Serenity: Theorycrafting

In Legion, Spotlights by pandanaconda

This article is about using Serenity during the fight. It’s about maximizing cooldown reduction and minimizing ability delay. It is NOT about the opener, and it is NOT about a strict rotation and purposefully delaying abilities that are off their cooldown.


This started a couple weeks back when I started writing an article about the traps a new Windwalker could encounter with the rotation. I did the first paragraph about capping chi, then decided to do a second paragraph about Serenity. Then, I split that one into 3 sub-paragraph, which soon became more. At some point, it was getting a bit long and I realized if I wanted to go in depth, I’d better give Serenity its own article.

So here we go, let’s try to cover as much as we can about Serenity, go as deep as we can with this crazy spell.

Table of Contents

  1. Serenity and cooldown reductions
  2. Fists of Fury timing?
  3. What to do during my Serenity?
  4. What about SEF?
  5. Serenity and AOE
  6. Serenity timing, delaying it throughout the fight
  7. TL;DR Summary

How does new Serenity work/interact?

So when Blackout Kick became a 1 chi spell and Mastery: Combo Strikes became a thing, people started thinking Serenity would be even more awkward than it was already. We then received this very cool change: during Serenity, our chi spenders are free and their cooldowns are halved.

First, chi spenders are free, not refunded. Tigereye Brew generation is gone so that’s not too big of a concern. However, it does mean Drinking Horn Cover will not have crazy interactions with it; but also means we don’t need to have 2-3 chi before entering Serenity, highly relevant change in openers (and very welcome one).

Second part: cooldowns are halved during Serenity. This is effective immediately, so if you press Serenity when your Fists of Fury is on a 10 remaining seconds cooldown, it instantly goes down to 5 seconds. If you can Strike of the Windlord on the very last second of Serenity, it will be on a 20 seconds cooldown when you leave Serenity, and not get doubled as soon as you leave your upper state!

During Serenity, Strike of the Windlord has a 20 seconds cooldown, Fists of Fury has a 12 seconds base cooldown, Rising Sun Kick has a 5 seconds base cooldown (4 with tier 19 2pc), both reduced by haste. During Bloodlust with, say, 45% total haste, Fists of Fury would be on an 8.3 seconds cooldown, Rising Sun Kick on 3.44.

People quickly forgot about Serenity when the new SEF hit beta since the combination of two stacks of that spell, the added benefit of Whirling Dragon Punch was too much to justify this. Back then I was still a big supporter of Serenity, but then it’s duration got nerfed by 2 seconds and people forgot mostly about it.

Then came prepatch, with the infamous SEF bug; clones didn’t benefit from Mastery: Combo Strikes, making SEF a very weak cooldown comparatively. Serenity was now the go-to talent in combination with legendary and we had no guide for it. Also, it started pulling crazy numbers and people had issues going back to Whirling Dragon Punch once the fix happened. I want to look into how good Serenity is, what it can do in single target or AoE situations, and how best to use it in each case.

I’ll most likely miss some things. If I forgot some uses of Serenity you believe to be very important, please say so in comments and I’ll do my best to add it!

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Serenity and cooldown reductions

Serenity brings two things to the table; unlimited resources and reduced spells cooldown for 8 seconds. Obviously, you want to at least cast FoF at some point, maybe during last second if you want more resources. Same goes for SOTW which should be cast somewhere in there. How do we max it?

Due to its relatively long cooldown, it doesn’t matter much when you use SOTW as long as it’s during Serenity. Delaying SOTW by up to 25-30 seconds for Serenity is actually worth it; since, on top of reduced a cooldown, it’s going to benefit from 40% increased damage and anything else stacked up on it.

FoF is another topic. Its cooldown is much shorter and reduced by haste. During Bloodlust, with some haste procs, it can go below 16-17 seconds cooldown. This means in the end, you might get close to casting it twice during Serenity… but how relevant is this? How can you get the most out of FoF?

The correct answer ends up being to have your FoF come up right at the end of Serenity. Let’s take an example where FoF has a cooldown that’s a bit longer than Serenity‘s duration, 20 seconds.

  1. If you start Serenity with FoF, then it will go on a 10 seconds cooldown. You will get one cast with the +40% damage and you will get 10 seconds of CD refunded.
  2. If you cast Fists of Fury 8 seconds before Serenity, it will go from a 12 remaining seconds cooldown to a 6 seconds cooldown, and you will be able to cast it again during Serenity‘s last 2 seconds. Give or take a second, you will get one cast with the +40% damage, you will get 6 seconds refunded on the first cast, AND 10 seconds refunded on the second cast. Overall, you gained 6 extra seconds on your beloved FoF.

