Can moonkin be fixed before Cata?

Okay, so Ghostcrawler has posted in multiple balance druid threads in the damage dealing forum in the last week. He shot down two ideas (ie. a glyph for wrath haste scaling, and Owlkin Frenzy buffs). He seems to be paying attention to moonkin, and to changes that will come before Cataclysm, but there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut way to fix moonkin’s problems without major talent tree overhauls.

What are the problems?

  1. Wrath scales poorly with haste, causing there to be a soft-cap of around 400 haste rating, where after that rating level, your wrath cast time drops below a second and clips the GCD (when Nature’s Grace is active). Also causes problems when Heroism is up.
  2. Eclipse has been buffed too many times, and now makes the crit cap for Starfire be too low, and Eclipse makes up too large of a % of our overall DPS. Eclipse is also a clunky & uncontrolled mechanic, leading to big RNG swings in our DPS not being reliable (ie. we have good RNG days and bad RNG days, with larger DPS swings up and down  than other classes have to deal with).
  3. Moonkin have to stand rooted in place to do good damage. For example, on Festgergut in ICC, I’ve deemed myself a “melee moonkin” so I can pump out between 2,000 and 3,000 more DPS than if I was in range (a bigger swing than any of our other ranged damage dealers). Lack of mobility effects both PvP and PvE moonkin.
  4. Given that the fight mechanics require a lot of moving around and we scale poorly with stats, we tend to fall behind on DPS compared to people who don’t have those same movement or scaling problems. In some fights in ICC 25-man, I can come in 4th place on the meters & in the same instance, I can also come in 11th place; since my DPS goes up and down all over the place, which isn’t happening to the other people in my raid (ie. they stay relatively the same & I move up and down willy nilly).
  5. Moonkin don’t do well in PvP. Given that all of Moonkin’s mechanics are designed around doing good PvE damage, moonkin have very few good PvP abilities, and lack the defensive cooldowns or escape mechanics that other classes have. Combined with clunky damage dealing mechanics and no burst-damage cooldowns they can use on demand (and how hard it would be to maintain an Eclipse rotation in pvp), moonkin haven’t been doing well overall in Arena teams all expansion (with very few exceptions of moonkin who have managed to “stick it out).

Are there ways we can fix these problems before Cataclysm? What are the real fixes these problems need?

  1. No. Well, not without some clunky mechanic like the glyph that GC doesn’t like. The real fix for poor haste scaling is that Nature’s Grace needs to be removed for Cataclysm’s talent changes, where the trees can be designed around the talent’s removal without being a huge nerf. Anything else is just going to likely to be clunky (like the glyph option).
  2. No. Eclipse can’t be fixed until Cataclysm either. What moonkin’s rotation needs is about 2 more spells that we can mix into our rotations, in which case Eclipse would be much more easily modified at that point. In addition, other talents can be put in the mix to reduce our dependency on Eclipse forcing us to do more than just cast starfire. In addition, Eclipse wouldn’t need to be as strong if Wrath didn’t clip the GCD so much (ie. wrath was actually desirable to use in PvE). They could also take wrath out of our rotation and give us something else that was a medium cast-time nuke, and save Wrath for being a PvP spell (where fast cast times are more favorable).
  3. No. To fix our problems with movement-heavy or target switching fights, the changes they could make to our overall rotation and new spells could help address that “rooted” problem. For example, an instant-cast direct damage spell that did decent burst damage could be timed to use while moving when movement was predictable (and typhoon or refreshing DOTs just doesn’t fill that role well enough).
  4. Yes, the developers can boost our overall DPS so that we don’t fall behind the other classes.
  5. Not really. Moonkin PvP needs the talent trees redesigned, new abilities implemented, and new “on use” defensive/offensive cooldowns to stand much of a chance in pvp. Moonkin could also use an imp barkskin talent like exactly what they gave to resto druids instead of moonkin. There are little things Blizzard can do to make life for PvP moonkin more tolerable, but there’s no fix for a spec that is totally broken for PvP.

What can be changed before Cataclysm?

