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Repost: Talent points: When more isn’t better

Remember back in Wrath of the Lich King (not that long ago), when we had these hugely cumbersome talent trees? You had to invest 5 points in things that you get for 1 or 2 points now. New players looked at the giant web of 1% increases to abilities, and talents buffing abilities you didn’t normally even use (ie. Improved faerie fire for moonkin was a source of constant frustration for the druid community for a long time). You spent talent points on buffs and debuffs that benefited your raid, so everyone spent 2 of those talent points improving Mark of the Wild (we spent 5 points on improved MOTW back in Vanilla & TBC). As a reminder of how daunting those talent trees used to be, lets take a look at a picture of the WOTLK talent calculator:

 

Why am I showing this to you? Well, lets take a look at our very recent history. In this case, the final talent point in a tree is 51 points deep. For Cataclysm, rather than making the talent trees 56 points deep (and then 61 in MoP), they shrunk the talent trees for  Cataclysm. This streamlining got rid of a lot of talent point sinks (no more Improved Mark of the Wild), and reduced the point cost of a lot of talents (ie. Cataclysm’s tree has mostly 1 to 3 point investments). Cataclysm also constrained you to only being able to put points in one tree until you hit the end, to stop the endless cycle of trying to create ultimate hybrid builds by investing points split more evenly between two trees (ie. the “restokin” specs this blog was named after).

As someone who maintains a leveling guide for WOW, I often interact with new players to the game who are first trying to navigate the druid class and figure out how to spend their talents. Talent trees largely have a “right” and “wrong” answer. For a restoration druid at level 85, Wild Growth is NOT optional, it’s NOT a choice. It is something you HAVE to take or you will fail at being a restoration druid. What is the difference between automatically receiving Wild Growth as you level and placing a talent point in Wild Growth? Well, really absolutely nothing. The only real decisions you get to make are for talents that increase your damage/healing/survivability/utility by leess than .05%, as those end up being non-mandatory talents, and when you run out of “mandatory” talents, you are free to pick through whatever unhelpful dredges are left in the talent tree to figure out which ones are the most likely to provide some benefit (and often times, people make the wrong choices even for “optional” talents).

However, Mists of Pandaria (and beyond) have the same problem of needing to give you more talent points and additional class progression in a way that has the ability to turn talents back into this sort of jumbled mess.More levels means more points, and that means more filler junk, more confusion,  more spreadsheets, and creates all sorts of balancing issues.

My recent adventures in Star Wars: The Old Republic has taught me one thing… That more talent points isn’t always better. The SWTOR talent system is modeled off of the Burning Crusade and WotLK style talent trees. When I started my first character, I had to figure out what talents I wanted to invest in. As a brand-new character, I looked at the talent tree on Torhed (wowhead’s SWTOR equivalent) and saw a bunch of talents that largely say: “Improves your Blah by 1%”. When you are new to a class or game, you don’t know what those abilities do, just that the talent says it makes the ability a tiny bit better. You often invest points in talents that you realize later you aren’t ever actually using. I ended up having to change my talent spec somewhere between level 20 and level 25 because I realized that my talents just weren’t fitting the rotation I was actually using in combat. The talents just didn’t seem to  be doing anything to help me, and getting to place a talent point in minor stat upgrades every level didn’t really have any real meaning at all – it just slowed down my leveling process by having to go out in search of trainers that could help me undo all my mistakes (and it took me half an hour to find a trainer that would unlearn my talents in SWTOR).

Another approach to “talents”: Diablo III
In addition, I spent some time playing with the Diablo III beta, and saw how their skill system ended up feeling a lot more meaningful than the talent choices I was making in SWTOR. In Diablo III, you choose what skills you want to use (and add runes to augment those abilities), and your choice of one ability prevents you from having access to others, as there is a limit on how many abilities you can have at one point in time. In Diablo III’s skill calculator, you can have up to 6 active skills (which you can change if you need to), and you get to choose 1 of 5 possible runestones to modify that ability, and you get 3 passive skills that also improve your effectiveness. In this case, there isn’t an obvious answer as to what “spec” you should be, since every Wizzard may end up with a slightly different arrangement of skills, runestones, and passive abilities. While you still have the opportunity of making bad choices, you do get the ability to make your character’s build much different from other people and it allows for much more variety.

