I played a Rogue in WoW for 6 years. I had alts but the Rogue was it. When Cataclysm came out, I started playing with a Shaman for kicks. He had been there since BC and was sitting at level 5 for something like 4 years. Got him to 85, played some dailies and dungeons. He was a ton of fun because he gave me not only the option to range DPS but also heal. After a few weeks of this, it was clear that melee DPS has some serious design issues. Its sole advantage is the passive DPS you get simply by auto-attacking. If you’re not in range, you aren’t dealing damage. Ranged attackers are just a better fit.
Panda-land came out and I played my Shaman. Well, the ranged limitations are obvious now. I can get hit and it hurts. A level later, I decided to try a monk out. 90 levels later, here I am enjoying it. The mobility gives you some advantages of the ranged attacker while the attacks give the melee damage advantages. Still, there are some concerns.
The Brewmaster spec makes sense but plays awkwardly. Nothing is ever 100% and you always feel like it’s an uphill climb to find balance between keeping all your buffs up. You practically need a mod to keep track of them so that you can concentrate on the actual battle. I also have some serious concerns about scaling with gear due to the Stagger mechanic. Mastery is currently a horrible stat (for all Monks) but especially so for Brewmasters when you aren’t gaining a direct stat, instead the chance to defer a % of damage to another time. If I dodge 1% of attacks, I’m taking 1% less damage. If I Stagger 1% more damage, I’m still taking the damage.
The Wind Walker is the DPS spec. You can play this as a set it and forget it spec and run out of Energy constantly or really get into it and try to pace the fight. The first is way more fun but about 20% less effective than the latter. The next patch is addressing some concerns (Tiger Palm stacks for one). The mastery system here gives you a free cast of one of 2 skills. The first is crappy (Tiger Palm) but the second is good. Mastery gives half the bonus though, since your chance is evenly split between both abilities and really, only impacts Energy regeneration. Haste solves that problem for you, directly.
The Mistweaver is the healer, using a completely different gear setup (INT). Gear is a major problem since you level in different gear and quest rewards are determined by your spec at turn in. Trying to fill in the gaps at 90 is annoying. You can play this in easy mode, using 2 abilities for 95% of combat. This is eye-bleedingly boring. You can’t heal from range as you need Chi, which requires a melee attack. Very strange for a game that has spent 8 years with ranged healers. The advanced version of the healer is very complicated. Traditional healers only look at Hit Point boxes in the UI, barely looking at the combat itself. Monks need to do this AND avoid all the crap going on in melee range.
I don’t hate the monk but it’s quite clear that they are still in the design phase with some serious tweaks needed to keep them competitive. Blizz has stated that they wanted to avoid the OP Death Knights from Lich King. To this, they have succeeded. While I see many Monks levelling, I see very few at max level due to the system complexities. Maybe we’re looking at the next Rogue/Warlock.