Rotation: Resources vs Cooldowns

In Legion by pandanaconda

There are many other articles I should be writing that are probably way more beneficial to the community. However no matter which I start I wish this one was done already; so tonight I’ve decided to postpone my sleep a bit more and get down to it.

Expect a lot of numbers, no clear explanations, no relevant conclusions. If you don’t care about the number crunches that lead to your priority rotation, then this might not be the best way to spend your time. However, some might find it useful.

I will try to explain here where the rotation priority between our different spells comes from, mostly for single target; if it fits in I’ll try to fit in some thoughts about pooling resources.

Windwalker is commonly known as a dual-resources spec. I believe it should be seen as a triple-resources spec, those being energy and chi for one, and spell cooldowns as well, for those mut be seen as a resource. Windwalker’s rotation is about wasting as little of those resources as you can, and let’s see how we can have energy and spell cooldowns competing for that!

You don’t need to be GCD capped to have resource management issues

The first thing to cover is exactly what the title says. When you add up your spells (tiger palms, chi spenders, talents) at 0 haste, you end up with less than 40 seconds filled per minute. With 20% average haste, which is quite significant, that’s still 12 free GCD’s per minute.

Therefore, one might believe that since we’re far from GCD capped, even with quite some haste, there is absolutely no reason for us to have issues using those tiger palms to spend energy, to use those chi spenders perfectly on cooldown, and not have everything start conflicting.
In practice, you’ll end up delaying RSK ever so slightly, it will come up at a time you’d want to be using Fists of Fury. If it doesn’t happen naturally Spinning Crane Kick will ensure it sometimes does. Anyone who’s played with Whirling Dragon Punch will most likely agree quite easily.

From there, the first two resources, energy and chi, become very closely related: the existence of the two resources just implies a delay between when you get the resource and when you can use it, as well as a GCD cost. And not any GCD’s, ones that matter.
The third resource, spell cooldowns, can be pooled as any other, expanded for AoE for several, and using it results in gaining dps, delaying it in losing. In the rest of this article I want to focus on how important those cooldowns are relatively to each others and to energy.

Why isn’t Strike of the Windlord top of our priority?

That’s a question many will ask themselves about windwalker. Don’t get me wrong, SotW deals insane damage and it’s very high on our priority. But how high? Is that list just “what hits for the most damage is on top?”
The answer to this question will vary depending on several things: for instance, if you have too many resources (too much chi, too many spells are up), you will not care about chi efficiency as much as trying to press the hardest hitting button and expanding resources as fast as you possibly can.

However, the usual rotation is a smoother paced one. Energy is a limited resources, so “chi-efficiency” is a thing, aka since we’ll spend all of our chi, we want our chi to overall be spent in the best way, so we’ll be looking at damage per chi expanded for spells rather than damage per cast time.
Since most of those spells have seen tuning passes recently I’ll go over that again, ignoring artifact traits since this is more of a thought experiment:

BOK: 385% of AP per Chi
RSK: 455% of AP per Chi, 10 seconds cooldown
SOTW: 3375% of weapon damage, 40 seconds cooldwon; let’s round it up to 2000% of AP on average for our process
FoF: 875% of AP per chi, 24 seconds cooldown
WDP: 1245% of AP for free, 24 seconds cooldown

Now let’s think of Windwalker’s rotation this way: any resources will be spent on
BOK or on something better than that.

In that regard, casting a RSK means you are replacing two BOK‘s with that one cast, gaining 140% of AP. That’s not huge, and can be summed up by: everytime you can Rising Sun Kick, you gain 30% of a chi.
To get a better idea of what it’ll be like in Legion, let’s look at the values with fully upgraded artifacts: (assuming 7 stacks of transfer the power per cast; that should be around the average)

BOK: 462% of AP per Chi
RSK: 654% of AP per Chi, 10 seconds cooldown
SOTW: About 1000% of AP per chi
FoF: 1412% of AP per chi, 24 seconds cooldown

That’s quite some change.

Now what does it mean? What about that SOTW?
Well, if cast perfectly on cooldown, RSK will gain you 200% of AP per chi used, but that’s every 10 seconds, whereas Strike of the Windlord will gain you 540% of AP but only every 40 seconds.
Over the course of 40 seconds, therefore, casting Rising Sun Kick on Cooldown will have granted you about 1600% of AP, whereas Strike of The Windlord will only have granted 1080% of AP.

