Movement & casters – Should we have “shot on the run” spells?

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!

26 Comments

  1. Hiddencamper
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    What might be good is if you move to start adding pushback to your spells. The more you move, the more the pushback, up to the pushback limit or some predefined limit. It will slow casting a little bit it should have the same effect as reducing damage.

  2. Swiftbough
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I have a Resto main, recently dual specced into Balance, and am just thinking of possibilities from Resto that could apply here in the Balance tree.

    -Swiftfire: just like Swiftmend, but eats up Moonfire dots to do damage instead (of course, no glyph).

  3. Surmy
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

    In all fairness, as someone who plays both a Moonkin and a DK, ranged tend to benefit from gimmick fights much more than melee do. The amount of damage I(or the mages in the raid) can do on my Moonkin is absolutely insane on a lot of the “gimmickier” fights.

    And honestly I’d rather be playing a ranged where I actually to have pay attention then my DK where I can randomly bash the keyboard with my face.

    However, I do agree that a little bit more DPS on the run would not be a bad thing. Just thought i’d throw my two cents in.

    Great article.

  4. Lissanna
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Moonkin only do well on fights where we don’t have to move. Blizzard hastes making fights where we don’t have to move. So, to standardize between types of DPS classes, they need to make it so that there aren’t fights that benefit ranged vs. melee. Needing to have movement-friendly ranged casters is really only one piece of the puzzle – and the ranged wouldn’t NEED the gimmick fights to be viable if we could cast on the run.

  5. anonymous
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Claiming moonkin are at a disadvantage to other casters is ludicrous. You obviously haven’t played an arcane mage. At least moonkin HAVE a DoT. Eclipse is a whole different matter. That was a bad idea to begin with, and it’s only getting worse as gear scales. And by the way, Autoshot requires hunters to stand still.

    Homogenizing ranged and melee damage would remove interesting and much-needed diversity from the game. If you want to do melee, go feral.

  6. Lissanna
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    Other ranged classes need movement-friendly DPS, too. I was talking in general about all casters anywhere I said “casters” and not just “moonkin”. That’s why the word “caster” is in the thread title and not the word “moonkin.” However, since this is a moonkin blog, I’m more likely to focus on moonkin’s issues & how to fix them. I also never said anywhere in the thread that moonkin were worse off than other casters. I compared casters to melee & used moonkin as my example. It’s not a mage blog & I don’t play a mage over level 24, so I can’t speak for the mages. I specifically said: “So, a good compromise would be to give ALL caster classes some type of “shot on the run” mechanic”

    The DPS potential of ranged & melee needs to be homogenized. HOW you attain that can be different across all the classes. Who tops meters should be more homogenized across all fights, even if how they attain it is different. Having anti-caster fights and anti-melee fights is not fun. Having well balanced DPS classes while maintaining diversity in how they do DPS is fun. Balancing only for standing-still training-dummy DPS is bad.

    My suggestions would buff mages, locks, shadow priests, elemental shaman, moonkin druids – and even potentially resto shaman, holy priests, and holy paladins. This is also why it would have to be balanced during a Beta testing phase for Cataclysm rather than being something that could be patched into 3.3.1…

  7. Posted January 10, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I agree that we’ve been seeing a lot more fights where you’re not disadvantaged by bringing too many melee. At one point early into ToC we were running with only 1 party of dps casters in our 25 mans, not intentionally, and when I was alarmed none of the officers seemed to think it was an actual problem that was going to interfere with progression. Onyxia, maybe, progression, no.

    In some ways I understand it. In your average pug how many melee do you get wanting to join? A lot.

    But I also feel that it’s up to ranged casters to master the run – moving inbetween global cooldowns and pausing to cast your spell (when you can slowly make your way from point a to point b) or moving at the last possible moment to reach point b while still getting the most out of a proc etc.

    But everyone ought to have some instant, even if it’s not one you would use in your normal spell rotation. Mostly because it would make it more interesting to play.

  8. Lissanna
    Posted January 10, 2010 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    even having more tools you can use on the run isn’t going to be easy. Running while casting is really an art that takes time to master (even for my resto druid). I just feel too rooted & constrained as a moonkin in PvE. Rooted & constrained = not so fun.

    There is also no quick fix for it.

  9. Posted January 10, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I have always liked the idea of “focus”. For instance, when I’m at my job and nothing is going on, I can put 100% of my effort into whatever I am doing. When one of my students decides to be silly during class, I suddenly have to do two things at once, decreasing my lecture speed.

    “Relevart casts Lecture (500 resisted)”

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Anyway, I would like to see a focus added to the game. Its a bar, filled to 100 that acts as a multiplier for your cast time. It multiplies the cast time by (1+(100-F)/100) where F is focus. For every tick that you are moving, your focus goes down by a certain amount. This would work like spell pushback, calculated on the fly, so you couldn’t cast a long spell and then start moving without suffering a penalty.