Based on all of this, I decided that I am all in favor of Mists of Pandaria’s new talent trees.

The MoP system keeps the best part of WoW’s talent system for each class (ie. the core choice of being resto, moonkin, cat, or bear for druids), and borrowed some of the better choice mechanics from other games that force you to pick one at the exclusion of being able to have another ability instead. In MoP’s system, you don’t choose your core spells through this new talent tree. Instead, you choose utility abilities that will augment your character’s power (regardless of which specialization you choose). All those old “mandatory” talents become things you automatically pick up, which were never really about making choices in the first place.

Does the Pre-Beta version of the MoP talent calculator still have flaws? Sure. Some of the utility choices don’t really provide something every druid would want to use. However, I think those individual talents in the MoP system are a lot easier to fix than a plagued system that permeates too many video games. I welcome the simplification in terms of number of points, and I welcome the increased complexity of not always having a “right” answer. Sometimes, simple systems still have a lot of complexity. At the very least, the MoP talent system allows for a lot more growing room for future expansions.

Posted in Druid - General, Feral Bear tanking, Feral DPS Cat, Moonkin Balance DPS, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Repost: Gearing your dual-spec Resto-moonkin

So, in my guild’s 25-man raids, I end up being a true Restokin, where I DPS the majority of the time but also have to fill in for when healers are absent or for fights where we need more healing. One day, I may DPS every fight, the next day I may heal every fight. Most raids for both Firelands and Dragonsoul, I’ve ended up healing one or two of the bosses pretty consistently and being DPS the rest of the raid.

I switch between my moonkin spec and my healing spec frequently enough that I end up having to maintain gear for both. This requires me to juggle two things: My moonkin hit rating cap of 17%, and my Restoration haste rating breakpoint (2005). In an ideal world, I would have two completely different sets of gear. In the actual world, I tend to see half of my gear pieces shared between the two specs. I have eight pieces shared between my moonkin and healing sets right now, with the other half being different between the two specs (though I get to spend several hours this weekend re-working my healing set so I can use the new healing mace that dropped from LFR last night). So, how do you survive the frustration of having to deal with shared gear pieces for your caster hybrid? Here are some considerations and hints to keep in mind when trying to fill in for moonkin and healing on the same character.

Pick one main spec and one off-spec for gearing purposes, and stick with it! This main gear set for me ends up being my Moonkin set because I found it very hard to keep up with the required DPS if I was doing DPS in primary resto gear, whereas I could keep up healing even if I favored my DPS gear. This gives me access to DPS trinkets and accessories in raids, and means that I pick up my moonkin set pieces first. I use Graylo’s moonkin loot list as a general guide for thinking about what items I want to use for my moonkin set. If you primarily heal (with occasional DPS), you may want your main spec to still be healing.

You will still need to pick up some off-set pieces (either through points, LFR, or picking up off-set things from your normal raiding) to keep some pieces that are not shared between the two sets. This may mean that you have a couple lower ilevel pieces for one set, but try not to let your off-set fall too far behind your main set. You should read both moonkin & healing guides to know what your gearing priorities are, but you can’t just rely on some reforging addon to make both sets work out. Instead, you have to be very careful about how your gearing for one set impacts your pieces of gear that are shared between the two specs and know how much non-shared loot you need to keep everything in balance.

