope, Seal/Judgement of Wisdom, Divine Plea and Mana Tide are all abilities which classes use to generate significant amounts of mana. The Monk-ification of healing could be seen as an extension of lowering passive mana regeneration and shortening the cooldowns on these active abilities, increasing the relative importance of the active regeneration.


Retribution, Shadow, Enhancement, Elemental, Feral and Balance are already designed for dealing damage of all types, so for a healer longing to DPS the opportunity already exists in the form of dual-spec. What’s more, that DPS spec is specifically designed for that purpose. Even though the Monk would allow the weaving of DPS and healing in the same encounter, which is a different paradigm, dual-spec may haved reduced some of the supposed market for the class.

Dual-spec also erodes some of the flexibility advantage that the Monk could offer to a raid team because dual-spec already brings a large amount of flexibility to a raid group. Healers today can become, on demand, a range of DPS types with a range of raid buffs.

What’s more, the Monk is unlikely to offer real flexibility, since in order to make the class manageable the DPS or healing skillset, or probably both to different degrees, would need to become simplified compared to the current DPS or healing specs. This may well leave the Monk as a true ‘master of none’, out of place in a min/maxed world.
At a time when the developers are going to great lengths to ensure that every healing spec is able to cope at least passably with both tank and raid healing, and that no healer should be limited in their choice of heroics because of their class (I took my Resto Shaman into MgT once and only once: not a pleasant experience and not one I wished to repeat) it would seem counter-productive to introduce a class which necessarily had a limited range of abilities.

Finally, as much as healers might lament a model where one is required to slow down or even do nothing in order to conserve or regenerate mana, the Monk is not necessarily a solution to this perceived problem. The Monk merely presses his extra buttons instead of simply pausing, which could actually lead to more UI-focus and tunnel-vision and less awareness.


Despite my initial reaction of “over my Undead body”, I can actually accept a few of the arguments in favour of the Monk.

It’s just a little difficult to shake off the feeling that, since I actually enjoy healing the way it works at the moment (with some caveats, of course), perhaps those people arguing for a radically different paradigm are playing the wrong role at the moment.
The arguments for the class tend to be dominated by individual enjoyment, preferences or challenge, whereas the counter-arguments relate to the role and necessity of the Monk in groups and raids. I think that in the longer term it is the position of the Monk in the class ecosystem which will determine its appeal.

On the whole I remain to be convinced about the value of the Monk in the World of Warcraft, but after thinking through this article I’m a lot more willing to be convinced than I used to be.

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Categories: Opinion

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