Monthly Archives: January 2010

The bigger picture: Balance Druids are better than we used to be

I know that Icecrown Citadel brought with it a lot of worries to moonkin. A lot of moonkin are worried about keeping up with the other DPS in the raid. However, while moonkin are lamenting about how bad things are now, they are forgetting how bad it used to be. While they worry about possibly losing their DPS spots, they forget that we didn’t used to ever get those spots before.

So, lets take a little trip down memory lane.

The original balance druid: Hurricane was the original end-tier talent. I didn’t see my first hurricane until I was probably almost level 60, and it was someone else casting it. I remember seeing the spell in Western Plaguelands for the first time & not knowing what it was. It’s also a spell that was centered on the moonkin, and was still channeled. Barkskin talent didn’t come into the game until after several patches. There was no such thing as moonkin. The first tier of the balance tree had Nature’s Grasp. There were also other melee-oriented talents in the early part of the tree that feral or resto druids desired. Omen of clarity also used to be in the balance talent tree. I remember picking up the talent and having to melee in caster form to get omen of clarity procs.

The OOMKIN druid in patch 1.8: Moonkin form was introduced late into the original WoW patches. At this point, Lissanna was already level 60 and was raiding as a resto druid. When people tested things out on the PTR for this patch, they were primarily wearing feral or healing gear. The biggest complaint was running OOM. Why? Well, moonkin form’s mana return proc only came from smashing things in the face with your staff/mace. Yes, the original melee for mana moonkin proc. I tried to go moonkin for my raids, but moonkin’s damage was too low and they didn’t take me seriously. So, out of rebellion, I healed as moonkin spec (No innervate or Nature’s Swiftness) through all of Blackwing’s Lair and AQ-40 until we hit the Twin Emperors in QA-40 and Swiftmend was introduced in the resto tree. At that point, I finally caved and went back Resto spec with some reservations.

Testing before Burning Crusade. During the Beta testing phases for BC, I spent a lot of time trying to help give feedback that would get moonkin back on track. The very first of my epic feedback posts described what moonkin were, and why the melee moonkin design failed. Note how this feedback wasn’t even about being raid viable or PvP. It was just about trying to get mechanics that worked as intended. In my second round of feedback, I was still rebelling against the melee moonkin design (OR trying to make it work), along with discussing PvP problems, as they had recently introduced arenas (a place where moonkin still aren’t strong).

Burning Crusade Boomkin Era: The Burning Crusade changes did fix some of moonkin’s problems, and they became Boomkin instead of OOMkin. Around the 2.1 patch (even after Burning Crusade came out), I was still talking about how moonkin weren’t desired by raids. So, even after Burning Crusade came out, moonkin weren’t in a good place for PvE. During this time, I was healing with one of the original “restokin” builds that I designed for use in PvE healing. This only lasted through Karazhan, as a full-resto build was required for healing the 25-mans. I remember crying a little when they made me spec into tree form. I hated tree form healing, and I couldn’t raid as moonkin – so there was a point during Burning Crusade where I quit raiding with my druid and re-rolled shaman for PvE healing just to feel viable. I had switched back and forth between a bunch of guilds, transferred servers twice, and never felt at home regardless of where I was. If you weren’t a feral tank druid or a resto healing druid (who liked lifebloom-spam), then BC wasn’t a good era for moonkin. There were Restokin PvP builds that worked out good for arena/Battlegrounds during this era. Some moonkin also started becoming raid viable, as some people brought them for buffs & battle res. However, damage still lagged behind considerably.

Testing before WotLK: Beta testing for WotLK started after I had already switched to raid healing with my shaman. I think I was star-struck by the original WotLK beta trees.  By this point, they had addressed a lot of my major issues. At the beginning of WotLK testing, they had even increased moonkin utility so that moonkin would be desired even if their damage was low.

At some point, they followed all these utility buffs with a utility nerf – none of our new utility toys would stack with buffs that other people would bring. This meant that they had to buff our damage to compensate.

The Boomkin wrath in WotLK: At the beginning of WotLK’s release, moonkin were in a good place. At level 70, with access to the new talent trees, moonkin looked and seemed to be coming out ahead. The mechanics were still a little clunky. Moonkin underwent a series of buffs & nerfs & other changes. Eclipse & typhoon underwent several re-designs across this latest expansion. Now, post-3.3, moonkin are running into problems where there is so much stat scaling through talents that gear is running the risk of not providing good enough benefits. With low hit, haste, & crit caps for either wrath or starfire spells, moonkin are worried about scaling well enough to keep up with the other damage dealing class/specs to be able to feel like they can contribute to the DPS-race mechanics on some of the ICC bosses. Coming in near the bottom of the pack overall for damage dealers, moonkin can start to feel like things aren’t as good again. However, moonkin are still better than where they were in Vanilla & Burning Crusade. It’s just that when you start so far behind, it takes a long time to catch back up.

The future: Another revamp for Cataclysm promises a lot of changes to talent trees. The hope is that Cataclysm will be the patch where moonkin finally catch up to their damage dealing peers in a real substantial way.