Resto Gearing Stat Considerations:

  • Restoration druids use the same stats as moonkin, so most pieces can be shared between the two specs. Intellect is the gearing priority shared for both specs, where sometimes higher ilevel moonkin set pieces can end up being better than lower ilevel off-set pieces for restoration druids. The one stat that isn’t shared is HIT rating which may be found on weapons and accessories.
  • Restoration druids want to be above 2005 haste rating. Most haste above this break-point will be a wasted stat, but you generally never want to fall below 2005 haste rating. This is the first thing I check on my resto set when I’m upgrading gear & reforging.
  • After 2005 haste rating, the other stat priorities are to get as much mastery and spirit as possible. You may want to pick up some Spirit/Mastery pieces that are not shared with your moonkin set, as moonkin will have a cap on how much spirit is useful to them, and they still value haste over mastery past the 2005 resto-specific break point. Crit is the least desirable stat for both specs. I will end up with higher spirit and mastery in my resto set compared to my moonkin set.
  • If you can’t get access to the Tier 13 set pieces for your resto set right away, then your two piece T12 set bonus is very important for you to keep as you gear up (and is easily attainable from the Justice Point vendors if necessary).

Moonkin Gearing Stat Considerations:

  • Like restoration druids, INT, spirit, haste and mastery are important for moonkin.
  • Unlike restoration druids, moonkin can benefit from Hit rating on gear (though I prefer picking up spirit instead when possible, since Spirit gives your moonkin hit rating). They don’t make leather with hit rating, as they expect you to use Spirit instead. However, moonkin have a cap of 17% hit (1742 hit rating) where you stop benefiting from spirit/hit. So, you want to be as close to 17% as possible. You never want to fall below 17%, and you don’t ever want to be above ~17.5% hit. This is the most important number I watch when gearing my moonkin set. In my healing set, my spirit ends up giving me way more hit rating than that, even with some of the shared pieces between the two sets having spirit reforged into haste or mastery.
  • Moonkin value haste rating past the 2005 breakpoint. I will pick up a few pieces with more haste rating on them for my moonkin set. For moonkin, Haste is more valuable than mastery and mastery is more valuable than crit, so that I can try to sit a couple hundred haste rating higher for my moonkin set and have slightly lower mastery and spirit as a result.
  • The moonkin 4-piece Tier 12 set is very powerful. Your moonkin set should hold onto the 4-piece T12 (if possible) until you can get the 2-piece T13 normal-mode or heroic-mode (don’t use the LFR set pieces if you have access to the T12 4-piece bonus for either moonkin or resto). With the 4-piece buff for moonkin T13 on the PTR, you will eventually want to upgrade everything to get the 4-piece normal or heroic T13 by the time the next patch hits if possible (after the patch, it may be possible for the moonkin T13 LFR pieces to be worthwhile, and you’ll want to pick up T13 LFR if you don’t have access to the T12 4-piece).

Additional Points for sharing pieces between moonkin & resto:

  • Moonkin and resto druids can share the exact same gems and enchants, keeping the above stat points in mind, though I will sometimes end up with less desirable gemming in some situations. For example, moonkin and resto specs can share a helm if you use the Burning Shadowspirit Diamond (as of the changes in 4.3, the burning shadowspirit diamond impacts both healing & DPS crits). Otherwise, gems tend to be: Int red gems, Int/Haste orange, and Int/Spirit purple.
  • The best trinkets available will usually NOT be shared between the two specs. Make sure you read trinket descriptions to make sure that Equip or Use effects are not being wasted by wearing a damage ability trinket in your healing spec (or vice versa). I almost never share trinkets between my two specs.
  •  With Dragonsoul, weapons with healing or damage-spell based casting procs, you won’t want to share those particular weapons between your gear sets, either. If you get something with pure stats on them, they can be shared between your sets.
  • Set pieces will often provide a lot of stat differentiation between your two sets. So, getting set pieces for both sets will help a lot with balancing your slightly different stat priorities between the two sets.
  • You will have to reforge gear for both sets every time you get a new upgrade that will be shared between the two sets. This can get pretty expensive, as I usually have to resort to trial-and-error for figuring out how to make the two sets work out right.
  • You want a different talent spec for healing and DPS (with different glyphs), since healing in moonkin spec or DPS in a healing spec sucks a lot. There is no such thing as a restokin talent spec, unlike feral right now that share a DPS and tanking spec.