    To me, this sort of system makes sense. I can call to me deities and command a shaft of starfire to come down from the heavens and smite my enemy while I’m running. I just can’t do it as efficiently as I can when I’m standing still. I also believe this type of system will allow Blizzard to make more complex encounters.

  10. Posted January 10, 2010 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Smurf it all! I forgot I wanted to respond to the post by Cassandri.

    The system I was talking about above allows for skill to still be involved. Finessed movements will still yield better DPS than gross unplanned movements. The player will be able to get better DPS by being more aware and more exacting.

    @ Hiddencamper – I didn’t read your comment till just now. It seems like we’re hitting on the same idea, a penalty to cast time while moving. I fluffed it out a little bit more. Is this what you had in mind?

  11. Posted January 10, 2010 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    What bothers me the most about this issue is that the developers should have known that it would come up. I realize they cannot anticipate every single issue that comes up but something as fundamental as movement and how it effects casters isn’t something that should just fly over their heads.

    I just can’t imagine them seeing the data from all the ICC fights and somehow thinking, “Hey, melee’s on top, casters on the bottom, everything’s working as intended.” Or is this something they’ve been aware of but despite having two expansions to correct it, simply decided to ignore it?

    I do agree with some of the ideas of having certain spells that can be cast during movement. Could this also be offset by making our dots a larger portion of our DPS? I like the idea of maybe having a debuff placed on you whenever you move in combat that decreases your damage done by spells by a percentage but allows it to be castable while on the run.

    Forgive me for being so negative, just seems that as of late, all of these issues have bothered me more than ever.

  12. Posted January 11, 2010 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    Lissanna, I love this article. Because its a universal complaint that I have about a lot of the ICC material, not just for DPS but for healers as well (as you appropriately categorized together as “casters”). But at least where Tree Druids are concerned, we have a healthy arsenal of instant cast heals that the Boomers do not.

    In my application to the WoW.com druid position, I actually addressed this. Not to QQ about Boomers’ lack of interesting rotations (which is indeed something to talk about), but moreover their lack of spells period when compared to pure DPS classes like Mages and Locks. An instant cast spell with a lingering DOT more powerful than Moonfire but with a CD simlilar to a Mage’s fireblast is something I’d like to see. But this is just semantics. The point is, this whole article outlines the trend that has been defintely exploited this expac with the mobility of fights. Not to say they didn’t exist before, but it definitely seems they were exponentialized in Lich King, ESPECIALLY, as you pointed out, with the ICC raids (and heck, the IC 5-mans for that matter).

    Someone actually suggested to me that as a Boomer, take off Glyph of Moonfire and just spam the heck out of it when you’re running around. I was like, sounds good on paper, but the mana burn isn’t worth it when the DOT is doing pretty much what you’d be doing running around at less the cost of mana. It just goes to show, this is something we’re ALL thinking about. Thanks for the write-up Liss.

  13. Droodyboy
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    I was reading the article about Stat Inflation the other day. and it seemed that the Hit cap (263) was too easy to get to and therefore people were stacking to haste cap and then to crit.

    My suggestion is simple but may not have been though of before.

    Allowing casting while moving hut having it affect hit chance.

    My reasoning:

    When you throw a ball at a target, with practice you can hit it 100% of the time.

    How about throwing a ball while running? probablility of hitting the taget is down.

    So having a reduced chance to hit while moving during the cast has a few effects.

    People would need more +Hit to cap it. This in turn will lower Haste and Crit Stats
    Would solve the no spells to cast while running.

    Not sure if this would completedly solve the problem but it would help a lot.

  14. Lissanna
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    @Aramis – good luck with your application! That said, the DPS loss by dropping the moonfire glyph is more than the DPS gain by spamming moonfire when moving. So, it’s just going to be a loss with no win.

  15. Posted January 11, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    The Plagueworks are kinda funny. While the first couple fights may favor melee DPS, Professor Putricide is a disaster with a melee favored group.

    It’s definitely a tough balancing act for the devs.

  16. rudedrood
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    As a feral I have NO SYMPATHY for you lazy casters. You just stand there and nuke while I’m struggling to dodge void zones, avoid adds or catch up to and burn down those adds, catch up to my target after knockbacks, and run from aoe, all while having to maintain my position precisely behind the target. Did I mention having the most complicated rotation in the game? Those debuffs aren’t all instant cast you know. But NOOOOOOOOOOOOO, as soon as the precious little casters break a nail trying to master situational awareness the whole freakin world has to end. And when you can’t manage your mana who do you call? That’s right, Mr. Feral. “Innervate pl0x” like I don’t have enough to do without propping up some guy in a dress. ;D

    Love the blog though. Keep up the good work.

  17. Lissanna
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    It’s okay Rudedrood. I know melee has crap to deal with, too. I just don’t raid as feral. :)

  18. Posted January 11, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I would like to point out that using a ranged weapon as a melee class is <10% of your potential DPS output.

    So really a melee class that has to attack from range is in the same boat as a caster that has to move.

  19. Lissanna
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    That’s why I recommended a buff for melee so that they did higher damage at range.