Blizzard gave us a small (hopeful) hint during their Twitter chat this afternoon:

Q. Any plans on looking at Balance Druids, in particular Eclipse procs? RNG sometimes is detrimental to our DPS.
A. We don’t mind the RNG aspect that much per se, but losing an important proc because it happened at the wrong time (say just before you moved) is a problem. We have a pretty cool solution for Cataclysm if we can make it work. It makes Eclipse cooler but also gives Balance more of a kit in general.

The twitter feed also answered one of mine relevant to moonkin:

Q. Both balance druids (moonkin) and elemental shaman feel like their DPS is falling behind in Icecrown Citadel. Any damage boosts for these hybrid casters currently planned?
A. We have small buffs coming in the next patch. We’ll see where they are after that when more encounters are open (including the hard modes) and once more players have tier sets and higher gear in general. We have no problem buffing them more if we need to.

I am both worried and excited about the future of moonkin. I’m glad that we can look forward to DPS improvements for classes that fall behind in ICC (rather than having to wait until Cataclysm, like I had expected). If the Earth & Moon buff isn’t enough, then we could see other improvements before Cataclysm.

The first statement also means that they plan on keeping Eclipse for Cataclysm (in some form or another), but it also looks like “more of a kit” should mean more spells to cast and such. Given that each expansion has come with substantial improvements to moonkin, I am hoping that Cataclysm really puts them in the place that they need to be.

Posted in Moonkin Balance DPS

Possible small moonkin buff on the radar

So, Zarhym slipped into one of the Damage Dealing forums moonkin posts to let us know that they are considering a small damage buff for the struggling moonkin. This would come in one of their 3.3.x mini-patches.

It is NOT a buff to Eclipse that they are considering (thank Elune). Instead, it is a buff to the personal damage gained from Earth & Moon. Here is the good news & the bad news (bad news first?):

Keep in mind that we tend to make much smaller adjustments during a minor patch cycle due to the limited amount of testing time we’re allotted before applying such patches. For this reason you’re not likely to see any major Balance druid changes coming in the next minor patch.

With that being said, one small change we have in the pipeline will double the passive effectiveness of Earth and Moon so that it provides a flat 2/4/6% spell damage increase, up from 1/2/3%. As an obligatory warning, this is subject to change prior to the next minor patch going live.

This would give us moonkin a small damage boost. Nothing major, but just a minor tweak that should scale well (since it’s not in the form of haste, crit, or a random proc). At this point, I’m happy to see any changes at all. I wanted to bring attention to this, especially to give moonkin out there who don’t read the forums at least some small glimmer of hope for changes before Cataclysm to help our ICC PvE damage dealing abilities… and also to say thanks for thinking of us boomkin & giving us some hope for small buffs before Cataclysm.

Posted in Moonkin Balance DPS

If you raid with a guild, you should have an authenticator.

Authenticators are a device that I have talked about before. They are awesome little things that protect your account from being compromised. It keeps hackers out of your account management page & it keeps them out of your game.

Raiding guilds are like teams of people. If one person gets hacked, it effects everyone. This is doubly true if you are a guild officer or you have access to the guild bank. When a core member of a raiding guild is hacked, it hurts not just you – but also your guild. You end up having to go through a lengthy (mutliple week) process to regain control of your account, sit through the bans, and finally get your stuff restored. It sucks worse than the 5 seconds you can spend every day to type in your authenticator number before login. It is worth the couple dollars (like $6.50) that it costs to get the authenticators. Don’t just do it for yourself – do it for your guild and the people who count on you to be there week after week.

One of my guild’s officers just got hacked on Monday. He feels terrible about it, and we all feel bad for his situation. No one should ever have to experience being hacked. It’s a horrible feeling. His character and our guild bank were  totally stripped. His main raiding character isn’t in the guild anymore – it was likely deleted by the hacker, but they managed to take everything valuable out of our bank without being caught (or without anyone around being able to demote him). One night he was logged in raiding with us, the next night he’s at home freaking out because he has no character to raid with us this week. It is going to take multiple weeks to deal with it all. His account is currently suspended for the bad things the hackers did to it, and it’s going to take a while to get it back and then to get everything restored.

So, don’t just get an authenticator for yourself – get it to benefit your guild. You spend time learning how to play your class the best. You should spend time securing your gear that you worked so hard to earn. Get an authenticator to protect your stuff.

I want to remind you that hackers also send out scam e-mails that can sometimes even look convincing.   There are more types of scams than I could describe in a post. Most of these scam e-mails have something in common: they want to trick you into giving them your account information (either by having you go to a fake link, or trying to get you to e-mail them your password).  You can ask about e-mails you receive by contacting the Billing department directly, or by asking on the customer service forum (most of the regular posters on the CSF are good at playing “spot the scam e-mail”).

Also, beware of fake scam websites. People like to spoof things like the armory, the login page, and things like that. Fake links in scam e-mails are also used to steal your account info. If people can trick you into typing in your password to their scam page, then they’ve got your login name & password.

Be careful & get an authenticator just to prevent the worst from happening, but also be careful with your internet practices.

Posted in Uncategorized

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!

Posted in Moonkin Balance DPS



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