So, when the plague wing opened up, there was a flurry of angry casters coming to the forums claiming that the second wing (in addition to some bosses on the first wing) favored high melee DPS over casters. What people claimed was that for most fights (with some exceptions), melee gets to stand and hit the boss with little to no moving. For ranged casters, there is a much higher overall level of moving.
Why does moving matter? Well, movement means you can’t use any spells with a cast time. For moonkin, 60% to 80% of our DPS comes from spells that have a cast time. For moonkin, every time we have to move, we are interrupting our Eclipse cycles. If you have a couple bad movement phases happening at the wrong point of an Eclipse cycle, than your average DPS for a fight is going to take a really big hit (up to or beyond 2,000 DPS, depending on the mechanic & fight).
Most melee classes have 100% of their DPS come from instant cast abilities and/or auto attack. Melee has the drawback of doing a lot less damage if they have to stand at range from a boss. However, in most situations, ranged have to dodge things that don’t hit melee anymore. In the past, bosses used to have auras that targeted melee and made more melee a liability, but I haven’t seen that type of model yet in Icecrown Citadel.
The real problem is that fight mechanics disproportionately either penalize melee or ranged casters. Even in PvP, most of WotLK had a problem where melee was just eating up casters for dinner – which still happens to moonkin.
Can the encounters be designed differently? Well, obviously – the developers can’t always design encounters to never favor either melee or casters, however this is not that simple, as one of GC’s sarcastic marks describes:
Our new design for Cataclysm bosses is they will all stand in one place, not require any movement, not summon in adds, and not buff or debuff anyone. Then we can guarantee that dps will be identical for every skilled player on every boss. I hope the fights are still fun though.
It’s just not possible to have fights where we all just stand & nuke without ever moving. It’s boring if the fights have no strategy or flavor. The problem is still that if every fight favors X class, then people start to be sidelined, and the “bring the player” mantra goes out the window again, because they are going to sideline Y “fail” class in favor of X “I win” class. If hybrid casters like elemental shaman & moonkin do the least DPS of any classes/specs, then the best solution for DPS race fights is to sit them on the sidelines while you replace them with rogues & DK’s that can put out substantially more DPS. While this isn’t wide-spread yet, I can easily see this happening on Hard-Modes for averagely skilled moonkin/shaman that just can’t keep up. A lot of the ICC fights we’ve encountered in the first two wings have been DPS races that favored melee, and they punish hybrid casters that have fewer tools that they can use while moving.
In other instances (BC-era primarily), there have been fights that have favored casters, with melee tending to take a lot of AOE damage if they don’t run from the boss (ie. Prince in Kara). However, these anti-melee fights have really decreased in number over time. More often, the AOE centered on the boss tends to just tickle (ie. be healed through), rather than being something where melee has to move while casters can stay at range. It’s more likely for the AOE effects tend to hit everyone in the room (and not just the melee anymore), or they design the fights to make everyone have to move (though if the boss is moving, the melee can keep attacking as it is kited and not have severe DPS penalties), or the effects just hit ranged and not melee more and more often (making the ranged have to move and stop casting while the melee attacks)
Can the classes be designed differently? What I keep coming back to is the need for casters to be able to cast while moving. The simplest solution would just be letting all spells with cast times be allowed to cast while moving. This, however, would be particularly hard to balance (especially for PvP), where it would put melee at more of a disadvantage. However, melee being able to attack while moving (since they are all instant-cast abilities) without casters having much they can do while moving puts casters at a disadvantage.
Moonkin’s incredibly limited resources while in moonkin form puts our spec in an incredibly constrained position. We have two DOTs that are instant: moonfire & insect swarm. These are the primary “cast while moving” spells. The other things we can theoretically cast while moving are: Starfall (which has the ability to aggro entire rooms of unwanted adds), typhoon (a frontal cone AOE that tends to be hard to position while moving & can also aggro unwanted adds or just miss the target), treants (but we have to position them at a spot on the ground, which is hard to do while running). And that’s it. That’s all our tools. Everything else is 100% locked out while moving.
So, moonkin lose a lot of DPS on movement fights. The best way to make moonkin remain viable for both PvP and PvE in Cataclysm is to give us something more reliable that does single-target damage which can be cast while we are moving. One instant-cast ability with a long cooldown isn’t going to fill this role, since movement happens frequently and for sustained periods of time (I have lost almost entire 15-second Eclipse buffs to movement phases, and having 3 seconds worth of casts won’t do anything to compensate for that).
Why not a “shot on the run” ? – I’m okay with doing less DPS while moving, but I’m not okay with DPS having to stop completely while moving. So, a good compromise would be to give ALL caster classes some type of “shot on the run” mechanic, where they can spam something while moving (this is what the original “moonfire spam” was all about before the instant-damage of moonfire was trivialized in WotLK). It SHOULD do less damage than your “tourrete-style” stand and nuke DPS. However, you should be able to reach about 50% to 75% of your standing-still damage while moving (if you have high enough skill to multi-task). Right now, with just my DOTs up, I’m likely below 30% of my standing-still potential (probably closer to 10 or 15% or even lower) when I’m moving, and it’s just too much of a potential when my standing-still DPS is already behind that of the melee that aren’t moving during the same fight. Asking to do 75% of the DPS that the melee is doing during heavy-ranged-movement fights isn’t really that extreme. Doing < 30% of the DPS that melee are doing during movement boss phases is just not enough.
At the same time, they could possibly make all melee classes have enough ranged damage abilities that they can do 50% to 75% of the DPS that ranged are doing when they can’t get in melee range (that’s why rogues can use guns/bows in the first place).
This would allow fights to be interesting, but would also keep melee vs. ranged more on even footing and there won’t be the same disparity between fights that favor one group over the other. The days of “must stand still to do anything” ranged casters needs to be over. Moonkin need to be able to do something while moving, so we stop being “sitting ducks”. Resto druids can HOT-on-the-run. Other casters need more mobility, too!