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Resto druid updates for Draenor

With the release of Warlords of Draenor just a few months away, I have started to receive a lot of questions about the state of druids, and especially resto druids. For people wondering about the current state of moonkin, you can read Cyous’ post on the Sentry Totem website. Cyous also has a post on the basics of how the new sine-wave Eclipse  works. For resto druid updates, the Sometimes a Tree blog has had fairly regular content updates recently.

I will likely still be maintaining my resto and leveling guides for Warlords of Draenor, but those are unlikely to be written until close to the release of the 6.0 patch, since Blizzard always changes things at the last minute.

What does the Resto Druid Toolset look like?

Overall, resto druid healing won’t realistically change all that much in Warlords of Draenor. So, if you enjoy resto druid healing now, you should enjoy it in Draenor. Resto druids are still primarily HOT healers, with some supporting direct heals. Our AOE healing toolset remains relatively unchanged. You will use tranquility, wild growth, rejuv, and shrooms as your main AOE spells. Our single-target toolset consists of lifebloom, healing touch, regrowth, and swiftmend.

A recap of the spells with major changes:

  • You will keep lifebloom on a tank. It now only has one stack, which means you don’t have to maintain the three stack anymore. Letting it fall off for the bloom may sometimes be worthwhile, since it doesn’t have the same ramp-up to maintain it.
  • Wild Growth now has a cast-time, instead of being instant. This does not, however, benefit from omen of clarity.
  • Wild Mushroom now only applies the Efflorescence ground effect, and no longer has a direct healing component. This expires after 30 seconds, and has a 30 second cooldown. We can no longer move or bloom the wild mushroom.
  • Tranquility‘s effect has been simplified. It does the main set of ticks without any additional HOT component. It should heal everyone in the raid.

Major stat changes:

  • Multi-strike causes your spell to have a chance to do additional damage or healing to your target. Our direct heals and HOTs can multi-strike, so resto druids can benefit from this stat. However, efflorescence won’t multi-strike.
  • You will still care more about mastery and haste than multi-strike or crit.
  • There are no more haste break-points for HOTs.
  • Versatility is a stat that provides a smaller benefit to multiple stats. This ends up being the worst of the resto druid stats.
  • Restoration druids get a 5% bonus to haste, as part of the new “attunement” bonuses.

Level 100 talents:

  • The level 100 talents are largely lackluster now, but Germination in particular is pretty good. I would suggest Germination as the best new player option of the three (extends rejuv’s duration by 3 seconds, and allows 2 rejuvs per person instead of 1).
  • I would avoid Rampant Growth, as this makes swiftmend consume your HOTs (and in most situations, this is almost always counterproductive). The trade-off of having no cooldown on swiftmend doesn’t seem a large enough benefit given that trying to maximize use of this talent will likely drain your mana. There may be specific situations where this is helpful, but that would likely be fight-specific.
  • Moment of Clarity allows more than one spell to benefit from the mana reduction of OOC, but only has a duration of 5 seconds (and starts from when the buff occurs, not when you first cast a relevant spell). This means that omen of clarity can sometimes fall off before you use it if it randomly procs at the wrong time in your healing rotation (omen of clarity traditionally only lets one spell benefit, but has a decently long time period for you to use that one spell). I have found it difficult to get off more than one spell that benefits from OOC when playing with this talent, so it will likely only be beneficial at high levels of haste for people who are good at maximizing the benefits. So, this may work as an advanced talent for players, but is likely to be more of a penalty than a help for newer resto druids.
Posted in Beta Feedback, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Improvements for guild perk system in Warlords

The guild leveling system was originally meant to be a reward for guilds. People who worked together got rewards. For the first ~6 months, this guild leveling system was awesome. After a year, or two, things went terribly wrong.

The level 25 elephant in the room.

However, in recent years, the guild leveling system, as well as the cash flow perk, has been discouraging people from making new guilds. This has been particularly problematic as it has directly contributed to the decline in the number of people willing to start new raiding guilds, and thus the decline of the raiding population that helped keep the social element of the game intact. Even for social guilds, people only trusted level 25 guilds to have their best interests in mind.

Instead, many people starting guilds have been doing it for the purpose of predatory behavior. That is, someone would start a guild and then spam invites to any new player who made a character on the server. Once people were in the guild, they would be abused for leveling purposes, and then kicked from the guild as soon as the guild hit level 25. Then, that guild could be sold to the highest bidder. Since people couldn’t start new raiding guilds unless they bought a level 25 guild, that created a market for people who abused new players for the purpose of leveling and selling guilds.

The cash flow perk was also problematic in that it earned money for the guild leader along the way, which then was not shared with the rest of the members in a predatory leveling guild. In most real guilds, this cash flow perk did not come anywhere near covering the costs associated with raiding and the repair feature. So, the cash flow perk was able to be abused by predatory guilds (e.g., to a single person who wasn’t giving anything back to the guild members), but wasn’t providing any substantial bonus to real guilds who were using the money (e.g., guild leadership that used the money to supply the guild with needed resources).