  • This is something that a newer moonkin blogger, Random Moonkin Generator, has been mulling over, and suggests things like: removing haste from celestial focus, changing improved insect swarm (ie. making wrath crit more & starfire do more damage to help increase the crit cap for Lunare Eclipse starfires), making nature’s splendor increase duration of IS & moonfire more, having our DOTs scale with haste or crit from talents. Some of these I’ll talk about below, but you should go read that thread, too.
  • The fastest solution to falling behind on DPS is just to give flat damage increases to talents like Earth & Moon that can easily be removed for Cataclysm, and work great without having to do too much testing. That’s what they did with Earth & Moon once already in 3.3. They could just tack on an additional damage bonus to imp moonkin form or something.
  • The easiest solution would be to do nothing and make us “wait until Cata”, so that in Alpha/Beta testing for Cata, the whole talent tree can just be re-designed from the ground up (or something like that).
  • Better scaling with gear? I like the idea of having DOTs scale better with gear.  Our tier 9 set bonus allowed moonfire to crit, which was a nice temporary way of DOTs scaling with our crit. However, once you upgrade to T10 gear, none of our DOTs scale with either haste or crit. It might be interesting to have one (or both) of our DOTs scale better with either crit or haste. It doesn’t fix the immediate problems of wrath and starfire scaling, but it’s something interesting that could be examined.
  • Reducing Starfire’s Crit chance? If the possibility of crit-capping Starfire on Eclipse procs is problematic, the crit bonuses given to starfire through imp insect swarm or improved Faerie Fire could potentially be changed to flat damage increases instead of crit increases. Imp insect swarm would be the most obvious candidate, since only starfire gains crit from that talent. The crit for starfire on imp IS could also be turned into X% haste, and then the haste from Celestial Focus could be removed and turned into something else.
  • Celestial focus – If the haste was removed from CF, then it could be possible to give some PvP effect that helped with their survivability or offensive ability. Moonkin PvP could still really use something to give them a chance to be more than just a training dummy out on the field of battle.
  • Owlkin Frenzy is another talent that could be changed to help moonkin PvP. I’m sure the devs could think of something (ie. make it reduce how much damage the moonkin are taking from players as they get beat on, for when they’re not able to take advantage of the damage boost). They could also just put a clone of Imp Barkskin into the balance tree so moonkin could actually shift out of moonkin form some time, and increase the usefulness of barkskin for them. They could also give moonkin the ability to cast heal spells in form (maybe just 1 or 2).
  • Changing the moonkin Tier 10 2-piece bonus? This is somewhere that they could adjust something that would effect high-end raiders more than everyone else at this point. The OOC proc damage increase mechanic contributes to the randomness of damage swings, since you could have OOC proc 5 times in a row, or not proc at all. It would also keep moonkin from finding ways to “force” OOC to proc (even mana expensive ways that consume reagents). The damage bonus also doesn’t last very long, so you could miss out on it while moving too much. It doesn’t matter too much what  they changed it to, so long as it gave a more steady damage boost, rather than more random burst. They could also just swap the T9 2-piece with the T10 2-piece, since people at lower gear levels are likely less concerned with gear scaling problems (ie. people wearing all T10 could really use the crit scaling for moonfire). People at lower gear levels would also be able to better absorb the RNG-nature of the OOC proc bonus, and would have absolutely no effect on people wearing 2 pieces of each.

Conclusions:

  • There are many other changes the developers could decide to do to help moonkin PvP and PvE. However, only the developers can really decide what they want to change now versus what can wait until Cataclysm.  Anything from minor changes to large changes could be done at any time, and it’s really up to them to decide what it is they actually want to do. GC seems to want community feedback at the moment, but he isn’t really giving us directions on what we should be focusing on for our suggestions. It feels more like trying to shoot at moving targets in the dark, where we only know when we missed the target.

13 Comments

  1. Mushu
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    As a moonkin player and raider for something like five years now I’ve seen the entire gamut of changes Blizz has done to the Balance spec. Some has been good and some has been very very bad. We are in an “ok” place right now and I’m scared that when Blizz “fixes” us it will take another full cycle after Cata ships for them to get us back to being in an “ok” place again.

    GC has been a constant whenever he posts about moonkin: we are a utility class and will never approach the dps potential (“p o t e n t i a l”) of the “pures”. It is apparent that from the very beginning we were designed to bring buffs to everyone else in the raid/group (to wit: 5% crit, bres, innervate) and not to excel at damage.

    keep this in mind as you watch what they do to us for Cata. Some random thoughts on certain points made in the article:

    * Typhoon is worthless for use during movement phases since it requires that you face the mob(s) and the game engine Doesn’t Allow Players To RUN Backwards. The reason you are moving is to gtfoof and you don’t have time to do that plus perform an insta-spin-jump-fire combo when safe. We need something like a 360-degree heat-seeking nuke with a 3-min CD instead. BTW you should *run* out of the fire and *not jump* since the game engine calculates when you touch safe ground and you are in the air longer while jumping than it takes to just run so you take more damage if you jump out rather than just run…think EJ calc’d that a looong time ago.