Obviously, this will come at a cost if you have to delay either spell to achieve that, but it is likely that you might have some room to delay Serenity by a few seconds, and, case 1 will not happen naturally either.

In a previous article, I spoke about how getting enough haste meant during Bloodlust, I was able to use Fists of Fury at the beginning of Serenity then again at the end of the buff, meaning both casts would benefit fully from cooldown reduction. This required quite high haste, which is currently looking like the worst stat when specced into Serenity.

So, what should one do when your haste is lower than that?

Obviously, doing the same thing with lower haste will just mean your Fists of Fury will be cast right after Serenity rather than on the last second. You’ll still get two Fists of Fury during the opening 15 seconds which is all most people care about here, but only one of them will benefit from the cooldown reduction.

What I suggest, is that if given that choice; I’d rather cast one Fists of Fury prior to Serenity then again at the end of it. To achieve that, you only need Fists of Fury to be on a 15 seconds cooldown remaining when using Serenity. Considering with 20% haste Fists of Fury is already on a 17 seconds cooldown left when the channel is complete, this is really easy to achieve. So, if your haste is lower than 50-55%, or Bloodlust is not up: I’d usually use Fists of Fury before my Serenity, to use it again at the end.

But then when do we channel Fists of Fury? During Serenity or on last second to maximize resources? We’ll look into this soon.

A final mention for Rising Sun Kick. Its cooldown is 4-5 seconds during Serenity, reduced by haste. You’ll need quite a lot of haste to get it below 4 seconds cooldown, even with T19 2pc it’ll be very hard to have it lower than 3 seconds. So outside Bloodlust, using it twice during Serenity is good enough: we shouldn’t have to worry too much when discussing Fists of Fury!

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Fists of Fury timing?

Now that the number of Fists of Fury casts affected is covered remains one big question: do we want to try and Fists of Fury during Serenity or preferably right before Serenity and on last second?

Why wouldn’t you want to channel Fists of Fury during Serenity? It’s +40% damage on our hardest hitting ability!

Well, the consideration is that you could get free chi consumers during this channel. For instance, if you use your last three seconds of Serenity to channel Fists of Fury, you could have instead cast Rising Sun Kick and Blackout Kick for free then Fists of Fury on the last second, effectively getting the cooldown halved but also getting 3 free chi. So what’s best?

Fists of Fury is 5 ticks of 525% AP each. Blackout Kick is 385% of AP, Rising Sun Kick is 910% of AP. With artifact traits, they all get increased by 15% so we’ll ignore that, but additional golden traits give Fists of Fury roughly +30% single target damage and Rising Sun Kick +25%.

Let’s say your two options are either to have a 3 seconds channel of Fists of Fury during the end of Serenity or to have one free Spinning Crane Kick, one free Blackout Kick then one second of Fists of Fury followed by the rest of the channel.

  1. You get +40% on that full 2625% of AP, then come out of Serenity with full energy to use.
  2. You get +40% on 985% of AP, plus the first two ticks of Fists of Fury, aka 1050% of AP for a grand total of 2135% of AP. Then you get your usual two seconds of Fists of Fury cast. However, you’re wasting energy for those two seconds outside, probably close to 25 energy, so we could average out saying those two GCDs would result in half a Tiger Palm and a Blackout Kick.

Case one you’d get 40% of 2625% of AP plus 105% and 385% of AP. That’s a grand total of 1540% of AP.

Case two you’d get +40% of 2135% plus you’d get 985% extra from your Serenity. That’s a grand total of 1839% of AP. However, if that results in delaying your Fists of Fury a couple second, that’s about 150% of AP lost. Still sounds like a superior outcome!

We could go into details saying that Spinning Crane Kick will cost some melee hits during the animation and that you’re likely to get less than two ticks of Fists of Fury affected. But that would account for only 150% of AP at best, and I’d argue that on the other end, channeling Fists of Fury will likely cost you a couple attacks being empowered by Serenity

At best, it will probably break even and be of very small relevance. But, maximizing resources out of Serenity does sound like a good outcome as well. That’s not even considering you could have a free Rising Sun Kick in there, accounting for even more.

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What to do during my Serenity?

Now that we know what to do with Fists of Fury, what about the rest? I still have 6-8 seconds to account for and several options.