What does this mean? Well, overall replacing more BOKs with slightly improved versions in RSKs is bringing you more damage than your single extremely powerful cast of SOTW every 40 seconds.

What about the other two, you ask?
Well first our big hitter, FoF. That bad boy is gaining you a whopping 950% of AP per chi spent on it, adding up to 2850% of AP per cast. If it’s not upgraded through the artifact, it’s giving you 490% of AP per chi spent on it, nothing ridiculous either. Either way, each cast also gives you a following cast of WDP for free resulting in crazy amounts of damage.

What do we take from this?
Well, it is harder to cast RSK perfectly on cooldown than Strike of the Windlord, since one takes 4 times as many GCDs, planning for chi every 6-10 seconds and can easily end up lined up with Fists of Fury which you obviously wanna avoid. It is only natural that therefore, we can understand SotW being higher priority than RSK despite bringing less damage per minute.
Also, we get why Fists of Fury, despite being an annoying 3 seconds channel where you potentially waste resources, is very high on our list: that’s a hefty amount of damage you’ll do with every cast, and chi spent there is very valuable. Specially, when specced into Whirling Dragon Punch, this is a hard hitting combo. We’ll get back to this when speaking of haste and potentially serenity.

So what about energy? Thought we spoke of different resources?

And yes we do! As I said, extra resources go to blackout kick. This is why haste has historically been bad for windwalkers in many cases: base energy regen went to rising sun kicks or fists of fury (once that guy got buffed through the roof), extra energy used to… Well, be spent only on lame blackout kick.
Although this isn’t true anymore regarding haste as X% more haste will allow a maximum number of RSK and FoF cast that is X% higher, it is true that energy not spent on “good” chi spenders will be used on Blackout Kick. To make things simple, if you delay that rising sun kick by 5 seconds, you’re never getting it’s cooldown back, so over the course of the fight you’ll cast on average half a RSK less, but the two chi you kept won’t go to waste. Since usually you’ll have FoF/SotW covered, they’ll most likely end up in some BOK at some other point.

That’s where we start comparing delaying cooldowns with wasting energy. If you have no idea when a fight is going to end, then delaying a 30 seconds cooldown by 6 seconds is basically a 20% chance to lose one cast. If you know the fight will end in 25 seconds, then delaying that cooldown comes at no cost as long as you get full benefit from both your last cast.
Our cooldowns are short enough that usually TimeToKill addons/weakauras are not precise enough for us to be perfectly sure how many casts we’re going to have. Therefore, it is safe to assume that delaying Fists of fury by 3 seconds is a 12.5% chance to lose one cast (one eighth of the cooldown, one in eight chance).

One last thing before comparisons: 1 second of wasted energy means 10 energy plus haste benefits, aka with 30% haste that’s 13 wasted energy. However haste affects cooldowns as well: 2.4 seconds is 10% of a FoF’s cooldown, with 50% haste it’s 15% of a FoF’s cooldown… Aka both increase the same way. This will allow us to ignore haste for this!

On to those comparisons: these things represent roughly the same dps loss

-1 second of energy loss, 10 energy aka 0.4 chi aka 185% of AP
-4.8 seconds of delaying RSK
-1.55 second of delay to Fists of Fury, close to 1 seconds only if specced into WDP
-6.5 seconds of delay to Strike of the windlord

What does this mean? Well first we can notice that energy is still a very valuable resource. Wasting a single second of energy is more important than delaying RSK by a whole 5 seconds? That’s actually pretty insane. If you’re not at risk of wasting resources very quickly anyways, you should most of the time avoid capping energy unless it comes at a crazy cost.
We also find out that yes, Fists of Fury is such a crazy damage gain that it is fine to be capping energy a bit towards the end of the channel if the alternative was to delay FoF for 2 or 3 seconds.

Of course, your rotation doesn’t happen perfectly. Of course, delaying one spell, being short on chi or whatnot will often imply delaying other spells. Of course, times where you risk capping energy at the end of each FoF cast are times where you have bloodlust or just popped Energizing Elixir and resources are everywhere. This is just an estimation of what each thing can be worth in the middle of a fight.

This is cute and all, but my rotation isn’t very flexible right now. What do you want me to do?

I do agree. Our rotation feels kind of rigid right now, specially for single target. You have a chi dumping window around each fists of fury cast, then lack chi spenders for the next 15 seconds so you start building up chi until you end up close to capping resources and Fists of Fury comes right off cooldown to save your day. For 10 seconds you’re short on chi, Tiger Palming just in time to get some Rising Sun Kick off, then for 10 seconds you’re taking each opportunity to fit a Blackout Kick in.