Since most new guilds were assumed to be predatory (even when someone actually had good intentions), most good players would not join a guild that was below level 25. This meant that as a new guild officer, you couldn’t recruit quality players, and you burned out of leadership before you even got started. Since all good guilds were level 25, the way to know that the guild was good was to refuse to join any guild that wasn’t at max level. Thus, the cycle of needing to buy level 25 guilds to show legitimacy has been a huge problem that Blizzard has largely ignored. That is, until today.

Social groups will always die and fade if given enough time. So, guilds were always going to fold after their leaders got tired. The leaders were always going to get tired. The problem with guild leveling is that it created a barrier for entry for new guilds and new leaders. That slowed down the creation of new guilds to a much slower speed than guilds were folding, and led to a cascade of other related problems that make guild leadership unappealing to new players. Prior to Cataclysm, there were always new guilds to replace the ones that went away, but that ended with the guild leveling barrier of entry.

The solution to the guild problem.

Blizzard has announced that they are removing the guild leveling system from the game. Every guild in the game will be treated as though they are level 25. If you are in a guild, you get all the benefits of being in the guild without having to level the guild.

They are also removing the problematic cash flow perk. Instead of guilds making money from the cash flow perk, they are putting epic BOEs back into raiding dungeons for guilds to be able to sell. This was the primary way my guild funded all of our repairs and materials prior to Siege of Orgrimmar removing epic BOEs.

Guilds will still have fun bonuses in Warlords.

With the worry about the changes, there are several important things to keep in mind:

  • There will still be the basic perks that came from being in a guild. Things that people really liked, they will still mostly get (though there will be fewer individual perks in the perk list – combining things reduces confusion and “bloat”). For level 25 guilds, nothing important really changes with what they announced.
  • There will still be guild achievements. With all the talk of removing the leveling system, achievements are still something really important that were of benefit to real guilds (and weren’t all that helpful to predatory guilds). Achievements have been updated for guilds continuously every expansion, and are the main ways that all the level 25 guilds differentiate themselves anyway.
  • Purchasing guild bank tabs is still going to require resources, thus there will still be plenty of opportunities to feel like your new guild is progressing in working together to accomplish goals.
  • Without the cash flow perk, it will be easier to get shared guild resources in ways that require working together and doing normal guild behavior (e.g., actually running instances or raids as a team).  Additionally, getting people to donate shared resources will be easier without people thinking the cash flow perk is actually doing something  (when in reality, it never was).
  • People who want to start new raiding or social guilds no longer have to give money to people selling pre-leveled guilds. Instead, we go back to the days when people who wanted to start a new guild had the resources available for them to do so. Thus, people can start new raid teams without being at such a huge disadvantage. The guild perks are now bonuses, rather than a system that punishes new players.
  • If people do only the dungeon and scenario guild challenges, your guild can get around 5,500 gold per week. This number increases if you do any of the other perks, with several thousand more gold available from the more difficult challenges (e.g., battlegrounds, challenge modes, and raids). Seeing as how my guild only got 600 from the cash flow perk (excluding guild challenges), convincing our guild members to complete the challenges is a better source of income than the cash flow perk ever was. You have to subtract your guild challenge total from the perk UI because the game adds those values together.

This is a change that should have positive impacts on the game. The guild level shackles were going to cause a huge problem when people needed to make new guilds in Warlords of Draenor. Now, those shackles have been removed – making way for an era of new guilds. While it may take a long time for the fear of predatory guilds to fade. It is normal for old guild leadership to burn out, but it’s not normal for potential new leaders to be scared away from trying. In time, trying to be a new guild leader may be seen as a positive thing in the community, instead of a negative. As old guild leaders burn out, lets hope that new people can now be encouraged to try to take up the mantle of leadership. It’s still a lot of work to be a leader, but without Bizzard tying our hands behind our backs, it’s now a function of the leader’s effort and skills at leading to make new guilds a success. Go forth and make friends.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Guild Leadership, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

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.

Posted in Beta Feedback, Moonkin Balance DPS, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

WOD alpha summary for frost mages

Now that my main has been a frost mage all of Mists of Pandaria, I thought I would take a look at the current set of changes for my primary raiding spec. The three resto druids already in my guild will have all our healing needs covered. So, what’s in store for frost mages for PVE? Lots of changes!

Frost Mage Ability removal: Some abilities/effects will only be available to certain specializations, so reducing off-role abilities was the primary place that mages had abilities outright cut. Some of this was meant to differentiate the AOE toolsets of the three specs, as well as other changes to remove redundancy of shared abilities.

  • Fire specialization only (no longer available to frost): dragon’s breath, flamestrike, molten armor, fire blast, and Living Bomb (no longer a frost talent).
  • Arcane only (no longer available to frost): Evocation, Arcane Explosion, mage armor, presence of mind (no longer a talent), and Nether Tempest (no longer a frost talent).
  • Removed from all specs: Mana gem, temporal shield talent, Invocation talent, Incanter’s Ward talent.