Lets first remember what those options are:

  • SOTW is the obvious king, we obviously want one in there for the reduced cooldown, and because +40% on top of that hard hitting ability is quite nice.
  • RSK is the spell you’ll try to get the most out of during serenity; 2 chi gained per cast, tons of damage especially with artifact traits; it’s on a 5 seconds cooldown, you’ll be fitting 2 at least, 3 with bloodlust, tier 19 2pc or a lot of haste, 4 if you combine those maybe!
  • BOK is your basic filler for serenity; only 1 chi gained per cast, but better than nothing!
  • Spinning Crane Kick is not the most obvious one on Single Target, but it’s hitting 50% harder than BOK and comes at the same cost; worth noting it is a 1.5 seconds animation, meaning it comes at the cost of melee hits; it helps to keep up Hit Combo, and usually you’ll rather use this than wait and do nothing because BOK was your last spell hit; which one is better on single target depends a lot on artifact traits such as Transfer the Power, however usually Spinning Crane Kick probably prevails. It’s been brought to my attention that however, it doesn’t use more than one GCD despite the animation often being longer!

So what kind of priority do we do?

Let’s assume Fists of Fury was cast prior to entering Serenity and will be cast again during it’s last second, roughly. We’re left with 7 seconds and have a bit of spare time beyond that. Let’s also assume we’re on 15% haste. RSK is now on a 4.35 seconds cooldown without tier 19, and SCK is a 1.30 seconds animation. With 20% haste RSK‘s cooldown is still higher than 4 seconds.

When trying to fill this string, we quickly notice we want to find spells to fit in between BOK‘s: for instance if we start off with RSK -> SOTW , we’re quickly forced to chain BOK -> SCK way too often, resulting in 2-3 SCK.

RSK -> BOK -> SOTW -> BOK -> SCK -> RSK -> BOK -> Fists of Fury

This sequence is completely doable; you have some room to swap things around easily to fit more SCK‘s if you need or to move SOTW towards the end of the buff if it won’t be available straight away. We’ll see later this can come in handy in your second/third casts of Serenity of the fight!

What if I have more haste? Well, you’ll need less BOK‘s or SCK‘s anyways, so replace those and make your RSK‘s tighter. Anyways, you won’t be able to cast way more RSK‘s, most likely just one extra overall if you get your hands on T19 2pc or on some Bloodlust. This also helps a lot understanding why haste is that bad with Serenity: not only do the resources get wasted completely during it, but you need actual huge amounts of haste to get just one extra RSK off, and the reduced channel on SCK ends up being barely shorter and as we see here, we don’t really need that!

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What about SEF?

I’m losing my favorite toy to get this one, it’d better be worth it duh!

Yes indeed, and usually we mention it is not worth it losing both your dps cooldown and WDP for this. However, as people already noticed in pre-patch, it does give quite crazy burst. But exactly how much more burst than using SEF?

We just saw that in one Serenity you were spending 9 chi worth of damage in your single target spells, as well as 2 Fists of Fury. That’s almost 13-14 seconds worth of uninterrupted burst at the cost of only 3 initial chi, consisting of 2 Fists of Fury, 2 RSKs , 2 BOKs , 2 SCK and 1 Strike of the Windlord. You can round that up with Jab and an extra RSKs which was coming off cooldown anyways, to make it close to 15 seconds. What about its counterpart?

Well, best case scenario, you’d start off with 5 chi, would get 5 extra from Energizing Elixir, would maybe get 3 Tiger Palm in for up to 16 Chi, spent on 1 Fists of Fury, 1 Strike of the Windlord, 2 RSKs, 1 Whirling Dragon Punch, and will have 9 remaining GCDs remaining so at best somewhere along 5-6 extra BOKs in there.

Besides the obvious spells common to each cooldown, you’re trading an extra Fists of Fury, half cooldown on Strike of the Windlord, an extra RSK for one Whirling Dragon Punch, a couple more casts off and 35% damage increase (50% with spiritual focus) on the whole duration?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Serenity is going to be much stronger. SEF has two stacks, allowing for pooling for burst phases/trinket procs/Bloodlust/anything which is insanely powerful; it gives access to Whirling Dragon Punch, a huge dps boost on top of each Fists of Fury; I also noted that the two Fists of Fury from our Serenity mostly did not benefit from the damage increase. However, the fact of having two of them more than makes up for having 1 with increased damage + Whirling Dragon Punch; the reduced cooldown on Strike of the Windlord almost makes up for the extra casts of Whirling Dragon Punch outside of the burst window as well. Also, all these resources didn’t come out of nowhere for SEF, you needed to stack up those chi, that comes at a cost, and it used your chi generation talent as well.