    * Blizz (and GC) hates it when people use the term “totally broken” in any context. Unfortunate verbiage that makes them possibly discount the entire comment as just another rant. You KNOW they look at Arena/BG/pvp stats and see more than a few moonkin in the top tiers and say to themselves “See? Boomys ain’t borked!” :(

    * The biggie that GC briefly touched on at least once is that any talent/spec changes they make for the *relatively small* number of high-end moonkin raiders in the game Cannot Nerf Leveling Moonkin Otherwise Blizz Will Lose Money. It’s sometimes easy to forget that there is a HUGE majority of casual players and that is Blizz’ bread-and-butter and to make it difficult for them to play *any* class while leveling is to push that money into other MMOs like Aion or LotR. That’s why they nerf’d ALL game content over the past year.

    * GC has stated many times that RNG is an integral part of the moonkin spec and it won’t be going away. Frankly, if we want better caster dps we could play a mage or lock instead. Ya takes da gud wid da bad me sez…and druids are still the BEST class in the game imho because “we can do it all!”(tm)

    Nice article Liss, keep up the pressure to make boomys better! Otherwise Blizz won’t do a thing for us and will instead keep buffing rogues with whom they have always had an obscene love affair.

  2. paperclip
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    To steal something recently introduced to the resto playbook, a glyph of Rapid Insect Swarm, or such, seems reasonable. It could allow our DoTs to scale with haste, raising its value and compensating for the wrath soft cap. It is also could be an interesting choice since its value compared to other glyphs would depend on your gear level, the fight, the raid composition. It might not play well with eclipse though, since we would need more gcds to keep our DoTs up.

  3. Posted February 18, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I am very surprised by the quantity of “Moonkin are Broken. Fix it!” posts I’ve seen lately.

    I’m starting to think that their presense is a sign that moonkin are better off then their posters think. As bad as moonkin were in TBC I don’t remember seeing this level of critism from this many people. In the end it seems like Moonkin have improved enough to enlarge the community, and it is this larger community that is resulting in the increase in complaints. I’m not saying moonkin don’t have issues, but it seems to me that most of the posters don’t have the right perspective.

    I am not topping the charts for my guild, but I am not hopelessly behind either. Ultimately I think the problems are to big and to complex to be fixed in any meaningful way until Cata. Bandades are a possibility, but I would prefer them to be straight damage buffs like to Earth and Moon then, then go around and screw up the balancing of more talents.

  4. Lissanna
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Graylo – I don’t think we’re totally broken for PvE in a way that even needs to be fixed right now, which is part of the reason why I suggest waiting to fix some of the problems until Cataclysm. However, GC keeps responding to moonkin threads, so I felt the need to highlight the areas that should be looked at in the future. In addition, moonkin are really broken for PvP, and that’s something that gets lost with most bloggers focusing on PvE.

    I’m doing good enough in my raids to justify my spot, but only because I spend so much time fretting over every small aspect of every piece of the game, and I work on being able to figure out how to do things like spin-jump-cast-behind-me if that’s what increases my damage.

    It seems like he wants suggestions on things to change, since he’s giving reasons for why he doesn’t like the idea of a specific suggestion, rather than just saying “moonkin R fine, L2P”

  5. Posted February 18, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    As a Resto with a very occasionally used Balance offspec I appreciate the detailed rundown. I’ve all but given up doing much with my spec. If I get into 10 mans it’s as a healer. Even if we could use more dps, the raid would usually prefer I get my mage rather than swap to boomkin. The battle res and potential backup healing just doesn’t make up for the difference. I agree that one big problem is how variable our dps is. I think if we were just consistently 10% (or whatever) behind on dps, it would be obvious that there’s a problem. But because the movement-heavy fight styles exacerbate existing problems, we’re less likely to get a fix.

  6. rudedrood
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    In problem #4 you talk about the variability of your position in the dps meters, but is that a problem? Don’t we want different fights to benefit different classes? I mean, if a specific class was always at the top and another always at the bottom, wouldn’t the second class get left behind?

    As a feral I’m always in the top 3 on a fight with lots of little adds like dream weaver, or a single target burn fight like saurfang. But on others fights like putricide or rotface I’m struggling to break the top 10. Maybe that’s my bad and I’m doing it wrong.