The very most important thing to remember is to save your two gear sets in the equipment manager (either the base Blizzard UI feature or with the help of another addon), and make sure that you swap your gear at the same time as you swap your specs. Healing or DPS’ing in the wrong spec will hurt your output numbers, as I have proven over and over again.After 4.3, I transmog some of the gear pieces into different looking sets as much as I can to hopefully tell them apart visually.

Posted in Druid - General, Moonkin Balance DPS, Restoration Healing Trees, Written By Lissanna

Repost: Resto druids in 4.3: It’s a utility problem

So, my poll measuring how people feel about druid healing (for patch 4.3 dragonsoul) has ended at this point. I wanted to briefly go over some good news and some bad news as it relates to the data I’ve collected through the poll.

For the below poll results, I’m going to exclude the data for the people who don’t raid each raid size when reporting percentages of participants. The total number of people responding to my poll who had raided the content sizes are: LFR (454), 10-man Normal (365), 25-man Normal (152), 10-man heroic (130), 25-man Heroic (57).

As you can see, the LFR raid size is the most popular raid size, with 10-man normal coming in second. The other three raid sizes have much fewer participants. I likely got a pretty representative sample of players here, as fewer people usually raid heroics or 25-mans. The LFR is going to be run by people participating in all the other raid sizes in addition to people who don’t raid the other raid sizes, since people could vote in more than one poll.

Results for LFR & normal-mode raids

The good news is that the most common response for LFR and 10-man normal-mode raiders was largely that we were fine (48% and 38% respectively). However, by the time we hit 25-man normal, perspectives have started shifting such that only 27% of respondents think we’re fine.

For people who thought we had a problem, the overwhelming response was largely one of having a utility problem, with our healing being fine (25% to 30% of responses across the three polls). Only around 10% of people from each poll said that our utility was fine but our healing was lacking. The rest of the people are largely detecting that we are having both healing & utility problems for normal-mode raids. The 25-man normal-mode raids are much more likely than 10-man normal-mode raids to say we have a healing and utility problem.

Results for the Heroic-mode raids

These heroic-mode polls are harder to interpret upon inspection because the vast majority of people haven’t raided that content size. So, lets see the numbers when excluding non-raiders, and collapsing across raid size, since my sample of 25-man HM raiders is so low. This gives us a total of 187 votes (keeping in mind that a handful of people may have voted in each of the 2 polls).

  • Utility only lacking: 64 responses (34%)
  • Both Healing & Utility lacking: 58 (31%)
  • We’re fine: 31 (17%)
  • Benched or rerolled: 23 (12%)
  • Healing only lacking: 11 (6%)

So, for heroic modes, only 17% of responses say that we are doing okay, which is a large jump down from the look we got from LFR and 10-man normal-mode raiding. The vast majority of responses indicate that our utility is lacking for heroic-modes, with or without having a healing output issue for this raid content difficulty. There is definitely an indication that healing output could also be a problem for some healers in heroic-mode content.

Putting it together: It’s a utility problem, especially for HM raids

I did each of the polls separately because I expected to see that larger raid sizes and harder content would end up showing our weaknesses more than just looking at how we’re doing overall. I also knew that we couldn’t measure utility problems just by looking at WoL, since WoL doesn’t have a utility meter and doesn’t measure damage prevention cooldowns.

This poll is confirming WoL reports of our healing output being fine across most of the raid content sizes. The polls indicate that healing difficulties are happening in 25-man normal and both heroic raid sizes, which is likely due to not having good enough burst AOE healing. For 25-man healing, our HOT-blanketing doesn’t usually cover enough of the raid and we don’t have much in the way of burst healing to get people back up after they take a big hit. The other problem is that paladin healing output with HR spam still hasn’t been toned down to bring them in line with other healers, so they are out-shining druids. A nerf to paladin HR spam would probably help take care of the healing weakness resto druids are feeling in Heroic Modes compared to other healers.

Across all the raid sizes, the results also point to a problem with our Utility that we bring to the raid for pretty much every raid size (even LFR).