In Legion, fights will likely last longer than we’ve been accustomed to for the past year. Serenity will probably not outshine SEF in the first 3 minutes of a fight because of the initial two stacks, but beyond that it’s probably a very strong contender. Granted, it doesn’t interact with some trinkets or one of our good legendaries, but outside of that, it basically bursts as much cooldowns and resources in 8 seconds than what SEF can use in a full 15. That’s quite a feat, and it will be used, whether it is for single target or for something else… Which leads us to the next point:

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Serenity and AOE

First of all, you’re right to be surprised. If anything, Serenity should NOT be good at AoE, right? Right?

Well, Blizzard did pack our new Mark of the Crane mechanic with the new SEF. When people said they were scared of tab targeting, Blizzard said, “don’t worry, in most cases you’ll be using SEF in combination with it.”

That’s why I want to be careful when approaching this topic. The last thing we want is for Serenity to become an AoE only tool! However, let’s face things:

  • When doing an opener with it, it’s obvious that extra targets increase your opener’s damage by a LOT because of SCK cleaving easily. That’s without even trying to fit any extra SCK in!
  • SCK is our best way to spend a lot of chi in a small time window, and potentially one of our very best chi spenders when there is some AoE to do.
  • SEF is only required for AoE with a lot of targets or to tag efficiently more than 5-6 targets; otherwise, you’ll usually start AoE with Fists of Fury and the rest of your burst AoE, and by the time you reach SCK either most things are dead or you have had time for enough spells to tag 5-6 targets.

What I’m getting at is: not every boss will have 12 targets at a time, even less will have 20 or so. For 4-5 targets AoE, a skilled player will totally be able to manually tag all the targets. I’m not saying I’m willing to do so, but if it’s the best then top players will figure and this will become something that’s taught and used by many involved Windwalkers.

What I’m suggesting is that for those 4-5-6 targets cleave, Serenity could easily be worth close to 15-20 chi worth of strong AoE, aka 30-40 seconds worth of energy spent during SEF. This is absolutely insane: take a fight like Cenarius in Emerald Nightmare: adds spawn in small waves but live relatively long. With the regular set up, you’ll use your burst AoE tools then start tagging them and using SCK and running out of energy extremely fast, only getting 4-5 casts over the 20-30 seconds the adds were there? Well, now you can get just as much in the first 10-12 seconds and leave your burst with full energy and Energizing Elixir still up.

Not only that, but for 2 targets cleave for instance? You can either go SEF. It’s tagging mechanic will be completely useless on 2-3 targets, but Whirling Dragon Punch will bring some nice damage. On the other hand, you can go for Serenity, replace the rotations we gave earlier to fit in as many SCKs as you can, tab once during it to tag both targets and go on a rampage. We’ve done some extensive testing of opening on 3 targets with this in mind and let me tell you, this is both really annoying to perform and absolutely insane in terms of damage.

I won’t give you all the exact scenarios since it would be pointless, but one thing comes to mind: what about dropping Hit Combo and mastery?

This is relevant; do you really want to keep mastery during this burst AoE phase? Let’s say you’ve gathered 4-5 stacks of Mark of the Crane and entered Serenity; you can either use a pointless single target spender and save a 25% ish mastery increase plus 16% from Hit Combo, or go for an 8 times stronger AoE spender. Hit Combo is not that long to stack up, so why bother? You probably just used all your burst tools anyways, getting the most out of this could be insane?

Well, usually you’d still want Strike of the Windlord somewhere in there. You could also probably fit in Fists of Fury during the 40% damage buff. That already allows you to maintain Hit Combo for most of the spell, so it will rarely be worth dropping it completely for one extra cast. However, it’s always something that’s on my mind, and in some cases getting 5 stacks of Mark of the Crane then using Serenity to cast 6 SCK can be absolutely insane.

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Serenity timing, delaying it throughout the fight

Some of you may have noticed in the previous paragraphs, that if you use Strike of the Windlord during your initial Serenity, it will be up again 20 seconds, 1 minute and 1 minute 40 later. This means if you want it to be up for your second Serenity, and you used it perfectly on cooldown, that’d mean delaying Serenity for an easy 10 seconds. One cool thing to note is, if you use Strike of the Windlord 6 seconds into Serenity, you only need to delay Serenity by 4 seconds instead of 10 to cast it at the right time.

How so? the same way we maximized our Fists of Fury! If you use Serenity while the cooldown on Strike of the Windlord is still running, that one gets halved; that also happens to be the best way to reduce your Strike of the Windlord cooldowns.