    I like the idea though that different classes each have ‘their fight’ where they get a chance to blow up the meters, show off a little and compete with each other.

  7. Lissanna
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    The problem is that movement & target switching usually hurt moonkin to a disproportionate amount compared to everyone else, and that pretty most fights in the game require either movement or target switching for ranged DPS. So, moonkin mechanics feel outdated to an extreme amount, because there aren’t fights that favor moonkin unless we avoid having to do what the rest of the ranged DPS is doing.

    Elemental shaman and moonkin are really the only totally “rooted” casters left, but even then I’m less predictable than our Elemental shaman because they don’t have to deal with clunky Eclipse mechanics. No one wants to be totally out of control and unpredictable – and that’s how I feel 99% of the time, because of how many unavoidably random proc buffs I have from talents & gear.

    Is that something that Blizzard cares about fixing? I don’t know. However, being in control of your character (and being able to choose which spell you want to cast) is part of what makes the game fun, and the moonkin spec lacks the abilities/talents that allow you to control what you are doing, when you want to have burst damage happen, and the ability to have target switching & movement not totally interrupt your ability to perform at your potential. Most classes or specs with “interesting” rotations have what is interesting be what choices you make about what abilities to cast and when to cast them (do I want to cast X or Y first right now?). For example, Juggling abilities with cooldowns is still predictable because you know when that ability’s cooldown is going to be over. Some randomness is great, but not having any choice or control at all is bad.

  8. Kaerid (Medivh)
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    I’d like to throw a couple of ideas out there, and possibly suggest that we try to open and sticky a discussion on the Druid forums. The obvious problem with that is flaming and other nonsense that plagues those forums, but it’s an open place where a large number of players look. The other thing would be to find a Moonkin forum that would be willing to host a discussion and coordinate with the other Moonkin bloggers to point to that forum in one of their posts to continue discussion.

    First, I would love to see better interaction between the Arcane and Nature schools of magic for Moonkins. We already have Eclipse that provides an interaction between the two schools, but that can be furthered. Druids are able to master both the Divine nature magic of Elune and the Arcane magic of the Titans, so there should be some way, through lore, to meld these two and give us some effect. Since they are semi-opposing forces, my initial thoughts are that the proc of two piece T10 could be changed from OOC to MF/Wrath and IS/Starfire; When Wrath hits while MF is active it causes the chance to proc, and the same for IS/Starfire. I don’t know if this would be difficult to change, but it puts the focus of the proc back into the Balance tree. It also gives a little more reasoning to keep the DoTs applied (if there aren’t enough reasons already). It is still RNG based, but more relevant than an OOC proc.

    Second, Starlight Wrath needs to be changed to scale with haste rather than a flat value. The 0.5 sec is great for Starfire and almost necessary, but with Wrath it causes problems. I know I’ve considered dropping a point from Starlight Wrath to help ease issues with clipping, but putting the point in Genesis sacrifices too much. (BTW, the only time I get to run my Moonkin in raids is on 10 mans with my ICC guild and we have 2 shamans; I run Resto on 25 mans). The base of Wrath is 2 seconds, and Starfall is 3.5 sec. To achieve the same 0.5 sec on Starfall, change the 0.5 to 15%. That would bring Wrath down from 2 sec to 1.7 sec. Obviously, other talents have an impact on cast time, but it would allow for better scaling with Haste. A slight boost to Wrath damage could compensate for the cast time gained.

    Third, something needs to be done with movement. I don’t see how any minor changes can be made to improve this, but I have a far-fetched idea. Give us a spell, on CD, that would allow us to “power-up” a spell on the move so that it is an instant cast when we fire it. My vision is that it would be tied to Eclipse, so we could pull from it’s power into our spell and not waste the proc time. If Lunar is active, then our Starfire is charged; if Solar is active, then our Wrath is charged. The reason I tie it to Eclipse is that movement is the bane of Eclipse. Being able to harness part of that would be worthwhile.

    I’m intentionally trying to think outside of the box with some of these suggestions, but if we worked together as a community, we could come up with our own top set of ideas to present to GC and the devs. I love my Boomkin and I was sad when I wasn’t able to raid with it after I turned 80. It did lead to me loving Resto as well, so it wasn’t a total loss, but I still love my Boomkin and want to do as much as I can to help him.