Frost major talent changes: Two abilities (Alter Time and Mirror Images) were converted to talents. Overall, there were major talent changes. You can see the current talent tree form mages on WOWhead. Some of the talents now vary by specialization, so my focus below is on frost options only.

  • New talent: Evanesce (level 15) – survivability talent that provides invulnerability from damage for 3 seconds. (replaces presence of mind talent). If you take this ability, you no longer have ice block.
  • Alter time (level 30) – Now a utility talent only (Replaces temporal shield talent).
  • Frost Bomb (level 75) – Frost mages no longer have access to living bomb or nether tempest. Frost bomb has undergone some changes. It no longer interacts with Frost Fire Bolt. It now (instead) does AOE damage when ice lance crits. The level 75 talents for frost are all AOE/cleaving abilities now.
  • Unstable Magic (level 75) – causes our single-target frostbolts to explode and do AOE damage, 25% of the time.
  • Ice Nova (level 75) – If you take this ability, you no longer have frost nova. Instead, this ability allows you to freeze and damage enemies in an 8 yard sphere around your target (instead of you).
  • Mirror Images (level 90) – Mirror images is now a talent, that is more awesome than the current version, and scales better with gear (replaces Invocation).
  • Inchanter’s Flow (level 90) – A damage increasing buff that ramps up and down over 10 second intervals. My comments: This talent is likely to undergo revisions across beta. This seems like the ramp up and down might be too quick to get spells off at the perfect timing, since you would gain 1 stack per second for 5 seconds, and then lose 1 stack per second for 5 seconds.
  • Rune of power is still a talent, but no longer interacts with mana regen, and has a longer duration (3 minutes).
  • Thermal Void (level 100): Ice Lance extends Icy Veins by 2 seconds. Now that icy veins gives us multi-strike (a chance to get bonus damage), I’m not sure this is going to be a very good talent in practice.
  • Prismatic Crystal (level 100): Cast spells at the crystal and it does damage to things nearby (1 minute cooldown). If your targets are stationary for long enough, this could be okay. However, I don’t see the ability to have the crystal follow your tank around, so the usefulness of this talent depends on frequency of tank movement.
  • Comet Storm (level 100):  A 30 second cooldown. Icy Comets split their damage between nearby targets within 4 yards.

Frost gearing changes:

  • A primary goal was to reduce the problem of soft-capping on secondary stats. This means they are making it more difficult to haste and crit soft-cap, and are making Multistrike a more interesting new stat.
  • Multistrike: The simplified version is that this stat gives you a chance to do bonus damage to the primary target. Increasing the stat increases the chance to do bonus damage. Read Lhivera’s post on Multistrike for more specific details.
  • Intellect no longer increases crit chance. Shatter was changed to impact the crit soft-cap (now multiplies crit strike chance by 1.5 instead of 2). My comments: The shatter change could interact strangely with the frost bomb redesign, with frost bomb only doing damage on Ice Lance crits.
  • Frost armor now gives increased Multistrike chance instead of increased haste.
  • Icy Veins now gives multistrike chance instead of increased haste.

Other Spell changes and overall notes on frost rotation:

  • Brain Freeze procs no longer make frostfire bolt instant-cast, but the goal is still to have Brain Freeze increase FFB’s damage enough that you will want to cast it. The new brain freeze procs can stack to 2, and come from frostbolt casts (where multi-strike procs from frostbolt increase the BF proc rate).
  • Perks for leveling from 90 to 100: Reduce frost bolt’s cast time by .5 seconds, once every 15 seconds. One extra ice lance stack (now up to 3). Teleport back 10 yards after casting frost nova. Improved Icy Veins benefits.  Blizzard ticks reduce cooldown on frozen orb. Passive increased damage for frostbolt, frostfire bolt, and Ice Lance.
  • Water elemental pet gets Water Jet ability (helps you generate FOF procs) as a leveling perk. This is primarily designed for PVE where pet freeze doesn’t really work in most situations. If it shares a cooldown with pet’s freeze ability, water jet won’t really get used in PVP.
  • The primary single-target rotation appears to rely on Frostbolt, Ice Lance on FOF procs (that come from casting frost bolt), and hard-casting FFB with Brain Freeze procs  (with the full cast time). We still have Frozen orb and icy veins as our primary DPS cooldowns (plus a level 90 talent that could either be active or passive). So, our single-target rotation won’t feel that much different, except that we lost a lot of mobility.
  • Frost will not multi-DOT for AOE, since we won’t have DOTs in a frost spec at all. I’m really not sure what they want frost’s AOE rotation to look like at this point. It will depend some upon whether or not the channeled Blizzard AOE is really viable. Which talents we choose will also primarily impact our AOE rotation more than our single-target rotation (both the level 75 and 100 talents include cleave/AOE talent options). We will have to do a lot of math during beta to figure out what to do with regards to AOE.
Posted in Beta Feedback, Mage, Warlords of Draenor, Written By Lissanna

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