Moonkin early alpha changes

What expansion would be complete without a complete re-design of Eclipse and moonkin’s toolset? With the start of Alpha for Warlords of Draenor, one of the biggest changes to druids has to be the brand-new Eclipse and Starsurge mechanics. While we don’t have a finalized set of changes in Alpha, we have enough of the bones of the rotation to have a good idea of how things feel overall.

A quick summary of major moonkin changes:

  • We have a new Eclipse. This is now a 40 second cycle, that cycles on a timer (no longer influenced by spell casts). This new cycle now is smoothed out, such that we no longer have rotating cycles of 0% benefit or 100% benefit from our mastery stat. Instead, at the zero point, we now gain partial benefit from mastery, that increases gradually to 100% as we go from 0 to 100 on a cycle.
  • Moonfire now changes to sunfire at the zero mid-point, but has a significantly increased duration, such that both DOTs can be up the majority of the time. Since our DOTs still snapshot Eclipse, you technically want to cast your DOTs at the 100% Eclipse point to benefit the most from your mastery.
  • We now want to use our cooldowns at the start of our rotation, especially celestial alignment, that allows us to start our DOTs together at the beginning of our rotation, to maximize DOT up-time.
  • Starsurge has been redesigned. It is no longer an instant cast in your rotation. Instead, the goal is to hard-cast starsurge, and starsurge now buffs either the next 2 starfires or the next 3 wraths (depending on when you cast starsurge in the Eclipse cycle phase). You get up to 3 starsurge charges, and shooting stars now gives you additional charges instead of making it instant-cast.
  • You cast wrath from the zero point when solar “procs”, and then cast starfire from the zero point when lunar procs (e.g., the mid-point).
  • When you end combat, Eclipse continues until you hit the zero mid-point, with Eclipse always going towards Lunar before Solar.
  • Starfall and Hurricane our are primary AOEs, and starfall was changed to reflect this (and you can’t use starfall in your single-target rotation as it shares charges with starsurge now). Starfall does arcane damage and hurricane does solar damage (with no more lunar damage equivalent of hurricane). Shrooms are no longer part of the AOE damage rotation, and are instead primarily used as a slow for pvp.
  • See the post by Cyous for more about how the Eclipse implementation will work.

Remaining problems:

  • Right now, we only have a 30 second (instead of 40 second) cycle for Eclipse in alpha, meaning that most of the changes are difficult to evaluate, given that the entire rotation is squished into less time (and we can see the fact that the hectic feeling rotation doesn’t allow for effective starsurge use in the 30 sec cycle). Additionally, sunfire is  is only lasting about 15 seconds, instead of the 30 seconds that moonfire lasts for me, which ends up feeling really confusing in the rotation (the astral showers passive is unintuitive at best).
  • Moonkin has a movement DPS problem. Given that the instant damage of moonfire and sunfire comprise our only source of movement DPS, you now have to decide whether the initial damage is worth using it while moving, or if losing the mastery from your DOT is such a big penalty that we now have zero spells we can cast while moving. Right now, the direct damage portion from moonfire and sunfire may actually be a bigger bonus than allowing for high mastery bonuses for the DOT. Thus, moonfire and sunfire have a confusing (and conflicting) role in our rotation. While movement was supposed to have been reduced, random un-named quest mobs are still requiring me to move every 10 seconds or so and are already interrupting my rotation, leading me to believe that resorting to moonfire/sunfire spam may actually be an effective raid DPS strategy (especially given that the frequent and nearly constant interrupts on some quest mobs outside of instances have prompted some people to abandon their super slow cast-time rotation entirely).
  • We will still be tempted to use DOT-cleave as an AOE strategy if we are forced to frequently move, as channeling Hurricane has always been a risky endeavor. Our AOE will also interact awkwardly with Eclipse, given that Hurricane no longer morphs to the arcane version, and starfall is now on a shared charge system with starsurge.
  • We currently don’t have functional glyphs, as all our old glyps were designed to interact with the old Eclipse strategy.
  • Our User Interface was primarily designed for the old style of Eclipse. Thus, there are not good indicators to let us know when to re-cast our DOTs (e.g., when the 100% Eclipse marker is, now that the sound and graphic procs at 0%), or when to cast starsurge, as described in the next point:
  • We get two different Empowerment buffs from Starsurge: One we get that buffs starfire only in Lunar Eclipse, and one we get that buffs sunfire only in solar Eclipse. If you cast starsurge too close to the zero mid-point, you will lose the benefit of these procs when you swap to the opposite damage type. Also, if you cast two starsurges in a row, the same empowerment buff doesn’t stack from multiple starsurge casts. So, you want to cast 1 starsurge followed by your starfires/wraths, before you cast a second starsurge. Since shooting stars randomly gives you additional procs (and you can have up to 3 starsurge charges at any time), mastering how starsurge fits into your rotation will require addons for tracking. We don’t have a good indicator to let us know how Starsurge is interacting with our rotation (e.g., to utilize starsurge you have to watch 4 different UI places: Your Eclipse bar to see whether or not you should cast starsurge (e.g., is Eclipse going to pass the zero point soon, negating your Empowerment buffs?), the buffs on the top right of your screen to see if you have empowerment charges remaining, the actual charges remaining on starsurge itsself, and the graphic that comes up for shooting star procs to let you know you got an extra charge. Thus, while the original starsurge was something we just hit when it came off cooldown, casting all three of your charges in a row is detrimental to your DPS and starsurge now becomes a serious “noob trap”.
  • Having starsurge serve as essentially a resource means that we should have a default UI element under the Eclipse bar that tracks Starsurge/starfall charges, to allow us to more clearly manage Starsurge as a resource, similar to the way that we manage Eclipse. Having those charges identified as a resource means that new players are likely to figure out sooner that starsurge shouldn’t just be cast down to zero, and minimizes the number of places we have to look on our screen to track the interaction between starsurge and our eclipse rotation. Additionally (or alternatively), the lunar/solar empowerment buffs should be better identified in the default UI in some way.
  • They are playing with the idea of instant-cast starsurge, which would definitely help both movement (e.g., PVP), and helping starsurge feel like it fits in the rotation better.