  9. Posted February 19, 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I wasn’t critisizing your post. I think it highlights the issues well.

    I was talking more about the emails I receive and the posts I see on the offical forums.

    Yes, the Moonkin spec has some pretty big issues. We know it. Blizzard knows it. Anyone who pays attention to moonkin at all knows it, but the quantity of QQ (for lack of a better term) is also a sign of our improvement in my opinion. Two years ago, I knew ever single raiding moonkin on my server. Forum debates were about if Moonkin were viable because everyone knew they were behind.

    I just think a lot of the QQ lacks perspective. If WoW was easy to balance then there would be 10 games like it. If moonkin were horrible then we wouldn’t see top 100 guilds with moonkin that are regular raiders.

    I’m also very happy that GC is paying lip service to our issues, but lip service is all that we can really expect right now. Our current issues are basic design issues and they can’t be fixed by adding 1 glyph, or changing 1 small talent.

    At this point we need to be debating big picture changes, not little things. Unfortunately we can’t do that until we get an idea of how Blizzard is thinking. Therefore, I’m not going to get really worked up about these issues until we see an alpha or a beta and I wish more people would show the same patience.

  10. Knaac
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Nice article, Lissanna.

    If they want to buff moonkins pre-Cata, I wonder if the best way wouldn’t be to make us scale slightly better with spellpower (given that haste and crit have both been problematic for scaling). Perhaps boosting Wrath of Cenarius would work — especially if they added our dots to that talent. They could combine a W. of C. buff with an Eclipse nerf to make our dps less dependent on being able to stand still during an eclipse proc.

  11. paperclip
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Expanding on Kaerid’s idea of instant cast spells, there is already precedent in our talents for converting spells to instant cast (Nature’s Swiftness one demand with a cool down and, more recently, Predatory Strikes through a proc). What if Nature’s Grace were changed to select or proc an instant cast. Naturally numbers and mechanics would have to be chosen to balance the overall effect, but in theory this would both mitigate the haste soft cap and possibly improve our mobile (and pvp) casting. Blizzard also has a pattern of converting tier bonuses into talents. Going back to our 4T8 bonus, gives an example of an instant cast capability. As I recall, this was not particularly well received by the community, although it may have had more to do with the specifics than the overall concept. Or maybe the relative value of instant cast has gone up for more recent fight mechanics.

    To address Graylo’s comments, I do agree that the overall rise of moonkin QQ may correlate with a rise in less dedicated population because we are now generally considered viable. While it may not be possible to fix our design issues with small tweaks, these sorts of discussions still have value. It is not an expectation that Blizzard will see a proposed idea and make us magically on par, but rather a means to explore some of the intricacies of our spec and see how different aspects play together. More of a theoretical “what if this were the case” than a “please make these changes”. Through this process, we might be better able to react intelligently when Blizzard does reveal their thinking. Obviously, I cannot speak for Lissanna or any of the other posters when making this statement, but that is where I see the value.

  12. Lissanna
    Posted February 19, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    We are definitely 100 x’s better than in vanilla WoW. We get a lot better every expansion, so part of my excitement about a new expansion is knowing that the balance spec gets to undergo major overhauls. One of the neat things is that (while we still QQ in the end), they have done really great things with the talent trees overall.

    In my “state of the balance druid” posts around this time before every previous expansion, I was begging to just be viable and wanted for either PvP or PvE. However, I think at this point, we ARE viable and wanted for PvE – we just have some clunky mechanics that we picked up along the way. We were willing to live with those clunky mechanics just because we were finally able to justify receiving raid spots. The PvP stuff just never came together.

  13. Posted February 24, 2010 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

    I know I’m still doing well enough to justify my raid spot, but my guild is definitely not full of uber min/maxers and even then on some fights, it’s just not all that fantastic. We could use some help in PVE, and definitely in PVP.

    One little change I’d like, and it’s a little one but your comment about the Starfire crit / IIS thing reminded me of it, is to switch the effects on Improved Insect Swarm. Instead of being IS = more Wrath damage and MF = more Starfire crit, it would be nice to have IS give more crit to Wrath, and Moonfire give more damage to Starfire. That takes 3% off the Starfire crit cap problem, and helps with those streaks of Wrath not critting to proc Lunar Eclipse.

    I’d still like to see some sort of controllable burst for burn phases instead of praying for good RNG, and more movement-friendly options like an instant cast direct damage spell with a short cooldown that doesn’t require proper aim.

One Trackback