What does this raid utility problem mean?

For pretty much all of Cataclysm, when we have talked about our utility issues, we have talked about the lack of ability to reduce the amount of damage other people are taking. Bringing people’s health bars back up is fine, except when the hits they are taking are so big that your target dies before you can heal them.

With a lack of damage reduction tools, all we can do is rely on other people to throw out the damage reduction cooldowns, absorption effects, or death prevention cooldowns of some sort  (that all other healers have) and hope for the best. Especially in heroic-modes for Dragonsoul in 4.3, the damage reduction cooldowns are things that are being heavily relied upon, which leaves resto druids in a really awkward position of feeling like we lack important tools that everyone else brings to the table even when we come out fine on healing output meters.

MoP will fix it: We know that we are getting Ironbark (a damage reduction cooldown usable on other people) in Mists of Pandaria. We also know that we are getting a burst AOE healing ability (wild mushrooms). We also know we are getting other new tools through the new talent system. So, we know they already have a long-term solution to our major problems. Thus, the good news is that resto druids are going to be really awesome in Mists of Pandaria when we finally have a complete toolset for the first time.

However, the developers need to take a long, hard look at resto druids and decide if we need to be fixed before Mists of Pandaria. Also, it’s not enough to just look at healing output done, but to think about how the resto druid toolset is interacting with encounter design in Dragonsoul. In particular, we need to be looking at utility problems that don’t show up in any of the tracking tools we currently have for looking at healing output, since the problem is NOT just about HPS. It’s too soon to write off Cataclysm completely and Dragonsoul doesn’t seem to be that druid-friendly at the moment, especially for Heroic Mode raiders. Class balance still needs to be a concern in the tail end of Cataclysm, especially as more and more raiders complete normal-modes and start to hit Heroic-Mode content.

Disclaimer: To the resto druids -With the future outlook being good in MoP, it’s worth hanging in there for now, especially if we see more balancing fix patches in 4.3. Don’t panic!

Posted in Druid - General, Written By Lissanna

Repost: How symbiosis (MoP level 87 ability) likely works

Since it’s always my job to take what Blizzard writes and translate it into things that you guys can understand, I’m writing a quick post to talk about Symbiosis (the new MoP level 87 ability).

The new ability says:

Creates a symbiotic link which grants the druid one ability belonging to the target’s class, varying by the druid’s specialization. In exchange, grants the target  one druid ability based on their class and combat role. Lasts 1 hour and persists through death”

My interpretation of how this will work: You get something cool from them, and they get something cool from you. You both keep your ability and they just get a copy of your spell. So, it’s not actually stealing their ability. It’s borrowing a copy of their ability, it’s just funnier to say “stealin” in the above picture for comedic value.

TOTALLY FAKE/MADE-UP examples:

  • Example 1: Moonkin casts symbiosis on mage. Moonkin gets mirror image and keeps starfall. Mage gets starfall & keeps mirror image.
  • Example 2: Resto druid casts symbiosis on disc priest. Rdruid gets Prayer of Mending & keeps innervate. Disc priest gets innervate & keeps PoM.

Further notes & explanations:

Symbiosis can’t give random abilities from ability lists, as that would make the talent too unpredictable and you would have to “fish” for a useful ability by casting it over & over dozens of times until you got what you wanted. Instead, it has to be fixed (so, in the above examples, a moonkin would always get mirror image from the mage). It also has to give you something you would actually want in your spell list, otherwise there is no point in having it at all (so, it can’t give you remove curse from mages as a moonkin, since moonkin can already remove curses).

No cooldown is listed, so it looks like in a raid, you could keep up Symbiosis on the same person through the whole raid if you wanted, or you could symbiosis with a different raid member on each boss to pick up the best boss-specific abilities.

That should clear up some of the questions I’ve seen about Symbiosis. I’ll get to other spells/abilities from the list as I have time, but I thought this was too important to wait, and I wanted to get this out early to help with the amount of confusion I’ve seen.

Posted in Blizzcon, Druid - General, Written By Lissanna

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