  20. Leftie
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Having raided as both melee, ranged, tank, and healer, i feel that altering mechanics so that melee can do 50-75% of their damage at range, and ranged can do the same while moving would be very interesting in PvE content and could lead to some very interesting fight mechanics for bosses and such, but with out very very careful balancing could potential ruin PvP easily.

    That having been said, i feel a potentialy better solution could be making sure each class has abilities like some melee classes got in wotlk. Situational, not used in a ideal rotation, but decent enuff that you can still do respectable dps for your role while in a non-ideal situation. Things like deadly throw, heroic throw, death coil, moonfire, arcane shot, ect, ect.

    The only issue with this is ensuring they are good enuff that you will want to use them in the situation that they are intended for, yet not so great that they will be in your normal rotation. This would require some very fine balancing, for both PvE and PvP, but i feel ultimatly could make for some very interesting encounter designs with out resorting to gimmicky fight mechanics, such as the vehicle fights we saw in wotlk.

    i.e. you could have a fight where the boss is always en flight, and while not ideal for melee, wouldn’t make them obsolite either, or a running chase where one phase of the boss fight is him trying to escape after you’ve beaten him, running down a escape tunnel, and you need to DPS him down before he reaches the end. in both cases melee and range would traditionally be at huge disadvantage, but if they could do 50-75% o their optimal dps in an non-optimal situation you wouldn’t need to exclude them from the fight in order to not hurt the raid.

    Sadly i feel that no matter what the bleeding edge guilds will stack classes that give them the largest advantage, even if it’s a small advantage, because thats what they do anyways. So either way the solution will never be perfect, but if blizz can get something to work for the majority of raiding guilds that i would call it a success.

    P.S. – i really didn’t intent for this to be such a long post =P lol

  21. a DK
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    You should rethink the 50-75% figure. If I can pull off 75% of my damage at range, I will practically be a plate mage. That is extremely overpowered.

    Furthermore, what u have suggested also blurs the lines between melee and range and simplifies the game too much.

    The true skill of a melee dps is being able to minimize the dps loss when you are not in melee range(chasing adds, void zones, knockback, nova,etc). You do this by the following methods(DK examples):

    1.) Refresh your dots before you move out
    2.) Put a Death & Decay as ranged dot. Example, Icehowl when he jumps to the center of room to stun everyone. A little damage is better than none.
    3.) Use Anti-Magic Shell to eat Lightning Nova(Emalon) so you can remain in melee range. This also works for Icehowl Arctic breath
    4.) Summon army when u have debuff(burning bile in NR beasts). At least you are doing something useful.

    There are many more examples, but I cannot think of them now. Just to throw in some figures, a well-placed Anti-Magic shell during Icehowl Arctic Breath easily increases damage done by 50K.

    To me, one of the most fun parts of the game is having to WORK with the limitations of being a melee and doing your best to overcome them to pull the best possible dps.

    What you have suggested seems to me to be the easy way out. To remove or significantly reduce the limitations of your character so that you can do better.

  22. Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:49 am | Permalink

    Rudedrood called us lazy! :( QQ

    Well, it’s a good thing I don’t raid with him because he’d be dead as I would have been too LAZY to throw him a heal. (Or maybe it was because I was too busy doing the same thing from a distance and running away from adds that have decided I was just “so delicious” (HoR!!! hehehe, god that boss sounds like such a kiddy porn perv).

    ;)

    Trees FTW.

  23. Posted January 12, 2010 at 1:51 am | Permalink

    @ a DK

    You know, those are actually some GREAT pointers for me because I have a DK alt I just started running through heroics for t9 badge gear. It’s only recently that I decided I am an utter FAILURE at melee! LOL. I’m learning though!

  24. Lissanna
    Posted January 12, 2010 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    My real problem with moonkin design is that we DON’T have tools to deal with movement-heavy fights. The only thing we can really do is refresh our DOTs, and hope for the best.

    Over any of my crazy ideas, I’d settle for just having instant-cast things that weren’t AOE spells.

  25. Posted January 12, 2010 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I personally like the “Swiftfire” idea.

  26. Posted January 12, 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think ICC is as ranged-unfriendly as it’s made out to be. It’s depends on the strategies you use, but I think it’s about even. Let’s look at the bosses:

    Marrowgar – Everyone gets to stand in the hit box and dps their little hearts out. Except poor hunters who have to dodge fire. During the whirlwind, ranged are able to continue dps to some extent, while melee cant go near the boss.

    Deathwhisper – Ranged get to stand and pelt the shield, occasionally turning to kill an add. Melee have to run around killing mobs.

    Gunship – Depends on who gets to jump to the other ship.

    Saurfang – Everyone gets to stand in place for the most part.

    Festergut – Okay, melee wins here.

    Rotface – Melee get a slight advantage on avoiding the slime spray. The rest of the movement effects ranged and melee fairly evenly.

    Putricide – I would hate to be melee in this fight. I think ranged are favored here with most dps targets in constant movement. It’s also much safer to be ranged.