Conclusions:

Overall, I like the idea of the new Eclipse mechanic (the “ramp slowly up & down” version is close to something the community pitched earlier in the Eclipse development, when the periods of high and low damage became an obvious problem). It makes us less dependent on our gear for the Eclipse rotation, which was a contributing factor to my decision to stop playing moonkin in Mists of Pandaria.

I’m still not a huge fan of the starsurge changes at this point, as I feel it makes moonkin more difficult for new players to learn than the original Eclipse design (counter to the stated design goals). To experienced players, however, it still may not provide enough depth for mastery (e.g., I still feel quite strongly that moonkin are still difficult to learn, easy to master). However, this may be largely solved by the 40 sec Eclipse rotation coming “soon” (as opposed to the 30 sec version implemented in alpha now), and potentially with UI changes that make tracking starsurge more intuitive (e.g., playing with the default UI for moonkin feels like it works against your success). If my biggest complaints, however, are about an interface problem (which could be solved with addon support), then we’re starting off in an okay place.

3 Comments

  1. Berdache
    Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Some random thoughts

    With the caveat that I have not played with it myself I must admit I dont like the idea of an eclipse bar moving automatically. It seem to put one of our main dps resources nolonger under our control. It will just be pot luck for us if a boss is about to enter a transition phase or important add that needs to die is about to appear and we are about to enter the wrong eclipse phase. It will just make us feel powerless.

    With eclipse on a timer does this now mean that there will be times when it is better to just stop and do nothing rather than be caught going into eclipse part way through a starfire cast?

    I also dont like the lack of dps movement options. We get a similar thing now when it is not obvious that overwriting our dots can reduced our damage but atleast we can put mushrooms down,

    It should improve out AoE though, nothing worse than chasing a natures grace proc for AoE but having all the adds dead when you get there. Or managing to actually do some AoE and then having to drag yourself to the next eclipse proc without natures grace.

    It does sound horribly complicated at the moment but liable to be made a lot simpler by a sufficently well programmed addon / weak aura (this is a bad thing IMO)

    Cheers for you writeup though I understand it a lot better :)

    • Lissanna
      Posted June 9, 2014 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      You always benefit at least partially from Eclipse with the new cycle. So, you will always benefit from casting spells. There aren’t the same high/low cycles. You can now think of it as high/medium cycles. For example, the benefit from solar doesn’t drop until you hit close to 100% lunar, and at that point, lunar is already close to 100%. Also, the newest version should have you spending the majority of your time in high damage cycles. You aren’t going to need to time Eclipse to be up at the right moments, it should just feel like its always up, as long as you swap spells at the midpoint (instead of the ends) of the Eclipse cycle.

      See Cyous’ post: http://sentrytotem.com/classes/druid/balance-druids-sine-wave-eclipse

  2. Posted June 29, 2014 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Mmm, if only Starfall still dealt damage per star. If that were the case, in terms of DPSing while moving, Starfall could be somewhat of a replacement for instant Starsurges.

    Rather sad to see Starfall go this way.