Lets check numbers:
0:00 : Serenity
0:06 : SotWL, cooldown is halved
0:26 : SotWL
1:06 : SotWL
1:34 : Serenity, 12 seconds remaining on SotWL, halved down to 6!
1:40 : SotWL again, 6 seconds into serenity

Of course, this timing is extremely tight, and any delay will mess with it and at times you’ll want to delay your SotWL for AoE spawns and so on. However, it is good to be aware of this, and thus you can swap out SotWL‘s positioning in the rotation example I gave: you’ll delay it once, but will gain cooldown on it if the fight is at least 3:30.

Worth noting: if you use SotWL in the first 3 seconds of your initial Serenity, then it will be on a 13 seconds cooldown for the second cast, and therefore you’ll only need to delay the second Serenity by 1-3 seconds and subsequent uses by 4-5 seconds.

On to another topic: Serenity and cooldowns such as Gale Burst. People have a tendency to say that we’ll be delaying Serenity for it. Maybe that’s skewed because as I write this, people are used to having a 2 minutes cooldown increasing all their damage by 108% by Legendary rings, making delaying Serenity by 30 seconds an absolute obligation. However, it wasn’t always the case.

If you can remember a bit farther back, when we had 735 ilvl legendary rings, it was NOT WORTH delaying Serenity for it, and ring was already as big as a 60% increase, unless we would not lose a Serenity cast throughout the fight. Gale Burst is “only” a 10% increase to single target damage (will not include cleave). It is not relevant enough to make us go out of our way for it unless it comes at no cost.

This is not the time or place to give people a lesson about cooldown spacing; that is a generic skill about knowing fight lengths, knowing your cooldowns and how many you’ll be able to fit. Maybe one day I’ll have time for this type of topic, specially if people ask for it (or Ruhye will do so), but this isn’t the time or place. However, one reason for which delaying Serenity that was a mistake oftentimes was that it gave too much resources (and thus Tigereye Brew). The same way, current Serenity gets us flowing into resources and to get the most out of it, you’ll need more than an 8 seconds window. I’ll warn you here and now: delaying Serenity to line it up with your chi spenders perfectly is fine, delaying it by 30 seconds for a 10% increase from a trinket proc is not in most cases.

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TL;DR LUL

I think this section will benefit even those who did read:

1) Use Fists of Fury prior to entering Serenity, so that it has at max a 15 secondsleft on its cooldown when you enter it; just the same, you want SOTW on a 12 second cooldown remaining, maximum, as you enter Serenity. Eventually it may be worth a WeakAura specifically designed to tell you when you’re in an optimal Serenity window, but that will take time and some difficulty.

2) Try to use Fists of Fury again as Serenity is about to end, during the last second.

3) An example of a Serenity rotation is as follows:

RSK -> BOK -> SOTW -> BOK -> SCK -> RSK -> BOK -> Fists of Fury

You can also modify this to have SOTW towards the end if you started Serenity with 12 seconds remaining on it; this is specially relevant for second/third uses of Serenity

RSK -> BOK -> SCK -> BOK -> RSK -> BOK -> SOTW -> Fists of Fury

4) On 2-5 targets cleave, Serenity can dish out crazy amounts of damage, probably way more than its counterpart if played right, as you can manually tag all targets. Be aware of this possibility

5) It is hard for Serenity to compete with Whirling Dragon Punch but don’t think it will never be used; it gives a crazy amount of ressources and huge burst windows. As soon as the fights will last long enough for you to make 3-4 good uses of Serenity, it is a contender in my opinion. Unfortunately, artifact traits, legendaries and trinkets work against it!

6) Serenity is a difficult talent to use optimally, and needs to be used well to be worth talenting into it. If you’re not comfortable with it or skilled enough to use it nearly optimally, you may see it as a DPS loss compared to Whirling Dragon Punch. Use at your own risk.

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I’m mostly done; and as things move on, we’ll have more to write about. For now, things are used with a ring which skews it all. I’m happy enough that, for instance, Megabloks has come to the same conclusions I have when I first wrote about Serenity openers and trying to get 2 Fists of Fury‘s benefiting from the reduction, as he was doing the exact same opener, and I doubt he read what I wrote.

As usual, I’ll be checking comments and making sure things are clear enough. If there is something you want to see an article about, ask and I’ll try to do it. If you want to contact me, the usual ways (Discord, Battlenet, …) are always available and if you liked what you read don’t hesitate to scroll to the top or just below to subscribe and support WtW.

Cheers,

Le baguette