So what are those pointless calculations for anyways?
Well, as you might have noticed, Rising Sun Kick’s delay is not very high on that list. Strike of the Windlord isn’t either (SotW was done with placeholder values since I cannot say for sure how high ilvl artifacts will be relatively to the rest of our gear; beware).
If you know you’re in that 10 seconds window where you need to dump chi otherwise you’ll end up capped for a second towards the end of Fists of Fury (for instance: you’re already on 4 chi, with last spell cast being Blackout Kick, Fists of Fury is the only savior coming up and energy is up to 80%… sounds familiar?). Well, earlier on that window, you went up to 4 chi from a tigers palm, Rising Sun Kick came off cooldown and you decided to use it instantly because pressing that on cooldown is good. After that, you went for BOK into TP again. What you could’ve done was delay RSK by a single second, press BOK PRIOR and POST RSK, get rid of an extra chi.

This is a very specific example, but one that is highly relevant. Some specs have their skill rely on being able to plan 1-4 minutes ahead on your cooldowns. Windwalker is about seeing what your resources will look like for the next 10-30 seconds. The fact that energy first translates into chi then into cooldowns means there is a delay when using resources, and a delay translates quickly into delayed cooldowns.

TL;DR: do not shy away from delaying RSK one second for chi/energy management. It is a strong spell, sure, but chi management is the bulk of the spec. Delaying RSK by 5 seconds is way less important than delaying FoF by a couple seconds later on.

What if I’m actually delaying several cooldowns?

Yes, that’s what’s most likely to happen. You don’t just delay one spell. Delaying Fists of Fury will often mean that RSK comes off cooldown around there, and gets delayed in turn. If that’s your SotW window there is no reason this one won’t have the same issue. At 20% haste, it takes 14.6 seconds to stack up enough resources to cast all three of those spells with passive energy regeneration. And during those 14.6 seconds, RSK came off cooldown and the next Fists of Fury is a few seconds away.

For this, you have lvl 45 talents obviously, but also a fully working brain. Fists of Fury cooldown is 15-20 seconds long; you have plenty of time to see it coming. Once you get used to the rotation, its a cycle. You can use a weakaura to monitor energy cap and another one for Fists of Fury’s cooldown. You can do many things, but you have no excuse to delay Fists of Fury by much.
Yes, I stand by this: if using Tiger Palm right before Fists of Fury results in saving 15 energy, then go for it. But isn’t this band aid for an earlier mistake? Did you really need to end up doing this delay? At times its impossible to juggle perfectly between lvl 15 talents, Rising Sun Kicks, Fists of Fury and whatnot, but skill will also revolve in being able to understand that.


Energy is a very valuable resource; it is pretty slow to stack up and you should have plenty of opportunities not to waste much of it. It is good, however, to know how valuable a Fists of Fury’s cooldown is worth.
I hope this kind of breakdown on the spec helps some of you. I know I have issues taking an action priority list and believing the guy who wrote it without seing any math anywhere. I want stuff to be broken down, so that when things do not go the written way mid encounter and I am left having to make a call, I have the tools to do so.

However, I also could understand if this kind of article feels like a waste of time for you. Obviously it’s easy for me to say that since if you’ve reached this far, you’re likely gonna say it’s no waste. However some other things are more pressing, some which I’m looking very actively at explaining (you won’t escape much longer, stats weights), some that really need a spotlight (you neither, serenity) and some which are just useful to everyone.
A big thank you to all the support I’m getting though. I’m doing this purely out of passion right now, most of this takes some of my time which should probably be spent sleeping, but people being grateful does keep me doing this nonetheless. It’s great to see walkingthewind taking off, we hope for it to continue during legion.


le Pandanaconda

EDIT (August 6th): so after some math yesterday, looking at artifact weapon ilvl and the weapon damage formulas, it’s likely that Strike of the Windlord will allways do at least 3370% of AP or the equivalent through weapon damage, probably even more if we keep our artifact weapon’s ilvl above average ilvl.
This makes it completely huge, and higher priority than Rising Sun Kick. However, it’s longer cooldown and insane burst AoE means it still is the one skill you’re most likely to delay to get the most out of.
Making it lower in damage was for the sole purpose of making an example out of it, for some of you guys to see that “it’s not because it deals a lot that its necessarily top of priority”.